all posts tagged 'society'

How to fix the internet

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I swear my blog isn’t going to just be links to think pieces about why the internet sucks these days.

It just so happens that there was a wave of these pieces published last year and I’m finally getting around to them in my Instapaper queue.

Two pull quotes stood out to me:

“Humans were never meant to exist in a society that contains 2 billion individuals,” says Yoel Roth, a technology policy fellow at UC Berkeley and former head of trust and safety for Twitter. “And if you consider that Instagram is a society in some twisted definition, we have tasked a company with governing a society bigger than any that has ever existed in the course of human history. Of course they’re going to fail.”

I’ve seen a few good posts about the difficulties of content moderation at scale.

On the one hand, most of the abundance and privilege we’ve built for ourselves wouldn’t be possible without the massive scale that large conglomerates can achieve.

On the other hand, if something gets so large that we are unable to keep your head wrapped around it, maybe that’s the point where it’s okay to let it collapse in on itself.

The destruction and collapse of large entities is awful, with very real consequences for people.

But it’s out of the ashes of these organizations when we're presented with an opportunity to take the lessons we learned and build something new. We get to try again.

The fix for the internet isn’t to shut down Facebook or log off or go outside and touch grass. The solution to the internet is more internet: more apps, more spaces to go, more money sloshing around to fund more good things in more variety, more people engaging thoughtfully in places they like. More utility, more voices, more joy. 

My toxic trait is I can’t shake that naïve optimism of the early internet. Mistakes were made, a lot of things went sideways, and there have undeniably been a lot of pain and misery and bad things that came from the social era. The mistake now would be not to learn from them. 

Keep the internet small and weird, my friends. ❤️

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Politics isn’t a per se bad. It’s a process. Making politics more productive and substantial make society better. Having people “nope” out of society whenever they get uncomfortable doesn’t help with any of the hard work politics does for things like allocating scarce resources, justice, or equity.

Poignant. I love this web comic.

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The Lesson to Unlearn

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For example, I had avoided working for big companies. But if you'd asked why, I'd have said it was because they were bogus, or bureaucratic. Or just yuck. I never understood how much of my dislike of big companies was due to the fact that you win by hacking bad tests.

I've always considered curiosity to be my biggest asset, using it to really understand how things worked.

I never put two-and-two together, though, that the reason I wanted to understand how things worked was to "win" at it.

Paul Graham's theory here is just one revelation after another for me.

Here is another juicy nugget:

Instead of looking at all the different kinds of work people do and thinking of them vaguely as more or less appealing, you can now ask a very specific question that will sort them in an interesting way: to what extent do you win at this kind of work by hacking bad tests?

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It's Quitting Season

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Powering through is often passive.

What you're doing is avoiding the harder thing, which is confronting the uncertainty of change. You're protecting yourself from the fear of regret.

Worse, by continuing to barrel through towards an inevitable dead end, you're cheating yourself out of all the opportunities quitting might bring.

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Secrets about People: A Short and Dangerous Introduction to René Girard

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Perhaps one of the paradoxical benefits of the internet, in the long term, is shifting the way we think about peer relationships from “opt-out”, which it’s been since pretty much forever, towards “opt-in.”

In an opt-out peer set relationship, we default towards needing to look good in front of people; towards caring what people think, towards being embarrassed about aspects of ourselves, almost automatically – regardless of who the other person is. Not caring about what other people think has to be this deliberate act of bravery that’s hard to do.

But in an opt-in peer set relationship, we only people in as peers and role models selectively and deliberately; not caring about what most people think comes naturally, because it’s on by default.

I’ve personally been struggling with this concept for the last few weeks, and this article really helped set some things in perspective for me.

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Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed

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We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.

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The Burden of Skepticism

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Carl Sagan:

If we teach everybody, let’s say high school students, the habit of being skeptical, perhaps they will not restrict their skepticism to aspirin commercials and 35,000-year-old channelers (or channelees). Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Then where will we be?

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in the schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy?

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