Web 20 and the Heartbreak of Algorithmia

Nevertheless, I have to confess some discomfort with the digital revolution as it has unfolded to date, and with those who take delight in all its works.  At some of the forums on interactive media at the recent South by Southwest Conference, the air was thick with self-congratulation, and the phrase “careless plunder” kept coming to mind.There is obviously a great deal to celebrate about the Internet and the promise of digital broadband, especially a vast increase in access to knowledge, global communications and opportunity. But there is much that should give us pause as well, including the absence so far of a healthy business model for content creators and publishers. “How long is too long to wait?” Jaron Lanier asks on behalf of Internet-starved musicians in his new book, You Are Not a Gadget. “Isn’t 15 years long enough to wait before we switch from hope to empiricism?”The most promising new business models for journalism are not promising at all. Consider “content farms” like Demand Media, a factory of drive-by, slave-wage piecework on such enervating nano-topics as the best way to unbend knitting needles or scour a soiled hubcap. Why such subjects? There is an algorithm for that: Simply mine billions of search results, match keyword results to ad-adjacency rates, then cross-ruff the likeliest terms with their search rankings and assign the result to reporters ($15 per piece), videographers ($20), a copy editor ($2.50) and a fact-checker ($1). Demand Media publishes 4,000 articles and video clips every day. Their goal for next year is a million a month.Demand Media started out doing its work the usual way, but its editors lost their jobs when it was discovered that the algorithm could do all the assigning while delivering almost five times the revenue and 20 times the profit. Presto: “You can take something that is thought of as a creative process,” the algorithm’s inventor told Wired, “and turn it into a manufacturing process.”A New Social DiseaseWhat we have here may be the early symptoms of a new social disease—call it algorithmia—in which the magic of literally unthinkable, computer-enabled mathematics can mesmerize the culture, just as it dazzled the best minds of Wall Street and nearly took down the U.S. economy.The Internet’s principle effect on commerce has been disintermediation, a fittingly clinical term for cutting out the middle of the supply chain between producer and consumer.  But the holy algorithms of Web 2.0 enable an even more fateful and ugly disruption: the disintermediation of content and meaning.We can comfort ourselves with the thought that more people are reading more “news” than ever before, but in fact most real news is still being reported by our increasingly enfeebled newspapers, and our common wealth of information is declining as their staffs do. What has really increased is dissemination and opinion, a lot of reheated rephrasings meant to thicken the aggregatorial stew.It is difficult to see the way from here to a more humane digital world, but it is not hard to see some aspects of the business model that will get us there: It will place the power of granting significance back into human hands, reward the pursuit of truth and beauty and put digits to the work of hearts and minds. James R. Gaines is the founder of Story River Media, a Washington, D.C.-based publisher devoted to interactive multimedia story-telling across all digital platforms for corporate, government, non-profit and publishing clients. He is the former managing editor of TIME, Life and People magazines, and was corporate editor of Time Inc. “On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable…On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.” [Emphasis added]So said Stewart Brand at the first Hackers’ Conference, in 1984. In its entirety, the statement was true and far-sighted, but most of it has been forgotten. That famous italicized fragment, taken out of context, became the call-to-arms of an ideology loosely known as Web 2.0, embracing a broad challenge to principles of copyright, the concept of intellectual property and the usefulness and viability of “old media.” The fight that Brand predicted now verges on cultural war.Despite my long background at Time Inc., I have sometimes sided with those who blithely blame “old media” for their own distress, faulting them for blindness, arrogance and failure to adapt. As someone who has moved into digital publishing myself, I have a stake in the success of the new models that threaten their existence.Online Arrogance read more

India Signs Trade Agreement in Services and Investments with ASEAN

first_imgIndia signed the long-pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in services and investments with the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The agreement will ease the movement of professionals and increase investment with the 10 nations in the bloc for IT and other professional sectors.The deal, scheduled to be signed on 26 August by Nirmala Sitharaman at Nay Pay Taw in Myanmar, was cancelled due to the launch of the inclusive banking scheme, Jan Dhan Yogana, for which she was in charge, reports Livemint.”India signed the deal because it had to. I could not be present at Myanmar during its signing because of a genuine concern. Every member had signed it then, except the Philippines. However, the agreement was sent to us last week and we signed it today (Monday). It will have to be ratified by Parliament,” Business Standard quoted commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman.A senior commerce department official said that even though India had inked the deal, a final call on this would be taken during the India-Asean summit scheduled for November in Myanmar, which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with other heads of government.ASEAN members includes Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos. Philippines, which did not sign the deal is expected to do so once it completes domestic procedures. Although India’s FTA on goods was ratified in 2010-11, other members of ASEAN have not yet signed the FTA. Following the agreement on goods, the Indian government has recently recorded a decline in exports to the region while imports from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia continue to surge.Under FTA in goods, India has agreed with the ASEAN nations to raise import tariffs on more than 80% of traded products by 2016. “The services agreement will open up opportunities of movement of both manpower and investments from either side between India and ASEAN,” an official told The Times of India.Important aspects of the deal include: domestic regulations, recognition, market access, national treatment, joint committees on services, review, dispute settlement and denial of benefits.last_img read more

