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Clotho.Org and the Coming Cyberclysm

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the Saving-Ourselves-From-Luddites-and-Techno-Heads dept.

Technology 179

Part Two: How to stave off the Coming Cyberclysm, to find some rational choice besides the backwards-looking Luddites and the Gee-Whiz Techno-Heads who dominate discussions about technology? Only the Gods can help, and I might have found one who will (one of the Fates, as it happens), with the help of AI computing advances and intuitive software.

How to survive the coming Cyberclysm? To find a rational position between the alarmists and the utopians? Salvation may come from the menace itself.

Whatever mischief technology creates, technology can undo. The tools of our redemption - and the means of chasing off the ever-circling Luddites -- are right under our noses. Perhaps the great website of the 21st century - or even the last half of this year -- won't sell stocks or auction off goodies. It'll be an Intervention Program, something between a SuperSearch Engine and Information Foraging Site.

We need Websites that really understand us, protect us and go to bat for us. I'd call my personal version Clotho, after one of the lesser gods of Greek mythology.

The ancient Greeks are definitely the place to turn for protection against the Cyberclysm. Their poets and playwrights wrote all the time about humanity's tragic inclination to fiddle with the world and screw it up at the same time.

Clotho was one of the Fates, gods given the subtle but awesome power to decide a person's destiny. Clotho (the other two are Lachesis the measurer, and Atropos the shearer) is the spinner, who spins the threads of life.

Thunderbolt-throwers like Zeus are useless to invoke in this context, too blustery and ill-tempered. Only the Fates have the perspective required, the range of skills. They're used to sorting through complex choices. They assign men and women to lives of good and evil. They decide the length the length of human's lives.

The Fates are discreet, largely unknown, and it's never been precisely clear how far their power extends. What is known is that even the most powerful of the other Gods won't mess with them.

I imagine a Clotho program as an intermediary, standing between me, Gee Whiz Computing and technology, not so much to keep them away as to manage how much I have to deal with.

Intervention Software isn't a fantasy. It's a practical possibility with the advent of intuitive software technology and AI computing advances. Futurists from Freeman Dyson to Ray Kurzweill predict computers will be making rational, human-like decisions in a few years. We could put them to work for us.

The notion that a computing program could intervene in this way - come between us and the Cyberclysm -- and bring some sanity and coherence to an individual's experience of runaway technology and Ubiquitous Computing is hardly far-fetched.

I don't want Clotho.org to turn back the clock, just to regulate the pace of change, leave me the dignity of autonomy, and do me the courtesy of letting me check my own refrigerator for milk instead of letting a digitalized refrigerator do it.

In place of computer-equipped health-monitoring toilets, I'd just as soon retain the right to decide when and if I go to the doctor to have my bodily fluids chemically analyzed. I'd rather see technology deployed in some of the wondrous ways of the Net and Web in recent years --- the open sourcing of computing and the liberation of information, the use of supercomputing to take on social ills from cancer to Ozone, the growth of personal communications and community-building.

But we need help. This is, after all the, the job of the Fates -- to manage coherently.

Clotho.org could stand between us and Ubiquitous Computing, growling back the Microsofts, governments, media - hypemongers and arrogant hordes of programmers, gadgetmakers and marketers. Unlike information-sorting programs and sites - there are dozens - Clotho wouldn't present us with fewer choices, but making tough choices for us. She would function as our Big Sister when it comes to technology, keeping the predators away, occupying the space between humans and the new technologies scaring the hell out of them.

A vigilant Clotho would design her site along the sancrosanct principles spelled out in O'Reilly's landmark guide, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web," a book Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. It should be the Web designer's Bible, if it isn't already, since it challenges us to put users, not makers, foremost when we think of the Web and the Net.

A Clotho site would use logic and search engine technology to brutally edit the Web, weeding out the excesses of the Cyberclysm. She'd ask hard questions. Do we need refrigerators with computer chips that will alert the local supermarket when we're out of milk? She would scare off, or at least curb, some of the worst Cyberclysm offenders, the microelectronics industry.

Is this really possible?

In his recent essay in Netfuture No. 94, [http://www.oreilly.com/people/staff/stevet/netfuture/1999/Sep1499_94.html#33], Winner suggests that humanity's needs for the coming century be rated on a 1 to 10 scale.

Do we need a Palm VII, or should we stop at the Palm IV? Do we need cellphones to access sports scores on the Web as we drive home from work, or can we wait a half-hour till we get home? Clotho would ask. If not, she'd vaporize the thing, or failing that rate it 1.5. She'd keep it away from us.

Perhaps she could draw from Slashdot's amazing and elaborate discussion moderating systems (where offensive speech isn't banned but smothered in cool software programs), and meta-moderate technology for us.

We might program her to screen out anything under a 4. We'd never get the chance to buy it, or maybe even know it was out there. The Cyberclysm would recede, at least for those of us in her care.

Clotho would definitely play God (which is okay, since she is one.) We'd be presented with a handful of news stories each morning - the most significant, the most useful, the most entertaining, based on her own vision and on recognition software that comes to understand our needs, tastes and wishes. She'd rate our need for information in general on the same scale. No story, scandal, press conference, announcement or debate under a 4.0 would get by. If she'd been around, most of us might blessedly never have learned the names of William Bennett, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, or Linda Tripp.

As far as I'm concerned, Clotho could screen out virtually every debate on every Washington talk show and the country's civic life would be improved a thousand times overnight. This means I'd almost never heard anything from Washington, a technological boon to humanity if there ever was one.

Clotho.org would also fend off much of the techno-news streaming toward us from C/Net and Wired News, and sift for technology information that we actually wanted to know. She could store information we might need to know for a later time.

She'd take revenge on behalf of the tens of millions of people forced to buy things they don't want or things they can't use, made anxious by poor instructions and buggy programs, coerced into hours and days of stressful struggles to reach people who won't take any responsibility for the things they've made and sold, who won't help people figure out how stuff works.

Clotho could be the Goddess of Unintended Consequences, forcing us to consider the implications of the things we bring into the world. Maybe she'd turn the CEO's of the most arroganant companies over to Hades (flamers, beware) for some roasting and agonies.

Clotho would be tough minded, as befits a Spinner. She would ask questions about technology and information before stuff could get past her and reach innocents like me:


l. Is this information necessary? Do we need to know it? Does it advance knowledge, inform or entertain us? Or does it tell us something we already know, provide a service when we can easily do ourselves, replicate what already exists?

2. Do we need this new product? Does it have unintended consequences? Will it be almost instantly out-of-date?

4. Will the people who offer this product support it? Will help be available at all times?

5. Are we leaving human beings enough time, peace, and opportunity for at least some spiritual dimension in their lives? Or are we labor-saving and information-providing them to distraction?

Clotho could slow the pace of Ubiquitous or Gee -Whiz Computing, ruling that even in the Digital Age, perhaps we can simply turn our coffeemakers on when we wake up instead of programming them. She'd put a quick, merciful end to health-checking toilets.

She'd created the mythical middle ground, missing when it comes to technology, a place where we grow, learn, and move forward in a reasoned, noncoerable, way. Such a kingdom would be a radical departure from the insane Technoville in which we now increasingly dwell.

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Umm.. (1)

Awel (28821) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653639)

Why do we have to have a computer program to tell us to turn off our computers?

Anyone working on Clothos? (1)

Zwack (27039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653640)

An excellent article... I would be interested in something that sifted out the stuff that I'm not interested in...

But it would have to learn what I wanted to know about. Sometimes I hear about things that are not immediately obviously interesting to me,... But yet they are of enough interest to me in a tangential way.

I guess I'd want it to let the odd random article through so that I could find out about those things that I was not obviously interested in.

Isn't this "Technorealism" all over again? (2)

Seth Finkelstein (90154) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653641)

Didn't I hear a big buzz about something like this more than a year ago?

In this heady age of rapid technological change, we all struggle to maintain our bearings. The developments that unfold each day in communications and computing can be thrilling and disorienting. One understandable reaction is to wonder: Are these changes good or bad? Should we welcome or fear them?
That's from the Technorealism [technorealism.org] web site. Whatever happened to that whole "movement" anyway?

- Seth Finkelstein

Clotho???? (1)

DanaL (66515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653642)

Hmm...I have to say that I think the article was sounding a little flakey :)

However, I do have to question why we need AI software to filter web content and act like a buffer. This was mentioned a few times in response to part I: I can choose for myself what I do and don't want to read. I don't want to spend 8 hours a day surfing the web reading as many pages as possible, so I don't. There are a few pages I visit regularly and if I have to look something up, I fire up Google.

I've read the forecasts about PDAs that will look up articles that match your interest and spoon feed them to you, but this sounds like just another way to get hooked on information/technology.

The cure for any 'cyberclysm' is...an OFF BUTTON!

Dana [hmm...feeling a little like ranting this morning :) ]

Clotho . . . it's artificial self-control. (5)

Garpenlov (34711) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653643)

So, basically, Katz's heroic Clotho.org is an agent that will give people without self-control self-control by never exposing them to 'temptation.' They don't have to worry about losing control and impulse buying because they'll never be exposed to anything like that.

Personally, I prefer the heroic legbreaker.org. By breaking my legs repeatedly, I never have to leave my house and thus am saved from having to experience the terrible evils of the modern world -- highways, big businesses, pollution, etc. Sure, I'm crippled, but it's a small price to pay for my mental safety!

No Need No Clotho (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653644)

I don't think we need a Clotho I think our rather rational minds can get us through the garbage heap that is cyberspace. I know that cyberfridges are dumb and won't use them. I only use what is practical but that does'nt make me a luddite as I embrace technology not for techs sake but to expand my ability to things in the world.

Want to buy a pee sample, Katz? (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653645)

Maybe Katz needs his intelligent agent, Clotho, to protect him from unwanted analysis of his fecal matter, but I think the rest of us have already found the solution. It's called choice.

I switched from watching TV news to getting it of the web precisely because I wanted control over what I read. I visit my bookmark sites becuase those are what interest me, not surfing into the depths of the web where big brothers intelligent toilets are to be found (unless they're on /., of course). Given the evaulation of your typical portal.com, it seems that most everyone else is also betting that we'll chose self-regulated order over cyberclysmic chaos. I wonder if Katz has registered clotho.com?

A massive cop-out (4)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653646)

That's a massive cop-out. Katz thinks that he himself cannot make hard choices about technology, life, and himself, so he wants some software to make the hard choices for him. I'm amazed.

More, this software will function as a reality filter, letting only "approved" information through. I can write pages about the consequences of this, but other people, notably George Orwell, already did it much better than me. And who controls this Clotho?

No, really, I never expected to see such a horrible idea to be put forward on Slashdot. Ugh.

Kaa

What a great idea! (1)

matt-fu (96262) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653647)

(not)

Maybe if Clotho existed, I wouldn't have found out about this inane article about Clotho and mistakenly read it.

