Category Archives: politics

What does Traditional Linguistics inform to Data Science and Policy?

Society chose to trust social media. The problem, over a decade after its mass adoption and with no need to list the transformations in the sector — from within the industry and outside, according to public perception — seems to be that we never really understood media or social movements. Maybe we didn’t like those. You’ll hear politicians talk about the media like some inherently corrupt system of rewards and distribution of misinformation. What’s less spoken about is the origin of the word, something that traditional Linguistics helps explain, as well as a multitude of other debates over which common people and powerful corporations have shown intense interest with a comparable set of intentions.

Nobody wants to known or be schooled about the printing press, but at the same time, we live by the sanctimonious and spread ideas that are known to date from thousands of years ago. The Greeks believed there was divine inspiration for producing art, and that had connections with power. Philosophy, on the other hand, benefited all of society and still doesn’t have the same kind of attention. We’re supposed to know what a platonic relationship is, but it seems we’re more interested in the apocalypse. As a reader and writer, I don’t exactly place myself in a neutral point. It is a duty I have to say that we must not dream of a better society without fighting for it, and sometimes lose so often that we’d rather keep things as they are. I just think there’s a difference, which is very clear, between attacking and defending. The powerful would love to see their challenges turned into mythologies, epic battles, a showcase of weaponry. The powerless seek to understand what is and why. Their challenge, very frequently, is to stay alive to tell the story; but there’s no time for a story, because real life has more objective principles, not the making of a hero. And so the rest of us seek for the outstanding and the pitiful, the wonderful and the repulsive. What drives this is Ethics, which in turn is what drives Justice. And the laws are made to preserve this beautiful concept, with little to no attention to its logical opposite: for everything that’s legal, there’s something illegal; from everything that’s just, there’s something unjust.

Society is organized by laws, rules, norms, culture and habit. The latter could be associated with the smallest things we don’t think about: “what made me click on that link?” From that alone, we can’t establish relationships between all other listed elements. Data analysis claims to be able to. Clicking on a link has no grand merit, but if you’re the one who gets clicks, you’ll get a few grand. How that mechanism operates is what everyone needs to be aware of, and it seems like a challenge that, again, interests many groups of people. Now, in terms of which side you’re on when investing your time in deciding what’s legitimate and what is not; what’s authentic and what is not; what’s true and what is not, observe the shades. Morphology is the recognition of patterns. So is data science. There’s a clear difference between “legitimate” and “legal”. I could steal someone’s identity, claim to have the documents that are indeed legitimate, and if nobody spotted me, I’d be right; but that’s illegal. And it seems like identity is a concept we’re struggling with, in a world where appearances matter more than most things we can recognize in our environment.

Corrupt and abrupt are associated by their morphology, but different in their syntax and their meaning: one can be a process; the other can be an event. Both are precisely associations, but only one of them can be a verb. To corrupt is to disturb as a mode of turning the aspect of something. This could be a process and an event. An illegal action, not illegal activity, could turn someone corrupt. Abruptly? It depends. It also depends of your involvement, which turns to social elements that the media will surely explore. But how did social media make its ways into our subconscious? Was it in a sudden manner? Or was it in a complex arrangement of situations that entangled opportunity, ambition, ego, motives, paybacks and a desire for creating a mechanism of power? Nobody’s judging: many of us have used the power of social media. But how has social media used us — and deprived us of our power? Maybe another area of traditional Linguistics might explain: Phonology. In practice, an alveolar, voiced fricative can turn what’s “just” into “dust”, but in theory, it’s the other way around. Sometimes it’s plosive, others not, depending on the language. But language has its intricacies, and so does its context, so adequately tied to identity.

In a context where data science informs us that the tendency is for hikes in interactions to be observed, it might be useful to remember Martha’s Vineyard’s lesson: quality and quantity are not easily measured or separated. Context, however, a focus of Discourse Analysis (and we won’t have the time to address Linguistics as it is used today, by artificial inteligence and programming tools, with the “legitimate” cause of preserving interaction quality), informs that this location has been on the news for being a destination of immigrants in the United States of America. Just sent there. Like the immigrants of Ukraine found Poland, or the South American continent found its way in between Portuguese and Spanish: so many similarities, but quite a few differences. For an illegal alien working at a restaurant, maybe “muy guapo” or “hermosa” would sound different than “hot”, in case they exchanged messages with someone on social media; and while Portuguese speakers might hear gender opposing “gostosa” or “gostoso”, their lives would still be connected to the restaurant (and you’re smart enough to notice who’s to lose), not a home they own, sometimes counting with protection. But you see, this protection was granted because if laws, without a capital letter, hadn’t been passed to ensure the citizen (not the illegal alien) had the right to protect him or herself, some would call this protection a “regression”; they would say it’s “legitimate”; others would call it “illegal”. What traditional Linguistics has to offer is not what tradition has always presented us. We have to reimagine language. We have to look at communication in a movement of desire — desire to communicate, but much more than that. At the same time, we have to separate desire from intention, and those from action. So far, we’ve been walking towards the opposite direction, because of how “modern” Applied Linguistics can be. We talk to the wind, but they want a gag rule. Context will tell you: the wind will be stored somewhere, and there will be a storm, eventually.

