Social Media, Personal Information, and Children

Time with a child is finite and priceless. Documenting the good times in journal notes, travel photographs, and family videos is a fine way to relive happy memories in your old age. BUT … Do not put them online! And keep the kid(s) off social media as long as possible.

  • The information shared online today will most likely survive well into the future.
  • Peoples’ digital information footprint will affect future people more than today’s data profiles affect us now.
  • Data sent today is likely to be stored by individuals other than the intended recipients,
    • and used for unintended purposes.

These factors combine perniciously to undermine the future freedom and wellbeing of children by burdening them with an information history which they had no informed consent in crafting and that will be used to target them (to influence their behavior commercially and politically) and profile them (to automate judgement of their suitability for educational and financial opportunities).

If our great grandparents made a poor decision which they couldn’t live down, they could move to a new city, state, or country where they were unknown. Information today – every photo, text, and tweet – inescapably follows people from birth to grave; the only escape from the internet is suicide. Social mores and norms are changing faster than they used to and no one is safe from retroactive social opprobrium even if many people are legally protected from ex post facto laws. What might future people think of your children’s Halloween costumes, and what those photos say about the rest of their upbringing?

With technological progress, the information we create today might not be only what we think it is. For example, someone who took and shared a family photo from a crowded beach in the 1990s probably thought they were only sharing their family, but that photo now also encodes the known location and identity of everyone whose face is visible in the photo because of today’s advanced facial recognition technology. Are your photos today accidentally sharing your children’s iris scan, fingerprints, or something else? What might a mortgage company’s machine-learning “AI” think about how many beach photos you’ve shared, or the quality of the grammar in your emails? What might an automated social credit system think of your children’s childhood friends?

Many people today don’t store and process their data entirely on their own; they use “cloud” services to store and use it for them (because these services are much easier, cheaper, and more convenient). However, no information which touches the internet appears safe from theft. And then of course sometimes data is simply given away, or sold to a new third-party, or shared with an unanticipated “partner” or customer.

It’s one thing to take these [almost unavoidable] risks for ourselves as adults in exchange for important financial services and career networking. It’s something else to divulge a child’s data for mere curiosity and amusement – something entirely unacceptable.

 

Some links informing my thoughts on this:

We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online |Slate, by Amy Webb

Don’t post your naked child on social media | Reddit

Should you invest in your kid’s digital footprint? | Reuters, by Chris Taylor

How Social Media Is Affecting Your Parenting | Parents, by Mackenzie Dawson

Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids | Psychology Today, by Victoria L. Dunkley

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? | The Atlantic, by Jean M. Twenge

 

Three challenges for the web, according to its inventor | World Wide Web Foundation, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee
The web is under threat. Join us and fight for it. | World Wide Web Foundation, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee

An Apology for the Internet — From the Architects Who Built It | New York Magazine (NYMag): Intelligencer, by Noah Kulwin

Sean Parker unloads on Facebook | Axios, by Mike Allen
Sean Parker interviewed by Axios’ Mike Allen Wednesday (video)

‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It | The New York Times, by David Streitfeld

 

The nature of the self in the digital age, by Aral Balkan

Social-Media Outrage Is Collapsing Our Worlds | The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf
The Costs and Benefits of Worlds Colliding | The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf

Why Technology Favors Tyranny | The Atlantic, by Yuval Noah Harari

The Last Free Generation, by Austin G. Walters

How much immigration is too much? | The Atlantic

Source: How much immigration is too much? | The Atlantic, by David Frum

While it would be destabilizing and impractical to remove all the people who have been living peaceably in this country for many years, it does not follow that any nonfelon who sets foot in the U.S. has a right to stay here.

Demagogues don’t rise by talking about irrelevant issues. Demagogues rise by talking about issues that matter to people, and that more conventional leaders appear unwilling or unable to address. Voters get to decide what the country’s problems are. Political elites have to devise solutions to those problems. If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.

Hundreds of millions of people will want to become Americans. Only a relatively small number realistically can. Who should choose which ones do? According to what rules? How will those rules be enforced? … How we choose will shape the future that will in its turn shape us.

what happens when it’s not just one person or 1,000 people or even 1 million people who want to move? What happens when it’s tens or hundreds of millions knocking on the doors of the developed world? And what happens when those vast numbers of newcomers arrive, not in mass-production economies whose factories and mills need every pair of hands they can hire, but in modern knowledge economies that struggle to achieve full employment and steady wage growth?

When natives have lots of children of their own, immigrants look like reinforcements. When natives have few children, immigrants look like replacements.

Anti-immigrant feeling usually runs strongest in places that receive relatively few immigrants … Yet nonmetropolitan places are experiencing immigration in their own way. Mobility between countries appears to have the perverse effect of discouraging mobility within countries—in effect, moating off the most dynamic regions of national economies from their own depressed hinterlands.

