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What Is Social Cooling? (reasonandmeaning.com)
344 points by dev_by_day 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 244 comments





I think this is merely an adjustment to how people use social media.

Regular people expressing their opinion on public media is only a 10-year old phenomenon. But people have been self-censoring in real life forever.

There are things you say at work and things you say at home. There are the subjects you avoid at family gatherings not to spoil the weekend, and you usually don't want all your neighbors to know what you've been up to over your vacations.

Social media being new, people didn't realize the consequences and started expressing stuff they wouldn't have otherwise.

Yes, people adapt, and share less. Perhaps it's social cooling, but maybe it needs cooling a little bit.


I don't think the problem is just related to social media, that is a pretty narrow way of looking at it. We use online services for everything, from buying stuff to ordering food or hailing a cab. I suggest reading the source cited by OP https://www.socialcooling.com/index.html there are many examples such as

> If you return goods to the store often this will be used against you.

and

> Your health insurer may collect intimate data about your lifestyle, race and more.

Anecdotical: if I have a night out, I tend to pay cash rather than card. Even though I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, just having a few drinks with friends. The bar where we usually go has slot machines ("pokies" as they're called here in Australia) who knows if having many transactions at that bar lowers whatever rating somewhere...

I'm 40 and if you told 20-year-old me that people would have this kind of issues in 20 years, I would have dismissed it as yet another dystopian prediction that's never going to come true.


> If you return goods to the store often this will be used against you.

What is often? I have a hard time believing retail establishments with razor thin profit margins are rejecting profit unless the customer is likely causing them to lose money.

> Even though I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, just having a few drinks with friends.

What if the data shows having a few drinks increases the likelihood of healthcare costs? Otherwise, people who don’t have a few drinks are subsidizing people who do have a few drinks.

There’s nothing “wrong” with driving more distance than someone else, but auto insurers have to charge more to someone that drives more, since that increases their risk of loss.


> What if the data shows having a few drinks increases the likelihood of healthcare costs? Otherwise, people who don’t have a few drinks are subsidizing people who do have a few drinks.

The whole idea behind health care is that some people subsidize other people - ie. most people are healthy and use less health care services than they pay for, while a few people get sick and require health care services that they would never have been able to afford.

I'm fine with subsidizing other people, the alternative is to be okay with people that have problems to be thrown out of the system and not receive the care they need.

In any case, it's not okay for insurers to have fine grained access to what people buy, eat, drink, do. I struggle playing it out in my mind in a way that doesn't end horribly.


> I'm fine with subsidizing other people, the alternative is to be okay with people that have problems to be thrown out of the system and not receive the care they need.

So the discussion is about when use of data is identify losses and remove them from the system versus not using data and spreading the cost out between all participants.

Healthcare is a sufficiently broad benefit that much of society can agree on subsidizing each other (except in certain countries), but even in countries with taxpayer funded healthcare, I don’t know if there would be a consensus on whether or not retailers should be able to track individuals to identify those causing losses and boot them from the system.

Certainly, no one would argue against the right of a small business owner to refuse to do business with a customer that is causing them a loss. At what point does a business become large enough that it can no longer do this?


> Certainly, no one would argue against the right of a small business owner to refuse to do business with a customer that is causing them a loss.

When the profit from occasionally serving one person in a wheelchair is less than the cost of providing the wheelchair access, yet we still demand it, indeed that's why we have to demand it - if you still made money from the person in a wheelchair, you'd put the ramp in anyway.


Yes, I guess there is an exception for people with disabilities, but in the context of this discussion, I mean someone who returning items excessively. Clearly a return policy is infeasible if every person returned every item from every person. There must be an assumption that a return policy won't be abused to keep the return policy feasible for everyone.

In the past decade I’ve anecdotally noted that some places with famously liberal return policies have tightened up. Outdoor equipment retailer REI is my favorite example.

They have switched from unlimited returns forever for any reason to 1 year.

My theory is it’s a combo of two things. 1. People abusing return policies. 2. More and more items that used to be durable becoming consumable. In a lot of industries the drive for lightweight and high tech has led to things that simply can’t last. I have a backpack that weighs less than a pair of jeans, but it certainly won’t last the way my dads old backpack lasted. Same thing with my battery powered drill, I really doubt that I’ll be able to find a battery for it in 30 years.

The backpack and the battery powered drill are two things that have shifted from buy it for life, to consumable good.


> unless the customer is likely causing them to lose money

The problem is that this fact is (or will be) determined by some obscure black box algorithm that might even take into account other unrelated data from social media or data brokers.

Your activity elsewhere shouldn't affect your ability to return an item, regardless of whether it's profitable for the store or not (of course if it was up to the store they would rather not deal with the bad, terrible monsters that dare to... return items).


> The problem is that this fact is (or will be) determined by some obscure black box algorithm that might even take into account other unrelated data from social media or data brokers.

I think this data should be public. Much like a credit report is in the US and can be checked for accuracy.

>of course if it was up to the store they would rather not deal with the bad, terrible monsters that dare to... return items).

I know from experience there are people that abuse return policies (basically stealing by using the item and then returning it), and unless the store increases prices to make everyone else subsidize the people that abuse it, I don’t know what the other option is.


> basically stealing by using the item and then returning it

If the item is in a condition where it can be resold at full price (aka you can't even tell whether it's been used), does it matter? If anything, it reduces waste.

If it's not in a resellable condition, then the store should discount the refund by a reasonable amount to make up for it. We don't need yet more scummy entities like credit bureaus which you can't opt out of.

I'm also not confident that improving the retailers' margins is going to trickle down to lower prices for consumers as opposed to go into some executive's pocket or get pissed away in marketing/advertising spend.


> If the item is in a condition where it can be resold at full price (aka you can't even tell whether it's been used), does it matter? If anything, it reduces waste. If it's not in a resellable condition, then the store should discount the refund by a reasonable amount to make up for it.

How is all of this supposed to be determined at a return counter in the 2 min interaction between a retail employee and customer?

As a customer, I would only like to buy an item that came from the factory. Especially anything electronic, there’s almost no way for me to discern if someone has damaged it otherwise. I also don’t see how manufacturers could be held liable for warranties if they aren’t sure one the chain of custody.

> I'm also not confident that improving the retailers' margins is going to trickle down to lower prices for consumers as opposed to go into some executive's pocket or get pissed away in marketing/advertising spend.

If retail businesses had pricing power, they would be asking for more than razor thin profit margins. Retail executives aren’t currently turning away dollars from their pocket, they don’t have access to them in the first place since competing retailers will take their business if they try to.


> How is all of this supposed to be determined at a return counter in the 2 min interaction between a retail employee and customer?

That's not a valid reason for introducing yet another data collection scheme that's likely to have hidden biases and false positives, not to mention the potential of this data being leaked or exploited for other nefarious purposes (do you really trust a retailer not to secretly use this data for other purposes like marketing).

> As a customer, I would not like to buy an item that did not come from the factory. Especially anything electronic, there’s almost no way for me to discern if someone has damaged it otherwise. I also don’t see how manufacturers could be held liable for warranties if they aren’t sure one the chain of custody.

Is this currently a major problem at big box stores (excluding Amazon because they intentionally ignore the issue)? I personally can't remember a single occurrence of me buying goods in a supermarket that ended up being used/damaged in a way I could tell.

> If retail businesses had pricing power, they would be asking for more than razor thin profit margins. Retail executives aren’t currently turning away dollars from their pocket, they don’t have access to them in the first place since competing retailers will take their business if they try to.

And yet money is still being pissed away in marketing, which means they do have money to spare. Why do you think the savings would trickle down to the consumers instead of just being "invested" into either marketing or something else?

Starting a supermarket isn't an easy task; the barrier of entry and the upfront costs (for the retail location alone) is insane, so I find it hard that competition would prevent this. Possibly over several decades it could translate to your goods being a few dozen cents cheaper, but I'd rather not live in a world where you need to "Login with Facebook" to be able to return an item.


>That's not a valid reason for introducing yet another data collection scheme that's likely to have hidden biases and false positives, not to mention the potential of this data being leaked or exploited for other nefarious purposes (do you really trust a retailer not to secretly use this data for other purposes like marketing).

I didn't claim it was. There are various reasons for the data collection. One is obviously marketing, but another may also be identifying bad actors.

Also, almost all stores have rewards programs of sorts that amount to a few percentage points of discount in exchange for tracking your purchases. People will, by and large, willingly give their identifying information in exchange for this, so I think it's inevitable (unless this type of discount was outlawed).

>Is this currently a major problem at big box stores (excluding Amazon because they intentionally ignore the issue)? I personally can't remember a single occurrence of me buying goods in a supermarket that ended up being used/damaged in a way I could tell.

I don't know, I just know I would rather have something new. I assume electronics or stuff that can be invisibly damaged gets sent back to the manufacturer or sold as refurbished after it is returned.

>And yet money is still being pissed away in marketing, which means they do have money to spare. Why do you think the savings would trickle down to the consumers instead of just being "invested" into either marketing or something else?

How are you determining that money is being pissed away? Are you suggesting all these retail business owners and operators are wasting money that they could be pocketing?

>Starting a supermarket isn't an easy task; the barrier of entry and the upfront costs (for the retail location alone) is insane, so I find it hard that competition would prevent this.

It's very easy to start a retail business. That's why the profit margins are so low, it's all very textbook microeconomics. In fact, with the internet, the retail location matters even less, so the barriers to entry got even lower and now Chinese manufacturers can directly sell to buyers. It's exactly in this situation that marketing and brand awareness (presumably to advertise quality control) is valuable.


> There are various reasons for the data collection. One is obviously marketing, but another may also be identifying bad actors.

And my point is that since companies can't be trusted to not use this data for marketing purposes (and the legal/regulatory environment is ineffective at deterring that) then they should not have that data.

> almost all stores have rewards programs [...]. People will, by and large, willingly give their identifying information in exchange for this, so I think it's inevitable

I don't have a problem with it being optional and voluntary (though I still think more regulation and transparency around what is done with that data is badly needed), but the problem begins when you need a loyalty card or providing identifying data to return an item for example, since as per the previous point they can't be trusted with not misusing this data. I don't want to live in a world where you have to "Login with Facebook" to purchase or return something.

> I just know I would rather have something new

I agree, but I mean whether it's worth proposing and normalizing a large-scale data collection scheme and all the problems this entails (especially around bias - what if your algorithm start declining returns from black people because blacks were under-represented in the data and a single individual making a bad return was enough to sway the balance) to weed out maybe 1% of bad returns?

