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Facebook, Uber and the end of the Great American Tech Delusion


jiski

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Tech Bubble Part II has arrived in America but China will probably navigate around it thanks to a culture of innovation

 

We’ve been there before, in the crash of the dot-com bubble of 2000, when we believed that downloading pop music and porn would drive the economy of the future. We’ve done it again: We made another tech bubble on the premise that Americans would write the apps and Asians would make the hardware, and the miracle of connectivity would bring the world together in Mark Zuckerberg’s utopian vision. Internet community and Artificial Intelligence were the two blasts of hot air that inflated the bubble. Social media as a substitute for actual human interaction and computation as a substitute for human thought were going to waft us into the future.

 

Yesterday’s double crash of these delusions was the sort of irony that makes one intimate the hand of God in human history.

 

The crown jewel of Artificial Intelligence shattered when Uber’s autonomous SUV ran over Ms. Elaine Herzberg at the corner of Curry and Mill Street in Tempe, Arizona. And the concept of Internet community vaporized when news reports alleged that Cambridge Analytica improperly retained Facebook profiles of 50 million users. Facebook promptly lost 7% of its stock market value in yesterday’s trading, and other big tech names fell by 3% to 4%.

 

All the hype in the world can’t stand up to the ugly fact of a dead human body on the road. A few skeptics, including the distinguished physicist and venture capitalist Dr. Henry Kressel, have warned that AI in general and self-driving cars, in particular, are mainly hype. As Kressel wrote last year in Asia Times:

 

In a well-controlled environment (like driving on a track), the computer can be expected to respond to situations consistent with programmed information. The problematic situations are the accidental ones when something happens on the track that requires a quick response different from the programmed actions. This is where the awareness and quick response of a human driver come into play and where the response of a computer making the decisions is quite another matter. And this is the skill that differentiates race-car drivers from the rest of us – and computers from all of us.

 

A glance at the intersection where Uber’s vehicle killed Ms. Herzberg tells the whole story. It is one of those massive, amorphous, ill-designed and opaque suburban crossings that human drivers traverse in fear of their lives. One makes eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians, taps the breaks, and proceeds with extreme caution. To ask a computer to navigate through this sort of mess is foolish. We do not know the precise circumstances of Ms. Herzberg’s death; we only are surprised that it did not happen before. If that seems complex, try fighting the yellow cabs in Manhattan with a self-driving car.

 

Self-driving vehicle tests are now suspended, which will collapse valuations across a range of Silicon Valley enterprises. But that is minor compared to the blow to the public’s perception of the future of AI technology.

 

The Information, a consulting organization that showcases industry specialists, recently held a conference call on self-driving where one expert warned: “You have to remember that self-driving does not work, at least in… a highly functional, driverless robotaxi sense. It does not work. And there are many folks clamoring for architectures to get there. Again, think back to flight. Do you ever watch those YouTube videos where the guy pumping the umbrella and the dude with a big corkscrew and the person with the bird wings? I would think of it more that way. It is left to be seen which one of those architectures gets you to a useful outcome.”

 

America simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles, the expert added. China is another matter, he added:

 

If you’ve been to China… over the last couple of years and watched it grow, they are literally building new cities all of the time and then they move populations into them. And these cities frequently have infrastructure that is unheard of in the US. Just as an example, fences that keep people off the roads. Someone who jumped the fence and runs out into the road and gets hit by a car – that’s the pedestrian’s fault. Simple things like that make the self-driving problem several orders of magnitude easier [emphasis added]. So even without looking at their “technology pool,” just their ability to do simple things like that I think really makes China a very, very attractive target for developing autonomy. I think it would be foolish to count them out in any way, shape or form. The China market may end up being something that is very big and profitable for the companies that are there.

 

The last tech bubble was based on entertainment, as I wrote in my maiden column for this website’s predecessor, Asia Times Online, in January 2000:

 

What if [the Internet stock boom] isn’t a bubble? What if consumers want to double or quadruple their spending on whatever it is the Internet has to offer every year for the next 20 years? What if they will pay a premium to watch their favorite episode of Pee-Wee Herman or the Lone Ranger rather than the latest sit-com? What if they will spend heavily to explore the cutting edge of anatomical possibility on the porn sites?

