Copenhagen and Cambridge

 

Over the weekend, I went to a reading of Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen.” When I came home, I saw this long Twitter thread.

I’ve long been annoyed with what I often refer to as “Silicon Valley boys.” It’s becoming more acceptable to say that out loud, and I occasionally do on Twitter. The shallowness of their exhortations for everyone to learn coding, their ignorance of human relations, and their belief that they can change the world for the better with code alone are at best naïve.

Revelations of Facebook’s ethics-free policies in taking advertising and manipulating its users have been dribbling out for over a year. Christopher Wylie’s insider view of Cambridge Analytica and Britain’s Channel 4 investigation have made questions of responsibility impossible to ignore.

Gender and status hierarchies are a big part of this story, but I will discuss them in later posts. Let’s start from Yonatan Zunger’s historical framework. Zunger notes that chemistry and physics collided with ethics after heady periods of progress. Now it’s computer science’s turn.

In the late 19th century, chemistry made great strides. A part of chemistry was called “organic” because it was believed that certain compounds could be produced only by living things. The chemistry of carbon retains that name still. In 1828, Friedrich Wöhler synthesized urea, which mammals excrete in urine. That opened the way to industrial synthesis of many compounds, including drugs that would make people healthier and dyes that made the world more beautiful.

Fritz Haber developed a way to make ammonia from the air, laying the basis for the fertilizer industry. No longer was farming limited by the availability of animal manure. Haber was awarded the Nobel Prize for that. Most of the world depends on his process for food.

And then. The chemistry of nitration is fascinating. Fuming nitric acid adds an –NO2 group to molecular carbon skeletons. It’s fun in the lab and theoretically interesting. Dissolve cellulose in nitric acid and get a transparent film that burns readily. Dissolve glycerin, a byproduct of soap-making, in nitric acid and get nitroglycerin, an explosive liquid. Alfred Nobel tamed that liquid by soaking it into diatomaeceous earth. Tubes of dynamite, as he called it, could be used to, say, remove tree stumps. Even more powerful were trinitrotoluene and other nitro explosives.

They were used in war, too, of course. During World War I, Fritz Haber developed chemical weapons for Germany. Later, in penance for his destructive discovery, Nobel endowed a prize that carries his name for peaceful scientific inventions.

The structure of the atom and its sub-particles developed between the two world wars. It was a heady time for physicists, and their work was received with popular acclaim. Albert Einstein became a celebrity, and relativity became a buzzword. The way atoms are popularly pictured is the Bohr atom, described by Niels Bohr. Quantum mechanics is a fascinating subject that changed how scientists viewed matter.

And then. Germany was on the march, determined to reciprocate for the heavy penalties inflicted on it by the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. Experiments indicated that adding a neutron to a uranium nucleus could make it split and release energy. Scientists recognized the implications of this for a weapon, and most treated the information as sensitive. The governments involved in the war, with the urging of those scientists, initiated programs to investigate the possibility of such a weapon.

***

This is where the action in “Copenhagen” begins, through the recollection of the dead participants, Niels Bohr and his wife Margarethe, and his former student, Werner Heisenberg.

Bohr and Heisenberg were major participants in those heady days of the 1920s. They developed their theories in opposite ways, but came to similar conclusions. The play presents their joy in the development of their science through argument.

Heisenberg visited the Bohrs’ home in Copenhagen in September 1941, when Denmark was occupied by the Nazis. Heisenberg was in charge of the Nazi program on atomic energy. We do not have documentation of what happened in that meeting, only speculation. After the meeting, Germany failed to develop an atomic bomb. Bohr escaped from Denmark in 1943 and helped the Americans develop an atomic bomb.

The play explores what might have occurred during the meeting and the men’s motives. Margarethe takes the role of the chorus in Greek plays: she explains background to the audience and exposes and questions motive.

The discussion between Bohr and Heisenberg veers from their disagreements on physics through their personal friendship and skiiing to the moral considerations of building atomic bombs. Those last continue today, with no easy resolution. Frayn, by putting them into a conversation, deeply communicates how impossible the choices are that nevertheless must be made.

***

The realization that exciting new technologies could be used for evil as well as good came to chemistry and physics as a result of wars. National survival was a factor in the ethical questioning.

But we are in peacetime now, relatively speaking. No national power threatens Facebook or Cambridge Analytica or their countries with the force of arms. Their motivation has been making money, which we have come to believe is an ultimate good. They have set policies, while the physicists could blame the politicians. But their actions have led to international political results and may have led to deaths as well. Computer scientists are only beginning to recognize their roles in these actions.

Two people, Christopher Wylie and Sandy Parakilas, have come forward to expose the misuse of data supplied to Facebook by its users and Cambridge Analytica’s part in that. Presumably these two are beginning to see the moral side to their actions.

The official stands of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are that they have done nothing wrong. They are resisting transparency in a way that many involved in the chemistry and physics of weapons of mass destruction did and still do. Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg failed to attend an internal Facebook meeting on the scandal. Zuckerberg’s statement fails to address the repercussions of his invention.

Coding, like quantum physics, can be a high. Manipulating the abstractions, the power of the results to make things happen are heady. It’s hard to believe that, like everything else in the world, it has a dark side. Some in the profession will come to contemplate the issues chemists and physicists have struggled with for a century and more. Some will not.

 

Photo from a production of “Copenhagen” at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

 

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

 






278 replies
  1. 1

    […] Cross-posted to Balloon Juice. […]

  2. 2

    They developed their theories in opposite ways, but came to similar conclusions.

    ?
    What do you mean, care to elaborate.

  3. 3
    Corner Stone says:

    Man.

  4. 4

    @schrodingers_cat: That’s the subject of another thousand-word post. At least.

  5. 5
    mai naem mobile says:

    President Obama called Zuckerberg before the election and warned him about bad actors and the smug little fucker Zuckerberg basically treated Obama like he was an old fussy duddy who didn’t know shit. This wasn’t the Orange Idiot calling him. This was a serious normal POTUS. If Dubbya called Zuckerberg I would expect him to pay attention to him as well.

  6. 6
    Mike in DC says:

    As I understand it, Heisenberg miscalculated the amount of fissile material required by an order of magnitude or two, which led to the erroneous conclusion that an atomic device would be unwieldy and impractical. Allegedly this miscalculation may have impeded Germany from making greater progress towards a bomb.

  7. 7
    Dmbeaster says:

    Facebook’s business model is based on the idea of convincing users to volunteer all sorts of useful private information, and then reselling that information. Zuckerberg has famously laughed at the idea of privacy for his users. In recent times, any statements by Facebook about protecting privacy has to do with its perception that it needs to be perceived as caring even if its business model reveals the opposite intent.

    What has happened here is that third parties figured out how to harvest such data utilizing nothing more than ad space. Facebook is annoyed because… someone got that data without paying for it, as opposed to simply paying for the ads that served as harvesters of data. That was the violation from Facebook’s point of view – someone got private information from Facebook’s users without paying Facebook full freight for that data, which it willingly sells.

  8. 8
    The Moar You Know says:

    I am not willing to continue to be used/manipulated by Facebook. Not worth it. I will be leaving the platform March 31.

    I am shocked at some of the responses I’ve gotten to my decision. Some people are very, very threatened that anyone would choose to leave. I expected that from my techie friends but didn’t get it. Some of them are getting off the train as well. My humanities folks lost their shit over it. Excuses. It can be made safe. You’re not setting your settings right (they are saying that to a guy who’s been working IT security for fifteen years). Serious panic that people would want to or are leaving and I find that reaction very interesting. Would like to know why.

  9. 9
    MoxieM says:

    Super thoughtful. My grandfather (a physical chemist, trained at Leipzig, where Chancellor Merkel would train about 65 years later) sent at least one of his students to work on the Manhattan Project. He was mainly a pacifist (so far as I know), he always voted for Norman Thomas (the Socialist candidate Wilmer could only wish he was), and deeply, virulently anti-Nazi. And yet–I wonder what he thought when the big bombs went off? He was like many other scientists of his time, very thoughtful about the new world they were creating.

    I used to ask about his childhood, and remember him telling me about horse-drawn omnibuses. (He was born in the 1880s). I don’t know what the horses have to do with the bombs, only that he lived his life in a world where people were held accountable for moral decisions, if only in my grandfather’s mind. I expect there have always been soulless creeps.

  10. 10
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mike in DC:
    There were at least allegedly a whole bunch of things that hurt the German bomb effort. I had also heard they measured the neutron capture cross section for graphite using a sample that was contaminated with boron, which led them to focus on heavy water moderated reactors for Pu production. The Allies were able to destroy their heavy water plant, which successfully prevented them from producing enough Pu for a bomb.

  11. 11
    sukabi says:

    @Dmbeaster: the article I read Wylie (whistleblower) claims that Facebook left the doors wide open for not just Cambridge but pretty much all developers to harvest any and all private data up through 2014. They were told about it but didn’t care, didn’t audit, didn’t do jack.

  12. 12
    different-church-lady says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Some people are very, very threatened that anyone would choose to leave.

    Sounds a lot like a cult, huh?

  13. 13
    Aimai says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: great play! We saw it years sgo in london with some other tourists who were vocally displeased with the spare set (three chairs, no xcenery) they were disgruntled and felt the playwright had cheaped out on scenery.

  14. 14
    eclare says:

    @The Moar You Know: I can’t remember the last time I signed on, it has been years. Life goes on.

  15. 15
    mskitty says:

    @The Moar You Know: I don’t know enough to have an opinion. Asking someone with an informed position – is it safe if all my settings are “only I can see” and I changed my name to an irrelevant phrase? Only there bcs of far flung family to watch over.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    raven says:

    So, people really thought shit they put on Facebook was secure? A-fucking-mazing.

  18. 18
    Mary G says:

    I watched Zuckerberg on CNN last night and am not at all convinced that he gets what is so dangerous about his product. He parrots the words, but talks as if better AIs will fix everything.

  19. 19

    Very good post, thank you.

    Now, I know this is tangential, but you mention it:

    The shallowness of their exhortations for everyone to learn coding, their ignorance of human relations, and their belief that they can change the world for the better with code alone are at best naïve.

    1. obligatory xkcd

    2. I don’t understand the hate directed at encouraging people to learn how to code. It’s maybe not always as useful as learning, I dunno, Spanish, but it’s a perfectly cromulent thing to learn and can be very useful. I get the hate directed at “learn to code after you get laid off from the store Wal-Mart made to close, so you too can be a professional programmer,” but it’s not helpful to conflate that with a general encouragement to learn the craft.

    @The Moar You Know:

    Some people are very, very threatened that anyone would choose to leave. I expected that from my techie friends but didn’t get it. […] Serious panic that people would want to or are leaving and I find that reaction very interesting. Would like to know why.

    I think that’s super weird. I’m a techie and I don’t know anybody who would be threatened or panicked by somebody else’s decision to delete their Facebook account.

