Locklin on science

I don’t want to work on your shitty blockchain project: especially you, Facebook

Posted in fun, privacy by Scott Locklin on May 24, 2018

At the moment, I appear to be some kind of unicorn. I’m a no bullshit dozen year veteran of using math and machine learning to solve  business problems. I’ve also got some chops in blockchain which I am considerably more humble about. I am a real life machine learning blockchain guy. I don’t actually ride to work on a unicycle while wearing silver pants, but I probably could get away with it. As such, recruiters looking to cash in on the blockchain chuckwagon  seem  unable to leave me alone, despite my explicitly asking them to do so.

Image result for blockchain unicorn

It boggles my mind that there even exist recruiters for blockchain. After the blockchain annus mirabilis of 2017, anyone who knows a few useful things about the subject is almost certainly productively employed and probably fairly unconcerned with stuff like money. I’d posit that any blockchain type who can’t find productive employment on socially useful projects or isn’t in danger of financial independence either  doesn’t feel like working, doesn’t care about money or doesn’t actually know anything about blockchain. In the former cases you can’t recruit them, and in the latter case, you really shouldn’t.

Of course there are no shortage of faux “experts” who wouldn’t know a Merkle-tree from a KD-tree. Usually these same “experts” were or would have been touting themselves as “AI” or machine learning thought leaders a few months prior, and IoT, augmented reality, clean tech, “dat cloud” and … I don’t remember what the litany of  marketing diarrhea was being squirted out of Silly Con Valley’s corporate orifices before then. I have better things to use that brain cell for.

On the off chance that someone who is competent in this subject were looking for a job, there are obvious places to go. The crypto currency exchanges are decent places that will  incubate many new ventures; Gemini would be my pick. Their exchange is technologically far and away the best there is, and based on my experiences so far, it’s also the best run. There is good reason for this; the Winkelvii struck me as a couple of smart, honest and diligent guys. Better than the exchanges are the companies and foundations running the various blockchain projects themselves. Crypto investment funds will be an interesting place to make a buck. Right now it’s shooting fish in a barrel and there are a lot of morons doing it, but some of them are going to accumulate tremendous wealth, and there are direct, obvious and not so obvious ways a blockchain expert can help them do this. Or, start your own blockchain project. There is much work to do, and even though it is more difficult to fund new projects than last year, good projects will be funded, and now is the time. Whatever solutions win either already exist or they will shortly.  Other decent ideas: one of the big accounting firms, the banks, various corporate contributors to hyperledger fabric.

Of course, I don’t want any of this: I’m exactly where I want to be. I am helping good people fix the internet and save it from corporate weasels. Every day I get up and help do my bit to make things better. It’s a nice feeling. Problems are pretty interesting too.

But if I did want another job, the very last place on earth I would work is Facebook. Facebook is corporate syphilis. I keep telling them this. I even went through the process of quitting their service and wrote a whole blog on it. They don’t listen. It’s almost like they don’t give a shit when people tell them things. I was polite the first time, joking they could have my services if they buy my company. No more.

When I say Facebook is corporate syphilis, I am not engaging in hyperbole. I consider tobacco companies to be more ethical and serving a higher social purpose. Tobacco companies employ factory workers, farmers, shopkeepers and .. they keep doctors in business. Tobacco is more sociable than Facebook; smokers must meet face to face now that they are banished to the outdoors. Hell, smoking is probably physiologically healthier than spending hours a day noodling with your nerd dildo on ‘tardbook; at least you get up and walk around once an hour.  Supposedly nicotine is a prophylactic against Parkinsons disease, even if the most popular delivery method does kind of give you cancer. Facebook isn’t prophylactic against anything but having a life. Unlike Facebook,  some people want and enjoy nicotine. Nobody in the history of the human race has ever decided they want something like Facebook in their lives. “Gee I want a fraudulent advertising service that ruins and commodifies my relationships, wastes my time, makes me depressed, decays the moral fiber of entire civilizations, causes mass hysteria, spies on me and sells me out for pocket change, is as addictive as heroin,  is the bones of a hellscape surveillance state and is impossible to live without in the modern world; SIGN ME UP YO.”

Even gambling syndicates serve a higher social purpose than Facebook. The gambling rackets provide subsidies for entertainment, jobs for hundreds of thousands of decent working class people, and they somehow manage to employ more and more interesting applied math types than Facebook does. Facebook has all of the addictive and time wasting qualities of gambling, applied to more people, causing more social corrosion and employing fewer people. Facebook really is corporate syphilis.

