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Big Revolution - Like a cult

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Hello and welcome to Big Revolution, and a special hello to recent subscribers. Thanks for joining! I
 
April 12 · Issue #46 · View online
Big Revolution
Hello and welcome to Big Revolution, and a special hello to recent subscribers. Thanks for joining! I’m always interested in feedback, so feel free to hit reply to this email and let me know what you think.
Martin

Big things you need to know today
Zuck, back for round 2
- Mark Zuckerberg’s second (and, he’ll be glad, final) day of questioning before Congress featured generally more clued-up questions than the day before. The Verge has a roundup of the highlights.
- One important topic: the data Facebook doesn’t let you download about yourself. As The Atlantic notes, there’s a difference between what counts as ‘your’ data (what you explicitly tell Facebook) and what the company collects about you from other sources – there’s no way you can see that. More on the topic from TechCrunch here. Meanwhile, Instagram will soon let you download all the data from your account.
- Google is revamping Gmail. A new version, with features from Inbox like the ability to snooze emails, is due to start rolling out in the coming weeks. There will also be a Google Calendar view, and offline access as standard. Android Authority has some (heavily redacted) screenshots.
- Apple’s HomePod isn’t the hit the company hoped for, according to Bloomberg’s reporting.
- Uber wants its app to help you use multiple transport modes. Bikes, rental cars, and public transportation are all on the way. Think of it like a one-stop app for getting around the city. The news comes soon after Uber bought a bike sharing company, JUMP.
- Revue has just opened up its paid newsletter subscription feature to all. If you’re a paying member of this newsletter (thank you!) you’ve been a beta tester of the feature. NiemanLab has more on the news
The big thought
I read an interesting essay last night about how echo chambers are like cults. That might seem extreme, but if you develop an unshakeable faith in one set of ideas to the exclusion of all others… well, that sounds like a cult to me.
Back when Eli Pariser’s ‘The Filter Bubble’ was doing the rounds seven years ago, I thought it was an interesting idea, but not one that would have a massive impact on the world. In 2011, mainstream media still felt like a moderating force on the more extreme parts of the internet. That common consensus of roughly how the world works would keep us on a safe path, I thought.
Not so much now. It feels like mainstream media has absorbed and endorsed echo chambers. In this newsletter, I’ve previously written about how the Daily Mail has ramped up its anger over the years, for example. Read enough tough-worded arguments that play to your own instincts and you’ll start to get sucked into an echo chamber that discredits anything that doesn’t match your worldview.
Now, of all times, it’s dangerous to have a population with highly polarised viewpoints. On the radio over breakfast this morning, I listened to a radio debate about whether military strikes in Syria would lead to World War III. If the stakes really are raised that high, the idea of us all being polarised against each other, rather than the other side in the war, is incredibly dangerous. We’ll fight each other more than our common enemies.
And yet it’s hard to work out how we step back from where we are, how we find a common path we can generally agree on.
This isn’t Russia’s fault, it isn’t Trump’s fault, it isn’t Facebook’s fault – although they’ve all taken advantage of it. It’s a path we’ve been heading down as a planet since the internet began to transform everything so fast we didn’t have time to make sense of it all.
Sometimes the only way to clear up a mess is to go to extremes – to throw it all away and start again. It’s like those TV shows where all the junk in a hoarder’s house is cleared out and thrown in a dumpster so they can say goodbye to the past they clung onto and embrace the future.  I only hope the echo chambers we increasingly lock ourselves in don’t lead us to throw the world in the dumpster.
Sorry, a little bleak there! Friday’s newsletter will be lighter!
One big read
Don’t break big tech, fix it Don’t break big tech, fix it
A look at how now is not the time for ‘quick fix’ regulation of tech. That’s what helped get us where we are today. Regulation of big tech needs to be more thoughtful and help build a better, technology-enabled world.
One big tweet
No escaping ‘Mr T.’ on Twitter…
Rob Manuel
I've got the word "Trump" on mute and it probably only kills about 10% of the noise. The signal is so strong. If you're on Twitter you're downstream from Trump and his words will infect your brain.
1:19 PM - 11 Apr 2018
That’s all for today...
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