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On decreasing influence
Over our kids, our cars, our planet, stuff like that
From the many interactions I’ve had with teachers of my three (now adult) children, the only thing I recall a teacher telling me was this: “At every point in the growth of your child, your influence does nothing but decrease.” This is not what I wanted or expected to hear, but it was a good point anyway.
I now bring it to cars.
Because our influence over our cars—what they do, how they are designed, how easily we can fix them—is decreasing. This is also the subject of our latest podcast, starring Kyle Rankin, our friendly former Linux Journal colleague and President of Purism. Kyle brings up a bunch of good points, leveraged only partly off the required reading he gave us in his latest blog post for Purism, Locked In A Remote Control Car. Here are a few other links informing the show:
If you thrill to irony, hypocrisy, or both, examine the links above with Augustine Fou’s PageXray to see how much spying those publications are doing as well. Dr. Fou (@acfou) has been a guest on Reality 2.0 twice already. Go back and give those a listen as well. Very relevant stuff.
Speaking of spying, this week’s award for the dumbest move possible by a large corporation (and in this case two! together!) is Vodafone & Deutsche Telekom to introduce persistent user tracking. These are also European companies, operating in the most privacy-paranoid part of the world. (If you’re from the U.S., ask a European why they’re so freaky about companies and governments keeping detailed records of people and their activities. Sooner or later your answer will be this: “It’s been tried here, and it was used to kill millions of people.” There is no equivalent stateside experience.) The final words of that piece are right up my own alleys:
We don’t need a “new” tracking solution that pushes the edges of what is morally acceptable. We just need to figure out how to navigate our businesses with less tracking. We need to adopt a different mindset and figure out how to become independent from those data-crunching beasts.
Do you know what a bezzle is? Cory Doctorow says Hubert Horan says (some number of levels down in the footnotes here), that it’s "the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it."* And that Uber is in that moment, right now. Because it is lying about making a profit, while actually not. Among the pull quotes: "Uber has completely abandoned its original, failed corporate strategy, and has reverted to a lousier version of what traditional taxis had been doing for years."
Is there a taxi app that gives riders the convenient functionalities that Uber’s and Lyft’s apps do?
Would we ever get a taxi app if Uber and Lyft hadn’t come along with a vastly better way for passengers to hail rides?
Do taxis today, apps or not, give you a better experience on the whole than Uber cars and drivers?
If Uber dies (which Cory and Hubert expect), will the world of ride-hailing improve?
Speaking of death, check out what’s happening to adtech. Digiday says Quantcast has cut 6% of its workforce, adding “On July 26 it was reported that Israel-based content recommendation outfit Outbrain laid off 3% of its workforce, amounting to 38 employees. Meanwhile, earlier in the month, Insider reported that NextRoll, a company formerly known as AdRoll, had reduced its headcount by 3%.” And Oracle appears to be pulling out of the market.
Want the maximum discount on any subscription service big enough to have a call center? Call them and threaten to quit, so you get elevated to “Retention.” (Yes, it’s a real job.) That will get you the minimum price. That advice is from Consumer Reports, which also provides this guidance by James K. Willcox toward finding where among your too-many subscription TV channels the movie you want to see might be playing: “Right now, I’m really using only two: JustWatch and Reelgood, though I have also tried out three more, TV Time, Watchworthy, and a brand new app called Qewd. I haven’t yet spent all that much time with Qewd, which is still being beta-tested, but it does have some interesting social features.” I’ve done this. He’s right. It works.
The climate changes all the time, as you know. But are humans changing the climate as much as it seems to most scientists who care professionally about it? David Siegel has one of the most thoughtful push-backs I’ve seen on that scientific consensus. My own take: it’s confirmation bias all the way down, for everybody. Perspective: life will be roasted anyway by the aging Sun in a half-billion years or so. Stay tuned for that.
Finally, after reading Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer’s harrowing first-hand account of the worst climbing accident in the history of Mt. Everest, I have now learned that climbing the world’s second-highest mountain, K2 (only a few hundred feet shorter than Everest and long considered more difficult), is now something of a conga-line.
By the way, this completes my first attempt at composing a newsletter of the kind I was thinking out loud about here. I also wish to become adept at using Substack, even though (as I say at that link) I have problems with some of the stuff Substack does. So bear with me while I teach my old brain new tricks.
*Yes, there are other meanings.
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