> How are you determining that money is being pissed away?

Because paying companies to waste people's time and annoy them with ads does not improve the quality of the products that I am buying, and yet part of the price I pay for most goods goes to this useless and counter-productive endeavour.

> It's very easy to start a retail business.

I am talking about starting a business that can compete with the big-box stores, since your original argument was that screening returns would translate to savings and that would give the businesses who do pass on those savings to the customer a competitive advantage, but the average 2-4% saving (or less) isn't enough for a brand new competitor to emerge, thus the established retailers don't actually have pressure to pass on those savings onto the customer instead of making them disappear into a black hole.


I have no idea of the precise savings that screening returns would result in, but I know the following from years of reading financial reports of large retailers:

1) The profit margins are tiny, literally in the sub 5% range.

2) This means the operations of the businesses that do exist have been extremely streamlined, and there's not too much juice left to squeeze

3) If they're doing something, it means it is a necessity to stay in business, and a business wasting money in the single digit percent profit margins will not be in business for long.

4) If a competitor starts screening returns, and sees their profitability rise as a result, then they can price their products more competitively and win business. Retail businesses are competing for volume, and customers only care about price.

You can see from the public reports that no one is getting rich off of these companies. They're probably just doing what they have to do to survive, including the marketing and the screening of returns.


> What if the data shows having a few drinks increases the likelihood of healthcare costs? Otherwise, people who don’t have a few drinks are subsidizing people who do have a few drinks.

Many countries levy special taxes on alcohol. If at least a portion of that money is used towards healthcare, the subsidy by teetotallers either grows smaller or disappears entirely.

But, of course, that requires correct use of said tax money.


My point was that I could be flagged as a gambler even though I've never used pokies, I wasn't talking about alcohol consumption.

In other words I'm worried about a rating being decided by an obscure algorithm that no one can vet.


I'd rather not pay for someone else social care than have my card transactions tracked so that someone can build a statistical model on my likelihood to need medical care.

I think you focus only on the social media impact. The bigger issue is that social cooling is not limited to social media. The larger issue, for me, appears to be that it affects person to person interactions and makes it harder and harder to have an 'adult' conversation with people without adding niceties ( would you kindly consider the possibility of helping me if you are not too busy vs get over here ) or current set of society mandates ( for example, finding 'preferred' pronouns ).

“you feel you are being watched, you change your behavior.”

Social cooling is bad. It makes things hidden, where they simmer and build up. It is not good for the individual and it tends to not to be good for society in general, because it is channeled and not always in healthy ways.

In a sense, I agree with you. It is an adaptation, but I am not convinced it is a good one.


I think what is needed must run much deeper than self-suppression. It is time for us to look within and cool off within ourselves so that we can speak and act without hate.

I am hesitant to respond since I am not absolutely certain what you mean, but I will attempt to dig deeper.

How would you define hate? I do not want to put words in your mouth. Just please elaborate a little more.


I think facebook and twitter pushed too hard for people to post everything publicly under their real name. Now we are seeing a shift back to made up usernames and private publishing. I don't know many people who share anything publicly but we all share constantly in private IM groups.

For most sites I don't bother remembering a password. I just sign up every time I need to log in which keeps my accounts young enough that there isn't a significant backlog to trawl through and identify me.


Back in the 90s it was fairly normal to use your real name on usenet - some even included real phone numbers and contact details in their .sigs

> all share constantly in private IM groups.

Are you certain these groups are private? E2E and no meta data leak?

> isn't a significant backlog to trawl through and identify me.

Are you that confident in your OpSec? No browser fingerprinting, GUID, IP address, location data?

Surely the alphabet soup agencies profile HN users.


It all depends on your threat model, like always.

If your threat modelling includes Mossad, FSB and CIA, by all means do take E2E encryption and metadata into consideration every time you communicate with someone in any way.

For most of us it's just selecting a group of people who know what is a joke or hyperbole in the current context. I've typed out some weird stuff in Telegram and Discord chats I wouldn't want my family or employer to see out of context.

But my threat model doesn't include my employer or my suing Telegram or Discord for my chat logs, so I don't worry about it.


I would argue there hasn't been enough cooling. My mother has been having a vicious political argument with my aunts for the better part of a year. Created familial rifts that probably wouldn't have happened without social media.

Sadly, I suspect this is not an isolated phenomenon. I’ve increasingly encountered anecdotes of political division souring personal relationships. I wonder if there are systematic surveys or studies of whether this perceived trend is real.

An interesting corollary of this, I think, is that it creates bubbles of people who all think the same and agree with each other. Since it causes many people to cut people with whom they disagree with out of their life.

These people see the people outside their bubble (their neighbors, friends and family) as “other”. It’s so divisive, it’s causing everyone to hate each other as nobody sees common cause with their own countrymen. It’s very sad, I hope we figure it out.


They also end up with a very different view on reality due to being exposed to different facts and the same facts with different framing. Filter bubbles be strong.

In the current climate, there is clearly one portion of the population rejecting reality, even though there’s plenty of available information.

It has nothing to do with bubbles, it’s people actively deciding to delude themselves.


> there is clearly one portion of the population rejecting reality, even though there’s plenty of available information

That's exactly what the world looks like to a person living in a filter bubble.


I know. The useful distinction for a filter bubble would be for when a person is exposed only to a small set of ideas, such as “big government, subsidized everything” is the best way, or “small government, privatized everything” is the best way”. Or “so and so method of education is the best way”, things that don’t have relatively definitive answers, based on reasonable logic and standards of evidence.

Using filter bubbles to talk about people that think the earth is 6,000 years old, it’s flat, the US government is run by a cabal pedophiles, vaccines are harmful, the US election results are false, etc is not a fruitful endeavor.


If you only encounter "other" ideas in a context where they are derided, mocked and otherwise not taken seriously that's still a pretty damn airtight filter bubble.

The information to which I am referring is easily accessible in encyclopedias, university physics departments, CDC/FDA website, wikipedia, state government websites, etc.

The people deluding themselves are choosing to discredit those sources in favor of their favorite celebrity or social group. Or they're pretending for other nefarious reasons. Either way, referring to this as a filter bubble is inaccurate in my opinion.

These people were educated in the US, know English, know how to use the internet, grew up in a diverse country, some are accomplished business people, years long members of the military with lots of international travel. Few people around the world have as much opportunity to be out of their "filter bubble".


The importance of genes for determining intelligence in humans is also available in Nature, etc. But a large proportion of the population still delusionally believe everyone is the same. Mostly due to filter bubbles.

I don't know anyone, prominent or not, that thinks everyone is the SAME. It's trivial for anyone to see identical twins aren't even the same, so unless there is evidence that a "large proportion" of people think this, I assume it's a made up scenario.

I'm also familiar with quite a few cultures around the world, and they all seem to have concepts of being born "gifted" or some version of being naturally talented.


There should be however space for saying that a group of people or ideology is simply wrong on some points. We should not be force to pretend that all ideologies, values systems and theories are equal or right. Or honest.

Agreed you shouldn’t have to agree with anyone you don’t actually agree with, but also tolerance (for _all_ people) is important. We should make an honest attempt to understand WHY these people feel the way they do, and try to address the underlying concerns and fears that motivate them. And if it’s not possible to do that, at least talking about them like they’re not all patently evil would be helpful in building better relationships with our neighbors.

Just one portion?

Many portions I expect. And which portion depends on which bits of reality you look at it. If you think the current canon set of facts of the dominant ideology is 100% correct now when it wasn't any time in the past 2000 years, well... it's just not very likely.


Just because we don't have perfect knowledge at any one point in time doesn't mean every single idea throughout history is valid. Overtime, discoveries are made, models are refined, textbooks are updated, and as the evidence presents itself, you keep marching forward with the best available information you have.

You mean the side that claims US elections are 100% safe?

I think that Trump definitively lost, but from the point of view of a European (from a former socialist country no less!) the idea that you can have "secure" voting without seeing a person and checking their ID card is ... laughable to say the least.

Yet claiming that as fact is in line with the current propaganda, so ...


Let me guess, two-party system? It tends to polarise people into an us-vs them mentality.

In actual democracies with a half-dozen actual viable options or more, we don't tend to get that heated with politics in general.


Really? I have a hard time coming up with important examples. Germany 1870-1932 had many parties with substantial representation, but how civil was it, particularly after 1918? Mark Twain's essay "Stirring Times in Austria" gives a picture of a multi-party parliament in a nervous breakdown. George Dangerfield's The Strange Death of Liberal England shows the UK ca. 1910 with two large parties, Liberal and Conservative, and two unignorable smaller ones, Labor and the Irish caucus; it was not pretty.

At this point, does any major European country have more than two viable parties or coalitions? Will the German Greens ever get a Cabinet seat outside a coalition with the Social Democrats? Will the UK Liberal Democrats ever get a Cabinet seat except in coalition?


> At this point, does any major European country have more than two viable parties or coalitions?

If we look at the coalitions that have happened at the national level in this century, we have:

* Social Democrats + Greens

* Conservatives + Social Democrats (like, a lot)

* Conservatives + Liberals

So that's three different coalitions that have actually happened in the last 20 years. Admittedly three is not a lot more than two, but it is more (and we're talking about a time frame that only includes 5 national elections and only about actual coalitions, not potentially viable ones).

And if you look at state governments as well, there are actually a lot more combinations that seem to work.

> Will the German Greens ever get a Cabinet seat outside a coalition with the Social Democrats?

Almost certainly.

At the state level they already have. In one case they're even the majority with the conservatives being the minority partner in the coalition.

At the national level they almost did in 2017. Negotiations between the conservatives, the greens and the liberals failed because the liberals backed out and the greens + conservatives didn't have a majority on their own - they would have been ready to go otherwise. It is entirely possible, even likely, that we will see a conservative-green coalition after this year's elections.


Germany 1870 was not democracy. Germany was democracy in between 1918-1932 and it was forced to become one by their own enemies.

The incivility after 1918 was result of loosing war, result of anti-monarchy revolution, result of communist attempt for revolution and so on. It also had to do with rejection of democracy on principle. It had less to do with multiple parties existing or lack of two party system.


I disagree, even with multiple parties there is always a Right vs Left battle - or better "If you don't think like me then you're the enemy".

If you're outside of those boxes you'll be attacked by both left and right wing people, to varying degrees.

I think it's an education problem, people don't understand the basics of politics or economics. They don't understand that Stalin and Hitler were both crazy authoritarians and not political opposites.

