Monday, July 31, 2017

TED excuses Facebook-Google evils

Here is a TED Talk from last week:
A handful of people working at a handful of tech companies steer the thoughts of billions of people every day, says design thinker Tristan Harris. From Facebook notifications to Snapstreaks to YouTube autoplays, they're all competing for one thing: your attention. Harris shares how these companies prey on our psychology for their own profit and calls for a design renaissance in which our tech instead encourages us to live out the timeline we want.
This talk was somewhat surprising for TED, as it is a leftist organization that stands squarely in favor of robots enslaving us all.

Sure enuf, as the speaker finished, the TED boss came onto the stage to defend Facebook and Google. He said, "There is no shortage of good intent." In other words, as long as Google and Facebook are left-aligned and using their power for progressive purposes, we should give them a pass.

Meanwhile, here is Google making the leap into what it previously called evil:
For Google and other internet companies, there’s a fine line between making money by putting ads on screens, and driving web users away with ads that drive us insane.

There is probably no type of online advertisement that makes us quite as insane as the auto-play video ad — the noisy box of moving pictures that pops up unasked for and blares at us, often with no way to close it other than exiting the website.

This type of ad was singled out by Google in June as particularly noxious and deserving of extinction.

“It’s far too common that people encounter annoying, intrusive ads on the web — like the kind that blare music unexpectedly,” Google’s senior VP of ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy wrote in a June blog post. ...

But Ramaswamy’s comments came in June. It’s July now. And things have changed, apparently.

“Google has begun testing putting one of the most divisive features of the modern web experience, the auto-playing video, directly into search results,” The Guardian reported July 26.

“The videos automatically play for desktop users only, and are shown but require a tap to play for mobile users.”

Why, Google, why?

“We are constantly experimenting with ways to improve the search experience for our users,” the company told the paper.
Yes, Google does have a shortage of good intent.

Here is the next day's TED talk:
Do your kidneys have a sense of smell? Turns out, the same tiny scent detectors found in your nose are also found in some pretty unexpected places -- like your muscles, kidneys and even your lungs. In this quick talk (filled with weird facts), physiologist Jennifer Pluznick explains why they're there and what they do.
Her first weird facts was that we can distinguish a trillion odors, but that claim is bogus:
Last year, a paper published in Science made waves with the stunning claim that the human nose can detect a whopping one trillion different odors. But if you feel like your nose can’t detect a trillion smells, you may be on to something. It’s possible that none of us can.

As a Caltech researcher pointed out last fall, and a new Arizona State University paper asserts today, the data collected in last’s year odiferous study does not support this radical claim. Rather, the researchers’ interpretation of their data — and the massive figure they came to —seem to be the result of flawed mathematical logic. And that’s a big problem, because the one trillion odor estimate is already making its way into neuroscience textbooks, misinforming students, researchers, and the public.
This was embarrassing for AAAS Science to publish such bogus reasoning in 2014, but worse for TED Talks to be repeating discredited science in 2017.

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