Some things I read today 5/28/2017
I’ve started setting aside time each week to read so that I can finally get to all those things I plan to read during the day but never get around to. Maybe once a week, I can share some of those articles here and get some recommendations, as well. Read anything you think I should read? Leave it in the comments!
It turns out most of the articles I pocketed this week were about tech, and together they create kind of a scary picture of the future. For me, anyway. Maybe I’m just overly anxious and paranoid.
You’re Addicted! We’re All Addicted!
The first piece I read was a piece from Vice about the way social media is designed to hold our attention. A lot of the information in the article is information that you might intuit, but the writer spoke with the co-creator of Facebook’s like button and provides a nice survey of the ways our current social networks play on our need for social validation through intermittent reinforcement.
While this article was compelling, the links in the article were where the real interesting things were hidden: Google’s Design Ethicist (did you know that was a job?) has an interesting essay about the ways we’re manipulated by the user interfaces we interact with. DScout has the results of a study into how frequently people interact with their phones each day. If your guess is thousands, then you guessed better than the people in the study. One of the most revelatory facts in that study is just how greatly Facebook dominates everyone’s interactions.
Don’t Be A Mensch
Slate has a profile of Louise Mensch, a person I’d never heard of until about a week ago, who is an author who runs a website devoted to spinning conspiracy theories about Russian penetration of our government. The problem with her is that though she’s easily dismissed as a crackpot, her “scoops” have been tweeted by liberal politicians and some of her stories have been corroborated by mainstream press. In fact, what this reminds me of is Matt Drudge. It was the Monica Lewinsky scandal that brought Drudge into prominence, and he was also wrong as often as he was right with his stories, and he was able to surf on that notoriety into becoming a go-to resource for
This story of the ransonmware attack that blitzed the world’s networks and computers last week is worth your time. What makes Quartz’s story captivating is that its story scales from the massive institutions affected down to individual people who were affected by WannaCry. The most interesting thing in this story is how inept the criminals who launched the attack seemed.
After more than a decade of writing weekly tech columns, Walt Mossberg has retired. His final column was about what he sees as the future of technology, its inevitable disappearance as it gets better and further integrated into our world. In many ways, this feels like a layup. I think we all sense that we’re creeping toward having the computer from Star Trek that is omnipresent, patiently waiting, and always ready to help. Still, Mossberg’s article is interesting because he’s able to put that into the context of what he’s experienced with computing and technology and provide a perspective on what to be wary of.
– And here’s what makes this all terrifying
One of the main issues with fake news is that because of the way we interact with news, especially on Facebook, “fake news” can be indistinguishable from real news, which was not always the case. Once upon a time, a tabloid newspaper was easy to distinguish from an actual newspaper. A link on Facebook, however, looks the same no matter what the source of the link is. Louise Mensch is able to thrive because her fake news is indistinguishable from real news and will continue to be spread by people who are rewarded for sharing it by the likes and comments received.
As technology fades into the background, we will have even less of an ability to distinguish between legit and illegitimate news sources because there will be even fewer visual cues. If you’re interacting with screenless technology, seeking information, how can you be sure that the information you’re seeking is accurate? How can you know what’s true?
And if your technology is becoming more transparent, less something that you need to look at, how will you know when your technology has been breached? One of the most brilliant things about WannaCry was its ability to disguise itself on your computer and your network while using your network as an entry point to web and encrypting your data. Imagine a program like WannaCry infiltrating your home networks, living on devices you never actually need to see, and using it not to extract a ransom but to hijack your devices to give you false information.
Pink Donut Boxes
This LA Times piece is a cool exploration of the history of the pink donut box and its popularity. If you don’t live on the West Coast, you may be unfamiliar with this phenomenon. Here in the bay area, I saved this article to Pocket just minutes — MINUTES — before walking by a pink donut box on a picnic table in our office.