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The embedded power of algorithms | openDemocracy

The embedded power of algorithms | openDemocracy | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
David Beer on Facebook's "experiment" and what it reveals about the power of algorithms to shape our lives and perception.
Artur Alves's insight:
« Rather than being an exception, the Facebook news feed revelations might actually be understood as just one revealing example of the embedded part that algorithms now play in our lives. The power of algorithms is to be found in the way that they sort, filter and manipulate the things that we encounter. This is not new. This is part of an established set of media infrastructures in which we now live – the power of which has been escalating over recent years with the incorporation of mobile devices into our bodily practices, with new types of mediated consumption, streaming, and the general rise of data accumulation and extraction. If we pause to reflect, we can begin to imagine the scale of influence that algorithms are now capable of having upon our lives. Algorithms define what is visible to us. The result is that they have the power to shape our tastes, to reconfigure our interests and to potentially define how we understand and engage with the world around us. (...) But what emerges from the Facebook news feed story is the critical point that these algorithmic media forms are not neutral. That is to say, it is not just when they are explicitly being used to manipulate emotions that they have consequences. These algorithms are always filtering and sorting, and as such, they are making decisions about what is visible. These are active systems that shape our encounters and our everyday experiences. In many instances they are largely invisible within the technical structures of which they are a part. Each of these algorithmic processes might look inconsequential: a recommendation of a TV show here, or a suggestion of who to follow there. But taken collectively, we can see their potential power. «
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What is Facebook’s mission? It’s time to decide.

What is Facebook’s mission? It’s time to decide. | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
At this point, it's more than a social network.
Artur Alves's insight:
In all fairness, the real question seems to be: how much of its vision of itself as a clearing-house for targeted advertising and its strategy of centralization of media content would Facebook be willing to forgo in order to reinforce its useful image as a company that focuses on human networking?

«In the current kerfuffle over whether the fake news and misinformation that proliferated on the site might have influenced the outcome of the 2016 election, Facebook’s difficulty in acknowledging whether it’s simply a provider of pleasant connections or a public utility with real obligations has come to the fore. The criticisms have illuminated Facebook’s crisis of mission: profitable lifestyle platform or force for common good? More than a decade after its launch, its creator is still trying to figure out what it’s supposed to be — but it’s frankly irresponsible to remain undecided for much longer.«
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Former Trending News Writer Slams Facebook: 'They Treated Us Like Garbage'

Former Trending News Writer Slams Facebook: 'They Treated Us Like Garbage' | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
On Monday, a woman identifying herself as a former writer for Facebook’s trending section took to Twitter to criticize the social media giant, saying the solution to the site’s current fake news problem is the editorial team it fired with “no...
Artur Alves's insight:
« Sampathkumar had similarly harsh words for Gizmodo, which she blamed for the “hack job” that led, in part, to Facebook firing the entire trending news team. In May, Gizmodo published a story revealing that the trending section was operated by human curators (not an algorithm, as the company had previously claimed) with one worker claiming that they saw colleagues regularly suppressing conservative news. “Instead of fact checking and letting the news team full of real reporters do our job, they cowed to right-wing pressure and advertisers,” wrote Sampathkumar. “They believed the hack job, false Gizmodo stories instead of their own reporters and their own algorithm which tracked everything we did. Result was rampant proliferation of fake news. It could have easily been avoided had they treated their human team of writers...as humans.” »
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Facebook isn't looking out for your privacy. It wants your data for itself

Facebook isn't looking out for your privacy. It wants your data for itself | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Don’t be fooled by the social network’s hostile response to Admiral’s plan to price car insurance based on posts
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We Need to Stop Taking Facebook's Word For It 

We Need to Stop Taking Facebook's Word For It  | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
In the days since the election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally started publicly confronting Facebook’s fake news problem.
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Campaign to Halve Europe’s Food Waste