The political compass is quite biased in its questioning, but people are often surprised to hear there are more dimensions https://www.politicalcompass.org/


> even with multiple parties there is always a Right vs Left battle - or better "If you don't think like me then you're the enemy".

It's harder to blame someone of being "the enemy" when there is a half-dozen other parties on the other side.

Yes, there still are rivalries between left/right and authoritarian/liberal parties, but having options takes some of the edge off.


I've seen this happens several times, people just group all other parties as right or left and team up with parties on their side

> Created familial rifts that probably wouldn't have happened without social media.

It's definitely part of it, but not the only reason. I know my family had plenty of familial rifts pre-social media.


People have been falling out with their families since the dawn of time.

> people have been set-censoring in real life forever

Agreed. But what they haven’t done is “over shared” as much as they have in the last decade. So perhaps part of the self-censoring being described is a return to mean?

EDIT: it seems I’ve repeated (and agree with) your last point - “perhaps it needs cooling a bit”.


The thing I find problematic is the line of what things to say at home, office and social media is pretty much non-existing (at least in my tech "bubble"). I rarely find anyone agreeing with me that politics should stay out of the workplace for example, or family gatherings etc.

Maybe you're in a bubble but regardless I don't think it should be a black and white rule.

Whether I discuss politics or similar contentious issues (religion, ethics etc) all depend on the individual relationships. I don't blanket refuse to discuss these things with colleagues, but I do self censor depending on individual relationships. Obviously in work I prioritise my ability to work with the individual and due to that often self censor more, but it's not a blanket rule.


In physics, when we connect all environments, it would end up in equilibrium.

I have noticed I avoid watching "inappropriate" things on netflix because I am afraid of the suggestions they will generate, which inevitably everyone will see when I bring it up on the TV. The few times I did, I thumbs-downed it to avoid that.

I wonder how much unconventional content is being harmed by this. It's really annoying.


Weird Al:

"But I only watched Will and Grace one time, one day!

Wish I hadn't, 'cause TiVo now thinks I'm gay!"


WEIRD AL or WEIRD AI

either way works...


I did pirated some shows I had legal access to for exactly that reason.

Same with YouTube. I’m kind of curious to watch a QAnon conspiracy video but don’t want the suggestions. I guess that’s what incognito mode is for, but I don’t trust them to not match based on IP address...

Incognito won't help unfortunately. I've tried this on a few occasions and it still pollutes my suggestions. I've noticed that using Brave seems to blunt it -- I have to watch alot more to notice the pollution.

Can't say more than that, I stopped experimenting and basically stopped using Youtube except for the same music I listen to over and over now. Nothing new.


Wait are you sure opening in an incognito window does work? How would it not?

What kind of person uses Brave? What are you hiding?

/s (for now)


Tor Browser is a good option to avoid generating "inappropriate" suggestions - decouples tracking from both your login cookies (permanent incognito mode) and also from your IP address.

Even better, restarting the browser clears the cookies & other stored data, making tracking across session highly unlikely.

YouTube videos take fractionally longer to load, but it's manageable.


I stay logged out of YT, and clear my cookies every so often when I start getting too many of the same kinds of recommendations. They do match based on IP, since that's all they really have from me. When I delete cookies, though, things start over, basically. Then I get recommendations based on what I've searched for in YT and what I've watched since I last deleted them. It's nice, really. For a little while, YT doesn't know enough about me not to show me both sides of an issue I'm searching for. It's really touchy, though. Two or three videos covering one particular side of an issue in a row and the other recommendations disappear.

Of course, I can't subscribe, like, ring the damn bell, or whatever it is they want me to do in every video. I do use patreon for those content creators I really like.


Invidious (https://github.com/iv-org/invidious) is how I've been using YouTube for the past few months. It takes care of this problem in addition to providing a faster, nicer UI without dark patterns.

YouTube algo is pretty quick to respond. You just click 'Don't show me videos like this' a few times and they won't show you videos like this.

Make sure you don't comment, that shows strong engagement which they like.


I have been marking "not interested" in every "vtuber" related video it has recommended to me, and I don't remember clicking on a single one, but it still hasn't stopped recommending them to me.

Your graph of interests merges with "people who watch vtubers" too strongly, so the recommendation engine keeps pushing that stuff to you.

I'm assuming that a downvote with a negative sentiment comment is the most severe signal you can send.

lol, I do the same with my browser, going to anonymous browser if I'm looking up shit on youtube or google I don't want to show up in my suggestions or history.

How is this different from having “inappropriate” books in your book shelf?

Because your bookshelf doesn’t automatically rearrange itself, then send the data to a corporation optimized for making you read as many books as possible?

Yet...

This year from IKEA, introducing the subscription powered AutoShelf! Tired of curating your own collection? This bookshelf keeps track of what and how long you read using ultrasonic pulses to determine spine-crackage. Once a month, a crate of new books will arrive. Simply attach the crate to the AutoShelf to restock your collection. Once its done, leave the crate (now filled with your old, dusty books) on the curb for our gig-service to pick up!

... I need you to finish because I can't read your mind.

That wasn't a "yet" like "and yet, [something]", but a "yet" like "[something isn't happening]... yet".

Ah.

Thank you.


Don't give Amazon ideas.

I'm curious to know what apart from pornography (volumes of which have been part of comprehensive book collections for eons as in https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/oxford-university-obsc...) is included in the term 'inappropriate'?

Well if your family are all white Republicans, having White Fragility on your bookshelf is a sure-fire way to start an argument (due to the title!).

Or not. If your family is reasonable people they'll probably just keep their mouths shut an ignore it even if they don't agree with it.

People are pretty good at ignoring quackery in their own family. I think most people have a few relatives who are very much outside whatever the family norms are that are still treated with respect.


Who benefits and who is hurt when reasonable people don't find ways to speak their minds and advocate for their values?

This question is particularly apropos in modern times -- take the last week for example.

To ask the question in a different way: There may be a tradeoff between maintaining the status quo versus speaking about our values.

To me, it is really important to strive to speak and act according to our values _and_ to reflect on who (and what ideas) benefit from the status quo. It is entirely reasonable to be strategic about what you say, but I don't pretend to think the status quo is correct just because it exists.


For example, if you like to watch romance and don't want to be judged for it.

If the person in question only owns a dozen books, all are pro-Nazi stuff and they're prominently displayed for example?

We're not talking about people who have a thousand books from all genres and walks of life having Mein Kampf in there.


Last year's media scrutiny of politicians' bookshelves undermines your point a little.

https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/brexit-news/michael-gove-an...


Interesting that they consider Ayn Rand alarming enough to name her right next to David Irving, a notorious Holocaust denier, or, more precisely, diminisher.

Edit: I, too, have one book by David Irving in my bookcase - among 900 others. I read it, I found his way of twisting of the sources disturbing, but I am not going to burn it in the name of Love and Peace. But unfortunately I can see this being used against me in a court of Twitter.


The Holy and Unerring Court of Twitter is the reason I've got a cron job deleting my old tweets automatically.

I've seen people in more prominent positions than me being badly burned by a 10 year old tweet. I see no point in saving stuff I've said 6 months or a year ago. If it's something worthwhile, I'll make a blog post out of it and store the markdown file in git.


Then why tweet at all in the first place?

You just put them on the back or inside cupboard so that people dont see.

You can remove items from your Netflix watched history on their website. :)

Now that storage is infinite and cheap, it's become trendy for engineers to never actually remove anything, but to just set a "deleted" flag in a database somewhere. This makes a lot of tricky things easier, but there are pitfalls.

Years later, in the fifteenth re-implementation of some part of some service, somebody is going to forget to read that bit. Or an errant database migration isn't going to transfer it properly. Or the database will be leaked, and all of the "deleted" content will still be there (e.g. the Parler dump). Or a race condition will cause the check to occasionally be ignored every other Sunday.

Discovering that this is happening can be next to impossible. An application might read the deleted bit correctly when generating the ordered list of stuff you've looked at, but might not read it correctly (or might deliberately ignore it) when generating your advertising profile or when making content recommendations. I swear I've seen this on Amazon, though of course, I'll never be able to prove it.

Chilling effects / social cooling includes stuff like this. "I'm not even going to click on that, because I don't trust the platform to clear my history properly."


> Now that storage is infinite and cheap, it's become trendy for engineers to never actually remove anything, but to just set a "deleted" flag in a database somewhere. This makes a lot of tricky things easier, but there are pitfalls.

Also deleting stuff for real for real immediately is really hard.

You need to delete it from the database, the one that's replicating to, caches, online backups AND offline backups. And that's after you've confirmed and reconfirmed from the user that they actually want to delete the data, not just store it in the recycle bin or something idiotic like that.

The easiest way is just to flag as deleted and prune on some kind of schedule. Backups will be overwritten at some point and the data will go away eventually.


Or, though a more technically complex, encrypt every "deletable" unit of data with its own key, have a different backup policy for encrypted data and for keys to it - one which, upon user request, would allow you to quickly purge every trace of relevant keys.

This doesn't work well in practice at any kind of scale -- these types of databases have existed for many years. The key management overhead is considerable, causing integer factor loss of performance for database-y systems. Additionally, it very significantly increases the storage footprint since most techniques for minimizing storage utilization no longer work given this requirement.

It isn't just "technically complex", the limiting factor is your system may be 10x slower and use 10x more storage. The economics of operating these systems is so poor that they are only used in extremely niche environments where the requirements justify the extreme cost and performance limitations.


Soft deletes have been popular since the internet became accessible to the average person. When I was younger I was a huge advocate for soft deleting pretty much everything. It felt like the obvious, easy choice - why not retain the data incase you need to use it for something else down the road? It took years to understand the ramifications of storing that data in a secure way really means, and that often times the reason it gets used later isn't something you intended it to be used for when you designed the data structure.

I don't think that way anymore and I truly believe hard deletes should be the default unless you have a very compelling reason to soft delete (and you should usually only soft delete with some guarantee of future deletion via a publicly accessible data retention/erasure policy)


It's not rocket science - encrypt with a one time symmetric key, encrypt the key with a public key, store blob and key marked as deleted. Store the corresponding private asymmetric key on a hardware token to be used when you decide you need the deleted data. That way no db hack exposes any usable data.

DB hacks aren't even close to being the only (or worst) threat. Encryption means nothing in a company or bankruptcy buyout where the purchaser may have a completely different set of ethics than yours.

That is all good and well against simple actors, but does not defend against the company being bought out and the new owner(s) deciding to decrypt and sell the entire database to some shady data broker. Or against the FBI/your local equivalent coming over for a friendly visit and confiscating both the hardware token and the database.

