July 5, 2017 (Wednesday)

by Yule Heibel on July 4, 2018

It’s the day after a major holiday, and all the rush hour traffic noise is back. It actually makes me hate summer even more because in this season my windows are open. The racket is inescapable. And furthermore, it’s actually lovely summer weather for a change – temperate, almost, and low humidity, plus cooled-off (sort of) nights. So it’s doubly frustrating to deal with all this noise spoiling what otherwise could be experienced as an idyllic summer morning.

I had a weird dream before waking. I dreamt I was some kind of landed gentry, or married to one, and he opened our house to a bunch of thugs, riffraff, who promptly overnight invited several dozen more to join them. The older men were creepy, but the teenage girls in the bunch were the worst. I fled back to the city, a cat tried to cross a busy road; I hurried on and did not wait to find out whether it succeeded. I think the city was Paris. I woke up before anything obnoxious happened. Also, I knew I was dreaming.

Yesterday I went on Facebook – I think I just understood what bugs me about it so much. I still have friends from the old blogging days who use Facebook now as their blogging platform. I did this, too, until I decided to leave. Granted, I haven’t gone back to blogging online, but at least I stopped pouring my thoughts into Facebook’s maw. But these other people haven’t stopped. And they thrive on the comments, have extended conversations, because it’s on Facebook where this now happens. It’s where non-famous, ordinary people have their public conversations now. Not on their own blogs any longer.

But it’s so sad. It should be happening in one’s own space, where it’s retrievable. Everything on Facebook dissolves, disappears, gets lost. Facebook can – should? – be used as a promotional platform, but really for content hosted by oneself. Or it can be used just for chitchat and gossip among friends. If that rocks your boat, row on. But for “intellectual” content and conversation? All gets lost there.

On Facebook I also watched a video J. posted. (He manages a fine tightrope between using Facebook as a microblogging platform and as a promotional tool: he has made himself into a kind of brand, but he does have a product he sells. So his use of Facebook is in part to keep interest in him high, and to provide “value” to his fans and friends.) The video was a visual “explainer” by a young woman using Bayesian modeling to determine risk. Knowing J., this was posted as a dig at someone who probably said something mean about terrorists or the flood of refugees into Europe or something similar. Because according to the explainer, the ratios show that it’s irrational to worry about terrorism. Something about it bothered me, however. And as A. had started reading Antifragile, which reminded me of Taleb, I realized it was how the Bayesian model, which this woman was using to argue that worrying about terrorism is “irrational,” completely ignores fat tail or long tail risks. The actual risk in situations that can be catastrophic is not found statistically in the ratios. It’s in the tails where the Black Swan sails into view.

I hate the smugness and certainties social media facilitate.

This goes for the other side, too.

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