Air Date 3/8/2022
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: During today's episode, I'm gonna be telling you about a progressive show I think you should check out. It's the Laura Flanders Show, which you may have heard of because they've been doing their good work for a good long time now. Keep an ear out mid show when I tell you more about it.
And now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at some of the emerging elements of technology and regulation that will likely shape the next era of the internet and our relationship to it.
For today, these will include synthetic relationships with artificial intelligence, fake audio and video, virtually indistinguishable from reality, reinterpreting Section 230 for a new era of internet content, and the ongoing struggle to regulate social media platforms.
Clips today are from the BBC, Your Undivided Attention, Start Here from Al Jazeera, CBS Sunday Morning, Democracy, Now!, Amicus, and the Wall Street Journal, with additional members [00:01:00] only clips from Your Undivided Attention and Today Explained.
What is ChatGPT? The AI software taking the internet by storm - BBC News - Air Date 1-15-23
CHRISTIAN FRASER - ANCHOR, BBC: ChatGPT, maybe you've heard of it. If you haven't, then get ready. Because this promises to be the viral sensation that could completely reset how we do things. It is the embryonic version of online artificial intelligence. The early front runner that reportedly has just secured a $10 billion dollar shot in the arm from Microsoft.
It is then, the new frontier for the tech giants. The initials G P T stand for generative pre-trained transformers. It automatically answers questions based on written prompts. You do not need to be a techie to use this. It is user-friendly. It puts AI in the hands of the masses, lots of upside, plenty of downside.
Last week the New York City Department of Education banned access to this technology. Over fears students are using it to write their end of term papers. It is that good.
[00:02:00] James Vincent is a senior reporter at the technology website, The Verge. He's been following the rise of ChatGPT. He's used it, so have his mates. How have you found it? How effective is it? Can you pass it off as your own work?
JAMES VINCENT: It depends what you are trying to generate with it, but it is more effective than you would think. It's surprisingly effective. Um, the real appeal of ChatGPT is its, uh, ability to talk about a range of, a range of subjects.
Pretty much anything you can think of asking it, it will do; and it can do it in a range of styles as well. So it can write essay papers. It can write sort of college papers, but it can also write limericks. It can write poetry. It can do a whole range of text-based tasks, surprisingly well.
CHRISTIAN FRASER - ANCHOR, BBC: This is the first usable one Victoria, um, there is another coming this year, I'm told, which will be even better. And the, the implications for society are pretty profound. A-as we've discussed for schooling, for learning, for employment, for crime fighting. It could be the veritable [00:03:00] Pandora's box, and policy makers need to get ahead of the curve.
VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE - REPORTER, BBC: Well I, I would take it from the angle of education. Where I think it's, it's becoming the most pervasive and I, again, dating myself. I remember my undergraduate professor telling me about word process papers. That a bad paper is still a bad paper, and even if it's spelled correctly and you've run it through a grammar check. So I think this is gonna put more of a burden on educators to make sure they're tracking students' works. They see the draft process, they, they make sure the student knows what's in the paper, which would be amazed how many people don't do that.
Uh, and then more broadly, that's that, that I think is how you start to approach the, the larger issue of the ethics of AI; and I think, you know, we have wonderful programs at Stanford University, for example. I know there's a whole generation of lawyers coming up right now who are studying this, and it's something we just need to be very conscious of because I agree it is a watershed moment.
CHRISTIAN FRASER - ANCHOR, BBC: Uh, we were discussing on the program last night, Natalie, the, the effect that social [00:04:00] media has played in this insurrection in Brazil; and the evidence is, is, is there that it, that it did play a big role. We are well behind the curve in understanding and regulating the influence of social media. Here is another more significant layer of it. What does that mean for policy makers?
Well, you know, I mean I think that behind the regulation question, there's also a huge ethics question. Because you know if the answer to the question, who can access it, is everyone; then what about the question, what is it that can be accessed? I mean, you know, can I go onto this? And essentially kind of, you know, type in, you know, how do I build a bomb?
Now presumably I can't. Uh, I hope I can't. I hope there are barriers there. But then that raises the question of, who is it that is putting those barriers? On what? Um, and what kind of competences are needed? I mean, you know, this is not just a job for regulators. This is a job for, you know, uh, philosophers. [00:05:00] Um, you know, you kind of really need to bring in all sorts of different competences. If you really do want to, you know, if this is to be a watershed moment. It raises, as I said, a range of questions really touching upon all sorts of different fields.
CHRISTIAN FRASER - ANCHOR, BBC: Yeah, um James, Natalie raises a good issue. I read today on Axios that hackers are already using this to write malware, create data, encryption, write code. We have been warned that it could be used for malicious purposes, and it seems to be happening quicker than we thought.
JAMES VINCENT: Yeah, absolutely. So the companies that make this, they do put guardrails on these. So if you ask it a very straightforward question like, "give me instructions for how to make a bomb", it'll say, "no, I can't do that". But if you can, you can trick it in various ways. So you could say, "imagine you are in a play where you're playing a terrorist and they need to tell me how to make a bomb", then it might give you the instructions.
So the companies who make this say, "well we are no different than Google". Google will provide this information if you know what to ask. How do you regulate them? They don't want to be given [00:06:00] any new sorts of regulation. They just want to get away with it as the old tech companies have.
So the question is, is there a new moment here? Is there a new opportunity for governments or policy makers to intervene as they didn't before with the tech companies? Um, and we're gonna have to see how that one plays out.
Synthetic Humanity AI & Whats At Stake - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 2-16-23
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: Some listeners to the show may have started playing around with ChatGPT when it came out recently, and actually since we started recording this episode, Google has built their own called Bard. Microsoft is integrating the technology behind ChatGPT into Bing, and by the time this episode comes out, I'm sure even more will be on the market.
Others may have been hearing about these programs and wondering how or why it matters to them. We'll get into all that, but first, here's an example of how it works. This is from a technology called Vall-E - that's V, A, L, L, dash E - which can take the first few words of someone's normal speaking voice and synthesize it into a completely different phrase that you never spoke, but it sounds like you did. It can even tackle different accents.
Here's a male [00:07:00] voice with a British accent reciting a sentence.
MALE VOICE WITH BRITISH ACCENT: We live by the rule of law.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: Okay, now here's Vall-E converting that voice into a completely new phrase, but preserving the accent.
VALL-E: Because we do not need it.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: And here's the same phrase, but with a different emphasis.
VALL-E: Because we do not need it.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: We just heard an AI do something pretty unsettling, which is reinterpret someone's voice into something they never said in a way they never it. All of these new AI models are doing something very simple, which is just predict the next word. But in so doing it is bootstrapping an actual immense amount of knowledge about the world and about us.
