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Former Google and Facebook execs are sounding alarms about the power of tech (theguardian.com)
250 points by DrNuke on Jan 1, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 189 comments

I tire of the traditional media's need to write a negative story about how Facebook is cancer, and then throw in a legitimate company like Apple or Google to make it "Facebook and Google" are cancer. And this instance is particularly obtuse because the "former Google and Facebook execs" are the president of Facebook, and some random product manager from Google. There's only one former president of Facebook and there are probably 20000 former Google product managers. The latter guy is just some rando.

>and then throw in a legitimate company like Apple or Google to make it "Facebook and Google" are cancer.

This is very much a matter of perspective. Prior to Apple launching the app store as a walled garden for ios and then launching it on macos proper, it was generally an untested assumption that users would not be willing to accept such a software delivery model.

Prior to Google, it was assumed that it would be unacceptable to require people sign up to and give personal details for access to software. Most software licences were distributed by emailing codes to the user. The web app with mandatory registration was usually only seen in enterprise grade portal-based software.

Today, the standard software experience requires so many accounts that /average users/ are turning in desperation to password managers to corral the hundreds of accounts they need for their month-to-month computing, and Microsoft has moved from "next-next-done" installers to actively pushing a walled garden on the population. Despite Android having full support for distributing packages as .apk files that can be installed without the app store in the exact way you would use an msi or a deb, I would anecdotally say less than 5% of apps are offered for download from their creators websites in this traditional fashion.

Sure seems like the tumors are metastasizing to me.

Besides the factual mistakes in your comment (for example, the majority of Google's numerous services do not require any kind of account), you seem to be talking about software distribution and licensing, while this article is about attention. There's a pretty strong case to be made that Facebook sucks up all of your attention and gives you nothing in return. You can't make that case against Apple and Google. One of them sells telephones, and the other provides access to all of the information in the world. The reason these can't be lumped together with Facebook is because Facebook lacks any kind of redeeming product. They give you nothing.

To you I guess.

Many people value Facebook for the experiences it gives.

You sound like one of those people that 'doesn't watch TV' in the 90s. To many TV doesn't give any value at all -- it is mindless drivel. However, many others like TV. So it goes with Video Games as well. The product of an entertainment company is entertainment. If you don't find entertainment in the product then don't consume it, but don't act like a spoil sport when others like it. Stop purporting your own opinion as fact.

I have never seen a more foolish comparison than the TV one. If someone doesn't watch TV, at best the in crowd might think you are a fool and behind the times.

The shadow profiles maintained by Facebook is the equivalent of watching your TV by stealing the non-watcher's electricity.

Triangulation of other people's profiles based on your phone book is the equivalent of handing over your non-watching neighbor's address to the (physical mail) spammers and then going and collecting only the interesting stuff from their house by using their key without their knowledge or permission.

Calling someone a spoil sport for pointing out the problems that FB causes to non-users is the equivalent of turning up the volume on your TV to a 1000 and telling your non-watching neighbor that all they need to do to drown out the noise is to go get a TV and then do the same.

On the other hand, if what the rando is saying is true, nothing else matters, and their words should be judged on their own merits.

The question is, is it true?

Words ought not be judged solely on their truthiness independent of their person. Evaluating someone's argument is costly, which is why some technical communities might consider the reputation of the author before embarking on the serious task of understanding a complex theory.

HN does offer higher-than-usual quality of discussion, but its ability to discuss is still palpably limited. In this light, waiting for the right starting point of discussion can be productive. A lot of debates are tiresome because they seem to start back from ground 0, and it can wear down community enthusiasm for the subject.

I don't agree. In fact, this is an extremely interesting topic worthy of a separate essay, so that hopefully this can be refuted once and for all.

You'll find it difficult (but not impossible) to figure out who I am. And I like it that way. Not because I'm particularly scared of anything, but because merit alone should be our filter.

This is further exemplified by the classism present in the current society. If you haven't gone through the right funnel, if you haven't been born to the right parents, if you merely got unlucky and your family's fortune was stolen or squandered, then suddenly you are unworthy of being listened to.

Right? That's what you're saying by "Words ought not be judged solely on their truthiness independent of their person." Either you're somebody, or you're nobody. And if you're nobody then you may as well go die.

That is quite dramatic, but not quite overly so. It's how companies feel about their employees when they fire them, for example.

In fact, follow this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15792258 Just start at the top and keep reading. It's an absolutely fascinating debate, and one of the sides is completely anonymous. I still don't know how to feel about the situation. Both sides bring up good points.

But such quality came out of letting merit alone be the judge. And people will disagree whether it's quality, but it certainly made me think.

> Right? That's what you're saying by "Words ought not be judged solely on their truthiness independent of their person." Either you're somebody, or you're nobody. And if you're nobody then you may as well go die.

Is that your interpretation?

No, if words aren't judged solely, that implies at least, I don't know, one, or can I get two extra factors? What's wrong with multi-factor judgment?

For example, when I listen to my doctor, do you think I'm only evaluating the merit of the medical reasoning? Are doctors in the habit or routine of providing their medical reasoning? And surely, while not all doctors are from good financial backgrounds, just by being so prejudiced in favor of your doctor, you are judging the final accumulated product of an unfair system, and you are probably enjoying its fruits. The reality is you probably also evaluate multiple signals, every day, even if one of those signals is correlated with a class division you despise.

Ah, excellent reply. This is what makes HN worth savoring.

You certainly have a point. And I would agree that in medical matters, or in other situations where an expert opinion is warranted, it's worth taking credentialism into account.

But there are a few people on HN without credentials who are excellent programmers. What makes them excellent? If you had to figure out a hard design, or build something quickly (as opposed to rock-solid reliably), are you sure the first person you'd go to is a Harvard grad? Even if you had the money. I've met enough to know that they're smart, but you can get within a stone's throw of their skill on your own.

Let's start with a story. My tooth hurt, for days. Terrible shooting pain. I remember waking up and jumping up and down crying due to how absolutely excruciating it was. This isn't artistic exaggeration.

I go to the dentist. Tooth's godda come out. But what made me hesitate was how quickly this determination was made. She took one glance at the xray and said "This tooth needs to be extracted." Instantly.

I go home and wait, and bear the pain a bit. The pain goes away, and I forget about it for awhile.

A few months later, it comes back. I go to a different dentist. Same exact situation.

For lucky reasons, I could not arrange the operation. I say "lucky" because I still have that tooth, and that was four years ago. If I had listened to credentials, I would be one less tooth and none the wiser.

This was quite striking, and it has always made me wonder why we have this absolute faith in the systems we participate in. It works most of the time. It's a pretty good rule of thumb. But the special cases are what makes life interesting, and most systems are remarkably bad at evaluating those.

What does all of this have to do with whether some rando should have an opinion about Google? Well, that rando might be right. And the only way to figure that out is to think about it and decide for yourself.

>>But what made me hesitate was how quickly this determination was made. She took one glance at the xray and said "This tooth needs to be extracted." Instantly.

This is not unusual. Experts know how to recognize patterns quickly because they have lots of training and experience to do it. If a dentist looks at an x-ray and sees what looks like rotting tooth root, he or she will recommend taking out that tooth, and the chances are very, very good that he or she is right.

