OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Adaptability

“My takeaway is human adaptability to almost anything is just like much more remarkably strong than we realize, and you can get used to anything as the new normal, good or bad, pretty fast,” Altman said. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned that lesson many times.”
Sam Altman – OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says he can no longer eat in public in S.F.

Sam Altman is 39 years old and seems to be a darling of the tech industry. He SMS messages usually in all lowercase, was a key player in OpenAI, a new artificial intelligence software company, and seems to use the word “like” in random places.

If Sam were to write a book, it would certainly be a good idea to send it through the AI rewriter. Perhaps it would say instead: “My takeaway is human adaptability to almost anything is just like much more remarkably strong is stronger than we realize, and you can quickly get used to anything, good or bad as the new normal. , good or bad, pretty fast ,”

I am convinced that a lot of the new tools, while remarkable, are making humans less intelligent and dependent. Most people today surely have a hard time writing longhand with a pen.  Spelling is an ancient skill. Along comes credit card transactions with predetermined tips and people no longer have to do basic math. Long-form math. Forget about it.

So Sam Altman just realized that being worth billions of dollars and trying to live a life of anonymity is impossible. Probably a good idea to “like” add that algorithm into that “like” ChatGPT thing.

Recommended Reading: BIG by Matt Stoller

https://mattstoller.substack.com/

On the SF Journal website we have not had a post for a while about intellectual property or copyright. We simply felt it was not worth the ink, and besides it tends to bore people to tears. I find the whole topic fascinating, but then again, I find the maintenance of harmonicas enthralling. To read about how the laws in the late 1990s was a huge gift to the tech industry and a sort of shake-down of the creative class, read my posts in https://sfjournal.net/category/copyright/

Many times when writing and reading about how copyright laws in the late 1990s and the digital age have made it so copyrights have become meaningless, people tell me that the problem is not copyright laws, it is about the concentration of power into a few hands and the monopolies of our time – Facebook, Google and Amazon to name the most easily recognized. Matt Stoller’s BIG is a Substack blog that writes about these monopolies and what Matt calls “the anti-monopoly revolution  happening today.” I am not so sure it should be called a “revolution” but what is true is that the tech monopiles are being challenged by the FTC and they are fighting back.  Perhaps the biggest change was the Biden appointment of Lina Khan as the chair of the Federal Trade Commission.  Lina is just 32 years of age, extremely bright and going to court to take Facebook to task for illegal anti-trust behavior.

Read BIG by Matt Stoller.

Long and in-depth articles that get way into the weeds about anti-trust laws and how people like Lina Khan are attempting to break up these monopolies.  Highly recommended.

What is interesting about the whole concept of monopiles, is that the major players in the tech industry have always been about controlling and dominating a channel.  Amazon,  for years going in the red just to undercut small bookstores and put them out of business. Facebook buying Instagram to take out a competitor. The list is long and the secret sauce is all laid out in Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. This book discloses the recipe for creating a monopoly and crushing everything along the way. The author, oddly thinks this is all for the better, but then again Peter Thiel is a billionaire and may be a little out of touch with people working in an Amazon warehouse living paycheck to paycheck.

Anti-trust laws are often complex and full of nuance that can often leave Congress people scratching their heads save for Amy Klobuchar, who wrote a serious book on the matter Antitrust – TAKING ON MONOPOLY POWER FROM THE GILDED AGE TO THE DIGITAL AGE.

 

 

Why Facebook is Not Like the Bulletin Board at the Laundromat

This essay explores different perspectives concerning Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Movies such as The Social Network have finally made obvious to the broader public some of the toxicity of social media and this essay is to point out that Facebook and other social media companies are not like cork message boards at the laundromat but rather a modern, innovative and complicated form of publishing. For some background, read the New York Times article Tech Companies Shift Their Posture on a Legal Shield, Wary of Being Left Behind where in the comments a gentleman from New York commented the following:

– Kenneth, ny
Section 230 is the wrong tool for regulating tech giants; it’s how people can say something on the internet without bringing down the hosting service. Let’s remove it; we’d lose these comment boards because now the Times is liable for its contents. Twitter gets nuked completely (possibly a good outcome in your estimation!) but so too does every place users can place comments. The analogy that impressed me in law school was the idea of a cork message board — if someone comes along and staples a defamatory statement, you go after the person who posted it. You don’t sue the owner of the corkboard. And if the corkboard owner removes the defamatory statement, then the original speaker doesn’t get to sue them in turn. That’s the point and purpose of section 230. If the corkboard owner owns all the corkboards, then okay, that’s why we have antitrust laws. But unless you want to start scrutinizing all online speech via legislation, we should use other means to attack the power of the internet giants.

ACT 1:  The Metaphor Trap

Trying to make sense of the new digital world, people conjure up metaphors from the physical world. For many years it was called the Information Superhighway and the internet was something that you surfed. Lately, servers are called the cloud.  These are convenient ways we, or probably more accurately, marketing departments, try to give people a reference for this fast moving world.  But in actuality you do not surf the internet and it is not a cloud. It seems skepticism is sometimes in short supply these days. The notion that interacting with social media and “posting,” is at its essence, the same voluntary action as  posting a notice about your lost cat on the local laundromat cork message board is simply naive.  Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 2: Horses and cars

