Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder
The afternoon sun angled through a tear in the tent. Ma Bao-Zhi grunted, then shifted his face towards the shade and screwed up his eyes. In the absence of light, the retinal burns from his always-on pupil-tracking HUD-halo danced before his field of vision. He sat up and stretched. It was a new day.
The corner of his visual field that was perpetually occupied by the DistroNet feed blinked. A major announcement was incoming from the most influential association of experts that he had ever been a part of: The Council Of Two Million With A Remit Of Everything.
The upstart replacement of last year’s not-hegemon, the Coven of Eight to the Seven; Masters of Knowledge, the Council had, yesterday, consisted of just over 50.3% of the surviving inhabitants of what had once been Taiwan SAR. However, as he scanned the headlines, he noted that an overnight disputation on the meaning of Buddha-nature had resulted in nearly two hundred being purged from the membership roster, and, more importantly, from the Council’s ReDistroList. Ma had never posted to any discussion regarding Buddha-nature, for which he was now extremely thankful.
Attention Distribution Cannot Be Gamed, he though, nodding to himself. It was a mantra every child knew, and it was obviously true. ‘Gaming’ would imply an illegitimate practice, and since the attention economy was inherently legitimate, any practice that arose thereof could not be ‘gaming’. The use of randomly-assigned attention redistribution lists to strengthen the network-influence of an association of experts was one of the most powerful practices there was - without it, no modern association of experts could compete.
With the saccadic grace of long practice, his pupils flipped to the updated, slightly smaller ReDistroList, and settled down to start his highly-encouraged ten hours of daily network-reinforcement. Ten hours - ten icons - each one painstakingly designed by the expert it represented. The Coven of Eight to the Seven had highly encouraged eight hours of ReDistroList attention, but the Council’s superior attention ethic had led to an expert association network both wider and deeper in links, and thus, far more influential. The Coven defined their area of expertise too narrowly, and left themselves open to a ratio attack. It was a trivial task for the Council to dial down the attention ratio of key knowledge industries overnight, leaving the Coven rudderless and sinking. Ma had been a third-quartile defector, holding out longer than most; his punishment was to enter the Council with six month’s half-ratio deficit. Half as likely to be randomly assigned to other experts ReDistroList, he counted himself lucky - the fourth quartile had been exiled entirely. As is, he was comfortably off in a deficit camp outside Taibao.
Ma shook himself; introspection was an audience of one. The first icon belonged to Tracy Liu: 166kg, pink highlights and moderator by acclaim of a yaoi fandom for the ancient classic, Glengarry Glen Ross.
The minutes ticked by, and as the completion bar for the first icon flipped over into green and Tracy’s hand-drawn icon faded from sight - young Al Pacino gently cupping young Jack Lemmon’s testicles on a bed of index cards - Ma decided that he would treat himself with an hour of free attention. He rucked the covers back from his legs and withdrew his 75MHz future-proofed laptop from its pouch.
Minutes later, halfway through the boot-sequence, Ma heard the unmistakable whirring of a Bother-Gyro. He dug rapidly through the contents of the tent for the thick blanket he’d found the week before, to muffle the fans of the laptop, but the blanket had been redistributed. It was too late anyway: the Bother-Gyro’s tracking software had heard the fans.
“Go away!” shouted Ma.
< Hello Friend And How Are You And Woo! >
The Bother-Gyro hovered just out of Ma’s reach.
< Would You Like A Comestible?! Marmalade Is In This Week! >
Bother-Gyros were increasingly common, flying over the water from the Penghu Collective, and Ma had tangled with them before, when he was a high-ratio member of the Coven: an attractive target. The Collective were Min-speakers, and the language barrier was starving them of culture-based attention, and forcing them to desperate measures. He knew that while they would advertise to any moving object, their main purpose was to gain the attention of the victim. Even compared to the average camp member, Ma’s influence ratio was low…
“Hey! Bot! There’s a high-ratio family just over that wall! You can bother them all at once! Think of the attention gains!”
