Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Transparency: Watching and Watchers

Veering back to more important issues...

We are increasingly surrounded by always-on” devices with microphones that listen for our voice commands. Most require a "trigger phrase" or wake word to begin recording or actively computing responses, but that means they must analyze every sound to parse whether it is that word. 

As if that weren't a murky enough boundary, fraught with possible paths for misuse or abuse, now many devices can team up to follow you around and obtain a great deal of info , using technology, called ultrasonic cross-device tracking. Ultrasound "beacons" emit high-frequency tones (inaudible to humans) embedded in advertisements, web pages, as well as in some brick and mortar stores. Currently, most Android and iOS phones require permission to access a user's microphone and receive these inaudible inputs. 

The Federal Trade Commission evaluated ultrasonic tracking technology at the end of 2015, and the non-profit Center for Democracy and Technology wrote: 'the best solution is increased transparency and a robust and meaningful opt-out system. If cross-device tracking companies cannot give users these types of notice and control, they should not engage in cross-device tracking,” reports L.H. Newman in Wired. 


In the biggest post-election transparency news..Britain’s new surveillance law will force internet providers to record every internet customer's top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; it will force companies to decrypt data on demand. Intelligence agencies also get the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens. This represents the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy.

Despite having lived in Britain in the 1980s and seen the proliferation of camera surveillance then, I still remain puzzled by the blithe acceptance of one way snoopery over there. In contrast to which...

Even the Bugs will be Bugged: I was quoted in this article in The Atlantic: Big Brother society results not from being watched but from one-way observation.


== Light fights corruption ==


The Helvetia Cold War deepens. An automated private system, using public records, has applied itself to tracking planes used by authoritarian regimes flying in and out of Switzerland. The system has been set up to potentially provide evidence of money laundering. "Swiss investigative journalist François Pilet and his cousin Julien Pilet set up the GVA Dictator Alert Twitter bot to track planes registered to “authoritarian regimes,” as defined by the 2015 Democracy Index.The aim is to bring transparency and accountability to the leaders." 


The bot currently tracks the movements of more than 80 aircraft from 21 countries, including Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Since its launch in April, the bot has logged more than 60 arrivals and departures from Geneva International Airport by planes that belong to the regimes, and few had anything to do with legit business or diplomacy. Of course dictators and kleptocrats will find a way around this. The overall kleptocracy problem is only getting worse and it will only be solved with major new treaties imposing transparency on the mighty cheaters of the world. For that to happen, the world's powers will have to fear something much worse than light.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Transparency International (TI) are joining forces in a new initiative. The Anti-Corruption Initiative "will connect investigative journalists turning a spotlight on the secretive shadow economy with anti-corruption activists able to translate complex information into compelling campaigns for change. This project will build on the best of cross-border independent investigative journalism. The already substantial impact of such work can be amplified by activists who use information uncovered by quality reporting to create pressure on governments and kleptocrats around the world.”


I can think of nothing more important… or quixotic, given the entrenched power interests lined up against this.  But it is wholly in keeping with what I’ve said humanity needs, if we are to avoid catastrophe. It's needed for the children of the rich – and poor – to actually benefit across this century.  In The Transparent Society, in EARTH and in EXISTENCE and many other places I’ve emphasized that only light disinfects against error, of the sort that made every feudal state a living hell. 

Alas, my SF'nal powers only see this breaking through if several honest, developing world presidents join together to do something utterly unexpected and unprecedented.


Apparently the attack on Liberia’s internet access was not as complete as at-first thought… though the Mirai-based botnet denial of service ploy was pretty harsh and still seen by some as a rehearsal for a bigger assault upon the West.


For years I have been urging this: “The next U.S. administration should take immediate steps to prevent and, when possible, eliminate computer attacks like one that recently crippled some of the key systems that run the internet, a presidential commission recommended on Friday.”

== Society and the future ==


I was interviewed by Brett King for his Breaking Banks podcast about the future of banking and transparency: Fintech and IBM World of Watson.


Speaking of banks. An interesting article from The New York Times on how food banks, with their somewhat socialist mind-set, incorporated "market" forces to help them allocate food donations not only where they were needed but where they are wanted-most. Apparently, so long as equity and generosity are factors in the general outline, market forces and even competition help to get resources to the right place, efficiently.

Are we bound for “Mad Max,” “Star Trek,” “Ecotopia” or an Orwellian super government? The answer may depend upon on how information flows across society. I was quoted in this interesting perspective on future governance on Earth. The model presented by Peter Frase in his newly released book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism -- is unusual (e.g. calling Star Trek an example of post-scarcity, abundance-propelled communism).  Both intriguing and a harbinger.  

A Harbinger? Because we will soon start to hear again names that had passed out of familiarity, in the West. Like Karl Marx. Far from being cast into irrelevance, Marx will be discussed more and more – rising back into pertinence – as the Rooseveltean middle class melts away and 6000 years of class war resume.  


The issue Frase raises is whether new technologies will, as in Star Trek, spare us all violent class struggle, by restoring a vast and healthy middle class that encompasses everyone?  Or will a rising feudal oligarchy unintentionally resurrect Marx as an icon for their victims?

== Shallow but sincere ==

New America Weekly devotes whole issues to special topics. This one is about transparency in government -- which has engaged me a bit for only 25+ years or so. Articles include how to make the modern invention of think tanks more effective by being more open:

"In the Digital Age, governance, technology, education, science, platforms, and more are being pushed to become more “open.” Open movements are working to remove barriers that prevent the public from fully accessing these institutions, systems, and fields. Open education, for example, aims to broaden access and increase opportunities for learning. In the United States, open government strives to improve transparency, increase collaboration, and facilitate public participation in our democracy. Open science accelerates the pace of inquiry and discovery in academic research. Underlying each of these movements is one critical need: open use of information."


==Transparency-related miscllany ==

First Apropos to our earlier posting on Whether Government (especially government paid research) is useless, which was reprinted as a feature on the Evonomics site, See this cogent example... A timely article from the BBC lists the advances that led to the iPhone and how government research enabled all of them.


