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David Byrne | Journal | ELIMINATING THE HUMAN
"My dad was an electrical engineer—I love the engineer's’ way of looking at the world. I myself applied to both art school AND to engineering school (my frustration was that there was little or no cross-pollination. I was told at the time that taking classes in both disciplines would be VERY difficult). I am familiar with and enjoy both the engineer's mindset and the arty mindset (and I’ve heard that now mixing one’s studies is not as hard as it used to be).

The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive."
davidbyrne  2017  automation  ai  business  culture  technology  dehumanization  humanism  humanity  gigeconomy  labor  work  robots  moocs  socialmedia  google  facebook  amazon  yuvalharari  social  productivity  economics  society  vr  ebay  retail  virtualreality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Has the Internet Really Changed Everything? — Backchannel
[See also: http://kottke.org/16/04/on-technology-culture-and-growing-up-in-a-small-town ]

"How have decades of mass media and technology changed us? A writer returns to his remote hometown — once isolated, now connected. And finds unexpected answers."



"In the Napoleon of the 1980s, where I memorized the alphabet and mangled my first kiss, distractions were few. There were no malls to loiter, no drags to cruise. With no newsstand or bookstore, information was sparse. The only source of outside knowledge was the high school library, a room the size of a modest apartment, which had subscriptions to exactly five magazines: Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and People. As a teenager, these five magazines were my only connection to the outside world.

Of course, there was no internet yet. Cable television was available to blessed souls in far-off cities, or so we heard, but it did not arrive in Napoleon until my teens, and even then, in a miniaturized grid of 12 UHF channels. (The coax would transmit oddities like WGN and CBN, but not cultural staples like HBO or Nickelodeon. I wanted my MTV in vain.) Before that, only the staticky reception of the big three — ABC, CBS, NBC — arrived via a tangle of rabbit ears. By the time the PBS tower boosted its broadcast reach to Napoleon, I was too old to enjoy Sesame Street.

Out on the prairie, pop culture existed only in the vaguest sense. Not only did I never hear the Talking Heads or Public Enemy or The Cure, I could never have heard of them. With a radio receiver only able to catch a couple FM stations, cranking out classic rock, AC/DC to Aerosmith, the music counterculture of the ’80s would have been a different universe to me. (The edgiest band I heard in high school was The Cars. “My Best Friend’s Girl” was my avant-garde.)

Is this portrait sufficiently remote? Perhaps one more stat: I didn’t meet a black person until I was 16, at a summer basketball camp. I didn’t meet a Jewish person until I was 18, in college.

This was the Deep Midwest in the 1980s. I was a pretty clueless kid."



"“Basically, this story is a controlled experiment,” I continue. “Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology.”

Photog2 begins to fiddle with an unlit Camel Light, which he clearly wants to go smoke, even if it is 8 degrees below zero outside. But I am finding the rhythm of my pitch.

“All scientific experiments require two conditions: a static environment and a control — a testable variable that changes. Napoleon is the static environment; technology, the control. With all else being equal, this place is the perfect environment to explore societal questions like, What are the effects of mass communications? How has technology transformed the way we form ideas? Does access to information alone make us smarter?”

“How am I supposed to photograph that?” asks Photog2."



"As we discuss other apps on his home screen — YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo — I realize that my line of questions are really just attempts to prove or disprove a sentence that I read on the flight to Dakota. The sentence appears on page 20 of Danah Boyd’s book, It’s Complicated, a study of the social lives of networked teens:
What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall was in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now.

I cannot shake the sentence, which seems to contain between its simple words a secret key, a cipher to crack my inquiries into technology and change. Napoleon didn’t have a drive-in in the 1950s, or a mall in the 1980s, but today it definitely has the same social communications tools used by every kid in the country. By that fact alone, the lives of teenagers in Napoleon must be wildly different than they were 20 years ago. But I lack the social research finesse of Boyd, who could probably interrogate my thesis about technology beyond anecdote. So I change the topic to something I know much better: television."



