Tag Archives: artificial intelligence

When we have new media, we have new powers. Just don’t ask for whom.

I grew up in a time where my grandpa had this sort of safe, a triangular wooden thing with a layer of fabric on top and this upward opening door that produced a particularly memorable high pitched noise. It was brown, maybe pastel, but some people would say it had shades of green; this piece of furniture went well with the beige wall, which is absolutely nothing special, but it was, has always been, will always be my grandparents’ home. The floor is what the architects, designers or whatever call “demolition floor”, consisting of tiles of brownish, reddish rectangles all stacking up and this natural aspect of random patterns of saturation, if you look at it from a more modern perspective. But the rest of the furniture doesn’t matter. The Cross at the wall, the sculpture of Virgin Mary, the big mirror that came later. The border ceiling styled cast. The fact that one day we had a cleaning lady, and decades later, everyone became too pissed off to do a single thing, ending up not doing anything at all. The floor stays dirty, the bathroom is a disgusting mess, with a toilet which used to be perfectly clean, now having these stains at the bottom that we took too long to take out and now look like this crusty dirt patch, but of course it’s not dirt; the objects near the kitchen window, where the washing tank is, next to the gas cylinder and the cleaning products. Ok, nobody needs to know. This isn’t The Sims and I’m pretty sure this home isn’t going to have a user of Oculus Rift. What I wanted to tell you about was that little pastel safe. The newspapers from the entire year were stored there. Grandpa John (his actual name being João, in Portuguese) didn’t buy newspapers every day, but he maybe my dad was the one buying. I honestly don’t remember. I do have some flashes of grandpa trying to hold onto the large pieces and them falling off, because he was not a very delicate man, thick hands worn out and wrinkled, and he was getting even older. He could peel some potatoes, slowly, patiently, singing a song, after going to buy them himself, all that nearing his 80th birthday. He used to work at the port. It was carrying stuff on his back, as we’ve seen on the historical pictures, but also stuff that we don’t really know about. Just that it was at the port. I don’t think anyone would understand that when you fast forward 20 years, or not even that, we have not just all the markets and live analysis of supply and demand, but all media vehicles in the world at the palm of our hand, along with pictures of other people’s homes from different angles, in all kinds of situations, except they’re the protagonists, the main elements in photographic framing. At some point, my dad would buy a subscription of a magazine, and I’d read it carefully. I was actually more interested in reading the gaming reviews, and they had specialized magazines for that. I got every issue. Every time we crossed the newsstand, it was worse than peanut candy at the bakery or popcorn at the movie theater. To be fair, we still share a love of peanuts until this day, and if you make a joke about that I’ll probably giggle and we’ll get along. But have you seen an 8 year old reading magazine reviews and interested in the journalism? Well, because that happened, maybe that’s where we are.

I’m not sure what the 8 year olds are doing. I guess gaming is a phenomenon that we have to approach more seriously, because as an industry it drives billions. I guess we have to talk about children’s shows. I guess we have to talk about the diets. The moderation in language. Someone could probably make up a meme with this or that politician speaking, a child watching them on a flat screen connected to the internet, big Dolby speakers on, and the kid is dressed as a monkey; then the concerned, vigilant mom gently puts the monkey hands over the kid’s ears, so they wouldn’t hear that kind of tone. A wrap up would be the monkey again, this time with emoji-likeness. This would incentivize the use of deaf monkey emojis. Maybe with some brainstorming, you could get the team to work on the mute monkey, this time a lonely boy or girl — and then the team would split in the creative room — sitting in the corner of a couch while a bunch of friends were having drinks, dancing, posing for pictures, talking about people in school. Lonely teen sitting at the corner of the couch. Deaf emoji. “This time we could have something provocative”, the marketing strategist would propose. “Maybe we should explore the positives on this one. We all have people we think are annoying. It’s not about the loneliness, it’s about the choice of being alone. Can you work on that? I’ll leave you to it then.” And so the team would be slightly confused, slightly pressured. The conversation at break would be about how to apply the concept of the monkey with his hands on his mouth to the concept of silencing, but the word was actually “muting”. The feature, soon to be rolled out by the app and website, would allow people to personalize their experience online while still looking as if they were giving each of their follows the same kind of attention. “But then, you’d need to unmute, right? I mean, it’s probably gonna be hard to measure, but if you’re on it; then you wanna focus on something for a while, maybe that could be an entire week. I’ll go newsless for an entire week, focus on my friends, you know? Then you got a tab showing who you’ve muted and you can just unmute when you wanna catch up, maybe show what you’ve missed”. But what about the emoji? This isn’t about the news. This is, indeed, about loneliness. And while some people smoke discussing the features that would be rolled out and how to please consumers and partners, the socially awkward guy is thinking about something else: duct tape, not emoji. If you put duct tape on your mouth, that’s a powerful symbolic concept. But can you imagine people associating it to other related uses? Suddenly, mouth gags, nipple clamps, cock rings. “No, it’s really about the monkey. You can show a kid throwing a banana at the monkey in the zoo, and then the monkey throwing the banana back, and hitting the kid’s eye. The kid starts crying, and the mom is like… it’s okay honey. It’s just a stupid monkey”. Wrapping this up as anecdotal and fictional, not much of a cautionary tale that people seem to think Mad Men was, or The Office was: not everyone is being heard in the media, the social media, and it’s definitely not the case that we’re still reading about what’s happening in the world whenever we read the newspaper. Grandpa wouldn’t be able to handle this; he’s gone, but he has a legacy.

