3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host: Kat)

3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host: Kat)

文章Kat C » 週五 3月 15, 2019 1:28 am

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Dear friends,


As someone who has wandered over the past 5 years in some 20 countries with just a backpack, I work, play, and stay in contact all on my laptop. No one I know has run up more screen time than I have. It stands that I'd care very much how the online life impacts one's real life.

And every Yoyo meeting is a great time to get off the screen for some real face time! :lol: Join me this Saturday as we take a look at the Big Tech and their tremendous reach. We'll try various discussion formats to make it even more fun. :wink:


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It's hard to deny that the Big Tech - Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix, other major info-tech service providers, along with their Chinese counterparts - have greatly shaped our work, social and leisure life. Some may even say they have controlled our life.

While I was putting this post together, the fact that I had to use various info-tech services whose practice and near-monopoly status I'm critical of was an irony that wasn't lost on me. In a way it has also proved my point.

Sure, one can boycott Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal; But Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and of course Facebook Messenger, all are social media platforms with most users just after Facebook. One can use DuckDuckGo instead of Google to avoid the user data being tracked and the filter bubble that comes with it; But Alphabet, the owner of Google, includes Android, Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps and countless apps that all collect and sell user data. And seriously, if we don't want to use either Android or Apple's iOS for our phone, just what other realistic choices do we have?

"Silicon Valley’s search and social media giants determine who sees what information, and how. Never before has such a small number of companies had the power to connect billions of people instantly—and with it, the ability to shape and alter the information ecosystems of entire societies." (WIRED)

How much "control" or "choice" do we the users have over our online activities? Have we gotten to the point that we simply can't live without certain services? How can we better navigate (if not beat) the system, once we learn more about the players and their algorithms at work? Let's talk!


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☛ The power of the Big Tech:
We'll explore some of the ideas from the links below for our discussion. The views expressed are solely those of the respective authors:


♦ We're building a dystopia just to make people click on ads (Zeynep Tufekci, UNC/Harvard, TED)




♦ Why We Can't Break Up With Big Tech (NPR)
https://www.npr.org/2019/02/10/69287714 ... h-big-tech


If you have time for longer articles or videos, here's more:

♦ Is Big Tech Merging With Big Brother? Kinda Looks Like It (WIRED)
https://www.wired.com/story/is-big-tech ... s-like-it/

♦ Who’s Afraid of Big Tech? (Cato Institute)
https://www.cato.org/events/whos-afraid-big-tech


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☛ To prepare:

If tomorrow you found that you had lost access permanently to LINE, Google, Google Maps, Gmail, Android or iOS (your mobile OS), PChome (or your favorite online shopping site), YouTube, Facebook, and your default computer browser - and also everything you had saved on those systems - what would you do or use to replace them? Please make a list of the alternatives to each app or service mentioned above.



********************************************************************************************************************************************
Agenda:
3:50 ~ 4:00pm Greetings & free talk / ordering drinks / getting newcomer’s information
4:00 ~ 4:20pm Opening remarks / newcomer’s self-introduction / grouping
(Session I)
4:20 ~ 5:20pm Activities (60 mins)
5:20 ~ 5:30pm Regrouping / instruction / break
(Session II)
5:30~ 6:20pm Activities (50 mins)
6:20~ 6:30pm Concluding remarks / announcements (10 mins)
********************************************************************************************************************************************
聚會日期:列於該貼文主題內
聚會時間:請準時 3:50 pm 到 ~ 約 6:40 pm 左右結束
星期六聚會地點:丹堤濟南店
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最後由 Kat C 於 週六 3月 16, 2019 11:21 am 編輯,總共編輯了 5 次。
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Kat C
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Re: Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host: Kat)

文章Kooper » 週五 3月 15, 2019 9:27 pm

Just to add that this is for tomorrow's meeting (3/16).
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Kat C » 週五 3月 15, 2019 10:25 pm

Thank you so much, Kooper! :mrgreen:

For those who're interested (studyholics, anyone? :lol: ), watching the TED video and reading the NPR article CLOSELY may give you even more fun in tomorrow's activities! :lol:

But if you're busy, just come ready to chat about your digital life. No worries! :sun:
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章李昰翰 » 週六 3月 16, 2019 8:57 am

