Listen To Stephen Fry Perfectly Analogize The Moral Panics Around Facebook To The Ones Over The Printing Press

from the do-it dept

So I'm a bit late to this, as Stephen Fry released a podcast "documentary" entitle Great Leap Years a few months back. I've just started listening to it recently, and it hits on so many of the points and ideas that I've tried to address here on Techdirt over the course of the past 20 years, but does so much more brilliantly than anything I've done in those ~70,000 posts. That is, in short, if you like what we write about here concerning the nature of innovation and technology, I highly recommend the podcast, after having just listened to the first two episodes.

And just to give you a sense of this, I'm going to quote a bit from near the end of the 2nd podcast. This isn't revealing any spoilers, and the storytelling is so wonderful that you really ought to listen to the whole thing. But this so perfectly encapsulates many of my thoughts about why people freaking out about "bad stuff" happening on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more are in the midst of a a moral panic not unlike those we've seen before. None of this is to say that we should ignore the "bad stuff" that is happening, or try to minimize it. But it does suggest that we take a broader perspective and recognize that, maybe, this is the way humans are, and it's not "this new technology" that's to blame.

The episode itself is about the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg (which also wonderfully works in some details about Gutenberg's real name that I had not known). And after going through the details of Gutenberg and his invention, discusses how the Catholic Church was initially overjoyed at the invention, noting that it could print and sell indulgences faster (which is an important call back to the 1st episode...). There's a brief discussion of how the Church suddenly realizes its "mistake" and tries to fight back, and then this:

All kinds of bad people saw the opportunity to harness the power of the printed word for their own ends. Ends that could result in burnings, massacres, and wars. The speed of the transmission of information accelerated everything.

You might say that the medieval world had been like one of those sluggish hormonally slowed down catatonic patients in Olver Sachs' book, Awakenings, later made into a film with Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. Encephalitis lethargica was their affliction. Statue-like, motionless, with low body temperature, slow heart rate, zombie-like lethargy and stillness, they lived almost dormant lives. Sachs saw one such patient with just this disease, who was otherwise perfectly healthy, save for a small tumor in his tummy. Sachs injected his magical L-DOPA serum, and the man swiftly woke from his torpor, totally restored. Smiling, walking, remembering. Fully awake and alive. Everything back to speed... including his tumor. He was dead within two months. Killed by the stomach cancer which had awoken from its dormancy with the rest of him.

You might regard Europe as having been in just such a torpid state. The arrival of printing was like an injection of life-giving serum into Europe. It awoke and energized the world. But aggravated all kinds of cancers of tribalism, sectarianism, and rivalry too. In a manner all too familiar to us in our day, a cultural, intellectual, ideological and doctrinal chasm opened up in Europe. Culture wars that foreshadowed our own broke out. The Muslim world banned printing of Arabic or of Islamic texts. For centuries, Jews were banned from the printing trade and Christian countries forbade the printing of Hebrew texts. Propaganda took off. Edicts and attacks on Protestantism flew from Catholic presses, and vice versa.

As the historian Nile Ferguson argues in his book The Square and the Tower: The invention of movable type printing and the unleashing of what is known as the Gutenberg Revolution, created social networks in which two sides countered each other with misinformation (fake news, as we would have it now), the vicious abuse, and (as in our time) all without supervision or a locus of recognizable authority. A free-for-all raging outside of what had previously been structured hierarchies. Because anyone could use the invention, all kinds of bad actors and malevolent hustlers did use it.

Technologies like printing, or any other information technologies that have followed in its wake, are essentially neutral, have no moral valency, no inner directive in and of themselves to act either for good or ill. Indulgences could be printed, and broadsides attacking the corruption of indulgences could be printed just as easily. Das Kapital or Mein Kampf. It's all the same to the type, the paper, and the platten. The Declaration of Independence or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? The sonnets of Shakespeare or the thoughts of Chairman Mao? Collections of recipes for cake making or collections of recipes for bomb making.