Who is on your side? According to Lindsey Tepe, a senior policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America:"In 2009, the administration made a modest request that each federal agency identify three high value data sets to make openly available to the public; now data.gov is the home for government data, housing nearly 200,000 datasets on education, health, energy, governance, and more. Today, every agency that funds more than $100 million in research and development grants has put in place a plan to make that information more accessible."

Other articles from New America Weekly deal with tradeoffs of intellectual property rights and use of personal information, posing vexing questions that are too seldom asked by myopic pundits, as in “what will happen with my data 10 years from now?”...


... and how openness can have unexpected side effects in grassroots democracy. Comments author Heather Hurlburt, "It should be noted that open government did make an appearance in international policy when the Obama Administration launched the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The U.S. joined an initial 7 countries—now up to 69—in holding civil society consultations, drawing up national action plans, and making commitments to increase transparency in areas from legislation to policing to using town criers to share budget data with the public. In addition to those changes on the government side, OGP has offered civil society groups a spark and a mandate for their work. Still, the appearance of open government as a foreign policy tool abroad has not changed the reality at home. The open government agenda sits uncomfortably with traditional ideas about secrecy and expertise in foreign affairs." 


Heather Hurlburt goes on to describe how: "“Multi-stakeholderism” —the trend toward non-governmental entities, both civil society and private sector, joining national and international authorities at the negotiating table."  And yet, "an irony that the Administration which has made open government a byword at home and internationally has been more aggressive than any predecessor in protecting information in the national security space—and has suffered more embarrassing failures to protect information."


== Final Thoughts ==

Well-meaning dopes. I mean those activists who (1) are right to fret that Big Brother might use surveillance against us… but who then (2) rave that the solution is to hide! To shout at elites not to look at us! Or to somehow conceal ourselves and our information.  

For two decades I've asked these dear people (and they truly are fighting the good fight… in the wrong direction) when has that prescription ever worked? Even once. Ever? In the history of our species?

Each of us fizzes with biometric identifiers! Go ahead and fabricate fake fingerprints. Your unique walking gait might be altered (for a short time) by a pebble in your shoe. But can you change the specific ratio of lengths of bones in your hand? Or the speckles on your iris, or the pattern of blood vessels in your retina?  How about the oto-acoustic tones that many humans emit from their own eardrums, and that can be uniquely identified by sensors? 

Oh but it goes on and on. Spend any time in a well-monitored room and the micro-biota of your farts may give you away. And now researchers have “fingerprinted” the white matter of the human brain using a new diffusion MRI method, mapping the brain’s connections (the connectome) at a more detailed level than ever before. They confirmed that structural connections in the brain are unique to each individual person and the connections were able to identify a person with nearly 100% accuracy.  

This could be good news, in giving us an ultimate fall-back against ID thieves — or very bad news for any revolutionary movement against Orwellian tyranny. So? Never let it get to that point! There is one way to do that.

Shall we trust encryption, as governments acquire quantum computers? Anyway, how will that stymie the mosquito drone that flew into your keyboard last week, recording every letter that you type?

Then there are cameras, getting smaller, faster, cheaper, better and more mobile at rates far faster than Moore’s Law. If you find a clever way to evade them now, will it work next year, when there are four times as many of them and harder to spot? 

Hiding won’t work. It cannot. Nor will shouting “don’t look at me!”

Only one thing has ever worked.  Only one thing possibly can work. 


134 comments:

i_/0 said...

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Tom Crowl said...

Great post!

Always happy to hear about progress on the Helvetian War Front!

It seems inevitable to me that sooner-or-later with the march of tech and data gathering its going to be impossible for those hidden piles of corrupt wealth to stay hidden.

What happens next is where things get tricky.

Jumper said...

Your link from "Even the Bugs will be Bugged" is not right.

Re: hiding from surveillance, that's different from telling people to stop giving away their secrets. Some people will tell 1,000 people on Facebook when their house is going to be empty while they vacation, or talk about Grandma's dementia so hustlers can rob the house and Grandma too.

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish N. Cod: I think the profusion of German states before unification was a terrible thing for the people there. The Thirty Years war was fought on their turf for a reason. From a royalist's perspective, though, there is only just so much room on the northern plains for large nations post-1648. After Napoleon, there were already two at both ends. Adding a third that possessed a strongly beating industrial heart ensured smaller buffer zones and less room for error.

Wars did spark easily before unification, but they were smaller wars. Unifying Germany reduced the number of players in the game who could stab each other in the back.

As for Canada, the US owned the Greater Mississippi River Basin. We had the resources to develop it and access to it from both ends. Taking a piece of it near the top would have done little for Canadian wealth due to the cost of transporting their goods northward. Owning the whole thing did big things for us because we could transport eastward after the canal was built or southward. Cheap transport and desirable trade goods creates wealth and searches for where to invest it all. So... as long as we did not invite a power to meddle and cut off New Orleans, we were a steam roller.

Alfred Differ said...

@Smurphs: NC and KS certainly are troublesome, but they haven't had long enough yet. Last I looked at the election in KS, it looks like there are some unhappy people not bending over for them. NC looks to be pretty upset too. Time will tell.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I still think you are confusing manufactured ignorance with a society's desire to be ignorant. I have a lot of skepticism about the former in our nation and none at all about the latter.

Alfred Differ said...

Whenever the transparency thread comes around in the cycle, I find myself at a loss as to what to say. I'd love to help build the mosquito drone to demonstrate the point, but my current employer would have a cow and I kinda like them. So I'm left wondering what to do with any cognitive surplus I can spare.

Waiting for governments to fix things seems to be a good example of missing the point, so what can an individual with a bit of time do? Proxy activism requires such people with ideas, so... what ideas do we have?

Dwight Williams said...

Possibly unrelated but leaving it to the audience here - including Dr. Brin - to judge: having recently learned of Russia's elections being such that only 20 % of the population actually votes at all...disturbs me deeply. (Check out the Window on Eurasia blog, also hosted here on Blogger.) Having watched with some satisfaction as Canada's slowly and steadily improved its voting percentage at the federal level over the past decade - and perversely pleased to thank Stephen Harper for a consequence of his tenure as Prime Minister that he likely never intended, even as he quietly tested out certain aspects of the new methods of "governance" now being tried out on the USA - it makes me concerned for Russia's future, and that of the rest of us.

