Working Papers

This is a place where I share some ideas I am thinking about, and welcome feedback.

working paper 001

this is a draft at an attempt to reflect upon the past few days

 

 

 

The American idea remains important to the world.

 

This warrants explicit statement as we chart the path ahead.

 

Our world is in a time of astonishing crisis. 

 

Where once fears, doubts and anxieties would swell and relent as a tide, they have now poured over our shores and settled upon latent coast; a steep here to stay it should seem. 

 

A world in crisis is learning that leadership will look different in the age upon us. 

 

‘GZero: A world where no country or group of countries can meet the global challenges of our time.’

 

* * *

America is in fact, and shall endure as a nation of immigrants. We are people from myriad cultures who have actually developed some fairly robust ways of getting along in demonstrable circumstance.

 

And while things have broken down to disastrous and tragic tenor, much significant infrastructure remains as capable—and even more compelled to act—as ever. 

 

And though it is tempting to here account for that major set of possibilities by giving name to those pillars of civic society, it is not a wise use of my time.

 

What I share instead is that my father is an immigrant. 

 

I am a descendent of people from Spain and indigenous America and elsewhere. 

 

I am a Texan in Chicago. A Chicagoan in America.

 

My existence is premised on the possibility of confluence cultures.

 

And to be sure: at times it has been a torrent trying to reconcile or otherwise navigate the harsh and unrelenting complexity of identity and personship in America. With ups and downs as varied as our vast amber-waves terrain.

 

I am part of a diaspora whose numbers shall only rise in proportion in the coming years. That is: people with backgrounds of many cultures, broadly conceived. [In actuality we are all people. I tend to agree with Tocqueville that Equality shall quell the most spasmodic quivers of Freedom’s imprudent, yet wholly dependent, exigencies. That is, something like: Equality is fertile soil for Freedom whereas Freedom affords no such ground and is, rather, a logically dependent and inherently constrained idea.

 

Americans know how to work with people who are not like them as a course of civic practice so indelible to the American spirit as to be nearly sacrosanct as a guiding premise of affairs. 

 

But that work can be hard. And somtimes that work fails. 

 

Let us however be sure we do not confuse armed, violent— if even bumbling brutishly and incompetently exercised—insurrection with failing to ‘work with other people’. 

 

Dvořák, in a way, in his time understood that an American cloth would have to be braided—and increasingly woven—with the entrenched stain of cruel epchocal legacies (my words)—-as a story of immigrants, indigenous people, and a special category of black person; all of whose plights would evolve as they intertwined in tensile transition. The resultant dye is dark but reveals glints of all possible spectrums of color, and the possibility of its absence, in its reveal. 

 

We will have to constantly renew our understanding and appreciation of this American sensibility. 

 

Despite the compounding unspeakable atrocities that allowed us to the present occasion, we recover the realization that in a most cruel of ironies, traits of this cloth are a feature not a bug; an abidingly obvious testament recurrently found in the annals of American and international canon. This fact prevails even amid our foibles, follies and failures. 

 

We are tasked with the obvious yet abysmally fraught challenge of fashioning something capable of our inherited frontiers. 

 

In fact Americans for better and ill have always been shaped by the frontier even as our cities at their best stand as archetypal beacons [basins?] of cultural possibility and meaning. 

 

Our wars. The undaunted trails and unmitigated disasters of some of our explorations. The characteristic ingenuity, creativity, and adaptive elasticity of the American idea.

 

The American idea as an evolving and essential premise of the possibility of people in common on planet earth, is a force of nature—if even in spirit—in its own attestation. 

 

[It is an idea beyond characterization.]

 

And shall remain so, provided we are ready for what that entails. 

 

We are in the process of fashioning an American way of life which allows us to address the multitude of challenges of our time.  

 

We have to because the alternative is untenable and worse. 

 

We have to because, in part we are called to honor contributions of so very many people before us, especially for the people among our people in whose traces we follow. 

 

We have to because this possibility of the American Spirit and way of life is vital for the success of the world in facing the challenges ahead. Every nation is vested in the American idea whether they want to be or not; as is so often the case with cohabitants of a shared area: planet Earth. 

 

That we are pressed for time and in face of unrelenting demand is no secret, but rather the siren blare now dull to ear for having been subsumed with the ambience of the Anthropic era. 

 

We are going to have to make distinctions even as we appreciate nuance. 

 

It’s not gonna work out between us if you do not believe, in some basic regards, in the rule of law. That is a unison unallowable. There are others.

