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  1. #1
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    [EN] Internet business model is all based on cheating

    Most people are not smart. They get robbed. They went to the stock market they got robbed, then they went to the Internet and they got robbed again.

    Access to cheaper funding has led to new internet companies taking away business from others, while contributing nothing to productivity.

    ECONOMICTIMES.COM
    Mar 29, 2017

    While two of the biggest stalwarts of India's startup industry raised demands for a "level playing field" at the recently concluded Economic Times' Global Business Summit, another influential voice used the same platform to dissuade protectionism and embrace "foreign capital".

    In an interview to Times of India, Andy Xie, the former Morgan Stanley and World Bank economist who is famous for his contrarian and provocative views, labelled India as "one of the most closed economies of the world" and made a case for foreign capital to support India's economic development.

    "India needs capital to build the country and it is all about getting capital, whoever can give it to you, whoever can build for you, be practical. Be colour blind. Nobody is perfect, everybody has problems," Xie told TOI.

    However, while the world-renowned economist made a plain case for using foreign capital to support India's economic development, he said "access to cheaper funding" has led to new internet companies taking away business from others, while contributing nothing to productivity.

    "Internet at this time is a huge bubble. You look at all the Internet businesses. They don't create anything. They are trying to redistribute existing businesses from their channels. People are pouring money into them like, Amazon is entering every business," said Xie.

    Snubbing big Internet startups like Facebook which he said is only a "distraction rather than disruption"; he decried the new Internet-based businesses and called them even worse than those which led to the Internet bubble burst in 2001.

    "Where is Facebook adding value? It is just taking advertising revenues away from established media outlets and it makes money because people are entertaining each other. You get them together, Internet is like hosting a party .Then you stick some commercials in between and you make a lot of money. People who used to provide the real stuff they are unemployed. The society has become a whole lot worse," said Xie during his interview.

    While the world is quickly embracing ecommerce raising speculations about the death of brick and mortar business model, Xie holds no faith in the medium. "E-commerce is all about selling fake stuff. Any e-commerce business which is prospering must be selling fake stuff. You look at how they make money. The issue is interest rates have stayed so low for so long," said Xie.

    However, Xie thinks it is improbable that the world will see another burst. The onus of the continued success of these businesses, he says is because consumers are naive.

    "Internet business model is all based on cheating. Most people are not smart. They get robbed. They went to the stock market they got robbed, then they went to the Internet and they got robbed again. So, all the rich people are playing the game themselves. It is very difficult for this bubble to burst now. These people have nothing else to do. They only know speculation. The speculator's community becomes bigger, bigger and bigger. Eventually they control the financial system so they won't let it burst," predicted Xie.

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/...w/57889020.cms

  2. #2
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    The Internet, social media, and political polarisation

    The Internet has received a substantial amount of blame for the recent increase in political polarisation. Using US data, the author argues that, in fact, the Internet has played no significant role in a generally increasing trend of political polarisation that goes back at least to the 1970s.

    The results highlight the importance of looking beyond convenient narrative explanations, and the need for a deeper understanding of the drivers of political sentiment.

    Levi Boxell
    01 October 2017

    A growing body of literature suggests that political polarisation among the US electorate has risen in recent years. In 1994, roughly 20% of party affiliates had ‘very unfavourable’ views of the other party. By 2016, this number had risen to over 55%, and it shows no signs of slowing. Between 1994 and 2014, the share of Americans with strongly consistent ideological views across a range of policy questions more than doubled – from 10% to over 20%.

    One commonly cited hypothesis for the rise in political polarisation is that the internet and social media are major contributors. Cass Sunstein gives the standard argument when he says:

    “The Internet makes it exceedingly easy for people to … read reams of material that support their view … [and] exclude any and all material that argues the other way … A key consequence of this kind of self–sorting is what we might call enclave extremism. When people end up in enclaves of like-minded people, they usually move toward a more extreme point.”

    Popular books by Eli Pariser and Cass Sunstein expound on this notion of the internet acting as a ‘filter bubble’ or ‘echo chamber’.