  20. 20
    moops says:

    @The Moar You Know: My best guess is that your non-techie friends are afraid that people will adopt yet other forms of social media, and they have just managed to “master” Facebook. They tell you that they really have figured out the privacy settings. They don’t want to learn another platform. Knowing just one social media tool was all they wanted. It works better for them if everyone is on their with them. They also feel judged for staying while those that have thought about it are leaving. It implies they have not really thought much about it. If everyone stays in Facebook then they can tell themselves “hey, I’m the product, but so is everybody else, including smart people.

  21. 21
    different-church-lady says:

    Not nearly as deep as Cheryl’s post, but the Computer Facts tweet-feed has become my new favorite thing in the world:

    1968: if only computers existed
    1978: if only more people had computers
    1988: if only the computers were all connected
    1998: if only the computers could fit in a pocket
    2008: if only everyone talked to each other using their pocket computer all the time
    2018: oh

  22. 22
    Ksmiami says:

    @mskitty: the really cool thing is this- Facebook has no real value to society at large ergo if it dies the world will go on.

  23. 23
    scav says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Herd animals are really really really herd — see also their utter panic at the thought that someone else might choose to love and even marry someone Of. The. Same. Gender. Prolonged existential squeeeeeeks follow.

  24. 24
    Kay says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but there WAS something noble and save-the-world about techies at one time, wasn’t there? If not the reality than an earnest belief among the less slick ones? I had a ham radio operator boyfriend in high school. He’s an electrical engineer now. He was just goofy. Really smart but basically shy and just the furthest thing from malicious one can imagine. It was like making things to connect to other people in other countries, was their general ethos, as I recall. Weren’t they like that, once? Before they became Masters of The Universe and made a zillion dollars?

  25. 25
    pacem appellant says:

    Defending FB isn’t in my interest. However, I have a friend who convincingly argues that FB is an force that can be be used for good (c.f. women’s march, march for Science, etc.). Other friends feel betrayed and are leaving the platform (and I do not fault them). For what it’s worth, according to the VP of Marketing at the time of the data transfer to CA, CA was supposed to have deleted the data that they used, FB had a court-certified document that they had destroyed the data, but in truth they had not (and thus the data was doubly misused). Boz (said VP, see link below), claims that this is contrary to their business model and CA might have been blowing smoke up someone’s derriere in the leaked videos (my words, not his).
    https://www.facebook.com/boz/posts/10104702799873151
    (edited for clarity)

  26. 26
    Ninedragonspot says:

    @The Moar You Know: not surprised about your humanities friends. Facebook is an extremely useful and convenient platform for small- and medium-sized arts organizations and their followers.

  27. 27
    Dmbeaster says:

    @Mike in DC: Actually, both sides made rather large errors on this subject initially, but the recognition of the special characteristics of U235 mooted the problem. Thereafter, the real problem was isotope separation – how to separate U235 from U238. Heisenberg and the other members of the German “Uranium Club” believed that doing so would be enormously expensive and could not be accomplished by 1945. They were half right. Heisenberg gave this opinion to Speer in 1942, which torpedoed the Nazi’s serious efforts to make an atomic bomb.

    Heisenberg and other members of the Uranium Club were captured and kept in England after May, 1945. Their conversations were secretly recorded, and they were astonished when they learned that the US (with some British help) had made one.

  28. 28
    The Moar You Know says:

    Sounds a lot like a cult, huh?

    @different-church-lady: I used those exact words talking this over with my brother, who is also leaving.

    I think that’s super weird. I’m a techie and I don’t know anybody who would be threatened or panicked by somebody else’s decision to delete their Facebook account.

    @Major Major Major Major: Like I said, my techie friends don’t give a shit. The humanities folks I know are freaking the fuck out.

    I don’t know enough to have an opinion. Asking someone with an informed position – is it safe if all my settings are “only I can see” and I changed my name to an irrelevant phrase? Only there bcs of far flung family to watch over.

    @mskitty: My friends have run several experiments with the help of some willing family members and their accounts, people who don’t know our friends. Short answer: It is not safe.

    Facebook has a neat little tool where you can view your account as another person. Problem is, that tool shows you your stuff is not visible. Real-world tests in the last two days show conclusively (for me anyway) that is not the case.

  29. 29
    different-church-lady says:

    Folks, it’s very very simple: Facebook people are stimulation junkies. They are deathly afraiid that if you leave, they are not going to get their hit. This has been the key to Facebook from the get go: it doesn’t work unless you drag a bunch of other people in with you.

  30. 30

    @mskitty:

    Asking someone with an informed position – is it safe if all my settings are “only I can see” and I changed my name to an irrelevant phrase?

    Define ‘safe’. This should mean that nobody but you can see the things set to “only I can see,” but–is that the setting on all your posts, too? And every picture? Etc. You also won’t show up in fresh searches for your name–unless somebody has written a public post linking your name to your profile, or somebody is looking through the archive.org Wayback Machine, or, or, or. And at any rate Facebook will still allow advertisers to target you demographically.

    @The Moar You Know: I guess I misread “Some people are very, very threatened that anyone would choose to leave. I expected that from my techie friends but didn’t get it” as “but didn’t understand

  31. 31
    PAM Dirac says:

    A really good book covering a lot of history is Richard Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”. Bohr comes off very well. He deliberately stayed in occupied Denmark to coordinate scientists escape from Germany. He made connections in England and the U.S. for not just the escape but jobs and housing and other necessities. He was more concerned about getting people out that hiding his actions and he depended on his international stature to prevent the Germans from throwing him in jail. The account in Rhodes book suggest he finally left with no more than a few hours to spare when the Germans got fed up with him. From a moral standpoint, the conversations between him and Heisenberg would be fascinating, but scientifically it the big fight was between him and Einstein. Someone said that Einstein was much smarter than Bohr, but Bohr had the advantage of being right. Einstein never could bring himself to accept the full implications of QM.

  32. 32
    Ninedragonspot says:

    @different-church-lady: and blog commenters aren’t stimulation junkies?

  33. 33

    @different-church-lady:

    Facebook people are stimulation junkies.

    Totally unlike the folks here who reload the page frequently looking for new comments.

    ETA damn it

  34. 34
    Brachiator says:

    A couple of quick thoughts.

    Revelations of Facebook’s ethics-free policies in taking advertising and manipulating its users have been dribbling out for over a year.

    The latest episode of the podcast Make Me Smart has an excellent take on this.

    But first, we have to talk about that other social media story: Facebook user data obtained by Cambridge Analytica to target political ads.

    You can stream the episode here.

    https://www.marketplace.org/topics/make-me-smart

    They note in passing that currently ethics is not taught as part of tech curriculum, and is not emphasized by tech companies.

    I would go further and suggest that there is a weird and somewhat childish techno idealism at play here that wants to believe that tech innovation is by definition wonderful and will always work out if you only let tech innovators alone. This is sometimes coupled with a form of techno libertarianism that insists that tech ubermen and uberwomen know how to protect themselves from any negative consequences and everyone else deserves whatever happens to them.

    This goes beyond Facebook. It also goes beyond gender. I was recently listening to a discussion of the death of a pedestrian involving a self driving car, and all the guests, male and female, we’re unanimous in their view that self driving cars will be wonderful one day, and there will always be accidents and fatalities and that it was unfair to blame technology. There was a decided lack of concern about the woman who was killed and lots of empty uninformed speculation meant to minimize any errors of judgement by the car company that might have been a contributing factor.

    Anyway, got to go run some errands. Looking forward to reading more on this later.

  35. 35
    moops says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    yes, the privacy settings are for other livestock in the herd. Their internal analytics can combed this data freely. The company just keeps accumulating more and more toxic data. Eventually the existence of such data caches creates the outcome that it enables. Like having a huge military creates bias towards the use of force.

  36. 36
    Kay says:

    I haven’t decided about Facebook but if I were in Congress I’d start enforcing their own rules about lying to them and not appearing and such. It’s their entity. They make the rules. If fancy people are not going to follow them then they’ve made themselves into a joke. They’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

  37. 37
    RSA says:

    Just a side note:

    Computer scientists are only beginning to recognize their roles in these actions.

    Computer science has lots of challenges and outright problems, which is why we typically have students take an ethics course or the equivalent as part of their undergrad major. The ethics issues raised in this post, though, are more emblematic of the information technology business than CS per se. (That is, Christopher Wylie, Sandy Parakilas, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sheryl Sandberg aren’t computer scientists.)

  38. 38

    @Mike in DC: @Dmbeaster: The big question, for the purpose of the play, is whether Heisenberg slow-walked the program so that the Nazis would not get a bomb. He seems to have left no papers detailing his thoughts. He seems to have made the errors you note – much too big a critical mass, or perhaps never calculated it, and thinking that a project to separate U-235 and U-238 would not have been possible. He wasn’t entirely wrong about the last – it was enormously expensive of both money and electrical power in the US and was not possible in Germany during WWII.

    Was he a good Nazi who made some mistakes? Or was he dubious enough of the Nazi program to sabotage their getting a nuclear weapon? Is that what he talked to Bohr about in the Copenhagen meeting? Unless some papers turn up from one or the other of them, we’ll never know. But the ethical questions continue.

  39. 39
    TenguPhule says:

    @Kay:

    It’s their entity. They make the rules. If fancy people are not going to follow them then they’ve made themselves into a joke. They’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

    It waz that Hillary wat dun it up! Her and her 8 hour marathon that made us look bad! Buggerit millenium hand and shrimp! //s

  40. 40
    Tilda Swintons Bald Cap says:

    Facebook, invented so some guys could creep on women in college. Morphed into a way for guys to creep on old girl friends. Morphed again into a way for the 1% to creep on all of us.

  41. 41

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I don’t understand the hate directed at encouraging people to learn how to code. It’s maybe not always as useful as learning, I dunno, Spanish, but it’s a perfectly cromulent thing to learn and can be very useful.

    It’s a good thing to learn. My difference is with those who push it as some kind of silver bullet for all kinds of ills or as a substitute for the humanities. I think the people who hate it are uncomfortable with mathematics or anything that looks like it.

  42. 42
    The Moar You Know says:

    My best guess is that your non-techie friends are afraid that people will adopt yet other forms of social media, and they have just managed to “master” Facebook. They tell you that they really have figured out the privacy settings. They don’t want to learn another platform. Knowing just one social media tool was all they wanted. It works better for them if everyone is on their with them. They also feel judged for staying while those that have thought about it are leaving. It implies they have not really thought much about it. If everyone stays in Facebook then they can tell themselves “hey, I’m the product, but so is everybody else, including smart people.

    @moops: It’s like you read the posting. Which you may well have, I suppose.

    Agree with the rest too. It’s all plausible at the least.

  43. 43

    Question: I don’t think Zuck is that smart, but if he were, here’s how I’d interpret his current play. He sees regulation as inevitable. As the runaway industry leader, Facebook will get to set the terms of this regulation as a major stakeholder and provider of experts in the legislative process. He wants to get out in front of this and get a big PR boost while putting in place rules that only work for big companies and will squash upstart competitors. Thoughts?