Walkers And Cyclists Head To The Fifth Ward For Sunday Streets

first_img 00:00 /01:22 To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen X – / 15For many years, the old DeLuxe Theatre stood dilapidated in in the middle of Houston’s Fifth Ward. Now it’s meticulously restored as the centerpiece of the historic neighborhood. Under its Art Deco marquee we meet Kathy Flanagan Payton. She was born in the neighborhood and she now heads the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation. “We have a bad history of being the toughest, baddest ghetto in Texas,” says Payton. “We’re tough, we’re bad, but in a different kind of way. What you’ll find here is a strong sense of family, a strong sense of community spirit.”The Fifth Ward has been around since the mid-1800’s but it suffered a period of decline after it was split apart by freeway construction in the 1960’s. Today there’s new interest in the neighborhood, and Payton says they’re working to balance development with the needs of longtime residents.  She says new money can bring in things they don’t have right now, like a supermarket. “We have to have more rooftops,” explains Flanagan. With rooftops come people. When people come, pockets. The pockets that live here today cannot support these amenities. And so our goal is to find a balance.”   Also involved in the neighborhood is Reverend Harvey Clemons Jr. of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. He says the Fifth Ward’s renewal isn’t just about buildings.“But the attitude, the level of awareness of the community, the diversity of the community, and just a sense of consciousness about community duty and responsibility,” adds Clemons. Hours for this weekend’s Sunday Streets are noon to 4:00 PM. Lyons Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic between U.S. 59 and Benson Street. Sharelast_img read more

Fort Bend County Reports Harvey Destroyed Or Damaged 6800 Homes

first_img To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Share Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez, US Air National GuardFort Bend County is tallying the wreckage from Hurricane Harvey, more than half a year on. Officials now say the storm destroyed or damaged more than 6,800 homes.“Those damaged homes, a little over 3,000 of those happened up in the Canyon Gate/Cinco Ranch area of Fort Bend County,” said Jeff Braun, Fort Bend County’s emergency management coordinator.Fort Bend took more than 30 inches of rain during Harvey. Many residents learned the hard way that they lived in the Barker Reservoir flood pool, when both Barker and the neighboring Addicks Reservoir backed up.The county has waived some of its permit fees to help people who lost their homes to rebuild and recover. Braun said the county has also completed repairs on seven bridges, 18 water control structures, and some damaged roads. But he said much work remains to be done. X Listen 00:00 /00:42 last_img read more

Texas Man With 3DPrinted Gun And Hit List Of Lawmakers Sentenced To

first_img Share Eric Gay/APA 3D-printed gun called the Liberator. A man was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday for violating a court order after he printed his own 3D gun.Eric Gerard McGinnis was not supposed to have a gun. After a violent altercation with his girlfriend, a Texas judge barred him in 2015 from possessing a firearm. A year later, McGinnis tried to buy a gun anyway, but the purchase wouldn’t go through after a background check revealed the court order.So, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, McGinnis obtained a barrel, stock, upper receiver and grip — and then used a 3D printer to create the gun’s firing mechanism. He assembled the parts into a short-barrel AR-15 style rifle, and headed out into the woods with what federal attorneys called a “hit list” of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including their office and home addresses. The list was titled, “9/11/2001 list of American Terrorists.”McGinnis was arrested in 2017 after officers heard three shots in the woods. On Wednesday he was sentenced to eight years in prison.“When he realized he couldn’t legally purchase a firearm, Eric McGinnis circumvented our gun laws by 3D-printing his weapon, eliminating the need for a background check,” said Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.While McGinnis was being sentenced in Texas, Democrats in the House of Representatives were attempting to make good on their promise to tighten gun laws. The Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved two bills expanding background checks for gun purchases. Those laws would require checks even at gun shows or in private sales. According to Politico, the legislation “stands virtually no chance in the Senate,” which is controlled by Republicans.McGinnis’ attempt to legally purchase a firearm was stymied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But legislation proposed yesterday in the Senate deals directly with 3D printable guns. A group of Democrats proposed a law that would maintain current laws against publishing 3D printed gun information over the internet.The Senate Democrats criticized President Trump’s proposal to transfer oversight of 3D guns to the Commerce Department, arguing that would make it easier for people to get access to blueprints.“The Trump administration basically gave anyone – including criminals and murderers – a green light to 3D print and sell untraceable ‘ghost guns,’” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, according to The Washington Examiner. “Thankfully, the courts have blocked this for now, but Congress needs to act to close this glaring loophole before anyone gets killed.”It’s not just Congress that is considering gun legislation. In New Hampshire on Wednesday, state lawmakers considered multiple bills that would expand background checks to close the so-called “gun show loophole”; impose a seven-day waiting period for most firearm sales; and prohibit possession of firearms at school zones throughout the state.In Nevada, the state senate also approved a bill designed to close the gun show loophole. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, all eight members of the Republican minority party opposed the bill, arguing the law was a “feel-good” measure being passed for political reasons.Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.last_img read more