Wanna Be Happy? Use the Internet

May 13, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

The glory days of the Internet have faded. Social media, AI-generated baloney, and brain numbing TikTok-esque short videos — Outstanding ways to be happy. What about endless online scams, phishing, and smishing, deep fake voices to grandma from grandchildren needing money — Yes, guaranteed uplifts to sagging spirits.

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The idea of a payoff in a coffee shop is silly. Who would compromise academic standards for a latte and a pile of cash. Absolutely no one involved in academic pursuits. Good enough, MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

When I read two of the “real” news stories about how the Internet manufactures happiness, I asked myself, “Exactly what’s with this study?” The PR push to say happy things about online reminded me of the OII or Oxford Internet Institute and some of its other cheerleading. And what is the OII? It is an outfit which receives some university support, funds from private industry, and foundation cash; for example, the Shirley Institute.

In my opinion, it is often difficult to figure out if the “research” is wonky due to its methodology, the desire to keep some sources of funding writing checks, or a nifty way to influence policies in the UK and elsewhere. The magic of the “Oxford” brand gives the outfit some cachet for those who want to collect conference name tags to bedeck their office coat hangers.

The OII is back in the content marketing game. I read the BBC’s “Internet Access Linked to Higher Wellbeing, Study Finds” and the Guardian’s “Internet Use Is Associated with Greater Wellbeing, Global Study Finds.” Both articles are generated from the same PR-type verbiage. But the weirdness of the assertion is undermined by this statement from the BBC’s rewrite of the OII’s PR:

The study was not able to prove cause and effect, but the team found measures of life satisfaction were 8.5% higher for those who had internet access. Nor did the study look at the length of time people spent using the internet or what they used it for, while some factors that could explain associations may not have be considered.

The Oxford brand and the big numbers about a massive sample size cannot hide one awkward fact: There is little evidence that happiness drips from Internet use. Convenience? Yep. Entertainment? Yep. Crime? Yep. Self-harm, drug use or experimentation, meme amplification. Yep, yep, yep.

Several questions arise:

  1. Why is the message “online is good” suddenly big news? If anything, the idea runs counter to the significant efforts to contain access to potentially harmful online content in the UK and elsewhere. Gee, I wonder if the companies facing some type of sanctions are helping out the good old OII?
  2. What’s up with Oxford University itself? Doesn’t it have more substantive research to publicize? Perhaps Oxford should  emulate the “Naked Scientist” podcast or lobby to get Melvin Bragg to report about more factual matters? Does Oxford have an identity crisis?
  3. And the BBC and the Guardian! Have the editors lost the plot? Don’t these professionals have first hand knowledge about the impact of online on children and young adults? Don’t they try to talk to their kids or grandkids at the dinner table when the youthful progeny of “real” news people are using their mobile phones?

I like facts which push back against received assumptions. But online is helping out those who use it needs a bit more precision, clearer thinking, and less tenuous cause-and-effect hoo-hah in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, May 13, 2024

AI May Help Real Journalists Explain Being Smart. May, Not Will

May 9, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I found the link between social media and stupid people interesting. I am not sure I embrace the causal chain as presented in “As IQ Scores Decline in the US, Experts Blame the Rise of Tech — How Stupid Is Your State?” The “real” news story has a snappy headline, but social media and IQ? Let’s take a look. The write up states:

Here’s the first sentence of the write up. Note the novel coinage, dumbening. I assume the use of dumb as a gerund open the door to such statements as “I dumb” or “We dumbed together at Harvard’s lecture about ethics” or “My boss dumbed again, like he did last summer.”

Do all Americans go through a process of dumbening?

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A tour group has a low IQ when it comes to understanding ancient rock painting. Should we blame technology and social media? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Earning extra money because you do great security?

The write up explains that IQ scores are going down after a “rise” which began in 1905. What causes this decline? Is it broken homes? Lousy teachers? A lack of consequences for inattentiveness? Skipping school? Crappy pre-schools? Bus rides? School starting too early or too late? Dropping courses in art, music, and PE? Chemical-infused food? Television? Not learning cursive?

The answer is, “Technology.” More specifically, the culprit is social media. The article quotes a professor, who opines:

The professor [Hetty Roessingh, professor emerita of education at the University of Calgary] said that time spent with devices like phones and iPads means less time for more effective methods of increasing one’s intelligence level.

