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> Lastly, it is also important to be critical of the capitalist system that allows information to be bought and sold for profit. The perverse notion that we—in the form of our attention and information—should be ok with becoming products to be sold by companies, in exchange for efficient forms of communication and human connection, should be rebuked.

From slate.com

Everything That Went Wrong With Donald Trump’s New Social Network in the First 24 Hours

> Truth Social will be a lot like Twitter, with the primary interface consisting of a feed of short posts from users you follow. However, these posts will be called “truths” instead of “tweets,” and reshares will be known a “retruths.” While the platform wasn’t supposed to have its soft launch until next month, users found a way to access the site and were setting up accounts within hours of the announcement. (One vandal claimed the @donaldjtrump handle and posted a picture of a pig with extremely large testicles.) Truth Social eventually cut off access, though screenshots of the interface taken before then suggest that the platform is basically just a fork of Mastodon, the open-access software that allows users to make spinoff social media networks. Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko has said that he will be seeking legal counsel since Truth Social appears to be breaking his product’s terms of use by not sharing the code or license with the public. Truth Social’s terms further claim that the source code is proprietary, which could also violate Mastodon’s license.


Like all of PG's essays, this one is an exploration of his own thought processes more than a generalization about other people in general.

What it tells us is why PG created Y Combinator. He did it to gain access to other people's ideas.

PG is a smart guy.

He's also a rich guy, getting richer every day, because he uses his smarts to multiply his reach by mixing with other people's ideas.

The article lacked a single counter-example to show when jumping to a conclusion might be advantageous.

And yet much of life is dominated by such cases.

Great ball players jump all the time.

Hunters jump or go hungry.

Soldiers jump or get jumped.

Financial traders jump all day long. It doesn't mean they don't study at night, but during they day, they don't spend time pondering trades that disappear as fast as a gap in traffic.

Maitre d's jump.

Taxi drivers jump.

Fork lift drivers jump.

Customs inspectors jump.

Politicians jump.

Not everyone jumps.

Engineers work things out. But they still have to jump sometimes before the factory explodes or the heat shield disintegrates or the oxygen runs out.

Fortune favors the bold. People telling you to never be bold want all the fortune.

The golden age for genomics has been “ahead” since 1990.

It’s still ahead. We just don’t know which decade will yield the eureka.

Voyages of discovery are like that.

> "I wish there was an app to help me connect to my niece" is a really fucking weird vibe.

It's not so weird. Facebook is essentially the same folly.

Perhaps you meant sad.

I feel like Facebook used correctly is more like social broadcasting, updating your entire social circle on your goings-on, alongside messenger and WhatsApp for one-to-one constant contact. Of course, Facebook used wrong is a similar weird vibe when you pretend you have friends because you constantly "like" the statuses of people you used to be close with.

Imagine if instead of or in addition to changing the name of the corporation, its head changed his whole ethos.

Imagine if he learned the value and intrinsic satisfaction of facilitating happiness, respect, and connection to humanity, and made these the central tenets of the platform.

Imagine if profitability fell a little, but not enough to stop the new ethos.

They can hire 20k engineers to build a doomed-to-fail metaverse that most of the world neither wants nor understands, but they can't dedicate the same headcount to making their platform healthier.


They have no duty whatsoever to make their platform healthier, and honestly it's getting repetitive, hearing people bemoan a completely-optional-to-your-life social media company for being too good at getting people to talk to one another.

And no, there is no possible argument you could make that says you must use Facebook because of anything Facebook has done except be extremely valuable and easy to use for its users.

Nobody has to use WhatsApp, nobody has to use Instagram, they choose to because other people decided to use them. It's not Facebook's fault entire governments decided to run out of WhatsApp, and those governments/your friends could switch to/add on a different platform if they wanted to, they just don't because what Facebook offers for free (the network) is a lot better than what other technology offers.

The analogy that comes to my mind is as if all of my friends and family and customers and employers did heroin. Yes, I could choose not to do heroin, and yet, staying around those people, the likelihood of me continuing to use heroin is high (pun intended) so I could continue to fit in. One of the best ways to stop using heroin is to disconnect from those friends and family.

So yes, they may be completely-optional-to-my-life in terms of using it directly, and yet choosing to not use them often means disconnecting from people not just on those platforms but in life in general.

An example that's almost the opposite: I traveled a lot overseas and my close group of American friends would use an SMS chat group to stay in touch. While overseas, I'd use a local sim and couldn't receive the group texts. I wanted them to switch to Whatsapp or a similar platform that would work over the internet. A few of them refused. So they stayed on the platform and I felt myself becoming more distant from them, not just in texts but in general. I felt a very similar disconnect after I deleted my FB account a few years back, and then again, after I built a new FB account and muted all of my FB friends.