Dwight Williams said...

Also, did anyone else here watch the movie Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain? Ostensibly about a ruthless and plucky lobbyist's efforts to change American society for what she hopes to be the better, the plot dove on occasion into territory covered by "Even the bugs will be bugged".

Best not to spoil any surprises any further, I think, for those yet to see that film.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: (promised from last thread) (some of my notes from McCloskey's first tome)

Prudence

Older Greek: phronēsis (not specialized to the upbringing of children)
Latin (of Cicero and Aquinas): prudentia
Plain English: wisdom in its practical aspect, know-how, common sense, savvy, good judgement
Fancy English: rationality, self-interest

As distinct from sophia and scientia. (Love of sophia is an appreciation of theoretical wisdom. Philo-sophy)

In Germanic languages not altered much by French the translations are lost in connotation clouds

[Example: Dutch]
foresight (voorzichtigheid), caution (omzichtigheid), policy (beheid), good sense (verstandigheid), knowledge, saving, caretaking, management, and calculating
________________________________________________________________________________
1) From Aristotle, prudence is a virtue. It is the obligation to self development.
2) From Plato: The ability which by itself is productive of human happiness; the knowledge of what is good and bad; the knowledge that produces happiness; the disposition by which we judge what is to be done and what is not to be done.
3) From Aquinas, it is the obligation to use God's gifts. Any virtue which causes good in reason's consideration is called prudence. Prudence belongs to Reason. One needs to deal rightly with those things that are for the sake of the end (finis), and this can only come about through reason rightly deliberating, judging, and commanding, which is the function of prudence... Hence there can be no moral virtue without prudence.
4) From Joseph Pufendorf (1673): He reformulated part of it a bit as the obligation of a person to act to ensure God's gifts do not perish from lack of use.
5) Amélie Oksenberg Rorty: (encapsulating Aristotle behind Aquinas) The virtuous person performs the right action in the right way at the right time on the right objects.
________________________________________________________________________________
In all cases, prudence is described in terms of stories demonstrating it or its lacking. There are many ways to imagine a community of imprudent people. A school full of children often works. A group of moral saints focused upon the welfare of others works too. Obviously a political party of misers would fit the bill.

The Miser is not prudent in the sense of Aquinas because he preserves wealth more than he uses His gifts or develops himself. Also, it can be argued he is not causing Good and might actually be preventing it. Obviously the ends he considers are his own, but is he causing Good? Is he productive in Plato's sense in producing happiness? His own, perhaps. Maybe.

The Miser attempts to make prudence a matter of strict self-interest. In doing so, he attempts to make it inherently amoral. Many non-misers have argued for this too, but in doing so, the attempt to demote an ancient virtue. That should demand a steep burden for producing a difficult to refute argument. Part of their argument for this demotion rests upon the separation of spheres into male market and female home. They argue a self-less woman can't be prudent because prudence is about the self, but this argument rarely passes the sniff test when presented to women. Too many reject it.

What the bourgeoisie has done to prudence (if one ignores Kant and Bentham and looks instead at how they actually behave) is to find a way to make prudence work equally well for believers and non-believers. They've been prudent about prudence by removing the sacred.

An historical example shows why one must be careful about concluding tax evaders are not prudent. Consider Catalunya. Politically they are part of Castillian Spain. Culturally and linguistically they are not. Would it be imprudent of a Catalonian to avoid contributing funds to Madrid? Whose happiness counts here?

Some US Libertarians think they know the right action to be done the right way at the right time with the right stuff. I rarely agree with them, but I can see how they see it.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Tom: it's very close; the Panama Papers were the first really big hack of that sort. You had best believe that the Great Power intelligence agencies are now pursuing hacks of that sort against each other; I suspect rather strongly that the massive breaches at Yahoo were by a state-backed actor -- the sheer scale doesn't make sense for any other purpose.

The use then is for blackmail, and we are already starting to see blackmail threats -- Netanyahu promising to use intel gathered on the outgoing POTUS for strengthening the hand of the incoming POTUS. Secrets may be the currency of the realm in this new age, along the lines of the "Purple Files" of the Centauri Republic from Babylon 5.

Blackmail only works while the whole thing is a secret, though. Transparency defuses it all. What I am wondering is how long, in an age of ubiquitous hackers, that secrets can *be* kept. Even if a social contract such as that in EARTH were created, with contracted limits on secrecy... will there still not be data breaches and theft? Does that not give non-state actors ranging from Wikileaks to Anonymous great political power, and also power over private (or should-be-private) economics?

@Alfred: But it would have been perfectly possible for Canada to use the Great Lakes to dominate northern Ohio, Michigan, Chicagoland, eastern Wisconsin, and upper Minnesota, i.e., the lands NOT in the Mississippi basin. Indeed prior to the Revolution it seemed that this was the plan, abstract colonial land charter claims be damned; and the forts that the British failed to remove afterwards continued to argue in that direction. Chicago in particular -- the portage from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi river systems -- was of great strategic value. It was this possibility that was precluded by the Battle of Lake Erie, which demonstrated that America could effectively use the Lakes as a water-defense. Combined with America's clear inability to conduct land offense (conquer Canada), this argued for maintaining the border along the lakes. As I recall, the consensus coming out of the War of 1812 was that America had significant naval capabilities but almost no land-army strength in Continental terms.

David Brin said...

Apropos to the blog topic, a guy on G+ raises a key point. If sousveillance truly does (miraculously) become universally empowering for average citizens, the Big Brother - per se - becomes impossible. But when citizens can see most things, then we risk domination by the 55% majority of judgmental "little brothers," enforcing conformity with the power of majority rule, hounding the eccentric. This is the tyranny portrayed in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

It isn't new. Our ancestors were nearly all victims of BOTH the tyrant kings and priests AND a gossip-terrorized hell of conformity that was enforced by local busybodies.

