Health of the Republic politics technology

FB Recap: Social Media and the Body Politic

originally posted on Facebook on 2018 March 25

Here’s the thing. This week we’ve learned about massive breaches of trust and the evils that the superconnected Internet can bring. But we’ve also seen truly inspiring and uplifting photos that speak to real change — and not only would we never have seen these pictures without social media, the protests and rallies would never have HAPPENED without social media.

Is social media going to save the world? Probably not. Is it going to destroy the world? Probably not.

A sense of history is in order here: After the fascist triumphs of the 1930s, there was a lot of ink spilled about the evils of radio, used by those fascists to whip up the populace. After imbroglios like the Spanish-American War, there was much angst over the power of newspapers. It didn’t take long for the printing press to be decried as the devil’s work.

You know what the common thread was? Some bad actor early adopters managed to grasp the potential of the new medium and used it to spike a fever in the body politic. Then, the body politic developed antibodies — the new and brazen became known and boring, and got worked into the usual order of things. I feel that’s where we are now. So #deleteFacebook if you think it’s important or if the bargain you’ve made with Zuckerberg no longer matches your priorities. But whether you give up or not, social media is now part of our ecosystems … and I honestly believe, that’s not in the end a bad thing.


FB Recap: Major Tom is Everyman, and That’s the Problem

I’ve liked this song since the 1980s but this has bothered me almost as long:
All systems are go, are you sure?
Control is not convinced
But the computer has the evidence
No need to abort
The implication is, Control should have aborted the mission based on their gut feeling. But if the computers have the evidence, why is Control not convinced? If Control has other evidence, why isn’t it being considered? If there is no other evidence, then Control wasn’t correct, just lucky.
This fits a larger pet peeve of mine, which is that we remain mired (in terms of arts and literature) in an Age of Heroes mentality. It’s the lone actor struggling against the impersonal unfeeling “system”. But in fact, far more tragedies happen because we ignore the evidence than because we follow it. When gut reactions work out, we celebrate it as heroic and when they fail, we say, “Oh, well, sometimes the odds are stacked against you”.
We live in the most interconnected complex society ever, during the most dangerous century ever. Systems, professionals, and procedures may all, admittedly, be faulty.
But we hold as our paragon the people who work around procedures rather than those who try to fix them. Why? I suspect because it lets us off the hook. If the system is irreparable then we’re justified in not exerting ourselves to repair it. If guts trump process, then we have tacit permission to give free rein to our laziness, our proclivities, and our prejudices.
Health of the Republic politics

FB Recap: Sociology of Exponentials

Explaining the socioeconomic tyranny of exponentials, via examples students can relate to: Let’s say kids are given the whole period to complete a lab. Some students work faster than others because they’ve got a better sense of the underlying theory. So they finish early, meaning they can then move on to work on other stuff. Students struggling with the lab don’t get that opportunity, so their other works looms waiting to be done, increasing their stress and likely reducing their capability. So next time, the students who finished early are more likely to finish early AGAIN, and the students who struggled are probably even further behind.
The economy is like that. If you earn more than what you need to survive, you can invest the excess into yourself — maybe a class, maybe just reliable healthcare, maybe things to reduce your stress and enhance your productivity … meaning your earnings will grow even more, even more exceeding the threshold — creating a virtuous cycle.
But if you earn too little, you’ll have to make up the difference by working a second job (blowing through your personal health capital), or taking on debt, or some other mechanism that negatively impacts your productivity … meaning you’ll need even more debt (or whatever), a vicious cycle.
Sure, in real life, there’s a lot of noise there. Your cost of living fluctuates and so does your earning potential Small chance events can put you over the break-even line, or drag you under it. Life is pretty precarious right on that line. But the effects of small bits of luck (good or bad) become massively amplified by this exponential factor. Yeah, it’s possible that you boost your earnings by hard work alone — but once you clear that break-even line, most of the heavy lifting is going to be done by the network effects that create the exponential feedback loop.
I wish I could end this with a simple solution. I don’t have one. But understanding the exponential aspects of life at the break-even leads me to believe, strongly, that we need to flatten out the curve proactively.
movie personal philosophy politics

FB Recap: Privilege in Back to the Future

Growing up gives you a perspective that can ruin all the good things of your childhood. I’m going to comment on Back to the Future here, so if that’s an integral pillar of /your/ childhood, you might want to skip.

FB Recap: Seal and Eagle

Interesting socio-cultural question: In this cover of “Fly Like an Eagle”, Seals sings “I want to fly like an eagle” but omits “till I’m free”, and changes “through the revolution” to “into the future”.
These aren’t accidental changes — I wonder what prompted him and what does it say about the times in which the songs were released (1996 versus 1976). Or… was it because Seal’s version was for a major studio film (Space Jam, believe it or not) and the corporate overlords would brook no mention of the revolution?

Facebook recaps

As usual, I told myself all Spring Break that I should be writing more.  Then I realized that I output a noticeable amount of musings, rants, and thoughts — not a flood, but at least a trickle — on Facebook and other social media.  I’m going to go through and pull out the longer or (in my opinion) more noteworthy posts and repost them here on Mongrel Dogs.  Because self-plagiarism is by far the best kind of plagiarism.