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Misc

“Integrity as city planning” meets actual city planners

This one is fun. This one is really fun.

You may remember that a while ago I published my big piece on Governing the city of atomic supermen in MIT Tech Review. I really liked it, the world seemed to like it, it was a big deal! The central conceit of the piece is that social media is like a new kind of city, and that integrity work is a type of new city planning.

So! There’s a community of people who are obsessed with actual, real, cities. One of them, Jeff Wood of The Overhead Wire, reached out to me, and we had an amazing conversation. Him from the city planner / city advocate world, me from the internet.

You might think that this gimmick would only last for about 20 minutes of conversation, and then we’d run out of things to talk about. That’s reasonable, but it turns out you’re wrong! We just kept talking, and the longer we went, the more interesting it got.

I can’t think of a more fun or more deep podcast episode I’ve done. If you haven’t listened to any yet, this is the one to check out.

LINK

We talked about fun new things like:

  • To what extent is social media like the mass adoption of the automobile?
  • Are company growth metrics the analogue of “vehicle miles traveled” goals/grants by the Department of Transportation?
  • Is there a coming collapse of rotten social networks due to all the spam and bots? Is that like climate change?
  • I learned a lot about hot new topics in urbanism! Like the four-step model.
  • Induced demand in freeways as an analogue to bad faith accusations of “censorship” when social media companies try to crack down on abuse.
  • Path dependency is a hell of a drug.
  • Corruption, the history of asphalt, and ethics in social media / city governance. Building code corruption and “lets bend the rules for our large advertisers” corruption.

My quick notes on the conversation:

  • First 14 minutes or so: Intro to me, integrity design, theory of integrity. Mostly stuff you might have heard before elsewhere.
  • Minutes 14 – 23: Do you actually need to bake in integrity design from the beginning? How is growing a social app similar to (or not) growing a city from a village? Online vs in-person social behavior.
  • Minute 19: A lot of the work has shaded into organizational design. What I imagine they teach you in MBA school. How to set up an organization with the right incentives.

The growth of a city is in some sense bounded by the number of homes you can build in a period of time, right? You’re not going to see a club of 15 artists turn into a metropolis of 2 million people in the span of two weeks. It’s just physically impossible to do it. And that gives people some human-scale time to figure out the emerging problems and have some time to experiment with solutions as the city grows. And that’s a sort of growth. That’s a story about the growth of a small platform to a big one, but it’s also the same kind of thing of just how lies are spread, how hate speech is spread — any sort of behavior.

Minute 22
  • Minute 24: Power users of social media. Power users of automobiles. How are they similar and differnet?
  • Minute 30: The reason spam is a solved* problem on email is that the email providers have a sort of beneficient cartel. (Before Evelyn Douek corrects me — “solved” in the sense that we’re not having a panic about how gmail is destroying society, or that outlook’s spam filter isn’t working)
  • Minute 35: Jeff Wood brings up a new metaphor. “20 is plenty” (as a speed limit for cars). How well does it work for online?
  • Minute 40: My pet metaphor for integrity work — platforms are often a gravity well that incentives bad behavior. Doing the wrong thing feels like walking downhill, doing the right thing takes effort.
  • Minute 41-45: Vehicle Miles Traveled, the 4-step model, departments of transportation. Cars and social media and bad metrics. Bad metrics -> bad choices
  • Minute 46 – 51: If at first you don’t do the right thing, then you try to do the right thing, then people will complain. Whether its the suburban sprawl or not cracking down on spammers. They’ll act all righteous and go yell in public meetings. But in the end they did something wrong (in the social media case) or were receiving an unjust subsidy that you’re finally removing (in both cases).
  • Minute 53 – 58: We’ve been talking design here. But let’s not forget actual, literal corruption.
  • Minutes 58 onwards: Ending

These notes don’t do it justice. It was just such a delight. Grateful to Jeff Wood for a great conversation.

Categories
Misc

A right-libertarian take on integrity work

Back in 2020, you might remember that I had yet to commit to integrity work as my big next focus of ideas and identity. What was I focused on instead? Political economy. Specifically, I was in the orbit of the lovely Law and Political Economy project. They’re great, check them out!

You might particularly remember that I went on one of my first ever podcast appearances, with my friend Kevin Wilson, Libertarian. We talked about a right-libertarian case for breaking up Facebook. It was fun!

Well, it’s been over a year since then, and I went back on his show. This time, I talked about Integrity Institute and some of my ideas for libertarian-friendly ways to do integrity work.

The title of the episode is: Can you fix social media by targeting behavior instead of speech? I really liked it. It was fun, nuanced, and far-ranging. We went so over time, that Kevin recorded a full bonus spillover episode going over the “how do you make this beautiful future actually happen”.

I’m told that for some of my biggest fans (aka my parents) this is their favorite podcast I’ve been on. Kevin does a great job asking questions that both give me time to sketch out a full answer, but also push me out of my comfort zone. Give it a listen.

