Jamie's Notes

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Ana, on tech-savvy privilege

Ana Rodrigues has written a lovely monologue on the problems that consumers of the internet face, and of how tech-savvy people, like you and me, are reaching the wrong conclusions on how we can fix it – if we can fix it at all.

…the “rage quit social media” is a privilege. I tried it once for three months and we were miserable. The moment we don’t have the same apps to communicate, things like MMS don’t seem to work well between different operating systems of phones. They just want to communicate with me like… everyone else is communicating with everyone else. They are not going to be involved in a discussion about ethics and privacy of social media. I can’t blame them. Why would they?

Having a blog is tech-privilege. I can make one. You can probably make one too. We are a tech-savvy minority. Sure, you could say that anyone can go and get one from WordPress. Easy, right? It’s not. I’ve watched people at work struggle to insert pictures in a word document. It involves knowing about WordPress, learning how to navigate through the sign-up, setting themes, post titles – the list is endless. Why do that when you can sign-up to Facebook, quick as a flash, and all your mates are there. Owning your content is hard. We do it because we can. Most people can’t.

I don’t have a Facebook account because I think they are a treacherous bunch of scumbags. It’s a moral stance, and arguably the right one – but in the grand scheme of things it makes fuck all difference to Facebook, and makes it harder for people to contact me who don’t even have the choice.

..when my parents bought that phone and were forced into a Google account, apps like Facebook and whatsapp were already installed. The majority of the people who didn’t grow up with the internet, especially those who don’t speak english, don’t know about browsers. To most people it is: “Look up on the internet”. And the internet is this thing and no app on their phone is called “internet”.

The problem is more complex than we think, and the solutions not what we think they are.

..things won’t be fixed by only creating your own blog and sending your RSS feed to your parents. Things won’t be fixed either by burning all the evil websites. The problem is much deeper as it isn’t just websites: it’s operating systems, it’s protocols, it’s hardware, it’s software, it’s design, it’s internationalisation and more.

Ana, you are so right.

Read the entire thing. It’s wonderful.

Wired interviews Bill Gates

Stephen Levey’s interview with Bill Gates in Wired is something. I read most interviews with Gates. He’s smart and worth listening to. He is usually careful with his words, which makes it all the more surprising that he is so blunt about the failure of politicians to get to grips with the most significant economic and public health crisis of our lifetimes.

On vaccine sceptics:

Yeah, you’re right… They do it in this kind of way: “I’ve heard lots of people say X, Y, Z.” That’s kind of Trumpish plausible deniability. Anyway, there was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, “But wait a minute, that’s not real data,” they’d say, “Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen anyway.”

On the quality of US testing:

The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted… When we tell them to change it they say, “As far as we can tell, we’re just doing a great job, it’s amazing!” Here we are, this is August. We are the only country in the world where we waste the most money on tests.

On the CDC:

We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest things, which would greatly improve this system, they feel would be admitting there is some imperfection and so they are not interested.

The full thing is worth a read: Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’

No Mercy / No Malice

Saturday morning is when I catch up on my newsletters. This weeks edition of No Mercy / No Malice by Scott Galloway is a cracker.

Donald Trump was right, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes. Mistakes that cost us almost 7,000 American souls, 208,102 Iraqi and 111,000 Afghan civilian lives, and $1.9 trillion (inflation adjusted). But Covid-19 will register an even greater toll of American blood and treasure. The response to the novel coronavirus would have been swifter and more disciplined if the pathogen had brown skin and worshiped a different god. Americans can’t seem to wrap their head around an enemy 10,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

Link: The Great Distancing