Wednesday, December 09, 2020

attention deficit misorder

 In The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu, we heard about the cycle of technology and content and advertising that takes each new medium, and drives a race to the bottom in terms of increasing levels of commercials, and decreasing revenue, leading to worse and worse actual content, and eventually, a rapid fall off the cliff edge in terms of actual audience, who then move to the next tech - the book contains a plethora of historical examples from 19th century newspapers, through radio, on via television (see also four arguments for the elimination of television plus for the impact on actual journalism, see Flat Earth News), and finally, today, several generations of social media (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagam,

So a new factor in this is not just the very poor quality of advertising / infotainment, which is incented to lie about products, but now we have the new players heavily involved in daily spread of misinformation:- governments. Governments (especially populist ones) are one of the main sources of peacetime lies. We expected the Ministry of Information to spread propaganda during wartime, but now we have arrant nonsense distributed directly from the desks of Trump and Johnson, casting doubt on election results, undermining democratic choice during referenda, and destroying confidence in public health measures during a pandemic.

What is to be done? We need platforms that deliver a reliability metric about sources, not just fact check their individual utterances. This would move the prominence of repeat-offenders, lower and lower in every readers' feed - taking away the effectiveness of polarized clickbait.

Time for the EU to regulate?

Identity and Currency - Trust and Implementation

 A discussion recently about national digital identity systems revealed that some stakeholders feel they need to own the implementation and the deployed operational system, as well as the legal authority for the root of foundational identity.

We can discuss separately, the idea of self-sovereign identity, and the use of the social net (parents, friends&family, colleagues, situation etc) to build a fully peer-to-pee digital id system, without any need for central government agency - indeed, you can imagine having this, as well as a more "traditional" system, with birth certificates, passports, national insurance numbers, biometric data etc etc

but for  now, for the latter case: who should build and run the digital id infrastructure?

well, the analogy I want to draw is with currency. The national bank (e.g. Bank of England) underwrites the value of the national currency (coin of the realm, sterling). They also participate in various mechanisms to maintain the relative value of different national currencies (i.e. exchange rate mechanisms or the Gold Standard, etc).

But who mints cons/notes? Could be anyone really. Who makes the machines that do that minting? Whoever wins the contract. Why should digital id infrastructure be any different? For example, british passports contain digital information about the holder and are issued by Her Majesty's passport office, but are physically made by  Gemalto, owned by French firm Thales. In the past, anyone could issue banknotes (up til early 20th century!), but now the physical currency in the UK iis a monopoly, but of course there is a wide range of digital ways to store and transmit value as well, run by credit and debit card companies, and fully virtual currencies are legal in some countries.

So it seems that even a national, government approved or mandated or supported identity system could be outsourced. Indeed, many components of functional id based on some notional national id already are implemented and run (e.g. DVLA for driving licenses) by 3rd parties.

This also argues for why one needs to consider at least some level of federation for digital id systems to allow for moving provider, inter-operating, and even comprehending how  extreme federation such as self-sovereign systems can co-exist with more traditional centralised registeries and the vouchsafing of who you are.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home