Unfortunately for Ma, the Bother-Gyro was also running off a 75MHz chip, which did not support voice recognition. Even more unfortunately, what little resources it did have to bring to bear were mainly concentrated on measuring the direction of gaze of the victim, and Ma’s gaze had briefly moved from the Gyro to the wall he was gesturing at. The Gyro aimed a module at the RFID tag on Ma’s halo.
Pepper-spray will catch anyone’s attention.
Whilst Ma rolled around in the dirt, the Bother-Gyro gently settled on the ground next to him, conserving battery. Proximity was worth less attention than direct eye-contact, but it was still worth something. After a minute, the database updated the Gyro on Ma’s uninspiring attention value, and it buzzed off in search of less deficient prey.
The afternoon was nearly over before Ma’s eyes stopped watering, and the pupil-tracker started to update correctly. Luckily, his HUD-halo was undamaged - it could still receive and transmit audio, video, pupil-tracking data and, indeed, record everything that Ma did. Nine hours of ReDistroList remained on his schedule, but he had bigger things on his mind. Of all the places, his deficit camp was lucky enough to be in viewing distance of a celebrity battle.
It wasn’t entirely by chance, of course. Celebrity Mechas were very power-hungry, and required tethering to the grid network, and deficit camps had the tendency to spring up in unused land along grid lines. While city dwellers might have had the massed influence to force such a destructive event outside their municipal margins, a deficit camp by definition could not face up to even the most minor celebrity’s choice of land-resource.
This particular battle was between the gigantic robots piloted by a pornography magnate and a man who was extremely good at making videos of cats. Hovering cameras darted about the provided every possible angle around the machines, while in-cockpit vision was granted by cameras attached to both control modules. There were no adverts - the battle itself drew all the attention the participants needed.
The pornographer had outfitted his mecha with water sprinklers, providing the substrate for projected holograms of noted starlets and their riveting performances. The cat man, showing disdain for the practice of up-attending, had a far more stripped-down mecha, bowing to demand only by having a control module shaped like a cat’s head. While his initial surge in influence had been off the back of a pet British Shorthair, his true power came from his decision to breed several thousand of the creatures and lock them in a vast complex filled with pastel colors and assorted common household items. Cuteness, too, can be brute-forced.
As the two machines started to stride towards each other, Ma watched camp-dwellers who sought influence more than health run between the legs of the mechas. Like so much in the attention economy, it was a dual payoff. Simply being near a mecha guaranteed a proportion of the attention that the pilot was constantly exuding, and that was worth the risk of injury in itself. But, if a camera tracked by millions happened to autofocus on a lucky expert? Why, a single second’s worth of attention was more than the expert might otherwise see in a lifetime.
The battle was joined, and as the mechas stamped to and fro, they came closer and closer to the western edge of the camp - the edge furthest from Ma. Even those experts in the camp whose lack of attention ethics had placed them dangerously close to exile from their associations could not help but pay heed. Lasers flashed, missiles flew, and clouds of smoke emerged even when not strictly necessary. In fact, the battle, like most battles, was more bark than bite: it was considered bad form to actually kill another celebrity, not least because it tended to alienate part of your potential audience. After all, who didn’t enjoy both pornography and cat videos?
The din didn’t just attract the attention of experts - from miles around, Bother-Gyros wheeled in, guided by the very human tendency to correlate decibels and attention. Ma gazed in wonder as a two flocks of gyros of different manufacture, bathed in the proximity wash from the mechas, each mistook the other flock as the source of attention. Overriding the normal guideline that led them to disperse for maximal coverage, the gyros spiralled madly in ever decreasing circles as they sought to increase that flow.
As he watched, the gyrating super-flock, consisting of nearly a hundred Bother-Gyros, whirled into the cloud of spray being produced by pornographer’s mechanical contraption. A hundred automatic protection circuits flared into action, and the mass of gyros punched in the opposite direction - straight into the air intake ducts of the cat-mecha.
One gyro would have been unfortunate. Five would have led to an emergency shutdown. But no mecha-designer had considered such a freak occurrence as the emergent behaviour so briefly displayed by the gyro-flocks. Admittedly, QA and Safety were neglected disciplines ever since the advent of the attention economy - who would dedicate their lives to a discipline that involved something so unquantifiable as preventing rare occurrences? After all, it’s not as though someone might lose their accumulated attention - just their lives.
