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futuribile / curating futures - Issue #23 The broadcasting internet

Aloha, June 2019 has been defined a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-gard
September 4 · Issue #23 · View online
futuribile / curating futures
June 2019 has been defined a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. Data from 40 million US browser-based searches show that roughly half of Google searches does not lead to any click. This means that half of organic search (“googling” something) does not reach web properties that do not belong to Google. If you pair this data with the fact that 94% of all browser-based desktop searches happen on a Google property, what emerges is not really an open web. While the business and technical reasons of how we got here are quite straightforward, the cultural ones may owe a lot to tech fascination with the word “tool”. “Tool talk encodes an entire attitude to politics—namely, a rejection of politics in favor of tinkering. In the sixties, Brand and the “Whole Earth Catalog” presented tools as an alternative to activism”, points out the NY Times. Another reason is that a vast amount of human knowledge has been dismissed from tech development. Tech entrepreneur Patrick Collison and economist Tyler Cowen called recently for a new science of progress, defining progress as an understudied subject. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Needless to say, the internet made clear that there are quite a few disciplines studying that matter, and that to really disrupt, tech needs to listen to actual researchers. Sometimes, you can’t just google it. 🤷🏽‍♀️
Marta Arniani

Old but gold: if Google search was a guy
Old but gold: if Google search was a guy
TikTok ta mère
Allow me to borrow the title I usually reserve to blockchain news to talk about TikTok, the first Chinese social network to truly make it to Western markets (in its 3 years of life it conquered 500 million users worldwide🤳) and very likely to influence radically how digital products are conceived. Indeed, there are two aspects of TikTok that need to be watched close: the central role of AI; the way it is boldly opening a new era of social networks - or maybe we should finally start calling them self-marketing networks.
As I covered in the April’s issue, TikTok’s artificial intelligence is the product, and not just a tool. There is a variety of theories (including: “it’s totally random”) about how it works. The feature on which commenters obsess the most is the “for you” page, which functioning is opaque, and assumes the user can be completely passive:
What’s both crucial and easy to miss about TikTok is how it has stepped over the midpoint between the familiar self-directed feed and an experience based first on algorithmic observation and inference. (…) The first thing you see isn’t a feed of your friends, but a page called “For You.” It’s an algorithmic feed based on videos you’ve interacted with, or even just watched. It never runs out of material. It is not, unless you train it to be, full of people you know, or things you’ve explicitly told it you want to see.
The app makes it so easy to digest and produce content that in China it ended up having a massive role in bringing rural communities online (does it reminds you of Facebook in Africa?), lowering the barriers to access online content and creating a vast ecosystem of rural video. Reaching out to a large audience is a kind of overnight magic:
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t have talent, looks or ideas, you could just remake people’s videos (we call it inspired) or duet with them. Everyone has a chance to go viral and become a star overnight”
It would be easy to frame TikTok as an evolution of Western social networks making a very good use of AI. But compared to its predecessor, TikTok is AI-first native: there is not a process over time going from a socially relevant narrative “we connect you to your family and friends” to gluing users to the screen with every possible means. It is all about machine learning directing the experience, with social interactions coming into play as a side effect. TikTok states boldly that a social network function is primarily facilitate self-broadcasting and feed you with endless content, regardless of its quality and veracity.
In a way, TikTok is a much more honest app, making the best of the attention economy strategies. Whether this is clear to users, and to which extent it will increase on the long run phenomena like social isolation and anxiety, will keep us occupied for a while.
Smile to the camera
It is an enormous sense of relief to be adult in an age that provides anxious parents with so many new means, like facial recognition services at summer camps. Apparently, having their children televised is the new American helicopter parents obsession. They say children don’t need to know, but I doubt they can really ignore the squads of photographers capturing life at the camp ( some camps have 4 photographers and a social media director). On the opposite side of the Atlantic, in august, Sweden’s national data protection authority imposed the first fine under GDPR for misuse of facial recognition on a school that trialled the technology to monitor the daily attendance of students.It would be great if Europe could keep up with the promises of regulating facial recognition, which aim would be to limit “the indiscriminate use of facial recognition technology’’ by companies and public authorities.
For collective intelligence fetishists: the self-organising system of Extinction Rebellion UK explained in Google slides.
A congregation of 181 US CEOs redefines the purpose of a corporation to promote ‘an economy that serves all Americans’, committing to invest in employees and deal fairly with suppliers.
Talking of simulators… (see last issue): meet the randonauts, a growing community devising methods to diverge from daily routines, go to random locations and cross over into somebody else’s reality (because everything is pre-programmed by a higher computing force). 🚣🏻‍♀️
Netflix tests collections that are curated by humans instead of algorithms. #reverseInnovation
Since yesterday, Facebook it’s rolling out its Face Recognition privacy setting to all users. If you have Face Recognition turned on, Facebook will notify you if someone uploads a photo of you, even if you aren’t tagged.
Meet Zao, the new FaceApp: with it, you can paste your face into movies in a few seconds. Expect the same 🔥🔥🔥 debate around it, WeChat already restricted access to the app.
Oh, dear!
just found out gorbachev did a commercial for pizza hut
That’s all, hit reply for feedback, forward to grow the list. Both will make me happy.
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