>>For lucky reasons, I could not arrange the operation. I say "lucky" because I still have that tooth, and that was four years ago. If I had listened to credentials, I would be one less tooth and none the wiser.

What happened is that your dentist informed you that leaving the tooth in would be very risky because it could lead to a much more serious condition and require major surgery such as a root canal. You decided to take that risk (or circumstances forced you to) and got lucky and nothing bad happened.

This doesn't mean that the dentist was wrong.

For example, when I listen to my doctor, do you think I'm only evaluating the merit of the medical reasoning? Are doctors in the habit or routine of providing their medical reasoning?

That might not be the best example given the number of medical mistakes made, and the general success rate of an initial diagnosis. If anything the ability of patients to question the medical reasoning of their doctor has been shown to actually improve outcomes. On a personal level I question my doctor like I’m interrogating him, and I’ve rarely found that to be anything but useful. Are used to have on deficiency anemi that might not be the best example given the number of medical mistakes made, and the general success rate of initial diagnosis. If anything the ability of patients to question the medical reason of their doctor has been shown to actually improve outcomes. On a personal level I question my doctor like I’m interrogating him, and I’ve rarely found that to be anything but useful.

Arguing a debate from 0 to its conclusion is tiresome, but it can be short-circuited simply by explaining how this instance of the debate is the same as previous discussions, and (literally) linking to previous debates.

In this way, it's similar to how many disparate problems are reducible to the Travelling Salesman Problem. Once that reduction is discovered, the line of inquiry rapidly converges with those of other TSP investigations.

It's valuable to do so to bring others up to speed cheaply, and to avoid getting stuck on credentialism's local maximum.

> Arguing a debate from 0 to its conclusion is tiresome

Irrelevent. If you accept a statement without proof, you become vulnerable to manipulation.

This is also why topic-specific forums exist, so that short proof suffices. Though I dont know an appropriate forum for this article.

When you listen to your doctor, or your lawyer, you become vulnerable to manipulation. You are indeed rolling the die, like a high roller of Vegas.

Technically you are correct. You must also educate yourself. Get mutiple opinions etc.

Hopefully you picked your doctor due to his past performence. Money and review should serve as a good incentive.

"Words ought not be judged solely on their truthiness independent of their person."

Ok... so who are you? Since I don't know you, I can't judge your statement with any respect to you, so your statement cannot be considered true, so why say it? Truth is quite obviously the sole standard a statement should be judged by. If you give up on the analysis and are looking for a shortcut, then that is something else entirely. Our "ability to discuss" is hampered when your opening statement is self-evidently false circular reasoning.

If you give a statement with proof that can be confirmed in short time then reputation is irrelevent. Otherwise I am not going to spend time to think about provability of your statement, unless you are reputable or I trust you.

So Reputation does not imply a statement. Reputation is only used to reduce ddos on my brain.

Ironically Headline/Article basically suggest to accept it as truth because reputation.

It may be because in the EU (and The Guardian is a pro-EU UK news organisation), Google is up before the regulators on more than one case, for example recently receiving a record fine from EU authorities that runs into the billions of dollars. They don't appear to have been randomly chosen, but appear to be the European most-wanted in terms of multinational tech companies accused by authorities of abusing their power.


The Rando is the founder of a $1.2B VC fund.

You are confusing Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Facebook exec, with Tristan Harris, the former product manager at Google.

Oh this isn't Chamath speaking this time? (I will admit I only scanned the article for his name which does appear) My bad!

About The Guardian in particular, I've been saying this for a while. [0]

I'll quote #peoplewindow's reply, broadly agreeing with my comment:

>The Guardian has been pushing the line that non-Guardian news sources are 'dangerous for democracy' for a long time now. Other similar publications like the NYT have the same viewpoint.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15573111

Utter nonsense.

Check out the Guardian’s history and structure:


The Guardian is about as good as you’re going to get in terms of a mainstream outlet being able to take an objective view here. Pretty much the opposite of Facebook.

> https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/11/google-ap...

Technically, no. Though the Guardian is good and thorough at what it does, it is explicitly established to advance a liberal viewpoint, rather than be purely "objective". See their own about page for the Scott Trust, which is the non-profit that is responsible for publishing and governing The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/the-scott-trust/2015/jul/26/the-...

The current editor, Katharine Viner, has also been fairly explicit about this in the past (notably in live chats when in charge of the then-new Australian edition).

Most UK news outlets wear their political stance on their sleeve. One of the common ways to get an objective view is to read both The Guardian (left) and The Telegraph (right), and from that triangulate what in the story is a matter of political perspective.

In terms of this topic, the power of tech, Katharine Viner posted a "long read" in 2016 that it's unlikely they'll deviate from in terms of "The Guardian view on..." https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology...

From an organisational perspective, you can also read a bit "between the lines" from their financial situation -- growing readership but losing money. Which puts them at an awkward cross-roads where their mission to promote liberal values is best served by remaining free, but it that places their future in jeopardy.

TL;DR: though The Guardian is good, don't mistake "independent" for "neutral"; it has a well-established political view.

>The Guardian is about as good as you’re going to get in terms of a mainstream outlet being able to take an objective view here.

That statement is nonsense.

Of course The Guardian can't possible be objective w.r.t. Facebook.

Facebook and The Guardian are competitors in the market for online advertising.

edit: double-down

GP's statement is fairly accurate and so is yours. All mainstream news outlets are competitors in the online ad market, and The Guardian is about as good as you get in terms of independence and objectivity.

Despite being a progressive-leaning person I find the Guardian's recent political correctness and value-signalling to be grating, and have been looking for an alternative and less hyperbolic sources of news. It's like they abandoned their detachment, independence and integrity in a bid to become the mirror image of the Murdoch press. I guess there's a good market for that, a large and growing choir to preach to.

>Despite being a progressive-leaning person I find the Guardian's recent political correctness and value-signalling to be grating


That's (part of) what I'm trying to say.

The other part is that, though I'm not all a fan of Facebook, The Guardian (as a competitor) clearly has a self-interested agenda with these anti-Facebook articles.

A few years ago, they used to run a lot of snide, sneering articles about "bloggers".

Now that it turns out that blogs have modulo-zero impact on their bottom line, their focus has turned to Facebook et al.

> The old idea of the online world as a burgeoning utopia looks to have peaked around the time of the Arab spring

The only people who thought the "arab spring" was a burgeoning utopia are western military, intelligence, and political elites.

Now those same people see these platforms as a threat and so the "respectable" media is full of anti-SV stories.

> it’s all automated; the owners of the system can’t possibly monitor everything that’s going on, and they can’t control it

Yes, that is the real problem: communications that can't be censored and controlled.

I'm not sure you read this very well. The notion is not that the Arab spring was a utopia. The notion was that the Arab spring, fueled by direct person-to-person connection on FB, Twitter, Whatsapp, etc, were symptomatic of the Internet's power to create freedom and social utopia.

It's part of a persistent strain of technoutopianism. You might read Tom Standage's excellent 1998 book "The Victorian Internet", which talks about the adoption of the telegraph during the Victorian era. Many of the same things people said about the Internet's power to change society were said about the telegraph: https://www.amazon.com/Victorian-Internet-Remarkable-Ninetee...

