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    nmw 16:47:41 on 2016/06/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , human capital, , intent, intention, intentional, literacy, , , , ,   

    Rational Media + Literacy 

    In a rather lengthy digression on the “rational media” topic, I wrote some more about my notion of literacy (which includes what other people often refer to as “media literacy”, “computer literacy” or other such special cases — I do not consider them to be special; in my opinion, they need to be included in the general concept of literacy). I also make a distinction between “external technology” and “internal technology” — this is roughly speaking equal to the economic concepts “capital” and “human capital”. You can check out the article here: “The Intention Economy“.

    Regarding rational media, another web site (I bet you haven’t seen those two words written separated by a space in a long time — but then again perhaps you should think more about why I might feel the distinction between “web site” and “website” is important 😉 ) I highly recommend in the context of the intention economy is intent.com (managed by a team of very intentional workers working together with Mallika Chopra).

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    nmw 19:04:09 on 2016/05/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , artificial languages, , , , , , , emerge, , human intelligence, , , , , , , literacy, , , , , , , , , , , traing set, traing sets, , , , ,   

    Literacy and Machine Readability: Some First Attempts at a Derivation of the Primary Implications for Rational Media 

    Online, websites are accessed exclusively via machine-readable text. Specifically, the character set prescribed by ICANN, IANA, and similar regulatory organizations consists of the 26 characters of the latin alphabet, the „hyphen“ character and the 10 arabic numbers (i.e. The symbols / zyphers 0-9). Several years ago, there was a move to accommodate other language character sets (this movement is generally referred to as „Internationalized Domain Names“ [IDN]), but in reality this accommodation is nothing more than an algorithm which translates writing using such „international“ symbols into strings from the regular latin character set, and to used reserved spaces from the enormous set of strings managed by ICANN for such „international“ strings. In reality, there is no way to register a string directly using such „international“ characters. Another rarely mentioned tidbit is that this obviously means that the set of IDN strings that can be registered is vastly smaller than strings exclusively using the standardized character set approved for direct registration.

    All of that is probably much more than you wanted to know. The „long story short“ is that all domain names are machine readable (note, however, that – as far as I know – no search engine available today on the world-wide-web uses algorithms to translate IDN domain name strings into their intended „international“ character strings). All of the web works exclusively via this approved character set (even the so-called „dotted decimals“ – the numbers which refer to individual computers [the „servers“] – are named exclusively using arabic numerals, though in reality are based on groups of bits: each number represents a „byte“-sized group of 8 bits… in other words: it could be translated into a character set of 256 characters. In the past several years, there has also been a movement to extend the number of strings available to accommodate more computers from 4 bytes (commonly referred to as Ipv4 or „IP version 4“) to 6 bytes (commonly referred to as Ipv6 or „IP version 6“), thereby accommodating 256 x 256 = 65536 as many computers as before. Note, however, that each computer can accommodate many websites / domains, and the number of domain names available excedes the number of computers available by many orders of magnitude (coincidentally, the number of domain names available in each top level domain [TLD] is approximately 1 x 10^100 – in the decimal system, that’s a one with one hundred zeros, also known as 1 Googol).

    Again: Very much more than you wanted to know. 😉

    The English language has a much smaller number of words – a very large and extensive dictionary might have something like 100,000 entries. With variants such as plural forms or conjugated verb forms, that will still probably amount to far less than a million possible strings – in other words: about 94 orders of magnitude less than the number of strings available as domain names. What is more, most people you might meet on the street probably use only a couple thousand words in their daily use of „common“ language. Beyond that, the will use even fewer than that when they use the web to search for information (for example: instead of searching for „sofa“ directly, they may very well first search for something more general like „furniture“).

