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Vol. 1 - Issue No. 2

The trust collapse in America, AI art vs. stock images, Amazon gets punished, Kagi is Brave, avoiding writing about you-know-who and the year of the dragon.

Robert Rackley
Robert Rackley
4 min read

The Trust Deficit

Jedediah Britton-Purdy writes for The Atlantic about the trust collapse in America.

My job is teaching, and although a liberal is not supposed to say this, too much of what happens in the classroom assumes that everyone there has the same broadly progressive politics, and that only a fool or a jerk would disagree. This is not just a failure to welcome those who don’t agree into the conversation, all but guaranteeing that they silently dig in to whatever they already believe. It also lets down students who think of themselves as progressives, who lose the tempering of inconvenient facts, countervailing arguments, the sheer social weight of disagreement, which requires the civic and political work of argument. No one’s faith, lived experience, or personal “truth” is exempt from the burdens of conversation. At its best, sustained conversation wins converts in both directions and, more important, may transform moral horror at someone disagreeing with you into trust that people who disagree can also listen, reflect, and do things together.

This resonates with my experiences reading personal blogs and newsletters. I had to stop following big name bloggers like Jason Kottke and Dave Pell because of the constant assertions that "only a fool or a jerk would disagree" with their strident progressive politics. As one example, one of Pell's favorite hobby horses is the stupidity of opposing legalization of all kinds of drugs. Just look at how well that's gone in Portland or San Francisco. Only backwards conservatives wouldn't want people dying of drug overdoses in the streets of their cities! It gets to be both predictable and frustrating.

AI Art Vs. Stock Images

At the iA Writer blog, they take on the now frequent use of AI images in blog posts.

While an obvious stock image says “I’m a cliché”, there is not a lot of Art in most ‘AI art’ either. A directly recognizable AI image just says “R.O.B.O.T.” Obviously, there are hypnotizing and sad stock images, amazing and horrifying AI renders. AI images are generally easy and quick to make but have significant downsides. However, it’s not about whether stock images are generally better than AI. It’s about how quickly AI images have become old and made stock images look even older.

I have used stock images in my blog posts a fair amount, but one of the reasons I selected my new blog theme was to have one that functioned well without a header image. I would rather not feel compelled to either put a stock photo or AI-generated image in my posts. The ubiquitous use of both makes for a kind of homogeneity across the web (although a lot of the indie blogs I read use neither).

"Robot Painting at an Easel" (Prompt by Eric Griffith; Generated on Midjourney)
"Robot Painting at an Easel" (Prompt by Eric Griffith; Generated on Midjourney)

Amazon Gets A Slap On The Wrist

According to The Verge, France is fining Amazon $35 million due to their excessive warehouse worker surveillance. Wes Davis reports in the new penalty for the notorious surveillance at the online retailer.

Following an investigation prompted by press reports, CNIL said that Amazon’s systems measuring and restricting scanning speed (including a “stow machine gun” indicator that activates when workers are scanning too fast), along with the company’s data collection and retention practices, were “excessive” and violated several GDPR articles. So did the company’s downtime measurements, which CNIL said require workers to justify every interruption, even those as short as a minute.

I wrote about the plight of Amazon's warehouse workers a few years ago. At the time, the book Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America put a spotlight on the harsh labor conditions at the company. I'm glad to finally see some action taken against their inhumane practices.

Kagi Is Brave

Theodoric writes about the new moral panic around the fledgling search engine Kagi partnering with the browser company Brave.

My priority is ending the monopoly of big tech, and an independent search engine is critical to that end, which is why I use Kagi. But there’s something deeper to it as well. Building a better world takes coalitions, compromises, and being able to work in gray areas, not moral absolutism.

I belong to the Orthodox Church. "Orthodox" means "right belief." I'm not even sure the church demands the level of ideological purity that social media users expect of tech companies. When I left a few weeks ago, there were at least four boycotts going on against companies that had somehow morally transgressed. The virtue signaling was off the charts. I'm certainly not against putting your values into your consumer decisions (far from it), but I also think that the efforts to ensure conformity of thought have gone way overboard.

A Change In Blog Direction

One of my favorite bloggers just announced that he is giving up writing about Trump. He has come to the conclusion that he’s said all he needs to say on the subject.

If any of this changes, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I intend to stop harping on it. As they say of sermons, “nobody gets saved after the first 20 minutes,” and I’ve been going on much longer than that.

Though I haven’t been blogging about the former president, I still feel likewise. I was considering writing something about the losing streak the Republicans have been on ever since their chosen leader took office. I thought about publishing a post about the manifest reality that this is not a conservative leader, no matter how many followers consider him fit for that description. I’m going to let it go, though. People (especially outside the U.S., I’ve noticed) don’t want to read about it. If the sermons haven’t convinced folks by now, those extra minutes aren’t going to do any good.

Year of the Dragon

Year of the Dragon wallpaper
Year of the Dragon wallpaper

I couldn't resist sharing the new Year of the Dragon wallpaper from Basic Apple Guy on Canned Dragons. I love the textures on this one and the creativity that went into little details like making the dragon's scales from Apple devices.


Robert Rackley

Orthodox Christian, aspiring minimalist, inveterate notetaker, software dev manager and paper airplane mechanic.

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