And it absolutely did, as did the Gutenberg press, the telephone, the radio and television. We just don't recognize it because we've never experienced a pre-telegraph life.

It did change life, but not in the utopian way people were thinking. People thought, for example, that the telegraph would eliminate war by connecting people and eliminating the possibility of the misunderstandings that come from very high-latency communication technologies (e.g., horses carrying handwritten letters). It turns out that part of pre-telegraph life not only continued, but got worse.

Telegraphs didn't have dopamine feedback loops via feedback such as "likes".

I'm not sure that's material to my point, but assuming you're just starting a tangent, I'd disagree. They had replies.

It was not as immediate and exciting as modern technology, but it was way more exciting than what previously existed. People even fell in love by telegraph. See, for example, the 1880 novel "Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes": https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/26/wired-love-romance...

Dopamine is not uniquely associated with social media.

Furthermore, dopamine isn’t addictive and “In studies with rats, where dopamine was suppressed, rats showed “normal hedonic reaction patterns,” and still showed normal pleasure responses even though dopamine was suppressed.


"Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article."

The so-called Arab Spring was interpreted by the entire rest of the world that America can destroy a country purely by “cyber” warfare. That genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

But hilariously, America seems dead-set on using the same weapon on itself...

Not purely cyber warfare. The arab spring had well organized and well funded groups operating on the ground using social media tools as part of their efforts.

It is hard to say how much the social media (twitter especially) were really playing a role on the ground and how much they were being used for propaganda to shape opinion in the west.

The arab spring was when CNN and others started reporting on tweets like they were legitimate news, which obviously has to be a discriminatory process, because someone is deciding which tweets are news out of the millions that are not.

Someone decides that the tweets of atrocities on one side are news, while atrocities on the other side are not, and that the tweets "proving" that the first tweets were staged fakes are not news either.

> The so-called Arab Spring was interpreted by the entire rest of the world that America can destroy a country purely by “cyber” warfare

Considering how much support I saw from outside the US, I'm finding this hard to believe.

Considering how much support I saw from outside the US

Twitter is an American corporation, the users are its product. They did exactly what the platform incentivised them to do.

by... communicating with each other?

Users aren't the product, they're the revenue stream. The product is an easy to use communication tool.

FTA: literally changes your relationship with society

It’s a weapon that can totally disrupt a society to the point at which it cannot function. What else would you call what happened in Libya?

What happened in France, America, Britian, India, or a whole host of other countries that became unsatisfied with the power structure that was in place.

In history we mostly learn about the successful revolution, and rarely hear about the failed ones. In the recent past the Middle-East has a litany of failed revolutions.

Can't say about entire rest of the world but that is when Putin changed his domestic policy from more or less liberal to censoring internet etc.

Maybe because I love Greenwich Village, Jane Jacobs, and Henry Thoreau, or maybe because between Steve Jobs' and Bill Gates' legacies, I chose Richard Stallman's, but I've never felt any appeal from Silicon Valley.

Maybe visiting might change my view, but the realizations in the article seem obvious and late enough that I think I understand the appeal but don't share the values.

There was a reply to this, now deleted, that I thought had an excellent point. I suspect the poster did not enjoy the immediate downvotes that come from criticizing Silicon Valley orthodoxies, so I want to paraphrase it.

The poster, a European, said that one of the things they liked about HN was that when the discussion drifted too deep into an SV-centric view, people from other parts of the world would often provide a useful corrective that would then be upvoted.

I appreciate that too, although as the treatment of the poster's comment demonstrated, it's not perfect. I think too many SV orthodoxies are vigorously defended here. The poster gave a footnote with a short list of what they called "Silicon Valley mindcuffs", and I suspect that's what got the instant downvotes.

> The poster, a European, said that one of the things they liked about HN was that when the discussion drifted too deep into an SV-centric view, people from other parts of the world would often provide a useful corrective that would then be upvoted.

It's actually fascinating to observe how the "tone" of HN varies through the day. My impression (I haven't carefully analyzed) is that during the morning in Europe you tend to have more left leaning points of view politically and more advocacy of Stallman-esque Open Source.

Once the US gets online though the political spectrum of opinions shifts right and towards Libiterianism. You also have people working at places like Google and Facebook adding their 2 cents, which tends to lead to "moral outrage" (European) vs "here's the reality" (US).

If your point is not well argued you'll get a few down-votes. If you point is very well argued you'll get a lot of down-votes. Nothing makes people down-vote more than an opinion they don't like but can't easily refute or dismiss.

This is a very interesting theory! I hope somebody gets a bee in their bonnet enough to gather some data.


What were the mindcuffs?! Examples? What a great word!

Common ones: everyone speaks English or pays in dollars. People are not familiar with Chinese internet, or even non-American-centric companies. People have access to some local service (typically delivery services or local chains) or are familiar with their idiosyncrasies, including Amazon (Amazon is only present in 11 countries https://services.amazon.com/global-selling/global-selling-gu...). Issues around food or water quality are very local; American conspiracy tropes.

Less common are understanding of legal issues, typically common law needs at least one case to clarify an issue as opposed to positive law countries; the right to bear arms is a big one, so is American-style freedom-of-speech.

More specific are things like: non-American universities provide a good education, non-American companies can innovate meaningfully, tipping is omnipresent in services, keyboard layouts, American references in literature, sport, movies, etc.

One of the latest obvious examples of such mindcuffs outside of HN is Apple’s announcement around battery replacement: it’s impossible to find conditions that are not meant for the US market. You can redirect the offer to local stores or find it there. That is actually quite typical of Apple, in spite of 60% of their sales being outside of the US.

I have made the mistake to point at similar mindcuffs on HN and I will not do it again.

It's worth adding that these mindcuffs are more tied to social class and one's political leanings than they are to geography.

How? Can you explain?

Also aren't political views geographicaly tied?

They are to some extent but my point is that a doctor from NYC or Austin TX is more likely to think like someone from SV than a programmer from Boise or Bangor.

The SV way of thinking is present to some extent in most urban people of similiar socioeconomic class. A plumber from SF will not necessarily take the same things for granted that a programmer from SF will.

I think class is definitely a part of it, but I believe SV's paradigm is notably distinct from other geographies. A programmer from Chicago is much less likely to talk about disruption as an unalloyed good, or to take a militant free-speech line that refuses to consider race or class.

I wanted to strike a balance between conveying the point and respecting the poster's deletion, so I left out those specifics. But I hope the poster turns that list into an expanded essay; I thought they were great. And yes, I loved the word.

The (disruptive) power of Silicon Valley stems mainly from investors. Make a pile of money high enough, and you can disrupt anything; that's the premise, basically.

It is not really the power of tech that we should be worried about, but instead the power of investment without regard for anything other than shareholder returns. Google and Facebook could be better companies if they didn't have to sell their users to their real customers.

Yeah! The rise of addictive, short-term reward technologies seems deeply tied to the fact that Silicon Valley companies make money based on showing growth numbers to investors.

Business models shape the space of architectures that companies are incentivized and disincentivized to make. For people that don't like the current landscape of addictive free technologies, I'd say Silicon Valley has a business model problem, not a technology problem.

