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This week’s long reads

Some more long reads from the last week:

A popular post but worth repeating/reposting: Ted Chiang‘s takedown of Silicon Valley’s concerns over AI, pointing out that much of their dystopian fears are actually projections of their own rapacious late capitalism. A good quick read, but here’s my takeaway quote:

It’d be tempting to say that fearmongering about superintelligent AI is a deliberate ploy by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook to distract us from what they themselves are doing, which is selling their users’ data to advertisers. If you doubt that’s their goal, ask yourself, why doesn’t Facebook offer a paid version that’s ad free and collects no private information? Most of the apps on your smartphone are available in premium versions that remove the ads; if those developers can manage it, why can’t Facebook? Because Facebook doesn’t want to. Its goal as a company is not to connect you to your friends, it’s to show you ads while making you believe that it’s doing you a favor because the ads are targeted.

(Again, and I wish I could find it, but I think about that essay that pointed out that Musk/Zuckerberg aren’t these godlike geniuses, they’re robber barons.) This also ties into my thoughts about how modern tech/apps/startups have separated their user-side uses from the way they make profits.

Meanwhile, Umair Haque’s essay “What Do You Call a World That Can’t Learn from Itself” says something I’ve been harping on about for ages: America has stopped dreaming of a better future and also ignores the advances in other countries (whereas we used to steal ideas left and right).

Everything I consume in the States is of a vastly, abysmally lower quality. Every single thing. The food, the media, little things like fashion, art, public spaces, the emotional context, the work environment, and life in general make me less sane, happy, alive. I feel a little depressed, insecure, precarious, anxious, worried, angry — just like most Americans do these day. So my quality of life — despite all my privileges — is much worse in America than it is anywhere else in the rich world. Do you feel that I exaggerate unfairly?

Finally, as the corrupt tool Ajit Pai ruins Net Neutrality, articles like this one have been popping up:

Motherboard & VICE Are Building a Community Internet Network It reads like a call to arms:

In order to preserve net neutrality and the free and open internet, we must end our reliance on monopolistic corporations and build something fundamentally different: internet infrastructure that is locally owned and operated and is dedicated to serving the people who connect to it.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week (apart from Thomas Fire-anxiety.)

(image taken Dec. 17 at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs)

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