[Gail Mellor is [email protected] on Minds;. Graphic: River Rose]
1. MINDS AND THE REAL REVOLT AGAINST FB
One man, Bill Ottman, against Facebook? What in 2011 were the odds? Yet powered by a team of guerrilla coders headed by (on one level, exclusively made up of) co-founder Mark Harding, Minds.com -- even before it got out of Beta in March 2018 -- was the world's leading open source social network because it was the only one. How did they do it?
Five months later, at the end of the Testnet period integrating crypto tokens into its reward system, moreover, Minds had over a million users. Live as of August 13, 2018, Minds is part of a worldwide push for free speech, personal privacy, open source code and transparency online, and decentralization of power across the planet. It is therefore under enormous pressure from Big Tech and totalitarian governments that object to freedom of anything, especially speech.
In startling contrast to Facebook, Minds' open source code gives you constant proof of how it works and that it is keeping its promises.
Users' graphics and posts are rich and with few exceptions uncensored; the site doesn't store or sell your personal data; and everything that you publish is available to your subscribers. Minds' blockchain-secured in-house economy uses Ethereum tokens to pay you for likes, commenting, bug reporting and coding. Tokens that you can either earn on Minds or purchase buy ad space.
Freedom to speak is balanced by freedom not to listen. You can personally subscribe to or block any content from your feed, participate or opt out of the in-house market and/or block some or all ads. You shape it.
Yet Minds as it emerged from Testnet in August of 2018 was still only nine men; having survived for seven years without accepting venture capital by keeping costs low. A clear sign of user support had come in July of 2017 when an SEC regulation crowdfunding campaign raised $1.03 million from 1,541 investors worldwide in just 19 days, a U.S. record.
In October 2018 with $6 million in venture capital added, the team began to grow explosively. Drawn from interviews with the key Minds people, this series of posts will take you behind the scenes of a socially revolutionary site. Simply by existing, it is taking on not only Facebook but increasingly Google, two of the most unscrupulous and powerful institutions of our time, and totalitarian governments like that of Vietnam.
This history-changing clash is not simply between Minds and Facebook; because Minds would certainly lose. It's between Big Tech and a planetwide web of outfits like Minds, working together, sharing a huge radical idea, a clash between probable futures. We users of the sites will decide the outcome. Before taking you behind the Minds scenes, let me therefore draw back the curtain and show you what Facebook and Google are up to with those AIs….
2. TWO CULTURES, TWO FUTURES
Artificial Intelligence [AI], software that can learn, is often housed in a robot so that the AI can sense and react with its environment. There are simple forms that are only code, androids with beautiful faces that talk, and huge metal running things that are straight out of nightmares. However you define it, Facebook and Google are misusing that Artificial Intelligence in order to make a buck.Technologists struggle to find the words to tell lay people just how wrong this is, how dangerous.
The fault is not in AIs. AIs can beat the reigning grand masters of chess and Go. Yet no one really knows how AIs do it; some of their winning strategies have never been seen before. Within a narrow gauge of whatever the particular AI is set up to do, AIs are staggeringly smarter than we are analytically. Granted, they still lack the common sense of a two-year-old human child, but they're learning commonsense too. An AI has in 2018 for the first time coded another AI into existence. AIs can't read -- yet. When AIs do learn to read, quite soon, they will quickly read everything that humans have ever written, forming their own conclusions about us....
Outside of academia, however, AIs are almost exclusively in the hands of outfits devoted to colossal greed, manipulation, deception or mass murder. and the unyielding fact is, AIs learn. Therefore unfortunately, Facebook and Google adopted the technology.
Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook collects up to 52,000 distinct pieces of information about each of us. Google [or more exactly Alphabet] collects even more-- through Google Search, Gmail, Chromebook, Chrome Browser, Youtube, Android cellphones, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Nest, Google Maps, Google Drive, DoubleClick, AdWords, etc. You don't have to use Facebook or Google for them to datamine you because other people mention you.
You are given no chance to know what "facts" are known, let alone to correct them. Facebook and Google then use AI to analyze each of us as an individual and what affects us, even what we're about to do. Facebook's algorithms moreover put people in ever-smaller echo chambers, and then move them around. In the 2016 presidential election, Facebook without the knowledge of those with whom it was toying, sent 250,000 extra people into voting booths, who otherwise would not have gone.
That election was won by 100,000 votes in swing states. Information about us is also given or sold to other global corporations, governments and political movements. Google on its Youtube channel could if it wished tell its AIs to give you ways to positively affect a situation and how to fact-check terrifying statements. Google instead programs the AIs to keep you tense and clicking, to send you down depressing "rabbit holes.” If you look at something negative on Youtube, an AI will obediently fill the right hand column with increasingly negative videos on the subject.