All this is familiar to us, we who mourn the swift death of the Utopian ideals promised by the internet and social media. The letter types in their boxes could seem like the evil spirits that flew from Pandora's box and released strife, starvation, war, and wickedness into the world.

I've, perhaps, now gone too far the other way. After all, impulses and new ways of thinking and exchanging ideas that were benevolent flourished too. To depict the Gutenberg Revolution as causing a human disaster is as sentimental and over-simplified as seeing it as having ushered in a golden age of open thought and perfect freedoms. Or, as regarding early humans, moving from hunter gatherers to agriculturalists as catastrophic. Or, looking on social networks and media as wholly calamitous.

Part of what this series of podcasts is aiming to do is to come to terms with the inevitability of... let's call it "change." Progress may be regarded as too freighted a word. Change, transformation, mutation, cultural evolution. These are our weather systems. Our historical and future landscapes were and our shaped by these processes, just as our geographical landscapes are shaped by the action of water and weather. To believe that we should or could halt them, or to waste time mourning their existential alterations to our ways of living is, to put it crudely, to piss into the wind. The movable type revolution was necessary and never a genie that any sane person would want to be forced back into its bottle.

Yes, cancers may have woken up in Europe at the same time as a new life surged through its bloodstream. But surely better a quick hot life, however cut short, than a permanent frozen nothingness, a catatonic zombie nullity.

The key is not to bemoan or to overpraise change, but to attempt as best we may to know all we can about the transformative nature of our leaps of innovation and to understand them. For today, changes are coming that will dwarf the revolutions in information technology with which we are familiar. It has never been more important, in my view, to be armed with knowledge and understanding of our past in order to confront our future with anything like confidence.

There's more and you should listen to the whole thing -- but this is a succinct and brilliantly described viewpoint that I've long shared about technology and innovation. Going back all the way to the copyright debates that we had on this site from the earliest days, the key point that I kept raising over and over again is that fighting over the claims that infringement is somehow "bad" totally miss the point. It is happening. And if it is happening, bemoaning that it was undermining traditional business models (that had their own problems for culture, free speech and, importantly, for artists themselves) was a silly waste of time. Wouldn't we have been better served looking to understand what new things were being enabled, and how those might be used to encourage more creativity and innovation.

And, of course, now we're having similar fights and discussions (as Fry clearly notes) about social media and the internet. And I'm sure there will be others -- perhaps about artificial intelligence or 3d printing or blockchain or satellites and space travel. Many of those debates have already started. And, as new technologies and innovations come about there will be more to debate and to understand.

But if the default is to start from the position that anything bad created by these new technologies condemns the technologies themselves, we will lose out. Not necessarily on the technologies themselves -- as those seem to have a way of advancing -- but on the ability to harness those technologies in the most useful and most fruitful ways. If we fear the transformations or focus solely on what will most prevent the "bad" or bring back the world that used to be, we will undoubtedly lose out on many of the many good things that come along as well.

This is the key point that Fry so nicely puts forth in the two episodes I've listened to so far. Change is happening and it has both good and bad consequences. No one should deny that. Focusing solely on one side, rather than the other, doesn't change any of that, but can create a lot of wasted time and effort. Instead, understanding the nature of that change, looking for ways to encourage more of the good, while discouraging the bad, is a reasonable path forward, but that has to come through understanding what's happening and recognizing that it is an impossible and pointless task to seek to remove or prevent all of the bad.

So many of the technological fights we talk about today over copyright, patents, encryption, the future of work, surveillance, and more often seem to stem from legacy operations which had a handle on things in the past that they no longer have a handle on today. But rather than looking for reasonable paths forward that preserve the good new things, they focus on eradicating the bad -- which is not just an impossible and fruitless plan, but one that will create significantly more negative consequences (intended or not).

Fry's podcast is great in providing some more historical perspective on this, but has also helped me better frame the work that we've tried to do here on Techdirt over the past two decades, and which we'll hopefully continue for many more.