  44. 44
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    I’ve long been annoyed with what I often refer to as “Silicon Valley boys.” It’s becoming more acceptable to say that out loud, and I occasionally do on Twitter. The shallowness of their exhortations for everyone to learn coding, their ignorance of human relations, and their belief that they can change the world for the better with code alone are at best naïve.

    I work in the hardware end of Silicon Valley, we’ve been telling them they are hypersensitive blow hards since easily the 60s. LOL

    As disgusting as programmers can come across on the news, many of them are are much, much more repulsive in real life.

  45. 45
    dmsilev says:

    @Aimai: I saw a production in Boston and the set was almost exactly the same. It fundamentally is three people sitting in a room talking. What sort of scenery is actually needed?

  46. 46
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I don’t understand the hate directed at encouraging people to learn how to code.

    It’s because, a lot of times, it’s not just “encouraging” people to do it. My BFF has been a marketing manager at a reasonably high level for 15+ years and was told that she would have to learn how to code, or else they were going to give one of their college dropout code monkeys her job because Coding Is Magic and those kids would be able to automatically know everything she had learned in the past 20 years of her job.

    For obvious reasons, she told them to get bent, quit, and found a new job after about a year. But she was lucky that she and her family had the resources to do that.

  47. 47

    @Kay:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but there WAS something noble and save-the-world about techies at one time, wasn’t there?

    Yes, but they believed, like the chemists of the 19th century and the physicists of the early 20th century, that their technology would be the one to save the world. And that the good things it brought (which are real, in all three cases) would be the whole story. It always turns out that there’s another side too.

  48. 48
    different-church-lady says:

    @Ninedragonspot: Hmmm… well, here at least, it’s more like we’re interaction junkies. We’re intent on having the conversation continue, rather than just having a spray of info-nuggets wash across us at all times.

    Actually, I’m a procrastination junkie: every time I refresh the page it’s another moment I’m not facing the difficult things I need to do with my life.

  49. 49
    Jay S says:

    @The Moar You Know: I think the less technical people are the more caught up in Facebook as “the internet” rather than just a piece of it. Kind of like the AOL days, when you were mostly confined to their walled garden. If you leave the garden, how will they find you? And more importantly they feel they would be lost if they left. The idea that you can leave what they find comfortable and for reasons that imply they should probably do the same could definitely be threatening to them.

  50. 50
    The Moar You Know says:

    The ethics issues raised in this post, though, are more emblematic of the information technology business than CS per se. (That is, Christopher Wylie, Sandy Parakilas, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sheryl Sandberg aren’t computer scientists.)

    @RSA: The last true coding project I worked on had a team of approximately thirty people. Of all those, only one had a CS degree.

    The best guy we had possessed a BA in religious studies.

    I think perhaps teaching courses on ethics to everyone, starting in junior high, might be more effective. Our society certainly seems to need something drastic.

  51. 51
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Roger Moore: Aaaaaand, yet again, I find that the comment I’d intended to make had already been posted….

    It’s a real dilemma – comment quickly & discover one has been scooped in the aftermath, or read through the entire thread & discover that even if yet unpublished, the thread has careened wildly away from the subject & will either remain unread or ignored. Oh well:

    Whatever you say, say nothing
    When you talk about you-know-what,
    For if you-know-who should hear you,
    You know what you’ll get:
    He’ll take you off to you-know-where
    And you wouldn’t know how long,
    So for you-know-who’s sake don’t let anyone
    Hear you singing this song!

  52. 52
    Kay says:

    @TenguPhule:

    It’s like people appear in front of them and basically jeer at them. That’s if they show up at all. I don’t know- I’d get a handle on that if I were them. Not “people”. Some people. Powerful, rich people.

  53. 53
    randy khan says:

    @moops:

    My best guess is that your non-techie friends are afraid that people will adopt yet other forms of social media, and they have just managed to “master” Facebook.

    This makes sense to me.

    I’m staying on Facebook because I have little doubt that my information is going to be harvested no matter what I do if I maintain a robust online presence (and even if I don’t, given that I use credit cards, etc.). Since I need to do that for work, and want to do it for other reasons, I’ll do what I can on privacy settings and the like, with the understanding that what I share is not as private as I might like.

    But I just cannot find any reason to freak out about other people who make a different decision. We all get to decide what’s important to us and what isn’t, and I certainly think other people can reach different conclusions than me.

  54. 54

    @RSA:

    The ethics issues raised in this post, though, are more emblematic of the information technology business than CS per se.

    Good point. Noted.

  55. 55
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ninedragonspot:

    Facebook is an extremely useful and convenient platform for small- and medium-sized arts organizations and their followers.

    Also for artists and writers. I belong to at least 5 private Facebook groups for writers (and those are just the most active ones). I can network with and get ideas from people all over the country, and sometimes from other countries as well. It would suck for me to lose those communities.

  56. 56
    different-church-lady says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I don’t understand the hate directed at encouraging people to learn how to code.

    1: is it phrased as “Coding is a useful thing to know,” or “Coding is the future, everyone who doesn’t will be obsolete”?

    2: Does it make any more sense than encouraging people to learn ballroom dancing or small engine repair?

    It really points to the bubble the tech bros live in — theirs is the only world that matters. I’m sure coding is a great thing to know, but it’s not the most vital skill humanity has ever posessed.

  57. 57
    The Moar You Know says:

    As disgusting as programmers can come across on the news, many of them are are much, much more repulsive in real life.

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: I met some good people in my stint as a developer. More good than bad. The bad ones were pretty fucking bad, though, can’t argue that.

  58. 58
    RSA says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    As disgusting as programmers can come across on the news, many of them are are much, much more repulsive in real life.

    I have this “theory” that for some people, being able to program a machine such that they’re in complete control of it (to a first approximation) is something like a drug. It’s having power, even in the abstract, and it makes some people think that the world would be a better place if different rules could be instituted. And what do you know? A program is very much like a set of rules–ones that they’ve designed.

    It’s never surprised me that programmers seem to be libertarians more often than in most other occupations.

  59. 59
    dmsilev says:

    Fun anecdote about Bohr’s escape from Denmark. He had won the Nobel Prize, which comes with a big shiny gold medallion. He wasn’t able to bring the medallion with when escaping, and didn’t want it to fall into the hands of the Germans. So, he and his colleagues dissolved it in a jar of acid. Someone put the unlabeled jar on a shelf, where it safely sat out the remainder of the war. After the war was over, the gold was precipitated out, sent to Sweden, and recast into a new medallion, and then back to Bohr.

  60. 60
    Matt McIrvin says:

    One of the reasons I still hang around on Google+ is that it’s kind of like Facebook, only “dead”, so the culture there is a lot more manageable–you can post something public and not be swarmed by haters. Though they’ve been having weird problems controlling a flood of porn spammers lately.

    G+ is not inherently benign–for a while Google had a strategy of trying to force the users of all their disparate products on there so they could be the great managers of everyone’s online identity, and there was huge pushback so they cut it out. But it hasn’t been as obviously abusive as Facebook.

    Also, the culture there is way too white-male-techie, which gives it blinders of its own. But there’s a lot of good conversation about science and stuff.

  61. 61
    different-church-lady says:

    @Jay S:

    I think the less technical people are the more caught up in Facebook as “the internet” rather than just a piece of it.

    And that is by evil design — it is intentional on FB’s part.

  62. 62

    @RSA: We did a big ethics course for my masters (information science). In undergrad I took several courses on human-computer interaction and philosophy of mind, and I’ve since done a lot of reading on the metaethics of AI. I’m far from alone in this regard, on the engineering side of things.

    It’s the business(wo)men who are going to kill us all.

    @different-church-lady:

    2: Does it make any more sense than encouraging people to learn ballroom dancing or small engine repair?

    Somewhere between banal artistic pursuit and potential new career, depending on drive, circumstances, and personality tendencies. On average I’d say it’s less useful than Spanish, but more useful than German.

  63. 63
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    I don’t understand the hate directed at encouraging people to learn how to code.

    Some of it seems to be a transparent effort by industry moguls to drive down wages for code monkeys.

  64. 64
    cosima says:

    Their motivation has been making money, which we have come to believe is an ultimate good.

    For us choosing to live in the UK was based, in part, on the emphasis that so many in the US place on this. Of course it exists here, and in every country. However, the large houses, the large vehicles, the boats and motorcycles and snowmobiles and all of the unnecessary accoutrements of living are rarely found here — only the very richest (but never the aristocracy, and there are many in this area) have those things, and most folk consider that mindset vulgar. We pay our 40+% UK tax and US tax on top of that, so we survive on approximately 40% of what Mr C earns. And I think it’s a bargain for peace of mind & soul.

    A couple of days ago I sorted out downloading my FB info so that I can ditch it. I’ve got a few messages out to some friends double-checking email addresses so that we can stay in touch that way, but after that is taken care of I’m done. What they’ve done is inexcusable, and in doing it they ushered in a very dangerous chapter of the world’s history that many won’t survive — that is directly on their shoulders. That Zuckerberg and Sandberg aren’t fully accepting responsibility for it makes it that much more deplorable. Yes, they are now, in my mind, in that basket of deplorables. Not even through ignorance, but greed, which is worse. I’m personally rooting for a class-action lawsuit, but would not be surprised if when you check that T&C box to get your FB page you basically give up every right to privacy and data protection, no matter the circumstances or who it falls into the hands of. Much like Apple did/does, which is why I stopped using Apple years ago.

  65. 65
    dmsilev says:

    @different-church-lady: I think everyone should learn at least the rudiments of coding. Also the rudiments of cooking, carpentry, and a bunch of other things.

  66. 66
    different-church-lady says:

    I think the larger issue Cheryl points towards is: tech utopists always believe (and heavly evangelize) the idea that the solution to every problem caused by technology is… more technology.

    And those who push back on this idea are branded as backwards fuddie-duddies.

  67. 67
    Ninedragonspot says:

    @different-church-lady: I think at this point you may be creating fine distinctions between junkies that have little actual significant difference.

    People use social media, and Facebook in particular, for a wide variety of reasons. Calling a bunch of folks “stimulation junkies” is not insightful, not useful, and is best left for professional moral scolds.

  68. 68
    RSA says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    The last true coding project I worked on had a team of approximately thirty people. Of all those, only one had a CS degree. The best guy we had possessed a BA in religious studies. I think perhaps teaching courses on ethics to everyone, starting in junior high, might be more effective. Our society certainly seems to need something drastic.

    Sure. To be clear, I just meant to draw a distinction between computer science and IT and related fields; it’s all new enough that the branches haven’t formally split off (like, say, physics from mechanical engineering). CS people are sometimes not very good programmers or software engineers.