The money doesn't do it alone. You can't have technological disruption without technology.

What technology has Facebook given us besides React, a PHP compiler and low-power server racks? For that matter, what does Facebook even disrupt?

I venture that the technology is usually already there, but the business exploitation is what's different in the dominant companies.

Facebook operates mostly in the realm of social communication/organization and general information sharing, so that is where the "disruption" would take place.

I'm rather skeptical of Facebook though. I think there are major issues with its current incarnation.

Facebook operates mostly in the realm of social communication/organization and general information sharing, so that is where the "disruption" would take place.

Sure, but GP was talking about technological disruption.

Facebook uses technology to carry out its core operations, so would not they be performing technological disruption of the social domain?

If they meant social they would have said social.

It disrupts social interaction.

I'm sorry, but this comment is just beautiful

i doubt visiting would change your view, because your view--ie, what is the "appeal" and the "values" sounds about right. I've been here eight years and if there's some magic, i haven't seen it yet--just stale ideas conceived in isolation and enough frantic iteration to convince someone to pay for more adolescent experiment

What do you do in NYC?

Do you think it's worth it to make a location-based social activity layer for existing social forums like HN? So people could meet up, date, hire for jobs etc.

No one's actual location would be revealed. But when people post something, others would know they are probably nearby.

With respect, that's been done. It was called Yik Yak. It was a disaster for the high school kids of my neighborhood; the geographic steering of messages allowed them to insult and stalk one another. The FOMO factor (fear of missing out) so carefully instilled in them by Instagram and the like made it very hard for them to just delete the app.

That's not a fundamental flaw with the idea though, it's just that the specific community Yik Yak developed was terrible. You could do the same thing but have it target, say, LinkedIn's demographic instead of old-time MySpace's.

There actually was a startup in DC that was doing something like this, called SocialRadar. They had a lot of funding but failed due to lack of adoption. They had a real name policy and didn't have any of the same problems that Yik Yak did.

As an interesting aside, that's how BBS's worked pre internet. Long distances calls were so expensive, BBS forums were largely localized. We would have get togethers and people's houses or at libraries, to meet each other once or twice a year, drink beer, play volleyball, etc.

Why do you think the parent was so heavily downvoted?

The NYC question did sound weird and somewhat like ad-hominem attack. You probably wanted to ask why OP found NYC better than SV?

P.S. I didn't downvote vote

Ah. I live in NYC and considered get together given the subject matter of the comment. I was asking the guy what kind of work he does. LOL.

No friggin idea.

Yeah, this "alarms" are just a way to call for regulations that will in practice pull up the ladder so other companies will never be able to climb where fb or google stand now. This has always happened in all industries: some companies become big and then they use the excuse of limiting their own power to close off the competitions to enter the market, in fact stabilizing their power and creating a REAL monopoly. I don't understand how can informed people still fall for this move.

I've been speculating for months that these companies would love to rotate out some of their VPs into a regulatory body in order to give their policies the force of law.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple - all need to be shut down in their present form. The biggest problem is that our anti-competitive legislation is ill-equipped to handle tech monopolies.

The extremely complex nature of modern software and its ability to offer unparalled distribution advantage is nothing like the world has ever seen. The ability of Google to push something like a chrome browser comes not only from its galleons of highly paid engineers, but also its ability to advertise/support it for free for decades to come. There simply does not exist another sustainable model to finance a complex product like an internet browser and provide it for free to consumers for decades.

The bigger problem is what is the form of regulation that could be applied to such behemoths. Its extremely hard to regulate it by a case-to-case basis, similar to what happenned in telecom, simply because the business models are too complex and different products monetize differently.

I think a line of thought which might yield some regulatory possibilities is to limit these companies manpower. No single company should be allowed to employ more than X number of engineers. If they go above, they should be required to spin of into multiple entities, each of which do no more than X number of engineers. I dont know what X is - but that is open for deliberation.

The impact that something like this could have on say Google is that Google is forced to split apart its search business with the ads business. This further allows the search business to collaborate with more ad providers to find the best fit. And on the other side, it allows its ads business to experiment with more search providers and open up a market for profitable search engines.

This is not something I have completely thought through, but whatever little I have, this seems to be the cleanest approach to fix tech.

When did HN become so... radicalized? There's nothing inherently wrong with these companies being big. The problems are with them being too board. Should Google own the creation of content (Blogger, Youtube), finding content (search) and transmitting content (fiber)? Should Comcast transmit content (TV, Xfinity) and create content (NBC, Hulu)? This is where the problems arise like conflicts of interest, diminished competition, etc. We saw this clearly in Argentina, when as soon as the government started working on legislation to prevent the telecoms from becoming monopolies, since they own newspapers and TV news, they started bombarding the public with negative press.

It shouldn't be hard to regulate this. Just split them up.

>When did HN become so... radicalized?

More and more hackers and programmers from outside SV/startup culture started showing up. Outside of that bubble, hacker culture leans far more anarchist, and fundamentally mistrusts large scale power structures and centralized authority. And then Snowden and Aaron Swartz happened.

So in a way, HN isn't becoming radicalized, it's becoming normalized.

HN used to lean very libertarian. I might need to say "right-libertarian" to be specific enough. That philosophy tends to tolerate large-scale power structures as long as they're not violating the rights of others and remain subject to competition.

I've noticed a shift away from that in the past couple years. The grandparent post doesn't seem to be left-anarchist though; more like state-socialist. It proposes that some central authority, presumably the US government dissolve or split up large tech companies. The problem I have with that is I fundamentally mistrust large scale power structures and centralized authority. The US government is one of the most extreme manifestations of those things.

I only know state-socialist people who did not live in a socialist state.

I would argue the opposite. From time to time the SV crowd can be very good at driving off those who don't drink the cool-aid.

Recall every Tesla thread.

> It shouldn't be hard to regulate this. Just split them up.

Actually this is exactly what I suggested. The bigger question is 'how' to split them up - and to be able to do it consistently across ever shifting market dynamics.

The telecom case is easy to define and split cleanly. The ads/search/browser and the like marketplaces will take the entire US government to make sense of.

And then there is stuff like Bitcoin and AI.

The world has become radicalized, and HN is no exception.

I would like Europe to either hack up or straight up block them so we can develop our own products.

Like China does?

By invoking China you're implying that blocking US monopolies would be bad because everything China does is bad. Doesn't seem like a compelling argument to me.

Maybe not, but it becomes compelling when you consider what it means for a state to go as far as to block web sites in such a manner. It isn't merely a simple act of blocking. It brings with it an entire mindset as to how the state should behave, and how much freedom it allows for its population.

Why is it not ok for tech companies to be big, but a-ok for telecom, oil, banks, law firms, audit firms, and all the other traditional companies to be huge?

The cynic in me wonders if it's simply "old conservative money holders" being upset about the "new liberal rich." Ever since Trump took power, the media has been beating the "evil tech company" drums loudly and clearly.

> Why is it not ok for tech companies to be big, but a-ok for telecom, oil, banks, law firms, audit firms, and all the other traditional companies to be huge?

The thing which makes tech companies different from every other is the 'infrastructure' effect of software and the absence of 'geographical' limits on monopolies.