Carter is one of the few who sees that this offers up a branching... that such a society needn't be the gossip-conformity hell. He say that instead we might see: " (1) a relaxation of social mores "

But he assumes this will be just laissez faire decadence and throwing away standards. Not so! Today our kids do have standards. They still hate ... haters. If you did something embarrassing online that did NOT hurt anyone, you can expect forgiveness. If you deliberately harmed others, you cannot hide.

Now extrapolate that "harm" can be defined as staring and judging too closely. Can you envision a soft landing here, where we might even have a little... privacy? Because being caught staring is deemed a social disease... and you WILL be caught?

Yes, this soft landing depends upon our children choosing these standards. They seem to be doing exactly that, as we speak.

Slim Moldie said...

This Transparency topic has triggered an urge to reread Pohl/Kornbluth's "Space Merchants."

Dr. Brin, on a side note, today I made a Trump/Fantasy connection via Ken Wharton's essay in "Star Wars On Trial." For context, this holiday season has forced me out of my fortress of solitude and placed me amongst Trumpkin supporting/sympathizing kin. My attempts to communicate in any meaningful way about the political situation have at times resembled Wharton's thought experiment to distinguish science fiction from fantasy. I quote: "Pick some speculative element from a science fiction or fantasy story, (Election 2016 and ask the relative) why that element works the way it does. Then ask why about the answer, and then why again, like an over-curious nine-year-old. If the trail of "whys" eventually leads to something we know about the real world, shouldn't we call that science fiction? If it leads to a snappy "Just because!" well wouldn't that make it a fantasy?"

I noticed (not only my own) attempts to communicate across the table terminated with "just becauses" or "I don't want to talk about this" or "we're just too divided." Still processing how to communicate when Reason comes to parley in a brown paper bag.

Jumper said...

As the rebels invaded Canada they were struck by smallpox such that a third of them came down with it. (After the failure to take Canada Washington instituted 100% inoculation.) The fate of the attempt was not determined by preordained forces but by chance.

Tom Crowl said...

RE: "domination by the 55% majority of judgmental "little brothers,"

Its been suggested that the rise of individualism was essentially a product of the changing nature of human society itself.

Its an evolution moving from our small group dependence on family and community... to a dependence on the state and the market.

This is a simplification.... but points to the fact that it was only with the ability to escape from, hide from or be protected from an oppressive community or state (by something like a strong "Bill of Rights") holding what was often a very narrow communal ethos... that individualism arose.

Speaking of the Bill of Rights.... the 2nd amendment was also designed as a check on an oppressive state. What seems to be missed is that in terms of that purpose its COMPLETELY OBSOLETE.

However it may be worth considering that a non-violent method serving a similar purpose may be needed. I, for one, worry about a 'cashless society' where a bank or government can essentially impoverish any individual or group with the flip of a switch somewhere.

Tom Keller said...

I agree with the argument entirely. But what if you, as a soveregn individual, want to do something that a tyrannical majority has decided should not be done? What if you are hiding from persecution by the state?

raito said...

I see I missed a post. So I'll ask for a third (?) time...

Dr. Brin,

You said once that you're about 70% correct. One would then assume that more correctness is better.

So I'll ask: what evidence have you that wootz (Damascus steel) was in any way lost because it was suppressed?

This view does not agree with the current history about the material. That history's current best guess is that the ore deposits containing the trace vanadium required for its unique structure for played out. Certainly the process for making and forging ultra-high-carbon crucible steel was very well known in Asia ()(I consider the Paris experiments to be rife with cultural baggage).

I'll also add that 'lost for millenia' isn't correct for wootz. Its ancient production seems to have died out around 1800, and it's being produced today. I haven't run down this particular train of evidence, but it's possible that Pavel Anosov figured it out in 1838.

There's so many good examples of suppression of ideas that maybe you ought to consider revising the list you use every time you want to write on the subject. That would raise your percentage.

Anonymous said...

An if not X then catastrophe argument, and yet another broken record repeat of all the same talking points. Convincing stuff! (for the choir) What historians support your claim of 6000 years of feudalism? Moreover, would any historians find it of any use ("delusions adopted by late 20th century bloggers: a review"), or is it better described as propaganda that by extreme repetition attempts unthinking mantra status?

raito said...

And for something relevant to the current post, on the subject of surveillance and transparency:
https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2016/12/28/the-sixth-extinction

How is the average joe going to get to look in Amazon's database?

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

You said: "@Paul SB: I still think you are confusing manufactured ignorance with a society's desire to be ignorant. I have a lot of skepticism about the former in our nation and none at all about the latter."

To which I say: It's a recursive relationship. Each feeds upon and supports the other. We see willful ignorance in our daily lives all the time. But manufactured ignorance is something done in the dark, in secret memos, corporate boardrooms and behind-closed-doors meetings of the movers and shakers of society. That makes it something less obvious, something that takes some effort and examination of evidence to get - like many of the more sophisticated theories of science. Less educated people have a hard time getting quantum mechanics, relativity or evolution because they are not so intuitively obvious, involving scales that are not experienced in daily life. In that case, it is proper to have a healthy skepticism about any specific instance of the former, given how much paranoid conspiracy thinking is out there. You need evidence, like the cigarette industry memo that article starts out with. But to doubt it as a phenomenon generally kind of puts you in the same boat as ordinary citizens (as opposed to oil magnates and their political henchmen) who deny climate science. Climate science isn't intuitively obvious, it is taking place on a time scale beyond a single generation. The fabulous wealth generated by the fossil fuel industry, on the other hand, is obvious. It is very easy for people who do not exercise their brains any more than necessary to get through day-to-day life to choose the later side over the former. But by doing so, they are dupes of the fossil fuel industry and their political henchmen, who deliberately sow disinformation (ignorance) to promote their own short-term self interest (which has nothing to do with prudence).

And this gets to one of the real values of transparency. Any time ordinary people can reveal the deliberate obfuscations created and disseminated by the movers and shakers, more ordinary people will become skeptical of the bovine excrement they feed us.

LarryHart said...

Tom Crowl:

Speaking of the Bill of Rights....


"...which I wrote!" - James Madison in "Hamilton"


the 2nd amendment was also designed as a check on an oppressive state. What seems to be missed is that in terms of that purpose its COMPLETELY OBSOLETE.


