Decide to K.I.S.S.

“…irrelevant information or unavailable options often cause people to make bad choices. When both elements are present, the probability of a poor decision is even greater.”

—Chadd, I., Filiz-Ozbay, E. & Ozbay, E.Y. “The relevance of irrelevant information.” Experimental Economics. November 11, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10683-020-09687-3

Determining what is possible and the relevant information between choices is key to good decision-making. It’s obvious, but at the same time, it’s something worth keeping in the forefront of our minds when making decisions.

The Syllabus

“By combining algorithms and human curation, we salvage the most thoughtful intellectual output from the ever-mounting great pile of information — most of which is simply rubbish.

The result? An eclectic selection of the best new academic articles, essays, talks, podcasts, books, lectures, and more, produced for you, once a week.

Led by technology critic Evgeny Morozov, The Syllabus method combines algorithmic filtering, categorisation and systematic human curation – across six languages – to power our various syllabi.

https://www.the-syllabus.com/

Importing Excellence

“If you want to know what it is that your own country produces that is genuinely excellent, look for what the most obsessively discerning residents of London and Tokyo choose to import. Look for the choices of the otaku, the fanatic of pure information.”

—William Gibson in the introduction to Paul Smith, “You Can Find Inspiration in Everything.” London: Violette Editions, 2002.

Russell Conjugation

“Sentence 1: I am firm.

Sentence 2: You are obstinate.

Sentence 3: He/She/It is pigheaded.

-Bertrand Russell, quoted in David Perell, “News in the Age of Abundance.” Perell.com. February 4, 2020.

“Most people will have a positive emotion to the first sentence, a mild reaction to the second, and a negative reaction to the third. Likewise, writers can vary the meaning of their words by changing the length or structure of their sentences. Once their words are set in print, they can enhance their messaging with images that manipulate the reader’s emotions.”

ibid.

Many if not most people form their opinions based solely on whatever [Emotive] Conjugation is presented to them and not on the underlying facts.

Most words and phrases are actually defined not by a single dictionary description, but rather two distinct attributes:

 1. The factual content of the word or phrase.

2. The emotional content of the construction.

-Eric Weinstein, ibid.

The Three Main Forces Shaping the World: Demographics, Inequality, and Access to Information

“The greatest innovation of the last generation has been the destruction of information barriers that used to keep strangers isolated from one another…

…What’s happened over the last 20 years – and especially the last 10 – has no historical precedent. The telephone eliminated the information gap between you and a distant relative, but the internet has closed the gap between you and literally every stranger in the world.”

—Morgan Housel, “Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World.” CollaborativeFund.com. October 4, 2019.

Obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious and looking at data and likely implications is a useful exercise.

Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online | WIRED

“On [Archive of Our Own, a.k.a.] AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling.”

—Samantha Puc, “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online.” Wired. June 11, 2019.

There’s been lots of discussion of the significance of AO3’s Hugo Award for Best Related Work.

Modest proposal? Use this process on new terms entered in the search box of a library’s online catalog to surface subject headings for users. It’s a logical extension of the catalogers work.

Trump and Brexit Proved This Book Prophetic — What Calamity Will Befall Us Next?

“Fifty years ago, society was organized according to the industrial model. People were passive recipients of information. It was a top-down system with limited choices or diversity. You could buy two or three different types of cars and get your information from two or three different television channels and newspapers. This system produced a relatively uniform “mass audience” that was suitable for the needs of industrial society.

What we have seen since is a complete breakdown of that system. The loss of control over information has resulted in the breakdown of the mass audience and many of the old ideologies. In its place has emerged a more ideologically diverse and fractious public. The public, which is not necessarily synonymous with ‘the people’ or ‘the masses,’ can come from any corner of the political environment today. It is not a fixed body of individuals and lacks an organization, leaders, shared programs, policies, or a coherent ideology. The public is characterized by negation: It is united in being ferociously against the established order.”

—Martin Gurri in interview with Murtaza Hessian, “Trump and Brexit Proved This Book Prophetic — What Calamity Will Befall Us Next?The Intercept. March 3, 2019.

How the BBC Visual and Data Journalism Team Works With Graphics in R

“Over the past year, data journalists on the BBC Visual and Data Journalism team have fundamentally changed how they produce graphics for publication on the BBC News website. In this post, we explain how and why we have used R’s ggplot2 package to create production-ready charts, document our process and code and share what we learned along the way.”

—BBC Visual and Data Journalism, “How the BBC Visual and Data Journalism team works with graphics in R.” Medium.com. February 1, 2019.

I’ve been learning a bit of R and working with packages like ggplot2. I thought this gives a nice demonstration of why someone might like to learn to use it, its capabilities, and the article provides some useful references.

History Rhymes

“Sometime this November, he estimates, half the world’s population—close to 4 billion people—will be connected online, sharing everything from résumés to political views to DNA information. As billions more come online, they will feed trillions of additional bits of information into the Web, making it more powerful, more valuable, and potentially more dangerous than ever….

…The power of the Web wasn’t taken or stolen. We, collectively, by the billions, gave it away with every signed user agreement and intimate moment shared with technology. Facebook, Google, and Amazon now monopolize almost everything that happens online, from what we buy to the news we read to who we like. Along with a handful of powerful government agencies, they are able to monitor, manipulate, and spy in once unimaginable ways…

The idea is simple: re-decentralize the Web. Working with a small team of developers, he spends most of his time now on Solid, a platform designed to give individuals, rather than corporations, control of their own data.”

—Katrina Brooker. “‘I Was Devastated’: Tim Berners-Lee, the Man Who Created the World Wide Web, Has Some Regrets.Vanity Fair. July 1, 2018.

Even if a successful decentralized platform is developed, won’t the increasing value of the web combined with people’s willingness to exchange their information for useful tools and convenience offered by a few multinational corporations simply lead to a similar outcome? Or to pose the central question of the article:

“…we are at a societal inflection point: Are we headed toward an Orwellian future where a handful of corporations monitor and control our lives? Or are we on the verge of creating a better version of society online, one where the free flow of ideas and information helps cure disease, expose corruption, reverse injustices?”

Likely both, with much more of the former than the latter.