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Gideon Rosenblatt
Works at The Vital Edge
Attended Wharton School
Lives in Seattle
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Gideon Rosenblatt

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The Automation of the Publishing Industry

This is a new piece, a super in-depth look at the impact that automation has had on the publishing industry. There's lots of research in this one, as I dug into the actual impact that automation has had on newspaper, magazine and book publishers, as well as employment amongst writers, editors and other people in this industry. The results actually surprised me;  it's a more nuanced story than what I'd imagined. 

The other thing this piece does is look at what the automation of publishing is doing to the packaging of human knowledge, and how we are starting to see the early signs of a very new type of publishing, a wrapping of our information in a layer of artificial intelligence along the lines of Google Now and other virtual personal assistants. 

This piece was a lot of work and I'd like to get it to people in the publishing sector who might find it useful. If you know someone in that industry, and you find this piece interesting, please consider helping me get this to them. 

#automation   #publishing   #media   #ai  
An in-depth look at the automation of the publishing industry.
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Great opportunity for someone: 

+YES! Magazine seeks a journalist for a one-year, full-time, in-house reporting fellowship based in our Bainbridge Island, Washington, office, near Seattle. The fellow will receive a salary of $40,000, plus vacation and health benefits.

This fellowship is designed to support reporters from communities that are often underrepresented in the field of journalism. YES! Magazine established this fellowship to increase diversity in our economic and environmental reporting and writing.
This position is ideal for journalists from underrepresented communities who are somewhat obsessed with things like worker-owned cooperatives, community banking, and land trusts—and how clever people are using them to build a world that works for everybody.
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Gideon Rosenblatt

Good Funding  - 
CSC’s specific focus is raising funds from community members who want to support local small businesses by providing money for interest-free loans.

Here’s how CSC works: Businesses that are approved for the platform run a four-week campaign, typically for projects ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. People who want to support the business go onto CSC’s website and buy “Squares.” Each square represents a $50 zero-interest loan to the business.

If the campaign is successfully funded, the business owners start paying back the “Squareholders” soon afterward, and have up to three years to repay the full amount, though there are no guarantees.
Community Sourced Capital’s model of crowdsourcing modest-sized, interest-free loans to local businesses is set to spread across Washington under a partnership with the state Department of Commerce.
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I had a wonderful experience with crowdfunding through GoFundMe.
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"Value-Loading" of machine super intelligence. The one thing we really need to get right. 

If you care about these issues too, you might want to get to know the folks at +Machine Intelligence Research Institute . 

This is a good talk by Nick Bostrom. 
A new TED talk by Nick Bostrom! "The potential for superintelligence kind of lies dormant in matter, much like the power of the atom lay dormant throughout human history — patiently waiting there until 1945."
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+Richard Lucas That's right! You see also that it is our participation with what we observe that we tend to ignore. That is also understandable, because we are often emotionally or intellectually challenged during those moments and any additional perspectives sort of 'drown' in our own involvement.

You're also right about the 'metrics of appraisal' (subjective benchmarks, for example) being involved.

I asked for another reason as you suspect: it's related to the Sorites 'paradox' and my examples above.

When we see another 'perfectly' we are literally seeing them perfectly.
Those attributes of perception are being superimposed upon the object of that perception. In this case, we are seeing that object's (person's) traits that correspond to a working definition of 'perfection' we have built for that moment.

When we see heaps of objects, we are seeing our superimposition of the heap concept onto them. It's like those glasses in the movie 'American Treasure' with Nicolas Cage.

The Zeno Paradox involves similar oversights that the ancient Greeks didn't have the sophistication to consider. (I'm not saying they weren't capable of deep and profound thought though, okay? Just the opposite!)

Please tell me if that makes sense. I'd be glad to clarify.
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Washing away graffiti. A short film by Seattle's rain.
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Employment, Revenues and Business Formation in the Publishing Industry

Two weeks ago, I published a very long piece called The Automation of Publishing. It's long for a reason, as there's an arch to a story about what I think is happening in the publishing sector in terms of the big picture of technology and the way we manage knowledge. 