>This makes a lot of tricky things easier, but there are pitfalls.

Some people are calling excessive data "toxic asset", due to the future risks of it causing unexpected breaches of privacy, damage to reputation, or other losses.

We'll certainly develop standard technical means of handling that in due time, quite possibly ones based on cryptography. A common scenario at present: instead of trawling all backups & distributed stores to laboriously expunge every bit of deleted data, you could delete the relevant encryption keys - a small piece of data, a known quantity - rendering the encrypted data inert. This is particularly suited for systems that use WORM approach to backing up & distributing data.


> just set a "deleted" flag in a database somewhere

this has been a thing since the 1980s, at least. It's not new, and it's often important for auditing purposes and because mistakes happen.

What's new is the ease with which databases can be accessed and hacked over a global public network.

> Or an errant database migration isn't going to transfer it properly. Or the database will be leaked, and all of the "deleted" content will still be there

Backups are a thing, you know. When you issue a delete command to your database it's not reaching back to time immemorial through the archives and ripping out those records. If we're playing what-ifs, then backup databases can just as easily be leaked.


This is exactly what happened with the AshleyMadison hack. In fact, users explicitly paid for a "delete my account permanently" action.. yet it was just that, a "deleted" flag added to the DB which eventually got leaked.

Just look at Parler. That's the same thing which happened there.

It's not trendy, it's how I've been doing databases my whole life. You don't let users actually delete stuff from your database. That's crazy.

How would you handle a user ceasing their account and asking you to remove data you no longer need to provide them with service?

Under GDPR you'd be required to really delete that. Obviously GDPR laws don't hold everywhere but are you saying you'd just hold the user's data forever or that you'd have a later clean up process or something?


You wouldn't. GDPR didn't exist. That was my point. We've been doing this for ages and only recently had to worry about actually deleting stuff.

This is why I've never advocated "deleting" Facebook accounts etc. If you "delete" it you're just giving them another piece of information about you. Namely that you want your account to be deleted.

The GDPR has not yet been shown to have any teeth, so I assume nothing has really changed in this respect.

And, yes, holding users' data forever is normal. Storage cost has only decreased relative to the size of these databases. I've worked in places with customer data going back decades.


Create a profile to share and a profile for what you want to watch. This helps get better targeted recommendations in general, because even aside from stuff you don't want to tell people you watch, IME there's stuff you like that don't suit the people you watch with.

> Create a profile to share and a profile for what you want to watch. This helps get better targeted recommendations

Or you know we could just have a proper advanced search within Netflix rather than me going through hoops with flixable etc or trying to play 4d chess to second guess how Netflix ML might give me the content I actually want to watch.

Perhaps I am a minority contrarian (In fairness I was pretty much coerced to get Netflix by my family) but it just feels like there is so much accidental complexity in this Netflix paradigm of 'we non-negotiably must cleverly guess what you want to watch'.


You're free to like or dislike Netflix's recommendation algorithms, of course, but does creating two profiles really feel like playing 4d chess to you... or do you simply refuse to countenance a solution out of annoyance and spite? :-)

Arguably you could make the same argument to Netflix Product Managers with regards to an advanced search feature with some added basic filters. :-)

You do you, but I like having a list of stuff I want to watch separated from a list of stuff to watch with the family. I’m not planning to memorize those lists and search every time, that would be insane.

Using social media at all, feels very risky. No matter what you say it can be taken out of context, or the context will change within the next decade and you can be made out to be a monster.

I was actually able to find tons of friends and partners back in 2019 when I disconnected from social media. Even though there's a slight temptation to go back being trapped in the house, it's like the temptation to take another drink when you've already had too many.

In fact during the pandemic I decided to delete my Reddit account, I found it was making me very angry for naught.


I wonder if the lack of a social media profile hurts me in some cases. I don't look like a member of the Consumer/Business Party in good standing.

Yeah. I see my friends sharing less and less content on FB these days. But then again, most stuff you see on a typical FB feed today is ads, groups, fanpages, Marketplace and whatnot. Definitely way less content related to friends (other than their fanpage comments). Can we just go ten years back where everything was more spontaneous and candid? Where the thing to raise your pressure was your crush's hot beach photos, not people making themselves idiots in politically charged flamewars.

> Yeah. I see my friends sharing less and less content on FB these days.

How much of this is that we’re getting older? I find that outside thoughtfluencing and reputation building, I’ve simply become tired of sharing. Just kinda don’t care anymore.

Part of it is that there’s less and less novelty. What was new and exciting 5 years ago is mundane and boring now. Done it a million times. What felt like a huge insight, became a normal part of my worldview. Etc

To top it off I realized I simply don’t care as much about keeping in touch with people who aren’t actually part of my life.

Ultimately my time is limited and I can publish to build leads/branding or to drive vanity metrics like a monkey acting out in a cage. One of those is a good use of time.


I'm under 25 and I can say that I don't think people are publishing much publicly outside of the political nutcases. Everything is inside private IM groups / discord voice chats these days.

> How much of this is that we’re getting older

Especially if your social media is facebook, i think the original users just got bored of it and adult life isn't that interesting. Mine is slowly filling up with baby pictures now and weddings now after what i think was a lull. Younger people seem to be going strong on sharing stupid things on snap chat and tiktok.


Facebook lost its interest pretty rapidly once I was out of University, concurrent with it rapidly morphing into brand building exercises for those in high school year who went into advertising.

10 years ago, social media platforms hadn't gamed their algorithms to oblivion. Platforms are the problem, this is the formula that maximizes engagement that benefits them and ad revenue. The real answer is probably just to ditch social media. I can't see any for-profit social media product ever not turning into a toxic cesspool.

> the formula that maximizes engagement that benefits them and ad revenue

The algorithms have only settled down on the extremes which we've already known sell: sex, violence, fear, outrage.

Fox News was selling fear and outrage long before Facebook's algorithms discovered that fear and outrage sells. Every grocery store had tabloids right there at the checkout, already optimized for engagement from those with obvious self-control and critical thinking issues. In fact, the grocery store is an excellent example of a place that has been heavily optimized based on human psychology. They want you to buy the cereal and other high margin items. They put the basics on the periphery, etc.

Social media is a problem, but I don't think it's the problem. We have deeper issues we need to dig to.


Many of post as much as before, you just don't see it because we migrated to places were we feel safe. (And the use of "feel" is very intentional, I'm fully aware that Telegram groups and ordinary chats might be backdoored or whatever )

My journey was something like

-Facebook,

- private blog with logins so my parents and siblings could read, post and comment

- Started using Hangouts(or so I think, there's been so many Google messaging apps) with my wife because it was convenient to not have to dig out the phone everytime we worked at a computer and needed to send som messages.

- Started using WhatsApp. Fell in love. "Sold it" to my family and my wife's family.

- All our close friends picked it up too at around the same time.

- Facebook announced it would buy WhatsApp. I felt uncomfortable, but waited.

- Telegram showed up and was better but I didn't want to switch as they were free and WhatsApp was still paid so WhatsApp felt safer.

- Facebook made WhatsApp free and took away all guarantees.

- I started using Telegram. Soon after everyone around me switched too.

I won't say I started the move to WhatsApp and later Telegram among my friends but I have wholeheartedly supported it.

(Say what you want about the encryption in early WhatsApp and later in Telegram, but there's more to security than encryption and most of the stuff we post would otherwise have gone on Facebook so it is a huge step forward anyways and it is so liberating to know I can talk to anyone and know that it doesn't automatically get pumped into Facebooks data lake.)

Edit, FWIW, two more observations:

- Google Hangouts could have been the place we went to instead of WhatsApp, but lacked polish especially on group chats.

- Google+ could have been an alternative but didn't feel private enough.

- After Google+ I gave up Google.[1]

- There's a number of interesting options at any time, but I haven't found what we (my family and close friends) need: hubzilla seems promising but lacks community it seems. Mastodon is public by default so more like Twitter, while we want 1-1 or group messaging. MeWe is focused on being a 1-to-many network, and they lack pseudonym accounts so they still don't come close to Google+. Ideas are welcome.

[1]: Maybe I won't work there even if I'm offered a job as it feels like a minefield for anyone with a different background like me and they also haven't managed to get a single service to improve since 10 years ago as far as I remember.

Most services are even going backwards it seems, reducing quotas, killing products, even search has been failing badly for years and ad targeting is so bad it would have been funny if it wasn't so insulting. (I always complain about this so I should probably say the last few months I've seen ads from stores I'd actually want to buy from instead of just the "hot singles near you" scam etc.)


> Can we just go ten years back where everything was more spontaneous and candid?

No. That life is sadly dead and gone, the damage of politics / identity politics as most dominant identity, bias enforcing algorithms and creepy behavioural psychology manipulation as “user experience” has not just corrupted the internet permanently but likely how we see and deal with one another online also.


I keep hoping that eventually there will be some kind of push back against identity politics, and that we will go back to more of a "live and let live" kind of attitude. Maybe people will get sick of outrage culture and the narrative will eventually shift. Social dynamics are complex, but what you need to change the attitude of the public is essentially a number of thought leaders praising a different attitude.

I just made this decision today. I'm out. I'm done with all of it. If everyone wants to hate each other and spend each minute of their short lives pointing fingers, fighting, and stressing out, go ahead. I'm going to try to find whatever peace I can and find people I can respect and whose company I can enjoy. The rest of this is poison.

This is my take on it. I've blocked all political-related terms on my social media, and will actively mute/unfollow people who constantly bring the subject up.

99% of this junk amounts to fear/outrage porn that is non-actionable for me. There's no reason to devote even an iota of mental energy to it.


The problem I see is that the US has some very serious and widespread flaws. The live and let live attitude doesn't push for resolution to these issues.

If we say for example the police system is not working as it should and many people are dying or being locked away unnecessarily, how do you fix this when the leaders of your country are unwilling to do anything. The only options you have make you one of those 'identity politics people'.


Just don't tie police reform to identity politics narratives.

> how do you fix this when the leaders of your country are unwilling to do anything

We have to find and grow new leaders! :)

My general comment is: please, pick one issue you care about, study it, find the leverage points, and make time to get involved. This might mean joining an organization, volunteering, making a tech project to share what you've learned -- even running for office.

Based on your username, I would guess perhaps you are already involved to some degree around pollution or environmental issues [1]. Let me know if you want someone to bounce ideas off of. I also can offer this perspective: ongoing dissatisfaction, properly harnessed, can be a great motivator for change.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0576.html


>I keep hoping that eventually there will be some kind of push back against identity politics

There is some, but it's tiny. /r/stupidpol subreddit is an example of that.


