Tag Archives: iPhones

What Facebook Won’t Show You


In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google’s change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years-the rise of personalization. In The Filter Bubble, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society–and reveals what we can do about it. Personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook–the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans–prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal or conservative, you can expect to see different links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes, a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos. In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs-and because these filters are invisible, we won’t know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas. While we all worry that the Internet is eroding privacy or shrinking our attention spans, Pariser uncovers a more pernicious and far-reaching trend and shows how we can-and must-change course. With vivid detail and remarkable scope, The Filter Bubble reveals how personalization undermines the Internet’s original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world.


Is Gaming Evil?

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Mostly not. It can improve reaction time, and foster cooperation and competition. But there is a Dark Side. Players who become addicted lose track of friends in the real world, and enter a kind of Virtual Reality of combat, where everyone who doesn’t look like “us” (whoever the “us” is) are seen as an enemy worthy of dying. Kinda like the ISIS view of US. Or North Korea. A few younger kids who are bullied at school may take their parent’s weapons to exact revenge. The NRA would rather have automatic weapons in wide circulation, with kids being killed by police, as the kids kill others, than to upset the 2nd Amendment…which never imagined such weapons in hands of kids. In some video games you can kill kids and cops with flame throwers, chop up women you don’t like—alive—and then piss on your victims. All “just a game,” they say. No effect whatever? Science not conclusive? Ask Lt. Col Dave Grossman, an FBI and CIA trainer, about that. He wrote for Psychology Today. What about the kids who kept notes taken from violent first-person shooters, and posted messages with direct quotes from games before they went to shoot up a school? Why do we need to have machine pistols for sale at Cabelas? What are you going to hunt with a machine pistol—snipe? Forget about guns, what about the deadening of young player reaction to violence, of older players not wanting to get “involved”…of concentrating on selfies posted to Instagram of fitness “goals?” Half of American culture is a big middle finger raised to anyone trying to “stop them,” whatever that means. Who is trying to stop you, and from what? From climbing a bell tower with a sniper rifle? Currently, few would succeed in stopping you doing that. The police rely on tips, since it’s hard to track lone wolf shooters. What if a shooter or bomber is “off the grid?” What if they are using gaming consoles to communicate, as they did in the Paris attacks? What if they know more about social media than your average bear? …What if they believe in fate and luck, not science…or their own brand of whacked-out religion (sports is also a religion, with concussions affecting the brain, and obsessive attention to “winning,” whatever that means.) All things in moderation, is one quote that comes to mind. Another is from the book “The Beginning of Infinity,” the best science audiobook I’ve ever heard, by a quantum computer pioneer who debunks bad science so well that the NY Times called it a masterpiece. “Differences in degree constitute differences in kind.” That’s one of the laws of logic. Being obsessed, as many are, and addicted to screens instead of the natural world and real friends, is a problem also mentioned by Nicholas Carr in “Utopia is Creepy.” Technology is only great if it remembers that we are still human, while in the meantime the abusers of technology (The Four) are trying to turn us into robots before our time. 

One of my novels, “Fame Island,” was narrated by a Star Wars gaming (and movie) actor. He has appeared in many TV series, from The Rockford Files to Law & Order, and the second edition of The Twilight Zone. He is heard as HK-47 on in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Currently he directs Hallmark movies. Met him in L.A., at the Audie Awards.