Thursday, March 29, 2012

Random Thoughts

A couple of things that I've overheard recently that I found interesting:

Spike Lee posting the address of someone who he thought was George Zimmerman (responsible for the shooting of Trayvon Martin) - and it ends up being the address of an elderly couple completely unrelated to Zimmerman or Martin. Sure, he apologized for it and settled with the couple, to whom he called and apologized personally, but the problem was that he felt it was ok to post anyone's address on Twitter - particularly when you have 240,000+ followers who may think it is ok to do whatever they want with the address. And, considering the inflamed passions that have resulted from the Zimmerman-Martin case, surely he didn't think that people were going to be sending polite letters to Mr. Zimmerman. No matter where an individual stands on the case, publicly posting someone's address is bound to create another situation that will, in most cases, only worsen it. And the problem with the immediacy of Twitter is that such a mistake is very difficult to take back or rectify once it has been committed.

The same goes for baseball players who post the personal phone numbers of their former teammates. What made CJ Wilson think that such a prank (as he described it) was acceptable is up for debate but it was clearly - and understandably - not well-received by Mike Napoli. In this case, Napoli can simply get a new phone number and he can get on with his life (without being harassed by the numerous idiots, er, people who think its acceptable to compound the tweeting "mistake" by actually calling the number). But as people continue to seek the fame that is so readily accessible by the online world where fame is counted in the number of followers/friends/viral videos a person has, there must be a point where common sense will kick in and they will realize that there are very real consequences for their actions. I used to think that the Human Flesh Search Engine was only a Chinese concern but I worry it is not so limiting and fear that the consequences will become all too real all too soon.

Along the same lines of technology concerns (aside: is it good or bad that a techie such as myself is worried about these technical advances?), this article on flash trading was both interesting and worrying. These systems that are being developed are making calculations and decisions that have very real impact on the real world in terms of financial transactions faster than the human mind can do, let alone be able to stop in time before they become reality. When I first read this, I kept thinking this must be the first version of Skynet where the machines begin to operate outside the immediate control of human hands and minds. The understanding that these machines are making these decisions (as it relates to trading) with little apparent understanding on the part of their human "masters" is just slightly frightening. I always enjoy when the inner workings of an application and the logic behind them are black boxes to the people who allegedly operate them. Yep, nothing to see here, please move along...

Finally, something to consider. Without doing a Google search, what were the headlines three days ago? Even one headline? What was the related story? I would be willing to bet that most people can't come up with a single headline. Which leads me to wonder about this 24 hour news cycle that we go through and whether it is sensory overload and results in a situation where people actually learn nothing. Life today, in the 24 hour news cycle, is a constant barrage of information that people remember so long as it's being blasted at them continuously and only stays in residual memory for so long as it's a headline. Immediately thereafter, it is discarded and nothing is truly learned until the next time it makes a headline. And forget about context - that only comes if people care to dig deeper into the stories and learn more - and that doesn't often happen. So, quick, let's go see CNN Headline News (which is only a very small selection of actual news stories and typically very little that has anything to do with the average person - "OMG, a kid fell down a well!" or "OMG, someone contracted this really weird disease that affects one in 2 billion people - everyone PANIC NOW!") and see how much we retain until tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts.

    That computer flash trading thing is insane. And to not even be sure how the algorithms work together or why it makes the trades it does.... I don't know who thought this was a good idea to allow, but it wasn't.

    Spot on on the news cycle.