TikTok and the Sorting Hat | Remains of the Day

Source: TikTok and the Sorting Hat | Remains of the Day, by Eugene Wei

I like to say that “when you gaze into TikTok, TikTok gazes into you.

One can debate the semantics of what constitutes a social network forever, but what matters here is realizing that another way to describe an entertainment network is as an interest network. TikTok takes content from one group of people and match it to other people who would enjoy that content. It is trying to figure out what hundreds of millions of viewers around the world are interested in

The idea of using a social graph to build out an interest-based network has always been a sort of approximation, a hack. You follow some people in an app, and it serves you some subset of the content from those people under the assumption that you’ll find much of what they post of interest to you. … But what if there was a way to build an interest graph for you without you having to follow anyone? What if you could skip the long and painstaking intermediate step of assembling a social graph and just jump directly to the interest graph? And what if that could be done really quickly and cheaply at scale, across millions of users? … Now imagine that level of hyper efficient interest matching applied to other opportunities and markets.

the three purposes which I used to distinguish among networks

Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are built on social graphs, and as such, they amplify the scale, ubiquity, and reach of our performative social burden. They struggle to separate their social functions from their entertainment and utility functions, injecting an aspect of social artifice where it never used to exist.

That an app launched out of China could come to the U.S. and sprint into cultural relevance in this attention marketplace should be a wake-up call to complacent U.S. tech companies. Given how many of those companies rely on intuiting user interests to sell them things or to show them ads, a company like TikTok which found a shortcut to assembling such an interest graph should raise all sorts of alarm bells.

in many situations when people ascribe causal power to something other than culture, I’m immediately suspicious.

It turns out that in some categories, a machine learning algorithm significantly responsive and accurate can pierce the veil of cultural ignorance. Today, sometimes culture can be abstracted.

TikTok has figured out the hardest piece, the algorithm. With it, a massive team made up mostly by people who’ve never left China, and many who never will, grabbed massive marketshare in cultures and markets they’d never experienced firsthand. To a cultural determinist like myself, that feels like black magic.

The Truth is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free | License Zero Blog

Source: The Truth is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free | License Zero Blog, by Kyle E. Mitchell
RE: The Truth is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free | Current Affairs, by Nathan J. Robinson

it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free. … This means that a lot of the most vital information will end up locked behind the paywall. … Possibly even worse is the fact that so much academic writing is kept behind vastly more costly paywalls. … A problem beyond cost, though, is convenience. … The amount of time wasted in figuring out how to obtain a piece of research material is a massive cost on top of the actual pricing.

to see just how much human potential is being squandered by having knowledge dispensed by the “free market,” let us briefly picture what “totally democratic and accessible knowledge” would look like. Let’s imagine that instead of having to use privatized research services like Google Scholar and EBSCO, there was a single public search database containing every newspaper article, every magazine article, every academic journal article, every court record, every government document, every website, every piece of software, every film, song, photograph, television show, and video clip, and every book in existence. … What’s amazing is that the difficulty of creating this situation of “fully democratized information” is entirely economic rather than technological. … the money has to come from somewhere, after all.

Creators must be compensated well. But at the same time we have to try to keep things that are important and profound from getting locked away where few people will see them. The truth needs to be free and universal.

there are myriad, happier mediums between $0, expensive, and exclusive, in one dimension, and effortless, inconvenient, and inaccessible, in the other. … there is nothing inherently worse about paying a fee you can afford than enduring an inconvenience you have the time to manage. When the works we need or want come readily available at affordable costs that we can pay, and paying is easy, there’s no great harm to access or progress or truth. That cost many not be great. But if a great many pay it, the results can be.