AI and Bicycle of the Mind

I don’t have the same optimism that Thompson does here, but it’s a good read and worth the thought time!

The Great Flattening – Stratechery by Ben Thompson:

What is increasingly clear, though, is that Jobs’ prediction that future changes would be even more profound raise questions about the “bicycle for the mind” analogy itself: specifically, will AI be a bicycle that we control, or an unstoppable train to destinations unknown? To put it in the same terms as the ad, will human will and initiative be flattened, or expanded?

Reblog of Merianna Harrelson: The Screen Between

Reblog via Merianna Harrelson

Fifteen years ago, when I pursuing a Master’s in Literacy, we wondered and pondered about the impact of screens for readers. We questioned and discussed how literacy needed to be taught differently because of the availability of so much content and with so much reading occurring on a screen. I attended and participated in professional developments centered around “the screen between.” We discussed and debated how the screen between eliminated so many of the social cues and nonverbal communication that takes place between two people in person in conversations and in classrooms.

These discussions were way before so many people had a handheld device with a screen that fit in their pocket. Now as a minister, I find myself in conversations and debates about that same “screen between,” and how emboldened people feel to type something in a comment thread or text that they would never say to a person’s face.

And that’s just it. We don’t see each other anymore. The screen between us disconnects us from our joint humanity even as it advertises more connections and connetions from around the world.

As I have tried to be more intentional about my own use of screens, especially around our infant, I’ve noticed just how prevalent screens are. There is no small talk in the elevator or grocery store anymore because we are all looking down. Even restaurants have started to put screens on the tables and in their wait staff’s hands which I am sure streamlines the ordering process, but also interrupts the connection that you make with the person who is taking their time to serve you.

I can’t help but wonder when like Dorthy and her followers, we will discover the man behind the curtain or rather the fellow humans behind the screens. While these devices may seem just as great and powerful as the Wizard of Oz, there’s something missing and something we are all longing for. Eventually we are going to have to decide whether we want a screenshot of life, a projection of what appears to be or whether we want to live life with and among those that surround us.

We all want to be seen. We all want to know that we aren’t on this journey alone. But in order to do that, we are going to have to put away the screen between us and look each other in the eyes and say, “I am here. You are here. And here we are together.”

The post The Screen Between appeared first on Merianna Neely Harrelson.

Why I am Using a Light Phone

I have lots more to say about this, but I wanted to share this vital part of a recent article about “dumbphones” in The New Yorker. I’ve been attempting to be much more deliberate about using technology and devices, especially in front of my children and students.

The Light Phone (and Camp Snap camera) have been a significant part of that effort. I’ve been in love with the Light Phone since converting from an iPhone earlier this year.

The Dumbphone Boom Is Real | The New Yorker:

Like Dumbwireless, Light Phone has recently been experiencing a surge in demand. From 2022 to 2023, its revenue doubled, and it is on track to double again in 2024, the founders told me. Hollier pointed to Jonathan Haidt’s new book, “The Anxious Generation,” about the adverse effects of smartphones on adolescents. Light Phone is receiving increased inquiries and bulk-order requests from churches, schools, and after-school programs. In September, 2022, the company began a partnership with a private school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to provide Light Phones to the institution’s staff members and students; smartphones are now prohibited on campus. According to the school, the experiment has had a salutary effect both on student classroom productivity and on campus social life. Tang told me, “We’re talking to twenty to twenty-five schools now.”

No Instagram Grid

The disappearing Insta grid – One Thing:

Snapchat and BeReal understood this preference shift long ago. And now, scrubbing your feed is a way of taking some control back, refusing to put your past on display. It’s a design choice. Embracing negative space. Making anti-brand the brand. Refusing to participate in the popularity contest and the attention economy.

TikTok Is the Last Social Media Platform

I know… let’s go back to blogging on our own domains (no, seriously)!

Clout world:

I don’t want to end this on a bummer note, but I do think it’s probably time to accept that we have reached the limitations of the social web as it’s currently constructed. It’s likely that TikTok was the last “social” platform and even more likely that all the behaviors that we can do on these platforms have been mapped out already. We can rearrange them and try them out in different orders and react to slight algorithm tweaks, but this is it. This is how people will behave as long the company’s that own and operate the web continue to do so. And it’s probably time to start imagining something else — no, not AI — before we forget how to do it.