Comparing Facebook with cork bulletin  boards is perhaps  like comparing horses with cars.  Both horses and cars are a means of transportation. Indeed, when the automobile became ubiquitous the motor’s strength was horsepower. This must have been a certain horse in a good mood, and it surely was just an average and not very accurate.  Because horses were not cars there were all kinds of regulations about how fast they could go, and how you had to drive with lights on at night and wear seat belts, and eventually it got so bad, you had to have a drivers licence.  Cars, as long as they had gas could go for hours on end. Horses need rest. While horses and cars are tools for humans to get from one place to another, they are apples and oranges. Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 3: Geography

A cork board in the laundromat always stays in one place .  In  reality the only reason the owner of the laundromat put up the freakin’ cork board in the first place was because people kept taping room rentals and lost pet posters on the wall and she was getting tired of cleaning off all the sticky tape.  People who see Facebook stuff have it on their phone, on their computer at home, in an internet cafe (they still have those) – basically everywhere they are they can get news and messages from people they do not really even know. They see the social media stuff everywhere.  The message board at the laundromat hangs out in the laundromat all night in the dark with the florescent lights off waiting for the morning for the door to be unlocked and someone to poke it witha thumbtack in the morning the next day.

Furthermore, your laundromat bulletin board is not a two way mirror where some creepy white guy in a hoody is  behind the glass spying on your every move, changing what you see on the bulletin board by gauging your mood and even where your eyes focus.  It does not track whether you were in the laundromat last week, or how many loads you did, or whether you just came from the grocery store. Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 4: Classified Ads

In reality a cork board in a laundromat is perhaps more like a free classified service like craigslist but the cork board in a laundromat is physical.. However, unlike craigslist and for that matter Facebook, when someone posts a notice on the cork board they do not have to give the owner of the cork board their birth date, email, or any other personal information. On the cork board people post their “stuff”and often write their phone number many times on the  notice so that people can tear off the phone numbers and easily call them .  People are usually pretty anonymous and everyone sees the same stuff. The woman who owns the laundromat (or craigslist for that matter) does not customize the cork board for different laundromat users based on their politics, gender orientation or sport teams affiliation. Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 5: Selling Your Self to the Devil

Unlike Facebook, I would wager that a cork message board in my local laundromat is pretty harmless. It is not a platform associated with radical white extremists that are conspiring to kidnap the governor, or entire governments intent on marginalizing and murdering certain members of society as what happen in  Myanmar.

The cork board is probably not a place where strange inaccurate and totally false conspiracy theories propagate. Perhaps Facebook is more often like a toxic dump site, that is oozing falsehoods and devious schemes all night. but appears benign. Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 6: What if I post stuff that is copyrighted?

A few years after Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) which ushered in the 21st century that often marginalized tradition creators of music, art and publishing.  The DMCA made it completely legal for hosting companies and most often large monopolies to make money off of the music of the last 100 years and be free of any legal consequences for copyright infringement as the material was posted by users.  Sort of like taping your 100 gig drive of all your CDs as MP3’s on that laundromat cork board and telling everyone to just come and make  free copies while the laundromat got financial kickbacks.

I have been writing about how the DMCA is unconstitutional for years.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act 18 Year Anniversary

Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 7: Facebook is actually a Publisher with Unpaid Content Providers and is Edited by Algorithms

Imagine if your Facebook feed came to you once a day in print delivered to your doorstep.  It is a “book” by the way. Your print version of Facebook would contain the news from some traditional news source, the warm and fuzzy stories and op-eds from your crazy uncle. It even has comics. It is published in billions of editions and every user gets their own custom versions. This siloing of content is  one of the reasons why our democracies are breaking into the tribalism of identity politics. Everyone lives in their custom realities and subjective idealism with their own version of truth. (The customization of various editions is not unlike  the New York Times that has a “west coast” version. ) On Facebook and the New York Times are ads and classifieds and Facebook makes billions off the advertising in their publishing business.  Facebook is not just a platform, it is a modern, complicated form of publishing with vast editorial power.  Indeed, if I posted this essay on Facebook it would soon end up at the bottom of everyone’s feed and eventually the trash. How do I know this? It has happened before when I posted on Facebook such critiques. Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated.

ACT 8: Anti-trust and Toxic Waste Dumps

The quote above that started this ramble speaks of anti-trust and breaking up the likes of Facebook as Teddy Roosevelt helped do with the railroads a hundred years ago.  Anti-trust laws will surely be the legal path, but I still maintain:  Facebook is not a cork board. It is far more complicated. The legal world needs to realize that the internet is not one huge cork message board at the laundromat where no one is accountable.

Video Conferencing with Aliens

It is rather odd that there is not more written about the influenza pandemic of 1918 or what came to be known as the “Spanish Flu.” No one really knows the death totals but it is safe to say that over 50 million people died worldwide and over 600,000 people died in the United States of America. Like most bad things that happen in life, humans seem to be better off just forgetting these tragedies, but then again perhaps that is why we keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

What is different about our current 2020 Covid-19 pandemic is that technology has made it so we can connect with other people in ways probably not even thought possible in 1918. In fact, many are living lives that are more in keeping with the technological imaginations of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Like the spaceship Enterprise on Star Trek we have technology to connect to our alien relatives even if we find them irritating and obnoxious. Like Captain Kirk we have our trusty cellphones even more advanced than his silly flip-phone. We can view and speak with aliens like our strange brother-in-laws on large screens as though they are Klingons from another planet. Perhaps like 1918 our times are often full of solitary activities and our “bubbles” are where we practice our daily and weekly rituals, and many people continue on with their lives working over the internet.  That the video conferencing application ZOOM finally figured it out just  in the nick of time was serendipitous. Like the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise, people are often found living for days on end wearing what look like pajamas.  Instead of getting beamed over to the Covid-19 testing area we get in our spaceships with wheels and are tested without leaving our seats.

