Fencing the Digital Ocean – 7 Takeaways No. 125

A fence-protected beach.
(Image: canva.com)

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1. “We will literally, rather physically die”

Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds – Melanie Trecek-King – (YouTube)

I’ve talked about, and cited items talking about, tribalism and personal identity before.

We will literally, rather physically die, or be physically harmed than to go against our group.

It is really hard to go against our group, because we risk being ostracized, we don’t want to lose our standing. It’s part of who we are.

What we believe to be true and factual has significantly less to do with truth and facts, no matter how much we believe it does. It’s rather frightening, but the insight helps us understand ourselves better, as well as the people around us.

Do this: I try to keep my recommendations short, but this one hour video is a wonderful overview of this topic and much more. Set aside the time to give it a watch.

2. “Another reality that is too easily forgotten”

Cultivating Reasons For Hope – Dan Rather & Elliot Kirschner – (Steady newsletter)

In ways rarely captured in the news because it’s not considered newsworthy, countless millions of people go about their lives making our world healthier, safer, more just, and more empathetic.

I’d go so far as to say it’s not covered in the news because it’s so commonplace as to not actually be news. Unfortunately, with all the news blaring negativity at us to get our attention, eyeballs, and clicks, it’s easy to overlook all the truly good things happening around us.

Do this: Don’t overlook. (Another project of mine — Not All News Is Bad — will give you a daily reminder, if you like.)

3. “Ever-larger torrents of garbage”

AI Is About to Make Social Media (Much) More Toxic – Jonathan Haidt, Eric Schmidt – (The Atlantic)

As amazing as I think the possibilities of AI are, there’s a very dark and risky downside. We haven’t really seen it used in large scale by malevolent actors yet (at least I don’t think we have), and the potential for harm is great.

The greater the volume of deepfakes that are introduced into circulation … the more the public will hesitate to trust anything. People will be far freer to believe whatever they want to believe. Trust in institutions and in fellow citizens will continue to fall.

I’m also not a fan of the efforts to “pause” AI research. That just hands AI progress over to those unwilling to pause (think international players). But there’s much to think about. While the authors propose some specific remedies, my take is that the most important thing is that the public needs to be educated about the potential issues.

Do this: Don’t believe everything you read. Or hear. Or see.

4. “We cannot fence the digital ocean”

Phone bans and pool fences – an analogy – Jocelyn Brewer – (Blog)

It’s nominally a piece on in-school phone bans and better digital education of students, but I think it transcends that situation. Particularly considering where social media and AI are taking us, it’s critical that everyone, not just the kids in school, learn how to “swim”.

We need (digital) pool fences (aka: equitably designed ‘responsible tech-use’ guidelines) to work alongside meaningful (digital) swimming lessons that teach people (of all ages) to manage and respond to various conditions across all digital platforms and spaces.

We cannot effectively or efficiently fence the digital ocean (aka: the whole internet), although some software might try, or patrol it with people who haven’t learnt the relevant digital swimming lessons (or who are afraid of the water).

Emphasis on “all ages”, and the futility of legislation imposed by those who don’t understand it to begin with.

Do this: Teach your children well.

5. “Chance favors the prepared mind”

Do We Make Our Own Luck? – Vicky Zhao – (YouTube)

I’ve written about luck before, and coincidentally was having a discussion with a friend earlier this week on the topic. Zhao presents a framework of four types of luck:

  • Random luck (what I think most of us consider being pure luck)
  • Luck + Motion (exposing yourself to more opportunities)
  • Luck from experience (leveraging your knowledge to know when to act)
  • Luck just for YOU (luck that arises from embracing your uniqueness)

My biggest concern when people are grateful for the luck in their lives is that they often undervalue their own contributions to making that luck happen.

Do this: Be grateful, but acknowledge your role in it.

6. “Every pain is important pain to whomever is feeling it.”

It’s Easier Than You Think – Sylvia Boorstein – (ebook)

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately. It came up because of someone’s snarky response to a question asked at Ask Leo!. The question seemed naive, as some do, and the commenter took it upon themselves to berate the questioner for their lack of knowledge.

The thing is, you and I do not know what’s happening or the reasons behind the seeming naivete. The bottom line is that the person had a real problem that was causing them pain, and was looking for a solution. Empathy, not superiority, was called for.

The same is true for all of life. Everyone has their pain, and while some might seem trivial or silly to others, the pain remains very real to the person experiencing it.

Good doctors realize this as well.

Do this: Have empathy for the struggles of others.

7. “Keep showing up”

Excellent Advice for Living – Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier – Kevin Kelly – (ebook)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sucker for a good listicle. This book is basically one giant listicle (listibook?) chock full of wisdom.

The full quote for the takeaway I chose:

Keep showing up. 99% of success is just showing up. In fact, most success is just persistence.

Yes, I know, that’s probably something we’ve all heard before, but it bears repeating. A lot of wisdom is like that: we hear it once, nod our heads, and proceed to otherwise ignore it. Periodic reminders are a good thing, regardless of the source.

The book is full of good, periodic reminders, plus much you’ve not heard before as well.

Do this: Show up.

8. “A framework for keeping your mouth shut”

What If You Missed The Meeting? – Leo A. Notenboom – (Personal blog)

I share some opinions about … opinions.

Regardless of how important you might feel your opinion is, if expressing it would be pointless, or worse, detrimental to the conversation, is there any reason to share it?

Do this: consider the relevance and impact of your opinions.

More links & thoughts

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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