"Whether with sanguine fondness or sallow regret, all writers remember their first publishing experience — that moment when an unseen audience of undifferentiated proportion absorbs their words from unknown locales.
I remember my first three.

Napoleon had no school newspaper, and minimal access to outside media, so I had no conception of “the publishing process.” Pitching an idea, assigning a story, editing and rewriting — all of that would have baffled me. I had only ever seen a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, and none offered a window into its production. (If asked, I would have been unsure if writers were even paid, which now seems prescient.) Without training or access, but a vague desire to participate, boredom would prove my only edge. While listlessly paging through the same few magazines over and over, I eventually discovered a semi-concealed backdoor for sneaking words onto the hallowed pages of print publications: user-generated content.

That’s the ghastly term we use (or avoid using) today for non-professional writing submitted by readers. What was once a letter to the editor has become a comment; editorials, now posts. The basic unit persists, but the quantity and facility have matured. Unlike that conspicuous “What’s on your mind?” input box atop Facebook, newspapers and magazines concealed interaction with readers, reluctant of the opinions of randos. But if you were diligent enough to find the mailing address, often sequestered deep in the back pages, you could submit letters of opinion and other ephemera.

This was publishing to me. My collected works were UGC."



"“What are your favorite apps?”

This time my corny question is fielded by Katelyn, another student who my mother suggests will make a good subject for my harebrained experiment. During her study hall break, we discuss the hectic life of a millennial teenager on the plains. She is already taking college-level courses, lettering in three varsity sports, and the president of the local FFA chapter. (That’s Future Farmers of America, an agricultural youth organization with highly competitive livestock judging and grain grading contests. It’s actually a huge deal in deep rural America, bigger than the Boy and Girl Scouts. Katelyn won the state competition in Farm Business Management category.)

To the app question, she recites the universals of any contemporary young woman: Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest. She mentions The Skimm as a daily news source, which is intriguing, but not as provocative as her next remark: “I don’t have Facebook.”

Whoa, why?

“My parents don’t support social media,” says the 18-year-old. “They didn’t want me to get Facebook when I was younger, so I just never signed up.” This is closer to the isolationist Napoleon that I remember. They might not ban books anymore, but parents can still be very protective.

“How do you survive without Facebook?” I ask. “Do you wish you had it?”

“I go back and forth,” she avers. “It would be easier to connect with people I’ve met through FFA and sports. But I’m also glad I don’t have it, because it’s time-consuming and there’s drama over it.”

She talks like a 35-year-old. So I ask who she will vote for.

“I’m not sure. I like how Bernie Sanders is sounding.”

I tell her a story about a moment in my junior civics class where the teacher asked everyone who was Republican to raise their hand. Twenty-five kids lifted their palms to the sky. The remaining two students called themselves Independents. “My school either had zero Democrats or a few closeted ones,” I conclude.

She is indifferent to my anecdote, so I change the topic to music.

“I listen to older country,” she says. “Garth Brooks, George Strait.” The term “older country” amuses me, but I resist the urge to ask her opinion of Jimmie Rodgers. “I’m not a big fan of hardcore rap or heavy metal,” she continues. “I don’t understand heavy metal. I don’t know why you would want to listen to it.”

So no interest in driving three hours in the snow to see AC/DC at the Fargodome last night?

“No, I just watched a couple Snapchat stories of it.”

Of course she did.

While we talk, a scratchy announcement is broadcast over the school-wide intercom. A raffle drawing ticket is being randomly selected. I hear Jaden’s name announced as the winner of the gigantic teddy bear in my mother’s office.
I ask Katelyn what novel she read as a sophomore, the class year that The Catcher in the Rye was banned from my school. When she says Fahrenheit 451, I feel like the universe has realigned for me in some cosmic perfection.

