Thursday, December 23, 2021

Tech Policy Press Had A Great First Year -- Illuminating the Critical Issues

Democracy owes thanks to Tech Policy Press and its CEO/Editor Justin Hendrix for a great first year of important reporting, analysis, and opinion on the increasingly urgent issues of tech policy, especially social media. It is becoming the place to keep up with news and ideas. 

They just published their list of Top 50 Contributor Posts of 2021 from 330 posts from 120 guest contributors and their list of Top 10 Tech Policy Press Podcasts of 2021 from 54 episodes.

I am honored to be among the stellar contributors - and to have written two of the “Top 50” posts (plus four others) - and to have helped organize and moderate their special half-day event, Reconciling Social Media and Democracy.

Just a partial sampling of the many other contributors I have learned much from - Daphne Keller, Elinor Carmi, Nathalie Maréchal, Yael Eisenstat, Ellen Goodman, Karen Kornbluh, Renee DiResta, Chris Riley, Francis Fukuyama, Corey Doctorow, and Mike Masnick.

Great work by CEO/Editor Justin Hendrix.

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Monday, December 20, 2021

Are You Covidscuous? [or Coviscuous?]

Are You Covidscuous? Have you been swapping air with those who are?

Covidscuous, adj. (co-vid-skyoo-us), Covidscuity, n. -- definition: demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual -- in regard to Covid contagion risks to oneself and those around one.

[Update 1/12/22:] Alternate form: Coviscuous, Coviscuity. Some may find this form easier to pronounce and more understandable.

We seem to lack a word for this badly needed concept. Many smart people who know Covid is real and have been vaccinated and boosted and wear masks often still seem to be oblivious to the cumulative and multiplicative nature of repeated exposures to risk. Many are aware that Omicron has added a new curveball, but give little thought to how often they expose themselves (and thus those they spend time with) by not limiting how much time they spend in large congregate indoor settings -- especially when rates and risks are increasing.

In July 2020, I wrote The Fog of Coronavirus: No Bright Lines, emphasizing that Covid spreads like a fog, depending on distance, airflow, and duration of exposure. That while a single interaction may have low risk, large numbers of low-risk interactions can amount to high risk. “You can play Russian roulette once or twice and likely survive. Ten or twenty times and you will almost certainly die.  We must weigh level of risk, duration, and frequency.” A gathering of six friends or relatives exposes six people to each other. A party with dozens of people chatting and mingling in ever-changing close circles of a few people has far higher risk – even if all are boosted.

We need to constantly apply the OODA loop to our exposures – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, and repeat. When rates and exposure levels are low, we can be more relaxed. As rates or other risk factors increase, we need to be far more judicious about our exposures.

We should think in terms of a Covidscuity Rating. An index that factors in how many people you interact with (each having their own Covidscuity Rating), for what duration. More people, some with higher Covidscuity, and for more duration, closer, with less masking all multiply risk. Maybe epidemiologists can decide just how that math generally works and create a calculator app we can use to understand the relevant factors better (much like apps for home energy efficiency). Maybe display a Monte Carlo graph to show how this is never exact, but a fuzzy bell curve of probabilities. This could help us understand the risks we take -- and those we take on from those we choose to interact with.

But in any case, the OODA loops must be continuous. Not from months ago, but weekly, and whenever there is new information. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, repeat.

And of course we have a social responsibility. This risk is not just to you, but those you might next infect. And to all of us, as you help provide a breeding ground for new and more dangerous variants.

This is not to say some Covidscuity is always wrong, only that we should maintain updated awareness of what risk we take, for what reward, and consider not just single events but budget your activities for the compounding effect of repeated exposure. Consider your own Covidscuity, and that of those you expose yourself to.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Tech Policy Press: The Ghost of Surveillance Capitalism Future

My short article in Tech Policy Press focuses on The Ghost of Surveillance Capitalism Future, AKA, The Ghost of Social Media Future. 

Concerned about what Facebook and other platforms know about you and use to manipulate you now? The "mind-reading" power of "biometric psychography" will make that look like the good old days. 

Now is the time for policy planners to look to the future – not just to next year, but the next decade. Whatever direction we choose, the underlying question is “whom does the technology serve?” These global networks are far too universal, and their future potential far too powerful, to leave this to laissez-faire markets with business models that primarily exploit users.

Plus two additional references that add to the vision of abuses: