Dirk Knemeyer

Truth, Omission, Sovereignty & Capitalism, December 1, 2016

As I’ve grown older and thought about the world a lot from a philosophical perspective, I’m less convinced, than ever that there’s such a thing as truth or objective truth, that it’s all perceptual. It’s all just I am a specific person with very uniquely specific context, you are a person with uniquely specific context and the reality is a consequence of that context and of who and where we are.

The point that I want to make with that is I’ve taken that to also then think about what is lying right? Because if you say there is no truth, lying becomes an interesting concept as well. A lot of the things that are “lying” are what we would say is lying by omission. What’s a good example? Obviously not a real one but I know that I robbed a bank and I don’t tell my wife, right? Most people would say, “Well, you were lying, you didn’t say you robbed a bank?”

Well no, I made a choice not to include that information in the things that I said. What Mark is saying is “Hey, some of the things out there is okay even though there are some things that have been omitted basically and are not available.” I think it depends on what you think about lying and think about the question of, as a person, Jon, as you and I talk, as we have lunch, we had lunch together today, during that lunch I’m going to choose to tell you about certain things and choose to not tell you about other things.

Most of the things I don’t tell you about I’ve made some editorial decision because I think it’s not relevant. You won’t be interested in it you don’t need to hear it. There are some things that perhaps I made a choice not to say because I would be embarrassed or I think you would think badly of me. There’s lots of sort of decision points that get me to these are things that actually came out of my mouth while we were having lunch.

Historically, it’s almost just a gut check thing. When I say, “Hey, I didn’t tell my wife that I robbed a bank.” Somebody says, “Oh Jesus, I mean that’s a lie.” On the other hand, if I say, “Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t tell my wife that um I put ketchup on my hot dog.” Nobody is going to consider that a lie right? Yet, they are really the same thing. They are me making some editorial choice of what I think is relevant to the other person or not.

From my perspective, it’s all lying in the way that we use lying as a filter for editing, right? There are some that are socially acceptable and some that are not, but it’s total gut check. It’s total lick your finger and put it in the air and whatever way you feel that the wind is blowing. This is very roundabout but now bringing it to Mark Zuckerberg’s contention, he’s saying, “Hey, having the platform there and having some amount of information that a big brother of some kind is restricting people from seeing, that, I’m sure for many of us with more liberal sensibilities, that’s going to get us upset. It flies against what we’ve been taught and what we believe.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s … I may not like it, I may wish the world wasn’t that way but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in reality because there’s editing going on all over the place and we’re mad because it’s some apparatus of the Chinese government as opposed to it’s just Bob on Facebook who happened to put this thing up or that thing up. I get why people are conceptually upset by it but I think it’s really philosophically idealistic as opposed to practical.

We’re getting this mixed bag at best of information because there’s individuals and companies that are incentivized to send us whatever will make them the most money. At the end of the day so much comes down to capitalism.

With Facebook, with this example, the whole reason that Facebook exists, whether we like it or not, and honestly, I don’t like it, I’m anti-capitalist big time, but the reason Facebook exists is to maximize shareholder value. In the context of maximizing shareholder value, there’s no question what they should be doing. They should be trying to get into the Chinese market, monetizing that market, and making more money for the people who own those shares of stock.

Do I wish the world was not that way? I do. Is the world that way? It is. As such, Facebook are going to Facebook. If you have a problem, it’s at the level of capitalism. It shouldn’t be at the level of Facebook. Facebook is just participating in this broken freaking system. The other big pillar to look at from the standpoint of Facebook in China, is the notion of national sovereignty and national governments.

We liberal United States may not believe in the censorship, in the things that are going on in China. That may offend our sensibilities but China is a sovereign nation and unless we’re going to send in the troops and the bombs and it’s so important that everyone have the access that we’re going to conquer that nation, we have to respect what’s happening there to some degree.

There’s a lot of things happening there that don’t make me happy, that I wish we were in Utopia. I wish I could go there and wave my finger and have it go away but it doesn’t work that way. We are in a global environment with different nations, each of which have different beliefs. I think a lot of the Chinese beliefs are wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think I am but maybe I’m wrong.

