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variety 2018.10.27

October 27, 2018

US – Election is a week from Tuesday. Remember to vote!

BrexitThe Democratic Unionist Party Isn’t Bluffing, It’s Being Thran (Newton Emerson / ForeignPolicy) – article explaining the history and role of the DUP as a complicating factor in the UK politics of Brexit (via NakedCapitalism)

US Technology-RightsUS passes landmark decision on ‘right to repair’ movement (Joe Osborne / TechRadar) — executive branch agency rules that previous laws making it illegal to circumvent “DRM” do not apply when repairing your own devices. Finally!

US-Iran: In Major defeat for Trump, ICJ rules for Iran against US Sanctions (TeleSur via Informed Comment) — again common sense, finally.

Saudi, US foreign policyKiller Politicians (Jeffrey D Sachs / Project-Syndicate) — Wow, Sachs…. I hope his PS editor has a good cardiologist.

This piece also answers so many articles in PS and elsewhere asking ‘where is all this right-wing backlash coming from’. That’s the next connection to make. The urge for foreign policy composed of “quick fixes” and “direct application of power” means that the policymakers prefer partners who are into the quick fixes and direct application of power. We’ve been funding, enabling, encouraging, and defending the right wingers around the world all along.

Pop Music / Algorithms / Trading Soundtracks –  On a completely and utterly different note, an observation about the power of internet media algorithms.

So I like my pop music. Rock, crossover folk-hipster-Americana, anything vaguely jazz-derived, and throw in some EDM and funk influence to round it out. Since I had ad-free youtube for a while that’s what I was using, although that expired so I’m thinking of going to spotify.

Anyway… Bit of a long background here…. The computer I usually blog from had a youtube account that got to be pretty very well trained over the 4 years I had it. By that I mean it suggested new things I like often enough. (note: unlike my phone, whose YouTube app seems to use a different and utterly inferior algorithm).

The other day an acquaintance asked if I listened to anything good recently, and we traded some recommendations. First of all, I realized that I like songs with male vocals to be upbeat, while female vocals I like for songs that are nostalgic or mellow. My friend liked that pairing the opposite way around, so it got me to listen with a new ear and a new perspective for a bit.

And what was interesting was, when we both plug in the same musician (as a search term) into our phone, hers would very efficiently lead her to her current preference: brooding poetic male-vocal. Mine would lead me to a slightly different style, more bouncy and more instrumental texture. Same musician. This happened for a couple different search terms. So obviously it’s our own preferences, but the phone algorithms reinforce it.

And after a couple of days of listening to her music for a while, I started seeing all these ads for ‘are you depressed’, ‘come to Jesus’, etc. Whoa.

It’s another aspect of the self-reinforcing circle of social media algorithms, but for moods rather than concrete ideas. But an equally scary pathway for unintentionally steering or locking large numbers of people deeper into or out of potentially unhealthy states.


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