The “woke” agenda: our King is MLK

In a linguistic aberration not often talked about from a linguist’s perspective, the internet (with prevalence of first-language speakers to legitimately set new rules) started using a term to describe those who are very much aware of things — so aware that it feels like everybody else is just sleeping, and they don’t seem to catch up. In another interpretation, they see reality and they fight their daily struggles; others dream and often believe stories about their futures that are not true at all, holding onto the slightest chance of an eyeball meeting their digital existence or even to be spotted on the street and not just called pretty or handsome (instead of “babe”), but also offered a contract job. These are the “woke” people. But they’re supposed to be “awaken”, or “awakened”. “Awake”, by the way, is an interesting album from Japanese band L’arc en ciel, which has a line in English in the song “Existence“: “you will not be able to sleep, so why don’t you just stay awake?” It’s also a spelling mistake, a verb form inconsistency or misplaced adjective. “Awake” is an adjective, “awaken” is the past participle of “wake”, “woke” is the simple past of the same irregular verb, but “woke” as an adjective is an invention,. See? The mistake was intentional, just like people say “bitches be crazy”.

But nobody speaks Japanese. And as an English teacher actually living in Brazil (and it seems people struggle to understand that or pretend it’s not a relevant fact at all — or worse: they minimize the role of culture bridging and curating for literacy goals) I have to say English is just “a” language, not “the” language that everyone speaks. The latter part is undeniable. Recently, Slate published a podcast talking about YouTube’s derailing or demise, but saying they’ve managed to stay immune from criticism, despite other platforms being roasted. Later, the same vehicle said that Senators in Congressional hearings are asking more difficult questions to tech leaders, as if it’s a good sign, and we’re not struggling to catch up as ordinary citizens. We are. That’s the whole point of being “woke“. The definition should be: “someone in society that sees themselves in a position of inferiority for a series of reasons that they seek to understand to find who’s responsible for such situations and then try to change it”. They just created another word for activist, but this time, more combative — and their response is literally to say: “shut the fuck up, you’re annoying”. Of all things, annoying. No wonder, they came for the LGBT. Acceptance is not in their vocabulary. My own dad says he’s okay with gay people, but not with “the media” constantly pushing gay narratives for children to watch. He’s receiving the govenment fund for financial assistence to the poor (which is what we call people who haven’t figured out the factors in COVID that left us here), but still votes for the Trump agenda in Brazilian fashion. Not that knowing about Brazil makes you woke, but for example, you have to know real estate being bought in live cash is a problem, insulting journalists and also having such a difficult to conceive rhethoric on rape: at one point he said a congresswoman (Maria do Rosário, from the Worker’s Party) did not “deserve” to be raped. Not to mention the case where he posed for with hydroxychloroquine next to a bunch of rheas, animals people don’t usually see unless they’re looking at the farmgirl’s videos (but notice that the word for “rhea” is “ema” in Brazil).

Woke people can even be called schizophrenic. They can’t sleep because of the problems of the world, and the fact that them wanting to change things makes them targets of serial attacks, increasingly effective. I, for example, have developed sleep disorders. Nights watching Bloomberg and going to sleep after the B3 opening were a constant, with CNN’s prime time right after dad went to the bedroom. I knew it would make me feel better knowing that some people talked about what needed to be talked about, including finance and tech, which pleased me. The response wasn’t so popular. And about schizophrenia: we hear the word “smoking”, and we might think about a “king”, and then, for some reason, associate it with the January 6 events (it’s the day of Kings here in Brazil, didn’t you know?) then everything would make sense. Except it doesn’t, and we have to organize. Especially considering that we don’t live in the United Kingdom, but we might make songs talking about the act of the pound, if you’ll excuse the promotion.

For the common sense agenda: ESG, energy, inflation, cost of living, food, worker’s rights, healthcare, women’s rights, sexual freedoms, technology protections, better technology platform laws, better education, better entertainment and support to culture: these are things I care about, personally. If anyone has a plan to remanage the national debt and distribute investments in between those categories, amazing. Projects like FUNDEB are supposed to guarantee the money, but norms like the Common Core are scarcely debated. So even if we do get the money, the effectiveness of those initiatives is simply not there. The same goes for web policy, and we don’t talk about crypto in this blog, only things that exist. Is that being woke? Then maybe Tucker Carlson is sleeping, contrary to popular belief and to some of his invited commenters.

We seem to forget that there were people fighting for social justice (Rachael, a friend who I remember dearly for the contact she gave me with what I saw as “real English”, used to say she hated the term) were gunned down, as was Martin Luther king. And the guy was a reverend. Not even him escaped the hatred from powerful American elites (he was even listed in the FBI’s list of most wanted people). About the institutions? There’s little to say, but a lot to unpack. The Supreme Court should exist — Brazilian society recently signed a letter on the adherence and respect of the Rule of Law, contrary to the current and hopefully last-days president Jair Bolsonaro’s argument that the Judiciary is corrupt and should be banished. The thing about studying the Law is that you learn about morals. Catch some Hegel. Read Habermas (just maybe skip his Wikipedia, as you might find he had connections with Nazis). And if you go for the Bible, don’t support Jesus with a gun, ready to serve bullets instead of bread. Because in case anyone’s wondering what the answer to the question “where we all fall asleep, where do we go?”, the answer might be soon revealed with contrasting definitions, from the concept of Random Access Memory to REM sleep and biometrics used by the companies that tell you both “what’s happening” and “what’s on your mind”. For more on that, read my Substack.

To remind everyone, there’s a button for donations on the menu of the site. It redirects you to my PayPal account. Support this initiative, and let’s keep people updated and make better sense of the world, which should welcome conversations and not just the interests of wealthy investors, which, as Scott Galloway pointed out, seem to be finding rich men attractive women. You can see my video on the following link about the prevalence of dating apps.

The unspoken benefits of neutrality

In Brazil, as of September 2022, talking about politics will make people fear for the upcoming months, days and hours; or it will produce a contagious exhilaration around the prospects of winning or losing a battle that this or that side might have chosen. Maybe you’ll notice relative apathy in other situations, not particularly here; but some people stayed on the job during this now predominantly controlled pandemic, with vaccinated people who took at least 3 shots in their arm, like myself, and in some cases go out in the street still rarely, but with tranquility. We think that going out is safe again, but the reasons are related to public health and what’s not so often discussed: instead of working from home, living your life in front of a computer or staring at your phone, at home. You go out, everyone has a different thing to do, and you think that’s fine, but who are they, completely unaware that you’ve started fights with 30 different businesses in the past 2 hours, retweeted journalistic vehicles of great and historical circulation, making acid comments and ironic, often insensitive and disrespectuful remarks on credibility and people’s assumed character? Why aren’t they all doing the same, to fight the power and take it back, and you seem to be the only one concerned with the battle for winning the internet debate, elected medium and modus operandi of the attention economy? And now you can watch candidates debate on the internet, and that is literal; but everyone else is already commenting, and you’ve lost on this one, because it doesn’t matter what you have to say. The frontline is the frontline. Fireworks at midnight, no big deal — there’s soccer every day. Neighbors turned crowds of possible perpetrators of property damage, and subtweetibg in real life, in the form of shouts. It seems pressing to ask: “what the hell is happening?”

What’s happening is that people are put to a test every four years in the majority of the countries of the world. But hang on: our most important elections are in a month, and Britain just changed the Prime Minister. The American elections are held in the midterm of Brazilian elections, for example. The selection for governors happens right before, and I should say that between Charlie Crist and Ron deSantis, at least the latter is able to fulfill his agenda; he’s just lame, while the other candidate is partnering with a “god-fearing” woman (as per Twitter bio) who’s supposed to change the deSantis program against gender ideology and critical race theory, all the while banning masks in schools because it has never required them in the first place — which is way too hard to believe, but seems to be the truth. DeSantis calls his opposers “The Woke Party”. Nobody told him that maybe Florida isn’t a dream, and we know Trump properties are being targets of investigation. I would go further, talk about Disney and Miami, mention Orlando, basketball, soccer and a Netflix series called Startup. I would tell personal stories, and give a shoutout to my old colleague now living in Auburn, not Jacksonville, saying “how’s your hacker friend and the gay gossip column guy?” But we’ve heard some of these things before. One day, on LinkedIn, I saw an old student of mine repost a video saying that Disney knows how to “enchant” like nobody else, and then you had an intervention in some kind of commercial center where people were interacting with the shadows of Disney characters who mimicked them, behind a panel. For each person in front of the screen, a specific character would show up as a sort of reflection of them. At the end, they’d reveal themselves and everyone would applaud. But in college, some other facts came to my knowledge, like work exploitation and a friend who dreamed of working there, but was the first person I met to be following Bloomberg. I won’t get into detail, because that involved another niche: the foreign music exoticness judges and who they give praise to. For the average Brazilian, does any of that matter?