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 8:45am

    Beware of false equivalence

    It would be a mistake to put the printing press on the same level as Facebook. Despite a few superficial similarities, they could not have sprung from more different origins.

    Gutenberg was a benevolent person who wanted to use his invention for the enlightenment of his fellow man, as evidenced by his choice to print Bibles and make them more widely available to the general public. (And if anyone wishes to take issue with this statement, remember the context of time; it makes no sense to judge someone hundreds of years ago by the cultural context of 2018.)

    Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is a sociopath who has never bothered to make more than the barest pretenses of not being evil; Facebook is all about private surveillance, gathering data on its users and finding ways to profit off of that data. Mike may not like the phrase "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product," but in this particular case it could not be more accurate!

    Also, I was amused by this bit from the podcast:

    As the historian Nile Ferguson argues in his book The Square and the Tower: The invention of movable type printing and the unleashing of what is known as the Gutenberg Revolution, created social networks in which two sides countered each other with misinformation (fake news, as we would have it now), the vicious abuse, and (as in our time) all without supervision or a locus of recognizable authority. A free-for-all raging outside of what had previously been structured hierarchies. Because anyone could use the invention, all kinds of bad actors and malevolent hustlers did use it.

    Yeah, it was quite a mess, and governments of the day recognized it fairly quickly and intervened to keep the ugliness down. After a few false starts, they came up with a system that worked remarkably well at keeping publishing abuses in check for close to 300 years, until the 1970s when publishers finally started to get the upper hand, perverting the laws and turning them inside out.

    That system was copyright. It won't be the solution to the current problems, because social media was invented anyway under the copyright regime, but it does give rise to hope that the problem can be managed with proper regulation and channeled into something positive and good for humanity, as the printing problem was.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 9:47am

      Re: Beware of false equivalence

      Gutenberg was a benevolent person who wanted to use his invention for the enlightenment of his fellow man

      You should listen to the podcast. That is not even remotely true.

      Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is a sociopath who has never bothered to make more than the barest pretenses of not being evil

      We can disagree with Zuckerberg's positions/ideas/policies, but your summary is complete and utter bullshit. I think Zuck is not very perceptive, but to argue he is a sociopath is ridiculous. He's built something where he's in way over his head. That does not make him evil or a sociopath.

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 9:59am

        Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

        to argue he is a sociopath is ridiculous.

        says another frat boy born into upper 1% same supremacist religion

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        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 10:12am

          Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

          I would point out the irony of you creating a Strawman Mike to falsely label as equivalent to Zuckerburg in an effort to dismiss Mike's statement in defence against other False Equivalence claims, but now my head hurts so much I need to lie down.

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      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:20am

        Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

        It's easy to dehumanize somebody we haven't met in person. Taking Nazi employees as an example (sorry, Godwin'd) there were attempts from people to look into these people and what kind of humans they were (http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zsshhyc some stuff about it here) and they were your ordinary, dull public employee striving for a better life. She was threatened because she managed to see another human with his/her faults in the opposing end.

        Zuckeberg certainly has his faults. We all do. But I doubt he is the monster some people paint. And I'm fairly sure Gutenberg suffered the same.

        In the end it's humans being humans. Whether it's Mark making his mistakes or people demonizing new, disrupting tech.

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      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:50am

        Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

        > We can disagree with Zuckerberg's positions/ideas/policies, but your summary is complete and utter bullshit. I think Zuck is not very perceptive, but to argue he is a sociopath is ridiculous.

        Why? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

        > He's built something where he's in way over his head.

        Maybe, but he didn't get there by accident.

        > That does not make him evil or a sociopath.

        No, but his consistent track record of deliberate actions and expressed attitudes towards those who call him on them do.

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        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:55am

          Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

          Why? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

          Diagnosing someone you never met with a diagnosis you appear to not understand does not reflect well upon you. He neither "walks" nor "talks" like a sociopath. Again, I disagree with him on lots of things, but in no way is he a sociopath or "evil." It makes you look silly and not at all credible to keep insisting on this.