I think the idea that it was meant as a way of bringing down our own government is overblown by modern-day libertarian tea-partiers. To a recent reader of "Hamilton"-era history, it seems clear to me that what would have been on James Madison's mind was something along the line of the British attempt to confiscate arms from Concord in 1775. And while those British would have technically been "the government" at that time, the locals saw them more like an intrusive force. Point being, the sense of the 2nd Amendment was more that the people have the right to resist tyranny from without rather than the right to take up arms against their own government.

Separately, I don't think one can ignore the fact that the 2nd Amendment was also driven by the need for armed slave patrols to operate in the South. The right to bear arms was (and still is to a large extent) reserved for white people so that they could keep blacks in their place. And in that sense, sadly, it is most certainly not obsolete.

LarryHart said...

raito:

And for something relevant to the current post, on the subject of surveillance and transparency:
https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2016/12/28/the-sixth-extinction


I get the sense of what the comic is trying to say, but the specific punchline goes right over my head. What new, scary information is conveyed to the woman by that line?

Lorraine said...

Is Locumranch now posting as Anonymous? There are tools for analyzing writing style, right?

matthew said...

No, this is a different anon I think. Not Locum ranch.

As for "manufactured ignorance" the largest supplier are religions. To deny that religion is manufacturing ignorance is to ignore the predominant religion in the US and its attacks on science. See Texas school boards and texbooks.

Jeff B. said...

Catfish,

But it would have been perfectly possible for Canada to use the Great Lakes to dominate northern Ohio, Michigan, Chicagoland, eastern Wisconsin, and upper Minnesota, i.e., the lands NOT in the Mississippi basin. Indeed prior to the Revolution it seemed that this was the plan, abstract colonial land charter claims be damned; and the forts that the British failed to remove afterwards continued to argue in that direction. Chicago in particular -- the portage from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi river systems -- was of great strategic value.

Interesting (to this history geek, at least), after the Am. Revolution the British in Canada briefly entertained the idea of empowering the Native American tribes west of the Appalachians as an independent buffer state as a check to the fledgling U.S., esp. in the Old Northwest and western NY and PA. How serious they were about it, and their commitments to the tribes, we'll never know for sure, but aside from Detroit and Niagara, most of their "forts" were tiny stockades, with maybe a handful of agents and traders. Their primary goal was to keep the tribes more dependent on them with as little support as possible.

With the little they did get, they were able to fight the Americans to a standstill for 15 years (far longer if you count prior to the Revolution), until their tactical and strategic genius Little Turtle withdrew, and the Americans found one semi-competent field leader in Mad Anthony Wayne. I believe St. Clair's Defeat remains the single greatest defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Army (75% casualties?)

It seems quite possible the British might've been wary of growing colonial strength before the Revolution and ham-fistedly tried to block expansion w. the Quebec Act.

Jeff B. said...

Coincidental timing, but P.Z. Myers posted a link to a video this AM about a new Chinese social control effort called "Sesame Credit" (Sesame, from the partnership with Alibaba to produce this new product). This seems to feed in directly to the discussion of surveillance vs. sousveillance- maybe a third option:

https://youtu.be/lHcTKWiZ8sI

This is really frightening- if it goes mandatory as planned in 2020, people will be given a "patriotism score", tracked by their activity on social media and the internet; compliance with government expectations lead to higher score, straying from the fold, lower scores. And your score is impacted by your friends, so if you're friends with people with low scores, it brings your score down- motivating social pressure and threat of ostracism toward the goal of compliance.

And because it's playing off of patriotism, people are already signing up and competing to see who can get the highest scores...

Who needs Big Brother, when 100 million little brothers will accomplish the same thing, while the Government looks on benignly? God forbid it ever sees life outside the Middle Kingdom...

Cari D. Burstein said...

The Sesame Credit thing is pretty frightening, although in some ways I guess it's just a technological upgrade to the old ways authoritarian states have enforced their power. If you haven't- you should see the episode of Black Mirror which deals with social media (season 3 episode 1 I believe). It's a pretty frightening take as well, and more likely to be the form we might see develop in the US.

Also on the topic of the social punishment of haters- the last episode of season 3 of Black Mirror takes that on as well in a very frightening way.

raito said...

LarryHart,

It's might be hard to get the entire thing if you're not a regular reader. The new information conveyed is that the curtain slips for a moment, and shows Terminator's Skynet. Then again, you know what they say about having to explain a joke.

Jeff B,

Welcome to government-mandated whuffie. Middle Kingdom instead of Magic Kingdom.

TCB said...

Tom Crowl wrote: "I, for one, worry about a 'cashless society' where a bank or government can essentially impoverish any individual or group with the flip of a switch somewhere."

That's exactly what happens in the backstory of Handmaid's Tale. One day, no US woman's bank card works. Accounts frozen, totally dependent on men to buy necessities. From what I can tell, it's 100% feasible and merely requires the will of the government and cooperation of the banks.

Re: the War of 1812, I've read that the real losers were Indians, regardless of their tribe. The French had had Indian allies, and so had the British government... the US government, not so much. The British treaties with Indians west of the Appalachians had kept settlers from expanding into Indian territory (legally, anyway, which meant that if you tried to grab Indian land on the western frontier without the government behind you, the Indians could kill you without worrying about reprisal too much). After 1815, it was clear that the US was here to stay and if the US gov't wanted to permit land grabs, there was nobody else the Indians could appeal to for help. France had sold her vast holdings in the Louisiana Purchase, and the British army had lost at New Orleans, won at Waterloo, and never again sent an army to North America.

In North America, the only remaining power was Mexico, and twenty years later it was their turn.

LarryHart said...

Hey, all you who are knowledgeable about War of 1812-era history,

I've been reading up on Hamilton and Aaron Burr recently, but I'm confused about when New Orleans somehow became Spanish, and then when it became French again. Can someone clear up the timeline of New Orleans prior to the Louisiana Purchase?

David Brin said...

raito I never said wootz was suppressed, but implied it might have been lost through secrecy. In any event, I am fine with alternative what-ifs. I have plenty of examples and don't need that one.

