Thursday, May 13, 2010

In Four Dimensions, We're the Fourth World.

Leave it to a Yale man to determine that the most just solution to climate change is to increase consumption:
"A third alternative would be a Rawlsian perspective that societies should maximize the economic well-being of the poorest generation. The ethical implication of this policy would be that current consumption should increase sharply to reflect the projected future improvements in productivity."
William Nordhaus, A Review on The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Four Freedoms, or Why I Still Don't Know Where Laura Merideth's Party Is.

Facebook is a great tool for inviting people to parties. It saves you all the time of going to, thinking about who you want to invite, and looking up their email addresses. It also makes me want to tear my face off. My latest unnoticed facebook strike is over the social quantification of what was previously a free-space for data entry. Your profile data entries previously linked to a search for the same string. If you had put "Cooper Union" in for "School," facebook's lame-ass search engine searched for "Cooper Union." If you put "I did not attend school, rather I was raised by wolves," facebook split this into two distinct searches for two distinct nonsensical and unique terms: zero results. For those of us who would rather not have webcrawlers persistently aggregating our name, birthdate, and personal and institutional associations, this was a swell system--those who wanted to be listed were, those who didn't weren't. The recent and subtle change has been to replace the search link with one to a distinct facebook social page. While this preserves one's ability to enter garbage and fend off the webcrawlers, it creates trackable pages for every line of garbage. Now, "rather I was raised by wolves" will be a social facebook page, cached by google, bing and whoever else, forever to remain accessible to anyone bothering to look. Given that it's garbage, there's no particular concern over this except that it's stupid.

What is disconcerting is the notion that any particular string can only have one meaning. Par Example, my previous interests include "Red Guard, Constant Revolution, and The Four Freedoms." Astute sinologists will recognize each of these as propaganda terms from the cultural revolution in China. Facebook recognized these as three social groups that I 'like'. The first was appended to "Redguard" and linked to a group of people discussing something about airsoft guns. The last linked to a group of people who were really excited about Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.

The urge to break things down into quantifiable chunks is one endemic to the engineer's mind, and I sympathize with those facebook programmers who spend all day dreaming and scheming about what they can do with their truly impressive wealth of social data. But in their efforts to macify the user experience of the social internet, facebook is recklessly tossing not only user privacy but also space for individual expression to the wind.

Also, it's just stupid.