Just like Star Trek, sometimes the video connection fizzles out or people just leave like a band-aid torn off with a sudden pull.  I am not sure if on Star Trek they had video drinking parties and happy hours but those can be great fun.  Rarely does the the narrative get aggressive – “Scotty: we will need more tonic Jim. I don’t think the party will survive without it!!”- as during Covid-19 you are so starved for attention, just seeing another face is often a welcome and novel event.  And of course, never mentioned in  space travel science fiction, and one thing they always seem leave out, is that to get to Mars, let alone another solar system, is going to take a lot of travel time.  Surviving the Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps like training for space travel to Mars.

In 1918 we were just coming to the end of The Great War which eventually gave rise to Hitler and fascist Germany.  In 2020 we dodged a bullet as Donald Trump was barely defeated at the polls. Fascism is indeed alive and well and humans are just barely intelligent enough (a little over 50%) to choose between burning up the planet or at least attempting to save what is left of this marvelous place we call Earth.

 

 

 

Is Amy Goodman the new Walter Cronkite?

Democracy Now! is a daily television and radio news broadcast probably not known to many in the United States of America. The show is hosted by journalist Amy Goodman, who also acts as the show’s executive producer. Besides having the best theme music for any news show ever, Democracy Now! attempts to deliver the news in a style that is actually similar to the way Walter Cronkite read the news in the 1960s. Unlike Fox News or many current news programs, the emphasis is not on the personalities of the host and there are are no leggy blondes perched up on bar stools complaining about the weather and personal skin care products.

If you compare the delivery of the news between Walter Cronkite and Amy Goodman it is striking how their intonation, style and rhythm are similar, albeit Amy Goodman’s is probably a fifth higher. Close your eyes. The similarities are almost shocking.

Just compare these two videos.

Walter Cronkite

Amy Goodman

I am no scholar of the history of television journalism, but this style and approach surely have something to do with Edward R. Murrow and his journalistic  philosophy,, approach and style – a thing of a bygone era.  They simply read the news deadpan with a consistent rhythm and no chatter.

So if you want to see or hear the headlines like it was Walter Cronkite staring at the camera reading the news, watch Amy Goodman and the DemocracyNow! headlines. It is like a strong cup of black coffee – hold the cream, no sugar.

Facebook’s Strange Terms of Service that Facilitates Fascism

“This came to yet another head last Friday night when Mark (Zuckerberg) decided Facebook would not remove Trump’s post in which he invoked a historically racist phrase to threaten violence against civilians. Mark suggested that it didn’t violate Facebook’s terms of service because Trump was a state actor and so his threat was more of a warning.”
Jessi Hempel, June 3, 2020 Will employee protests fix Facebook’s power problem?

What a strange terms of service. So if you are a “state actor” you can get away with racist hate speech, toxic and dangerous lies and sexist insults. But if you are a black man, in our society you get a knee in your neck and killed by the police for just breathing air. Facebook is toxic. It is really that simple. Mark Zuckerberg is simply a greedy capitalist… a lot like Donald Trump. Mark Zuckerberg is NOT your “friend.”

RELATED POST

Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Notebooks – Further Proof that Facebook is Not Your Friend

Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Notebooks – Further Proof that Facebook is Not Your Friend

In the March 2020 edition of Wired Magazine is an article written by Steven Levy entitled Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Notebooks. Steven Levy has known Zuckerberg for many years so had a fair amount of access. These notebooks are where Zuckerberg  plotted to rule the world and the notion of physical evidence like notebooks surely adds to the intrigue and mystique of one of the powerful players on the world stage.

Of all the internet billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg is perhaps the most controversial. Starting with your date of birth and your high school, Facebook’s creepy form of surveillance capitalism built the Facebook empire. The Facebook empire influences all things in our modern society –  journalism, marketing,  advertising, commerce, education, politics and personal lives to name the obvious. It is a platform build on modern humans’ natural addictive tendencies, narcissism and social insecurities and is nothing about the justice and equality that seemed possible in the early days of the internet. That people are so gullible to the deviousness of Facebook is surprising.

The secret sauce of Facebook is outlined below:

“Zuckerberg envisioned a three-tier hierarchy of what made stories compelling, imagining that people are driven chiefly by a blend of curiosity and narcissism. His top tier was “stories about you.” The second involved stories “centered around your social circle.” In the notebook, he provided examples of the kinds of things this might include: changes in your friends’ relationships, life events, “friendship trends (people moving in and out of social circles),” and “people you’ve forgotten about resurfacing.”

“The least important tier on the hierarchy was a category he called “stories about things you care about and other interesting things.” Those might include “events that might be interesting,” “external content,” “paid content,” and “bubbled up content.”

From Wired Magazines’ “Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Notebooks”

This secret sauce reaffirms my disgust with Facebook and social media as a whole. Web 2.0 and Facebook in particular has perpetuated our present era of what I call the era of “Digital Narcissism.”

“He was an avid Latin student, developing a fanboy affinity for the emperor Augustus Caesar, an empathetic ruler who also had an unseemly lust for power and conquest.”

There is this tendency in the United States of adulation of the rich. The notion that Zuckerberg was an “avid Latin student” attempts to affirm a notion that Zuckerberg was some sort of child genius who studied the classics. Whenever I have heard Mark Zuckerberg speak in public he does not seem worldly, well educated or secure in the least. Memorizing a few Latin phrases when you were eighteen to help you conquer a video game does not a Latin scholar make. In reality, Zuckerberg was mostly writing php “for loops” and working on “membership data models. ” Latin scholar… yeah right.

