You are reading The Blind Machine.
View this email in your browser

Welcome back.

The power to direct the thinking or behavior of others, usually indirectly, is called influence. Authority, clout, credit, heft or leverage are some of its oblique synonyms. Originally, the word described ‘an influx or flowing matter’, some ethereal and unstoppable fluid affecting human destiny. To influence is to summon the moods and desires of others, and be able to program them.
The collapse of the global social media timelines has become apparent because it so closely reflects the fractures of geography, politics, and money that surround us. Instead of increasingly smooth and flat surfaces, we got rugged and hazardous terrain. Instead of a cosmopolitan globe, we got broken and patriotic supply chains. Instead of a networked public sphere, we got a billion private servers. 
As software platforms and agents evolve, they cannot but compete with the realities and the illusions they are made to mimic. Retreating inward, folding on itself, the world provides a fragile and inconsistent model. Code flows with the strongest and the most influential current.

The Blind Machine is brought to you by the good people at chumbo

Listen to our playlist on Spotify, a careful selection of old & new futures.

Thank you for being here.

Speculative ad formats for the post-newsfeed world

on Jan 25, 2021 09:39 am

Screenshot 2021-01-25 233518

You fish where the fish are.

As a business – an advertiser – there is an upcoming need to reach people in spaces that currently do not allow for gathering personal data, targeting ads, or collecting conversion metrics. Maybe tools to collect said data can be built. But that would be very much against the tide of GDPR and consumer sentiment.

Instead: let’s think about how to advertise with the minimum of data, not the maximum.

Matt Webb is not to be ignored. Read more

Will the 2020s Really Become the Next Roaring Twenties?

on Jan 24, 2021 08:39 pm


Today, numerous economists and technologists say that long-gestating technologies may be ready to propel a similar frenzy of commerce. This time, the economic engine might start with artificial intelligence; the pharmaceutical industry, turbo-charged by the historically fast creation of the Covid-19 vaccine; a new era of super-batteries and electric vehicles; and a re-imagination of cities, with much of the workforce permanently dialing in from home. A currently dammed-up tidal wave of cash could finance this economic deluge, these economists say — some $3.7 trillion sitting on the sidelines in personal savings accounts and corporate cash reserves.

But the forecasts hinge on a number of presumptions. Even if you accept that a ton of cool, potentially economy-driving ideas may be out there on the horizon, who is to say their time will come in the 2020s — or whether, like the refrigerator, which only took hold in the 1930s, when their high price dropped, they are likelier to ripen in the next decade? What if we are actually looking at a Thundering Thirties?

The stock market vs. the hunger index: The painful display of India’s inequality during the pandemic

on Jan 24, 2021 07:39 pm

One of the world’s top 10 richest men is Indian, but nearly a fourth of the world’s poorest people live in India. And Covid-19 only made this paradox worse.

“The pandemic has reinforced some of the most latent inequalities in India, both socially and economically,” says Jayati Ghosh, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And to map this inequality, she says, one need only look at who has gained.

India is the next western frontier. Read more

How Bong Joon Ho Invented the Weird World of Parasite

on Jan 24, 2021 07:39 pm

Sims: So many of your films are about people contending with monsters they don’t understand. That’s going on in Parasite as well; there’s a gulf these two families can’t breach.

Bong: I haven’t heard this comment in a while! If you think about it, my films are always based on misunderstanding—the audience is the one who knows more, and the characters have a difficult time communicating with each other. I think sadness and comedy all come from that misunderstanding, so as an audience member, you feel bad—you want to step up and reconcile them. As a filmmaker, I always try to shoot with sympathy. We don’t have any villains in Parasite, but in the end, with all these misunderstandings, they end up hurting each other.

Who Gets Rich?

on Jan 24, 2021 07:39 pm

Screenshot 2021-01-25 235756

Roblox is a video game platform, though it describes itself alternatively as a “metaverse,” “human co-experience platform” and “new category of human interaction.” It’s expected to go public via direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in February.

In simpler terms, Roblox enables developers to build games within the Roblox virtual world, which looks like a crossover between Minecraft and Lego. Developers publish and distribute their games through Roblox to an audience of some 31.1 million daily active users.

Gaming platforms have all the action. Read more

The Blind List | Actress – Leaves Against the Sky

on Jan 24, 2021 10:55 am

Last time I, Alexander, was a bit infuriated and moody with the beginning of 2021 and Tsuruda was there to guide me. Now I feel a little better, the wind has started and everybody has set sail into this cosmic super march of polarization.

We’re now feeling less numb, awakened by the rhythm, and the Actress soothes us as we watch, as we listen to Leaves Against the Sky. A slippery, and vague hand on the piano as repetition plays along. A song with space that makes me forget the strange characters from the parler underworld I met last time, a space with an emptiness of neo-vikings.

