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Should we “resist trying to make things better” when it comes to online misinformation?

This is a provocative interview with Alex Stamos, “the former head of security at Facebook who now heads up the Stanford Internet Observatory, which does deep dives into the ways people abuse the internet”. His argument is that social media companies (like Twitter) sometimes try to hard to make the world better, which he thinks should be “resisted”.

I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, I think we absolutely do need to be worried about misinformation. On the other, he does have a very good point about people being complicit in their own radicalisation. It’s complicated.

I think what has happened is there was a massive overestimation of the capability of mis- and disinformation to change people’s minds — of its actual persuasive power. That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, but we have to reframe how we look at it — as less of something that is done to us and more of a supply and demand problem. We live in a world where people can choose to seal themselves into an information environment that reinforces their preconceived notions, that reinforces the things they want to believe about themselves and about others. And in doing so, they can participate in their own radicalization. They can participate in fooling themselves, but that is not something that’s necessarily being done to them.

[…]

The fundamental problem is that there’s a fundamental disagreement inside people’s heads — that people are inconsistent on what responsibility they believe information intermediaries should have for making society better. People generally believe that if something is against their side, that the platforms have a huge responsibility. And if something is on their side, [the platforms] should have no responsibility. It’s extremely rare to find people who are consistent in this.

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Any technological innovation, you’re going to have some kind of balancing act. The problem is, our political discussion of these things never takes those balances into effect. If you are super into privacy, then you have to also recognize that when you provide people private communication, that some subset of people will use that in ways that you disagree with, in ways that are illegal in ways, and sometimes in some cases that are extremely harmful. The reality is that we have to have these kinds of trade-offs.

Source: Are we too worried about misinformation? | Vox

Woke, broke, and complicated

I thought the comments about how young people’s desire for instant gratification was nothing particularly new. However, it is worth thinking about the desire for more ‘green’ options being coupled with the desire to get everything instantly. The two are somewhat in tension.

Uncertainty about the future may be encouraging impulsive spending of limited resources in the present. The young were disrupted more by covid than other generations and are now enjoying the rebound. According to McKinsey, American millennials (born between 1980 and the late 1990s) spent 17% more in the year to March 2022 than they did in the year before. Despite this short-term recovery from the dark days of the pandemic, their long-term prospects are much less good.

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Youngsters’ appetite for instant gratification is also fuelling some distinctly ungreen consumer habits. The young have virtually invented quick commerce, observes Isabelle Allen of kpmg. And that convenience is affordable because it fails to price in all its externalities. The environmental benefits of eating plants rather than meat can be quickly undone if meals are delivered in small batches by a courier on a petrol-powered motorbike. Shein, a Chinese clothes retailer that is the fastest in fast fashion, tops surveys as a Gen Z favourite in the West, despite being criticised for waste; its fashionable garments are cheap enough to throw on once and then throw away. Like everyone else the young are, then, contradictory—because, like everyone else, they are only human.

Source: How the young spend their money | The Economist

The art of Battle Royale-style video games

My kids like Fortnite and Warzone. The backstory to the genre, as told in this article is really interesting, along with the realisation that it fuses storytelling and competition.

Video games broadly fall into two categories: those which, like sports, emphasize competition, and those which, like films, emphasize storytelling. Battle royale is a rare harmonious combination, a mode that encourages both dynamic, dramatic vignettes and high-stakes rivalry. At Infinity Ward, the Los Angeles-based co-developer of the Call of Duty series, which has long established the template for online competitive shooting games, PUBG was disruptive and divisive. “You could see it propagating through the office like wildfire,” Joe Cecot, the studio’s multiplayer-design director, said. “People were, like, ‘How do we make something like this? What would our twist on this be?’ ”

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In the video-game medium, where players prize novelty—and, typically, not social commentary—the key to battle royale’s future may lie not in tweaking its rules but in deepening its story. In November, Activision released Warzone 2.0, which introduces some new mechanics. There’s now more than one safe circle, so players are herded into pockets of refuge, and it’s possible to interrogate downed opponents, making them reveal the position of their teammates. These embellishments add subtle points of difference, but it’s unlikely that they’ll energize the form. “Battle royale will now always be a part of the tool kit, in the same way that we’re never not going to have the fifty-two-card deck,” Lantz said. “But there’s not a lot of people making new games for the fifty-two-card deck. When a thirteen-year-old hears that there’s a new battle-royale game coming out today, it’s already a little bit boring. Like, you know, boomer stuff.”

Source: How “Battle Royale” Took Over Video Games | The New Yorker