Their nation, they can make their own decisions and rules and set that stuff up and look, do we want to be the policemen of the world or not? Now we’re really getting into … I’m talking about the United States here. We’re really getting into a bigger swath of things. It creates untold issues when we try and go in benevolently and impose our will, impose our values, impose our rule over other people, other nations.

To me this is all a big to-do about nothing. It’s funny, I’m so liberal and yet I’m always hammering liberals but it’s true. Its’ all of this liberal angst for things that we shouldn’t be angsty about. If we’re angsty about anything, it should be freaking capitalism, right? If we’re angsty about anything it should be that there’s not a one-world government that is driven by liberal principles and holistic long-reaching thinking. Those are the things to be mad about, but the fact that some company is working within the system, in the rules of the system the way it’s set up and engaging with a sovereign nation in ways that make me feel a little bit icky, but it’s just the freaking system. If you hate the system, let’s attack the system but for all the liberals to be up in arms about Facebook and standing on their soapboxes, I don’t have much respect for it to be honest.


Power, Transparency, & Truth, November 18, 2016

No, we’re not interested in total transparency because we have created these myths and legends around reality that simply aren’t true. The fact is the human fight for power at scale is ugly. It’s ugly. If you are trying to be the leader of a nation, of hundreds of millions of people, that is not going to be a fair fight. It wasn’t in 1790’s when the first U.S. presidents were being elected, and it isn’t today at the much larger scale. The people in power want to keep power. The people going for the power will do whatever they can to get the power. From a more primitive viewpoint, I would take the position of saying, “They should,” right? I mean, the stakes are high. If you’re the president of the United States you can do a lot. A lot to the world, a lot to your personal and family’s financial position, a lot to forwarding the beliefs that you have. Look, I mean we can’t … I don’t know that we can culturally approve dirty dealings, and fighting, and so forth.

Those things are going to happen. Unless the transparency is so bright that there’s no dark corners in which we can plot, and scheme, and do underhanded things. I take for granted the democratic national apparatus is trying to knock out Bernie Sanders, the outside upstart as they change the system and help Hillary Clinton, the ultimate insider. To carry on with the propaganda messages from the campaign. Don’t kid yourself, I mean Republicans are doing the exact same thing, the exact same thing. Different people, different agendas, different power sources, but everybody’s doing it. It’s sort of ridiculous when either party, from my perspective, is exposed and call out on it that we have this sort of Victorian moral shock about what’s going. Of course it’s going on. If you think Bernie Sander’s was getting a fair shake, you don’t understand how the world works. Point blank. Yeah, going on a little bit different direction with the WikiLeaks stuff, the people, liberals, we’re aghast that the Russian government would influence U.S. elections. “Oh my God, Trump is in Cahoots with the Russians.” Shock … first of all, do I think Trump is in cahoots with the Russians? I don’t. Is it possible? I guess, but I don’t think so. What is possible is that major nations influence the internal workings of other major nations all the time.

The U.S. has influenced, and it’s a known fact that the U.S. has influenced elections in a variety of nations. In the Americas, in other places in the world many times in the history of this nation. Again, there’s this shock, “The Russian nation is influencing our …” of course. There’s this whole espionage layer to how major nation states interact with each other, and the Russians are going to be taking advantage of those tools as we do. When, in this case the Democratic party, the supporters of Hillary Clinton, however we want to bucket them, are the victims of it. Again, the Victorian moral outrage goes up.

Come on people, I mean this is the world. This is power at scale, it’s just the way it is.

To me this is not a Facebook issue, it’s an internet issue, right? We do have the New York Times, or any number of editorially curated organizations that have … I don’t even want to say a higher level of credibility because there’s other issues, but some semblance of editorial guidance. The ability to project, we as consumers to project a level of trust that approximates what things used to be like in the print days, in the old media days. Now, they’re still making errors are all over the place, making retractions, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The internet at large, the technologies, whether it be social networking technology, or Wiki technology, or whatever the different online communication technologies are have done a very poor job at editing, at having that layer of authentication. Wikipedia’s a good example of it. Wikipedia is actually quite well edited as these things go. As a relatively heavy Wikipedia user, I’ve found a number of errors. They are generally of the trickster variety, right? A little bit of a tangent, but to frame just how sort of insidious this is. My father was a big fan of boxing, so one of the things he and I would do together was watch some boxing. I was a big fan of the boxer Lennox Lewis, a British guy.