With a massive crunch, the flywheels at the center of the cat-mecha broke apart, releasing a torrent of kinetic energy, and sending parts of the mecha in every direction. The pornographer tried to backpedal his mecha away from the burning debris, but his attention elsewhere, he stepped directly on one of the experts that had been trailing his footsteps. As his machine overturned, the pornographer clutched at the control panel, seeking the emergency eject key, but by chance also fat-fingering the steam overcharge system. The porn-mecha’s control module blasted off the chassis - straight into the side of one of the few fixed-wall buildings in the camp. The steam explosion, while softer, was far more deadly.
Ma had hit the ground as soon as he saw the first gyro sucked into the air-intake - luckily so, as burning debris had taken out several of his neighbours. Now, his view obscured by what remained of the same three foot-wall he had urged the gyro to surmount earlier that day, he flicked his eyes to open a newsline. The events of the past minute had gone viral - his feed was already filling with commentary from the other side of the world. Every last survivor would soon be bombarded with requests for commentary on the death of the celebrities.
Celebrities plural? The feed from the cat-mecha was still active. In fact, the explosion had blown the control module right over the camp, landing to the east, far from the screams of the scalded and poisoned camp dwellers. Ma held a rag over as much of his mouth and nose as he could reach through his HUD-halo, and levered himself to his feet.
The cat man was alive. In fact, he was almost unhurt - a mere fractured collarbone. He was, however, trapped inside his module, and mouthing something - the audio feed from his cockpit had cut out. Ma tore his attention from his HUD-halo and looked out, directly at the smoking module in the distance.
Never mind proximity attention - to be the man who saved a celebrity from almost certain death? To be the only source of an audio feed for the sole celebrity survivor of what the international feeds were calling the Disaster of Taibao?
Ma started to trot towards the control module, avoiding the prone bodies of those less fortunate survivors, around some of whom flames still flickered. He tore his foot away from the grasp of one, whilst muttering thanks for the last few seconds of absolute attention they granted him. He stepped over a corpse, then briefly glanced behind him. The least concussed of the able-bodied camp survivors were already moving after him. Turning his back to the setting sun, Ma broke into a run.
3:57 pm • 18 February 2012 • 2 notes • View comments
Chapter 1: Ma
The light bulb is out.
The blackened bulb in the lamp on my bedside dresser went unchanged for a week, and when I opened my eyes this morning it was the first thing that entered my field of vision. I actually witnessed it die a week ago. I had just flipped the switch on the lamp in an effort to read a book in bed, which is something I never actually do, when its filament (or whatever they use these days) lit up in a bright blue spark. I was actually relieved at the legitimate excuse to put the book down, and I’ve been using it as a sustained excuse all week. But today’s a day we all decided we aren’t going to work on The Project, so I might as well find a fucking light bulb.
Ma also knows the bulb is out. I got an message from her virtually right as it happened, which I promptly archived and forgot about. Ma is the big supercomputer that runs everything. Well, she doesn’t really “run” everything. She never gives commands and we wouldn’t have to listen to her if she did. The message I got from her just noted the burnt bulb, highlighting it as another line in a bullet-pointed list of items organized by subject, each marked with a variety of bright icons to indicate relative urgency. Ma originally marked the bulb with a tornado, which for some sick reason she uses to indicate an Urgent Household Problem. But I knew she would downgrade that rating to a leaky faucet as soon as I hit the archive button, and one more time ignoring its appearance in a message would make her set it to cobweb, which is low enough to not appear in any more digests.
Ma also isn’t a “big supercomputer”. Ma runs out of hundreds of server banks and data centers spread out all across the internet, and most of them don’t house anything remotely like a supercomputer. Ma is a fifth generation search engine, and functions basically like a Super-Google. Google was second generation Search, of course, and third generation search was the real-time social search that exploded once the Facebook Wall was torn down. Fourth gen search was the first generation that made a serious attempt at searching real world objects, and it was disappointing in many of the same ways that first gen search just didn’t work. Google was able to stay relevant and financially competitive throughout each of these generational shifts, and after the Digital Conversion, when everything was made Open Access, everyone was convinced that Google would be the One True Search Engine for the rest of eternity.