What effects do you anticipate from this subreddit?

I wonder if such a subreddit is mostly for amusement purposes; i.e. blowing off steam, laughing at the spectacle.

Do you think it can help play a part in forming broader coalitions (which I think is a hallmark of non-identity politics)?


>be some kind of push back against identity politics

It's funny that this is expressed in a culture war kind of way: the identity politics crowd versus the "against identity politics" crowd.

Sometimes social phenomena don't dissipate because of push-back, but because they simply fizzle out, like a fire that consumed all of the underbrush. I think that's a more apt analogy for how we can expect the current era of identity politics to end, if it does. You can't shoot guns in the name of peace, and you can't "push back" against too much shoving.


"because they simply fizzle out, like a fire that consumed all of the underbrush"

That depends on consequences.

For example, if there are jobs that depend on continuation of social phenomena, their holders will fight tooth and nail not to let this happen.

Universities now have special administrators dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. These are someone's livelihoods and also sources of power. Will the incumbents simply say "there is no more interest in identity politics, our task is done, we made ourselves redundant"?

No. As long as they are paid to promote, say, inclusion, they will always push the idea that more must be done.


>Universities now have special administrators dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. These are someone's livelihoods and also sources of power. Will the incumbents simply say "there is no more interest in identity politics, our task is done, we made ourselves redundant"?

This isn't an empty argument, I'll grant. It extends to yellow "journalists" (from OANN to CTH), political campaign staff (divided country = more spending on politics), social media companies, and others. Division is profitable.

But lots of awful things are profitable. There are always stakeholders in whatever enterprise is polluting the water, the air, or the discourse. You deal with it by offering them progressively worse compromises and hoping that, over time, the frogs will jump out of the pot.


You need to think bigger.

Consider that all jobs depend on the continuation of social phenomena.

Think, for a moment, about the sentiment of 'They took our jobs'. (With 'They' being Jews, immigrants, Mexicans, China, or some other boogieman of the week.)

As long as there are jobs, people with them will always push the idea that some 'Other' is coming to take away their livelihood.

It's all identity politics - it's just that when its practiced by the political right, they don't call it that. It wouldn't be part of their identity to engage in them, after all.

But, of course, if you call out and challenge this, you will be accused of engaging in identity politics.


I agree that some things fizzle out. It seems to me people collectively get bored with some ideas and move to something else. There's also infighting within the radical left.

Pushback is absolutely crushed. It's impossible to really be an active user of most of these platforms without representing the desired view.

Can you think of examples of online platforms that combat this tendency?

One that comes to mind for me is Lobsters. I'm interested in other examples as well as mechanisms for striking a balance between civility and diversity of opinion.


Lobsters is invite only and I don't know anyone to give me an invite, but it seems like discussions there are pretty good from what I've seen.

The only other places I've seen that aren't this way are various chan style sites and oldschool internet forums, but those places have their own obvious problems.


What does identity politics mean to you?

Do you see it as an opposite of "live and let live" attitude?

(I don't quite follow)


The way I encounter it, identity politics is a divisive ideology, or a political tool, used to make judgements about groups of people based on external characteristics such as skin color, gender and sexual orientation, with little to no regard for the actual circumstances these people came from or currently live in.

For example, cis-white-males are often demonized, binned as oppressors. If you take a step back and think about it, a lot of cis-white-males were born in US states with huge meth and fentanyl addiction problems. Raised in trailer parks, in poverty, with maybe one or both parents missing and no access to education. If you paint poverty and access to education as being purely a race problem, and white males as always being oppressors, you are leaving people behind. We can't afford to do that. We collectively pay the price, as a society, somewhere down the road.

With regards to "live and let live", many prominent advocates of identity politics are very hostile people. They do not welcome discussion, they do not want your input. Either you have the same opinion as them, or you are an alt-right, a bad person. The correct opinion has been decided once and for all by social justice academics, and either you're onboard, or you're necessarily ignorant and wrong. Kind of like George W Bush said "you're either with us, or against us".


My only hope is that the rest of the Western world takes note from observing the dissolution and atomization of US society at the hands of identity politics and makes a firm choice to not let their own societies traverse the same path.

I, sadly, do not see how America comes out of this together, embracing a "live and let live" type attitude, in a world where identity politics does not continue to dominate the narrative, when a large bulk of the mainstream has stoked, embraced and celebrated a loosely constructed contextually and historically ignorant hierarchy and narrative of the "oppressed" and of the "oppressors". Where one half of the populace believes the nation itself to be fundamentally good , worthwhile or indeed "the best", and the other believes it to be rotten to the core not just now but since its very beginning. Where one half believes that the 2020 election was genuinely stolen from them by socialists and communists, and the other genuinely believes they've just defeated something in line with Adolf Hitler, who himself stole the 2016 election thanks to Russians with a couple million of FB ad spend.

I hope to be wrong.


Why? It works spectacularly well. It's funny to watch all these people who use it suddenly get up and bashful about it now and then; the democrats won house, senate, and presidency very much focusing on identity politics.

I think if anything, the scary thing is that it works better than caring about the poor at all. It wasn't democratic ideas about poverty that made them such a force...just accuse people of homophobia and you've already put them on the defensive if not won. "Alt-right" is such a wonderful tool-just hint someone is it, and a person's mind does all the rest even though they may have no idea what it even means. Just say it long enough and loud enough in the right tone of disapproval and you have magic.

I'm not sure how much of this is /s.

When I was against gay marriage, I sat down and tried to think a lot about how marriage related to procreation or was a special institution. How religion related to it, and whether or not it needed protection. I did feel eventually civil unions were the strongest compromise, because there were legal aspects to recognizing couples that were important but the special nature of heterosexual marriage and its relation to tradition and religion mattered to. You can disagree about gay marriage but realize that there are definitely things gay couples should have in a legal sense too; hospital visitation rights as one. A lot really was uncertainty about metaphysical and philosophical ideas I think.

But all you had to do to shut all that down was to accuse me of homophobia and bigotry. It's insanely effective because a person has to now defend that whatever he is proposing isn't because of deep-seated irrational phobia or anger. It really worked.

Now i pretty much just shrug and say "What are you going to do, you're conquered." Pay the Dane the Danegeld when he asks.

Gay marriage as an actual act is not really a success. In my state last year all of 700 people got married in same sex couples out of a population of 4 million, and even with the low straight marriage rate here thats 700 out of 20,000 a year I believe, not even .05 percent. Ever since mid 2015 we have never seen even 1000 people a year use it. That's the huge irony of all those identity politics...they were a club to beat people with more than a vital need it seemed.

It's easier and more effective to use identity politics. They aren't going away. I mean lord, "live and let live"-be honest, you think you're going to allow us to do that with climate change an issue? When you want us to learn to love the veggie burger and electric bike everywhere instead of using cars?

I mean it doesn't work well on the receiving end but hey, like the simpsons treehouse of horror episode, sometimes the dolphins just want it more. Luckily it seems people get embarassed of conquering after a bit so it fades.


>Gay marriage as an actual act is not really a success.

I have friends who are able to enjoy the benefits of a legal contract and existing case law and precedents that was previously restricted to man/woman couples. Seems like a success to me.

>live and let live"-be honest, you think you're going to allow us to do that with climate change an issue? When you want us to learn to love the veggie burger and electric bike everywhere instead of using cars?

You can live and let live with gay marriage, it doesn't affect you in any way. Neither does a veggie burger, and no one has ever wanted you to love a veggie burger. I do want it as an option for my kid in school, however.

Climate change, and cars are not live and let live issues, since they have massive externalities that affect everyone.


I don't think you understand how tiny the numbers are for the war people fought.

Like let's assume in my state we take the fairly average assumption of LGBT population at 5%. Now let's also take a marriage rate of 5 per 1000, which is pretty low given that this is a historic opportunity. Even granting this, the actual numbers indicate a rate close to 3 per 1000. This is close to half of the current rates, which are widely seen as historic lows:

https://www.jec.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/republicans/2020...

This is in a new england state. So it's not something you accuse due to being in the Bible belt. In actual numbers, the impact of gay marriage is fairly tiny. Your friends are outliers. It's actually tiny enough to hurt a lot of compelling reasons for it; state-sanctioned marriage as a tool to help combat gay male promiscuity for one, or any form of economic benefit to it. Ironically SSM wasn't something to worry about because the people who want or need it are small enough a population not to impact anything in practice; it was more of an ideological issue it seems.

As for climate change, yeah my point is if we do identity politics now, over things which are let or let live, what is going to happen when there are things that we cannot do so? I think it will ramp up more even.


>It's actually tiny enough to hurt a lot of compelling reasons for it; state-sanctioned marriage as a tool to help combat gay male promiscuity for one, or any form of economic benefit to it.

I'm not sure what this statement means. Are you claiming combating gay male promiscuity is beneficial for society?

>Ironically SSM wasn't something to worry about because the people who want or need it are small enough a population not to impact anything in practice; it was more of an ideological issue it seems.

I disagree. Freedom, for populations small or big, for actions that have no effect on anyone else is very important to worry about it. And I don't see what can be wrong with that ideological issue, unless you're anti freedom.

>As for climate change, yeah my point is if we do identity politics now, over things which are let or let live, what is going to happen when there are things that we cannot do so? I think it will ramp up more even.

With any limited resource (such as the global environment and natural resources like clean water and air), the ones with power will end up with most of it, and the people alive have more power than the people that have yet to be born.

The only identity politics that matter in the climate change situation is those who will consume today or those who will sacrifice today. But I predict this will be an unsolvable problem due to lack of buy in from the global population, for variety of reasons.


> the democrats won house, senate, and presidency very much focusing on identity politics.

I'd say the republicans did that. And even after the 4 years of gaslighting and bigotry, they almost did it again. I wouldn't say it's the democrats who make topics like wearing a mask or the destruction of the environment political.

Now you have democrats who play that game too, but since they have the facts "in their favor" it's to their detriment (I'm putting quotes here because covid and global warming being real isn't to anyone's favor, but it's facts). Mud fights benefit those without good arguments.

That said, I agree with your post, antagonizing people doesn't help changing minds.


See, its easier to accuse people of bigotry than look at their actual problems. Trump didn't win because the modern left sucked hard at actually helping the poor, they did because they were gaslighted by bigots.

Haha, I realized the irony of my comment writing it. I definitely would word it differently if I was trying to convince someone.

> See, its easier to accuse people of bigotry than look at their actual problems.

