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Sacha Baron Cohen Says Tech Companies Built the “Greatest Propaganda Machine in History”

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In a keynote address to the Anti-Defamation League, entertainer Sacha Baron Cohen calls the platforms created by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other companies “the greatest propaganda machine in history” and blasts them for allowing hate, bigotry, and anti-Semitism to flourish on these services.

Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history- — the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

When I, as the wanna-be-gansta Ali G, asked the astronaut Buzz Aldrin “what woz it like to walk on de sun?” the joke worked, because we, the audience, shared the same facts. If you believe the moon landing was a hoax, the joke was not funny.

When Borat got that bar in Arizona to agree that “Jews control everybody’s money and never give it back,” the joke worked because the audience shared the fact that the depiction of Jews as miserly is a conspiracy theory originating in the Middle Ages.

But when, thanks to social media, conspiracies take hold, it’s easier for hate groups to recruit, easier for foreign intelligence agencies to interfere in our elections, and easier for a country like Myanmar to commit genocide against the Rohingya.

In particular, he singles out Mark Zuckerberg and a speech he gave last month.

First, Zuckerberg tried to portray this whole issue as “choices…around free expression.” That is ludicrous. This is not about limiting anyone’s free speech. This is about giving people, including some of the most reprehensible people on earth, the biggest platform in history to reach a third of the planet. Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Sadly, there will always be racists, misogynists, anti-Semites and child abusers. But I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims.

Second, Zuckerberg claimed that new limits on what’s posted on social media would be to “pull back on free expression.” This is utter nonsense. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, however, this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook. We’re not asking these companies to determine the boundaries of free speech across society. We just want them to be responsible on their platforms.

If a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and saying he wants kill Jews, would the owner of the restaurant be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal? Of course not! The restaurant owner has every legal right and a moral obligation to kick the Nazi out, and so do these internet companies.

Tags: Facebook   Google   journalism   Mark Zuckerberg   propaganda   racism   Sacha Baron Cohen   Twitter   video
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huskerboy
13 days ago
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Seattle
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Indiana Bell moved a functioning building in 1930

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Indiana Bell building

In 1930, Indiana Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T, needed a larger building for their headquarter. The problem? The old building needed to stay in operations at all times, providing an essential service to the city. Instead of tearing it down or simply moving to a new building, they decided to move it to a different part of the lot and build on the existing location. Just that.

The massive undertaking began on October 1930. Over the next four weeks, the massive steel and brick building was shifted inch by inch 16 meters south, rotated 90 degrees, and then shifted again by 30 meters west. The work was done with such precision that the building continued to operate during the entire duration of the move. All utility cables and pipes serving the building, including thousand of telephone cables, electric cables, gas pipes, sewer and water pipes had to be lengthened and made flexible to provide continuous service during the move. A movable wooden sidewalk allowed employees and the public to enter and leave the building at any time while the move was in progress. The company did not lose a single day of work nor interrupt their service during the entire period.

Incredibly most of the power needed to move the building was provided by hand-operated jacks while a steam engine also some support. Each time the jacks were pumped, the house moved 3/8th of an inch.
(Emphasis mine.)

Indiana Bell building

Indiana Bell building
(Via the excellent The Prepared newsletter.)

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huskerboy
31 days ago
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Tile/Dust-to-Digital/Happiness trick

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Find misplaced items
I put a Tile bluetooth tracker in my wallet and forgot about it. Last week, my wallet fell out of my pocket when I was at the movies, and I didn’t realize it until I was in the car. I went back to the theater, opened the Tile app on my phone and pressed the “Wallet” button. The tile in my wallet chirped loudly and I found it wedged between two seats. A useful little gadget! — MF

Old music Twitter feed
Dust-to-Digital is a record label specializing in early, hard-to-find music. They have a terrific Twitter feed with videos I’ve never seen of performers like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Papa Jo Jones, Eddie Cochran, Koko Taylor. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours watching the videos. — MF

Happiness trick
This article titled “1 simple trick to be happier“is not clickbait — it’s sound advice. It suggests that because your happiness level is more dependent on the frequency of positive events, rather than the intensity, you should be creating a daisy chain of happiness-inducing events all day long. “Think of some of the small delights that bring you joy — whether it’s a certain song, a photo from a gathering with friends, or even a pen that writes like a dream — and try intentionally placing them throughout your day.” I have a running list of 100 things that bring me joy that I pull up when needed. On the top of my list is hugging my dog and cuddling (mostly bugging) my cat. — CD

Global street foodie
My favorite street foodie is the YouTuber Mark Wiens. He is half-Chinese, lives in Bangkok, but specializes in eating street food around the world. It’s no surprise to me his channel has 5 million followers because he is enthusiastic, thrifty, do-it-yourself, and he goes to the places I would go for street food: Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, China. His “tours” are more useful than say Anthony Bourdain’s or Andrew Zimmern’s, in part because he doesn’t have a crew and stays low to the ground. When I headed somewhere remote, I check his extensive archive out. — KK

