Category Archives: technology

Most people see blocking as a tool. But for what?

I have a class where the theme is “rights, duties and perceptions”, on my course. Those 300 pages are starting to make sense: I paid an effort because I cared. But let’s look at all the people who didn’t, for a bit. One of the questions I’ve asked a student is what kind of thing he used to hear at home and he thought was just a dumb rule. I’ve repeated this question on a video about web policy. And here we are, debating nudes on Instagram, 10 years after its creation. Except… we’re not. I haven’t read any stories, just the news it was developing AI. I didn’t hear anybody in favor or against; I didn’t hear any personal stories; I didn’t hear moms, dads and teenagers; I didn’t hear employees and HR departments, I didn’t hear old ladies. But there was this piece on the media this week. The dumb rule, in my not-so-modest opinion, is not sending nudes on Instagram. At a minimum, the company doesn’t know how to set policy. And I could go on and on about how they’ve lied to the public in terms of advertising data, but every site has done so with the cookie policy, and I’m one of the people who felt a need to include one on mine — nobody instructed me to. I say: partfluency uses that to understand visibility. So let’s talk about visibility.

The dumb rule my student mentioned was not wearing a hat at the lunch table. We both didn’t really understand it. Maybe taking off your hat was a sign of respect, and in fact, until this day I see people tipping their hats when someone says something funny — like they’re really saying “I agree”. It makes no sense. Maybe if someone said: “don’t wear red in the hospital”, that would make more sense. Of course, that could make people think someone’s badly injured and needing urgent care, in a place where people come and go, metaphorically, literally. But back to social media. When I started making public comments on my potential girlfriend’s profile, I got blocked. I can’t guess what happened. I remember one of our interactions, block lifted, where she said she was cooking something, and I said “meanwhile, chicken at the lunch table”. She’s a vegetarian, but she liked it. I mean, that’s the opposite of what you wanna do. If she was honest, she’d be replying with “ew”. But no, she “liked” it. And I have many examples of occassions where I posted on Facebook: “feeling like shit today” and people would literally give me a thumbs up. Sorry, that makes you happy? Are you trying to control the robots to make me even more unhappy and teaching them that when I’m unhappy, the world is in the path to improvement? What’s the plan? And for most, it’s the guy who sends dick pics. I mean, most teens, of course. But no, I don’t mean that, because I talk to teens and what they’re doing now is they’re asking everyone and recording everything. For what reason? That is a mystery. I’m not investigating sex trafficking rings, that is a job for the FBI, I believe. If they’re aware that what they save has an origin which is traceable and their passwords and contacts are too, then maybe they’re just smarter than us (and the FBI? Hmm…) and doing it on purpose. But the blocking thing? I don’t think so.

Because every time a person has blocked me, it was to escape debate. I’ve never threatened to punch anyone on the face (all I did was being on Twitter writing a reply about spitting on Donald Trump when he was the president, nothing absurd or nonsensical). It seems to me that there’s modes of interaction. If you exist online, people already know you exist. Let’s use a bad comparison: it’s like the Pornhub online user search: it’s there, and you know they’re lying to you. But who? Maybe back in the day, when Orkut still had the feature of seeing who visited your profile, we should’ve figured shit out — or rather, people should’ve explained it to us, because these were products being sold. The apps for that today are paid. Or maybe let’s say the reason you got locked out of Twitter was your use of VPN. You see, because people stealing your identity here was fine; in another country, you pay the price. Does that make sense? Of course it does not. Maybe they knew who these people were, and they were trying to help you out of a situation, but here you’re stuck with a bunch of gangsters and that’s good for business, since you can’t do shit? Anyway, back to blocking. You’re online, let’s suppose. The algorithm, oh almighty gore, oh deadskin on my dick wanting to play, alerts people that you’re online — or rather, alerts the Facebook database. And so your activity (like it used to by design) is shown on the “heart” icon. Instead of seeing what happened on *your* account, you see what happens on everybody else’s. Does anyone remember what excuse they had for overturning that policy? I surely don’t. But now, if you don’t have activity, you’re drowned in ads and other people’s activity (posts and accounts you may like). The same is happening on Twitter. Why? Can’t they at least go back to basics and make you pick an interest? No, they can’t. Cause they fucking suck at their jobs, that’s the truth. Alright, fine, it’s more profitable or whatever. But we know there’s a tricky side to that.

