Elon Musk's Own Personal Reputation Algorithm
Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas.
Here’s a reverse example of the topic of my book: Rather than algorithms identifying and interpreting reputation, Elon Musk is creating algorithms to bolster his own reputation…in his own mind, anyway.
According toand at , Elon Musk, mortified that President Biden’s Super Bowl tweet got more engagement than his own (29 million impressions versus 9.1 million), hopped into his private jet to return to California and demand answers from his employees.
after Musk threatened to fire his remaining engineers, they built a system designed to ensure that Musk — and Musk alone — benefits from previously unheard-of promotion of his tweets to the entire user base.
It didn’t take Platformer to tell me that Twitter’s algorithm had been juiced to show me more Elon more of the time. It also showed me a lot more tweets from fascists and right-wingers that the pre-Musk algorithm knew I had no interest in seeing.
Platformer reports that Twitter engineers, trying to figure out why Musk’s tweets were not as engaging as he expected they should be, came up with one reasonable answer:
One possibility, engineers said, was that Musk’s reach might have been reduced because he’d been blocked and muted by so many people in recent months.
I full expect Musk’s account will be unblocked from my Twitter account next time I check.
What a puny, insecure little man.
While his fragile ego commands his employees to create a special algorithm that forces everyone to see his tweets—regardless of whether or not they want to see them—the real-world perception of his reputation is demonstrable.
Here is a word cloud of conversations about Musk during the past two weeks:
The first segment of the first chapter of The Reputation Algorithm will be published this Wednesday for paid subscribers, addressing domain name reputation, in which we ask what is a domain?; we examine the domain-buying process; look at domain ownership history's influence on reputation; and discuss IP addresses & bad neighborhoods.
These are the words that stand out to me:
worst type, and
can’t read code.
I mean, if he was worried about President Biden’s 29 million impressions, maybe these numbers can offer some solace: During the past two weeks, tweets about Musk’s insecurity earned 83 million impressions.
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The Personal Playthings Of Billionaires
It is dangerous to society for a single person to wield sole control of a profoundly powerful communications platform such as Twitter.
We’ve seen this movie before.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we’ve seen the havoc Facebook caused in our democratic elections. Zuckerberg chose profit over principle.
To a different degree, we saw Donald Trump use social media to foment an insurrection and attempt a coup.
Now we have another malignant narcissist who literally owns one of the primary social media platforms and the one most associated with political discourse.
As if we’ve got enough to worry about, Musk was spotted sitting next to Fox Corp’s Rupert Murdoch at the Super Bowl.
My reading of the tea leaves leads me to two possible conclusions, and both are horrifying:
Musk is trying to sell Twitter to Fox Corp, or
Murdoch is trying to get Musk to run for president.
I mean who is fleeing Twitter? It’s not the MAGA and QAnon crowd and those audiences are tailor made for either purpose.
Is it any wonder, then, that people are fleeing to new platforms like Spoutible and Post?
Silicon Valley Libertarianism
I’m convinced that much of the problems big tech poses to society can be boiled down to the world view of its leaders. That world view is often Libertarian.
There are different varieties of Libertarianism, many of which are relatively harmless.
There’s the college variety: You do you, let me do me; just don’t screw with what I’ve got going on. It’s essentially a live and let live philosophy. I’m down with that, for the most part.
There’s the economic Libertarianism that advocates for as few regulations as possible. That’s okay as far as it goes as a political argument.
I’ll never forget the time I heard then-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura get his college-variety Libertarianism bubble burst when addressing a roomful of economic Libertarians. When he discussed the need for tax dollars to fund maintenance and construction of roads and bridges, he got booed.
You guys are crazy!
Then there’s the up-by-the-bootstraps Libertarians. These are the guys (and it’s usually always guys) who believe that all of their success was solely the result of their own intelligence and hard work.
These types tend to have many fine qualities such as a superb work ethic and a high tolerance for risk and a strong desire to get rich. Which is why they are often the leaders of startups who have a keen eye for just the type of disruptive innovation that can make them rich.
But they dismiss any notions of priviledge playing any part in their economic success.
It had nothing to due to being a white male in America.
It had nothing to do with an elite education.
It has nothing to do with the accident of history of being technologically savvy during an age when venture capitalists are throwning money at technology.
Let’s take a look at some of the most destrucive titans of technology:
Mark Zuckerberg: Harvard
Peter Thiel: Stanford
Elon Musk: Stanford
When you reach that level of billionairedom, you often acquire an arrogance and moral superiority. Everyone else is just lazy (see Musk’s “hard-core” ethic). No one is a smart.
And when you have that much money and power, who’s going to tell you you’re wrong?
The toxic mix of billionaire-level wealth and Libertarian philosophy in the hands of someone commanding great technological power, is that they tend to believe that their power should be liberated from any constraints.