Or was I FORCED to read it? This person seems to think that the wave of cyber-culture is unstoppable or something. Maybe they need to stop reading so much Ray Bradbury.

Has Katz finally lost his mind? (1)

Otto (17870) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653648)

You know, I've liked Katz's stuff in the past. Really. I've defended him against those who would seek to have him banished from the realm that is /. Now, I'm not so sure. Has Katz finally lost his mind?

Okay, the Cybercylsm thing is a bit stupid. It sounds just like information overload taken to new, cool hardware. No big deal, but I don't know anyone with this problem, nor have I ever heard of anyone with it. As an uber-geek myself, I like having the latest toys (or at least playing with the latest toys), but damn few of these get used in an everyday life scenario. This is just reality.

And what the hell was this article about? I read it twice, much slower the second time, and I still can't grasp it. Clotho seems to me to be a ridiculous idea. Admittedly it's only a concept, but it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Is it filtering your information input? Is it not letting you find out about new cool stuff? How does a web site stop word of mouth? (which is where almost everyone finds out about this type of stuff). What the hell are you getting at? Because a lot of use Katz readers are in the dark on this one, buddy.

---

Clotho: an Agent for the rest of us (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653649)

Uggh, why am I thinking of animated paper clips when I read this.

"Good morning, it looks like you want to wake up, do you want me to make coffee, yes, no help?"

"Good morning, you hit the snooze bar, do you want to sleep for 10 more minutes, yes, no, help?"

I agree that there's a fortune to be made in a web search engine that works well, but I think Katz is missing the boat on this Clotho deal.

Rather than have an agent to query my refrigerator about it's inventory, I'll just stick with a dumb refrigerator and open the door.

Rather than have an agent spoof my intelligent drug and chemical sniffing toilet, I'll just stick with an old fashioned mechanical one.

Rather than having another GUI layer on my PC's, I'll do nicely with a telnet window.

I think a great example of embedding complex software in everyday appliances is your car. Someone from 1930 could drive one of today's cars, all the software that controls the fuel injectors, oxygen mix and ABS brakes is invisible to the user.

George

How about Pandora? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653650)

Once again, JonKatz opens the pandoras box of mixed metaphor and confused symbolism to find that, after all the bad things in the world escape, there in the bottom of the box is the means to continue on and deal with them. Well, maybe for him, but some of us would rather have our own personal muse, not some large AI-run site out there pretending to be god. (or did I miss the part where he said that we each get our own customizable copy?) Trust the Computer, and remember: Happiness is still mandatory, Citizen. Even for Commie Mutant Traitors. Meanwhile, I'll just continue to ignore stuff I don't need. Who cares about getting a Palm V? And where can I get a replacement p133 system? mine's near the end of it's useful life, and I need something that slow. (see? I can mix metaphors and confuse symbolism too!) :-)

Wait, I changed my mind. (3)

Garpenlov (34711) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653651)

Agents, filters, whatever -- objects that filter out what we don't want and reshape information for us ARE useful. Little things like Junkbuster or ad-filtering proxies or custom-written programs that automatically retrieve news from web sites / mail from webmail sites are an example of this. But Katz is proposing that we need such agents, not to be able to shape our view of information (instead of having it shaped by those who provide it to us -- shaped with ads on top), but to protect ourselves from our own lack of control.

If the only thing protecting you from rampant foolish consumerism is an 'agent,' what happens when the agent is subverted? You don't even have your own foolish mistakes of the past to learn from, because you never made them - you were sheltered from all of that. (And trust me, people will find ways to subvert agents just as surely as they subvert search engines to 'pornjack' you.)

Cyberclism Schmism. (1)

richnut (15117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653652)

Peole wont stand for things that make their lives complicated unless their gadgetry is for the sake of gadgetry. We're part of a group of people that really likes electronic toys and blinking lights and other asssorted gizmos and devices, but for the most part, most people dont care too much. Out of all the people I work with, most of them have cell phones, but very few have pagers. Only one has an electronic organizer.

I worked in an office where everyone had all the gizmos and I found it was terribly unproductive. Each person basically rejected all but one of the forms of information, and then only accepted info from that medium, not the most ideal situation, but hardly a cyberclism.

If you want to talk about a Cyberclism talk about the proliferation of bad information on the net. That's goofing up general society more than a few little gadgets that some geeks carry around.

-Rich

What the hell was that about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653653)

Really?

I already have a "Clotho" (4)

KilobyteKnight (91023) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653654)

I already have some filtering systems that work very well. It doesn't use AI, it uses the real stuff. One is called Slashdot. I come here, where lots of interesting stuff gets posted every day. I don't have to surf the whole web, I get nice, neat little summaries of stuff that is likely to interest me. If -I- choose (not some AI program) to read more, I click a link. It's simple, effective, and evidence that the whole basis for the topic of this article is completely wrong.

Re:Anyone working on Clothos? (2)

Zwack (27039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653655)

As everyone else seems dead set against this idea, let me just expound (and expand) on why I like the idea of Clothos...

I don't have time to surf the web for 8 hours a day. However I do have time to at least skim a bunch of headings and read the ones that sound interesting (slashdot anyone?)

I do know that a lot of stuff is going on that I would be interested in if I could find out more about it. Think about the things that Slashdot doesn't cover that you get sent by friends who thought that you might be interested in it.

I would like something that could sit there and scan the web and newsgroups and flag up things that would interest me. This would make things easier for me. I don't want a web site to "protect me from evil." I don't want a web site that hides things from me, and I don't want to be spoonfed "interesting stories." What I would like is "an intelligent agent" that looks for information that I would find interesting.


We have enough AI's. (1)

Shanoyu (975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653656)

I honestly don't think a clotho is necessary, sure it's a cool idea, but it's kind of self defeating. Why would you need an AI to decide this for you? This is just another AI (Other AI's we use today include Policy (Zero Tolerance) /Charters/Law) to remove the need to use logic and let preconceived databases of knowledge determine what is needed and what isn't.

Ignoring the fact that such a 'God' Isn't really needed, the logistical concerns of updating such a collective personality, if we had such a machine built in 1970 and it was still around today, it would almost certainly be almost useless, due to culture shifts, scientific/medical knowledge, mass changes in opinion on moral and ethical issues (read: information on abortion, cancer survival. etc.), etc, a Clotho made by the programmer from 1970 just couldn't keep up, even if it was given the faculties we have for computing today.

As for screening out the monica lewinsky scandal, it might have been under 4.0 until, even though we don't care, we hit the key phrase, 'President breaks law (purjury)' where clotho would have hit a huge rating on principle, unless we decided that we didn't care about the laws that affect our society and rights, and unfortunately this is the case for many people, they just don't care for whatever reason.

I saw a good example today of why we might never need Clotho, Microsoft Released a mouse without a ball which moved by using a digital camera. Heh, it's already impressing absoloutely no one.

Besides, Clotho can't solve the big problem, people forced by Laws or Corprate policy, or whatever similar situation.


-[ World domination - rains.net ]-

Clotho? Hell no (4)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653657)

Katz, if you somehow managed to put Clotho up, I would be the first to yell against it and denounce it as a stupid censorship of the Internet. Why should an AI (buzzword, btw) censor what I see and not see? Why should an AI (buzzword) play God (buzzword) when I can't?

Simply put, you're saying something nonhuman should control the flow of the WWW to prevent users from being overwhelmed by technology. What you're doing is putting technology in charge of something individuals themselves should take care of. You're suggesting that since we cannot control technology, then the next logical step is for technology to control us.

I say no way. It is not by dumbing down the crowd that we'll find salvation from your so-called cyberclism (buzzword). We'll find it by educating them, and showing them that standing up for their principles, to make choices free of constraints, is the way to overcome the buzz.

Tyranny by computer is tyranny nonetheless. Big Sister indeed.

A solution? The solution is already coming. It is called moderation and the gift culture. Even as companies approach, the word of mouth still manages to carry websites further than any ad banner ever can. Take a look at eBay: you don't have a rep there, you won't sell as much.

As the Internet becomes overwhelming (and I still don't think it is), it will be humans acting out as a community, moderating each other, that will filter the sensory overload and let the cream float to the top. Not some frivolous AI (b... oh alright) attempting to think like a human but yet incapable of doing so.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Poor Mr. Katz... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653658)

Might I suggest, Mr. Katz, that you do not include mythological references when you know squat about them? Calling the Fates "subtle" is completely absurd! Atropos cuts the thread of a human life and they die -- this is not subtle! When they choice to be involved, they are not discreet! (I suppose we should be glad you got the names right.)

Further, your article decends to using Clotho as an athromorphortic projection of some kind of super web site/program that only exists in your head. Describing a dream with a myth is too far a foray into fantasy... you sound like your grasp on reality is slipping dangerously. [Some of us are starting to be concerned with your health (seriously).] Towards the end there it sounds like this future web site has become the god you name it after... so, is it a web site or a deity? Or is there any longer any difference between the two in your mind?

I sincerely hope you wrote this while stoned on something or drunk out of your mind... otherwise, I don't see much hope for you.

Collabrative Filtering, Information Overload. (1)

dieman (4814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653659)

I think that Katz is valid on some of his points. What I see it as is the "Not enough time to evaulate it myself. Just throw the `good stuff' at me." Why is this a problem? Because... If you took everyones opinions from everywhere... every little news tidbit (with exception of those about dan quale when he was running for office) means something good to someone. Katz wants just whats good... whats good from his perspective is much different than mine however.

How do you filter for this kind of person then?

The only technology I have seen is collabrative filtering. It's been around forawhile. Remember grouplens usenet trial? remember firefly? There's movielens.umn.edu that does it too...

You have people rate items (news articles) as to a few different categories that would decide if I would like it or if Katz or someone else would like it better. (perhaps different questions depending on the topic/issue) People with similar ratings who really like some articles then can opt-in to only see those kinds of articles as the focus of a news page. Problem is, there might be some lag because you should have some user filtering first. :(

Upside is.. It saves some people time who don't want to deal with information overload.

Scott Dier

WTF? (1)

evilpete (26941) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653660)

After all his freedom of information and "buffy for all" speeches why is katz turning round and suggesting we need to implement some kind of self-censorship project?

Censor yourself to stay sane!!!


+++++

Sigh...where do I start?! (1)

richieb (3277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653661)

There are just too many points that are completely bogus in this essay and I didn't even read the whole thing! For example:

Perhaps she could draw from Slashdot's amazing and elaborate discussion moderating systems (where offensive speech isn't banned but smothered in cool software programs), and meta-moderate technology for us.

John, Slashdot moderation and meta-moderation is done by people, not software!!!

Disappointed...