In your family, you learn to suck it up. You stay quiet to avoid conflict. But sometimes, you do pick up a fight. An uncle is never going to be actually phisically aggressive with a nephew, is he? Sorry to break it to all, but my personal history tells otherwise, very clearly. And so do my conversations with teenagers, who report abuse in the family with a certain frequency. And the answer doesn’t seem to be a short story that does not mention this fact at all. It’s like posting fake news — because the narrative has been manipulated from the very starting point, not as of yesterday. You’re just a dummy. To wrap it up, and I refuse to talk about Europe: if you don’t take a stand on the internet, you have a chance to take a stand in real life. How does that sound to you? Because, to me, it sounds like a good plan. Except I know what Brazil would say: “Elogio é caridade”. Care to translate? Of course you don’t. And that’s fine. But maybe we should focus on the good instead of the bad, and real life sucks, while the internet can lead you to a better place. Are we voting on that?

Precedents and predictions: how stable are democratic values in 2022?

As I tend to, I’ll reiterate on something I’ve said earlier: my Bumble profile describes me as a moderate. I thought about it for a while. The other option was liberal, and I’d heard so many people attacking economic neoliberalism and comparing it to far-right fascism that I was just afraid of mislabeling myself as a patriot who thinks a good thief is a dead thief. Not liberal: moderate. They found another reason to complain on this internet where nobody knows who’s watching, but someone always is: how can I consider myself a moderate, when, in terms of morphological awareness (I can’t escape linguistics), I’m constantly the target of moderation? My comments aren’t easy to digest, and they’ve been soaking timelines and feeds with an odd mixture of lemon juice and destilled ginger, which are the best metaphors I can think of for something that makes you feel like you just drank detergent. In fact, I have horrible feelings when I go out the street and someone working for the condo is cleaning the sidewalk. The product they use makes me feel like a rat who just realized it has seconds to find a way out or die in the gutters. And we’re not here discussing sanitation.

That’s one of Brazil’s problems. But they’re many, and rampant. The hunger ressurgence, the violence, the ineffectiveness of law enforcement, corruption in this system that today I can assure you is not only discourse, and the protections proposed in law and well-spread through media vehicles to convey this impression that Congress is doing something for better livelihoods. It’s not. I myself haven’t been a beneficiary of any social program that hasn’t been a process of humiliation, while others thrived in success and luxury, with maybe a little bit of great sex just to make it even more appealing. But these are personal stories, for the last part. The comparison, though, should raise some eyebrows. I was, indeed, a beneficiary of social programs, including psychosocial care and financial aid through the pandemic. I had my social security money withdrawn from the companies I’ve worked with. It was lack of planning and lack of priority that led me where I am, but today, my plans and priorities have no chance against a project of power that uses predictions of behavior to control the masses. Media is definitely a problem in Brazil, but you’d have to see the data in other countries.

Speech freedoms are under attack, but among other things, the concept of freedom involves, for the globalists, a debate on whether or not I can carry an assault rifle. That is, in my view, inconceivable. Then you see how much of a “moderate” I really am: rephrasing someone on Twitter, profits are unpaid wages. To relate that to gun control is not making an ideological salad; systems of oppression need denouncing. The approval of purchase of guns is a vile system, but documentation seems almost unimaginable until you see it exists. Let’s suppose it’s the wages. The time I’ve spend working on my own is supposed to be compensated. Should I stop? That might be the case, but it’s my work and someone else’s profit, unless I find out my visibility is among the powerful, and I have negative impact. Nothing concrete points toward that direction. I’ll make a Google account and agree to the terms. The terms are: you renounce that this is by any means your property. You say yes. Simple as that. Agreeing to the terms of use is mandatory to use them. There’s no freemium for Google. And of course, they can claim it’s for the better, but then face misinformation accusations. How is it not possible to search for an email and find its activity? It’s a simple task, but nobody would want to open that Pandora’s box. They even say that “incognito mode doesn’t really work”. What does, then? Suppose you’re an internet influencer, and people stalk you. Let’s say 10 thousand people. Not a big influence, you see. But you wanna watch some porn. Do you? It would probably feel like these 10 thousand people are forcing you to have sex with them all at the same time. And you can’t attend to so many genitals. Somehow, though, that is a problem associated exclusively with women — hence, the moderate label. The economy relies on relationships between people to make deals, based on inferred results. But the same happens with countries. And when it comes to oppression, imagine that you’d have a document saying you authorize a person to perpetrate violent acts against you on camera. That is the entire porn industry in America. But not only in America, I’m just not quite sure about the documents (which they exhibit on these channel’s opening scenes, along with the previews or at the ending). When you buy a residence, a percentage goes to the municipality. That is called the Urban Territory Tax here in Brazil. You already bought it, but you have to keep paying. Along with electricity and water, plus the essentials, like gas, TV, internet. Imagine a world where these “assets” would be community granted? Don’t you think that could be arranged? And if you argue that would break companies down, take a moment to think about how much people would spend if they didn’t have to pay for these. Do you see that this is real social change? Do you realize that private companies have fought this possibility thinking about their profits, while even kids today consider the internet an essential for their lives?

