inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #0 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 7 Feb 18 20:43
We are pleased to have Roger McNamee with us to discuss his most
timely article in the Washington Post: I mentored Mark Zuckerberg,
Here's my roadmap for fixing Facebook:

Here, also, is a video from MSNBC:

This portends to be a far-ranging discussion of many concerns as to
what is going on in the Digital landscape as the Stacks aggressively
attempt to gain more control over their users attention.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #1 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 7 Feb 18 21:40
Roger is a musician, tech investor, advocate for justice.

He is currently engaged in a movement to make the world aware of the
dark side 
of internet platforms.  Co-founder of the Center for Humane
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #2 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 14 Feb 18 14:30
We have a host of Wellpern for readers, so I will attempt to guide
us along. A kind of "group moderator", so please feel free to chime
in any time.

I am (tcn) Ted Newcomb...long time member of the WELL, and some-time
co-host of Inkwell. I am retired, 70, and just thinking about
actually going to work. :)
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #3 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 14 Feb 18 14:32
Roger, we are so fortunate to have you with us at such a timely
I cannot help but notice the Web is resonating with your opening
salvo, and "shot over Facebook's bow", if you will pardon me.

What was the tipping point for you? Both, to editorialize, as well
as come to the realization that Facebook needed fixing?
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #4 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 18 Feb 18 08:22
By way of background and for those following along, I am going to
post some links to articles that have resulted from Roger's
writings. These get to the heart of a huge issue on the Net right
now.It is not just Facebook, it is all the Stacks as we call them.
Cyberspace is monopolized with respect to users' attention by
Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Amazon....

We call them the Stacks...they are walled gardens, that
you only have access to their part of if you are an
Apple user, and do not jailbreak your device(s), then you only
experience, and are CONTROLLED, by Apple's algorithms and live in
Apple World....same for Amazon and Kindle World...Microsoft and
Windows World...etc.

In the realm of Social Media, where most users live - You Tube and
Facebook represent 50% of ALL internet usage, ALL day, Every
day....except for Baidu, the Chinese version of Facebook.

Part of the problem with this approach is that the users are the
data, and provide the data, for these Stacks. We call them
'Sheeple". And Mr. Zuckerberg is the chief shepherd. And he has just
had a hell of a year and issued his Manifesto:

Here's Forbes' take on it:

Roger put his finger on the central problem of Facebook with his
articles (pointers above) and they have caused a flood of responses
across the Internet.

Wired's new issue just arrived in my mailbox...with Mark
Zuckerberg's bruised and battered face on the front cover and the
lead article all about this past year and what's to come....that is
the part Roger will be talking about with us...."before it fixes
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #5 of 193: Roger McNamee (rmcnamee) Tue 20 Feb 18 09:48
Thank you, Ted!  Hi everyone!

I was a mentor to Mark Zuckerberg in the early years of Facebook --
beginning in early 2006.  Though my mentorship ended in 2008 after I
introduced Sheryl Sandberg to Zuck and helped bring her into the
company, I remained a huge fan.  What attracted me to Facebook was
the company's early commitment to true identity and giving users
control of their privacy, two things that got lost somewhere along
the way.

I was on vacation at the beginning of 2016 when I noticed nasty,
misogynistic memes emanating from Facebook Groups ostensibly related
to the Bernie Sanders campaign.  I thought to myself, there is no
way Bernie and his campaign would put out memes like that.  But new
ones came every day, sometimes more than one a day, and they were
spreading like wildfire.  Friends of mine were sharing them.  They
were viral in a way that suggested that someone was spending money
to draw people into these groups.  I didn't understand what I was
seeing, but made a mental note.

