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  • Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday

  • It's hard to get people on the internet to agree about anything like it's hard to get them to agree about

  • complicated subjects like how to pay for and deliver health care and also it's hard to get them to agree about

  • tiny things like whether to call a gif a jif.

  • But the one thing everybody on the internet seems to agree on at the moment is that the internet kind of sucks. Like Samuel

  • Ashworth wrote of Twitter "the thing about Twitter is that no one who uses it needs an explanation of why it is the worst?"

  • It is an endlessly self-renewing bonfire of outrage and confusion.

  • And I think that's true not only for Twitter, but also for YouTube and Facebook and reddit

  • and so on. It's hard to get reliable news online and the news cycle moves so quickly that it's difficult to follow

  • complicated stories over time and the architecture of the social Internet often seems to lift up the loudest and most

  • divisive voices over more cautious and nuanced ones. Also lots of undeserving creators and creations reach large audiences

  • And then the backlash to those creators and creations is so hyper

  • intense that it creates a backlash to the backlash and then a backlash to the backlash to the backlash ad infinitum. First

  • I think it's worth noting that a lot of this isn't new like the Internet has always sucked or at least

  • We've always felt like it sucked.

  • I mean way back in 1995 the very first joke I made on my very first web

  • site was that the internet was made out of narcissism cat pictures and pornography. The more things change--

  • but the point is whatever Golden Age of Internet discourse people harken back to is inevitably misremembered. There's a lot

  • I don't like about today's YouTube

  • but that was also true in 2007 and 2010 and

  • 2012 when the running joke online was that the only place on the internet worse than Yahoo Answers was YouTube comments.

  • Admittedly it sometimes feels like YouTube comments

  • never really got better so much as the rest of the internet got worse

  • but still we shouldn't

  • idealize the past. There have always been powerful people who misuse that power and there have always been people who feel powerless and

  • vengeful and use the cloak of anonymity to attack others.

  • But none of that means we should have to accept an internet that sucks, look

  • this is a complicated problem, and I am NOT going to solve it in a YouTube video.

  • I do think however that we need to look at the differences between

  • our goals as a species and the goals of the private companies that hosts so much of our public discourse.

  • All right imagine you work at a zoo and someone comes up to you and says I'll give you a thousand dollars every time you

  • get that lion to roar, maybe at first you teach the lion that when it roars it gets extra food.

  • But then over time you start to notice that the lion roars whenever it sees something weird

  • so you start to show it lots of surprising information. You also might notice that Lions roar when they feel threatened

  • But they'd learned pretty quickly that your threats were empty, so you'd have to vary them up.

  • You'd have to find a million different ways to make the lines feel like their lives were in danger

  • or their families were about to be broken up or their territory was threatened. Twitter is not

  • structured to make us better informed or happier--

  • it is structured to keep us on Twitter. The same is true for

  • Facebook and Netflix and Hulu and YouTube and cable news all of these companies want as much of our attention as they can get because

  • that is how they make money, which is what they exist to do.

  • I don't buy the argument that this makes corporations or the people who work at them evil

  • but I do think we need to understand

  • what corporations want so that we can know how best to tell them what we want. They want our attention,

  • and it is very hard to turn down the feast that they lay before us.

  • But if we refuse to roar on cue they will notice and they will change.

  • Algorithms and the companies that control them are big and powerful

  • but in the end each of us still chooses what we watch and listen to and read.

  • Your attention is powerful and it is yours

  • Hank, I'll see you on Friday.

Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/13
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