Sam Harrelson

YouTube and “Reinforcing” Psychologies

“The new A.I., known as Reinforce, was a kind of long-term addiction machine. It was designed to maximize users’ engagement over time by predicting which recommendations would expand their tastes and get them to watch not just one more video but many more.

Reinforce was a huge success. In a talk at an A.I. conference in February, Minmin Chen, a Google Brain researcher, said it was YouTube’s most successful launch in two years. Sitewide views increased by nearly 1 percent, she said — a gain that, at YouTube’s scale, could amount to millions more hours of daily watch time and millions more dollars in advertising revenue per year. She added that the new algorithm was already starting to alter users’ behavior.

“We can really lead the users toward a different state, versus recommending content that is familiar,” Ms. Chen said.”

via “The Making of a YouTube Radical” by Kevin Roose in the New York Times




Unexplainable Experiences and How the Church has Lost to YouTube and Netflix

“The Church” (admittedly generically speaking here) has become a community center / garden club / singles bar / country club / music venue in the modern American experience.

There’s generally little to no real examination of the unexplainable or mysterious (especially in my Baptist circles… because of job security). So people who still go to church are left to ponder those themes by themselves with YouTube or the latest Netflix sci-fi dystopian shocker or with Marvel Universe movies.

Maybe if churches were to re-engage with the mysterious and with the unexplainable and with mythologies of deep and ancient wisdom we don’t (and cannot) understand, more people would engage with the church. It’s a part of human psychology and our pull to the black monolith of mystery is repressed when churches operate at surface level Sunday-School-as-therapy-sessions…

It’s Pentecost tomorrow, so I’ve been thinking a great deal about this and how most sermons and Sunday School lessons (if people even do them anymore instead of a book study or self-help group) will be about vague and superficial terms meant to dumb down the unexplainable event that we remember and reenact still.

More than half of American adults and over 60 percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This tracks pretty closely with belief in God, and if Pasulka is right, that’s not an accident.

Her book isn’t so much about the truth of UFOs or aliens as it is about what the appeal of belief in those things says about our culture and the shifting roles of religion and technology in it. On the surface, it’s a book about the popularity of belief in aliens, but it’s really a deep look at how myths and religions are created in the first place and how human beings deal with unexplainable experiences.

Source: The new American religion of UFOs – Vox




Don’t think that we can’t remember

When undergraduate students at Peking University, which was at the center of the incident, were shown copies of the iconic photograph 16 years afterwards, they were “genuinely mystified”. One of the students said that the image was “artwork”. It is noted in the documentary Frontline: The Tank Man that he whispered to the student next to him “89”, which led the interviewer to surmise that the student may have concealed his knowledge of the event.

via Tank Man – Wikipedia




“Change within a lifetime”

Climate change is the ghosts of impacts future….

And so the most effective guard against climate breakdown may not be technological solutions, but a more fundamental reimagining of what constitutes a good life on this particular planet. We may be critically constrained in our abilities to change and rework the technosphere, but we should be free to envisage alternative futures. So far our response to the challenge of climate change exposes a fundamental failure of our collective imagination.

via The Conversation




Roman Earthquake Cloaking

I tend to agree with the physicist from UNCC here that the Colosseum and other buildings that exhibit these “metamaterial” designs were probably self-selecting (in that they didn’t fall down during earthquakes), but we definitely don’t give the ancients enough credit with their engineering and scientific prowess…

Scientists are hard at work developing real-world “invisibility cloaks” thanks to a special class of exotic manmade “metamaterials.” Now a team of French scientists has suggested in a recent preprint on the physics arXiv that certain ancient Roman structures, like the famous Roman Colosseum, have very similar structural patterns, which may have protected them from damage from earthquakes over the millennia.

via Ars Technica




Intelligent Voice First Interactive Advertising

We are in very early days of the Voice First revolution and Intelligent Voice First interactive advertisements along with true Voice Commerce will form the new backbone to Voice First AI just as pay-per-click and shopping carts formed the last revolution. In the next 10 years “Dumb Pipes” of audio and video channels that do not have Voice First AI deeply integrated, will be seen as ancient as live radio, TV and music downloads look today. Spotify took a great first step in to Intelligent Voice First interactive advertisements.

Via Brian Roemmele on Quora




New Reading of the Mesha Stele

Potentially huge (I appreciate Thomas Römer‘s scholarship a great deal):

A name in Line 31 of the stele, previously thought to read ‘House of David’, could instead read ‘Balak’, a king of Moab mentioned in the biblical  of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), say archaeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein and historians and biblical scholars Prof. Nadav Na’aman and Prof. Thomas Römer, in an article published in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

New reading of Mesha Stele could have far-reaching consequences for biblical history – Phys.org




Stanford to cut Stanford Univ. Press

Just wow.

The Stanford press actually brings in about $5 million a year in book sales, a sum that is impressive compared to sales of many scholarly publishers. But it has also depended on support from the university, which in recent years has provided $1.7 million annually.

Provost Persis Drell told the Faculty Senate Thursday that the university was ending that funding. She cited a tight budget ahead, due to a smaller than anticipated payout coming from the endowment. (The endowment is worth more than $26 billion and is the fourth largest in American higher education.)