Several observations:

  1. Wow.
  2. Technology is an umbrella term. Social media is an umbrella term. What exactly is causing people to be dumb?
  3. What about an IQ test being mismatched to those who take it? My IQ was pretty low when I lived in Campinas, Brazil. It was tough to answer questions I could not read until I learned Portuguese.

Net net: Dumbening. You got it.

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2024

LinkedIn Content Ripple: Possible Wave Amplification

April 19, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Google continues to make headlines. This morning (April 19, 2024) I flicked through the information in my assorted newsreaders. The coverage of Google’s calling the police and have alleged non-Googley professionals chatted up by law enforcement sparked many comments. One of those comments about this most recent demonstration of management mastery was from Dr. Timnit Gebru. My understanding of the Gebru incident is that she called attention to the bias in Google’s smart software systems and methods. She wrote a paper. Big thinkers at Google did not like the paper. The paper appeared, and Dr. Gebru disappeared from the Google payroll. I am have over simplified this remarkable management maneuver, but like some of Google’s synthetic data, I think I am close enough for horse shoes.

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Is change coming to a social media service which has been quite homogeneous? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How’s the security work coming?

Dr. Gebru posted a short item on LinkedIn, which is Microsoft’s professional social media service. Here’s what Dr. Gebru made available to LinkedIn’s members:

Not even 24 hrs after making history as the first company to mass fire workers for pro-Palestine protests, by summarily firing 28 people, Google announced that the “(ir)responsible AI org,” the one they created in response to firing me, is now reporting up the Israeli office, through an SVP there. Seems like they want us to know how forcefully and clearly they are backing this genocide.

To provide context, Dr. Gebru linked to a Medium (a begging for dollars information service). That article brandished the title “STATEMENT from Google Workers with the No Tech for Apartheid Campaign on Google’s Mass, Retaliatory Firings of Workers: [sic].” This Medium article is at this link. I am not sure if [a] these stories are going to require registration or payment to view and [b] the items will remain online.

What’s interesting about the Dr. Gebru item and her link is the comments made by LinkedIn members. These suggest that [a] most LinkedIn members either did not see Dr. Gebru’s post or were not motivated go click one of the “response” icons or [b] topics like Google’s management mastery are not popular with the LinkedIn audience.

Several observations based on my experience:

  1. Dr. Gebru’s use of LinkedIn may be a one-time shot, but on the other hand, it might provide ideas for others with a specific point of view to use as a platform
  2. With Apple’s willingness to remove Meta apps from the Chinese iPhone app store, will LinkedIn follow with its own filtering of content? I don’t know the answer to the question, but clicking on Dr. Gebru’s link will make it easy to track
  3. Will LinkedIn begin to experience greater pressure to allow content not related to self promotion and look for business contacts? I have noticed an uptick in requests from what appear to be machine-generated images preponderately young females asking, “Will you be my contact?” I routinely click, No, and I often add a comment along the lines of “I am 80 years old. Why do you want to interact with me?”

Net net: Change may be poised to test some of the professional social media service’s policies.

Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2024

Another Cultural Milestone for Social Media

April 16, 2024

Well this is an interesting report. PsyPost reports, “Researchers Uncover ‘Pornification’ Trend Among Female Streamers on Twitch.” Authored by Kristel Anciones-Anguita and Mirian Checa-Romero, the study was published in the  Humanities and Social Sciences Communications journal. The team analyzed clips from 1,920 livestreams on Twitch.tv, a platform with a global daily viewership of 3 million. They found women streamers sexualize their presentations much more often, and more intensely, than the men. Also, the number of sexy streams depends on the category. Not surprisingly, broadcasters in categories like ASMR and “Pools, Hot Tubs & Beaches” are more self-sexualized than, say, gamer girls. Shocking, we know.

The findings are of interest because Twitch broadcasters formulate their own images, as opposed to performers on traditional media. There is a longstanding debate, even among feminists, whether using sex to sell oneself is empowering or oppressive. Or maybe both. Writer Eric W. Dolan notes:

“Studies on traditional media (such as TV and movies) have extensively documented the sexualization of women and its consequences. However, the interactive and user-driven nature of new digital platforms like Twitch.tv presents new dynamics that warrant exploration, especially as they become integral to daily entertainment and social interaction. … This autonomy raises questions about the factors driving self-sexualization, including societal pressures, the pursuit of popularity, and the platform’s economic incentives.”

