Category Archives: Uncategorized

Can Art Survive Big Tech?

That’s a question posed by William Deresiewicz in his book, The Death of the Artist. He recently contributed an excerpt from the book to MIT’s Technology Review. There’s a link below but if you are not a subscriber, you will not be able to read the whole piece. Deresiewicz makes a very good case that art may no longer be sustainable in a world that, thanks to the Internet and all its myriad platforms, now makes art available for free or for next to nothing.

Take music for example. We all recall the major problems that arose with totally unregulated and unmonitored file sharing. Musicians and song writers were making art that people wanted but they wanted it for free. Now, those same artists are getting royalties from Pandora and the like but for 95% or more of them, it’s nowhere near enough to provide an even halfway decent income.

And visual art? It’s everywhere. Artists are finding audiences but no money. Stock photography royalties are a joke. And everything from logos to illustrations is being expropriated without payment or even credit given to the creators.

Deresiewicz makes the point that art has been demonetized. Art is becoming unsustainable, especially for newcomers and those who are trying new ways of seeing and sounding. Extrapolating from his excerpt, it seems reasonable for me to say that art may be stagnating, leaving us with a situation where an ever-decreasing number of sources are being followed and so many artists are abandoning their muse.

And the question arises, what happens to culture as art fades away?

Here’s that article link:

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/23/1015478/death-of-the-artist-excerpt/


Apple Bullies Pear

CreativeBloq has published a story this morning about tech-media mega-firm Apple claiming that itty bitty startup Pear has infringed on its logo! Really?

After praising Apple for its stance on privacy and user-control in my last post, I am now compelled to berate the company for its over-zealous pursuit of a claim that I see as utterly lacking any merit whatsoever. Does this logo look to you like it resembles Apple’s?

Original Pear logo

Had this gone to court, I don’t see how any jury relying on the “reasonable person” standard could claim this might confuse people and think they are seeing Apple. But of course, common sense and the legal field are hardly related to each other. And legal fees would probably have bankrupted the newcomer, so they made a small change that satisfied the Apple legal eagles:

Revised Pear logo

I think Tim Cook should be ashamed. My estimation of the company was so high for decades, from the time I bought my first Mac SE right up to my prior post. But that warm and fuzzy feeling has dissipated. Apple is just another mega-maniacal corporate behemoth seeking to crush anything it considers to be in its way.

This is one media firm that is no longer top of mind for me.

Here’s the URL to the CreativeBloq story:

https://bit.ly/3a8Niu2


Tim Cook and Apple vs. the Data-Industrial Complex

You may have heard that Tim Cook has announced changes soon to come in how Apple’s systems will deal with privacy issues and that Facebook is pretty angry about it. Here’s a link to an interview by GQ magazine in which Cook talks about what he terms the “Data-Industrial Complex” (shades of President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning in the 1950s about the Military-Industrial Complex”) and why Apple is working to give people the power to opt in or opt out of being tracked. I say, score one for the good guys!


Microsoft Tech Support Is AWFUL

I just need to vent. If Microsoft is supposed to be a leader for high-tech apps, we are in deep trouble. Recently, my MS AutoUpdate told me I could not update my Office 365 apps unless I upgraded by subscription. So I dutifully clicked the link, paid by money, and got the upgrade. MS proceeded to update my apps EXCEPT FOR EXCEL! For some reason AutoUpdate still says I need to upgrade my Office subscription. See below.

I tried their online chat. Worthless. Endless chain of useless suggestions. I tried calling their 877 number and was informed they no longer offer phone support. I tried another online help on my iPhone. This looked better but there was no apparent way to SEND my message to the support person online. No helpful hints or buttons or anything. Microsoft is worse than worthless. It is psychologically harmful.

End of rant.


Social Media: The New American Gods

Please pardon my shameless borrowing of the name of one of the more interesting streaming TV shows for this headline but it just seemed so much the perfect headline for this post. The Hollywood Reporter has an excellent guest column article by Jeff Orlowski, the filmmaker behind Netflix’s The Social Dilemma.

Orlowski’s thesis is that we are all unwitting Trumans, each starring in our individual versions of The Truman Show, unaware of how social media algorithms are programming us for their profit-at-any-cost advertising platforms. He notes, “While we think these platforms are connecting us to the world, they’re actually separating us from reality.” He then goes on to include this bombshell:

“When Facebook’s former director of monetization, Tim Kendall, was asked in our film what he was most worried about, he replied, ‘civil war.’ At the time that seemed alarmist, but today it feels prescient.”

The ring of truth. Still more: “The experts and tech insiders we interviewed in the film warned us about the dire consequences of letting Big Social play God.”

Orlowski concludes his column thus: “Our social media puppeteers also have a choice [reform or continue doing what they are doing]. Will they complacently watch their creation destroy democracies, or will they take responsibility for fixing the hate-filled mess they’ve made?”

