The Platform Is The Enemy -

teriyakiburns

Uncle O'Ruckus
kiwifarms.net
Article (archive)

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The premise of the movie "Idiocracy" is simple: in the future mankind has de-evolved into morons. Technology does so much for everybody that nobody knows how it all works anymore. If we can't fix it, we're all going to die.

One character asks the other what he likes, The answer is money.

"I can't believe you like money too!" the first character says without irony, "We should hang out!"

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The gag here is that of course, most everybody likes money. If you reduce all of your life enough, it's just food, sex, money, and looking cool. But who would want to do that? Over the centuries, humans have created massively-complex societies because everybody has different things they like doing and thinking about, but all of that complexity can be reduced to, well, an idiocracy if you try hard enough.

The movie, however, is just a joke, right? We would never allow that to happen, of course, because that's not the goal of technology. Technology's goal is to make us better, not dumber.

Wait one. Is that true? What is the goal of technology, anyway? Has anybody ever clearly stated it?

Recently I've heard two goals:
  1. The goal of technology is to become a brain extension, helping you to decide what to do and then helping you get it done.
  2. The goal of technology is to become a hand-held power tool, helping you accomplish the things you've already decided to do

That's not the same thing. It turns out the difference is critical.

The old goal was much simpler: make something people want. I like that goal! It boils down the job of creating technology to the most important parts, need and ability. But was that sustainable? At the end of the day, don't we always end up making some combination of stuff that either helps us make decisions or helps us implement decisions we've already made? And aren't the two fundamentally incompatible in a future society?

Yelp tells you which restaurant to go to. Your GPS automatically takes you there. These are not just different problems, they're different kinds of problems. Getting from point A to point B is a matter of math and geometry. Which restaurant is the best tonight? You could spend hours debating that with friends.

If you reduce anything down enough it becomes idiotic. Each piece of technology we deploy can have the goal of helping us do what we've already decided or helping us decide what to do. The first option leaves the thinking up to us. The second option "helps" us think.


You like money too? Wow! I like money! We should hang out!

Human brains are not computers. Brains are designed to help us survive and pass on our genes using the minimum amount of energy available. If the GPS takes me where I'm going, I don't need to know how to use maps anymore. So I stop knowing how to use maps. Dump those neurons, they're not needed. If Yelp picks the restaurants for me enough, I stop having nuanced preferences about restaurants. That energy expenditure is no longer needed for survival and reproduction. Dump those neurons. Over time people stop caring about the tiny details of what the difference is between a good and a great restaurant. Yelp handles that.

For some folks, who cares? It's food. Go eat it. For other folks, picking the right place can be a serious undertaking, worthy of heavy thought and consideration. But if over the years apps like Yelp boil all of that down to four or five stars, then our collective brain is not going to bother with it. Human brains are not computers. If computers do the work for us, we turn off those neurons and save energy.

Meanwhile, on social media there's currently this huge discussion. One bunch of folks says that social media is being overbearing in its censorship of fringe and sometimes hateful opinions. The other bunch of folks says social media is a festering sore full of people who are ugly, hateful, and abusive to those weakest among us. The community has to set standards.

There doesn't have to be a right and wrong here. I think the crucial thing to to understand that both sides can be entirely correct. We are dealing with the same kind of question.

All three of these topics -- whether humanity is becoming idiots or not, what the ultimate goal of technology is or should be, and how social media should work -- are intricately related. They're related because of this: the platform is the enemy.

The minute we create a platform for something, whether it's rating movies, tracking projects, or chatting with friends about work, as that platform takes over mindshare, the assumption becomes that this is a solved problem.

The telephone was great. Once we had the telephone, people didn't have to worry about how to talk to people far away anymore. Just pick up the phone. Solved problem.
Facebook is great. Once we had Facebook, people didn't have to worry about how to interact with their friends in a social setting anymore. Just click on the little FB notification (Which seems to be always flashing for some reason to get my attention) Solved problem?

