Archive for the ‘ Internet ’ Category

People are No Longer in Control

And they are proud of this – when, in my opinion, they should be ashamed of it.

But I must clarify where I am coming from. It seems to me that people are now mostly unconsciously motivated. This has always been the case – the unconscious part of our minds run nearly everything – our bodies and our social lives.

This is what every child learns without thinking about it. At first we can’t do much more than suck and shit – but we learn fast. Although this learning process takes years of our young lives. With adults acting as teachers – and where the quality of this teaching varies enormously.

Gradually, we develop a conscious mind, capable of thinking about our world. This is what makes us human, and sets us apart from the other animals – whose consciousness (and ability to think) is only rudimentary.

All this assumed that people were responsible for their world – and in control of it – what else could be?

Here is where I want to pick up the thread of my argument. And note that people no longer believe this. They may claim to be in charge of their lives – and even use sailing terminology to express this “I am the captain of my ship!”

But as anyone can clearly see – they watch Television, and take most of their clues from it. They are controlled by it – and consider this perfectly normal. This control is subtle – but all the more powerful because it is.

The basic fact is that something else controls their lives – and not them. What this something else is – varies a great deal. But is basically derived from Religion. And people’s powerful need to be part of something greater than themselves – in traditional Christian terms – God – or in Evangelical terms – Jesus.

But as someone who grew up in a rapidly changing world, the last half of the last century – something else was in control. Something we could detect intuitively, but could not put into worlds. And indeed, were forbidden to put into words. This allowed it to stay in our collective unconscious – and control us completely.

If questioned about this, people would say “I don’t want to think about it!” They knew the cardinal rule for their time – Do not think about this! They can think about trivial things only – not important things.

What was the important thing? Intellectuals, and they are still plenty of them, will give you long answers, and these are often valuable. But there is a simpler answer, which anyone can experience for themselves – and which indeed, they are forced to experience for themselves – the Business World, and the ultimate expression of this – the Global Economy. Which is enabled by the Computer and its Internet.

We do not want to admit it is in control – but it is.

Corporate Insanity

There must be a ton of books written on this subject – or ones close to it. It’s not considered polite to talk about insanity directly – but I have the luxury of doing so – safe in my bedroom in Costa Rica – wearing my pajamas, and hiding behind my computer – that has a fast connection to the Internet.

I get to see all this insanity long-distance – which is a considerable advantage. I have a wealth of opportunities to do so – the world seems to be banging on my door (on my inbox, actually) eager to tell me all about it. 

I am now reading How Google Works – a huge book, packed with information. And I taking a MOOC from Stanford Technology Entrepreneurship. And an interesing article Irresistibly biased? The blind spots of social innovation just waiting for me to look at it. It’s enough to give me a swelled head.

I keep thinking of how Costa Rica could pull itself up by its bootstraps – by becoming adept at this new technology. But unfortunately, this will never happen. The gap between the developed world and the undeveloped world (which could be closed so easily) will continue to widen.

The Abuse of Digital Power

The following is from Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom
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There is good reason to worry about the way in which our digital lives are being shaped by regulators, politicians serving powerful constituencies , and companies seeking to maximize profit. The potential for manipulation and abuse of the digital networks and platforms that citizens have come to depend upon is one of the more insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age. If citizens of established democracies cannot prevent such manipulation, the prospects for aspiring and fragile democracies in Tunisia and Egypt, let alone hopes for the future in places like Iran and China, look much less bright.

It is a reality of human nature that those with power, however benign or even noble their intentions, will do what they can to keep it. The American revolutionaries certainly understood this truth. As James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, observed near the end of his life in an 1829 speech before the Virginia Constitutional Convention, “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” This was their fundamental assumption as they formed new institutions of the world’s first democratic republic.