In March 2016, I saw a news report that FB had expelled a group that
exploited its application programming interface (API) to scrape data
about people who expressed an interest in Black Lives Matter, and
then sold that data to police departments.  This was a huge
violation of civil rights.  Bad actors had exploited FB's
architecture to harm innocent people.  Facebook had expelled them,
but irreparable harm had already been done.  I made another mental

Then in June, the UK voted to leave the European Union.  The outcome
in Brexit was a total shock.  The polls suggested that "Remain"
would win by around four points, but "Leave" actually won by that
amount.  When I thought about the campaign, I realized that FB had
provided an advantage to Leave, whose campaign was based on
emotions, basically fear and greed. The campaign argued that leaving
the EU would allow the UK to close its borders to immigrants, which
they claimed were responsible for everything that was wrong in the
country.  The greed angle was a promise that leaving would save the
UK billions, which would be invested to improve the National Health
System.  The NHS pitch allowed xenophobes to wrap their vote in a
cloak of altruism.

Meanwhile, Remain was arguing that the UK's special deal with the EU
-- all the benefits of membership, but with their own currency --
was too good to give up.  Zero emotion vs. lizard brain emotions in
the Leave pitch.  It seemed that Facebook provided a giant advantage
to the emotional campaign, but I didn't know how much.  Later I
learned it may have been 10:1 or more.

The next big news items related to the Russian hack of the DNC and
DCCC, Manafort's Russian connections, and the Housing and Urban
Development case against Facebook for advertising tools that enabled
discrimination in housing based on race.  The last of these came in
August and caused me to reach out to the tech blog Re/Code to see if
they had seen what I was seeing.  They responded a month later with
an invitation to write an op-ed.  

It took me a month to get the op-ed done because I didn't want to
focus just on election issues.  I thought Clinton would win and
didn't want FB to dismiss my concerns if she did.

I finished the op-ed and sent it the Zuck and Sheryl Sandberg,
hoping to persuade them to address what I saw as systemic problems
with Facebook.  They got back to me right away, but said the
problems I saw were isolated, not systemic, and that they had
addressed them all.  They passed me to one of their best
lieutenants, a great guy named Dan Rose and I had several
conversations with Dan.  He made a key point: Facebook was not
responsible for third party actions because it is a platform, not a
media company.  This legal argument is based on Section 230 of the
Communications Decency Act of 1996, a law created to protect the
nascent internet industry from copyright and pornography suits.  

Then the election happened.  I was really unhappy.  Dan was
amazingly patient with me, but did not budge.  We kept talking off
and on until February 2017, when I finally gave up.  I never
published the op-ed.

In April 2017, I reconnected with Tristan Harris, former design
ethicist at Google.  Tristan had been on 60 Minutes talking about
something he called brain hacking, the use of techniques from
propaganda and casino gambling, which, when married to the deep
personalization of social platforms on smartphones, allowed
advertisers and bad actors to manipulate user thoughts and behavior.
Suddenly, everything I had seen made sense.

I asked Tristan if he needed a wingman.  He said yes. 
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #6 of 193: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 20 Feb 18 12:15
Welcome Roger.  Rik Elswit here.  I'm a politically involved musician, and
have been reading your online pieces about Facebook.  I find it 
fascinating, and I find that I've very much at sea with what's going on.  
I thought the Internet was going to make it easier for us to know what is
and isn't true.  Silly me.

I'm very much looking forward to this,
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #7 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Feb 18 16:59
Wow! Facebook HAD to know what was going on....upon reflection do
you think they were "covering up", hiding behind a legal loophole,
or just not getting it, or what?
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #8 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Feb 18 17:02
There are a lot of background issues going on here....the bias of
algorithms, the greed for ad revenues, likes, shares, etc. and the
whole issue of "training the sheep".

Feel free to start anywhere....if you could, please assume we are
the Dummies being Brainhacked and put it in English....not all of
our readership are geeks. Let's tackle the problems first and then
get to the digital literacies later, among other solutions and
approaches thinking people need to take.