LarryHart said...

Jeff B:

This is really frightening- if it goes mandatory as planned in 2020, people will be given a "patriotism score", tracked by their activity on social media and the internet; compliance with government expectations lead to higher score, straying from the fold, lower scores. And your score is impacted by your friends, so if you're friends with people with low scores, it brings your score down- motivating social pressure and threat of ostracism toward the goal of compliance.


I wonder how that would work in the US. One might expect that someone who respects the Constitutional protections and limits on government coercion would score high on American patriotism, but somehow, I doubt the system would actually work that way. More likely, someone who truly loves America as an ideal would end up as pariahs, while those who "love America the way I love a good steak dinner" would get the good scores.

Jeff B. said...

Larry,

Paging Dr. Wikipedia:

The Kingdom of France controlled the Louisiana territory from 1699 until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. Napoleon in 1800, hoping to re-establish an empire in North America, regained ownership of Louisiana. However, France's failure to put down the revolt in Saint-Domingue, coupled with the prospect of renewed warfare with the United Kingdom, prompted Napoleon to sell Louisiana to the United States.

So, basically finances and war... though not sure why France turned it over to Spain the 1st time.

Tim H. said...

Fascinating, if off-topic, a rocketry club plans a booster and capsule for suborbital flight:
http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/12/a-closer-look-at-how-amateur-rocketeers-plan-to-launch-a-human-into-space/

Sounds like a plot element I saw in a novella somewhere...

Jeff B. said...

TCB,

The Native Americans' struggle in the Old Northwest was all but over in 1794; Tecumseh's efforts prior to and during the War of 1812 were far too little, too late. They had been pushed from the PA/OH border into the very NW of IN, and their numbers were far too few by that point to make a difference. And I believe the British had all but given up on the Old Northwest, and only recruited from what was left of the tribes as auxiliaries.

Ah, but if Tecumseh (and his brother) had only been adults during Little Turtle's War...

LarryHart said...

Jeff B:

They had been pushed from the PA/OH border into the very NW of IN,


Or as George Carlin once put it,

Just because they started in New York and wound up defending Santa Monica doesn't mean they were bad.

Anonymous said...

Anyone here care that Obama just signed away your rights?


------

And so, with the likes of WaPo having already primed the general public to equate "Russian Propaganda" with "fake news" (despite admitting after the fact their own report was essentially "fake"), while the US media has indoctrinated the public to assume that any information which is not in compliance with the official government narrative, or dares to criticize the establishment, is also "fake news" and thus falls under the "Russian propaganda" umbrella, the scene is now set for the US government to legally crack down on every media outlet that the government deems to be "foreign propaganda."

Just like that, the US Ministry of Truth is officially born.

(Excerpt) Read more at zerohedge.com ...

Source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3508444/posts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-HqpcFFle0

TCB said...

Just looked up why France ceded Louisiana to Spain in 1762. They slipped the territory to Spain in secret with the Treaty of Fontainebleu after losing the "French and Indian War" in North America (it was a sort of sideshow of the Seven Years' War, much as the 1812 war was a sort of sideshow of the Napoleonic wars).

Some French who left now-British Canada for Louisiana were unpleasantly surprised to discover their destination was not French anymore, and the Spanish had to suppress them in 1769 (the descendants of these 'Acadians' are now called Cajuns).

France retrieved Louisiana in 1800 in another secret treaty and sold it to the Yanks three years later.

Anonymous said...

Communism leads to more Communism. Nothing is more certain in life than the practice of Communism; more certain than even Death itself.

Jeff B. said...

Larry,

More likely, someone who truly loves America as an ideal would end up as pariahs, while those who "love America the way I love a good steak dinner" would get the good scores.

As bad as Trump's tenure will be, we won't be descending into tyranny just yet, but the door's open. Our biggest vulnerability would be the "free market"; a company markets it as a "fun new tool", perhaps with good intentions, as imagined by Dr. Brin and others, but it's then bought out by Facebook, and gradually transforms itself into a measure of patriotism. The mechanism for this I can't quite get over, though- something blatantly assessing patriotism will be rejected by well over half the market.

So perhaps its use languishes for years until pressures from a rightist govt., and the social pressures of that govt's supporters, gradually make it more and more essential...

Brrr, it's getting chilling in here.

Anonymous said...

Israel on Wednesday made public for the first time some 200,000 pages of documents related to the fate of the 1950s missing Yemenite children, something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was meant to “correct the historical injustice” of hiding the fate of the children.

I have always suspected Jews of being Vampires. Now we have proof after all these years. :P

-----

“It is difficult to believe that for almost 70 years, people did not know what happened to their children,” Netanyahu said. “And as difficult as the reality may be, we are not willing for this to continue.”

Netanyahu's comments came at a ceremony in the Prime Minister's Office where a website was launched with the documentation about the children.

Source: http://m.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israel-makes-public-200000-documents-on-missing-Yemenite-children-476742#article=6020MDlCNDIzMjVFOEQyRjVCQzgyNjNCOUZFQkYwMjNBOUM=

https://voat.co/v/pizzagate/1522349

Jeff B. said...

LarryHart,

Love me some Carlin. He got straight to the heart of issues.

(Even though the Spanish had already ruined the CA tribes before we even declared independence...)

Catfish N. Cod said...

@TCB: You could call the French and Indian War a "sideshow" in terms of how much its action contributed to the conclusion of the Seven Years' War, but it was central in the minds of the British Parliament, for that is where they considered it to have started. Specifically, by the ill-considered attack upon a French fort-construction team in Ohio, made by a wet-behind-the-ears 22-year old Virginia militiaman breveted up to Lt. Colonel. When he got in trouble, they sent a real general, only to have Braddock fail and die in the kid's arms. Snot-nosed and green as a spring leaf, they treated him and his troops badly and never integrated them into the Army; were sure he was expendable and wouldn't amount to much.

The kid's name, of course, was George Washington.

Alfred Differ said...

matthew said... As for "manufactured ignorance" the largest supplier are religions.

Argh. Rats. You have a point. I suspect, however, the people involved would argue they a manufacturing ‘correct’ knowledge. If we include the Jesuits and their history, we get a deeper look at how it is done.