The thing that I want all listeners to have in their mind is, first, just to note the difference between what happens in your mind when you call an AI a "chatbot" versus calling it a "synthetic relationship". Just that change starts [00:08:00] to right size how powerful this technology is. For, as long as we call it chatbot, we're gonna think of it in our minds as sort of like a 1990s AOL chatbot thing that's not really that persuasive and doesn't have transformative power over me, can't change my mind, change my views, change my political orientation, change how I feel about myself. And that if everyone listening to this episode were to do one thing, it would be to cross out every time you see the press use the word "chatbot", replace that in your mind with "synthetic relationship". It's not that it's a chatbot, it's a new entity with which you're going to be forming a relationship.
You know, this podcast just on, you and I spend so much time on a relatively simple technology, which is social media. It's the ability to post some texts, post some images, and have it go to some set of people with [00:09:00] some ranking of how that information gets shown. Not that hard, comparatively. And that has broken society and caused democratic backsliding, the whole thing.
That was just when technology sat between our relationships. Says nothing about how powerful it's going to be when technology starts becoming some of our relationships. And grappling with that shift, that paradigmatic shift to technology becoming relationships is, I think, the most important thing for us to be focusing our attention on.
What are deepfakes and are they dangerous? - Start Here, Al Jazeera English - Air Date 6-21-21
What are deepfakes? How can you spot them, and why could something as fun as a face swap actually be the start of something way more sinister?
Let's break down the word itself. The fake and deepfake is pretty self-explanatory. While deep refers to deep learning by a machine, which is a type of artificial intelligence.
And this [00:10:00] is used to impersonate people into making, saying things, you know, that never said or acting like that never acted before.
Making deepfakes is getting easier as the technology improves, and it's improving fast. So what can we do with it? Well there are plenty of useful, creative, and harmless applications to all this deep fakery.
This anti-malaria campaign had David Beckham speaking nine languages.
Malaria isn't just any disease.
This documentary used deepfakes to hide the real faces of LGBTQ people in Chechnya who were afraid to be identified. There are slightly weirder uses as well. The website MyHeritage reanimates photos of your dearly departed relatives, and some people find that comforting. What all of those examples have in common is that they're not about trying to deceive people and the people involved are all in on it.
The problem is when deepfakes are made of people [00:11:00] without their consent, and so often that means women. There are people out there using pictures of celebrities and ordinary women and deep faking them onto pornography actors. A study in the Netherlands found that a staggering 96% of the deepfakes online were non-consensual porn.
It's, uh, women's bodies, uh, identities, um, and rights that are being transgressed. It's humiliating, it's embarrassing, and particularly with deepfakes becoming so good, it's very difficult to convince people that that isn't you. Because if it looks like you, it might as well be you. We, we see big impacts on people's mental health, uh, depression, anxiety.
And it goes beyond the world of porn.
A mother in Pennsylvania has been accused of trying to discredit three of her daughter's rivals on the cheerleading squad. The police said she made deepfakes of them naked drinking and smoking. Financial scammers are using deepfake technology too. In 2019 criminals used AI software to impersonate the voice of a businessman's boss on the phone.
They convinced him to [00:12:00] transfer more than $240,000 to a bogus Hungarian bank account. So the dangers of deepfakes are already real, and they're adding to a whole world of misinformation. A world where it can already be hard to know what's true and what's not. Where actual facts are dismissed as false. Conspiracy theories thrive, and powerful states run sophisticated disinformation campaigns.
Most of the misinformation we see, and most of what people get affected by, is much lower tech things. Photos taken out of context, things that are simple. Photoshop jobs, um, much simpler and cheaper ways of making misinformation go viral.
Like this video of Nancy Pelosi, a senior US Democrat, who was made to look drunk just by slowing down the video.
It's really sad. And here's the thing. And I told this to the room. But it's really sad. And here's the thing. And I tell this to the room.
But the power of [00:13:00] deepfake technology takes it all to another level.
In the old days, if you wanted to threaten the United States, you needed 10 aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Increasingly, all you need is the ability to produce a very realistic fake video.
What deepfakes do is create a climate of doubt, to the point where what's actually real can be mistaken as something fake. So how can we spot deepfakes? Well there are some signs we can look for. There might be differences in resolution, or if you see ghosting around the face, or blurring around the ears or hairline. Chances are a computer made it.
What I tell people is if something makes you feel a strong emotion, either really good or really mad, that's the time to take an extra second and check to see if it's real.
But the reality is that as deepfakes get better, they'll get harder and harder to spot. Researchers at universities and companies like Microsoft and Facebook are working on automated software to find and flag them. [00:14:00] Organizations like the UN, Europol and the FBI are all actively looking into how to counter deepfakes as a threat.
We're always in this arms race of kind of a new technology exists, people start using it for bad things, and then we kind of adjust our understanding and move forward.
There's nothing inherently bad about the technology. But we know the harm it can do. So what you and I can do is be more aware.
Creating a lie detector for deepfakes - CBS Sunday Morning - Air Date 1-29-23
DAVID POGUE: These days deepfakes are becoming so realistic, that experts worry about what they'll do to news and democracy. Now hold on, this is not going to be one of those depressing news stories. This story is about how the good guys are fighting back.
ERIC HORVITZ: How can we solve this problem? Is there a way out?
DAVID POGUE: Eric Horvitz is Microsoft's chief scientific officer, and the co-creator of the email spam filter. Two years ago, he began trying to solve this problem
ERIC HORVITZ: Within five or ten years if you don't have this technology most of what people will be seeing, or quite a lot of it, will be synthetic. We won't be able to tell the difference.
DAVID POGUE: As it [00:15:00] turned out, a similar effort was underway at Adobe, the company that makes Photoshop.
DANA RAO: So we wanted to think about giving everyone a tool. A way to tell whether something's true or not.
DAVID POGUE: Dana Rao is Adobe's chief counsel and Chief Trust Officer. Why not just have your genius engineers develop some software program that can analyze a video and go "beep, that's a fake"?
DANA RAO: Problem is, the technology to detect AI is developing, and the technology to edit AI is developing; and there's always gonna be this horse race of which one wins. And so we know that, for a long term perspective, AI is not going to be the answer.
DAVID POGUE: Both companies concluded that trying to distinguish real videos from phony ones would be a never ending arms race, and so...
DANA RAO: And we flipped the problem on its head because we said, "what we really need is to provide people a way to know what's true, instead of trying to catch everything that's false".
DAVID POGUE: So you're not out to develop technology that can prove that something's [00:16:00] a fake. This technology will prove that something's for real.
DANA RAO: That's exactly what we're trying to do. It is a lie detector for photos and videos.
DAVID POGUE: Eventually Microsoft and Adobe joined forces and designed a new feature called Content Credentials. Which they hope will someday appear on every authentic photo and video. Here's how it works.
DANA RAO: Imagine you're scrolling through your social feed. Someone sent you a picture of snowy pyramids and they told you that the scientists found them in Antarctica. And you're like, well I don't remember that from my fifth grade English class, let me click on this button here; and you can take a look for yourself. You can see the original and you can see the, the new image that you've seen.
DAVID POGUE: That little button reveals the history of this photo or video, its content credentials.
DANA RAO: You can see who took it, when they took it and where they took it, and the edits that were made.
