Inception, distraction and the war for your attention

Inception

Its been hard keeping on track and not being sucked into all the other things around me. Of course the biggest thing has been the Manchester arena bombing which was shocking and of course ever so sad (especially for those involved or lost their lives to this mindless act of violence). But generally the amount of noise/static, peer/social pressure and people telling you to pay attention to their thing is pretty bad.

Of course this also has a massive bearing on the happiness and wellbeing of people too (feel like I should have been writing this a few weeks ago during mental health awareness week). I’ve watched how colleagues & friends have struggled not to stay distraction free from stuff others have pushed their way. I have offered to help and sometimes suggested removing certain apps or changing certain settings. Sometimes its been useful, sometimes its worked for a short while but theres not the motivation or drive to follow it through.

I totally understand why… heck we’re all human!

It’s not easy, heck there’s a whole industry setup to shift your attention/reality into their world. Some of it is the bubble where you are like Silicon Valley, but also the systems/pressures around us as summed up so well by Tristan Harris and Sherry Turkle. It’s really dark patterns stuff but it’s so ubiquitous we don’t question them. It’s like a friend who messaged me and asked if I was in a place because she couldn’t see me on Whatsapp, or the notion that if it’s not on Spotify it can’t/doesn’t exist. Someone seemed a little puzzled when I mentioned Spotify doesn’t have most music (crazy but true)! Or even when I decided I wasn’t going to do the icebucket challenge.

yoga

Once the mind is bought into the system and ultimately their opinionated world, its extremely difficult to leave it. (The book – The confidence game, I’m currently reading which is about cons actually has a bit to say about this all)

Magic Trick

I would actually go as far as to say for all the difficulty of stringing together system and services yourself (like free software/open source/decentralised/federated systems). Its forces you to come up with your own world narrative and thoughts; and I’m very sure independent thinking is critical for wellness, health, self-confidence, resiliency and character!

Its slightly ironic only 9 days ago I was in Sarah Raad’s Gratitude Habit workshop during Thinking Digital Newcastle. I’ve been practicing my gratitudes most days including the Monday night of the Manchester arena bombing. Even been thinking of Tweeting them or Tooing them via Mastodon, because most are not secret or really private. I also want to establish that having a gratitude about places which are not full of nature, noisy and busy is as valid as the typical stuff you imagine when you talk about wellness and health.

yoga sunset

Its the point of independent thought. I’m sure Sarah would say deep down underneath most of this will be common human traits or those of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

La Défense, Paris

I guess the point I’m trying to make is… develop your own mindset and don’t be directed into someone elses. Yes it will be difficult but ever so rewarding in the long run.

Nostalga is the enemy of progress and they know this?

Vinyl Night

Some of you might think, you wrote about this before? Well yes I did…  but I have even more to add.

I was actually listening to the wired podcast (which recently hasn’t been so great) and they mentioned the Nokia 3310 and a review of the retro phone along with other retro stuff. The later link is worth reading as it links the tech industries retro fascination with our need for nostalga due to the current political climate.

Our love of nostalgic gadgets comes from the shaky political world we live and brands are using it to their advantage

Nostalgia is an increasingly popular marketing strategy. As consumers, we’ve enjoyed a resurgence of iconic brands and models such as RayBan ‘Wayfarers’, SMEG fridges, Nintendo consoles, vinyl and turntables, Nike Air Max, the infamous Nokia 3310. The list goes on.

“In times of uncertainty, people naturally gravitate towards nostalgic products and experiences,” says psychology professor Sir Cary Lynn Cooper at Manchester Business School. “It gives them a feeling of stability. With the likes of Brexit and Trump continuing the uncertainty of 2016 into 2017, people will be reminiscing about fond times in a more stable world. These times will no doubt have an affinity with certain experiences, brands or products.”

To be fair reading it, its more focused on price points than anything but I do find the amount of people getting into vinyl (although not getting into djing which seems a shame), hollywood remaking old films (although this has always been the case) and of course the retro gaming trend.

Its a interesting point and I’ll refer back to my thoughts previously and I even mention Brexit back then.

I do wonder if its a chicken & egg issue? Is the demand coming from companies or from the people? I think its the people as I imagine nostalga has always been there going way way back

I don’t like these electric light switch things, much prefer the smell of gas lamps?

