A site of endless curiosity

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook

“Friend Me”: What would Aristotle say?

leave a comment »


For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends?      —   Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics – 384-322 BCE

One might wonder, after a period of 2,000+ years, has there been any (what is called) “progress”.

Surely we can distinguish between “progress” in the area of technology and progress in other areas such as culture and society.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) lived more than 2000 years ago .  Surely, if Aristotle were transported from ancient Greece to the modern world he would find the progress in science and technology absolutely astounding.  But, if he were to look at our social relationships 2000 years distant from his own time what would he discover?  Would Aristotle say that, after two millennium, we have made any progress in human relationships?

Perhaps he would say we have taken several steps back from the “golden age” of Greek culture.

Aristotle on Friendship

Aristotle wrote about friendship in Nicomachean Ethics.  He divided friendship into three categories.

Pleasure Friendship

Friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them.

Utility Friendship

Those who pursue utility . . . sometimes . . . do not even find each other pleasant; therefore they do not need such companionship unless they are useful to each other; for they are pleasant to each other only in so far as they rouse in each other hopes of something good to come.

What’s in it for me?

According to Aristotle, Pleasure and Utility friendship is partly motivated by a  “what’s in it for me” attititude.  The friendship exists only insofar as there is some benefit – pleasure or utility – that can be derived from the relationship.  When the benefit erodes, so does the friendship

Therefore those who love for the sake of utility love for the sake of what is good for themselves, and those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.

And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.

Perfect (or True) Friendship

Finally, Aristotle defines Perfect Friendship:

Perfect friendship is the friendship… [of those] …who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other.

Here is how Philosophy Professor Dean A. Kowaalski sums it up:

So, for Aristotle, the highest form of friendship occurs between persons of equally good moral character (virtue), which is enhanced due to their interactions. Such friendships are admittedly rare; when they do obtain, it is because the friends spend a great deal of time together, developing a secure mutual trust. Their relationship is fostered by participating in joint ventures and engaging in activities that exercise their own virtues for the betterment of the other and the friendship. All of this is done primarily for the sake of the other person (and not for selfish purposes), even though their interests have grown so close together that it is difficult to separate them. Consequently, complete friendship results in a sort of second self, a true partner.

The Take

There may be a Myth of Progress.  In some contexts, progress seems obvious perhaps because of the selection or limitation of what one considers.  Surely, “progress” is an in-your-face fact when one looks only at technology and our understanding of how the world works – science in general and physics in particular.

But has there been any progress in social relationships?  Or perhaps there been a degradation brought about by the progress in technology.  Perhaps the more technology we have the greater distance we can put between ourselves and other people and still call them “friends”… to the point that they are no friends at all… merely markers or counts on a Facebook page or the number of  Twitter followers.

Technology is “enabling”.  Enabling to make True Friends as Aristotle would define it?  Technology may simply enable those who have a “what’s in it for me” motive of  finding merely pleasure or utility in others.  “Friends for pleasure” is now easy to find on the Internet.  Friends to scam and friends for transactional relationships are easy to find as well.  Have your “friended” or “liked” Starbucks or other organization or business?  Why are they your friends?

So, if Aristotle were to step into the 21’st century world of technology there would not be much he would understand.  We have made fantastic progress.  And, I think he would agree based on his writings of Universal Physics, Human Physics, Animal Physics, and Metaphysics of this time.  But Politics and (Nicomachean) Ethics where the above quotes on friendship came from?  Any progress here in two millennium?

What Aristotle wrote 2,000+ years ago about friendships being only for utility and only for pleasure and easily dissolved is as relevant for today as it was in ancient Greece.

It might be a revelation to you if you examine your friendships within Aristotle’s framework – friends of pleasure; friends of utility; and perfect friends.

How many perfect friendships do you really have?  Has technology been a benefit or a liability?  And have we made any progress in two millennium  in answering Aristotle’s basic question, “how should men best live”?

