Hashtag Activism

via Urban Dictionary:

The kind of activism undertaken when you “do something” about a problem by tweeting or posting links to Facebook, without any intent of ever actually doing something. Nothing more than a nonsense feelgood gesture so that one can say they “did something about” whatever trendy cause they’re pretending to care about. Usually only lasts a week or two before the cause is completely forgotten (i.e. it stops being cool to forward/retweet on the subject).

I forwarded a video about some unspeakable atrocities in a country I didn’t know existed until I watched the video. My hashtag activism is going to accomplish something!

Hashtag activism may not be “the answer” to our problems, but it’s a pretty damn good way to follow and contribute to a dialogue that may very well result in the discovery of some worthwhile solutions.

We certainly need to go further than tweeting and writing Facebook posts simply to satisfy our egos, but that doesn’t mean you have to shit on the work that people are doing just because they include hashtags in their social media posts relating to a cause they legitimately care about.

I’ve written in greater detail about utilizing hashtags (and Twitter in general) as a tool for organizing here.

A Note About Facebook’s Walled Garden

I didn’t stop using Facebook because of a personal disagreement with its leaky privacy policy or its advertising strategy. I stopped using Facebook because of its increasing resemblance to Aol before becoming a content company. I disagree with the walled-garden approach to online life because I believe it’s harmful to the open web. If I can avoid it, I try not to invest my personal data in services where I see this happening.

I actively prefer Google+ over Facebook even though the interests of the two companies may be aligned when it comes to the monetization of user data. The difference is that Google benefits when we use the entire web—even the parts outside Google—and is thus incentivized to promote access to the open web. With Facebook it is the opposite. Less time spent on Facebook means fewer dollars pouring into the Facebook coffers.

There’s so much more to the web than Facebook, but if Facebook had its way, it would forbid users from posting links to the outside world. It already warns users when they click links that lead to non-Facebook domains.

The current state of Facebook is one that encourages users to fear links and embrace likes. The future of Facebook is one that demonizes the very standards and practices that enabled its creation in the first place.

Learn more

Emergent Virtual Constructs

The term virtual construct is used here to denote a non-physical, digital, artificial form; the interaction with which is made possible through a human/machine interface. The term software is often used to refer to virtual constructs, but in many cases proves to be of limited use. Indeed, software can be classified as virtually constructed, but the term loses much of its significance when referring to emergent virtual constructs, whose properties are difficult to pinpoint, as they extend far beyond the boundaries of the software used to create, modify, and interact with them.

There are two types of virtual constructs: discrete and emergent.Read More »

Know Thy Quantified Self

My great-grandfather Dart lived to be 105 years old. Nearly everyone downstream of him on the family tree is still alive, including my grandfather, who was born in the 1930s and still goes whitewater rafting. Longevity runs in my genes.

That said, the last 20 or so years of Grandpa Dart’s life were less than pleasant. Although set financially, and cared for by his children, Grandpa was mostly deaf, almost entirely blind, and confined to a wheelchair by the time he passed. He had not only outlived all his friends and much of his family, but almost everyone he had ever heard of. Worst of all, he was forced to live the last 28 years of his life without his wife Olive, who died in 1983 after a decades-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In his last years he was granted only sporadic moments of mental clarity, but always seemed to manage a scoff when overhearing children referred to as “kids” (a word he believed should be reserved for youngling goats).

My 105-year-old great-grandfather is an outlier by today’s standards, but what if the average human lifespan wasn’t 67 worldwide and 80 in the US but an even 300 all around? What if we could extend our lives to 1,000 years or more? With advances in science, medicine, and technology, it won’t be long before centenarians outnumber those who live to be merely 90 or 95 years old. Researchers at the Methuselah Foundation go so far as to say that the first person to live to be 1,000 years old has already been born. Read More »

Epistemic Value in the Tweet Economy (2013)

Update 15 August 2018: Twitter has devolved to a true garbage fire of a social network, and earlier this year I deleted my account. The toxic culture of Twitter has become a negative influence in the world and on the Internet overall, and it’s a place where I no longer have any desire to maintain a presence.

