The fate of click-bait

At the heart of the web’s self-destruction is contagious media: crazy cat pics and the entire Buzzfeedification of the internet.

Every site, even reputable ones, raced to the bottom because celebrity sideboob and stupid human and pet tricks drove clicks.

Writes Tim Wu in The Attention Merchants:

“Contagious media is the kind of media you immediately want to share with all your friends. This requires that you take pleasure in consuming the media but also pleasure in the social process of passing it on.”

“Contagious media is a form of pop conceptual art” in which “the idea is the machine that makes the art (LeWitt, 1967) and the idea is interesting to ordinary people.”

The clickbait craziness spawned an albatross of more ridiculous news, some of it fake news. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.”

And now we’re living with the repercussions of confused algorithms and companies like Facebook and Twitter avoiding responsibility.

A cartoon by @lisarothstein. #TNYcartoons

A post shared by The New Yorker Cartoons (@newyorkercartoons) on

 

We are psychologically vulnerable to social media games. If we want stupid, we’ll get stupid. And anything that requires some thought and effort will fade away.

Bottoms up

Attention works like a loose gate. We can’t always control what information sneaks in, nor can we parse the data so it makes sense coming out.

We grind away at the information life throws at us, some of it tangible and worthwhile but most it nonsense.

Like a Google search, the stuff worth keeping is like finding a needle in a haystack. When we discover something of value, it sticks. We share the knowledge with others, recasting it as our own.

Yet, our minds remain terrible RSS readers.

It’s impossible to unhear and unsee things — conversations, teacher’s lessons, tweets — without getting sucked into the commercialization of attention. The public sphere promotes mindless chatter, so rationalization sinks to the bottom.

The race to admiration prevents the interrogation of ideas. The noisy flood of information buffers thought until finally, the chaos settles to the bottom. And pieces of clarity return.

Missing the details

Photo by Wells Baum

How fantastically great and rare it is to immerse ourselves in something (a job, a concert, our art) that removes the friction of anxiety and doubt?

The plethora of digital choice impedes the aura of experience and human connection.

With so much stimuli, it’s easy to miss the pleasures of a laughing flower, the beauty of a beat-making bird, or the random conversation with a stranger recapping a sports event the night before.

Even the smallest observation or ephemeral conversation can make us feel alive.

Sometimes it’s the goddamn screens and routines that get in the way.

It’s unhuman to be too distracted or sober.

The Truman Show Delusion

Some people believe that all reality is one big TV show and they’re the star. Others seem to think that the world is simulated and that their life has always been lived on a predetermined stage.

But are we that special?

Your fingerprints are uniquely yours. So is your Twitter microphone. But in the age of lying and edited selves, everything exists but the truth. Meanwhile, your google search history reveals all.

Whatever you believe, there’s no choice but to rub your face in the fact that reality of the world presented is what it is. We just have to do our best.

The Seiko TV Watch, 1982

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From AnalogHero:

Sold in 1982 this is one of the smallest TV ever made with a 1 1/4″ Screen.

From the manual:

Seiko TV Liquid Crystal Video Display (LVD) in which pictures appear in response to external light. This means that the brighter the light, the clearer the pictures will be.

The Seiko TV watch has been seen in several movies such as James Bond Octopussy(modified screen for movie magic) and Dragnet.

 

The lost desire to pick up your phone 👋📵

We invented the telephone out of the desire to communicate. We developed the internet to increase connectivity and expand our reach. Thomas Friedman summed up the borderless Earth by writing ‘The World Is Flat.’

The facilitation of immediacy through text and social media killed the telephone ring. According to a recent Atlantic article from Alexis Madrigal:

“No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering—built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture—is gone.”

What novelty or variety of internet tools will we see next?

The infusion of bots and AI-driven conversations further complicate the human will to communicate.

Whether it’s Siri or Alexa, the urge to chat means anyone or anything that responds will be on-demand. No one will place calls unless they can guarantee a receiver on the other end.

The cell phone ring follows in the footsteps of ringtones, not dead but annoying. With mindfulness on the verge, push messages may be next to be silenced while snail mail and email inboxes will continue to go unread.

Slow media in, Zombie scrolling out

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via giphy

The tranquil flood of information died after CNN introduced the 24-hour news cycle. But the internet brushed on a new type of disorder onto the information canvass that prevents us from thinking straight.

We consumed mindlessly, eating more than we could chew. Our brains got overloaded, dulled out, memories stymied by Google and images that told us everything we needed to know.