When I make a profile with a music distributor (let’s suppose it’s Bandcamp), if I make a dollar, 30 cents go to Bandcamp. That means my profile is, in essence, monetized. It means not only that I can make money, but other people can, too. And it’s not just a tiny fraction, you see. Let’s talk about money systems. If I input my password wrongly with my debit card, the bank blocks it, at least on ATMs and for most online transactions. That means I have the money, but I can’t access it, because of the many factors that could’ve led me to forget it. Now let’s suppose you’re a woman, and the guy said he had chicken on the table. Your friend turns to you and says: “aren’t you a vegetarian? that’s harrassment, block him”. And *to everyone’s surprise* she says “yeah, you’re right!” — and never looks back. Now remember what I said about monetized accounts? Remember what I said about people teaching the robots? Exactly: you can “teach social media” who deserves money and who does not. Except they make fake profiles to manipulate the algorithm all the freaking time. As it turns out, money is a big thing on social media, not just likes. One time, I asked my friend for a dollar to smoke. She blocked me. Yesterday, I was stretching my back, and I emmitted the most painful, deathbed-sounding noises of my life, trying to relieve some chest and lung pains, but I think part of that was muscular and the result of sedentarianism. She giggled and asked “sir, are you alright?” — of course she was also high on drugs and I sounded like an dying alien from a videogame, but that doesn’t really matter.

Why people block other people is simple: it’s more conveninent. They also think they’re making improvements. But they think, at some point, they have an entire system for their lives that’s going to favor them at all times, and they won’t let it go. Then insist on keeping you blocked. They don’t realize that maybe they were fucking wrong. Maybe they don’t have a reason anymore. And maybe, in case they were still stalking, your messages were not for them! They keep blocking. Which makes me think: if I block a billionaire on Twitter, I’m literally taking away his influence and that means I’ll have more of a chance to become the new billionaire, right? I mean, I’m teaching the algorithm. Maybe if I wanna be CEO, I can start by blocking the CEO. I’m just not sure what’s gonna happen when I see them. Are we going to live an alternate realities? Wait, is this what the Metaverse is really about? And if it is, wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of looking back at your memories, you had the option to review, just like your privacy settings that Google and Microsoft tell you to look at from time to time, your block list? What kinds of questions would they ask? “Are they still bothering you?” or “you’re not over this yet, are you?” — maybe even “it sucks there’s nothing else you can do about it, right?”

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.

Perspectives: what to expect from a connected society in 2022

I’m going to show you a video. It’s a man who taught me that language is much more than words (and you can play the song too, make the class fun and all, but if you’re here for info, sit tight). A Semiotician, he investigated what elements made meaning in the world of media, especially. In an interview, he says Linguistics as a field of study couldn’t contemplate the multiplicity of meanings associated, for example, with image. Now, stop right there. Do you want to contribute with this, get informed, or are you searching for a smartass reply? There are separate lines for each group. Let’s even make subtitles for all of them. But here’s the video:

Gunther Kress was a student of Michael Halliday. They’ve both recently passed away. It’s hard when you’re away from your University’s library, so let’s look at what the Wikipedia entry emphasizes in Halliday’s work: “linguistic structure is the realization of social structure, actively symbolizing it in a process of mutual creativity. Because it stands as a metaphor for society, language has the property of not only transmitting the social order but also maintaining and potentially modifying it” (you can click this Amazon link to get the original “Language and Society: Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday”, from Continuum’s 2007 edition). Now, about the audiences… there are, of course, many people to whom the study of language would make productive discussions, trainings, roundtables, policies, educational practice, workplace culture updates, media programs, social media trends and so on. But let’s just point out a few things, because reality is nobody’s even going to click the video and buy the book. We work with a 1% mindset, just to be told that it’s actually 0.1% — and if you’re on Spotify, less than that for a listen, not for comprehension of your story. Why do people connect? It seems like connectivity is an issue worth debating, considering how media approaches have treated people and vice-versa.

1) Do you want to connect out of boredom?

