Losing followers, making friends

There’s a lot going on in this article, which I’ve taken plenty of quotations from below. It’s worth taking some time over, especially if you haven’t read Thinking, Fast & Slow (or it’s been a while since you did!)

Social media inherited and weaponised the chronological weblog feed. Showing content based on user activity hooked us in for longer. When platforms discovered anger and anxiety boosts screen time, the battle for our minds was lost.

Till this point the fundamental purpose of software was to support the user’s objectives. Somewhere, someone decided the purpose of users is to support the firm’s objectives. This shift permeates through the Internet. It’s why basic software is subscription-led. It’s why there’s little functional difference between Windows’ telemetry and spyware. It’s why leaving social media is so hard.

Like chronological timelines, users grew to expect these patterns. Non-commercial platforms adopted them because users expect them. While not as optimized as their commercial counterparts, inherited anti-patterns can lead to inherited behaviours.

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In his book Thinking Fast And Slow, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman describes two systems of thought…

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System 1 appears to prioritise speed over accuracy, which makes sense for Lion-scale problems. System 1 even cheats to avoid using System 2. When faced with a difficult question, System 1 can substitute it and answer a simpler one. When someone responds to a point that was never made that could be a System 1 substitution.

[…]

10 Years ago my life was extremely online. I’ve been the asshole so many times I can’t even count. Was I an asshole? Sure, but the exploitation of mental state in public spaces has a role to play. It’s a strange game. The only way to win is not to play.

Commercial platforms are filled with traps, some inherited, many homegrown. Wrapping it in Zuck’s latest bullshit won’t lead to change. Even without inherited dark patterns, behaviours become ingrained. Platforms designed to avoid these patterns need to consider this if exposed to the Dark Forest.

For everything else it’s becoming easier to just stay away. There are so many private and semi-private spaces far from the madding crowd. You just need to look. I did. I lost followers, but made friends.

Source: Escaping The Web’s Dark Forest | by Steve Lord

The omnishambles of Brexit

The UK is a pretty bad place to live at the moment. Except for the US, and well a lot of other places. I guess what I’m saying is that things are pretty bad politically and in terms of economically, but then the rest of the world is pretty screwed as well.

Union Flag with arrows going in different directions

Britain today is a poor and divided country. Parts of London and the southeast of England might be among the wealthiest places on the planet, but swaths of northern England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are among Western Europe’s poorest. Barely a decade ago, the average Brit was as wealthy as the average German. Now they are about 15 percent poorer—and 30 percent worse off than the typical American.

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In the 2016 Brexit referendum and then in the 2019 general election, Johnson offered voters the chance to “take back control” of their destiny, to rebalance the country and to pull it together again. On both occasions, he won.

Six years on, however, we can safely say his project is failing. His government is busy trying to wrest back more control rather than exercising what it has regained. It has not united the country. It has not even begun to level it up.

The truth is, this government won’t accomplish any of that. Until Britain stops trying to restore a vanished past—whether the one imagined by its pro-Brexit Leavers or its anti-Brexit Remainers—and begins to construct a viable future, the country as a whole never will.

Source: What Brexit Promised, and Boris Johnson Failed to Deliver | The Atlantic

Moonshine-enabling cow shoes

The Sunday Surfers (a name my group of friends give to ourselves when playing PlayStation) came across an abandoned moonshine still in the game Red Dead Redemption 2 last weekend. That possibly primed my brain to find this random article even more interesting than I did already!

The shoe was described in a Florida newspaper in 1922 which led to many people, including the authorities, knowing a great deal about the moonshiners’ ingenious way of preventing detection. The knowledge of the shoe didn’t immediately stop its use nor did it stop the moonshiners who just continued to think of new ways to evade police and get their product to an increasingly thirsty public.

Source: Moonshiners Wore Special Shoes To Evade the Law During Prohibition