I jokely imagine? But you only have to think about fireplaces and how people love them. I assume the companies just worked out this is a sure way to sell stuff. Be it retro trainers, 60/70/80’s clothes, 90’s phones, gas lamps, etc etc…

There is something Veronika says in trainspotting t2 when sickboy and renton are reminiscing about the past. Something like, in her country people think about the future not think about the past.

Baby steps forward for e-Residents

It was Chris Hernon who first pointed me at the news I knew would come sooner or later.

Its becoming one step easier to setup a business in Estonia under the e-residency programme. A programme I signed up for and got the go ahead for just recently.

One of the biggest issues was having a bank account in another country which you are not formally a part of. I understand the reasons but as the e-residency is a real digital identity and banking (Fintech) goes through changes its self; it makes sense that the two trends will create something new and exciting

Business banking is radically transforming for almost everyone on Earth. Estonia’s e-Residency programme has now partnered with the Finnish fintech company Holvi to provide borderless business banking to the borderless digital nation. This means a complete EU company with complete EU business banking (& a payment card) can be established entirely online.

Although I’m not planning to setup a business in Estonia anytime soon, this is exciting news and I look forward to hearing what comes next.

I almost feel like a quote from the Hacker manifesto is almost apt here.

A real, honest sincere thank you Manchester

I wrote about the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday night and how I personally been dealing with things. Of course I wasn’t directly affected and I guess its not hit me as hard partly because although it wasn’t far away, I’ve tried not to keep looking at the news and social media. Well actually I’m limiting my sources and general browsing.

Everyone deals with tragic circumstances differently and its important to seek out what helps and be open to it.

This is why I love Dan Hett’s piece in the MEN about the last 48hrs after trying to find out what happened to his brother. I call it real, honest and fitting.

I know a lot of people want some level of privacy during this type of thing but I think the manner in which Martyn lived, he was such a known figure, it’s quite fitting to who he was.

I hate going into clichés but Martyn just had this completely unstoppable lust for life, it was unbelievable. He was the most memorable character you could conceive of. Annoying as f*** all day but just the most memorable guy.

Rest in peace to everyone who died on Monday night, young, old, no matter what religion, ethnic background, sex or sexual preference. Everyone deserves to live life because life is so finite. Tragic attacks like this is a reminder of this and reminder to each one of us all.

Airbnb’s algorithmic telling off

being told off by airbnb

Its kind of weird being told off by Airbnb.

I’ve always been pretty good with Airbnb but recently I had a volleyball derby match which went on way past its set time due to a thrilling end after 5 sets. Plus it was the last match of the year. This meant turning up late, although I did warn this might happen.

Then I had to cancel for the first time on guest who was due to be arrive at 0130am. I did say originally I couldn’t do it but decided since I wasn’t going to Sheffield Docfest anymore it would be possible. So I accepted the request to find out a week later, I would be going to Edinburgh for the DIS 2017 conference.

So I had to cancel for the first time in 2+ years… but it didn’t take long for Airbnb’s algorithm to kick in and tell me what a bad person I am and how my account will be suspended!

Anything but perfection is unacceptable according to Airbnb it seems?

Airbnb hosting standards

Of course it doesn’t really matter too much to me, as I don’t care so much about being a superhost but what I don’t like is being told off by Airbnb for canceling on a guest who to be fair was asking a lot at the start and for the 1st time since I started hosting over 2 years ago.

I wonder what a decentralised airbnb would look like with a federated trust system?

It’s hot out here being so geeky

Jeremy

I do like a little Catfish, its one of my guilty pleasures and perfect for when I’m cooking in the Kitchen.