Zuckerberg’s initial reaction to criticism was most often defensive. But when misinformation could not be denied and Congress came calling, he clicked back into apologize-and-move-on mode.

And then near the end of the article there is this completely strange and obtuse  sentence that would make even  George Orwell snicker. “When misinformation could not be denied” means when written in plain and clear English – “when the truth came out. “ Indeed, truth is in short supply and Facebook is in the business of often perpetuating lies.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Notebooks is an interesting and insightful piece but as with most articles in Wired, barely questions the digital powers that be and instead holds them up in reverence.  Reverence is not journalism –  it is cheer-leading.  There is no mention of Facebook’s tax avoidance, the millions of accounts where passwords were in plain text and hacked, the perpetuation of false advertising and political smears and lies that are ubiquitous on the platform.  A quote not mentioned that was literally Facebook’s mantra for years is “move fast and break things.” Now that Facebook has broken lots of things, why cheer on Goliath?

The “Prime Directive” and the Master Plan – Atlantic Magazine

PART I: Jeff Bezos is The Borg

Some quotes from a great article about Jeff Bezos in the Atlantic Magazine Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan (November 2019). I never knew that the merchant to the world, Jeff Bezos is evidently  a huge Jean-Luc Picard fan and with their perfectly smooth, hairless heads, look somewhat like relatives. But unlike Jean-Luc Picard, thwarting evil, as  the quote cleverly points out, Amazon is the Borg!

If a business hopes to gain access to Amazon’s economies of scale, it has to pay the tolls. The man who styles himself as the heroic Jean-Luc Picard has built a business that better resembles Picard’s archenemy, the Borg, which informs its victims, You will be assimilated and Resistance is futile.

PART II: Taxes and the Front Seat in The Bus

And then there is that strange tax situation in the United States of America where companies run by billionaires and gazillionaires pay no, zero, zippo, nada in taxes. While Donald Trump tries to throw Jeff Bezos under the bus, one thing they have in common is tax avoidance. True villains… the both of them.

At the heart of Amazon’s growing relationship with government is a choking irony. Last year, Amazon didn’t pay a cent of federal tax. The company has mastered the art of avoidance, by exploiting foreign tax havens and moonwalking through the seemingly infinite loopholes that accountants dream up. Amazon may not contribute to the national coffers, but public funds pour into its own bank accounts. Amazon has grown enormous, in part, by shirking tax responsibility. The government rewards this failure with massive contracts, which will make the company even bigger.

PART III: Irony – Amazon Prime and the Prime Directive

Not brought up in the Atlantic article is that one of the important driving principles behind Star Trek Next Generation was the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive is defined as:

The Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet personnel and spacecraft from interfering in the normal development of any society, and mandates that any Starfleet vessel or crew member is expendable to prevent violation of this rule

which is the antithesis of amazon.com. Amazon sees all “channels” and businesses as fair-game.  Invade the channel. Destroy the merchants scraping by.  Make merchants sell on ridiculously small margins.  Take over the channel.

One wonders if Jeff Bezos will finally get it. Imagine a far off deserted island. The inhabitants have never interacted with the outside world. They live an idyllic life eating pineapples, yucca and wild boar. They fish ten minutes a day and have all the food they need for the entire day. The rest of the days they weave baskets, make love, sing, drum and dance.

That Amazon chose the name “Prime” for their service to subscribers is a bit ironic. Will Jeff Bezos allow a Prime Delivery van to crash the party and the Prime Directive or will Jeff Bezos simply push for next day delivery on Mars?

Technology, The Digital Era and the Shaping of a New Geography

It took until I went to college in the early 1980’s that I learned that geography was not only about maps, states, countries and continents. I took a class by Yi Fu Tuan where I learned about spaces and places. That besides physical geography there was also the whole world of human geography. Inside of human geography there were many sub types, cultural and political to name but two.

Political geography is defined as:

“Political geography is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures. Conventionally, for the purposes of analysis, political geography adopts a three-scale structure with the study of the state at the centre, the study of international relations (or geopolitics) above it, and the study of localities below it. The primary concerns of the subdiscipline can be summarized as the inter-relationships between people, state, and territory.” –
Wikipedia

I find it interesting that I have been unable to find any writings on how technology has affected human geography over time. Imagine with every technological change how our understanding of the earth, other spaces, places and cultures have been influenced. For instance, starting with the invention of the wheel the world has become a smaller place. People are always devising new ways to get around more efficiently, faster or easier. Fast-forward to 1450, in the West, the printing press made it so descriptions of faraway places were mass-produced and then could be consumed by many people. Notions of that world were given a perspective always from the cultural point of view of the observer. The telegraph made it so people continents apart could send messages instantly. Later the telephone, radio and then television perpetuated this phenomenon of space taking on new meaning. As time goes on, these technological advances have had profound effects on human psychology and geography. The world is no longer your family and farm, local community or village. It is seven continents and you can visit any one digitally and by pushing a few buttons. In our current world, this notion of space and presence has been invaded by the internet, but more significantly the cellphone and specifically, the “smartphone.”

From a human experience perspective, all of the modern communications technologies of the last 150 years have to do with changing this sense of space. A telegraph over the wire was like an arm reaching across an ocean. Radio had the effect of making it so someone hundreds of miles away was seemingly sitting in your living room. Television. simply added a visual component. At the beginnings of each of these technological advancement was a time of readjustment and decentralization of society and political power. Eventually, overtime, the power became monopolized by few powerful players. In television, in the United States it was the three major broadcasting networks. Now on the internet it is Google, Facebook and Amazon.