    And an ethics course for everyone would be great. Practical ethics, or ethics of technology, or just something that would cause people to realize, much earlier, “Facebook’s privacy policies are bad for end users,” or “Testing procedures for autonomous vehicles are putting otherwise uninvolved pedestrians at risk.”

  69. 69
    Ohio Dad says:

    @The Moar You Know: I’ve been a software techie for 44 years and a roving computer security and communications expert back when true computer security was possible. I have never had a presence on Facebook or any other social network. The fact that Facebook’s real customers are willing to throw so much money at the company is a sure sign that they intend to use the data and access they buy in ways inimical to the users’ interest.

    The fact that Facebook offers some privacy for those who can figure how to opt out of the public/shared default is worthless to me. Facebook knows that the number of users doing this will be minimal. If they cared about this, they would make you opt into sharing. Of course doing so would destroy their business model.

  70. 70
    different-church-lady says:

    @dmsilev: a) Coding requires a somewhat more specific aptitude in my view.

    b) What day-to-day practical application does coding have for the layperson nowadays?

  71. 71
    different-church-lady says:

    @Ohio Dad:

    The fact that Facebook offers some privacy for those who can figure how to opt out of the public/shared default is worthless to me. Facebook knows that the number of users doing this will be minimal.

    It’s especially minimal after FB’s deliberate efforts to make such settings inscrutable, counter-intuitive, and non-permanent.

  72. 72

    @different-church-lady:

    a) Coding requires a somewhat more specific aptitude in my view.

    I’d bet most of the people here could learn to script just fine. We mostly understand basic logic. It doesn’t get hard until …well, until it does.

    b) What day-to-day practical application does coding have for the layperson nowadays?

    I have replaced most spreadsheets in my life with a few lines of python. It’s much faster.

  73. 73
    cosima says:

    @Ninedragonspot: One of the only things that I’ll miss about FB is being able to support small businesses (primarily artists, makers & writers) through FB. However, I’ve been using a bit of my time over the last couple of days finding the online sites for all of those sorts of people/businesses, even if just a blog, so that I can still follow & support them. I suspect it will be a hit for them if there’s a mass FB exodus, but if they are willing to make the effort to create a blog (I’m not asking for, or expecting, a fancy expensive website from them) I’ll go to their etsy page or the gallery that stocks them or buy their book on ???? (probably amazon, which is probably going to be the next thing I have to ditch).

  74. 74
    Matt McIrvin says:

    I resisted joining Facebook for a very long time and finally did so mostly because I was tired of my elderly relatives asking me why I wasn’t on Facebook. And then I reconnected with a bunch of old friends, which was fun, but my presence there is still pretty modest and I do nothing public-facing there. I’m certainly mulling over quitting, but if I did that, I’d likely have to go back to communicating with everybody by email, and managing my flood of email is already difficult.

  75. 75
    RSA says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    We did a big ethics course for my masters (information science). In undergrad I took several courses on human-computer interaction and philosophy of mind, and I’ve since done a lot of reading on the metaethics of AI. I’m far from alone in this regard, on the engineering side of things.

    That’s excellent. I used to think, as recently as a few years ago, that computer science was more important than fields that are descendants (software engineering) or close relatives (information science, information systems, HCI, etc.) But nowadays I have a different understanding of “value” and I think the reverse is true–in those other fields, people are working more directly to make the world a better place. The risks are higher, but still.

  76. 76
    different-church-lady says:

    @Ninedragonspot:

    I think at this point you may be creating fine distinctions between junkies that have little actual significant difference.

    Perhaps.

    People use social media, and Facebook in particular, for a wide variety of reasons.

    Facebook, in particular, because they’ve tried to addict everyone to the point where there are no other choices.

    Calling a bunch of folks “stimulation junkies” is not insightful, not useful, and is best left for professional moral scolds.

    And anti-smoking campaigners were just a bunch of do-gooders.

  77. 77
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Aimai:
    I take it those other tourists weren’t habitual theatre-goers.

  78. 78
    The Moar You Know says:

    A couple of days ago I sorted out downloading my FB info so that I can ditch it. I’ve got a few messages out to some friends double-checking email addresses so that we can stay in touch that way, but after that is taken care of I’m done.

    @cosima: This is what I’m in the middle of. Not very onerous.

    What they’ve done is inexcusable, and in doing it they ushered in a very dangerous chapter of the world’s history that many won’t survive — that is directly on their shoulders. That Zuckerberg and Sandberg aren’t fully accepting responsibility for it makes it that much more deplorable. Yes, they are now, in my mind, in that basket of deplorables. Not even through ignorance, but greed, which is worse.

    And you’ve just stated my motivations far more eloquently than I’ve been able to.

  79. 79
    dmsilev says:

    @different-church-lady: Day-by-day, maybe not much (though it would depend on the person). But then, how much day-by-day need does a typical person have for basic carpentry skills? Not much, but then there’s that one day and that one project when it becomes useful.

    Edit: And for your other point re:difficulty, like anything it’s a range. I wouldn’t expect everyone to be able to code as well or as efficiently as a professional, but just having a basic grasp of the logical thinking needed to get a computer to do a series of tasks is a good baseline.

  80. 80
    kdaug says:

    Less worried about data-mining than about AI

  81. 81
    Dnfree says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: yes, even at the layperson level there are whole books devoted to trying to explain this. The reason we all picture the Neils Bohr atom is that it’s pretty much impossible to picture anything later than that.

    Interesting side note is the book “The Strange Story of the Quantum” by Banesh Hoffman from the late 1940s apparently remains in print. It’s the most readable book on the subject that I ever came across.

  82. 82
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I’m super uncomfortable with mathematics, but I still came close to signing up for coding training at work. I ended up not doing it, because I have other priorities for my spare time right now (novel writing), but I wouldn’t rule out learning it at some point.

  83. 83
    RSA says:

    @different-church-lady:

    a) Coding requires a somewhat more specific aptitude in my view.

    Computer science education people have started to push back against this view, because (a) it doesn’t seem to have a lot of evidence in its favor and (b) to the extent that it’s held by practitioners in the field, it tends to limit participation by some groups of people, like women.

  84. 84
    Jay S says:

    @moops: @Jay S: Or what moops said.
    I have a Facebook account mostly to keep up with family and friends that were already on the platform. I have no interest in proselytizing for them or fear mongering about them. I don’t have any problem with people leaving. It might help create a healthier ecosystem to break the mono culture if a number of people left.

  85. 85
    Leto says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I think the people who hate it are uncomfortable with mathematics or anything that looks like it.

    No. I don’t hate it, but I’m at a point to where I just don’t give a shit about how software works at that level. I took some courses in college in basic programming and I’d rather have my nails ripped out than do that as a career.

    There’s also articles like this that kind of reaffirm my career choice: The Coming Software Apocalypse While a bit of a attention grabbing headline, it also points to a fundamental issue with the ever rising complexity of code.

    @different-church-lady: Pretty much everything here. Well said.

  86. 86
    different-church-lady says:

    @cosima:

    (probably amazon, which is probably going to be the next thing I have to ditch).

    It is definitely the next thing where we’ll be saying, “Wait, how did we let this have so much power over us?”

  87. 87
    The Moar You Know says:

    The fact that Facebook offers some privacy for those who can figure how to opt out of the public/shared default is worthless to me.

    @Ohio Dad: But they don’t. It’s illusory. Once my friends and I started digging, it only took a few hours to utterly disprove the assertion that Facebook’s privacy controls do anything at all. They do not.

  88. 88
    eric says:

    Gotta say, for a Jazz/Fusion fan, Facebook has been a godsend of information for bands touring and videos of bands playing out live. In many ways, for interests that are generally shunned by larger media outlets, Facebook allows for an excellent and accessible community of like-minded fans.

  89. 89
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    I thought Facebook was always ethically challenged. Didn’t Zuckerburg steel the idea from two other people while in collage, claim it as his own and been patting himself on the back every since for that?

  90. 90
    Leto says:

    @dmsilev: And that’s why I have friends who enjoy coding who I can call upon to help out. Much like they call me to help with whatever problem they have that I’m good at fixing. It’s a good system and it gives us things to talk about outside of our usual scope.

  91. 91
    different-church-lady says:

    @RSA: Half the world can’t even crack how to set the clock on the microwave, and they’re trying to convince us of this?

    (And, BTW, I am not without simple-stupid experience with coding.)

  92. 92
    Mike in DC says:

    I think that the Nazis would have had to have beaten the Allies to the Bomb by maybe 12-18 months to have affected the outcome of the war. If they had a single nuke in, say, March of 1945, that might have altered the course of the war, but not the outcome.

  93. 93
    different-church-lady says:

    I’m especially enjoying seeing how so many people think there was no information on the internet before Facebook.

  94. 94

    @RSA:

    (b) to the extent that it’s held by practitioners in the field, it tends to limit participation by some groups of people, like women.

    …or any other group that might labor under the stereotype threat of being bad at math.

    @Mnemosyne: tbh most coding doesn’t really involve anything mathier than predicate logic, which you use every day already. It’s surprisingly banal. There’s a ‘joke’ that every single engineer at google thinks all they do is move data buffers around; it’s everybody else who has the interesting work.

  95. 95
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady:

    It is definitely the next thing where we’ll be saying, “Wait, how did we let this have so much power over us?”

    I seem to be one of the last remaining people who refuses to buy anything on Amazon.

  96. 96
    Ninedragonspot says:

    @cosima: Yes, small businesses and arts organizations can and donset up their own websites. Creating and securing your own platform is labor-intensive and people also have to search you out. Serendipitous discoveries will be far fewer.

    Facebook made it much easier for me to get an exceptionally detailed understanding of Taiwanese opera companies, their projects and their schedules. Learning about provincial opera companies in mainland China is 100x more labor intensive because the social media landscape there is significantly fragmented.

  97. 97
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I’m especially enjoying seeing how so many people think there was no information on the internet before Facebook.

    I seem to recall there was a lot less stupid before Facebook on the internet. Of course, I’m probably remembering it wrong.

  98. 98
    different-church-lady says:

    @TenguPhule: Based on our nteractions this past week, you are definitely getting invited into the enclave.

  99. 99
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Sure, there was tons of information. Most of the other writers I talk to have been online for years themselves. But it’s definitely more handy to be able to talk to all of them from inside one program than to track down all of the individual websites and leave separate comments on each. It’s a time saver.

    So is it unethical of me to sign my author pseudonym up for Facebook as a “real” person? 🤔

  100. 100

    “…The shallowness of their exhortations for everyone to learn coding, their ignorance of human relations, and their belief that they can change the world for the better with code alone are at best naïve….”

    Cheryl,

    It a’n’t nohow so simple as that and I suspect that, on some level, you know that it isn’t.

    The defining characteristic of our time is the abandonment of the educational enterprise.