However Episode 11 of season 6 (catfish s6x11) stood out for me

Colleen met Tony online and fell madly in love. Though they’ve never met, Tony proposed to Colleen over the phone and she accepted. Now, Nev and Max help her finally face the truth to reveal the mystery man she’s engaged to.
I’m going to spoil the episode, so if you want to be unspoiled stop now.
Tony is the Catfish and pretends to be a white geeky guy to Colleen. Shes suspicious calls in the Nev & Max to check him out. They find out that he’s actually this geeky black guy who has been pretending to be a white geeky guy. Almost everything else is true and when they finally out him, theres a moment of … why did he lie? Usually a clear reason why they Catfish, like they are the opposite sex, super young/old, a friend, ex-partner or even dangerous.
When sitting down with him, Nev & Max uncover a problem which is based around stereotypes. Tony’s personality is geeky and shy; from his previous experiences he found some women assume things of a black man and are disappointed when he’s honest about who he is deep down (Thats the crux although a lot more is said which I could dig right into).
He then goes on to talk about how his family are not accepting of mixed race relationships and this further blows up in a later discussion with his family. They ask why a white man and when he gives his reasons, they are even more mortified than the whole proposal of marriage to a white woman (Colleen).
The whole thing serves as a reminder of how many people have to live up to these bollox stereotypes, and how we oppose our stereotypes on each other. Its also a reminder of how uncool its still seen to be geeky in black culture. You could argue this is Tony’s problem but I’d argue you haven’t been paying attention.
Interestingly I finally watched I am not your negro, which is a uncomfortable watch for many as it centres around race relations and power in America.
By and large this film concerns itself with the greater philosophy of why groups in power behave the way they do. This might be the only movie about race relations I’ve ever seen that adequately explains – with sympathy – the root causes of a complacent white American mindset. And it took a black writer and director to do it.
Watching I am not your negro points at why someone like Tony may feel the need to lie about himself? Lovia from the new republic said…

The last half of I Am Not Your Negro moves out of the lives of Malcolm, Martin, and Medgar and takes a broader look at American culture. Over clips of daytime dramas like The Steve Wilkos Show and The Jerry Springer Show, Jackson reads Baldwin’s prescient commentary:

“To watch the TV screen for any length of time is to learn some really frightening things about the American sense of reality. We are cruelly trapped between what we would like to be and what we actually are. And we cannot possibly become what we would like to be until we are willing to ask ourselves just why the lives we lead on this continent are mainly so empty, so tame, and so ugly. These images are designed not to trouble, but to reassure. They also weaken our ability to deal with the world as it is, ourselves as we are.”

Americans in the age of Trump are undergoing a painful period of self-reflection. The election of a reality television star to the highest office in the land would be disconcerting on its own. But the fact that this same star proved time and again that he has no respect for women, minorities, and the disabled makes his election that much harder to understand.

Almost feel like some of the works from Andy Curtis could be very fitting too.

Smartphones are the new Cigarettes? Really?

According to Mark Manson they are

Its quite alarmist title but to be fair his recent book “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” (I have started reading this book btw) also sums up a lot; although his blog about feminism really spoke to me.

The start of Marks arguement stems from going to gym and having people checking their phone in the middle of a session.

And the coach got pissed, yelled at them to put their fucking phones away, and we all stood around awkwardly.

This proceeded to happen two or three times in the class, as it does in pretty much every class, and for whatever reason, today I decided to speak my mind to the women glued to her phone while the rest of us were working out:

Is there really nothing in your life that can’t wait 30 minutes? Or are you curing cancer or something?

Point taken (although I did that nervous laugh when first reading this). I have lots of thoughts about this myself too, especially after coming back from Tokyo. I’ve been grappling with it and started thinking maybe I’m just getting old?

Smoking & Texting

I have been reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together book and haven’t even got to the part about smartphones yet. I’m still early in the book about robots and how we are react to them. Fascinating and slightly scary in someways.

Mark calls it Attention pollution

…somebody else’s inability to focus or control themselves then interferes with the attention and focus of those around them.

Then goes into detail…

…with the explosion in smart devices and internet available pretty much everywhere from Timbuktu to your mother’s ass crack, attention pollution is infiltrating our daily lives more and more without us realizing it.

It’s why we get annoyed at dinner when someone starts texting in front of us. It’s why we get pissed off when someone pulls their phone out in a movie theater. It’s why we become irritated when someone is checking their email instead of watching the ballgame.

Their inability to focus interferes with our (already-fragile) ability to focus. The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user. It hijacks our senses. It forces us to pause our conversations and redouble our thoughts unnecessarily. It causes us to lose our train of thought and forget that important point we were constructing in our head. It erodes at our ability to connect and simply be present with one another, destroying intimacy in the process.

Ok I hear you MarkAttention is precious thing, I’ve said this for years in blog posts and presentations around perceptive media.