In this group, you can find people who are genuinely looking for a distraction, but these groups merge with other kinds of interests (for the entrepreneur or the person just experimenting with labels). The big narrative is lost, and smaller pieces of interaction seem to be important at first, or interesting at first, but soon are faded in relevance and give way to what’s really happening inside platforms and whose decisions made our experience good or bad. Notice how this happens in these niches:

  • gaming industry
  • dating industry
  • social media networking
  • marketing

2) Do you want to connect to understand people?

Here, we’re looking for specialists. People who navigate the web as a way to understand the world, and then carrying on their knowledge in order to prepare others for better experiences, better goals and results, better structure. Besides typical categories, you have third parties who have a glimpse of what we’re doing, then take a closer look and make both a casual prediction and a formal jurisdiction out of their nosey habits. Why would you want to understand people? They’re capital. Data is the new oil, didn’t you watch the documentary on Netflix? We just know they’re here:

  • teachers
  • data analysists
  • marketing strategists
  • parents

3) Do you want to connect to empower your message’s reach?

In this group, what matters is the message and its advocacy. The more people engage, the better the work. And so they look for strategies to make people talk, not necessarily with the best practices manual in their hands. If you can pay attention to health risks by watching an ad of a leader making fun of sick people, great; but what if you’re needing company, and a software suggests you add someone and start a conversation with them? These people have a lot in common:

  • Politicians
  • Activists
  • Companies
  • Scammers

4) Do you want to connect to criticize connectivity?

If you asked me where I see myself, I wouldn’t say it’s among the anti-surveillance geeks. I like capital, it makes me able to buy peanut butter (it’s been a while). But while my sense of belonging doesn’t come from the most united place in the world, it’s also a concept (there’s communities within communities, and I think that’s beautiful). What we have to watch for is when the criticism puts you on harm’s way, because of someone at the top. We’re all supposed to search for better ways to organize ourselves, and the power belongs to the people. If tech rules that it has rules in order to rule over people, maybe we just make a meme about their language and not get prosecuted for that, what do you think?

  • Privacy advocates
  • Anti-capitalist movements
  • Ill-supported communities
  • Targets of hate speech and others

Identifying who these people are, what their intentions may be and how people react to labelling might be useful for everyone, and navigating through contexts in which we’re taught to tolerate the influence of a divergence set of opinions and norms makes a difference in how our character is built, but also how much opportunity we’ll have in our lives.

Is Meta is looking for dating simulations? What about competition?

Since Frances Haugen’s testimonies and countless appearances on broadcast media, including the Brazilian Congress, people have come to realize that Meta is a monstrously big company — but without realizing moderation and marketing have a relationship not explored by many. They might talk about well-being to make it on the news; cite violent speech to invoke discussions within larger and more engaged groups of society; talk about prioritizing profits over maintanence of security and control of user behavior; but that control, the speech and also the well-being are all maintained by the sacrament of the First Ammendment, so the youth thinks, tuning into Fox Newsish channels one way or another (if not themselves in front of TV, in debate with their parents or strangers on the web).

The truth is a little more tangential. Everyone, look: hate speech! Cancelation! Intolerance! But scrolling over DMs is something you can do for yourself, and so is realizing that the number of people who really care about your own struggles is far smaller than the offers from that platform you love so much to be on. When you post, after all, in the best of scenarios, you get a certain number of likes, not a lot of people praising you for the success of your projects and asking how it went, or wishing it all goes well. It’s really just a double tap. Unless, of course, you’re talking about flirting.

That might have been where Meta focused. The idea that simulating reality on Facebook wasn’t good enough because you had identification, and then that emphasizing anyone creating additional accounts if they wanted wasn’t really a solution, made them go further than the finstas, a trend that’s been reported by few, but is allegedly gone. Well, is it? The article from Mashable ends with the conclusion that the thrill of attention is good, but the comfort of your trust network is far better. Well, they forgot to say Facebook invested in Dating officially, but that thing was probably the least accepted social media creation in history, and let’s be keep in mind there’s a clash here: Twitter Spaces might be at the top not in terms of innovation, but role. Sure, streaming on Facebook is cool, but when you talk Facebook, or Meta, you’re really talking about a monopoly, and there’s a tons of streaming platforms and even apps. Can we all keep that in mind? There was a Congress hearing scheduled to July 6, 2022, but if it’s true that you should put your mouth where the money is, then where’s the money? And where is the hearing that would talk about that money? If the president being banned from a social network doesn’t make you realize people take the web seriously, but there’s a number of people who don’t, I don’t know what will make you realize the importance of media literacy or, at least, common sense, the thing that traditional media tries so hard to convey, making people hate them instead for the nearly tragic ethical boundaries they choose to set for themselves.