    There are people who advocate [passionately] that everyone should learn to code. There are (? more) people who advocate [passionately] that everyone should learn a second language: you do not, I wager, find that exhortation equally shallow. The means is not the end. Learning to code is not about creating software. It is about learning to think logically, a skill that is no longer taught or respected except in a very few select environments, but a skill that unconditionally benefits those who acquire it.

    It is not about changing the world for the better with code. It is about changing the world for the better with people who know how to think — a subspecies whose extinction, if measured and predicted by the same statistical techniques that might be applied to, say, the northern white rhinoceros, is foreseeable with high confidence at a horizon of anywhere between 30 and 70 years.

    And it is not “ignorance of human relations”, but contempt, bred of accurate (if not always wide) observation, for [relations among] persons who shirk the one, sole job assigned to them by their creator(*): cultivating their minds. Such contempt may appear to be, and may actually be, a very great luxury, but so is tolerating the ongoing and escalating harms that we see going on around us, each of which is ultimately a failure of education.

    Passive aggression is not a good look; but it comes naturally to those who fight losing battles.

  101. 101
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Matt McIrvin: I was just about to join Facebook – not being on it nearly caused me to miss my multiple-of-10 HS reunion last autumn – when the shitstorm broke. Apparently the folks who were doing the organizing & the searching-for-classmates had all jumped on there for convenience (some of them live >3000 miles from the Old School) & my e-mail address had changed since the last reunion & no one had bothered to look up my phone # (still in the book).

    Since then some of the locals have been scheduling ongoing luncheons at 5-6 week intervals; fortunately the schedulers have my current contact info & are keeping me in the loop…

  102. 102
    Cermet says:

    @Mike in DC: His mistake was measuring the capture cross-section of graphite to fast neutrons to be slowed; yes, his results were a large factor off and he concluded – fortuitously for everyone – that graphite as a modulator was useless (very wrong.) Amerikan’s used graphite to make the first human made nuclear reactor and obtained plutonium; and, that is now history. If those monsters had gone that route at that time (they were ahead of the amerikans) then they might have developed the atomic bomb in time to use it. Heisenberg was a Nazi through and through and a brilliant physicist – however, as it turned out, a lousy experimentalist (but due to his stature, no one would question his result..)

  103. 103
    different-church-lady says:

    @Frank Wilhoit:

    Learning to code is not about creating software. It is about learning to think logically, a skill that is no longer taught or respected except in a very few select environments, but a skill that unconditionally benefits those who acquire it.

    Well screw teaching code then, let’s just teach logic.

  104. 104

    @Cheryl Rofer: Do it some time, we can debate Quantum mechanics, much more fun than Zuckerborg and his stupid ForceBook.
    And I like math, and can code but I see it as a necessary evil, not something I love and enjoy doing.

  105. 105
    debbie says:

    @raven:

    There isn’t much security when the world can see your posts, but “harvesting” your information to promote Donald Trump is something else entirely.

    I hate that fucking word. Give it back to the farmers.

  106. 106

    I assume anyone who wants to can find out pretty much all about me if they’re so inclined, so I’m not too worked up that FB cooperated. It’s Cambridge Analytica who seems to me to be the biggest bad actor. The stuff they pumped out wasn’t like a political ad where the political has to say “I’m Sunny Old White Guy and I approve this message.” CA produced propaganda and fed it to us.

  107. 107

    @Mnemosyne: No, not unethical. If I had to join Force Book that’s what I would do.

  108. 108
    Mnemosyne says:

    @TenguPhule:

    I seem to recall there was a lot less stupid before Facebook on the internet. Of course, I’m probably remembering it wrong.

    I started “the Internet” with AOL. You’re definitely remembering it wrong.

  109. 109
    different-church-lady says:

    @Uncle Cosmo:

    Apparently the folks who were doing the organizing & the searching-for-classmates had all jumped on there for convenience

    And that’s why it’s so damn fuckin’ evil: everyone used it because everyone else used it, whether it made sense or not.

    I knew there was something seriously seriously wrong when a friend’s widow announced my friend’s funeral service through no other means than Facebook.

  110. 110
    Cermet says:

    @Roger Moore: All correct. Heavy water was their weakness and strength. The destruction of the heavy water plant by that Norwegian patriot saved may have saved everyone from their getting a working nuclear reactor.

  111. 111
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    @Ksmiami:

    It’s nothing more than a publishing platform.

  112. 112

    @different-church-lady:

    Well screw teaching code then, let’s just teach logic.

    Okay. Which would you rather learn in:

    ∀P((OϵP∧∀i(iϵP→i+1ϵP)) → ∀n(nϵP)

    if all(person.can_climb(rung) for rung in ladder): ladder.can_be_climbed = True

    The first one is logic, the second one is code.

  113. 113
    Leto says:

    @different-church-lady: Sounds like we need more philosophy majors. Afterwards they can head to CS school to and keep going from there if they want.

    @TenguPhule: It was always there, just not displayed globally. Also the ability of the stupid to find each other, easier/faster, is greater. But it’s always been there.

  114. 114
    RSA says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: You may find this book interesting: Greenberger, M. (1962). Management and the computer of the future. MIT Press.

    It’s the report of a symposium with those attending being a who’s who of computer science (a newly named discipline at the time, I think). C. P. Snow, of Two Cultures fame, gave this warning. He was talking about the government rather than private companies but he was still prescient:

    Let us take this as the existing state of our world. And now, the computer comes on the scene. Previously, it seems to me, we have had two groups of persons in secret government: the circle of scientists who are knowledgeable about what is happening and which decisions must be made, and the larger circle of administrators and politicians to whom the scientists’ findings have to be translated. My worry is that the introduction of the computer is going to lead to a smaller circle still. I am asking a question; I am not making a definite prediction. Instead of having the small group of scientists, knowledgeable enough to have something to add to the decisions, I am asking whether we are now running into a position where only those who are concerned with the computer, who are formulating its decision rules, are going to be knowledgeable about the decision. If so, instead of having a small circle of scientists and a large circle of administrators, we shall have a tiny circle of computer boys, a larger circle of scientists who are not familiar with the decision rules and are not versed in the new computer art, and then, again, the large circle of politicians and administrators.

    It seems to me that it is going to require a tremendous effort to try to make all scientists in government literate in computers, and it is going to be quite impossible to make anyone else in government literate about computers at all. I know that you can do all kinds of things with these beasts. You can build in rules so that they defer to human judgment. Nevertheless, I suspect that the chap standing next to the machine, who really knows how it makes decisions, and who has the machine under his command, is going to be in an excessively influential position. If there is anything in this, we are running into an added danger.

  115. 115
    Cermet says:

    @Dmbeaster: The uranium enrichment was an issue; that is why they needed a working reactor; burning uranium (unenriched) is very easy IF one has both heavy water and ok graphite or one can use ultra pure graphite and a trace of heavy water (amerikans) and find plutonium which is trivial to separate (only requires simple chemical methods.) Had the Germans developed a working reactor, they’d have quickly discovered plutonium and realized how to make an atomic bomb using that easy to get material.

  116. 116
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I started “the Internet” with AOL. You’re definitely remembering it wrong.

    Ah yes, I’d forgotten about dial up connections.

  117. 117
    moops says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    So is it unethical of me to sign my author pseudonym up for Facebook as a “real” person? 🤔

    won’t work. All of these companies employ de-anonymizing technology. Reconnecting identifying information with online database content. There are whole specialties around linking up a person’s many aliases.

    So, your Facebook friends probably don’t know about your aliases, but the big data firms use that linkage to fix data anomalies.

  118. 118
  119. 119
    Fair Economist says:

    @different-church-lady:

    1: is it phrased as “Coding is a useful thing to know,” or “Coding is the future, everyone who doesn’t will be obsolete”?

    2: Does it make any more sense than encouraging people to learn ballroom dancing or small engine repair?

    For a long time it did. Being able to code let me do lots of things with data analysis and simulations I’d never have been able to otherwise. The arrival of Big Data, however, has professionalized analyzing data and now a lot of what can be done by a single person with coding skills has already been done by somebody else.

  120. 120
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I knew there was something seriously seriously wrong when a friend’s widow announced my friend’s funeral service through no other means than Facebook.

    You’re kidding. Every funeral I’ve been to has involved 1)Phone call and/or 2) Written notice & invitation.

    Its one of those things like wedding invitations where people are supposed to actually sign their name with real ink….its traditional!

  121. 121
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    I have to be careful, though — authors have been banned if Facebook figures out that their account is a pseudonym.

  122. 122
    different-church-lady says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Ah yes, I’d forgotten about dial up connections.

    I’m pretty sure Yahoo is trying to bring them back: my email* now only works about every fifth try.

    (*not a Yahoo account, but serviced by Yahoo servers nonetheless…)

  123. 123
    different-church-lady says:

    @TenguPhule: I’m as serious as the diabetes that killed my friend.

  124. 124

    @Frank Wilhoit: Well, I wrote what I wrote because that’s what I wanted to write because it is a manifestation of what I think. Not everything I think, to be sure, because that wouldn’t fit in a thousand words. It’s possible you think something else.

  125. 125
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady: Gah!

    /I feel old now.

  126. 126
    No One of Consequence says:

    @The Moar You Know: Umm, you’re a techie for more than 15 years, and you didn’t see Facebook clearly as what it was at least a decade ago?

    Not chastising, just honestly as confused as you why people are surprised by the revelations. Technically inclined people that did not see/understand/extrapolate — doubly so.

    Facebook has been evil, and it has been evil for quite some time. This is not news.

    Ironically enough, I would have signed up to the Book of Feces a long time ago had they allowed for Anonymous accounts. Or registering with a screen name. After a small amount of user data was obtained, it would be a trivial matter to match up my online behaviours with a real world identity.

    Luckily, I avoided the whole thing. Social Media help some (allegedly), but I never saw the allure of having other people know (or have insight to) what I am up to in the real world. Not a nefarious individual criminal, but rather just a private person who does not like to advertise anything about myself if I can avoid it. “Live beneath the notice of the Gods…”

    – NOoC

  127. 127

    @Major Major Major Major:

    The first one is logic, the second one is code.

    Guess you’ve never used APL.

  128. 128
    Mnemosyne says:

    @moops:

    I’ll have a blog and Twitter account to go with it. But, really, I wouldn’t be trying to go full anonymous, just establish an author account. I would prefer to keep my personal and author accounts totally separate.

    I have to admit that I find it quite indicative of Facebook’s priorities that they’ll ban authors whose books have a shirtless man on the cover but if you want to talk establish an account to talk about how we need to kill all the Jews, that’s A-OK.

  129. 129
    different-church-lady says:

    @No One of Consequence:

    … just a private person who does not like to advertise anything about myself if I can avoid it.

    Let’s face it: we’ll always be seen as the freaks.

  130. 130

    @schrodingers_cat: The parts of “Copenhagen” in which Bohr and Heisenberg discuss quantum mechanics are both accurate and understandable. I was wondering how people who haven’t had a course in quantum mechanics do with the play, but it seems to work for them. I am more on Bohr’s side, because he emphasized being able to picture what you are thinking, whereas Heisenberg was fine with the matrix math, no pictures.