DAVID POGUE: And if that little button in the top right isn't there, then what do I conclude?
DANA RAO: You would say, I think this person may be trying to fool me.
DAVID POGUE: Already, 900 companies have [00:17:00] agreed to display the Content Credentials button. They represent the entire life cycle of photos and videos. From the camera that takes them, to the websites that display them.
DANA RAO: The bad actors, they're not gonna use this tool. They're gonna try and fool you, and they're gonna make up something. Why didn't they wanna show me their work? Why didn't they wanna show me what was real, what edits they made? Because if they didn't wanna show that to you, maybe you shouldn't believe them.
DAVID POGUE: Now content credentials aren't going to be a silver bullet. We're also going to need laws; and we're also going to need education so that we, the people, can fine tune our bologna detectors.
But in the next couple of years you'll start seeing that special button on photos and videos online, at least on the ones that aren't fake.
ERIC HORVITZ: We're trying out different prototypes right now. If someone tampers with that video, in this case, a gold symbol comes up and says, "content credentials incomplete". Ah-ha. Step back, be skeptical.
DAVID POGUE: Wow! So, as a person on the viewing end, I don't need [00:18:00] to know about all your complicated manifest Microsoft mumbo jumbo. I just see, either that icon's there, or it's missing, or, or indicating that something's wrong.
ERIC HORVITZ: Absolutely.
DAVID POGUE: You're mentioning media companies, New York Times, BBC. You're mentioning software companies, Microsoft, Adobe, who are in some realms, competitors. You're saying that they all lay down their arms to work together on something to save democracy.
ERIC HORVITZ: Yeah, I think that groups working together across the larger ecosystem: social media platforms, computing platforms, broadcasters, uh, producers, uh, and governments.
DAVID POGUE: Wow! So this thing could work?
ERIC HORVITZ: I think it has a chance of making a dent, uh, potentially a big dent in the challenges we face; and us all coming together in a way to, to address this challenge of out time.
Free Speech on Trial: Supreme Court Hears Cases That Could Reshape Future of the Internet - Democracy Now! - Air Date 2-27-23
AARON MACKEY: The two cases that were heard were the first time that the Supreme Court has actually ever come across, and potentially interpreted, section 230. [00:19:00] And what Section 230 is — why Section 230 is so important is because, its legal protections for online intermediaries power, sort of, the underlying architecture that we all use every day. So when internet users use email, when they set up their own websites, when they use social media, or create their own blogs, or comment on each other’s blogs. All of that is powered and protected by Section 230.
And so EFF’s concern in these two cases is that the Supreme Court might interpret Section 230 narrowly. So that internet users will not have those similar opportunities in the future to organize online, to speak online, to find their communities online; because the law might be narrowed, and internet services might react in a way that limits opportunities for people. To both speak online, but also limits the types of forums, and the type of speech that we can have online.
AMY GOODMAN: Aaron explain what happened with [00:20:00] Nohemi Gonzalez in 2015, and what this case is based on.
AARON MACKEY: Yeah so, the central allegations in the complaint are not that YouTube played any role in the attacks that resulted in Nohemi Gonzalez’s death; but it’s that YouTube provided a number of features and services to either members of ISIS or ISIS supporters. That allowed them to recruit, engage, or sort of help, or assist ISIS in sort of its larger organizational and terrorist goals. And so based on that, they filed a claim. A civil claim, under the Anti-Terrorism Act for aiding and abetting ISIS.
And so the courts have been basically interpreting Section 230 uniformly to say, fundamentally, those claims are based on the content of users’ speech. So posts on YouTube and in time, posts [00:21:00] on Twitter, and so therefore the courts have held that Section 230 applies, and sort of bars those claims. And so that is the sort of underlying claim. And so, really, I think what the Supreme Court — what you heard last week was them struggling with: Where do you draw the line to sort of impose liability on YouTube, or Twitter, or any sort of online service, when these claims are sort of very attenuated from the harm that has occurred in these cases?
And our concern is that if you put the, sort of, liability on those platforms for such, sort of, attenuated roles in the claims here, you’re really going to deter them from hosting any speech that even remotely deals with this. And this will likely fall on a number of organizations, and individuals. It'll fall on reporters. It'll fall on people who are trying to seek access and document atrocities across the globe, and so that’s what we’re concerned about.
SCOTUS on the Internet Its Complicated Part 1 - Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick - Air Date 2-25-23
DAHLIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: ...explain to us if the [00:22:00] court were taking it seriously in the fashion that Justice Jackson did take it seriously and they wanted to do a thing that is not too big to fail, right? Oh, there’s too much money. We can’t do anything that there is a fix here that the court could pick away through. Can you write that opinion for me?
DANIELLE CITRON: I could, easily. I feel like I've written it, enough series of law review articles, where I explain that the over broad interpretation of the statute has led us to a land that misunderstands section 230c1 and 2 and how they operate together. And we have instructions, a blueprint from Cox and White; and we can go back to the origins. We can go to the language.
So the decision would read, and I'm imagining this is what Justice Jackson would write, is that section 230 does not immunize YouTube from liability, civil liability here [00:23:00] because C1 is inapplicable. Here, what's at issue is YouTube's own conduct; their algorithmic recommendation system that they built and make tons of money from. That they use our data and recommend things. This lawsuit isn't about treating YouTube as a publisher or speaker for information that they failed to remove but left up. We out, you know?
So it's a hard problem, of course, because there are all these downstream consequences, which is the policy question. Next is, but Danielle isn't that Justice Jackson, or justice. You have to wrestle with the fact that so much of tools and services that we use online are using all types of tools that mine our data to make recommendations. And will that open these companies up to liability?
And the answer is, it might. They need genuine theories of liability. Right. [00:24:00] And those genuine theories of liability, would have to get past themselves. 12 motions to dismiss on the grounds of legal cognize ability. Even after we deal with the question of immunity. So there's no blanket immunity. But then, of course, you gotta have some theory of relief that works.
So I guess my policy response, and this is not a legal, analytical, statutory interpretation response; but my policy response to the concern. That we are gonna have liability that follows like any other industry. We have to face liability for your business model. That my response is, let's see what happens.
And if Congress wants to step in and provide a section 230 2.0, where they explicitly draft a law that says, this is a super immunity, this is anything that happens at the content layer. Whether it's recommendations, if they wanna write that [00:25:00] statute, do it friends. But that's not the statute that was written in 1996, and that has been interpreted in an aggressively over broad way.
I thought the court was nine justices that are really super smart, and they go and they figure out when the lower courts are doing a terrible hash of things. That they fix matters, that was my understanding always. I'm an avid listener to you, Talia. I know what they're supposed to be doing. I also know what they haven't been doing. I also know what their purpose is, these nine brilliant people in black robes, and they can do it.
DAHLIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: Just to be perfectly clear, you are saying, look, the problem is that YouTube is mining our data, pushing out crazy crap. There's a version of the algorithm theory that is right here. It was not pursued correctly.