In 2019 the cellphone makes it so many people for most of the day are mentally not even in the physical location that they preside. I noticed this phenomenon when at the beach. It was a hot day and people went out to the ocean to cool off. I noticed a woman wading in the water while at the same time having a video chat with someone on her cellphone. Was the woman at the beach or was she with the person on the cellphone? Where was the woman? Is human geography simply where we occupy the planet or where we preside in our minds? The digital era makes it so geography no longer is a place at all but spaces that are digital and psychological.

The ramifications of this effect are many. We see it in the way the political systems around the world are in upheaval. No longer do you simply build walls and moats to keep away intruders as in the end the digital landscape has no borders. We see it in how political systems have become more reactionary and full of jingoism.

Furthermore, while people have this notion that they are in control, nothing could be further from the truth. The large internet companies are tracking everyone’s digital landscape and using techniques from behavioral psychology to reward or punish certain behaviors with the motivation of both political and economic influence. This has been dubbed the “surveillance economy.” George Orwell is surely snickering in his grave but probably not, as humour was not his strong suit. He is probably screaming – “I told you so!”

Where this will end up is unknown but for those who think that the digital era is a time of liberation and some sort of political and economic equalization are wrong. The same centralization of power that happened in previous technological eras has happened again. Monopolies have emerged as the powerful players. There are dangerous silos of digital communities that are like echo chambers reaffirming racist and cult-like manifestos based on ignorance and flawed science. This is happening in all spaces, both on the political right and left

What is the one constant is that the undesirable qualities of humans that have existed over centuries are unchanged – greed, vengeance, vanity, violence to name a few are still prevalent. In some ways, with the internet they simply are amplified.

“Surfing the Internet”, “The Cloud” and other Silly Acts of Language Appropriation

 

Cultural appropriation, at times also phrased cultural misappropriation, is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.
Wikipedia

Among many segments of society there is a lot of attention to the issue of “cultural appropriation.” Researching it online you find that the phrase “cultural appropriation” goes back to the 1960’s. So much of that appropriation seemed to come about rather naively and certainly due to ignorance and insensitivity. The end result, besides being disrespectful was often downright silly. The Atlanta Braves. The Kansas City Chiefs, The Washington Redskins all seem to be names associated with a time when ignorance and a lack of cultural awareness was common and not even understood as a problem. Today, cultural appropriation seems to come to light mostly when a celebrity dresses in a certain way and does not understand the significance of the garb, or college students use “Day of the Dead” as simply an excuse to get drunk and try out new costumes, make- up, tequila and margarita mixes.

“Surfing the Internet”

But just as cultural appropriation was and is fueled by the marketing industry, so too is language appropriation. In the internet era there are many new marketing terms associated with the digital things that have metaphors from a romanticized analog object. The phrase “Surfing the Internet” conjured up in the mid 1990’s was a precursor for things to come. This phrase “surfing the internet” is simply strange for anyone who has ever actually surfed. When you surf, you often drive a car to the beach, paddle out past the incoming waves, wait for often a quarter of an hour for a set to come and fight off at least ten other people to catch a wave. Most of the time is spent far from any digital technology in the nature. As many big wave surfers say – “once you leave the beach you are in the wild.” Unlike being at your computer looking up websites, when you go surfing you do get a lot of exercise.

By contrast, when you open an internet browser you rarely get any exercise. You can instantly choose a website from a URL in your head, or go to an number of URLs that you have already visited. New pages flash in front of your face but you never get any of that energy that you get when you are in the ocean. The whole experience is actually nothing like surfing. Take up surfing. You will see what I mean.

“The Cloud”

Another silly term/metaphor is “The Cloud.” When I first heard this term in around 2005 the next weekend I was at a Super Bowl party with someone who is a network administrator and we were laughing about “The Cloud.” What is “The Cloud?” “The Cloud” is simply a server or data center connected to a network that can have redundancies and co-locations so that you can access data and applications from anywhere. The point is to make things secure, predictable and easy to maintain. It is also about monetizing software and data.

Real clouds, on the other hand are anything but predictable. They do not store any digital data and they often move in unpredictable ways, release large amounts of water, ice, hale and snow and sometimes play a dance with the earth and electricity. Real clouds are nothing like “The Cloud.” They are in the sky. Data centers are often those huge, nondescript warehouse buildings next to highways that look very nondescript.

Your data is not somewhere up in the sky floating around in a cloud. More likely it is along highway 101 along with a lot of refrigeration to keep all the servers from melting down. Sometimes the data center is in Florida as we know when there is a hurricane whole data centers can go down.

“You Guys” and the Death of “Ladies and Gentlemen”

I am not sure when this expression “you guys” became ubiquitous but among people under forty it is everywhere. I find it often used when a group of woman are together and one is addressing the entire group. “You guys, let’s go get some coffee!” Does the speaker not see they are addressing only woman? Do they not realize that their great grandmother did not actually have the right to vote and this may be insulting? But perhaps it is the informal nature of our society. Perhaps it is just an expression without any real thought. Perhaps it is, and this is my general observation, the new “ladies and gentlemen.” Indeed when I hear the phrase “you guys” over and over again, instead of wincing, in my head I just replace “you guys” with “ladies and gentlemen.” I do not dislike the “you guys” people. I just find the expression inaccurate and sexist and it plays into our misogynistic and patriarchal society. For woman, “you guys” is not empowering and should actually be insulting.