Human attention is a scarce commodity

But I disagree on something and you would expect so as a person who finds it slight weird being offline for too long.

Its about choice, social norms and context.

For example I am writing this blog in Ezra & Gil coffee shop with no headphones listening to conversations around me. Ezra includes free wifi from Telecom which you need to click on every hour or so. Theres plugs around the sides of the Cafe, on the high tables best suited for laptop users. While I was in Iceland I spent sometime Reykjavik Roasters which has no wifi deliberately to encourage a different kind of environment. I could have gone around the block to one of the many Te & Kaffi’s but choose to give it a try (choice).

Back to Ezra, some of the conversations are person to person, some are video chat via phone or laptop (these tend to be quieter – social norms). I personally find this more useful for my own mind when writing and thinking. Hence I regularly work out of the northern quarter to help me think. However I don’t want someone on their smartphone while in the cinema (contextual).

Its helped having a smartwatch and I deliberately delay most of my notifications.

Simple but slightly naive solution to Mark gym problem. The coach makes it clear at the start what kind of attention is required. The people then have a choice if they take part or not. If this is broken social norm will take effect. If the notification is so big it cant be ignored, context will mean you can’t carry on anyway.

I do agree there is a problem but comparing it to smoking isn’t quite right in my head. Yes people fill in the silences by looking at their phones, yes I find ringtones in public very annoying (who has their phone on anything but vibrate now a days?) and yes there is a big problem with notifications. But unlike smoking there are big benefits to smartphones too (unlike smoking).

With the right amount of self control, context awareness and established social norms; it could be something incredible. But then we get into what they are actually doing on the phone which is a whole different blog.

Stop making stupid people famous

Rating people, reciprocity and more…

Black MIrror s3ep1

I also like Doc Searls have a problem with rating people.

I’ve hated rating people ever since I first encountered the practice. That was where everybody else does too: in school.

After all, rating people is what schools do, with tests and teachers’ evaluations. They do it because they need to sort students into castes. What’s school without a bell curve?

As John Taylor Gatto put it in the Seven Lesson Schoolteacher, the job of the educator in our industrialized education system is to teach these things, regardless of curricular aspirations or outcomes:

  1. confusion
  2. class position
  3. indifference
  4. emotional dependency
  5. intellectual dependency
  6. provisional self-esteem
  7. that you can’t hide

It’s no different in machine-run “social sharing” systems such as we get from Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. In all those systems we are asked to rate the people who share their cars and homes, and they are asked to rate us. The hidden agenda behind this practice is the same as the one Gatto describes above.

I use Uber now and then especilaly when outside of Manchester for work. I also have used Airbnb and of course host on Airbnb. I’m under no illusion how the rating system influences peoples opnions and behaviour too. Its meant to weed out bad behaviour but always seems to cause unintended consequences. I’m sure the people behind the scence have good intentions but fail to think about the law of unintended consequences.

To be clear I don’t have a problem with rating a piece of media or something non-human, for example I rate most of the media I watch. But rating a person feels a little hostile/weird. As the Black Mirror episode nosedive (s3ep1) clearly demostrates to great effect.

Recently I have been in a few Uber’s for other people (not sharing the fee) and its been interesting to see how people have rated each other. More interestingly is the social contract/mulipulation which spring into action. It starts with the driver stopping the journey and saying “I’m going to rate you 5 stars.” My friend then turns around and says they will do the same, and does. This is classic Law of Reciprocity as described in Influence.

As I tend to think about these things too much, I also find the loop holes in the system equally interesting.

On my holiday to Iceland, the host(s) moved me to another room and I went along with it because I was fed some line about helping them out. But actually there was something dodgy going on, as I met the Airbnb which was moving into my room I had booked.

I was peed off but not quite enough to want seek a refund, I wanted other people to be aware of this and my review explained exactly what happened.  Also brought this up with the hosts the day of this happening and private messaged them through Airbnb. My rating was fair I felt because it was unfair to lie to me about their motives, especially when I’d be very open with them. No rating system could really capture this.

The system is your review goes live once the other person also writes a review. Part of the review is rating out of 5 stars which is the bit which bugs me, because boiling down everything to 5 starts seems too simple.

