Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Musings: Reality vs Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, the fabulously wealthy guy behind Facebook, is now a resident of Kauai.

So I wonder if our new neighbor happened to read the Washington Post piece by Anne Applebaum – the one that suggested Zuckerberg, who recently announced his desire to give away $45 billion, should “use it to undo the terrible damage done by Facebook and other forms of social media to democratic debate and civilized discussion all over the world.”

And if he did read it, did he reflect at all on the damage that anti-GMO activists have wreaked, primarily through Facebook, on the practice of agriculture in his little paradise in the Pacific?

I mean, is he even slightly aware of how Facebook was — and still is — used to tear apart the island where he bought a couple hundred acres so he can safely retreat from the ugly world that his invention helped to spawn and continues to perpetuate?

Does he even have a clue how activist groups used their Facebook pages to foster fear, spread outrageous lies, harm small businesses, attack and malign lifelong residents of the Islands? Does he feel any sense of responsibility for the very dark side of his creation? Not just in Hawaii, but around the world?

Is his conscience ever pricked? And if it is, is it then assuaged by doling out cash?

As Applebaum writes:

If different versions of the truth appear in different online versions; if no one can agree upon what actually happened yesterday; if fake, manipulated or mendacious news websites are backed up by mobs of Internet trolls; then conspiracy theories, whether of the far left or far right, will soon have the same weight as reality. Politicians who lie will be backed by a claque of supporters.

Rich democracies haven’t realized that this is also fast becoming their problem. Whenever I’ve described the disappearance of facts and the growth of Internet fantasy while in London or Washington, the response has usually been rather smug: How very terrible for all of those people in Tunisia or Slovakia, but “it couldn’t happen here.” But it can and it has: Donald Trump claimed that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center, and thousands of real commenters and bloggers rushed to his defense on Facebook and elsewhere. Never mind that it didn’t happen: It is now possible to live in a virtual reality where Trump’s lies are acclaimed as the hidden truth that the mainstream media have concealed from the masses.

Many of those who do the inventing have particular political goals.

But the longer-term impact of disinformation is even more profound: It creates cynicism and apathy. Eventually it means that nobody believes anything. People aren’t bothered by Trump’s lies — or Vladimir Putin’s lies, or the Islamic State’s lies — because they don’t believe anything they read anyway. There’s so much garbage information out there, it’s impossible to know what is true

Nobody yet knows what to do about this sea change, because few people have even accepted that it is happening or understand how it works. There’s a wide-open space for Zuckerberg to help journalists, academics, activists and politicians figure out how to bring reality back into public debate. 

Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist Lee Cataluna referenced this same dynamic in her Sunday piece about visiting Monsanto's operations on Oahu:

How do you talk in an understandable way about reality versus what they read on Facebook?” asks Shay Sunderland, Ph.D., who has been with Monsanto for 23 years.

It’s a sincere question for this era, when hysteria and untruths have drowned out thoughtful conversation on a most crucial topic: how to feed the world’s people.

I grew up in a sugar plantation family. My father, both grandfathers and three great-grandfathers all worked in sugar. I grew up hearing about growing cycles and crop yields at the dinner table. Walking along a dirt road with blue-green mountains as the backdrop and a long sweep of rectangular fields stretching toward the ocean is like stepping back in time to a Hawaii I dearly miss.

So I am inclined to like agriculture. Not just hazy Pinterest photographs of darling boutique farms, but agriculture — the science of growing crops to feed the population.

I don’t understand why there is hysterical distrust of science. It is fearmongering. It is often wildly untruthful. It is unproductive. I can’t imagine Hawaii without agriculture. I’d rather see those lands in crops than in rows of look-alike houses.

So should we just stand down and trust everything Monsanto (and Syngenta and Dow and Pioneer, etc.) says? Of course not. We should be watchful and open-minded, willing to consider new, science-based data that may challenge our understanding about what’s safe and what isn’t. If you see something, say something. But that’s very different from forwarding a scary meme you saw on Facebook and trusting it as irrefutable truth.

