🎵 The song for this post is Pick Up The Pieces, by Average White Band. 🎵
Ian Bogost and Alexis Madrigal wrote a pretty solid in-depth look at Trump's Facebook game, often mentioned but poorly understood. If you hear stories like "Trump ran 100,000 Facebook ads in April" and not really known what that meant, this demystifies. It's also, of course, terrifying: much like COVID was a story of something we could have contained if we acted fast enough and now the cat is well out of the bag, Society May Never Be The Same, and institutions we relied on will never recover, Facebook's control over the Internet and minds of the populace is past the point of easy repair. I don't know how anybody thinks populations are "above" propaganda with even a cursory understanding of history. And hey, Facebook's nonconsensual research on its users demonstrates it too. It's also the entire business model: "we influence users [their purchasing decisions via ads]"
I wrote about why I left (about a year and a half ago!, wow, time!), and sometimes when scrolling over Karen's shoulder, I miss it. I missed a birthday party invite. I wonder how people are doing. One of my last memories on it was discovering a cute girl I had a big crush on in Middle School (we saw Swimfan lol) died in a car accident two years earlier.
But apart from that odd pang (maybe once a month? every two months?), I really don't miss it at all. I don't miss the mindless opening of a tab several times a day to feel like garbage in the quest to distract myself from why I'm not living a life I would enjoy more. I've got plenty of other vices.
One of the prevailing themes of the article was how advanced AI systems are inscrutable for their users, builders, and operators. It's pretty funny that we've put so much power into what amounts to a giant, opaque game of Plinko.
Whenever folks pretend to be experts in extremely complex systems, I always think of those terrible "shake the table" football toys. I hear them sincerely believe they're deep, strategic thinkers about something so arbitrary and uncontrollable. Most of these fields are such that you can't verify or falsify anyone's expertise because there are too many variables at play: politics ("the reason [X] won is because of [theory that validates my worldviews]"), business ("see… they should have built something better! if only they'd known…"), or how you can be sure your world-devouring AI-powered product isn't causing worse problems than it's solving.
Anyway, chaotic system go brrrrr
The absolute legend Ben Hutchison responded to my documentation post with a fantastic comment on his work and motivations in documentation. Do check it out! And comment, engage! It's more fun that way lol.
Ben also coined Ben's law: "if a game has horses, the game has horse physics problems." I snapped an example from Fire Emblem last week:
Ian Danskin is behind Innuendo Studios, which does a lot of cultural analysis, especially around legions of angry extremely online men. He did one on agency in Blade Runner 2049 which I enjoyed, even though I haven't seen it:
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