That's true. But I strongly believe that bigotry is the problem. Blaming the left for the rise of populism and conspiracies is like blaming the firefighters for the fire. I'm putting the blame on the arsonists.

We should be debating how to fix issues instead of "Is the issue real?". All the politics who participated in spreading misinformation and dividing the western world should be voted out of their positions.

It's a systemic failure that brought us here. Our system allowed selfish leaders (from all sides tbh) to get in power.

But fixing the systemic issues touches on personal liberties (who decides what can and cannot be said?), so it cannot be done lightly. Additionally, politics wants to be re-elected, so not only they won't do anything against misinformation, they sometimes encourage it.

I blame the leaders more than the followers, but the followers have a personal responsibility in it as well.


700 out of 20000 is 3.5%.

The gay population is estimated at roughly 10% but we're talking couples so 3.5% would imply a surprisingly high rate of marriages amongst gay people within the year over year married population.


The marriage rate is at 6 per 1000 in the states, and its a historic low; it used to be high as 15 per 1000 maybe 20-30 years ago? I posted a link upthread.

Actually what's ironic is that my state's capitol is heralded as "one of the gayest cities in america" for having a percentage of 4.6%. San fransico seems to be 6.2%. This link is dated 6 years ago, though:

https://www.ctpost.com/living/article/Which-are-the-gayest-c...


And so what? If the % of gay people is lower then that makes the proportion of gay couples getting married by your own offered statistics even higher.

I have no idea what offering them marriage rate in isolation is contributing otherwise.

To loop this back around to the topic at hand though, it is bizzare to use the rate of utilisation of one's rights as an argument as to whether or not people should have them.


> When I was against gay marriage, I sat down and tried to think a lot about... [many details] ... You can disagree about gay marriage but realize that there are definitely things gay couples should have in a legal sense too; hospital visitation rights as one. A lot really was uncertainty about metaphysical and philosophical ideas I think.

Good points. I am glad you thought about it, even if you came to different conclusions than I would have.

> But all you had to do to shut all that down was to accuse me of homophobia and bigotry.

To state the obvious: I never accused you of that.

I'm not stating the obvious to be confrontational; I'm saying it because I've heard this argument frequently from people I know that disagree with my politically.

For example, I've met thoughtful people that feel attacked because they want to think through issues rather than jump on a bandwagon. I am very glad they are being thoughtful and see nuance in the issues.

So here is what I hope to learn: I'd like to know why you feel this way. Do you personally think that someone like me, perhaps from a different political philosophy, is judging you (as opposed to the underlying ideas)?

(I have some guesses, but I would rather not speculate.)


I'm saying it because the left learned very quickly that you can bypass the hard work of arguing positions by instead arguing the holder of them is irrational and or evil in a sense. It's much more effective to call someone else evil than to put forwards your ideas of good.

By calling me irrational, I do not need to be compromised with or taken seriously; compromise and dialogue is based on the fact that people are both making good faith efforts to engage. Part of what is chilling about the whole social media thing recently is that it's arguing that it causes people to be in an irrational state and not to be taken seriously. Go home trump voters; you are drunk on social media.

So yeah, there is a lot of judging going on, because that kind of judging is more effective than compromise. You yourself sound like you are open minded more because people will need time to come to the undeniable truth than anything.


A big part of the confusion is that you seem to treat this like an abstract matter of philosophical debate, because frankly, you don't really have a personal stake in it. That's not meant as an insult, just a statement of fact. As a straight, white male, neither do I. But it's not reasonable to expect someone to engage in dispassionate discourse about their own safety and their right to be treated like a human being. It's easy to forget because of how rapid and sweeping the change in public opinion was in the US, but in many other countries (and quite a few places in this one) LGBTQ rights are still a matter of life and death.

And this is the problem with so many debates - the people who are largely comfortable with the status quo are confused because people in marginalized groups are screaming at them, when they didn't really do anything to those people. In fact they may, in some abstract way, be supportive of their struggle. But the people are screaming because a third party has a gun (literally or figuratively) to their heads. So in order for there to be a real conversation, first we need to get that guy to put the gun down. Nothing else can happen until then.


Not sure "live and let live" applies to things with direct externalities like burning fossil fuels, for that you need an emissions tax.

> Now i pretty much just shrug and say "What are you going to do, you're conquered."

Why do you use the 'conquered' language?

Very few things are static under a long enough time horizon. In politics and public opinion, things can change quite quickly. So, if you want to prioritize an issue, go for it.


I use it because I feel people are fundamentally dishonest sometimes about the implications of their ideas.

Some political ideas are not "we must both give up something to exist together." Some are "My idea is morally right, and by necessity it must conquer yours." I use SSM more because it's a pure example of this; what exactly did marriage advocates "give up" in the bargain? It was the opponents who more or less had to capitulate near totally.

This is what culture war is. It is the use of politics to establish ideas and defeat or subjugate those who disagree with it. This does not mean it is inherently immoral; one of the frustrating things about this is the realization that no, the conquerors are not the rapacious Mongols we think they are. But i think people often don't get how much a political idea can be subjugation more than compromise.

As for changing, nah. Can you imagine a world where it has changed so much divorce becomes illegal again? What would it take for people to cast it off? If we were possible of this kind of change as a group I think we'd have far less to worry about climate change for example.


> what exactly did marriage advocates "give up" in the bargain?

This is poorly framed. This is not about "bargaining".

This is a case of people demanding and advocating for their rights. There is no principled reason to ask while doing so they should "bargain away" those rights.

Sure, opponents of same-sex marriage may disagree.

There are some schools of thought that try to separate, shame, or exclude others based on some criteria, whether it be sexual orientation, educational background, or socioeconomic status.

I see a pattern around intolerance. People that have exclusionary beliefs don't have a good track record -- here's what I mean -- these belief systems do not survive contact with reality, unless the person with that belief system digs in their feet and refuses to engage with real people. For example, it may be "easy" for someone to be homophobic if that is how they were raised, but this belief system is unlikely to survive if the person has a gay son and they are open to talking with their son and learning about the issue.


> Some political ideas are not "we must both give up something to exist together." Some are "My idea is morally right, and by necessity it must conquer yours."

I think I see what you mean, as a general concept, although I think using "conquer" is a poor word choice. The word "conquer" tends to imply force.

There are many tensions between ideas in law, life, and philosophy that are resolved by economics, thinking, compromise, persuasion, voting, organizing, and group behavior rather than force.


Are you arguing that granting a particular kind of same-sex union involves "subjugating" people who opposed it?

I (and most people I think) use the word subjugation to mean "bring under domination or control, especially by conquest: the invaders had soon subjugated most of the native population." Traditional examples of subjugation include occupations and forced religion.


> But I think people often don't get how much a political idea can be subjugation more than compromise.

Based on your comment so far, I will say that I don't get what you are trying to say.

Do you mean this: those who define the terms of a debate shape how it is perceived, what options are considered, and (to some degree) how it is evaluated?


> I use SSM more because it's a pure example of this; what exactly did marriage advocates "give up" in the bargain? It was the opponents who more or less had to capitulate near totally.

I am fascinated by your language use of "capitulate" here. You are framing this discussion very much with the language of "subjugation".

Here is how I frame one category of public policy involving allocation of scarce resources. In the case of legislation that adjusts spending from general revenue, each taxpayer shares the responsibility. Individuals who attempt to withhold that portion of the tax will face penalties. This is one way a government can wield power. The power is often implied, but if necessary, it can be backed up with various enforcement mechanisms. These mechanisms may be coercive, but they are subject to the rule of law.

Now, with regards to granting privileges to same-sex couples, I do not see this as an issue involving scarce resources. A person who opposes same-sex marriage is not directly harmed by someone else's partnership receiving the right for hospital visitation, for example.

In fact, I think the opponent of SSM, in practice, benefits in ways they don't even recognize. Happier, more fulfilled people tend to lead to a more vibrant culture, stronger economy, and overall better quality of life -- for everyone. One of the classic ironic Hollywood storylines is about a homophobic man who grows up to be a father of a gay son. Over time, he realizes he was wrong.

At the same time, I can understand how this opponent of SSM may feel worse off. Unfortunately, this person wants their private morality to be imposed on everyone.

For background on how I am using public morality and private morality, see the writings of Robert Kaine. He argues against moral relativism while supporting the importance of value systems that are compatible with democratic ideals. In short, not all private moralities are equal in this sense: not all are compatible with a pluralistic public morality.

To be clear, Kaine's reasoning does not demand a total ordering of private moralities. Indeed, it steers clear of that issue.

So, in conclusion, while I can sympathize with people who don't get their way (which I frame as "having their private beliefs codified into law"), I don't think they have been treated unjustly. Not all private beliefs are compatible with pluralistic democratic values. Sometimes society has to choose.


> Pay the Dane the Danegeld when he asks.

For context, from Wikipedia:

> "Dane-geld" is a poem by British writer Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). It relates to the unwisdom of paying "Danegeld", or what is nowadays called blackmail and protection money. The most famous lines are "once you have paid him the Danegeld/ You never get rid of the Dane."

I don't follow why you reference blackmail or protection money. Can you explain?


I guess I misused it some. I felt it more was "pay the conqueror his due when he asks, and get on with the business of living." The Dane is already here, and we aren't getting rid of him.

Not allowing homosexual people the right to marry is very much not "live and let live". There is a whole lot of married heterosexual people who do not and will not have kids, for all kinds of reason. If the US would like to encourage/support people getting kids they could legislate support for that.

What remains is not allowing homosexual couples the same treatment as heterosexual couples, because heterosexual couples are "special" for religious and traditionalist reasons. This is very strong identity politics, but from conservative side and very much contrary to the spirit of "live and let live". It strikes me how many conservatives do not realize that they very much support identity politics and then go raging against it the next moment.

Treating people equally should be the default and is the result of not caring about identity in the first place. There are some good arguments that can be made for identity politics after that, but the case against equal treatment should have to be a really strong one. Traditions and religious feelings do not suffice for that in my opinions.

Even when the absolute numbers of homosexual marriages is very small that doesn't justify not caring about unequal treatment. Imagine if we would tax all identical twins 5% more than everybody else. This nonsensical unequal treatment would clearly be unacceptable injustice while the percentage of people that are affected is still very small.

On top of that there are social explanations why homosexual people would be less likely to marry. Marriage has long been a religious and traditionalist institution and has been used to discriminate against them. It can be hard to identify with such an institution and I know queer people who would not like get married because of that. If marriage had been available to everybody since as long as they can remember considering marriage would perhaps come more natural.


the "childless" het couple was a good argument that caused no end of trouble. To be honest it was a darker sign I think, that heterosexual couples themselves had internalized cultural norms and the institution itself was no longer special so much to be worth protecting.