In the physical world, mechanisms of democratic politics and constitutional law have worked— not perfectly, but still far better than any alternatives—to protect citizens’ rights. But these mechanisms are no longer adequate for people whose physical lives now depend on what they can or cannot do (and what others can do to them) in the new digital spaces where sovereignty and power are ill-defined and highly contested. The reality is that the corporations and governments that build, operate, and govern cyberspace are not being held sufficiently accountable for their exercise of power over the lives and identities of people who use digital networks. They are sovereigns operating without the consent of the networked.
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Most people will not be bothered by this. It is too complicated for them to understand, they think – and assume that this complication will somehow protect them.

But other people have made it their business to understand it very well – and their services are for sale to the highest bidder.

Investor Storytime

Maciej Ceglowski came up with this idea – and he hit the nail right on the head with it. Ethan Zuckerman picked up the ball and ran with it.

Click on either of these links – if you want to know what is really going on. The Internet can be a treasure-trove – if you know how to carefully pick your way through it – carefully avoiding the mine-fields.

I was one of the people once who were lying those mine-fields – with trip-wires all over the place. But our mines were a special type – what he calls Investor Storytimes. We weren’t fishing for the small fish – but for the big ones, with tons of money. We told them:

“We can make you rich! And it will only cost you a few million dollars. But in return, you will make billions. And you couldn’t possibly lose.” And then we would show they how they couldn’t possible lose. Which was nothing but a fancy shell game – where the sucker could not follow the pea around fast enough. But thought he could.
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It always looked like it would work – and at first it did. Until the word got around, and we went belly-up.

I have friends back in Silicon Valley who went from startup to startup – always hoping to grab that brass-ring – but missing it every time.

The Internet’s Original Sin

Atlantic Magazine

This is an important article – and it took me awhile to work through it – so I tried to take a shortcut and downloaded his book Digital Cosmopolitans: Why We Think the Internet Connects Us, Why It Doesn’t, and How to Rewire It.

The book was a mistake. Just read the Atlantic article instead.

My New Camera is Wi-Fi Connected

But I could care less.

I have been reading lots of hype about the Internet of Things – and now I have one of the damn things.

I made it through the user’s manual without too much trouble – and the camera (which makes photos and movies) seems to be working fine. But the Wi-Fi part of the manual is much thicker. It tells me how my camera can connect to everything – the Internet, a smart phone, another camera, a computer, or a printer.

But why on earth should I want to do that? I have trouble enough understanding the two cloud services I use already – Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Drive. They also promise to do everything for me – but in practice they have strange limitations – ones they do not explain very well.

They just want to say “It’s wonderful, it’s wonderful – and you gotta have it!” When in fact they only want to use you.

Beware of strangers offering gifts – claiming the only want to be your friends. Do not let them in your gates.

Big Data has Given us Nothing

Judging by all the hype we have been hearing – it was supposed to give us everything.

But as the Great Recession showed us – all this data – unimaginable amounts of it – and equally impressive amounts of computing power – were limited by the algorithms that analyze it – which can only look for what they are programmed to look for. As my other posting this morning Our Obsession with Power makes clear.

But this brings up another, much larger subject – it cannot show us that a collapse of the global economy is likely. Why?

Because the human mind cannot comprehend events this big – in time and space. And for this reason, cannot tell its computers what to look either.

If we program them to look at the global GNP, for example. it will show us nice graphs of this. But when this abruptly ends, as during the Great Recession, or any economic downturn – it cannot predict this. It can only analyze why it happened – after it happened. And sometimes (as with the Fall of the Roman Empire) not even then.

This is a common computer problem – garbage in yields garbage out. Only now this has to include garbage programming. Which, believe me – is all too common.

Programmers (now called Software developers) want to make good software – but this takes time and money. Companies are not interested in this – but only in short-term profits.

I watched this happen for 10 years in Silicon Valley, in the Nineties – and I am sure this situation has not gotten any better. We never have the time to do it right to begin with – but lots of time try to patch it up afterward.

Except that many times the situation had gotten so bad it cannot be patched up.