Naive Realism

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #359.

I posted the following this week:

  • Watching AI Virtual Assistants Grow Up – This post shares let’s look at how GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) has evolved over the last decade in order to figure out where it could/should go.

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Is Messaging Aliens a Bad Idea?

We listen, but we don’t send. Why do we expect aliens to transmit if we don’t? Many have voiced concerns about any programs designed to broadcast our presence.

Although it may be a popular idea in science fiction, what do scientists say about this scenario?

Now for sale: Data on your mental health

A new study from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy reveals the expansiveness of the market for people’s sensitive health data. When one researcher contacted data brokers to see what kinds of mental health info she could buy, she found companies that are “building inferences and scores and categorizations from patterns in your life, your actions, where you go, what you eat.”

Why this matters. We often do not read the terms of service (ToS) or terms of use (ToU) when we sign up for new platforms and tools. This results in data about our location, exercise habits, and other parts of our identity being gobbled up by others. Increasingly this digital dossier includes info about our mental health.

ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web

Ted Chiang provides a useful way to understand how the underlying tech works. Instead of anthropomorphizing these AI virtual assistants, he Chiang about how ChatGPT resembles a blurry jpeg of all the text on the web, why it’s bad at math, and what accounts for its “hallucinations.” He encourages us to ask: “What use is there in having something that rephrases the Web?”

Why this matters. As I spend more time exploring these advances in AI tools, one of the terms that keep coming up is hallucinations as we interact in these spaces. I see some value, for specific purposes in these tools. I also think that things will change and iterate over time.

I am a DoorDash driver who’s been elected to the Colorado State House. Food delivery companies are gamifying your tips and making it harder for drivers to earn a living wage. Here’s what you can do about it

Colorado State Representative and DoorDash driver Stephanie Vigil unpacks how food delivery companies are limiting drivers’ access to information and making it harder for them to earn a living wage. “The manipulation of the drivers’ data allows the company to turn that application into a sort of slot machine,” she writes.

Why this matters. I spoke with students this week about their futures and one of the topics was this rise of the gig worker economy. Consumers need to put pressure on delivery platforms to change their exploitative practices. There is a need to take action to protect gig workers from deceptive algorithms and misrepresentations about pay and work terms.

Is Everything an MLM?

Multi-level Marketing (MLM) or network marketing, is individuals selling products to the public, often by word of mouth and direct sales. The main idea behind the MLM strategy is to promote maximum number of distributors for the product and exponentially increase the sales force.

Anne Helen Petersen asks whether academia is now a large MLM scheme as we pump out PhDs and terminal degrees for folks when we know there are no jobs available. This is especially true in the

Why this matters. As we consider the future of work, I think about my role as an educator in a professional degree program. I wonder how much responsibility the cogs in the machine (me in this instance) have for being able to deliver on the value of the degree…whatever value means in this equation.

The radical idea that people aren’t stupid

Adam Mastroianni with a piece on why everyone feels like the last sane person in a world gone mad. Instead of thinking that people are just dumb…perhaps they are some other bias and perception issues at play:

  • Naive realism. The belief that you alone simply see the world as it is.
  • Psychological distance. Real people are complicated, and if they disagree with you, it’s because they’re different than you, and this creates a form of distancing.
  • Correspondence bias. Tendency to attribute other people’s actions to their personalities rather than to their situations.

Why this matters. This week in class my students spent some time thinking about pet peeves they have with others. One of the top responses was stupid people. We’ll now take some time next week to think about bias and perception.

An Ode to Swearing

A well-turned curse can remind you of the power of language.

Here’s the point: Swearing is personal. How much you swear, and with (or at) whom—that’s really your own thing. And given the much-to-be-sworn-at state we’re in, and the state of the swear economy itself, I’d counsel thrift. Save those beautiful fucks for when you need them.

The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.

Thomas Szasz

A US man developed an “uncontrollable Irish accent” after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, despite having never visited Ireland, researchers say.

Cover image Ian × DALL·E, CC BY-SA

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