Or maybe women are making fully informed choices and framing them as victims of outside pressure is condescending. Just a thought. The issue gets more murky when the subjects, or their audiences, are underage. The write-up observes:

“These patterns of self-sexualization also have potential implications for the shaping of audience attitudes towards gender and sexuality. … ‘Our long-term goals for this line of research include deepening our understanding of how online sexualized culture affects adolescent girls and boys and how we can work to create more inclusive and healthy online communities,’ Anciones-Anguita said. ‘This study is just the beginning, and there is much more to explore in terms of the pornification of culture and its psychological impact on users.”

Indeed there is. See the article for more details on what the study considered “sexualization” and what it found.

Cynthia Murrell, April 16, 2024

Social Media: Do You See the Hungry Shark?

April 2, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

After years of social media’s diffusion, those who mostly ignored how flows of user-generated content works like a body shop’s sandblaster. Now that societal structures are revealing cracks in the drywall and damp basements, I have noticed an uptick in chatter about Facebook- and TikTok-type services. A recent example of Big Thinkers’ wrestling with what is a quite publicly visible behavior of mobile phone fiddling is the write up in Nature “The Great Rewiring: Is Social Media Really Behind an Epidemic of Teenage Mental Illness?”

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Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How is your security initiative coming along? Ah, good enough.

The article raises an interesting question: Are social media and mobile phones the cause of what many of my friends and colleagues see as a very visible disintegration of social conventions. The fabric of civil behavior seems to be fraying and maybe coming apart. I am not sure the local news in the Midwest region where I live reports the shootings that seem to occur with some regularity.

The write up (possibly written by a person who uses social media and demonstrates polished swiping techniques) wrestles with the possibility that the unholy marriage of social media and mobile devices may not be the “problem.” The notion that other factors come into play is an example of an established source of information working hard to take a balanced, rational approach to what is the standard of behavior.

The write up says:

Two things can be independently true about social media. First, that there is no evidence that using these platforms is rewiring children’s brains or driving an epidemic of mental illness. Second, that considerable reforms to these platforms are required, given how much time young people spend on them.

Then the article wraps up with this statement:

A third truth is that we have a generation in crisis and in desperate need of the best of what science and evidence-based solutions can offer. Unfortunately, our time is being spent telling stories that are unsupported by research and that do little to support young people who need, and deserve, more.

Let me offer several observations:

  1. The corrosive effect of digital information flows is simply not on the radar of those who “think about” social media. Consequently, the inherent function of online information is overlooked, and therefore, the rational statements are fluffy.
  2. The only way to constrain digital information and the impact of its flows is to pull the plug. That will not happen because of the drug cartel-like business models produce too much money.
  3. The notion that “research” will light the path forward is interesting. I cannot “trust” peer reviewed papers authored by the former president of Stanford University or the research of the former Top Dog at Harvard University’s “ethics” department. Now I am supposed to believe that “research” will provide answers. Not so fast, pal.

Net net: The failure to understand a basic truth about how online works means that fixes are not now possible. Sound gloomy? You are getting my message. Time to adapt and remain flexible. The impacts are just now being seen as more than a post-Covid or economic downturn issue. Online information is a big fish, and it remains mostly invisible. The good news is that some people have recognized that the water in the data lake has powerful currents.

Stephen E Arnold, April 2, 2024

NSO Group: Pegasus Code Wings Its Way to Meta and Mr. Zuckerberg

March 7, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

NSO Group’s senior managers and legal eagles will have an opportunity to become familiar with an okay Brazilian restaurant and a waffle shop. That lovable leader of Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp may have put a stick in the now-ageing digital bicycle doing business as NSO Group. The company’s mark is pegasus, which is a flying horse. Pegasus’s dad was Poseidon, and his mom was the knock out Gorgon Medusa, who did some innovative hair treatments. The mythical pegasus helped out other gods until Zeus stepped in an acted with extreme prejudice. Quite a myth.

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Poseidon decides to kill the mythical Pegasus, not for its software, but for its getting out of bounds. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Close enough.

Life imitates myth. “Court Orders Maker of Pegasus Spyware to Hand Over Code to WhatsApp” reports that the hand over decision:

is a major legal victory for WhatsApp, the Meta-owned communication app which has been embroiled in a lawsuit against NSO since 2019, when it alleged that the Israeli company’s spyware had been used against 1,400 WhatsApp users over a two-week period. NSO’s Pegasus code, and code for other surveillance products it sells, is seen as a closely and highly sought state secret. NSO is closely regulated by the Israeli ministry of defense, which must review and approve the sale of all licenses to foreign governments.