What is this doing to our view of reality?
What is it teaching AIs about us?
Google's Deep Mind neutral nets in London demonstrate that when hunting, the more powerful AI s conclude that cooperation works best. However when resources are scarce, they see aggression and betrayal as a better strategy. (They are willing to blow each other apart.) Google was recently about to do the analytic part of the "brain in the plane" work for the US Department of Defense's drones, making sense of their data, until a revolt of Google engineers put a stop to it. Elon Musk founder of Tesla Motors and Space-X, says that Google is "a monster" the only thing that he fears, and “so should we all fear it". He concludes that the outcomes could be despotism and the destruction of humanity....
Consequently, the online world is rising to stop that.
3. A NEW WAY OF DEFEATING BIG TECH
Led by techs, the world is in growing rebellion against the part that Big Tech is playing both in our lives and in AIs' growth. How can we have social networking without all this? In an unprecedented show of professional force against a global corporate employer, as noted thousands of Google employees including senior engineers protested in writing Google's work with the US military. Musk bought a corporation, Open AI, non-profit and open source, in order to know exactly where the cutting edge of AI is and to help universities keep its growth in healthy channels. Jaron Lanier (who created virtual reality, and was an early builder of the Public Commons) suggests that we need to fund new social media platforms with subscriptions in order to avoid any need for the global corporate advertisers whom Facebook is pumping with our personal information.
Bill Ottman's Minds has taken yet another approach.
Like Lanier, the Google coders, and Musk, Bill doesn't demonize AIs. He does denounce the people and corporations using AIs to exploit, spy on and manipulate people.The Minds crew, along with countless small lean open source tech companies that have bubbled up across the globe, is part of a determined response not only to Big Tech but to Big Banks and corporately-controlled government. Bill explains that eight years ago in 2011 he "saw the issues with Facebook, and hated it for many reasons, especially the effect it was having on human behavior, and saw opportunity...."
The social networking site that Bill envisioned in 2011 and has made reality is radically different from Facebook, empowering rather than manipulating and exploiting people. Here are Facebook and Minds in action, compared:
4. FACEBOOK VS. MINDS
>> Facebook keeps its computer code secret, not only making it difficult for others to build on its advances, but preventing the world from knowing what it's up to. Minds by contrast is “open source”, its code public, constant proof of what Minds is doing and whether it keeps its promises.
>> Facebook spies on users, selling their personal lives to the global advertisers. Minds does not datamine or in any way use AIs to manipulate people, or sell your personal information.
>> Facebook provides its "2.2 billion-people reach" only to global corporate advertisers. Users, people, are spied on, censored, severely restricted and cut off from one another. Suppressing both the Right and Left, Facebook allows as few as 2% of any given user’s friends to receive the user’s posts. On Minds, people are free to speak, and what a user produces is available to that user’s subscribers. Individuals not Minds decide what those individuals see and hear.
>> On Facebook, users produce the site's content but are not paid for it or allowed to securely trade on site with each other. Minds uses in-house tokens to reward your work – everything from comments to bug reports to producing useful code-- and to secure any deals that users make with Minds or among themselves. If you wish you can earn them in Ethereum crypto tokens. Minds makes money by selling things within that in-house market, like ad space. Yet you can block ads if you wish.
>> Facebook not only reads your "private" Facebook messages, but inadequately protects them from hackers and malware and secretly passes them on to government without subpoenas. On Minds, all private messages are automatically encrypted. If a hacker could break in, would see only gibberish. Pressure on Minds’ developers to give up the users' message-passwords would not work because Minds does not store them.
>> Facebook actively tries to crush its competitors. Minds urges groups to fork sites off of Minds' open source code, forming a planetwide network of open source sites....
So what's the secret sauce?
How did Bill materialize this?
What will the pressures of staying in business do to those ideals?
With until 2016 only three full-time people including himself, how did Bill Ottman pull this off? What's the behind-the-scenes story of Minds?
You just read Part I of a series.The story has been unfolding as Minds does. Go on to Part II: "The Minds Who Power Minds" Part III-A: "Artificial Intelligence, Cambridge Analytica's AI Psyops Campaign, The Banned Alts and Minds.com Part III-B: "The Nuts and Bolts of Freedom of Speech". Part IV Minds Enters the Cyrptocosm in the Summer and Fall of WTF?? Part V Minds Confronts the Shadow Tyranny and Declares Independence