People Mistake the Internet’s Knowledge For Their Own

“In the current digital age, people are constantly connected to online information. The present research provides evidence that on-demand access to external information, enabled by the internet and search engines like Google, blurs the boundaries between internal and external knowledge, causing people to believe they could—or did—remember what they actually just found. Using Google to answer general knowledge questions artificially inflates peoples’ confidence in their own ability to remember and process information and leads to erroneously optimistic predictions regarding how much they will know without the internet. When information is at our fingertips, we may mistakenly believe that it originated from inside our heads.”

-Adrian F. Ward, “People mistake the internet’s knowledge for their own.” PNAS. October 26, 2021 118 (43) e2105061118; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105061118

One person’s rancid garbage is another person’s Golden Corral buffet that they believe they cooked themselves.

Nick Cave’s Three Levels of Friendship

“There seems to me to be three levels of friendship.

First there is the friend who you go out and eat with, or get pissed with, who you go with to the cinema or a gig — you know, have a shared experience with.

The second kind of friend is one who you can ask a favour of, who will look after you in a jam, will lend you money, or drive you to the hospital in the middle of the night, someone who has your back — that kind of friend.

The third level of friendship is one where your friend brings out the best in you, who amplifies the righteous aspects of your nature, who loves you enough to be honest with you, who challenges you, and who makes you a better person.

None of these levels are mutually exclusive and sometimes you find someone who fulfils all of these categories. If you find a friend like that, hang on to him or her. They are rare.”

-Nick Cave, “Is it important to have friends?” TheRedHandFiles.com. November 2021.

Related: Levels of Friendship in Arabic, How To Make Friends as an Adult, A Keltner List for Relationships, and The Happiness of Others.

Two Kinds of People: Pirates and Farmers

“I am going to explain this to you very simply. All human creatures are divided into two groups. There are pirates, and there are farmers. Farmers build fences and control territory. Pirates tear down fences and cross borders. There are good pirates and bad pirates, good farmers and bad farmers, but there are only pirates and farmers.”

– Dave Kickey, “Pirates and Farmers.” London: Ridinghouse, 2013.

h/t Austin Kleon.

52 Things [Tom Whitwell] Learned in 2021

“4. 10% of US electricity is generated from old Russian nuclear warheads. [Geoff Brumfiel]

43. Privacy seems to be connected to productivity. An experiment in a phone factory showed that putting curtains round workers on a production line increased output by 10–15%. [Ethan Bernstein via Ethan Mollick]

52. A study of 14,000 Australians over 14 years found that neither being promoted nor being fired has any impact on either emotional wellbeing or life satisfaction. [Nathan Kettlewell & co]”

Tom Whitwell, “52 Things I Learned in 2021.” Fluxx Studio Notes. December 1, 2021.

The Age of Freedom, RethinkX

“During the 2020s, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. The knock-on effects for society will be as profound as the extraordinary possibilities that emerge.

In information, energy, food, transportation, and materials, costs will fall by 10x or more, while production processes an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient will use 90% fewer natural resources with 10x-100x less waste. The prevailing production system will shift away from a model of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks – a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock, and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient. This new creation-based production system, which will be built on technologies we are already using today, will be far more equitable, robust, and resilient than any we have ever seen. We have the opportunity to move from a world of extraction to one of creation, a world of scarcity to one of plenitude, a world of inequity and predatory competition to one of shared prosperity and collaboration.

This is not, then, another Industrial Revolution, but a far more fundamental shift. This is the beginning of the third age of humankind – the Age of Freedom.

James Arbib & Tony Seba, “Rethinking Humanity.” RethinkX. June 2020.

In the cryptocurrency space, the adjective, “hopium” would be used. While a post-scarcity world run by teams of super-intelligence A.I.s, like the one depicted in Iain M. Banks’ The Culture series would be a welcome development, if history is any guide, human beings tend to like inequity and predatory competition.