I think there were conservatives who realized this, and this was the reason why "the state should get out of marriage entirely" was pushed as a solution. That too was shot down harshly. At that point I personally gave up I think. It's like abortion...the issue is not "should a woman have a right to it," the issue is that now we live in a society where premarital sex is the norm and abortion is just restoring equity to the new norm.

The real numbers..look, it was literally hilarious to me that the same people who were arguing "marriage was only a piece of paper" in their own lives suddenly turned around and became strict advocates of it in the lives of a small minority of people. If religious people had said "okay, we accept gay people, but they need to follow the same teachings we do-be the husband of one husband, no premarital sex, and no sex outside marriage" everyone here would have railed against marriage as a tool of straight fascism or something.

I'm not meaning the low numbers means its should be revoked though. If anything it's the reverse. We did all that trouble, all that hate and strife...can you all please use it at least? When you fight desperately for the right for something, and in reality barely anyone seems to use it, what was the fighting done for?


> I keep hoping that eventually there will be some kind of push back against identity politics, and that we will go back to more of a "live and let live" kind of attitude.

"Live and let live" only ever worked for acceptable identities. You did not have that luxury if you were, say, gay prior to the early oughts.

I think you're looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses. It was less 'live and let live' and more 'sit down and shut up if you are different'.

Now those people have a voice, and a lot of folks are finding it quite upsetting.


Depends. Not every part of the world has the same culture, and it didn't suddenly become OK to be gay everywhere on some specific date. In the 1960s, it was probably much more OK to be gay in say, San Francisco than in Detroit.

In the 1960s, I believe SF did have much more of a live and let live attitude than much of the rest of the world, but IMO, SF is now a not really tolerant place anymore. There's very much a dominant narrative being imposed by the big silicon valley players, but culture does change over time. If you try to enforce certain political ideas and suppress others, you inevitably give rise to some kind of counter-culture, it seems.


>If you try to enforce certain political ideas and suppress others, you inevitably give rise to some kind of counter-culture, it seems.

Is intolerance of intolerance intolerance?


I recommend thinking about this question in the context of public morality versus private morality.

I recommend this book by Robert Kane: "Through the Moral Maze: Searching for Absolute Values in a Pluralistic World"

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1654373.Through_the_Mora...

A book review by Bruce Ballard: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/490166


I feel the frustration of your post. I agree with what you are saying.

Perhaps it can help to remember this: some of us here may not realize that even the term identity politics has a complex history. From Wikipedia:

> The term was coined by the Combahee River Collective in 1977. The collective group of women saw identity politics as an analysis that introduced opportunity for Black women to be actively involved in politics, while simultaneously acting as a tool to authenticate Black women's personal experiences. It took on widespread usage in the early 1980s, and in the ensuing decades has been employed in myriad cases with radically different connotations dependent upon the term's context.


Please keep in mind that even the term identity politics is fraught with misunderstanding. Even a quick skimming of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_politics shows how complex even the term can be.

Here are only three examples of how identity politics might be used. It can be used to describe:

1. how minority groups fight oppression based on skin color

2. how a majority group, perceiving a threat, joins together (often based on baser instincts)

3. a tendency for political parties to connect primarily on surface-level attributes of people, rather than substantive root causes

Which of these (if any) do you mean when you talk about identity politics?

Caveat: I am no expert on the term.


The worst part is that FB is a really shitty platform for any kind of group.

There's no way to collect all discussion of, say, a new product the company the group is about released. You'll get dozens of threads of the same thing for weeks and weeks without any way of directing everyone to the same one.

You can pin posts with instructions - no one sees that shit, because no one actually visits the groups "front page" after they've joined.


I love this article. It hits home as well. I stopped posting a long time ago on sites that tie my posts to my identity (thank you HN for at least not being overt).

I hope that we as a society can adopt to this understanding. It may mean normalizing things that are now considered to be deviant. The question is where we draw boundaries. And the reality is that the second we start drawing any boundaries, is the second we fall back into the social cooling trap.

It is like a giant compressor operating on the entire planet's behavior.


It's interesting. I definitely find myself censoring myself online at times. But I also find myself self-censoring offline: at work, with my girlfriend, family.. you name it. Filtering oneself is an important trait.

On the other hand, self-censoring oneself to not criticize the current government or make an off-color political joke feels like oppression.


Self-censorship is important. But so is integrity (literally being "integral", that is, there being only one of you). You need to not have to hide who you are or fake being who your not. You need that for your mental health.

This is also known as a "chilling effect"; A prime example of this is the self-censorship [0] of Wikipedia-readers after Snowden revealed that the US government was collecting data on people reading Wikipedia articles.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect#Chilling_effec...


I want to read that link, but not sure if I should...

I'll ddg "snowden wikipedia" instead.


Even search engines cannot be trusted blindly. Browser fingerprinting is reality and nothing can be done to prevent it for sure. Duckduckgo is known to use Microsoft services and collecting user browsing data without consent. Once you share browser fingerprint with others services, it is trivial to identify your person in global database.

Panopticon is a very old idea about this issue

https://ethics.org.au/ethics-explainer-panopticon-what-is-th...


Literally for decades I have been explaining to people that email is like a postcard, i.e. always assume your message is visible publicly.

When social media became popular, I extended the analogy to it, and yet people continue to be shocked and amazed when their online conversations spread further than they realized.

Wanna keep a secret? Don’t tell anyone!


At risk of missing your point (which I think is generally a good one), the problem with the postcard analogy is that nobody cares about what you wrote on your postcard! And even if a couple postal workers snicker at what you wrote, then that's where it ends. There is no conceivable scenario in which hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of people will spend tomorrow talking about your postcard, sharing your postcard, contacting your boss about your postcard, photographing your postcard and critiquing it in the NY Times, and so on.

One of the weird things about social media for me is that my intuitions about the postcard -- nobody cares, nobody will read it, what do I care if the postal workers laugh at what I said? -- don't actually work all that well on social media.


Nobody cared about what's on the postcard because you couldn't easily scan every postcard sent and mine its contents. The average social media post has even less content (especially sensitive content) than a postcard, but the ease of collection and analysis means that if there is smallest iota of useful information on the card, it can be mined and exploited.

This is a great way to explain it. I was told as a child, "Don't write anything in an email you wouldnt want forwarded to someone else" which has stopped me from sending several emails I would have probably regretted.

This just sounds like being a polite human in public spaces? Common advice was always to avoid talking about politics and religion or anything else controversial in places you need to get along.

"Common advice was always to avoid talking about politics and religion or anything else controversial in places you need to get along."

This is much more restrictive. For example, in meatspace, you can avoid talking about religion and politics at your workplace, but talk religion in your church meeting and talk politics with other supporters of the same party.

Social media tear down the distance and compress the entire world into one single space. Unless you want to avoid any religious and political discussions completely, your comments on those topics, even in specific discussion groups, can be viewed by, say, your coworkers.

I would say that this is quite a problem.


Social media is the equivalent of publishing a newsletter about those things with an audience of millions and database search access.

It has never been a "private" conversation or even vaguely similar to say, a discussion at a cafe.

People have not treated it that way though.


Yes, because this is an unfamiliar and hard to grasp form of communication. Social media feels intimate like a home chat by the fireplace - at least sometimes. But in fact it is wide open, including to people who want to harm you.

If that’s what we are talking about I embrace and look forward to it!

I’ve been to enough museums, galleries, exhibits with people live streaming or FaceTiming that the pendulum swinging the other way would be a welcome change.


Old site that I first saw on HN bringing up this issue: https://www.socialcooling.com/

I became interested in economics just because I was searching for some boring stuff to post in my Facebook feed to lower my insurance quote on a Camaro SS.

I think many out there that are a victim of social cooling. Probably way more than we realize due to their silence.

You have to think twice about posting or messaging anything because you have to assume that the service will later be breached and your privacy exposed. Similarly, you have to weigh the consequences of simply signing up for a service in the first place due to the risk of the service or company being breached later.

I also think the archiving sites that want to download and archive everything add more to social cooling than anything else.


Makes me wonder if you have the corollary concept : Social Heating... my feeling is social media has a multiplicative effect on both sides of the thermometer

Good catch. There's a huge discrepancy in social media between people who are employed/professionals, use it to climb the corporate ladders and people who are just hanging out there, like in a pub. These two worlds often collide, especially on Twitter.

In the real world it's not a problem because there are much more specialized locations. You'd expect rough language and jokes in a pub.


That's a great idea. It probably is a continuum and makes me wonder what the mean point is. Are there behavioral characteristics that fit some acceptable norm? Or will the acceptable norm just become the new thing to manipulate with big data.

TL;DR: data about us being collected, saved and published by social media makes us all more risk-averse when it comes to expressing our opinions online.

I tend to agree. I have a twitter account and I try to never get into political discussions there, because I know that expressing the "wrong" opinion could cost me my job, as it has others. Even expressing something that I view as positive and encouraging could be misinterpreted. I feel like around 2000-2005, there wasn't so much pressure to be politically correct. People could discuss ideas more freely. That being said, I was younger too, and less risk-averse.

That being said, I also remember that in the early YouTube days, comment threads were completely filled with hate. There were people posting messages like "you're ugly, you should kill yourself" constantly. You'd look at these people's accounts and you saw all the comments they posted. There were trolls who would just run around and post hate comments, particularly on LGBT videos. I really wished that someone would delete these accounts and all their associated comments, but YouTube did absolutely nothing about it for years. It was pretty depressing.


Many people are OK with it mostly because "the bad people" are targeted (they think, that is, those they disagree with).

If the pendulum swinged conservative in the future and you could get fired for excess "wokeness", the same people would be fuming with rage at the censorship.

Of course the conservative side (which is now all about free speech) did censor others amply when it had the upper hand (from McCarthy to the "parental advisory" stickers and album boycott campaigns from Mrs. Gore - funnily a Democrat, how times change).

Double standards as usual. If you want a free society, defend free speech for those you disagree with and consider "a danger".


The way I see it, the people in power try to suppress ideas they disagree with. It's just more problematic now because with technology, we're going to get to a point where suppressing ideas and the people who hold said ideas can be automated.

The thing about building cages and whips is they're inevitably used against the vulnerable.

It sounds good when you're building them..


We also don't, in general, shout our political opinions on street corners or in farmer's markets.

