Sold

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

I’m left wondering what will happen when and if this $450 billion penny drops.

John Lanchester, LRB

I’m not so sure people don’t realise. And of those that do perhaps it’s just they don’t care or, more like it, is they don’t mind, have learnt not to mind? So two billion monthly users is not only Facebook’s biggest achievement to date, that is too.

Recording Technology

Interesting this on recording technology by Keith Richards, and as interesting is Alan Jacobs’ take on it:

Keith rails against “technology” but what he’s actually doing is making the case for one kind of technology rather than another

Listening to the music the Stones (and Dylan is another example) made in the 80s, I think it remained of a quality in the early part of this decade because of the new recording technology not despite it. It was only when everyone involved in making the records became more adept and familiar with the recording technology – and now after reading Richards’ account, felt they had to use all of it – the music of these two suffered. This perhaps is connected to what I was feeling when I wrote about ‘Emotional Rescue’.

Recently I’ve been listening to a few albums from the mid to late 90s. There is definitely a sound they share which dates them to that period; it’s not always prevalent through a whole album (not on the good ones anyhow), and you can get a sense of it listening to albums that don’t share it, but as yet I can’t quite put my finger on what “it” is or how, or even if, the recording technology around that time played a part.

Related maybe to this is this interview with Ewan Pearson, where the subject of dynamic range compression being used more (and so becoming an issue) in the first half of the decade of the 2000s comes up.

Dead Ends

There was an article on AI in last week’s Sunday Times with the headline Robot wars: if we can’t beat them, let’s become them. It’s behind a paywall but some excerpts:

The truth is that Bob, Alice and Tay [AI programs) were straws in a wind that could, one day soon, blow humans off the planet

New machines could soon wipe out millions of jobs

As one technologist put it to me: “You can be confident your laptop isn’t going to strangle you, but it might with the help of your fridge.” We already know what the bad bots can do to our bank accounts

The article carries on in this vein. The writer, Brian Appleyard, does briefly offer up a counter view through Luciano Floridi but concludes:

Maybe he’s right. Or maybe one day soon our cars and fridges or future Bobs, Alices and Tays, talking gibberish, hating feminists and supporting Hitler, will decide that we’re just getting in the way

This type of article (it just so happens to be the most recent one I’ve read, though it is probably the guiltiest) only leads to what Tom Chatfield – a writer whose even handedness when writing about technology I really like – calls the dead end of human vs machine panic. It’s a dead end because it doesn’t encourage conversation, or reasoning, it just serves to set people to anxiety and worry.

 

Money, Money, Money / Must Be Funny

I was left with this feeling that we are all still borrowing money we don’t have to spend on stuff we don’t need – we are still dancing on the deck of the Titanic

As voice-command purchasing is enabled as default on the Echo devices, some viewers’ Alexa units interpreteded Patton’s words as a command, resulting in a series of additional dollhouse dispatches

These two quotes are taken from the new issue of Delayed Gratification, a magazine which again I’d recommend. The first is from Laura Greenfield, a photo journalist, “who has spent 25 years documenting dept, the growth of consumerism and the rise, fall and rise again of the super-rich”; the second from a regular feature in DG, The butterfly effect, which in this issue shows how a derailed banking career in C19 Vienna led to the mass online ordering of dollhouses in January 2017.

Feature followed article and I felt the two quotes, by accident or design, highlighted and complimented each other nicely.