Life Lessons from the Prisoner’s Dilemma

“​Axelrod attributed the success of TFT [Tit For Tat] to four properties. It is nice, meaning that it is never the first to defect. The eight nice entries in Axelrod’s tournament were the eight highest ranking strategies. It is retaliatory, making it difficult for it to be exploited by the rules that were not nice. It is forgiving, in the sense of being willing to cooperate even with those who have defected against it (provided their defection wasn’t in the immediately preceding round). An unforgiving rule is incapable of ever getting the reward payoff after its opponent has defected once. And it is clear, presumably making it easier for other strategies to predict its behavior so as to facilitate mutually beneficial interaction.”

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. s.v., “Prisoner’s Dilemma.”

Obesity and U.S. Marathon Times

Conclusions

  • The average American runner have never been slower (across gender and distance);
  • This effect is not due to the increase of female participants or “runners” – people who run slowly or walk the race.
  • Signs of poor health are highly correlated to the decrease in speed. Though we cannot with certainty say that these are the causes for the slowdown. And if they have causal nature that they show the full picture.

—Andersen, Jens Jakob. “American Runners Have Never Been Slower (Mega Study).” RunRepeat. August 2017.

Giving Up Social Media & The Feudal Internet

Quitting social media is an ongoing theme of this blog with posts discussing various aspects: 

  1. Arguing against particular social media services, e.g., Be Seeing You, Facebook.
  2. Describing new technologies major Internet companies employ for surveillance, e.g., Facebook & Facial Recognition.
  3. Describing how third parties use these platforms in the service of both advertising product and manipulating public opinion, e.g., Information Operations & Facebook.

    There are some people who believe that the solution is a matter of individuals understanding the problem, transforming the design of social platforms, and changing the business incentives. In other words, the solution is either government regulation or a major company of the feudal internet — Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft — redefining the landscape to put user’s interests first.

    I think a better solution is to redecentralize the Internet. But, these efforts will need support in their early stages, and they will take time to mature. In the meantime, the best solution is to avoid the feudal Internet as much as possible and seek out other, decentralized options that can serve your needs. 

    But, decentralized options come with costs. Users pay for the service themselves rather than advertisers paying the cost in exchange for targeted advertising based on information about users.

    What options are there? Here are some suggestions to get you started. 

      So, people with minimum space requirements can substitute these alternatives for the feudal internet services for less than $100 / year. For $200 / year, most people can get enough space for their needs. Further, alternative services often have additional functionality “free” feudal services do not provide. 

      By making the choice to get away from feudal internet services, we are investing in an economic and software development environment that puts the user back in control because the user is the client, not the product. It may be that government intervention can fix some of the problems of social media and reign in the power of the feudal internet companies in the public interest. A company like Apple might do the right thing for the people using their services. But, the best option is for more people to seek out alternatives, which will give those options the opportunity to develop into viable competitors to the major Internet players.

      Masculinity and ‘The Man’

      “I got gas in the tank / I got money in the bank / I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man.

      I got skin in the game / I don’t feel no pain / I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man.”

      —The Killers, “The Man.”

      Catchy single. While there is a sense of poking fun at defining masculinity in terms of strength, power, fame, money, or even a slight association of divinity, i.e, “[r]ight hand to God”, these ideas are often central to “male culture” in the United States (and elsewhere). Feminism, despite its many faults, does offer men the possibility of transcending the limitations imposed by popular notions of masculinity, which is no small thing.

      Finding Surveillance Aircraft in U.S. Cities

      “…BuzzFeed News trained a computer to find [surveillance aircraft] by letting a machine-learning algorithm sift for planes with flight patterns that resembled those operated by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Last year, we reported on aerial surveillance by these planes, mapping thousands of flights over more than four months from mid-August to the end of December 2015…

      …Some of these aircraft use technologies that challenge our assumptions about when and how we’re being watched, tracked, or listened to. It’s only by understanding when and how these technologies are used from the air that we’ll be able to debate the balance between effective law enforcement, national security, and individual privacy.”

      —Aldhous, Peter. “BuzzFeed News Trained A Computer To Search For Hidden Spy Planes. This Is What We Found.” Buzzfeed. August 7, 2017.

      The article goes on to highlight five examples:

      1. Use by state & local law enforcement
      2. Electronic eavesdropping by U.S. Border Patrol
      3. Testing Department of Defense capabilities over U.S cities.
      4. The Drug Enforcement Agency conducting surveillance over U.S cities.
      5. Military contractors.

      All of these examples should give a citizen that would like to live in a free society pause.

      Redecentralize the Internet

      “Every new medium (read: technology) has four sets of effects, he said, which can be best discovered in answers to four questions:

      1. What does the medium enhance
      2. What does the medium make obsolete?
      3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier? 
      4. What does the medium reverse, or flip into, when pushed to extremes?”

      —McLuhan, Marshall quoted in Searls, Doc. “The Actually Distributed Web.” Linux Journal. August 8, 2017.

      Interesting argument that decentralized protocols integrated with blockchains are more efficient than centralized systems and have the potential to undermine the platforms of the major Internet fiefdoms of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. I am not sure I believe that this is likely to happen, but it is a refreshing change from the doom and gloom of many technology discussions these days.