Z

 

Their excuse for existence is that Facebook “brings people together.”  CBS news used to bring people together; everyone would watch 60 minutes and talk about it at the water cooler. Facebook is a narcissism factory which causes moral panics, ridiculous rumor propagation, argument between friends, social fragmentation, alienation and even mass suicide. It’s also so obviously rotting the social fabric of the internet and society at large, even the debauched whores in the media are noticing. Facebook’s walled garden is wrecking the economics of the content providers and entertainers that make the internets interesting and worthwhile. It’s run by opportunistic mountebanks and sinister robots who … well, assuming they aren’t actual comic book villains, they sure do a reasonable impersonation. The PR these yoyos get is at best Stalinistic nonsense; at worst, people just sucking up to money and power. Speaking of Stalinism, Facebook employs literal former Stasi agents to censor and snitch on people for … saying things. Think about that. They expect me to work for a company that employs East German Secret Police; in precisely the same capacity as they were used in the former East German Workers paradise. I wonder what their dental plan is like? Maybe the one described in Marathon Man?

Kim Jong Il backed by officers visits the July 18 Cattle FarmImage result for zuck and cows

 

The recruiters (4 so far counting outside contractors) tell me there is some little Eichmann at Facebook who suffers under the delusion I would work in their cubicle jonestown. I will not. Not as long as I have a kidney I can sell to Ukrainian kidney merchants,  hands to shovel shit, or a sword to fall on. Facebook needs blockchain and machine learning people the same way they need a Manhattan project on biological warfare.

I am no boy scout, but I do still harbor a vague moral sense. Facebook is bad and anyone who works there who is not an active saboteur or malingerer should be deeply ashamed of themselves.   The only way I will ever return to their once pleasant campus (it was pleasant when Sun Microsystems was there) is at the head of a column of tanks.

 

Edit add: look at what they came out with today; a press release from their own internal ministry of truth. I’m going to assume it is either the Demons they keep in the basement, or the electroshock therapy they administer in the “art rehab center” which causes the total lack of self awareness which makes crap like this possible: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/05/facing-facts-facebooks-fight-against-misinformation/

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Decoupling from fakebook

Posted in privacy by Scott Locklin on October 5, 2017

I was around for the glory days of the internet: the 90s and early 2000s. Back then it was truly what it was supposed to be; a decentralized network where you could find all kinds of interesting data and interact with people who share obscure interests with you. The browser was organized to help you, rather than monetize you for evil megacorporations. And there was plenty of stuff that wasn’t browser intermediated. Very little of the remaining internet is anything like early libertarian internet. /chan probably comes closest, with some of the blockchain projects being in the correct utopian spirit. There is nothing inherent in modern day internets which prevents us from having decentralized social networks; a protocol which does this could be built directly into browsers, but nobody has done it yet, so the interwebs decay into the corporate surveillance dystopia we have today.

I’ve always disliked Facebook as a company.  Zuckerberg stole the idea from the Winkelvoss entity, and they even lifted the blue and white color scheme and layout from Friendster. I continued to use it for much too long as a way of sharing pictures with my friends and family, a chat application, a sort of recent cache of things I’m interested in, and a way of keeping touch with distant relatives and people I went to grammar school with. Reading Tim Wu’s “The Attention Merchants” finally made me realize there is no reason to use it, and lots of good reasons not to. One big reason not to continue: it’s a waste of time. You only get so much time on earth, and real human interaction is vastly more important than wasting even a few minutes a day on fake human interaction.

One of the sinister things about it is having as an audience hundreds of people you barely know (and if your privacy settings aren’t set to maximum; the entire world). You begin to censor yourself. While this is natural in any community; these people are not really your community.  There is no existing actual community where your Aunt Sadie, three of your ex girlfriends, a half dozen people you knew in the third grade, your second boss and some guy you met at a party once all watch your every interaction. Such an agglomeration of people is actually a nightmare.

Social networks should not be owned by profit-making companies; in this situation you are the product, and your very being is strip mined for nickels and dimes. It is inherently and trivially wrong to do this. We know now that some people catch depression from logging into this corporate dystopia. Some of the finest minds of our generation have worked very hard to make FB as addictive and misery spreading as a slot machine.

