the net and information bubbles, noise island, one generation genetic changes

Henry A. Farrel reviews THE FILTER BUBBLE: WHAT THE INTERNET IS HIDING FROM YOU BY ELI PARISER Penguin Press, 294 pages, $25.95

In his new book, The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser looks at the same facts as Cowen but interprets them differently. What Cowen sees as enhancing individual autonomy, Pariser sees as restricting personal development. Instead of constructing personal micro-economies that allow us to make sense of complexity, we are turning media into a mirror that reflects our own prejudices back at us. Even worse, services like Google and Facebook distort the mirror so that it exaggerates our grosser characteristics. Without our knowing, they reshape our information worlds according to their interpretation of our interests. Few people are aware that when they look up a topic in Google, their searches are personalized. Google infers what people want from their past searching behavior and skews results accordingly.

We are beginning to live in what Pariser calls “filter bubbles,” personalized micro-universes of information that overemphasize what we want to hear and filter out what we don’t. Not only are we unaware of the information that is filtered out, but we are unaware that we are unaware.

I tend to agree about the information bubbles. I’m probably not a good example, but judging from this blog and comments I read in others, there is very little click-through. I read opposing opinions. The opposition, giving them the benefit of the doubt, is they make their best arguments in order to retain current believers and to win over converts. In my case it they only end up making my opposition sharper. People do not like reading opinions that differ from theirs. The net remains in that regard a promise. It is not just that people generally seek out the like-minded, when they find opposing information they’re disinclined to screech it and verify the merits or lack of same. This trend tends to be more true of the far Right and libertarians because so much of what they believe is so dependent on faith and unjustified beliefs.

Competitive elections and democracy provide at least a partial antidote to this development. Information bubbles are hardly new, even though they now take new forms. In many societies, political parties long created information bubbles. Nineteenth-century America had partisan newspapers. In many 20th-century European countries, Social Democrats read Social Democratic newspapers, went to Social Democratic social clubs, joined Social Democratic trade unions, married other Social Democrats, and had Social Democratic babies. Christian Democrats and Communists had their own separate worlds. Nonetheless, democracy somehow kept working. As Harvard political theorist Nancy Rosenblum has argued, partisanship creates its own checks and balances. As long as partisans are contending for a majority of public support, they have to temper their own beliefs in ways that will allow them to appeal to the public and to respond to potentially persuasive arguments from their opponents. This is far from perfect (the public has its own problems). Nonetheless, as John Stuart Mill argued, it can sometimes bring us closer to the truth.

What Farrel is arguing here in sociology is called functionalism. How society, culture and politics looks at any one time is the result, the medium between all the opposing forces. Mostly true, to me anyway. I think there are echoes of misinformation that can so dominate a conversation that it becomes extremely difficult to replace with a truer narrative. This is one of the reasons the net has not contributed much in the way of social progress or economic justice in western cultures like ours that are already so media/message saturated.

black and white noise island

Are genes our destiny? – Salk Scientists discover “hidden” code in DNA evolves more rapidly than genetic code

LA JOLLA, CA—A “hidden” code linked to the DNA of plants allows them to develop and pass down new biological traits far more rapidly than previously thought, according to the findings of a groundbreaking study by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The study, published today in the journal Science, provides the first evidence that an organism’s “epigenetic” code – an extra layer of biochemical instructions in DNA – can evolve more quickly than the genetic code and can strongly influence biological traits.

While the study was limited to a single plant species called Arabidopsis thaliana, the equivalent of the laboratory rat of the plant world, the findings hint that the traits of other organisms, including humans, might also be dramatically influenced by biological mechanisms that scientists are just beginning to understand.

“Our study shows that it’s not all in the genes,” said Joseph Ecker, a professor in Salk’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, who led the research team. “We found that these plants have an epigenetic code that’s more flexible and influential than we imagined. There is clearly a component of heritability that we don’t fully understand. It’s possible that we humans have a similarly active epigenetic mechanism that controls our biological characteristics and gets passed down to our children. “

If humans are evolving faster at the genetic level – faster for what. New adaptations are not perfect ( i.e. not always intelligently designed) nor do they always serve some grand new purpose. Though they are adaptations and adaptations are usually initiated for a reason, or in response to something. It could be very subtle things like resistance to some pesticides or tolerating distracting noise better. So far no ALPHAS-like adaptations – for better or worse.

analogue girl by izzi dunn. not a real video, just audio with a picture.

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