The governance by a person or by few persons which came with a regime of monarchy, and it was gradually altered as a form of authoritarian or totalitarian to the followers still engaged in power centralization in not-far history track. The history told us the power centralized was quite dangerous for which the thinker advocated a separation of governance by executive, legislative, and judicial powers for sake of protection of people in a constitutional framework authorized by all people in a state, so called “a social contract”. The media has been playing a powerful role to monitor how the isolated powers excise its authority so called the forth power.
The influential of the media has been so enormously in modern society for which the media have been requested to stand in a median role for an objective and reasonable platform allowing people to deliver their opinions openly. Today’s topic about how the big techs such as google, facebook have been intervening our daily life in a way tracking every details of our behaviors and sold these data for huge gains of commercial profits. Even worsen, their capability on information domination can influence the political atmosphere, election outcome etc by way of limiting what you read with sort of screened information to the readers. The big techs actually play an essential roles on information streaming platforms which formed an even powerful strength than traditional medias as a fifth power in contemporary society. Who will supervise them? What measures should be taken to ensure big tech play a median and fair role for their social responsibility in a state? The topic creates in-depth of thinking….
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Iris Wu » 週六 3月 16, 2019 10:24 am

Most of us heard of “80/20 rule”, or the “law of vital few”, and probably agree with that. For people who have been working on software development, they usually bump up the ratio, it’s “95 to 5”, meaning, they usually spent 5% efforts to deal with 95% normal cases, and the rest of 95% of time and energy dealing with 5% exceptions.

When it gets this kind of topics, to be honest, I feel sorry for these big tech companies. I understand my statements may raise quite a few eyebrows, because nowadays these big tech firms are like “giant rats crossing the road” (directly translated from a Chinese phrase :) ), everyone wants to beat the hell out of them!

I don’t mean they should be off the hook for the mess they created, but to be fair, many of the “requests” were not in their original design. Take yesterday’s Christchurch shooting live stream as an example, everybody condemns that FB was so passive to catch and stop the live streaming broadcast. I am sure when FB, Google started, they only thought about the positive side of human connections. Now you can say they were naive or irresponsible, but the reality is the software system has grown to such a big platform over time, it may take them 5% of daily efforts to maintain their regular business and they need to spend 95% efforts to deal with these 5% extremists, psychopaths and God knows what else are out there! Can their infrastructure handle the challenges? It may well be like a century ago, the railway companies/systems quickly became outdated when highway/automobiles system was in place.

From a high level (more macro) historical viewpoint, human beings always invented and then faced the consequences of all the inventions, and we requested more and we unintentionally surrendered more to the newer inventions. Sure, from micro prospective, we can always ask these tech firms to fix certain problems, but I double we will end up what we really ask for.
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Kooper » 週六 3月 16, 2019 12:15 pm

The material shared here is quite informative but at the same time a bit overwhelming - it's understandable that we cannot have our cake and eat it too. I found it even not easy to summarize Zeynep Tufekci's TED speech. Don't get me wrong. It was a great speech. Tufekci delivered her messages in an intriguing way so we didn't get lost by all the technical jargon or the abstract concepts behind machine learning algorithms. She has made the complicated topic a lot less intimidating to digest, but it will never get to the degree as easy and straightforward as watching a cut kitten video clip.

For today, I guess I may only manage to come to the meeting with incomplete and possibly messy summary of the speech. Hopefully I could spend some more time next few days on this topic and get back with something on the forum like Winston and Iris did. They are my role models.
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Iris Wu » 週日 3月 17, 2019 9:17 am

Sorry for missing the second half of the meeting yesterday!

One question Kat asked during the Q&A, "Any solutions to deal with these giant tech firms becoming big brother?" Did anyone bring up the following during your discussion? Some Democratic presidential candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, suggested the breakup of big tech firms to solve the issue:
https://www.wgbh.org/news/national-news/2019/03/11/democratic-candidates-target-tech-giants-who-are-major-party-donors

My first reaction to this was: How ridiculous/obsolete! But I am not knowledgeable enough to comment. Maybe a breakup will create a fairer environment allowing more innovation from their competitors and we won't be controlled by a couple big brothers? But who knows if we can really escape Buddha's grasp? :(
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Kooper » 週日 3月 17, 2019 6:18 pm

Attendees(23): Alice, Antonio, Apple, Catherine, Christine Hsiu, Douglas, Ellen, Felicidad, Gloria, Iris Wu, John Huang, Julian, Kat (host), Ken, Kooper, Laura, Leon, Luis, Michelle, Sabrina, Stephen Chiu, Tim, Winston
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Luis Ko » 週日 3月 17, 2019 10:29 pm

Iris Wu 寫:Sorry for missing the second half of the meeting yesterday!