    There is strong empirical evidence that individuals do find like-minded sources online and are more likely to be connected to like-minded individuals on social media. Previous work has shown segregation in links across political blogs, website visits, political retweets on Twitter, article sharing and clicking on social media, and political homophily on Twitter.


    Figure 1 - Ideological segregation by medium and type of interaction

    However, when comparisons are made between offline and online sources, studies find similar levels of segregation. Figure 1, taken from Gentzkow and Shapiro, shows that segregation across website visits is smaller than segregation across national newspapers, but larger than segregation across local newspapers. Halberstam and Knight examine political networks on Twitter and find similar levels of segregation in the Twitter political networks as in offline political networks. Furthermore, while suggestive, segregation across information sources on the internet is neither necessary nor sufficient for the internet to increase polarisation.


    Figure 2 - Trend in normalised index of political polarisation, 1972–2016

    In a recent paper, my co-authors and I take a direct approach to examining the relationship between the internet and political polarisation using American National Election Studies survey data to compare polarisation trends across demographic groups with differential access to online information. To reduce the sensitivity of our findings to the specific measure of political polarisation, we create a normalised index of eight measures that have been used in the literature before, such as a measure of ideological consistency from Abramowitz and Saunders, and the partisan sorting measure of Mason. Figure 2 shows the trend in our index from 1972 to 2016 (which is normalised to have a value of one in 1996). We see a steady upward trend in polarisation over the time period, and no sign of a breakpoint in the trend that corresponds with the rise of the internet. The pre-1996 trend alone is suggestive of a limited role for the internet in explaining political polarisation.

    In addition, as shown in Figure 3, polarisation grew more quickly for the elderly (ages 65+ and 75+) than for young adults (ages 18-39) between 1996 and 2016. And, when using a more inclusive measure of predicted internet access that takes into account other demographic variables, such as race and education, we find that the demographic groups least likely to have received internet access in 1996 have experienced larger changes in polarisation than the demographic groups most likely to have received internet access in 1996.


    Figure 3 - Political polarisation for different age groups, 1996-2016

    If direct access to the internet or social media were the primary drivers of political polarisation, we would expect to see the opposite trends. The elderly (65+) are roughly half as likely to have seen campaign news online in 2016 as young adults (18-39) and even less likely to use social media, yet it is these older age groups that have experienced the largest changes in political polarisation. Given these facts, one would need to have large heterogeneity in the response to internet access across age groups or substantial spillovers across age groups in order to construct a narrative where the internet or social media are the primary drivers of contemporary changes in political polarisation.

    These findings do not rule out any effect of the internet or social media on political polarisation. In fact, there is some evidence that the internet may have a small effect. Lelkes et al. use plausibly exogenous variation in right-of-way legislation to argue that broadband expansion modestly increases affective polarisation in treated counties, but temper their findings by saying

    “We do not think broadband is the only, or perhaps even the primary, cause of the rise in partisan ill will … Affective polarisation began to increase at least two decades before widespread Internet use.”

    Furthermore, these results do not explain the differences in affective polarisation across age groups.

    A similar narrative blames the 2016 election outcome on the internet and social media. After the election, Hillary Clinton suggested that fake news and Facebook contributed to her loss. In our paper, we examine the impact of the internet on the 2016 election by comparing vote shares across demographic groups. We find no evidence that Donald Trump received a greater proportion of the vote than his predecessors from demographic groups with high propensities to use the internet relative to those with low propensities. In fact, our point estimates suggest the opposite pattern – Trump did relatively worse among those with high propensities to use the internet and among actual internet users. Hampton and Hargittai reach similar conclusions from examining the percentage of Trump supporters using social media and the differences in vote shares across demographic groups.

    There are substantial divisions between political groups in the US today, and these divisions do not appear to be lessening. When trying to understand the rise of political polarisation or the success of populist presidential candidates, pointing to the internet and social media may be tempting. However, basic trends across demographic groups do not support a narrative where the internet plays a large role in explaining either phenomenon. As media consumption continues to shift from traditional media to these newer platforms, we should continue to monitor their usage and impact on the political sphere. But, until there is evidence that changes these conclusions, we should not be hoping for alternative Facebook feeds or Google search engines to solve our political problems.

