Tag Archives: finance

Aim high, but drop your weapons: the counter-billionaire mindset

Murky grounds on social media: that’s what happens when you let people talk shit for as long as they want. Not a lot of people agree. But at the same time, a lot of people agree — read the news. “Television has no credibility anymore, bro”, says a right-winger from Brazil. “You’re fake news!”, says the biggest IQ American president to Jim Acosta, a refugee from Cuba working for CNN. And let’s not even debate over doctors. PhD Twitter is the real House of Cards; we just didn’t realize it. And now, it seems, things are becoming clearer — but more pressing than ever. Suppose your problem is with education today: how are you supposed to preserve family values with all this crazy flow of naked disrespect contrasting with a man in a suit telling you there’s a lot of volatility predicted for the S&P? Reality check, ladies and gentlemen: nobody even knows what the fuck that is, and your actual complaint is that the author is saying a dirty word. How did you pay for your Starbucks this morning, with Apple Watch? Excuse me, I’m a bit skeptical. Sometimes a tiny bit, sometimes a whole lot. You could ship my skepticism across countries, but the Navy would have to track it down. And hey, listen, I’m serious about this shit. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

To clarify: I live in the city that hosts the biggest port in South America. Sorry for the videogame references, I genuinely don’t wanna confuse people. It’s just that copywriting is demanding these days. We rant, and suddenly someone takes a close up picture of an actual ant — and it’s terrifying. Which is why PhD Twitter is winning: anti-imperialism, critical race theory, worker’s rights, digital policy, women’s protection, no-code tools, productivity coaches… and then, suddenly: “why did Bill Gates buy a buttplug?” That’s pretty much what Jeff Bezos has in mind: give me your address, your email, and your bank information. Let the great world spin (except the guy doesn’t write fiction, although there’s a scene in the book by Colum McCann where a sex worker is desperate to use the bathroom). I bet that’s not good enough for you. Let’s go with revisionist history? How about a leak that “My IQ guy” knows everything about missiles already, but wants to learn more? You start to be thankful for Business Insider: they show you the process of making a drumkit in the oldest drum manufacturing company of the United States. And then your thumb, that lazy slut thumb, makes you scroll down. Cats, rabbits and goats get along. The more you know. But how dare you? Immigration laws expressly prohibit illegal aliens from demonstrating, by speech, text or odd noises over electronic communication, an expression of love or even a slight resemblance to parenting without proper documentation! Oops.

The internet is worried about relevant stuff. But who told you that? Didn’t you spend 2 hours catching up on memes, smartass? “What, are you saying that memes aren’t relevant?”, argues Kyle, 13, a steakhouse manager, raising his tone. The parents didn’t have the time. The internet didn’t either: nobody responded. So he decided to make a meme out of himself: dressed as a gladiator, he picked up a musical instrument taller than himself and played a beautiful piece by Sebastian Bach. The crowd cheered. The vest weighed upon him. He carries wounds. But it was all worth it, because the people who listened to his musical performance were pleased enough to be brought to tears. Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke goes from Texas to Florida to meet with David Hogg, one of the most prominent figures in the movement March for Our Lives. It might have been the other way around — but mind you, that’s not so relevant. The young politician stands with the young people’s movement. But there are older people occupying power positions that vote on issues like gun safety. In their minds, confrontations between international powers need to be carefully looked at. But refugee crises do not.

I’m joking about Bill Gates. He’s responsible for the biggest technological revolutions we’ve witnessed in the past decades, and has devoted his life to philanthropy (a complicated word for kids and teens). I’m not joking about Jeff Bezos, I just don’t get it. But when it comes to the man everyone’s talking about, his educational background is physics and economics. The people who learn this about him should be able to conclude: “oh, so he decided to fight for the environment”. They just might be wrong. Who’s heard of the philosophy of materials? My references are Marilene Chauí, Brazilian scholar, who has published two volumes on an “Introduction to Philosophy”, a thorough review which is off the shelves. My contact was through public libraries, and prominent blogger, author and mastermind of foreign language public speaking agrees, as you can see from her posts under Brain Pickings. But what Musk is trying to say, at first (and we’re all getting impatient), is that payments are the best way to verify identity.

Let’s debate that for a moment. A lot of people will miss this post. If you clicked, thank you. But profits are under the radar. It’s kind of debatable that a user of Twitter should have to pay $8 a month to have “improved experiences”, because what I’m trying to suggest here is that this isn’t the time to think about profits, but instead, helping people. Of course, and very sadly, that’s not the case for, uh, the richest man in the world. And it takes a man who eats cream crackers late at night because there’s no bread to make people see this? No, impossible. You know that sometimes there’s no cream crackers, right? You just fill your stomach with water. But whatever he has planned is an already existing business model, which he collected from here, there and elsewhere throughout his life and is trying to push towards one of the most relevant communications platform on the planet.