...richie

This is absolutely ridiculous!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653662)

Two points: 1. This Clotho app. is pure vapour ware. It will never get produced (not in the near future). The acedemics have been researching this type of thing since the beginning of computers and haven't really gotten anywhere with it. 2. Even if it could be created, would you really want to trust it with the task of running your life? That to me is the scariest part. Letting a piece of software control what kind of information you recieve? It's ludicrous! The bottom line is that you must think for yourself. You must make these types of choices out of your own free will. If you are too lazy to bother thinking or acting for yourself, then you might as well end your pathetic useless life. There's no point to it. mrcl

"Whatever mischief technology creates..... (1)

lonely (32990) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653663)

"Whatever mischief technology creates, technology can undo".

This cannot be true. Can we make life?

Also it has been calculated that the amount of energy needed to right Global warming, exceeds the remains fossil fuel resources. Ooops. Or at least I think, so anybody want to flame me on that one?

conspiracy therorists unite! (2)

MoToMo (17253) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653664)

As soon as there would be any such thing as chlotho, it would be chlotho.gov, not .org. The government can control the TV because there are a few people/organizations that control nearly all of the television channels. The great thing about the web (thus far) is that the government has no place to put it's spin doctors and blur the truth. If there was such a think as chlotho.gov, the government would make sure that you don't see any view other than theirs. Sad but true.

You can have your pre-chewed tasteless news if you want it, but i want the real stuff, the truth, and the uncut. If we let go of our ability to control what we see and give it up to someone else, we lose our freedom of speech. There is no happy balance. Only ignorance is bliss.

Maybe i've lost it, maybe i've listened to mancow too much, or maybe watched the matrix too many times, but i for one don't want a filter that decides what i can and can't see. That's my own decision, thank you very much.

"...and i'll get the duke, and a case of whiskey, and drive down to texas... "

Yikes! (1)

hicktruckdriver (29349) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653665)

So, because there is too much technology to handle, you propose a "filter" that will screen out the "bad" technology? I've heard this idea somewhere before...

And who decides what is good, what is bad, and what is too trivial to trifle with? Sure, you won't catch me dead with a pager, cell-phone, or Palmpilot as long as I can get away with it. (After all, if I want to be found, I'll be near a phone or computer.)

With this overabundance of information comes tools for organizing and using it - Slashdot, Freshmeat - they all provide a logical way to sift through information that interests a specific niche.

Face it - the burden of sifting through this stuff is going to rest on our shoulders. You can adapt, and learn to use resources wisely and parse information quickly - weeding out uninteresting stuff and finding nifty stuff, or you can just complain about it and propose that we have a computer do it for us.

IMHO, part of the fun of having a mind is using it.

The technology exists now. The demand does not. (1)

jake_the_blue_spruce (64738) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653666)

Want information on a particular topic on the web? Use a search engine or webbot. Monitor changes to the search results, and bring new matches (with high confidences) to your attention as they're found. Or better yet, use a weblog such as Slashdot or Memepool, devoted to your specific interests and quirky character. As Slashdot style weblogs become more prolific, you'll be able to find a niche one for you.

Ok, that's Clotho for the web. But his first part was all about the increasing complexity of devices and technology in general. Clotho, even as he's proposed it, doesn't do squat to make the controls on your car simpler as new features such as GPS, route finding systems, and night-vision enhanced windshields cause your car's dash to resemble an F-16's cockpit.

He's set up a scary demonized general problem, come up with a glorified vision of a solution to a very specific aspect of the problem, which already exists but is not in common use, then he proceeds to make wild predictions. He should run for office. Standard political tactic.

Yawn! (2)

greyrat (80922) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653667)


Yak yak yak. Blah blah blah! I can't believe this is posted here (or that I'm replying to it). Aside from the fact that Clotho is dumb -- and if it where implemented would soon be overrun or worked around in any number of ways, Mr Katz is not taking responsibility for himself!

I hear people whining about being inundated with technology every day. If they get too desperate, or heaven forbid, ask me for advice I tell them one simple thing. GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN FOR AWHILE!!!

I've worked in the technology arena for more that 20 years. I have no cell phone, no pager, no GPS system to find me. I get my work done, and play with the technology toys that _I_ choose to on _MY_ terms in _MY_ timeframe. I also get to play with my kids, race my car, jump out of airplanes, and cook great meals. IT'S MY CHOICE!!!

GUESS WHAT! IT'S _YOUR_ CHOICE TOO!!


C'mon kids. It's just like guns or drugs or pokemon cards (or the printing press, or the telephone, or radio, or television...). You are driving. Make good choices.

And yes, this really is my standard signature below:

Letting the Katz out of the bag (1)

The Evil Dwarf from (17232) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653668)

Clotho is a good idea as ideas go, unfortunately a lot of Katz articles would never see the light of day. Katz articles provide good foder for thought but a lot of the time they just really aren't all that important, to the majority of the populace.

I put this in perspective, I rate this Katz artile a 6, where the average american would probably rate it a 1, but they rate the importance of owning a car about a 7 where I rate it a 1.

What Jon misses is that everyone has a "Clotho". I have written band reviews in the past in oder to provide perspectives on what others could expect from them. I use /. to come up with information regarding technical issues and how they may apply to social issues, btw /. rates a 7 i.e. more important than a Guiness which I consider pretty indespensible.

Clotho is asking the questions that we all should be asking ourselves, Do we really need that? The answer is mostly no. What we need is limited to water,food and shelter in that order. The average American makes about $35K, but probably only needs about $8K to live.

this article brings up so many questions... (2)

bmabray (84486) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653669)

First of all, in an article [slashdot.org] just last week, wasn't Katz saying that if we're not careful we'll be enslaved by AI? Now he says we should let an AI program decide what we see?
I don't want Clotho.org to turn back the clock, just to regulate the pace of change, leave me the dignity of autonomy, and do me the courtesy of letting me check my own refrigerator for milk instead of letting a digitalized refrigerator do it.
He wants to check his refrigerator himself, but he wants a computer to tell him what to read?
As far as I'm concerned, Clotho could screen out virtually every debate on every Washington talk show and the country's civic life would be improved a thousand times overnight. This means I'd almost never heard anything from Washington, a technological boon to humanity if there ever was one.
So the country would be better off if voters were less informed about politics? How much less informed can they be?
1. Is this information necessary? Do we need to know it? Does it advance knowledge, inform or entertain us? Or does it tell us something we already know, provide a service when we can easily do ourselves, replicate what already exists?
If Clotho filters out things that provide services we can easily do ourself, won't she kill herself?

Anyway, those are some of the things this article made me think about. Perhaps Katz should have thought about those things before he published it...


human://billy.j.mabray/

Huh? (3)

Octos (68453) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653670)

I'm sorry. I'm a bright person, but I don't think your point got across.

Are you saying you want a machine to think for you? That's what it sounds like. If so, I'd like to
recommend you read In the Beginning was the Command Line [cryptonomicon.com] again, or for the first time.

My mind is sufficiently advanced to make decisions for me.

Finally, I think the first thing Clotho should do for you is run a grammar check on your writing. I
hate to flame like this, but I find it horribly unprofessional to be a columnist and have so many
errors in your article.

Clotho.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653671)

They already have this in China (and elsewhere) you know. They have nearly full control of what information is accessible on the Internet, and they decide what is good, right, and best for the people. What is the difference between having a group of people do this, and having an AI system programmed by a group of people do it? Unless you are suggesting an AI system that can't be controlled by an individual or group... Which is really quite the antithesis of preventing technology from controlling our lives isn't it? The last thing I want is to have the world censored for me by a computer or any other system. This provides the individual or groups controlling the filtered content an tremendous amount of power and control. Sure, filtering is fine - if it is personal and entirely by choice. If the scenario you present were to become common however, who do you think would really be controlling the content that we are permitted to access? I agree with the previous post that this sounds a little too Orwellian for me. It would be fairly simple to make the world a better place if one could control what the people see and know. This is the thought process that has led many dictators to abandon remotely democratic systems. I think it's pretty likely that at heart all oppressive systems are good intentions. After all, the people don't really know what's good for them, do they?

ummmm....right (2)

AshleyB (18162) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653672)


Jon Katz has gone so far off the deep end there is no coming back. Was the whole point of this article telling us that someday there will be a computer to tell us when to turn our computers off? That people will be so overwhelmed with information and technology that they will need yet another piece to help them get through it all?

Aside from the horrid prose and the stunted attempt to attract the Xena crowd, basically he is saying that people should rely on some program to filter out what it thinks is meaningless or unattractive information. What's the difference between getting every bit of your news from just one newspaper, or one news-site?

Just my opinion, bad article and bad idea behind it. I'll prove him wrong...I am leaving this website right now, turning off the machine and fixing some lunch all without the help of HAL 9000.

Jon, you're a mess.

Re:We have enough AI's. (1)

nowan (4075) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653673)

> if we had such a machine built in 1970 and it was still around today, it would almost certainly be almost useless, due to culture shifts, scientific/medical knowledge, mass changes in opinion on moral and ethical issues

Not necessarily -- if it actually worked it would still be extremely useful. Because society today would be just like it was in the 1970's.

Would Clotho.org allow Clotho.org? (4)

Zach Frey (17216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653674)

I can't resist ... the one question Jon Katz simply can't bear to even ponder is what if the "Luddites" are right? But no, that might shake our faith in technology too much. After all, "Whatever mischief technology creates, technology can undo." So, onward to more and more elaborate techno-fixes!

This is eerily reminiscent of the early nuclear power advocates, who dismissed concerns about nuclear waste with simple technological optimism. "Don't worry! Even if we don't know how to solve this problem now, we will in 20 years!"

Jon's faith that AI will Real Soon Now progress to the point that Clotho.org is implementable is touching, but the delivery of the AI promise has been worse than Microsoft's stragetic vaporware announcements, and is approaching the level of Zeno's paradox.

But let's grant that, in 2003 some genius will in fact create an AI system that can implement some sort of human-like, commonsense reasoning. Since Linux has achieved World Domination by then, let's even say they release Clotho.org under the GPL.

Would Clotho.org pass Clotho.org through her own filter?

l. Is this information necessary? Do we need to know it? Does it advance knowledge, inform or entertain us? Or does it tell us something we already know, provide a service when we can easily do ourselves, replicate what already exists?

Define "need to know." Do most people "need to know" the latest in AI advancements? No. Do most people "need to know" which utilities are running on their computer? No.

Clotho.org, being a filter, certainly fails to inform us. And it provides a service that we can readily replicate ourselves. So Clotho.org fails this first test.

2. Do we need this new product? Does it have unintended consequences? Will it be almost instantly out-of-date?

Detecting whether a product will have unintended consequences is more than human-level reasoning, this is a deus ex machina. Most humans have trouble with this level of reasoning. And have even more trouble reaching consensus conclusions about what the "right" answer is. If we didn't, you wouldn't want to have Clotho.org in the first place.

But putting into place widespread "reality filters" ought to be almost a "gimme" for the likelihood of unindended consequences. Clotho.org fails this test.