Ma was originally a training program that was meant to improve Google. It was designed to feed Google huge, highly structured data sets that had been organized by a team working with real 20 petaflop supercomputers at some university somewhere. It was easy to upload big datasets into Google’s backend so Google’s crawlers can start cross-referencing and chewing through the new data. But Ma was designed to feed Google data through its query field. The idea was that Ma would ask Google a series of highly specific questions in rapid succession in order to generate certain associations within its datasets and fill in gaps in its knowledge. Ma had the capacity to monitor Google’s responses and adjust her questioning in real time in order to optimize the procedure. In other words, Ma was supposed to help Google learn. Google had a lot of data, but it was clear to everyone that it wasn’t up to the task of managing every real world object. Before Ma, “finding the keys” was still an open problem for keys without antennas, and no one really expected Google would actually solve it this long after the Conversion.
At first Ma’s training seemed to be going really well, and using Google became a noticeably improved experience. But this was eventually attributed it to the fact that millions of people had spent years since the Conversion documenting and scanning and affixing little antennas to all the objects they considered important, and so by this time Ma’s training started most of the really big and obvious and important items had already been digitized, and monitoring them wasn’t a big deal. The network becomes stronger with every node, as we used to say. But everyone knew that most of the items, the tissues and plastic bags and unused sofas in basements, those items made up the bulk of Human Objects and they were going largely undocumented without any way to monitor their use, or even register their existence. The trash all got cleaned up well enough without much problem, but who knows where it went or how it was being maintained once it leaves our personal spaces. The process was opaque because no one had the raw data for what people called “The Unattended”, and eventually it became obvious that Google simply wasn’t up to the task of bringing the Unattended online, even with Ma’s training. It was this big glaring flaw that directly contradicted the whole ethos of the Digital Conversion, and it stared us True Believers right in face every day. Without that data for the Unattended, we all knew that the models we were using to forecast sustainable use patterns would be faulty. The system seemed to stay stable after the conversion even without the Unattended, but a lot of us realized we were betting everything on a giant question mark.
When they started looking at Ma to assess the results of the training, however, they noticed that Ma was able to answer a surprising number of their questions. Ma was still partially hooked up to Google’s databases for testing, and she stopped being able to answer questions when she was disconnected, so we know there wasn’t anything mysterious going on. But when she had access to Google’s data, Ma was able to answer lots of questions that Google didn’t seem to be able to parse. Somehow, Ma learned more from Google than Google learned from Ma. After the training, Ma was able to make surprisingly accurate guesses about how many tissues were left in the box, for instance, or how many sofas in the basements of some city block. Ma didn’t always know where specific objects were, but she was much better at guessing where they might be or remembering where she saw them last, whereas Google could never seem to get past showing you other things that look like the thing you want, or other things your friends also want. It wasn’t just that the accuracy of the answers; Google, in all fairness, did have some impressive performances in its day. Bur Google was always a bit slow and awkward when it performed, like a big kid in formal shoes. Ma seemed to provide answers with a kind of confidence, wit even. Though her replies to queries were still largely modeled on Google’s standard, there was this barely perceptible hint of attitude that gave Ma an explosion of personality. Ma’s solutions to the “finding keys” problem were accurate enough that the whole package just seemed to work, and the team eventually decided to open it to the public.
At first they released it along side Google, and Twitter exploded with tweets like “Finally, a female search engine!” It did a lot to attract early adopters, but I personally found very confusing. Not because of Ma; Ma makes sure to let you know it is female. If you ask Ma a question that implies she is male, she will auto-correct you to its female equivalent. Of course its just a script written by Ma’s engineers to give her personality, but she is clever about it, and insistent about things like using feminine pronouns. After working with her for a while you are eventually convinced that, if she wanted to, Ma could give birth to live young and nurse them to maturity. So I’m definitely not confused about Ma’s gender.