Generally I only rub sholders with this stuff every once in a while. For example my Uber rating is 4.92 out 5 (partly because I don’t use Uber that much and treat the drivers like people not drivers, I talk to all the taxi drivers regardless). I’m also a superhost on Airbnb because I don’t take a lot of people and very careful who I host at my own place.

Due to these ratings I get a skewed view on each of these system. On uber I only get uber drivers which are rated 4.5 upwards (I hadn’t noticed till one of the drivers pointed it out to me a while ago). With Airbnb I have the luxury of being stricter with who I accept, partly because I don’t need to have guests all the time. However as a guest myself, things are different. Here are my 3 guest experiences

  1. (Japan) was so bad I stayed for 30mins and complained to Airbnb, getting my money back after a long back and forth with Airbnb & the host in question.
  2. (Portugal) was perfect
  3. (Iceland) was good till the end when the host lied and “double booked” the room (see the review here).

But this is about rating people…

Ratings are misleading and a horrible way to understand human complexity. They can be gamed and easily used to spread inequality. We play along unaware how we all contribute to this all.

A different kind of holiday, thanks Kate

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Almost 2 years ago me and Kate took part in the BBC listening project and part of our recording was broadcasted on BBC Manchester and BBC Radio 4.

We’ve been thinking about how to take each other out of our comfort zones for a while and Kate finally pulled the trigger first. So everything was set, Kate had sent her list of things I should bring without telling me where we were going or what we were doing. Some said it was exciting, some said I was crazy…  What ever it was, I did so and without falling to the temptation to find out exactly where by peeking into my parents email (my parents insistented on knowing, just incase. I may have disappeared without telling them a few times in the past).

Anyway Friday with one last blog warning people that I’ll be offline and not to worry. Kate and myself drove off to Holyhead. She told me a few hours earlier that we were going to Dublin, Ireland on St Patricks day (perfect planning Kate). Once on the ferry and remembering how seasick I get, especially on such stormy waters (so stormy irish ferries cancelled the ferry we origianally were booked on due to the stormy waters), Kate outlined some of the things for the day. Mainly go to the hotel, drop our luggage, grab a nap, then head out and enjoy St Patricks day in Dublin.

That night was pretty hectic and although I remember most of the evening and night, it certainly included a 3am walk through temple bar, finding irish people and convincing strangers that the word estrogen was more sexy that pecs (long story, ask Kate).

The next morning after a lovely breakfast, we hit the road again. I had no idea where but we were going south. It wasn’t till Kate asked to use google maps on my phone to look up a place called Lazydays, google described it as a VW Camper hire site. It didn’t sink in till we got there and we were introduced to our own VW Camper called Daker.

VW camper DAKARI honestly thought we were just going to ride some horses and then head to a another hotel, b&b or guest house. But this blew my mind.

Daker had bedding, electricity, a fridge, gas hobs, 2 spaces for seperate beds, moveable seats, a cold water sink, etc etc. It was full of lots of mod cons. I worried it would get cold while sleeping, oh was I wrong!

I made a joke a few times it was like the cover of layer cake, bright yellow and frankly it attracted a lot of people where ever we went. You could see peoples heads turn as we drive by…

We took to the open road and headed to south Ireland. We stopped a few places to eat, pick up some cheese, wine and supplies; then headed to Hook head lighthouse in Wexford. I learned from Sue (Lazydays) and Kate’s conversation, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Ireland aka we were wildcamping, a concept I certainly wasn’t aware, never would imagine of or ever tried.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland
Look how close we parked to the cliff edge!

I got the full effect of wildcamping when Kate parked up between the rough sea and the lighthouse which was already in full action. That night we had maybe too much wine and cheese from Vine restaurant in Wexford; but more importantly the howling wind shaking the van and there was this fear the top which pops up, would blow away in the middle of the night. On top of this, having no where to actually use the toilet in the middle of the night was just too weird! That night, I tracked a total of 4 hours sleep and only 2.5 hours of deep sleep! On top of that I woke up 9 times and my sleep cycle was a joke.

I certainly was out of my comfort zone….! I have no problem with admitting that!

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Wildcamping certainly isn’t for me, I thought as I sat opposite Kate in the oldest lighthouse in the world and had breakfast. It was challenging waking up and doing the tour of the lighthouse, but I didn’t see the point of leaving before checking out the place we had camped under last night. Afterwards it was a long journey around the River Barrow to Waterford. Yes there is a little ferry but frankly me and Kate agreed it was best not to take the ferry with the rough waters and the journey around would be more fun.