The good news is that while no one reads anymore, those who do are choosing quality over crap. Premium content is back because it’s trustworthy, well-written, detailed, and shareable.

Of course, the non-traditional sources are there like me. I blog to step back from the chaos and to absorb its connections. I refuse to let the Kardashians and other buffoonery colonize my brain. Blogging is like self-medication, but you can easily do it with a private journal or spending five still minutes reflecting on the day behind or ahead.

The Pilgrims didn’t have to deal with attention seeking missiles, misinformation, and click-baiting darts. Otherwise, they might have stayed home assuming the worst. Now offers the chance to dance with the intrusions by putting novelty aside and embracing the imagination for periods at a time.

“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch

Less news equals more news, squashing stimuli along the way.

Technology spreads unreality

The reason we’re so comfortable around friends is because we can strip away the plastic and can be ourselves, zits and all.

The problem with social media is that while it allows for the perfected self, it also undermines reality. Juxtaposing our screen lives and raw selves can make us feel fraudulent.

Technology spreads unreality.

The law of attraction says that we can achieve what we think, visualize, and collect. But what colonizes parts of our mind with fantasies and ideals also deceives us.

Technology may spread unreality, but there is no substitute for facts.

No matter how many times we pollute Instagram with the edited self, the squares decompose as quickly as they’re shared.

Life doesn’t recycle on the internet’s stage.

The sorcery of screens

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The internet never ends. Mountains of content are piling up as we speak.

The hook is neither in our control or that of technology. We pull the lever, the slot machine spits out a variable reward.

It’s impossible to disentangle ourselves from the mindlessness of a ludic loop. With more data, the machine grows smarter and more manipulative.

But we can’t fault our own blindness, zombie scrolling in the sorcery of screens.

All the while, the trees are abundant, pumping oxygen into nature and encouraging humans to rejoin the broken.

Tethered to the magic of screens, we feed the data distilleries with our oil and reap cheap entertainment pellets in return. There is no quid pro quo. We are competent and conscious only in our dreams, awaiting that return to an archaic form of life.

Why sitting is bad for you, animated

Sitting is the new smoking. While that claim may be a bit exaggerated, it is an effective reminder to remind ourselves to take our body for a walk.

The more than 360 joints inside our bodies are also ample evidence that we are built to stand up and move. And while more offices are including stand up desks and other mobility devices, the sedentary lifestyle still dominates.

Sitting for long periods of time reduces overall blood flow, particularly the oxygen that gets pushed via bloodstream through the lungs to the brain.

So, set yourself a reminder to get up every half hour and move around. But beware of text neck.

ORCAA, a logo to certify organic algorithms

“The internet is a propaganda machine,” writes author Cathy O’Neil in her book Weapons of Math Destruction where she criticizes the algorithms which have come to disrupt society and politics.

Her latest project ORCAA, O’Neil Risk Consulting and Algorithmic Auditing, offers services to companies that promise to maintain a more honest algorithm that unlike Facebook, doesn’t sacrifice private data to maximize revenue.

“People don’t really check that things are working,” she tell Fast Company. “They don’t even know how to ask the question.”

For the logo, Cathy O’Neil requested the designer Katie Falkenberg make it look “fat and fierce.” I think they just about nailed it.

Right now, the seal is a simple ring design with ORCAA’s killer whale logo and text that reads, “Algorithm audited for accuracy, bias, and fairness,” with the date. Falkenberg hopes to one day update it so it gets timestamped from the date it’s uploaded to a company’s website. Because algorithms are constantly changing, Falkenberg wants the seal to let users know when an algorithm was last certified. O’Neil says algorithms should be regularly audited–perhaps once every two years or so, depending on the complexity of the code. Falkenberg also hopes to link the seal to O’Neil’s website so users can understand exactly what it means when they see it.

Melding minds with machines

“You could just think your query and download the relevant knowledge directly in your mind.”

Forget Ritalin. Forget Google and Evernote acting as our second brains holding all the information we can’t. And instead, prepare for brain implants where mind melds with machines. We don’t even have to type, click, or touch anything. We just think and imagine commands.

As part of a clinical trial called “Brain Gate,” 13 applicants at Brown University have had a sensor placed into their motor cortex and so far have been able to control cursor movement on a screen. Says doctor John Simerall at Brown University building the neurotechnology device:

“Simply by imagining intuitive movements participants can immediately control a robotic device.”

Here come the cyborgs.