The themes I mentioned, as well as others, and a whole list of PhDs who decided to share knowledge out of social awareness, kindness and compassion (which is often seen as a big reason to show off), are all over social media. But people don’t even know that media is the plural of medium! His plan, instead of explaining (or even understanding) what the medium he bought is, is to make it profitable media, which includes the infamous “everything app”. If our collective role turns into calling on bullshit from people who wanna buy golden pendants and trucks of peanut butter just to say they’re verifiably hungry for trends, then what is the role of the journalist? Twitter and journalism have a very close relationship, and if that wasn’t the case, this blog would be censored. But what you’re actually witnessing is a plan to do exactly that. Or do you see participation on Twitter as an optional, non-essential and potentially bad choice? Everyone reasonable would agree that policy debates are urgent, because the debates are started on platforms like Twitter, but the actual changes happen in legislation and in the democratic process. And the guy crisscrosses elections promising free speech in exchange for your money and the silencing of dissenting voices?

If Twitter is a “town square”, it matters to say which town. We live in a world where megalopoles exist. The attempt to simplify an undoubtedly complex communications phenomenon is not just incompetence: it’s downright authoritarian. I think my answer to Elon Musk would be that my currency isn’t the dollar: it’s real. And watch him get pissed. On, off, who cares? But no, let’s wait and see. Sure, it’s a town square, because the teens are hanging out drinking and smoking weed. Excuse me, I meant to say that the town square is where people go to listen to jazz music. Musk might have learned some music theory during his Physics studies. But what about his Economy studies? What did he learn, specifically, about music? I think he just wanted to fuck a musician, probably. Oh wait, that’s exactly what he did, wasn’t it?

One thing is clear, despite what rumors have been spreading: finance matters. And that’s what people are missing on this story. Elon Musk may not be the smartest guy in the world, who knows everything about anything; but he does have wit and brilliant ideas. In the end, we care more about how ideas contribute to society than who even brought them up. This is not an attack: creativity can’t be cultivated in a black hole, as far as I know. And whatever concept we’re scared of; whatever personality we’re trying to roast; whatever story we’re trying to break; whatever project we’re trying to realize; whatever means we have to make lunch to our families, we need someone who grants us help. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but Elon Musk is the guy who proposed we shift to electric vehicles so we could stop further extraction from our planet’s resources, and we talk a lot about renewable energy, but maybe not enough. Brazilian society couldn’t adapt to big recycled bags that supermarket chains offered to their clients because they were used to plastic: they didn’t wanna change. Twitter is not a plastic bag. But we should be aware that we’re bringing home stuff that we don’t even need, and if common sense still matters, nobody wants to raise a spoiled child.

So many holes: why is my computer like that?

I found myself having a conversation with my dad the other day. He’s a photographer. So he needed his SD card to be identifiable, somehow. Don’t ask why the desktop computer I bought online didn’t come with an SD reader. Our printer was bought almost 15 years ago, and was still working until two weeks ago (thanks, HP). I remember printing college essays on it, and I felt really good about myself. But you see, hardware evolves. As smartphones became more en vogue (and please excuse my French), you’d find out years later, because you kept the old devices, that 32Mbs was nothing for something the size of your two thumbs. As of 2022, you get 256GBs on an Angelbird product for 300 dollars. But of course, that comes with things I can understand superficially, like 4K resolution quality, and things I cannot, like “fast sustained write performance of 260MB/s”. Sorry, 260 MBs per second? I’m still waiting for Instagram to upload my 15 second stories for as long as an hour sometimes — and I checked, by the way: that’s 18Mbs on a file that, in case everything’s working, takes about a minute to upload, often more than that. Connection problem? Probably, man. Because I just found out my IP is not my IP, really. So there’s a myriad of things we need to discuss… I told my dad he needed to be updated, because every security newsletter told you to do so to stay away from (guess what) viruses and other harmful stuff for your digital well-being. Of course, they talk about device health, not your own, because regardless of how many captchas it takes to prove that, we are not robots. But the thing is: despite the fact my dad takes amazing pictures, he’s still using a 2GBs SD card. Even the cheapest micro SDs, which sell in Brazil for as little as 8 dollars, have 16GBs storage. So come on, dad.

