Social Media and Section 230

A couple of useful links for those following these issues:

From Eugene Volokh, a detailed legal analysis of the proper interpretation of Section 230.  Haven’t read it yet, but I plan to soon.

Vivek Ramaswamy, in the WSJ, offers a favorable view of Trump’s lawsuit against search and social media companies.  Excerpts and commentary at Stuart Schneiderman’s blog.

There are few if any issues more important than the problem of oligopolistic control over information flow.

When the Knowledge Walks Out the Door

Financial Times notes that when cyberattacks occur, it is useful to have some employees around who know how to operate the system…whatever that system might be…without the automation.  And the workers with this knowledge are often those who have been around for quite a while.

The value of older workers with deep operational knowledge was demonstrated two years ago at the Norwegian metals and electricity company Norsk Hydro. Like Colonial Pipeline, Norsk Hydro received a ransom demand but, instead of a shut down, a group of veteran workers switched to manual operations, removing the company from the attackers’ claws. “Without them, our production would have plummeted,” says Halvor Molland, Norsk Hydro’s spokesperson. “They had knowledge that existed 20 years ago but not today, and fortunately some are still employed by us while others returned from retirement to help.”

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline they had “muddled through” in the wake of the ransomware attack.  But a lot of the people who operated the pipeline manually “are retiring or they’re gone.  Fortunately, we still have that last bit of that generation.”

This is like something in a science fiction story: robots running things, humans nominally supervising the robots but not really understanding what they’re doing or why.

It’s been noted for some time that a lot of computer code was written in obsolescent or now-unpopular languages (especially COBOL), with support and modification becoming difficult since most of the people with the skills aren’t there anymore.  But this is different–it’s not about loss of understanding of a linguistic formulation for representing a process, but a loss of understanding of the process itself.

Important People–People Who Matter

The UK government has decided that senior executives can temporarily leave quarantine in England if they are undertaking business activities which are likely to be of significant economic benefit to the UK.

(Hopefully, the virus will be informed and will conduct itself accordingly)

I suspect that many of the activities which in reality could benefit the UK economy greatly do not meet the requirements of this ruling by the Department for Business, Industry, and Industrial Strategy and hence are not viewed by the government as truly important.

An extremely successful startup CEO once remarked to me that ‘the secret to startups is that you have very smart people working on very small things.”  By ‘small’, he definitely did not mean ‘unimportant’, rather, that the activity…whatever its future potential…was still not yet large enough in revenue and perhaps also in public awareness to get proper attention at the senior levels of a typical large corporation. (And by ‘smart’, he didn’t mean just IQ, but the whole range of business skills)

Governments will always tend to focus on things which are large, or fashionable, or both, and will more often than not act as inhibitors toward true innovations.

HVAC and the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

Today I read this choice article on Fox with the lengthy title of “Air conditioning shortage ahead of hot summer causes nationwide price spike” and was reminded of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. To remind everyone, the definition is:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

As someone who has been in the field of HVAC distribution for 32 years I know a thing or two, as they say. Lets take a look at this article (yes, a good old fashioned fisking) and see if it reports what we are seeing on the ground here, or if reality has been distorted somewhat, and we perhaps have an example of the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect as I peruse the rest of the news for today.

Read more

The Curley Effect, 21st Century Style

The Curley Effect, so-called after Michael James Curley, four times mayor of Boston and one of the most colorfully corrupt 20th century politicians in Massachusetts, has been noted as a significant factor in city politics, where a long-time and popular ruling politician deliberately makes the city inhospitable to those who tend to oppose them, essentially shaping the electorate into one which will support the ruling politician forever and ever, amen. This tactic, of rewarding supporters with public largesse, and punishing opponents economically, worked well for the individual politician, as it did for the very Catholic and Irish Mayor Curley – but at the expense of Boston overall, as those individuals, businesses and institutions who opposed him most frequently, departed, taking their money, businesses and civic involvement with them. Mayor Curley and his cronies throve, but Boston was much the worse for it, over the long run.

Read more