But my time is running out, and again I begin to wonder whether she is proving or disproving my theories of media and technology. It’s difficult to compare her life to mine at that age. Katelyn is undoubtedly more focused and mature than any teenager I knew in the ’80s, but this is the stereotype of all millennials today. Despite her many accomplishments, she seems to suppress the hallmark characteristic of her ambitious generation: fanatic self-regard. Finally, I ask her what she thinks her life will be like in 25 years.

“I hope I’ll be married, and probably have kids,” she says decisively. “I see myself in a rural area. Maybe a little bit closer to Bismarck or Fargo. But I’m definitely in North Dakota.”

I tell her that Jaden gave essentially the same answer to the question. Why do you think that is?

“The sense of a small community,” she says, using that word again. “Everyone knows each other. It’s a big family.”"
internet  technology  rexsorgatz  2016  isolation  cv  web  online  culture  distraction  media  film  music  quietude  publishing  writing  worldliness  rural  howwelive  thenandnow  change  community  smalltowns  schools  education  journalism  books  censorship  fahrenheit451  raybradbury  thecatcherintherye  jdsalinger  newspapers  communication  socialmedia  snapchat  facebook  instagram  pinterest  theskimm  news  danahboyd  youtube  ebay  yahoo  twitter  videogames  gaming  subcultures  netflix  teens  youth  connectivity  childhood  college  universities  highered  highereducation  midwest  television  tv  cable  cabletv  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  interneturbanism  1980s  northdakota  homogeneity  diversity  apclasses  aps  religion  ethnicity  race  exposure 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Resistant Objects | HiLobrow
"What I’m trying to do is understand how things come to take their place—especially in museums and collections—as embodiments of knowledge, artifacts out of time and nature, and objects provoking curiosity and wonder, how they become objectified. And just as much as Foucault long ago pointed out, neither the natural nor the human sciences exist until “nature” and “the human” take their modern form as such, I’m eager to imagine a science that employs enough modesty to realize that the objects of its interest do not take their sole, true, or final form beneath its gaze. Even under the light of science, objects withdraw their auras, that dark matter reaching back into deep time; and when the museums are in ruins, they will expose new banners to unfolding time. I think Tamen would agree with me here—the tupilaq are players in a luminous, long-durée ecology in which paintings and pelts, sculptures and scarab beetles, clay pots and crania take equal part."

[Expanded here: http://www.aeonmagazine.com/nature-and-cosmos/matthew-battles-museum-pieces/ ]
matthewbattles  objects  2013  museums  withdrawal  foucault  darkmatter  meaning  context  collections  knowledge  stories  storytelling  auras  resistantobjects  ebay  tupilaq  lowellgeorge  corbis  interpretation  interpretableobjects  figurines  sculpture  sociability  northwestterritories  migueltamen  michelfoucault 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Chris Heathcote: anti-mega: to be real
"…a bit more theoretical than many of my talks, but I wanted to make the point that things like trust and authenticity aren’t binary – these are built slowly, and gained in the minds of people by doing the right thing. Also that the best trust is from just doing your job, and letting your employees & customers tell their stories."
hownotto  howto  socialmedia  personalization  depersonalization  twitter  firstdirect  people  vimeo  37signals  iceland  nokia  ebay  newspaperclub  kickstarter  upcoming  del.icio.us  flickr  personality  providence  history  business  branding  storytelling  heritage  moleskine  sweden  curatorsofsweden  bookdepositorylive  tumblr  generalelectric  net-a-porterlive  enoughproject  theyesmen  facebook  spambots  brompton  bromptonbicycles  hiutdenim  historytag  @sweden  douglasrushkoff  google  dopplr  copywriting  webdesign  craft  social  spam  russelldavies  online  web  internet  administration  management  howwework  chrisheathcote  2012  authenticity  trust  nextberlin  nextberlin2012  webdev 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Collect 'em all! | MetaFilter
"Coveting possessions is unhealthy. Here's how I look at it:

All of the computers on Ebay are mine. In fact, everything on Ebay is already mine. All of those things are just in long term storage that I pay nothing for. Storage is free.

