Jeff Jarvis

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Jeff Jarvis, theorist or something, was one of the most gleeful of public figures in celebrating the demise of traditional media. Having made his bones in the business, he wanted the new tools to feast on the flesh of print publications and network TV, believing there would emerge a democratic revolution. In ways he couldn’t anticipate, he was correct.

Jarvis grew apoplectic as a Trump Presidency seemed increasingly possible, spending great personal time volunteering for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania and making desperate appeals to traditional media personalities like Howard Stern, hoping, belatedly, that the new abnormal could somehow be tamed by phone banks and talk radio. Not possible. The ethical standards and common decency that had washed away easier than ink helped make sure of that. What seemed an evolution to him turned out to be a devolution. 

From “Meet the New Gatekeeper, Worse Than the Old Gatekeeper,” Nicholas Carr’s astute Rough Type post:

We celebrated our emancipation from filters, and we praised the democratization brought about by “new media.” The “people formerly known as the audience” had taken charge, proclaimed one herald of the new order, as he wagged his finger at the disempowered journalistic elites. “You were once (exclusively) the editors of the news, choosing what ran on the front page. Now we can edit the news, and our choices send items to our own front pages.”

“The means of media are now in the hands of the people,” declared another triumphalist:

So now anyone can control, create, market, distribute, find, and interact with anything they want. The barrier to entry to media is demolished. Media, always a one-way pipe, now becomes an open pool. . . . Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will. Today they are challenging and changing media — where bloggers now fact-check Dan Rather’s ass — but tomorrow they will challenge and change politics, government, marketing, and education as well. This isn’t just a media revolution, though that’s where we are seeing the impact first. This is a chain-reaction of revolutions. It has just begun.

And the pundits were right — the old media filters dissolved, and “we” took control — though the great disruption has not played out in quite the way they anticipated.•

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A few days ago, Mark Zuckerberg took a break from collecting your personal information and allowing you to create content for him for free, to answer some questions in a Facebook Q&A. Like most Silicon Valley successes, he likes meditating on the big questions. Stephen Hawking and Jeff Jarvis are among the questioners.


Stephen Hawking:

I would like to know a unified theory of gravity and the other forces. Which of the big questions in science would you like to know the answer to and why?

Mark Zuckerberg:

That’s a pretty good one!

I’m most interested in questions about people. What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more?

I’m also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is.


Jeff Jarvis:

Mark: What do you think Facebook’s role is in news? I’m delighted to see Instant Articles and that it includes a business model to help support good journalism. What’s next?

Mark Zuckerberg:

People discover and read a lot of news content on Facebook, so we spend a lot of time making this experience as good as possible.

One of the biggest issues today is just that reading news is slow. If you’re using our mobile app and you tap on a photo, it typically loads immediately. But if you tap on a news link, since that content isn’t stored on Facebook and you have to download it from elsewhere, it can take 10+ seconds to load. People don’t want to wait that long, so a lot of people abandon news before it has loaded or just don’t even bother tapping on things in the first place, even if they wanted to read them.

That’s easy to solve, and we’re working on it with Instant Articles. When news is as fast as everything else on Facebook, people will naturally read a lot more news. That will be good for helping people be more informed about the world, and it will be good for the news ecosystem because it will deliver more traffic.

It’s important to keep in mind that Instant Articles isn’t a change we make by ourselves. We can release the format, but it will take a while for most publishers to adopt it. So when you ask about the “next thing”, it really is getting Instant Articles fully rolled out and making it the primary news experience people have.


Ben Romberg:

Hi Mark, tell us more about the AI initiatives that Facebook are involved in.

Mark Zuckerberg:

Most of our AI research is focused on understanding the meaning of what people share.

For example, if you take a photo that has a friend in it, then we should make sure that friend sees it. If you take a photo of a dog or write a post about politics, we should understand that so we can show that post and help you connect to people who like dogs and politics.

In order to do this really well, our goal is to build AI systems that are better than humans at our primary senses: vision, listening, etc.

For vision, we’re building systems that can recognize everything that’s in an image or a video. This includes people, objects, scenes, etc. These systems need to understand the context of the images and videos as well as whatever is in them.

For listening and language, we’re focusing on translating speech to text, text between any languages, and also being able to answer any natural language question you ask.

This is a pretty basic overview. There’s a lot more we’re doing and I’m looking forward to sharing more soon.


