Weaving The Memory Puzzle Into a Tapestry

Hello there. Here is Digitally Literate, issue #315.

This will be my last post for 2021. I’ll take the remainder of the month off and spend time tinkering with my website, this newsletter, and my social media feeds. Some interesting things coming soon. 🙂

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Reach out and say hello at hello@digitallyliterate.net.

Springboard: the secret history of the first real smartphone

A decade before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, a tiny team of renegades imagined and tried to build the modern smartphone. Nearly forgotten by history, a little startup called Handspring tried to make the future before it was ready. This is the story of the Treo.

Read more here.

Why books don’t work

I’m spending a lot of time iterating my information consumption habits. As part of this exploration, I’ve come across the writings of Andy Matuschak.

This post details the reasons why Matuschak believes that books, textbooks, and lectures…traditional vessels for information…in our lives do not work.

In the post linked above, Andy asks the question, How might we design mediums which do the job of a non-fiction book—but which actually work reliably?

To show proof of concept, Matuschak worked with Michael Nielsen on Quantum Country, a “book” on quantum computation. Please be advised, reading this “book” doesn’t look like reading any other book. The explanatory text is tightly woven with brief interactive review sessions, as the authors help weave the memory puzzle into a larger tapestry.

I recognize that many readers of this newsletter, and my work will be equally infuriated and intrigued by the points made in this post. This is one of the main problems I’ll explore during my digital hiatus.

Congress, Far From ‘a Series of Tubes,’ Is Still Nowhere Near Reining In Tech

U. S. Legislators have spent years asking the wrong questions and proposing the wrong legislation. There are relatively simple solutions to many of the issues related to antitrust, data safety, and harmful content, with no need for changes to Section 230.

For years, tech CEOs have been interrogated in televised hearings in Congress while not generating any new laws. The entire purpose of these spectacles seems to be generating Twitter dunks for politicians’ bases. Meanwhile, the EU & Asian countries pass laws that impact US users.

Perhaps policymaking is not the goal of these hearings.

A Body of Work That Cannot Be Ignored

It’s been a year since Timnit Gebru was fired from Google after warning the search giant that messy artificial intelligence can lead to the silencing of marginalized voices.

In this post, J. Khadijah Abdurahman on how technology produces “new modes of state surveillance and control” and what we might do about it.

Racial capitalism’s roadmap for innovation is predicated on profound extraction. AI is central to this process. The next flashpoint over AI is inevitable—but our failure to respond adequately is not. Will we continue to write letters appealing to the conscience of corporations or the state? Or will we build a mass movement?

This week, Gebru also started the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR). This is a space for independent, community-rooted AI research free from Big Tech’s pervasive influence.

Twitter’s new privacy policy could clash with journalism

This week, Twitter said it is expanding its privacy policy to include what the company calls “private media.” The current privacy policy prevents users of the service from sharing other people’s private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and other personal details that might make someone identifiable against their will. Under this policy, users who have shared such data have had their accounts blocked or restricted in a variety of ways.

The new addition to the policy forbids “the misuse of media… that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals.” Twitter said it is concerned because personal imagery can violate privacy and lead to emotional or physical harm, and this can “have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

Neo-Nazis and far-right activists are making the most of the new Twitter rule and managing to remove photos of them posted by journalists. Twitter is currently reviewing the policy.

In Texas, a Battle Over What Can Be Taught, and What Books Can Be Read

Texas is afire with fierce battles over education, race, and gender. What began as a debate over social studies curriculum and critical race studies — an academic theory about how systemic racism enters the pores of society — has become something broader and more profound, not least an effort to curtail and even ban books, including classics of American literature.

What are schools and teachers to make of these crosscurrents?

Windy: Wind & weather forecasts

I love weather apps. I really love uber-cool, data visualizations of weather using open data.

Windy is an interactive forecasting tool, available at windy.com, on the App Store, and on Google Play.

I’m always looking, and I’m always asking questions.

Anne Rice

The Father of Web3 Wants You to Trust Less. Gavin Wood, who coined the term Web3 in 2014, believes decentralized technologies are the only hope of preserving liberal democracy.

At the most basic level, Web3 refers to a decentralized online ecosystem based on the blockchain. Platforms and apps built on Web3 won’t be owned by a central gatekeeper, but rather by users, who will earn their ownership stake by helping to develop and maintain those services.

Say hey at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

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