In 1889 Herman Hollerith patented a “…method of compiling statistics, which consists in recording separate statistical items pertaining to the individual by holes or combinations of holes punched in sheets of electrically non-conducting material…” The resulting retangular cardboard slips were used, along with machines of Hollerith’s design, to conduct the 1890 census. Other uses were soon found. For example, punching into a time clock… as an aid to counting beans… initiating the second largest voting dispute in US history. Unless you believe Hillary Clinton’s Russiagate theory, in which case it’s the third largest.
By 1947 the name for the tiny individual bit punched from the cards was established as “chad.” This was a syllabic improvement over “confetto,” though a fluster* of chads are still known by the plural, confetti.
It was at this point that the traditional confetti manufacturing cartel began a slow downward spiral, ameliorated only slightly by the gradual disappearance of the competition; ticker tape. Hanging chads were far in the future.
By the 1960s, Hollerith’s invention had surpassed mere statistical applications, simple time recording, mundane accounting, or future farcical election chaos. Individual consumers were being assailed by “IBM” cards mailed as invoices. We were to carefully return those cards with our payment. No folding, spindling, or mutilation.
I began my IT career in those days as a “unit record operator.” The cards being records, and the various machines (which on occasion mutilated the cards beyond the imagination of the most malicious consumer) being the units operated. Or maybe the single cards were considered units of record. Never thought about that until just now.
In any case, this employment gave me the opportunity to experimentally modify such dunning cards as I received. What would happen if I “overpunched” the amount due? This single new hole meant the figure was owed to me by the vendor, not to the vendor by me.
What would happen if I put a tiny red rectangular bit of tape (designed for the purpose of correction) over the hole of the leading number in the amount due? This would reduce the payment requested, from say, $13.50 to $3.50.
The Columbia Record Club, a thoroughly analog enterprise, was unfazed. Presumably, some other unit record operator had to correct the card when it was rejected by their mainframe, but I never heard about it. I suppose they anticipated enough folding, spindling, and mutilation to have procedures for it.
Meanwhile, computers got much smaller and much cheaper. Confetti dropped off the Sierra Club’s top ten list of industrial waste. Computer errors no longer had to be fixed by anonymous specialists wielding keypunch machines the size of a love seat. Computers and computer errors were being democratized.
By the 1980s the general public was regularly hearing excuses from smaller businesses dependent on computers: “It’s not my fault, the computer says you didn’t pay that invoice,” or “The computer won’t let me give you a refund.” This was mixed blessing. Immediate knowledge that the business was not set up to serve you has value, but it lacks the opportunity for careful sarcastic refinement provided by the calm pace of mail correspondence with a Record Club.
We hear the generic excuse, “I can’t help you, our computer is messed up,” less frequently these days. Of course, we’re less often interacting with a human, from whom it could be just a generic excuse for inaction. Computers do not offer excuses, nor do they argue.
In the 1980s-90s I was a partner in a small business selling custom software, technical support, and business counsel to mostly small business. All my employees were required to read, as cautionary advice, Gordon R. Dickson’s 1965 short story Computers Don’t Argue. I like to think the lesson improved our software. Thereby improving the services of our customers to their customers.
These days there is a lot of bloviating about advanced computer algorithms as artificial intelligence: “AI.” We’re to regard the mindless mining of petabytes of data as intelligence. It isn’t intelligence, much less sentience. And it’s surely not sapience, which is implied as just around the corner. Get back to me when you can actually argue with a computer. Turing’s test has been found inadequate, and playing chess doesn’t qualify as intelligence.
That does not mean that the Algorithm Intelligence of Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Amazon, Pinterest, etc., etc., etc., etc, isn’t dangerous. That not yet even Paramecian level of intelligence may well destroy our chances of ever knowing Artificial Sapience. The jury is out on the benefit of that possibility.
In the 21st century computer blaming tends more toward, “The network is slow today.” Something with which customers are familiar, and unrelated to the specific business. If some clerk tells you their computer is impeding commerce at your expense, you take your business elsewhere. Corporations have outsourced their keypunch data entry departments to consumers.
Most people have learned to reject deflective technocratic BS as an excuse for poor service. They have, however, not learned to get off Facebook – so maybe natural intelligence is overrated.
So, here’s Zuckerberg’s corollary of Hollerith’s patent: “a method of compiling statistics, which consists in recording every separate statistical item pertaining to all individuals by holes or combinations of holes punched into the fabric of society.”
*TOC group name nominee, though I would consider tumult, furore, agitation, or ado.
From our friends at the International Monetary Fund comes this innovation.
