Ask A Genius 375 – An Era of Wonders, An Epoch of Suckiness
September 7, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What can we say about social media? You have been having some troubles with Twitter. Also, you had some thoughts on superhero movies. Please elaborate.
Rick Rosner: I can only surmise mathematically. I am getting fewer likes, retweets, and so on, drastically fewer. Only a few days ago, there was something on social media. People running the medium or algorithms running the medium do something called shadow banning, which is reducing your reach – reducing the amount of communication that you can have with other people on the medium.
The limiting of the number of people who can see your postings. There is overt explicit banning. If you are running a Nazi feed, where you are saying, “Kill all the Jews,” they will send you a notice saying, “No, you are done.” Twitter has been slow to do that.
I have been posting scathing but not obscene or particularly offensive tweets from a liberal perspective on Trump and his minions. I may have generated some complaints, since there are ways to report a feed that you do not like – to complain about it to Twitter.
Twitter’s algorithms received them and then decided something was wrong with what I have been saying and has been shutting me down. I am not allowed to advertise. But I have been advertising something. That may be frowned upon.
I have been putting out four-letter words with asterisks. Twitter doesn’t like that either. You cannot even chat with somebody via instant messaging because they tell you to go to instant messaging to resolve these things – so no good calls and then you get these typed responses from a hotkey. It delivers an unhelpful paragraph.
It is really hard to address anything to know what you can do, what you need to change, when things will change; in short, Twitter sucks. It is unfortunate for an important social medium. It is usually the source of breaking news.
It is also the source of social protest. It is useful. But Twitter’s growth has been limited by how miserable it is and how pissed off everybody is who uses it. It only has about 330 million monthly active users.
While Facebook has about 1.5 billion, almost 5 times as many, though, Facebook sucks too. Young people think Facebook is for the old and have gone elsewhere. In general, all social media kind of suck.
I think that is an indication of the limits of non-sucking of human administered tools. We are mentally the same people, or at least in terms of our brains the same as people who lived 10,000 years ago.
We have better equipment, better algorithms, better communication relationships with our technology, but humans are still the highest order executive functions for, at least, the big decisions of what goes on in large institutions.
Social media, government, entertainment, that means there is an inherent ceiling that you can’t go beyond because humans suck – because we have limited mental and executive capabilities.
Now, within Google Translate, you told me. Anytime you have AI or machine learning; if it is sufficiently complex, the machine learning starts doing things black boxy. You cannot tell exactly what they’re up to from the outside.
You told me Google Translate developed its own private language, not spoken by any human on Earth because Google doesn’t talk. But it made it mathematically or informationally more efficient. Instead of translating from each possible pair of languages, Finnish to Croatian, Urdu to French, if it is translating 110 languages into each others, then, instead of having 100*109/2 or something like 6,000 different handshakes, Google found it more informationally efficient to have a metalanguage at the core, where all the other 110 languages go into the core.
Google finds the meta-word that equals the word in Urdu and then links it to the meta-word or word equivalent in French. Instead of having 6,000 different handshakes, Google has 110 links from each human language to its metalanguage in and then back out.
Somehow, that is more efficient in the way consciousness may be a more efficient problem-solving or information-processing tool than having apps for each conjunction of events or types of information.
You have sneaky and black boxy forms of emerging, if not intelligence then, sophisticated information processing, but everything is still for humans’ benefit and humans are still in charge of the important decisions.
For example, take superhero movies, they have credits that are 8 minutes and may encompass 8,000 people. The movies themselves moment-to-moment have a lot of awesomeness. They are awesome graphically.
Since they are an investment of $300 million – $200 million for the movie and $100 million for the publicity, and the script has been gone over a million times and is as packed with decent dialogue moments and turns of plot, and the actors have been physically trained and beautified to the nth degree, and the stunts are great, except, it is still a superhero movie that has characters coming out of children’s comics books from 45 or 55 years ago.
So, there is a ceiling to a superhero not sucking with the ceiling being it is still a frickin’ superhero movie. As we move into the era of humans being more and more linked with machine learning and – we can hope – being able to handle more linked and complex relationships between data, that the sucky ceiling will be lifted.
Certainly, the stuff in conjunction with us has led to better lives for us compared to people 2,200 years ago. The suckiness ceiling has already lifted immensely. We can hope that it keeps going in conjunction with our non-organic information processors get better at understanding and manipulating the world.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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