markets for behavioral surplus

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.

“It’s very funny to me that the dominant Twentieth Century conception of AI was a slightly awkward nerd with an inhuman mastery of facts and logic, when what we actually got is smooth-talking bullshit artists who can’t do eighth-grade math.”Adi Robertson

“ChatGPT gets treated like technological magic, but that ignores the humans behind the curtain that make it function. OpenAI paid Sama to hire Kenyan workers at $1.32 to $2 an hour to review ‘child sexual abuse, bestiality, murder, suicide, torture, self harm, and incest’ content. Their work made the tool less toxic, but left them mentally scarred. The company ended the contract when they found out TIME was digging into their practices”. Paris Marx

“There is no such thing as a ‘job creator’. There are employers, who hire employees, *because they need them*. And then employers pay the employees less than the value they generate. That’s the system. How did we get to the point at which people behave as if the wealthy are giving a gift to working people? I realize it’s not a new attitude, but it remains proudly f’d up.” Mark Sumner


auto-tuning work

Are we moving into a post-job economy? Can the concept of the job continue to be the primary way that people work? Building ways to constantly change roles can be one way to get rid of the standardized job, which has decreasing usefulness in a creative, networked AI-assisted economy. We should be preempting automation by identifying what routine work should be automated as quickly as possible, so that people can focus on what machines cannot do — being curious, creative, empathetic, passionate, and humourous.

One area of dwindling jobs is at the entry level. This creates a challenge for career development. It is difficult to start as a highly skilled worker, especially since our academic institutions focus on knowledge acquisition and provide very little skill development. Standardized curricula are useless in developing those skills listed above that machines cannot do. Standardization is the enemy of creativity. (more…)

it’s not not about the technology

Writing my essays at university was always a painful process. We were still allowed to write them, though more professors were requiring essays to be submitted typed. My essays were never good because I often left them to the last minute and hand-writing a better version was just too much time and effort. As much as I loved reading and new ideas, I was not a good writer.

A decade later I went to graduate school and word processors were widely available. I still could not type but at least I could peck away at several versions of an essay before submitting it. My writing got a bit better. David Weinberger recounts the impact of the word processor on his writing. (more…)

fixing a plane in flight

The following opinion article was published this weekend in local newspapers — Telegraph JournalTimes & Transcript, & Daily Gleaner.

Education changes: ‘like fixing a plane in mid-flight’

By Harold Jarche

Politicians constantly tinker with our public education system because it is designed without a solid foundation, just a series of cobbled-together initiatives based on whatever was in vogue at the time.

I participated in my first protest at the legislature in 2008 when the government of the day cancelled the early immersion program. Gaining a second language is one of the few useful skills that students can develop and keep long after they have memorized and forgotten useless data for most academic subjects. I did not want to lose this potential for our children.

If you do not speak more than one language it is difficult to understand the richness of thought that bilingualism brings. It is not another subject area of expertise. It is a different way of understanding the world.

The current provincial government is making a sweeping change to French immersion in the English language school system, replacing it with what amounts to French taught as just another subject. (more…)

stepping in

In the book, Only Humans Need Apply (2016), the authors identify five ways that people can work with machines. They call it ‘stepping’. We are seeing an increasing need to do what they call ‘stepping in’ or using machines [and software] to augment work. In GPT-3 through a glass darkly I used the McLuhans’ media tetrad to examine this form of machine learning, which is all over the media today.


  • Extends each voice & mimics creativity
  • Obsolesces copy-writing and essays so that human insight becomes a luxury
  • Retrieves the polymaths of the European Renaissance so that the best writers must be multi-talented to earn a living
  • Reverses into mass deception and provides answers without real questions behind themsee quote below

We may be in a ‘golden age’ of AI, as many have claimed. But we are also in a golden age of grifters and Potemkin inventions and aphoristic nincompoops posing as techno-oracles. —Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, 2022-12-01


arming ourselves

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a recent issue on misinformation and disinformation in Canada. Here are some of the highlights.

Disinformation: New tools, same poison

Before it was called public relations, it was called propaganda. Many of the people who built the modern PR industry got their start in the Committee on Public Information, the propaganda arm of the American government, which aimed to sell the deeply unpopular First World War to the American public. Among other tactics, the CPI pioneered the use of what we would now recognize as “influencers” in a program called the “four-minute men” in which they recruited community leaders to show up to parties, silent film screenings, and community events to give short speeches in favour of the war … While the “conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses,” as Edward Bernays put it, used to be the confines of a small number of powerful individuals, that is no longer the case. Such tactics—which have always been used to foment violence, as seen in their origins in WWI—are now widely accessible through tech companies … From John D. Rockefeller to Donald Trump, disinformation has always been a tool the powerful use to protect themselves. The tactics may have changed, but the poison remains the same. —The Monitor 2023-01-05

Canada can’t be complacent about threats to our democracy


the tragedy of stories

What is the Tragedy of the Commons?

In economics and in an ecological context, the tragedy of the commons is a situation in which individual users, who have open access to a resource unhampered by shared social structures or formal rules that govern access and use, act independently according to their own self-interest and, contrary to the common good of all users, cause depletion of the resource through their uncoordinated action in case there are too many users related to the available resources. —Wikipedia

But the idea of the tragedy of the commons was disproved by Elinor Ostrom even before it was published by Garrett Hardin in 1968.

The features of successful systems, Ostrom and her colleagues found, include clear boundaries (the ‘community’ doing the managing must be well-defined); reliable monitoring of the shared resource; a reasonable balance of costs and benefits for participants; a predictable process for the fast and fair resolution of conflicts; an escalating series of punishments for cheaters; and good relationships between the community and other layers of authority, from household heads to international institutions. —The miracle of the commons


the fifth discipline redux

Harvard Business Review described The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, as one of the seminal management books of the previous 75 years. In 2017 I reviewed mastery and models and showed how they still pertain to organizations 30 years later. I concluded that the challenge for learning professionals is to help organizations become learning organizations. It is also to master the new literacies of the network era and promote critical thinking, for ourselves and others. Questioning existing hierarchies is necessary to create the organizations of the future where power and authority are shared, based on mutual trust. The dominant organizational models need to become network-centric and learning-centric.

“Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively. As such, it is an essential cornerstone of the learning organization — the learning organization’s spiritual foundation.” ―Peter Senge (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization


there is a crack in everything

As the pandemic emerged in 2020 I sought credible information and advice first from institutions and authorities and later from a network of expertise — encouraged to do-your-own-research — in view of growing misinformation and disinformation, even from authorities like the CDC and WHO. I am not the only person to turn to a networked solution — Twitter pandemic list — for my sensemaking in this pandemic.

The People’s CDC is a networked alternative source of credible information that bypasses the corridors of institutional power. (more…)

mastodon musings

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] (more…)