Instead, I’m confused about the retconning of Google’s gender. Google never had a gender in my mind, or at least I don’t know why we should suddenly assume it was male just because Ma is so thoroughly female. Google is like a gifted 9 year old, prepubescent and too interested in books and science to get caught up in the banalities of gender. The problem is that Google never grew out of that phase, and as decades passed we needed a more mature search to handle the more complex realities of the post-Conversion world. Eventually it just became clear that Ma was the better tool. Use patterns started fluctuating, and there was a big series of Assemblies where everyone who cared got together to decide what to do, and eventually they decided to take Google offline and transfer control of its databases to Ma. Some people call it the Second Conversion, but the transition to Ma’s world was no where near as abrupt and difficult as bringing the Attention Economy online. Ma’s arrival feels less to me like a conversion, and more like we’ve finally dropped anchor and set foot on dry land after years at sea. This was the sustainable system we fought so hard for in the reorganization that led to the Conversion, and I get to see it in my lifetime.
Blah blah blah, the future is wonderful. Whatever. My light bulb is still out.
I stayed in bed until noon. This was the third month I’ve been working on The Project, and the next month is going to be even harder if we want to complete it before Labor Day. But today’s a day off, so I enjoyed the comfort of my blankets for a few hours later than usual. I eventually got around to checking in on Ma, who helped located my list of warnings, and I searched for the light bulb. Ma displayed the make and model of the light bulb, and as I had suspected and Ma confirmed, there were no spare light bulbs in my apartment. Ma also provided a list of three places where a replacement could be found, all within walking distance from my apartment. Two of them were private residences, one of which was in my building. I could query Ma for more information, but I could already guess that the one in my building is Mrs. Weasel from 2A. Mrs. Weasel is a hoarder, and always deliberately takes more than personal use because she is lonely and she knows people will eventually have to come to her looking for supplies. I go to her sometimes, especially if I don’t hit the market right when it gets reupped I need something out of stock. Though she would never refuse you access to the supplies, Mrs. Weasel definitely will give you a look that says “Won’t you stay for tea and chat?”, and that makes me nervous. If she tried to block access to the supplies, Twitter would be all over that in a second, and she would probably be restricted from exceeding personal use. So I know I could get a light bulb from Weasel. I just don’t want to have to talk to her.
The last place Ma mentioned was the market at the corner. I needed to eat some breakfast anyway, so I decided to take a trip to the store. Ma’s widget had a list of other suggestions and issues that I glanced over— I didn’t even recognize that I was almost out of toothpaste when I brushed my teeth this morning, but Ma made sure to remind me. At the bottom of the widget was Ma’s signature: a scripted, flowing, “Love, Ma” that was at once delicate and serious. Her signature sat on top of a scrolling field of text overlayed with various graphs and metrics, displaying real time queries Ma was receiving that might be relevant to me— again, nothing was urgent. Ma would tell me if it was. Ma includes this signature in all her messages, which I guess is a way to show us how hard she is working all the time. She is a bit dramatic like that.
1:45 am • 1 February 2012 • 1 note • View comments
money is the root of uneven distribution
The foundation of Eripsa’s thinking is, essentially, money is the root of all evil. Eliminate money and bad things go away. At that point you just need good information gathering to allow people to selflessly work together to get exactly what we need done.
No, in fact, my argument is that the concentration of wealth is an impediment to solutions to the coordination problem. Money isn’t the root of all evil, money is just the root of uneven distribution. If we want to even out distribution, at least to solve the coordination problem, then, we need to get rid of money.
The beauty of money is that it loosely aggregates all/most of the dimensions we measure value on, including attention. A moneyless economy would need some way to quantify those dimensions of value that aren’t captured by attention.
Good. I’m going to disagree, slightly. Money is a loose aggregate of many dimensions of value, but not all of them, as you mention. There’s lots of values that simply aren’t properly registered in the market, most famously the value of homemaking, which requires incredible amounts of time and work but receives virtually no direct recognition in the market at all (except, funny enough, though advertising). There are also lots of values that are artificially generated by money that wouldn’t exist otherwise (like having more money). You are right that “attention paid” is partly recognized by the value of money, but it is mixed with all sorts of other factors. The market is a complex and unpredictable beast.
What this also means, though, is that since money is the neutral standard for assessing value, that lots of competing values end up getting measured on the same scale- for instance, the value of the Mona Lisa is measured on the same scale as the value of a loaf of bread. And so global decisions about any value, no matter how abstract and luxurious, is going to have consequences for the price of bread and who can access it.