During Lennox’s career there was a fellow he fought named Henry Akinwande, who for a brief time was the number one contender, the next big thing. Then Lennox Lewis beat him, and that ended. For whatever reason I’m jumping around on one of my Wikipedia jumps where I’m reading about lots of different things. I end up on Henry Akinwande’s page, and in his little biography there’s a few sentences talking about this key fight he had against some boxer I had never heard of. It just stunk a little, the way it was written. I researched, and there was no boxer of the name that the Wikipedia page Akinwande fought. As I researched more it was some trickster who had just put himself into the narrative of Henry Akinwande. He had this big key fight in the career of this boxer, so I edited it out.

It was up there for a long time before I saw it. I identified it, I edited it. That kind of stuff is all over Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a tremendous, to the point of almost fascist editorial process to keep things clean and keep things out. That’s sort of at the most extreme case of how editing is being handled in sort of the open transparent web.

Companies like Facebook and those sort of technologies have absolutely none of that. If you have a trickster who’s on Facebook, who’s doing things, there’s not people catching it. Additionally, and I think crucially, we have to think about use cases and what people are doing on the web. When people go onto Wikipedia, for the most part people are going there to learn. It’s not a place where you’re rewarded for being a trickster. This guy probably thought it was really funny putting that thing about fighting Akinwande, but it was meaningless in the big picture of things.

However, on Facebook if you can put a fake story out there that forwards a political agenda that you have and it takes off, not only are you having real impact on pervading your political agenda into society, but you’re also getting social reinforcement feedback. You’re getting liked, and up voted, and you’re becoming more important in the culture. That’s not great, and it’s rewarded by Facebook and by the very behaviors. You don’t go on Facebook to learn, I don’t think. It’s a social kind of learning-ish I guess. You’re going on there to connect, to amplify, to blow off steam, to do human emotional things that often can be negative, or not well thought.

The design of Facebook allows those things to take off, and be treated as truth, and build on a lot of social dynamics, even getting into sort of crowd … the sort of thing that leads to riots and that kind of crowd behavior. To me it’s not a Facebook issue … it is a Facebook issue as far as it’s an issue for everyone on the internet who hasn’t solved it well, which is pretty much everyone. I don’t think it’s native to Facebook, it’s just the size of Facebook, and the influence of Facebook allows it to have more of an impact.

How much those things impacted our election, I’m not qualified to answer. I mean maybe we should be upset with Facebook about it, but to treat it like this is some problem that Facebook has created. It’s just kind of Facebook participating in this Zeitgeist of openness, transparency, freedom of information, not oppressing it or holding things that has led to that. That’s an internet problem.

There’s this ideal that “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, of voting for the best person. It’s all bullshit. I mean, at the end of the day in our current system, the way we’re structured now. The democrats can get 40 something percent, the republicans getting 40 something percent. It doesn’t matter if the republican, or the democrat, I don’t think … although I think the criteria are probably different. Let’s use the concrete example we have with Donald Trump. The republican goes out there, says a lot of ridiculous things. Says a lot of things, like if you look at one of the big voting blocks within a Republican party, their conservative right is talking about these very immoral things those people should be horrified by. They’re going in a Republican camp for other reasons regardless of the specifics of that candidate.

Politics, there’s this sheen of truth, idealism … I know I sound really cynical today but I think these things are true. It’s all shit, right? It’s all crap. People are just voting for their thing. Whatever that trigger is. The gun side, the abortion side, whatever it is, the candidate can go out there and be a total zero and they’re going to put their vote in that camp. On the Democratic side, we could I think also come up with very unflattering examples of the candidate. Maybe we could even do it with Hillary Clinton if we step back and thought about it and tried, but who really in some sort of objective humanistic way isn’t a great person, isn’t a great candidate. Same things that shouldn’t be appealing to that base, but at the end of the day they’re going to tick the box, whether it be for one reason or another.