    Artigo completo: http://voxeu.org/article/internet-so...l-polarisation
    Última edição por 5ms; 10-10-2017 às 16:30.

  3. #3
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    HelloFresh’s “active” customers

    The startup has a curious definition of an oft-abused metric

    Kadhim Shubber
    2017/10/10

    The distinction between an active or inactive customer is more art than science. There is no clear dividing line and companies tend to use whatever metric or definition makes their numbers look as good as possible. Twitter, for example, declines to disclose the number of people who use the app every day, presumably because the number wouldn’t impress.

    HelloFresh, the loss-making meal kit delivery startup, on Tuesday announced its plan to raise up to €300m with an initial public offering. It courageously comes hot on the heels of its American rival Blue Apron’s disastrous foray onto the public markets in June — Blue Apron shares have dropped 48 per cent from their sale price.

    The announcement notes that “with about 1.3 million active customers, HelloFresh is the largest player worldwide”, but the company seems to be rather stretching the definition of “active customers”:

    Active customers refers to the number of uniquely identified customers who received at least one box within the last 13 weeks, as of June 2017 (including first-time customers, customers who received a free or discounted box and customers who ordered during the relevant period but discontinued their orders and registration with HelloFresh before period end).

    The human condition is a complex and subjective thing, but even still, customers who “discontinued their orders and registration”, which may include people who tried it once and decided HelloFresh wasn’t for them, don’t sound very “active”.


    https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/10/...tive-customers

  4. #4
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    'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

    Paul Lewis
    6 October 2017

    Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

    Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

    He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

    A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

    These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

    Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

    There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

    But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.

    Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.

    In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance – a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the platform. Facebook’s “like” feature was, Rosenstein says, “wildly” successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers. The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped “likes” (previously star-shaped “favourites”), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.

    It was Rosenstein’s colleague, Leah Pearlman, then a product manager at Facebook and on the team that created the Facebook “like”, who announced the feature in a 2009 blogpost. Now 35 and an illustrator, Pearlman confirmed via email that she, too, has grown disaffected with Facebook “likes” and other addictive feedback loops. She has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed, and hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so that she doesn’t have to.

    “One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” Rosenstein says. It may or may not be relevant that Rosenstein, Pearlman and most of the tech insiders questioning today’s attention economy are in their 30s, members of the last generation that can remember a world in which telephones were plugged into walls.

    It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned. They appear to be abiding by a Biggie Smalls lyric from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.

    One morning in April this year, designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference centre on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organiser Nir Eyal.

    Eyal, 39, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.

    “The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.

    He explains the subtle psychological tricks that can be used to make people develop habits, such as varying the rewards people receive to create “a craving”, or exploiting negative emotions that can act as “triggers”. “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation,” Eyal writes.

    Attendees of the 2017 Habit Summit might have been surprised when Eyal walked on stage to announce that this year’s keynote speech was about “something a little different”. He wanted to address the growing concern that technological manipulation was somehow harmful or immoral. He told his audience that they should be careful not to abuse persuasive design, and wary of crossing a line into coercion.

    But he was defensive of the techniques he teaches, and dismissive of those who compare tech addiction to drugs. “We’re not freebasing Facebook and injecting Instagram here,” he said. He flashed up a slide of a shelf filled with sugary baked goods. “Just as we shouldn’t blame the baker for making such delicious treats, we can’t blame tech makers for making their products so good we want to use them,” he said. “Of course that’s what tech companies will do. And frankly: do we want it any other way?”

    Without irony, Eyal finished his talk with some personal tips for resisting the lure of technology. He told his audience he uses a Chrome extension, called DF YouTube, “which scrubs out a lot of those external triggers” he writes about in his book, and recommended an app called Pocket Points that “rewards you for staying off your phone when you need to focus”.

    Finally, Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house an outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. “The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “We are in control.”