But these are entirely different things! With the phone, I know who I want to call and why. I push buttons and we are connected. The tech helps me do what I've already decided to do. With Facebook, on the other hand, they get paid to show me things in a certain order. The premise is that I'm waiting (or "exploring" if you prefer) until I find something to interact with. The phone is a tool for me to use. I am the tool Facebook is using. I am no longer acting. I am reacting.

And even if they weren't paid, interacting with friends socially is an extremely complex affair. What kind of mood are they in? What's their life history? What things are bad to bring up? How does their body language look? Facebook's gimmick is "Hey, we've reduced all of this to bits and bytes, and we'll even show you what bits and bytes to look at next!"

Solved problem.

Many, many people do not use the internet, the internet uses them. And this percentage is constantly growing.

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Just like the restaurant example, maybe that's fine. I have friends, I have opinions, who cares? It's all idle chat anyway.

That logic can be true for a bunch of things, but can't be true for everything. Otherwise, at some point 100 years from now, we're comparing our life values and end up saying something like "I like money too". Everything can't all be reduced down to the lowest common denominator. If it does, we all die.

Life is not a bit or byte, a number to be optimized. It's meaning we define ourselves, in ways we should not quantize.

Platforms, by their very nature, constantly send out the subtle message: This is a solved problem. No further effort on your part is required here. No thinking needed. Platforms resist change. They resist their own evolution by subtly poisoning the discussion before it even starts.

Are restaurant choices more or less important than which movie to watch tonight? There's no right or wrong answer to these questions. We have nice categories like restaurants and movies because currently people consider those things to be different kinds of choices. But why? If the algorithm is king, why shouldn't an algorithm determine both of those things for me? And if it does, why should I bother with worrying about which category is which?

Human brains are not computers. Let the platform decide. Energy not needed. Dump those neurons.

This is the more important point. It's not that the platforms turn what might be complex things into simple numbers, or even that they monetize attention. It's that by turning everything into numbers, over time they destroy the distinction between the categories entirely. Platforms are the enemy because they resist analysis in the areas they dominate.

Platforms turn into settled fact things that should be open for debate, like whether or not Taco Bell is a Mexican restaurant, or whether Milo is an artist with something useful to tell us. (I'm going with "no" and "no" for both of these.) More dangerously, they do the work of deciding what categories various things go into. This category over here is important. That category over there is not. We all make these decisions, and they're all different, and the categories each of us pays careful attention to and loves obsessing about are all different, and because we all have different viewpoints and priorities humankind advances in thousands of directions simultaneously. We survive. We evolve.

Twitter has to decide whether PERSON_X can speak or not because on the Twitter platform, that question has to have a yes or no answer based on the person. Twitter's category for deciding who can speak is "who is that?" Is that the right category for social conversations? For political conversations? For conversations about philosophy? Math? Who knows? Who cares? Twitter has decided. Solved problem.

Everybody has different things they like doing and thinking about. Different conversations and audiences have different criteria. Some problems should never be solved. Or rather more directly, some problems should never have a universal answer.

An aside: We see the same thing in programming. One bunch of folks creates various platforms in order to do the thinking for another bunch of folks. Sometimes these platforms take off and become industry standards. That's quite rare, however. Most of the time we end up training morons who can weakly code against the platform but can't reason effectively about the underlying architecture or reason for the platform to exist in the first place. In our desire to help, we harm the very people we're trying to assist -- by subtly giving them the impression that this is a solved problem. Programmers are just a decade or so ahead of the rest of us.

Popular platforms aren't just a danger economically because they control commerce. They're not just a danger politically because they selectively control and amplify political discourse. They're an extinction-level, existential danger to humans because they prevent people from seriously considering what kinds of categories are important in each of their lives. They resist their own analysis and over time make people dumber. Right now we're skating through the danger because we're harvesting people from less-advanced countries to do our hard-thinking for us. That window is quickly drawing to a close.