Jenni Moore:

Also in 10 years time what’s your view on the world where do you think we all will be from a technology perspective and social media?

Mark Zuckerberg:

In 10 years, I hope we’ve improved a lot of how the world connects. We’re doing a few big things:

First, we’re working on spreading internet access around the world through This is the most basic tool people need to get the benefits of the internet — jobs, education, communication, etc. Today, almost 2/3 of the world has no internet access. In the next 10 years, has the potential to help connect hundreds of millions or billions of people who do not have access to the internet today.

As a side point, research has found that for every 10 people who gain access to the internet, about 1 person is raised out of poverty. So if we can connect the 4 billion people in the world who are unconnected, we can potentially raise 400 million people out of poverty. That’s perhaps one of the greatest things we can do in the world.

Second, we’re working on AI because we think more intelligent services will be much more useful for you to use. For example, if we had computers that could understand the meaning of the posts in News Feed and show you more things you’re interested in, that would be pretty amazing. Similarly, if we could build computers that could understand what’s in an image and could tell a blind person who otherwise couldn’t see that image, that would be pretty amazing as well. This is all within our reach and I hope we can deliver it in the next 10 years.

Third, we’re working on VR because I think it’s the next major computing and communication platform after phones. In the future we’ll probably still carry phones in our pockets, but I think we’ll also have glasses on our faces that can help us out throughout the day and give us the ability to share our experiences with those we love in completely immersive and new ways that aren’t possible today.

Those are just three of the things we’re working on for the next 10 years. I’m pretty excited about the future.•

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The popularity of dystopic culture, I believe, is far more complicated than a fear of the world ending. We’re not really worried about things falling apart but that they might not.

Part of the allure of apocalypse entertainments is that we get to, if briefly and virtually, quiet the hum of progress, the noise of the new technologies. There’s a deeply buried anxiety within us that the world will continue apace–perhaps at an accelerated pace–leaving most of us in its wake. The death of development on screens and in pages is a relief of sorts, something we crave, not dread.

In his latest Medium piece, “Optimism Doesn’t Sell,”  Jeff Jarvis, who sees the Google Glass as half full, writes about the box-office failing of Disney’s future-positive Tomorrowland:

Much of the dystopianism that surrounds us today is about our machines and the companies that run them: how Google makes us stupid, Facebook kills privacy, Google Glass turns us all into peeping Toms, robots will take our jobs and our car keys, the internet of things will open the door to crime, and artificial intelligence will bring unspecified dangers (the juiciest kind).

But the truth is that dystopianism is rarely about technology. It’s about people. The dystopian fears that his fellow man and woman are too stupid to use technology well, too gullible to see its risks, too timid to control its dangers, too venal to see beyond its temptations.

Dystopianism is the ultimate statement of hubris: ‘I am smarter than the rest of you,’ says the profound pessimist. ‘I can see where you are all going wrong. I can see that you can’t learn. I am better than you all.’

Like game shows, reality TV, and gawking at Walmart shoppers, dystopianism is mostly an excuse for making fun of your neighbors and feeling superior to them. They’re so stupid they’re ruining the future.•


Although Jeff Jarvis seems like a great guy, I often find myself disagreeing about media and technology with him, though I think he has a solid, common-sense approach when providing unsolicited advice to Google in its desire to “save the news.” Rule #1: Focus on the news, not legacy news organizations. From Jarvis at Medium:

“First, start from scratch.

I wish Google would convene some of its best minds; ignore the needs, complaints, and precedents of the legacy news industry; and begin with the fundamental questions:

  • What does it mean to be an informed member of a community?
  • What information do communities need?
  • What information already exists in a community? How can members of a community share information with each other more effectively?
  • How can this information be made accessible and useful (a Google specialty)?
  • How can this information be vetted? What signals of authority and originality can help? (And when is editing needed?)
  • What is missing? What questions are not being answered? What questions are not being asked? Who in authority needs watching? Who in the public needs protection? Whose voices are not heard? (That is, when is reporting required?)

In short: What’s the problem? Then: What are new solutions? That’s what Google’s engineering culture does brilliantly. What could a Gmail, a Waze, a Translate, a Drive for news and information be? It’s more than Google News, which organizes news done the old way and sends it audience … except in Spain. The future of news is something yet unimagined. It won’t be just human anymore. It won’t be just technology either. It will be some helpful combination.

Software may eat the world. But it will not answer all its questions.”