This is excellent and a good way to open a political conversation about this very thing.

The only part I'm unclear about is if social media puts up a solid paywall, won't that exacerbate an already imbalanced equity between haves and nots?

I have zero solution to offer re social media. but I have long strongly advocated for clear laws regarding use of cable and broadcast "news", opinion, and out and out deliberate lying, to incite social unrest.

For example, nothing good has ever come from Rupert Murdoch. Yet he is legally permitted to spout dangerous BS to destroy democracies on both sides of both main oceans. Clearly, we need better, more sophisticated laws for our contemporary world.

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The 'algorithms' Facebook etc run are just adaptive neural networks. They're trained on a set of user data points across millions of users to increase screen time, leading to more advertising impressions and revenue. There's nothing new or novel about neural networks. The first computational model of neural nets was created in 1943 by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts. Frank Rosenblatt's Perceptron was a trainable neural network built in 1957. The number of layers and size/width of the data sets have increased with computing power, but the 'algorithm' is the same.

This is why most of our algorithmically-provided "feeds" are getting really lame and tiresome. The feeds home in on your interests until you get sick of seeing the same SAMEness over and over.

What I'm saying is there's nothing to see "under the hood". You can't look at the internals of a neural network and make any sense of them. They're not algorithms with clearly defined logic.

On the outside they're simple revenue-optimizing machines. The inputs are your/our data, the output is slightly higher revenue than a human-designed heuristic model could provide.

We can see behind the curtain, and we're not impressed with the wizard. I think the great opting-out of social media is due. It has to provide some meaningful benefit to society, not just move billions of dollars from public to private hands. No one has ever said that of a business, not in the USA anyway. The measure has always been growth of shareholder value.

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The answer to all of this is breaking up the monopolies. A "deep state" that ultimately reports to large corporations is a threat to all of us. A deep state truly committed to protecting our democracy is not a threat.

Breaking up the monopolies reduces corporations ability to control the deep state and law makers....

Halting progress has never and will never be the answer..

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The I believe the real and dangerous problem with the algorithms, as being used today is much simpler to explain. This explanation, much like the pre-history common enlightenment in the article can be expressed in a very simple way. The US post office must be both the example and the solver / cure or fix. When this country was started and worked out the problems of being different from the rest of the world; a democracy. things no one had dreamed about created problems no one even knew about. Simply sending letters, packages and information was no longer done as in the past. The post office was created. Letters,packages and information was sent using the Post Office which had the first information algorithms built right into the postal system. First class mail, second, third and even fourth class delivery options. This proved to be a great idea but a very unworkable system. The recipient not the sender had to pay the price of the delivery using the postal system. That just did not work. This created for profit systems with a multitude of problems. none of which worked to perfection. The postal system created stamps. Stamps were the cleansing system removing the problems for the most part for over a hundred years. Then stepped in the profit motive again as a way, we were told; was necessary and to create improvements to the system of moving letters, packages and information. It included the new creations of advertisements that would spur economic growth. Nothing was mentioned about the existing algorithms of the 4 classes created to provide government control and assistance to the Post Office. Along came computers, faxes, PDFs and now a system to replace the Post Office E mail. The answer to the new problems in the Email systems is simple. Put them under the control of the Post Office and make the sender pay the cost. davewd

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There is a very old saying "gabage in garbage out" and it definitely applies to computer programs. Code is written based on a use case and if that is not done properly then even a good coder's programs will fail to work properly. We see that in spades with the Tesla cars that go off the road and in to a building or parked vehicle. We saw that with the failures of the software engineers at Boeing with the 737 Max jets that killed hundreds when the programming took away control from the pilots.

We have very young people doing much of the programming and they do not know what they do not know and all the large companies have replaced very experienced senior programmers with kids recently graduated from college and having no real world experience. Would you trust a heart surgeon with no experience and days on the job? Well that is what we now have in companies where the senior engineers have been let go to reduce costs and increase management bonuses.

There are people who believe anything they read in print and others that trust without reserve the output from a computer program. If the computer program says I should be taking statins then it must be true and this absolves the physician pill pusher as it is the "computer" that is making the decision.

The foolishnish though is in trusting any source from a social media platform. One might as well rely on a car salesman's advice on purchasing a new car. When hundreds of clueless individuals repeat statements it does not increase the veracity of those statements, but 99% of participants think that it does.

