Internet culture

Consequences of YouTube's algorithm

As a follow-up to the previous post, consider this video by science educator Derek Muller, recently posted to his YouTube channel Veritasium: In the video, Muller explains why he thinks a previous video, about the use of shade balls in a Los Angeles-area reservoir, went viral. Basically, he explains, when deciding which videos to promote, YouTube’s algorithm seems to be attempting to maximize two outcomes: Watch time: How long the user will spend watching the video Click-through rate: How likely the user will click that particular thumbnail when it’s displayed As a result, Muller says that going forward, he will:

Life in the time of paperclip maximizers

In an influential 2003 essay, philosopher Nick Bostrom explored the ethical implications of developing a “superintelligence”, that is, an “intellect that is vastly outperforms the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills.” He argued that any such intelligence should be given “philanthropic values”, and designed to be ultimately motivated with improving human lives. Without such a “supergoal of philanthropy”, a superintelligence could be dangerous.

I’ve (mostly) stopped using Facebook

I have mostly stopped using Facebook. I’ve only made two posts to my own timeline since the beginning of the year, and one was to update my bio with a message explaining that I’ve stopped using Facebook (which I will probably edit to include a link to this post). I’m not a “Facebook vegan”: I still log in (occasionally) and comment or like others’ posts (even less occasionally). I also occasionally make posts for various organizations with which I’m involved (but I post them to those organizations’ pages).

Some thoughts about online discourse

I hate it when people reply or comment to something you posted, in a way that makes it clear they didn't read what you wrote or posted, (1/) — Chris Phan (@functoruser) May 15, 2015 and that they were just looking for an argument. It's disrespectful and rude. Also, I'm not looking for arguments on the Internet. (2/) — Chris Phan (@functoruser) May 15, 2015 I'm looking for dialogue, discussion, and reasonable disagreement.

Um, some conservatives DO dispute E=mc^2

A few times on my Facebook news feed, I’ve noticed a graphic with a photo of astrophysicist and (awesome) science popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson and this quotation of him (emphasis and ellipsis in original): MathJax.Hub.Config({ tex2jax: { inlineMath: [['$','$'], ['\\(','\\)']], displayMath: [['$$','$$'], ['\\[','\\]']], processEscapes: true, processEnvironments: true, skipTags: ['script', 'noscript', 'style', 'textarea', 'pre'], TeX: { equationNumbers: { autoNumber: "AMS" }, extensions: ["AMSmath.js", "AMSsymbols.js"] } } }); Climate change has taken on political dimensions… That’s odd because I don’t see people choosing sides over $E=mc^2$ or other fundamental facts of science!

Tech support scam

Today, I was the target of a tech support scam. I received a phone call from someone purporting to work in tech support. The caller said they were calling about my Windows computer. Thinking they might have the wrong number, I replied that I didn’t have a Windows computer. The caller then hung up, without even apologizing or saying goodbye. The abrupt ending of the call made me suspicious, and so I did some research.

Yes, this.

Related note, arguments about whether "piracy" is "stealing" are irrelevant to debates about piracy's ethics, you can safely ignore them. — gia manry (@giapet) February 15, 2014 Edited to add: If you pirate media, you are choosing your *personal entertainment* over the rights of the owners of said media. Don't pretend otherwise. — gia manry (@giapet) February 15, 2014

One thing I love about the new NYT website redesign

Many people are complaining about the redesign of the New York Times website. Some of these complaints are from people having trouble finding things on the site, which is prone to happen anytime you change a user interface. Other complaints deal with the smaller font size, which I find annoying as well. (I am a frequent user of the ⌘+ key combo.) But one thing I love, love, love about the redesign, which I hope is copied by other news sites, is that articles appear on a single page, and I don’t have to click “Next” repeatedly.

Chromecast: Pretty neat

A few weeks ago, I received my Chromecast in the mail. This is a small $35 device sold by Google that vaguely resembles a USB flash drive and fits into the HDMI port on your TV, and connects to your WiFi. For what it does, it is a very nice device. My television comes with built-in software to watch Netflix and YouTube. Alas, that software is slow and is a pain to use.