    (continua)

  5. #5
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    But are we? If the people who built these technologies are taking such radical steps to wean themselves free, can the rest of us reasonably be expected to exercise our free will?

    Not according to Tristan Harris, a 33-year-old former Google employee turned vocal critic of the tech industry. “All of us are jacked into this system,” he says. “All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.”

    Harris, who has been branded “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”, insists that billions of people have little choice over whether they use these now ubiquitous technologies, and are largely unaware of the invisible ways in which a small number of people in Silicon Valley are shaping their lives.

    A graduate of Stanford University, Harris studied under BJ Fogg, a behavioural psychologist revered in tech circles for mastering the ways technological design can be used to persuade people. Many of his students, including Eyal, have gone on to prosperous careers in Silicon Valley.

    Harris is the student who went rogue; a whistleblower of sorts, he is lifting the curtain on the vast powers accumulated by technology companies and the ways they are using that influence. “A handful of people, working at a handful of technology companies, through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today,” he said at a recent TED talk in Vancouver.

    “I don’t know a more urgent problem than this,” Harris says. “It’s changing our democracy, and it’s changing our ability to have the conversations and relationships that we want with each other.” Harris went public – giving talks, writing papers, meeting lawmakers and campaigning for reform after three years struggling to effect change inside Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

    It all began in 2013, when he was working as a product manager at Google, and circulated a thought-provoking memo, A Call To Minimise Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention, to 10 close colleagues. It struck a chord, spreading to some 5,000 Google employees, including senior executives who rewarded Harris with an impressive-sounding new job: he was to be Google’s in-house design ethicist and product philosopher.

    Looking back, Harris sees that he was promoted into a marginal role. “I didn’t have a social support structure at all,” he says. Still, he adds: “I got to sit in a corner and think and read and understand.”

    He explored how LinkedIn exploits a need for social reciprocity to widen its network; how YouTube and Netflix autoplay videos and next episodes, depriving users of a choice about whether or not they want to keep watching; how Snapchat created its addictive Snapstreaks feature, encouraging near-constant communication between its mostly teenage users.

    The techniques these companies use are not always generic: they can be algorithmically tailored to each person. An internal Facebook report leaked this year, for example, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”. Such granular information, Harris adds, is “a perfect model of what buttons you can push in a particular person”.

    Tech companies can exploit such vulnerabilities to keep people hooked; manipulating, for example, when people receive “likes” for their posts, ensuring they arrive when an individual is likely to feel vulnerable, or in need of approval, or maybe just bored. And the very same techniques can be sold to the highest bidder. “There’s no ethics,” he says. A company paying Facebook to use its levers of persuasion could be a car business targeting tailored advertisements to different types of users who want a new vehicle. Or it could be a Moscow-based troll farm seeking to turn voters in a swing county in Wisconsin.

    Harris believes that tech companies never deliberately set out to make their products addictive. They were responding to the incentives of an advertising economy, experimenting with techniques that might capture people’s attention, even stumbling across highly effective design by accident.

    A friend at Facebook told Harris that designers initially decided the notification icon, which alerts people to new activity such as “friend requests” or “likes”, should be blue. It fit Facebook’s style and, the thinking went, would appear “subtle and innocuous”. “But no one used it,” Harris says. “Then they switched it to red and of course everyone used it.”

    That red icon is now everywhere. When smartphone users glance at their phones, dozens or hundreds of times a day, they are confronted with small red dots beside their apps, pleading to be tapped. “Red is a trigger colour,” Harris says. “That’s why it is used as an alarm signal.”

    The most seductive design, Harris explains, exploits the same psychological susceptibility that makes gambling so compulsive: variable rewards. When we tap those apps with red icons, we don’t know whether we’ll discover an interesting email, an avalanche of “likes”, or nothing at all. It is the possibility of disappointment that makes it so compulsive.

    It’s this that explains how the pull-to-refresh mechanism, whereby users swipe down, pause and wait to see what content appears, rapidly became one of the most addictive and ubiquitous design features in modern technology. “Each time you’re swiping down, it’s like a slot machine,” Harris says. “You don’t know what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s a beautiful photo. Sometimes it’s just an ad.”