 

But such is our journey. We evolve. We change. We transform over time. To leave what we were so that we might realize what we may yet become.

 

I recognize there are global cities across the planet where people get along. 

 

And there are other democracies too. 

 

But no place on the planet is as culturally diverse in concentrate and generality as America.

 

As global people, in an interrelated global society we look out and see ourselves, and the world looks to us and sees it’s reflection and possibility ...As well as a metastizaiton of it’s highest hopes, and most dismal depths. 

 

 

We can distinguish while relating. 

 

I am at once my family and myself. Myself and a constituent, an employee, a responsible party among other people embedded in a uniquely conditioned and somtimes flux social fabric. 

 

I am excited at the possibility of more creative identities in America as well as more broadly across the globe. 

 

The internet, even with its incumbent calamities of human enmity, hubris, and abuse, has helped us to see the possibilities of shared experience as well as novel blend and manifestation.

 

A part of the whole, the whole in each part enmeshed upon a boundless frontier whose real limits exist in our real world to remind us how me might realize what we can create as a people. 

 

...That we may ensure our peoples' basic wellbeing. And that there is a possibility of sustainable flourish.

fin.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

okay, thanks for reading this

thoughts? ...you are welcome to e-mail me at csow02@gmail.com

whether suggestions, stuff you think I should check out/consider, or sharp critique (just please don't be mean)

curious what you think

finally, I may add a way to just share feedback directly on this page depending on how this goes

working paper 002

Some Dark Patterns are more financially costly to an individual. For example, consider a major e-commerce platform that uses ML to determine when a consumer is most likely to be susceptible to accepting a deal. They might place a small discount on a product that may not otherwise be bought. Now, the total amount the consumer may spend, by way of such Dark Patterns, can compound over time. This is a form of edging and warrants serious ethical consideration. 

Adding additional friction--making it harder for consumers--to remove an item from a shopping cart is another example of a financial toll paid by consumers by way of Dark Patterns.

The psychological toll, however can be worse. Consider industry standard recommendation algorithms for tech platforms. Is it ethical for them to recommend a video on a sensitive subject to a user who has experienced a trauma related to the subject? The recommendation is made to drive user behavior in financially beneficial ways; but at what cost? 

There are examples across American history which offer examples of how to raise public awareness on key consumer issues. Tobacco in particular, seat belts, and others. Companies share responsibility for helping consumers understand products which can harm them even if used *as intended*. But we need to better fortify third party auditors as well, along with the research needed to audit well. Most people do not understand how a basic social media feed works; yet this is one of the most influential product features on human cognition in this time. That's quite stark. 

Trade groups should work to help the public learn about pernicious patterns they are sure to encounter on the web. Universities--just like their freshman orientations to the library services--should help students learn their way around internet products and tools.

Product professionals should be required to obtain certification and ethical standard credentialing --like medical professionals or other fields-- for products that server over 1M consumers; or something of the sort as an industry standard for ethical design. This could include oaths, or other known ways of promoting professional ethical standards.

For features that rely heavily on algorithmic computation, if they meet one or several of Cathy O'Neil's criteria of being 'important' 'secret' and 'destructive' <source: 'When Not to Trust the Algorithm, HBR'>, they should warrant additional consumer safety precautions. For example, 'how does this app shuffle my songs algorithmically' is a question consumers should have answers to. Company engineering blogs often publish some such information. But the consumer shouldn't be expected to hunt that information down ...who has the time or attention? Even if a proprietary algorithm must be shielded, a consumer should at least be able to know if they algorithm is actively adversarial --that is, if the algorithm is actively working to make them stay on the product in an addictive, compulsive, thoughtless, or otherwise harmful manner. We let people know that using cigarettes might actively harm them. 

There should also be serious consideration of improving research methods regarding dark patterns, personalization, recommendation algorithms and their effects on consumers. This is a strategic national security consideration (given we know these features are exploited by our adversaries). It is also ethically responsible and economically wise. Right now, its easy for companies to point to or generate research which has the appearance of rigor, but is so desperately contingent or methodologically flawed that proper inference becomes quite beyond reach. There are SO many intervening variables, intervening factors, in considering, for instance, complex network dynamics embed in real world & digital environments. Too often exaggerated claims aiming to dispel concerns about harm (or their lack, extremity, etc) are dubiously employed.

We might consider putting those little information icons above features which are Dark Pattern dejure or de facto.