  131. 131
    Amir Khalid says:

    This Facebook scandal is a real-life version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Zuckerberg & Co are nowhere near as innocent as Mickey, but they have proved as unknowing of what they unleashed and as unable to control it. It makes things worse that, having grown rich and influential from Facebook (just months ago Zuckerberg was talking about running for President), they are naturally loth to agree that it needs some very serious reining in.

    I think any technology goes through this: people learn to misuse and abuse it, often in ways beyond its creators’ imagining. It takes time to learn the downside and work out how to mitigate it. Facebook handles — and worse, then lays claim to — people’s most personal information. We’ve just seen how much damage you can do with that, on a personal and even a national level.

  132. 132
    WereBear says:

    @Mnemosyne: As a person, I think they encourage you to then make a Page for your writing, and a pen name if you use one.

  133. 133

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: I picked python intentionally, for the sake of the example.

  134. 134
    Ohio Dad says:

    @different-church-lady: Software interfaces that are inscrutable and counterintuitive are not always deliberate. Having said that, FB’s security setting interface is probably deliberate.

  135. 135
    different-church-lady says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    This Facebook scandal is a real-life version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

    DING DING DING DING DING DING WINNER WINNER!!!

    …any technology goes through this: people learn to misuse and abuse it, often always in ways beyond its creators’ imagining.

    It’s a Porky Pig cartoon: eventually Porky needs a dog to control his cat problem, which was caused by his mouse problem…

  136. 136
    Another Scott says:

    @Roger Moore: We vacationed in Austria a few years ago. When we were out at the Melk Abbey one of the guides pointed to a hill a little ways away and said, something like, “Over there is where Hitler had one of his atomic bomb research facilities”… I can’t find anything specific about it in my current searching, though…

    It certainly is one of the last places one would immediately think of that that kind of work would be happening!

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  137. 137
    randy khan says:

    @cosima:

    I’m personally rooting for a class-action lawsuit, but would not be surprised if when you check that T&C box to get your FB page you basically give up every right to privacy and data protection, no matter the circumstances or who it falls into the hands of. Much like Apple did/does, which is why I stopped using Apple years ago.

    It seems odd to me to lump Apple – which zealously guards customer information to the point that some of its content partners have complained that it won’t give them *anything* – in with Facebook. Among other things, Apple is the company that started encrypting messages sent in its messaging app so that nobody, including Apple, could get at them. Meanwhile on Android, well, Google set up Android and of course harvests tons of information from users.

  138. 138
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I am more on Bohr’s side, because he emphasized being able to picture what you are thinking, whereas Heisenberg was fine with the matrix math, no pictures.

    I don’t have any links, but apparently there is a neurological difference between people who can visualize things and people who can’t. Some people literally cannot form a picture in their heads. Even artists can have trouble with it.

  139. 139
    a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio) says:

    @The Moar You Know: Imagine, 15 years ago, telling people you weren’t going to have a phone any longer, because you were fed up with the telemarketing calls and other annoyances.

    Facebook, for people who don’t do computers with much insight into the processes of what’s going on, seems about as easy and convenient (although with a lot more features) to use as your old landline. Pick it up, dial a number, talk to someone. Maybe leave a message if they aren’t there but have an answering machine. You don’t have to know a thing about how the phone works; you just have to know how to dial the number, and there you are. The simplicity, combined with what it seems to offer without any complications, makes it so desirable.

    And people with privacy and ethics concerns seem like the proponents of the Hayes Code trying to rein in the movies, another addictive technology back in the day: no-fun spoil-sports

  140. 140
    different-church-lady says:

    @a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio):

    Facebook, for people who don’t do computers with much insight into the processes of what’s going on, seems about as easy and convenient (although with a lot more features) to use as your old landline. Pick it up, dial a number, talk to someone. Maybe leave a message if they aren’t there but have an answering machine. You don’t have to know a thing about how the phone works; you just have to know how to dial the number, and there you are. The simplicity, combined with what it seems to offer without any complications, makes it so desirable.

    Maybe someday we’ll invent another version of this. We could call it… e-mail.

  141. 141
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady:

    It’s a Porky Pig cartoon: eventually Porky needs a dog to control his cat problem, which was caused by his mouse problem…

    ‘A little old lady that swallowed a spider that wiggled and jiggled inside her….

  142. 142

    @Mnemosyne: Suggested name for this is aphantasia. Fascinating.

  143. 143
    Mnemosyne says:

    @WereBear:

    Yeah, but I don’t trust them to keep my real name and my pseudonym separate. And with good reason, as it turns out.

  144. 144
    Jack the Second says:

    The shallowness of their exhortations for everyone to learn coding, their ignorance of human relations, and their belief that they can change the world for the better with code alone are at best naïve.

    I’d like to add “their belief that technologists can step into any field and revolutionize it”. The urban agriculture and medical startups particularly cheese me off, by trying to solve problems (a) without understanding the field and the state of the art and (b) without understanding what the actual problems that need to be solved are and (c) without actually designing a viable solution to a problem.

  145. 145
    Ohio Dad says:

    @The Moar You Know: I’ll take your word that Facebook privacy settings don’t work. I don’t have an account so I don’t know.

  146. 146
    suezboo says:

    One reason for staying on FB you might consider is people like me – old, housebound. It’s the only way to stay in touch with my family and friends. And you’re right – I don’t use Twitter or Snapchat or any other social media. Me and my friends only know and understand (very simplistically) Facebook. Also, I belong to a feminist group that has been together since 2000. This is our means of hanging out. So, I’ll be staying.

  147. 147
    Baud says:

    To sum up this thread, everyone should learn nuclear physics and nuke Facebook from orbit.

  148. 148
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    The current exhibition at that family museum in the Presidio is about a famous and successful (and recently Oscar-winning) artist who says he cannot picture things in his head, and that’s one of the reasons he draws. 🤔

  149. 149
    different-church-lady says:

    @suezboo:

    It’s the only way to stay in touch with my family and friends.

    Why do you think this?

    How did this happen?

  150. 150

    @Cheryl Rofer: Ladder operators are so elegant, though. Team Heisenberg and Dirac here. But without Bohr, there would be no Heisenberg or Dirac or Schrodinger.

    ETA: How are the kittehs? How is the walking on the leash program?

  151. 151
    different-church-lady says:

    @Baud: In that order. By necessity.

  152. 152
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud:

    To sum up this thread, everyone should learn nuclear physics and nuke Facebook from orbit.

    I thought it was learn coding and then prove through Logic that Facebook doesn’t exist?

  153. 153
    Baud says:

    @different-church-lady: Right. What could possibly go wrong with email?

  154. 154
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud:

    Right. What could possibly go wrong with email?

    What we need are virtual dogs that attack the virtual mailmen delivering all those spam and viruses through the tubes.

  155. 155
    Baud says:

    @TenguPhule:

    I like, therefore I am.

  156. 156

    @Baud: Servers in the basement, that can kill your Presidential ambitions.

  157. 157
    Ruckus says:

    Science and the discoveries that it makes, good or bad, are no different than any other time in the history of humans, we like all animals are supposed to survive, and that will get you good and bad. Some things in science just make it easier to be very very bad. We are supposed to learn and adjust, to control the bad, to watch that what we allow doesn’t wipe us out. Hard to do that when a significant segment is actively trying to fuck the rest of us.

  158. 158

    @Major Major Major Major: Your logic example looks like APL code.

  159. 159
    different-church-lady says:

    @TenguPhule: To go along with our robot dogs that the robot mailmen need to beat off with hockey sticks.

  160. 160
    Baud says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Thankfully, mine are in the attic.

  161. 161
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Young Black man talking on his cell phone gets shot 20 times by cops while standing in his freaking backyard. This is beyond infuriating.

  162. 162
    Baud says:

    @Patricia Kayden: Yes, it is. It seems there’s no end in sight.

  163. 163

    @Baud: Better not let Garbage Times find out, just in case they decide to make that into YUGE issue.

  164. 164
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Have you ever tried to do more than two rounds of a group email?

  165. 165
    Corner Stone says:

    HR MCMASTER OUT!!!

  166. 166
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    MSNBC: McMaster out, Bolton in.

    I didn’t think he’d go that far

    Mattis>? Your ball

  167. 167
  168. 168
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: Ever tried to do a conference call?

  169. 169

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: I can’t say I’m surprised there’s a sixty-year-old programming language that uses a log of symbols from logic, set theory, and linear algebra.

  170. 170
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady:

    To go along with our robot dogs that the robot mailmen need to beat off with hockey sticks.

    Point of order, the hockey stick actually failed to stop the robot dog.

    Gonna need a bigger boat.

  171. 171
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Once and maybe current self-ID’d Republican

    Daniel W. Dresser @ dandrezner
    This will be a clusterfuck the likes of which we have never seen before.

    I’m not gonna sugarcoat this: we’re fucked.

  172. 172
    donnah says:

    OT: Mc Master out, Bolton in

  173. 173
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Mattis>? Your ball

    Mattis is greater than the question of your ball?

  174. 174
    Ruckus says:

    @The Moar You Know:
    The hive mind?
    You leaving suggests that they should as well, that their staying is therfore wrong, making them wrong. And they know it.n

  175. 175
    different-church-lady says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    MSNBC: McMaster out, Bolton in.

    Wonder who will replace Bolton next week…

  176. 176
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Corner Stone:
    And John fucking Bolton is in.

  177. 177
    TenguPhule says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    MSNBC: McMaster out, Bolton in.

    I didn’t think he’d go that far

    Stock market is going to be so fun tomorrow.

  178. 178
    different-church-lady says:

    @TenguPhule: But it was weilded by a human, not a robot.

  179. 179
    Baud says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Dems are still worse.

  180. 180
    rikyrah says:

    So much of what has been discussed in this thread is.over my head, but I have enjoyed reading the comments.😄

  181. 181
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady: I believe in a contest of wood vs metal, the metal tends to win no matter who’s got wood.

  182. 182
    TenguPhule says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    And John fucking Bolton is in.

    Shit is fucked and we’re all gonna die. /

  183. 183
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    How do you get the people with hearing impairments on the call?

  184. 184
    different-church-lady says:

    @TenguPhule: Hockey sticks are mostly carbon fiber nowadays.

  185. 185
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Corner Stone: Mattis is the biggest question mark

    @Baud: Bernie would’ve appointed Code Pink

  186. 186
    Ksmiami says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: that’s why if you aren’t freaked out by sentient/hyper intelligent ai you’re doing it wrong….

  187. 187
    Mike in NC says:

    McMaster shitcanned in favor of maniac Bolton. Stock market tanking over $60B trade war. Terror attack at Travis AFB. What madness will drop on Friday?

  188. 188
    TenguPhule says:

    @Baud:

    I like, therefore I am.