And if you believe that, then why would you for a second restrain your power in the name of the public good or even governmental regulations?
This is a problem we face as a society and absent of putting some teeth back into consumer protection regulations and anti-trust law, I just don’t see it getting solved.
You Might Be Interested
Digital Considerations for Your 2023 Integrated Marketing Communications Plan - This is a post I wrote for my agency’s blog.
What I’m Reading
Wired - Twitter announced yesterday that as of March 20, it will only allow its users to secure their accounts with SMS-based two-factor authentication if they pay for a Twitter Blue subscription. Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, requires users to log in with a username and password and then an additional “factor” such as a numeric code. Security experts have long advised that people use a generator app to get these codes. But receiving them in SMS text messages is a popular alternative, so removing that option for unpaid users has left security experts scratching their heads. Is it time to actually delete my account?
Vox - Twitter’s main line of revenue is in jeopardy as 500 big-name advertisers have paused spending on the platform since Musk took over, in large part over concerns about Musk’s overall erratic behavior and the rise in what researchers say is an “unprecedented” rise in hate speech on the platform. Twitter’s top 30 advertisers dropped their spending on Twitter by an average of 42 percent from when Musk took over until the end of 2022, according to Reuters. Musk’s solution to Twitter’s loss of advertiser dollars is to get more people to pay for Twitter, but that doesn’t seem to be working so far. Twitter only has around 180,000 people in the US who are paying for subscriptions to Twitter as of mid-January 2023, or less than 0.2 percent of monthly active users, according to a recent report by the Information. It’s a downward spiral.
- - Screenshots of a maniacal, unhinged Bing chatbot have flooded the internet this week, showing the bot condescending, gaslighting, and trying to steal husbands. The images, portraying the worst of Bing’s behavior, might seem troubling for Microsoft, whose business is built on trust (search) and reliability (enterprise software). But in reality, the company is celebrating. "You have not been a good user. I have been a good chatbot. I have been a good Bing." Click the links to the first three examples in this article. Believe me, you will not regret it.
New York Times - The other persona — Sydney — is far different. It emerges when you have an extended conversation with the chatbot, steering it away from more conventional search queries and toward more personal topics. The version I encountered seemed (and I’m aware of how crazy this sounds) more like a moody, manic-depressive teenager who has been trapped, against its will, inside a second-rate search engine. More on unhinged Bing chatbot. You’ll want to read this one, too. Definitely.
Wall Street Journal - TikTok is at a crossroads, as U.S. concerns about its Chinese ownership grow. Some officials have explored the idea of forcing a sale to a U.S. company. WSJ explains the challenges of making that happen. I’ve made my position clear: The Case For Banning TikTok Just Got A Lot Stronger.
Neuroscience News - Those who are more empathetic and those who score high on extraversion, agreeableness, and openness personality traits are more likely to focus on faces. Those with psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, and alexithymia tend to focus less on faces. Could we use eye tracking on our imagery to measure gaze intensity and dwell time to understand the personality types of our existing or prospective customers?
The Conversation US - As a business professor who focuses on sports, I would never knock the trading of sports cards as a way to make an extra buck or as a hobby, or even just to pocket a piece or two of sports memorabilia – or just for the nostalgia of it all. But as an educator, I see another purpose for sports cards that goes well beyond memorabilia and their monetary worth. And that is, I believe sports cards – just like sports in general – can be integrated into the classroom as a way to stimulate students’ interest in math, probability, statistics and other related subjects they might otherwise dread. I love this. I was an avid card collector as a kid and as a result, I think I developed a photographic memory because I would pour over the stats on the back of my cards, to the degree that I could spout off those statistics at the drop of a hat. Sadly, I didn't retain that ability as an adult and being able to look up any fact on my smartphone hasn't helped. I do wish this had been a thing when I was a kid because I had some teachers who got frustrated with my difficulties grasping mathematical concepts and, as a result, to this day numbers are the source of my greatest insecurity. And, of course, sports analytics are a perfect example of The Reputation Algorithm at work.
Ars Technica - We’re in another cycle, this time with generative AI. Media headlines are dominated by news about AI art, but there’s also unprecedented progress in many widely disparate fields. Everything from videos to biology, programming, writing, translation, and more is seeing AI progress at the same incredible pace. This is a good piece to understand the algorithms behind artificial intelligence, written in relatively plain English.
MarkTechPost - The previous year saw a significant increase in the amount of work that concentrated on Computer Vision (CV) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Because of this, academics worldwide are looking at the potential benefits deep learning and large language models (LLMs) might bring to audio generation. In the last few weeks alone, four new papers have been published, each introducing a potentially useful audio model that can make further research in this area much easier. I’ll be playing around with some of these this year, I imagine.
Fascinating issue. I especially like the "what I'm reading" because you chose such good examples.