AI isn't a clear and present danger to our species because we're going to end up fighting the robots like in Terminator. AI is a clear and present danger to our species because it might end up doing exactly what some of us want it to do: become a brain extension.

If we can't fix this, we're all going to die.

The Idiocracy starts here. It starts now.

I wasn't entirely sure where to put this. A&N, deep thots, or here. It's mostly tech related, so why not?

I think it raises an interesting thought, one I've been trying to put into words for a while. It also gives me another excuse to say "fuck big tech they should all die", but then I don't really need an excuse to say that.
 

Sperghetti

#waxmymeatballs
kiwifarms.net
That’s really interesting. It's a great point that a lot of platforms making it very easy for people to suspend their own thoughts and decisions by making it overly easy to keep up with what "everyone else" thinks. It's like high school popularity on steroids where everyone thinks X is great and Y is dumb, so if you don't like X and enjoy Y, you must be a loser.

Personally, I think the problem lies in not just the fact that the internet exists and that people can communicate on it, but how social media sites are structured.

More dangerously, they do the work of deciding what categories various things go into. This category over here is important. That category over there is not. We all make these decisions, and they're all different, and the categories each of us pays careful attention to and loves obsessing about are all different, and because we all have different viewpoints and priorities humankind advances in thousands of directions simultaneously. We survive. We evolve.
I'd almost say that the problem is that there are no meaningful categories anymore, because social media is designed to mush every conversation together. It's not like a forum where it's much easier to talk about just one topic in a given time and place and avoid others you don't care about. On social media platforms, you can't have a conversation about video games without talking about politics, because if somebody wants to talk about politics, there's nothing anyone can do to stop them, and nowhere for them to be redirected to. You're at the mercy of what everyone else wants to talk about at all times. (Which I suppose is the core point the author was making here.)

Meanwhile, on social media there's currently this huge discussion. One bunch of folks says that social media is being overbearing in its censorship of fringe and sometimes hateful opinions. The other bunch of folks says social media is a festering sore full of people who are ugly, hateful, and abusive to those weakest among us. The community has to set standards.
This is another structural problem, too. It’s not like these opinions didn’t exist in the past on the internet, but it used to be that the “people are being too mean” crowd and the “people are being too sensitive" crowd could stay out of each other's way most of the time. Now they're constantly in each other's face all the time because everyone wants to use the same two or three websites that, by design, do not allow them to stay away from each other.

Anyway, thanks for coming to my TED talk.
 

Jolly Copulation

Keeping his Zwei hand strong.
kiwifarms.net
TL;DR, technology will domesticate humanity to such a degree of complacency that we will revert to unthinking sheeple with no self-autonomy. I just saved you all a few minutes. Look, people are and always will be a bunch of retarded hairless monkeys who screech and kill each other. You should ALWAYS go your own way and think for yourself because the vast majority of us thought the world was flat and would end in 2012. Shows what people know.
 
Social media is made by people who thing that interests are fungible, but used by people who really only have n..=5 interests. If I want something, you can't just push other options in my face and expect me to bite. Having more information and options, consumers become choosy. The only people who actually use strakbucks app (and by extension social adverts) are brainlets in their 50s or older. The advertisers chase the new crop of consumers in their 40s, so they're ready to by what they're told to in their 50 and onward. If the social media or TV channel or anything isn't acutely attuned, the adverts go somewhere else because it's so hit-n-miss to begin with to actually get people to bite at the hook. Consumers need to feel an alliance with their brands. This brand is me, it knows me, we're like family. That way the bands, the companies behind them, can keep their corp buying there products on the dime of social security and welfare payments. Get them while they're young (really a few decades out from retirement), wait for them to go on government subsides, and then it's like the government is paying you and you don't have to deal with consumers who actually want a good deal.