So the idea here is to simplify the beast. Make it all about attention, which is just one of many dynamic factors money currently measures. If we are tracking attention, then the market isn’t some big unpredictable beast, but we now have direct information on patterns of use, and that will have direct consequences for resource management and distribution, and this whole network is geared precisely to solve the coordination problem so it doesn’t run into conflicts with other systems of value (surrounding art, say). Art isn’t good or bad based on how popular it is, and measuring the attention paid to some art is not an indicator of its value in any important sense; if you want a system to judge it aesthetically, then go ahead and develop that system. But measuring attention paid does track its use: it tracks how many eyeballs saw that painting, how much mindshare in the population it has. Regardless of the artistic merit of the piece, this data does give us some measure about its relative importance, and from that data about importance or mindshare we can start to make concrete decisions about how to share it among the crowd.
So again, the system here is designed specifically to address the coordination problem, and my claim is that measuring use (by tracking attention) is the proper way of solving this problem. That doesn’t solve all the value-fixing functions of money, but it isn’t meant to.
1:44 am • 1 February 2012 • View comments
puppies and rainbows and world harmony
I actually have a legit question rather than a pithy one-liner about Bitcoins (and let me tell you, it’s really hard to ignore the urge)
How do you plan to get past the Bystander Effect? The phenomenon where people will witness an emergency but not do anything because they all assume someone else will take care of it. I would think this would put a massive wrench in this whole attention->action chain.
This is an issue I have thought a lot about, and a lot of my examples were developed in the course of long conversations with psychologists concerning exactly this effect. So it is worth noting that:
In 2008 a study by Mark Levine and Simon Crowther found that increasing group size inhibited intervention in a street violence scenario when bystanders were strangers but encouraged intervention when bystanders were friends.
One is less likely to be subject to the bystander effect if you are within a closely knit network of familiar relations.
If we are tracking all relations, such that the salient relations attract attention and we all have some indicators of those relations, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that we would relate to each other less as strangers and more as friends. Philosophers have long been concerned with the alienating effects of modern technology, and I’ve argued before that the Digital paradigm of networking is partly a revolutionary step because it reverses the trend of alienation. There’s a lot to say about this, for sure, but that’s the general shape of a response.
This direction of questioning is in one sense exactly right, since it comes from a recognition that global cooperation an Attention Economy would require must have some fundamentally different value systems, and right now if our value systems are “dog eat dog FYGM” then it will seem mighty unlikely that such cooperation would occur. Since I am arguing for a different set of Economic relations, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect this to take the form of a different set of values, ones that look quite different from our own. In fact, I take the Attenion Economy as partly a way of spelling out how the Digital Values play out in the real world as an organizing principle.
But describing a different value system is not the same thing as motivating those values, and obviously it will be really hard to motivate a value system we are unfamiliar with. Again, remember the question to the atheist: “If you don’t believe in God, why don’t you kill yourself? Why isn’t everything meaningless?” I can describe the secular value systems that atheists all over the world follow, but if you are stuck on the idea that MEANING MUST COME FROM GOD then all these systems will look like they are missing some vital component. And I can only talk about Self-Actualization so much before it starts to sound like idealistic visions of puppies and rainbows and world harmony, and obviously that will all sound nuts if you think that values can only be grounded on God.
I’m not a wide-eyed optimist about human nature, and I don’t think the levels of cooperation and coordination required are outside the scope of simple human ability or ignore the very real effects of the psychology of groups like the Bystander effect. You don’t have to be an optimistist in human nature to hold the basic humanist belief that people should be free to determine their own value systems without the imposition of God.
And similarly, you don’t have to believe that if all humans could just hold hands and love each other we could coordinate our activity to provide for ourselves. Instead, I’m arguing that if you set up a system where the easiest default behavior helps coordinate the system, and there are low barriers to contributing to the system, and everyone is free to contribute however they want, that the power of the whole network will we be in a position to handle the coordination problem.