Nightmare Fuel: Reproducing Xenobots & Grey Goo

“The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce — and in a way not seen in plants and animals.”

-Katie Hunt, “World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say.” CNN. November 29, 2021

What could possibly go wrong? Cf. The grey goo Wikipedia article and Bill Joy’s Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us. On re-reading the second, I was struck by this paragraph:

“On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite—just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they will most certainly not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.1

-Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Wired. April 1, 2021

Reading this now, it occurs to me that you could argue that this is already the case.

Zuihitsu: 2021-11

Collecting these little ideas has become a major focus. Here’s this month’s installment.

1. Give the conversational ball back.
2. Stories from yourself and trusted people are almost the only kind of evidence that’s real.
3. The secret of life is to do something you care about.
4. Listening means willing to be changed. 
5. Brevity is achieved by selection, not compression.
6. Potential isn’t real; it’s a projection.
7. Once we’re thrown off our habitual paths, we think all is lost, but it’s only here that the new and the good begins.—Leo Tolstoy
8. Efficiency is fundamentally opposed to democracy and self-determination.
9. To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.—G. K. Chesterton
10. All killer, no filler.
11. Centralization is quick, both feature and bug.
12. Behind every criticism is a wish.
13. Imagination can be sparked by a change in medium.
14. A basket of options is worth more than an option in a basket.
15. Culture cannot be separated from cult.
16. Good solutions still could have errors.
17. A new thought about what everyone sees is better than seeing something new.—Schopenhauer paraphrased
18. The sensible people are the first to leave.
19. Blaming people increases fear and decreases reporting of problems.—Six Sigma paraphrase
20. You either die a Guitar Hero or live long enough to become Fat Elvis.
21. Keep him nerdy, he won’t do you dirty.
22. Do it for love. Love is often only thing that can turn good enough into great.
23. Write five times more and divide the length by five.
24. Code, clubs and cults win arguments.
25. Before the elevator, the penthouse was for maids.
26. Don’t trust the map; trust the compass.
27. One man’s rancid garbage is another man’s Golden Corral buffet.
28. Remaking the world means you’re going to have to remake yourself.
29. Grind grit down to grease for the gears.
30. There are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.
31. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.—Gandalf in the Fellowship.
32. Those who act without regard to the moral and physical limits implicit in the human condition do not become as the gods but rather descend into an inhuman, bestial state.
33. Where there is no room for reflection, there is none either for justice or prudence.
34. Possess power, and you’ll be possessed by it.
35. Big ideas need crazy people, and then outgrow them.
36. Writing heightens consciousness.
37. Love without fear, restraint or obligation.
38. Invent full-time.
39. Completely open minds become dumps.
40. When choice trumps values, everything is for sale.
41. If you fit in, you’re replaceable.
42. No one owes you friendship or love. A relationship can stop at any time. So, cherish it while it lasts.
43. Radical change in a person is often them getting tired of faking it.
44. The true test of goodness is how we treat those who are at our mercy.
45. What you think is the point is only the beginning of sharpness.
46. Explore/exploit is another way to think about fox/hedgehog.
47. The longer it takes, the more the worst aspects are magnified.
48. A deep life is a good life. Concentration and craft are related.
49. There’s no need to repeat the truth.
50. Spend more on things keeping you off the ground, e.g., shoes and beds.
51. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.—Gerald G. Jampolsky
52. All of us have things we can’t do alone.
53. Some things can only be known through experience.
54. Friends are hard to earn, harder still to keep.
55. Live true.
56. Too much love is never good.
57. Loneliness is a darkness of the soul.
58. The more you say no to things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do.
59. Maybe we can’t all change the world. Maybe it’s enough just to do good for the short time that we’re here.—Arcade Gannon
60. What is the value of illuminating the landscape from our darkened past?
61. A game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.—Bernard Suits
62. How much of our behavior is governed by things that are, effectively, a social game?
63. There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.—Prometheus quoting Lawrence or Arabia
64. Big things have small beginnings.
65. Never confuse who you are with what you do.
66. Master your inner dialogue.
67. Learn to live in the moment.
68. Find your real family, and clear out toxic people.
69. Crisis is opportunity; look for growth when it gets hard.
70. Be the sort of person who isn’t blandly likable and safe to know, but rather extracts a cost to be close to and then repays that cost with rare and complicated gifts of personality.