Campaign to Halve Europe’s Food Waste | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The Sustainable Food Trust has recently backed a new campaign to halve food waste in Europe. Martin Bowman, campaigner for This Is Rubbish talks more about how you can get involved.
Artur Alves's insight:
"Now an incredible movement is beginning to mobilise around Europe to call for action. Already 19 organisations from across Europe have backed our statement calling on the European Parliament to cut Europe’s food waste in half. They range from Feedback, the organisation Tristram Stuart founded, Europe-wide environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth Europe and national groups like Stop Food Wasting Movement Denmark, to think tanks and consultancy firms like the New Economics Foundation and Orbisa. We’re pleased to say that the Sustainable Food Trust is now also a member of this group. This is already an unprecedented coalition of organisations linking food waste movements across the continent, and support is growing all the time."
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Playing with History in 'Civilization' : What Sid Meier’s Video Game Empire Got Right and wrong

Playing with History in 'Civilization' : What Sid Meier’s Video Game Empire Got Right and wrong | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Twenty-five years ago, Meier turned human history into a video game, and sold 33 million copies along the way. With the launch of Civilization VI, Kanishk Tharoor takes a closer look at its impact.
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Social Media’s Dial-Up Ancestor: The Bulletin Board System

Social Media’s Dial-Up Ancestor: The Bulletin Board System | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The history of the BBS shows that pre-Internet social media was pretty great
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Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Google is the latest tech company to drop the longstanding wall between anonymous online ad tracking and user’s names.
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The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks

The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
How a technophobic Oxford primatologist became Silicon Valley’s social networking guru
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Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Share Data with Location-based Social Media Surveillance Startup

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Share Data with Location-based Social Media Surveillance Startup | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites were sharing users’ data with Geofeedia, a Location-based social media monitoring startup, which allows companies, journalist, as well as law enforcement agencies to gather intelligence from...
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How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia

How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
As a college student in New York City, I marveled that the city let me eat poached eggs with halloumi cheese and Moroccan spiced pita for breakfast, a spicy-swe…
Artur Alves's insight:
MSG and xenophobia: there is no such thing as "Chinese restaurant syndrome."

"That MSG isn’t the poison we’ve made it out to be has been well-established. News stories are written regularly about the lack of evidence tying MSG to negative health effects. (Read here and here, for example. Or here, here, here, here and here.) Still, Yelp reviews of Chinese restaurants tell tales of racing hearts, sleepless nights and tingling limbs from dishes “laden with MSG.” Even when the science is clear, it takes a lot to overwrite a stigma, especially when that stigma is about more than just food."
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This is where your smartphone battery begins

This is where your smartphone battery begins | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Workers, including children, labor in harsh and dangerous conditions to meet the world’s soaring demand for cobalt, a mineral essential to powering electric vehicles, laptops, and smartphones, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.
Artur Alves's insight:

"The Post traced this cobalt pipeline and, for the first time, showed how cobalt mined in these harsh conditions ends up in popular consumer products. It moves from small-scale Congolese mines to a single Chinese company — Congo DongFang International Mining, part of one of the world’s biggest cobalt producers, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt — that for years has supplied some of the world’s largest battery makers. They, in turn, have produced the batteries found inside products such as Apple’s iPhones — a finding that calls into question corporate assertions that they are capable of monitoring their supply chains for human rights abuses or child labor. "
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Innovation is in all the wrong places

Innovation is in all the wrong places | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
I live a pretty cosmopolitan futuristic life atop a glass skyscraper in New York City, but I’ve yet to get a pizza delivered by drone, order a taxi from..
Artur Alves's insight:
"Maybe you do need an innovation lab. Maybe working with startups is key. Maybe your organization needs impetus and expertise — but for goodness sake, no more iBeacon-driven vending machines, no more 3D-printed trinkets. Let’s stop thinking of technology as a trendy tattoo — a surface-level commitment best kept on a conspicuous but not often used part of the body. Let’s think of it as oxygen — essential to the beating heart of your business."
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Students Have 'Dismaying' Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds

Students Have 'Dismaying' Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Stanford researchers assessed students from middle school to college and found they struggled to distinguish ads from articles, neutral sources from biased ones and fake accounts from real ones.
Artur Alves's insight:
«Middle school, high school and college students in 12 states were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments and articles. More than 7,800 student responses were collected. In exercise after exercise, the researchers were "shocked" — their word, not ours — by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information. The students displayed a "stunning and dismaying consistency" in their responses, the researchers wrote, getting duped again and again. They weren't looking for high-level analysis of data but just a "reasonable bar" of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles.«
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CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time

CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The move by Chinese scientists could spark a biomedical duel between China and the United States.
Artur Alves's insight:
«Lu’s trial received ethical approval from a hospital review board in July. Injections into participants were supposed to begin in August but the date was pushed back, Lu says, because culturing and amplifying the cells took longer than expected and then the team ran into China’s October holidays.
The researchers removed immune cells from the recipient’s blood and then disabled a gene in them using CRISPR–Cas9, which combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut. The disabled gene codes for the protein PD-1, which normally puts the brakes on a cell’s immune response: cancers take advantage of that function to proliferate. Lu’s team then cultured the edited cells, increasing their number, and injected them back into the patient, who has metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. The hope is that, without PD-1, the edited cells will attack and defeat the cancer.»
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Twitter Rolls Out New And Long-Awaited Anti-Harassment Tools

Twitter Rolls Out New And Long-Awaited Anti-Harassment Tools | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

At a pivotal moment, the company is introducing a mute filter, muted conversation threads, and user report infrastructure

Artur Alves's insight:
After major criticism of Twitter's inaction on hate speech and harassment, the company is rolling out ways to filter out the timelines.

"Twitter’s new mute tool will go a step further, allowing users to mute entire conversation threads. This will allow users to stop receiving notifications from a specific Twitter thread without removing the thread from your timeline or blocking any users. And according to Twitter, you’ll only be able to mute conversations that relate to a tweet you’re included in (where your handle is mentioned)."
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How Technology Is Destroying Jobs

How Technology Is Destroying Jobs | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Automation is reducing the need for people in many jobs. Are we facing a future of stagnant income and worsening inequality?
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What Exactly Is Internet Governance? It’s Complicated.

What Exactly Is Internet Governance? It’s Complicated. | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
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A gentle introduction to the ins and outs of Internet Governance
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Computer Scientists Doubt Facebook's Trending Algorithm Can Stop Fake News

Computer Scientists Doubt Facebook's Trending Algorithm Can Stop Fake News | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The Trending product has repeatedly promoted false news, and experts say it may get worse as the company scales Trendin
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From the Institute: Populism and Digital Democracy | Berggruen Insights

From the Institute: Populism and Digital Democracy | Berggruen Insights | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
New technologies offer the reality of much wider access to political information and conversation, and the potential for greater governmental transparency and citizen participation . They also enable money to buy attention, simplistic mass messages to displace more sophisticated information an
Artur Alves's insight:
"We live in an era we might call the after-party. Conventional political parties still exist, but have lost much of their capacity to organize political competition and compromises. They are prime examples of the institutional deficit that shapes media and politics today. In their place are a variety of mechanisms for channeling money into media and a variety of mini-movements that find it hard to gain realistic purchase on practical problems. Something good could be developed to replace political parties. But in the meantime, we are in a bit of the situation of late-night revelers who want to keep going after the formally organized parties close. There can be some great moments for a range of individuals and small groups. There is likely to be a lot of risk-taking. And there will probably be some real stupidity. "
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Disenfranchised by Bad Design

There is in fact a widespread problem with ballots in the United States: they’re often horribly designed.
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Facebook Deleted A Parody Account To Avoid Being Blocked In Brazil

Facebook Deleted A Parody Account To Avoid Being Blocked In Brazil | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The decision to take down a satirical page and hand over the owner's IP address came after a court threatened to temporarily block th
Artur Alves's insight:
"Facebook has complied with a demand by a judge in Brazil to take down a satirical page or face being blocked throughout the country for 24 hours. The case centered on an account that parodied Udo Döhler, a candidate for mayor in the city of Joinville. On Monday, the Electoral Court of Joinville issued a decision that demanded that Facebook take down the page or be blocked throughout the country for 24 hours. Facebook later on Monday obtained a court certificate that recognized that the company took down the page that originally generated the complaint, a spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed News. The company also agreed to turn over the IP address of the user who was running the Döhler parody page, the spokesperson said."
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More accountability for big-data algorithms