I came home after my visit to Monsanto in the same shape as when I left, no obvious lingering effects from being so close to dust, pesticides and genetically manipulated plants. But I was no closer to understanding how we have allowed agriculture to become demonized in a place where so many of our families have such a strong connection to farming the land.

My own writings on this topic have been driven not by a love for Monsanto, or any multinational chemical company, or even support for GMOs, but a love for agriculture in Hawaii, and most especially, a love for the truth. And part of that truth-telling includes continuing to spotlight this issue, even though it makes some people — perhaps those who are ashamed of their behavior? — uncomfortable.

We aren't going to heal and progress as a community, a nation, a planet, unless we start valuing truth and ostracizing those who intentionally distort it.


Anonymous said...

Wow Joan!

Going to disagree with you here.

Should we be mad at the inventors of the knife, automobile, telephone, pen, etc?

Social media has good and bad aspects to it.

You can see the good and bad in everything. It is your choice.

Welcome Mark Zuckerberg. Thank you for saving hundreds of acres from over development. One rich guy on hundreds of acres better that a thousand rich guys.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying out loud what all of who think know. I am often baffled at the misinformation bandied about on the internet. Science and government are so suspect that many blindly follow the most bizarre notions about how things work. People just go to there favorite sight over and over. They do not consider any information that is generated by knowledgeable people, they want to hear affirmation of strange, unproven anecdotal information. I am frightened of them, not the chemical companies or the government. They do no know what they are talking about but love the attention. I usually look at them and remind them how lucky the were born white in the US.

Anonymous said...

To date, the geniuses at Google haven't come up with a bullshit detector algorithm. Not that they haven't thought about it. It's just incredibly hard to do. Amazingly, brains out-compute the algorithm boys. Thank your lucky stars for dendrites. Fire them up like a stock car on a hot day at Daytona. Because we're still ahead of the machines, folks. That is, if we're not too lazy. Meanwhile, all kinds of amateur BS consultants operate in their kitchens, or the Ukraine, and they will help you ramp up hits on your website. Really, they will. Because that's doable. So bullshit has a bright future. It would help if we were more serious, but hey, c'mon. We're Americans. We really want to see Emma Stone's epic lip sync performance, good for 64,362,685 views to date. Hold on .. I may watch it again. Make that 64,362,686. And so we need the experience and wisdom of detectives like Joan. She's like Google anti-matter. A force in the universe.

Anonymous said...

Zuckerberg is a JOKE!!! I asked him to HELP raise funds for the Unsolved Murders on Kauai since he was just giving away stocks.

I told him that I could do the leg work for free and if not he can ask a third party to do so.

I want to raise awareness and also help those families who have suffered from the lost of their loved ones.

Those who have murdered on Kauai should know that Justice will prevail and their time to answer to the music will come.

I will not stop until all the murders and missing people cases are solved.

Fuck Da Kauai Mafia

Yah heard me??? Run tell dat u slave hoohz!!!

Anonymous said...

Give me a break; Facebook is not the enemy here. The technology for people to communicate in this manner has existed since the bulletin board days of the 80's. Zuck "invented" nothing, he only found a way to "monetize" what has existed for a while. And you want to see vitriol etc. on the Internet? Check out 4chan. Even without social media there will always be organizations like Faux News that are very adept at spreading half-truths and misinformation. The problem is that in the name of being "fair and balanced" everything presented gets treated with kid gloves; there is little to let the public know what is a fact and what is, as Colbert put it, "truthiness".

Anonymous said...

Martin Luther and the advent of Protestantism, which changed the world in more ways than anything Facebook could ever conceive was produced primarily via one of Facebook's predecessors, the Gutenberg Press.
Power of the press.

Access is gone forever at on the Facebook 700 acres. Thanks to JoAnn, Mason and Gary. Larson's access is limited. Mega-armed security to protect Facebook's founder. But, the land will remain undeveloped.
The real culprit isn't Facebook's many BS posters, the real culprits sit in our Council chambers.
Name one thing the Council has done that has made life better for the citizen?
Higher taxes, limited housing, poor roads.
Its enough to wish we had Bynum back. At least there was some comedic relief. Gary and JoAnn just aren't that funny.