What is sadly lacking is critical thinking and this is a failure on the part of lazy individuals and poor teachers in the schools. Teaching "fasts" to memorize and not how to think in a critical manner about those bits of information is the key problem with our society today and why men and women continue to vote for politicians that have their heads and soulds deep in the pockets of the elites.

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What could be more ignorant than computer coding that knows absolutely nothing about what is humane? "It" cannot care about the future of the whole planet.

"Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”-James Baldwin

We saw with this last election, that information has reached a large portion of the voters. I think activists are just getting started. Let's figure out more ways to keep improving and fighting this ignorance.

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In the last 20 years it has become increasingly difficult to do sound and independent research at any level; Google and other search engines increasingly 'only' give you what the algorithm suggests the research needs.

Similarly consumers only get what the algorithms and the companies who pay for the advertising want us to see.

The really scary regulatory scenario was well demonstrated during the 2020-2 Covid lack of debate and limitation of an open forum discussion of all research data developed by truly independent researchers - the partnership of governments and the pharmaceutical industry simply adopted the most unusual suppression algorithm and used the media to call all disagreements "disinformation." When you look at how industry has a rotating lobby group of executives moving in and out of all our regulatory bodies, history, both recent and long term suggests that this laws and boards are easily co-opted.

However, Mr. Hartman is absolutely correct in his analysis: There needs to be tough regulatory supervision of all our search algorithms. Congress just needs to be mindful of designing as a consumer agency- and not as an industry advertising scheme to lull consumers and research into a truly 1984 governance system.

Mr. Hartman citation:

Social media companies have claimed that their algorithms are intellectual properties, inventions, and trade secrets, all things that fall under the rubric of these laws to advance and protect intellectual property and commerce.

And, indeed, the whole point of algorithms is to enhance commerce: to make more money for the social media sites that deploy them.

But are they promoting “the Progress of Science and the useful Arts”? Is amplifying hate and misinformation “useful”?

If not, the power to keep algorithms secret that Congress has given, Congress can also take away.

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“Let the buyer beware” is an ancient warning that applies in this discussion about algorithms, I believe. While it is true that the subliminal nature of algorithms is the point that must be highlighted, and while it is equally true that none of us is capable of exempting ourselves from some degree of influence when we participate in any activity which exposes us to input from anonymous and mercenary sources, some of us have a BS filter that works much better than others who have not developed such a filter.

I will probably be accused of going off-topic. I have no desire to detract from or diminish the clear and present danger from the “invisible hands” which direct unwitting people in a direction which leads them down a primrose path toward delusion and destruction. I agree wholeheartedly that algorithms are being misused and are a pernicious tool if not monitored and controlled. However, Friday’s topic has some relevance here again, and ultimately, we always must recognize how our perceptions, impressions, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and experiences are affected by unseen forces or underestimated subtle influences within our most cherished institutions.

The original “big lie” has led us to where we are now, with inordinate susceptibility to misinformation, disinformation, and the manipulation of our thinking, feeling, and believing. Far too many people have been conditioned to suspend disbelief and to lack a “critical thinking” filter which questions what is fed to them and allows them to have a more holistic and comprehensive worldview.

It has amazed me that so many people, some whom I have greatly admired and trusted as great intellects have appeared to be still confusing important matters such as “public schooling”, “education”, “compulsory schooling”, “learning”, “knowledge acquisition”, and related topics. It is even more astounding to me that so many have seemed to have no interest in discussing these issues in any terms except in with those which they are familiar and which are part of a grand mythology.

When the hawks, warmongers, and rabid anti-communists were saying, ‘love it or leave it’, these same people, including many in this audience, were out front calling that pure BS and an unviable argument. So, I do not get it when I get what appears to be a knee-jerk negative reaction or nothing but blank stares when I catalogue the many problems and failures of the “public” schools. To criticize bad schools is not to say that Randi Weingartner is dangerous or responsible for their problems or that I am trying to destroy public schooling.

One can be highly critical of the schools and not be in favor of privatization. One can be adamantly opposed to compulsory attendance laws and connect those laws to the chronic conflicts and controversies of the schools, without believing that the schools cannot become much more hospitable and extremely useful institutions for socialization, training of various types, supervision, character-building, health promotion, and indoctrination (as consciously chosen by parents) if disconnected from state domination.

