👓 In which I almost waste four dollars at Amazon | quomodocumque

Read In which I almost waste four dollars at Amazon (Quomodocumque)
Instructive anecdote. I needed a somewhat expensive book and the UW library didn’t have it. So I decided to buy it. Had the Amazon order queued up and ready to go, $45 with free shipping, then had a pang of guilt about the destruction of the publishing industry and decided it was worth paying a li...

👓 Maxwell House Brings You Midge’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Haggadah | Amazon

Read Maxwell House Brings You Midge's Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Haggadah (Amazon.com)
Midge's limited edition Haggadah is free with any purchase of participating Maxwell House Coffee products.

I’ve seen some old Haggadahs like this in the past from Maxwell House, but this is an awesome crossover promotion with Passover coming up.

👓 Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa | Bloomberg

Read Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa by Matt Day , Giles Turner , and Natalia Drozdiak (Bloomberg)
A global team reviews audio clips in an effort to help the voice-activated assistant respond to commands.

🎧 The Daily: How New York Lost Amazon | New York Times

Listened to The Daily: How New York Lost Amazon from New York Times

Lawmakers who opposed the company’s deal are calling its collapse a political victory, but some say this messaging may come back to haunt them.

👓 ‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism | John Naughton | The Guardian

Read 'The goal is to automate us': welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism by John NaughtonJohn Naughton (the Guardian)
Shoshana Zuboff’s new book is a chilling exposé of the business model that underpins the digital world. Observer tech columnist John Naughton explains the importance of Zuboff’s work and asks the author 10 key questions

If you can’t read Zuboff’s new book in full, this article/interview may convince you that you should anyway. It may be one of the most important things you read all year.

🎧 Triangulation 380 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | TWiT.TV

Listened to Triangulation 380 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Leo Laporte from TWiT.tv

Shoshana Zuboff is the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. She talks with Leo Laporte about how social media is being used to influence people.

Links

Even for the people who are steeped in some of the ideas of surveillance capitalism, ad tech, and dark patterns, there’s a lot here to still be surprised about. If you’re on social media, this should be required listening/watching.

I can’t wait to get the copy of her book.

Folks in the IndieWeb movement have begun to fix portions of the problem, but Shoshana Zuboff indicates that there are several additional levels of humane understanding that will need to be bridged to make sure their efforts aren’t just in vain. We’ll likely need to do more than just own our own data, but we’ll need to go a step or two further as well.

The thing I was shocked to not hear in this interview (and which may not be in the book either) is something that I think has been generally left unmentioned with respect to Facebook and elections and election tampering (29:18). Zuboff and Laporte discuss Facebook’s experiments in influencing people to vote in several tests for which they published academic papers. Even with the rumors that Mark Zuckerberg was eyeing a potential presidential run in 2020 with his trip across America and meeting people of all walks of life, no one floated the general idea that as the CEO of Facebook, he might use what they learned in those social experiments to help get himself (or even someone else) elected by sending social signals to certain communities to prevent them from voting while sending other signals to other communities to encourage them to vote. The research indicates that in a very divided political climate that with the right sorts of voting data, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of work for Facebook to help effectuate a landslide victory for particular candidates or even entire political parties!! And of course because of the distributed nature of such an attack on democracy, Facebook’s black box algorithms, and the subtlety of the experiments, it would be incredibly hard to prove that such a thing was even done.

I like her broad concept (around 43:00) where she discusses the idea of how people tend to frame new situations using pre-existing experience and that this may not always be the most useful thing to do for what can be complex ideas that don’t or won’t necessarily play out the same way given the potential massive shifts in paradigms.

Also of great interest is the idea of instrumentarianism as opposed to the older ideas of totalitarianism. (43:49) Totalitarian leaders used to rule by fear and intimidation and now big data stores can potentially create these same types of dynamics, but without the need for the fear and intimidation by more subtly influencing particular groups of people. When combined with the ideas behind “swarming” phenomenon or Mark Granovetter’s ideas of threshold reactions in psychology, only a very small number of people may need to be influenced digitally to create drastic outcomes. I don’t recall the reference specifically, but I recall a paper about the mathematics with respect to creating ethnic neighborhoods that only about 17% of people needed to be racists and move out of a neighborhood to begin to create ethnic homogeneity and drastically less diversity within a community.

Also tangentially touched on here, but not discussed directly, I can’t help but think that all of this data with some useful complexity theory might actually go a long way toward better defining (and being able to actually control) Adam Smith’s economic “invisible hand.”

There’s just so much to consider here that it’s going to take several revisits to the ideas and some additional research to tease this all apart.

👓 MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder | Wired

Read MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder (WIRED)
Even juicy divorce speculation represents a chance to acknowledge how myriad factors—and people—contribute to the success of a company like Amazon.

