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To Combat Fake News, Give People More Media Control

Whether it’s Sinclair’s five minutes of hate, Alex Jones’ rants, Russian Federation bots’ tweets, Assange’s leaks, or Fox News’ commentators’ lies, one of the biggest problems today is bad information, media pollution.

And there’s an open question of how to deal with it all. Well, to deal with some of it. Really, it depends whom you ask.

But the best solution is to empower people by giving them greater control over what they read and watch, how they read and watch it, and how they share content with others. That’s a heavy lift, as the same lack of control that empowers the bad actors helps the media conglomerates to exert influences that pad their own pockets.

Copyright law badly needs an update for the modern world, where it’s easy and useful to share content beyond what the strictures of existing law allow. Having greater control over hardware and software that enables media access would shake up the marketplace while letting users spend their finite time more wisely. There is much work needed here, and there is little impetus for the incumbents to roll up their sleeves.

This past week on at least one cable provider The View and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert had their listing data screwed up. That meant that at least some users’ DVRs failed to record James Comey’s book promotions. It’s almost certain to be a screw up in the listing distribution chain, but it is an example of media pollution that people who have paid for the privilege may have missed content they wanted to see. They could jump through hoops to see the interviews, but it’s not in their preferred format or at their preferred time.

The technology industry could have a hand in empowering viewers, but the FCC blocked a proposal to force cable companies to grant access to third party hardware. For whatever reason, the Apples and Googles of the world did not lobby hard enough to make it happen. Missed opportunity. These talking-listening hubs they sell for homes would be much more useful if they allowed for interaction with the real main home hub: the television.

On websites like Twitter and Facebook, the limited access they give their users to filter and augment the feed means that people are forced to dig, scrounge, or put up with so many bad behaviors. Every single time I search on Twitter, I’m bound to find at least one tweet with every hashtag under the sun trying to advertise some stupid thing (or porn).

Now, you say, back when newspapers were the thing, people didn’t have control. But newspapers, I say, weren’t endless streams of data. Paracelsus says the dose makes the poison, and high-volume media vehicles like Twitter increase the dose considerably.

The media companies that aren’t thrilled about the likes of Trump, Fascism, and the Anti-American Way should give more power to the viewer. Make it happen. It’ll make you more money in the long run, and it will help to thwart bad actors like Sinclair in the meantime.

More Tech Than They Know What to Do With

An essay about how monolithic technology firms stifle the reach of the very technologies they invent.

DARPA has taken a step toward wider availability of the open source software they sponsor: DARPA: Open Catalog. Most major technology companies (including Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, etc.) have open source software they use and maintain. And lots of other companies (e.g., automakers) have some level of involvement in open source, too.

Why? Where does this wide spread come from? Obviously the players keep and maintain other software on a proprietary basis (both licensed and in-house). They keep some software close and closed because of a competitive advantage. Other software stays closed because it would be no value to others.

And yet, some software remains closed purely because of the cost involved in opening it up. That typically involves having people (both engineers and lawyers, at least) look over the source, vet it, clean it up, package it for public consumption. Some of those efforts will fail, resulting in loss, due to coupling between unreleasable and releasable source.

How much technology is being lost? Is that not an economic concern and a harmful characteristic of monolithic firms in an economy? We lose benefits because of the inefficiency of large organizations that have more tech than they know what to do with.

It’s not as obviously bad as some high-profile failures where time and budget overruns of projects costing billions eventually led to them being scrapped and gods know what happened to the tech developed on the public dime.

But it still hurts, and may be far more costly in terms of our special development. It is akin to firms competing outside of their core competency: that large tech firms develop tech that could stand on its own as a business, but is at best used internally and at worst overlooked entirely because they have no strategy to deploy it widely.

Firms competing outside of their competency means that, e.g., two ice cream shops may not compete on product quality and other metrics, but on something as foreign to ice cream as their ability to exploit tax loopholes. That sort of competitiveness on general business acumen rather than on niche values leads to ugly distortions of information and inferior products with irregular pricing.

Technology’s most disruptive roles have come when new ideas were leveraged against existing problems in unexpected ways. The constituent technologies of the electronic nicotine vaporizer have existed for decades, but only recently were combined to tackle an existing problem.

But that sort of disruption requires that potential entrepreneurs know or at least can find out about viable technologies. With large technology firms, the pool of potential entrepreneurs is limited to employees, consultants, and partners that are aware of the technologies available. That is a far smaller pool than the general pool of potential entrepreneurs.