    (continua)

  6. #6
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    The designer who created the pull-to-refresh mechanism, first used to update Twitter feeds, is Loren Brichter, widely admired in the app-building community for his sleek and intuitive designs.

    Now 32, Brichter says he never intended the design to be addictive – but would not dispute the slot machine comparison. “I agree 100%,” he says. “I have two kids now and I regret every minute that I’m not paying attention to them because my smartphone has sucked me in.”

    Brichter created the feature in 2009 for Tweetie, his startup, mainly because he could not find anywhere to fit the “refresh” button on his app. Holding and dragging down the feed to update seemed at the time nothing more than a “cute and clever” fix. Twitter acquired Tweetie the following year, integrating pull-to-refresh into its own app.

    Since then the design has become one of the most widely emulated features in apps; the downward-pull action is, for hundreds of millions of people, as intuitive as scratching an itch.

    richter says he is puzzled by the longevity of the feature. In an era of push notification technology, apps can automatically update content without being nudged by the user. “It could easily retire,” he says. Instead it appears to serve a psychological function: after all, slot machines would be far less addictive if gamblers didn’t get to pull the lever themselves. Brichter prefers another comparison: that it is like the redundant “close door” button in some elevators with automatically closing doors. “People just like to push it.”

    All of which has left Brichter, who has put his design work on the backburner while he focuses on building a house in New Jersey, questioning his legacy. “I’ve spent many hours and weeks and months and years thinking about whether anything I’ve done has made a net positive impact on society or humanity at all,” he says. He has blocked certain websites, turned off push notifications, restricted his use of the Telegram app to message only with his wife and two close friends, and tried to wean himself off Twitter. “I still waste time on it,” he confesses, “just reading stupid news I already know about.” He charges his phone in the kitchen, plugging it in at 7pm and not touching it until the next morning.

    “Smartphones are useful tools,” he says. “But they’re addictive. Pull-to-refresh is addictive. Twitter is addictive. These are not good things. When I was working on them, it was not something I was mature enough to think about. I’m not saying I’m mature now, but I’m a little bit more mature, and I regret the downsides.”

    Not everyone in his field appears racked with guilt. The two inventors listed on Apple’s patent for “managing notification connections and displaying icon badges” are Justin Santamaria and Chris Marcellino. Both were in their early 20s when they were hired by Apple to work on the iPhone. As engineers, they worked on the behind-the-scenes plumbing for push-notification technology, introduced in 2009 to enable real-time alerts and updates to hundreds of thousands of third-party app developers. It was a revolutionary change, providing the infrastructure for so many experiences that now form a part of people’s daily lives, from ordering an Uber to making a Skype call to receiving breaking news updates.

    But notification technology also enabled a hundred unsolicited interruptions into millions of lives, accelerating the arms race for people’s attention. Santamaria, 36, who now runs a startup after a stint as the head of mobile at Airbnb, says the technology he developed at Apple was not “inherently good or bad”. “This is a larger discussion for society,” he says. “Is it OK to shut off my phone when I leave work? Is it OK if I don’t get right back to you? Is it OK that I’m not ‘liking’ everything that goes through my Instagram screen?”

    His then colleague, Marcellino, agrees. “Honestly, at no point was I sitting there thinking: let’s hook people,” he says. “It was all about the positives: these apps connect people, they have all these uses – ESPN telling you the game has ended, or WhatsApp giving you a message for free from your family member in Iran who doesn’t have a message plan.”

    A few years ago Marcellino, 33, left the Bay Area, and is now in the final stages of retraining to be a neurosurgeon. He stresses he is no expert on addiction, but says he has picked up enough in his medical training to know that technologies can affect the same neurological pathways as gambling and drug use. “These are the same circuits that make people seek out food, comfort, heat, sex,” he says.