Anonymous said...

America is run by DEGENERATE, homosexual pedophiles. This is what usually happens to a society when you lets Jews run wild. People have always misunderstood Hitler and what he was trying to do.


Renegade Jew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_BTKlGmVB4&t=2s

Jeff B. said...

Catfish,

Minor quibble, As a native Yinzer thereof, while it was called (in VA) the "Ohio Country", the environs of Ft. Duquesne were never considered part of the Ohio territory; while claimed by VA, it was also claimed by PA (and I think NY)...

Pittsburgh, Virginia doesn't have quite the same ring.

Jeff B. said...

Dr. Brin,

I know you prefer uninhibited exchanges, but might I still register a plea for the banhammer? While not the most frequent poster, I love this site for the intelligent discourse... but the open antisemitism and driveby conspiracy spambots turn my stomach...

Alfred Differ said...

For Catfish N Cod:
From Stratfor’s “Geopolitics of the United States”

I find it useful now and then to look back at this 2011 series that looked at various nations to sort out the imperatives. The US installment is in two parts and had an odd twist. Most of them start with a nation securing its border from external threat. Not so for the US or Iran. For the US, it was more important to dominate the Greater Mississippi Basin. We needed strategic depth in the event of hostilities with the British. Securing the sea approaches to our east coast doesn’t appear until #3. It is #2 that speaks about Canada, though, so I’ve copied a small part of the article here.
------------------------------------
2. Eliminate All Land-Based Threats to the Greater Mississippi Basin

The first land threat to the young United States was in essence the second phase of the Revolutionary War — a rematch between the British Empire and the young United States in the War of 1812. That the British navy could outmatch anything the Americans could float was obvious, and the naval blockade was crushing to an economy dependent upon coastal traffic. Geopolitically, the most critical part of the war was the participation of semi-independent British Canada. It wasn't so much Canadian participation in any specific battle of the war (although Canadian troops did play a leading role in the sacking of Washington in August 1814) as it was that Canadian forces, unlike the British, did not have a supply line that stretched across the Atlantic. They were already in North America and, as such, constituted a direct physical threat to the existence of the United States.

Canada lacked many of the United States' natural advantages even before the Americans were able to acquire the Louisiana Territory. First and most obvious, Canada is far enough north that its climate is far harsher than that of the United States, with all of the negative complications one would expect for population, agriculture and infrastructure. What few rivers Canada has neither interconnect nor remain usable year round. While the Great Lakes do not typically freeze, some of the river connections between them do. Most of these river connections also have rapids and falls, greatly limiting their utility as a transport network. Canada has made them more usable via grand canal projects, but the country's low population and difficult climate greatly constrain its ability to generate capital locally. Every infrastructure project comes at a great opportunity cost, such a high cost that the St. Lawrence Seaway — a series of locks that link the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes and allow full ocean access — was not completed until 1959.

Canada is also greatly challenged by geography. The Maritime Provinces — particularly Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island — are disconnected from the Canadian landmass and unable to capitalize on what geographic blessings the rest of the country enjoys. They lack even the option of integrating south with the Americans and so are perennially poor and lightly populated compared to the rest of the country. Even in the modern day, what population centers Canada does have are geographically sequestered from one another by the Canadian Shield and the Rocky Mountains.

As time advanced, none of Canada's geographic weaknesses worked themselves out. Even the western provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — are linked to Canada's core by only a single transport corridor that snakes 1,500 kilometers through the emptiness of western and central Ontario north of Lake Superior. All four provinces have been forced by geography and necessity to be more economically integrated with their southern neighbors than with their fellow Canadian provinces.

Alfred Differ said...

continued

Such challenges to unity and development went from being inconvenient and expensive to downright dangerous when the British ended their involvement in the War of 1812 in February 1815. The British were exhausted from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and, with the French Empire having essentially imploded, were more interested in reshaping the European balance of power than re-engaging the Americans in distant North America. For their part, the Americans were mobilized, angry and — remembering vividly the Canadian/British sacking of Washington — mulling revenge. This left a geographically and culturally fractured Canada dreading a long-term, solitary confrontation with a hostile and strengthening local power. During the following decades, the Canadians had little choice but to downgrade their ties to the increasingly disinterested British Empire, adopt political neutrality vis-a-vis Washington, and begin formal economic integration with the United States. Any other choice would have put the Canadians on the path to another war with the Americans (this time likely without the British), and that war could have had only one outcome.

With its northern border secured, the Americans set about excising as much other extra-hemispheric influence from North America as possible. The Napoleonic Wars had not only absorbed British attention but had also shattered Spanish power (Napoleon actually succeeded in capturing the king of Spain early in the conflicts). Using a combination of illegal settlements, military pressure and diplomacy, the United States was able to gain control of east and west Florida from Madrid in 1819 in exchange for recognizing Spanish claims to what is now known as Texas (Tejas to the Spanish of the day).

This "recognition" was not even remotely serious. With Spain reeling from the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish control of its New World colonies was frayed at best. Most of Spain's holdings in the Western Hemisphere either had already established their independence when Florida was officially ceded, or — as in Mexico — were bitterly fighting for it. Mexico achieved its independence a mere two years after Spain ceded Florida, and the United States' efforts to secure its southwestern borders shifted to a blatant attempt to undermine and ultimately carve up the one remaining Western Hemispheric entity that could potentially challenge the United States: Mexico.
----------------------------------

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

The kid's name, of course, was George Washington.


I had a feeling where you were going before the punchline. There's a nod to that in "Hamilton", when George Washington sings:

I was younger than you are now
When I was given my first command.
I led my men into a massacre.
I witnessed their deaths first-hand.

I made every mistake,
And felt the same rise in me.
And even now, I lie awake
Knowing history has its eye on me.


My admiration for the poetic mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda hit a new high when I realized that in a later reprise of the same melody had lyrics which rhymed with that one, including the line "Treasury or State?" in the place of "Ev-ery mistake."