Read more

Read about Dunbar’s number – If You’ve Got More Than 150 Facebook Friends, They’re No Friends at All

Alone Together.  Why we expect more from technology and less from each other

Written by frrl

March 25, 2013 at 1:40 am

Why our digital life will be the end of history

leave a comment »

High School

My high school reunion is next week – but I won’t be going.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time in high school… I had a great time in high school.  And it’s not that I never went to my reunions over the years.  I went to all of them over the years – too many to mention.

A high school reunion doesn’t make sense any more.  Only someone who understands what it means to dial a phone and can recognize the sound of a turntable needle skating across a vinyl record understands reunions.

A high school reunion used to mean getting back together with friends from high school that you haven’t seen in a few years.  My high school has a reunion every five years.

But a high school reunion doesn’t make sense when you see your high school friends frequently – perhaps every day or maybe once a week.  How can this be when high school is long past and your friends are scattered to the four corners of the globe?

I see my high school friends nearly every day.  I get their Facebook updates.  I look at their pictures on Instagram.  We listen to music from the good old days by exchanging playlists on Spotify.  There’s Facetime and Skype.  And I have some long-term games on Zynga going with a few of them – Words with Friends and Draw Something.  The impediment of geographic distance and separation in time and space is nearly erased.

So a reunion doesn’t make sense anymore.  There is no need to “get back together” since, in a sense, we are all still together.  It’s just that we don’t all travel to a physical location on a daily basis to engage each other.  And, like the difference between the medium and the message its the physical location that’s different but the content as engagement is the same.  Perhaps the engagement in social media, anytime anyplace, exceeds what was available to us in high school.

Time has been flattened; geography erased

In a general sense, time has been flattened.  What is disappearing is the sense of past and present.  In a very real sense, the past is present and evolving.  Our digital life and technology has put us on the trajectory of giving us access to every book ever written, every movie ever made, every track of music ever recorded, every picture ever taken,  every personal video clip ever recorded,  every status update ever made on social media, and every word anyone has ever posted to the internet.

So, what is there to remember that is not immediately available?  Do I need to remember, with a sense of loss, the music I used to listen to in high school? No, it’s readily available on Spotify.  Do I need to remember, with a sense of loss, the movies we watched?  No, they are readily available on Netflix.  Those favorite clips from TV?  Maybe its on YouTube.  Do I need to wonder where my high school friends are?  They are all immediately present wherever I go.

History has traditionally been a fading memory of the past recovered with great effort and difficulty.  But what becomes of History when all the past is readily available in the present?  In fact, we have so much history that is available with in-your-face immediacy, perhaps abundance creates a new set of problems.  How do we forget?  Are there some things that we must forget to make the future livable?


If people are looking for immortality perhaps we have it.  As the cost of digital storage approaches zero it may be possible to archive everything ever posted to the Internet.

Imagine a time, perhaps 50 years from now, where Facebook or social media in general  is now the “ancestral record” of the digital generation.  The millennial generation, posting to Facebook and other social media would have a timeline of 50 years.  In 50 years, the children of the millennial generation would know more than they ever wanted to know about their parents and grandparents.  It’s all there in the cloud.

Right now, in 2013, we go to to discover (in the hard sense) our family tree.  We search through old boxes of film photographs in the attic or basement to find picture of grandparents and relatives.  We ask our older family members, perhaps with fading memory, to tell us stories of how life used to be.  We recover stories through oral history with difficulty.

The whole idea of past history being a difficult work of discovery is undergoing radical change.  In the future, the past may be as immediate as the present.

The Take

Thousands of years ago, folks imagined  the akashic records…  a sort of giant library that is ever-present and all around us…

The akashic records, – akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning “sky”, “space” or “aether” and is described as containing all knowledge of human experience and all experiences as well as the history of the cosmos encoded or written in the very aether or fabric of all existence…

The akashic record is like an immense photographic film, registering all the desires and earth experiences of our planet. Those who perceive it will see pictured thereon: The life experiences of every human being since time began, the reactions to experience of the entire animal kingdom, the aggregation of the thought-forms of a karmic nature (based on desire) of every human unit throughout time…

People who describe the records assert that they are constantly updated automatically and that they can be accessed through astral projection or under deep hypnosis.

There will be no need of astral projection or hypnosis to access these records.  Access will be granted to anyone with a wearable or embedded device that can access whatever it is in the future that will have the Internet as its progenitor.   How much of your digital life is already part of the “akasha” record?

