Web by Google (TM), by Alan Gibson

Source: Web by Google (TM), by Alan Gibson

So Google controls the Web’s search and video [and advertising] infrastructure. It can and does dictate standards and media formats. It also controls a huge chunk of the revenues available when publishing and selling on the Web. It even controls the [Android] operating system and [Chrome] browser through which most people interact with it.

Google’s capture of the Web is a fait accompli. Only legislation will keep the World Wide Web from finally becoming Web by Google (TM).

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.

Orthodox Privilege, by Paul Graham

Source: Orthodox Privilege, by Paul Graham

There has been a lot of talk about privilege lately. Although the concept is overused, there is something to it, and in particular to the idea that privilege makes you blind — that you can’t see things that are visible to someone whose life is very different from yours.

But one of the most pervasive examples of this kind of blindness is one that I haven’t seen mentioned explicitly. I’m going to call it orthodox privilege: The more conventional-minded someone is, the more it seems to them that it’s safe for everyone to express their opinions.

It’s safe for them to express their opinions, because the source of their opinions is whatever it’s currently acceptable to believe. So it seems to them that it must be safe for everyone. They literally can’t imagine a true statement that would get them in trouble.

And yet at every point in history, there were true things that would get you in terrible trouble to say. Is ours the first where this isn’t so? What an amazing coincidence that would be.

It doesn’t seem to conventional-minded people that they’re conventional-minded. It just seems to them that they’re right. Indeed, they tend to be particularly sure of it.

If you believe there’s nothing true that you can’t say, then anyone who gets in trouble for something they say must deserve it.

How To Understand Things, by Nabeel Qureshi

Source: How To Understand Things, by Nabeel Qureshi

What we call ‘intelligence’ is as much about virtues such as honesty, integrity, and bravery, as it is about ‘raw intellect.’

Intelligent people simply aren’t willing to accept answers that they don’t understand — no matter how many other people try to convince them of it, or how many other people believe it, if they aren’t able to convince them selves of it, they won’t accept it.

One component of it is energy: thinking hard takes effort, and it’s much easier to just stop at an answer that seems to make sense, than to pursue everything that you don’t quite get down an endless, and rapidly proliferating, series of rabbit holes. … But it’s not just energy. You have to be able to motivate yourself to spend large quantities of energy on a problem, which means on some level that not understanding something — or having a bug in your thinking — bothers you a lot. You have the drive, the will to know.

Related to this is honesty, or integrity: a sort of compulsive unwillingness, or inability, to lie to yourself.

Another quality I have noticed in very intelligent people is being unafraid to look stupid. … Most people are not willing to do this — looking stupid takes courage, and sometimes it’s easier to just let things slide.

The best thing I have read on really understanding things is the Sequences, especially the section on Noticing Confusion.

understanding is not a binary “yes/no”. It has layers of depth.