Greatest Beatles Song

I’m not one to argue with Elvis Costello and I love re-reading this list every so often (especially in a new year). However, In My Life shoud be the Beatles song.

100 Greatest Beatles Songs:

Before that album, “We were just writing songs à la the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly,” Lennon said, “pop songs with no more thought to them than that.” He rightly called “In My Life” “my first real, major piece of work. Up until then, it had all been glib and throwaway.”

“Sympathy, though gained as an instinct, is also much strengthened by exercise or habit.”

Darwin, Descent of Man, Ch. 4

On Darwin and Sapolsky

I’ve just finished Robert Sapolsky’s (excellent) book, Determined. You should read it for yourself, obviously, but Sapolsky does an expert job of providing the argument that our conception of determinism and what we colloquially call “free will” are to be examined under a much stricter microscope society-wide.

These sorts of philosophical arguments rarely escape the ivory tower of The Academy. However, Sapolsky is a masterful speaker and has attracted a good deal of attention in the mainstream for his seemingly outlandish idea that we do not, in fact, possess free will. 

I think he’s right and on to something monumental. If we took his admonishment with intention and began to examine the structures our society (especially our educational systems) place on behavioralism, exceptionalism, and perceived meritocracy… our society would look quite different. Dare I say it would be more just.

I picked up Darwin’s Descent of Man (1871) this morning and began reading. The beginnings of Chapter 4 here lay out a very similar thought construction about where we gather our conception of morality and sympathy in the context of what he labels natural history. 

I was taken by his statement that:

“We are indeed all conscious that we do possess such sympathetic feelings, but our consciousness does not tell us whether they are instinctive, having originated long ago in the same manner as with the lower animals, or whether they have been acquired by each of us during our early years.”

Reading both of these texts together is an incredible thought experiment!

The Museum of Me

The Museum of You – Herbert Lui:

I see a lot of discussion on how people miss blogs, and RSS, and internet culture before what we call Web 2.0 (social media, platforms, ecommerce, etc.) came along and wiped it away. 

The best way to pay homage is to bring it back—to set up our own blogs that we control, to preserve our own libraries of content in multiple places so they don’t disappear with social media, to actively document our lives the way we miss and the way we would want to be remembered. We can choose a responsibility, every day, to collect the best of what came before us, to embody it, and to preserve it by sharing its charms with other people.

Much agreed, and this is one of the reasons I’ve kept my own blog and podcast here since 2006. I thought back then, “What if these awesome new tools like MySpace (or early Twitter) somehow go away or fall into the hands of the wrong leaders?” 

I read previous posts and thoughts here occasionally and marvel at how naive, bold, brave, or afraid I was at various points in my life. Now looking back on this Museum of Me, I can glimpse previous iterations of my own self and perceptions and not just remember but learn. 

Blogs like this, however silly they may seem in the face of social media apps, are powerful places!

Doctored Photographs and Implanted Memories

Fascinating… now think of the implications in an era of deep fakes, AI, and ubiquitous access to information of all varieties at one’s choosing…

Full article: Doctored photographs create false memories of spectacular childhood events. a replication of Wade et al. (2002) with a Scandinavian twist:

In this replication, which rigorously recreated the method and procedure of Wade et al. (2002), participants were interviewed over three interview sessions using free recall and imagery techniques about three true and one fictitious childhood event photos. The balloon ride was modified to a culturally appropriate target event – a Viking ship ride – to ensure that the doctored photograph was functionally equivalent. The results showed almost identical patterns in the two studies: 40% (n = 8) of the participants reported partial or clear false beliefs or memories compared with 50% (n = 10) in the original study. The participants who reported false memories reported detailed and coherent memory narratives of the Viking ship ride not depicted in the doctored photograph. Our study successfully replicating the results of Wade et al. (2002), suggest that memories can relatively easily be implanted, regardless of cultural setting.