Tag: Cory Doctorow (page 1 of 6)

Epistemological chaos and denialism

Good stuff from Cory Doctorow on how Big Tobacco invented the playbook and it’s been refined in other industries (especially online) ever since.

Denial thrives on epistemological chaos: a denialist doesn’t want to convince you that smoking is safe, they just want to convince that it’s impossible to say whether smoking is safe or not. Denial weaponizes ideas like “balance,” demanding that “both sides” of every issue be presented so the public can decide. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a believer in dialetical materialism as you are likely to find, but I also know that keeping an open mind doesn’t require that you open so wide that your brains fall out.

The bad-faith “balance” game is used by fraudsters and crooks to sow doubt. It’s how homeopaths, anti-vaxers, eugenicists, raw milk pushers and other members of the Paltrow-Industrial Complex played the BBC and other sober-sided media outlets, demanding that they be given airtime to rebut scientists’ careful, empirical claims with junk they made up on the spot.

This is not a harmless pastime. The pandemic revealed the high price of epistemological chaos, of replacing informed debate with cynical doubt. Argue with an anti-vaxer and you’ll soon realize that you don’t merely disagree on what’s true — you disagree on whether there is such a thing as truth, and, if there is, how it can be known.

Source: I quit. | Cory Doctorow | Medium

A web-based commonplace book

It’s always great to hear Cory read his own work as he’s such an engaging speaker. This is a particularly interesting example, however, as it meshes so well with my experience of writing in the open for the last 15+ years.

This week on my podcast, my inaugural column for Medium, The Memex Method, a reflection on 20 years of blogging, and how it has affected my writing.

Source: The Memex Method | Cory Doctorow’s craphound.com

Friday fadings

I’m putting this together quickly before heading off to the Lake District camping with my son for a couple of nights. I’m pretty close to burnout with all of the things that have happened recently, so need some time on top of mountains and under the stars 🏕️


Slack verticals vs Microsoft

The Slack Social Network

Slack Connect is about more than chat: not only can you have multiple companies in one channel, you can also manage the flow of data between different organizations; to put it another way, while Microsoft is busy building an operating system in the cloud, Slack has decided to build the enterprise social network. Or, to put it in visual terms, Microsoft is a vertical company, and Slack has gone fully horizontal.

Ben Thompson (Stratechery)

The difference between consulting full-time now versus when I last did it in 2017 is that everyone adds you to their Slack workspace. This is simultaneously fantastic and terrible. What’s being described here is more on the ‘Work OS’ stuff I shared in last week’s link roundup.

See also Stephen Downes’ commentary on mini-apps that perform particular functions inside other apps.


Only 9% of visitors give GDPR consent to be tracked

Advertising funded businesses are aware that the minority of visitors want to give consent.

They are simply riding the ad train and milking the cash cow for as long as they can get away with before GDPR gets enforced and they either shut down, adapt to a more sustainable business model or explore even more privacy invasive practices.

And the alternative to the advertising-funded web? Charge for services. And have your premium subscribers fund the free plans.

Marko Saric

This is interesting, and backs up the findings in this journal article about the ‘dark patterns’ prevalent around GDPR consent on the web. The author of this post found that only 48% of people clicked on the banner and, as the title states, only 9% of those gave permission to be tracked.


Oak National Academy: lockdown saviour or DfE tool?

There are some who are alarmed by the nature of the creature that the DfE has helped bring to life, seeing Oak as an enterprise established by a narrow strata of figures from DfE-favoured multi-academy trusts; and as a potential vehicle for the department to promote a “traditionalist” agenda in teaching, or even create the subject matter of a government-approved curriculum.

John Morgan (TES)

I welcome this critical article in the TES of Oak National Academy. My two children find the lessons ‘cringey’, not every subject is covered, and the more you look into it, the more it seems like a front for a pedagogical coup.


The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal

Journal entries should provide not only a record of what happened but how we reacted emotionally; writing it down brings a certain clarity that puts things in perspective. In other cases, it’s a form of mental rehearsal to prepare for particularly sensitive issues where there’s no one to talk with but yourself. Journals can also be the best way to think through big-bet decisions and test one’s logic.

Dan Ciampa (Harvard Business Review

When I turned 18, I decided to keep a diary of my adult life. After about a decade, that had become a sporadic record of times when things weren’t going so well. Now, 21 years later, I merely keep my #HashtagADay journal up-to-date.

But writing things down is really useful, as is having someone to talk to with whom you don’t have an emotion-based relationship. After nine sessions of CBT, I wish I’d had someone like my therapist to talk to at a much younger age. Not because I’m ‘broken’ but because I’m human.


Rome burning

Top 10 books about tumultuous times

There’s nothing like a crisis of survival to show people’s true natures. Though I’ve written a good deal about tumultuous times, both fiction (English Passengers) and non-fiction (Rome: a History in Seven Sackings), I can’t say I’m too interested in the tumult itself. I’m more interested in the decisions people make during such crises – how they ride the wave.

Matthew Kneale (THe GUardian)

I don’t think I’d heard of any of these books before reading this article! That being said, I’ve just joined Verso’s new Book Club so my backlog just got a lot longer…


Full Employment

Keynes once proposed that we could jump-start an economy by paying half the unemployed people to dig holes and the other half to fill them in.

No one’s really tried that experiment, but we did just spend 150 years subsidizing our ancestors to dig hydrocarbons out of the ground. Now we’ll spend 200-300 years subsidizing our descendants to put them back in there.

Cory Doctorow (Locus Online)

I’ve quoted the end of this fantastic article, but you should read the whole thing. Doctorow, in his own inimitable way, absolutely eviscerates the prediction that a ‘General Artificial Intelligence’ will destroy most jobs.


Header image by Patrick Hendry