    All of it, he says, is reward-based behaviour that activates the brain’s dopamine pathways. He sometimes finds himself clicking on the red icons beside his apps “to make them go away”, but is conflicted about the ethics of exploiting people’s psychological vulnerabilities. “It is not inherently evil to bring people back to your product,” he says. “It’s capitalism.”

    That, perhaps, is the problem. Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist who benefited from hugely profitable investments in Google and Facebook, has grown disenchanted with both companies, arguing that their early missions have been distorted by the fortunes they have been able to earn through advertising.

    He identifies the advent of the smartphone as a turning point, raising the stakes in an arms race for people’s attention. “Facebook and Google assert with merit that they are giving users what they want,” McNamee says. “The same can be said about tobacco companies and drug dealers.”

    That would be a remarkable assertion for any early investor in Silicon Valley’s most profitable behemoths. But McNamee, 61, is more than an arms-length money man. Once an adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, 10 years ago McNamee introduced the Facebook CEO to his friend, Sheryl Sandberg, then a Google executive who had overseen the company’s advertising efforts. Sandberg, of course, became chief operating officer at Facebook, transforming the social network into another advertising heavyweight.

    McNamee chooses his words carefully. “The people who run Facebook and Google are good people, whose well-intentioned strategies have led to horrific unintended consequences,” he says. “The problem is that there is nothing the companies can do to address the harm unless they abandon their current advertising models.”

    (continua)

  7. #7
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    But how can Google and Facebook be forced to abandon the business models that have transformed them into two of the most profitable companies on the planet?

    McNamee believes the companies he invested in should be subjected to greater regulation, including new anti-monopoly rules. In Washington, there is growing appetite, on both sides of the political divide, to rein in Silicon Valley. But McNamee worries the behemoths he helped build may already be too big to curtail. “The EU recently penalised Google $2.42bn for anti-monopoly violations, and Google’s shareholders just shrugged,” he says.

    Rosenstein, the Facebook “like” co-creator, believes there may be a case for state regulation of “psychologically manipulative advertising”, saying the moral impetus is comparable to taking action against fossil fuel or tobacco companies. “If we only care about profit maximisation,” he says, “we will go rapidly into dystopia.”

    James Williams does not believe talk of dystopia is far-fetched. The ex-Google strategist who built the metrics system for the company’s global search advertising business, he has had a front-row view of an industry he describes as the “largest, most standardised and most centralised form of attentional control in human history”.

    Williams, 35, left Google last year, and is on the cusp of completing a PhD at Oxford University exploring the ethics of persuasive design. It is a journey that has led him to question whether democracy can survive the new technological age.

    He says his epiphany came a few years ago, when he noticed he was surrounded by technology that was inhibiting him from concentrating on the things he wanted to focus on. “It was that kind of individual, existential realisation: what’s going on?” he says. “Isn’t technology supposed to be doing the complete opposite of this?”

    That discomfort was compounded during a moment at work, when he glanced at one of Google’s dashboards, a multicoloured display showing how much of people’s attention the company had commandeered for advertisers. “I realised: this is literally a million people that we’ve sort of nudged or persuaded to do this thing that they weren’t going to otherwise do,” he recalls.

    He embarked on several years of independent research, much of it conducted while working part-time at Google. About 18 months in, he saw the Google memo circulated by Harris and the pair became allies, struggling to bring about change from within.

    Williams and Harris left Google around the same time, and co-founded an advocacy group, Time Well Spent, that seeks to build public momentum for a change in the way big tech companies think about design. Williams finds it hard to comprehend why this issue is not “on the front page of every newspaper every day.

    “Eighty-seven percent of people wake up and go to sleep with their smartphones,” he says. The entire world now has a new prism through which to understand politics, and Williams worries the consequences are profound.

    The same forces that led tech firms to hook users with design tricks, he says, also encourage those companies to depict the world in a way that makes for compulsive, irresistible viewing. “The attention economy incentivises the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.”

    That means privileging what is sensational over what is nuanced, appealing to emotion, anger and outrage. The news media is increasingly working in service to tech companies, Williams adds, and must play by the rules of the attention economy to “sensationalise, bait and entertain in order to survive”.

    ...