          Maybe, but he didn't get there by accident.

          That is true. But to imply the path from there to here was that he's evil is just ridiculous and makes you look silly.

          No, but his consistent track record of deliberate actions and expressed attitudes towards those who call him on them do.

          His actions support no such diagnosis. Not even by a longshot.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 2:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

            Diagnosing someone you never met

            It's ridiculous to imply that saying "sociopath" is an attempt to state a medical diagnosis. The term was obviously being used in a colloquial sense, and the "dumb fucks" quote arguably shows boldness, disinhibition, meanness—the three things commonly associated with sociopathy.

            He may not be a sociopath, but saying that's "in no way" true isn't justifiable; that's as much "diagnosis" as the person you were responding to.

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            • icon
              Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 3:05pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

              The term was obviously being used in a colloquial sense, and the "dumb fucks" quote arguably shows boldness, disinhibition, meanness—the three things commonly associated with sociopathy.

              The dumb fucks quote shows a juvenile college kid being juvenile and college-y. I know everyone loves to trot that out these days, but the idea that it's at all indicative of what he's like today or has anything even remotely relevant to say about his view of the world or mental state is ridiculous.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 3:33pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                You seem to take things people say about the leaders of your favorite mass surveillance corporations personally. It's both amusing and sad.

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                • icon
                  Mike Masnick (profile), 24 Jul 2018 @ 9:43am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                  You seem to take things people say about the leaders of your favorite mass surveillance corporations personally.

                  It is hardly my "favorite." I'm not a fan of Facebook or Zuckerberg in the slightest, and we have criticized the company and its leadership many times over.

                  But, and I know this is difficult for idiots who see the entire world in black and white and no sense of nuance or gray, if we're going to talk about the company, we should at least be intellectually honest about it.

                  Calling it a "mass surveillance" company is utter nonsense. Calling Zuck a sociopath is utter nonsense.

                  This is the kind of thing that make you guys look clueless and brainwashed.

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                  • identicon
                    diffAC, 24 Jul 2018 @ 10:53am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                    Jeasus Mike... can't get this out of my head; are you trolling?

                    There's social grace, and then there's whatever the hell this is....

                    No sense of nuance you say- right before exclaiming classification as a 'mass surveillance' company, or zuck as a sociopath is non-sense.

                    You yourself have reported on many cases of mass surveillance and sociopath behavior from face book.

                    If those don't define FB's nature, where the hell are your priorities at?

                    What constitutes the nature from you're perspective? Their own claims and marketing? Or is it not about that at all? Is maintaining litigation proof technical nomenclature, even in conflict with actual real world effect, something you feel adds value to this world? wish I understood the math behind that...I'd probably cut you allot more slack.

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                    • identicon
                      Thad, 24 Jul 2018 @ 2:20pm

                      Re: tl;dr

                      No sense of nuance you say- right before exclaiming classification as a 'mass surveillance' company, or zuck as a sociopath is non-sense.

                      Sociopath is a medical diagnosis. (Actually, the term the DSM uses is psychopath, but I don't see any reason to get into the debate about whether or not psychopathy and sociopathy are synonymous.) It has a specific definition. Using it as a generic term for bad behavior is inaccurate, trivializes the severity of actual sociopathy, and has a "boy who cried wolf" effect in making the word less effective when talking about actual sociopaths. (See also: people have spent decades throwing around "nazi" as a hyperbolic pejorative, and now we're seeing blowback when people use the term to describe actual nazis.)

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                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2018 @ 2:53pm

                        Re: Re: tl;dr

                        I'd say you should pull out you're dsmV for a quick review.
                        ...but given my post was too long for your attention span, and that you don't know the difference between the prefix's psyco and socio- I seriously doubt you even have a dsmV, much less have ever read one.

                        I'll just spoil it...

                        psychopath and sociopath are two VERY different things.