Some people are more focused on visuals than others. Despite the fact, unknown the many, that reading can foster a creative mind that allows you to “see the world” when you’re reading a text, that spanning to decades before, and experiencing it through image, whether it’s an art installation or a painting (unless they’re splattered with tomato sauce, but I’m sure you could get a copy in the public domain), the consumption of video has made all of us expect something else from our internet experience. TV didn’t wanna die. And so it strived but it didn’t, but their influence is even bigger than you’d imagine. Think for a second: you want to go live on Instagram, but you realize you only have your microphone from the earbud set. When you went on Twitter, you had a highlighted trend which was the presidential debate being exhibited live. They weren’t doing it from their phones. They had professional cameras, audio quality and everything just as if they were on TV, but even better. A better signal, a better coverage, since their time wasn’t restricted to the schedule of the network, but the topic instead, which could in turn be explored in the conversations people were having about it as of right now; a better view on the themes for anyone who was interested. But then you look at independent journalism. They’ve learned to Zoom, and to broadcast showing diverse sets of media pieces, which in fact meant not a lot more than displaying different tabs on the screen. It seems very simple, until you realize maybe it’s not — and until you try to do it yourself, especially if you’re thinking, like me, that Substack will be your source of income. Will you keep doing it, after the bad reviews? This is one aspect, for every writer. Another is the undeniable appeal that certain hosts of images and videos have. Instagram is sexy, but nobody’s supposed to talk about it — and in fact, that came with time, and personally, I’m convinced that was a particularly tense atmosphere for the people who wanted to be viewed as ethical rocks, and who would always have the data to show that they’re the ones who invested the most in research, and that their research was the most relevant, given the userbase and what they knew about them. But that, in itself, is an ethical problem, and of course we’ve heard the nutrition whistle and we’re all still acting like the big dogs do. Putting this one platform aside, and taking a step back before approaching the new trend of algorithm-fed quick videos on demand from multiple people who you’re dying to meet and we’re going to introduce to you (an offer you can’t refuse), we have the word sexy. Nobody starts a conversation with “hey, sexy”. They should go to prison if they do. Well, of course not, but they might wanna know that’s pretty lame. I just think there’s a weird fluctuation, or rather, a volatile environment of digital trade, when it comes to the sexy categories. Because if you cut the “why”, you’re left with raw material. Some people have no idea what to do with it. You could tell someone that everything you need to know about any given subject is on Wikipedia; they might get lazy, and close their eyes on it. You might tell someone at school: “guess what, I found her OF”. The monkey emoji, closing his eyes, would slightly move its fingers to the sides in order to see, but pretend not to care — or in fact, to pretend that not to be looking. But we know that the “raw material” can be a lot different than what the emoji represents.