Banks, law firms, audit firms are fundamentally limited by geography. A law firm in New York will find it very hard to service clients in San Francisco without having employees there. Tech firms arent 'boxed' in by these limits, which are preset for most traditional businesses, thereby greatly expands their ability to become monopolies and strangle competition.

The other advantage that tech companies have is the fundamentally additive nature of software. Microsoft made a very good OS few decades back, but its ability to keep releasing a competitive OS builds on the work piled on by decades of engineering. It is simply impossible for a startup to release another version of an OS which can compete with Microsoft Windows.

However, if we were to break up Windows into pieces, it opens up the possiblity for a new startup to innovate on a part of the OS and buy existing pieces from the vendors of each part to ship a new offering.

All of the industries I've mentioned are already international. Law firms have offices around the world and routinely export work. Audit firms too. Your arguments about momentum of software also equally play to the big law firms and audit firms, if not more so. These firms have been gorillas for a very long time.

For perspective, PWC is the result of a merger between two large audit firms founded in 1949 and 1954 respectively. Microsoft was founded in 1975. PWC is a worldwide company employing 236k employees. Microsoft only employs 124k. Admittedly Microsoft has a revenue of ~90 billion vs PWCs mere 37.7 billion. But I'm not seeing why one is fundamentally different than the other.

I mean, what you are effectively arguing is that Microsoft's OS is so freaking awesome and amazing and good for consumers, that no other competitor is able to provide value to consumers as much as microsoft is.

And your solution is effectively to make Microsoft's products worse, so that a different, lower quality product is able to compete.

What about instead of that, we do the thing that helps consumers, instead of hurting them?

The error in your assumption is that windows wins because its "so freaking awesome" and not because of secondary effects that microsoft has imposed on the market via its ability to effectively force adoption of stuff.

But it is the anti-trump media (NY Times, Guardian, etc) that are beating the drums the hardest.

What they understand is that these companies only care about money. When Democrats were in power they were happy to help the Democrats in exchange for favors. Now the Republican are in power they will be happy to help the Republicans in exchange for favors.

Alphabet is even willing to make someone else CEO because Eric Schmidt was too closely tied to the other side. That shows everyone how friendly they are willing to be.

I think most people dont understand that corporations are amoral entities.

>"Why is it not ok for tech companies to be big, but a-ok for telecom, oil, banks, law firms, audit firms, and all the other traditional companies to be huge?"

It's not OK for for telecom, oil and banks. I don't hear anybody saying that nor do I believe it is a popular opinion.

>"Ever since Trump took power, the media has been beating the "evil tech company" drums loudly and clearly."

You realize there's a tangent between the Trump election and how social media was used during the election right?

It is not OK for these companies to be huge either. Companies, no matter how large are always dictatorially controlled by a tiny group of ultrawealthy oligarchs. Large company == massive concentrated power with zero oversight or democratic input which is always dangerous and bad.

Tech companies are worse because they control the tools we use to communicate and think: this unchecked power can exert massive influence over our minds and thoughts.

Theoretically, there is draw towards big companies offering a package of solution rather than individual pieces. Small companies offering superior piece doesn't get rewarded because of the package-offering-draw effect which rewards suboptimality and pulls towards monopoly. We want competition for getting the best and no monopoly for retaining power balance between customers and companies.

> This is not something I have completely thought through

Indeed. "Thar oughtta be a law!" is always the least interesting response to a problem. Essentially your solution to a problem is to outlaw the problem.

Then the fun part is always left to committee. "How do we split it up?" "How do we define the thing we are trying to outlaw...?"

You could brand it the "War on Problems". The president could appoint a Problems Czar. I'm sure we'll need a Anti-Problems Department, too.

Do you really expect that sort of regulation to happen in the US, considering that most of the regulators golf with the executives? Its not just about the tech industry here- every industry has conglomerated into a handful of behemoths.

These days, large corporations and industries are more powerful than government entities- just look at how they avoid paying taxes. Until we figure out how to get money out of politics, mega-corps will continue to get their way.

I agree its extremely unlikely too happen in the US. However, most big tech companies arent seen to be clearly alligned to Trump - so maybe Trump has a perverse incentive to pull it off.

That being said, I think with the rise of AI, smaller tech companies are the future. A tech ecosystem comprised of smaller companies will be forced to take a standards based approach to each industry and also aim to maximize efficiency because of constrains on head count.

This requirement to maximize efficiency will further result in a boost to SAAS and in the longer term create the springboard for the next big jump in tech.

AI in its current deep-learning form tends to reward concentration. The hardest part of building an AI company is collecting training data; big tech companies already have oodles of that, and the products, userbase, and infrastructure to collect more.

There may be some new big tech companies as AI lets software push into niches that haven't been computerized yet, but the same market dynamics will likely play out there, leading to one big winner per corpus. It's not economical to collect the same corpus more than once, and right now the first player to collect it has no incentive to share it.

The only thing I can think of that would reverse this would be legal regulations that either make all data public (unlikely), or that grant ownership of them to the person they're about rather than the corporate entity that collects them, or a technological solution that can enforce the latter while still allowing large-scale aggregation and machine-learning over multiple people.

> large corporations and industries are more powerful than government entities

This is simply not true, since only goverment will be able to force compliance with its requests by sending armed people to your door.

Why would it be in US interest to do this? You have to make sure each country in the world passes same law which is not realistic. Plus what would be the benefit exactly? Large companies as is now create a ton of fundamental OS tools that everyone is using provide good comp. to their employees etc. The level of their owners influence is fairly modest compared to someone like Koch Brothers. Alphabet has a market cap that is bigger than Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner combined yet does not have enough political clout to influence things important to them like Net neutrality.

I'd be satisfied with radical cashectomies. Fees, taxes, fines, whatever. Level the playing field. Keep the money moving.

What do you mean by anti-competitive legislation? Amazon and Apple beat competition by innovation. There are plenty of competition for both companies. You can just buy stuff in Wallmart and buy an Android phone from many manufacturers. What are you talking about?

> There simply does not exist another sustainable model to finance a complex product like an internet browser and provide it for free to consumers for decades.

At least it also funds Chromium and WebKit...

The Alphabet conglomeration seems similar to your proposal, no?

Not at all:

1. Even Google itself is too big. It needs to be broken up further.

2. Management control needs to reside in separate individuals. You cant have two different companies having the same/common management control.

>Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple - all need to be shut down in their present form.

I can appreciate the sentiment, but then Baidu, WeChat, Alibaba, and Xiaomi win.

I dont really understand why Baidu, WeChat etc. are allowed to play in outside markets like US/India when China is closed off from outside markets. The Chinese case is special and might be better of with special treatment.

Good for them?

I don't really care what China does. If those companies have a better product, then it is awesome that they are able to compete in the US.

Why? Because it means better and cheaper products for us consumers.

None of those companies have demonstrated an ability to "win" in Western markets.

Those companies are trending upwards in respectability, strength, and talent. I think Andrew Ng, sometimes described as one of the top minds in ML, is indication that China has a place for such top minds.

If the only hope you have is that China and its firms have been weak before, and therefore China will be weak in the future, then this smells like motivated reasoning.