 

Americans woke up one day in early 2000 and realized that salacious entertainment could not support equity market valuations indefinitely. Now Americans have discovered that cars won’t drive themselves like magic and that the Facebook fishbowl is not a substitute for ordinary human interaction, but rather a vast commercial experiment in profiling their behavior. Only a handful of Facebook users will delete their accounts and cancel their broadband connections, to be sure, but the bloom is off the lily: The Internet giant no longer can sell the concept of community, and it is not clear what it will sell except the sort of connectivity that is provided by any number of competitors.

 

The idea that Americans would be the designers and Asians would be the manufacturing worker-bees had an obvious and fatal flaw. At some point, the advancement of the technology requires real physical infrastructure, and research and development will come to grief without a working partnership with the factory floor. Without the sort of physical infrastructure that China is building into its new cities, computation can’t solve all the problems that arise in intersections like the corner of Mill Avenue and Curry St. in Tempe, Arizona.

 

Infrastructure, R&D budgets, and technological innovation by themselves don’t explain major economic transformations, however. More important than all of these put together, Prof. Edmund Phelps argued in his 2013 book Mass Flourishing (which I reviewed for Standpoint magazine). The people of China have leapt from traditional life into the modern world, and their entire life experience is a sequence of innovations. They are far more eager than Americans or Europeans to adopt new technologies because they never made a habit of old ones. For example, E-commerce now accounts for 30% of retail sales in China, but less than 10% of retail sales in the United States.

 

China’s alternative to Facebook behind the Great Firewall is Wechat, Tencent’s premier product. Unlike Facebook users, who feel violated when they learn that their personal data was appropriated by big data firms, Chinese social media users have no expectation of privacy. The issue simply doesn’t arise: Everything that one does in China is subject to examination by the state.

 

America’s tech stocks won’t blow up in the fashion of early 2000 when the tech sector traded at 60 times forward earnings vs. about 16 times today. Unlike the era of maximized burn rates, they are monopolies with stable profits. But the tarnished tech sector won’t drive stock market valuations the way it did during the past five years. It isn’t clear what will.

 

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One door closes another door opens  , Facebook   is  approaching a creeping death anyways long before any of this took place. Todays kids don't like the site  they look at as and old folks home were  there parents  hang out. When i 1st came online  chatrooms were cool then everyone  went to facebook  and now  they all over on Instagram takeing selfies  and Twitter for political mumbo jumbo .

 

 

'Parents killed it': why Facebook is losing its teenage users

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/16/parents-killed-it-facebook-losing-teenage-users

 

Moz's list of the top 500 domains ( Facebook don't even make there list) :P

https://moz.com/top500

 

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1 hour ago, steven36 said:

One door closes another door opens  , Facebook   is  approaching a creeping death anyways long before any of this took place. Todays kids don't like the site  they look at as and old folks home were  there parents  hang out. When i 1st came online  chatrooms were cool then everyone  went to facebook  and now  they all over on Instagram takeing selfies  and Twitter for political mumbo jumbo .

 

 

'Parents killed it': why Facebook is losing its teenage users

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/16/parents-killed-it-facebook-losing-teenage-users

 

Moz's list of the top 500 domains ( Facebook don't even make there list) :P

https://moz.com/top500

 

This reminded me of an article I read a while back:

https://www.cnet.com/news/why-teens-are-tiring-of-facebook/

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5 minutes ago, rasbridge said:

This reminded me of an article I read a while back:

https://www.cnet.com/news/why-teens-are-tiring-of-facebook/

It's good news  that Silicon Valley is dying for too long  the USA hide behind these fakes like  one city was accountable for the whole USA  economy when sites like Facebook and Google  were not nothing  not that long ago Google just copied  Yahoo lol .  Facebook copied Myspace , People are leaving  that area left and right now

 