4. Will the people who offer this product support it? Will help be available at all times?

A cynic might note that if a product needs 24x7 support, perhaps that's an argument against it? I haven't noticed support lines for shovels and hammers lately.

Assume that help is available over the 'net, and that some company offers support. Probably even the one founded by the genius who wrote Clotho.org in the first place. So I'm certain that Clotho.org would pass herself on this test.

5. Are we leaving human beings enough time, peace, and opportunity for at least some spiritual dimension in their lives? Or are we labor-saving and information-providing them to distraction?

Again, this is (literally) a deus ex machina. Humans today have enough trouble telling their spiritual health. An AI that will be able to tell if I'm getting enough meditation and contemplation in my life? This will be quite the expert system.

Consider that part of Clotho.org's specification is

We'd be presented with a handful of news stories each morning - the most significant, the most useful, the most entertaining, based on her own vision and on recognition software that comes to understand our needs, tastes and wishes.
So, imagine starting your day with the equivalent of a /. that has only the truly fascinating stories, with no 31337 ACs and no astroturfing trolls. Now, tell me that you'd really spend more time in contemplation of the higher realities.

I think Clotho.org would have to fail herself here, as well.

Since Clotho.org would clearly fail her own filter, why don't we just save everybody the trouble and simply not build her in the first place?


But there is another strong objection which I, one of the laziest of all the children of Adam, have against the Leisure State. Those who think it could be done argue that a vast machinery using electricity, water-power, petrol, and so on, might reduce the work imposed on each of us to a minimum. It might, but it would also reduce our control to a minimum. We should ourselves become parts of a machine, even if the machine only used those parts once a week. The machine would be our master, for the machine would produce our food, and most of us could have no notion of how it was really being produced.
-- G. K. Chesterton

Re:What the hell was that about? (3)

Eccles (932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653675)

I think we need a "Katz' Notes" summary for Katz's articles... :-)

Re:Has Katz finally lost his mind? (1)

Tihstae (86842) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653676)

You know, I've liked Katz's stuff in the past. Really. I've defended him against those who would seek to have him banished from the realm that is /. Now, I'm not so sure. Has Katz finally lost his mind?

I have to agree with most of what you are saying. I have liked most of his articles and think he has gotten a lot of unfair criticism. I think (hope?) that Katz is trying a little sarcasm in this article. I cannot beleive that after all the free speech free thinking articles he has written that he would honestly propose such a thing as Clothos.

Mr. Katz, if you really believe this, you have lost your mind.

Misses the point (1)

ImNotOld:37 (44642) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653677)

Intelligent filtering simply adds another layer of complexity, Jon. Instead of improving signal-to-noise in our lives, it exacerbates the problem.

What is clotho.org but another AI telling us how to live, what we can read, who we are, what we like... I for one don't need anyone or anything telling me these things.

The ultimate agent will always be the self.

paradox (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653678)

Wait, so Katz has a problem dealing with all the new software. All the new information. All the new gadgets. He just can't deal with all the new stuff. He wants a simpler life. He wants to avoid the complexity. His solution is...

A new software gadget.

(sigh)

No, Jon, the solution is simply to turn off the feed. Just because they tell you that it is "must see TV" doesn't mean that you have to watch. Just because it says "Cool Site of the Day", doesn't mean you have to look at it. Just because it is the blockbuster movie of the decade doesn't mean that you have to plunk down $7.50. Just because it is the cool new electronic gadget doesn't mean you have to buy it.

I don't want people bugging me on off hours, so I have a simple solution: I don't own a pager. If you don't want a toilet analyzing your piss, then don't buy one. It is not difficult. It is not a "cyberclasmic" decision to make.

Katz's influences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653679)

katz confuses Greek with Geek.

I find it hard to believe he's read about the Fates anywhere more demanding than a Stephen King novel [malakoff.com] , where they crop up often.

He certainly has Stephen King's length and appallingly bad phrasing.

Turn Off, Tune Out, Calm Down (1)

rcade (4482) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653680)

Unlike information-sorting programs and sites - there are dozens - Clotho wouldn't present us with fewer choices, but making tough choices for us.

There already is a Clotho to protect us from all the "scary" things offered by "Gee-Whiz Technology."

It's called a power button.

I know the point's been made several dozen times, but the idea that personal technology is overpowering, instead of empowering, is a weak one. That's the kind of thinking I would expect of people in older generations who have not become skilled users (and discerning customers) of new personal technology. Someone who writes for Slashdot should know better.

I don't understand how anyone could cede so much control over their life that they think a computer program is needed to protect them from the new PalmPilot. Do you also blame your cel phone for making you carry on phone conversations in your car?

There's no need for computer mediation to protect us from the rapid advances in computer technology that are offered in so many areas of our daily lives. The power button toggles both ways, and any personal device that makes your life more difficult will stay off if you want it to.

Besides, any computer program that can do all the things expected of Clotho would be used to sell more stuff to us, giving Jon Katz more reasons to have a panic attack when he drives past a Best Buy. No investor would pay to develop a program that slows down the adoption of technology and makes us live a more balanced, less consumerist life.

Burn out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653681)

Maybe Jon Katz is getting burnt out on tech stuff after TRYING to write about it for a while. Previously he harped on it, now he wants to filter it out altogether.

So let's get this straight... (1)

K. (10774) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653682)

In order to prevent technology taking over your
life, you'd like to give a piece of techology
control of your life?

Idiot.

K.
-

Sounds like "ShutUp Software" to me. (1)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653683)

Is this really the same Jon Katz who wrote an article condemning "ShutUp Software" [slashdot.org] less than six months ago? The same one who promised that he would never use filtering software, and discouraged others from doing so? Katz has really lost it this time.

C'mon people, choke back the anger a little (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653684)

This sounds like a high powered proactive Spaminator. You dial in your preferences and you get a boiled-down summary of what you want to know about. Heck override the profile, go off on your own and have the agent learn from your current behavior - aka heuristic learning. Or, if you prefer, this is a highly customized portal-for-one. Give it some basic rules, behaviors, limits and can do a whole set of things for you, write thank you cards & what not. If you want a news summary of one kind of another you don't have to wade through a lead article about what kind of chiken salad Madonna likes best. Extend this idea and you could many many agents negotiating with one another for higher or lower filter settings, new information, trial runs, test subscriptions, etc.. I mean negotiatio literally & not something purely cost-based like auctions but value based using a spectrum of soft variables, heuristics if you wish.

Clotho would be good for one thing... (1)

speek (53416) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653685)

....Katz would surely be filtered out.

Auto news analysis (1)

MythoBeast (54294) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653686)

It would appear that this article prescribes a meta form of intelligent agent to the ills of information overload. The concept of preventing the distribution of technologies that allow people to check sports scores while sitting at stoplights sounds a little Orwellian to me.

I do have to admit that I would love to have the ability to mark events like the Star/Clinton trials and beanie babies for deletion from my conciousness map, just like spam filtering.

This article does, however, summon forth a vision of a world where news reporters purposely slant their stories so that they can fit them into the range of categories that are filtered by the fewest readers. Since all authors will be, in effect, globally syndicated, the competition for attention will be fierce.

Re:A massive cop-out (1)

MillMan (85400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653687)

Ideas such as this were discussed in a book I read this summer, called "the control revolution" by Andrew Shapiro. It wasn't particularly insighful, but it wasn't bad. Basically he said that these "filters" we can impliment will narrow our scope to a very limited range of topics, thus we'll have less and less in common with everyone else, feel more isolated, etc. At the bottom end of this I suppose you could say this would lead to more violence, wars, etc.

On the other hand, these could be really useful. I don't have 8 hours a day to surf the web. But I'd much rather find my news online than watch my local/national news on TV. As far as I'm concerned TV itself limits your scope, much more than these filters ever would. The fact that most of the media in the world is owned by a handful of coroprations is enough evidence of this for me.

Yes, the Orwellian implications do scare me, though. It all boils down to how it is implemented and by who. What are their intentions: to make life easier for the common man? to make money? to control the common man? I wish we'd see a lot more of the first possibility.

Re:Umm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653688)

why don't you, just switch off your tv set and go out and do something less boring instead?

(for those moderating who are not from the uk, this is not as offtopic as you might think).

Oh darn, clotho.com's taken. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653689)

Some goofballs^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H little consulting group has it already. Oh, and did I mention they're a bunch of cool guys?

Learning to Use the Tools (1)

Bucko (15043) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653690)

I'm not sure it's necessary to prioritize and (over?) control any aspect of technology the way it's proposed here. I'm not sure it's possible to do that, minor Greek gods (or Emerson, Lake and Palmer) notwithstanding.

Humans tend to do what they can do, whether it's right or wrong. As the tools get better as a species we tend to do more.

PCs may still be solutions without problems, but that's mostly because we still don't know how to use these tools very well. The Ludite in me just wants to slow down just enough do that. But no more.

Technology doesn't fill a need, it's a want.. (2)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653691)

Most of the Technology that ends up coming out fills a nich, a want, a never ending quest for new stuff. We, as a species, are astounded by 'new stuff'.

Do you need the newest Palm? Hell no. But, do you WANT it.. Want ends up filling need. I WANT a site that can find data FOR me. Do I NEED it? No, I can pretty much 'get by' with what we have now. But once I have it, it enables me to do more.. Oh, wait, more wants.. I wish I could have a robot scoure the smart search site for things I like. OOhh.. the wants keep coming. The wants turn to needs once you rely on them..

How many people on the net can say they can find a file via archie? Or Veronica? They filled a want. They eventually became a need. When they filled the need, we had more wants, and hence, they are obsolete.

Re:Subversion (3)

Capt Dan (70955) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653692)

Yes yes. Subversion would be quite simple too. Remember the /. post about the india/pakistani cyberwar? What about the porn-jacking of sites that's been all over the news lately?

Say a regualar user wakes up one mroning and boots up their agent website. Suddenly Tide has a rating of a 9. Holy Shnikies! I better go buy some Tide! Oh-my-josh! Being in a Sucide Cult is now a 10!!! Where's my razor?

Something like this would definitely give rise to the cracker-for-hire industry.

Re:Clotho? Hell no (1)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653693)

While I share your view that taking peoples chices away from them is always a bad thing, I don't see that as what Katz is advocating. What he is advocating is a self imposed, benificial filter. He has made the assumption that at some future time, continous technological saturation and advancement will drive us insane, and is simply proposing a mechanism to slow the progress to a human-managable pace!

And he's not saying you need to be forced to let some machine play God for you. Katz is saying 'hey! lets invent an AI tool that lets US play our own god without ever having the associated cerebral workload!'

And why should we? I know I'd be better off if I never had to hear about the New/Whiz 2.0 digital spatial Quisenart, or her companion appliances, the Hygromatic ToastMaster 4.2 or the New/Shazam electromagnetic back-hair shaver. Not only wouldn't I even think of purchasing them in real life, I really don't need some snazzy jingle cluttering my brain. I'd rather have seen/heard the advertisment for VA, or no advertisment at all.