More accountability for big-data algorithms | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
To avoid bias and improve transparency, algorithm designers must make data sources and profiles public.
Artur Alves's insight:
No transparency, scrutiny, or accountability in algorithms keeps hidden the new social structures emerging from widespread use of communication technologies.

"Some of that scrutiny deserves a more important target. In a short space of time, the equations of big-data algorithms have permeated almost every aspect of our lives. A massive industry has grown up to comb and combine huge data sets — documenting, for example, Internet habits — to generate profiles of individuals. These often target advertising, but also inform decisions on credit, insurance and more. They help to control the news or adverts we see, and whether we get hired or fired. They can determine whether surveillance and law-enforcement agencies flag us as likely activists or dissidents — or potential security or criminal threats. It’s not just popular scrutiny that is lacking. 

Largely absent from the widespread use of such algorithms are the rules and safeguards that govern almost every other aspect of life in a democracy: adequate oversight, checks and balances, appeals, due process, and the right to have past offences removed from records after a statutory time."
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Some Like It Bot

Some Like It Bot | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Artificial intelligence has captured the rhythm of science fiction. For example, the script of a new science fiction short is the creation of a bot. Although th…
Artur Alves's insight:
"Bots and algorithms that can generate content or augment the work of human writers aren’t new. They’ve been used to write about sports and finance for TV networks and financial analysis firms and automatically generate stories about earthquakes and homicides for the Los Angeles Times. This month, the people behind the film “Morgan” released a trailer that had been created by Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence product. On Kickstarter, screenwriter William Goldwin successfully raised over $30,000 for “Impossible Things,” a horror film whose core narrative elements were determined by an AI that curated data from over 3,000 films. But now writers and artists are starting to use algorithms and AIs to do something that many people think should be impossible for a machine: entertain us. I wrote the first paragraph of this article — if indeed we can call it writing — using a tool created by a man named Jamie Brew. He’s the head writer at the satirical website Clickhole, but in his spare time he developed a predictive text program that has allowed him to generate strange and hilarious parodies by feeding it all different types of content: X-Files scripts, Craigslist ads, romance novels, IMDb content warnings, the grammar rules of Strunk and White and synopses of Batman: The Animated Series.
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The idea of robots creating our entertainment might sound dystopian, but to Brew, Goodwin and Sharp, it’s not about outsourcing creativity to machines but rather using machines to help people express their creativity in new ways. Computer-generated text can already make us laugh with its Mad Libs absurdity or move us emotionally through serendipitous connections; perhaps someday it will be capable of entertaining us in even more nuanced ways. Regardless, it seems like there will always be a human hand and heart in the mix, whether it’s creating the algorithm, writing the source material or guiding the choices of the machine more directly."
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The batteries in your favorite devices are literally covering Chinese villages in black soot

The batteries in your favorite devices are literally covering Chinese villages in black soot | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR 

A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere.

Artur Alves's insight:
So-called clean technology is heavily reliant on outsourcing toxic pollution. 

"Smaller and more powerful than their predecessors, lithium batteries power smartphones and laptop computers and appear destined to become even more essential as companies make much larger ones to power electric cars. The companies making those products promote the bright futuristic possibilities of the “clean” technology. But virtually all such batteries use graphite, and its cheap production in China, often under lax environmental controls, produces old-fashioned industrial pollution. Mobile power, human toll The world has grown reliant on lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric cars. But the desperate search for the ingredients carries a steep cost. 
 At five towns in two provinces of China, Washington Post journalists heard the same story from villagers living near graphite companies: sparkling night air, damaged crops, homes and belongings covered in soot, polluted drinking water — and government officials inclined to look the other way to benefit a major employer"
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