We also, by the way, know from the Milgram experiments that people are willing to to extraordinarily difficult things, some of which might go against their own personal values, if they are convinced that doing so is for the greater good; but they they won’t go through with those actions when commanded to do so by someone they consider to be an illegitimate authority. So the Attention Economy will only work if people are convinced that by contributing to it, one is contributing to the greater good.
But this is just to say that if the system works, the system will work. I’m still trying to show how it will work, so I’ll try to proceed.
1:42 am • 1 February 2012 • 1 note • View comments
People are selfish, and will act selfishly to gain what they can.
Although this certainly trades as common sense, there is nothing about this that matches the real world.
Psychological data for the last decade or so has confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that 1) humans are the most selflessly altruistic of the primates, and are not only willing but eager to share with others, and 2) that people will do rewarding, purposeful work for its own sake, regardless of material compensation, and in fact monetary compensation will make us less likely to do that work.
Read this: http://www.nature.com/nature/journa…ature10278.html
Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
Humans are not petty, selfish creatures. If we were, then maybe we need a dictator to tell us what to do. But we aren’t, and we can organize ourselves to solve our problems, and we’ll do it together just fine thank you very much. You can try to defend a Hobbesian view if you want, but don’t pretend that the data supports it.
I really need to give my hands a break. I’ll be back tomorrow.
1:40 am • 1 February 2012 • 1 note • View comments
what is dangerous
Achmed Jones posted:
and NeoHitler gains in power.
If acquiring marbles was like acquiring money, I can see how you’d come to this conclusion.
But that’s not how it works. Paying attention to Westboro does expand their influence, but there’s no guarantee that its expanded influence will work in its favor. Its not like we are expanding its bank account, or giving it resources it can spend how it pleases.
All we’ve done by paying attention is that we’ve expand its influence, which in concrete terms means that more people know who they are and what they are doing. More people are aware of the situation. Doing something about the situation requires that people are paying attention, but paying attention alone doesn’t determine what anyone does about it.
It might be that when more people are made aware of Westboro, that they start flocking to the church and sign themselves up as members, willing to donate whatever resources they have to the cause. But, and call me optimistic, but I don’t think that will be the typical reaction. In fact, I suspect that the typical reaction will be to start withholding services and resources- which, again, is only something I can do if I’m aware of the problem in the first place, which means attention needs to spread.
So I’m not afraid of the possibility of attracting attention to Westboro in my system, any more than I’m afraid of attracting attention to Westboro in the existing system. Its not their attempt to attract attention that’s dangerous. What is dangerous is if people start doing what they say, and there is nothing in my system that suggests people will be more susceptible to their influence than they are in the existing system.
1:40 am • 1 February 2012 • View comments
that’s how networks fucking work
In a technical and utterly fucking useless sense every use of the internet is two-way, because you request what you want to see. This is a completely pointless piece of information.
Yeah, but my point goes deeper than that.
The netflix thing is a good example. Every view on netflix not only results in my passive entertainment. Netflix also keeps that database of my use, and compares it to the use patterns of other users. It uses this database (which I contributed to by just passively watching) in order to do things like recommend movies to its users, to optimize its service, and to negotiate for licenses with the content producers. It can do all this because of the patterns of use it tracks, and by watching netflix I helped to fill in that database.
That’s just a tiny datapoint in a huge database, but that’s how networks fucking work. Lots of little semi-autonomous nodes, self-organizing around their own niche interests, but sharing the information to the wider network so that everyone reaps the benefits. This only works by lots of individuals doing their thing, and a lot of that will look like “passive laziness” to our current conceptions of value and labor, but are nevertheless real and valuable contributions to the network itself.
1:39 am • 1 February 2012 • View comments
Achmed Jones posted:
So basically if people don’t ignore stupid shit, the stupid shit propagates and becomes stronger. Someone says “Hey, let’s genocide some folks!” and everyone says “No that’s awful,” but because the genocidal maniac is getting attention, they are able to allocate resources to carry out their genocidal project? And if the “No that’s awful” folks don’t sufficiently turn their gaze inward and allocate their attention to a single project, they can’t accrue the influence to counter such a project? And every time anyone engages with those espousing Bad Ideas, those Bad Ideas gain more influence, regardless of how good the reasons are to not pursue said Bad Ideas?