About Face? (3)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653694)

Didn't Katz just say a few months ago that he doesn't like filtering software? [slashdot.org] .

Other than that obvious contradiction, I still can't figure out what's being said here. This sounds like a massive cop out on the part of Katz. He doesn't want to enforce blinds on his own activity (as evidenced by his previous article), he probably doesn't want the goverenment or a company to control what he can see, but he'll let a computer program do so? That makes no sense, so I don't think that's what he would be saying.... then what?

l. Is this information necessary? Do we need to know it? Does it advance knowledge, inform or entertain us? Or does it tell us something we already know, provide a service when we can easily do ourselves, replicate what already exists?

You can't know that. Aside from the fact that there is no way to prove conclusively that, once and for all time a piece of information is Useful and Good or Useless and Bad (i.e. to be shown to you or not), it will limit you the mode of thought that the AI has. Think about it - if those who wrote this software considered health issues to be very important to know, then you would constantly be given health updates - which might cause certain people to become hypochondriacs. Or, if they considered product recalls past a certain level of urgency (i.e. child care equipment, cars), etc. -- seeing that information all the time might make one into a consumer advocate.

Your mind is the sum of the information that you have experienced in your lifetime, give or take a bit of magic. Turning the continued evolution of your mind over to an AI coded by other people would make your mind into a reflection of the programmers who wrote that AI.

Wouldn't it?

2. Do we need this new product? Does it have unintended consequences? Will it be almost instantly out-of-date?

Sexual reproduction has unintended concequences - copying errors produce genetic mutations. These 'unintended concequences' allow evolution.

5. Are we leaving human beings enough time, peace, and opportunity for at least some spiritual dimension in their lives? Or are we labor-saving and information-providing them to distraction? through?

Human beings (of the class that you're talking about here - you only seem concerned about the fate of middleclass technocrats) can easily get the time and peace for a spirtual dimension in thier lives - if they care enough to have one. If they don't, well, then no amount of peace and quiet will give them one. It will just make them bored.

You can't make people happy if they don't want to be happy.

Re:What the hell was that about? (2)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653695)

Part 1: Cyberclysm

Katz makes the mistake of reading and responding to his own article on /., and gets caught up in a confusing technology induced downward spiral of Katzian techno-babble overload. Becoming paranoid, Katz fears that Big Brother is hiding in his toilet.

Part 2: Clotho

Afraid of technology taking over his life, Kats proposes an AI agent, Clotho, to take over his life. He hopes that Clotho will provide him with a low tech toilet.

Information overload? Simple -- kill the ads. (3)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653696)

The problem isn't that too much information is available, it's that too much is being shoved in our faces, and that the purpose of this information is not to inform but deceive.

One effect of our ad-driven society is the disconnect between quality/price and number of sales. You see this in the number of shoddy products that have somehow emerged as leader in their field. Ads are breaking capitalism's feedback mechanism in the service of profiteering. It is no longer possible to pretend that the best product wins. It's the best marketed product that is functionally adequate.

Another is the ill-feeling towards progress pointed out by Katz. The ads show beautiful people in beautiful places doing quite wonderful things. This does sell product, else billions wouldn't be spent on it. But as much as they buy, people still don't get this wonderful life. Of course people conciously know that buying the product won't improve their quality of life significantly, but I believe there is subconcious resentment and dissatisfaction that expresses itself as general cynicism and anger towards our commercial society.

Many have bemoaned the fall of journalism, and indeed this is a scary sign in a democracy or republic. But what happened to it? News was repurposed to package advertising. This role reversal, ads being the message and news the carrier, is why quality journalism and investigative reporting are so rare. You don't need a quality news product, just something eye catching and entertaining... and cheap.

But who will protect us from the Protector? (2)

RSevrinsky (10305) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653697)

Any time you introduce an intermediary into a process, it is impossible for it to remain objective. An overload of working condition crises at the turn of the century bore the almighty Union, obstensibly to protect the common laborer from Big Business. But instead the Union became the new boss -- to the point that the Average Joe no longer has any say and practically needs a union (a meta-union perhaps?) to protect his rights against the Union. (Thank goodness geeks are generally not unionized!)

Major news outlets will not (and cannot) serve the same vertical markets that /. speaks to (and for). Conversely, /. cannot provide a news digest readily accessible to the common mass audience. If I only read /., then I would not be able to keep up with theater or movies other than SF. One needs a collection of trusted news and analysis sources on various topics of interest. IDIC, as Spock would say.

But Katz has really missed the boat on this one. Intelligent agents are a good thing, but they cannot be all-powerful (top-down editorializing) or exclusive ("I get everything I need to read on allthenews.com!").

The greatest thing we have going for us is community.

Ebay is as successful as it is, not because of technical prowess :), but rather, because of the Web of Trust (tm). You may not know dave123, but 120 other folks say he's alright to deal with. Similarly, I've noticed /. comments that I really jive with, consistantly from the same authors. Maybe I'd be interested in dave123's (here as a /. ID) bookmark list. Maybe I'd like to know which articles dave123 thought were worthy of "Reading More" on. But that, of course, is far too granular a view -- I want an agent that allows me to add dave123 to my Buddy Web with a given weight and compute dave123's habits together with tom456, dick78 and harry9.

Before all you privacy nuts whip out your flame-throwers, let me add that dave123 has volunteered to share his clicks with the world. Or alternatively, by logging in on /., dave123 has given Rob the right to log his access and share his profile with other /.ers. This would have to be an opt-in selection. Happy now?

I am also aware that this has been tried in a more general sense, most notably by Alexa (which then got incorporated into Netscape). The difference is that Alexa didn't let you choose your community. There was/is one whole Net community. When you work with something so amorphous, you can't help it if you get tapioca.

Specialized interests demand specialized communities. I, for one, am willing to share my habits to create greater mindshare for my interests. Are you?

- Richie

Re:Clotho: an Agent for the rest of us (1)

Darkfell (21270) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653698)

I think a great example of embedding complex software in everyday appliances is your car. Someone from 1930 could drive one of today's cars, all the software that controls the fuel injectors, oxygen mix and ABS brakes is invisible to the user.

the reason for this is that the interface has changed only slightly since the first car.
the car has been around long enough for people to "intuitively" understand the interface.
how long has that taken, and how long until computers are in the same situation?

Clotho? She's right behind you. (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653699)

Why should an AI (buzzword, btw) censor what I see and not see? Why should an AI (buzzword) play God (buzzword) when I can't?
It's too late. Millions of people are doing this already, and you probably are too. Or don't you realize that every time you use a search engine, you are employing an AI to select (call it "censor" if you like) what you see (based on your own search criteria), and it certainly "plays God" (weeds through vastly more material than you could yourself).

The future is here, get used to it.

Re:Clotho? Hell no (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653700)

Thing is, you don't want to have heard these adverts precisely because you did hear them and exercised conscious choice that you would rather have not heard them.

So what you do, in the event that we have sensible user-defined filters is, you block further stuff similar to this.

But what if some outside authority, AI or not, decides to censor it before you even have a chance to see it? Saying that it knows what is best for you, and that you don't need to ever see it in your whole life?

I say, hold on. That may be right, but the decision is mine to make, dammit.

As for that Clotho idea playing God: I'm not making it up, Katz said it, to quote:

Clotho would definitely play God (which is okay, since she is one.)

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Virtual Agents (1)

DoomHaven (70347) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653701)

Paint me green, but isn't there work into creating virtual agents like Clothos? These agents would go out on the Internet, and search for things you are interested in. Then, by keeping track of what pages you actually read, they can re-define their search parameters, go back out on the Net...and so on and so on. For the first while, the pages would be high on quantity, but low on quality; but as the Virtual Agent adapts to what you like, the signal to noise ratio goes up.

You wouldn't even need a high tech AI to do something like this. The virtual agent could just do simple web-address and text-content tracking. For example, it could bring me every AMD/motherboard story from my favorite tech sites, but ban every Katz story from /. It could keep a word database that would determine what secondary words and phrases are most commonly found in the pages you do choose that it brings you. It doesn't have to be rocket science.
The two problems that suffice *here* are:

1) This could bypass ad-littered crap pages, causing a drop in advertising, forcing either the commercialism that fuels internet growth away, or force said commericialism to invade high content pages which would be ruined if they became advertising-whores (like /.).

2) When (none of this *if* crap) someone figures out what search criteria the virtual search for, or what algorithm it uses, idiots, hit-mongers, and other scum will just create pages that will have the bare minimum needed to fool your agent to retrieving the page. How many people have seen this happen already?

garbled remake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653702)

Anyone out there read 'Otherland' by Tad Williams? One of the characters was an intelligent agent -Beezlebug I think his name was. Here Williams does a much better job with this idea - of course he had hundreds of pages to work with. Beezlebug is just like Clotho, only it's a _servant_, not a master or god. Clotho would be great if each user could fully customize it on regular basis. Then that would be self-censoring/ self regulation. What a terrific tool. "Beezlebug/Clotho, find me every instance of (A) in every news article and cross reference with every instance of (B) for the last 6 months, disregarding Drudge, Katz, and Jeraldo." I like to be master of my own Fate, and what a cool tool that would be. But I don't think it should take 3 pages to say "Great vaporware could help with information overload." -Enkidu

Katz' Cyber Nanny (2)

Priestess (30745) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653703)

Katz, you've gone mad. It sounds like you want a more advanced version of Net-Nanny to me. Not content to simply not buy some crazy chemical toilet you don't even want to know they exist. You seem to be praising the values of ignorance.
We need Websites that really understand us, protect us and go to bat for us.

And then sell that data to the marketdroids no doubt. The company I work for has a similar policy, they want to make it easier to surf the net by getting these software agents to get to know you. I'm constantly on the look out for abuses, and have staved a couple off already, much to the distaste of the marketting dept. I don't even win all the time.
I'd call my personal version Clotho,

Cloth-eared more like. Sorry, that was pointless. You want to block it out so it's like I never said it? You want to block out the replies to that, and the whole tree of information that could develop below it? What if Chemical analysing toilets notice a trend in those who do buy them which indicates, when combined with data from that magic fridge, that eating beef that's too fresh gives you migranes or whatever. You want that blocked too? You'd have to learn about the toilets to understand it Katz.
[The Greeks]Their poets and playwrights wrote all the time about humanity's tragic inclination to fiddle with the world and screw it up at the same time.

AND THAT CAME TRUE! We're ALL DEAD NOW! Jesus. It was four thousand years ago for god's sake, surely it says more about the constant of human paranoia than any factual destructive drive?
computers will be making rational, human-like decisions in a few years. We could put them to work for us.

