Tic Tok D'oh!

The US House of Representatives, in a rare moment of actually doing something... voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a bipartisan bill that would require ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to sell the social media app or face a ban on all U.S. devices. As expected... TikTok has said the banning of a social media platform would amount to a violation of the free speech rights of millions of Americans. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has called the bill "censorship plain and simple," arguing that "jeopardizing access to the platform jeopardizes access to free expression."

For its part... TicTok stresses that it has established a data firewall by partnering with Austin-based software company Oracle. Dubbed "Project Texas," the new system routes all U.S. user traffic to Oracle, which now also controls the servers storing Americans' TikTok data. Still, the plan has not received the blessing from officials in Washington, who have said it falls short of a full breakup with ByteDance. 

Right... think they've even looked at it?

The most entertaining moment of the day came when the grand matriarch of the House... Nancy Pelose... gave her remarks which included her (now viral on TikTok) hilarious one-liner... "tic-tac-toe... a winner! ...Classic Pelose!

But here's the thing... a ban of TikTok would eliminate an important and vibrant electronic public square... It would be a travesty for the free speech rights of hundreds of millions of Americans who depend on the app to communicate, express themselves, and even make a living. And perhaps more importantly, it would further fracture the world wide web and disconnect us from the world.

Besides... the US has this little thing called the first amendment. The very first right outlined in the amendments to the US Constitution... the first amendment protects Americans against the U.S. government, not from corporations like TikTok, Meta, YouTube, or Twit-X... despite the fact that they do have outsized influence over modern communication. No, the First Amendment says that the government cannot stop you from speaking without a damned good reason. In other words, you’re protected against Congress... not TikTok.

The harder issue of course, involves the intrusive nature of social media algorithms. And TicTok's algorithm is particularly clever... 

A recent article in FastCompany pointed out... TikTok has a “milestone mechanism” (ie: a point where the algorithm boosts your content when you reach a certain number of videos), as well as a prioritization structure. For example TicTok's rascally algorithm front-loads content that the algorithm deems to be posted by Black creators, during Black History Month or Juneteenth. That's a tad cynical. 

"Social media algorithms are designed with retention in mind... The more dedicated eyeballs, the more advertising revenue that pours in. For some people, scrolling through social media for hours on end, mainly leaves them feeling guilty for having wasted a chunk of their day. But for others, getting sucked in like that can have a major impact on their mental health. Studies have shown that high levels of social media use have been linked to increased depression and anxiety in both teens and adults."

And of course... algorithms are the learning mechanisms of Generative Artificial Intelligence. From a recent article in Scientific American... 

Once AI can improve itself, which may be not more than a few years away... and could in fact already be here now... we have no way of knowing what the AI will do or how we can control it. This is because super-intelligent AI (which by definition can surpass humans in a broad range of activities) will... and this is what (we should all) worry about the most... will be able to run circles around programmers and any other human by manipulating humans to do its will. It will also have the capacity to act in the virtual world through its electronic connections, and to act in the physical world through robot bodies.
I'll be back... D'oh!

I am not sure that, like many of us... that the US House of Representatives fully appreciates the true nature of the existential threat that Generative AI Gone Wild poses. Don't even get me going on the technological singularity. It is difficult to fathom just how different machine intelligence is from human intelligence. Even though human's have done the initial programming, once generative AI really began to kick in during the last few years, all bets are off on just how powerful Artificial Intelligence can become.

One way to approach and more accurately understand machine intelligence is to consider it as a completely alien, foreign form of intelligence, vastly different from human intelligence. As if an extra-terrestrial, ultra-dimensional portal opened in the fabric of space-time... and an alien, machine intelligent species emerged. Yeah... that different.

Thinking of artificial intelligence in this fashion, will help us to not under-estimate how different machine intelligence actually is. And its getting smarter...

I go into the ramifications of Artificial Intelligence, in great detail... in my soon-to-be published new book... "Brave Noö World - A Guerilla Ethnography of High Strangeness" ...In this new work, I highlight some of the more highly strange facets of Artificial Intelligence, and how artificially intelligent entities may have already escaped into the wilds of the world wide web.

Stat tuned, intrepid traveler of the fringe... stay tuned! 


Goodman said…
Enjoyed your post immensely! Your perspective is valuable. Keep the posts coming!
Jack Heart said…
Thank you for the kind words Goodman... will do!

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