We’re not thinking about marketing for kids. Some “kids” are actually doing the thinking for us. Whenever a conversation ends too suddenly, we’re faced with the question: “what did I say?” — but that comes after a number of interactions, and you’re still trying to get it right. Practice makes perfect. But don’t you wanna focus on something else? And who said that this perfect model would be scaled up, and applied to everyone, involving masses of people in contact with your displays of emotion? In contact with your rawness, which includes a spectrum of things which you can’t label or categorize, describe, begin to talk about. But since practice makes perfect, they’re quick to say: “you look like an actor from Stranger Things”. And so we start to think: how big is streaming for younger audiences? But we’re suddenly stopped on our tracks, inevitably, out of someone else’s greed, out of someone else’s desire to know everything about anything, and win the argument at all times: “What do you mean with ‘younger audiences’? I’m old enough”. Labelling is interesting because it involves a lot of linguistic knowledge, when it’s done properly. For example, a fruit like a banana, before it’s ready to be consumed, is called “green”; when it’s already easy to peel, not yet smelling, which should mean you’re supposed to eat them before they rot, and just good to put in your mouth, you call it “mature”. Now consider the difference between “mature content” and “adult content”. For example, this blog contains mature content, but not adult content — despite some slight references to this world, which is not represented here at all, and that’s obvious to anyone who knows what adult content looks like, sounds like, and what it feels like to watch it one time, then lose count — and also lose touch with yourself, sometimes. Once, I was around 10 and I was playing a videogame where the narrative is some really fucked up dystopia or futuristic, while being mixed up with a tribal, origin of civilization period, and you have to save the world, basically. It’s called Turok. I didn’t play the first game, which is all about a Native-American hunting dinosaurs; I played the second one, which had this weird, kind of terrifying iguana’s red eye staring at you at the cover, with the tagline: “seeds of evil”. You’d get lost in some kind of narrative where these organized groups of other species were taking control of everything good, putting kids in cages and all. Dystopian narratives tend to get something right, but I could totally be talking about Star Fox and my comments would all be about how sexual the conversation between pilots are. “Incoming enemy from the rear. Drop altitude”: of course the horny rabbit is telling you to bend over cause there’s a machine behind you (and what do you know, people take it literally these days! “Your father helped me like that too”: like what? Did you guys, uh… But back to Turok, one of your final missions would be to “purify the river of souls”, all the while shooting plasma bullets at the center of some alien’s big belly, and it was particularly explicit — but there was, in their defense, an option to make the red blood look green. But there’s an interesting part of the story I don’t wanna miss. Back here, over 20 years ago, I was very entertained and actually thrilled to be figuring out what I had to do in the game all by myself, without the help of the magazine “walkthrough” — but it was time for lunch. My grandpa called me once, twice, and then I went to the living room, slightly pissed off, I suppose, and said I was playing a game and it was important, but they were bothering me with something less worthy of attention, absolutely meaningless. “I’m here trying to save the world from all these scary monsters and you want me to go eat spaghetti, are you out of your minds?” I’m not sure what words I said, and this was obviously not the actual conversation, but when I refused to obey and come to the lunch table at the time I was called, my grandpa reacted grabbing me by the neck, looking straight at me and I think he slightly pressed it even though I was just a 10 year old. My grandma told him to stop. I think I went back to the game, but cried about it.

Now, back to the real world of right now, always and forever: the metaverse is a billionaire investment. So is Twitter, though it’s a little less. Nobody will stop talking about Twitter, and I’m trying to figure out why, exactly. The new policy is “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach”. That means, as briefly explained by the buyer, that you can write what you want, but that will always go through moderation, and they’ll keep track of everything and rank your participation. That means to say we can totally start a conspiracy theory that the Japanese are all shamelessly horny, and another person will suggest they’re horny, yeah, but always filled with shame (I personally believe this profoundly, but in the one opportunity I had to say this to my American coworker who’s not here anymore, I kept my mouth shut). We can show an image and put a hashtag on it, but how much do you think people search for hashtags? You can try to make a new hashtag on your own. But do you even have a following? That won’t work. You can try to say what’s on your mind (see what Mastodon did?) and have people react to it, but will they, ever? You can build on and on, and it’ll be torn down. You don’t know the right words, you don’t have the right tone, you don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about, and you’re ugly, and you’re lame, and you smell. Look at where you live. It’s a fucking demolition floor, filled with crusts of dirt in the living room. And I’ll never go into that bathroom, I’m pretty sure that’s where the pandemic started. You’ll have to do something about the drains, all that spit that somehow goes brown on the sink won’t be cleaning itself and you have to take out the hairs. I won’t touch it. Look at your ridiculous beige wall. At least if you had a black wall, you’d be cool. Then you could take pictures in front of the mirror, but not showing your hideous face. From the rear, babe. At least the bedroom’s fine. But you know we could cut the electricity any time, right? One neighbor monitors for the Church, another monitors trade, this guy monitors the power, this other one monitors the drugs. It’s a beautiful community effort. You see… that’s what’s up, and you’re all thinking “oh no, icons are disappearing from my favorite social media platform! It’s the end of the world!” Nobody talks about fireworks resembling gun shots. Nobody talks about sex workers being invisible to society, but the most sought for at a specific time of someone’s day — and man, there’s always someone. They can’t talk about work, and they can’t talk about sex — imagine sex work? Actually, Twitter and Meta became exactly that: places where you can’t talk about sex and you can’t talk about work. People are dead because of shit policy. Twitter wants you to believe your ideas are brilliant, while they exploit you in real time. Meta wants you to see everyone’s brilliance, while they all want to see you get abused, which is in their power to do and to organize for. Maybe it’s all the same. Maybe it’s not the sex. Maybe it’s not the emoji. Maybe we’re supposed to sleep: not to see, not to hear, not to speak. No freedom of reach, except for my big dick built by Space X. “Sorry, wrong name. You’re not supposed to talk about your dick on Spaces? Okay, my bad”. And we believe in the free market…

