"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Thursday, October 6, 2022

On Having an Inkling About How Much You Don't Know

There's this:

and then there's that:

How Long Do We Have to Reduce Emissions to Avoid Catastrophe?

Quora question:

How long do we have to reduce emissions to prevent catastrophic temperature rise?

There is both unclarity and uncertainty making it difficult to answer your question.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Moving Away from Twitter

OK, so it may be time to move on from Twitter.

Let's talk about some risks from the post-Elon Twitter, and what we can do if there's a need for an alternative.

One risk is that you won't be able to avoid Elon at all! He may set himself up a sort of super-account which everybody "follows" and nobody can block! Consequently his eccentric pronouncements will dominate the conversation even more than Trump's did.

And he'll let Trump back in on day 1.

So basically the noise level will skyrocket. This could happen as soon as next week.
Another risk is that his very takeover will ruin morale enough that too many people quit for the system to remain stable. Twitter may just choke on its own scale with the talent lost. This is alluded to in the Times piece:


As is my wont, I am rereading old futurism. I'd like to call your attention to something Arthur C Clarke said in the early 80s, somewhat in defence of the techno-libertarian free-speech absolutist view.

So Clarke was worried about irresponsible journalism, but he wasn't worried about pseudo-grass-roots propaganda.

This is forgiveable, he was a visionary in so many ways and an optimist, and he didn't foresee quite how much everybody-is-a-publisher would change the picture.

The Holocaust Museum had a traveling exhibit on Propaganda which among other things showed how effective Goebbels was in turning the public against the Jews by a concerted effort at rumour-mongering in the various small towns. Social media weaponizes this technique.

In my view, the precipitous decline of democracy that we're seeing now is only secondarily because of the stresses of the pandemic and the struggles to cope with climate change. I think the primary factor is the resurgence of malicious propaganda supercharged by the new media.

On the other hand, it's hard to argue against free speech. There's a huge appeal to the idea that everyone is a sort of equal on these platforms, and that we can share our evidence, our opinions, our complaints, our hopes. We need some sort of internet public sphere.

So what can we do to decrease the visibility of malign speech and increase the visibility of benign speech; to decrease the visibility of celebrity and increase the visibility of creativity; to decrease the visibility of resentment and increase the visibility of love?

I propose that a key problem with social media is very similar to the key problem with old school journalism. They are set up as for-profit business.

Unconstrained, this is inimical to the public interest.

And we not only can do better, we already have the tech we need!
So I propose we go back to RSS readers and blogs; but we should also each set up some sort of headline "tweet" feed.

(Google Reader was working fine for me. It was its collapse that sent me to Twitter.)

The public sphere needs to move off the for-profit platforms. We can do this just by doing it.

This won't solve the propaganda problem altogether, but it will solve a couple of problems.

An immediate advantage is for those of us who have the skills and understanding to do it - we'll be free of whatever travesties Musk inflicts on this platform as soon as we do, at least to the extent that the folks we follow maintain a suitable RSS feed.

In the long run we can hope and reasonably expect that tools emerge that make the RSS experience as close to that of social media as possible. The general public will then perceive the syndico-sphere as a viable alternative to social media. (And Musk's investment will evaporate!)

I recommend:
  • Set up an RSS reader account
  • Set up or revive your blog
  • Increase participation in blog conversation
  • Make sure anything you tweet is duplicated in a syndicate feed 

Follow me here and I'll keep you posted on my progress with this and offer advice. Thanks for your attention.

photo of Elon Musk is in the public domain. see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SpaceX_CEO_Elon_Musk_visits_N%26NC_and_AFSPC_(190416-F-ZZ999-006)_(cropped).jpg