One question Kat asked during the Q&A, "Any solutions to deal with these giant tech firms becoming big brother?" Did anyone bring up the following during your discussion? Some Democratic presidential candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, suggested the breakup of big tech firms to solve the issue:
https://www.wgbh.org/news/national-news/2019/03/11/democratic-candidates-target-tech-giants-who-are-major-party-donors

My first reaction to this was: How ridiculous/obsolete! But I am not knowledgeable enough to comment. Maybe a breakup will create a fairer environment allowing more innovation from their competitors and we won't be controlled by a couple big brothers? But who knows if we can really escape Buddha's grasp? :(



how ridiculous it is, especially it's form a Democrat and a presidential candidates of Democratic Party! where is democracy then? i find some of the ted speaker's points absurd too.

the speaker said what we need to fear most is not what artificial intelligence will do to us, but how the people in power will use it to control and manipulate us; but then she said the problem is we no longer really understand how these complex algorithms work. i know her main argument is controlling and manipulating, but that's what she exactly said. she also said she watched Trump rallies clips a few times on YouTube. YouTube started recommending and autoplaying to her white supremacist videos in increasing order of extremism. and If you watched Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders content, YouTube recommended and autoplayed conspiracy left, and it went downhill from there.

does she tell all the fact about it? i doubt. i guess the situation is also the other way round. if you search rallies of Hillary, youtube might suppose you are a supporter of her too, and give you more good stuff about her. if you search Trump-Russia conspiracy, you will get a lot as well. just like she watched a video about vegetarianism on YouTube and YouTube recommended and autoplayed a video about being vegan. as you can see from the examples she offers, actually neither the algorithms, nor those people in power, can control and manipulate us. instead it's us who choose to watch what we want to that leads to the search results. she also said what if a platform decides to turn out supporters of one candidate over the other? How would we even know about it? for this question i just want to ask why? why do we have to know about it? because one would be afraid those called-out supporters' decision is not in line with one's? they are supporters of one candidate and they are called out to vote for the candidate they like. what's wrong with it? every candidate would do it by any means, and most of the time money matters. by the way, i suppose EU has GDPR is because the main targets Big 5 are not based in Europe. it would be easier for EU than for US to make the regulation, like gun control issue. that's how capitalist democracy works, isn't that? anyway, that's another story.

in my opinion, the algorithms issue is just kind of a fallacious claim, if i may say so. it might sounds like a big issue, but no, it's just depict the way how we human beings life goes, we all have always been influenced and brainwashed by the outside world. it's just one of the tools for doing it, way more potent of course. guess that's why it raises people's eyebrows ha~ to me there's no difference. that's because of human nature. we always choose what we want to and like to see/read/hear, and this kind of algorithms just offer us more, and make people more convenient to get them.

i made an example to my table members during the meeting. before the invention of internet, people could only read local news or news from domestic media from their own town or country. in that sense, firstly, the news was selected by those media, and then people chose to read what they want to read or what interested them. although it was under a democratic society, if you wanted to know more about the news outside your area, you still needed to count on yourself finding more news sources other than stick to those from local media. you have got to take the initiative to change by yourself. on the internet algorithms it's the same situation. instead of they feed you the information, you go for it. more often than not, you would always search what you want and like, and the algorithms then give you more. that's all. Leon also mentioned the inventions of radio and TV. they provide more information than newspaper do, but still, people in power can only use them to get more of your attention. at the end of the day, you are the one who choose to take it or not. but the problem is we only see what we want to see. they are all the same, aren't they?

the most valuable thing in living under Democracy is freedom. you do have your freedom to click on different ads, don't you?

at the end of the day, it all comes down to individuals, comes down to individuals' education, by which i mean how they have been brought up. and this is the one issue needs to be addressed more, in my opinion. one major problem is most people tend to take everything from what they are presented with. one of the solutions might be just like George Carlin said, though some people might not value it, it's one of my favorites, "Don’t just teach your children to read… Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything".

don't get me wrong. i don't mean the algorithms can't be a problem. it doesn’t mean we should be ostriches with our heads in the sand about the potential problem but, people want freedom, people want privacy, convenience and blablabla, what can you do to it? to solve the problem there must be a trade-off i would say. you just can't have cake and eat it, can you?
i might be a cynic and, a sceptic as well but, i'm definitely not a bad person!!
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Re: 3/16(Sat.) Is Big Tech turning into Big Brother? (Host:

文章Christine » 週一 3月 18, 2019 9:24 pm

In fact, it reminds me the season 1 Ep 1 of Black mirror -The National Anthem.
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