What seems to be changing is the online space looks more like those spaces, only our voices online are very loud.


It depends on the place. In Japan it is very common for cars, especially before elections, to roam the streets while shouting political stances. Politicians do the same at a road corners using a megaphone.

>Social cooling refers to the idea that if “you feel you are being watched, you change your behavior.” And the massive amounts of data being collected, especially online, is exxagerating this effect.

This is a strange perspective to me. I feel like I'm much more aware of being watched by the other users of a social media site when I post than of the inscrutable algorithms.


I know this post is only an hour old, but (in light of the article content) I found it amusing that there are no comments.

Just didn't see it. It is such an obvious idea when you read the authors take on it. It is presented perfectly for such a short article.

I know a lot of people are bringing this discussion back to social media which certainly has a dramatic effect, but it's interesting that there's a concurrent flame war over here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25761017 with a lot of people coming out against Apple's "Racial Equity and Justice Initiative".

Working at multiple tech companies and hanging out with people from others, I've never heard any techy people voice those kind of opinions in person. Are the people speaking up in that thread simply different people, or is there an afk social cooling happening too?


My personal bigger fear which leads to cooling isn't that big corps extract data about me and try to sell me things, but rather small, dedicated Twitter mobs (I'll say it, wokes).

Interesting article, and from 2017 so we are all more aware of how the tracking measures have continued to grow continuously since then.

Nice example of how one fact can be used to deduce/guess/assume the following traits, which of course won't all necessarily be correct or accurate. >> (Example – I have an advanced degree. This simple piece of data predicts that: I despise and fear Donald Trump and the Republicans; I am a good critical thinker who understands the difference between the high journalistic standards of the New York Times or the Washington Post and the non-existent ones of Fox “News,” Breitbart, etc.; I don’t believe in alien abductions or faked moon landings; I know that evolution and climate change are true beyond any reasonable doubt; I’m not a theist, much less a Christian, Mormon, or Islamic fundamentalist; etc. All that from just one bit of data. Imagine what else others know about you and me?) >>


Anyone read the book Daemon by Daniel Suarez? Sometimes it feels like we're heading in that direction, where each person has a reputation score, and everyone can see it.

When one side or another wants/gets to control the totality of life, including morality in the abstract (aside concrete actions) and what are "good ideas", that's the endgame.

That's regardless of whether this control falls under direct state power (as in China) or is shared between state and private corporations (as in the US).

That's also regardless of whether the control is total and absolute or not. It's enough that it exists as a presense to stiffle thinking freedom and social expression.


See also this Black Mirror episode: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosedive_(Black_Mirror)

Related: an illustrated guide

https://www.socialcooling.com/


Experiencing negative consequences and adjusting your behavior to avoid them is also called becoming a better person.

Previous HN discussions (about the source website that this article cites).

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14585882

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24627363


That just sounds like proper opsec

Isn't the opposite, a kind of social heating, what we are actually observing though? This model does not seem to predict what I feel we are actually observing.

This reminds me of the Hawthorne effect

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect


I was always doing that, both online and offline. It is not like I would be saying everything that I think everywhere.

A bunch of people just stormed the Capitol less than a week ago on account of being Terminally Online, I don't think there's a lot of evidence for this hypothesis.

It's pretty easy to post online pseudonymously so I don't feel like it's a big issue.

I post online a lot and the vast majority is pseudonymous or anonymous.


My policy is always to be considerate to other people, never to try to hurt someone's feelings on purpose, but beyond that, I feel like I'm generally being somewhat guarded even when it's anonymous.

It's not impossible that there could be some kind of leak, or that an algorithm could look at what you wrote, and compute some kind of signature based on what you wrote (eg: n-gram probabilities), and match it up with your other online identities. In general, you kind of have to assume that anything you write online could eventually be tied back to your public identity.

That being said, I tend to assume that if you said something your employer might disapprove of, it wouldn't be a problem unless what you said somehow gathered a lot of attention online. For that you'd have to be famous, or stir some serious shit on twitter. Even if the identities of everyone on HN were outed, I'm guessing mostly nobody would care, except if they found out Jeff Bezos was secretly posting hateful messages.


Unfortunately, it's very hard to keep a pseudonymous identify separate from your actual identify for a long period of time.

For example, in general my accounts related to video games go by one identify, while my other personal/professional accounts use my real name-ish. Problem happens when I have a discussion on a game account and want to reference something that I know because of activity in the other sphere. By linking to my real identify, the pseudonymous one has been identified. So, now I am careful what I say on those accounts, too, and I save my controversial opinions for in-person, offline discussions.


My friend texted me the other day. He figured out my HN account just while casually browsing. He just knew it was me. I’m pretty easily identifiable based on tying up some of my comments together here on Hacker News, as how many people live in Kansas that are software engineers and have a kid with a rare disability.

My wife on the other hand is an active member of the Libertarian party and is much more likely to express opinions than I am, but liberals think she’s a conservative and conservatives think she’s some crazy liberal. She doesn’t work so unless they “came for me” for her stated opinions, she’s pretty safe.


Your content isn't anonymous: who you are is distilled from what you say, creating a unique fingerprint. Doesn't matter if you your name is hnaccy or SoSoRoCoCo.

I change details, times, various things, just a little. Whenever I need to make a reference as a citiation, 20% of the facts change just slightly. Sometimes I'm a woman, sometimes I'm from a different state, sometimes it is a different company I worked for. These details don't matter to the content, but there is so much contradiction in my history that I hope to defeat the algorithms. I got the idea from how Firefox defeats browser fingerprinting (or tries to).

I also create new accounts routinely.

However, even HN knows who I am because I occasionally forget to use my randomized VPN, and HN keeps track of you.

I know this because I was banned from an IP address once and had to renew it from my ISP to come back to HN.


That will probably still cause social cooling, because you have to manage and be conscious what you are able to say on different identities. You are essentially training to be less spontaneous and more cautious about what you say in real life.

Employers get sued and sometimes they demand social media accounts during discovery. I decided a while ago that I’m not prepared to quietly defy a court order by trying to conceal an anonymous account, so instead I stifle a lot of what I really think because moral fashions always change: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

Many aspects of data collection, however, are not related to posting your thoughts online. As an example, think about ordering food with Uber Eats and the like. What if health insurers find a way to get their hands on that data, and start changing your rates based on what you eat? There are so many services that can't be used anonymously. Personally, I am using online services less and less because of this.

(edit: grammar)


Yet, I am seeing more sites require phone numbers to send an activation code before you can even use or make an account.

While I understand the value of anonymous public communication, I think it comes with a huge "bad-actor" problem that we haven't figured out how to offset.

Anonymity is a problem when it is used to commit crimes and law enforcement seems inadequately staffed to police cyber crimes even when the perpetrator isn't even anonymous or pseudo anonymous.

Do we need something like an Internet "drivers" license for anyone who wants to post content to the public? Analogous to needing a license to drive on public roads? Maybe that idea can be tied into Section 230 concerns? I'm sure there are obvious difficulties, just spitballing. Balancing liberty and safety isn't easy.


Oi! You got a licence for that post?!

I thought it was called a "loicense"

There should be several classes of license. One to read, one to comment, one to create content, and of course one for interactions like voting up or down, or liking.

Any violation in any of the categories would be cause for revoking the license. We can't have people creating content, for example, who have read illegal content. That's the mechanic at work behind disinformation.


I am curious, since this comes from being a good critical thinker, is it provably true for each of these news sources?

"(Example – I have an advanced degree. This simple piece of data predicts that: I despise and fear Donald Trump and the Republicans; I am a good critical thinker who understands the difference between the high journalistic standards of the New York Times or the Washington Post and the non-existent ones of Fox “News,” Breitbart, etc.;"


Are subjective professional standards ever provably true?

But to focus on that part of the statement misses the point of this example from the article: it's about what the individual is likely to believe predicted from a single datum. The objective truth of those beliefs isn't relevant.


But is that true? I've known plenty of well educated folks that do not "despise and fear" republicans. It seems that details are not so easy to discern from a single data point as he implies.

If it's not specifically true, it's proverbial. Stories such as this[1] abound.

Since I first read the post, it's been updated, but an earlier version in that same example called out unlikely to be Mormon. This similarly seems unlikely to me (of my acquaintances, being Mormon would dramatically increase your odds of having an advanced degree).

1: https://www.networkworld.com/article/2878394/mit-researchers...


I hope this is true. If that happens, the tragic events of last week will not repeat.

It's an interesting theory, and it may well be true, but I'm going to need to see studies before taking this idea seriously.

Facebook is conspiring with The Man to ruin your life over thoughtcrimes, so you... use it to livestream yourself participating in an insurrection? What exactly are people self-censoring, if not conspiracies to overthrow the United States?

I thought this was a cool theory the first time I read it, but it's aged poorly. If anything we might have the opposite problem... social media freeing people from the norms of polite society, which turned out to be load-bearing.


> ... social media freeing people from the norms of polite society, which turned out to be load-bearing.

I'm the first to acknowledge human nature has a dark side to it, but I think this phenomenon is heavily tech driven.

These problems weren't so bad back when mailing lists and forums were the predominant modes of communication.

We did still have issues back then, due to the flat-comment systems. In them, every man is an island, so you're routinely staking your reputation on everything you say, which is nuts. And commentary doesn't scale; comment sections are either dead, or overwhelmed. Once they're overwhelmed, people aren't getting their ideas noticed. We have a natural impulse to raise our voices to be heard, so we do that rhetorically.

Social media makes it far, far worse, because beyond the problems of the flat-comment system, it has an incentives problem. They get paid for more user engagement. That leads them to prioritize content that drives user engagement, which means everyone is being rewarded for amping things up. And this is feedback loop is fully automated by AI.


What's missed in that analysis is grouping.

People are now more likely to be performative in a way that is encouraged by identity group.

That would mean some people will say less and some will say more. Overall, though, you'll see more normalized groups wherein being different from that group has a higher cost.

In this way, both the extremism and the self-censorship we see can be explained.


If I understand the thesis here, people are allegedly afraid of Facebook the corporation and whomever it might share data with, not the groups of like-minded people they intentionally communicate with.

Sure, but the remaining 99.9999% of people are not participating in an insurrection. Their data is being collected too.

Their data is being collected, but if not even the wackiest conspiracy theorists care to practice the slightest bit of OPSEC, do you think regular people are changing their behavior over it?

No but that's precisely the thesis of OP. 20 years ago no one cared about global warming, just like not many care about data security right now. This is going to change in the future.



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