Anonymous said...

The council delayed either purposefully or out of the stupidity to approve the dedicated access that was ready to be given to the county. They listened to a few people who wanted the alaloa and ended up losing the public access. Or Ian Jung knew what was going on with the pending sale and slowed the process up, or both worked against the public getting access.

Kauai Boy said...

Blaming the inventor of a system of electronic social interaction for how the population chooses to use that opportunity to communicate is pretty bizarre. Surely everyone, of every persuasion and every ilk, can, and does, participate on Facebook, anti-GMO and pro-GMO posters alike.

As for the comments published thus far about this particular blog:

3:20 PM - I, too. feel that unsolved Kauai murders need attention, but by the police department and the prosecutor's office, If you feel orhave proof that
there is corruption or worse involved, bring your concerns to the various federal agencies that investigate such crimes. But why would you expect Zuckerberg to get involved, and think him a "JOKE" for declining your request or, more likely, simply not getting back to you? What in the world does Zuckerberg owe you or, for that matter, the residents of Kauai, other than a massive property tax payment each year?

5:12 PM- To my knowledge, there was never any legal public access across the lands purchased by Zuckerberg. Sounds like you want to blame Yukimura, Chock, and Hooser for conspiring to give away public access that never existed.

Joan Conrow said...

11:16 -- There was a public access on the table, ready for the Council to accept, but Gary, JoAnn and Mason thought they could squeeze out more from then-landowner Larry Bowman, so they wouldn't accept it. When Zuckerberg bought the land, he did not desire the development entitlements -- about 70+ houses, 11:11 am, not thousands -- so he relinquished that and there was no longer any requirement to provide an access. However, if a few key members of Council had voted to accept the easement, rather than being greedy, there would have been a legal access there that Zuckerberg would have been required to maintain.

Joan Conrow said...

PS: FYI, Kauai Boy, Zuckerberg's not making any "massive property tax payment" on his largely undeveloped AG acreage.

Anonymous said...

Zuckerberg is just like any normal 30 year old who wants a little fun in the sun.
My understanding is that there is still the old Larsons access.

Watching Mason and JoAnn mealy-mouth about the Bowman (Falco) offered access was typical. The Coastal Path is gone forever. If you don't think Facebook's lawyers took a look at this questionable trail, you are smoking Gary's kids weed.
End result, no good access, not coastal trail and less access to the beaches.
Of course JoAnn and Mason could not know that Zuckerberg was in the wings ready to take away 80 homesites, coastal trail and access. But JoAnn got her dream anyway...fewer homes.

Zuckerberg may be the most powerful person in the country. His algorithms, ads and "news" can change any election, sway public opinion and influence news.
Facebook has dominated the way we communicate, speak and deliver news. FB is cited as fact and as is oft comicalized. Even Carl Gustav Jung recently commented at the symposium on World Peace held as part of "Greater Cheese Eating and Fartiste Festival with musical lectures by the renowned Farteur Le Petomane". Carl Gustav said that "Facebook may be the 11th archetype, it is primal, common and essential for human development"

Even our Council puts up ONLY the good news on FB. Too bad they don't at least have one true Fartiste, at least we could have some odoriferous music to go with the BS they spew.

Anonymous said...

We hear here all the bad stuff Yukimura and Hooser do but the Council is ran by a majority controlled by Kagawa. The Gang of Four have done nothing except repeal the barking dog law and now want to raise the GET and other taxes.

Anonymous said...

He doesn't owe me nothing and has never been about me.

So if you have billions of dollars and are giving away some hundreds of millions of dollars, why can't you give a few 100K rewards for information leading towards the arrest and conviction of those who have murdered on Kauai?

KPD is apart of the problem and yes I have contacted federal agencies long ago but we still need other resources to help find people who have any information leading to solving Kauai's unsolved murders and missing people.

Maybe he could also help the victims of RAPE on Kauai also because there's a lot of cover ups in that area. Family raping family, kids being raped by family, kids being raped by kids, kids being raped by officers (KPD, DLNR, KFD, county and state workers).