What is even more peculiar about “you guys” is that we live in times when whole generations, organizations and academic institutions are very sensitive about pronouns. “Please call me “he” on Mondays but by Wednesdays I usually am feeling very non-binary so on Wednesdays use “they.”” Good grief what a quandary! Perhaps we should all go by UGYZ the new “you guys” which is really “ladies and gentlemen” which doesn’t really have a gender, just like the phrase “mankind” which does not actually have a gender but in the end really just means “humans.”

UGYZ. Upper or lowercase. It means the same. Invented here on the pelicancafe.net. Use at your own discretion and now approved for use in Scrabble when you are having a problem getting rid of your “Z.”

 

 

Why Facebook Really Sucks

Over five years ago I wrote a piece for this publication called THE VAPID STATE OF AFFAIRS – FACEBOOK AND THE NEW NARCISSISM (MAY 26, 2012). In it I mused over the Facebook IPO and whether it would survive as the revenue model was all in advertising and market share. I have never clicked on a Facebook ad in my life and I do not even remember what they are about except recently they have become a bit more aggressive as I am suppose to go to Kelly Slater’s surf camp next summer. Yeah right. I was wrong. Subliminal messaging is a gold mine. The new narcissism has now elected a narcissist buffoon as president of the United States of America. As a nation we are becoming less intelligent and self-absorbed by the second.

I have always been skeptical of Facebook and it’s privacy policy, the algorithm that determines my feed and just the weird way that Facebook has made it so it is actually more difficult to contact your “friends.” In this post, I will outline the features of Facebook that really suck. No one talks about this much but it is time to shine some light on this strange company, actually a monopoly,  that has crept into the private lives of so many people.

7 REASONS FACEBOOK REALLY SUCKS

  • 1984 and Rewriting of History: Probably the #1 reason Facebook sucks is that Facebook will delete your posts if you are critical of Facebook as though they are  “thoughtcrimes” controlled  by the Thought Police as described in the novel 1984. I have experienced this first hand on Facebook.  A few years back I made a post explaining that Facebook was a for-profit corporation and that the space is actually not public but private and while they try to appear public the key motivating factor is profit and money. It made for a lively discussion on Facebook and (not that I care) got more likes and interaction than I had ever seen for a post of mine. When I tried to find that post months later, it was wiped from the site. Creepy shit. Mark Zuckerberg’s plea that the platform promotes democracy is just plain horseshit. Stop deleting posts that are not out of line if they happen to intelligently critique you or one of your allies.
  • Mental Health: Your feed is like a lab rats sugar water bottle feeding you spiritually non-nutritious waves of energy. Harry Shearer calls it the “envy machine.” “Good grief! Look at Charlie  Jones on vacation having such a good time and his dog is just adorable.” “What the hell am I doing in this cubicle thinking about picking up that flea medicine for Fido.” In the hospital mental health wards in a few years there are going to be people with Facebook addictions and 12 step social media recovery groups.  People who feel let down that people simply did not read their posts. My 23 year old son says that the site should have a warning when you log in similar to cigarette products. WARNING: THIS WEBSITE CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. IT HAS KNOWN TO CAUSE DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND UNPREDICTABLE NEGATIVE REACTIONS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
  • Terrible contact system: Contacting people on Facebook is obfuscated.  Do not even get me started with Messenger. It crashed my android phone.  By being able to control your method of contacting other people you are giving Facebook incredible power. How many people, your “friends” on Facebook do you actually have a mailing address, email or phone number for?   This is strange and devious.  Why can’t you just leave your phone number and email address on Facebook and get on with your life? These are your “friends” Here’s my number. When you are in town give me a call. I have left my phone number in a post and it is always wiped from the system.
  • Privacy: The sick concept of making money off of peoples’ intimate life experiences starting with your birthday. Why would users waste so much time contributing content to a website that could disappear in a flash or simply hold your content ransom? What happens in thirty years when you want to find something or someone you connected to on Facebook?  Will you have to pay to obtain the information you created? I simply do not trust it with any of my information. As they say, it is free and you get what you paid for.
  • All the bad parts of high school on steroids: Facebook is a bit like those cliques in high school but unlike in high school, you really have no idea who is in your clique. This is just creepy. Your feed comes up steering you psychologically in directions not of your choosing. It is like a carnival ride.
  • Facebook does not work for promoting local events If you play in a band Facebook is terrible as a platform for promoting an event.  You can invite people. Make a link to the event. It hardly ever works to get people out. The other problem is that your friends are all over the freaking world end up being the people who get more excited about your “local” event so promoting an event is pretty much useless. I get the feeling that the local people do not even see your post about the event.
  • San Francisco General Hospital This is something that is not written about in the news much, but it is the phenomenon of tax-dodging tech billionaires either building hospitals our making wings of hospitals and then having their names on the the front of the hospital. San Francisco General Hospital after Mark Zuckerberg gave 75 million dollars to the hospital is now called Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and the hospital had to go through the hoops of changing the actual acronyms of the hospital to ZSFG. What a jerk. “I will give you this money but only on the condition that you change your name and jump through these hoops.” Zuckerberg’s wife is a doctor/resident that works in that hospital. In essence he was simply making for better working conditions for her and twisting city higher-ups around.  This becomes even more disgusting when you realize that Facebook for many years has been avoiding paying taxes and offshoring capital.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2013/02/19/tax-increases-why-facebooks-billion-dollar-income-isnt-taxed-at-all-by-irs/#49d7aba0d92c

Benevolent player for the betterment of humankind? I think not. Just the same old greedy capitalist.  Giving money to public institutions should not make it so your name goes on the front of the building. Photos of the all the signs they had to change coming soon.