Really great you are here Roger and thank you for the generosity of
your time...this is a huge issue and involves way more than
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #9 of 193: Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 20 Feb 18 17:08
two brennan center staffers weigh in on a partial solution
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #10 of 193: Nancy White (choco) Tue 20 Feb 18 17:28
Hi, Roger and adding to the thanks. I'd be curious to know about
tactics for engaging both parties in addressing the problem. If this
is politically just Dems hollering, we have more challenges. Your
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #11 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Feb 18 17:31

""I think the Facebook and Twitter have been configured to
incentivize the expression and sharing of extreme opinions. It isn’t
just fake news that we have to worry about, but we do have to worry
about that, it’s also extreme views. Both are in fact incentivized
by the structure of the network platforms as they existed. And I
think looking back on 2016 the correct analysis of that election is
not that the Russian network interfered and that’s why Trump won, I
don’t think the Russian contribution was nearly big enough for that
statement to be valid. What is true is that without the existence of
Facebook and Twitter it would’ve been very hard for an outlier
outside a candidate like Donald Trump to win.""
Niall Fergusson
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #12 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Feb 18 17:34
This month's Wired would like us to feel sorry for Zuck, who, we are
led to believe has barely slept these past two years fixing it all
up for us...Bull puckey

Here is the link to the spin doctors at Wired:
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #13 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Feb 18 03:16

For those of you following along from outside of the WELL, you are
welcome to join in this conversation. Please send your questions or
comments to and we will post them for you.

Here is the link to the world-readable version of our topic:

Short version is here:

Please share with any and all who might be interested in following
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #14 of 193: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Wed 21 Feb 18 07:03
Pulling up a seat... 

Two questions - first, how is
>configured to
incentivize the expression and sharing of extreme opinions

similar to, "if it bleeds, it leads" in newspaper or network news
parlance?  Facebook considers itself a platform, sure, but help me
to understand how an algorithm is similar or different from an
automated producer or editor?

Second - regarding
>Bad actors had exploited FB's
architecture to harm innocent people. 

It seems to me that if you design a system to facilitate
advertising, and the whole purpose and strategy of advertising is to
identify likely consumers for your product and persuade them, what
process do you use to distinguish a "good" actor from a "bad" one? 
From one point of view, the whole system is pernicious, shares roots
with the development of propaganda, and in the extreme example, ends
up indicting itself entirely...  It's something of a contortion not
to do so, but it's also something of a blindly silly position to
claim that there isn't an easy-to-see difference here.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #15 of 193: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Wed 21 Feb 18 08:56
I'll venture an opinion, if not an exremist one: Bleeds/leads
journalism is still journalism. The priorities that land the house
fire on the front page instead of something more important are not
incompatible with the priorities that require journalists to adhere
to facts. Or, to put it another way, newpapers and news networks are
curators, and almost all o them are guided by some fealty to

That's probably part of why so much of the legacy media are doing so
poorly these days. a house fire is more eyeball-grabbing than a
legislative hearing abotu gun control, but a provocatively written
extremist screed on an inflammatory issue is more eyeball grabbing
than both.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #16 of 193: David Gans (tnf) Wed 21 Feb 18 09:58

Thank you for joining us, Roger! This is incredibly important stuff.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #17 of 193: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Wed 21 Feb 18 11:21
Following this with interest. I'm concerned that Facebook is not
fixable because the thing that makes it vulnerable to abuse is at
the core of their business model. If Mark tries to fix it in a way
that diminishes profits, I believe that violates his fiduciary duty.
So he can't fix it even if he wants. So -- unless I learn otherwise
-- I'm in the process of leaving Facebook within the next few
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #18 of 193: Andrew Trott (druid) Wed 21 Feb 18 11:48
If we could mount a mass exodus, perhaps FB would take Roger's
advice seriously. Otherwise I'm not sure what incentive they have. 
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #19 of 193: David Gans (tnf) Wed 21 Feb 18 12:04

Is there a demand-side solution?