Moreover, the privileged information regarding costs and profits of existing industries may thwart analyses that would indicate entrance opportunities, even when the technologies are known. We need to open more than just a few projects here and there, if we are to unlock the true progress that economics offers us.

How to: Run for the US Presidency and Win

How to run for president, if you aren’t a major candidate and want to make the most of it.

Should You Run?

Questions you should ask yourself before you decide to run include:

  1. Am I a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution?
  2. Have I attained the age of thirty five?
  3. Have I been fourteen years a resident within the United States?
  4. Did my relative (mother, grandfather, husband, etc.) run for president and win?

Run Unopposed

This is tricky. In fact, there’s not been a single campaign to pull it off.

Not even the [illeg.] Richard Nixon ran unopposed, and in 1972 he won in a landslide, only losing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to George McGovern and a single Virginian electoral vote went to John Hospers thanks to a faithless elector. That was 40 years ago.

Ronald Reagan holds the world record for highest number of electoral votes; in 1984 (28 years ago) he won 525 electoral votes to Walter Mondale’s 13 (Minnesota narrowly went for Mondale). But Reagan was opposed.

The popular theory is that there are two political parties, so running unopposed cannot be done, but the unpopular fact is that no one has really tried.

So, consider running unopposed.

The Next Best Thing

Aerial Warfare

If running unopposed doesn’t pan out, do the next best thing. Don’t run against your opposition. In modern wars, the USA and allies have complete air dominance. They don’t have dogfights. Although the opposition shoots at the planes and helicopters, they mostly miss.

Fly above your opponents. That means inventing new media forms that your opponents can’t touch.

While your opponents are busy printing bumper stickers and running television advertisements, you should be building trebuchets to deliver buick-sized pleas to your potential voters. You should be building tiny robots that will crawl onto their shoes while they’re waiting for the bus and stitch “Vote for [Your Name]” onto their shoelaces.

No Partisanship

Your opponents will expect you to align yourself with canned views. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, base your campaign around debating scientists and field experts on a variety of issues. They can be partisans or independents, but they should be experts. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Give your best arguments, and if they convince you otherwise, admit it.

You should pick your running mate out of the pool of those you debate. Showing you’re willing to work with those you debate means you’ll be able to give opponents a fair shake in governing.

No “When I’m President”

Too often, candidates only propose legislative and regulatory changes that would be enacted if elected. Why they stop there is a mystery. If you have a truly good idea, it should be put to use as soon as possible. This applies not only to your platform, but your opponents’ platforms.

If an opponent has a good idea, call for it to be enacted without delay. The 26th Amendment (giving the vote to all over 18 years of age) was an idea that should have taken no thought or delay to enact, and an equally potent idea, wherever it arises, should be enacted.

True Economy

Don’t restrict your ideas to policy. Call for sane extra-political business activity. Call for open markets where they are closed. There are many, and they could be generating massive economic growth. There’s an overwhelming reluctance to be critical of business unless it means new regulation. That’s ridiculous.

We do need some regulations, including some new ones, repealing others. That doesn’t mean regulatory knobs can solve the problems. Calling for better management of private interests is perfectly acceptable.

As an aside, a recent interview with Valve Software’s Gabe Newell revealed that Valve is adding three meter support to its Steam client software so that others can include Steam support on their own platforms. This is a great, forward-thinking economic decision. It’s the kind of thing a presidential campaign can and should highlight.

Open Mics

Give average people a chance to speak, both for and against your candidacy. If a heckler has something they really want to say, let them say it. Schedule a nice block before and after any speech to give people open mic access.

If the heckler speaks out-of-turn, tell them to wait for the open mic. If they won’t relent and they have to be removed from the premises, give them the option to return to speak during that time.


The current methodology of presidential campaigning reflects the current methodology of business and government. That is, a somewhat broken semblance of the real deal. As I mentioned Valve Software, there’s a need to have government, business, and campaigns operate in more modern and enlightened ways, just as Valve does.

That’s not to say Valve is perfect, but they are entirely willing to depart from the norm if they believe it’s advantageous. Most companies, politicians, and governments are entirely unwilling. To their detriment. Most won’t even entertain the idea!

If you run for president, you should eschew the mainstream candidacy practices. You probably won’t win, but if you run an innovative, revelatory campaign, you may be defeated, but you will not lose.