Neither the fiscal costs nor the economic benefits of immigration are large enough to force a decision one way or the other. Accept the most negative estimate of immigration’s dollar costs, and the United States could still afford a lot of immigration. Believe the most positive reckoning of the dollar benefits that mass immigration provides, and they are not so large that the United States would be crazy to refuse them. For good or ill, immigration’s most important effects are social and cultural, not economic.

Who should be invited to join with the natives of the United States to build, together, a better life for the Americans of today and tomorrow?

asylum seekers are advancing their interests and those of their families as best they can. Americans have the same responsibility to do what is best for Americans.

Even at lower immigration levels, America will continue to move rapidly toward greater ethnic diversity. … The higher birth rates of the immigrants already living in this country have determined what the American future will look like demographically. The challenge for today’s Americans is to allow that new demography to develop in an environment of social equality and cultural cohesion.

The phrase border security seriously distorts our understanding of illegal immigration. By some tallies, more than half of the most recent immigrants in the country illegally arrived legally—typically as a student or tourist—then overstayed their visa. They obeyed the law when they entered. They broke it by failing to leave. They get away with this because the U.S. concentrates its immigration enforcement on the frontier—while slighting the workplace.

Americans also need to rethink asylum policy. If unemployment, poverty, or disorder in your home country qualifies you for asylum, then hundreds of millions of people qualify—even though virtually none of them has been targeted by the kind of state-sponsored persecution that asylum laws were originally written to redress.

“How to help those displaced by conflict?” and “How should we select our future fellow Americans?” need to be seen as different questions requiring different sets of answers.

With immigration pressures bound to increase, it becomes more imperative than ever to restore the high value of national citizenship, not to denigrate or disparage others but because for many of your fellow citizens—perhaps less affluent, educated, and successful than you—the claim “I am a U.S. citizen” is the only claim they have to any resources or protection.

Yes, borders are arbitrary. And, yes, more people are arguing that we should care as much about people in faraway lands as we do about our fellow Americans. But the practical effect of making this argument is to enable the powerful to care as little for their fellow Americans as they do for people in faraway lands.

Without immigration restrictions, there are no national borders. Without national borders, there are no nation-states. Without nation-states, there are no electorates. Without electorates, there is no democracy. If liberals insist that only fascists will enforce borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals refuse to do.

When somebody seeks to join the American national community, that person is asking the United States to honor a multigenerational commitment to him or her and to each of his or her descendants. Americans are entitled to consider carefully whom they will number among themselves. They would be irresponsible not to consider this carefully—because all of these expensive commitments must be built on a deep agreement that all who live inside the borders of the United States count as “ourselves.”

The Sea Was Not a Mask — Real Life

Source: The Sea Was Not a Mask — Real Life, by Rob Horning

Does more “extreme” content compel the most compulsive viewing, or are we only concerned with compulsive viewing when the content has antisocial overtones? In other words, when YouTube fine-tunes its algorithms, is it trying to end compulsive viewing, or is it merely trying to make people compulsively watch nicer things? … The idea that YouTube shouldn’t force-feed users content at all is, of course, not considered.

The assumption built into YouTube (and Netflix and Spotify and TikTok and all the other streaming platforms that queue more content automatically) is that users want to consume flow, not particular items of content. Flow and not content secures an audience to broker to advertisers. … [The compulsivity of flow] is so pervasive as to almost seem inescapable — from “page-turners” to bingeable shows to endlessly refreshable scrolls to autoplaying music and autopopulating playlists. It is usually depicted as a selling point, a proof of quality — you can’t put it down! — but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that what’s being sold is surrender: Engage with this thing so you can stop worrying about what to engage with. That is flow. … Flow allows us to experience our agency without exactly exercising it. It blurs the lines between those things.

Flow, fundamentally, is a trap — as anthropologist Nick Seaver details, that means it is a “persuasive technology” that can condition prey “to play the role scripted for it in its design.” Traps work, he argues, by making coercion appear as persuasion: Animals aren’t forced into the trap; its design makes them choose it. Coercion and persuasion, then, can’t be cleanly distinguished. … We are neither forced to consume more nor choosing to consume more; we both want the particular units of content and are indifferent to them. We are both active agents and passive objects. … Flow works by disguising its compulsory mechanism in the details of its content, which is nothing more than bait from the system’s perspective.

[Are] certain kinds of content are especially suited to this blurring? How do we become addicted to the spectacle of our consumption, as an emblem of our own singularity? Does it take particular kinds of content? Does certain kinds of antisocial content make that spectacle more potent and compulsive? Does pursuing information that other people reject or that seems hidden or secret intrinsically make the pursuer aware of their own agency, of their ability to redraw the epistemic frame?

