The Social Media Threat to Society and Security

from Project Syndicate It takes significant effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called the freedom of mind. And there is a real chance that, once lost, those who grow up in the digital age – in which the power to command and shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies – will have difficulty regaining it. The current moment in world history is a painful one. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of dictatorships and mafia states, exemplified by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are on the rise. In the United States, […]

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Capitalism Isn’t An Ideology — It’s An Operating System

from TED Bhu Srinivasan researches the intersection of capitalism and technological progress. Instead of thinking about capitalism as a firm, unchanging ideology, he suggests that we should think of it as an operating system — one that needs upgrades to keep up with innovation, like the impending take-off of drone delivery services. Learn more about the past and future of the free market (and a potential coming identity crisis for the United States’ version of capitalism) with this quick, forward-thinking talk. More here.

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President George Washington’s Farewell Address — 1796

Friends and Fellow Citizens: The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made. I […]

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It’s The (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age Of Free Speech

from Wired FOR MOST OF modern history, the easiest way to block the spread of an idea was to keep it from being mechanically disseminated. Shutter the news­paper, pressure the broad­cast chief, install an official censor at the publishing house. Or, if push came to shove, hold a loaded gun to the announcer’s head. This actually happened once in Turkey. It was the spring of 1960, and a group of military officers had just seized control of the government and the national media, imposing an information blackout to suppress the coordination of any threats to their coup. But inconveniently for […]

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Letter from Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963 MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I […]

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China To Build Giant Facial Recognition Database To Identify Any Citizen Within Seconds

from SCMP The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy. The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai. The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project. However, some researchers said it was unclear when the system would be completed, as the development was encountering many difficulties […]

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How Martin Luther Changed the World

from The New Yorker Clang! Clang! Down the corridors of religious history we hear this sound: Martin Luther, an energetic thirty-three-year-old Augustinian friar, hammering his Ninety-five Theses to the doors of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, in Saxony, and thus, eventually, splitting the thousand-year-old Roman Catholic Church into two churches—one loyal to the Pope in Rome, the other protesting against the Pope’s rule and soon, in fact, calling itself Protestant. This month marks the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s famous action. Accordingly, a number of books have come out, reconsidering the man and his influence. They differ on many points, but […]

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Weapons of Mass Manipulation

from Medium Politics in the days of social networks has gone down some very strange paths. In non-democracies, such as China, the regime devotes more people to the elimination and manipulation of content on social networks than to its huge army: a significant part of the population dedicates its time to replicating the work of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, fabricating an alternative reality for the rest of the population, eliminating anonymous, critical or “unacceptable” comment, inserting praise for the government on forums, networks and newspapers using multiple accounts to simulate widespread support. In Russia, things are pretty much the […]

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Resilience And The High End

from Seth’s Blog The high end is brittle, unstable and thus, expensive. The car that wins a race, the wine that costs $300, the stereo that sounds like the real thing… The restaurant that serves perfect fruit, the artisan who uses rare tools and years of training… If there was a reliable, easy, repeatable way to produce these outputs, we’d all do it and the high end would be normal. More here.

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Who Are We Seeking To Become?

from Seth’s Blog We get what we invest in. The time we spend comes back, with interest. If you practice five minutes of new, difficult banjo music every day, you’ll become a better banjo player. If you spend a little bit more time each day whining or feeling ashamed, that behavior will become part of you. The words you type, the people you hang with, the media you consume… The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you’ve spent your time along the way. The habits we groove become who […]

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Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities

from Wired AS A COMPUTER science PhD student, I am a disciple of big data. I see no ground too sacred for statistics: I have used it to study everything from sex to Shakespeare, and earned angry retorts for these attempts to render the ineffable mathematical. At Stanford I was given, as a teenager, weapons both elegant and lethal—algorithms that could pick out the terrorists most worth targeting in a network, detect someone’s dissatisfaction with the government from their online writing. Computer science is wondrous. The problem is that many people in Silicon Valley believe that it is all that […]

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Complicated Problems Rarely Require Magical Explanations

from Seth’s Blog One clue that someone doesn’t understand a problem is that they need a large number of variables and factors to explain it. On the other hand, turning a complex situation into something overly simple is an even more common way of demonstrating ignorance of how the system works. What we’re looking for isn’t the number of countable variables. It’s the clarity of thought. The coherence of the explanation. The ability to have that explanation hold water even if small inputs change. The explanation might be long, but it makes sense. More here.

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Letter from Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963 MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I […]

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I Wuv You Wobot!

from kottke Rayna is a small child who thinks this hot water heater looks like a robot and she is determined to say hi to it and tell it that she loves it. THIS IS THE CUTEST THING OF ALL TIME THAT IS NOT THAT PHOTO OF OTTERS HOLDING HANDS SO THEY DON’T DRIFT AWAY FROM EACH OTHER WHILE SLEEPING. In the future, when humanity is on trial for the mistreatment of machines, our randomly assigned legal algorithm will introduce this video as Exhibit A in our defense. I like our chances. More here.

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Elon Musk Is Setting Up A Company That Will Link Brains And Computers

from ars technica Billionaire futurist space explorer Elon Musk has a new project: a “medical research company” called Neuralink that will make brain-computer interfaces. Musk’s projects are frequently inspired by science fiction, and this one is a direct reference to a device called a “neural lace,” invented by the late British novelist Iain M. Banks for his Culture series. In those books, characters grow a semi-organic mesh on their cerebral cortexes, which allows them to interface wirelessly with AIs and create backups of their minds. Having a neural lace, in Banks’ fiction, makes people essentially immortal—if they die, they’re revived from […]

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Robert Silvers, a Founding Editor of New York Review of Books, Dies at 87

from NYTs Robert B. Silvers, a founder of The New York Review of Books, which under his editorship became one of the premier intellectual journals in the United States, a showcase for extended, thoughtful essays on literature and politics by eminent writers, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87. Rea S. Hederman, the publisher of The Review, confirmed the death. The New York Review, founded in 1963, was born with a mission — to raise the standards of book reviewing and literary discussion in the United States and nurture a hybrid form of politico-cultural essay. Mr. […]

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Unselling

from Seth’s Blog Getting someone to switch to you is totally different from getting someone who’s new to the market to start using the solution you offer. Switching means: Admitting I was wrong, and, in many cases, leaving behind some of my identity, because my tribe (as I see them) is using what I used to use. So, if you want to get a BMW motorcycle owner to buy a Harley as his next bike, you have your work cut out for you. He’s not eager to say, “well, I got emotionally involved with something, but I realized that there’s […]

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The Increasing Significance of the Decline of Men

from NYTs At one end of the scale, men continue to dominate. In 2016, 95.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were male and so were 348 of the Forbes 400. Of the 260 people on the Forbes list described as “self-made,” 250 were men. Wealth — and the ability to generate more wealth — must still be considered a reliable proxy for power. But at the other end of the scale, men of all races and ethnicities are dropping out of the work force, abusing opioids and falling behind women in both college attendance and graduation rates. Since 2000, wage […]

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