•  3 min read

Trends, Phones and Spectacles

Once again, I've spent a lot of my week reading about all kinds of internet stuff (surprise!), so it would be remiss of me if I didn't mention Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends report. There are 294 slides to go through, but the Recode article has a great summary of some of the high points.

While we're talking macro level trends, Pew also released the latest update to their Teens, Social Media and Technology survey. The biggest takeaway: Facebook has taken a big tumble since the last survey in 2014-2015. I'm also a little surprised that Snapchat still commands as big a share of the teen audience as it does.

At a more micro level, I'm not sure if Kevin Munger's explanation of how we got to an internet full of clickbait makes me feel better to know it's not necessarily a recent phenomenon or not, but it is worth a read:

To understand how we got to this incredibly stupid media situation, it’s important to consider the history of the media in the United States. In Jonathan Ladd’s excellent book, Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters, the Georgetown political scientist explains that the first American newspaper was titled Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick. They published one issue, in 1690, which, per Ladd, “reported that the King of France took ‘immoral liberties’ with his prince’s wife.” Publick Occurrences was then banned, and America wouldn’t get another newspaper for 14 years. To avoid censorship, later newspaper adopted a different strategy, deciding that objectivity was not essential or even necessarily desirable. Writes Ladd, “Rather than attempt independence, [publishers] wedded themselves to government authorities” and “followed some policy of government preclearance of content.”

A topic of conversation that has come up a few time recently is around when and why people do and—most often—don't answer their phones. One of the (many!) things that has blown my mind since moving to the US is the number of spam and robo calls that I get. It really is kinda weird. As a general rule, I now only answer my phone if it's a call from a number that I have stored in my contacts. Everyone else goes to voicemail.

...in the last couple years, there is a more specific reason for eyeing my phone’s ring warily. Perhaps 80 or even 90 percent of the calls coming into my phone are spam of one kind or another. Now, if I hear my phone buzzing from across the room, at first I’m excited if I think it’s a text, but when it keeps going, and I realize it’s a call, I won’t even bother to walk over.

Like just about everyone else, I've also spent a little time reading about AI; I kind of swing backwards and forwards on this one... sometimes I'm excited about the possibilities, other times I'm more than a little concerned about a Skynet-type event happening (or, more likely, an AI getting rid of us because we're standing in the way of more paperclips. This week, I think I'm leaning towards the less-hopeful side of things, and John C. Havens' essay probably had a bit to do with it:

The greatest threat that humanity faces from artificial intelligence is not killer robots, but rather, our lack of willingness to analyze, name, and live to the values we want society to have today. Reductionism denies not only the specific values that individuals hold, but erodes humanity's ability to identify and build upon them in aggregate for our collective future.

Our primary challenge today is determining what a human is worth. If we continue to prioritize shareholder-maximized growth, we need to acknowledge the reality that there is no business imperative to keep humans in jobs once their skills and attributes can be replaced by machines – and like Turner, once people can't work and consume, they're of no value to society at all.

On a lighter note, Vulture ranks the 50 best moments in Star Wars, including the most recent additions to the franchise. I more-or-less agree with the list, and am especially impressed that they didn't take the easy route and put the "I am your father" reveal at number one.

Still on Star Wars, The New Yorker has a somewhat less upbeat take on the growing emptiness of the Star Wars universe. For the record, I quite enjoyed Solo, but agree that it was fairly forgettable, despite a surprise cameo right at the end.

To wrap up, I'm just going to leave this here:

The University of Edinburgh analyzed data from over 300,000 people and found a correlation between overall intelligence and wearing glasses, with a link between general cognitive function and poor eyesight. People who displayed higher intelligence were 28% more likely to wear glasses.

Yes, I wear glasses. And yes, I'm aware that correlation does not equal causation. But still.