“Credit scoring using so-called hard information (income, employment time, assets and debts) is nothing new. Typically, the more data is available, the more accurate is the assessment. But this method has two problems. First, hard information tends to be “procyclical”: it boosts credit expansion in good times but exacerbates contraction during downturns.
The second and most complex problem is that certain kinds of people, like new entrepreneurs, innovators and many informal workers might not have enough hard data available…
Fintech resolves the dilemma by tapping various nonfinancial data: the type of browser and hardware used to access the internet, the history of online searches and purchases. Recent research documents that, once powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, these alternative data sources are often superior than [sic] traditional credit assessment methods, and can advance financial inclusion, by, for example, enabling more credit to informal workers and households and firms in rural areas.”
“[C]an advance financial inclusion…” By definition, then, it can advance credit exclusion.
Websites, Twitter accounts, YouTube videos, hosting platforms, and credit card processing are all already being cancelled, shadowbanned, disappeared and denied for political reasons. Now they propose to use your computer model, search history, and the sites you visit to determine your credit score.
If you visit the Southern Poverty Law Center too often, or QAnon more frequently than you “should” according to some algorithm; if you search for “All Lives Matter” or “Green Nude Eel;” if you use a Chromebook or an obscure brand tablet – then your credit score may suffer. That could turn out to be the least of your problems.
I can’t count the number of times people have told me they aren’t worried about such corporate espionage when I point out what Facebook really is, or tell them why to use Duck-Duck-Go instead of Google search. “I’m not doing anything wrong and have nothing to hide.” The problem, I explain, is that they aren’t the ones who decide that.
“The old cliché is often mocked though basically true: there’s no reason to worry about surveillance if you have nothing to hide. That mindset creates the incentive to be as compliant and inconspicuous as possible: those who think that way decide it’s in their best interests to provide authorities with as little reason as possible to care about them. That’s accomplished by never stepping out of line. Those willing to live their lives that way will be indifferent to the loss of privacy because they feel that they lose nothing from it. Above all else, that’s what a Surveillance State does: it breeds fear of doing anything out of the ordinary by creating a class of meek citizens who know they are being constantly watched.”
Facebook and YouTube continue to bury, or outright ban, well founded commentary on CCP virus public policy and the myriad election irregularities of which the Uniparty disapproves.
They aren’t alone. Amazon has banned books. Twitter banned all mention of Hunter Biden’s laptop, including suspending the New York Post‘s account.
That ban arguably lasted long enough to affect the election, and now that we know Hunter Biden has been under Federal criminal investigation since 2019 for his foreign business dealings, it seems like Twitter, et. al., should have some accountability.
The article slice below is behind a paywall. I think Glenn Greenwald is worth the less than a buck a week as an honest liberal entrepreneur. You pay as much for the CNN/MSNBC/CBS/PBS/ABC/NBC channels on your cable.
Some of what he writes is public. A link appears in TOC’s blogroll under Glenn Greenwald.
Greenwald leftThe Intercept (he was a founder) because they spiked an article he wrote about Hunter Biden before the election. That’s when I checked out his independent gig on Substack.
Greenwald (this one is paywalled) provides a gimlet eyed view:
The revelation that Hunter Biden is being criminally investigated for his business activities in China came on Monday from the investigative target himself, and he predictably and self-servingly depicted it as just a narrow probe about his “tax affairs” by the U.S. Attorney for Delaware. As I wrote last night, that by itself would be significant enough — the documents published in the weeks before the election by The New York Post contained ample information about exactly that matter, yet were widely repressed by a union of mainstream news outlets, the intelligence community and Silicon Valley based on propaganda and lies. But new reporting suggest the investigation has been far broader.
“The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates,” Politico reported Monday night. Specifically, “the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances”; “investigators in Delaware and Washington were also probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties”; and “federal authorities in the Western District of Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved.” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz added that “at least one of the matters investigators have examined is a 2017 gift of a 2.8-carat diamond that Hunter Biden received from CEFC [China Energy’]’s founder and former chairman Ye Jianming after a Miami business meeting.”
We’re slipping into fascism backwards. One normally thinks of the formal government (Mussolini comes to mind) as the instigator of fascism*, but in the current case it’s most certainly rent-seeking large corporations leading the charge. And that goes far beyond our cybernetic overlords. It’s also Maim Scream Media™, academiots, and corporate whores mau-mauing the swamp dwellers.
Of course, Antifa and the present cadre of BLM have raised mau-mauing to an actually dangerous level with arson, looting, assault, and murder. They would be the brownshirts.