Packable trash cans
We have one of these collapsible trash cans (Camco Collapsible Utility Container, $13) that we use when we have barbecues – I still end up picking up beer bottles and cups the next day but not as many as I would if we didn’t have this. These are also perfect to take camping, because they take up virtually no room. — CD

Long-sleeved T-shirts
I’m my own boss, so I set the work dress code and it is: t-shirts. But I live on the Pacific coast in the fog where it is cool year round, so I only wear long-sleeved t-shirts. And I don’t wear logos. For many years long-sleeved t-shirts in color without logos were hard to find, but I recently got my newest batch from Amazon of all places. The Amazon Essentials long-sleeved t-shirt is heavy duty, inexpensive, and prime delivery. Perfect for my office. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

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huskerboy
38 days ago
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How digital initiatives and artificial intelligence continue fueling innovation at Starbucks

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Kevin Johnson, Starbucks chief executive officer, speaks on stage during the Starbucks Annual Meeting of Shareholders on Wednesday March 20, 2019 at WaMu Theater in Seattle. (Starbucks Photo)

The news: The word “digital” came up 44 times on Starbucks’ investor call Thursday, following its earnings report that beat analyst estimates with $6.75 billion in third quarter revenue.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson highlighted the company’s “Deep Brew” initiative that leverages artificial intelligence to automate inventory orders; predict staffing needs; anticipate equipment maintenance; personalize customer offers (its Starbucks Rewards loyalty membership program grew 15 percent to 17.6 million members); and more.

“Deep Brew is a key differentiator for the future,” Johnson said on the call. Johnson, a former Microsoft and Juniper Networks leader who took over as CEO in 2017, wrote about Deep Brew in a LinkedIn post last week. The company is working with Microsoft to power the underlying infrastructure for Deep Brew.

Why it matters: Over the past several years Starbucks has evolved into a tech company that sells coffee, similar to other retail giants going through digital transformation and investing heavily in the cloud. Nike, which just acquired a Seattle tech startup and hired former eBay exec John Donahoe as its new leader, is another example of this trend. Fellow food and beverage giant McDonald’s is using AI and machine learning to make the drive-thru more efficient.

Digital investments are perhaps even more crucial for Starbucks in China, where digital orders represented 10 percent of the company’s business this past quarter, with 7 percent from delivery and 3 percent from Mobile Order & Pay, its app-based order-ahead feature. “I think the Chinese consumer is much more advanced in these digital scenarios than in the U.S.,” Johnson noted on the call.

What’s next: Expect more investment in technology from Starbucks, which this year announced a partnership with Microsoft; inked a deal with Brightloom; and put $100 million in Valor’s tech-focused Siren Ventures Fund. The company is also expanding its delivery service across the U.S. with Uber Eats and innovating on store design concepts — next week it will open the first U.S.-based Starbucks Pickup store in New York City, which uses Mobile Order & Pay as the primary ordering and payment method. It debuted a similar store in China this past July. Much of the company’s innovation R&D is happening at the Tryer Center, a new space at its HQ in Seattle that opened earlier this year.

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huskerboy
38 days ago
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Aussie vs NZ: How Do You Tell Very Similar Accents Apart?

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In this video, dialect coach Erik Singer explains how to tell similar accents apart, like Australia & New Zealand, Philly & NYC, and North England & South England.

For each pair of languages, Singer provides a word or a phrase you can use to tell accents apart. For instance, ask natives from North England and South England to say “cut your foot” and you’ll know right away which is which.

Singer has done several other interesting videos on language and accents for Wired: 4 Amazing Things About Languages, Accent Expert Breaks Down 6 Fictional Languages From Film & TV, Movie Accent Expert Breaks Down 32 Actors’ Accents (and 28 more), and Movie Accent Expert Breaks Down 28 Actors Playing Presidents.

See also people sharing accents from all 50 states.

Tags: Erik Singer   language   video
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huskerboy
38 days ago
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1 public comment
cjheinz
38 days ago
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Fascinating.

How To Talk To Kids About Climate Change

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NPR’s Anya Kamenetz shares six tips on how to talk to your kids about the climate crisis. Step 1 is to break the silence:

He says, despite the fact that the climate crisis literally affects everyone on earth, too many of us are sitting alone with our worries, our faces lit by our phone screens in the middle of the night. “We seem to be more scared of upsetting the conversation than we are scared about climate change.”

Mary DeMocker, an activist and artist in Eugene, Ore., is the author of The Parents’ Guide To Climate Revolution, a book focusing on simple actions families can take both personally and collectively. “The emotional aspect is actually, I think, one of the biggest aspects of climate work right now,” she says.

Asked what feelings parents tell her they are grappling with, she ticks off guilt, distraction, confusion. And the big one: fear.

See also 8 Ways To Teach Climate Change In Almost Any Classroom.

Tags: Anya Kamenetz   global warming   how to   parenting
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huskerboy
39 days ago
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