That’s also part of it. On Facebook it’s not about truth, it’s not about, “Oh, I’m trying to learn something, I’m trying to.” It’s, “I have this agenda, I’m slashing away at it.” It’s people with agendas pushing it up, and other people share the agenda. They don’t care if it’s true or not, they’re like, “Ah, Ah, Ah,” you know? Then it takes off. A lot of this, it comes back to human nature and it comes back to really understanding … I think we just need to be more honest about what we are as an animal, as a species, and operating in more honest ways. I think a lot of this is just, it’s just dishonesty.

Truth, nobody cares about truth, people just want it their way. We’re big, spoiled, tantruming children at the end of the day. We try and act like we’re these wise, smart, considerate people but we’re not. I mean we’re checking our box every damn time no matter what, and this election just proves it.

 


Higher Fidelity Media Consumption, January 7, 2016

When I’m home I’m often relegated to watching something on my phone or my laptop screen. My iPad is now broken but previously my iPad screen would have been a common one. Now during this break I had some times when the family was gone, I could stream on Chromecast to the giant TV, work and have it on the giant TV. I was happy. It was a much richer and more enjoyable experience than trying to work on my laptop with my iPhone with this tiny screen with the movie going or something. It was much more humane, it just felt good instead of feeling forced and broken. There’s that balance.

The realities of how our homes are designed today, the realities of how our computer ecosystems are designed today are such that in order to satisfy out different content desirements we’re locked into the small screens and these hobbled experiential moments. Those aren’t the best ways for consuming that content. I expect as more time goes on we’ll gravitate away from the strictly utilitarian personal desires being met to something that’s far more experientially rich, even while leveraging allowing us to see what we want to see as opposed to the whole family watching some compromised thing that no one wants to watch.


Does VR Live Up to the Hype?, June 18, 2015

Will this [virtual reality] wave live up to all the promise? No, it certainly won’t. It’s a cool gadget. Where the technology is now it’s something where you use it once and it’s sort of amazing. I use it twice or three times and it starts to get stale. There’s a novelty aspect to where the technology is now. It’s cool that they’ve got it where it is, but beyond that there’s not a whole lot of there there. We have in our five senses such high fidelity input devices, and the fidelity on these cutting edge virtual reality devices is just nowhere near that. It’s giving us a simulacra of something else in a way that is not at all maximizing the sensorial potential that we all have.

It’s interesting to a point and then at some point what’s the point? Because the technology can’t take us to places where the marketing would promise. Facebook’s big thing is that, oh they’re thinking way out. They’re way outside the box and these are teleportation devices. That is such hipster bullshit. I’m sorry. There might come a day when technology that’s down this kind of a path gets to a point where you could, it’s literally not a teleportation device, but you could market it that way because of the great high fidelity level that it brings two or more people together “in a virtual space,” but it’s nowhere near that now, nowhere near it at all. It’s interesting and I think there’s a place for it. There’s a product category for it, but it’s nowhere near where the hype and the marketing are whatsoever.

I think they’re far-flung fantasies right now. You talk about surgery for example. We want a surgeon with this big, ungainly, heavy, odd thing on their head and physically manipulating someone’s body? That’s crazy. That’s just, it doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, we can dream and say, “Oh, there’s all these interesting things,” but does it really make sense to do those things with this big awkward thing strapped to us? I don’t think so. We can have giant monitors that push the same visual content to us. We an have other input devices for the audio and for the other things and still have our full range of motion and still have our full sense of being.

I think the really exciting things will come farther in the future, but the generation that we’re at now, it’s going to live like a gaming console where it’s something you have at home, it’s something you have in a specific place. It’s going to be kind of geeky. I read one of the articles that you forwarded to me about this, they were talking about protocol for using this. Someone was saying, “Yeah, if you’re the one without the headset, don’t be surprised if you get punched.” It’s your fault, basically. What the hell is that? This device is such that if somebody’s using it, everybody’s got to clear way the hell away or they’re going to get punched or kicked? That’s dumb. We’re coming at a time where we’re living in increasingly smaller domiciles, increasingly smaller spaces. We’re going to put this things on and have us gesticulating around and meeting protocols where we need five feet in every direction. It’s really dumb.

