🔮⚡ Zeynep Tufekci special: Bitcoin, libertarian paradise? Hackers coming for ML; consequences of Facebook; YT's radicalization engine ++ #153

Most of you are probably familiar with the work of Zeynep Tufekci, from her revealing TED talks or her writing about social media and democracy (including her book,_ Twitter and Tear Gas_). Zeynep is one of the foremost thinkers on the subject, and I find her work utterly important in helping us understand public discourse in the digital age. We're honored to have Zeynep curate this week's Exponential View.

Enjoy her view and share it with the people you care about.

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ABOUT ZEYNEP

I'm Zeynep, and I try to research, write and think about the interaction between society and our rapidly evolving digital and computational technologies.

Years ago, when it was less conventional to do that, I made up a word to explain what I did: I called myself a technosociologist! I started out as a computer programmer both in college and professionally, and then got fascinated by the social impacts and added a sociology degree to my education and then ended up doing a PhD and becoming an academic!

I write pieces for the broader public and currently, I am a writer at the New York Times op-ed pages. My most recent lengthy piece, however, was at Wired on what the shift to the current attention/information ecology means for how we understand free speech and censorship.

DEPT OF THE NEAR FUTURE

🐍  Useful in thinking about the near future of Bitcoin, and the crisis coming their way: "The libertarian hope that markets could sustain themselves through free association and choice is a chimera with a toxic sting in its tail."

Algorithms are [making inequality worse](https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610026/algorithms-are- making-american- inequality-worse/).

🛡️ Fake everything is coming our way. And hackers and mischief makers are [coming for machine learning](https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603116/how-long- before-ai- systems-are- hacked-in- creative-new- ways/).

DEPT OF FACEBOOK

The Facebook algorithm tries to measure “meaningful interaction” at scale. But what does it really mean?

A detailed look at the political decisions Facebook made leading up to the U.S. election: "Facebook [...] spent little time discussing the big questions that bedevil the media industry. What is fair? What is a fact? How do you signal the difference between news, analysis, satire, and opinion? Facebook has long seemed to think it has immunity from those debates because it is just a technology company—one that has built a “platform for all ideas.”"

Facebook abroad is probably more consequential than the U.S.

Facebook and publishers, a depressing take: "Facebook gets the ad revenue from the eyeballs on the thing they are seeing, and they get revenue from the publisher. It’s like if The New York Times had their own subscriber base, but you had to pay the paperboy for every article you wanted to see."

DEPT OF YOUTUBE & RECOMMENDER ALGORITHMS

I have been saying this for a while, and now there are new investigations showing it: YouTube may well be the most overlooked story of last year, and its recommender algorithm is possibly the biggest radicalizing engine the world has seen at this scale.

Great WSJ piece about the internet's darkest corner and the divisive nature of YouTube's black box: "Using a deep neural network makes the recommendations more of a black box to engineers than previous techniques, YouTube recommendations engineer Jim McFadden said last year. “We don’t have to think as much,” he said. “We’ll just give it some raw data and let it figure it out.”"

Related: How was he radicalized? “I researched white supremacist groups and visited the same sites that my husband frequented. After a month of clicking on platforms that ranged from The Drudge Report to The Daily Stormer and reading about the alleged takeover of Illuminati Elite, my computer turned into a Nazi.”

DEPT OF TIDBITS OF STUFF THAT ARE INTERESTING

🏥 Responding to mass shootings! How it looks like from a (heroic and well-prepared) ER doctor’s vantage point of view.

Infrastructure is amazing.

A museum I *have* to go to. 🏎️🔥

Mayan cities! (and the BBC about the discovery.)

The Voynich Manuscript! I’ve been following the story of this mystery for years, and this is fascinating! And now, it interacts with my own field.

🌱 Apparently, 56% of children spend less time outdoors than maximum security prisoners in the U.S. Take your kids out to play!

END NOTE

I'm really grateful for Zeynep for stepping up and providing her perspectives on some of the opportunities & challenges for civil society during this phase of the exponential shift.

Please take a moment to thank her. And you can always find her on Twitter at @zeynep.

I'll be back next week!

Cheers,
Azeem

P.S. I will be speaking at the Artconnects festival on AI, kids and education next Saturday. Thus is a fantastic event organised by EV member Nick Corston - do check it out.

This week's issue is brought to you with support from our partner Rockstar Coders.

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