                        It's not at all a stretch for an educated mind to consider facebooks behavior sociopathic- it would be, to call it psychopathic...

                        Using 'sociopathic' as an accurate descriptive term is also not remotely limited to the purview of medical professionals, regardless of it's use as an individual diagnosis. Where on earth did you get this ridiculous idea?

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 9:20pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                Really, you don't think it's even remotely relevant, and you can be sure—without medical training—that he's "in no way" a sociopath? I'm not saying he is, but if you're claiming lay people shouldn't be "diagnosing" sociopathy it seems unfair for you to conclusively rule it out.

                The idea that something that happened 14 years ago bears no relation to a person's current mental state is, at best, a fringe position. Sure, people change, but by that logic no prison term or statue of limitations would be longer than a decade.

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          • identicon
            diffAC, 23 Jul 2018 @ 2:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

            By my thinking it's facebooks effects on society that make it sociopathic- Like many, if not most corporate entities after they reach a certain size; the unintended consequences and collateral damage pile up, it becomes socialized risk with private gain and everyone suffers while the shareholders collect- zuck is a sociopath mostly by association to his creation; he was the one that came up with this deeply harmful idea, and failed to fix it over and over.

            They created and captured a commons, and slowly turned it into overt private enterprise. That's not innovation, it's treachery.

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            • icon
              btr1701 (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 3:23pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

              > he was the one that came up with this deeply harmful idea

              Deeply harmful idea? A computer platform that let's people talk to each other and share pictures and videos?

              Wow, yeah. That does sound like the bubonic plague.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 3:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                > A computer platform that let's people talk to each other and share pictures and videos?

                No, a platform that collects private data on and manipulates the majority of the world's population for profit.

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                • identicon
                  diffAC, 23 Jul 2018 @ 5:57pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                  ^^^this person gets it....

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                  • identicon
                    Wendy Cockcroft, 25 Jul 2018 @ 7:13am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                    Eh... the platform does indeed collect the private data of people who put it there. It also lets people talk to each other and share pictures and videos.

                    The private data collected is used to target you with ads based on your browsing history. That it is collected at all renders it open to abuse. That people are being manipulated is down to whom they choose to follow and what they choose to view. It's their passivity that [opens them up to manipulation](on-t-internet.blogspot.com/2018/02/do-you-really-think-for-yourself.html).

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                • icon
                  btr1701 (profile), 27 Jul 2018 @ 11:10am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

                  It only collects what you choose to put on it. Don't like it? Don't use it.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 10:15am

      Re: Beware of false equivalence

      Facebook is just one use of a technology that is as revolutionary as Movable type. Without the printing press, neither the reformation or the enlightenment would have shaped up as they did. Indeed the printing press pitched the Church and the aristocracy into a battle to control knowledge, which they eventually lost to a different breed of people, the industrialists, and the politicians controlled society.

      While the printing press enables more people to share knowledge and ideas, it was still a small proportion of the population that could get their voices heard widely. All of the technological advances prior to the Internet were either a new form of a few to many publication, i.e. radio and T.V, or enables faster one to one communications, the telegraph and then the phone.

      The Internet is as revolutionary and the printing press, because for the first time in history anybody can reach a world wide audience for the ideas, or requests for help. It is a technology that is pitching the industrialist and politicians into a battle against the people for the control of resources. One just has to hope that things to not get as nasty as the wars that wracked Europe after the invention of the printing press, but you can be confident that as profound a change to society is taking place as the one that was triggered by the printing press.

      One thing that is hopeful is that the Internet favors those who would cooperate with others, rather than those who would control others.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:43am

      Re: Beware of false equivalence

      The correct comparison is between the printing press and the internet. Facebook is just one very public facet of the internet. Your overzealous focus on Facebook as a false equivalency demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding.

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      • identicon
        Bruce C., 23 Jul 2018 @ 7:41pm

        Re: Re: Beware of false equivalence

        Ditto the above Facebook is more like a vanity publisher where anyone can get their stuff "in print".