Sharing data with your friends, something the internet should be used for, is more difficult without companies like this, but it can be done; Diasporia, Riot/Matrix.org, Mastodon, Telegram, Signal all exist and I encourage people who need this sort of thing to use them.  People who want to keep my contact information in a handy place; use linkedin (which isn’t as obnoxious or time wasting as FB, but is still obnoxious), or find me here.

https://catchoom.com/wp-content/files/2017/08/facebook-mwc-vr-zuckerberg.jpg

 

Even examining FB on their merits as a business: the ads they’ve served me have been a joke from the beginning. “Become a Physics Teacher” was an early and hilarious regular one. I’m pretty sure my Ph.D. in that subject (which was in my profile) qualifies me for such a job without any additional training.  Subsequent ones have been similarly ridiculous; they serve me ads for dishwasher soap (don’t own a dishwasher), money for “refugees” (sorry, I’ve read “Italy and her Invaders” and know how this story ends), NBA (don’t care about sportsball), potato chips (make my own) and various objects I’ve already purchased on the internet, generally from the same company serving a facebook ad. The one overt ad I clicked on in my entire FB career was for a home CRISPR kit, and I didn’t buy it.

These ads are annoying in that they are incorrect, but they’re also annoying in that FB is tracking my browsing in sites that have nothing to do with FB activities. It also offends my engineering sensibilities that Amazon or ebay pays FB for a display ad for stuff they know I have already purchased.  Yes, I understand why this happens: their purchase database doesn’t talk to the ad server, and yes, Amazon can afford to do this, but why should FB get paid even a penny CPM for this? There is also compelling evidence their click traffic is mostly fake. Weird things certainly happen when my non-secure browser window is open to a FB tab; I wouldn’t put it past them. We also know unambiguously that their metrics are science fiction.

If you want to follow me into the unFBing abyss; a checklist for you.

  • For normies who use phone-apps that rely on FB for identity; fix that first. Since I have never and will never do this, it wasn’t a consideration for me; best of luck.
  • Download your data if you want it for something. I did. Some of the links and photos will be amusing later. Some of this data may be useful in the event that some kind hearted software engineer actually create a useful decentralized social network which doesn’t treat its users as cattle to be exploited.
  • Delete your data. They make it really hard to do this, which is one of the reasons I don’t want to persist in using their shitty software. It’s also really hard to get at old data, and their reminders of what  thing I said or did 4 years ago are not helpful. I wanted to use this  and this to help assist in doing so, but they were flakeypants. So I moved on to:
  • Delete your account. Supposedly it will be fully deleted from backups and such in a couple of months. I think EU regulations require a hard delete,  but it isn’t in their T&C. You will get a hilariously misformatted message like this

 

BR BR BR!!!!

Next up: getting google out of my life as well.

https://www.networkworld.com/article/2942161/opensource-subnet/kicking-google-out-of-my-life-part-4-goodbye-gmail.html

Review and summary of Wu’s book
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product

NSA scandal notes

Posted in privacy by Scott Locklin on June 12, 2013
  • Almost 3 months ago, I wrote the following passage:

“One privacy advantage Yandex has which Google never will: Yandex does not do business with American intelligence agencies. I do not like the fact that Google has become an arm of US intelligence agencies. It is to their credit that Google discloses their relationship with the US government (most of Silicon Valley is in bed with the spooks, but they don’t talk about it). It is the surveillance state that I abhor. Yandex may very well be doing the same thing with the Russian government, but the FSB is a much smaller threat to American civil rights than our own spooks. While I see no immanent dangers from the all-seeing eye, and I am far from paranoid, the US is going through a weird time right now, and history is a dark and bloody subject. Do I really want the future government to know what websearches I was doing in 2010? No, thanks, tovarich.”

  • Breakdown of the history behind this at Takimag, along with a  proposal I reproduce here:

“I have a modest proposal. If there is truly nothing to worry about, all domestic government employees, officials, lobbyists, apologists, and contractors should be compelled by law to publish their telephone metadata records and personal Internet communications to the general public. Private-sector data-miners (AKA me) will keep track of it and report on our findings. Doubtless it will provide interesting information about the rampant corruption and foreign-agent contacts in our government. While terrorism is a problem, it seems to me that corruption and foreign agents’ influence on domestic politics is a more serious problem. If they have nothing to hide, they should have nothing to worry about. Surely the “transparency president” would agree?”

  • Credit where it is due, Google is doing damage control, and attempting to release some real data about the FISA requests
“We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.”
  • Did you know that “boundless informant” runs on open source platforms? Well, it does (see page 4 here). Does anyone who publishes open source software want this to happen? I certainly don’t (though I only have one item up which could possibly be used as such). Some lawyer at the Gnu foundation or EFF needs to get to work on a license which excludes spooks and their contractors. Not that it will actually stop such people, but there is no point making it easy for them.