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You are reading the fifth episode of my newsletter. If you counted all the episodes with your fingers, you would reach the point where one hand is just enough. The next episode will ask you to use your second hand - or start anew with the same hand. "Enough" turns out to be a pretty good word for my last month. I turned the concept of "enough" around in my head quite a bit. When is it enough? And what kind of enough do we mean? It implies you made it past a threshold of whatever form. The question is do you come from a precarious situation and you made the mark to a more pleasant state - or have you overextended your stay? While the first version means you reach a comfortable state after the threshold, the second means you are good before you cross the line. So where am I right now? It is a bit hard to tell. It is not super comfortable right now. The question is, which side on the threshold am I? I'll go sit in that feeling for the next month and maybe I have an answer next month...

What we wrote

You are Fake News!

You are Fake News!
You could get the impression Fake News is the substructure of Social Media. It can't work without it. And with every debate especially about Facebook's influence comes a side track about the company's responsibility to stop the spread of fake news. The solution to those problems are quickly determined. Social Media companies just don't put enough effort into the fight against fake news. And although these critics might not be wrong, they fall short on describing the big picture. Facebook, though being the main spreading platform of fake news, only is one wheel in the whole fake news machinery. Regulating more might diminish the spread. But it will never fight the fire. Because the deep structual problem originates from how we handle knowledge in the first place.

Primarily, we see knowledge as a commodity. It is precious. This is why we keep it, why we hide it, why we sell it. Take academic knowledge. Science is the foundation of fact-based, rational and logical decisions. With Climate Change as one of the most pressing topics of our century you would think that access to scientific knowledge has the rank of a fundamental right. Yet science is parked behind the paywalls of big scientific publishing houses.

And sites that want to change that, for example Sci-Hub, are fought like criminals. Same goes for most of the big newspapers that are allowing access to their articles only after buying a monthly subscription and lobby their way into a strict regulation about who can share what from their news sites. Meanwhile, fake news are accessible for free.

Furthermore, we use knowledge as a means to create separation. Knowledge is power. I know something that you don't. Scientific communities create whole jargons around their knowledge. Only the ones who learn this vocabulary are "worthy" of joining the talk. Language is used to distinguish from those who don't speak it and by its very nature prove to lack this knowledge.

Last but not least everyone of us became a sender. We can share the message we want to a broad number of people. The means to spread our opinion are exponentially more powerful. As are the means to spread the opinions of others. This comes with a certain form of responsibility. We allow a message to spread. We allow a message to reach more people. Many people are not used to that form of responsibility.

What could solve that problem now, though? Could Social Media be the solution? After all it claims to be there for everyone. And making information more accessible to a broader range of people and easily understandable might sound like a solid plan.

However, the same phenomenons I just described also apply for technology. When was the last time you *really* understood what the blackbox that we call "Facebook's algorithm" is doing? Neither does Facebook have an interest in using accessible language to make what they do understandable nor do they want to share their codes for Open Source purposes. And when they are questioned about their responsibility in basically every topic, they are fast to push that responsibility to the users.

Fake news fall on very fruitful grounds in Social Networks. The issuers of those kinds of posts know how to play the game very well. They keep their message simple and in easy language, they make use of the fact that people can't or don't want to spend money on superficial information and they exploit the attention-boosting Social Media game.

This makes it hard for other players, for example NGOs or political parties to reach new user groups with posts that are not pushed to have a sensational character or a clickbait-y headline. Forcing Social Media networks to filter more, to delete more, to change their algorithms will not get rid of the problem. Because your Uncle Bill still won't know what of the remaining notifications is Fake News and what comes from a serious source. And who is to say what a serious source is, anyway? The right for freedom of press is a very precious right to keep.

One thing that definitely would release some pressure from the cooker would be investments in government-led programs for more digital media literacy. Teaching the people how to judge information they see online, just how we learned that we judge news in the Daily Mirror differently than in The Guardian, if you look on the UK media landscape. Feel free to fill in the Tabloid News Peddlers in your country.

And we also need to rethink our general relationship to knowledge. How do we evaluate what we know? Are we open to share it with the world or do we want to exploit it? Do we want to have accessible comprehension or do we decide to separate ourselves from the "normal" people? Most scientific communities in an attempt to prove their raison d'être choose the second way. And through that maneuver themselves into an ivory tower of practical insignificance where they do not reach the people on the ground.