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 2:24pm

      Re: Beware of false equivalence

      "As the historian Nile Ferguson argues in his book The Square and the Tower..."

      That should be Niall Ferguson

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niall_Ferguson

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  • icon
    hij (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 9:11am

    Thirty year lazy boy war

    Does this mean that Facebook will precipitate a new 30 year war? Only this time it will be waged by aging baby boomers from their recliners posting lame, badly photoshopped memes.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 10:26am

    > But if the default is to start from the position that anything bad created by these new technologies condemns the technologies themselves, we will lose out.

    I'd happily "lose out" on corporate mass surveillance, though I realize that might hurt your pocket book.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 10:30am

    The printing press is a means of presenting ideas.

    Facebook is a means of mass spying, a complete violation of the Fourth Amendment, and a scam that brings nothing of social value after all social cost are deducted.

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    • identicon
      mcinsand, 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:04am

      Apparently you don't Constitution very much

      I'll agree with you on the first and third points. However, I'm pretty sure that Facebook isn't a branch of the US Government. That doesn't mean to say that Facebook doesn't willingly surrender our information to the government. However, the Fourth Amendment doesn't kick in unless our government is forcing Facebook to hand everything over without a warrant. In other words, I'd cynically bet that the Fourth Amendment isn't involved. We agree to give up privacy if we participate in Facebook, and I don't think they care in the least about our privacy.

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    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:22am

      Re:

      > Facebook is a means of mass spying, a complete violation
      > of the Fourth Amendment

      Facebook doesn't violate the 4th Amendment either under a reading of the actual text of the Constitution or any of the 200+ years of jurisprudence illuminating it.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 3:37pm

        Re: Re:

        You're right, Facebook itself doesn't violate the 4th amendment; they just help the government perform a complete end-run around it.

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:39am

      Re:

      >A scam that brings nothing of social value after all social cost are deucted

      So, the issue with this statement, from a pedantic standpoint, is while I understand your meaning, It can easily be used to create a soundbite that extracts a different meaning. Like the analogy that you "can't falsely yell fire in a theater with the intent to cause a panic" because "you can yell fire in a crowded theater", missing much of the substantive detail, IF your statement was shortened to "A scam that brings nothing of social value", it changes the meaning. And given that people are foolish, they might read your statement and question the first half, without incorporating the second half.

      Might I recommend, in the future, you instead use the phrase "A scam which has a negative net social value" which contains the same intent as your full statement, and as a shorter, single clause statement is less likely to be misread or misquoted.

      This post brought to you by someone who misread the intent of your original statement, initially.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:49am

      Re:

      Facebook is a town, and has everything in it from dives to institutes of higher education. If you find nothing of value on it, it says more about you than it does about Facebook.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 12:39pm

        Re: Re:

        "Facebook is a town"


        And here I thought it was just a website, silly me.

        Since FB is a town, does it have the authority to tax its citizens? Jurisdiction to levy fines and jail offenders?
        I'm quite certain they would love the shit outta that.

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        • identicon
          Canuck, 23 Jul 2018 @ 5:34pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Of course, Facebook can do all of that - tax (charge for services), fine and jail (temp block or perma block users)

          Next question?

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2018 @ 3:25pm

        Re: Re:

        Sure 'facebook is a town'

        ...just like trump university is a university.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 10:35am

    Transcript

    Mike, did you transcribe all of that yourself, or is there a transcript available?

    My mind tends to work in a very jump-back-and-forth kind of way - missing things and then going back to retrieve them; catching a parallel and going back to reinforce it - that is much better suited for text than for audio.

    If there's a transcript available, I'd be very appreciative if you could point me in its direction, as I can't seem to find it on Stephen Fry's website or on acast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:20am

      Re: Transcript

      Mike, did you transcribe all of that yourself, or is there a transcript available?

      I transcribed it myself. I wish there was a transcript and I looked all over for one, but no luck.