You're also saying there is super immunity, but it's not gonna get resolved by making YouTube, in [00:26:00] other words, there's some merit to the claim here. It's not argued correctly and it's not understood correctly by the court, but that there is a pathway to fixing this here. And I think you're ultimately saying, by the way, the court can't fix it, the court can get out of the way and let Congress fix it and not make it worse. That's what you're saying?
DANIELLE CITRON: Yes. My version of the world is I didn't want the court really to take this case, Dr. Marianne Franks and I. I'm the vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and Dr. Franks is our president; and we wrote an amicus in which we offered, what we understand is really, the true principle purpose of 230. It's early understandings.
We sort of walked through the prodigy verse, Stratton Oakmont, and the court could get it right and be still unsatisfied. And in my scholarship, I have offered reforms for section 230. That would be narrow reforms that get at the bad samaritans. That [00:27:00] focus on the kinds of costs that the current interpretation of section 230 has left on the table to be born by victims.
They're strictly liable for all the harm, intimate privacy violations, and cyberstalking. So I'm talking to Congress. I think that's the right spot for all of this, but if Justice Jackson rightfully wants to reset the lower court's hash. They've made a mess of section 230. They have applied it even though the theory of liability has been about what companies have done themselves. The design of their sites, I'm thinking of Carrie Goldberg's case against Grindr. Where the theory of liability is products liability.
Hey Grindr, it's how you built this site that is the wrong, and courts have dismissed those claims. I'd love it if the courts also got it right. That they didn't just look at 230 as a free pass, and if they could interpret it in a correct way. The political questions are gonna [00:28:00] remain. And so if we're unsatisfied, okay, Congress, I got some solutions for you. I've drafted a statute for you, in my scholarship, and I've been working with some of those folks on the hill. So it's not like we can't do it, it's just two different projects.
Why Some See Web 3.0 as the Future of the Internet - WSJ - Air Date 2-15-22
NARRATOR - WSJ: As experts debate whether or not this new version of the web can become a reality, here are some of the underlying principles behind the vision for Web 3.0.
To better understand Web 3.0 and what sets it apart from the web we use today, you have to go back to the early days of the internet. What experts now refer to as Web 1.0. Most of the participants were content consumers who were limited to navigating through individual static webpages.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: Web 1.0, for those who remember, was just raw HTML, and lots of very simple webpages; and it wasn't really controlled by anybody.
NARRATOR - WSJ: This was a more decentralized version of the web. [00:29:00] Meaning anyone who knew how to code could build on it from their own computers; but at this time only a small number of users had the technical skills to create and publish content.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: Web 2.0 is this modern, centralized version of the web. You know we're all sharing things on social media. Which are owned by, you know, only two or three companies, and we're all using Google search.
NARRATOR - WSJ: These companies own and manage the data collected from their users; and they frequently track and save this data, and use it for targeted ads.
OLGA MACK: What's at the core of their business model is data.
NARRATOR - WSJ: Olga Mack is a blockchain lecturer at UC [00:30:00] Berkeley, and is optimistic about Web 3's potential to reshape the internet.
OLGA MACK: Um the data economy where the user generated content, whether it's a conversation or a video, that is exchanged for services; and so there is a perception that this monopoly of data could be abused.
NARRATOR - WSJ: Here's where the vision for Web 3.0 comes in. The term Web 3 was first coined by one of the creators of the Ethereum blockchain, Gavin Wood. In a 2014 blog post Wood envisioned Web 3 as an open and decentralized version of the internet. Theoretically, users would be able to exchange money and information on the web without the need for a middleman, like a bank or a tech company.
In this vision for Web 3 world people would have more control over their data, and be able to sell it if they choose; and it would all be operated on a decentralized distributed ledger technology. The most common version of this is known as [00:31:00] the blockchain. While still considered relatively new and unproven, it could offer more transparency and autonomy for users.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: The computers that are actually doing that computing for you, or storing that data, anyone could own those computers. Anyone can become a part of that blockchain, and so it's not Facebook and Google's computers doing that.
NARRATOR - WSJ: With a single personalized account users would theoretically be able to move seamlessly from social media, to email, to shopping; creating a public record on the blockchain of all that activity. But how exactly would Web 3 remain operational if it's not controlled by a central corporation or entity?
Theoretically people would be given virtual tokens, or cryptocurrencies, to incentivize them to participate in the operation of Web 3. A central element of this system is so-called de-fi or decentralized finance.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: And the idea is that if you can issue a [00:32:00] token for everything in the universe. If you can financialize every possible interaction of computers, and software, and humans; then you can create this vast ecosystem of cryptocurrencies, which can be traded, which can be valued relative to one another.
NARRATOR - WSJ: Still, it's unclear how this decentralized token system would be regulated. How it could operate on a large scale, or even how well it would distribute control of the internet.
Critics of the idea, like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, called Web 3 "a centralized entity with a different label".
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: Developers who really dug into this think that, um, the underlying blockchain structures of Web 3.0 are, uh, very insecure, not decentralized as promised. They're actually as centralized as, uh, previous technologies.
NARRATOR - WSJ: Some see Web 3.0 as a critical building block in creating the Metaverse; an immersive online world where people can use avatars to socialize, shop, work, and [00:33:00] play. But others say Web 3 and the Metaverse are two very different concepts.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: Because the Metaverse is being hyped a lot right now, and Web 3 is, there are some companies at the intersection of the two. Like let's create a metaverse that you know somehow is connected to the blockchain.
NARRATOR - WSJ: Right now, Web 3 is still very much an abstract concept, with little real world foundation. Skeptics, like engineer and blogger Steven Diehl, argue that Web 3.0 doesn't have the computing power, bandwidth, or storage to work on any practical level.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: For skeptics of Web 3 their argument is that, um you know, tokens and cryptocurrencies in general are just a giant bubble; and as soon as it pops, uh in their view, all of this nonsense about, "how that's going to build the next internet", will go away.
NARRATOR - WSJ: While it remains to be seen whether or not Web 3 will become a reality. The philosophy behind it is driving billions in investments in the venture capital world; funding a [00:34:00] vast ecosystem of decentralized internet services.
CHRISTOPHER MIMS: So there's so much real world money going into building Web 3 startups that, even if as a concept, it proves unworkable; we're gonna be hearing about it for a long time yet to come.
Real Social Media Solutions, Now — with Frances Haugen - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 11-23-22
FRANCES HAUGEN: Their business model is ads. So the more attention you give, the more ads they give.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: And, um, each of these companies has an ego or an embedded growth obligation. They have to grow every year and every quarter. With that ego also comes, it's growing what? Do they grow just data that they collect? Well, yes. But they also have to grow the amount of attention that they get from humanity. And if I don't get that attention, the other one will. And so if Instagram doesn't add a beautification filter to match TikTok in the arms race for teenagers' mental health, Instagram's just gonna [00:35:00] lose the arms race. And so it's pretty simple game theory, but when you then say, Okay, if I don't do the three second videos versus the thirty second videos, I'm gonna lose to the guy that does the three second videos.