At some point, I think a company becomes so large and integrated into society that it becomes a pseudo-monopoly and often in the US we treat those as public utilities. Yes, I think I could live without electricity in my city, and yet the electric company would still impact my life.

Facebook is not as bad as heroin. Facebook is not as necessary as electricity. It's insane to me that this is where we are in the discourse, that those are the analogies being used to describe one of dozens of ways to communicate with others.

The sad reality is that if it weren't Facebook, it'd be Twitter. If it weren't Twitter, it'd be TikTok, and so on. The people you're mad at aren't the companies making it easier to communicate, it's the people doing the communicating, and they're doing the communicating on whatever platform becomes most popular.

You may be mad at the users for not... I dunno, saying better things on these platforms, and you're seemingly taking it out on the platform. You're mad at society, and you channel it through to the services that society uses.

Facebook is not causing any of the problems you're upset about, it's just the platform where those problems are manifesting. It's still just a product, and if something better comes along, people will switch to the better thing. Network effects are real, but they're not permanent or impenetrable.

>Facebook is not as necessary as electricity. It's insane to me that this is where we are in the discourse, that those are the analogies being used to describe one of dozens of ways to communicate with others.

Once again, this is a very Western-centric point of view.

No, Facebook/WhatsApp is a choice various countries and cultures made, and that choice can be unmade. You can't un-make the choice to adopt electricity, you can make the choice to support Signal or Telegram or MMS or whatever.

Again, your complaint is about people. You don't like a choice they made, but it was a choice those people made and continue to make.

>You can't un-make the choice to adopt electricity, you can make the choice to support Signal or Telegram or MMS or whatever.

But... you absolutely can. This is getting pointless. You're not going to be convinced, nor are you willing to engage in any meaningful dialogue here.

> They have no duty whatsoever to make their platform healthier,

You could say the same thing about any addictive substance. And yet I doubt people would argue that controlling substance abuse is a bad thing.

For better or worse Facebook has made a thing that through the sum of its parts is harmful to society. I doubt any specific line-level engineer or product planner ever intentionally decided to end up with this end product, but here we are.

> hearing people bemoan a completely-optional-to-your-life social media company for being too good at getting people to talk to one another.

The issue isn't that it's getting people to talk with one another, it's that it encourages negative engagement.

The same thing happens with news - people are enraptured with gossip and death and will watch that more than something less salacious. But FB has scale and targeting unmatched by any other service. Google probably had a "and there but for the grace of god go we" moment - their search results probably has/had similar problems but hasn't incurred as much outrage. If Google Plus actually succeeded maybe they'd be the ones in the hot seat today.

> They have no duty whatsoever to make their platform healthier...

Of course they do. They may have no legal duty to behave morally, but they, like everyone else, still have a moral duty to behave morally.

> for being too good at getting people to talk to one another.

Not sure if you’ve been on FB in recent years, but people aren’t really talking to each other so much as they are spewing into a void. By far, the most common p2p interaction is arguing between strangers. Facebook is actually terrible at its initial premise of connecting people who know each other IRL, or those who might want to.

Your comment brings up a point that actually bothers me the most about this discussion -- the delusion we all seem to have that Facebook conversations are Very Super Bad, and if only we could pry Facebook out of the hands of the naive, dumb little users, they'd be free from the spell Facebook has cast on them and start posting insightful, kind, witty writing again.

No, super duper no. People are shouting into the void because there's a burning need for humans to shout into voids. If it weren't Facebook's void, it'd be some other void. The common denominator here is people.

Human brains validate their existences by communicating, and Facebook built the most effective communication tool that's ever been created. It's not Facebook's fault that most people aren't able to create anything other than hateful shouting.

I’ve been a Facebook user since 2008. I regularly use it today. I don’t consider myself or any of my Facebook friends “naive, dumb little users.” The interactions on Facebook in, say, 2010 were decidedly less awful than they are today. In 2010, my news feed was composed primarily of content from my Facebook friends, or pages I specifically followed. It was fun. Old connections from my childhood church, etc. would comment on a photo and we’d chat. Someone would post a status, and I’d reply. I don’t think human nature has shifted very dramatically in a decade. The platform influences what interactions happen. I’m not making an appeal to technological determinism; people are people. But Facebook is not an impartial middleman that is only “connecting” people.

There is no duty for a corporation to be ethical, sure. Arguably, the incentives to produce endless profit and growth drive the opposite. But the decision to be unethical says something about that company's leadership and their values. I mean -- their motto was literally "Move fast and break things." What could go wrong?

Further, this strikes me as a very Western-centric argument, particularly with WhatsApp. WhatsApp is nearly infrastructure in many countries outside the US, and your argument approaches saying "nobody has to use the Internet" -- which I suppose is true? But strikes me as being similar to saying "nobody has to have electricity."