Check out this song on our playlist, updated every 2 weeks.

Exploring the Supply Chain of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

on Jan 24, 2021 09:39 am

The following text is a collection of notes I wrote down while exploring the process for manufacturing and distributing the two new vaccines that have appeared all over the news and in more and more people’s arms over the recent weeks. I started reading about mRNA but quickly found myself on tangents about glass vials and temperature tracking devices.

This text was written over a week worth of evenings in early January 2021. It covers the two vaccines currently authorized for distribution in the United States where I live: One by Pfizer-BioNTech and one by Moderna. Several other mRNA based COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of clinical trials and are likely similar to those covered here in some ways and different in others.

Ignore the wonders of biotech at your own peril. Read more

Spatial Software

on Jan 23, 2021 10:39 am


Software applications can utilize spatial interfaces to afford users powerful ways of thinking and interacting. Though often associated with gaming, spatial interfaces can be useful in any kind of software, even in less obvious domains like productivity tools or work applications. We will see spatial interfaces move into all verticals, starting with game-like interfaces for all kinds of social use-cases.

Social distancing has placed the whole world in a new context. People everywhere are feeling a need for the presence of others, analogous to what we have in the real world. Social media isn’t enough. In fact, none of our social apps are really enough. Because our current software is too plain, based on a purely utilitarian exchange of information.

Messaging apps are stacks of bubbles. Video calls are faces inside static rectangles. There are only so many degrees of freedom for users inside of these apps, which makes them simple to use. But this simplicity also strips away so much of the freedom we have during in-person interactions. You can type any message, but typing a message is all you can do. You can call any person, but talking directly into your camera is all you can do once you’re connected. Without spatial interfaces, our current software doesn’t give us much expressive control.

Behold the demise of the global timelines. Read more

Google Research: Looking Back at 2020, and Forward to 2021

on Jan 21, 2021 12:39 am

The goal of Google Research is to work on long-term, ambitious problems across a wide range of important topics — from predicting the spread of COVID-19, to designing algorithms, to learning to translate more and more languages automatically, to mitigating bias in ML models. In the spirit of our annual reviews for 20192018, and more narrowly focused reviews of some work in 2017 and 2016, this post covers key Google Research highlights from this unusual year. For a more comprehensive look, please see our >800 research publications in 2020. This is a long post, but is grouped into many different sections, which you can jump to directly using the table below. Hopefully, there’s something interesting in here for everyone!


on Jan 17, 2021 09:39 pm

«Мы летим домой». Навальный

The Internet is for Porn

on Jan 17, 2021 10:39 am

Giggles, eye-rolls and the occasional moral scold aside, porn is a gigantic industry that serves an equally enormous popular demand. The cavernous disparity between the demonstrably massive popularity of porn and our popular unwillingness to even acknowledge it exists is a truly bizarre facet of American puritanical culture.

While the oft-cited stat that porn is a third of all internet traffic is probably a myth, search engine companies say it represents about 10-15% of all queries. That’s a lot! Pornhub alone received about 120 million unique visitors a day even before COVID forced everyone indoors. By comparison, CNN reported a record-breaking 148 million uniques in the month of January. (Fox News had only 104 million.) No one’s quite sure how large the entire porn industry is, but it’s safely assumed to be in the $5 billion range at least – around a third the size of the global video game industry.

In other words, porn is a huge, popular and extremely mainstream industry – which people insist on not talking about and enjoying in private. (Or maybe in a private browser window.)

What social networks can learn from public spaces

on Jan 16, 2021 08:39 am

The research began with the observation that in the offline world, healthy communities have traditionally been served by thriving public spaces: town squares, libraries, parks, and so on. Like digital social networks, these spaces are open to all. But unlike those networks, they are owned by the community rather than a corporation. As you would expect, that difference results in a very different experience for the user.

Public spaces display a number of features that build healthier communities, according to researchers. “Humans have designed spaces for public life for millennia,” they write, “and there are lessons here that can be helpful for digital life.”

The metaverse, like cities, requires good governance. Read more

New Public

on Jan 16, 2021 08:39 am


Welcome to New_ Public, a home for the people who are building and dreaming up the diverse, community-serving, anti-oppressive public-spirited tech future.

New_ Public is a place for thinkers, builders, designers and technologists like you to meet, share inspiration, and make better digital public spaces. It’s a newsletter, magazine, and community wrapped together, supported by the team at Civic Signals.


Share this issue Share this issue
Send it by email Send it by email
The Blind Machine is a publication about Pop Culture, Software Studies, Business Strategy, Media Platforms, Algorithmic Management, Game Design, and everything in between.
Copyright © 2021 chumbo, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.