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Misc

On the Tech Policy Press podcast

I forgot to mention this a while ago: Jeff and I were on a second fancy podcast when we launched. This time — Tech Policy Press with Justin Hendrix.

It was fun! Justin really understands these issues and asks good questions.

Plus, as a bonus, Aviv was brought on for part two. Worlds collide.

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Misc

I’m on the Lawfare Podcast

As part of the Integrity Institute rollout, Jeff and I were on the Lawfare podcast with Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic. It actually turned out really good!

The editing was polished and lightweight enough that you can’t really tell that it was edited, but also thorough enough that we come across as crisper than we are in real life.

And we talked for an hour! I think it’s a good overview of what we’re thinking right now and how we see the world. Check it out, I’m proud of it.

https://www.lawfareblog.com/lawfare-podcast-what-integrity-social-media

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Misc

A right-libertarian case for breaking up Facebook

So, this is fun. Over the weekend, I was the featured guest on a libertarian radio show — A Free Solution, by Kevin Wilson and Larry Sharpe. We talked about breaking up Facebook, tech monopolies, surveillance, and content moderation policy. I made the best libertarian case I could for trust busting. Cited Hayek, the presidential election of 1912, and other things.

We had a wide ranging conversation. Some thumbnail ideas include:

  • Trust busting is the limited government alternative to extensive regulation.
  • Facebook is right now meddling in every election. They can’t help it, because the very fact of an algorithmic news feed (and recommended groups, and decisions where to put election integrity resources) means meddling happens trillions of times per day.
  • True patriots don’t stand for unelected dictators like Mark Zuckerberg deciding out of noblesse oblige to deign to try to protect them from foreign meddling in democracy.
  • “Facebook Jail” as worse than the DMV. A giant kafkaesque bureacracy that gets things wrong and has no scope for appeal!
  • Is Facebook biased against conservatives? I heard that it’s a very liberal company. The answer may surprise you!
  • The ad-driven internet builds a surveillance society that is horrifying. Even if you’re okay with Walmart sending targeted ads to you, remember that all that data is also being sold to the NSA (and Chinese, Russian, etc agencies).

Kevin and I go back to around 2012, when I was living in Rochester as an adult. I met his then-girlfriend, now-wife, when she was working for Metro Justice. I wrote People-Powered Rochester in the MJ offices, sitting right next to her!

Even back then, Kevin and I got along. I think we bonded over the Restore the Fourth protests of 2013 and 2014. He’s always struck me as a real, principled libertarian. I’ve asked him for the hot takes on LP politics, and what the Trump era exposed about the libertarian movement. (While he’s a fan of Justin Amash, he definitely agrees with this famous Thomas Massie take). I donated to his run for congress in 2020, and urged my friends and family to vote for him. (The only LP candidate I have ever backed, to my knowledge).

So, it was a friendly interview. I really enjoyed it! Kevin was a gracious host. The format of the interview (radio show, with predefined slots of time) was a little frustrating — as soon as I felt we were ready to get deep into a topic, we’d start over. And the pacing felt rather fast. But it was fun, and I think I did a good job representing the ideas.

You can listen to the show here.

(This should be an anchor.fm embed)

And the bonus (runoff) conversation that continued after the show officially ended:

(This should be an anchor.fm embed)

I really enjoyed it! It was a fun intellectual exercise and a free-flowing conversation. Thank you to Kevin for having me on. Highlight of my week.


(And I think I’m really good at it. Got a podcast or radio show? Have me as a guest!)

Categories
Misc

Find me on the What Origin Podcast

I’m very pleased to share that I was recently interviewed on the What Origin podcast. What Origin is a podcast about creativity (in the sense of creation). It was so fun! I think I did a great job.

We talked about stuff like:

  • Creating communities vs projects vs clubs
  • How does community get built? How can you structure it?
  • How do companies build community?
  • What is a company? What does working for one feel like?
  • What happens when they lie to you?
  • Don’t fall in love with a company — they can’t love you back.
  • Do people need a boss? Do they need structure?
  • The process of deprogramming yourself / leaving workism.
  • Grief.
  • The boss. Thinking a lot about making the boss happy is bad for the soul.
  • How do you learn to be free? (Spoiler: the humanities!)

Can’t wait for you all to hear it.

Based on this experience, I’m open to being a guest on more podcasts! Tell your friends!

The process of doing it was really fun, too. Getting a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes of how audio editing works, etc.

Thanks so much to Gavin Knight for having me on and showing me the ropes. You can check out other interviews he did, like with Mek about the Open Library or about the invention of the slinky. A gracious person and a pleasure to get to know him.

Anyway, it turned out really well. If you like what I tend to talk about, I bet you’ll get a kick out of it. Let me know what you think. Listen here.