Increasing Efficiency by Itself Doesn’t Employ People

Jaron Lanier:

 There is this huge increase in efficiency, but the interesting thing is that increasing efficiency by itself doesn’t employ people. There is a difference between saving and making money when you’re unemployed. Once you’re already rich, saving money and making money is the same thing, but for people who are on the bottom or even in the middle classes, saving money doesn’t help you if you don’t have the money to save in the first place.

Microstructure Influences Macrostructure

Jaron Lanier:

It is often the case that microstructure influences macrostructure. In the case of digital systems, where the microstructure is bits that are either completely on or completely off, it is easiest to build big things that tend to peg completely one way or another. You can easily be completely anonymous online, or utterly revealed, but it is hard to find an in-between spot.

Part of the Nature of Human Communication

M.S. at The Economist’s Democracy in America Blog:

It’s part of the nature of human communication that one doesn’t always say the same thing to every audience. There are perfectly good reasons why you don’t always tell the same story to your boss as you do to your spouse. There are things Washington needs to tell Riyadh to explain what it’s just told Jerusalem and things Washington needs to tell Jerusalem to explain what it’s just told Riyadh, and these cables shouldn’t be crossed. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s inevitable. And it wouldn’t make the world a better place if Washington were unable to say anything to Jerusalem without its being heard by Riyadh, any more than it would if you were unable to tell your spouse anything without its being heard by your boss.

[I]t definitely seems like we’re learning a lesson here: while information may want to be free, human beings are usually better off when it’s on a leash.

The Online Conversation Space

Zeynep Tufekci:

While most people are aware that online places have different characteristics compared with offline spaces, it is hard to carry out everyday interactions under the shadow of this knowledge. For example, most college students interact online mostly with people they also interact with offline.  So, the online conversation space socio-mentally feels like hanging out with friends which tends to happen in enclosed spaces bounded by walls, entered through doors, scannable visibly, etc. It is hard to have a conversation with one’s close friends while constantly thinking: “Maybe this will end up in the news tommorow; maybe my boss will see this; maybe my professor will see this.” After awhile the online place becomes normalized into the intuitions we have from offline places because of the nature of the interaction in them.

Public-by-default, Private-through-effort

danah boyd:

What’s different about the Internet is not about a radical shift in social norms.  What’s different has to do with how the architecture shifts the balance of power in terms of visibility.  In online public spaces, interactions are public-by-default, private-through-effort, the exact opposite of what we experience offline.  There is no equivalent to the cafe where you can have a private conversation in public with a close friend without thinking about who might overhear. Your online conversations are easily overheard.  And they’re often persistent, searchable, and easily spreadable. Online, we have to put effort into limiting how far information flows. We have to consciously act to curb visibility.  This runs counter to every experience we’ve ever had in unmediated environments.

Malicious Interface Design

Gregory Conti & Edward Sobiesk :

Malicious interfaces are commonplace on the web, and to a lesser degree in operating system distributions and individual software applications. They are employed for a variety of reasons that are often linked to direct or indirect acquisition of revenue. Revenue driven motivations include selling a product or service, increasing brand recognition, gathering personal information from the user, and obfuscating legally mandated but undesirable information from the user.

Trusted Identities?

The White House released yesterday a draft document for a plan to create “Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.”

At first it sounds like a Good Thing… “no longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords to login into various online services,” it would be “user-centric,” etc. … this sounds like OpenID. But it’s not.
The draft imagines a world where:

An individual voluntarily requests a smart identity card from
her home state. The individual chooses to use the card to
authenticate herself for a variety of online services, including:

  • Credit card purchases,
  • Online banking,
  • Accessing electronic health care records
  • Securely accessing her personal laptop computer,
  • Anonymously posting blog entries, and
  • Logging onto Internet email services using a pseudonym

(cf. “Envision It!” box on pg 4)

This is a world where you need a “voluntarily” obtained ID card just to access a laptop that is compatible with a closed “Internet.”
(It’s telling that this initiative is a project of the Department of Homeland Security, having consulted with over 70 “stakeholders.”)

The document is essentially the groundwork for a plan to eliminate real online anonymity/pseudonymity by incentivizing buy-in to an “Identity Ecosystem.” Combine this with recent the Supreme Court decision concluding that names and addresses of petitioners are part of the public record, and you have the ingredients for a serious clash between political dissidents steeped in the cyber-culture of the largest ever “functioning anarchy” in recorded history and the powers that be in government and corporate America.