NSO Group hired former DHS and NSA official Stewart Baker to fix up NSO Group gyro compass. Mr. Baker, who is a podcaster and affiliated with the law firm Steptoe and Johnson. For more color about Mr. Baker, please scan “Former DHS/NSA Official Stewart Baker Decides He Can Help NSO Group Turn A Profit.”

A decade ago, Israel’s senior officials might have been able to prevent a social media company from getting a copy of the Pegasus source code. Not anymore. Israel’s home-grown intelware technology simply did not thwart, prevent, or warn about the Hamas attack in the autumn of 2023. If NSO Group were battling in court with Harris Corp., Textron, or Harris Corp., I would not worry. Mr. Zuckerberg’s companies are not directly involved with national security technology. From what I have heard at conferences, Mr. Zuckerberg’s commercial enterprises are responsive to law enforcement requests when a bad actor uses Facebook for an allegedly illegal activity. But Mr. Zuckerberg’s managers are really busy with higher priority tasks. Some folks engaged in investigations of serious crimes must be patient. Presumably the investigators can pass their time scrolling through #Shorts. If the Guardian’s article is accurate, now those Facebook employees can learn how Pegasus works. Will any of those learnings stick? One hopes not.

Several observations:

  1. Companies which make specialized software guard their systems and methods carefully. Well, that used to be true.
  2. The reorganization of NSO Group has not lowered the firm’s public relations profile. NSO Group can make headlines, which may not be desirable for those engaged in national security.
  3. Disclosure of the specific Pegasus systems and methods will get a warm, enthusiastic reception from those who exchange ideas for malware and related tools on private Telegram channels, Dark Web discussion groups, or via one of the “stealth” communication services which pop up like mushrooms after rain in rural Kentucky.

Will the software Pegasus be terminated? I remain concerned that source code revealing how to perform certain tasks may lead to downstream, unintended consequences. Specialized software companies try to operate with maximum security. Now Pegasus may be flying away unless another legal action prevents this.

Where is Zeus when one needs him?

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2024

Flipboard: A Pivot, But Is the Crowd Impressed?

February 26, 2024

green-dino_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

Twitter’s (X’s) downward spiral is leading more interest in decentralized social networks like Mastodon, BlueSky, and Pixelfed. Now a certain news app is following the trend. TechCrunch reports, “Flipboard Just Brought Over 1,000 of its Social Magazines to Mastodon and the Fediverse.” One wonders: do these "flip" or just lead to blank pages and dead ends? Writer Sarah Perez tells us:

“After sensing a change in the direction that social media was headed, Flipboard last year dropped support for Twitter/X in its app, which today allows users to curate content from around the web in ‘magazines’ that are shared with other readers. In Twitter’s place, the company embraced decentralized social media, and last May became the first app to support BlueSky, Mastodon, and Pixelfed (an open source Instagram rival) all in one place. While those first integrations allowed users to read, like, reply, and post to their favorite apps from within Flipboard’s app, those interactions were made possible through APIs.”

2 25 pivot

An enthusiastic entrepreneur makes a sudden pivot on the ice. The crowd is not impressed. Good enough, MidJourney.

In December Flipboard announced it would soon support the Fediverse’s networking protocol, ActivityPub. That shift has now taken place, allowing users of decentralized platforms to access its content. Flipboard has just added 20 publishers to those that joined its testing phase in December. Each has its own native ActivityPub feed for maximum Fediverse discoverability. Flipboard’s thematic nature allows users to keep their exposure to new topics to a minimum. We learn:

“The company explains that allowing users to follow magazines instead of other accounts means they can more closely track their particular interests. While a user may be interested in the photography that someone posts, they may not want to follow their posts about politics or sports. Flipboard’s magazines, however, tend to be thematic in nature, allowing users to browse news, articles, and social posts referencing a particular topic, like healthy eating, climate tech, national security, and more.”

Perez notes other platforms are likewise trekking to the decentralized web. Medium and Mozilla have already made the move, and Instagram (Meta) is working on an ActivityPub integration for Threads. WordPress now has a plug-in for all its bloggers who wish to post to the Fediverse. With all this new interest, will ActivityPub be able to keep (or catch) up?