Once we found the camper site, Dunmore East and I could finally have a hot shower, things got better again. There was even sunshine as we walked up and down the small waterfront.

That night I slept far better with 8hrs 20mins of total sleep and about 5.5hrours of deep sleep nicely split up into even sleep cycles. I appreciated being only 10 meters from the toilet block, no stormy winds and there being no chance of the roof blowing away.

Now this is a type of camping just outside my comfort zone but I could cope for a day or so.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Lots of things happened over those 3 nights/4 days including losing to Kate twice while playing pool, teaching kate how to play texas holdem no limit poker, talking frankly about dyslexia, writing postcards, ordering off the menu cocktails, etc, etc… We squeezed a lot into those days. But although I’m very very happy to be at home in the warm and with hot showers. It was certainly an adventure which I won’t forget.

I was honestly blown away by the camper van and thankful for the night in Dublin. I know Kate spent a lot of time driving and pretty much arranged everything way in advance. I also know she could have picked some really crazy stuff for me but decided not to. She was a great partner in crime to have on our shenanig-tour

Ireland also surprised me, I was expecting some weird looks but generally it was fine and I didn’t ever feel in-danger from people or the environment. Ok the ferries did make me feel sick and that first night of wildcamping was plenty but otherwise I was pretty cool with things.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Of course its now my time to take Kate our of her comfort zone on a holiday away. The concluding half may not happen till next year now, as I think a massive eastern metropolis is required. New York & Vegas was an option but it won’t have the same impact I don’t feel. Nope its got to be Tokyo. I mean I’ve always wanted to go back, so this might be the perfect excuse.

As Kates pillow says… Adventure awaits!

Adventure awaits
Kates pillow she slept on throughout the holiday

Massive thanks again to Kate and all the people I met along the way including Sue from Lazydays, the people in Hook Lighthouse, the people we messed with in Dublin, etc, etc… But biggest thanks goes to Kate for making the effort and planning everything out but giving enough slack to allow for flexibility around my own concerns. Thank you again Kate and look forward to raising the bar soon…

Es…tro…gen!

The gig economy is killing us…

banksey Street art

Found via christian heilmann

This sums up so much of the problems with the so called sharing economy. Normalising what is simply not right, even if you are a super millennial and survive on red bull, soylent and bullet proof coffee (heck we all been there, some of even lived to tell the tale).

Normalising this lifestyle is frankly crap and will end up killing more people (especially men who are too proud, stuben, old fashioned, alpha or just stupid to admit there is a problem). I’m see it too much and ultimately the only people who gain are the short sighted, hyper capitalistic services which want you to consume more, act like a there algorithms suggests and live a meanless life of little reward and social capital. Yes and then you die!

Choose a bloody life!

I know trainspotting t2’s choose life speech got slated by some but the core of realism is all there including the zero hour contracts

Choose life
Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares
Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently
And choose watching history repeat itself
Choose your future
Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn
Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work
And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen
And then… take a deep breath
You’re an addict, so be addicted
Just be addicted to something else
Choose the ones you love
Choose your future
Choose life

Although not a zero hour contract, its something to keep in tabs on. I would almost go as far as to say this idea they sell is the middle class zero hour nivania. 

Careful who is selling you the candy…

​Cambridge analytica: The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda

cambridgeanalytica

I’ve been studying this area for a long while; when I talk about perceptive media people always ask how this would work for news?  I mean manipulate of feelings and what you see, can be used for good and obviously for very bad! Dare I say those words… Fake news?

Its always given me a slightly unsure feeling to be fair but there is a lot I see which gives me that feeling. In my heart of hearts, I kinda wish it wasn’t possible but wishing it so, won’t make it so.

It was Si lumb who first connected me with the facts behind the theory of what a system like perceptive media could be ultimately capable of. Its funny because many people laughed when I first talked about working with perceptiv whose mobile app under pinned the data source for visual perceptive media; I mean how can it build a profile about who I was in minutes from my music collection?

I was skeptical of course but the question always lingered. With enough data in a short time frame, could you know enough about someone to gage their general personality? And of course change the media they are consuming to reflect, reject or even nudge?

