Source: How the internet flips elections and alters our thoughts | Aeon Essays
The internet has spawned subtle forms of influence that can flip elections and manipulate everything we say, think and do
Google decides which web pages to include in search results, and how to rank them.
That ordered list is so good, in fact, that about 50 per cent of our clicks go to the top two items, and more than 90 per cent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed on the first page of results; few people look at other results pages, even though they often number in the thousands, which means they probably contain lots of good information.
I began to wonder whether highly ranked search results could be impacting more than consumer choices. Perhaps, I speculated, a top search result could have a small impact on people’s opinions about things.
The shift we had produced, which we called the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (or SEME, pronounced ‘seem’), appeared to be one of the largest behavioural effects ever discovered.
on election day in 2010, Facebook sent ‘go out and vote’ reminders to more than 60 million of its users. The reminders caused about 340,000 people to vote who otherwise would not have. … given the massive amount of information it has collected about its users, Facebook could easily send such messages only to people who support one particular party or candidate
if Google set about to fix an election, it could identify just those voters who are undecided. Then it could send customised rankings favouring one candidate to just those people
The technology that now surrounds us is not just a harmless toy; it has also made possible undetectable and untraceable manipulations of entire populations – manipulations that have no precedent in human history and that are currently well beyond the scope of existing regulations and laws.
Source: Limit Executive Power Now, Before Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton Can Take Office – The Atlantic
Bush and Obama ran roughshod over Madisonian checks and balances, but there’s still time to restore them.
Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after. Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant’s checklist that they’ve provided their successors:
- A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review
- The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial
- Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027
- Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan’s blessing
- Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret — and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations
- The permissibility of droning to death people whose identities are not even known to those doing the killing
- The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven’t been convicted of anything
- A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order
Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?
Source: When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages | Toronto Star
After multiple inquiries ended with no answers, officials turned their attention to the design of the cockpit itself. Back in 1926, when the army was designing its first-ever cockpit, engineers had measured the physical dimensions of hundreds of male pilots (the possibility of female pilots was never a serious consideration), and used this data to standardize the dimensions of the cockpit. For the next three decades, the size and shape of the seat, the distance to the pedals and stick, the height of the windshield, even the shape of the flight helmets were all built to conform to the average dimensions of a 1926 pilot.
How many pilots really were average?
Using the size data he had gathered from 4,063 pilots, Daniels calculated the average of the 10 physical dimensions believed to be most relevant for design, including height, chest circumference and sleeve length. These formed the dimensions of the “average pilot,” which Daniels generously defined as someone whose measurements were within the middle 30 per cent of the range of values for each dimension.
Before he crunched his numbers, the consensus among his fellow air force researchers was that the vast majority of pilots would be within the average range on most dimensions. … The scientists also expected that a sizable number of pilots would be within the average range on all 10 dimensions. But even Daniels was stunned when he tabulated the actual number.
Zero. Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions.
Daniels’ analysis led him to a counterintuitive conclusion that serves as the cornerstone of this book: any system designed around the average person is doomed to fail.
By discarding the average as their reference standard, the air force initiated a quantum leap in its design philosophy, centred on a new guiding principle: individual fit. Rather than fitting the individual to the system, the military began fitting the system to the individual. In short order, the air force demanded that all cockpits needed to fit pilots whose measurements fell within the 5-per-cent to 95-per-cent range on each dimension.
Source: The Next Amazon (Or Apple, Or GE) Is Probably Failing Right Now | FiveThirtyEight
In research set to be published on Monday, however, a team of researchers at MIT argues that Amazon’s rise wasn’t so unpredictable after all. The researchers believe they have found a set of characteristics that can identify which companies have a shot at success. That could allow cities and states to move beyond the shots-on-goal approach and instead try to foster the specific types of companies that are most likely to create jobs and drive innovation.
But all is not well. Stern and Guzman find that fewer of those ambitious startups are successfully becoming big companies. Put another way, the U.S. may have as many would-be Bezoses as ever, but it’s getting fewer Amazons.
there is also evidence that the economy has become more hostile to new companies. Startups are failing at a higher rate than in the past, while older, larger businesses are increasingly dominating nearly every sector of the economy. Economists on both sides of the political spectrum have found evidence of increased “rent-seeking,” efforts by companies to use government regulation or other policies to protect themselves from competition.