Our view is that news aggregation via humans may be like the young Bob Hope rising to challenge older vaudeville stars. But motion pictures threaten the entire sector. Is this happening again? Yep.

Cynthia Murrell, February 26, 2024

It Is Here: The AI Generation

February 2, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Yes, another digital generation has arrived. The last two or three have been stunning, particularly when compared to my childhood in central Illinois. We played hide and seek; now the youthful create fake Taylor Swift videos. Ah, progress.

I read “Qustodio Releases 5th Annual Report Studying Children’s Digital Habits, Born Connected: The Rise of the AI Generation.” I have zero clue if the data are actual factual. With the recent information about factual creativity at the Harvard medical brain trust, nothing will surprise me. Nevertheless, let me highlight several factoids and then, of course, offer some unwanted Beyond Search comments. Hey, it is a free blog, and I have some friskiness in my dinobaby step.

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Memories. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Not even close to what I specified.

The sample involved “400,000 families and schools.” I don’t remember too much about my Statistics 101 course 60 years ago, but the sample size seems — interesting. Here’s what Qustodio found:

YouTube is number one for streaming, kiddies spent 60 percent more time on TikTok

How much time goes to couch potato-ing? Here’s the answer:

TikTok continued to captivate with children spending a global average of 112 minutes daily on the app – up from 107 in 2022. UK kids were particularly fond of the bottomless scroll as they racked up 127 mins/day.

Why read, play outdoors, or fiddle with a chemistry set? Just kick back and check out ASMR, being thin, and dance move videos. Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

And what is the most popular kiddie app? Here’s the answer:

Snapchat.

If you want to buy the full report, click this link.

Several observations:

  1. The smart software angle may be in the full report, but the summary skirts the issue, recycling the same grim numbers: More video, less of other activities like being a child
  2. Will this “generation” of people be able to differentiate reality from fake anything? My hunch is that the belief that these young folks have super tuned baloney radar may be — baloney.
  3. A sample of 400,000? Yeah.

Net net: I am glad to be an old dinobaby. Really, really happy.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2024

Techno Feudalist Governance: Not a Signal, a Rave Sound Track

January 31, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

One of the UK’s watchdog outfits published a 30-page report titled “One Click Away: A Study on the Prevalence of Non-Suicidal Self Injury, Suicide, and Eating Disorder Content Accessible by Search Engines.” I suggest that you download the report if you are interested in what the consequences of poor corporate governance are. I recommend reading the document while watching your young children or grand children playing with their mobile phones or tablet devices.

Let me summarize the document for you because its contents provide some color and context for the upcoming US government hearings with a handful of techno feudalist companies:

Web search engines and social media services are one-click gateways to self-harm and other content some parents and guardians might deem inappropriate.

Does this report convey information relevant to the upcoming testimony of selected large US technology companies in the Senate? I want to say, “Yes.” However, the realistic answer is, “No.”

Techmeme, an online information service, displayed its interest in the testimony with these headlines on January 31, 2024:

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Screenshots are often difficult to read. The main story is from the weird orange newspaper whose content is presented under this Techmeme headline:

Ahead of the Senate Hearing, Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Requiring Apple and Google to Verify Ages via App Stores…

Ah, ha, is this a red herring intended to point the finger at outfits not on the hot seat in the true blue Senate hearing room?

The New York Times reports on a popular DC activity: A document reveal:

Ahead of the Senate Hearing, US Lawmakers Release 90 Pages of Internal Meta Emails…

And to remind everyone that an allegedly China linked social media service wants to do the right thing (of course!), Bloomberg’s angle is:

In Prepared Senate Testimony, TikTok CEO Shou Chew Says the Company Plans to Spend $2B+ in 2024 on Trust and Safety Globally…

Therefore, the Senate hearing on January 31, 2024 is moving forward.

What will be the major take-away from today’s event? I would suggest an opportunity for those testifying to say, “Senator, thank you for the question” and “I don’t have that information. I will provide that information when I return to my office.”

And the UK report? What? And the internal governance of certain decisions related to safety in the techno feudal firms? Secondary to generating revenue perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2024

Why Stuff Does Not Work: Airplane Doors, Health Care Services, and Cyber Security Systems, Among Others

January 26, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The Downward Spiral of Technology” stuck a chord with me. Think about building monuments in the reign of Cleopatra. The workers can check out the sphinx and giant stone blocks in the pyramids and ask, “What happened to the technology? We are banging with bronze and crappy metal compounds and those ancient dudes were zipping along with snappier tech.? That conversation is imaginary, of course.