Now I could post this little piece on Facebook but it would be gone in a few days – dragged off in handcuffs to the great Facebook digital trashcan.″

The 10th Anniversary of the Google Content Id System – BETA forever…

Photos is from the failed Ernest Shackleton voyage to the South Pole.   Sometimes it is just really hard and you get stuck.

Just putting this out there for the technology trades that the Google Content ID project has remained in BETA for 10  years. Man, I have worked at some slow projects in the software world, but 10 years! Hello people in the white buses…

Google (Alphabet, Inc.) has poured resources into automated cars, artificial intelligence, buses to ferry workers back and forth to San Francisco, gender qualifying in movies (creepy stuff), a more cryptic privacy policy and better marketing tools and analytics… but God forbid they get Content ID out of BETA. No money to be made there.

June 14, 2017 – 10 year anniversary! 

Google Content ID project has remained in BETA.

NUMBER OF DAYS content identification tools for YouTube HAS BEEN IN BETA

[getdays]

Why does this matter? The YouTube/Google Content ID is how Google pays the band. If you make it appear that you do not know the band even exists, then there is no one to pay and all the money just goes into Googles bank account. Brilliant plan for Google. Because of how the 1998 DMCA was written, there is no way (except for endless take-down notices) to get your work off of YouTube. For musicians, bands and artists – Google in the end is your master and owns you. My condolences.


“Imagine a business model where you are given all of the music publishing content for the last hundred years for free. After you build the initial interface, you basically do not have to do anything. The system is set up so that users and fans just give you content even though they have no rights to the ownership of that content. With much of this illegal content you garner about 50% of all advertisement revenue generated by that content. This can go on indefinitely. Sounds like there is no way you can fail. You will make billions off this stuff. YouTube just laughs all the all the way to the bank.”

Anonymous


BETA [bey-tuh or, esp. British, bee-] adj.
A pre-release of software that is given out to a large group of users to try under real conditions.
– PC Magazine Encyclopedia


At what point will the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) of 1998 ever make it into the news? It is the basis of our digital world and the piracy it created was/is a huge giveaway from the creative class to the tech class.

from a few years back….

https://sfjournal.net/blog/digital-millennium-copyright-act-18-year-anniversary/

https://sfjournal.net/blog/breaking-news-after-over-8-years-googles-content-id-system-is-still-in-beta/

Open letter to Robert Thompson of NewsCorp

This is an open letter to Robert Thompson of NewsCorp. There is no link on your webpage on how to contact you so I thought I would write a letter. Sort of “old-school” don’t you think? I recently read Fake News and the Digital Duopoly in the April 5th version of the Wall Street Journal. Found it on a cafe table. Great op-ed, and I agree with everything in it. Clear and crisp writing and the article shed much needed light on lots of things.

Fake News and the Digital Duopoly
Google and Facebook have created a dysfunctional and socially destructive information ecosystem

Robert Thompson – Wall Street Journal


“publishers will routinely and selectively “unpublish” certain views and news.”

Robert Thompson – Fake News and the Digital Duopoly Wall Street Journal


I posted a piece on Facebook that was critical of Facebook and Google, the gist of which was just making sure all my “friends” know that Google and Facebook are private companies and that the space is NOT public and that they gather and mine your intimate personal history starting with – of course your birthday. This post of course disappeared from my history a few months later… never to be found again.


Your business model can’t be based on both intimate, gradual details about users and no clue whatsoever about rather obvious pirate sites.


I hate to tell you Mr. Thompson. Google and YouTube are the pirates. YouTube is one massive landscape of unlimited counterfeit movies and music. That should be the first thing addressed. It is called the revising of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is wishful thinking that this will happen by the sense of goodwill and altruism of YouTube.

Read about it here –

https://sfjournal.net/blog/breaking-news-after-over-8-years-googles-content-id-system-is-still-in-beta/

 

and

 

DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT 18 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Digital Millennium Copyright Act 18 Year Anniversary

Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.
wikipedia.org

It is 1998 – The Senate Now Has E-Mail
Let’s Have a Party!

18 years ago today the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed. I would wager that very few people even know what the DMCA is, but it has affected modern life substantially. It is in many ways just one more version of an old story of plunder by larger more powerful entities, and the taking advantage of the smaller, but often more vibrant creators. In many ways, it has made it so the copyright laws in such industries as music are pointless.

But let’s back up a bit. Everyone can remember the transition that happened when CDs came out and then everyone was ripping their CDs to MP3s and handing off 100 gig drives full of music files to their buddies. Then there was Napster that simply stitched all these drives together in one big mass orgy of free MP3s. Napster got the injunction primarily because the established music industry  had no cut of the racket. Along come tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung and to cover their liability the DMCA made perfect sense. If someone has “illegal” music on their devices, they should not be held accountable. Furthermore, if someone uploads a Beatles tune as a video with a picture of Ringo Starr as the graphics to YouTube, why should YouTube be held accountable for such blatant infringement? All good and well. But that was 1998. Today is 2016. I am certain that in 1998 most members of the Senate had no idea the true implications of the DMCA. In 1998, most of the members of the Senate probably did not even know how to manage their own email. They were still licking stamps.

The DMCA’s principal innovation in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries.
wikipedia.org

Let’s look back a bit. In 1998 the leading browser of the day was Netscape 2. Internet Explorer was at version 5.5. If anyone remembers IE 6, imagine how terrible IE 5.5 must have been. Windows 98 had probably just been released.  Man, that is scary. My point is that the DMCA has not been updated for 18 years and is an extremely flawed piece of legislation. The large tech companies have in many ways based their entire industry on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It allows for basically everyone to break the law everyday and not have to worry about it. When was the last time that a cop pulled someone over and wanted to check if the person had pirated music on their phone? There probably is thousands of dollars of contraband on everyone’s devices. Ain’t gonna happen.