I keep thinking that propaganda and misdirection work when the target
audience isn't prepared to evaluate the truth of the information. The mother-
fucking Republicans have been working to destroy public education (another
institutions) for decades, knowing that an uninformed populace is easier to

Can we address this problem, at least in part, by helping the users to
understand what's ging on and arming them with well-calibrated shit
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #20 of 193: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Wed 21 Feb 18 12:37
I started work on crap detection with students years ago
<> but I fear it is an arms race between
well-incented and well-funded deceivers (both political and
commercial) and increasingly confused and ill-equipped information
consumers. Maybe if we taught critical thinking, starting in
elementary school, but that was identified as a communist plot at
least 50 years ago when my mother was an elementary school teacher.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #21 of 193: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Wed 21 Feb 18 12:43
A serious threat to religion and to demagoguery.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #22 of 193: Gary Nolan (gnolan) Wed 21 Feb 18 13:50
Appreciate that you are taking the time to participate here Roger.
Lots posted here to ponder.
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #23 of 193: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Wed 21 Feb 18 16:00
Howard asks my second question much more clearly in <17>
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #24 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Feb 18 18:47
I'm leaning towards Howard's point of view, that this is an
'unfixable' problem for Facebook's business model....and that this
is a broader problem for all of the Stacks (Amazon, Apple, Google,
Microsoft and Facebook)...

We can have all the digital literacies
( in the world, but
it is still User vs Stack....and with the current models of the
Stacks, the Users are the product. And once the Sheep wake up they
are going to leave the walled gardens and silos, because staying
simply keeps them as 'food and fodder'. That's the nature of the
model and the Space in which they engage with their friends and

The ads and algorithms that can be seen on the surface are simply
feedback loops to encourage more likes, clicks, shares and bait to
keep folks coming back for more...the unseen algorithms (culling
contact lists, activities on all other Social Media and app
approvals that have been "allowed") are pervasive and invasive.

I don't see how there can be any solution to staying within these
walled gardens and silos. Neither do I see how their economic models
will change. Google changed their name to Alphabet just so they
didn't have to "play nice" anymore. This is the nature of Baron
Robbers in every new technological era and in spite of all the good
they may offer, by their very design they eat themselves and all who
participate. They are simple monopolies exploiting their economic
advantages. And there is no regulatory body that can break them up. 

The "curve" we have watched with all this disruptive tech is that
they buy up and shelve their competitors, or are, themselves,
replaced by something newer and cooler. 

Good luck with this Roger. I, like Howard, and most of us, would
love solutions because on top of all the other "wicked problems" in
this world, we now have "wicked stacks" and they are now attacking
each other. This is economic nature "tooth and claw". And it was
easy to see coming, almost from the very beginning.

There have been plenty of warning shots fired across their bow. I
doubt the betterment of humanity is at any of their core values.
There is no profit in it. And they fire all prophets within their
inkwell.vue.504 : Brain Hacking for Dummies
permalink #25 of 193: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Feb 18 20:24
In fairness to Facebook, this was a platform to get dates on college
campuses. It does quite well at connecting immediate family and
friends, sharing baby pictures, cat lols and recipes....and a couple
of years ago appeared to have the possibility of actually being a
serious platform for social action and real networking.

I think it is fairly obvious now it should have stuck with baby
pictures and recipes. 

Also, I don't know anyone who is serious, that isn't using Snapchat
or one expects much from Facebook anymore. 

Again, this is a Stack problem...the Stacks want to capture our full
attention, as much of our bandwidth as possible, and they code
accordingly. The idea that an algorithm has any capacity for caring
or empathy for the humans involved is ludicrous. It is a binary
operation looking to increase activity and more ad revenue. Period.

At the end of the day, after all the likes, shares, lols and videos,
it is about humans connecting with other humans. And that is still
done most effectively away from the screen. 

The fixes I hope Roger will suggest will have to address this
dilemma. Can Social Media and cooperative, network platforms be
designed to become more beneficial to the humans using them, AND
still make money?


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