But they created crypto with this sort of non-governmental ideology. The financial markets and politics are too closely related, maybe tied together. There is, for the liberal, a separation between State and Private Initiative. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a basic thing I’ve learned. I also learned that is discourse. Google will show you what media companies who paid for space want to show you. Repeat for every “private” company. The money they spend comes from where, you’d think? The financial markets are tied to bigger initiatives because they could grow tentacles. There’s a thing people say about companies that are too big to fail, but look at Yahoo. And honestly, look at Facebook. With China now at the frontstage of media, that of course with the rise of TikTok as the main app on the planet according to various data analytics companies, but also the parent company Tencent, who owns messaging platform WeChat, and other initiatives, like retail giant Alibaba, you’d start to see that there are other models than what you see in an afternoon show at Bloomberg’s Balance of Power or Julia Chatterley’s First Move. In fact, they address these issues, embrace diversity… but do they, really? I refuse to talk about media figures who have blocked me on my professional account because I don’t want to lose touch with my target audiences, who aren’t the haters and the organized bullies, but the people looking for quality information and insider perspectives; but do we truly belong in the democratic process if we can’t choose which apps we use, who we talk to, when to post, what to eat, who to date, where to throw a cigarette butt?

You’d expect me to address women’s rights more directly. That has been done. The last item is just an example. There are tolerable levels of civil disobedience, but to categorize that as such, you’d need an aberration of a legislative body to say that the problem is throwing the cigarette butts away, with fines for the user who’s risking getting cancer, and not the tobacco industry. But guess what? That’s exactly, precisely what happens. And mind the inflation! The pack I bought without sanitary approval for 2, then 3 Brazilian real at the newstand is now 5 real, with the approval, new branding and all. There’s cigarette brands that never mention health factors — notoriously, Eight and Gudam Garang. It seems like a total lack of perspective, but I remember the Wikipedia entry I saw for the latter brand and a trillionaire revenue. Does anyone do anything about the ports? Of course not. And if they do? Forget democracy. Company profits dropping, pressure comes to prioritize their activities, or else. And then people show their true selves. It’s not that Bolsonaro is a liberal. He wants liberation of guns. It’s very different. It’s not that Trump wants America First. It’s that he wants his crimes and associations to be hidden from public sight while exposing his adversaries, who happen to chase the truth, with smear campaigns and fake news, often with a lot of technology aid. And sometimes, let’s be honest, he doesn’t even hide it. Famously, as reported recently in the January 6 hearings, he’s stated that “maybe [people] haven’t been following the internet [like he has]”. And so he releases his own brand. And the brand is Truth.

The only true societal value is that there are top and bottom positions. You can choose what you wanna be and work hard for it, but you can also be granted with something you never deserved. You can work all your life and be granted nothing. These are historical reparations to be made. But Truth Social, brought to you by the guy who said neonazis were fine people, makes you think genocide is cool. And let’s not even start with the pandemic, nobody wants to hear about it. When did people forget that history counts? It’s not just the documented history, and moreover, it’s not because recent history has been more widely documented that we’re going to be lazy and not look at it because what matters is the future. Progress as a synonym of profit, in pure “liberal” fashion? Let’s remember this progress comes with moderation. And the precedents we’ll find are in how society responds, or has responded. These are things that need cohesive organization, but respecting morals and principles. These are the reasons why I wrote down in my Master’s Project a quote from an Arts scholar and a quote from a Law scholar. Paraphrasing, “innovation faces resistance”, Pedrosa would say. But “as new challenges arise, new solutions are needed”, Czerna warns. Notice how the roles are inverted, and do more than posting a meme about that.

Image: Creative Commons

Artificial Intelligence isn’t dangerous: it’s dumb.

May I speak to Mr. Musk’s parents, please? — said no journalist ever. You might know the guy as a tech guru, an energy clairvoyant or an internet sav source; but asking what your favorite kind of cheese is has very little to do with putting satellites up the stratosphere in order to provide unprecedented internet coverage and speed for the entire freaking planet. I have no need to quote, look at his Twitter (and I sure hope you don’t think I mean it literally). The man can sue me, and I’ll be happy when Justice comes after me and I sit in prison for not paying his lawyer’s established fine in due time, but smiling inside while the internet discusses how he pulled another con-artist move, this time in detail and with a list of victims. In fact, he was accused of sexually harrassing flight attendants and his own daughter changed her name in order not to be associated with him; but nobody talks about that anymore. The spectacle is bigger. Crypto, energy solutions, speed for more con-artists: if we still need oil and gas, we still need geopolitics specialists to say what the economic activity in certain parts of the world has been, and that’s why he and so many other scammers thrive with an obvious lie. In certain parts of the world, nobody’s interested in the truth: they use that as a concept to fabricate the story they want, almost as a sort of pleasure — that thing they were never able to have, maybe because they’ve never worked hard enough to get it, or maybe because people didn’t want them to have it; and what have they been able to give, one wonders? The very thought of the richest man in the world “pleasing himself” makes me want to throw rockets into the first Tesla car I can encounter, but that will be a minor deficit, not a misdemeanor. Should we throw rockets at Tesla cars now? Maybe think about what pleasures the man has been able to give. That’s right: trace Tesla owners, using robots. Woudn’t it be interesting to know who the hell they are, or is that going too far? Maybe we have to ask ourselves if the man alone in this, and we know that is far more difficult to answer.

