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    nmw 14:23:18 on 2016/12/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , mission, mission statement, , , , technology,   

    The Rationality of Literacy 

    Over the past couple months, I have worked on developing a mission statement for one of my overarching goals – something like a „life goal“. Initial attempts were quite abstract, and I was greatly helped by the very considerate feedback of friends.

    In the intervening weeks since those first trials, I have kept the general aim present but I have focused on it much less. Over the past several days, I have received several ideas from other sources – more or less haphazardly, which have motivated me to reconsider this particular life goal again from a new perspective.

    For people who have been following my writing for several years, it should be no surprize that literacy is really at the crux of my thinking about many topics, and also with respect to this particular life goal for which I want to craft a mission statement. One thing that has been „bugging“ me for the past year or two is how my focus on literacy is considered by many – indeed, including myself – to be a non-human matter. In this view, reading, writing and arithmetic are technologies and therefore lack the warmth of flesh-and-blood human beings. Code and language are inert, not living things, and they cannot ultimately provide meaning in the same way as interaction with other humans can – as humans (so this argument) we are, after all, social animals.

    This view, however, interprets technology from a very parochial point of view. According to this perspective, technology is merely an artefact, a curiosity, a product… albeit of human ingenuity. We pound nails not because there is anything interesting about doing so, but merely because doing so makes our lives easier from the results of applying such technologies. There is nothing interesting about iron or steel per se, but rather such materials are only interesting insofar as they can be manipulated into helping to make nails, just as nails are only interesting insofar as they can be used to build more things. As an aside: It might make sense to think about how the technologies we use also create threating things – such as global warming, nuclear waste, AIDS and/or many other problems.

    Yet let me not drift away from the current issue – crafting my mission statement. I view language and literacy somewhat differently than most… and over the years, my thinking about these things has also undergone continued development and refinement. While I have long known (or believed) that language cannot be owned (e.g. by a monarch) or dictated (e.g. to the masses), I am now at a point where I feel it may be useful to extrapolate beyond this rather mundane and obvious fact to recognize a „rationality of literacy“, in which people make a rational decision to engage with each other via linguistic technologies. In this vein, literacy is also not simply owned or attained, but rather it is practiced (or – in the case of illiteracynot practiced).

    This is important because it redirects our attention away from the ownership of resources to the actual use of such resources. To give a concrete example: In order to engage with „cars“, it is not necessary to own cars. Engagement with cars can also happen when someone references cars. Statements like „cars are good“ or „cars are bad“ are social expressions insofar as there is agreement within a society regarding what these words (and expressions) mean.

    Likewise, our level of engagement with a topic can be as small or as large as our involvement with various other social institutions related to that topic. We might simply talk about cars with very little engagement, or we might become much more involved with cars by joining organizations that deal with them and associated technologies. Our involvement with „cars“ may lead us to become involved with „pedestrians“, „streets“, „roads“, „highways“, „infrastructure“, „pollution“, „global warming“ and many other topics, too.

    We do not need to become dictators in any of these arenas. It is completely sufficient to simply engage – to participate in the social construction of the reality related to each of these terms. It ought to be quite plain to see that the reality we thereby create in one arena might not be the exact same reality created in another arena. There might be nuanced differences, but there might also be meaningful relationships between and among the various arenas.

    Increased engagement in more and more arenas goes hand in hand with increased literacy. These two phenomena are crucially related: You cannot have one without the other (that is, at least, a hypothesis I am venturing here).

    This thinking is what leads me to venture that the mission statement I need probably goes something like: My mission is to promote literacy – in order to increase community engagement and social cohesion, and also in order to motivate humans more towards alignment and harmony with natural evolution.

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

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

    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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , market research, , , , , , messages, , mob, mobs, , normal, , , , rumor, rumors, rumour, rumours, , smart, , , , technology, , , , , 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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