    Williams saw a similar dynamic unfold months earlier, during the Brexit campaign, when the attention economy appeared to him biased in favour of the emotional, identity-based case for the UK leaving the European Union. He stresses these dynamics are by no means isolated to the political right: they also play a role, he believes, in the unexpected popularity of leftwing politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, and the frequent outbreaks of internet outrage over issues that ignite fury among progressives.

    All of which, Williams says, is not only distorting the way we view politics but, over time, may be changing the way we think, making us less rational and more impulsive. “We’ve habituated ourselves into a perpetual cognitive style of outrage, by internalising the dynamics of the medium,” he says.

    It is against this political backdrop that Williams argues the fixation in recent years with the surveillance state fictionalised by George Orwell may have been misplaced. It was another English science fiction writer, Aldous Huxley, who provided the more prescient observation when he warned that Orwellian-style coercion was less of a threat to democracy than the more subtle power of psychological manipulation, and “man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”.

    Since the US election, Williams has explored another dimension to today’s brave new world. If the attention economy erodes our ability to remember, to reason, to make decisions for ourselves – faculties that are essential to self-governance – what hope is there for democracy itself?

    “The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will,” he says. “If politics is an expression of our human will, on individual and collective levels, then the attention economy is directly undermining the assumptions that democracy rests on.” If Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are gradually chipping away at our ability to control our own minds, could there come a point, I ask, at which democracy no longer functions?

    “Will we be able to recognise it, if and when it happens?” Williams replies. “And if we can’t, then how do we know it hasn’t happened already?”

    https://www.theguardian.com/technolo...alley-dystopia

    Madam Secretary, uma novelinha semanal americana, apresentou a questão da fabricação e efeito de fake news. Em um episódio, em reunião fechada, o representante de outro país passa mal e morre. Um cartel de drogas espalha a noticia na Internet que ele foi assassinado pela Secretaria de Estado dos EUA. "Institutos de pesquisa" imediatamente atestam que 25% dos americanos acreditam que ela é culpada. Ela é entrevistada por um ancora de TV que aborda o assunto como fato, citando as "pesquisas" e as "redes sociais" como evidência. Após elucidado a autoria do assassinato, novas "pesquisas" "revelam" que 10% da "população" continua acreditando que ela é a real assassina. Soap opera, claro, mas o que dizer dos 18 milhões de americanos que acham que chocolate ao leite é produzido por vacas marrons? Deve ser informação daquele que tudo sabe
    Última edição por 5ms; 10-10-2017 às 17:46.

  8. #8
    WHT-BR Top Member
    Data de Ingresso
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    18,573

    China has a boom in ‘get rich quick’ schemes

    If you want to cheat, the internet helps you cheat millions at the same time. If you want to extort, the internet helps you do it quickly and on a vast scale. If you want to sell fakes, the internet can help you avoid the police.

    Search results are usually paid for. If you don’t pay, when someone searches for information on your company, your competitors show up.

    Instead of helping China’s economy, the internet seems to have become a magnifying glass for the worst elements in Chinese society.

    Andy Xie
    24 July, 2016

    The Chinese government has been promoting the slogan “All People Innovate, Tens of Thousands Start Business”. Tens of thousands of youth, especially college graduates without good job prospects, but armed with their parents’ savings, have answered the call. This movement is becoming a bubble with tragic consequences down the road.

    Starting a business is hard. Innovation is harder. There are few who have the talent or temperament to succeed in either. For fresh college graduates, their odds are next to zero. In a battlefield, officers can send unarmed green soldiers to rush a hill defended with machine guns. One or two might succeed. But it doesn’t justify sending 99.9 per cent to their deaths.

    The start-up mania won’t solve China’s economic difficulties. The economy has been in the doldrums for years because the government is not addressing the structural problems. The truth is that the investment and export-led model has run into a brick wall; the world is just not big enough for China to develop like Japan or the Asian tigers. The only way out is to scale investment down to 30 per cent of gross domestic product from half, and shift spending power to the household sector.