Read More

After the Interview is Over: Managing Digital Oral History Collections


Written by frrl

March 7, 2013 at 4:44 am

Be Greedy; Be Patient

leave a comment »

“People need to be more greedy and more patient” –
Roelof Botha

Some interesting words from Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia Capital

Be more greedy.  Greed has a pejorative connotation.  Here’s the dictionary definition of greed: An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

But what if everyone stopped thinking, dreaming, inventing, producing, and creating when they had enough to satisfy a basic level of subsistence living?  Who would be around to invent the steam engine that ignited the industrial revolution, invent radio that gave us global communication, or invent the airplane that gave us domestic and international transportation in a matter of hours?  What if Bill Gates was satisfied just being a computer programmer in his basement?  What if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were satisfied with computers as a hobby among friends and never created a company called Apple?  Why should any company not be satisfied with just “breaking even”?  If you can pass your high school or college courses with a grade of C or D, then why put in the extra effort to get an A?  Do you really need an A to pass that course?  Perhaps in going after that A you are showing … “An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs…”  In general, why do more when you can get away with doing less?

Let’s look at the definition of greed again

An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

Then we should all be greedy.  Let’s call it ambition, or vision, or as Jobs might say, be greedy enough to put a dent in the universe.

If someone’s greed (read: desire, vision, ambition) creates value for someone else, or society in general, then the more greed the better.  What’s at the opposite end of greed?  Mediocrity?  Complacency?  If we had more of this, would that be better?  What about average?  Is average, “good enough”?  Do you marry an average person and make them your wife of husband?  Average products for average people is exactly what Steve Jobs never wanted to produce. Why?  We could do with less.

When I heard Botha’s quote I was reminded of the club scene between Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker in the movie The Social Network.  The YouTube clip is below and the dialog important to this posting is below…

SEAN takes a sip of his drink…
SEAN (simply)
A Stanford MBA named Roy Raymond wants to buy his wife some lingerie but he’s too embarrassed to shop for it in a department store. He comes up with an idea for a high end place that doesn’t make you feel like a pervert. He gets a $40,000 bank loan and borrows another forty-thousand from his in-laws, opens a store and calls it Victoria’s Secret. He makes a half-million dollars his first year.
He starts a catalogue, opens three more stores and after five years, he sells the company to Leslie Wexner and The Limited for four million dollars. Happy ending, right? Except two years later the company’s worth 500 million dollars and Roy Raymond jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Poor guy just wanted to buy his wife a pair of thigh-highs, you know?
Was that a parable?

Yes, the meaning of the parable is this – don’t sell out too early.  Be greedy.

The Take

Last week the Facebook IPO generated 100 billion dollars.  Facebook has 800 million active users.  What would have happened if Zuckerberg was not greedy and not patient and sold Facebook when the next growth increment was “A hundred schools by the end of the summer.”  If you have a good thing, be patient, be greedy – that’s the message of Sean Parker to Zuckerberg and the message from venture capitalist Roelof Botha.

Here is the constraint on greed.. This comes from Jim Collins book:  “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All”

So, why do people follow them? Because of a deeply attractive form of ambition: [they].. channel their ego and intensity into something larger and more enduring than themselves. They’re ambitious, to be sure, but for a purpose beyond themselves, be it building a great company, changing the world, or achieving some great object that’s ultimately not about them.

Who would say that Zuckerberg’s greed (read: ambition/vision/commitment) and patience did not result in a good thing (Facebook) for the people on this planet in general?  And it made him wealthy far beyond his needs in the process.  So what’s the problem?

As long as greed is not about personal self-aggrandizement, and is about ambition, intensity, vision, and commitment that ends up generating value for other people then the more greed – and the more patience for greed people have – the better for all of us.

See more

An interview with Roelof Botha – here

The club scene from the Social Network …

Who can forget the famous quote from Gordon Gekko from the movie, Wall Street

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.