Don't hide the problems that we have here on Kauai. Identify them and find solutions.

Joke: you want to be a philanthropist and better the world then why don't you start in your back yard. Kauai needs more of a diverse economy and he could also be the spearhead of that but hey he got his billions so whatever he doesn't owe anybody anything RIGHT. It's his money he can do what he wants to but I believe that once that first unsolved murder is solved on Kauai then the rest will follow like a domino effect.

You can only ask and wait to see if the door will open but if they say no, you must never quit. Failure is not an option and I will find a way to help solve the unsolved murders and missing people cases on Kauai.

KPD is inept like Kauai's county council and planning dept. So inept that it not only smells of corruption but stinks the same.

Anonymous said...

I am personally appalled that ignorant tourists continue to visit the Gutenberg monument in Strasburg, France. Don't these poor, benighted souls have any idea of the destruction that has been caused by the printing press? Didn't Gutenberg have any idea that someone like Adolph Hitler would come along 500 years later and write Mein Kampf? Sure he did! People don't spread bad ideas - print technology does! I'm certain that if Gutenberg knew his invention was one day going to be used by sinister anti-GMO activists on Kauai to spread their lies, he would never have invented the printing press.

Anonymous said...

Ian Jung again.

Anonymous said...

6:43. Wrong again Hooser? You and your Gang of 5 on the previous council (Hooser, Bynum, Yukimura, Chock, and King Furfaro). Were the ones that voted to increase every tax you can imagine on your vehicles, trash, and biggest of all, your property taxes, by lifting the 14 year old property tax cap that limited increases every year by 2 percent. Now Hooser is trying to act like a savior by putting a cap back on? Why did you do it in the first place, you should have listened to the people then, now is too late? The GET ain't gonna pass so you're wrong again Hooser supporter.

Anonymous said...

How could any one person be responsible or feel remorse for 'opening a door' so to speak and the outrageous behavior of other humans is exposed through this door? I think your words today are quite biting and unfair

Anonymous said...

The antis put out a dead or alive poster on James Brewbaker because he invented a hybrid corn, not evenGMO. But they think Zuckerberg has no responsibility for what happened with FB because it benefits them. FB is also exempt from their anti-corporate rants. Hypocrites and chumps.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's easy to blame Zuckerberg for allowing facebook to be used by anti-GMO activists - for having the chutzpah to provide a venue where people are free to speak their minds - what is our country coming to?! No, the blame really belongs with the authors of the Bill of Rights, because it is that infamous document which guarantees the right of free speech. Madison, Jefferson, Adams - if we're going to blame Zuckerberg for the things that anti-GMO activists say, we need to blame them as well.

Anonymous said...

With freedom comes responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see the Faux News phrase, I know we are dealing with a cliche ridden liberal zombie, fixated on talking points, yet positive beyond all doubt that they are geniuses. Perfect for Facebook propaganda.

Anonymous said...

Liberalism is a Religion

Joan Conrow said...

Why shouldn't those who develop social media technology think about the ramifications of their work? Geneticists are:


Anonymous said...

"But the longer-term impact of disinformation is even more profound: It creates cynicism and apathy. Eventually it means that nobody believes anything. People aren’t bothered by Trump’s lies — or Vladimir Putin’s lies, or the Islamic State’s lies — because they don’t believe anything they read anyway. There’s so much garbage information out there, it’s impossible to know what is true"

-That quote right there describes what has happened to me: complete apathy and ignorance, which to be honest, is quite blissful. It happened years before Facebook arrived, however.

My own apathy towards all forms of media were more as a result of disinformation coming from both the right, as well as the left, on: cable news, talk radio, political blog sites, free papers, and ironically, even papers such as the Washington Post. It's everywhere, and it's disseminated to people who I converse with in day to day life here: Chemtrails, local mafia, the navy zapping turtles, Syrian Terrorist Refugees, Kauai being poisoned, Obamas a commie Muslim, dead bodies all over Kauai, etc

If I brought in to any of that stuff, I would be a quivering wreck.

