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    nmw 16:58:00 on 2016/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , celeb, celebrities, , celebs, , dictators, Facebook, , , , , , , , , mesmerization, mesmerize, mesmerized, , politician, politicians, , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    The Big Data Rationality of Large Numbers: Quantitative Statistics + Fanatical Delusions 

    There are virtually innumerable fans of so-called „big data“. Countless fanatics of this quasi-scientific method will swear on a stack of bibles that if you count anything – it really doesn’t matter what, as that minute detail will certainly „emerge“ from the data itself – you will be rewarded with insights beyond your wildest dreams. Such descendents of bean-counters from previous centuries have moved on to grains of sand, dust particles, the colors of a beautiful sunset, whatever.

    These people may strongly believe in science – without actually understanding much about scientific methods.

    There seems to be a link between such lacking understanding and fanaticism. Let’s go back to one of the greatest leaders of fanatical movements ever: Adolf Hitler was probably one of the most (if not even the most) quintessial dictators of all times. I think what many people overlook, though, in this example is not that he was able to mesmerize such humungous masses, but rather how the masses let themselves become mesmerized.

    Fans follow leaders (perhaps they should instead watch the parking meters 😉 ). There is a sort of quirky rationality to this behavior: When fans follow their leader, they apparently feel they no longer have to think themselves… – they simply accept whatever their leader says (i.e., dictates). This saves energy, because thinking can be quite difficult. Not thinking is easier than thinking.

    The important takeaway is this: If people feel able to let someone else do the thinking, they seem very willing to do so. One way they feel able to enable a dictator to think for them is if / when other people seem to approve of the dictator. Other people’s approval of a dictator seems to make it „OK“ to let the dictator do as he / she pleases… – whether the dictator is a politician, a celebrity, a brand name, or anything anyone happens to be a fan (i.e., a fanatical follower) of.

    When popular brand names such as Google or Facebook sell „big data“, of course they tell naive and innocent consumers a story about how important big data is in order for consumers to be able to find leaders. What they don’t tell such consumers (as those people who are willing to believe this story) is that the „big data“ plans are actually all about tracking consumer behavior. What they don’t tell advertisers is that the consumer behavior they track actually isn’t actually a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but merely a fanatical delusion hardly worth any more than a single grain of sand.

     
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    nmw 13:58:37 on 2016/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Facebook, , Gustav Le Bon, impression, impressionability, impressions, influence, Law of large numbers, , , , , , , , , repitition, , , , , ,   

    The Rationality of Large Numbers 

    This is a huge topic – I will not be able to cover it in a single post, not even in just a few posts. What I want to do here and now is to introduce the topic, and to describe why I feel it is so immensely important.

    First: What do I mean by „large numbers“. Oddly, I am not even exactly sure myself. I think I mean at least two things. Most directly and obviously, I mean the statistical and research methodology that is a cornerstone of the scientific method which has been used with such resounding success for hundreds of years already. Basically, this has to do with large populations (whether of people, of atoms or of other things), and how there seem to be quite predictable relationships between characteristics of populations and characteristics of individual members of such populations. Although I do not mean to diminish the importance of the insights gained from such statistical analysis, one point that often seems to get overlooked is that it is nonetheless a belief system – much like a religion, we believe that atoms (and similar properties of phenomena we refer to collectively as „the hard sciences“) behave in accordance to such laws (as „the law of large numbers“) throughout the universe. Nonetheless, to call the entire scientific method into question because of this one intriguing point would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Let me turn to a much more disconcerting issue with respect to the notion of large numbers. In the scientific approach, it seems quite clear that the aim is to be able to make predictions about populations which basically result from the way a large number of individual members of these populations function. There is, however, also a much more controversial matter – namely, that large populations may also have an impact on individual members. Although this may not be obvious when talking about atoms or similar „inanimate“ phenomena, one would be quite hard pressed to maintain that one single bird is not influenced by actions of the flock, or that one single human is not affected by actions of a mob of people which he or she is a member of.

    Beyond that, over the past century or so it has become blatantly obvious that individuals are not only influenced by actual mobs, but that are even prone to change their behavior on the basis of merely a percieved influence of mobs. The groundbreaking insights of Gustav Lebon at the close of the 19th Century were used with amazing „success“ throughout the 20th Century, and they are still being used today. In many – no: in the vast majority of – countries today, the vast majority of the population believe that the „top result“ for any search using google.com are validated by the vast majority of the population worldwide. Similarly, advertisements shown on facebook.com or on the screens of smartphones are assumed to be backed „by the numbers“.

