Category: Technology

Social Media as a Totalitarian Framework

I read an interesting article over at the New Yorker titled “How George Orwell Predicted The Challenge of Writing Today”. One of the points made in the article was that totalitarian societies emphasize the intimate knowledge people have of one another. A sort of enforced closeness and awareness of the other person. Another aspect of totalitarian societies is that people are punished seemingly at random. It’s not so much who the person is or why the person is targetted, it is that anybody can be targetted for any time and any reason.

These two concepts stood out to me because, in essence, social media enforces both these ideas. Much has been made of the Facebook memo which declared that connecting the world is the most important thing, justifying any form of underhanded technique to achieve it. Further, anyone who has been online for more than a few months is aware of just how quickly denizens of the Internet will gang up on someone for the slightest misstep; no offense is too small for an overblown reaction. It strikes me, then that, however unintentionally, the social media tech giants have created a foundation for a totalitarian society. This is a foundation, however, with an important difference.

In previous totalitarian states, there was always a central body at the top. China is a perfect example of this. At the top of the heap is the ruling Chinese party in Beijing, which in turn is ruled by Xi Jingping. With the social media companies, however, there is no ruling party. It’s just a framework. Control goes to those who can game the system the best. Right now that would appear to be Russia. No doubt China will level its power on the world later as circumstances dictate. In the meantime, the tech companies will pursue their own, largely capital-based interests.

Silicon Valley has, for some time now, been in the thrall of a pseudo-Randian, neo-Libertarian philosophy in which making money is the goal and everything else is just a series of data points to manage. Despite outward appearances, Google, Facebook and others will happily make any deal that gives them more profit. Witness Google, which dropped their famouse “Don’t be Evil” slogan recently and only pulled out of a deal with the Department of Defense thanks to a public lashing generated by some of their own employees. Facebook, of course, has shown no such problem with ethics in general and Bezos has employees that pass out on the production line lest they be fired for missing a performance goal.

If the Trump administration were more aware of the possibilities it would quietly engage in back-room deals with these companies to give them the market profits they crave in exchange for access to the raw data that the tech companies have accumulated. Trump could protect them from legislative backlash and in return the companies could supply data, propaganda and surveillance. If the tech companies were smart they would quietly cultivate Trump’s favor. He’s not a complicated man. He likes people who idolize him and he does favors for them. It would not take much to learn how to control his favor. One could take things a step further and see the two forces working together to create a propaganda campaign for Trump as a permanent President.

I don’t actually think things would go this far, nor do I really want it to happen. It just strikes me American society is on the cusp of this idea, even if it is not the direction that things will ultimately travel. Still, one hopes one day some politician makes the same realization I have briefly made just now and works on legislation to prevent this very outcome from occurring. It’s clear things will likely not change without serious government intervention; the tech companies are just too entrenched.

OspreyForth Update, January 12

OspreyForth is now on Sourceforge! I wanted to have OspreyForth be more complete before uploading it, but I decided to go ahead an upload it. An error with Git on my end caused me to set up a Mercurial repo, which is where the code is currently held (perhaps I can do some kind of repo-sharing in the future).

I still have to set up the wiki pages for the project, but first I’d like to work on some example projects to show off the usability of the code.

The limits of a decentralized social network

I like the idea of a decentralized social network. Everything is a node and all the nodes interact, allowing users to control of their content and information and so forth.

That said, I think a serious drawback is general discovery. With a messageboard, web forum or the like, one just has to peruse the posts and threads and jump in.

With Friendica, it seems a bit more complicated. I have to hope the friend suggestions function updates with an interesting person to follow, or I have to find a server that is open to the public to see what interesting conversations are going on. It’s the same way with the other social networks (GNUSocial, Mastodon, etc).

Of course, what I could do is sign up with another server, but that seems to bypass the purpose of a decentralized network to begin with. An account on another server means my information is on machines under someone else’s control. It’s the Facebook issue again on a smaller scale.

I’m not sure what the solution is, or even if there is one. It just seems like the whole decentralized social media concept is nearly there, but not quite.

Read the original post on our social network!

OspreyForth Update, September 3

This post is a quick update and summary of my project thus far. Things have been progressing reasonably well, but there are always hurdles, so one can only hope for the best. View full article »

Check out NASA’s Voyager Posters

As part of Voyager’s 40th Anniversary, NASA’s JPL has produced a series of downloadable posters
Voyager – Downloads

In celebration of Voyagers’ Interstellar voyage, we’ve added these Posters and Infographics for you to download, print, and share. Click on any of the thumbnails below to learn more and download a free poster-sized image. Explore the Voyager mission through these infographics….


Read the original post on Friendica

So true… 2017-08-31 02:51:05:

Ah yes… I remember those times

Angie Dokos

2017-08-23 17:00:56



Read the original post on Friendica

I wish I could pull Friendica posts into my WordPress site

A thought on the difficulties of managing a social networking site and a personal website…

A couple of things have caused me not to post to my site as often. One is that I’m busy. Aside from work I have quite a few projects I’m working on. The other is that I seem to spend more time on Friendica than this website.

I don’t converse with very many people on Friendica, mind you. Almost no one ever responds to my posts. I do pull in some very interesting feeds, though. It would be nice to repost those feeds into my timeline and have it somehow show up on the blog.

I can’t spend equal time among both. One inevitably is going to be the primary.

A MIDI Interface for toys

This is interesting because it’s using Teensy (a tiny Arduino clone) and a USB-MIDI interface to take noise-making toys and turn them into MIDI devices. Fun, but the question is, does this make the really annoying toys even more annoying?

(What hath mad science wrought?!)

Check out the article here.

Being without Internet is a major pain…

This is one of those things where I envy the hermits that can live in a cabin somewhere without technology. My Internet has been down for about two weeks now. The first week it was because of a connection issue. The second week because I got fed up and cancelled service. I’ll be getting the unlimited plan on my phone with tethering options (about 10gb limit for tethering, although I honestly think it should also be unlimited). It should be interesting relying on my phone for all things connection, but having a home server wasn’t working out for me and I have a VPS anyway, so that seems the way to go.

Unfortunately, the new plan doesn’t kick in for a few days, so in the meantime I’ve been running up the bills on my phone service. This leads to a great big “ugh”, or it will be when the bill comes. Ugh!

Ghost in the Shell is a pile of garbage

What an execrable mess. It’s so embarrassing when a well-respected piece of storytelling is remade under the Hollywood banner and thoroughly butchered. You would think with so much access to talent and resources, a Hollywood film would take the work to the next level. Instead, it shoves it to the depths. This film is not worth anyone’s money. View full article »