We can have schools which are not models of prisons or military academies. We can have schools which are both public AND voluntary, without leaving anyone out or behind. We can have schools which facilitate education and inspire and edify, without threats, intimidation, punishment, paternalism, discouragement, demoralization, or mediocrity and cynicism.

Likewise, we can create programs and policies which help citizens to be more discriminating and aware, without discrimination and xenophobia and fearfulness. We can have institution which are insulated from outside meddling and manipulation by politicians or state agents who arbitrarily remove civics instruction and impose right-wing viewpoints using power over schooling that no one should ever have in a democracy.

Children must “pay attention” to learn. However, I defy anyone to force a child to pay attention in a way which has a beneficial and lasting effect or which results in learning that does not have the taint of imposition and resistance.

I defy anyone to bribe a student or use extrinsic reward with a satisfactory outcome over the long term or which does not condition the student to abandon intrinsic rewards or to have a lack of appreciation and awareness toward learning for its own sake.

I defy anyone who has consistently introduced children to, or bothered them with, information, material, or instruction in which they have not had a curiosity or interest in to show how they, the influencers and adults, have been an inspiration, a facilitator of education, or a model worth emulating. Patronization undermines trust.

School is not education for these and other reasons. Mandatory schooling is the antithesis of education. Education is personal. Schools must group students in classes, sacrificing the personal. Education requires full engagement, personal initiative, intensive concentration, and private cognition, contemplation, and rumination. School allows very little time and space for any of these, especially when there is a curriculum that is not organic and spontaneous in response to student input and inquiry, and when there is a pathological need to track and document supposed progress.

What I believe I am witnessing in far too many instances is a dismissal of, or a minimization of, significant and serious injuries to children. Their humiliation, angst, abuse, maltreatment, exploitation, or miseducation is being ignored. Adults who seem to care about all sorts of unfairness, miscarriages of justice, and abuses of power affecting other adults have decided, quite consciously, to look the other way and disregard the egregious harm to children - for one reason and one reason only. They believe that children must be seen and not heard. They believe that life is hard, so life must be hard for kids to teach them that life is hard!

Life is unfair, and getting somewhere demands rigor, work, and endurance. Therefore, children must be forced to bear dissatisfaction and misery to prepare them for adulthood. That is the irrational logic behind the failure to act in defense of children or to oppose the denial of their constitutional rights as citizens at birth. I find it extremely disconcerting to think that people I have trusted for ideas and information have fallen into this trap.

It has easily been forty years since John Holt wrote that “School is bad for kids”. Holt also said that, “School makes children servile and dumb”. He was one of dozens of people who had been outspoken about harms done in schools and by schooling as we have known it, starting a century or more before. Volumes have been written by Dewey and others about a broken paradigm. Yet, in the second decade of the 21st century there is no chance that the conditions in our dysfunctional schools will change. Uncounted promises have been broken and innumerable reforms have had their few minutes in the sun, only to fade out, flame out, or be defunded, disappearing with hardly a trace.

Power in the wrong hands or applied for the wrong reasons is corrosive and dangerous. Power over children to ostensibly teach them lessons or “educate” them is power that is too easily abused, mismanaged, and ignored. Knowledge acquisition, learning, education, and teaching are processes and activities which should not occur in an environment where power or undue influence are being applied as a matter of course or in anything other than a temporary emergency circumstance.

We have a schooling paradigm which is destructive and which is hostile to education. We have a schooling paradigm which is inimical to the interests and welfare of students, which dishonors good teachers, which usurps the rights and obligations of parents, and which puts our country and our democracy at risk. Power is granted as a function of laws which are paternalistic and unconstitutional. And the results fill our headlines with unpleasant accounts of failure and bad conduct daily. The results yield school graduates who can be suckered by a comedian named Limbaugh and by mindless algorithms.

As stated in a couple of recent posts, we have state schools, not public schools. The states each have their “900-page book of rules”. The states have put us all in Strait Jackets and chastity belts and have put blinders on us. Not a single state official can articulate what education is to my satisfaction. Not a single one has the solution to the endless problems and abuses.

What kind of residual religious or super-moralistic algorithms were used to program us in school? Benevolent Big Brother state has had our best interests at heart and is able to educate our children? By force? There’s a doozie of a bigly big lie.

We are far beyond the crisis stage. Ending bad attendance laws should be one of our top priorities, and if it isn’t algorithms will just grease the skids on our downfall. When will someone listen?

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