Alis

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About Alis

Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.

Dragons’ hoards.

Our discourse around privacy needs to expand to address foundational questions about the role of automation: To what extent is living in a surveillance-saturated world compatible with pluralism and democracy? What are the consequences of raising a generation of children whose every action feeds into a corporate database? What does it mean to be manipulated from an early age by machine learning algorithms that adaptively learn to shape our behavior?

That is not the conversation Facebook or Google want us to have. Their totalizing vision is of a world with no ambient privacy and strong data protections, dominated by the few companies that can manage to hoard information at a planetary scale. They correctly see the new round of privacy laws as a weapon to deploy against smaller rivals, further consolidating their control over the algorithmic panopticon.

Maciej Cegłowski on agendas.

2019-07-11T09:56:01+10:0019th November, 2019|Tags: privacy, social media, tech|

All boats more than others.

It does not follow from the fact that “we continue to live in a deeply racist, sexist, and homophobic society” that prior social movements have accomplished nothing. If environmentalists believed humanity “inexorably” destroyed nature, we wouldn’t be pushing for a Green New Deal. Most of this is just vicious, inaccurate cartoonish misrepresentation. I doubt you could find anyone to affirm that racism is the cause of “all problems.” Do those who say capitalist countries are ungenerous think feudal societies were more generous? Of course we don’t. Do we express nostalgia for the era of child labor and workhouses? No. Do mainstream environmentalists demand a “renunciation of technology”? Even radical anti-civilization anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan is on radio and podcasts. What Pinker calls the “demonization” of fossil fuel companies is the recognition that they engaged in practices they knew to be destructive, misleading the public to maintain profits the same way tobacco companies did. It’s important to treat this as what it is: fraud and theft, because those who are responsible for knowingly causing damage ought to pay for it. “Make polluters pay” is not immoral “punitive aggression” but an application of basic tort law principles.

Nathan J. Robinson on relativity.

As someone who was a fan of Better Angels on reading it—despite niggling doubts about certain chapters that, in retrospect, should’ve been glaring alarm bells—I’m always here for a takedown of Steven Pinker.

Also, the cartoon in this article is pretty gold.

2019-07-11T08:57:16+10:0017th November, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

Dark mod sucks, actually.

Tl;dr there’s no evidence “dark mode” is better for your eyesight or your productivity, and in fact studies indicate the exact opposite.

I admit I go through periods of trying out OS-level dark mode, and hate it every time. For a while I was okay at convincing myself to just “give it a shot” until I “got used to it”… and then I read this article and stopped freakin’ bothering.

2019-07-10T11:04:00+10:0016th November, 2019|Tags: design, tech|

Lies the rich tell us.

Let’s flesh this out with some real-world figures. In 1990, it would have cost 10.5% of world GDP to lift everyone above the poverty line. In 2013, it would have cost only 3.3%. Our capacity to end poverty has improved by a factor of 3.18. Meanwhile, the poverty rate has improved only by a factor of 1.23. This means that the moral egregiousness of poverty is 2.58 times worse than it was in 1990.

[Philosopher Thomas] Pogge is right: by [his] metric, poverty is worse now than ever before. Our world is replete with unprecedented riches, and yet we cannot ensure that everyone has a decent basic share of it. Morally, we have regressed as a civilization.

Jason Hickel on uneven distribution.

2019-07-10T10:59:43+10:0015th November, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

Commodified.

We live in the age of the franchise, of fiction as a brand. The most dominant stories in our cultural consciousness are designed to go on forever, and the law of averages states that at some point those stories are going to be bad.

Susana Polo on the endless.

So this is actually from a kind of milquetoast article about toxic fandom feeling that they “own” brands and, like, how maybe people should do that… but I want to call this line out specifically because, uh. It’s… kind of fucking horrifying? And in a way that the article it’s from never addresses.

So, like. Let’s do that here.

It is absolutely horrifying that we live in an age not just where our predominant popular culture can be referred to as an “endless franchise” but also that the vast majority of these are owned and leveraged, for profit, by a single-digit number of multinational multibillion-dollar capitalist enterprises. That… really, really sucks. It sucks creatively and it sucks culturally, and we should absolutely be suspicious of it.

And this is where I think Polo is correct; you can’t change media but you can change how you engage with media. Which is why I no longer go and see most “event” franchise films, for example—I’ve historically made exceptions for Star Wars though even that’s being reconsidered—or watch “watercooler” shows just because every media outlet is talking about them. But I also tend not to mention that unless directly asked about it. Because more and more and more I’m coming to the realization that it’s not just the individual media that matters; it’s also the money and the systems behind those media and, well, a hundred articles calling out Game of Thrones for racism or sexism or whatever are effectively still a hundred ads for Game of Thrones, so…

Maybe sometimes it really is better to say nothing at all.

2019-07-10T10:05:32+10:0014th November, 2019|Tags: pop culture|

Full offence.

To misinterpret the fight towards equality as one of “taking offense” signals a profound misunderstanding of the fight and its goals. […] To be offended is to be on the offense: taking action, voicing dissatisfaction, instead of letting the status quo roll over you.

People who register offense gain power not because they’re whiny bitches, but because others recognize the legitimacy of their complaints: It IS fucked up to wear another person’s culture as a frat party costume, just like it IS fucked up to refuse to learn to use they/them pronouns because it entails personal struggle. Every time I flub up a pronoun, I ask myself: what’s harder, really trying to be better at this, or living your life as a non-binary or trans person in a world that inflicts psychological and physical violence on gender non-conforming people at nearly every point in their lives? But that difficulty is illegible, or inconsequential, to [New York Times journalist Bret] Stephens: nothing compared to his own inconvenience at being asked to reconsider the way things are.

Anne Helen on struggle.

Context is in response to one of those hand-wringy “political correctness gone mad!!!” style articles.

2019-07-10T09:30:51+10:0012th November, 2019|Tags: culture|