Born behind the Soviet Iron Curtain during the last chapters of the Cold War, the game of falling 4-square blocks turned 35 years old this week. With it’s 8-bit picture of St. Basil’s Cathedral located in Moscow’s Red Square and it’s ear-worming Russian folk song theme music, Tetris was one of my favorite games to lose myself in on my Nintendo back in the day. At our church youth group’s first ever video game tournament night, all fell before me and my block-arranging prowess .. which was the highlight of my freshman year in high school, to be honest.
As Alanis Morissette might say, isn’t it ironic that our impulse to capture everything through the portal of our smartphone cameras in order to preserve and share it may be the very thing that inhibits us from storing the experience as a memory in the first place? On the narrowing of our attention, cognitive offloading, and the unseen costs of taking photos with an eye to sharing them online.
Gotta be honest: when I clicked on this link, I knew it was likely click-bait and would be taking me to an article written in the now popular style of “I found two people who think something, and will now write it up as if it’s a full-blown social trend.” I clicked anyway … and was pleasantly surprised to be introduced into an actual idea I hadn’t encountered before: that the impulse to throw clothing into the laundry basket as “dirty” after a single wearing is a habit driven by decades of product market and not necessarily hygenic need.
In one of his many video interviews that all seem to rocket around the web, Simon Sinek has a line that reads as an afterthought but has stuck with me ever since I came across it: “scale breaks things.” YouTube is now finding out how true that is.
In its effort to remove content “alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status,” YouTube has found itself removing videos of historians and educators who aren’t trying to spread supremacist ideology, but teach about it. Of course, YouTube’s alogrithms can’t tell the difference, because recognizing keywords, images, and content concepts is an order of magnitude easier than understanding the context of how those things are being displayed and discussed. And with users uploading an astonishing 500 hours of new video content every minute, it is impossible for an army of cheap human reviewers to moderate it all (ask Facebook), let alone people paid and trained commensurate with the executive analysis and decision making such a job actually requires.
The scale of content proliferating on social media platforms is now so large that it is beyond precise moderation. Only automated rough measures are possible at this scale, and that is only going to turn YouTube’s PR problems into a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
In late May, 1969, the crew of Apollo X launched with a mission both daunting and likely so very frustrating: fly to the moon, have Commander Tom Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Gene Cernan detach the Lunar Module — call sign Snoopy — from the Command Module (Charlie Brown) and Command Module Pilot John Young, and fly down to an altitude of 50,000 feet above the lunar surface. After a journey of 244,000 miles, an altitude of just 10 miles must’ve felt like the moon’s surface was just inches beneath their feet. The only left for Stafford and Cernan to do to make history would’ve been to initiate “P63” — the program within the Apollo Guidance Computer that executed the powered descent down to the surface.
But, making that history wasn’t the mission of Apollo X. After doing everything except landing, Stafford and Cernan piloted Snoopy back to rendezvous with the Command Module in lunar orbit, docked, and climbed back aboard Charlie Brown with Young. Once that procedure was done, the crew of Apollo X jettisoned Snoopy into the emptiness of space to float, and returned to Earth.
And now, after an 8 year search and against 235,000,000/1 odds, astronomers believe they have found Snoopy floating in the vacuum of space.