Stanford publishes about 130 books a year. It is particularly well-known in the fields of Middle Eastern studies, Jewish studies, business, literature and philosophy. The press has also been capable of undertaking long-term scholarly efforts, such as a 20-year project to translate the Zohar, the key work in understanding the Jewish thought of the Kabbalah.

Source: Stanford moves to stop providing funds to its university press




Capitalism is killing the small church

If small church becomes extinct in the next generation, it will not be because preachers failed to promote work-life balance. It will not be because younger Christians lack faith. It will be because capitalism killed it.

Source: Melissa Florer-Bixler: Capitalism is killing the small church | Faith and Leadership




Sunday April 28, 2019

We really do forget that Easter isn’t just a day but actually a season in the liturgical Christian calendar. It would be like assigning all of Lent to Ash Wednesday. There’s a reason Easter is the longest season in the church calendar… practice resurrection.




Think You’re Discreet Online?

Go read Mad Farmer Liberation Front:

But they are wrong. Because of technological advances and the sheer amount of data now available about billions of other people, discretion no longer suffices to protect your privacy. Computer algorithms and network analyses can now infer, with a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, a wide range of things about you that you may have never disclosed, including your moods, your political beliefs, your sexual orientation and your health.

Source: Opinion | Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again – The New York Times




Blue Ball in the Sky

I don’t remember when or why but about 2 years ago we threw this sticky blue ball onto the ceiling of our dining room. It’s been there ever since fighting a constant battle with gravity and friction thanks to the miracle of modern polymers. It’s also become part of our family and dinner routine. It’s going to be a sad day when it falls.




Pipes of Infinity


In the end, that data was the “equivalent to 5000 years of mp3 files” according to Dan Marrone, an astronomer and co-investigator of Event Horizon Telescope. It was recorded onto half a ton of hard drives and then physically sent to centralized locations where it was analyzed by supercomputers for months in order to get the image we see today.

Source: See the first image ever taken of a supermassive black hole – The Verge




RSS and Twitter

Yep.

“Here’s what’s important: RSS is very much still here. Better yet, RSS can be a healthy alternative when Twitter is making you feel like shit. In 2019, that’s, like, most of the time.”

https://gizmodo.com/rss-is-better-than-twitter-1833624929




Twitter in a nutshell




Saturday is Prepping Restock Day

It’s part silly, part therapeutic, and part philosophical but I like to tear down my bags and carry items every weekend and make sure I have what we need and I know where it is. It also helps to process what we don’t need and take those items out of the tins, packs, and bags that make up our daily carry and supply lines. Good metaphor for life. Biblical even.




It’s Now Segra Park




A Week Without Twitter (or Facebook)

I made the decision last week to attempt what I previously thought was relatively undoable for my business and/or personal life and pull out of the Twitter stream and Facebook world, and Instagram performance art gallery. Some of that was due to this liturgical season of Lent and some of that was my constant need to try on new “thought technologies” that helps me explore more of this life.

After a week, I can say a few things that have struck me as personal revelations.

First, I am more focused and “get things done” work-wise in a more deliberate and intentional way. It’s not that I was skipping over things a year or a month ago, but the silence that comes from not having a constant TweetDeck tab open in my browser window (or on the large screen that was dedicated just to TweetDeck) has made a marked difference in my workflow as evidenced by my time sheets and my client ticketing system.

Second, I find myself reaching for my phone fewer times during the morning, day, and night. I would constantly be scanning Instagram or Twitter when I had a few spare moments or minutes during the course of a day. Now that I don’t have those time sinks, I find myself scanning Feedly for news or longer form articles or just doodling on paper for 30 seconds.

Third, I’m blogging here more. I feel more “creative” in general to be honest. Being away from the constant stream of short takes on the latest political scandal or presidential tweet or funny meme has made me recognize how much I’ve pushed down my own voice inside of my head (as much as it is an unreliable narrator sometimes!). But I feel like we’re picking back up the conversation after a long 12 years on Twitter and as a heavy user of all things social. I feel more creative and less anxious in general.

Most importantly, I have space to be more mindful about my place here. I already feel a change in my outlook on issues and things I need to give or pay attention to. I’ve found myself turning off notifications on my phone from Slack and Email (heaven forbid!) and even our ticket support system. Could I make do with a flip phone? Who knows. But that mindfulness and a better sense of presence does feel different than it has the last few years.

Coincidence is not causation, so we’ll see how this happens as I keep up with this thought technology of being mindfully and spiritually situated in specific places and times rather than floating through the matrix of performative attention.




WWW Turns 30

And most important of all, citizens must hold companies and governments accountable for the commitments they make, and demand that both respect the web as a global community with citizens at its heart. If we don’t elect politicians who defend a free and open web, if we don’t do our part to foster constructive healthy conversations online, if we continue to click consent without demanding our data rights be respected, we walk away from our responsibility to put these issues on the priority agenda of our governments.

Source: 30 years on, what’s next #ForTheWeb? – World Wide Web Foundation




We are such stuff As dreams are made on