Wise Guys on WHO Radio - August 29, 2015
Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.
In the news this week
Consumer Reports is crazy for the Tesla Model S
Tesla got one very important thing right: They went upscale with their electric car, rather than trying to achieve mass appeal but at a cost $15,000 above the comparable non-electric cars.
Dish won't turn into a major cellphone carrier after all
The FCC has gotten in the way
Cop draws gun on man apparently just standing in his own yard
It's not that police officers are inherently bad or eager to power-trip, but some are -- and the consequences when they can't demonstrate adequate self-control are so grave that the rest of us need to be sure that real civilian oversight is taking place. We should also be recording and sharing evidence of misbehavior, because it matters.
Your role in cyberwar
11 years in prison for supporting ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh from America
Throw the book at them
Not everyone named in the Ashley Madison hack was actually trying to cheat
Apparently, the company did nothing to verify addresses -- so people may have used the addresses of others in order to evade detection
Street-smart social media
Instagram to permit portrait, landscape modes
Art is in the constraints. This does away with the biggest constraint of all on Instagram: The forced square. This will obviously please some people in the short run, but it really damages the appeal that made Instagram attractive from an artistic standpoint. Now it's just another dull way to share photos, like all the rest.
Dispatches from the flying-car future
The tools Hyundai touts behind its convoy of cars driving themselves
The self-driving car isn't going to arrive all at once, like Google has been preparing to offer. It's going to arrive iteratively -- step-by-step. Parking assistance and lane management tools beget still better things and more serious overrides of human behavior. As comfort levels increase with each step, humans will eventually cede control of the car altogether to the car itself, and thank God. We are the weak link in the chain.
Brian's Big Picture
It used to be that the only people who made decisions about publishing video or photos of terrible events were television news directors and newspaper and magazine editors. That's no longer the case. Thanks to the infiltration of everyday life by social media, we're all making editorial decisions all the time about what we share -- and, by extension, what it is to which we subject our friends and family members.
And it's the feedback loop created by tracking that intensifies the condition. When an editor decides whether to include a photo or not, that rarely affects the total circulation of a newspaper or magazine -- especially if it isn't the cover photo. When a news director opts to show 20 seconds of one video rather than another, it doesn't affect the number of people watching the news, other than incidental tune-in and tune-out -- very rare is the occasion when one of us picks up the phone to tell someone else "You have to tune to Channel X right now!"
The relentless tracking of website traffic, though, changes all of that. Now, every incremental "like" and "share" means something to someone's job. So sobriety goes out the window, and click-baiting rules the day. We saw that this past week. A murderer killed two people on live television, and having recorded the event, posted it online.
For the most part, I'm proud that I saw very little complicity among my family and friends online -- I saw almost nobody share the gruesome footage. But the same couldn't be said for the people in charge at a number of television stations and other media outlets, which shared the story and the footage under the guise of "news". It was not. News is anything that materially changes our understanding of the status quo. The killings in Virginia were an event. A terrible event. A frightening event. An appalling event. But not news. And the positively shameful way in which some outlets shared the story should earn them the scorn of us all. The New York Daily News was one of the most irresponsible, reproducing screenshots of the killer's video on the front page. Other outlets did the same, or posted stories online that were shameless in their exploitation of the shocking nature of the event.
Involuntarily, we're all news directors now. We all affect the feedback loops that determine what is aired or printed or published all the time, by whether we fall for the clickbait, dole out "likes", or share stories in our own "news" feeds. That's a lot more editorial discretion than most of us were ever trained to have. But if we really want things like these awful killings to stop, then we can't be accomplices. We have to say "no". We have to resist every nudge to watch and to share, because when we reward it, the unscrupulous outlets produce more of it. And the only way to disincentivize terrible crimes by attention-seekers is to not give them the attention. The names and likenesses of killers like the one in Virginis should be scrubbed from our collective memory. Not legally, of course: It's an important point of law that we have transparency in our justice system. But the rest of us have to show the kind of decency that says, "If you commit a crime just to become famous, then your name should be erased from our world." It can start with all of us committing now -- a few days after the awful event in Virginia, when it's still fresh in our minds -- not to reward the sick drive for website traffic in which so many media outlets engage. You don't need to see the awful footage. It's not news. It's an event. And it's enough to know that the event occurred; when the next one happens, commit to resisting the pressures and urges to watch. We're not bettering ourselves when we behave like voyeurs.
Politics of technology
Selfies in the voting booth
On one hand, an expression of free speech. On the other, a risk to the secrecy of the ballot. Who can tell for sure that a photo of a completed ballot wasn't coerced?
Listen again on-demand
- Podcast of this episode - segment 1 (everyone's an editor now)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 2 (Instagram kills the art of the square)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 3 (Tesla beats the Consumer Reports score methodology)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 4 (prison for terrorist supporter who used social media to aid and abet)