It seems that some people believe we should refer to TikTok as the popular Brazilian booty social network, because nobody really cares. The friction in society that might cause is hard to predict or begin to understand. Of course, the Explore selfies on Instagram were a great thing, then Tinder came, stealing the company’s very first premise. Tinder is not a great thing, people came to conclude, so Bumble came. Nobody really gave it attention. And then teens were getting bored, so Wink and Hoop came. Everybody eventually paid attention and said: “stop where you are!” — but then we reviewed security, found huge crypto scams, identity theft cases and the heartbreaking language that teenagers use to talk to their peers, not to mention the people they don’t know, like it’s them versus the world. But if there’s really a money problem, aprehensions and fines go to the State, not anybody with saved passwords hijacked and reputations absolutely destroyed. That makes me think we might need to really investigate Snapchat or hope for better policy; we might want to reskill the consulting groups, or hope for better lawyers and precedents; we might see a future where the billions in the Metaverse are the excuse for teens wanting to sext in a safe space, and watch with a smirk when the last-letter-of-the-alphabet guy says “we should’ve gone with the real thing” when the booty network reports revenue, and all sorts of people start to admit that they capable of feeling jealous.

Revenge porn: accurate or misleading term?

If you clicked, I’m sorry. You’ve probably been threatened by someone online with the release of your private information and files. Of course, today, Microsoft’s main goal is to lead the cloud business, and we have companies like Snowflake that were valued at record stock prices in their IPOs… but nobody cares about the “initial public offering”. We’re talking about “initial private messaging”. There’s a big difference. You know, you meet a guy, he says hello and sends an emoji, the emoji isn’t a horny devil, he asks if you’re busy and sends a picture for you to make sure you know he’s real and looks decent (aka not like a psychopath). But some people operate differently. We’re in the midst of a discussion over making decisions about our bodies, for Christ’s sake. Except that Jesus Christ might be brought up for the wrong reasons, and when I say we, I mean women mostly, because I’m actually a dude. So let’s situate ourselves: we know some stuff about tech, but we wanna use simple mechanisms to communicate with people. Maybe a little more? The answer is a little more than conversation, not a little more tech; but it seems that this is where the lines are drawn.

Every girl looking for flirting in 2022 will look at what someone looks like before making a move. Girls make moves, everyone. But what kind? I can’t fail to mention that one time I was on Omegle and this young girl from Slovakia said she knew where I lived. This is way before I realized Jeff Bezos wasn’t worried about Wishlist privacy, but technology journalists were, and so they followed with investigations on Ring, which Vox reports: “[provides] information to government entities if the company believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person, such as a kidnapping or an attempted murder, requires disclosure without delay”. Adult world. So it happens that every teenager on Snapchat is GPS trackable, and that’s never been controversial, has it? Now, about the report, here’s what you should expect from this blog: a bit of debunking.

Guys make moves. When I was laid off of a company that literally installed cameras inside classrooms just to send a signal that employers were watching our online activity (and only the first class employees caught on), you can imagine that I put on my best performance, but regardless, I turned my laptop on and went looking for girl profiles. Not on Facebook, of course. This would be an interesting debate if anyone’s interested to know how some people had over a thousand friends in the year of 2010 or so, but we’re over that, aren’t we? And honestly, depending on who’s reading the blog (because of how educational it is), what was your favorite brand of baby formula back then? Now, fast forward. While Ring, a home device from Amazon; Windows Hello, a not-so-new feature of Windows; and even big banks like Santander (and many others, mind you) use facial recognition as security, we fail to connect the dots. Facial recognition technology is reported to have been in use in smartphones since Android’s 4th version (released in 2011; but pay attention: in October), then it grew exponentialy in effectiveness with efforts from, guess what, the big four. The 3D capabilities were disclosed in 2018, but 4 years ago, nobody had a banking issue because of a hacked camera. Wait… they hack cameras? Oh my God! What’s next? Streaming with no permission? It’s *my* Fortnite! Mine!