If you tired to market to people who don't have iron-bowl jobs then your company would actually have to offer a good deal. Young people don't have stable income and are dependent on their parents and can only labor at places that pay them less then they can live on. Which means said employee is actually working mostly for free while actually getting payed to subsist by the government through welfare or parents. To put in perspective, before a consumer has the job they will retire at, they are under capitalized, their wage-cuck is not even enough to live independently and the slack that's needed is filled in by other parties. So these consumers don't have any money. Why would, I a company, want to sell to people who can't afford my product? I wouldn't. When a consumer has reached the point when they are at the job they will retire at, they are an optimal pick to get hooked on a brand. Any earlier to hook the consumer and you're wasting the company's advert money getting someone who might change their mind by the time they really become profitable to the company.

When a consumer is iron-bowl they have too much time, easy work, and plenty of disposable income. Their job security is probably set until they retire or they have enough reputation to get a similar job at a different company and be on the same track. They are at a point in their life when they are about to become most profitable. They are also older and it would be harder for them to radically change their habits. Whatever consumers in their 40s and 50s think is good, which in our age is disgusting danger-hair crap, gets pushed hard. Nicky is bought by middle-ages sockermoms so if they think trannies are delicate flowers, so that's what is pushed. It has nothing to do with logic, quality of content, or ever common decency. Mozilla actually published a photo of their convention nametags where you get to fill you your sex, race, and ethnicity (pronouns) just like prisoners in natzi deathcamps wore badges to show what kind of inmate they were.
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(I mean this is obvious. Mozilla is holocaust deniers.)
I lost my train of thought. You are cattle to your corporate shepherds.
 

Never Scored

True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
Pretty good article. I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I've pretty well been saying social media is a disaster since the year I deleted my Facebook account... 2012. It's been nice to see more people get on board, because the reaction from friends and family when I decided to do it was, "Never Scored has decided he wants to live in a cave."

I think what this article does well is distinguishing the difference between Facebook and say, this site, 4Chan or even Reddit(excluding the "popular" feed of course). I've always felt those kind of sites are different, but I've had trouble articulating it. The brain extension vs hand held power tool analogy in this article is a very good articulation of that difference. In general if I go to a subreddit for say, modding my Playstation Classic. I have decided that I want to read and talk about modding Playstation Classic. The subreddit is a tool for me to read and talk about what I have already decided I want to read and talk about. Generally Facebook and Twitter do not work this way. They are deciding what to show me.

To use a real world analogy, it's like going to the library and being able to pick the book you want to read vs the librarian creating a personality profile based on what you told them you like and picking out books for you.
 
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Sperghetti

#waxmymeatballs
kiwifarms.net
I think what this article does well is distinguishing the difference between Facebook and say, this site, 4Chan or even Reddit(excluding the "popular" feed of course). I've always felt those kind of sites are different, but I've had trouble articulating it. The brain extension vs hand held power tool analogy in this article is a very good articulation of that difference. In general if I go to a subreddit for say, modding my Playstation Classic. I have decided that I want to read and talk about modding Playstation Classic. The subreddit is a tool for me to read and talk about what I have already decided I want to read and talk about. Generally Facebook and Twitter do not work this way. They are deciding what to show me.

To use a real world analogy, it's like going to the library and being able to pick the book you want to read vs the librarian creating a personality profile based on what you told them you like and picking out books for you.
It's a pity that more people don't make that distinction. I think it's a really important one, and a major reason that social media has made the internet in general so shitty.

Sites like forums, image boards, or even Reddit are inherently centered around the idea of people talking to each other about a given topic. They might all have different structures, but they were all built to let people talk to each other in a semi-coherent manner, sort content by subject, etc. The emphasis is more on conversational topics than users.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, on the other hand, are basically just blogging taken to an extreme. They're centered around this model of an individual user posting a stream of consciousness, and delivering content by having you "follow" other users and being shown a feed of their streams of consciousness. The emphasis is more on users than conversational topics. People try to use these sites to have conversations, but they do an extremely poor job of it because that's just not what the site was intended for.
 