When I first learned about artificial intelligence, I was studying traditional linguistics in more detail. After my academic advisor invited me to teach a class for the University of São Paulo’s Discourse subject at the School of Humanities (excuse the translation), I was more interested in Semiotics than conversation theory. But that was a mistake. I came to the conclusion that Semiotics in practice was pure marketing, then design, and with design, a lot of programming. That shifted my focus. Conversation theory has big names in Brazil (like Dino Preti, who arguably laid the groundwork for speech recognition, albeit far from intentionally), but so does Semiotics (with Lúcia Santaella’s catalogue, which I’ve never read in full because it was from a different educational institution, but libraries exist for a reason). The problem was the intersections: in a world where conversation goes to Skype, how do we make sense of interaction policy? Facebook’s response, at the peak of demand for robust policy on interactional permissibility, was to invest in Oculus Rift, putting the abbreviation VR all over the news. AR, VR, who cares? We still can’t send a freaking baguette pic (but nothing against the peach). Even WordPress hasn’t figured that out yet, but something makes me think that the company that agreed to follow through with the decision taken by Verizon Tumblr to ban adult content dealth with demand that came from a different source, maybe the part that rules the other 70% of the web. Interesting fact: Tumblr isn’t even mentioned on Verizon’s Wikipedia page, despite it having bought Yahoo’s operating business in 2017. Of course, you’d just have to Google the number of users on Facebook, but I think you can still find that Zuckerberg only earns 1 dollar a year, while his company makes 83 billion during a worldwide sanitary crisis. Another clairvoyant, or should I say surfer? Of course, his intentions are putting people first and profits later, right? Well, of course not. We’ve all watched clips, at least, from the FTC hearings. What the hell are we afraid of?

Artificial intelligence will tell us that they have the perfect model for our business, once we spend time on Instagram talking about it. They just miss the calculation where we realize we’re using the platform when we talk about the business, because the business is freaking ours to begin with. What do the robots say? “show them ads” — but with a logic of “improving user experience”. Well, here’s the big news: conversation theory research would improve everyone’s user experience; but in the wrong hands, it could land innocent people in prison. Facebook, now Meta, came to a point where it’s prohibited to talk about abortion within the platform, and the failure — beyond the ethical, but this time cognitive — is too evident to ignore: they’re associating abortion to violent speech. This data compilation model could only offer its developers (and investors) with compilation, because categorizing would take up too much time (and even the “react” system couldn’t solve the issues to be tackled). It sounds like a joke, but that’s very likely how it went:

1) People are talking about abortion;

2) One of the main arguments about abortion seems to be “killing babies”;

3) Thou shalt not kill;

4) Label abortion-seekers as terrorists.

Without mentioning who funds what, you can always read about the outcomes of these decisions, and the intricacies might puzzle some, as I’m sure is true for reporters at The Intercept covering the case; but the stories are coming out. Of course, it’s an ongoing debate; but The Verge has covered the Biden administration’s response to the Meta’s policy and other should follow. What’s harder to tell is how far articifical intelligence will go in making assumptions about people. It seems almost as if it’s designed to look for evil, not for good. A mechanism to dig dirt on opponents. Sound familiar? Maybe it’s because it is. We all remember Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the United States in 2015, and the campaigns against Biden in 2020; we also remember how Lula was put into jail by prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, who investigated Petrobras, a company that was going to put a major part of its profits to invest in Education and Health in Brazil. The problem is that few people connect the dots for a living — or in order to live. And while that might be a young writer’s exaggeration, we are absolutely not talking about competition here, unless it’s the nature of democracy to compete with authoritarianism — on different levels, but globally.

