On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. Since 2009 many of these finds have come via Twitter. Given the current state of chaos on that platform — whither Twitter — more of my finds will be coming from Mastodon, as all are today. Tomorrow, 31 December, marks 15 years on Twitter for me, and it may be my last anniversary.
“One of my favorite Engelbart sayings might relate to the ‘Mastodon is too confusing to learn’ claim. Paraphrasing, he said that if ease of use was the ultimate aim for a tool, the bicycle would never have evolved beyond the tricycle.” —@HRheingold
“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” —@DuneQuotes [a bot]
“Just tried ChatGPT. I asked it a series of specific Qs about areas I’ve studied in detail.
On all Qs, it gave answers that are plausible sounding but wrong. Not obviously wrong: wrong in subtle ways that need deep domain knowledge to grasp.
The ways humans will be practically misled by this kind of tech if trusted with, say, doling out medical, legal or business advice is horrific.
Letting this tech loose on the world will further destroy search engines that are already riddled with SEO BS.” —@TomMorris
“Things just seem so crazy today. I mean, can you imagine say in the 1930s if the richest automobile executive in America was also a media owner who used his platform to encourage anti-Semitism and allied himself with a foreign dictator waging a territory-expansion war in Europe?” —@RubenBolling
In 1918, Henry Ford purchased his hometown newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. A year and a half later, he began publishing a series of articles that claimed a vast Jewish conspiracy was infecting America. The series ran in the following 91 issues. Ford bound the articles into four volumes titled “The International Jew,” and distributed half a million copies to his vast network of dealerships and subscribers. The rhetoric was not unusual for its content, as much as its scope. As one of the most famous men in America, Henry Ford legitimized ideas that otherwise may have been given little authority.
Multi-decadal time-series of field observations are among the rarest and most valuable artifacts in ecosystem science because they help to overcome a peculiar weakness in our ability to perceive and interpret the natural world. Humans have developed powerful methods for reconstructing events in the distant past, from the birth of a galaxy to mass extinctions in the Devonian. We have built instruments that can parse the present down to the zeptosecond. But when it comes to the modest timescale of our own lifespans, we are like near-sighted moles.
Weren’t there more birds in this meadow when we were kids?
Doesn’t it seem like spring is a lot rainier than it used to be?
Are you sure it’s safe to eat fish from this river?
If Twitter does fail, either because its revenue collapses or because the massive debt that Musk’s deal imposes crushes it, the result could help accelerate social media’s decline more generally. It would also be tragic for those who have come to rely on these platforms, for news or community or conversation or mere compulsion. Such is the hypocrisy of this moment. The rush of likes and shares felt so good because the age of zero comments felt so lonely—and upscaling killed the alternatives a long time ago, besides.
This is our core belief at Open Future: Europe has a unique opportunity to restore part of the original promise of the internet. It is here that policymakers and key stakeholders have the ambition to build an internet for the people – one that can provide the basis for a more just and democratic society.
There is much debate today – in Europe and beyond – about building shared digital public spaces that can compete with the dominant, corporate walled gardens that harm the internet and its users.