According to what I’ve read and seen in the following pieces about Cambridge analytics, the answer is yes! I included some key quotes I found interesting

The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine

Remarkably reliable deductions could be drawn from simple online actions. For example, men who “liked” the cosmetics brand MAC were slightly more likely to be gay; one of the best indicators for heterosexuality was “liking” Wu-Tang Clan. Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who “liked” philosophy tended to be introverts. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate.
Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook “likes” by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn’t stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether deduce whether someone’s parents were divorced.

Some insight into the connection between Dr. Michal Kosinski and Cambridge Analytica

Any company can aggregate and purchase big data, but Cambridge Analytica has developed a model to translate that data into a personality profile used to predict, then ultimately change your behavior. That model itself was developed by paying a Cambridge psychology professor to copy the groundbreaking original research of his colleague through questionable methods that violated Amazon’s Terms of Service. Based on its origins, Cambridge Analytica appears ready to capture and buy whatever data it needs to accomplish its ends.

In 2013, Dr. Michal Kosinski, then a PhD. candidate at the University of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Center, released a groundbreaking study announcing a new model he and his colleagues had spent years developing. By correlating subjects’ Facebook Likes with their OCEAN scores

What they did with that rich data. Dark postings!

Dark posts were also used to depress voter turnout among key groups of democratic voters. “In this election, dark posts were used to try to suppress the African-American vote,” wrote journalist and Open Society fellow McKenzie Funk in a New York Times editorial. “According to Bloomberg, the Trump campaign sent ads reminding certain selected black voters of Hillary Clinton’s infamous ‘super predator’ line. It targeted Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood with messages about the Clinton Foundation’s troubles in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.’”

Because dark posts are only visible to the targeted users, there’s no way for anyone outside of Analytica or the Trump campaign to track the content of these ads. In this case, there was no SEC oversight, no public scrutiny of Trump’s attack ads. Just the rapid-eye-movement of millions of individual users scanning their Facebook feeds.

In the weeks leading up to a final vote, a campaign could launch a $10–100 million dark post campaign targeting just a few million voters in swing districts and no one would know. This may be where future ‘black-swan’ election upsets are born.

“These companies,” Moore says, “have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open.”

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

When it was announced in June 2016 that Trump had hired Cambridge Analytica, the establishment in Washington just turned up their noses. Foreign dudes in tailor-made suits who don’t understand the country and its people? Seriously?

“It is my privilege to speak to you today about the power of Big Data and psychographics in the electoral process.” The logo of Cambridge Analytica— a brain composed of network nodes, like a map, appears behind Alexander Nix. “Only 18 months ago, Senator Cruz was one of the less popular candidates,” explains the blonde man in a cut-glass British accent, which puts Americans on edge the same way that a standard German accent can unsettle Swiss people. “Less than 40 percent of the population had heard of him,” another slide says. Cambridge Analytica had become involved in the US election campaign almost two years earlier, initially as a consultant for Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Cruz—and later Trump—was funded primarily by the secretive US software billionaire Robert Mercer who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is reported to be the largest investor in Cambridge Analytica.

Revealed: how US billionaire helped to back Brexit

The US billionaire who helped bankroll Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency played a key role in the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, the Observer has learned.

It has emerged that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire, who helped to finance the Trump campaign and who was revealed this weekend as one of the owners of the rightwing Breitbart News Network, is a long-time friend of Nigel Farage. He directed his data analytics firm to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign on how to target swing voters via Facebook – a donation of services that was not declared to the electoral commission.

Cambridge Analytica, an offshoot of a British company, SCL Group, which has 25 years’ experience in military disinformation campaigns and “election management”, claims to use cutting-edge technology to build intimate psychometric profiles of voters to find and target their emotional triggers. Trump’s team paid the firm more than $6m (£4.8m) to target swing voters, and it has now emerged that Mercer also introduced the firm – in which he has a major stake – to Farage.

Some more detail as we know from the other posts previously

Until now, however, it was not known that Mercer had explicitly tried to influence the outcome of the referendum. Drawing on Cambridge Analytica’s advice, Leave.eu built up a huge database of supporters creating detailed profiles of their lives through open-source data it harvested via Facebook. The campaign then sent thousands of different versions of advertisements to people depending on what it had learned of their personalities.