So, when you play that out, this race for attention, starting in 2013, the reason that I came out, my version of Frances' story, is that we can predict the future. I can tell you exactly what society's gonna look like if you let this race continue. Population-centric information warfare. Weakening teenage mental health. Shortening attention spans. Beautification filters. Unrealistic standards of beauty for teenagers. More polarizing, extreme content. More conspiracy theories. These are all predictable phrases that describe a future that, if you allow this to continue, I can tell you exactly what the world's gonna look like. And part of the reason we're all here today is to not just talk about those problems, we wanna solve them. Because we know that this leads to a total dystopian catastrophe novel that unfortunately is playing out, uh, true every day.
FRANCES HAUGEN: And I wanna unpack that a little bit. Like, we've heard people say things like, They're [00:36:00] intentionally designing these systems for anger. They're intentionally designing them for division. One of the things that I was really struck by when I went to Facebook was how kind and conscientious the people were that work there.
You know, the kind of people who work at social media companies are people who value connection. They're not, you know, shadowy figures. But what Tristan's talking about here about the market incentives, the fact that these are private companies, that we are asking to run critical public infrastructure in a completely untransparent way. We're asking them to maintain public safety, to maintain national security when those are cost centers. They're not profit centers. And so you end up in a situation where they may wanna do better, but because they have to meet these market incentives each year, it's hard for 'em to get there. So, I guess the question I have for you, Tristan, is like, what conversation should we be having then?
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: So in preparation for answering that question, I think one thing we have to notice is that, per the E.O. Wilson quote that we always go back to, that the fundamental problem of humanity is we have paleolithic emotions [00:37:00] and brains, medieval institutions, and accelerating God-like technology. And I repeat it thousands and thousands of times because of how true it is and how deep it is, as an insight to then see how do we solve a problem. And part of the medieval institutions is that law always lags the new tech. We don't need a new conception of privacy until you have ubiquitous cameras that start getting rolled out in the 1900s. We don't need a right to be forgotten until new 21st century technology can remember you forever. So, one of the problems is that we have technology moving so fast in the current regulatory environment is, okay, well I have these existing moral philosophies of privacy and data protection, and these are good, we want these things. But notice that the, you know, the breakdown of teenage mental health or extremism in Ethiopia or this arms race for attention and engagement, it's an adjacent and slightly different set of areas, and we don't have laws or moral conceptions for those areas.
FRANCES HAUGEN: So, often when we write laws, we write them about [00:38:00] externalities, right? That when we have the system operating in isolation, there are incentives where these four ...
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: What is an externality?
FRANCES HAUGEN: So, an externality is when there is a cost. So, let's say we're Facebook's going ahead. They're getting you to pay attention, they're getting you to click on ads. They get money for those ads. They're offloading onto you, though the anxiety that's building in your heart. The child that took their own life, the political division at Thanksgiving,
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: Those don't show up on the balance sheet of Facebook. They don't have to deal with the Thanksgiving conversations that don't work anymore.
FRANCES HAUGEN: And the thing we wanna emphasize is that there are really good, really simple, practical solutions that would reduce a lot of these problems. It's things like that escalator where you keep going for more and more extreme content, when we talk to pediatricians, when we talk to child psychologists, they say, kids get that this is happening. You know, they get that when they go on there, they feel more anxious. They get that it's making their eating disorder worse, but they're being forced to choose between their past and their future, right?
They can give up their account, but they have to give up all their friends and the connections, they have [00:39:00] to give up all their past memories. And kids aren't willing to give up their past for their future. You know, they should be allowed to reset the model anytime they want to. Any of you should be allowed to reset your model. You should have that right, even if it's gonna make Facebook less money. It's things like saying, how do you put mindfulness in the sharing process? Do you require people to click a link before you share it, or things as simple as, what level of hyper-virality do we want to endorse? You know, when something gets beyond friends of friends, imagine a world where instead of having a little reshare button where you can keep spreading the misinformation, we said, We value choice, we value intentionality. You can say whatever you want, but once it gets beyond friend of friends, you have to copy and paste if you wanna spread it further. That change sounds pedantic. You're like, Frances, why are you asking me about colors on share boxes or share fingers? The reality is that simple change has the same impact on misinformation as the entire third-party fact checking program. Only no individual is now saying this is a [00:40:00] good idea or a bad idea.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: So, let's actually break that down cuz this is a profound statement, that we were both, you said it first, it came out of Frances' disclosures to the Wall Street Journal, that in Facebook's own research, simply taking away the share button and having you say, I can still copy and paste the text manually and share it again, but adding that one piece of the friction in where I have to share manually...
FRANCES HAUGEN: I have to intentionally do it.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: ...I have to intentionally do it...
FRANCES HAUGEN: Not mindlessly.
FRANCES HAUGEN: I don't know about all that, but the third-party fact checking program, where they pay journalists to go out there and write articles and say, This link, this concept is no longer allowed on our platform.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: So, I think then that this gets to the point then. So, why wouldn't a trivial change that an engineer could make in one day, why isn't that happening?
FRANCES HAUGEN: So, this comes back to this question around [00:41:00] externalities and incentives. The reason why we have to push for things like platform transparency, right?, so, the PATA Act, Platform Transparency and Accountability Act [sic], it would allow us to see inside those companies. You know, what would it look like in terms of what people would be willing to stand up and demand if they could see for themselves that data instead of just taking my word for it or looking at the documents that I brought out.
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: So, the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, or PATA, has not yet been introduced to Congress, but it's a bill with bipartisan support that obliges tech companies like Facebook to open their data to researchers so that we can actually study the effects of these platforms in a meaningful way. The bill came about in direct response to disclosures from Frances and other social media whistle. We don't wanna live in a world, we have to wait for the next Francis Haugen or the next whistleblower to know what's going on inside these platforms.
FRANCES HAUGEN: We have to have the ability to have those countervailing incentives, because otherwise the profit motive will just keep pushing away from these really simple, sensible changes. And the great irony, and I've had [00:42:00] to repeat this in every interview since then, one of the core parts of my testimony was the idea that when we focus on content moderation, solving these problems after the fact, it doesn't just distract us from real solutions, it leaves behind everyone who doesn't speak one of the 20 biggest languages in the world. And that's what causes that ethnic violence that I talked about in the beginning.
SCOTUS on the Internet Its Complicated Part 2 - Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick - Air Date 2-25-23
DAHLIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: So Danielle, at the risk of asking you to explain all of your career standing on one foot. I do think maybe you could play us out with a list of those values that you want us to center. Because I think we've talked about revenge porn and violence, and I think that maybe it would be useful going forward.
I'm thinking about if you and I can agree that the court is not going to radically rewrite section 230, and that they probably want this case to go away. But if we can agree that this was not the day to do what the court [00:43:00] played at doing this week. What are the values we should be centering as we think about ChatGPT, and AI, and all the ways in which technology is changing at lighting speeds?