    In this sense, one can quite reasonably argue that „belief in Google“, „belief in Facebook“, etc. are on par with belief in other religious organizations and/or belief in some kind of infallible oracle.

    At the same time (over the past century or so), there have been significant advances in the scientific approaches used to measure and improve the effectivity of propaganda and manipulation. Today advertising has become something akin to the gold standard of validation with respect to new ideas, innovation and anything modern, successful and/or technologically advanced. I remember seeing billboards advertising apple products nearly everywhere about 10 years ago, and such overwheming repitition was a nearly everpresent and constant reminder that apple was „where it’s at“, plain and simple because apple was everywhere. Today, „everywhere“ has also even eradicated the traditional distinction between „editorial“ and „advertising“ once used in „traditional“ publishing. Today, the „newsfeed“ is populated with many advertisements and product placements, and the vast majority of news consumers view this as a sign of success.

     
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    nmw 15:16:27 on 2016/03/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , content. Wordpress, Facebook, , functional, , , , intelligences, , , , , procedural, procedure, procedures, refer, reference, relate, , , , , , technologies, , , , , , ,   

    Limitations in the WordPress Notifications algorithm 

    Ted and Brandon’s most recent episode of the „Concerning AI“ podcast is a very rewarding listen… – mainly because of their thinking with respect to compassion towards (or against) algorithms.

    Having compassion towards or against an algorithm seems like a very strange concept, and I feel I very much agree with Ted and Brandon’s thinking during the episode, but I also want to use the suggestion as a „what if“ sort of springboard.

    Ted and Brandon provided several examples algorithms (and/or tools). Perhaps the quintessential example is the hammer (for pounding nails). Another example they provided was the so-called „Google“ algorithm (presumably counting the links that point to any particular internet address, in order to „load the value“ of that address. Another algorithm they mentioned was an „alpha“ (sp?) Go algorithm. One they didn’t mention was the Facebook Group algorithm, which they employ for the purposes of facilitating discussions related to the podcast. Another algorithm (or perhaps „procedural code“ might be a more appropriate term) they didn’t mention is the WordPress Notifications procedure (or function?) … which attempts to notify the management of a site running WordPress when content on the site is mentioned. I am not exactly sure how it works – but I think both sites might have to be running WordPress (or at least software that is compatible with the notification procedure / function)… thereby enabling one site to send the other site some message indicating that the latter site was referenced by the first site. In traditional publishing, such references were called „footnotes“, and there was indeed also a tool in the paper era that notified authors when something they wrote had been cited (these were referred to „citation indexes“).

    I am belaboring this one algorithm (or procedure or function or whatever sort of code it might be) primarily because I think it could be coded better. As far as I know, whenever I mention the site concerning.ai in general, the concerning.ai site is not notified. The only way the concerning.ai site can be notified by my mentioning it is if I mention a particular piece of content – for example: Episode Number 14. I think it would be nice if the site would be notified even if I only refer to the site in general.

    Ted and Brandon discuss that they don’t feel as if they can empathize with any of the algorithms they mention – but I feel the probably do. If they want to play Go, then they will probably be more likely to „hang out“ with a Go algorithm. If they want to meet people, they might be more likely to „hang out“ with a Facebook algorithm. If they want to watch Youtube videos, they might search for such information directly on Youtube, or perhaps the might utilize the Google search algorithm (in particular because Google and Youtube are apparently very closely related).

    I have a hunch that the best way to think about this is via the concept of relationships. When my aim is to pound nails, then I will probably develop a close relationship with a hammer. If my aim is to play Go, then I could develop a relationship with algorithms devoted to Go (perhaps alpha-go.com or maybe play-go.net etc.), or perhaps I could input strings into some other algorithm (e.g. Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc.) and use whatever output I get in order to reach my goal. This might also work for the goal „have a conversation“. Indeed: many written texts are in a way conversations, and we often develop relationships with codices that are no longer limited to the life spans of their authors, etc. I don’t even know who invented hammers. I mainly simply think of them as „hammer“.

    Please note that I have tried to make this post very brief. Lawrwnce Lessig has argued about the code in so-called “artificial languages” being like laws. I could equally well argue that the code in laws codified in so-called “natural language” are actually code. For more on this, please consider also reading “How to Constrain the Freedom to Choose the Best of all Possible Worlds During an Era of Uninterrupted Progress“.