Well, alright. My phone sucks, my dad’s computer savviness isn’t the best, but we’re both trying to work online. And these things, apparently, matter a lot. I remember when I was writing this academic project, and I only had my old HP Mini (thanks again, HP) bought in 2011, I think. But then you started the thing, and a message showed (before BIOS and those things nobody ever talks about) saying “American Megatrends”. I’d been a Zelda fan for a long time, so the logo intrigued me; until I noticed that the version of that build was from the early 2000s. So even though I bought the computer in 2011, it was almost 10 years outdated. And 10 years after buying it, I was still trying to work with that. It was pretty much like using Windows XP when they were releasing 10 (of course, now there’s 11), and I mean that literally, not as a bad comparison. With my 8GBs mini SD, I actually installed Windows 10 on that computer. The result was… not good. So I think there’s a few things we need to learn early on, because now, everyone knows how smartphones dominate content consumption, communications and digital lives in general. We should be able to pinpoint a problem (like a camera that doesn’t work, for example) and know what to do. Who says we are? That mini SD, for example, was then “corrupt”, because the file I downloaded from the Windows website was squeezed in there and then nothing else could be written, not even after formatting. Not t mention that most apps can be transferred and run from the mini SDs, these days. But there’s more things that come to play, for example a webcam that freezes perfectly updated computers and gives them a blue screen of death. Driver issue? Compatibility? I could understand if I plugged the red, yellow and white cables in the wrong holes and the TV was noisy, but this? Help me out here.

Well, it turns out that now we don’t even need the chips in our bank cards, which took a while to come to the market. And of course, the number of cards that got “swallowed” by ATMs is pretty high (considering that happened with me at least twice and I’m one person; maybe I just had bad luck, but maybe not), so the number of people witnessing some kind of faulty system management on the palm of their hands might be pretty high as well — did your bank ask for your password twice, did the app crash or did it ask you to go to a physical branch to unblock it? Today, there’s this thing called crypto. And many would talk endlessly about the future of money, the whole decentralization debate, the taxes, the people-powered initiative; maybe they’d bump into some energy consumption issues, but defend themselves with the ease of transfer, process registration and safety arguments. But let’s be honest: who’s heard of Ledger? Apparently, they make USB flash drives used for storing crypto, and it’s interesting that they’re not 300 dollars; you can get a Nano S Plus for 79, actually. I’m just thinking: you put a little thing in a hole on your computer and then you get… money? I mean, how far is this thing gonna go, man? Call the hotline. Poor computers, don’t bother them!

Image: Pexels

Shutdown, lockdown: why media matters too much

It seems like a good time to discuss speech freedom. Though Pew Research is not as popular as any given trend on social media, they’ve detailed how we’ve experienced a period of cancellation, not in terms of lack of praise, but lack of argument on the right to mobility — and no, that is not related to your mobile phone, but instead, the right to “come and go”, or “freedom of movement”, as defined by the United Nations. But then if you want, let’s talk about mobile phones! Why not stick in a needle containing all necessary conflicts to solve with a deadline for the people who managed not to drop dead as a consequence of an arguably orchestrated policy management involving social crisis shifting gears to massive use of social media and conflicts ignored, misinterpreted and poorly debated? Few people talk about the social aspects of health care, including substance use and Social Determinants of Health, as reported by McKinsey; but this “orchestration”, if it wants to be interpreted as a historical timeline of power relations reaching some kind of tipping point, and not another conspiracy theory, needs proper references.

So let’s search for the references. Psychology Today mentions two papers, from PLOS ONE, a Californian “inclusive journal community working together to advance science for the benefit of society”, and Spotlight on Research, “an online collection of health-related, peer-reviewed, open-access journals”. This is a brief mention of scientific-method based analysis of behavior, while raising the argument that “removing access to social media produces anxiety“. Later in the article, the FOMO factor is mentioned, or “fear of missing out”. I would propose two steps forward, and one backwards: firstly, let’s consider that few people search for references, okay? Second, everyone remembers the scene on Netflix’s big hit “The Social Dilemma” where a phone jar gets cracked in order to fetch back the phone that mom and dad didn’t want you to use at the lunch table, but the device stays intact. In fact, even The Verge, in their review, has come to the conclusion that was not the most accurate description of the problem. And third, hasn’t the term “fear of missing out” been used to the exhaustive scale that dims any attempt of repurposing meaning and gaining leverage on where things stand? Is it so hard to understand, or write down and publish, that competition between small businesses and big businesses is unfair, and that includes traditional media, responsible for injecting that fear — not just of missing out, but for what might happen next time you go out in the street, all the while showing a semi-related story in case something does happen while you’re out and you don’t even have the energy to call them out?