Please don't mistake my comment to mean that Chinese companies are "lesser", by any means. But companies which succeed wildly with the popular there may not succeed with the population here. This is more of a social thing than anything due to superiority.

As governments start to realize how powerful these international corporations are, and start laying down more regulations, it will be less and less practical for a company to operate globally anyways.

None of the western companies have demonstrated an ability to "win" in Eastern markets, especially China.

All the companies that crawled away tails between their legs having handed their IP or at least business model over to a local partner say otherwise.

Progressive tax on corporations: the bigger the corporation, the higher the tax rate. Would incentivize companies into breaking to smaller organizations, reduce taxes on start ups and small businesses, and minimize 'too big to fail' situations.

And why is a company giving away a browser for free a bad thing?

Merely because other people aren't able to themselves?

All I see is consumers winning as they get free products.

Maybe the difference between those that feel fulfilled in life and those who don't are the addiction loops we've found our way into.

It would be nice to hack those loops in a meaningful way. Make creation a drip fed, nicely chunked, and skinner box filled experience.

There are some methods like pomodoro but something software based to use these novel approaches could do a lot of good for the world.

B. F. Skinner's box was a scheme for performing controlled experiments. The point was to isolate complex systems (minds) so simple hypotheses about their operation could be falsified or supported. It was scientifically successful.

My mother of blessed memory, daughter of two professors of psychology, in her childhood lived next door to Dr. Skinner on St. Ronan Street in New Haven, CT, USA. Myth in my family says my grandparents had the good sense to refuse a request to make Mom a subject in that box.

In the 21st century West no academic psychologist would even propose using a Skinner box on human subjects. Their institutional review boards (IRBs: scientific ethics watchdogs) would just laugh.

It might be interesting, as an experiment in ethics, to propose some aspect of Facebook's attention hacking as if it were an experiment, and see what IRBs make of it.

In the meantime: human complexity good, Skinner boxes bad. Please be careful.

Interesting story but not very related to what the parent was saying.

Examples of skinner boxes are everywhere in society today. They've been around longer than they were identified by Dr. Skinner. Anything that gives a variable reward for pressing the same button is participating in a sort of skinner box.

Mobile games use them, slot machines use them, and you can even think of facebook/instagram likes as such variable rewards you get for the same action over and over.

They are pervasive in society already.

Totally based on hearsay, but: a family member worked with a person who was the child of a research associate of Skinner and that person and their sibling were used as informal research subjects by their parents. Both of them were extremely disturbed humans, and while I never asked for specifics there were whispers of some very dark doings.

There probably ought to be laws against psychology grads having kids. They simply can’t resist experimenting on them.

Ugh, the media has clearly been waiting around for a day when they can cast tech as the bad guy. Russians on Facebook and iPhone batteries are just not that big of a deal.

i really wish they would get off this 'we lost the election because of misinformation on facebook so something has to be done about it' rhetoric.

leaked emails (by help of the russians) surely helped trump, but even democrats concede that information was TRUE. this has nothing to do with social media, but training in the DNC about phishing scams might help.

but honestly, there were so many huge flaws in the hillary campaign (relying 100% on data that was already proven in the primaries to be next to useless, disgust over the shadyness in how the clintons took over the dnc and stacked the deck against sanders, etc).

and lets face it, they didnt have a problem with the internet when obama was using it to win, such as 'obama universities' training people to use a pyramid network on social media to basically create broadcast storms to get the algorithms to push their content to the top and shout out dissenting opinions.

> i really wish they would get off this 'we lost the election because of misinformation on facebook so something has to be done about it' rhetoric.

I wonder of DNC will stick hard to this and nominate Clinton in next election as well.

Usually loosing political parties change their stance a wee bit to pander to wider demographics next time. Because politicians are, well, representatives. So far it looks like DNC thinks they're correct and people are wrong.

> Usually loosing political parties change their stance a wee bit to pander to wider demographics next time. Because politicians are, well, representatives. So far it looks like DNC thinks they're correct and people are wrong.

While hardcore members of the progressive faction (myself included) don't think it's as much as they should have, the DNC has made major moves to accommodate that faction, in the areas of policy stances, DNC personnel, and internal DNC administration and nomination process. It's been the single most significant change in a major party after an election defeat since, probably, the 1970s.

Good to hear. I guess it hasn't bubbled up in media enough. Fingers crossed next time the candidate will be better.

I hope continuing pursuit of "email hacking" and other election-time stories is more of a media thing than DNC itself. And that DNC will manage to change media coverage from that to their next offering to the nation.

Im not sure that many people voted for any of the individuals.

Hillary represented the establishment. The last two presidents were a huge and dramatic shift away from status quo.

I think people are voting for the least likely to be a part of the machine. I wonder what happens when the people realize any candidate who gets into the primary is part of the machine ?

Yes, it was also nothing new. Put a Russian ad side by side with a right or left wing PAC ad and I'd wager you'd have a hard time telling the difference.

There were samples released on the internet. There were both liberal and conservative ads taken out too, so it wasn't just pro-Trump like most people believe. It seems as if the campaign was more to divide the country than pick any particular candidate.


> I wonder what happens when the people realize any candidate who gets into the primary is part of the machine ?

They stop voting like half the country already has.

a lot of them has simply given up, hence the opiod crisis

This is a depressing, liberating read:

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government http://a.co/3Z1dt6b

TL;DR: People vote based on identity and morph their views to match their chosen candidate.

Struggling to accept this, I've now more or less given up on persuasion, messaging, framing, platforms, etc.

Wow, you're really dismissing the power of propaganda? You really don't think people seeing anti-hillary memes and posts on Facebook from Russian trolls all day didn't have a huge effect? You're seriously underestimating the power of "advertising".

> You really don't think people seeing anti-hillary memes and posts on Facebook from Russian trolls all day didn't have a huge effect?

What effect do you think it had? Do you think Hillary with $1.5B budget lost the election because of $100k Facebook ads?

Ya, I'm skeptical too. Let's say those foreign ads flipped 40k votes. That's statistical noise. But companies like Cambridge Analytics are only too happy to claim credit for having near supernatural powers. And obsessing over the margins keeps attention away from the huge, persistent, systemic, neglected problems.

Amusing ourselves to death.

More troubling are the rubes who fell for the protests / counterprotests organized by agitators.

I am a Democrat: I think a small budget of FB ads was nothing compared to MSNBC killing the Sanders campaign. That was much more outrageous.

> I think a small budget of FB ads was nothing compared to MSNBC killing the Sanders campaign. That was much more outrageous.

Yeah I remember the media silence. Also, I think the remarkable thing was not that Hillary won in the primaries but how many votes Sanders got despite the silence. Here was an unnamed old white man that few have heard of before elections gathering so many enthusiastic young followers. The DNC and Clinton could have done more to bring back or incorporate some of Sanders' policies into Clinton's campaign or in general to be more welcoming towards Sanders' voters.


... disenfranchised. 200k in Milwaukee alone.

This claim is based on taking the difference in turnout between 2012 and 2016, and then attributing it entirely to a voter id law change.

Note, even though she lost Wisconsin during the primary to Sanders, she assumed she would win it anyway during the election. So much so that she NEVER visited the state even once during the election... the first time a major party candidate has skipped WI since 1972.

