Posts Tagged ‘symbiosis’

Social Media Putting Democracy at Risk

February 24, 2018

This blog post is based on an article titled, “”YouTube excels at recommending videos—but not at deeming hoaxes” by Craig Timberg, Drew Harrell, and Tony Romm in 23 Feb 2018
issue of the Washington Post. The article begins, “YouTube’s failure to stop the spread of conspiracy theories related to last week’s school shooting in Florida highlights a problem that has long plagued the platform: It is far better at recommending videos that appeal to users than at stanching the flow of lies.”

To be fair, YouTube’s fortunes are based on how well its recommendation algorithm is tuned to the tastes of individual viewers. Consequently, the recommendation algorithm is its major strength. YouTube’s weakness in detecting misinformation was on stark display this week as demonstrably false videos rose to the top of YouTube’s rankings. The article notes that one clip that mixed authentic news images with misleading context earned more than 200,000 views before YouTube yanked it Wednesday for breaching its rules on harassment.

The article writes, “These failures this past week, which also happened on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites—make it clear that some of the richest, most technically sophisticated companies in the world are losing against people pushing content rife with untruth.”

YouTube apologized for the prominence of these misleading videos, which claimed that survivors featured in news reports were “crisis actors” appearing to grieve for political gain. YouTube removed these videos and said the people who posted them outsmarted the platform’s safeguards by using portions of real news reports about the Parkland, Fla, shooting as the basis for their conspiracy videos and memes that repurpose authentic content.

YouTube made a statement that its algorithm looks at a wide variety of factors when deciding a video’s placement and promotion. The statement said, “While we sometimes make mistakes with what appears in the Trending Tab, we actively work to filter out videos that are misleading, clickbait or sensational.”

It is believed that YouTube is expanding the fields its algorithm scans, including a video’s description, to ensure that clips alleging hoaxes do not appear in the trending tab. HM recommends that humans be involved with the algorithm scans to achieve man-machine symbiosis. [to learn more about symbiosis, enter “symbiosis” into the search block of the Healthymemory blog.] The company has pledged on several occasions to hire thousands more humans to monitor trending videos for deception. It is not known whether this has been done or if humans are being used in a symbiotic manner.

Google also seems to have fallen victim to falsehoods, as it did after previous mass shootings, via its auto-complete feature. When users type the name of a prominent Parkland student, David Hogg, the word “actor” often appears in the field, a feature that drives traffic to a subject.


© Douglas Griffith and, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Neo-Symbiosis and Transactive Memory

November 8, 2009

Prior to the development of the personal computer, the psychologist J. C. R. Licklider introduced the vision of Man-Computer Symbiosis. He said “That men and computers so supplement each other…and that jointly they possess the capabilities to think and comprehend, to decide upon effective action…in a way totally beyond present realization…are the primary means on which we base our hope.”1 In Man Computer Symbiosis2, Licklider chose the fig tree and the insect Blastophaga grossorun as his example of symbiosis. The larva of the insect lives inside the ovary of the fig tree where it gets its food. The tree cannot reproduce without the insect; the insect cannot eat without the tree. Together they constitute not only a viable, but also a productive and thriving partnership. The cooperative living together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms is called symbiosis.

When I was a graduate student I was deeply impressed by Licklider’s vision. Unfortunately, I believe that this vision has been lost. All too often the goal is to replace humans with technology rather than to view technology as a tool for leveraging human potential. I tried to resurrect Licklider’s vision and to make it more politically correct in my paper “Beyond Usability: The New Symbiosis.3 So I termed it human-computer symbiosis. I also placed the human in the superordinate position in the relationship.

This blog has three themes. One is on human memory itself. Although human memory is quite remarkable, it is fallible and error prone. With perhaps the exception of some idiot savants, this is true of all humans. Moreover, as we age, there can be a deterioration of memory and in pathological cases this deterioration can be quite severe. The second theme focuses on memory techniques that not only offer improvements, but also provide mental exercise that can foster brain health. The third theme, transactive memory, concerns with the potential of technology not only for ameliorating memory decline, but also for providing for memory growth.

So think of computer technology as a means of leveraging your human potential. Think of it as a tool with the potential of not just maintaining and supplementing your memory, but of also enhancing and growing your memory. Think of the computer as a partner. You cannot remember everything, but if you know where to access information, you are leveraging your memory. If you cannot access information, but knows that it exists, then you can search for it. The information available on the internet is enormous, much more than one could learn in multiple lifetimes. It is like being at an all-you-can-eat gourmet banquet. Although there is much too much to sample, you can still avail yourself of a reasonable amount you can accommodate.

1Brate, A. (2002).  Technomanifestos:  visions from the information revolutionaries.  New York:  Thomson Texere.


3Griffith, D. (2005). Ergonomics in Design, 13, 30-31.



© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.