    Well played.

  189. 189
    bemused says:

    Jesus freaking Christ. John Bolton. Getting more insane by the hour.

    K Conaway talked about opioids and said people should just eat ice cream and fries and they’d be better off.

    I can’t even.

  190. 190
    debbie says:

    @Baud:

    Now, that I can understand!

  191. 191
    Thoughtful David says:

    @Baud:
    I’m good with that.

  192. 192
    different-church-lady says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Yes, but they believed, like the chemists of the 19th century and the physicists of the early 20th century, that their technology would be the one to save the world. And that the good things it brought (which are real, in all three cases) would be the whole story. It always turns out that there’s another side too.

    It’s like you’re the only sane person left.

  193. 193
    Baud says:

    Did Bolton shave his stache?

  194. 194
    debbie says:

    @Corner Stone:

    This administration gets worse by the minute.

  195. 195
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mike in NC:

    What madness will drop on Friday?

    Donald Trump proclaims that all dogs must live with cats under pain of death.

  196. 196
    Corner Stone says:

    @Baud: If Trump hired J DiGenova then he has lost any sense of “central casting”. He’s at the dregs of society.

  197. 197

    @TenguPhule:

    the hockey stick actually failed to stop the robot dog.

    I saw that video, he wasn’t even trying.

  198. 198
    different-church-lady says:

    @Major Major Major Major: If we knew more code, we could program the hockey stick better.

  199. 199
    debbie says:

    @TenguPhule:

    I no longer have anything in the market (it’s all in my mattress), but I’ve kept MarketWatch open on one of my monitors at work. There has been much frenzy of late.

  200. 200
    Corner Stone says:

    @debbie: As his time is running out, Trump lumbers forward in an attempt to grasp the puzzy of Peak Wingnut.

  201. 201
    PJ says:

    @suezboo: @different-church-lady: I realize that comparing these situations is hyperbolic, and that the dangers are not on the same scale, but I wonder if the problem with people being unwilling to give up Facebook, when the postal service, telephone, and email exist (and are simpler to use than Facebook), is similar to when a major hurricane or other natural disaster is approaching, and there are always hundreds of people who stay, because the simple thought of having to do something different than what they have done every day for the past 10 years is too daunting, and the notion that they might suffer real damage seems too remote.

  202. 202
    Amir Khalid says:

    @different-church-lady:
    Field-hockey sticks are still mostly wood, although the better ones are reinforced with fibre-glass or carbon fibre.

  203. 203
    cosima says:

    @randy khan: Harvesting data + secrecy are Apple’s bailiwick, and they were doing that, and lying about it, while Facebook was the new kid on the block. Long ago there was the big reveal of the data hack that had happened year? two years? prior. Apple users’ IDs hacked, data stolen, etc. Mine was part of that — but they never told me until a charge was made to my account/ccard. I asked them for documentation about xyz, and they said I would have to !!!file a xyz motion!!! They would not even give me information about what data of my own was stolen. Back then they were also lying about tracking phones. And tons of other stuff. There are many parallels between FB and Apple when it comes to policy, data & modus operandi.

  204. 204
    GregB says:

    Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.

  205. 205
    debbie says:

    This is now the Fox Presidency. Pray for us all.

  206. 206
    Brachiator says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    MSNBC: McMaster out, Bolton in.

    I didn’t think he’d go that far

    All the insider whispering strongly hinted at this.

    God, Bolton is a typically terrible pick.

  207. 207
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Hillary the Hawk, Donald the Dove

  208. 208
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator:

    Bolton is a typically terrible pick.

    You have a talent for understatement.

  209. 209
    stinger says:

    @different-church-lady: The mindset of what Cheryl Rofer refers to as “Silicon Valley boys” often includes some rugged-individualist free-love Heinlein fandom:

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

    Nemmind that most of them can hardly do any more of these than “program a computer”; they still like to think of themselves as a combination of Lazarus Long and John Galt.

  210. 210
  211. 211
    TenguPhule says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Donald the Zombie Cannibal Nazi Dove

  212. 212
    Elizabelle says:

    The deplorable has hired the despicable. Bolton scares me.

    I think he scares a lot of congresscritters too. Maybe we will get some more oversight by the few rational GOP out there. The Democrats are more than woke.

    This is scraping the fucking barrel.

  213. 213
    Ninedragonspot says:

    1) Would Bolton require Senate confirmation?
    2) Bolton’s name turns up as a major client of Cambridge Analytica. Potential problem for Bolton?

  214. 214
    TenguPhule says:

    @Ninedragonspot:

    1) No, its not a confirmation required position

    2) Not with these people, its a badge of honor.

  215. 215
  216. 216
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    this is comforting

    Rick Wilson @ TheRickWilson
    STRAP IN.

    BRACE FOR IMPACT.

    BRACE BRACE BRACE.

  217. 217
    TenguPhule says:

    @Elizabelle:

    This is scraping the fucking barrel.

    We descended below the barrel in 2017. Now its hitting the inner mantle.

  218. 218
    different-church-lady says:

    @stinger:

    Nemmind that most of them can hardly do any more of these than “program a computer”

    And they’re all diligently working on a robot that can do all those things for them.

  219. 219
    Leto says:

    @Mike in NC: what attack at Travis?

  220. 220
    different-church-lady says:

    Is there something wrong with me that I know the Doomsday Clock is about to be set for 2 seconds to midnight and all I want to do is continue throwing shade at tech bros?

  221. 221
    OldDave says:

    @Major Major Major Major: At first glance I thought example A was APL. :-)

  222. 222
    Cermet says:

    Fucking great! A thread where we discus the atomic bomb and a Danish and German scientist that helped them get developed and Bolton’s name is thrown in the insane asylum called the white house. What a fucking turn of events – that raving foaming at the mouth and complete mad-man bolton teamed up with the fart for brains tRump. You jackals really have good timing on threads.

  223. 223
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Was it DeWine or Voinovich (sp?) who wept on the Senate floor about Bolton’n nomination to the UN ambassadorship?

    @different-church-lady: I’m thinking I’m gonna run to the store and pick up some fried chicken, french fries, ice cream and three or four boxes of their finest Bordeaux

  224. 224
    TenguPhule says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Is there something wrong with me that I know the Doomsday Clock is about to be set for 2 seconds to midnight and all I want to do is continue throwing shade at tech bros?

    No, its your natural defense mechanism against a world gone completely mad.

  225. 225
    TenguPhule says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I’m thinking I’m gonna run to the store and pick up some fried chicken, french fries, ice cream and three or four boxes of their finest Bordeaux

    Live like there’s no tomorrow!

  226. 226
    different-church-lady says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: …and… what the hell, gimme a kilo of your best heroin!

  227. 227
    moops says:

    @a thousand flouncing lurkers (was fidelio):
    Facebook is kinda like the old phone system and phone books. Except they explicitly make you agree that they get to listen and archive to every call you make and scan that data to target you, and can chime in occasionally with an ad.

  228. 228
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PJ:

    the postal service, telephone, and email exist (and are simpler to use than Facebook)

    I belong to 5 different Facebook groups for writers with about 25-50 people per group. One of them has 150+ people. How is it easier for me to write them each an individual email, or even email the whole group, again?

    Several of the groups also have an email loop through Yahoo! Groups that allows you to email the entire group at once. Some people use that a lot. Others never use it.

    People have reasons for using Facebook other than stupidity or laziness. It’s very good for specific things, like maintaining a group of people who share an interest.

  229. 229
    Mnemosyne says:

    @stinger:

    Didn’t Lazarus Long have to live for, like, 500 years to be able to do all of that?

  230. 230
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @randy khan: I’m staying on facebook because: 1 my information has doubtless been harvested already 2. I don’t do their stupid quizzes; 3 My political persuasion isn’t that hard to find; 4 I only am “friends” with a few people of whom most are related to me by blood; 5 It has proved to be really valuable to us in times of crisis e.g. a death in the family; 6 It’s how I connect with our local Indivisible group see notices of events, etc.; 7 Even my Equifax information has been hacked so what’s left to take? and 7 I like the animal videos. Also most of my profile is fake.
    I think Zuckerberg is deplorable but I have the feeling he may be sidelined soon.

  231. 231
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    You gotta find your escapism where you can.

  232. 232
    debbie says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Voinivich is prone to weeping, so likely it was him.

  233. 233
    different-church-lady says:

    @moops:

    Facebook is kinda like the old phone system and phone books.

    …if every time you picked up the phone the numbers had been rearranged, and “dialing” a call was somehow different from “placing” a call, and the call got sent to all your friends’ phones unless you clicked the receiver a certain way, and your friends could use your phone to scream racist insults at your other friends and…

  234. 234
    J R in WV says:

    @TenguPhule:

    I seem to be one of the last remaining people who refuses to buy anything on Amazon.

    Me too. I finally gave in to order a part for our new dishwasher, which was easy to install with the aid of a video on Youtube. Then I saw that one of our credit cards (the one I paid for the dishwasher part with!) had been putting bonus points aside for 30+ years.

    We still have a 4 digit credit with Amazon. I don’t use it a lot, but when I need it, it’s there for me. I much prefer going to the local hardware store when they have what I need, but they don’t carry dishwasher parts, do they?

  235. 235
    PJ says:

    @Mnemosyne: Most (all?) email programs have a group email function, where you assign the individual emails to the group, and then just put the group in the address field, and everyone gets the email.

    I realize that most people use Facebook because it is convenient for them. Convenience and money are now the only virtues in our society.

  236. 236
    stinger says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I used my real name but some of my other FB personal data is Fake News.

  237. 237
    Ninedragonspot says:

    @TenguPhule: I meant “is there a potential legal problem” for Bolton. I assume the folks looking into Cambridge Analytica could end up seeing Bolton’s name, too.

  238. 238
    different-church-lady says:

    @PJ:

    Convenience and money are now the only virtues in our society.

    What happened to our society where leaving the house for the groceries that are available to us at about 16 stores within a half mile radius is just far too arduous a task?

  239. 239
    Gravenstone says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: On the one hand, frightening re. NK and Iran. On the other, someone posted a couple current tweets from Bolton yesterday that were seriously anti-Putin. Gonna be a dilemma for Trumpster as to which side of Boston to listen to.

  240. 240
    moops says:

    I would say the time is ripe for a new social media startup to provide the base functionality that Facebook uses to hold on to the bulk of their users: groups and friends. A few ads in the sidebar to pay for the servers and developers, or better, a small yearly fee. Have the users actually be the customer.

    provide a way to initialize from a Facebook dump, off you go.

    Users can shop around, market forces, etc.

  241. 241
    divF says:

    @RSA:

    for some people, being able to program a machine such that they’re in complete control of it (to a first approximation) is something like a drug

    Fred Brooks writes about this at the beginning of his book, “The Mythical Man-Month”, written in the early 1970s:

    Computer programming, however, creates with an exceedingly
    tractable medium. The programmer builds from pure
    thought-stuff: concepts and very flexible representations thereof. Because the medium is tractable, we expect few difficulties in implementation; hence our pervasive optimism. Because our ideas are faulty, we have bugs; hence our optimism is unjustified.