Obvious nit picking here but since when have human-like decisions been rational? Humans are the ones who keep trying to ban good stuff like INFORMATION and even BEER. I imagine these computers, which will one day be built I fear, will be very good at keeping people isolated, far away from the terror of desenting opinion. As long as they want it I guess I have no problem with people trying to drag their childhood out to last their whole life but putting your cloth-eared program in place of their parents. People like cotton-wool. I'm not sure I'd call it wise or rational to stay wrapped up in it though.
I just want Clotho to leave me the dignity of autonomy,

Do you really not see the inconsistancy here? You want an autonomous agent to take care of decisions for you so you can take care of them for yourself?

When I read part one I wondered if your TV had an off switch or not, I wondered if you were contractually obliged not to throw it out of the window. Apparently you are. I can only assume you signed up to six years worth of adverts so you could get a free WebTV or something.
I'd just as soon retain the right to decide when and if I go to the doctor to have my bodily fluids chemically analyzed.

And your method to do this is to buy an analytical toilet anyway, presumably because you don't know how to not respond to an advert, then let ClothEared turn it off for you to save you some embarasement? Don't buy one Katz
But we need help.

Well, you sure seem to. Sorry. That was pointless and childish. Still, Clotho can always filter it for you.
Clotho.org could stand between us and Ubiquitous Computing, growling back the Microsofts, governments, media - hypemongers and arrogant hordes of programmers, gadgetmakers and marketers.

You know what I use to stand between me and "Ubiquitious Computing"? I walk away from the machine every lunchtime and go read a book in the pub for an hour. Then of an evening I don't watch TV (Threw the thing out a few months ago. It's just rubbish these days, I can tell that for myself see, I don't need ClothEars to do it for me.) I play around with lego or read some more or TALK TO MY FRIENDS or whatever. You remind me of people who say things like "I wouldn't like being on the dole coz I'd be bored" which just makes me stare at them blankly. You need a Boss to tell you what to do to stop being bored? There's a whole world out there to explore. Just the local library would take a lifetime.
Clotho wouldn't present us with fewer choices, but making
(sic) tough choices for us.

How does some machine making some choices for you manage NOT to reduce the choices you have? Oh, I see, it might take away the choice between, say, Mac and Windows, but it adds a choice of which colour to get the Windows box in?
occupying the space between humans and the new technologies scaring the hell out of them.

Erm, I'm begining to think Katz is just trolling us you know. Is there going to be a part three saying "See, I've described the nighmare dystopia that censorship could bring, isn't that more scary than technology?" - it scares me a lot more.
We might program her to screen out anything under a 4. We'd never get the chance to buy it, or maybe even know it was out there.

I still don't see how denying yourself even the information that a product exists helps you unless you're too stupid to realise for yourself that you don't need one.
If she'd been around, most of us might blessedly never have learned the names of William Bennett, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, or Linda Tripp.

Leaving only those who care about these things to discuss them? Where's the agrument going to come from? If the only people who learned about these pointless things were the moralists, wouldn't the moralists be more likely to have gotten their way? If I never learn of a threat to my safety am I really safer? If I'm told not to be scared of technology by ClothDoll should I just relax knowing she's right?
As far as I'm concerned, Clotho could screen out virtually every debate on every Washington talk show and the country's civic life would be improved a thousand times overnight.

I doubt it would do political debate much good, I doubt it would improve the way you're governed. It wouldn't actually make you safer, it would make you less safe because you'd be comfortable in your own ignorance.
Clotho.org would also fend off much of the techno-news streaming toward us from C/Net and Wired News, and sift for technology information that we actually wanted to know.

You saw it here first folks! Turkeys actually arguing in favour of Xmas.
tens of millions of people forced to buy things they don't want or things they can't use

Where the hell are all these people? Name a product you've been forced to buy which you can't use or didn't want? Tell us exactly how "they" forced you. Yeah, I've failed to properly research stuff and bought, for instance, the wrong digital camera. How restricting the information available to me would have make that better I can't imagine.
perhaps we can simply turn our coffeemakers on when we wake up instead of programming them.

You can't do that already? I thought the flashing 12:00 problem pretty much forced most people into that anyway. Never had a coffee maker so I dunno.
She'd put a quick, merciful end to health-checking toilets.

You're obsessed with these things. I bet you buy one. Really. I bet you end up with two in your house. You clearly can't stop thinking about them.

I feel as though I've responded to a troll. I really do. I can't believe anyone here would agree with a word you've said. I feel like I've just responded to a "ABORTION IS MURDER" post in a pro-choice usenet group. The only people who might need any of this ClothMinded crap are people so suggestable and dumb they'd feel lonely using JunkBuster coz they'd miss that monkey fellow. I'm not sure people that easily convinced to buy rubbish wouldn't actually set that Bagpuss or Old Cloth Cat or whatever to fetch more ads for them anyway. Just because the crap is technocrap doesn't make it harder to refuse, doesn't make it harder to throw away and makes it a hell of a lot easier to let the batteries run out or turn it off.
Pre......

The rate of change and it's effects on society (1)

hypnotik (11190) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653704)

John is right about the Technological rate of change. The real danger is the underlying damage that it does to society. Have you looked at your world lately? When was the last time you went out and tasted the rain. Ray Bradbury has already explored our future with Fahrenheit 451, and unfortunately, it's become all to real. Take for example these passages from book, as the Firechief Beatty talks with Montag.
"Speed up the film, Montag, quick.
Click, Pic, Look, Eye, Now, Flick, Here, There, Swift, Pace, Up, Down, In, Out, Why, How, Who, What, Where, Eh? Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a head-line! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man's mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unneccessary, time-wasting thought!"
"School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?"
This next quote is from the same soliloquy, with Beatty talking about the reasons for books being banned..
"Now let's take up with the minorities in our civilication, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Uinitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germains, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people fro Oregon or Mexico. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and miniority preassue carried the trick, thank God."
Look where that society ended up, and ask yourself, are we heading down the right track? What can we do to solve the problem, if one exists? Now... for a critique of Jon Katz. These two part series always start good. The first article is thought-provoking and well written as it exposes a problem in society. Yet, in the second article, you expous your views on how it should be solved. Usually those solutions appear to be given only a glancing thought about the feasablity of their implementation. Put some thought into all possible solutions, ask people how they would solve it, but please don't try to solve it for them. There are some people that have thought that we would be much better off if we hadn't come down from the trees in the first palce

Re:Clotho? She's right behind you. (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653705)

There is a difference between providing a list of compatible links as dictated by my own wishes, and having a computer program determine for me what I should consider funny or not, useful or not.

The ethical implications go further: how do you determine what is "good" for everyone? You end up in a very grey area, here. If you begin to negatively rate a site because it seems useless/in poor taste, you're alienating the target audience of this site, which may well disagree. You're also cutting off the freedom of expression which is one of the beauties of the WWW, even if it means it produces heaps of trash.

Consider this: what Katz is suggesting is more or less the director of programmation on a television station. He determines what people consider useful or entertaining. How? By checking ratings. So, in the end, quality is not the factor, but popularity, and in the long run, you end up just lowering your standards, because suddenly, you no longer dictate the popularity of shows: you buy what the director of programmation wants you to recognise as popular.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Exactly wrong (1)

glenn mcdonald (67769) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653706)

Trying to make machines do tasks that only humans can do properly is the biggest mistake we (everybody, but technophiles particularly) make with technology.

Hmmm. The Matrix anyone? (1)

BobLenon (67838) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653707)

Interesting idea. It sure would be nice to filter out some of that crap. But, hey i got slashdot, which does a great job of that for me. Clotho is like self-censorship, imposed by some AI. Which if it is self-imposed, is it as bad as government imposed? What if someone wanted to listen to those debates in DC? I dont now, so if i see one on the tube, i just change the channel, or hit the off button. No AI required.

Maybe im a little out-of it this morning, but all i have to say, has anyone seen the Matrix? ;)) Im not-anti AI, but watch a program that is told to filter info out for us, will start to filter out info for its own good. OK, i admit thats far fetched. But it could happen. Put a program in charge of our most important commodity, information, it could happen, if the AI is real good. However i dont see AI getting that good for a while yet.

Despite it... I still think it would be cool to see us develop such a high level of AI.

"The Matrix Has You"

System Self Correction and Bias (2)

Capt Dan (70955) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653708)

Well, the two articles do seem to paint a rosy picture of the future. Wheather you have a computer tell you what to buy, or your next cell phone will be able to wipe that bit of spicy brown mustard from your chin, we're apparently all going to Hell.

But what about the possibility of self-correction within the system? Hmmm? It's possible. Happens all the time in other systems.

Do I need to have sports scores on my phone? Nope. not big on sports. Does my roomate who loves Notre Dame football? Yes. Would I like slashdot headlines sent to my pager? Sure. And I think you would too ;)


Eventually people will learn that the newest fastest thing is not necessarilly the best thing, and will start to control their spending.

Also keep in mind that the people that buy all these new fangeled cellphone ans such are a Minority of the population. Most people really don't care. They want a tv, vcr, cable, and a phone. So the Palm has sold a couple of million units. That's nothing compared to the 250+ million people in the USA

We are a part of that Minority, so our views on the matter are biased. We see and hear about every new thing that comes down the pipe. By the time one item makes or breaks it, most of the time we're focusing on the next thing that is almost ready, and forget about the last one.

Did this whole issue arise becuase we are blinded by our own interests? Or is it real?

Re:Anyone working on Clothos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653709)

one big problem with this argument... if i had something like clotho.org on my computer, it would filter out things like clotho.org... pretty bad catch 22 eh?

i only wanna see good pr0n, clotho (1)

pedantik (96309) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653710)

is it possible to configure this absolutely USELESS piece of technology that probably no one will ever get around to making anyways to only filter out the BAD porno sites?

that way, if we don't want to get pagejacked, we can just avoid it altogether by not going to the "click here for free XXX pix!"

man i fall for that all the time..

usually my mom just filters the stuff out for me..you know, the usual "there's not enough pink in that, don't look at it"

anyhow..if something like this was actually created, the internet e-conomy or whatever would probably collapse - if it wasn't for impulse buying, would anyone buy anything with their credit cards at all?

i wish clotho.org had kept me from eating that shrimp last night, i'm having the runs..oh i know what will solve that - sinking thousands of more hours into technology that will only screw us in the end (i'll be under a matress in the bathtub on 12/31..)

The rate of change and it's effects on society (1)

hypnotik (11190) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653711)

John is right about the Technological rate of change. The real danger is the underlying damage that it does to society. Have you looked at your world lately? When was the last time you went out and tasted the rain?
Ray Bradbury has already explored a future with Fahrenheit 451, and unfortunately, it's become all to real. Take for example these passages from book, as the Firechief Beatty talks with Montag.
"Speed up the film, Montag, quick.
Click, Pic, Look, Eye, Now, Flick, Here, There, Swift, Pace, Up, Down, In, Out, Why, How, Who, What, Where, Eh? Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a head-line! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man's mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unneccessary, time-wasting thought!"
"School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?"
This next quote is from the same speech, with Beatty talking about why the books have been banned..
"Now let's take up with the minorities in our civilication, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Uinitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germains, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people fro Oregon or Mexico. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and miniority preassue carried the trick, thank God."
Look where that society ended up, and ask yourself, are we heading down the right track? What can we do to solve the problem, if one exists?