Cool Dog

A goodboi denied his Wendy's
kiwifarms.net
Right now we're skating through the danger because we're harvesting people from less-advanced countries to do our hard-thinking for us. That window is quickly drawing to a close.
Third world codemonkeys have no say on anything, if you think pajeet, chong or pedro are behind the shit going on in big tech you're being delusional

All the SJW shit you see is being made by actual SJW coders and trooners in silicon valley. If it was up to third world coders the internet would be the same as it was before social media, a lot of the russian internet I seen is still like that for example and they live in a semi-dictatorship
 

teriyakiburns

Uncle O'Ruckus
kiwifarms.net
Third world codemonkeys have no say on anything, if you think pajeet, chong or pedro are behind the shit going on in big tech you're being delusional
Good thing that's not what he said then, isn't it?

That part of his argument is that we're delaying the inevitable collapse of technical competence in western society by importing people who are still capable of thinking about the problems that we've largely farmed away to platforms.
 

Wallace

Cram it in me, baby!
kiwifarms.net
The trick is that the people using social media are the product being sold, not the consumers of the product. Social media companies make their money through advertising. The platform is just what they use to rope in people to make them look at ads.

Social media has gotten very, very good at showing people things that will drive engagement; in other words, they show you things that will make you stay and click longer (the librarian in the above example). Unfortunately, this means that it puts you in a bubble of affirmation, and the consequences of this has been discussed in detail all over KF.
 

Cool Dog

A goodboi denied his Wendy's
kiwifarms.net
Said it in another thread: the only way we can get current services without the datamining is if people pay for it

But everyone is hooked up on the freemium smack
 

Unassuming Local Guy

Friendly and affectionate
kiwifarms.net
I'm more of the mind that social media isn't making people stupid, it's giving more power to people who were already stupid.

Pre-internet, how would you ever come into contact with idpol freaks or qanon cultists? You wouldn't, except maybe in passing. You'd see an idiot being an idiot, think "what an idiot", and forget about it. Now you're forced to watch every idiot on the planet constantly screeching their stupid fucking opinions all the time unless you totally eschew all forms of media. They never leave your consciousness. They were always there, but it's just recently we were made hyper-aware of them.

Have you ever read up on debunked scientific theories? Spontaneous generation? Tabula rasa? Doctors' hands being clean all the time simply by virtue of their title? These weren't fringe theories, these were mainstream beliefs held by the best and brightest that were only debunked fairly recently. Humans have always been a species that's 90% sheep. Probably higher.
 

Kosher Dill

Potato Chips
True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
Pre-internet, how would you ever come into contact with idpol freaks or qanon cultists? You wouldn't, except maybe in passing.
True, but those people also wouldn't come into contact with each other and reinforce their beliefs. The lone Qoomer would probably just be "that guy at the bar who starts off on crackpot Obama theories when he's got a few beers in him".
 

Unassuming Local Guy

Friendly and affectionate
kiwifarms.net
True, but those people also wouldn't come into contact with each other and reinforce their beliefs. The lone Qoomer would probably just be "that guy at the bar who starts off on crackpot Obama theories when he's got a few beers in him".
So basically you're saying that as long as you insulate a moron from harmful beliefs, they'll end up benign? Keep Lennie away from the rabbits? There's something to be said for that theory. Stupidity can be seen as a function of how easy it is to trick someone, so if there are no tricks there can be no stupid. Or something to that effect.

On the other hand, humans have kind of an immune system when it comes to manipulation. If someone goes their entire lives without being exposed to evil, they'll be unable to identify it. Most genocides were committed by very stupid people who spent their entire lives as unthinking cogs, and they continued to act as unthinking cogs when someone gave them guns and told them to kill. So it might actually be beneficial to let stupid people fester in their stupidity for a while and pull them out before the point of no return. It's hard to say.
 
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