    He then proceeds to demolish this delusion in the remainder of the book.

  242. 242
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PJ:

    Most (all?) email programs have a group email function, where you assign the individual emails to the group, and then just put the group in the address field, and everyone gets the email.

    Because following an email conversation between 5 different people is easy and not confusing at all, especially when two people respond to different things at the same time, and then three other people respond to those two things while the other two respond to what the other said. Nope, that’s not confusing or frustrating at all, ever.

    Convenience and money are now the only virtues in our society.

    I realize I’m strange for preferring to get a text message on my phone when my bank account is about to be overdrawn rather than getting a letter three days later after I’ve already run up $200 in fees. What can I say — I like the convenience of finding out I’m at risk of an overdraft fee before I actually get charged.

    And you don’t have to tell me about the good ol’ days when life was less convenient and if I screwed up and forgot to pay my credit card bill, I had to send the money via Western Union. Doing things the inconvenient way is great if you have lots of time and money. Not so much if you’re poor or have to work.

  243. 243
    EthylEster says:

    @PAM Dirac: I agree about the Rhodes book. The PBS series about Oppenheimer (played by Sam Waterston) was also very good.

  244. 244
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I only just got off crutches after screwing up my knee. Sorry I was too lazy to do my own grocery shopping while on crutches.

  245. 245
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m so old I can remembrer a time when people actually kept track of how much money they had. Or even gave a shit.

  246. 246
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: Wow, there’s a whoooooole lot of people on crutches nowadays.

  247. 247
    WereBear says:

    @Mnemosyne: True. Maybe a group? The thing is, they are such an enormous influence; it’s would be like boycotting newspapers when you are trying to start a business back in the day.

  248. 248
    afanasia says:

    @different-church-lady@Elizabelle:

    The deplorable has hired the despicable.

    What an elegant way to describe this grotesquerie.

  249. 249
    PJ says:

    @different-church-lady: That would mean having to get up off the couch, putting on pants, getting on to the Rascal, rolling out to the minivan, and driving all the way to the store, and then, once I’ve gotten the groceries and paid for them, having to do it all over again in reverse – are you trying to torture me?!!

  250. 250
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I know, I’m a horrible person for having a learning disability. We should go back to the days when people called me lazy and stupid for not being able to keep track of things rather than letting me have tools to cope with my ADHD.

    And, yeah, there are a lot of disabled people who are now able to get out and do things because we as a society have made things more convenient for everyone, which not coincidentally has also made life more convenient for the disabled.

  251. 251
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PJ:

    So when I have my knee surgery in a few months, you’re volunteering to pick up all of my groceries for me, right? I mean, you wouldn’t want me to have to order them online or anything horrible like that.

  252. 252
    different-church-lady says:

    @PJ: No, no, it’s much worse than that: it would mean… NOT USING YOUR SMARTPHONE!!!

  253. 253
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: So what you’re saying here is that there are a whole lot of non-disabled people in the world who are really into behaving like they’re disabled?

  254. 254
    Brachiator says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Bolton is a typically terrible pick.

    You have a talent for understatement.

    Trump does something dangerous and stupid on a day ending in the letter y. It’s hard to be shocked anymore.

  255. 255
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I’m saying there are way more disabled people out there than you seem to realize.

  256. 256
    different-church-lady says:

    Personally I think the world would be a much better place if people knew how to write code that would get their groceries for them.

  257. 257
    PJ says:

    @Mnemosyne: My experience with Facebook mostly involved untagging my name from unflattering photos, so I am familiar with with how frustrating technology can be.

    Look, if you want to continue using Facebook when you are aware of the dangers, that’s fine. I certainly don’t care. But don’t pretend that there are no alternatives that may be better or safer, let alone think about making certain tech applications better and safer by regulating them like utilities.

  258. 258
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: Wheelchairs: not just for people with ambulatory issues. Discuss.

  259. 259
    PJ says:

    @different-church-lady: Wait, are you saying that addiction to little glowing screens to provide our every heart’s desire might actually be a disability? Get thee behind me, Satan!

  260. 260
    JimV says:

    Major Major Major Major says:
    March 22, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    “I don’t understand the hate directed at encouraging people to learn how to code.”

    I have elsewhere recommended that a simple programming course be recommended for all high school students. I don’t know of a better way to teach people logic, and that if you keep trying you can succeed by trial and error. The beautiful thing is that computers do exactly what you told them to do, not what you thought you were telling them to do – and learning the difference is one of the true meanings of education, in my biased opinion.

    different-church-lady says:
    March 22, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    “1968: if only computers existed” (quoting someone else)

    That first date is weird. I graduated MSU in 1968 with a B.S. in Physics and immediately went to work for G.E. as an “Applications Computer Programmer”, writing Fortran programs for engineering calculations on a GE 635 mainframe computer. Part of my work was to translate earlier programs written for an IBM 704 (with water-cooled vacuum tubes instead of transistors) for the transistor-based GE 635. The 704 had been in use something like ten years earlier.

    Computers were highly visible in colleges and industry in 1968 (using punched cards as input). Maybe they meant to say, “if only *personal* computers existed”.

    (I see that Dr. Rofer also replied on coding, and clarified that claiming learning to code is the cure for all ills is what annoys her. I do not claim that – but like chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt. Best if taken as directed, i.e., learned in one’s youth.)

  261. 261
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PJ:

    But don’t pretend that there are no alternatives that may be better or safer, let alone think about making certain tech applications better and safer by regulating them like utilities.

    How does telling people that they’re stupid and lazy for using Facebook encourage them to demand that the government regulate them better?

    People prefer things that are convenient. That’s human nature. Insisting that people revert to older, harder to use technology is going to be about as easy as getting people to go back to using horse-drawn carriages for their trips around town. It may be logical and better for the environment than driving, but you can’t berate people into doing it by saying they’re too in love with “convenience” if they’d rather keep driving a car.

  262. 262
    different-church-lady says:

    @JimV: That twitter account is not to be taken very seriously. In fact, not seriously at all.

    Here’s another example:

    concerned parent: if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you follow them?

    machine learning algorithm: yes.

  263. 263
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I’m so old, I remember when the milkman brought milk and eggs directly to our door. I guess my mother was too lazy to get in the car and drive to the grocery store to get it herself.

  264. 264
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m so old I can remember when my mother didn’t have a car.

    Your move.

  265. 265
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    So she walked to the grocery store, uphill, both ways in the snow? No home deliveries at all?

  266. 266
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: We lived in box in hole in road…

  267. 267
  268. 268
    PJ says:

    @Mnemosyne: To borrow a metaphor, what I’m saying is that walking a half mile or mile to the grocery store might be a healthier and more environmentally sound way to live than driving there. If, apparently like millions of other Americans, you are on crutches, maybe driving is the way to go until you get healthy enough to walk, but we should encourage and help those who are not permanently disabled to get healthier.

    ETA: And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to unplug my computer and go back to my box in the hole in the road.

  269. 269
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’m so old, I remember when the milkman brought milk and eggs directly to our door.

    /wisely decides to say nothing.

  270. 270
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PJ:

    Like I hinted above, everything old is new again. I’m old enough to remember when home grocery delivery was common and people would go to a specific type of store (butcher store, greengrocers, etc) to get additional groceries. Having everything be at the supermarket that people drive to is a recent development, historically speaking. So home grocery delivery is actually a reversion to the good ol’ days, not necessarily a sign of terminal laziness.

    I’ll add an onion for your belt to my farm box that’s being delivered next week. 😉

  271. 271
    different-church-lady says:

    Not having your own chickens and cows is also a recent development.

  272. 272
    different-church-lady says:

    So, what have we learned from this thread?

    1) It’s okay to let gigantic corporations do shitty things as long as they allow us to do things we could already do, but faster.

    2) Technology is good for helping people act like they’re disabled.

    3) I bitch about a lot of stuff.

  273. 273
    dnfree says:

    @JimV: Yeah, my thoughts exactly–1968? I was several years into my programming career by that time. But I have since been informed that I was not actually a programmer back then, nor were other women–we were just transcribing what men had already designed. Apparently I was more like a keypunch operator.

  274. 274
    PJ says:

    @different-church-lady: your facility for drolly summing up our collective stupidity is why we like you.

  275. 275
    Kayla Rudbek says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: now, I found coding (in Basic and Fortran, I will admit) to be exceedingly tedious and frustrating, and I don’t have any plans to learn coding in the future. Math, on the other hand, ranges from fun to merely useful.

  276. 276
    Procopius says:

    You ought to see if you can find a copy of Robert X. Cringely’s Accidental Empires, published in 1994. The way Bill Gates was then (when he was 36) is the way these obscenely rich psychopaths are today. Back then Bill was only worth $3 billion, and would still go out at night to do stuff. So one night he went to a convenience store to buy some ice cream. He stood in line for quite a while waiting to get the cashier, and once he did he set the ice cream down and started fumbling through his pockets. “I know I’ve got a coupon for 50¢ off,” he said. So he’s going through his pockets and the ice cream is melting and the customers are piling up behind him, and finally some big bruiser throws down two quarters. Chairman Bill took them.

  277. 277
    Procopius says:

    @Kay:

    … there WAS something noble and save-the-world about techies at one time, wasn’t there?

    Oh, yeah, actually lots of people. . One of my favorites was a guy named Phil Katz, who created the archiving tool, PKZip. It used the same algorithm as the Unix zip, and was both small and fast. In the early days when 64 kB of memory was the most that could be accessed and external storage was tape recorders it was a huge contribution to the viability of personal microcomputers. Mr. Katz distributed his program as shareware, if you liked it you were supposed to send him some money, if not you were supposed to stop using it, but he never made any effort to enforce it. Enough people sent him money that he was very comfortably well off when he passed away, but he was not like Bill Gates, screaming about how he was abused by software pirates. Brian Kildall, creator of the first widely used microcomputer DOS, CP/M, and the BIOS, was pretty cool, although I gather his wife was a bit of a bitch. Many, many people were in it just for the pleasure of showing off how smart they were. I recommend Robert X. Cringely’s book, Accidental Empires, published in 1994. Probably hard to find, but there might be a copy in your library if your town hasn’t already shut the library “to save money.”

  278. 278
    cleosmom says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Folks, it’s very very simple: Facebook people are stimulation junkies. They are deathly afraiid that if you leave, they are not going to get their hit. This has been the key to Facebook from the get go: it doesn’t work unless you drag a bunch of other people in with you.

    Well, there ya go. Pressure to conform via staying and pressure to conform via leaving.

    Another example of the practicality of “screw it. If I can’t please anybody I might as well do whatever the hell I please.”
    Fi

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Cross-posted to Balloon Juice. […]

Comments are closed.