First published 16 November 2010, Epistemic Value in the Tweet Economy quite accurately predicted the ways in which activists and young revolutionaries the world over would utilize services such as Twitter to stand against social injustice and organize to oppose political corruption. Given recent events in the United States surrounding government surveillance of US citizens, I now find it appropriate to repost this piece with modest and timely revisions.

Since Twitter’s launch in July 2006, this simple service has emerged to provide a new vehicle for the transfer of communication to hundreds of millions of users.

With the finite, 140-character count each tweet is constrained to, Twitter users must thoughtfully consider the content of each tweet. 140 characters can be limiting, and often Twitter users must take time to shorten links using services such as bit.ly, include relevant hashtags, tag fellow Twitter users using @replies, and consider a number of other aspects of the culture(s) and etiquette which have sprung forth from the emergent virtual structure that is Twitter.Read More »

Transhumanism in Iron Man 3

For those unfamiliar with the concept of transhumanism, you can read more about it here from the Fountainhead of Knowledge, Wikipedia. Here’s a taste:

Transhumanism: (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

The entire Iron Man franchise is packed with transhumanist themes, but number 3 lays it on the heaviest. (Unless it was more prevalent in #2, which I literally can’t make it through without falling asleep.) By the time we get to this movie in the trilogy it’s obvious there is little to no distinction between Tony Stark and the Iron Man suit.

The miniature arc reactor has been embedded in Stark’s chest since the first movie, but by Iron Man 3, the existential fusion of man + machine is complete. The suit isn’t a part of him, it is him just as much as his conscious mind and biological body are. Yes, the suit has the ability to carry out Tony’s orders independently as relayed by Jarvis and built-in AI, but when acting autonomously, the suit is portrayed as more of a silent-assassin character, separate from the Stark/Suit combo.

Here are a few points that struck me with the release of Iron Man 3:

1) Check out this movie poster. Iron Man is shown in a disheveled way, with a damaged suit and no helmet. It is significant to portray Iron Man in this manner, as it shows no clear point at which the suit ends and Tony begins. When there is no suit at all in the picture/scene, we see the man, Tony Stark. When the entire suit (helmet and all) is on screen, we see the hero, Iron Man. To portray Tony Stark as Iron Man in full armor but sans helmet–a mechanized knight in shining armor but with human face revealed–is to portray the epitome of the Transhuman Übermensch. This person is neither man, nor machine, but rather a transcendant being. He exists in a state beyond human, through technology. Both aspects (human + tech) are clearly present, yet without clear distinction.Read More »

Cypherpunks, Encryption, and Surveillance

Re: Cypherpunk rising: WikiLeaks, encryption, and the coming surveillance dystopia

It’s the long-form pieces like this one that make me love the Verge. We need more than just news coverage in tech!

My favorite line in the article comes from Adrian Lamo:

“The biggest threat to our privacy is our own limited understanding of how little privacy we truly have.”

Developing an understanding of the reality regarding cyber space and personal privacy practically compels us to “live in public,” or at least to conduct our day-to-day interactions as if we do.

Not only are we treated to a history lesson about the early days of cyberpunk culture, but we’re also asked to consider the deeper philosophical questions that arise from the increased use of politically-controversial technologies used for encryption and surveillance. For it is not their use alone which tends to make us uneasy, but rather the subsequent tactics of coercive social control exerted by state actors and government agencies that cause the public to fear and mistrust those who are charged with protecting the most revered clauses of our social contract.

As R.U. Sirius asks the reader,

“To what degree is the ubiquity of state surveillance a form of intimidation, a way to keep people away from social movements or from directly communicating their views?

Do you hesitate before liking WikiLeaks on Facebook?”