The idea that we’re going to walk around on the street with them? That’s completely idiotic. Google Glass was one of the things that sort of sunk that notion, was having that on your head, and that was really not intrusive at all. These things are horrible. I read one guy was saying the big concern is you have to worry about it being stolen because you’re lumbering around not paying attention to what’s around you with this big expensive thing on your head. Somebody rips it off and runs away. It’s just dumb. At the level that they’re trying to market it and tout it as something like a gaming device. As something an experiential device that people use in a limited, private context, okay. I can see that. Probably not for me, but I grock it and the technology’s going to just get better and better, so the potential of it I don’t think is as grand as they make it seem, but I think it’s the start of something that’s at least interesting and worthy of experimenting with.


On the State of AR & VR, January 29, 2015

Over time, they will crack the form factor problem. They will crack the headache and strain on our eyes and brain problem. The challenge is, right now, these companies are bringing these products out and telling them like they’re here. Like they’re, “Oh my God, this is so big and important.” It’s so far away in reality.

If these were things that were brand new or original ideas that could at least be sold as a thought experiment as opposed to a prototype and a product, I would respect that because we need to see what … It might not be ready yet for what is coming down the road but the fact is, that the technology that they’re showing here is stuff that we saw in Minority Report 15 years ago, a Hollywood movie that the technology for which was dreamed up and derivated from some of the top scientists and technologists who were tasked with looking in the future and seeing what computing would look like.

This is all done before. There’s nothing with Oculus Rift or Microsoft or any of these right now today that are showing us something that we haven’t seen before in a technology conceptual manner. There’s really no bang on that side. Then it has to be about being a real product and it simply isn’t. It’s years, potentially many, away from being a product and even when it is, it’s more likely to be a niche tool for certain use cases than this thing that’s strapped on your head or however it’s done when they finally get there all day for long period of time in a lot of different contexts. One thing is just, I don’t know. It’s masturbatory at best.


The future of eBooks and book publishing, November 27, 2014

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

A couple of things: First of all, for my own personal use, what I have found is that I’ll buy novels as e-books and nonfiction as physical books. When it’s not for leisure, when it’s for a thinking purpose, I go for the more high-fidelity means of communication. The convenience of the e-book is great when it’s not something that’s important to me in a certain way, but when it is, when my mind, and body and self need to be engaged in ways that I think matter and are meaningful, then it’s always still a physical book. I don’t see that changing. To the bigger point, sometime within the last month, I was sent a link to an article from Louis Rosenfeld who has a book publishing company, publishes both normal and e-books.

This article was very interesting in going over the history of the e-book, and showing a couple things. First of all, the growth has totally flattened. Whereas five, or I don’t know the number, but years ago, people were saying oh yeah, the physical book, it’s done. It’s not if, it’s when. That doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s been a real flattening there. The other thing that the article pointed out, which was very interesting was that in many leading countries, e-book adoption is near zero. The one I’m remembering off the top of my head that’s not the only one was Germany. The proportion of e-books to physical books was very, very tiny. I actually think the thesis in which you read may be flawed, may not have full information.

While e-books will continue to grow, particularly in certain formats, to my way of thinking all of the data indicates that it’s a matter of having more types of media, more ways to consume the media, as opposed to one form replacing the other.

[…]

I think it’s going to require more technology. For me to go from physical to digital voluntarily with books, it’s going to take a huge difference in the tech stack. Let me give you an example. I recently bought a book on great maps in the history of the world. Looking at that map is just a really important watermark as you go through the progress of western civilization. For me to be even open to buying that in a digital format, I would need to have a computing environment like Minority Report. I would need to have that thing be able to get it massively on a screen on the wall, or virtually projected even beyond what’s on my 30-inch monitor here. The way I want to consume that is very specific and very high-fidelity.

For those kinds of use cases, there’s a huge gap that is yet to be traversed, and I don’t see that technology existing in 2018.