I think the length of this particular article proved too much of a barrier for people, however, and so over the next couple days I'm going to publish some of the key data and findings from this piece.

Today is a look at employment, revenues and business formation for newspapers, periodicals (magazines) and books. While these all exhibit signs of tough times for publishers, as we'll see tomorrow, the impact on writers and editors has not actually been the same. 

Automation isn’t the only force affecting the publishing sector. Financial markets, changing customer preferences and numerous other factors are clearly at play. But automation acts as a behind-the-scenes magnetic force, disrupting the economics of publishing by unbundling processes, and revenue streams, once held exclusively by publishers.

The most dramatic case of publisher unbundling is the newspaper industry. This was an industry that was extremely lucrative at one point because many papers held what were essentially local monopolies. In 1920, 42.6 percent of U.S. cities had two or more newspapers competing with each other. By 2000, only 1.4 percent did, mostly because afternoon newspapers had disappeared. In the 1980s, Wall Street-owned newspaper chains started gobbling up local independent papers, using “harvesting strategies” to extract maximum profits from each paper.

Not long afterwards, in the mid-nineties, many of the most lucrative advertising buckets once dominated by local papers started slipping into the hands of more focused and technologically savvy web-based, e-commerce businesses. I actually started one of those businesses at Microsoft, a car-buying service called CarPoint that served some seven million users a month. I remember meeting with some of the big newspaper chains at the time and being shocked at just how blind they were to what was happening to cornerstones of their advertising models; not just automotive, but real estate, job listings and wanted advertisements.

When you compare newspapers with books and periodicals, it’s clear that the papers have been hardest hit. Between 1997 and 2012, the total number of newspaper businesses dropped 13%. The problems are even more obvious when you look at revenues and employment (see images).

My interpretation of these numbers is that the impacts of publishing automation have fallen most heavily on newspapers and magazines (periodicals). Without advertising to support it, book publishing never really achieved the same scale of revenues as these other two publishing sectors. When advertising moved online, magazines and papers had the most to lose. As form factors, magazines and newspapers also lent themselves to easier methods of automated publishing, which in turn stimulated the supply of new online writers and website owners and increased their overall competition.

Here's a link to the full article if you'd prefer to read it all in one go: 
The Automation of Publishing

#automation   #publishing   #technologicalunemployment  
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Thanks +Karl Louis and +Jim Rudnick. Much appreciated. 
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Gideon Rosenblatt

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"Thought Vectors" May Help Software 'Understand'

The underlying idea is that by ascribing every word a set of numbers (or vector), a computer can be trained to understand the actual meaning of these words.

...when I ask Google the question, “Who was the first president of the United States?”, it spits back a short bit of text containing the correct answer. Doesn’t it understand what I am saying? The answer is no. The current state of the art has taught computers to understand human language much the way a trained dog understands it when squatting down in response to the command “sit.” The dog doesn’t understand the actual meaning of the words, and has only been conditioned to give a response to a certain stimulus. If you were to ask the dog, “sit is to chair as blank is to bed,” it would have no idea what you’re getting at.

Thought vectors provide a means to change that: actually teaching the computer to understand language much the way we do. The difference between thought vectors and the previous methods used in AI is in some ways merely one of degree. While a dog maps the word sit to a single behavior, using thought vectors, that word could be mapped to thousands of sentences containing “sit” in them.  The result would be the computer arriving at a meaning for the word more closely resembling our own.

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We, in the US, have a more nuanced set of concerns around data as a means of coercive control over citizens. In our case, the data is controlled by publicly-traded firms whose behavior is controlled by the goal of maximizing returns for shareholders. That brings its own set of problems. Add to that, of course, the various NSA efforts to intercept that data for governmental purposes, and it's clear that we citizens can never afford to lose our vigilance. 