Quote

San Francisco is losing more residents than any other city in the US, creating a shortage of U-Hauls that puts a rental at $2,000 just to move to Las Vegas

https://www.businessinsider.nl/san-francisco-bay-area-residents-moving-away-increase-u-haul-rental-prices-2018-3/?international=true&r=US

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21 hours ago, jiski said:

China’s alternative to Facebook behind the Great Firewall is Wechat, Tencent’s premier product. Unlike Facebook users, who feel violated when they learn that their personal data was appropriated by big data firms, Chinese social media users have no expectation of privacy. The issue simply doesn’t arise: Everything that one does in China is subject to examination by the state.

 

 

Is this meant to be the way glorious Chinese Wechat to appear superior to western world's old rotten Facebook ?

 

“Chinese social media users have no expectation of privacy.“   :lmao: This is a great progress indeed !

Long live Chinese nation - the most modern and “innovative“ society of the world to come, which BTW I personally wouldn't ever like to live in. How about you ?   

 

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2 hours ago, SiNAN said:

it's not the end, mark my words, facebook will rise again.
 

LOL  in a brainwashed world were people don't care about there privacy it very well could , But in my world it never  will be , i just use and open source  IM with open source  encryption now days. Even back when I didn't care about my privacy  Facebook didn't even exist back then and I belonged to another chat platform witch i don't even sign on to anymore  in years . Keep in mind before any of this ever happen only half the Internet used facebook anyway . There is like 2billion users who don't use it and now since this happen there numbers are dropping off like flies . Facebook has a lot of competition with all the other platforms out there you can socialize on that care more about you're privacy than they do. 

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For Many Facebook Users, a ‘Last Straw’ That Led Them to Quit

By TIFFANY HSUMARCH 21, 2018

Source:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/users-abandon-facebook.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

 

Debates over privacy have plagued Facebook for years.

But the news that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign, was able to gain access to private data through the social network has sparked an unusually strong reaction among its users.

The hashtag #DeleteFacebook appeared more than 10,000 times on Twitter within a two-hour period on Wednesday, according to the analytics service ExportTweet. On Tuesday, it was mentioned 40,398 times, according to the analytics service Digimind.

Cher was one such deserter, writing on Twitter that the decision to quit Facebook, although “very hard,” was necessary because she loves the United States.

 

Brian Acton, a co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging service, told his tens of thousands of followers on Tuesday to delete Facebook. The social network acquired WhatsApp in a $19 billion deal in 2014.  For people who aren’t celebrities or billionaires, the decision to abandon Facebook came reluctantly, because the platform often served as their sole connection to certain relatives, friends and professional opportunities.

Here, some newly Facebook-free users of social media discuss why they left.

______

Photo
merlin_135811956_052c889c-a6a0-4a81-9e61
Richard H. Perry, a filmmaker in Los Angeles, deleted his Facebook profile this week. “Facebook seems so complicit all the way up and down,” he said, “like it doesn’t care about its users.”CreditBrad Torchia for The New York Times 

Richard H. Perry

A filmmaker in Los Angeles

For a long time now, Mr. Perry had wanted to leave Facebook.

He never felt comfortable knowing that the company had access to much of his personal information. In the months before the 2016 presidential election, he watched the social network become what he called “a garbage platform of ads and weird reposted articles and people that you care about exposing themselves as racists.”

But Facebook was also where Mr. Perry promoted his films, where he posted ads seeking help on the set, and where he communicated with colleagues and a “massive number” of his friends and relatives.

Until he heard about Cambridge Analytica.

“I suspected this stuff was going on, but this is the first time it’s been plainly exposed,” he said. “It seems so malicious, and Facebook seems so complicit all the way up and down, like it doesn’t care about its users.”

Mr. Perry, 39, has since deleted his profile and plans to switch to Twitter and Instagram for his social media needs.

“It was an easy decision,” he said. “It’s not going to be the end of the world.”

______

Dan Clark

A retired Navy veteran in Maine

Mr. Clark kept one Facebook account to chat with friends and a separate account to keep tabs on members of his family nationwide. This week, he deleted both.