In comparison, he's a map of the 2012 events.. blue and purple are places obama visited, turquoise is biden.. a dot means multiple events: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1djIi5ol21yzrnXDr2A...

The GOP credits their disenfranchisement efforts for their outsized victories. You saying they're wrong?


So you're saying it's okay for Trump to fail upwards, but HRC didn't make every perfect move, so she deserved to lose?

do you realize that trump and pence visited WI 10 times (trump 6, pence 5)?

And for all of that effort, he won by 20k votes.

Obama had to work hard to win WI by a slim margin; trump had to work hard to win WI by a slim margin. In 2004, Kerry visited the state 11 times; Bush 12 times.

Wisconsin was indisputably a battleground state... and all of these people had to work hard to win it.

But not Hillary.

I'm not commenting on anything else about this election.. just WI. The idea that Hillary could win WI while putting in zero effort is ridiculous.

Well. Since we're kibitizing, the remaining big question I have is how HRC lost Florida. My friends on the ground (working GOTV) were certain HRC had won it.

I kinda get how HRC lost WI, MI, PA. To their credit, in the final weeks, HRC's campaign knew there problems and redirected resources, but it was too late. And for whatever reason, Dems keep ignoring / downplaying disenfranchisement. (The correct answer is universal, automatic registration, just like every other mature democracy.)

But losing Florida... There's an untold story there.

From what I heard it was older folks, retired workers from Midwest and maybe the Cuban community, who perhaps felt Obama opening a US Embassy in Cuba as a negative development. Florida is also Trump's second home for his little golf play area, or at least he seems to spend enough time there, so perhaps his campaign had a better knowledge of demographics and where and how to spend the money and time.

Note that while there are other factors contributing to Trump's win than the four you mention, those are all big contributors, and large parts of #1, much of the historical reason for #3, and a significant part of the reason for #4 are all #2.

> Just like in 2000, the Democrats cannot just say the system is broken, for the risk of further demotivating voters.

It wouldn't further demotivate voters if the Democratic Party actually had a platform aimed at fixing the way the system is broken; the only reason the Democrats can't say the system is broken is because the Democrats in government and in party leadership don't have consensus on actually trying to fix it (and I don't mean o how to fix it, they don't have consensus that it should be fixed as a goal.)

And until that changes, the Democrats are going to be active collaborators in their own structural disadvantage.

I completely agree with your assessment.

Further, this last election cycle changed my metaphor, from Right vs Left to the No Caucus vs the Yes Caucus.

To your point about consensus.

Our local hot button issues this cycle were (are) affordable housing and homelessness. We interviewed ~40 candidates. Frankly, I was shocked by the discord, disagreement on "the left" about how to address these issues. I was further shocked by the stubborn opposition the simple obvious fixes (build more housing, so supply meets demand). And the opponents couldn't be cleanly divided into conservative vs liberal. One candidate has solid left wing bonafides (champion for LBGTQ) but was vehemently NIMBY. Our endorsement committee was gobsmacked.

After much pondering, I've decided that for any given issue, even when the majority are Yes (recognize that there is a problem and conclude some kind of change is warranted), there's no consensus. Therefore, the No Caucus (defenders of the status quo, whatever the reason) usually wins. The exception is Stephen Jay Gould style punctuated equilibrium, when the Yes caucus temporarily coalesces around a plan and overrides the No Caucus.

In short, the Yes Caucus is temporary, fragile. Whereas the No Caucus is durable.

Which at least partially explains why the regressives (today's GOP) is able to punch above its weight. And why that will always be true.

Now the question is what to do about that reality. For me, it means placing more emphasis on issue-based organizing and policy work, vs campaigns.

I like your No Caucus vs the Yes Caucus idea. Interesting to think about. Had to look up Gould's punctuated equilibrium to understand it better. I read "Bully for Brontosaurus" by Gould, that's where I heard the term first but then forgotten its meaning.

Leaving a link here for others:


> 1) 2m voters were disenfranchised. 200k in Milwaukee alone.

Disenfranchised by Clinton when she never even bothered to visit them

> 2) Racism

How did that work? I've seen that mentioned before, but how did racism exactly help Trump win. He is a white supremacist and so other KKK member sleeper agents joined and brought him to power?

> 3) Electoral college

But how many US presidents won by referendum? Are we saying that Clinton didn't know about the Electoral College. As in she went for the popular vote and then only after the votes were cast, they surprised her with "Oops, we'll be using an electoral college this time".

> 4) $3b free earned media for Trump campaign.

Wasn't Hillary the one who was supported by most media conglomerates. Anything from getting debate question passed on to her by Brazile ahead of time, to Chris Cuomo on CNN telling people not to read emails because they are "illegal" and to come CNN for interpretation.

It wasn't just the traditional media but stuff like Eric Schmidt going around wearing a "staff" logo on Clinton campaign events and designing "winning" strategies for the campaign:


> these contests close enough for the GOP to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat.

74 electoral college votes is not quite "close enough". Not a landslide like it was claimed but not a small amount either.

> PS- HRC won the popular vote.

Yes she seemed to have been confused about how US elections are won. What does popular vote officially get her? Maybe there should be a consolation prize like being the head of the Dept of Labor.

> "Yes she seemed to have been confused about how US elections are won."

I read an article by someone from inside her campaign: she believed it was impossible to loose the electoral college but there was a possibility she could loose the popular vote.

she didn't want that to dog her after she took the presidency, so she diverted resources to the population centers to jazz up the popular vote

I'm sure you're correct about juicing the popular vote. (I haven't finished "What Happened" yet, for HRC's own account. I'd appreciate a link for that insider account, if you still have it.)

But there's also a coat tails factor. Many left wing voters are "1:4", only voting one out of every four general elections (for president). So its expected of the presidential campaign, as the nominal head of the party, to juice turnout to help down ballot races.

"... but how did racism exactly help Trump win."

What measure of proof do you require?

The most recent round up I've read:

The past year of research has made it very clear: Trump won because of racial resentment


Not that I needed sociologists to confirm what I knew about my friends and family who voted for Trump, but there's plenty more confirmation, if you're curious:


Maybe also would be good to have a a better definition of what "helping win means. Is it that he is racist and his voters were racist. Did they become more racist or have always been so and were just waiting for someone like Trump to emerge. And then what did they exactly hope Trump would do for their cause. I haven't seen that explained well in the studies. Maybe I missed it by accident.

> Not that I needed sociologists to confirm what I knew about my friends and family who voted for Trump,

But what is their logic there. They saw the racism in Trump and identified with it? Why not vote for Clinton, her "superpredator" remark is pretty racist and maybe association by proxy with her husband's "tough on crime" policy would make more sense. That policy was more hurtful to the black community than what Trump ever did.

I looked at the first study. Thanks for the link. One thing that jumps out is that they only picked millennials. Doesn't that exclude say auto-workers from Michigan, steel mill workers, and other pre-millennial blue collar workers from key states which Hillary should have kept blue like the Democrats did in the past? Did they become racist in the last 4 years? Besides most millennials voted for Hillary in general. So the premise that they are making an effort to really understand why people voted for Trump is a bit suspect.