Adam Smith from the 1776 book “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”

…every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

Read more about the “Invisible Hand” here

Written by frrl

May 29, 2012 at 2:59 am

How Social Media Ruined My High School Reunion

leave a comment »

Some dialog from the movie The Jane Austen Book Club

Okay. Chloe Baher is not my friend, Dean.
Chloe Baher came to my mother’s funeral to gloat. “Ha-ha! Your mother’s dead.”
And you hit on her!
– I do… I do… – You hit on her!

I was not hitting on her.
You know, when I was in the 10th grade,
I wrote an entire paper on Julius Caesar in iambic pentameter.
And Chloe Baher removed it from my locker and she read it aloud to the whole class.

And everyone laughed at me.
Baby, high school’s over.
High school’s never over.

High School

Every three to five years for the past eon I’ve been attending my High School reunion.  Attending a religious private school my graduating class of about 400 has pretty much stayed together.  The High School Alumni Association was instrumental in keeping us in touch with each other and with every graduating class since the school first opened in the first quarter of the 20’th century. 

My particular high school has a long history.  And of course, if you attended a religious high school there is a similar grammar school and college in the unbroken chain of education.  Some who graduate from the teachers college in the system go back to teach in the same high school they attended.  It’s a virtuous circle.

The Alumni Association & Social Media Disruption

But now, anyone who is anybody in my High School graduating class  is using social media.  Social media in general and Facebook in particular.

Always on, always connected, geography irrelevant, and time-shifting social media has made some of the aspects of the Alumni Association obsolete.

Does the Alumni Association need to publish a quarterly paper newsletter and send it out?  No, not really.  We get our updates via Facebook in real-time – all the time.

How about an Alumni Directory?  No,  I can get in touch with anyone, anytime, via Twitter, Skype, Facetime, or even e-mail for the older traditional folks.

What about events where we can meet?  We now do that ourselves on Facebook.

Sans Reunion.  Social Media Disruption

What about the tradition of our every 3-5 year reunion?  We would all look forward to this.  See each other.  Catch up.  What are you doing now?  How about the Prom queen – what does she look like now?  The cheerleaders?  And how about that special someone who you wish you dated?  What about the smart kid – where are they now after about 5 years have passed?  What about the geek?  The loser?  What happened to those kids in the Chess Club?  Was Band Camp in my HS like I saw in that movie way back when?

With Social Media the anticipation of the High School reunion has vanished.

Today, we are all on Facebook reading each others timelines, updates, and looking at photo’s and movies uploaded by our High School peers.  We share music and send each other tracks and recommendations on Spotify.  Some folks follow each other on Twitter.  Nothing like renewing friendships with “the one that got away” with an innocent game of Words with Friends.  The possibilities enabled by the state of social media in 2012 are almost endless.  The traditional  High School Reunion now seems obsolete.

“Baby, High School’s Over”

High School is as much about the socialization process as it is about education.  In high school individuals learn how to form relationship, compete for grades – as well as for social standing, become popular – or not.  At this early age, for many people, a great deal of character is built during these years – including fears and regrets  Those in your peer group in high school most likely left a lasting mark on your character, ambitions, and values you hold today as an adult.

High school’s never over.”

With all the varieties of social media, High School’s never over.  To some, this will become a joy and to others it will become a pain. The former will engage social media in all its ability to connect with people with whom they shared their high school experience perhaps decades ago. 

To the outcasts, the memory of  high school years may remain a painful memory.  To the prom queens and jocks something different.  What about those techie geeks from high school – those who would embrace the newest technology but yet always lacked, or never developed  social skills to be popular?  For them, social media may be something of a conundrum.  The love of technology that brings with it the fear of a  highly social context.  Baby, with social media, high school’s never over.  (read).

Written by frrl

April 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

The Technology behind Netflix & the Chaos Monkey

with one comment

Innovative companies think different…

Suppose you heard that executives at a company like Netflix told their employees to go around and try to break the underlying  technology that delivers its services to millions of customers.

The basic philosophy of this directive being…

The best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly.

Sounds crazy. But is it? Here is a bit of more conventional wisdom

If we aren’t constantly testing our ability to succeed despite failure, then it isn’t likely to work when it matters

Nextflix created some software called the Chaos Monkey that goes around breaking parts of the infrastructure that delivers its services. The idea is to substitute resiliency for a dependence on reliability.  Is it easier to make things reliable or resilient?

