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Good Intentions, Bad Inventions: Myths of Healthy Tech [pdf] (datasociety.net)
30 points by headalgorithm 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 15 comments

Points 2 & 3 in particular remind me of an Alan Kay quote — One can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.

Any mention of solutions such as automated content moderation (Eg: detecting “fake” news) or optimizing slightly different metrics, reminds me of that quote. Social media platforms are so enamored with algorithms running at scale, and high platform-engagement being to the user’s benefit that they perceive every problem through the lens of such solutions.

For a succinct explanation of the fundamental brokenness of automated fact checking, see https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2020/09/03/wittgensteins-revenge/

If automated fake news detectors are to work, I think it has to be via propositional logic. Not "x is false" but "if you believe x then you must logically also believe y, which according to your user proposition record, you don't. You might want to revise you beliefs, or alternatively add some new propositions to resolve this contradiction."

I have a hard time believing most people would willingly use a system that pointed out their own inconsistencies. That's the type of thing people need to discover themselves, and tend to get hostile if it's not handled very delicately.

I might not like to see my inconsistencies, but I'd probably be fascinated by them.

For some, the natural drive towards reconciling inconsistencies would be helped by them being exposed that way.

For others, I might accept the inconsistency, and it would be fascinating to see which ones I made a choice to accept that way. I don't regard that as fundamental inconsistency anyway, because all statements are approximations, and apparent inconsistency can be a valid (and healthy) holding state while figuring out nuances, which can take a long time.

For yet others, I suspect I would conclude they aren't inconsistencies in my own thinking, they are inconsistencies in how others / the system interprets my thinking, and then I'd have to refine how I describe them.

If the system didn't allow me to express the necessary nuances so it always regarded my thinking as inconsistent despite not really being so, that would be frustrating. After all, that's how it is with other people already: Invariably they believe I believe something that I don't, and no amount of explanation sorts that out because, by and large, they aren't interested in the necessary nuance.

The one key feature that would make a system pointing out my inconsistencies pleasant to use is: If it were private advice, between me and the system.

The moment it becomes social pressure, public knowledge, pronouncements about me, that's when it would stop being something I'd want to engage with.

Yes to all this. I think such a system should basically be used like a spell checker. Whether you accept or reject individual propositions is private information, though anyone can edit the public database of propositions.

If it ever works at all, that is.

Yeah, I started my comment with "if" because it may be barking up the wrong tree altogether. But if someone turned e.g. Wikidata into a system capable of that, it would be useful for much more anyway. Like for researchers dealing in topics too complex to see the inconsistencies without help.

The quotation is from Einstein, rather than Alan Kay, although the exact wording is disputed. [0]


The "solutions" are all vapid academic cliches and fundamentally anti-intellectual that are woefullyy and ironically common of viewing thinking with numbers as an inherent evil. That toxic and insane worldview just goes uncommented upon as it is "impolite" to point it out as such. Same with the "algorithims are the root of all evil" willfully ignorant memes.

To be fair many of the common arguments to counter are really just assinine drivel like the history retconning "fake news began with the internet" and in the same breath demanding that they fix it and stating that technology can never fix social problems. Which is wrong on so many levels.

Saying to operate based on values instead of metrics? Metrics often are bad and epistimologically incoherent in practice but done right they have real power. Values are fuzzy things often clung to as tautologies - we are free because we say so and the king protects us while he sends us to war.

Look at the fashionable cliched practically indistinguishable from markov chain generator output about "involvement of the community and minorities" and low key calling experimentalists racist by claiming without evidence "minorities often bare the brunt of move fast and break things". There is no intellectual substance there - just using the downtrodden as sword and shield. The demand for "examination" and ethics are laughably stupid.

Yes just go ahead of time and understand the entire ill defined community and minority experience. That will be really useful when creating a new encrypted messaging service.

Yes more ethics committees that have proven worthless at promoting ethics - cynically it looks like their entire field is a shakedown of "hire us for bullshit jobs or else we will continually defame you with logically incoherent rhetoric that says nothing remotely disprovable!"

The whole thing infurates me that so much mental effort is wasted on more complex incoherent bullshit and that it is widely believed.

Reading point 1, I feel like I am being legitimately gaslighted. Tech addiction is so very obviously present in myself and in many people I know.

Are they saying that it’s a myth, just because it hasn’t been rigorously studied yet?

It is because addiction as a colloquial concept taken too far winds up puranical insanity. Are you also addicted to fresh air and natural sunlight because you enjoy those things and miss their absense? Are those implicitly evil then or something to be stopped?

Not to mention tech is a stupidly broad conflation for the question. Worse than saying throwing dice is addictive.

I think a reasonable definition for addiction is the compulsion to keep doing something even though on some level you realize that what you are doing is harmful to you because it either gets in the way of life’s basic necessities or there is simply something better you can be doing, whether it’s work on longer term goals or even just enjoying an activity that is more fun or relaxing than whatever it is you are addicted to.

For example, in my case, my technology addiction for the last few years has been hacker news, which I consider to be in the “social media” sub-category of tech addiction. After procrastinating work with an hours long session on hacker news, it is often annoyingly apparent that nothing of value was gained (at the cost of my job) and if I wasn’t going to work anyway, that there were actually much more enjoyable ways I could have spent those hours, like maybe doing a hobby, talking to friends, or even playing a quality video game.

I know it might seem contradictory to play a video game if I’m claiming to be a “tech addict”, but in my case, I don’t count that as part of my addiction because I don’t have a huge compulsion to play video games, and when I do, it usually feels like enjoyable time well spent afterwords (unless the game is shitty, but I avoid those).

However I do know people with video game addictions (which I also categorize under “tech addiction”) that play games even though it doesn’t feel like time well spent for them afterwords and they know they should be doing something else.

I think this is essentially sort of it tho, it hasn't been studied properly, but addiction is commonly misused as a term and misunderstood

This is good. I like the look of the paper they link from "not amenable to quantitative measurement"

(sorry I can't actually copy the link from pdf reader in mobile. why they couldn't publish in html is beyond me. Should I hire a graphic designer to give my own research more weight? )

My own cautious discussion of optimizing different metrics: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/8/3180

> Current approaches to improving digital well-being also promote tech solutionism, or the presumption that technology can fix social, cultural, and structural problems.

Like this: http://www.threepanelsoul.com/comic/organization

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