      In this case, though, I do highly recommend listening to the audio version. Fry's presentation of it is truly excellent. The transcript alone doesn't do it justice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re: Transcript

        You should just hold your iPhone up to the speaker while the podcast plays, and use the voice-to-text feature in Messages (or one of the other apps that have it), then edit the few mistakes here and there. Save you a ton of time.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: Transcript

        Drat.

        Thanks for the answer, even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

        Good job with the transcription, too: I certainly couldn't tell it hadn't been done by a professional transcriber.

        I'll try to give it a listen, but I generally find podcasts incredibly frustrating to listen to, so I doubt this will be an exception.

        Thanks again!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 10:54am

    "A free-for-all raging outside of what had previously been structured hierarchies."

    LOL - yeah the past is so rosy compared to the present, must be those rose colored shades.

    Seems to be implying that Structured Hierarchies are better but provides no substantiating evidence in support of same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:33am

      Re:

      What's given in the article is a small excerpt of a greater whole, which would be the whole entire podcast. It's presented here as an example of style in which the information in the podcast is presented.

      That said, I'm not sure you've read the whole excerpt if that's your take-away. Consider the following paragraph:

      "I've, perhaps, now gone too far the other way. After all, impulses and new ways of thinking and exchanging ideas that were benevolent flourished too. To depict the Gutenberg Revolution as causing a human disaster is as sentimental and over-simplified as seeing it as having ushered in a golden age of open thought and perfect freedoms. Or, as regarding early humans, moving from hunter gatherers to agriculturalists as catastrophic. Or, looking on social networks and media as wholly calamitous."

      This is a qualifier to the earlier statement, and puts forth the idea, continued in the rest of the excerpt, that focusing too heavily on the bad or the good of the results of human use of the new technology is to oversimplify and should not be done.

      There's no real assertion that the structured hierarchies were good, in this case, and from what I know of Stephen Fry he'd likely come down more on the side of those particular hierarchies being rather unappealing. But even if there were, to actually be able to assert that no arguments or evidence were presented for them being good would require looking into the rest of the podcast - after all, the very lack of evidence you claim could well be in the rest of this podcast episode, or the previous episode, or might even be slated for a future episode.

      If you don't want to listen to it, that's fine - but try not to make assertions if you haven't actually researched it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 11:10am

    Encephalitis Lethargica

    > Sachs injected his magical L-DOPA serum, and the man
    > swiftly woke from his torpor, totally restored. Smiling,
    > walking, remembering. Fully awake and alive. Everything
    > back to speed... including his tumor. He was dead within
    > two months. Killed by the stomach cancer which had awoken
    > from its dormancy with the rest of him.

    So this isn't just a neurological condition? People who have it are essentially frozen biologically, even their cancer tumors are put on hold?

    Does this mean they're essentially immortal? Will they live hundreds of years so long as no one 'wakes them up'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 12:11pm

    The Printing Press and the Internet

    Like the Catholic Church taking control of the printing press in its early development, it took society some time to come to grips with what had happened, and how it could be used, it will take some more time for society to come to gripes with the Internet, and how it can be used.

    Currently we are running through a series of fads that include social media, eCommerce, replacing TV and/or cable, instant or very fast communication, etc.. Governments, and some companies, are posing in a like position as the Catholic Church tried to take with the printing press. I think, in the long run, society will get a handle on the Internet, maybe even in ways that haven't been thought of yet, and will over come the efforts of governments and corporations to control it.

    It may take several generations (or maybe many generations) to get to this point, as pointed out above those in charge now grew up with out it and it might take not only growing up with it and then becoming in charge, and THEN recognizing how badly things have been handled to get pointed in the right direction. Of course, damage done in the interim will need to be cleaned up, but we screw things up all the time, and then clean them up afterwards. Well, at least some things, and some of those faster than others, and some we still need to get started on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 12:43pm

      Re: The Printing Press and the Internet

      The internet is just a fad kids - lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re: The Printing Press and the Internet

        While characterizing certain services such as eCommerce etc. as "fads" is probably not correct, since I highly doubt that eCommerce is going to go away anytime soon, AAC still didn't characterize the internet as a fad.