And although I believe Facebook is a convenient sound horn for rabid BS, it's also an effective sound horn for BS detection, as well as having the option of unfollowing something that's too annoying. And although a day doesn't go by when I want to deactivate my FB account from all of the vitriol, I think of how it's allowed me to be reunited with all of my wonderful friends and family and the ability to see: their art, their music, their nature and family photos, their triumphs, defeats, travels, jokes, funny and too cute type videos., etc..

Anonymous said...

The First Amendment is clear on this
- All language, speech and religion shall be controlled by the Government at any time for any reason. Anything you say, write or think must be approved by the County Council or State Government. Freedom is slavery. Bad is good. Work will set you free (Arbeit macht frei".-
US Congress September 25, 1789, amended 1984, 2015

Anonymous said...

Yesterday Mason Chock said improvements could be made to the Council in the Garden Island Newspaper. As a Leadership expert as he calls himself, is that how you fix a problem with an elected body? I would think that is the worst possible solution! What an idiot! Three years ago, Mason when you were appointed, you voted for yourself as Vice-Chair, how selfish and egotistical can you be? Did you care about the two minority members when you were in the leadership position? Now that you are in the minority position with Hooser and Yukimura you now cry like a baby for the minority members? By the way all three of you were at the bottom of the last election, by far. Hee Hee hana hou.

Anonymous said...

What crystal ball should developers of social media technology use to foresee the ramifications of their work? Zuckerberg and others create tools. Good human beings will use tools to benefit society, bad human beings will use those same tools to harm society. What do you expect Zuckerberg to do, say to himself, well, this group of people will use Facebook to quickly put the work out and raise money for victims of natural disasters, and others will use it to say nasty things about other people, demean worthwhile ideas, and sit in judgment when they have no right to.

Anonymous said...

70 years after the A-bomb we still haven't answered these questions of responsibility. It's a critical discussion to have though it seems many of your readers missed the larger point.

Odie Dill said...

Aloha Joan:
Thank you for all of the info that you have supplied all of the years.
Right now I would like people to just wish good will to all mankind.
If only for a minute.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Odie Dill

Anonymous said...

11:12 AM - What exactly do you see as the "larger point" many of us missed? That we should never innovate anything without first considering every possible ramification? The 7th generation mandate of never making decisions without considring how it will affect our ancestors 7 generations in the future. Shall we condemn the first indigenous human who used a bow and arrow, or figured out that a round object could be utilized as a wheel?

On the other hand, atomic weapon scientists and geneticists working on projects that can affect changes exclusive in nature, OUGHT to be thinking about raminifications of their work, as the implications can be, and have been at times, dangerous and even catastrophic. The inovators who brought us the printing press, the pony express, the mail, the telegraph, the telephone, the TV, and the internet, as well as Mr. Zuckerberg, have provided us tools which can be utilized well or not.

Personally, I see the TV as a tool which has enabled media executives and advertising moguls to "dumb down" the public while lining their pockets with advertising money. That was not always the case. When TV was in its infancy, stations were limited in regard to the amount of time devoted to commercials, and required to put aside a reasonable amount of time for public affairs. Now that corporate media giants are in control, it is difficult to wade through all the mindless programming to find that which is worthwhile viewing.

I see the internet and social media websites as an opportunity for people to join back into the public discourse which used to be prevelant in taverns and town meetings, with the added advantage that it can be joined 24/7 and many different viewpoints can be considered without interruption, bullying, or fillabustering.

And if Facebook, or the internet in general, helps us to elect Bernie Sanders, well THAT would be a step in the right direction.

BTW, Joan, how about a blog on religion and another on national politics? Or are those subjects which you, like most barbers, are reluctant to discuss? We'd all love to know how you feel about Islam, Christianity, and all the other persuasions, not to mention who you'll be voting for the the upcoming presidential election. All the talk about Hooser, Yukimura, Chock, and the Gang of Four is getting really old.

Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan, I was walking the coastline from larsens to Pilaa and noticed they have surveyed for a fence on the coastline near the sea arch. Looks like they are cutting off access. If you are a skilled climber you can go past the markers but for most it will just be a new fence making a pristine coastline ugly.