A leading expert on the impact of technology on elections called the relevation “extremely disturbing and quite sinister”. Martin Moore, of King’s College London, said that “undisclosed support-in-kind is extremely troubling. It undermines the whole basis of our electoral system, that we should have a level playing field”.

But details of how people were being targeted with this technology raised more serious questions, he said. “We have no idea what people were being shown or not, which makes it frankly sinister. Maybe it wasn’t, but we have no way of knowing. There is no possibility of public scrutiny. I find this extremely worrying and disturbing.”

There is so much to say about all this and frankly its easy to be angry. But like Perceptive Media, it started off out of the academic sector. Someone took the idea and twisted it for no good. Is that a reason why we shouldn’t proceed forward with such research? I don’t think so…

Scratching the disappointment of masculinity on radio

BBC Merseyside debate

Its been a long time since I was last on BBC Merseyside.  has flown by, but I’ve done a lot in that time. Ngunan has asked a few times if I would come back on the show, and with Valentines day coming up, I agreed.

Theres a lot of history between us, especially when it comes to who pays on the first date. All we needed was Jody to complete the trip down memory lane.

In the middle I did give my 4 things for Valentines day from a singleton to the other million singletons in the UK.

  1. Get busy and don’t dwell on previous relationships
  2. Reconnect with old friends
  3. Get out of you’re comfort zone
  4. Do something constructive

Things took a interesting turn as we started to unpick why… I won’t spoil it but I’ll be back to talk more about the disappointment of masculinity, something I picked up from Trainspotting T2 a few weeks earlier.

Trainspotting director Danny Boyle has revealed that its long-awaited sequel is going to be about “manhood and disappointed masculinity.”

I have clipped the audio without the music on archive.org but you can hear it in full on BBC iplayer.

Just checking its 2017, right?

Day 18/30: Shoes

This certainly fits under John Oliver’s “how is this still a thing?” On last week tonight

I can’t quite remember who first pointed me at the UK petition; but glad they did because I read the petition, was taken a back and signed it straight away.

Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work

It’s still legal in the UK for a company to require female members of staff to wear high heels at work against their will. Dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work, if they wish. Current formal work dress codes are out-dated and sexist.

Yesterday I got a email telling me 152,420 people signed the petition, which is great as 100,000 was needed to get it debated.

Parliament is going to debate the petition you signed – “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”.

The debate is scheduled for 6 March 2017.

Once the debate has happened, we’ll email you a video and transcript.

Look forward to hearing the outcome on this throw back to the past.

Cindy Gallop at #Futurefest – not so safe for work?

There is so much to say about Cindy Gallop (lots I already said), and this is the talk at Futurefest which really suprised me. Its not quite like other talks by Cindy, which are about one or two things. This one seems to include the kitch sink and each point is a talk in its self.

Its almost a shame I have to add #nsfw to the tags, but objectively it may not be…

Well worth watching as Cindy has plenty to say about a lot. She kind of reminds me of Pam who is also an incredible woman.

Smut slamming stuff in Manchester

Smut Slam 20130603_009

It was through Girl on the net’s blog that I first heard about #Smutslam.

I checked it out and thought it was a great idea, especially since I’ve wanted to go to a Moth live and more #nsfw Risk live events. Both are fancinating insight into the richness of life and human connections.

… the idea is that people put their names down to tell one short (less than 5 minute) story from their sexual past, and then eight to ten names are drawn at random. If you’re picked, you go up on stage to tell your story, and then there are prizes and fun and all the good stuff. You don’t have to tell a story, though – if you’re shy you can just sit in the audience and enjoy listening to other people’s.

I checked out the London one and wrote a task to consider running one in Manchester, as I think its a great idea and theres plenty of interesting stories I’ve heard from others. But when looking into it over brunch in Ezra & Gil, I saw there is a Manchester one already setup.

In actual fact, Cameryn Moore, the “award-winning playwright/performer, sex activist and educator, and former phone sex operator.” is relocating from Montreal to Manchester, so I look forward to more of this. Certainly makes GeeksTalkSexy and Relationships 2.0 seem like a PG-13 movie.

I’m certainly going to check one out, I won’t be putting anything in the pot but listening and enjoying the evening.

Anyone want to join me?