The thing with mobility, it seems, is too complex to debate in kindergarden level. But to shift all pedagogical meterial for kindergarden students to not just digital inclusion, but proven proficiency on new communication standards, so early on, never seemed to be a problem. The shortage is of health care workers, not teachers. You see? Nobody’s ever read the American Common Core Standards, launched in 2009, when president Barack Obama declared, as seen in The New York Times: “It’s not that their kids are any smarter than ours — it’s that they are being smarter about how to educate their children.” The article also mentions that, in 2015, 20% of students in the state of New York opted out of their end-of year tests; it quotes the president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (who funded scholars that have based my research, by the way) saying that it’s sort of a “game of catch up [to] learn about the importance of wider community engagement”. So… Okay, Obama: what community, what engagement, and who are the smart kids you’re talking about?

I personally think it’s much more realistic, although uncomfortable, to talk about the simple facts: accelerating social interactions made people realize there was, indeed, a wider world on the web. But coming back to those articles people don’t read: what happens when you take away someone’s phone is one thing; what happens when you take away someone’s identity and completely destroy it is another. Do parents have the power to do both? The answer is yes. And that is my personal fight. The bigger fight is realizing that notwithstanding the fact that the ex-president is not my daddy, I’ve developed a similar feeling: kids are smart, aren’t they? And we want to be positive. But the perception of “smart move” is different than that of a “smart guy”, and if you pass the mic to a girl of age 13, the response will change; if you pass the mic to a woman, with her own idea of smart networking and history of building things for herself through effort and dedication, who’s 31 now, she will have many stories to tell. Does that mean we’re witnessing critical age gap limitations, both in terms of public debate, attention and morale? I would say yes, we are; but I don’t have the definitive answers to these problems, because Obama really synthesized it: there’s kids; there’s also “the other kids”.

Political dimensions aside? We can’t say that. Lockdown made us be immersed with world consequences in real time, while sitting in bed. Some people’s reaction was to go on TikTok. Wanna talk about that? CNBC addressed the issue, but it says “data” is the problem, not teens dancing to the sound of a gun being loaded and hyper sexual lyrics (very common in Brazil). But what happens if Brazilian data, in case someone in this country studies it seriously, is taken into account? We know Brazil has “the fifth largest population of social media users worldwide”, as per Statista report. We also know there are some problems in Brazilian legislation response to initiatives to “take care of the internet”, like Net Neutrality, copyright law, payment services use, privacy and of course, data. The Brazilian version of European made GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) principles does not clarify, in practice, what was proposed by European lawmakers and applied in California (I won’t comment on Snapchat; the CEO’s name is Evan and that’s just weird), specifically in the first descriptions of the document. I’ll get there. When you look at the material scope, and then go further, reading Title V of the Treaty on European Union, which describes foreign policy in what we’d like to believe represents a solid ground to maintain perpetual world peace, Immanuel Kant’s dream, you might have some doubts. From the original document, Article 21, transcribed in full:

1. The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

The Union shall seek to develop relations and build partnerships with third countries, and international, regional or global organisations which share the principles referred to in the first subparagraph. It shall promote multilateral solutions to common problems, in particular in the framework of the United Nations.

2. The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to:

(a) safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;

(b) consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;

(c) preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders;

(d) foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;

(e) encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade;

(f) help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development;

(g) assist populations, countries and regions confronting natural or man-made disasters; and

(h) promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance.

3. The Union shall respect the principles and pursue the objectives set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 in the development and implementation of the different areas of the Union’s external action covered by this Title and by Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and of the external aspects of its other policies.

The Union shall ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies. The Council and the Commission, assisted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall ensure that consistency and shall cooperate to that effect.

Freedom, respect, dignity, equality, solidarity: whether we’re addrressing an education crisis or a public health crisis, what have we learned from theory and practice? This set of principles is mentioned at the very beginning of the GDPR document, and also requires “catching up” with other historical policy developments; there’s much to discuss, but how many examples can you give from the “GDPR compliant” organizations that will, for example, promote “stronger multilateral cooperation”, knowing that the word “sustainable”, when it comes to economic and social development, actually means something entirely different? Sustainable, in my view, is meeting people online when I can’t stand the people who live where I am. Sustainable, for me, is buying yogurt instead of eating pork. Sustainable, for me, is being able to tell my story and be heard, instead of contested, humiliated and doubted; ridiculed and criticized on every stance, at every chance, while I’m the one reading the freaking law and saying: “wait a second”. Sustainable, for me, is transitioning from my bedroom to my kitchen or bathroom without thinking about the shame of my relatives in case they knew what just happened in my personal life, and it’s definitely not sustainable to give that kind of information to private companies who will make use of my history as they please under the guise of promoting inclusion and entertaining the masses. It’s probably not sustainable, and I have to say probably because I don’t know how else I would still think about having a professional life, to study for decades any given subject, like a foreign language, and miss the chance of having great conversations because of failure to activate your brain responses and fucking say hello, or find the words and not go around them, not making pauses, not mispronouncing them, and hoping people don’t treat you as a toddler because you can’t possibly understand everything and maybe anything, but in case you do, your face is stupid anyway, so get hit by a freaking bus. Since when renouncing dignity produces good entertainment? We are not entertained. We’re locked down, with no financial aid, with no proposal of damage reparation for the harms that social media and tech companies flirting with monopoly judges to successfully bribe them and then, as their next grand move, flirt with authoritarianism, in order to preserve their profits at all costs — minding that the cost is determined by them, and their actions; while that happens, we’re being called “worthless”, in all of what we do.