Internet TV, December 30, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

My [prediction for 2012] is that internet TV finally takes off, and this isn’t a really exciting prediction either, because as I’ve been going through tech websites in the last week or so it’s a prediction I’ve been seeing a lot, but it’s important and so I want to say it too. We’ve reached a point now where these companies, Apple and Google and Microsoft and Cisco, from the computing space, are going after the living room for well over a decade. Nobody’s done it well, still haven’t don’t it well as of today. But I think 2012 is finally going to be the year. You know, Google TV had their initial hiccups and now it looks like they’re going to launch with some more success this year. Apple—finally ready to make a big play, rumored with their own hardware device, and that should certainly be game-changing. Microsoft—things they’ve done with the Kinect with the really innovative interfaces, their long-term penetration with the 360, and now with things they’re doing on the computing side, it looks like that could all come together. So I and a lot of the tech press are telling you to look out for 2012—internet TV finally takes off.


The US debut of Spotify, July 19, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

The big news last week was the US debut of Spotify, the Swedish music streaming site already popular overseas, became available in the United States to great hue and cry. It certainly is an interesting service—Sean Parker first told me about it a couple years ago, and based on the early hype, it certainly appears equal to the enthusiasm he had for it when enthusing about its potential. Personally, I’m not interested in Spotify. While it has a lot going for it in both conception and design, there are many cool music services such as Pandora and Last.fm, that I enjoy before going back to my iTunes catalogue. Now, while I may turn out to be like an old record collector, hopelessly tied to my outdated technology because I’ve already bought it all and like it just fine, I’m a little skeptical that Spotify is going to do what Amazon, Pandora, Last.fm and so many others were unable to do, even remotely threaten Apple’s stranglehold over digital music. It would be interesting to be wrong on this one, and lord knows I used to pine for music rental instead of purchase back when iTunes was first getting popular, but with Apple’s hopefully competent iCloud product soon to be released, I suspect it will be too little, too late for the trendy Swedish upstart.


Nintendo Wii U, April 19, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

The rumor mill was really churning last week about Nintendo’s plan to announce a next-generation console to debut in late 2012. This is interesting as Nintendo is in danger of sliding into irrelevance in the console wars. While the Nintendo Wii was very innovative when it debuted, now that Microsoft and Sony have copied and in some ways exceeded to Wii-mote user interface, the diminutive Wii appears hopelessly underpowered and dated. Major console systems run on extremely long product cycles with only one or at most two consoles per company per decade. With neither Microsoft or Sony seeming to have a new console launch on the horizon, Nintendo has rare opportunity to leapfrog companies with a better system.

The big question is “is it relevant anymore?” Nintendo’s core useable is more families and children, not the hardcore primary gaming demographic that fatten up the Xbox and Playstation user bases, however children, families, and casual gamers in particular are much better suited for a different and newer type of gaming media, browser and social networking-based games. The easy integration of these platforms into other computing experiences, along with free-to-start models, are far better suited for those core demographics. What does this leave for Nintendo to do? Their brand is so cotton candy that convincing hardcore gamers to jump ship to the Nintendo system seems like a stretch. Do they innovate with UI again? I don’t know where they can go. We’re nearing the point of mind and machine UI being a possibility, but Sony holds a lot of those patents. Anything between the current generation of Wiimote-Kinect gaming interfaces and full mind-to-machine would represent unremarkable incremental change. Perhaps Nintendo will try to redefine the gaming console and enter the broader battle for the living room. I can imaging some sort of cross between the Xbox 360, the next generation Apple TV, and deeply integrating their successful handheld systems. Otherwise, I’m not seeing the opportunity for Nintendo to do something remarkable in this particular moment.


On Netflix’s foray into original content, March 22, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Last Netflix announced they have greenlit two seasons of a new Kevin Spacey-David Fincher show, “House of Cards”. Based on a British series of the same name, reportedly is funded over 100 million dollars in the deal. This is significant as it makes Netflix openly diversifying from their role as a content distributor to potentially become a content creator, is a bit of a risky opening salvo as Netflix has purchased lots of expensive episodes of a show they haven’t even seen a pilot of. This is a deal that none of their more experienced would have taken. Still, Netflix has seemed like a bit of a clay pigeon for years, serving as a market niche while waiting for the big players to take over video-on-demand while quietly reducing them to a niche business. Now Netflix is stepping up into the crowded and competitive world of content creation. It gives them leverage, it may give them new growth, but it also makes them ever more threatening for the sharks. Good for Netflix to step up and fight for their future, let’s see how this experiment turns out.