Image: Pexels

Reputation: more than credit scores and impressions

I remember exactly the moment I thought I’d been hacked. I had smoked weed, not for the first time, after having gone through college with a number of experiences to remember vividly and a busy worklife, plus a relationship of mutual trust and a band that was a reason for joy and moments that made everything matter. But it’s not about my story. This story isn’t about my story, and if I ever do this again, you can totally cancel my blog. I just wanna start there because we, adults, tend to think a cautionary tale might not work anymore; so instead of talking about the girl who never disobeyed her parents and played in the rain so she never knew what it was to get wet all of a sudden (which, to be honest, is not even so plausible these days), we tell something that happened to us so that they’ll remember. And at that moment, the daddy is the daddy; a mom is a mom. Anyway, I think I got hacked in June 2013. That was precisely when The Guardian covered the NSA bulk collection of data from American citizens and abroad. The story includes the classification of the documents as “top secret” and the term “telephony metadata”, maybe a first admission that internet service providers were “managing” the web based on inferred indentity, but were still able to operate with addresses and physical identification, including location trackers, to make a list of all the accounts you’ve ever made and do whatever they wanted with that information — from selling you a better pillow to advising you to start couple’s therapy. My first reaction, when I learned about it, was to delete my Pornhub account; but that wasn’t a series of events I ever looked at in more detail: I’d made very close contacts with a lot of people from Gifyo, one or two in particular, a site prior to Instagram and Snapchat, where you made gifs of yourself and had a social-network-like profile, including private messaging. The slogan was: “your life in motion”. My conflicting interests, especially having found out about the site on Pornhub, quickly became an issue; but not for me, because I can’t remember ever enjoying myself as much as back then. Of course, I didn’t know what people already knew, and then came the suspiscion that one of the “random contacts” was actually leading a hate group, full of leaks and sensitive information. I deleted my Gmail and all the apps associated with it, then started over. That’s when the adult account was finally gone, but nobody even knows I met this person, who very likely threatened me with every word she ever spoke, including this one time when I lost the last bus from Sao Paulo to Santos and stayed at the bus station overnight, Skype on my tiny Samsung Pocket Android. Internet speeds were terrible, so the service provider wasn’t very helpful, and they sure didn’t show me a notification for free Uber, because in case you don’t remember, it didn’t exist yet. The girl’s name was Jessica, apparently.

Jessica didn’t know a lot about my life. But she went as far as visiting my university, despite not being a student, to meet some people. Who were they? I have no idea. The campus was big. Including post-graduation, almost 50 thousand people gather at the University of São Paulo’s biggest campus in Butantã, West Sao Paulo neighborhood, according to data from a 2018 story promoting research on student well-being, that starts with an open question: “what does well-being mean to you?” For me, it used to be music, beer, a good class, good sex and fun trips. Is that confusing? Maybe for some. You could just replace your area of work. Instead of a good class, which is what I tried to do from 7am to 11pm, you could say taking care of families in distress was your thing, or injecting medicine in a patient’s arm to heal his or her pain, getting creative with copy, serving all tables and seeing everyone likes the restaurant or bar where you work. For me, it was my measure of control: I had a schedule, tried not to get lost, but I really thought I had mastered the art of going through the day changing subjects and contexts rarely mentioning what else was going on in my life. Until I had to. That was for students who seemed friendly enough, and I somehow trusted — because, even at work (and especially there), it’s all about human bonds and deals. How this surveillance narrative affected not just my job but America’s reputation and my entire personal life is a theme to be debated more extensively — but I believe it has. You don’t wanna read another story on how people spy on you, right? In 2022, you’ve probably heard Shoshanna Zuboff talk about Pokémon Go. She says a few other things too:

Prediction continues to evolve and competition continues to intensify. Pretty soon, there’s a new realization: the most predictive data comes from intervening in your behavior and in the state of play, in order to nudge, coax, herd it in the direction of the outcomes that we are guaranteeing to our business customers; herding your behavior in the direction of our revenues and, ultimately, our profits. What is new here is that at no other time in history have the wealthiest private corporations had at their disposal a pervasive global architechture of ubiquitous computation able to amass unparalleled concentrations of information about individuals, groups and populations, sufficient to mobilize the pivot from the monitoring to the actuation of behavior, remotely and at scale.

Totalitarian power, according to Harvard scholar Shoshana Zuboff (on YouTube).

Why mention that this lecture was given in Amsterdam? That doesn’t seem relevant. But one of the interesting things Zuboff says (I mean every word) is that “human future markets should be illegal” because “the illegitimate, secret, unilateral taking of human experience for translating into data should be illegal”. This extends to finance and to social media as we all know it: an opportunity land. In reality, as the scholar mentions, we came to believe knowledge was offered to us, but in fact, it was being offered to the companies all the time. Besides the theoretical point, there are many aspects where we remain in the dark: how does a fintech assess my credit, and what is the number on that “score”? How do I know who’s actually accessing my content, and why do I not trust that my “impressions” are actually real? There are many points I want to discuss, but I’ll go further on two of these sections, for readership ease and maybe (at ths point, I really don’t know) pedagogical purposes.

1) What’s legitimate?