But what seems to be emerging in China is this same problem on a whole new order of size, complexity - and centralized, governmental control. This proposed system, the "Social Credit System," envisions detailed tracking over various aspects of each of China's 1.3 billion citizens:  

The far reaching scope of the system is confirmed by an explanation on the website of the scientific institute CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences). As a result of its transformation in recent decades Chinese society has changed 'from a society of acquaintances into a society of strangers'. As a result moral conduct has suffered: 'When people's behavior isn't bound by their morality, a system must be used to restrict their actions'. Therefore it is time for the 'Social Credit System', which covers 'four major fields: politics, business, society and justice.'

The system may well experiment at some point with peer-based monitoring as well, so that people are reporting on people. The Cultural Revolution demonstrated just how powerful this kind of an approach proved as a means of ensuring widespread, highly distributed control. Much of it happened in neighborhood associations. It's unclear how something like that might look in a system like this. 

This is absolutely frightening: a dystopia of leviathan-like proportions.

Will firms like Alibaba go along with it? Will the Chinese people put up with it? These are the critically important questions to be watching over the next few years.

#china   #coercion   #bigdata  

Thanks for flagging this +Daniel Estrada and +Dor Konforty
Daniel Estrada originally shared to digital.politics:
> The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code.
via +Dor Konforty 
The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code.
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Ok, +Richard Lucas I can agree with  _that._
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This is a TED Talk about film maker Chris Milk's efforts to use Virtual Reality as a tool for increasing compassion and empathy. In this ten-minute talk, he talks about his journey and ends up explaining some of his recent experiments with VR story-telling as a way to change people's minds. 

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There was an interesting story on NPR recently, +Meg Tufano​ about some research on how kids who read Harry Potter growing up were more tolerant of others who are different from them.
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Three words: 

Shared Interest Graph. 

A new "Collections" feature is coming soon to Google+, and it sounds like a mixture of a blogging platform and Pinterest.

#android   #collections  
A new feature called Collections is coming soon to Google+, according to sources of ours. While we have limited information about Collections at this time, from what we understand, the feature wants users to create “collections” of their interests, which makes it sound a lot like Pinterest meets ...
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+Rob Gordon You are correct, the copyright holder is the only person who can file a complaint. As a content creator, I am well versed in copyright law. 
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Bleeding Edge Tech  - 
This is a fairly in-depth look at the effects of automation in the publishing sector - with a particular focus on the impact on employment. The short version is that while employment for newspaper, book and magazine publishers is down considerably, employment for writers and editors is not

One of the key points in this article is that what's happened in the publishing sector isn't just about digitalization because digitalization is simply a means to an end, with that end being automation. 

I've a feeling people in this community will have some opinions about this piece, which would be great to hear. 
An in-depth look at the automation of the publishing industry.
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Do you have a source for your 90% and 1.5 million numbers?

I wish I had some better data sets for the non-ISBN books but, like everything else in this market, it's all dark matter. You can see the gravitational effect but measuring it with any degree of reliability is sketchy.

There's one more or less formal estimate that 33% of the ebooks sold lack ISBNs. (See I think that number is small because it represents only the top sellers on the Amazon list. The dark matter below the surface hides a lot of books. Even taking that number at face value, Bowker's estimates fall very short.  

You're right about newspapers and magazines. I didn't consider them as part of the overall publishing paradigm. Egocentric blinders on my part. I have no idea how those things work. I don't read them, don't write for them, and don't think of them when I think about publishing. 

And you're also right about the limits of government data - any published data these days. It was a problem I faced in academe as well. The innovation cycle is now shorter than the research and publication cycle. Anything published these days likely describes a world that no longer exists. Even the newest pieces (like this one) face the limits of extant data. It's a difficult process at best. 

The cost/pricing - how much do you spend for reading matter - question is a good one. Don't get me wrong. It's a very good snapshot of the way the world was. As an author/publisher in a very niche space, those numbers interest me, but they're largely irrelevant. In the first place, not knowing the distribution of data leaves me with an average value that includes all the millions of people who never read a book. Or who read one book a year. They're not my market. The changes are relevant only in relation to the amount of discretionary entertainment spending. While your article notes that that number went up, it's difficult to tease out why that might have been. The cost of books was rising, the number of stores was shrinking. In recent years, independent bookstores have been reporting growth, but few of them stock anything but the traditionally published titles so aren't useful in determining how much bigger the market might be than the $30B-ish revenues reported by the Bigs. 