The fundamental problem with Silicon Valley’s favorite growth strategy | Quartz, by Tim O’Reilly

Source: The fundamental problem with Silicon Valley’s favorite growth strategy | Quartz, by Tim O’Reilly
RE: Blitzscaling, by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

Hoffman and Yeh argue that in today’s world, it’s essential to “achieve massive scale at incredible speed” in order to seize the ground before competitors do. By their definition, blitzscaling (derived from the blitzkrieg or “lightning war” strategy of Nazi general Heinz Guderian) “prioritizes speed over efficiency,” and risks “potentially disastrous defeat in order to maximize speed and surprise.”

This premise has become doctrine in Silicon Valley. But is it correct? And is it good for society?

for every company like Paypal that pulled off that feat of hypergrowth without knowing where the money would come from, there is a dotcom graveyard of hundreds or thousands of companies that never figured it out. That’s the “risks potentially disastrous defeat” part of the strategy that Hoffman and Yeh talk about. A strong case can be made that blitzscaling isn’t really a recipe for success but rather survivorship bias masquerading as a strategy.

there are compelling reasons to blitzscale, and the book provides a great deal of wisdom for those facing a strategic inflection point where success depends on moving much faster. But I worry that the book oversells the idea

While Hoffman and Yeh’s book claims that companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon are icons of the blitzscaling approach, this idea is plausible only with quite a bit of revisionist history. Each of these companies achieved profitability (or in Amazon’s case, positive cash flow) long before its IPO, and growth wasn’t driven by a blitzkrieg of spending to acquire customers below cost, but by breakthrough products and services, and by strategic business model innovations that were rooted in a future that the competition didn’t yet understand. These companies didn’t blitzscale; they scaled sustainably.

Sustainability may not actually matter, though, according to the gospel of blitzscaling. After all, the book’s marketing copy does not promise the secret of building massively profitable or enduring companies, but merely “massively valuable” ones.

What is meant by value? To too many investors and entrepreneurs, it means building companies that achieve massive financial exits, either by being sold or going public. And as long as the company can keep getting financing, either from private or public investors, the growth can go on.

But is a business really a business if it can’t pay its own way?

figure 2, found on page 58, of table 9 data: “Initial Public Offerings: Updated Statistics”, by University of Florida finance professor Jay R. Ritter, 2018-01-17

Would profitless companies with huge scale be valued so highly in the absence of today’s overheated financial markets?

The horse-race investment mentality has a terrible side effect: Companies that are not contenders to win, place, or show are starved of investment. Funding dries up, and companies that could have built a sustainable niche if they’d grown organically go out of business instead. … The losses from the blitzscaling mentality are felt not just by entrepreneurs but by society more broadly. When the traditional venture-capital wisdom is to shutter companies that aren’t achieving hypergrowth, businesses that would once have made meaningful contributions to our economy are not funded, or are starved of further investment once it is clear that they no longer have a hope of becoming a home run.

I’ve talked so far mainly about the investment distortions that blitzscaling introduces. But there is another point that I wish Hoffman and Yeh had made in their book.

Assume for a moment that blitzscaling is indeed a recipe for companies to achieve the kind of market dominance that has been achieved by Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google. Assume that technology is often a winner-takes-all market, and that blitzscaling is indeed a powerful tool in the arsenal of those in pursuit of the win.

What is the responsibility of the winners? And what happens to those who don’t win?

The problem with the blitzscaling mentality is that a corporate DNA of perpetual, rivalrous, winner-takes-all growth is fundamentally incompatible with the responsibilities of a platform. Too often, once its hyper-growth period slows, the platform begins to compete with its suppliers and its customers. … Platforms are two-sided marketplaces that have to achieve critical mass on both the buyer and the seller side.

Unfortunately, the defeat being risked is not just theirs, but ours. Microsoft and Google began to cannibalize their suppliers only after 20 years of creating value for them. Uber and Lyft are being encouraged to eliminate their driver partners from the get-go. If it were just these two companies, it would be bad enough. But it isn’t. Our entire economy seems to have forgotten that workers are also consumers, and suppliers are also customers. When companies use automation to put people out of work, they can no longer afford to be consumers; when platforms extract all the value and leave none for their suppliers, they are undermining their own long-term prospects. It’s two-sided markets all the way down.

Viral Outrage Is Collapsing Our Worlds | The Atlantic

Source: Viral Outrage Is Collapsing Our Worlds | The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf

The ability to slip into a domain and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining identities in other domains is something most Americans value, both to live in peace amid difference and for personal reasons.

I wonder whether ongoing debates about matters as varied as Facebook user-data practices, “the right to be forgotten,” NSA data collection, and any number of public-shaming controversies are usefully considered under the umbrella framework of How is new technology affecting our ability to keep our various worlds from colliding when we don’t want them to, and what, if anything, should we do about that?

What would the implications be of adopting the norm that it is often wrong, or only rarely appropriate, to rob an individual of the ability to slip into a given domain and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining their identities in other domains?

What would be the worst consequences? How might we shift the cultural equilibrium to value domain-slipping more highly while recognizing its practical and moral limits? What tradeoffs are involved?