You also seem to frame Facebook as somehow unwittingly finding itself in a position of power through WhatsApp, instead of that being a multi-year strategic campaign through marketing and their free-Internet push in the developing world (but only for FB's walled garden, which is clearly anti-competitive).

Facebook has incredibly destructive impact on my society, on my government, even if I never use it (which I don’t).

The U.S. is currently engaged in two major crises: is our democratic system of government legitimate, and how do we deal with a pandemic?

In both cases, Facebook’s algorithm is encouraging divisiveness in the name of engagement.

And what responsibility do the users have?

I'm no fan of FB but it's absurd to say their algorithms encourage divisiveness. Their algorithms have no concept of divisiveness, they are simply fitting their cost function which is engagement (well, proxies for engagement). It just so turns out that a lot of people in society want echo chambers where their pre-existing views can be strengthened and validated...that's what is causing divisiveness.

I'm not really sure what FB is supposed to do. Does a fast food company have a responsibility to ensure that people are eating a healthy diet? Where do we draw the line?

> Their algorithms have no concept of divisiveness, they are simply fitting their cost function which is engagement (well, proxies for engagement).

Which can absolutely be a proxy for divisiveness.

Two things:

Network effects are real. I would not continue to use Whatsapp unless other people were on it. It got big before Facebook bought them and has dwindled (in my book) ever since. The network effect applies to a lot of things, from the internet to telephones to bars.

Addictive dark patterns are a thing. Facebook is armed with a metric asston of computational power that is all dedicated to getting you to keep hanging out on it, feeding your dopamine cycles, coaxing you in with candy, and distorting reality around you. It is in fact, these myriad reality distortion fields that is its primary path to ad revenue.

> what Facebook offers for free

Because it has hundreds of billions in its bank and sucks in tens of billions of ad revenue. Little competitors cannot do either of those.

Well lets see how well that attitude works out for them. They are barely addressing the problem currently so unless some serious changes are made governments will simply force their hand and compel real moderation of the content they allow as a media company.

No one HAS to look at gore or CP in their feed, they can block that "friend". So why does Facebook bother to remove such content (rhetorical question, i realise the implications of them allowing CP)?

> completely-optional-to-your-life

During the fires last year, my county used their Facebook page as the official place to get current info about fire status. The info on the actual county website was copy/pasted from Facebook, with a significant time lag.

But, yeah, sure, we choose to use Facebook...

Sounds like you should complain to your county and not to Facebook.

Absolutely correct. That issue is all about the county, not Facebook. But when the response to unrelated complaints about Facebook is just "you don't have to use it"... Sure, it's not Facebook's fault that you have to use it. But use it, you must.

Its unhealthiness directly correlates to its profitability, so nothing to do with capability.

> but they can't dedicate the same headcount to making their platform healthier

A FB recruiter contacted me a few years ago to ask me about leading a "new anti-abuse team." At the time, I merely had a bad taste in my mouth for the company, but I figured if they were trying to combat abuse, it was worthy of having a conversation.

TLDR, the interview was a standard normal ML loop with no talk about abuse reduction. When I brought it up, they just talked up my experience and wanted to focus on that. Nice bait-and-switch. One interviewer raved about how awesome it was that he got to do ML at work (??), and it was all in video recommendations to keep eyeballs on the site.

That was a big (but not the biggest) turning point for me in my perspective of the company. I'm convinced they don't intrinsically care to fix the problems of abuse, and we need regulation to make them extrinsically motivated.

I say, you're a dreamer.

They’re not the only one.

They hope one day you will join them... and dont forget to press the like button, subscribe to the channel and hit the bell to get all the notifications

That is a level of existential flexibility not yet known to mankind.

I'd be watching for pigs on the wing.

"When you're young, the temptation is maybe to think, 'More is more.' But a lot of the time less is more."

-- Daniel Ricciardo

The explanation is perfectly rational.

Once the buyer has been convinced, his worldview is dependent upon a number of assumptions he's made by extrapolating limited information. He makes a number of those assumptions on the basis of trusting the seller. If that trust wavers, the assumptions crumble and the worldview collapses.

The buyer's trust in the seller is fragile because the buyer doesn't really know the seller. His image of the seller is based on an internal model that the seller has triggered by being similar on a few heuristic markers.

The buyer jumps to the conclusion that the seller is that good guy he's been waiting for, on the strength of a few matching signals.

But the more the seller says after that point to demonstrate defining characteristics of his knowledge, personality, or character, the more he risks varying from the buyer's internal model. Less is more, because by increasing the number of points of comparison, the more the seller risks spoiling the match.

I noticed those gaps in the thread of a thermos (vacuum flask) last week. Presumably it’s to vent inward airflow when cooled liquid creates a vacuum.

Also, many thermos flasks have a feature whereby you can pour out the contents without unscrewing the lid all the way, so there will be a large channel interrupting the threads to allow liquid out, and one or more opposing interruptions to let air in.

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