I recently read an Instagram post that said: “the artist is not an entrepreneur”. I’d like to conclude with two ideas on that. First: it’s not everyone who pursues a professional career as an artist, but most of what we spend our lives doing can be associated with artistic expression, which operates in a much different and much more free domain. We think it’s “poetic” that someone called us a nickname; we think poetry is journalism. We are not interested in journalism, unless it’s talking about us. But we want spotlights, at moderate (and sustainable) values. Art has a lot to do with vulnerability, and we accept that. But society wasn’t built because of art; art was built because of society, in order to expose it. Secondly: the profitability of a social model where people are forced to know everything about everything, and also to know anyone, but easily replace them and then choose to either talk a lot about them or say nothing at all, doesn’t seem to have been associated with the conversations that we never had with family members, because they think our lives are “unsustainable”. The media will talk about inflation, food, violence. We can just pretend that a rich person we met on Tinder is aware of what the media has said, because whatever happens, the trend we’re seeing is that possible experience becoming a viral soundtrack with lots of edits, to the point where nothing matters anymore — until someone sheds light on the issues that actually do. We just hope there’s an audience.

Image: Pexels

In this economy? A look at verification and motive

Think about the web as a tool available for the power elites. You won’t be wrong: financial apps are booming; relationships have taken on new dimensions associated with what everyone calls user experience and community standards; job hunting is mentioned by many as a keyword game for machines to triage your need for compensation, which you might not get because you forgot to include arbitrarily determined essential skills. But you either go micro or macro. It’s not that some people don’t bother to look at the stats: they probably wouldn’t like to read that word, rejecting it strongly as it means something not just unknown, but absolutely useless. Analytics doesn’t integrate their vocabulary, content strategy isn’t paramount. But any business has been approached, if not online with ads for expanding their reach with specialized agencies, then at least in a conversation with a possible facilitator, like the guy who wants the stores in the neighborhood to start using a new payments processing machine. That’s the case for Stone, an Information Technology and Services company, committed to being the Brazilian entrepreneur’s partner. Started in 2012 and headquartered in Sao Paulo, it started trading in the NYSE in 2018, election year; with over 15 thousand employees (how many are on LinkedIn is another story), it attracts applicants from all over the country, perhaps because of its culture of “no bullshit”, or maybe the education partnerships, listed on their website. Considering the almost 2 million clients as of April 2022 and over 120 billion dollars in transactions over the past year, it’s definitely a big player; and recruitment manager Lívia Kuga prides herself of these achievements in almost classic corporate discourse: with the development of emotional intelligence and what she calls culture rituals, she seeks for “the most humanized approach possible with use of technology and machine learning”, reports Brazilian finance magazine Exame. But stock price last year was at almost 70 dollars, and it’s dropped to as low as 9. Why is any of this important, though, if investing is clearly for the elites, and not the common citizen?

Think about it this way: you wrote a tweet, but on the way, your Wi-Fi dropped. You weren’t connected anymore, and your reaction was to tap twice on your Android phone icon, so it recognized the network again and you could finally share your small message with your circle, and then each user could expand it, within their own circle, by reposting it. If they’re following, it takes a click on the app to see it. That’s what impressions are: the potential reach of your post. You see something exceptional, you make sure to share (using the button, not your wallet); but when you have groceries at hand (I’m one of those people who only grabs them when the payment has been approved), you don’t want to wait more than 5 seconds. That’s just the world we live in now. Why? Because financial services have always had priority in systems management, except there are many kinds of systems; in fact, considering what machine learning can do, one could argue we’re walking towards a myriad of undisclosed information, fed to the masses in homeopathic doses. Let’s be real about this: why did the network drop? Reports show that, in Britain, 44% of ISP clients have experienced connection issues, while Windows 11 is apparently working alongside Fing, a network security company that displays in real time service outages and shortcomings on your phone. Can you imagine the distress in a gaming competition, in case there was a glitch? For those who aren’t always up-to-date with every discussion, some gaming competitions have been reportedly tense, and the culture doesn’t seem to be very gender balanced. But regardless of the examples we might draw from this in a service quality kind of perspective, there’s an important concept that needs to be addressed: verification.