Going by what I know about Republicans so far, I can believe that there are more racist people voting Republican candidates in. But I don't think that is the primary reason they voted for him. Also whether we think the president has any effect on the economy or not, he seems to claim to bring black unemployment to a 17 year low. For being elected to advance a racist agenda he is not doing that good of a job delivering results.

Just reread your reply.

"Disenfranchised by Clinton when she never even bothered to visit them"

Please define "disenfranchisement".

It was a silly attempt at a joke.

She certainly didn't preclude anyone from voting. But the serious point was that she ignored the state, even after losing the primary there. Then went on to have rallies in California.

I think Powell's quote applies here and in general to the whole campaign: "Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris."

What about the steady leak of her emails from Wikileaks leading up to Election Day?

What do you expect? Big tech has gone to war with the media and taken the majority of their ad revenue, inserting themselves into the middle of the main relationship between them and their audience and advertisers. Only problem is tech didn't finish the job, so now media orgs see a chance to dispatch a few bloody noses back at their hubristic silicon valley 'partners'.

Yap. It was a bit of a back and forth.

After the election was lost, the traditional media which Clinton relied on so much was deemed to have failed. Chomsky would say the Manufacturing Consent machine had broken down somewhere. Almost immediately Facebook and Google started talking about "Fake News" and how they'll work twice as hard to combat it.

On the surface it was nice to see these companies saving us from lizard people spam, on another level it was a message to the future presidential or other marketing campaigns saying effectively "Don't spend you billions on MSNBC, spend them on us, we'll be far more effective".

Now the old and crusty media is punching back and writing articles about how tech companies are eating our souls.

I agree in principle with article and never even signed up for Facebook to begin with but like you identified so it has merit, but I think there is also a battle on another level here as well.

“I got rich by doing this but you definitely shouldn’t.”

Hard to take this kind of attitude seriously. Things seemed fine enough when they were working there, so what has changed?

Talking about it no longer affects their livelihood?

I don't think it's a difficult tweak to the feed algorithms to allow for 5% (picked randomly) of diverging viewpoints in somebody's feed. It might even be good for their engagement metrics.

Agree. I wish there were actually a slider that you could adjust that would increase the X factor of the algorithm. I’d possibly use Facebook if it weren’t just the same 6 people every time I went on.

Not surprising to hear this kind of fear mongering from newspapers like guardian and Nytimes. They are the most threatened by Facebook and Google. Their breakfast, lunch and dinner got eaten by these companies so now they are using these narratives to advance their agendas. American tech companies are just fine. They are run by reasonable people. Bezos actually bought WashingtonPost so it does not die.

>Bezos actually bought WashingtonPost so it does not die.

Thats a very charitable reading of what he did.

Before social network manipulation there was mass media manipulation. Social networks just made it global.

Tech will only eat your soul if you let it.

"Addiction to heroin is a failure of willpower."

If you know heroin will eat your soul, perhaps consider not doing heroin? It might be hard, but a lot easier than stopping once you've started.

> If you know heroin will eat your soul

That's quite a big if. If it were true then hospitals should drop the use of opioids for any type of pain management to zero. Even with the opioid epidemic in the U.S. I've never heard anyone advocate such a radical position.

> perhaps consider not doing heroin?

In a lot of cases in the U.S. opioids were pushed to treat types of pain for which they have been shown to be ineffective. So the patient needed to take more than the proscribed amount of a drug that was more addictive than a pricier alternative therapy or treatment. I can't find the source for that atm, but it appears that prescription rates are significantly higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries[1].

So to answer your question-- no. Turning down a painkiller for a pricier alternative treatment requires both a) having disposable income and b) having sufficient time and expertise to do a research project on both the effectiveness of the suggested opioid painkiller and effectiveness of alternatives. And that is assuming one would somehow know a priori to disregard entirely the advice of their own medical doctor. It's simply not serious public policy to suggest that everybody just take on burdensome, life-altering levels of pain to avoid the vaguely-worded danger that an addiction robs one of their soul.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/12/28...

Pot will make you turn into a zombie and kill people. One of the biggest flaws of the drug war was the inclusion of pot as an equally dangerous drug as heroin. Once people smoked pot and realized it was a big fucking lie, the warnings against much more dangerous drugs went unheeded.

Between your poles is the temperate ground that in order to battle the scourge that is heroin addiction, one need first not be addicted to heroin. Disconnecting is not, by itself, enough. But controlling our own overexposure is a first step towards finding a general solution.

OK, my "have you tried not being addicted to heroin" sounded stupid. Let me rephrase: "Have you tried not living a life that's so sad that heroin actually seems like a good idea?"

It works for nonhumans, too: https://imgur.com/gallery/PR9DJ

> Let me rephrase: "Have you tried not living a life that's so sad that heroin actually seems like a good idea?"

Good grief. How out of touch does a person have to be to think that's a reasonable suggestion to make? The ability to control one's circumstances is quite limited for large segments of the population and, even for those more fortunate, no one can predict when one of life's unexpected calamities will bring them down.

("Have you tried not having a broken leg?" sounds pretty stupid too, not gonna lie. Even if we leave out the growing proportion of people whose habits found their origin in a prescription.)

Let me rephrase: "Have you tried not living a life that's so sad that heroin actually seems like a good idea?"

Genius. I wonder why nobody's thought of that until now.

In secular world views there is no such thing as a soul, thus it can not be eaten. Finding the proper language for these phenomena is however an interesting topic.

In the reasonable world, people will understand that "soul" here is meant figuratively, not literally, and avoid starting off-topic tangents :)

In the secular world, the mind is akin to the soul. Judging from the first sentence, that is what the author is referring to.

Enough people either have a dualist world view or are familiar enough with the idea that soul seems to be a serviceable word.

Well, my point is that you can not believe that your soul is being eaten without believing in the metaphysical framework(s) from which the concept emerged, otherwise the parent comment makes no sense. The closest secular definition you get is System 1.

Thank you for being pedantic over a word literally (yes, literally) everyone reading it, yourself included, understood and interpreted correctly to mean the author's intent. You are providing a valuable service.


I am sorry for that, but it is not obvious to me at all. Thats why I commented. One of the problems online is one of meaning, communication, context, definitions etc that we actually understand what someone is trying to convey. You for example felt the need to use a sarcasm expression, as you were unsure of me actually “getting” it.

You spend too much time on the computer.


As far as I can tell, none of the perverse incentives in social media, app development or tech have been created by copyright laws, so how would "copyleft" have prevented them?

Facebook could still be just as evil as it is, with the same dopamine-triggering dark patterns, had it been entirely written with FOSS licensed code.

Copyleft licensing wouldn't make those techniques less effective, or hinder their spread across the web, or even make it easier to compete against the sites that employ them. It wouldn't even make it any easier to validate the codebase, since it's running on a remote server and everything beside public APIs and responses is a black box.

AGPL might help. You need secrecy to do a lot of nasty things. You can do nasty things without secrecy, but at least psychologically, people are a lot less inclined to be antisocial if they think they could be watched, even if they're not:


Mastodon is a free social network. It's open source and it's copyleft. It's AGPLed. So far, I find it very enjoyable. It remains to be seen how it could be twisted into something unpleasant. I don't foresee that happening.

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