    What does „machine readable“ mean? It means a machine can take in data and process it algorithmicly to produce a result – you might call the result „information“. For example: There is a hope that machines will someday be able to process strings – or even groups of strings, such as this sentence – and be able to thereby derive („grok“ or „understand“) the meaning. This hope is a dream that has already existed for decades, but the successes so far have been extremely limited. As I wrote over a decade ago (in my first „Wisdom of the Language“ essay), it seems rather clear that languages change faster than machines will ever be able to understand them. Indeed, this is almost tautologically true, because machines (and so-called „artificial intelligence“) require training sets in order to learn (and such training sets from so-called „natural language“ must be expressions from the past – and not even just from the past, but also approved by speakers of the language, i.e. „literate“ people). So-called „pattern recognition“ – a crucial concept in the AI field – is always recognizing patterns which have been previously defined by humans. You cannot train a machine to do anything without a human trainer, who designs a plan (i.e., an algorithmic set of instructions) which flow from to human intelligence.

    There was a very trendy movement which was quite popular several years ago that led to the view that data might self-organize, that trends might „emerge from the data“ without needing the nuissance of consulting costly humans, and this movement eventually led to what is now commonly hyped as „big data“. All of this hype about „emergence“ is hogwash. If you don’t know what I mean when I say „hogwash“, then please look it up in a dictionary. 😉

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    nmw 16:09:28 on 2016/05/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , common language, , , , , , , literacy, , , , , , ,   

    The Rise of Rational Media 

    Recently, I posted something on Facebook that I said to Vint Cerf 10 years ago. It was revolutionary then. Even more shocking to me today is that it probably still seems revolutionary.

    Why? Why do so many people still appear so lacking in literacy skills? Perhaps even more importantly: Why do I remain so optimistic that more and more people will eventually acquire more and more literacy skills after all?

    So far, I am sorry to say that I don’t know why. Maybe I simply prefer to have an optimistic outlook.

    But I think almost anyone will have to admit that there are clear signs that a change is indeed presently happening here and now. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were clear signs that people are no longer willing to be duped and suckered by governments and corporations alike. The only failure Occupy experienced was a lack of power – in the end, the side with more and most of all more powerful guns won.

    Is literacy more powerful than weaponry? The Enlightenment preached that the pen was mightier than the sword, but was that perhaps also simply a hoax?

    Again: My optimism leads me to continue to believe in the power of literacy. What happened during the Occupy uprising was, after all, not a true test of literacy against weaponry – it was plain and simple stubborn power against stubborn power… and stronger stubborn power won.

    The true test of literacy is when people decide „We won’t get fooled again“… and follow through on their own convictions.

    This was one reason people stopped using Google and started using social media websites instead. They didn’t realize the new boss was more or less the same as the old boss. Do they realize this now? Time will tell.

    What became quite clear during the Occupy uprising was that the government was not on the side of the 99%. This was perhaps a shock to many… but it is not the first time that a government has sided with commercial and industrial interests.

    As I recently wrote: Government may indeed have very little or even no interest in promoting the literacy of its people if it believes it may be threatened by a more literate population. In order to win a following, governments and corporations alike employ propaganda and advertising rather than rational argumentation.

    Rational media, instead, are built on a foundation of literacy. Still few and far between (mainly because propaganda and advertising were much more widespread throughout the 20th Century), rational media are not normally closely held by private interests. Indeed, because of the distributed nature of the Internet, it is very difficult to maintain monopoly power over rational media (versus, for example, retard media).

    The first sign of a literate public is one which is willing and able to abstain from succumbing to monopoly powers. This was true when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the front doors of a Catholic church cathedral 5 centuries ago, and it is equally true for anyone who is willing and able to refrain from using Google or Facebook.

    Another sign of a more literate public is one which is willing and able to agree on terminology. This is perhaps easier said than done. Obviously, it is extremely difficult in situations where people speak completely different languages. Yet even when people speak more or less the same language, they may have different opinions about many things, and such differences of opinion may lead to differing terminology, and perhaps also significant misunderstandings.

    One way to mitigate this problem of potential misunderstanding is to focus intensely on „common language“ terminology. It is possible to sacrifice precision without sacrificing accuracy, and it is a great feat to be content with a solution which is essentially on the mark despite spilling over into minor side effects.

    There are many more aspects of a literate society that deserve to be enumerated, but this post is already quite long. So I will simply save them for another rainy day.

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    nmw 16:06:05 on 2016/01/20 Permalink
    Tags: abnormal, , , , , , , , , , , digital media, digitalisation, digitalization, , , , , , , , , , , , , literacy, , , 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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