The evolution of media is hard to track. Video on demand? YouTube “pivoted”, but so did Netflix, and then Amazon, Disney, Apple, among cable and services like Hulu. Then, maybe after observing engagement with video consumption on Twitter and Tumblr, the latter more spicy then the former (which everyone thought was a problem, until they realized they pretty much broke the internet), TikTok came to be the equivalent of McDonalds for media, expect coming from China. The real story is we have Critical Literacy goals to be met in the Educational Common Core established across countries, and while these involve creation of relevant media themes, they’re failing to show how that’s really done, and so the arbiters live in one bubble while the creators, or aspiring creators, live in another. That last point alone could lead to intense debate: “why is that content getting attention while mine is not?” Money, silly. And now think about the policy again. The platform is definitely not a source for good; it’s a source for income through the exploration of your personal information, which you chose to disclose and, believe it or not, their legal argument is a tick box that you clicked on. So much for Semiotics. A click is not approval; it can mean many things. And now we’re facing a “depolarization effort”. This will ultimately result in user growth, but another round of public scrutiny that will most likely exhaust the already exhausted, who will in turn show scorn and bitterness, along with a complete (but carefully veiled) disregard for your social condition and your efforts, let alone empathy transformed in support that is concrete. we’ll hear the talk, but never see a path to be walked, only tall buildings where things are happening and cars going somewhere we’re fucking not. It’s not about video, and it’s not about Discourse Analysis: it’s about human relationships, Social Work and Psychology. Education plays a role, but the educator who doesn’t even talk to his or her students to learn what they’re dealing with is never going to even scratch the surface of their many layers of protection against invasion of privacy. But we shouldn’t be paranoid and assume they know everything — they do not. There needs to be guidance, and the role of the current media is absolutely bridging generational gaps; but when you’re getting an opinion from 70 year olds about how the world should work, maybe it’s time you realize you don’t like your grandpa’s opinions — let alone being grabbed in the throat because you wanted to enjoy yourself. Politicians need to stop playing with personal narratives immediately. They say they represent us, but they don’t even talk to us. They can’t possibly be the solution for media policy when they’re not choosing personal storytelling in order to reach those people who are desperate to see that these people running for office are maybe just like us, but they happen to have a plan to fix stuff. And if you choose to go along the way, you’ll meet the media industry: profiting from falsehoods, producing to preserve their reach and relevance, and seldom hinting at something good happening in the sphere of public debate, but never mentioning names except of those who are controlling the whole process. That needs to change. Musk is a fraction of so called internet debate. Zuckerberg is a lunatic — nobody can ever explain how investing in augmented reality with billions of dollars was the chosen path when you had a row of social initiatives to fund, about the real world and real struggles. Not even a feature. And the people who actually run things, the investors and venture capitalists, along with institutions and universities, will ask for better performance while stopping you at your tiniest attempt to think for yourself, then later making a sarcastic comment that they think you won’t be able to respond — and if you are, they’ll hunt you down and crush you with a story about something completely irrelevant that they’ll try to convince you is the new thing, without a fucking apology, let alone a payment for moral damage — while they retain the data now and in the future. It’s time to defund big tech. The knowledge is built with existing tools. If you want better wages, you’ll have to be content with working less hours while they hire more people, because that’s what diversification means. And when people think together about how to fund the creators, it’s gonna be too late: financial markets will dominate discussions, just because we inputted our information, again — this time, our banking, not our contact. And who says we even got a call in the first place?

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