Let’s suppose internet influencers are now listed in job seeking sites as it’s become a standard, very common profession. Let’s compare two people. Hannah is a 21 year old who barely posts on Instagram, but is smart enough to say hello more than 2 days a week. Her stories are rare, but she always finds cool things in the videos she took from the algorithm. When she gets bored from trying to find the one that’s more likely to cause impact, she spends 20 minutes with her make up, rehearses a few poses in front of the mirror, tests the camera (which works perfectly and is high definition, by the way), and then takes 10 pictures, the famous carroussel, to post on her account with a number of hashtags. The result? 1k likes and 100 more followers every time, repeat until she’s at the 100k mark. Eventually, people start approaching her for collaborations. She starts to make money to post her body on a social network that expressly bans sexual content and sexual interactions. Bob, on the other hand, is a guy who’s not very fond of social media. Socially anxious, he stumbles from one network to another, always finding the same kinds of recommendations, and nobody really worth his time. Bob isn’t bad-looking, but he doesn’t know how to act in real-life gatherings. His thoughts are often intense, a result of his year-long relationship with pornography and some of the meetings on camera he’s had. He doesn’t take selfies. He hates the idea of intentionally making everyone look at him, because he knows when he was the most vulnerable, the ones looking at him were his enemies, who eventually hacked his account and saved his videos online using a remote screen recorder, which he can’t prove, but the thought of it makes him want to delete one account after another, in fear of what might happen next. For some reason, Bob posts interesting things, not particularly mainstream and definitely not following the algorithm’s recommendations, but promotes the work of his favorite people and organizations, including journalism, art, projects of public interest, politics and motivational phrases, as well as memes. But it’s not every day. He gets on the platform Instagram 2 days a week: literally, Saturday and Sunday, because the other days are for cleaning the house, taking care of his sick dad, doing the laundry, shopping for food, playing with the pets and listening to music or some other leisure activity. He’s struggling to find work, but tries every day, looking at the available opportunities on at least 5 different websites.

It’s important to understand that Bob’s work isn’t legitimate, according to the platform. He looks for work, but he’s not working. Actually, if you want to post on “social issues” on Facebook (yeah, I know, Meta), you have to send in your ID and get approved, then tag all of them. Surprinsingly, it’s also possible, and very easy in fact, to say you’re releasing a paid promotion (saying a company gave you money to talk about them), and regardless of that being absolutely false, get your post published. Is that legitimate? By definition, it’s the opposite of it; but what matters is that Bob doesn’t have a nice booty, and he doesn’t go to the gym. He doesn’t take full body pictures, and he’s always by himself, not with some hot chick, because his friends are many, but all of them seem to be models. Hannah, though, takes the work seriously. 20 minutes of make up is real work. And she has a routine. Hell, she even has a business model: the use of hashtags, the conversations with people interested in her work, the constant presence, the study of social media paradigms to convey the most impressionable appearance standard: all of this is rewarded, and although she can’t put that in her resume, her bank account is doing fine and she doesn’t have to see ads for delivery food, because she’s a faithful customer. Legitimate? Of course not, that’s sexist.

2) What is secret?

They say personal life and professional lives don’t mix. Then they make LinkedIn, Slack, and even before this particular app, Facebook Workplace, a thing literally nobody talks about. The company email has more features than Google, but private communication has been the center of the story in a number of media scandals involving people of power, from Nixon to Lula; from Johnny Depp to Rihanna. Who decides on the future of the programs that keep a nation’s fortune and well-being glued together and distributed responsibly are people with a lot of scrutiny from the media and society in general, but when you make their private conversations a case for an ever-expanding annihilation of the concept of privacy, then you have to take a few steps back and say: “sorry, what?” Johnny Depp was accused of sexual harrassment; RIhanna supported the porn industry and has been in relationships with men involved in serious criminal charges. Do you wanna hang out with them? Do an interview? Are you waiting anxiously for the new work where they’re featured or do you wanna talk about them on the internet based on a story you didn’t even click on? Though these questions are never answered because people just post and run (which applies to politics as well, considering that sometimes they’re banned because the profile was made from a secret marketing operations team in what many journalists call digital militias), actually answering them depends on public sentiment: if one perceives that taking a stance against a particular public person or giving a say on any given topic will negatively impact work reputation, they just might keep their mouth shut. And that is not a very warming sign of the connectivity promise coming to fruition.

If we look at relationships, there’s certainly a lot to be debated, but it heats up a bit. From your number of followers, mentioned here, to how many messages you send every day, to whom, why and where, platforms rank your so-called “engagement”. I wonder if there’s a line of code saying: “if single, DM is positive; if commited, DM is negative”. At the same time, if you get a message from work and you can’t finish the reply to your girlfriend on what you’re supposed to buy at the supermarket, you’re 10 times more likely to lose your job; but if you’re distracted, exhausted from work, and your girlfriend is studying, let’s say, then you want to look at some tiddies, this well-being app, which tracks how much you’re sitting behind a computer, by the way, sends a notification, in the middle of work: “babe is cheating on you!” Of course, artificial intelligence thinks like a war machine, so the very idea that a straight person is experimenting with another sexual orientation or experience is a system error. Imagine the bot conversation about the fact you were just wondering how nipples other than hers looked like: puffy, rosey, bigger, thick aureolas, perky, tiny? Babe might just think you’re unhappy, but maybe she’ll get a surprise by the end of the night. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s looking at different sizes of vegetables, cause she takes care of all the cooking and does so for her entire family.