     
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    nmw 16:06:05 on 2016/01/20 Permalink
    Tags: abnormal, , , , , , , , , , , digital media, digitalisation, digitalization, Facebook, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , market research, , , , , , messages, , mob, mobs, , normal, , , , rumor, rumors, rumour, rumours, , smart, , , , , , , , , untrue   

    Propaganda + Subjectivity in Retard Media 

    I was recently discussing a radio program with a friend who understands media quite well – but who seemed to be „playing dumb“ during the discussion. The radio program in question was a German one – BR’s Radiosalon had broadcast a debate about privacy versus the „espionage“ tactics used by many online media giants (I used the word „espionage“ to describe the behavior of such mega-media companies’ data gathering techniques, the BR Radiosalon program was actually called „Wie soll unsere digitale Zukunft aussehen?“ )

    My friend is an acclaimed scientist with a deep understanding of statistics, research methodology, etc. I have a great deal of respect for his work, and I do not wish to ridicule him. On the contrary, the views he expressed are actually quite widespread and widely considered to be quite “normal” (I will get back to this aspect of “normal vs. abnormal” further below in this post). Indeed, these views were also discussed in the radio program.

    The point in question is whether or not people have “something to hide” (though in my opinion the more crucial issue is that most people seem to have little or nothing to show). I agree with my friend that there is little to be concerned about if / when other people collect data (indeed, I am even of the opinion that data cannot really be “owned” — the way I see it, data are always freely available to anyone or anything that can recognize them). If someone sees me and scribbles onto a notepad that my race is “caucasian”, then their racism is their problem, not mine. Whether other people check off boxes or fill in blanks has nothing to do with me — instead, it is all about their point of view, perspective, biases, prejudices, etc. I couldn’t care less if large media companies record data about me or my behavior — unless they use this data to lie about me or to propagate rumors which are untrue.

    If a larger portion of the population were more literate, more numerate, etc., then even such misinformation and propaganda would not really matter very much (cf. also this post by Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT). The other day I posted a “heatmap” graphic that was used in an article which was purported to be about how much of a webpage is commonly read. Of course it is impossible to measure whether a person actually reads something, but that did not prevent the author from pontificating profusely on the topic.

    Apparently, the vast majority of people are less interested in literacy than they are in belonging to a crowd.:

    Freud was saying that masses are bound by libidinal forces. They love each other and delegate their ideas and ideals to the chap on top. […] Hate is delegated to the others outside. — Dr. Leopold Löwental (39:50 – 40:25) in the BBC documentary “Century of the Self (Part 1): Happiness Machines”

    Belonging to a crowd is normal, not belonging is abnormal. No one wants to be abnormal, and the media propaganda machinery is based on a foundation of belonging to the crowd, riding on the bandwagon, etc.

    Today, few members of the complacent illiterate generation realize that what they perceive to be “objective” news are actually usually personalized (and therefore “subjective“) marketing messagesespecially online. People visit facebook.com quite often, but they rarely (if ever) realize that the “news” they receive via their “newsfeed” is anything but objective. Likewise, the phrase “just Google it” is commonly understood to mean that Google is also objective. If fact, nothing could be further from the truth: Google is a corporation focused on maximizing profit — and that means showing you (the Google user) links they expect you will click on, such that the corporation (Google) will be paid by advertisers (and note that the link does not even need to be an advertisement — Google will also make money by displaying the advertisements controlled by Google which are displayed on the page, i.e. the so-called “organic” link the Google user clicked on). The fact that Google is a money-printing machine is a testament to the high degree of illiteracy we continue to observe today. Most members of the complacent illiterate generation are suckered into believing some subjective marketing message is actuallynews” — and that it is what the “normal” crowd also believes, that it is true, an objective truth, etc. — many times over each and every day.

    At this point in the discussion, another friend chimed in and said “I cannot manage my daily life without my smartphone” (and the smartphone is made by the very same media conglomerates which profit from selling advertising disguised as “news”, “notifications”, etc.). Hence, the mass of men (and women, too) continue to lead lives of quiet normalcy, guided by advertising messages which cater to duping illiterate suckers into believing everything is hunky dory because they are normal (and also users of “advanced technology”).

    Note that I don’t believe either of my friends should be called a “sucker“. In my opinion, they are simply illiterate (which most people refer to with the term “digital literacy“). They seem to be cognizant of their illiteracy — and yet they nonetheless remain complacent.

     
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