Weaponised psychology and centralised corruption a tale of two internets?

Public Service Internet
Imagine two sides of a tree. One is private and the other one is public. You have the choice to move freely between both, now thats a park I think is fair to everyone

I was a little disappointed in the discussion I heard during the PsychTech Podcast titled A Digital Attention Crisis? I was expecting a little more in-depth criticism of the digital system. But they seemed to turn against Tristan Harris and the time well spent movement.

Don’t get me wrong some of it did make sense but I felt like they were shooting the messenger not listening to the message. Now to be fair I was listening in the shower and getting ready; so may have missed some key parts while washing my hair. But by the end I was shouting out loud, have they never heard of the Quantified Self?

The point of time well spent isn’t about Tristan dictating some rules from on high. Its meant for us to question our relationship with ubiquitous  connected technology and the way the companies behind them influences our lives.

Ironically a few days before I read Tim Berners-Lee’s rallying call to regulate tech firms to prevent ‘weaponised’ web. Its a pretty good read but I feel slightly muted because thats what Tim is like. I’m much more aggressive about the whole issue, and to be fair Kelli and Josue at the very start say, well its just capitalism, what you going to do about it?

I reject this notion but this is also why my focus isn’t on fixing the over reach of capitalism on our attention, thoughts, relationships with each other and beyond.

What happened to diversity? Just have a look at the apps we all use and whos behind each one

Instead its time to double down on the public sector. This is why I find any discussion related to this from an American point of view slightly painful to hear and lacking of the mention of serious alternatives.

Berners-Lee warned of “two myths” that “limit our collective imagination” when looking for solutions to the problems facing the web: “The myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points we need to be a little more creative,” he said.

“I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions,” he said.

He’s absolutely right… Even the concept of a decentralised dating site, gets blank or weird looks. We have hood winked into the centralised model and its not always the best way. I was going say sleep walked but that wouldn’t do justice to the massive influence of the silicon valley tech firms. This is also the part I think the PsychTech podcast misses, this is weaponised psychology not just a happy accident solved by installing an app.

Berners-Lee has always maintained that his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, his vision to create an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged as the web has become more centralised.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

Its very much why I was interested in space wrangling the decentralised space at Mozfest last year. Centralised power corrupts I maintain. Tim is right we need a better vision but rather than spend all that effort trying to reform a horribly broken system of corruption, greed and power. Make an viable alternative which makes the existing model obsolete… (love Buckminster for this great quote)

Its time to build a public service internet which maintains its values, diversity and distributed nature of the public; as an alternative to whats currently seen as the whole internet… We don’t need a new internet, we need competing services with different business models which can talk to each other and give options to the people.

You want a private park which is nicely maintained and don’t mind paying for the privilege? Fine. But if you want a park which is public and has a lively community because its free to the public due to taxes. Fine too. Similar to health care, libraries, transport in Europe, you can pay but there is a baseline.

Critical when thinking about the digital divide and the next 1 billion people.

This still leaves a gaping “digital divide” that exacerbates existing inequalities: you are more likely to be offline if you are female, poor, or live in a rural area or a low-income country.

“To be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate,” Berners-Lee said. “If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042. That’s an entire generation left behind.”

Two years ago, the UN declared internet access to be a basic human right on par with clean water, shelter, food and electricity. However, in many places, getting online is prohibitively expensive – the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband in Malawi is more than 20% of the average monthly income. In Zimbabwe, it is nearly 45%.

The realm of third-party trackers on Android

Luman android root cert

I was excited to learn about Lumen Privacy Monitor, as I’ve always wondered about the apps I have installed even when I have restricted the permissions wanted from the installed app.

New research co-authored by Mozilla Fellow Rishab Nithyanand explores just this: The opaque realm of third-party trackers and what they know about us. The research is titled “Apps, Trackers, Privacy, and Regulators: A Global Study of the Mobile Tracking Ecosystem,” and is authored by researchers at Stony Brook University, Data & Society, IMDEA Networks, ICSI, Princeton University, Corelight, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“This is the start of a long project to uncover all the hidden data collection and data dissemination practices on the internet,” Nithyanand explains.

“There’s a huge lack of transparency around how mobile applications behave,” adds Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez, a co-author and researcher at ICSI. “People install software, but don’t know what that software is doing.”

The paper’s introduction lays out a troubling scenario: “Third-party services inherit the set of application permissions requested by the host app, allowing them access to a wealth of valuable user data, often beyond what they need to provide the expected service.”

To study this scenario, the researchers used Lumen Privacy Monitor, an Android app they built themselves over a two-year period.

So I installed it just to see what was going on with my Android devices. But there is a problem… Best summed up in this comment from Wcat.

Not open source? TLS interception? Before you install this stop and think about TLS interception. “Those who would trade privacy for security deserve neither.”

Luman asks for permissions to install its own root certificate, and this deeply worries me. TLS inception isn’t a trivial thing to be honest, I know its needed but it had me questioning how I really want to monitor the apps? Also if I remove the app, will the certificate be removed too/how would I know?

Right now, I’m keeping an eye on the app but haven’t installed the root cert yet.

She means business

While doing some research around Living a conscious life. I was pleasantly surprised to find Carrie Green had included part of a conversation following the Tedx talk above, with her in North Tea Power in her book.

When I discovered this, I decided well I might as well get a copy for my ever growing library. Today I got my copy…

From the chapter – The little voice in your head

A guy called Ian Forrester climbed up to the stage, I handed him £20, the audience applauded and he went and sat down. A few weeks later we met up over a cup of tea and he told me how a brush with death a few years earlier made him make the decision that he was never going to let anything stand in his way. He said, “People are paralyzed by their fear of what might happen, and so they won’t reach out and grab what’s in front them. And that’s pretty much what I did.”