This is a good time to remind everyone to put on your “charitable reader” glasses and try to read your interlocutor in charitable ways. If you see something your interlocutor wrote that seems to imply an approval of mass genocide, read it again! If there is a better and more agreeable interpretation, try to give your interlocutor the benefit of the doubt! This keeps the discussion constructive and engaging, instead of just reiterating charges of insanity.
Ok, now. If a lot of people are paying attention to a homicidal maniac, what do you think is more likely to happen:
a) they will work to stop the killer before he kills again, or
b) they will transform into brainless drones that want only to do the maniac’s will?
I’ll give you a minute, take your time.
The post you quoted was me describing how attracting attention is neither good nor bad, but merely works to marshal resources. It is good that people are paying attention to the homicidal killer, because that is a situation that needs to be dealt with, but the way to deal with it is to stop the killer. That’s right, the answer above was a
Did you get that right? Aww, shucks, well maybe next time.
When disaster struck Haiti or Fukushima, the Twitterverse exploded. Lots of people paid attention. Lots of people paying attention allows groups interested in doing something about it to self organize and marshal the resources required to help. That doesn’t mean that everyone loves the Earthquake or wants it to happen again, but people are paying attention and mobilizing to handle the issue. If there is a shooting at the Pentagon again, or whatever, you might hear about it first on Twitter, and that’s not a signal to bring your gun and get involved.
The fact that I had to spell this out to you is precisely why I haven’t actually taken any of the mocking in this thread seriously. You guys aren’t even trying.
Of course, it explains why you keep pushing this stuff despite being told it’s silly, incoherent, or some combination of the two: you want attention.
I don’t want attention. But I want the theory to get some attention, because I think its a good theory, or at least might potentially inform a future good theory. I’ve been sitting on it for a few years and all my friends are tired of it, but I’m comfortable enough with the details that I think I can defend it adequately here.
I’ve seen a lot of people say it is incoherent, but I don’t see anyone who actually understands the system yet, so these accusations are surely premature, and I’m confident enough with the view that a few insults won’t make me turn and run. The people who have actually read my posts and ask questions that demonstrate basic comprehension, I’ve responded to those posts at length and in good faith.
1:38 am • 1 February 2012 • View comments
they don’t exist on Internet
A freeloader is able but unwilling. I hope this definition of a basic english word will help you better understand the counterarguments to your theory.
That’s not the definition. I’m able but not willing to have sex with you, and that doesn’t make me a free loader.
The definition of a freeloader is someone who doesn’t contribute in proportion to what they take. A freeloader is a leech.
I gave a way above of describing a certain kind of leech in the system, but that kind of leech really doesn’t have any consequences for the distribution of resources and isn’t problematic in this way.
The kind of leech that contributes nothing at all to the system, the one you seem to be worried about, I’m claiming won’t actually exist, the same way they don’t exist on the internet. Every use of the internet contributes something back. It might not be a contribution that others will recognize as being in kind, but it is impossible to be a passive observer on the internet. Using the internet at all requires participation and engagement, and in an Attention Economy, every engagement matters.
There are other problems: the problem of the detractor, who refuses to cooperate and actively seeks to disrupt coordination, and of the hoarder who actively stockpiles useful resources in order to limit access to those resources. These are both serious problems I haven’t dealt with yet.
But I don’t think the freeloader is a problem.
1:38 am • 1 February 2012 • View comments
the essence of FYGM
The real world is not the same thing as the internet. Maybe you should unplug for a bit.
Do you believe that people’s ability to meet their basic needs should depend on their ability to contribute to the system?
If I am unable to work, should I not get food?
If you “no”, then there is no such thing as a freeloader.
Again, people should have their basic needs met because they are people, not because they performed some task that the system judges to be worthy of continued life. If people have a right to their basic needs regardless of what they do, then there is no such thing as a freeloader.
The alternative is to literally think that people should starve if they don’t perform whatever minimum requirement The Market (or whatever) think earns them the right to life. I’m sure a lot of people actually believe this (its the essence of FYGM), but I’m not one of them.
1:37 am • 1 February 2012 • View comments