“Facebook was the main platform I used to keep in touch with all of them, and it was a difficult decision to give it up,” he said. “But you have to stand for something, so I just put my foot down and said enough is enough.”

Mr. Clark, 57, said he had already been angry with Facebook for censoring some of his posts, which he said expressed his staunchly conservative views but were “never evil or putting anybody down.” He could not abide the idea that his personal information was also being sold or given away without his consent.

Before cutting the cord, Mr. Clark posted on Facebook inviting his contacts to ask him for his personal phone number. More than 100 people reached out within three days.

“There are just so many ways nowadays to stay in contact: phones, email, instant message, Gab, which is a social network that doesn’t censor anything,” he said. “Facebook is more obsolete than people would think.”

______

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22QUITFACEBOOK3-master675.jpg
Alexandra Kleeman, in her Staten Island apartment, said that “the idea that my data could be used for purposes that I expressly don’t want, that freaks me out.” CreditJoshua Bright for The New York Times 

Alexandra Kleeman

A writer on Staten Island

Her first experience with fake news — a Facebook post claiming that Pope Francis had endorsed Mr. Trump’s candidacy — altered the way Ms. Kleeman looked at Facebook.

“It changed the psychological and emotional feel of the platform for me,” she said. “I don’t have a great feeling when I log in.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal led her to remove the Facebook app from her phone. “I’m not going to give them my engagement clicks,” Ms. Kleeman, 32, said. But she is keeping the messaging function open for professional purposes and will continue using Instagram.

She doesn’t mind the idea that some personal data can be made public — she used to have a blog, she said.

“But the idea that my data could be used for purposes that I expressly don’t want, that freaks me out.”

______

Paul Musgrave

An assistant professor in Amherst, Mass.

Twitter makes Mr. Musgrave feel depressed about the world, but Facebook is the social media platform he is trying to abandon.

As a political science teacher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mr. Musgrave, 36, feels a professional responsibility to keep abreast of the news and academic chatter hurtling at him in the form of tweets.

Facebook was more valuable to him as a “low-key, offstage networking tool,” a “replacement for end-of-year family newsletters” that allowed him to “passively keep up with people,” he said. He joined the platform more than a decade ago and before that had been a member of Friendster, a precursor to Facebook.

But in 2016, while helping his mother during her campaign for a government position in Indiana, Mr. Musgrave discovered a “poisonous swamp” of content on the site. The Cambridge Analytica findings were even more disturbing, he said.

"This is a company that has Orwellian levels of data about us, truly Big Brother-level, but it’s behaving as if it has no social responsibility and is a purely neutral medium of communication,” he said. "That’s what’s really been scary.”

Having deactivated his Facebook account, with plans to delete it, he now worries about connecting with people who use the social network as their main conduit of communication.

“I’m definitely pruning myself away from some of those really important branches,” he said. “I watch my own students try to navigate the world of apps and smartphones, and even they don’t really know how the internet works outside these enclosed garden spaces.”

______

Photo
merlin_135812691_c3eb234d-4191-4c43-8713
Ben Greenzweig posted a final message on Facebook on Tuesday as he prepared to delete his profile over privacy concerns raised by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Ben Greenzweig

An entrepreneur in Westchester, N.Y.

Once Mr. Greenzweig confirms that the 1,195 photos and 85 videos in his Facebook profile have downloaded, he plans to delete the account he has maintained for nearly a decade.

Mr. Greenzweig, 40, said the Cambridge Analytica news was “the last straw.”

“We have surpassed the tipping point, where the benefit now fails to outweigh the cost,” he said. “But I will definitely miss what the promise of Facebook used to be — a way to connect to community in a very global and local context.”

A year ago, Mr. Greenzweig was an “extraordinarily active” Facebook user who juggled conversations with friends, managed several groups, took out ads for his business and maintained professional contacts.

But on Tuesday night, in his final post, he asked his network to connect with him through email, LinkedIn, Twitter or phone.

“See everyone in the real world,” he wrote.

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