Times Have Changed – Google Is Our Master of Information

But this is what is disingenuous about the DMCA. Companies like Google know just about everything about you. What you buy. What websites you visit. Your birthday. Your favorite color.

In 2016 they have the ability to determine if a piece of music is copyrighted via matching wave forms, and indeed this is how they “monetize” this work.  But YouTube refuses to acknowledge this UNLESS they are in a position to make money off of that music – they make money anyway but that is another post. The only way the copyright holder can get the videos of their music taken down is with take-down notices. If a song is popular, this can mean hundreds of separate videos with the same song on it.  The artists cannot simply tell the ISP such as YouTube “I do not want my work on your network.” YouTube is sort of like that creepy neighbor running a crack-house who borrowed your weed-whacker last spring and refuses to give it back claiming ignorance. Musicians, songwriters and composers have better things to do with their time than chase down illegal version of their work.

YouTube is sort of like that creepy neighbor running a crack-house who borrowed your weed-whacker last spring and refuses to give it back claiming ignorance. Musicians, songwriters and composers have better things to do with their time than chase down illegal version of their work.

Which brings me back to 1998. Do you really think in 1998 anyone could predict such entities as YouTube or Facebook? And unlike the owners of these companies, I believe these entities are not just platforms, they are simply publishers with free content providers and creators. These publishers have to take responsibility as well for copyright infringement. It is within their technical realm but they are playing dumb as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 suits them just fine. The DMCA is to their advantage.

The real master of deception with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is  YouTube. Facebook, Twitter and the like have simply entered personal lives and monetized birthdays and other important life events until people depart from this world. Personalized marketing on steroids that the users all agree to though without  really reading the privacy policies.

But all such companies are the modern-day plunderers. Instead of grabbing continents, forests, rivers, enslaving the natives and digging for gold, they are plundering your personal events and consumer habits along with the likes of great artists like James Brown, Elton John, Charlie Palmieri, Vince Gill,  Willie Green,  Slayer, Bette Midler, Woody Guthrie (the list is endless) and any person who has recorded or published a piece of music in the last hundred years.

Conclusion

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act needs to be reexamined and rewritten every five years to reflect and take into consideration the changes in technology, creativity and platforms. It is an important part of combating the many inequities in our society.

BREAKING NEWS! After over 8 years, Google’s Content ID system is STILL IN BETA!

NUMBER OF DAYS content identification tools for YouTube HAS BEEN IN BETA

[getdays]


BETA [bey-tuh or, esp. British, bee-] adj.
A pre-release of software that is given out to a large group of users to try under real conditions.
– PC Magazine Encyclopedia


We all are amazed at this tech giant Google and their many other companies such as YouTube. Their ability to meet the technological challenges of our times is phenomenal. Back in June 14, 2007, they announce an exciting new program called content identification tools for YouTube. I am certain the marketing department had many long meetings trying to figure out a catchy name for this new tool.

The state of our video ID tools
(From googleblog.blogspot.com – June 14, 2007)

“We’ve been developing improved content identification for months, and we’re confident that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll unveil an innovative solution that will work for users and content creators alike. This is one of the most technologically complicated tasks that we have ever undertaken. But YouTube has always been committed to developing sustainable and scalable tools that work for all content owners.

Even though we haven’t given too many details, we’ve been hard at work.”

Hard at work? Really? Then why is this program still in BETA?

From my submission 11/28/2015

And then when you try to see what is going on with your Content ID submission you get a denied. Just because you took down videos to protect your copyrights should logically have no bearing as to the fact that you own the copyrights to that material.


Ted calls Google, which owns YouTube, “a company that has done more to impoverish musicians and other creative professionals than any entity on the face of the planet.”

Ted Gioia from
http://www.artsjournal.com/culturecrash/2014/10/stop-working-for-free.html


So Google, just so you can keep your important projects up-to-date and rolling out in time, I will keep a YouTube Content ID in BETA widget on the right column of this website. Keep up the hard work Google! Maybe some day by the next millennium in the year 2107 Google’s YouTube Content ID project will get out of BETA and have a Release candidate of this product. Trust me. I am NOT holding my breath!


“Imagine a business model where you are given all of the music publishing content for the last hundred years for free. After you build the initial interface, you basically do not have to do anything. The system is set up so that users and fans just give you content even though they have no rights to the ownership of that content. With much of this illegal content you garner about 50% of all advertisement revenue generated by that content. This can go on indefinitely. Sounds like there is no way you can fail. You will make billions off this stuff. YouTube just laughs all the all the way to the bank.”

Anonymous

FURTHER READING ON THE SERIOUSLY FLAWED Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.

Here is a really funny transcript of a Senior Copyright Lawyer’s speech to congress in April 2014 Why the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Is Working Just Fine… by Katherine Oyama ,Google Senior Copyright Counsel.

Check out the absurdity with this comment

Congresswoman Judy Chu, a job creation advocate from California, provided real time proof that Google was failing in burying pirated sites in their search results. Barely typing in a few keystrokes associated with the Oscar Winning Film, 12 Years a Slave, numerous pirate sites appeared immediately on her iPad near the top of Google’s first search page. Unfazed, the representative from Google continued to extoll the progress that was being made by her company in pushing these pirate sites down in their rankings.