Most tech companies choose that path as well. The fancy tech words that you never quite knew what to do with them are more often than not used to separate "the futurists" from the masses and to create an aura of myth around it.

What would happen if both science and tech started working more with the general public instead of creating something that becomes an end in itself? Would this world be free of fake news? Probably not. They have always been around and they will always be around. But if everybody worked more towards a general awareness around knowledge, maybe we can reach a state where we openly exchange opinions and expertise by discussion rather than shouting at each other stuck in one's own convictions.

What others wrote

No text I ever write just comes out of my brain from some form of abyss. I am not that genius creative. I read a lot of stuff that forms my opinion. Not all of it makes it into my articles. Some things are just a brain tickler. So I will share good pieces with you, so maybe they also tickle your brain.
So let's be honest: Who knows how trading works? And who knows what to put your money in, really? Also, when you are a financial advisor, then please be honest and say when you don't.
Trading is a highly speculative and risky way to put your money into, so you might want to leave that to experts. Well, it turns out, you might as well leave it to somebody else. At the end of September human traders got outperformed - by a hamster!
Mr. Goxx chose what to trade in his tiny hamster office and then announced if to sell or buy by running through the respective tunnel. His unique "sense of trading" made him outperform even Warren Buffet.
A more realistic idea probably is: He just didn't give a flying monkey about what was going on and that made him excellent at what he was doing.
I am not saying you should put all your money on a random bet now, decided by a wheel, a tunnel and a hamster. So don't the owners of Mr. Goxx. But maybe this can be a gentle reminder that sometimes it might be worth to just relax and not care too much about what we are doing.
Facebook had quite a bad week this month. First all their services are down for 6 hours and then a whistleblower, Frances Haugen testifies in front of the Senate. What was released is not necessarily new and has been discussed and published by several other sources. what made this testimonial so important is because now somebody that worked for and inside the company testifies just how much the company values the good of Facebook higher that the public good.
This piece published in Technology Review is a good summary of what goes wrong with the algorithms and why it matters.
With all the bad news about the Facebook algorithms there are also good news in the world of automated decision making coming from Twitter. The company experienced a big backlash at the beginning of the year when users found out their image-cropping algorithm was discriminatory. The problem however was not easily solved with some lessons of diversity training for the programmers. The problem was deeper in the system. The so called saliency algorithms Twitter launched identify the most relevant aspects of a photo and crop it based on your eye movement. So how do you account for the personal biases of users? Twitter decided to ask them to come up with a solution. The resulting hackathon that took place offered Twitter valuable insights. This article shows how, what the hurdles were to get it rolling in the first place and what Twitter did with the results.

A word from...
David Epstein

"The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think" - Harper Lee
This month I want to recommend you "Range" by David Epstein.
I was writing lately about the good, the bad and the ugly side of being a Generalist. Around the same time I go a recommendation to a book, that completely fascinated me because it fell right into that swim lane. David Epstein clears up the rumour that to be a successful person in your domain you have to be the best specialist. After studying the paths of several tops of their fields he found that the more complex the field the better you are primed to excel. Although Generalists find their swim lane later than others they, in the end, are the ones to make the big leaps because of their excellent skills to be creative problem solvers, agile and able to build solid bridges between impossible topics.

The Good News

There is a new teacher in town. Following a general topic in this newsletter (this is actually by accident, not planned) I want to finish with what I started - Algorithms, Fake news and digital media literacy. This experience will teach you about algorithms, what they are, how they are used, and why biases play such a vital role. Originally made for younger people I guess, no matter the age, we can all learn something about how to live with algorithms.

What's new?

I have a "Now" page now. So everyone can see what is going on.
What is a Now page? It's "a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. Think of what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year." The idea was first brought into the world by Derek Sivers. So this is me sharing myself with you, just as I would do with friends I haven't seen in a year. Even if we have never met in person.
That's it for this month. Thanks for reading the fifth Edition. Please let me know what you think of the newsletter. All feedback welcome!
And on a last note, just to let you know: This newsletter, as any, was made by the loving support of snacks and the vastness of the internet.
We actively want to bring in colours, not just lighten the place up! We want to create the space, where ideas from other dimensions are included, where thoughts outside of the black and white realm find a touchpoint with the spectrum. We want to explore possibilities how our society can be a better one when we don’t fight the unknown but embrace it with open arms and a curious mind. It is an offer to think differently. It’s an offer for different views, opinions and insights so that the “One Size Fits All” story of technology becomes a range of various stories that show us the immense beauty of digitalization.
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