You can read what others think about the philosophy of the Netflix Chaos Monkey here

Read about the Chaos Monkey…

And the underlying technology of Netflix…

Related posting.  Did you miss our article on the Technical Architecture Behind Facebook?

Written by frrl

March 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm The Infrastructure Behind Facebook

leave a comment »

We started a project at Facebook a little over a year ago with a pretty big goal: to build one of the most efficient computing infrastructures at the lowest possible cost.

We decided to honor our hacker roots and challenge convention by custom designing and building our software, servers and data centers from the ground up.

The result is a data center full of vanity free servers which is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art data centers.

But we didn’t want to keep it all for ourselves. Instead, we decided to collaborate with the entire industry and create the Open Compute Project, to share these technologies as they evolve.

By releasing Open Compute Project technologies as open hardware, our goal is to develop servers and data centers following the model traditionally associated with open source software projects.

Our first step is releasing the specifications and mechanical drawings. The second step is working with the community to improve them.

Please take a look, tell us what we did wrong and join us in working together to make every data center more efficient.

At little bit of a PR job for but the video and related collateral is interesting.

Most important is the philosophy of all this.  And that is openness, sharing, giving back, and improving through collaboration and community.  The belief is that by sharing we will all collectively be better.

You can find the video, pictures, and engineering diagrams and specs starting at this link –

Read a related article –

Written by frrl

April 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm

The Technical Architecture Behind Facebook

with 3 comments

There is a lot of different elements behind the success of Facebook.  Of course it’s mostly about vision, timing, the right people, venture capital, good judgements at critical points in the history of Facebook, and so on.  It’s also about the availability of readily available technology and excellent technical architecture and engineering by talented people – Mark Zuckerberg playing a major role in the original programming and technical design of (the) from the beginning.

(the) also benefited from a history of the failure of other social networking systems that preceded  (the)  One of the failures clearly in the mind of the architects, developers, and technical engineers of (the)Facebook was the failure of the social networking system Friendster.  Friendster may have been more successful had it been able to scale properly to meet the demand of the user base.  Friendster did not scale.

(the) was careful to ensure that before another segment of users was invited to register for the service (at the beginning they added schools in a very controlled process) there was sufficient capacity to handle the projected number of new users.

The Scale of Facebook

At the time of this writing there are about 400 million active users Facebook.  Facebook delivers 200 billion page views per month and the service is distributed across 30,000 servers.

So, from a technology perspective, how do you architect such a system?  What is the technology and architecture behind Facebook that can deliver 200 billion pages per month to 400 million active users with good response time?

The success of Open Source

There are many success cases that can be developed from Facebook.  The Open Source community is a clear beneficiary of the success of Facebook.  Facebook is written in open source software.  Enhancements, extensions, and innovations that Facebook made to improve performance and scalability of this open source software has been given back by Facebook to the Open Source Community. 

The Facebook presentation layer is written in PHP – 3 million lines of code.  The database tier is MySQL.  If anything validates the Open Source community its the ability of these open source tools to be able to deliver a high performance massively scalable system like Facebook.

The Technical Architecture behind Facebook

Jeff Rothschild is Vice President of Technology at Facebook.  He gave a presentation to the UC San Diego Center for Networked Systems.  In this webcast Jeff goes into detail about the technology behind Facebook – the architecture, the challenges they faced in building a high performance massively scalable system, how they solved these problems, the innovations and extensions they made to Open Source code (and gave back to the community), and those challenges for the Facebook technology that still exist and for which they are seeking solutions.

Abstract: Facebook has grown into one of the largest sites on the Internet today serving over 200 billion pages per month. The nature of social data makes engineering a site for this level of scale a particularly challenging proposition. In this presentation, I will discuss the aspects of social data that present challenges for scalability and will describe the core architectural components and design principles that Facebook has used to address these challenges. In addition, I will discuss emerging technologies that offer new opportunities for building cost-effective high performance web architectures.

You can find the links to this webcast, and a summary of the technology at the links below

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

March 22, 2011 at 2:38 am

%d bloggers like this: