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Life & Philosophy

Open is closed

There are two worlds: open and closed. In the closed world, “you can know only what you’re permitted to know.”

China, Turkey, and North Korea are closed worlds. The news is state-run, recast as edited real life.

Meanwhile, open information systems suffer from hack journalism. Excess information confounds true and fake news. Consequently, no one knows what’s going on. They fall prey to an incompetent demagogue that condemns them to “exciting times.

Both open and closed systems shroud the data, either by default or with intention. Everyone knows everything and nothing; none of it adds up to actuality.

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Twitter On Tap

TV is too slow. Facebook’s algorithm takes at least a dozen hours to build up steam. It’s too hard to tell what’s live, archival, owned, and merely sourced on Instagram. Instagram also restricts rebloggability so the best-real time content never goes viral. It’s quite clear that the default tool for breaking and keeping up with news as evidenced Ferguson is Twitter.

Twitter thrives off breaking news. It’s the quickest microphone for people to spread awareness. Protestors in Turkey and Egypt turned to Twitter first to get the word about government corruption. So did the people in Ferguson in complaining about the local police, which appeared to represent the American military more than everyday police officers.

So as much as tech pundits slam Twitter for it’s torpid user growth, it’s still the best way to peek inside the lives of those on the ground. Sometimes the best social media is local.

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The Flaws of Clicktivism

Social media is good at rallying initial support but poor at sustaining and energizing it. While some of this can be blamed on Internet users’ short-attention spans in the age of digital distraction, most of the capitulation occurs because protective governments turn the social media platforms completely off as Turkey did yesterday in shutting down Twitter.

Social media is the epitome of democracy, a public microphone that enables anyone to say what they want, when they want. Naturally, social media gets noisy, as people abuse it to share useless status updates or scurrilous rumors just to see who’s listening. False information can spread quickly but the truth always seems to ends up on top.

The best that governments can do to protect against social media is let it be rather than trying to control it and generating further opposition. There will always be ways around the great firewalls.

Bilby StampedePic via @utku

People ultimately decide if a social media rally is worth pursuing. As professor Zeynep Tufekci points out, protests require great leadership and management since the most forceful efforts really have to be mobilized offline.

Twitter is a barometer for testing true democracies. It turns out that some quasi-democracies like Turkey and Russia still prefer censorship.

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Big brother in Turkey
Big brother in Turkey

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How Technology Killed the Future

Gone are the days when we could follow a charismatic leader on an ends-justify-the-means journey toward a clear goal. A person like Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t be able to rally people to realize his great dream today. He would be as desperate for hourly retweets as the rest of us, gathering “likes” from followers on Facebook as a substitute for marching with them. Imagine John F. Kennedy attempting to rally national support for a decade-long race to the moon? The extreme present is not an environment conducive to building lasting movements.

We’ll said but social media is one hell of a mobilizer.

See Turkey last year and right now, Ukraine.

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Only 1 in 3 Americans Claim That Social Media is Important to Them

Americans get bored too easily, especially males.  

But this tidbit is more interesting:  

“On a global scale, social media is rated important (top-2 box) by the highest proportion of respondents in Turkey (64%), Brazil (63%), Indonesia (62%), China (61%) and Saudi Arabia (59%). By comparison, social is important to the smallest proportion of respondents in France (17%) and Japan (24%).”

Social media is more important in emerging countries where the governments shun civil rights. 

“If you don’t act, the danger becomes stronger.” – Ai Weiwei

Categories
Travel

5 Things I Learned From Vacation

Photo Jan 01, 11 21 58 AM.jpg

We should go on vacation more often. Here’s why:

1. Break up the Routine

We should go on vacation primarily to relax but we should also go to step away from the monotony of the daily grind. Doing the same thing every day creates a life of boredom and automation. Stepping away allows you to reevaluate the things you do and ask yourself why you do them in the first place.

“Will you live to work or will you work to live?” — Roots Manuva

2. Examine Your Own Language

Take a vacation abroad if you can. By doing so, you’ll challenge yourself to a game of communication. You’ll realize that while English is the world’s language, millions of people still don’t speak it and you may have to use your hands. You also won’t have the luxury of Google Maps since you won’t have a 3G or 4G connection which means you’ll have to ask for directions face to face, with a real map. Google Translate won’t be there to save you either.

3. Embrace Different Cultures 

Frustration is a natural part of travel. No one speaks the same language and operates the same way. For sure, the one thing you can count on is the food being different.

The point of travel is to embrace the local culture and to note the things you like and dislike. You can’t possibly know what you like until you try to discover it all.

4. Escape the Internet

If you travel abroad, you certainly won’t have the luxury of ubiquitous Internet access like you do at home. This is a chance for you to rewire your brain and connect neurons instead of external bytes. You still need to use your own brain to think. You also need to look people in the eye and show emotion.

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Photo by Wells Baum

 

While going Internet-less can be frustrating at times because you want to instantly share the cool things you capture, it forces you to share only the things that matter. The more content you have to play with, the more you selective you can be in only sharing the worthiest highlights.

5. Enjoy More 

You have more time on vacation to do more stuff. You can drink more, sleep more, work out more, read more, learn more, and think more. You can catch up on side projects and explore your intuition.  You can free your mind from the stressful restraints of a schedule.

Vacation is a chance to freshen up and reprioritize the work that matters.  Most importantly, vacation gives us a chance to live life at random, as we once did when we were kids.

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Hats

Hats protect us from the sun. They’re useful for sports like baseball so one can see the ball. Hats also cover up bad hair days and bald spots.

There are all types of hats: cowboy hats, sombreros, and baseball caps. Hats are just as much about protection as they are style.

Sometimes people wear to show support for a team or brand. Hats become a jersey for the head.

Wearing hats as advertisements is beyond what they were originally intended for. But the same can be said for just about any attire or material desire (e.g. car, house) that you dress up beyond its use.

It’s not just enough to own for reasons of utility. We want to express ourselves through specific products. And nothing signals louder than a hat. There’s a reason bugs fly around your head; your head is the first thing they see and how they ultimately evaluate you.

We all risk becoming products, flashing flyers of attention to show our wealth and style. The hat is your first line of expression.

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What do you feed the world?

They offer all types of food at some resorts in order to appeal to a wide global audience. The hope is that by offering guests a taste of back home that they’ll enjoy their trip even more.

But when you offer as diverse food selection as Amazon does books, the point of the trip gets lost in the long-tail.

We travel to get away from the ordinary rituals of daily life. Travelers should embrace surprises, and start doing so by simply eating the local food.

One fact of life is that you can’t possibly know something until you’ve tried it. Deep learning occurs only when you escape your comfort zone and get familiar with the unfamiliar.

The propensity to stick with only what you know begets ignorance. All life is an experiment, and experiments fail. But sometimes they work. You may end up favoriting a new dish.

Success and failure are fungible; whichever results, at least you can say you tried.

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Asking for Directions

No one asks for directions anymore, nor do they use an external GPS. They just navigate to their destination using the Google Maps app with GPS pre-installed.

The impact is two-fold:

  1. People don’t need maps, nor do they need to know how to read one. They just listen to the machine and depend on it to tell them where to go.
  2. The locals, even the manager at the gas station, feels a bit lonelier. We used to use them as guideposts, and they used us to gauge interest in their community.

When technology replaces old maps and people we lose the chance to problem solve and interact. We never get a chance to learn from our mistakes or be misled, impeding our brain’s ability to form new connections and strengthen our instincts.

Outsourcing the human mind to machines is supposed to free up time so we can move on to do bigger and more important things. But it’s only making us lazier.

Elon Musk has already started making the the first self-driving car to be available in three years. Once we go on autopilot we risk losing our faculty of mind.