Anonymous said...

Yeah blog on religion. We need more discussion about the word of God according to those who claim to have put it in writing.

Anonymous said...

I believe in God and the son of God Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I have experienced things that are scientifically or naturally impossible to explain.

Anonymous said...

To December 23 @ 7:11:

The Alsatian city is Strasbourg, not Strasburg.

As a Jew, whose family was from there but escaped during the war and lost everything including some of our family members, the distinction is important to me.

Thank you Joan, and happy holidays.
Here's to a saner world in 2016.

Anonymous said...

I read Anne Applebaum's article. I think she is very mistaken in her assumption that there is more disinformation today than in the past, and for which she blames the rise of social media outlets such as Facebook. In the "old" days, we depended for the interpretation of events,and were forced to rely heavily on, either the government or a few writers to "interpret" events for us. Think about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1965. Or think about how the settling of the west was portrayed from 1800 until about 1970 - always with the noble white man heroically fending off the savage Indians. Disinformation is nothing new -it's been happening since mankind told his or her first "story" to a listener. If anything, the things that are written or said today are much more likely to be subject to the scrutiny of the blog, the researcher, the ever-present video camera or iphone, etc. There will always be gullibility and non-thinking responses to information. The people don't believe Donald Trump's lies because they were repeated on Facebook - they believe his lies because they want to, and they are not interested in "fact-checking". Remember, Hitler was elected 70 years before Facebook came along.

Anonymous said...

Joan is too smart to have a blog on religion. It would be akin to having a blog about the tooth fairy, boogeyman or Easter bunny.

Any well educated, open minded and well read Person knows there is no God.

Anonymous said...

God does not exist?

How do you know?

It's like saying protons, neutrons and electrons don't exist. Valence shells don't exist and so on.

What is your definition on what exists and what doesn't?

There's certainly things you can't see, smell, hear, feel or touch that exists so what is your rationale?

Dawson said...

12:13 PM wrote:
God does not exist?
How do you know?

See for example:
Scott Atran: In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscapes of Religion
Pascal Boyer: Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought
Stewart Guthrie: Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion

12:13 PM wrote:
It's like saying protons, neutrons and electrons don't exist. Valence shells don't exist and so on.

No, in fact it doesn't say that. (The confusion between science and religion is reflected in the new Pew Research Center report that gives American adults a D in science.)

Anonymous said...

Uh... aren't you on facebook too?

Anonymous said...

No one is saying FB is all bad or it should be boycotted or shut down! No one is calling to end free speech! Sheesh. Think people BEFORE you comment!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The human mind is incapable of comprehending God. If you take what someone wrote thousands of years ago about the origin of man, then the generations that followed Adam and Eve were the product of incest. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Like your narcissist scholars know everything.

Dawson said...

12:48 PM wrote:
The human mind is incapable of comprehending God.

In fact, just the opposite -- evolutionary psychology shows how the human mind is wired to create the supernatural. God, in its myriad forms, is the inevitable product of being human.

Anonymous said...

Imagining the supernatural is not comprehending God. And the pedophiles and perverts who tell you what to believe certainly won't lead you there.

steve lysen said...

Joan, someday you will get down on your knees and PRAY to the Creator for FORGIVENESS. You are an idiot, by the way.

Dawson said...

Steven Lysen at 1:53PM wrote:
Joan, someday you will get down on your knees and PRAY to the Creator for FORGIVENESS. You are an idiot, by the way.

Fear not, Steve. There is hope for you:

Leading neuroscientist: Religious fundamentalism may be a ‘mental illness’ that can be ‘cured’

A leading neurologist at the University of Oxford said this week that recent developments meant that science may one day be able to identify religious fundamentalism as a “mental illness” and a cure it.

During a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday, Kathleen Taylor was asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years.

“One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” she explained, according to The Times of London. “Somebody who has for example become radicalized to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

The complete article of joyous Good News is at http://www.rawstory.com/2013/05/leading-neuroscientist-religious-fundamentalism-may-be-a-mental-illness-that-can-be-cured/