These two part series always start good. The first article is thought-provoking and well written as it exposes a problem in society. Yet, in the second article, you expous your views on how it should be solved. Usually those solutions appear to be given only a modicum of thought about the feasablity of their implementation. Put some thought into all possible solutions, ask people how they would solve it, but please don't try to solve it for them.
There are some people who think that we would be much better off if we hadn't come down from the trees in the first palce

More like the bot from Otherland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653712)

I think what he's talking about is more like the bot the little kid had from Otherland [amazon.com] , that would do little tasks for him and look up infomation for him.

Re:Clotho? Hell no (1)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653713)

I agree that preemptive, noninteractive content filtering is pure evil, and has no place in a free society. However, I imagine 'Clotho' as an adaptive AI/user intelligence agent, and not as a pre-set, I-know-better-than-you 'God'. A tool to help me wade through the seas of information saturation, and nothing more. When I haven't shown any interest in Bolivian sugar-beets, or Hillary Clinton's campaign, I could care less if my filter cuts them out.

Re:Isn't this "Technorealism" all over again? (1)

MrLizard (95131) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653714)

It collapsed under the weight of its own pretensions. The pack leader, Andrew Shapiro, wrote a book in which he basically argued 'freedom is bad because people might make choices I disagree with' and managed to demonstrate a stunning lack of comprehension about what the Internet is. (One example he used was of an online store practicing racial discrimination. Uhm...Andrew...on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.) He also advocates *mandating* RSACI-type filters in Explorer/Netscape/et al, and even advocates shipping only 'kid friendly' browsers until an 'adult' browser can be activated via some sort of key. This surprised me;I always assumed liberals were anti-ratings, at least. (Page 173-174, if you want to check it out.)

Re:Isn't this "Technorealism" all over again? (1)

Crazy Bob (82757) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653715)

I was thinking the same thing-- walking the middle ground between gee-wiz and luddism? Technorealism!

We don' need no steenkeeng filter, just get our heads on right-- technology will not make life perfect, and it won't enslave us... technology is merely a TOOL, and it depends on how we use it... or whether we use it or allow it to use us.

Dear Jon, (1)

Biff Cool (18858) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653716)

I want the 10 minutes of my life wasted on these articles back. Possibly with Interest.

Just a few questions

1. How do you expect an intelligent agent to create a filtering system for an idiot who is incapable of filtering.
The "Cyberclysm", as Katz want's to call it, seems to me to be more of an Information-based Natural Selection. If you're incapable of filtering the crap for yourself, if your attention span is so low that you can't stop and think "Wait is this product useful or just absolute shit", then I guess Darwinism has proven you to be unfit to survive in a Informational Society.

2. How is thinking less supposed to make someone smarter.
While this may be a great way to create a new breed of lazy underdeveloped minds, I can't see how Clotho's spinner is going to do anything beyond creating more knots.

Re:Technology doesn't fill a need, it's a want.. (1)

DefConOne (17385) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653717)

I'm not sure that Technology can be classified so easily (as a "want"). I think that you'd have to agree that Technology has an economic aspect. For example, if you completely ignored Technology, you would have a tougher time finding a "good" job. I think that this economic aspect of Technology causes a great deal of the frustration that most people experience. Nobody wants to fall behind the technology curve because they could lose control of their economic future.

Dear Jon, (1)

Biff Cool (18858) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653718)

I want the 10 minutes of my life wasted on these articles back. Possibly with Interest.

Just a few questions

1. How do you expect an intelligent agent to create a filtering system for an idiot who is incapable of filtering?
The "Cyberclysm", as Katz want's to call it, seems to me to be more of an Information-based Natural Selection. If you're incapable of filtering the crap for yourself, if your attention span is so low that you can't stop and think "Wait is this product useful or just absolute shit", then I guess Darwinism has proven you to be unfit to survive in a Informational Society.

2. How is thinking less supposed to make someone smarter?
While this may be a great way to create a new breed of lazy underdeveloped minds, I can't see how Clotho's spinner is going to do anything beyond creating more knots.

Big Sister? (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653719)

Um, how is being dictated reality by an artificial intelligence better than being overwhelmed with information and choices? Really what this seems to be suggesting, in a scary Matrix-like tone, is that we need to build some technology which is the intermediary between us and reality (reality being even more technology). I can stand intelligent agents, and expert systems, digesting, refining and suggesting things for me, but I don't want to be purposefully deluded.

Complaints (1)

Matthew Weigel (888) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653720)

So I know JonKatz bashing is the style and the rage, and I'm being a hopeless /. peon by doing it. But damn it, there are some issues that need to be addressed:

A vigilant Clotho would design her site along the sancrosanct principles spelled out in O'Reilly's landmark guide, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web," a book Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. It should be the Web designer's Bible, if it isn't already, since it challenges us to put users, not makers, foremost when we think of the Web and the Net.
This paragraph demonstrates both the lack of concern for grammar that JonKatz regularly maintains (this is a mistake that Grammatik would probably catch, and possibly even something in MS Word) that demonstrates that either a) he doesn't really care about his /. articles, or b) he's just too lazy to concern himself with correct language use anywhere. This has been beaten to death many times over, however, so I'm just mentioning it because it showed up again.

More annoying is the presence of the paragraph in question at all in this article. It's a barely relevant product plug, although I would bet money he didn't receive money to do it.

Other people have, of course, already mentioned that Clotho.org would be Orwellian, and I think it also bears mentioning that the people who did not have access to it (i.e., poor people, people in other poorer nations, etc.) would probably develop far greater resistance to future shock (to use Toffler's term) and end up superior people.

I am further concerned with some of the criteria JonKatz says would be good (like ``product support'' and ``out-of-dateness''). Suffice to say good products are less concerned with support than things being correct to begin with (and if you think there's an overload on quality, well...), and good products are timeless (I've got computers from the 80's and early 90's that I still do a lot of work on). While this is trivial, I think it once again shows how sadly out of touch JonKatz is with real facts. sigh

Re:Clotho? She's right behind you. (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653721)

...
what Katz is suggesting is more or less the director of programmation on a television station. He determines what people consider useful or entertaining.
Got a quote to back up that statement? Because I don't see anything in Katz's article to suggest that he expected Clotho to rate everything the same for everyone (a la TV where everyone sees the same program if they select the channel).

I cut off the freedom of expression of the WWW all the time. I don't take time to browse more than a very few sites every day, and most of those come to my attention through pointers on /. or from friends. If Clotho-agent software helps me rank stuff before I spend eyeball time on it, and updates its data about what I find interesting or useful as it goes, it'll be useful and will get used. If it's unhelpful, it'll fall by the wayside. That's the way these things work.

Good idea, not sure about implementation (1)

seoman70 (69627) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653722)

I agree with the idea that we need something to "filter" out the onslaught of information and technology, but in my mind, handing this power over to someone else is distasteful, at least without extensive customizability and privacy. Which is hard balance to reach, but necessary, since you'll probably want to keep adverts, which are generally useless, out. Otherwise this could be a a marketers' dream come true.

What might be better is something on your personal computer, something with the AI necessary to interpret and sift out all the gems from the sand. I've already got something that does some of the rudiments of this already: a proxy filter, dutifully disabling animated ads, and fixing annoying mistakes in HTML. This sort of thing could grow into something that actively pulls the information you need for you, finding things that you might miss, and screening stuff you don't want, and refining its searches by learning your preferences. The idea isn't new; people have been looking at making a true Personal Digital Assistant for a while now.

The problem that I see is that if this were to be set up improperly, it could easily become similar to the "labeling" stuff that has been seen on YRO. The catch is to make it so that it does not actually restrict the free flow of information, just that individuals will be able to get the stuff that they need, and not be bothered by the stuff that they don't.

Oh. My. Heavens. (1)

reaper (10065) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653723)

John, I usually enjoy reading your articles, but this time I really have to ask: Are you on smack?

What you are proposing is a system by which a third party rates, and cuts down your choices for you. This is mass censorship. Nothing less. Now I know that you'll argue that "ya, well you can choose to lower the level at which you take in the information, and get more noise", but you wind up with a largly influential body dictating the mainstream, instead of what's good. Microsoft? Car companies? VHS?

Slashdot works because even if a couple people aren't working for the better good, it's ok. Most people will read at a real low level. If we all went with what was good, then we run the risk of missing smaller, possibly useful counter-points, and other less-popular, or even just less well written ideas.

And an AI? Great. We're already having problems with just the I. A person is intelligent, people are stupid (with appologies to who ever originally wrote that).

I think I'l just stick with consumer reports, for now.

Why couldn't Clothos be Slashdot??? (1)

wakebrdr (13565) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653724)

Let me get this off my chest right now: Slashdot is my favorite page in all WWW land, and the moderation system is fantastic.

But I think it could do more.

There already exists in the User Preferences section the ability to filter out articles by topic. I'd like to see Slashdot GREATLY expand the topic choices to include things not generally associated with "nerds." By default, topics like mountainbiking and canoeing and libertarian politics and metro Detroit local news/weather/traffic could be turned off, but I'd love to turn them on and get them here.

Re:Technology doesn't fill a need, it's a want.. (2)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653725)

'Want' can come in different flavors, including the green kind. You 'want' a better job. You get a better job. Wait, next year, you 'want' yet another better job. Life would continue just fine with Joe as a Janitor, but he 'wants' more then he has.. Hence, he goes to college, learns, goes on the web, and finds a new job. But this is becouse of greed. A basic 'wanting'. That's what drives us. Someone will always be 'the janitor', and rarely will he simply want to be that.

Censorship is the answer? (1)

Nachtfellen (67655) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653726)

That's odd, I normally agree with what Katz says, but this is way off. I find his to fall precisely in line with the Luddite's view. If I use a machine to weed out what I don't need to read or use, or what its perception of what I want, then how would I ever be exposed to anything new? I don't use every new technology that comes out, but some of it is useful. I am not personally into sports, but if that were the most important thing to me, how could I depend her to bring me my news when I want it. It may not be a question of if I need to see the scores a half hour earlier, but rather a question of if I want to see them earlier. We can't sacrifice our freedom of choice and speech for the momentary convenience of not having to filter through information ourselves.

Worse, how do I know that Clotho.org isn't out to serve her own pupose? On the radical end, she could filter out the news of the revolution, or any other views that don't coincide with the general populous, but at the very least, she probably isn't going to tell me when her competitor, Atropos.org, go online.

Realistically, I don't want a machine analyzing my fecal matter (particularly when it is likely to send the results not only to my physician, but also to telemarketers and the government), but this isn't the answer. You can't use a computer program to shield yourself from tough philosophical issues such as this, unfortunately, you have to use your mind.