The world’s richest man reportedly bought the world’s biggest media company. That’s how I put it, before it was announced, when Twitter sold for 44 billion dollars to Elon Musk, both epic industry visionary and slow ranting entrepreneur. There’s been rising concern over what that might mean in relation to controversial figures banned from platforms, notably the case of ex-president of the United States, Donald Trump. Whatever the case, when it comes to inflammatory speech, a first test of concept is necessary: is trust verifiable? Some people would trust a person more when they hear their voice, instead of text; others prefer video; for a long time, presence was the most important aspect, in face-to-face interactions, but apparently the younger generation never thought about how they could afford a home (first theme on my pedagogical material, by the way). There are theories saying we assimilate stuff from visual, auditory and other sense-related stimuli; data on the new ways of communication will take this concept to the test, as well as educators in search for solutions for digital demands. It’s one thing to map out a student’s understanding of a broad theme over a videocall; another, completely different set of procedures, to ask them to answer a poll–and even traditional media has already started using this massively, to make sure people actually read and get informed. In a way, the media is verifying if we’re actually using it, not just scrolling; and that’s good, right? Now think about the economy.

When I was young, I didn’t have an allowance. My dad knew, before social networks existed, who my friends were. They came home, I introduced them (or they introduced themselves; it was 2003), and we hung out to play basketball. Surprisingly, for some, I did that; but it was mostly my brother, and I sat there doing nothing, hearing that particular sound of Nike and Adidas shoes against the court. Eventually, my dad even bought me one of those: Adidas Mad Handle, an interesting pair in grey and black synthetic leather. There’s so much I wouldn’t be able to handle in the future, and I definitely got mad; but that has nothing to do with basketball. My girlfriend at the time (after I left the boys’ club to have a relationship with a teenager, and meet her family, then stay for 10 years) was a great communicator in more than one language; but we found our ways, though I barely opened my mouth–except with her. I would later get mad, indeed. Not in the sense of angry: just overwhelmed and absolutely incapable of “handling” my responsibilities as a young adult, which I thought I could do when I was taking the stage to play the drums. If someone was ever in a position to confirm this story, it doesn’t really matter: the humanized machine processing isn’t there for deleted accounts, is it? As for sports, we now have camera footage which can be requested for verification of a foul, penalty or any kind of conflict during the game, at least in soccer matches. Why FIFA is headquartered in Switzerland, famous world tax haven? That is barely questioned. So what exactly do we want to verify?

Let’s suppose you go into a convenience store in the middle of the night. The lady at the cash register sees you struggling with your change, grabbing a beer from the freezer but putting it back, then going to the end of the line as party girls and boys come inside with their cars parked at the gas station, in front of the big mall, ready to go somewhere else and have loads of fun–metaphorically or not, mind you. They pay with their phones for a bottle of Red Label, and you learned to enjoy Jack Daniels, the oak taste, precisely what made you interested in tobacco; but now you’re a serial smoker. The banner behind most cash registers in convenience stores, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and even newsstands will show discounts on the price of cigarettes. You check to see if you have 5 real, but unfortunately, buddy, you don’t. There’s 5 cents missing. And well, since nobody here invests in certain kinds of assets, what the hell is 5 cents, right? The newsstand guy shouted out to you as you walked away on the previous day, saying your count was wrong and you should give the product back. On a number of occasions, though, you knew it was absolutely right, having checked it before going there and counted all coins at the breakfast table; it was still breakfast for you, though it was 7PM. They’d be closing soon. You had to go buy or not have the money for a cheap pack, spending the night awake without access to your phone (and because this involves some level of paraphrasing, let’s address how verification plays a role in this story later). Unlike the newsstand guy (who refused to give you a pack you weren’t even supposed to be able to buy anywhere, since it never got a sanitary authority inspection or passed a national health risk and standard evaluation, all because of 5 cents), the lady at the convenience store says: “You know what? Since you’re always here, you can take it. You’ll bring it next time.” So you walk out past the ATM, and it’s raining. You don’t have a car, but thankfully it’s just 3 blocks. Of course, it depends if you count the blocks behind the blocks, but I’m sure nobody’s interested in that level of scrutiny. They’re not showing the components of the product anymore. Both sides now alert consumers of the harms it may cause; you still open it, light it up, sometimes with a match, eventually tilting your head down to the oven and maybe burning your own hair, because a lighter is actually more expensive than the freaking poison pack. And then you get on Twitter on your phone. Now, here’s an interesting question: when you unlocked your phone, after paying for a product in coins (literal coins, everyone), what were the party girls and boys doing? Apparently, nobody cares.