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/social-media-put-us-all-in-our-own-truman-shows-threatening-our-democracy-guest-column


Schumpeter Predicted This 70 Years Ago

As a former student of Peter Drucker long before I came to study psychology, I would like to contribute the wisdom and prescience of probably Drucker’s greatest influencer, Joseph Schumpeter, from his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. (3rd ed., 1950)

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“…the typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field. He argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective. And this entails two further consequences of ominous significance.

“First, even if there were no political groups trying to influence him, the typical citizen would in political matters tend to yield to extra- rational or irrational prejudice and impulse….

“….Second, however, the weaker the logical element in the processes of the public mind and the more complete the absence of rational criticism and of the rationalizing influence of personal experience and responsibility, the greater are the opportunities for groups with an ax to grind. These groups may consist of professional politicians or of exponents of an economic interest or of idealists of one kind or another or of people simply interested in staging and managing political shows. The sociology of such groups is immaterial to the argument in hand. The only point that matters here is that, Human Nature in Politics being what it is, they are able to fashion and, within very wide limits, even to create the will of the people.”  (pp. 264-265)

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This comes from part 3 of the book, the section on democracy, wherein he dissects the construct of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” and “the common good.” He points out the fundamental flaws of these ideas and it is amazing to me that 70 years later his writing sounds like it was done yesterday.

I would suggest that a more heterodox, less inflamed consideration of current events is called for.


Time for a Reckoning

Selena Gomez has come out with a strong critique of social media and big tech. One might say that she sees social media as anti-social.

I note as well that Facebook critic Roger McNamee, an early Facebook mentor and facilitator who has turned against Zuckerberg & Co., has recently blamed the Washington meltdown on Facebook and its bottom-line-focus-at-all-cost business model for facilitating it. I agree with McNamee and think his idea of focusing on the social media firms’ business models that rely on algorithms designed to increase viewers’ time on site so as to justify advertisers buying time on the platforms is what needs to be addressed. In this CNBC interview he also implicates social media for violence perpetrated by the far left.

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/01/07/banning-trumps-facebook-account-is-a-small-move-roger-mcnamee.html

McNamee says he doesn’t think censorship is the answer as he is a strong first amendment advocate. But business models are another issue altogether. I commend him for his take on this issue.


Do Social Media Fuel Insurrection?

Given the events of the past 24 hours in Washington, D.C., what are we to make of what’s happened? Is there something about social media use that allows its messages to get past our built-in censors and sense of rationality? There has always been a conflict between emotion or affect and rationality or reason. And history has shown that affect tends to trump reason. “Feelings” overpower reasoning; they take some kind of intracranial short cut (or, perhaps, detour would be a better descriptor), bypassing the left side of the brain overall and the cerebral cortex in particular, putting hormonal responses into overdrive while driving out any prior disposition to thinking before acting.

Social media are clearly being weaponized. Whether it’s ISIS recruitment or QAnon and other conspiracy theories, bad results are being propagated through the use of otherwise benign media. Congress seems intent on reining in the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets. Perhaps the time has come when they should be held to the same standards as the print media, who can be held liable for messages that they disseminate.

The troubling question is, however, who would be the censors? Is it conceivably possible to obtain an unbiased, objective evaluation of media content? I would argue, not at this time. Perhaps we turn the job over to AI? But then, we already have seen critiques that point out programmers’ own biases tend to manifest in their AI-driven constructs. Given the current state of Americans’ distrust of print or “mainstream” media, could we expect anything better in the electronic media?

This is the defining conundrum of our time.


Does Social Media Use Fuel Depression?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says this seems to be the case. The study recruited over 1,300 people between 18 and 30. They were screened at the start for symptoms of depression. Demographic, biographical, and behavioral data were also collected.

According to a review of the study published in Medium (https://elemental.medium.com/a-new-study-strengthens-the-case-that-social-media-use-fuels-depression-5eabf51b2918), after six months the researchers found “…that among those who were not depressed at the start of the study, heavy social media use was robustly associated with the emergence of depression. The more time a nondepressed person spent on social media at the start of the study, the greater the odds that person would go on to develop depression” (para. 5).

Study subjects who were on social media for five hours or more per day were nearly three times as likely to develop depressive symptoms as those who used social media two hours or less per day.

“Among the roughly 300 people who fell into the lightest tier of social media use, about 6% developed depression during the study. Among the roughly 150 people who fell into the heaviest-use tier, that figures jumped to 17%…” per the Medium review (para. 7).

The study also looked at those who were already exhibiting depressive symptoms at the start of the study and found that they were averaging about three hours a day on social media. Their use of social media did not increase during the six-month study period.

The research article itself is in press at the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The title is “Temporal Associations Between Social Media Use and Depression.” Authors are Primack, B.A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J.E., Escobar-Viera, C.G., and Fine, M.J. The Science Direct database has the full text.


Elon Musk Owes It All to Playing Video Games

So he says in this article in Inc. magazine. Apparently, he got interested in programming after starting to play video games. He thought he could make his own games. He started on a Commodore computer with the Basic language—remember?

He sold his first video game for $500 at the age of 12. Read more here:

https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/elon-musk-programming-coding-video-games-tesla.html


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