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