Most people get confused by lack of context. Writing a pedagogical text in the field of journalism, in 2022, should be considered a great merit if successful. And that is to say the least. But that’s not even about me. The tech reporters saying back in 2018 that facial recognition capabilities were growing exponentially couldn’t have predicted that hackers with ethnic cleansing intentions could target the program. And that is hypothetical. Worth mentioning that EFF has contributed a lot to the facial recognition debate and you can see for yourself, but personally, I don’t have knowledge of all they’ve done, especially considering a federal lawsuit. But we started with something way more simple, way softer: revenge porn. It’s not that your ethnic group is deemed inferior by my ethnic group; it’s that the boy you were sexting has a smaller dick and I can’t believe you gave him attention instead of me. It’s that the girl you were videocalling while my message remained unanswered had such a ridiculously flat pair of tiddies, and mine are two big fucking Everest mountains. And with that sense of sexual tension in mind and at scale, would you look at what they can do with Hunter Biden. Do you really think both parties (men and women) are amicable and standardly trust-worthy? Is it the web? Where, how? And what are the contexts?

Investigating the context is essential, but the web is only getting bigger. A leak has been called a leak for a long time, but then came the GDPR (too little, too late). My criticism of GDPR will continue: everyone made us sign digital documents saying we agreed with terms of use that go against data protection: that is, not in our favor. GDPR is a legal loophole for data-driven companies to overperform with marketing operations that are arbitrarily defined by how much a client is paying. Simple, but hard to swallow — and we’re doing it in glowing fashion. But when a girl gets a nude leaked (which is likely to get her more followers, who happen to be potential harrassers) or a guy gets less opportunity (which is likely to be because of conversations, and you’ll have to excuse me, but I’m not the one to crack down why it works that way), we should be thinking: why do we share? This culture is the culture of people who have no respect for privacy. They’re the ones checking your every move; sometimes, with a higher motivation of control, at higher levels. The answer is not recording more and leaking more; the answer is ignoring surveillance, and making your words count. Say what you mean, mean what you say, everyone. Paraphrasing, we don’t mean half the stuff we say online. But what we do has consequences. I can rest in relative peace knowing I’ve never participated in leak culture. I’m glad for the journalistic investigations, sure. It keeps me informed, more aware, but it’s not going to make me a fan of a company or a State that protects user rights at all costs, because these simply do not exist. What I know is everyone should be able to protect their reputation, not live under the threat that the simplest mistake might ruin it forever. Back to my hook: everyone watches porn; some people even make it for a living. But revenge?

Revenge is an ugly concept. We’re supposed to believe in justice. Of course, the justice system has problems, serious ones (and I’ve talked enough about the tech issues; time to focus on the human side). If you call me names, I don’t care. If you started going out with a girl I used to hang with, I’m probably happy about it, if you’re cool. No big deal, seriously. Life goes on. But for whom? It seems some people’s lives don’t. Why? Because of revenge porn? No. Because of revenge. People want to make justice with their own hands, and that’s why law enforcement exists. That’s why facial recognition exists, that’s why GPS exists. Every technological tool we’ve created works for a better well-being, and if the percentages of it are not fairly distributed, we’re on our way to address that too. But taxing the rich is not revenge. It’s justice. Moving on from an abusive relationship is not revenge, and it has nothing or little to do with justice: it’s about self-respect, and a hell of a struggle. Getting over the fact that people like to talk about you is very far from this debate, and closer to a K-12 requirement now; but apparently, politicians want to pay for advertising so their own ideas about what education kids should have will thrive (kids that they teach to make gun gestures here in Brazil) and on both freaking sides of the aisle, they do it with teens too (whose lives they monetize with zero criticism and an odd mixture of freedom of speech and anti-imperialism, on TikTok). Imagine if teens didn’t have other people’s businesses to mind. Hard to believe that, right? But they’re not business owners. And the actual business owners will always, inevitably, have a hard time explaining how such and such thing was allowed on their platform. What they fear is not revenge (a lawsuit against them, a basic anti-monopoly federal hearing broadcast internationally, and so on); it’s userbase dropping. It’s the faithful cusstomer that they want. They don’t give a shit about the nudes. And when you look at the bills you need to pay, maybe you should consider having the same posture.

Image: Pexels

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.

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