Re:Dear Jon, (1)

Biff Cool (18858) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653727)

And in addition I was so enraged by Katz' article that I was over taken by Double vision and hit both the Submit and Preview buttons.

Re:A massive cop-out (1)

pedantik (96309) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653728)

ok..i just wanna reply to this..


Yes, the Orwellian implications do scare me, though. It all boils down to how it is implemented and by who. What are their intentions: to make life easier for the common man? to make money? to control the common man? I wish we'd see a lot more of the first possibility.

that first concept you mentioned, about making life easier for the common man, seems to have totally consumed north america (at least, technology wise)..

life is not about having an "easy" time of things..life sucks and then you die, there's not much more to it than that, in the end we're all the same..(if you keep up with your skull&bones)

if keeping up to date with what's happening in the world is important to you, great, but there are far more things to worry about than how fast and how efficiently you can find out about what some crazy people are doing with large missles on remote islands, or what kind of linux is being released in 3 years..but there are far more things going on in the world than what you'll ever see on any number of websites..

if i were to never be able to read /. again, it would not affect my daily life at all. i gain nothing from it, it's just something to launch from when i surf. usually i get distracted by pr0n after a few minutes..maybe i might have some more free time..


i'd just like to finish up this fairly off-topic ramble..

imho, technology has made many common tasks simple, but many simple tasks difficult..doing homework over the internet sounds great, but not when it's due at 6pm on a saturday. i can't wait to see what people have on their tombstones in 50 years.."here lies rob, he was a great webmaster."

go outside and do stuff goddamnit.

Re:What the hell was that about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653729)

I know what it's about! It's Katz writing about software that, if it's working correctly, filters out his blather.

Re:Dear Jon, (1)

pohl (872) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653730)

I want the 10 minutes of my life wasted on these articles back...If you're incapable of filtering the crap for yourself,...

I just wanted to juxtapose those two sentiments. They're more entertaining that way.

Deity genders, Palm versions, and "Luddite" (1)

Lynnaea (54200) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653731)

These first two points may possibly be construed as nitpicky.

1.) I always thought the Fates were female. At the beginning of your article, you refer to them in the masculine, then abruptly switch gender referents near the end. Are you confused, did you not proofread, or am I missing something more significant?

2.) There is no Palm IV. There is III, IIIx, V, and VII.

These two simply make you look silly, Mr. Katz. The following is a more serious consideration:

3.) You use the word "Luddite" in a way that broadly categorizes Luddites in a negative manner. I thought Slashdot was supposed to be a place of tolerance? Actual Luddites may find your offhand dismissal and casual use of their sect name offensive. (I'm not usually the PC police, but I think this deserves serious consideration.) You are a writer, Mr. Katz. Words are your weapons. Don't toss them about so carelessly -- when you do, you're not doing your job.

I hope that "Luddite" does not become another easy buzzword pigeonhole that appears in 90% of your articles, along with:
Geek
AI
God/Religion
Cyber*
... etc.

Please think more carefully about your choice of words in the future. Also, I would suggest having other people proofread your work before you post it. It would save you embarrassment. Surely you don't let the editors at Brill's Content [brillscontent.com] do all your revision for you?



I've GOT IT! (2)

Amphigory (2375) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653732)

We can hook Clotho into one of Jon's sex-bots! Then, we will have that most wonderful of creations, that most mysterious of beings, that most gracious of graces. The only thing that keeps most of us from wasting the rest of our lives in an orgy of debauchery and techological gimmicks. The only thing that tells me that no, I really DON'T need a computer controlled table saw to maintain my testosterone levels:

A wife.


geesh. The ideas that come up around here.

Deconstructing Clotho... (4)

yule (42265) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653733)

It sounds like the system that Mr. Katz has decided to call Clotho (Cool name, BTW.) is designed to perform two seperate functions. It's a technology filter, searching the hard and soft to decide what new gadgets and tools you actually need; at the same time Clotho can act as an information filter, determining what new ideas you are exposed to. Conspiracy theories aside, there are some interesting things that Clotho could do, but I think Katz is overlooking systems that we have right now that perform much of the functionality of Clotho.


Got Bits?

Let's take the second feature of Clotho first - the agent as an information filter. All of us on /. know that there is so much new information available each day that it is not possible for any one person to scan all of it. You might think that this is due to the internet, but you would be wrong. Back in the bad old days we used to get our information through newspapers, and I would bet that not a single person has ever sat down and read every page of the Sunday edition of a major newspaper.

The problem with a system like Clotho is that it would have to be tuned to my personal information tastes, which would be very difficult. What I would rather have is a system that does not make decisions for me, but one which let's me associate with a group of other people who have similar tastes in information as me. In this idealized system we would each scan a managable subset of the total news feeds and send interesting stories to each other as we come across them. Rather than forcing the technology into a role for which it is not suited, parsing news, in this system we would use people to find interesting news and use technology for something it _is_ good for, transmitting that information among people.

The system described above is more or less the same as Slashdot. I don't personally read the EETimes, but I don't need to becasue there is a group of people out there who do, and they send interesting tidbits to the /. editors, who put it in a place where I can find it. Likewise, most readers here probably don't listen to NPR in the morning, but I do, and if there are any stories that would be interesting to the /. crowd I'll send them off to the editors. Slashdot functions like an anthill, where each ant scurries off to there own little corner of the kitchen to search for tasty bits of food which they bring back home.


Next - Clotho as a technology filter.

Unlike the idea of an information filter, which is, in my biased opinion, a Good Thing (tm), the idea of having an agent stand between me a new technology is silly. Katz make it seem like we are all literaly drowning in a flood of new tech, frantically gasping for air as we sink into a quicksand pit of mobile phones, PDA's, and web-enabled running shoes. This is just not true.

Sure, I think that we all find the net-ready fridge is silly, but we have market forces that will take care of these things. If nobody buys it, it will smoothly fade into the background of failed gadgets and dissapear from our lives. And even if there are enough consumers out there who really do want a WebFridge (/. readers, no doubt.) that does not mean that _you_ have to buy one. Every person retains the magical ability to say "This is a piece of shit and I'm not buying one." Ta da! Problem solved.

If you want to be highly wired, then do it. Go on, proudly stuff that wireless, stereo, color LCD, Java enabled, PalmSuppository up your bum each morning and be secure in the knowledge that you can have stock quotes transmitted directly to your rectum wherever you are. But if you don't want to, then don't, and don't feel bad about it.


Recap.

Distributed human news filtering == good.
Machine processed news filtering == bad.
Technology filtering == silly.
Making your own choices in life == priceless.
Some things are priceless. For everything else, use your own goddammed judgment.

-shane glynn

Huh? (3)

Millennium (2451) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653734)

In the past, I've enjoyed JonKatz' work. He's presented quite a few very interesting, and sometimes powerful, articles and resulting discussions (see the Hellmouth series for an example of that).

But this... this is absolutely disgusting.

A "reality filter"? Sure, one heck of a nice concept. But who do you think would be pulling the strings? Not the individual, I can tell you that right now. This is exactly the sort of thing governments would leap at and latch onto. Katz' comparison of Clotho to a "Big Sister" is horrifyingly accurate, in more ways than one.

I seriously hope Katz was merely playing Devil's Advocate with this article. If not, I think it can be safely concluded that he's lost his mind. To advocate the denial of free will and rationality to the human mind... it goes against everything the geek community stands for, not to mention everything Katz himself has written about on Slashdot in the past.

Only one thing can determine what is fit and proper for a person to see: that person (or, in the case of a young child, that child's parents). Not a computer program, not a governmental authority, and certainly not anyone else. A person who considers himself incapable of doing this for himself desperately needs psychatric treatment. Reality is not a game. It cannot be filtered out via a program. It has to be taken and dealt with as it comes; nothing is ever going to change that fact.

Strange (1)

xmedar (55856) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653735)

We all know that there is a huge amount on the Net and its increasing exponentially, only ~20% is currently even indexed, and not even up todate indexing either, the idea of having something to help us through it all is a good idea, and yet somehow we need to be able to keep the wonderful serendipity that the Net can provide. I dont think Katz and his clotho really has much thought in it, what we need are people who can actually specify how a person is going to get what they want, not just saying AI will do it, we need real strategies, ones that can be implemented, ones that are scalable with the increasing size of the Net. What about audio and video? No one has any ways of accurately catagorising them yet so they can be searched, these are all real solid issues that need to be addressed, not thinking up some obscure name for the THINGY. I'm disappointed, we could be brainstorming how to do current things better before moving on to the next thing, but Katz is acting like MS, the next idea is THE RIGHT THING, until the marketing push for the next RIGHT THING.

Communism in disguise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1653736)

Before the 20th century this is how humans thought. Person 'A' is better than person 'B' so person 'A' should think for 'B'. What katz is saying is that we should have a super computer called S.T.A.L.I.N that will tell us what is good and bad and filter out all the crappy information for us. But why filter? why not just delete all the crappy information before it happens? isn't that more efficient? Think about it this way katz. Look around you.. there is electricity all round us. we use electricity for everything imaginable but you don't see anyone complaining about it. If you have electricity overload, why don't you just turn the power off in your house and use firewood instead?

Re:Information overload? Simple -- kill the ads. (1)

MillMan (85400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653737)

Well put.

I think a lot of people feel that this is "the way the world works". In fact, this is often seen as a mature belief. Apathy works wonders for the marketers. The best liar wins.

"The fall of journalism" doesn't scare me. The common person is now coming into power (in a way), to tell everyone what they think. So instead of hearing 1 biased opinion from a corporate CEO on the evening news, I get to hear 100 biased opinions, and apply them, debate them, and compare them to my own biases. To me, thats true democracy. 1 opinion simply isn't engough, because frankly there is no such thing as objectivity.

The only technology I see that has any chance of EVER making my life better (maybe even happier) is the internet, for precisely this reason.

Re:Clotho? She's right behind you. (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1653738)

There is no suggestion in Katz's article about Clotho being tailored to your wishes. He speaks of an AI which will do the filtering for us.

I worry not so much about the users who get Clotho's filtering; they probably couldn't care less about what they don't see. But the rest of the sites will suddenly have to struggle to get on the AI's good list. Clotho suddenly becomes an editor, whatever customisation is done on it.

There's been a lot of talk about the relative merits of unedited (or, as in the case of Slashdot, peer-edited) media and editored media. Television is edited, as someone other than the originator of the material decides what makes the final cut or not. The wonder of the WWW is that suddenly, sites showing dubious taste (think "Mr. T Ate My Balls") show up, and it is peer-reviews and word of mouth that decides if it goes down in the annals of the Internet, or gets forgotten.

We don't need one single entity, AI or human, to do this. Not for the whole of the Internet. I prefer to do my searches on Google or Metacrawler, where what I get is a raw output based on the criteria I impose myself, than, say, Yahoo, where what you get is a filtered output in the first place.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

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