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    thenewatlantis.comNicholas Carr35 min
    7 reads7 comments
    8.8
    thenewatlantis.com
    7 reads
    8.8
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    • DellwoodBarker
      Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
      1 month ago

      The amateurs — adolescent boys, many of them — played a crucial role in the development of radio technology, and most used their sets responsibly. But some, in another foreshadowing of the net, were bent on mischief and mayhem. Shielded by anonymity, they would transmit rumors and lies, slurs and slanders. The U.S. Navy, which relied on radio to manage its fleet, was a prime target. Officers “complained bitterly,” Slotten reports, “about amateurs sending out fake distress calls or posing as naval commanders and sending ships on fraudulent missions.”

      The nuisance became a crisis in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, when the Titanic sank after its fateful collision with an iceberg. Efforts to rescue the passengers were hindered by a barrage of amateur radio messages. The messages clogged the airwaves, making it hard for official transmissions to get through. Worse, some of the amateurs sent out what we would today call fake news, including a widely circulated rumor that the Titanic remained seaworthy and was being towed to a nearby port for repairs.

    • bill
      Top reader of all time
      1 month ago

      In this essay, Nicholas Carr doesn't answer the question in the title. (And I get all hot and bothered about it because I have an answer to the title that I feel strongly about: How to fix social media? Reading.)

      Anyway, I still love Carr. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Long before the dominance of Facebook and Twitter, Carr anticipated the problem, to a T. The tech, the neuroscience, the attention business. The whole shebang. He saw it coming.

      Bummer that there's nothing too special in this essay, which basically just meanders along like this: "On the topic of censorship versus free speech, the US government kinda/sorta tries to fix stuff sometimes (because new tech comes along and changes everything overnight) and… well… sometimes the government has done some good. But sometimes not. And we need them to do better."

      So mostly I'm feeling like: Ugh. C’mon, Carr! Get back in the depths! But whatever, I'll give it a 10.

    • jeff
      Scout
      1 month ago

      I'm giving this a 10 because I would LOVE if someone else could please read this and tell me if there is a single original thought or idea to be found in this piece about fixing social media.

      Carr does a great job of walking us through the history of person-to-person communication and broadcast media and the article is worth the read for that alone. His analysis of the differences between the internet (and social media) and older mediums such as radio and TV are also spot on which makes the proposed fix seem not only inapplicable but nonsensical.

      That's assuming of course that shouting "Somebody do something!" even counts as a proposal for a solution. In my experience such utterances are rarely helpful in difficult situations. Saying it in the presence of a politician is really asking for trouble.

      As Carr points out, existing (fraught) legislation was passed to regulate broadcasts on limited public airwaves. The internet completely changed the equation. Everyone now has on-demand access to a limitless supply of information. For better or worse (mostly better, I think) the levees have already been breached. The only way to fix social media is to give individuals better options and encourage them to make better choices.

      • jlj1 month ago

        I will leave it to others more well read to comment on the originality of this piece. I do, however, agree with your overall assessment of it, up to, but not including, your opinion on his proposed solutions.

        Social media companies, and those who produce content on their platforms, should operate not under a liability shield that isolates them from the public interest but under a set of rules that makes them responsive to the public interest.

        I do think there is merit in thinking about these companies differently, and the idea of scale being the trigger -- tipping them over from 'private' to 'broadcaster' -- while hardly trivial, is not nonsensical, in my mind. A decent place to begin a discussion, surely.

        I think the parallels with history are, frankly, uncanny, and, well, humbling. The needs of public haven't changed -- I myself have really struggled to find the information I've needed, particularly early on in the pandemic -- nor have many of the challenges in this space, once one compensates a bit for the sheer scale of everything today.

        • bill
          Top reader of all time
          1 month ago

          tipping them over from 'private' to 'broadcaster' -- while hardly trivial, is not nonsensical, in my mind. A decent place to begin a discussion, surely.

          Funny, when I first read this, I did actually think that that idea sounded trivial. But now I agree w you: "A decent place to begin a discussion, surely."

          Ultimately, tinkering with the moderation strategy or the algorithms at (for example) Facebook, won't solve the problem. The problem is the business model which is way bigger than the product, or even the company. Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc - they all have the same business model. The feed. The feeding on candy.

          I myself have really struggled to find the information I've needed, particularly early on in the pandemic

          Yes! Thanks for being so honest. I agree, 100%. It's true for me too.

          (It's like I forget that the candy is candy. And I forget that I need to eat real food. Causes me to get legit confused about what's going on in the world.)

          Good news though: You found a home here on Readup. 🤗🏡 Everyone reads here. We chill.

      • bill
        Top reader of all time
        1 month ago

        This is IT:

        The only way to fix social media is to give individuals better options and encourage them to make better choices.

        YES!

        Except maybe the word "only." In my mind, we need better tech (better alternatives) and better regulation.

        You and I have spent the last half-decade building a "better option" and we've been trying to encourage people to make better choices. Also, we've been watching the government (1) do absolutely nothing about the Big Tech data monopolies and (2) make the problem even worse. (The problem is the widespread proliferation of surveillance capitalism; everybody everywhere addicted to feeds that dull your brain and warp your sense of reality)

        So yeah, of course we hate articles like this that COMPLETELY focus on getting a solution from the public sector. I still love reading Carr. The historical reporting is wonderful, as you say.

        I wonder if the WHOLE problem for me is the title? And what if Carr didn't even pick it?! 🤯

        Anyway, I'm with you: it's frustrating to keep hearing all day every day about how nothing is working, the world has gone to hell, and boo-hoo Facebook isn't suddenly acting good & boo-hoo most of congress literally doesn't understand what the internet does or is or can do.

        The. Solution. Is. New. And. Better. Social. Media. Companies.

        But whatever. The real story will get out. (As long as the government doesn't get in the way! 🤣 Legit scary the way that lots of legislation is horrible for startups and cements the monopolies.)

    • jlj1 month ago

      Very ambitious, in its breadth, and its willingness to postulate re solutions.