    China’s needed reforms are not coming because they conflict with the political doctrine of concentrating economic power in the state sector. Hence one bubble after another has been stoked in the hope that a miracle would happen to the economy without the need to shrink the government. So many have been sacrificed in these bubbles while the economy slides deeper and deeper into quagmire. In the name of looking at the upside, shady or even unlawful practices have been overlooked, leading to huge losses for the credulous masses.

    A well-known example is the P2P (peer-to-peer) lending mania. It is the unique Chinese phenomenon known as internet finance, combining the two hottest bubble words. Almost all P2P lenders promise high returns to attract funds, but they are in fact involved in subprime lending for stock and property speculation. As the bubbles burst, the P2P sector has joined that other unique Chinese phenomenon: vanishing bosses. In total, 2 trillion yuan (HK$2.3 trillion) of funds could be lost.

    P2P is the latest, but by no means the biggest, example of the true nature of China’s bubbles. They are about robbing the masses to enrich the few, all in the name of innovation or boosting the economy. Stocks, bonds, properties, commodities – anything tradeable has been turned into a gambling instrument to fleece the people in rigged games.

    “Get rich quick” is the reigning ideology today, especially for the young. Nothing fits the description better than the internet bubble. Every news story about how many billions an internet company is valued at in the latest fundraising is trumpeted nationwide, making the eyes of millions pop like ping-pong balls. But none of these businesses make money nor, in my view, ever will. That seems like a perfect dream for “get rich quick”: you get loads of money to subsidise consumers for market share and get rewarded with billions of dollars in valuation. And, if you are lucky, you can get listed on the A-share market and unload your dream on unsuspecting retail investors. As in every bubble, the end objective is to fleece the people.

    Sending the young into predictable failures has far-reaching consequences for the nation’s future. When enthusiastic would-be entrepreneurs are slaughtered en masse, few will try again in the future. Just look at Japan and Hong Kong: these once-dynamic economies have the lowest start-up rates in the world. Once a generation gets crushed by a bubble crash, few brave souls try again.

    The internet is often touted as the saviour for China’s economy. It is even considered a way for China to leapfrog the West. The truth is, it has the potential to squander the valuable time China has to upgrade the economy.

    Today, e-commerce dominates China’s internet activities. Yet home delivery won’t change the economy much, let alone change the world. How a product gets from A to B is small beer. How good the product is is the real deal. China is just not focusing on the right thing.

    The dark side of e-commerce is that it really thrives on selling fakes. The fakes are harming China’s economic future tremendously. If anyone can sell a product using your technology or brand, would you invest to build either? Unless China enforces the law on the internet, Chinese companies won’t become world-class.

    Online gaming is another booming business in the internet space. Unfortunately, its competitive advantage is a lack of legal enforcement against violence and pornography, while TV, movie and paper products are subject to enforcement.

    Online gaming has ruined one generation of boys in China. If left uncensored, it will ruin many more to come. How can China have a future if so many of the best and brightest boys have become gaming zombies?

    Search is another internet business that has become corrupted in China. Search results are usually paid for. If you don’t pay, when someone searches for information on your company, your competitors show up. The extortion angle of China’s search business is worrisome for the development of China’s corporate sector. It is another unnecessary layer in the cost of doing business in China.

    Instead of helping China’s economy, the internet seems to have become a magnifying glass for the worst elements in Chinese society. If you want to cheat, the internet helps you cheat millions at the same time. If you want to extort, the internet helps you do it quickly and on a vast scale. If you want to sell fakes, the internet can help you avoid the police. The internet is a tool. It can be used for good or bad. In China, the bad seems to prevail.

    China should stop chasing pipe dreams and get back to basics. Its economy has great potential. Its per capita income could be doubled just by carrying out proper reforms: first, household disposable income should be lifted from 40 to 60 per cent of GDP; second, investment should decrease to 30 per cent from half of the economy; and third, the market, not the National Development and Reform Commission, should decide where and how much to invest.

    The hard part is that all these necessary reforms depend on shrinking the state sector and limiting government power.

    http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-...stead-economic

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