On the next day, you’d have to see about your bank’s digital signature. You forgot your letters password, which allows you to make ATM transactions, so you need to go there in person to sort things out; but if you’re thinking about digital payments, you don’t get to do that if you haven’t made a specific registration for any possible online transaction associated with your account. Today, whenever you say account, people will inevitably think of Instagram; but is that fair? As it turns out, the social network has more verification than the bank; but that’s very debatable, considering that biometric technology has been used in a range of institutions. But social media verification is a process few people understand. First, because Twitter championed it; second, because it speaks authority. But what authority? Katy Perry’s version of it? Nothing against sexual freedoms and discourse to be made available, but when it becomes mainstream to the point of elevating “I wanna see your peacock” to the most widely marketed message on the internet, we have to at least question something in there. And for many, it’s questioning the peacock–meaning, of course, the validity of that message, something you can do by actually asking people what they want to see. Unfortunately, some people don’t remember the former world’s richest man’s Op-ed on the newspaper he bought at the time of a scandal involving his sending of intimate images, and now The Washington Post, which arguably (or not) takes on difficult topics on internet culture, describes a pre-pandemic world where 25% of teens sent the freaking peacock, while the rate increased with lockdown. It doesn’t consider a particularly important factor that expands the margin of error: trust, sentiment and false reporting, not to mention the not-so-twenty-first century idea that, if we live online, we have sex online. Excuse me, but only 15% of teens have sex? I could believe that if I studied in a Catholic school, but not being promoted on an adult site. Hypothetically, of course (isn’t Twitter an adult site, since we’re touching upon this subject?)

But what if nobody asks? For example, another Brazilian NYSE listed company, Nubank, made possible that payments could be processed with card approximation. Technicalities don’t matter, for now. But I remember the time I had just left my family home to buy myself something different to drink, and I was paying with the new card; I had disabled the approximation feature because I didn’t think that was secure in any way: I’d been through a two-step verification nightmare, losing access to my social accounts in a mix of bad luck, bad anger management and frankly, bad management overall, when my phone number was cancelled and the 2FA feature was on. There was no way to get in again. And I should’ve thought reasonably: if the number had been cancelled and that was the problem, then, instead of looking for social media support solutions, I would have to see about the issue with the ISP, in this case the communications company, responsible for the data. The policy is inactivity can disable the account; but not that non-solicited, non-authorized SMS ads and messages searching for indebted citizens with a different name than my own were ever problematic; in fact, I used to get them every day and just ignore, but the important thing is that you enter your tax payer identification (a poor translation of Physical Person Registration, or CPF, meaning you’re not the owner of a business acting on a legal contract, just a regular citizen). Isn’t that what they should verify? We do have an option, on today’s new Android features, to report unknown callers and SMS as spam; but social media is a completely different game, and it’s going to take at least one more decade for finance to be completely understood in its contradictions and ideology, which some will catch up on, while others simply won’t–and may spread false information based on campaigns that are actually financed, and make scammer platforms for scammer users profit like no public servant or hard working independent ever would.

A system in Brazil tries to revert the consumer perception and what makes someone a “good payer”, which is otherwise assessed by online activity and purchasing power, with categorizations that third-party companies have used in mass scale through algorithms (Accenture and Cognizant are just two examples, when it comes to recently renamed Facebook, or Meta; reports have been linked previously on the blog). Some users are lucky to be found by certain agencies, organizations and influencers, with blue badges and all; some are not, and their pages on Patreon or even their campaigns on Avaaz get absolutely ignored. But in terms of verification, you might want to know if you’re breaking the law when you start a business or propose new directions for the company. That’s something I learned both with them and media coverage about monetization, hate speech and censorship online, but also with some good old Netflix (no, Netflix is not old, but there’s no book published with cringe on its title, as far as I’m aware). On an episode of the series “Billions” (spoilers), hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod ventures into an investment on the cannabis sector, with an assurance that everything was perfectly legal; that’s how he gets busted, after finding out his newly founded personal bank couldn’t have the company of such a product on its portfolio, given countless lawsuits by its owner and the risk factors that, in the end, made him lose a lot of money, but also the newly founded bank. To escape law scrutiny, he avoids facing the authorities and leaves to Europe. Back to the verification debate, many fictional narratives have explored that concept, either in the investigative kind, like the Law and Order franchise, or documentaries and even romance movies that deal with fidelity in relationships, none of which seeming to address properly and realistically the issue of online identity and freedom, except tentatively in Alyssa Milano’s Brazen, hated by the critics. Notably, nobody’s too excited to talk about how people in certain industries get paid, or even whether they should, considering what they’re doing; but the movie shows a different side of things, which can be very brutal and hard to swallow; the criticism is lack of rawness, not merit in the unprecedented approach of the theme of sex work and stalking, along with the softest of portrayals in a few seconds of sexually suggestive scenes—in comparison, you can do your own research, I’m sure.