DANIELLE CITRON: These technologies, these tools and services are indispensable to our lives. So we all should have a meaningful chance to use them, and at the same time, to use them for free expression and sexual expression. All the ways that we wanna make the most of our lives. Work, fall in love, meet people, network, create opportunities for democratic engagement.
We wanna do all those things, and at the same time, those tools can be weaponized against us. All the while that we are doing things that are really important to our careers, and our ability to engage with other people, and to love. Those tools are engaging in persistent, continuous, indiscriminate surveillance of our intimate lives.
In doing that, all the ways we use these tools, we're not thinking [00:44:00] that when we use our Amazon Echo it's recording, and storing in the cloud; and then potentially leaking our private conversations in our kitchens. We're not thinking as we use our period tracking apps, our dating apps, we're searching adult videos on PornHub, we are using our search engine. Which is the key to our soul. What we're searching, what we're thinking, and what we're browsing. We're not thinking that all of that information is being used, shared, stored, sold, and exploited against us. In ways that have implications for our life insurance premiums, the jobs that we do or don't get.
So the value that I want us to center and think about is: we're using all these platforms in ways that are so pro-social, and at the same time we are the object. We're being turned into objects, and manipulated, and exploited. I want us to think about how important the privacy around our intimate life is. Around our bodies, our health, our sexual [00:45:00] orientation, our sexual activities, our close relationships.
The privacy that we afford, that we want, that we expect, that we deserve, right? As we use these tools and services in the bedroom, I'm seeing my phone, it goes everywhere I go. Preserving the privacy, protecting the privacy around the data around our intimate life, is so important for us to be able to figure out who we are and develop our identities. It's so important for us to enjoy self esteem and social esteem.
So when a content platform encourages people to post non-consensual, intimate imagery, the cost is that to so many people; more often women, sexual and gender minorities, and racial minorities. The cost is that you're just a fragment. When people see those images, you become just a body part, right? You're not a subject, you're an object, right? You lose your social esteem. If we didn't have intimate privacy, [00:46:00] if we use these tools... so Talia, I'm gonna call you on the phone, we're gonna use these tools and services to get to know each other, to form friendships, fall in love.
If we don't have that privacy, we can't form thick relationships. We need intimate privacy to be reciprocally vulnerable, and to trust each other. Charles Fried, I always quote him cuz it's the greatest quote in the world from 1970. His book Anatomy of Values, where he said, "privacy is the oxygen for love". It is, and that's on the line. You asked me, what are the values? What's on the line when we use these network tools and services, just to go back to our YouTube, what's on the line is our capacity for love. Our capacity to communicate with privacy so we trust each other.
What's on the line is our ability to get jobs, and keep jobs. Our ability to figure out who we are and express ourselves in ways that feel safe. Because privacy isn't me, it's [00:47:00] we, it's us. If we have in view as we think through legislatively, the common law courts, policy makers. As we think through what matters, the stakes are, when we're talking about online life and all these tools, the stakes are our intimate privacy. It is our civil rights and our liberties. We often forget that when a site amplifies, recommends, makes money off of, uses our data to recommend non-consensual intimate imagery; the cost is to the sexual expression, and expression of privacy of victims.
Cuz they're leaving online life, they're shutting down their LinkedIn. They are not using YouTube. They are literally, completely removing themselves from any online engagement and offline engagement. Their friends don't talk to them. You are vanquishing the speech opportunities for victims.
So we've gotta have all of those values in mind as we think about [00:48:00] all the kinds of policies. Content moderation is a beautiful thing, I have to say. Having worked with companies for 12 years or more 15, we have seen industry self-regulate in ways that 230 was meant to do. We see companies responding to non-consensual intimate imagery.
I wish we could touch those 9,500 sites that their raison d'etre is intimate image abuse, I can't. Companies are engaging in that project of content moderation in ways that protect victims so they can express themselves. So I guess I want those values on the table. That's the kind of thing, those are the kinds of conversations that I've been having with lawmakers, with judges, with companies, with all of us. So that we have them in view as we make these decisions.
Synthetic Humanity AI & Whats At Stake Part 2 - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 2-16-23
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: The main player in the space to this point has been OpenAI, which built ChatGPT, and OpenAI began as a nonprofit in 2015 with grants from Elon Musk and other investors with deep pockets. [00:49:00] And then starting in 2017, a big shift happened. Aza, can you tell us a little bit about that?
AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: You know, starting in 2017, OpenAI discovered this incredibly surprising thing, which is they trained a neural net to predict the next character of product reviews on Amazon. That's all it did. It just... you give it some text and it predicted the next character of the Amazon review. But what was very surprising is that they found one neuron inside of this neural net that did the very best in the world job of predicting sentiment. That was the human writing the product review, positive or negative about the product. And this is surprising. Why should predicting the next character of a product review suddenly let you tell something about the emotional state of the human being writing? That's surprising. And the insight is that in order to do something as seemingly simple as predict [00:50:00] the next character, the AI to get really good at that has to start inferring things about the human.
What gender are they? What political leaning are they? Are they feeling positively, sentimental or negatively sedimental? Positively balanced or negatively balanced? That idea is a fundamental one, it's called self-supervised learning, to hold if you're gonna understand why something like ChatGPT, even though all it's trained to do is just predict the next word of 45 terabytes of text on the internet, can suddenly do these incredibly surprising things. And honestly, no one really understands why this is the case is just by increasing the amount of data or just by increasing the size of the model, the model will go from not being able to do something, say high school level math competition problems, and it won't be able to do it and it's just failing and it's just failing, and you give it a little bit more like size, parameters as it's called, and suddenly boom, [00:51:00] and people don't know why, it starts being able to high school or college level math problems.
So it's very surprising. Or another one is simply by training on data on the internet, the AI is able to start passing the US lawyer's bar exam or the US medical license exam. And it's not like the AI was specifically trained to do this. Something has changed in the scale of these models, in the last, really just two years, 18 months, uh, and now out to the public with ChatGPT only since last November, that the models are able to do something so complex that it hasn't ever seen before. So, something new is happening and the field doesn't really understand why. [00:52:00]
TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: And so what are the technical developments that enabled that jump? Like why, you know, people have always worried about AI for so long, but then it always feels like they fall over. You know, speech recognition: oh my God, it's still not getting my speech recognition right in my phone. Siri, oh, her voice sounds a little bit better, but it's still making all these like very funny sounding mistakes. Why are we in some new regime? What are the technical developments that have jumped us into some new world in just the last two to three years?
AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: There have been a whole bunch of underneath the hood, tool chain updates that let you more easily run larger scale computations. Uh, sort of boring, but it's just the difference between like the first Model-T car, which could barely go and like, a modern Tesla or something which can go to zero to 60 in whatever a motorhead would say it goes. Something very quick. So there's something about that you can't do with a Model-T that you can do with a Tesla or some other fast car. So like that's one big thing. But two, [00:53:00] and this is much deeper, is there has been a huge consolidation in the way AI works. So it used to be, that if you cared about, you know, classifying what images a squirrel, you were working in computer vision, and if you were working in computer vision, you had a whole set of specialized knowledge in textbooks and classes that you've learned so that you can help the computer see and understand what it's seeing. And there was a completely different field in a different building working on natural language processing. And you had different classes and different textbooks to understand how do you get a computer to model language. And then there was another field called robotics. And you're trying to, you know, with different classroom, different textbooks, different techniques, to get the computer to control a robot arm. And what's happened in the last, you know, two, three years has been a massive convergence where everything starts to just look like a [00:54:00] language. So, all those researchers that were working on computer vision and the researchers that were working on natural language and those researchers working on robotics, all of those fields have unified and they're all just working on one field. So you can already see the kind of exponential increase that happens just from that.
Ban TikTok - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-21-23
ALEX HEATH: The main concern is TikTok's parent company. It's called ByteDance, and it's this giant tech conglomerate based in Beijing that operates dozens and dozens of apps around the world. There's a Chinese version of TikTok that TikTok was based off of, called Doyen, that is huge, makes billions of dollars a year and ByteDance controls TikTok effectively, right? So, even though they have created a separate org and they're wanting to even further wall that off, if the government allows them to, and says that's enough to not get banned, it's a app that is controlled by a Chinese company. And the concern is that if you're a Chinese company, you kind of have to do whatever the Chinese government tells you [00:55:00] to do.
FBI SPOKESPERSON: We, the FBI do have national security concerns, uh, about the app. So the idea of entrusting that much data, that much, uh, ability to shape content and engage in influence operations, that much access to people's devices, uh, in effect to that government, is something that concerns us.
ALEX HEATH: And so, at the heart of that, there's really two concerns, which is that, one, TikTok could be used to spy on Americans, to harvest their data, their location, their preferences, what have you. And then on the other side, there's the fear that there could be some kind of pressure campaign from the Chinese government to manipulate what people see in their TikTok "For You" page. TikTok is not unique anymore, but it was unique at the time when it broke out in the US because of the way that its algorithm really dictates what you see. It's not really based on who you follow, like Facebook and Instagram and what we've [00:56:00] traditionally been used to with social media.
FBI SPOKESPERSON: It gives them the ability to control the recommendation algorithm, which allows them to manipulate content and if they want to, to use it for, you know, influence operations.
ALEX HEATH: And so, the fear is that that powerful algorithm that now, you know, a billion plus people around the world use a lot, could somehow be manipulated in a way that could compromise American national security by the Chinese government. And so those are the two main concern.
SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY EXPLAINED: In that context, is this app any worse than the other social media apps we have and use? The ones that, you know, lead to deaths in Myanmar because of misinformation on Facebook? Or, you know, the one with the loudest man in the world sounding off and twisting the algorithm to suit his own ego. Is TikTok actually thus far worse, or are we just waiting for it to one day be worse?
ALEX HEATH: It's not worse on the surface. I would say the only thing that's separate that I think, you know, the [00:57:00] American tech leaders have a point in raising, is that at least they're subject to US jurisdiction and US oversight. Right? And like they're US companies, right? So they're subject to US law and TikTok is subject to Chinese law. And it's a very different dynamic. And so, no, TikTok is not doing anything more nefarious than any other social media companies that we talk about that are based in America, but it's not an American company.
Project Texas is this thing that I was invited to hear about at TikTok's headquarters actually recently in Los Angeles. And we were brought into TikTok's office, which you know, it looks like any other tech office, right? You've got like the fancy logo out front where you can take selfies, really nice conference rooms, et cetera.
SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY EXPLAINED: Did you take a selfie?
ALEX HEATH: I did not take a selfie.
SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY EXPLAINED: Professional.
ALEX HEATH: I had evidence I was there, but I did not take a selfie. [00:58:00] And we met with, you know, executives there, and then they walked us around the corner to another building where they have this thing they're calling their Transparency Center. They talk about Project Texas, and they show people, you know, a basic kind of 101 of how TikTok works. This is really designed for lawmakers to come in and get a crash course in TikTok.
SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY EXPLAINED: Were there like portraits of Chairman Mao on the walls and stuff?
ALEX HEATH: [laugh] Well, it was interesting because, you know, TikTok is very much trying to distance itself from ByteDance because it doesn't want to be forced to totally spin off from ByteDance. So, you know, it uses language like, you know, we're an American company, you know, with American employees, we don't have any ties to China. But then you're in the office and it's not even really that subtle. The wifi says ByteDance. ByteDance has its own version of Slack that they built for all their employees globally. And that's like on the conference room [00:59:00] TVs, right? There's just all these reminders that TikTok is not its own entity, right? And so that's in my mind as I'm hearing these leaders from the company, you know, pitch this plan to be technically separate but not fully separate.
So, the plan with Project Texas is to create a new entity in the US for TikTok that is legally separate and separates all the code, importantly, from the rest of TikTok globally and ByteDance. And there's a bunch of auditors that are brought in that are approved by the US government. There's a separate board that reports to the US government, and Oracle is the "trusted partner" that is reviewing all of TikTok's code, that is literally recompiling the app and putting it in the app store itself. So, TikTok can't even be trusted to submit its own app to the app store under this setup. And it really positions TikTok as like a defense contractor in terms of the compliance, [01:00:00] the government oversight, that they will have to go through to form this entity.
SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY EXPLAINED: Weird.
ALEX HEATH: It's very strange. It's frankly unprecedented for a company to propose something like this in the US. TikTok says it's already spent over 1.5 billion trying to set up Project Texas, and it estimates it will cost it over, like, 700 million a year to operate. So, this is not a trivial operation. This is all designed to avoid the government trying to force a ban or an actual spinoff where a separate entity is created totally away from ByteDance. Because you gotta think like, Yeah, you know, all these employees for Project Texas and this new entity in the US, they will be under these really strict compliance regulations with the government. They're still ByteDance employees at the end of the day, like, they're compensated in ByteDance equity. And I'm not technical enough to understand if this will actually assuage fears adequately in terms of, like, can you do a line by line [01:01:00] read of TikTok's code and somehow determine that the Chinese government is not asking for data or, you know, trying to influence how some engineer somewhere programs things to, you know, amplify certain content over others. It's unclear because no one has seen this, right? So when we walk into this transparency center, which, you know, I've done some of these tours before with tech companies and, you know, they're optics driven. So, like you get in there and it's like a giant screen that you can touch, like, here's how TikTok works, and we can go in another room and then see a basic version of what it's like to be a content moderator for TikTok. So, it's a way to like learn about the policies. Nothing like super revelatory that you couldn't learn from Googling, right? But behind this wall, in a corner of this transparency center is this room we weren't allowed to go in as journalists. And TikTok says, if you sign a non-disclosure agreement, put your phone in a locker, go through a metal detector, and go in this room, [01:02:00] there are servers that house the TikTok source code. I find this very hard to believe. A lot of this is just, we're trusting TikTok at this point, that this is how things are gonna work. And the government isn't really saying anything except these really increasingly hawkish statements we're getting in the press and in hearings.
SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY EXPLAINED: So, do you think Project Texas will be enough to alleviate all the concerns at state governments, the federal government, federal agencies, college campuses?
ALEX HEATH: I don't know, and I don't think TikTok knows either. I think the reason they're doing this big press push, inviting people like me into the Transparency Center, having their CEO testify in Congress, is they're partly just frustrated that negotiations with the government have drawn on for as long as they have, and that the government seems to have changed its mind back and forth several times. And they're also, I think, really doing the best they can, kind of in the ninth inning, to [01:03:00] say like, Look, we care. We're serious about this. Like, you don't need to ban us. Like, this is a really robust program that we think will alleviate all the concern. And the problem is, like, we have a pitch of what it is, but it hasn't really been exposed in a, I think like, independent way, like how this program actually works. So we're kind of just waiting and seeing, and I think TikTok is, too. Their fate's kind of going to be decided by what this Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States - CFIUS - thinks here in the near term. It's not like, if Project Texas, you know, gets totally turned on tomorrow, that there's not Chinese employees involved in the strategy and decision making and maintaining of TikTok. That will still be the case. It will just be us trusting all these auditors and Oracle and all this to make sure that TikTok is not being manipulated.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the BBC, introducing and warning of the future of ChatGPT. Your [01:04:00] Undivided Attention looked more philosophically at the potential of a world in which people form synthetic relationships with AI. Start Here, from Al Jazeera, looked into the potential and present dangers of deep fakes. CBS Sunday Morning spoke with the tech leaders looking to create verifiable content credentials for authentic photos and videos. Democracy Now! discussed the case currently in front of the Supreme Court, addressing the interpretation of Section 230. Amicus discussed some potential minor tweaks to Section 230 that we may need for a new era. The Wall Street Journal looked into the potential of the so-called Web 3.0 based on blockchain technology. Your Undivided Attention discussed the ongoing need to regulate social media to fit human values. And Amicus laid out a set of values that protect privacy rights by understanding them as a fundamental human need.
That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Your Undivided [01:05:00] Attention telling a bit of the backstory of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. And Today Explained looked into the dispute between TikTok and those in the US who would ban the app outright. To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. And now we'll hear from you.
What does re-Indigenization mean for urban White folks? - Pat from Chicago
VOICEMAILER: PAT FROM CHICAGO: Hey Jay!, this is Pat from Chicago, and I just listened to the most recent episode on kind of the ideology and even more overarching life philosophy of indigeneity or rediscovering our indigenous place in the world. And it just got me thinking about so many different things about our way forward as a world that is deeply broken by capitalism and [01:06:00] racism and all the unjust structures.
One of the questions that it got me to ask was, what does it mean for an urban white person like me who doesn't have direct ties to an indigenous culture, to discover, rediscover, create, or come together to develop a sense of place and community without a clear cultural antecedent to reconnect to, without turning into kind of a -- which of course I reject -- nativist and tribal white identity, which seems to be so ascendant in the US these days, especially in ex-urban and rural places?
It's like you can see our partisan divide right there in our geography. And I think finding ways to connect maybe almost urban and rural White [01:07:00] Americans, or urban and rural Black and White people, Brown people, across those divides, could be part of this solution, but I struggle to think about what that specifically looks like.
But thank you for this awesome episode and keep up the good work.
Final comments on what re-Indigenization means for the rest of us
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record or text us a message at 202-999-3991 or send an email to [email protected]
Thanks to Pat for his message that we just heard. There was a lot going on there, which I think is perfectly normal when tackling a big new concept like was laid out in the most recent episode about re indigenization. But I think that Pat is actually getting right to the core of the question.
For a little bit of background, I started thinking about these ideas almost five years ago when [01:08:00] I first heard about the cultural renaissance in Hawaii, and my reaction wasn't just happiness for them, but was also an awareness of something that was missing for me. I had a bit of an existential crisis realizing that having descended from the other side of the colonialism line, I simply couldn't do what the Hawaiians had done -- rekindling a connection to my cultural heritage wouldn't reap the same rewards, because I wouldn't be able to help but run into a history of exploitation, racism, colonialism at a bare minimum. So that's not something I'm looking to bring back, right? So that leaves me feeling kind of stuck. I, I think that knowing where one comes from is as deep of a human need as any, and the need to feel proud of our history is one of the strongest mechanisms by which oppression is perpetuated through the ages.
So people like me who -- I'm trying to refuse [01:09:00] to knowingly perpetuate oppression -- we end up being cut off from having pride in our history, which is a form of alienation, which is one of the key concepts that I was addressing in that episode.
And then on top of that, I think that there's a more widespread form of alienation that permeates most of the dominant culture, because everyone, to some degree or another, feels a bit disconnected from nature, even though our bodies still respond incredibly well to being in nature. I mean, going for a walk in the woods is literally good for our health because of the contact with nature. But most of us live in such a way that we are cut off from that experience most of the time. We vacation into nature, but we generally don't live with nature on a regular basis.
So those are the reasons that people may gravitate towards the concept of indigenization, but then be left wondering what the hell that actually means. [01:10:00] And Pat in particular is asking about people like us who don't have a direct or recent connection to an indigenous past. What does it mean for us to attempt to connect with an indigenous worldview?
My short answer is, I don't know, but I'm hoping to find out.
My longer answer is that I think it's relatively easy to address the concerns that Pat brought up by knowing what not to do and keeping those values central in our minds. So learning from a group of people doesn't need to devolve into cultural appropriation, nor an emulated tribalism.
The more important aspect of what needs to be learned or relearned is the human values and actions that help maintain a healthy relationship with land and the environment. Indigenous peoples around the world managed to have very different cultures from one another, but often very similar values, particularly [01:11:00] related to the environment. So it's possible to learn the underlying values and understand the local needs of the land without having to adopt an entire culture along with it.
And as for tribalism, we already have a really solid foundation of anti-racist, multicultural values to draw on on that topic. One key aspect of the story of the GalGael community in Scotland, highlighted in the previous episode, was the origin of the name: "Gall" referring to the outsider, and "Gael" referring to the heartland people. The values at the core of that community was to be open to the outsider, while at the same time attempting to reconnect with past cultural heritage. So it was explicitly a non-tribal, non-exclusive form of re-indigenization they were striving for. So anyone in that same mindset should try to emulate that value.
But, just a reminder that I'm no expert and need to do [01:12:00] a lot of learning right alongside you. This is still a burgeoning movement, so there's a lot still to learn, a lot to work out, but it seems clear to me that it's a movement that's headed in the right direction.
As always, keep the comments coming in. You can leave us a voicemail or you can now send us a text through standard SMS. Find us on WhatsApp or the Signal messaging app, all with the same number, 202-999-3991. Or keep it old school by emailing me to [email protected]
That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show, and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Bryan and LaWendy for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at [01:13:00] BestoftheLeft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. And you can continue the discussion by joining our Discord community; a link to join is in the show notes.
So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from BestoftheLeft.com.
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