Why is Plaintext Better than HTML for Email?

“In short, HTML emails are a security nightmare, are mostly used for advertising to you and tracking you, are less accessible for many users, and don’t offer anything especially great for it.”

https://useplaintext.email/

He buried the lede. I went ahead and put it at the top. For more detail, read the below. Another in my ongoing series advocating for plain text: A Text Only World, OpenBSD & the Command Line, The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Sciences, The Plain Text Accounting Program, etc.

Why is plaintext better than HTML?

HTML emails are mainly used for marketing – that is, emails you probably don’t want to see in the first place. The few advantages they offer for end-users, such as links, inline images, and bold or italic text, aren’t worth the trade-off.

HTML as a vector for phishing

HTML emails allow you to make links which hide the URL behind some user-friendly text. However, this is an extremely common vector for phishing attacks, where a malicious sender makes a misleading link which takes you to a different website than you expect. Often these websites are modeled after the login page of a service you use, and will trick you into entering your account password. In plaintext emails, the URL is always visible, and you can more easily make an informed choice to click it.

Privacy invasion and tracking

Virtually all HTML emails sent by marketers include identifiers in links and inline images which are designed to extract information about you and send it back to the sender. Examine the URLs closely – the strange numbers and letters are unique to you and used to identify you. This information is used to hack your brain, attempting to find advertisements which are more likely to influence your buying habits. HTML emails are good for marketers and bad for you.

Mail client vulnerabilities

HTML is an extremely large and complicated set of specifications designed without emails in mind. It’s designed for browsing the world wide web, on which a huge variety of documents, applications, and more are available. Implementing even a reasonable subset of these standards represents hundreds of thousands of hours of work, or even millions. A large subset (perhaps the majority) of these features are not desirable for emails, and if included can be leveraged to leak information about you, your contacts, your calendar, other emails in your inbox, and so on. However, because of the herculean effort necessary to implement an HTML renderer, no one has built one specialized for emails which is guaranteed to be safe. Instead, general purpose web browsers, with many of their features disabled, are employed in most email clients. This is the number one source of vulnerabilities in email clients which result in information disclosure and even the execution of arbitrary malicious code.

This is a list of 421 remote code execution vulnerabilities in Thunderbird. If you’re bored, try finding one that doesn’t exploit web tech.

HTML emails are less accessible

Browsing the web is a big challenge for users who require a screenreader or other assistive tools to use their computer. The same problems apply to email, only more so – making an accessible HTML email is even more difficult than making an accessible website due to the limitations imposed on HTML emails by most mail clients (which they have no choice but to impose – for the security reasons stated above). Plain text emails are a breeze in comparison for screenreaders to recite, especially for users with specialized email clients designed for this purpose. How do you speak bold text aloud? How about your inline image?

Some clients can’t display HTML emails at all

Some email clients don’t support HTML emails at all. Many email clients are designed to run in text-only environments, like a terminal emulator, where they’re useful to people who spend a lot of time working in these environments. In a text-only interface it’s not possible to render an HTML email, and instead the reader will just see a mess of raw HTML text. A lot of people simply send HTML emails directly to spam for this reason.

Rich text isn’t that great, anyway

Rich text features desirable for end users include things like inline images, bold or italicized text, and so on. However, the tradeoff isn’t worth it. Images can simply be attached to your email, and you can employ things like *asterisks*, /slashes/, _underscores_, or UPPERCASE for emphasis. You can still communicate your point effectively without bringing along all of the bad things HTML emails come with.

-ibid