s2e10: Celestial Emporium; Algorithmic Copyright; Up And To The Right; More Empathy; Terms 

by danhon

0.0 Stirrup

1.0 Celestial Emporium

of benevolent knowledge[0] of things to write about, or rather, the things that are in a Notes file on my phone that I jot down whenever I think I might have something to think about in one of these episodes. So, today:

2.0 Algorithmic Copyright

Based on a previous post about unclear copyright in deep dreamed images because artificial intelligences don’t have personhood and a follow-up note from Casey Kolderup, as well as the also previously linked James Bridle thoughts on gopro cinema[1] where a) no, the neural net in the deepdream tools isn’t “alive” and isn’t something to which I think authorship or ownership in copyright attaches because right now it’s still a directed tool. The case, though, of the monkeyselfie, *that* is the interesting bit. As in:

The human and the non-human meet technology (the triggered camera) and – crucially – the law, a whole other kind of technology, assembled over time, a macroscope or hyperobject which no one of us can quite grasp, but within which we are all inextricably embedded.[1]

so, you know. Let’s have some more examples of technological artifacts that produce output interesting and valuable to humans (because that’s why we end up having these discussions – because someone wants to get out of paying a photographer for a photograph that arguably a monkey took, not the human photographer) *with a human as far out of the loop as possible*. A sort of fire-and-forget creative act that can be initiated by something that has agency in the world, but where that agency isn’t recognized through personhood in law. You know, like a monkey that can decide to grab a camera and press a button. Where a human – or something that does have recognized personhood or to which a property right like copyright can accrue, like a corporation (ha!) – hasn’t *told* the monkey to press the button.

 

3.0 Up And To The Right

 

Christopher Butler wrote a bit what we’re using technology for, part of which is the continuing race to a) measure all current attention, b) all future attention, c) place a value on that attention instead of the Real Problems that are facing humanity collectively[2] which you can smush against Maciej Ceglowski’s Web Design: The First 100 Years[3] and also Matt Yglesias’ piece about The Automation Myth[4] where he essentially calls bullshit on all the stuff our computers and IT have done over the last few decades outside of a few small areas and asks: why aren’t we having to work less, then? Why all the shitty jobs? Where’s the giant increase in productivity? I think you can just about make it out, but part of the premise of Yglesias’ piece – compared to, say, Mason’s, is that we’ve yet to accrue the benefits that we maybe *should* be accruing from technology if we so chose. On the one hand, you want growth moving up-and-to-the-right, not just because we can pull more people out of the poverty well, but also because… why? We want to preserve our first-world way of life? In which we get more and better stuff but that stuff just doesn’t work as well as it could do? Part of this whole Gross Domestic Produce and measuring productivity thing is in the tangible benefits that accrue out of the work being done – whoever and whatever is doing the work. You can then throw all of this stuff against someone like Scott Alexander’s Meditations on Moloch[5] which essentially says that there’s now no way for actors *inside* the system that we’re in to bust out of it because we’re in a race to the bottom in a gravity well that we can’t power out of. As if there’s some sort of capitalism/market-based singularity or lightcone outside of which you may not escape because as sure as e=mc^2, the change or energy required in a system required to escape a capitalist/market-based one that is trending downwards is an infinite amount. Or, in otherwords: external government intervention for the things that we do not want moving up and to the right, that would otherwise inextricably now, because of the environment, move up and to the right.

 

[0] Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge – Wikipedia – yes, that list, the one with the fabulous ones
[1] Gopro Cinema | booktwo.org – James Bridle
[2] The Last Thing We Need – Christopher Butler
[3] Web Design: The First 100 Years – Maciej Ceglowski
[4] The automation myth: Robots aren’t taking your jobs— and that’s the problem – Vox
[5] Meditations On Moloch | Slate Star Codex – Scott Alexander

4.0 More Empathy

Some (brief and continued) notes on empathy where I’m keeping alive the dream that at some point I’ll just knuckle down and write the book I’ve been promising. I’m pretty sure this thread of thought was prompted by a conversation that veterans of online community and tone of voice that Heather Champ[0], Jessamyn West[1] and co had on Twitter.

* Slack’s tone of voice is human and jokey but never patronising or condescending to the user
* Flickr’s (evolving) tone of voice by calling your photos “masterpieces”[2] has crossed a line over into a bit weird: are they being sarcastic? Are they being genuine? Not all my photographs are masterpieces! They’re just photographs!
* Medium’s frankly bizarre assertion that the recommendations your piece on their platform don’t actually count in what West accurately calls a sort of negging-by-software that’s actually trying to be familiar and your friend.
* At the same time, I’m continuing to look at examples of government technology RFPs that presuppose large organization-changing new software that rarely talks about the people who’re going to be using that software. At all.
* Something about what iTunes has turned into.

[0] Heather Champ (@hchamp) | Twitter
[1] jessamyn west (@jessamyn) | Twitter
[2] Paul Bausch on Twitter: “@jessamyn ugh, text like this sets expectations. Annoyed by Flickr “masterpiece” every upload–feels condescending. http://t.co/0951yqtzLw”
[3] jessamyn west on Twitter: “Even as @Medium congratulates me for having 50 recs they’re jokily implying I didn’t “earn” them. #neggedbysoftware http://t.co/GKdoQ1FA0r”

* Something about what iTunes has turned into.

5.0 Terms

I bumped into a recruiter who used to work at Wieden+Kennedy, the last (and only) ad agency that I worked at and we were talking about whether I’d ever go back to advertising, to which my answer was: probably not. I mean, really, really, really, probably not. I’ve talked about this before, but part of the problem is that at high enough level, advertising agencies make advertising (and advertising-the-thing-that-is-made still has a center of gravity that is _talking about things_ – even if that talking has progressed to _enabling a conversation about things_ (ugh) rather than _make a thing that is talked about_, instead of “actually solve business problems”). Nah, I’d go back to an ad agency if the terms were something like this: you’ve got a whole bunch of super creative people who are super creative in a few media and can come up with a bunch of ideas. There are a bunch of clients who have business problems and need those problems solving. There are super interesting ways of *solving* those problems that don’t involve communications and don’t involve talking about those things, or helping people have conversations about those things. In other words: there’s way more shit products that want good advertising than good products that need good advertising. And I’m way more interested in the shit products – or even just the moderately good ones that have have that hint of glitter embedded in the proverbial turd – that can get better and break through and *then* are good enough for people to have a conversation about them.

So when there’s something like HSBC’s new Secure Key campaign[0], I’m fuck-all interested if some agency has got the campaign to *tell* people about how HSBC is going to be more secure. I’m way more interested in actually *making* HSBC more secure.

And that’s not most ad agencies. Not even most of the digital agencies, either.

[0] Secure Key: two-factor authentication | HSBC UK

Sigh. Now I’m a bit angry all over again. I should just not ever think about the ad industry any more.

Best,

Dan