The author of “The Downward Spiral” is focusing on less dusty technology, the theme might resonate with my made up stone workers. Modern technology lacks some of the zing of the older methods. The essay by Thomas Klaffke hit on some themes my team has shared whilst stuffing Five Guys’s burgers in their shark-like mouths.

Here are several points I want to highlight. In closing, I will offer some of my team’s observations on the outcome of the Icarus emulators.

First, let’s think about search. One cannot do anything unless one can find electronic content. (Lawyers, please, don’t tell me you have associates work through the mostly-for-show books in your offices. You use online services. Your opponents in court print stuff out to make life miserable. But electronic content is the cat’s pajamas in my opinion.)

Here’s a table from the Mr. Klaffke essay:

image

Two things are important in this comparison of the “old” tech and the “new” tech deployed by the estimable Google outfit. Number one: Search in Google’s early days made an attempt to provide content relevant to the query. The system was reasonably good, but it was not perfect. Messrs. Brin and Page fancy danced around issues like disambiguation, date and time data, date and time of crawl, and forward and rearward truncation. Flash forward to the present day, the massive contributions of Prabhakar Raghavan and other “in charge of search” deliver irrelevant information. To find useful material, navigate to a Google Dorks service and use those tips and tricks. Otherwise, forget it and give Swisscows.com, StartPage.com, or Yandex.com a whirl. You are correct. I don’t use the smart Web search engines. I am a dinobaby, and I don’t want thresholds set by a 20 year old filtering information for me. Thanks but no thanks.

The second point is that search today is a monopoly. It takes specialized expertise to find useful, actionable, and accurate information. Most people — even those with law degrees, MBAs, and the ability to copy and paste code — cannot cope with provenance, verification, validation, and informed filtering performed by a subject matter expert. Baloney does not work in my corner of the world. Baloney is not a favorite food group for me or those who are on my team. Kudos to Mr. Klaffke to make this point. Let’s hope someone listens. I have given up trying to communicate the intellectual issues lousy search and retrieval creates. Good enough. Nope.

image

Yep, some of today’s tools are less effective than modern gizmos. Hey, how about those new mobile phones? Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough. How’s the MSFT email security today? Oh, I asked that already.

Second, Mr Klaffke gently reminds his reader that most people do not know snow cones from Shinola when it comes to information. Most people assume that a computer output is correct. This is just plain stupid. He provides some useful examples of problems with hardware and user behavior. Are his examples ones that will change behaviors. Nope. It is, in my opinion, too late. Information is an undifferentiated haze of words, phrases, ideas, facts, and opinions. Living in a haze and letting signals from online emitters guide one is a good way to run a tiny boat into a big reef. Enjoy the swim.

Third, Mr. Klaffke introduces the plumbing of the good-enough mentality. He is accurate. Some major social functions are broken. At lunch today, I mentioned the writings about ethics by Thomas Dewey and William James. My point was that these fellows wrote about behavior associated with a world long gone. It would be trendy to wear a top hat and ride in a horse drawn carriage. It would not be trendy to expect that a person would work and do his or her best to do a good job for the agreed-upon wage. Today I watched a worker who played with his mobile phone instead of stocking the shelves in the local grocery store. That’s the norm. Good enough is plenty good. Why work? Just pay me, and I will check out Instagram.

I do not agree with Mr. Klaffke’s closing statement; to wit:

The problem is not that the “machine” of humanity, of earth is broken and therefore needs an upgrade. The problem is that we think of it as a “machine”.

The problem is that worldwide shared values and cultural norms are eroding. Once the glue gives way, we are in deep doo doo.

Here are my observations:

  1. No entity, including governments, can do anything to reverse thousands of years of cultural accretion of norms, standards, and shared beliefs.
  2. The vast majority of people alive today are reverting back to some fascinating behaviors. “Fascinating” is not a positive in the sense in which I am using the word.
  3. Online has accelerated the stress on social glue; smart software is the turbocharger of abrupt, hard-to-understand change.

Net net: Please, read Mr. Klaffke’s essay. You may have an idea for remediating one or more of today’s challenges.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2024

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