It'll be interesting to see how this looks in 20 years. I hope I'm still here to see it. 

Thanks for a good article and discussion. 
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Let me check that

Evidence suggests we may overestimate our intelligence, or at least our own unaided ability to answer questions, when we've recently been using search engines.

If you’ve ever lived with roommates, chances are you shared a “transactive” memory system with them. One person might have remembered to pay the bills, while another knew the contact details of the plumber. It's common to find social systems that share the information needed by a group across all the members of that group. Systems like these make life easier for individuals, who need only keep track of who knows which nugget.

Transactive memory systems are a common feature of human social groups, but they can be technological, too—and in the case of the Internet, the relationship can be a pretty powerful one. There are already indications that we treat the Internet like a transactive memory partner, remembering only where to find information, rather than the content itself. But could we also be blurring the boundary between our own internal knowledge and the easily accessed knowledge available via search engines? A group of researchers at Yale University think that we are.

Personally, I see this as part of a much longer trend and set of concerns that really do go back to Socrates. Socrates tried to warn us (about the risks of outsourcing our memory):

Humans have long parted with our unaided, unaugmented ways in this world. That our confidence gets confused over what is and isn't actually us doesn't really surprise (or concern) me too much.

Good find, +John Hagel​.

Transactive memory systems like the Internet are helpful but they can make us feel smarter than we really are
After using search engines, people overestimate their ability to explain ideas.
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I just think that the 'enemy within', along with the corruption and perversion, is not an alien force, but a byproduct of the system. Capitalism can be tamed by good governance to some extent but ultimately monopoly power accrues and it becomes incompatible with democracy, it creates plutocracy. I agree it can continue much longer as a tyranny. But why even attempt to fix a system promotes such corrupting and ugly values, support something better.
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I'm a technologist with a background in business and social change. I write about the impact of technology on organizations and society.
  • The Vital Edge
    Publisher and Writer, 2013 - present
    Disruptively good business.
  • Alchemy of Change
    Writer, 2010 - 2012
    Executive Director, 2001 - 2010
  • Microsoft
    Product Unit Manager, 1991 - 2001
  • US China Business Council
    1985 - 1989
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Beijing - Tokyo - Philadelphia - Washington, DC - Salt Lake City
What do we want our organizations and technologies to be when they wake up?
I'm a writer with a background in technology, business and social change. 

Most of my writing these days is at The Vital Edge, where I explore how technology affects organizations and the way people work. I am particularly interested in artificial intelligence, automation and networks and what they hold for the future of humanity. 

I believe in the human soul, and I believe it deserves a place in our understanding of organizations and technology. I have no interest in pushing religion or any particular spiritual point of view, but I do believe in exploring technology and human organization on a deeper level than is typical for these topics today. 

When it comes to my presence on Google+, most of my effort here is really aimed at connecting with people who are drawn to the questions I explore through my writing. I am active on Twitter (@gideonro) as well, and share content more frequently there, but my deepest online engagement is still here on Google+. 

My Story
For nine years, I ran Groundwire, a mission-driven technology consulting group, dedicated to building a more sustainable world. Groundwire specialized in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases, websites, social media communications, and engagement strategy as a way to help organizations mobilize people around sustainability causes.

Prior to Groundwire, I worked at Microsoft for ten years (back when it was cool), in various marketing, product development and management positions. While there, I developed CarPoint, one of the world's first large-scale e-commerce websites. I also marketed the world’s first digital encyclopedia and dictionary, and other innovative multimedia works.
I was raised in Utah, lived and worked in Japan and China for several years, and now live in Seattle with my wife, CJ, and two boys. Oh, and I am a proud board member of YES! Magazine.

#AI #automation #organization #technology #GoodBusiness #soul 
  • Wharton School
    MBA, 1989 - 1991
  • Lewis and Clark College
    International Relations
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