Thank you again Carrie for the quote and everything, I will never forget the moment.

Could the Mycroft 2, be the perfect replacement for a Google home

I saw the Mycroft v2 recently and had a look through the kickstarter page to learn a little more.

MyCroft v1

It looks promising but after some research and some tweets, I remembered the mycroft.ai is something I looked at previously and was interested in installing on a RaspberryPi to see if I could create what I really need. Its one of my many projects I wanted to do with my holidays sometime. Its clear voice and hue lights could be very good, especially for guests but I don’t want google and philips to be involved in that process.

I also suggested mycroft and betty to Databox team, when we talked about voice in the living room of the future. It seems like a perfect match right?

Anyway, I think I might back the second one only because I don’t really want to do the hard work making it work on a Raspberry Pi.

The starfish and the spider on catalysts and firestarters?

ocean colour scene #3

I have been reading (listening to) the starfish and the spider for the last few days when walking. I never heard of it till I heard one of the interviews on the after on podcast. It feels like the Catherial and the Bazaar for the internet age, ever so relevant.

Something really got me thinking… The idea that The Catalysts sound very similar to The Firestarters?

The book identifies a set of people the authors call “catalysts”, who tend to be skilled at creating decentralized organizations. The authors list several abilities and behaviors (called “The Catalyst’s Tools”) that “catalysts” have in common, including:

  1. Genuine interest in others.
  2. Numerous loose connections, rather than a small number of close connections.
  3. Skill at social mapping.
  4. Desire to help everyone they meet.
  5. The ability to help people help themselves by listening and understanding, rather than giving advice (“Meet people where they are”).
  6. Emotional intelligence.
  7. Trust in others and in the decentralized network.
  8. Inspiration (to others).
  9. Tolerance for ambiguity.
  10. A hands-off approach. Catalysts do not interfere with, or try to control the behavior of the contributing members of the decentralized organization.
  11. Ability to let go. After building up a decentralized organization, catalysts move on, rather than trying to take control.

This book has some similarities to books like The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, as both identify certain sets of people who are important to change in a society or an organization, and try to define the attributes that people belonging to these sets have in common.

I think the Firestarters is next on my list, as I’m keen to see if there is cross overs or should I tweak my title to catalyst?

Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: Sonder

I completely missed the dictionary of obscure sorrows, which is self described as a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig.

Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.

All words in this dictionary are new. They were not necessarily intended to be used in conversation, but to exist for their own sake; to give a semblance of order to a dark continent, so you can settle it yourself on your own terms, without feeling too lost—safe in the knowledge that we’re all lost.

Been thinking of language and how it changes cultures recently, but I found Sonder really nice.

sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Its almost touches the moment I walked out of hospital 8 years ago. That still needs to be defined… And maybe I should define it and submit it. Its certainly not the first time I’ve made up a word

Google clip, decentralised intelligence?

The reviews are appearing about the Google Clip camera. Its not great but to be honest, the only thing I found interesting about it on the announcement, was all the logic/intelligence was onboard. Google has become well known for doing the logic via their own cloud systems, so this was a surprise.

the main reason Google Clips isn’t as worrying as “Google camera that recognizes your family’s faces and records them automatically” sounds is that Google made a few carefully considered technical choices to protect its users’ privacy.

The first is that everything on Clips happens locally. Nothing is synced with Google’s cloud at all — except the photos you save into Google Photos. All the facial recognition happens on the device using its own processing power. None of it is paired up with whatever facial recognition you may have set up in Google Photos. It doesn’t pair faces with names, it just recognizes faces it sees a bunch over time. It also tries to ignore faces it doesn’t recognize. So if you’re at a park with your kids, Clips will endeavor to only take photos of your kids.

The clips the camera takes are also stored only on the camera itself. They don’t try to sync over to your phone unless you ask for them. They’re also encrypted on the camera, in case you lose it.

On first look, I thought it might be a similar replacement for Google Glass, then I thought maybe its the Google GoPro but it doesn’t seem to operate like a point and shoot. So I thought maybe a lifeblogging devices like the autographer and narrative clip. But it seems to be a different category all together.

Its a interesting device, but certainly pricey for a new category camera.

Why oh why Vero?

Mastodon

Something is rising in the public consciousness around the social network apps we are using. Be it due to the changes in Snapchat, the massive turd which is facebook messenger (I’m using the lite version with locked down permissions) or Instagram algorithm changes.

There was a opportunity to move people away from these networks (at least in mobile) but what happened? The media and people started suggesting the use of another proprietary closed sourced startup app… this one called Vero.

I’m unsure like a lot of people, what pushed Vero to the forth front at the right time but i have to give them some credit with picking the right moment?

Ideally I’d like to see systems like Mastodon pushed forward but I think there are lessons which can be learned from Vero’s push into the limelight. Because although Vero’s end user licence looks barely reasonable right now, you have no idea when it will change or/and it will be come a roach motel just like the ones people are unhappy with now…

Maybe its not too late… ? Or its time to start thinking about the next opportunity? I certainly think it can be done, you only have to look at the way the Mastodon community made it easy for avid twitter users to shift over. Whats needed now is user experience expertise around the apps to expose the advantage of Mastodon to the user without over-loading or intimating. Aral talks about the lack of focus on the user experience and in this case, he’s dead right.

Its all for the taking; expose the natural benefits of Mastodon to the user and make them a key part of the experience.