Cory Doctorow: Zuck’s Empire of Oily Rags

For 20 years, privacy advocates have been sounding the alarm about commercial online surveillance, the way that companies gather deep dossiers on us to help marketers target us with ads. This pitch fell flat: by and large, people were skeptical of the efficacy of targeted advertising; the ads we got were rarely very persuasive, and when they did work, it was usually because the advertisers had figured out what we ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Engagement-Maximization Presidency

Incentives matter.

The dominance of ad-supported businesses online created an odd and perverse incentive to “maximize engagement” – to go to enormous lengths to create tools that people used for as long as possible, even when this made the product worse. Think of how Google added a “trending searches” drop­down to the default search-bar on Android, so that any time you went looking for a specific piece of information (the ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Let’s Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech

At long last, the techlash has arrived, and not a minute too soon. I have been involved in the tech industry since I got my first programming job in 1988. I’ve been a sysadmin, a CIO, a trainer, a software company founder, and an activist. I’ve argued against terrible laws and argued for good ones. I’ve dreamed of the promise of tech and been haunted by its peril. Depending on ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention

As we all know, time travelers have to be very careful when they visit the past, because their evolved immune systems allow them to harbor pathogens that the olde timey people are defenseless against. One careless bowel movement, a single badly timed cough, a bit of blood spilled, and whole civilizations are in pandemic peril.

Surviving to the future means adapting to the risks of the past. Our ancestors harbored ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: How to Do Everything (Lifehacking Considered Harmful)

I was there when “lifehacking” was born. It was the 11th of February, 2004, at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, held in a giant conference hotel in San Diego. I was on the committee for ETech (as we called it) and I had lobbied hard for the inclusion of a talk called “Life Hacks: Tech Secrets of Overprolific Alpha Geeks” by Danny O’Brien, a technology columnist and former standup comedian ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

Cheating is a given.

Inspectors certify that gas-station pumps are pumping unadulter­ated fuel and accurately reporting the count, and they put tamper-evident seals on the pumps that will alert them to attempts by station owners to fiddle the pumps in their favor. Same for voting machines, cash registers, and the scales at your grocery store.

The basic theory of cheating is to assume that the cheater is ‘‘rational’’ and won’t ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Be the First One to Not Do Something that No One Else Has Ever Not Thought of Doing Before

The legendary musician, producer, and weirdo Brian Eno has many notable accomplishments and high among them is the production of the ‘‘Oblique Strategies’’ deck, a deck of cards emblazoned with gnomic and hard-to-parse advice that is meant to shake your creative rut: ‘‘Fill every beat with something,’’ or ‘‘Infinitesimal gradations’’ or ‘‘Do nothing for as long as possible.’’

My favorite of these – first learned from Bruce Sterling – is ...Read More

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