As the word fluency gets overused again and the word participation seems to mean nothing, considering how easy it is to argue that nobody really participates in anything when it’s just something on the screen, verification takes on new interpretations; the fluent speaker can understand, but also read between the lines–and if a teacher is well-versed in media literacy, they know how to explore the topic well enough, which doesn’t mean the challenge is well-compensated or the troubles will ever be, no matter who’s associated with them. The algorithm recommends people you should follow, and even selects special profiles made just for you (Happn does, for example). The ethics of these already established practices (including data plans that include dating apps for free) aren’t going to be questioned by a generation that grew up normalizing this, but also reporting anyone that doesn’t like the newest pop artist that they relate to so much, and an ugly face instead of a beautiful ceiling. Of course, one day they’ll wonder if one million streams being multiplied by $0.04 is a good deal; but as long as we can gather in a stadium to celebrate sound and community, love and a thinking society, chaos and aesthetic value, experience and memory, then we’ll be just fine.

The reality, though, is stark here in Brazil and many other countries: the recent most downloaded app nationwide was the government emergency rescue, during a public health crisis; not Peloton, which curiously labels itself as a well-being initiative; The Wall Street Journal points out it went from 50 billion to just 10—emphasis on “just”—recently. I’m contemplative. What my dad tracks, to verify that he’s not going to have a difficult conversation with the doctor, is his blood sugar. Every single day, on a piece of paper that looks like a freaking parchment, brownish and filled with a table for annotating the number processed by a machine nobody paid for in the health sector or public service, but he bought by himself, he carefully injects insulin into his belly, his thigh, one side or another, changing spots eventually because it’s starting to hurt, and then takes the pen to write down the number displayed, first thing in the morning. In return (and I’m forced to indicate sarcasm), several telemarketing companies call the landline, but no voice is heard on the other side; more recently, we have atmosphere songs, interesting bass lines, and would you look at that, even jazz. Needless to say, nobody at home pays for Spotify Premium or has access to 5G.

Back to finance, we’d like to see the way forward. But that means something for the “common American“, who reportedly earns by year an average of $51.480,00; it means something else for the “common Brazilian”, with the average of $2.693,87 a year. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: a year. Important to mention: that is considering the minimum wage, but “informality” in Brazil reached over 47% in 2020–which, I need to point out, is often just another word to describe unemployment. Do you see now how it’s important to follow finance and who are these incredible problem-solving people who thrive in innovation so much they’re listed in the NYSE and have hundreds of millions in revenue?

But we like to keep things simple. Facebook, not led by Bobby Axelrod, wanted to become a bank; it had to answer a few tough questions from the FTC and Congress, which eventually resulted in a 5 billion dollar fine, but nothing compared to the 83 billion they made during the first year of public health crisis (the word is pandemic, and many suggest other terms, but let’s keep it classy–or we might see the words “special operation” pop up here and there; and I’ll avoid linking any more articles). Users are getting paid (abysmally less often than not) to work for the platform, and since the younger generations grew up thinking it was as normal as fire coming out of an oven for the meals they never cooked, while mom and dad did everything for them but their issues were so intense some of them decided to stick a pair of scissors in their arm, they also think it’s normal to find content so easily on their favorite apps. I’m from a generation that didn’t have internet access until I was 15, and that was because of federal and private social inclusion initiatives. I’d never spoken to a foreigner until I was 18 years old. One of them (and I won’t reveal her name or location) was surprised one day, after coming back from a Church group trip to Jerusalem, and we engaged in a bit of chit-chat: “You’re washing the dishes?? I mean, you don’t know what a dishwasher is??” I can’t help but imagine her “verifying” why the kitchen sink in my old family home had a plumbing problem, spending an hour cleaning the grease trap with her bare hands, like I did–along with several other unpleasant tasks. Verifying, it seems to me, has many meanings yet to be explored.