When I want to take something out of storage, I just pay the for the storage costs for that particular thing up to that point, plus a nominal shipping fee, and my things are delivered to me so I can use them. When I am done with them, I return them to storage via Craigslist or Ebay, and I am given a fee as compensation for freeing up the storage facilities resources.

This is also the case with all of my stuff that Amazon and Walmart are holding for me. I have antiques, priceless art, cars, estates, and jewels beyond the dreams of avarice.

The world is my museum, displaying my collections on loan. The James Savages of the world are merely curators."
craigslist  amazon  access  ownership  distributedownership  onlinewarehousing  2007  materialism  justintimepossessions  justintime  simplicity  travellight  postmaterialism  postconsumerism  via:frankchimero  ebay  metafilter  possessions 
april 2012 by robertogreco
designswarm thoughts » Blog Archive » Unexportables
"As I walked through the markets of Hong Kong, staring at jade jewellery & Angry Birds paraphonalia, it occured to me that I could order everything on eBay or Amazon. The foreign land’s treasures have been globalised to a point of total consumer disinterest. The only thing that was left to consume was food & architecture…

Could it be that When you are drowning in a digital culture that says that social is everything then you might forget what makes you special? When Amazon and every ad banner online knows what you like, what happens if you forget what you like. Anti-consumption…

When you can be anywhere, you have to celebrate where you are right then and there. That’s luxury.

True affirmation of identity and uniqueness has become tricky when you are constantly forced into relationships with “friends”, Groupon deals and “other people also bought this” prompts. Perhaps travel and food, as sensorial experiences that one cannot share, will become even more prized than they are now."
ebay  amazon  transferability  nontransferable  transference  postnational  homogeneity  experienceasproduct  anti-consumption  experience  uniqueness  travel  globalization  2012  kevinslavin  digitalnow  now  place  nomadism  nomads  neo-nomads  identity  via:preoccupations  food  luxury 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Rands In Repose: The Shop I Want
"The shop I want is owned by a person I know and respect. Inside of this shop are two button-up shirts, a pair of jeans, three pens, a desk, & a small white marble polar bear. Each of these items is picked out specifically for me, & more importantly, they are items that, given my own devices, I would never choose or possibly even discover for myself...
consumerism  ikea  google  twitter  sales  shopping  internet  marketing  materialism  ecommerce  ebay  curation  consumption  experience  relationships  trust  joelspolsky  2010  surprise  delight 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Significant Objects | …and how they got that way
"A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!"
writing  narrative  storytelling  ebay  objects  design  art  significantobjects  significance  meaning  literature  projects  tcsnmy  classideas  srg 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Swap Meet 2.0: Selling Handmade Goods Online
"in the past couple of years, new online marketplace startups targeted specifically at the needs of independent artists and crafts people have emerged. Below we'll take a brief look at three such startups as well as eBay."
handmade  marketing  glvo  business  online  shopping  products  ecommerce  design  art  etsy  crafts  ebay 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Trend: Overloaded Kids Turning Low-Tech
"The older generation is rediscovering clouds and craft fairs and kids are turning to activities that involve actual human interactions"
children  youth  technology  overload  society  human  limits  interaction  analog  us  uk  canada  retro  online  internet  web  ebay  simplicity  slow 
november 2007 by robertogreco
eBay Auctions Misspelled Search Engine
FREE eBay auctions misspelled search engine to find huge bargains on eBay!! Thousands of items on eBay go unsold or sold at bargain prices, due to misspelled listings!! Our search engine will find the eBay auctions misspelled of the item you are looking f
ebay  search  tips  tools  reference  shopping 
august 2007 by robertogreco
Why we do what we do on eBay | csmonitor.com
"Economists mine the online auction site to find out why shoppers act irrationally."
ebay  auctions  behavior  online  shopping  economics  psychology 
july 2007 by robertogreco

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