👓 India’s Tighter E-Commerce Rules Frustrate Amazon and Walmart Plans | WSJ

Read India’s Tighter E-Commerce Rules Frustrate Amazon and Walmart Plans by Newley Purnell and Corinne Abrams

Foreign companies will no longer be allowed to sell products from their own affiliated companies in India

NEW DELHI—India is tightening restrictions on foreign e-commerce companies operating in the country, a new challenge to Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. as they bet billions on the nascent market.

Current rules forbid non-Indian online sellers from holding their own inventory and shipping it out to consumers, as is typically done in other countries. Instead, they have found a work-around by operating as online marketplaces and selling what are effectively their own products held by their affiliated local companies.

They will no longer be allowed to sell such goods, a division of India’s Commerce and Industry Ministry said in a statement Wednesday, an apparent attempt to close that loophole.

The new rules, which take effect Feb. 1, also bar foreign companies from entering into exclusive agreements with sellers. Amazon, for example, has in the past been the exclusive third-party online retailer to sell smartphones from the popular Chinese smartphone brand OnePlus.

Abneesh Roy, an analyst at Edelweiss Securities, noted that ahead of elections set for early next year, the government could be moving to appease owners of smaller shops that have been hit as customers buy more goods online.
“Shopkeepers have been unhappy,” he said. “In an election year, the government will definitely listen more to voters.”  

It’s nice to see foreign countries looking at what has happened to coutries like America with the rise of things like e-commerce, actually thinking about them and the longer term implications, and making rules to effect the potential outcomes.

Now the bigger follow up question is: is this a good thing? Perhaps there won’t be the community interruption we’ve seen in the US, but what do the overall effects look like decades hence? From a community perspective, from a competitive perspective?

December 27, 2018 at 12:26PM

👓 I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon. | The Atlantic

Read I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon. (The Atlantic)
There’s a certain novelty, after decades at a legacy media company, in playing for the team that’s winning big.

🎧 ‘The Daily’: The Human Toll of Instant Delivery | New York Times

Listened to 'The Daily': The Human Toll of Instant Delivery from New York Times

With the rise of online retailers like Amazon, consumers’ expectations about the speed of delivery have been transformed. But at what cost?

👓 How Google and Amazon Got So Big Without Being Regulated | WIRED

Read How Google and Amazon Got So Big Without Being Regulated (WIRED)
Internet companies used to grow big and die—fast. But now a few of them are huge and entrenched, because regulators didn't foresee their dominance.
Replied to Symposium on Artificial Intelligence in 21st Century Education 2018 (youtube.com)
Artificial Intelligence in 21st Century Education
13:00 – 14:15
Probe 3: How might an ethically and morally-informed AI be conceived in a culturally diverse global context? How might we realize a more equitably-designed, developed and deployed AI in light of the rate and range of disruption some have forecast as inevitable?
Panel: Abhishek Gupta, Nevena Francetic, Stephen Downes and video clips of Timnit Gebru & Rediet Abebe
Facilitator: Tylor Burrows

For the #e21sym question about Amazon’s AI discriminating against women, we do have some control. This article about how Sears helped to provide equality in the Jim Crow south is a great historical example of how economics can create equality: https://boffosocko.com/2018/10/18/searss-radical-past-how-mail-order-catalogues-subverted-the-racial-hierarchy-of-jim-crow-washington-post/

🎧 Should We Break Up Amazon? | Crazy/Genius | The Atlantic

Listened to Should We Break Up Amazon? from Crazy/Genius | The Atlantic

Has the Everything Store become a dangerous monopoly threatening the U.S. economy?

Some time later this year, Amazon could become the first trillion-dollar company in American history. Its valuation has already doubled in the last 14 months to about $800 billion, and Jeff Bezos, its founder and CEO, is officially the richest man on the planet.

There are ways in which Amazon seems to be the greatest company in American history. It’s revolutionized the global shopping experience and expanded into media and hardware, while operating on razor-thin margins that have astonished critics. But some now consider it the modern incarnation of a railroad monopoly, a logistics behemoth using its scale to destroy competition.

So what is Amazon: brilliant, dangerous, or both? That’s the subject of the latest episode of Crazy/Genius, our new podcast on technology and culture.

To build the case for breaking up the Everything Store, I talk to Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at NYU and an outspoken critic of big tech, and Lina Khan, a researcher at the Open Markets Institute and a leading expert on antitrust policy. Both of them encourage me to see how a company famous for low prices can still behave in an anticompetitive manner. Making the case against heavy regulation for Amazon are Rob Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank, and Michael Mandel, an economist with the Progressive Policy Institute who researches technology and e-commerce. Both encourage me to focus not only on the hidden costs of Amazon’s largeness, but also on the hidden benefits.

hat tip: Atlantic Interview podcast feed

👓 ‘It’s Like Amazon, But for Preschool’ | Hack Education

Read 'It's Like Amazon, But for Preschool' by Audrey Watters (Hack Education)
A year ago, the richest man in the world asked Twitter for suggestions on how he should most efficiently and charitably spend his wealth. And today, Jeff Bezos unveiled a few details about his plan...