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    nmw 15:27:59 on 2016/07/12 Permalink
    Tags: academia, academic, , , , , , , , bandwagon, bandwagon effect, , , , , , , , , , compute, , corrupt, corrupted, corruption, , , , , follow, , group think, groupthink, , , , , , , , , , , , , majority, , , , , populism, populist, , , rason, , , , , , , , , , systemic, , , trusted, , , universities, , valid, validity, vote, votes, voting, ,   

    The Spectre of Populism 

    There is a spectre haunting the Web: That spectre is populism.

    Let me backtrack a moment. This piece is a part of an ongoing series of posts about „rational media“ – a concept that is still not completely hard and fast. I have a hunch that the notion of „trust“ is going to play a central role… and trust itself is also an extremely complex issue. In many developed societies, trust is at least in part based on socially sanctioned institutions (cf. e.g. „The Social Construction of Reality“) – for example: public education, institutions for higher education, academia, etc. Such institutions permeate all of society – be it a traffic sign at the side of a road, or a crucifix as a central focal element on the alter in a church, or even the shoes people buy and walk around with on a daily basis.

    The Web has significantly affected the role many such institutions play in our daily lives. For example: one single web site (i.e. the information resources available at a web location) may be more trusted today than an encyclopedia produced by thousands of writers ever were – whether centuries ago, decades ago, or even still just a few years past.

    Similarly, another web site may very well be trusted by a majority of the population to answer any and all questions whatsoever – whether of encyclopedic nature or not. Perhaps such a web site might use algorithms – basically formulas – to arrive at a score for the „information value“ of a particular web page (the HTML encoded at one sub-location of a particular web site). A large part of this formula might involve a kind of „voting“ performed anonymously – each vote might be no more than a scratch mark presumed to indicate a sign of approval (an „approval rating“) given from disparate, unknown sources. Perhaps a company might develop more advanced methods in order to help guage whether the vote is reliable or whether it is suspect (for example: one such method is commonly referred to as a „nofollow tag“ – a marker indicating that the vote should not be trusted).

    What many such algorithms have in common is that on a very basic level, they usually rely quite heavily on some sort of voting mechanism. This means they are fundamentally oriented towards populism – the most popular opinion is usually viewed as the most valid point of view. This approach is very much at odds with logic, the scientific method and other methods that have traditionally (for several centuries, at least) be used in academic institutions and similar „research“ settings. At their core, such populist algorithms are not „computational“ – since they rely not on any kind of technological solution to questions, but rather scan and tally up the views of a large number of human (and/or perhaps robotic) „users“. While such populist approaches are heralded as technologically advanced, they are actually – on a fundamental level – very simplistic. While I might employ such methods to decide which color of sugar-coated chocolate to eat, I doubt very much that I, personally, would rely on such methods to make more important – for example: „medical“ – decisions (such as whether or not to undergo surgery). I, personally, would not rely on such populist methods much more than I would rely on chance. As an example of the kind of errors that might arise from employing such populist methods, consider the rather simple and straightforward case that some of the people voting could in fact be color-blind.

    Yet that is just the beginning. Many more problems lurk under the surface, beyond the grasp of merely superficial thinkers. Take, for example, the so-called „bandwagon effect“ – namely, that many people are prone to fall into a sort of „follow the leader“ kind of „groupthink“. Similarly, it is quite plausible that such bandwagon effects could even influence not only people’s answers, but even also the kinds of questions they feel comfortable asking (see also my previous post). On a more advanced level, complex systems may be also be influenced by the elements they comprise. For example: While originally citation indexes were designed with the assumption that such citation data ought to be reliable, over the years it was demonstrated that such citations are indeed very prone to be corrupted by a wide variety of corruption errors and that citation analysis is indeed not at all a reliable method. While citation data may have been somewhat reliable originally, it became clear that eventually citation fraud corrupted the system.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 16:58:00 on 2016/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , celeb, celebrities, , celebs, , dictators, , , , follow, , , , , , 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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    feedwordpress 13:41:14 on 2014/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: automation, benefit, benefits, , , follow, , , , , , , salary, , ,   

    Can somebody please explain to me how more automation is supposed to lead to more jobs? 

    There are many thing that make very little sense to me — so many that I hardly know where to start. Perhaps one of the most grotesque examples of this is when people say that we need more technological progress and also more jobs. Why?

    The way I learned economics, if there is technological progress then we need less jobs, certainly not more jobs. Anyone who expects to show up to work and given orders what to do can be easily replaced by a computer program or robot that can complete simple instructions without coffee breaks, without a salary, without health insurance and without many other “benefits” that are usually tied to human employment. Therefore, the more that gets invested in such technology, the less jobs there should be for humans. Indeed: I see no reason why a robot couldn’t even give me a superb haircut.

    Why do Google and/or Facebook need so many thousands of employees? They don’t. I bet a half a dozen high quality hackers should be able to create comparable websites in less than a week. What is needed most of all are people who can think for themselves, not just slaves to mechanically follow orders or to carry out instructions or press buttons or whatever.

    Any one of the many millions of “followers” who find it difficult to think for themselves need only 1 instruction: Go to sleep… — or at least: Get out of the way.

     
  • Profile photo of feedwordpress

    feedwordpress 15:38:17 on 2013/12/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , coach, coaches, coaching, , execution, executive, executives, follow, , , , , , , , , , , , podcast, podcasts, , purposes, , Ted Ernst Sarvata, , ,   

    Looking Back, Looking Forward 

    Listening to some Dire Straits, I figure I might as well go down to the water line… ;)

    This year has been tremendous! :D This year has been stupendous!! 8O This year has been a blast and a half!!!

    I won’t recount everything, mostly because I don’t want to embarrass everyone. :P I will stop with the stupid smileys, though — in case you’re almost ready to pull out all of your hair ;) )….

    I choose to highlight one thing in particular: My friend Ted Ernst Sarvata‘s new podcast, the Purpose Podcast. I’ve been listening since he started it this past summer, and now I think I’ve figured out one of my purposes in life: To get people out of the way — of each other, and also out of the way of other forms of life. I have been deeply influenced by very many very smart people in this… and it was not a completely straightforward insight (at least not for me), and so I’d like to explain my thinking at least a little bit… or at least I’d like to try to do that!

    So here goes: There are (surpise, surprise!) some people who are simply letting their badness run wild, they don’t seem to be able to reign it in, and they make life difficult for us nice guys! I simply want to get them out of the way.

    One of the people who has influenced my thinking is entirely unknown to me. This person wrote an article titled: “Why I’m Not a Leader (and Why You Shouldn’t Be Either)“. I hope Sean Werkema will get a trackback (and maybe even sign up / join TAGSEO — and I also think you should join, too!).

    I think Sean put it very well, and whatever school turned him down must have too many too conservative thinkers to be a place to learn some new tricks!

    For Ted, I would add that I now guess that the Wisdom of the Language is probably a tool to achieve this purpose — but I am not sure. Maybe someday we can chat on the phone, and if he can record it, he can ask me questions and I could try to give somewhat coherent answers and/or explain something that still seems to be stuck in my brain as if it were molasses or some other strange gooey syrup.

     
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