        If you've got something to say about the actual points brought up in his comment, please do - otherwise, this is just so much pointless drivel.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Jul 2018 @ 1:14pm

        Re: Re: The Printing Press and the Internet

        Oh look. AC has reading comprehension failure. Engages keyboard before mind.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 1:19pm

    Facebook a printing press?

    Eh... Facebook would be more like a book and the press would be the Internet. Who blames the Internet for the failings of Facebook?

    It can be frustrating to read a book that’s full of truths, half-truths, and lies. But who in their right mind would blame anyone but the creators of said book for the content?

    Also, as I understand it, the real problem for Facebook users is not what’s being disseminated to them, but what’s being disseminated *about* them.

    Your analogy needs work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 1:37pm

      Re: Facebook a printing press?

      I'm not seeing that Facebook is necessarily directly analogous to the printing press - I'm seeing that the moralistic reactions to Facebook (and social media at large) are analogous to the reacts to the printing press.

      I believe it to be an important distinction, because it does not rely on the direct comparisons of Facebook to the printing press in particular. There are broader comparisons that are valid in this particular case - sure, the internet itself is more analogous to the printing press than Facebook in particular, in that the internet is the set of tools and connectivity that all this relies on ...

      But also remember that Facebook (and Twitter, and tumblr) makes it just that much easier for anyone and everyone to have an easily accessible platform and an easily accessible audience, even more so than the internet all on its own.

      Also remember that these reactions, these calls for legal action and regulation etc., are in fact centered around Facebook, and social media, and are pointed at the internet in a very secondary fashion. These reactions have knock-on effects on the internet, but people are focused on Facebook.

      Also, the reactions in question are focused on _Facebook_, and there's significantly less focus on the people who are posting on Facebook than there should perhaps be - which could easily be analogized to outcry and condemnation of the printing press itself as opposed to the bad actors who were using the printing press in harmful fashions.

      It's also important to consider what the purpose of making the analogy is. From the excerpt, and from my reading of the article, the whole point of everything is that focusing solely on the benefits or solely on the negatives of the thing is problematic behavior in and of itself, and to that extent the reactions surrounding one of the greatest technological shake-ups of human culture in history is definitely worth investigating for analogous occurrences, actions, and results.

      Also, let's be honest - this is a brief article that references a whole entire podcast, and references prior articles. Based solely on what's in the article, the analogy may appear weak, but if you really want to investigate just how analogous it is, you'd be best served to read the other articles or actually listen to the podcast.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 24 Jul 2018 @ 6:02am

        Re: Re: Facebook a printing press?

        I have to say, your reply applies to quite a few reactions to analogies that completely miss the point. I'm out of credits or you'd get the first word here.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2018 @ 3:48pm

    Facebook sucks. Period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    John Smith, 23 Jul 2018 @ 5:36pm

    Printing presses qaren't serarchable or globally archived.

    Then again, an article written in the tone of a seventh-grader throwing a temper tantrum has limits with regard to how seriously it can be taken.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dan (profile), 24 Jul 2018 @ 10:27am

    Interesting Podcast

    I hadn't been aware of this podcast, so checked it out and have listened to the first episode (so far). Reminds me a lot, in concept, of James Burke's 1978 series Connections, which I found quite interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 24 Jul 2018 @ 1:34pm

    Whenever Joe demands that you state your position on copyright, we can just refer him to this...

    "The key point that I kept raising over and over again is that fighting over the claims that infringement is somehow "bad" totally miss the point. It is happening. And if it is happening, bemoaning that it was undermining traditional business models (that had their own problems for culture, free speech and, importantly, for artists themselves) was a silly waste of time. Wouldn't we have been better served looking to understand what new things were being enabled, and how those might be used to encourage more creativity and innovation."

    This pretty much defines everything that makes Techdirt valuable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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