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding the blog topic, I suspect "Little Brother" is most dangerous when he can create legislation we deem to reflect the moral values of our community using a simple majority vote. Even a filibuster proof vote probably isn't enough to avoid trouble since a vocal opposition of 10% is enough to make a mockery of the Rule of Law.

Is splitting Little Brother into 50 "Even Littler Brothers" enough? We seem to be reluctant to tolerate this. In have relatives in CA and WA who are upset about NC laws and gerrymandering. Our inclination to identify first as American might get in the way.

Jumper said...

Looks like a group, not a lone troll. I can't force them to listen to Iggy Pop albums, or I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus, or watch Life of Brian. I would guess their pleasures are more dissipated.

Alfred Differ said...

How about we just re-invite all Anonymous people who actually want to participate to pick a pseudo-name and type it in the right field. If they do, we can roll-up the others and ignore them.

TCB said...

@Catfish: George Washington. Not the best general who ever lived, by a mile. But definitely one of the luckiest. In Brooklyn, you can get an ice cream cone at the site where Washington's force, having just had their asses whipped by British in the Battle of Long Island, escaped by night across the East River to Manhattan in rowboats, protected from nearby British naval ships by a freaking miraculous fog bank. It dissipated just as the last of them got away.

David Brin said...

This tedious sniper is yawn-worthy. Is he even aware of the meaning of terms like "communism? Or how Soviet communism was just a superficial religion, laid upon a completely standard feudal oligarchy?

Serious, anonymous idiot, the Leninists killed the Czar & priests... and replaced them EXACTLY with Marxist lords and priests. It was almost exactly the same system. Why do you think Putin was able to switch BACK to oligarchy and the Orthodox Church so quickly and easily?

You suck up to Putin, as if he is the opposite of a communist. Idiot! He was raised a communist and now is a feudal oligarch because those are the same thing. And YOU imbeciles of the alt-right are helping to restore feudalism here. Every single thing that you do... pouring hate as science, for example, and electing rapists to steal from the middle class... every single thing you do is helping to end the American Experiment and bring back oligarchy.

David Brin said...

Give it a little while Jeff B. I know a day will come... maybe soon... when I must make this limited access. Frankly, I am stunned it has taken this long. I think we have some kind of record. Trolls get bored here because they strain their eyes reading whole paragraphs.

Dwight Williams said...

Empathy to you and Jeff, Dr. Brin.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin brings up an important point when he wrote about the trade off between “Big Brother” and “Little Brother.” Both are pitfalls of human nature that will require careful balancing. It reminded me of a guest speaker I had in an archaeology class when I was in grad school. He had just come back from a year of doing an ethnoarchaeological study on how settlement patterns change. Specifically, he was examining how Amazon natives were transitioning from small villages to large towns. One of the reasons people told him for why they moved out of the villages into larger settlements was that in small villages, everyone knows everyone else’s business. Small communities are not peaceful places, they are hotbeds of malicious gossip and people trying to maximize each other’s misery, behaviors that lead to a lot of interpersonal violence. When you get into a bigger place you have more opportunity to be anonymous, and generally the more crowded people get they have to adapt to each other’s differences. But even in the biggest cities, you get enclaves of “Little Brothers.”

“As for "manufactured ignorance" the largest supplier are religions.”

Matthew, I’m glad you said that and not me. I am probably getting a reputation, and sometimes wonder if the disdain my personal experience with religion is truly warranted. But then, all I have to do is read a little history, or check up on how religious organizations are constantly messing with other public institutions, or how people who cling to primitive superstitions like exorcism or the sanctity of blood end up killing their own children ...

Of course, those same superstitions create those “little brothers.” It’s not just churches, though. Any small subset of the overall population tends to fall into those behaviors – office politics, little league shaming, regular clients of a bar or a gym, or a blog.

The relaxation of social mores our host speaks of is something that we have been seeing for some time. Younger generations are tending to be less judgmental, at least about some things, but this is hardly universal. As a high school teacher I see both old-fashioned hate-shaming among some kids and live-and-let-live standards with others, side by side in the same community. Probably the future will also be mixed, with some areas clinging to the Bronze Age standards that have guided so much of society into misery and pain, while others go in the more fruitful and productive direction of allowing people to be who they are so they can be productive citizens instead of problems.

“Some people will tell 1,000 people on Facebook when their house is going to be empty while they vacation, or talk about Grandma's dementia so hustlers can rob the house and Grandma too.”
- Jumper’s comment here is an example of how human nature has issues with modern society. People talk, it’s a natural instinct driven by the neurotransmitter oxytocin. If you make conversation with people, your brain releases it and you feel comfortable (unless you are a sociopath). If you don’t make conversation, your brain withholds it, and you feel uncomfortable. The instincts that made humans social animals are far from perfect, and frequently override good sense. They also can lead to jealousy, as people try to ensure the people who have stimulated their oxytocin will always do so, and Big Brothers, as some people attempt to monopolize and ensure their oxytocin fix at the expense of everyone else’s.
- As Tom Crowl would say, this is a bit of a simplification, but that is how understanding often begins, by taking a mass of information and organizing it to see some kind of cohesive pattern. Exceptions and complications start to crop up later.

Paul SB said...

My posts are starting to disappear again!

Tony Fisk said...

@Paul SB Maybe the algorithm has identified you as a variety of flightless waterfowl.

People talk, it’s a natural instinct driven by the neurotransmitter oxytocin. If you make conversation with people, your brain releases it and you feel comfortable (unless you are a sociopath). If you don’t make conversation, your brain withholds it, and you feel uncomfortable.

I thought oxytocin was stimulated by deep touch (aka hugs). As a fairly strong introvert who is quite comfortable keeping my own company for long periods without conversation, I'm not sure how this makes me a sociopath. Then again, modern pop psych seems to think extroversion is the state to aspire to.
Meh.

Paul SB said...

Bell Curve, Tony, think Bell Curve. Most psychologists don't seem to get that variation is quite normal.

As to what causes the release of oxytocin, there is quite a catalogue, including deep touch. But there is a certain amount of plasticity to it. Almost anything you associate with a comfortable feeling results in an oxytocin release. It's a form of learning, really. If something is good in some sense, your brain rewards you with a good feeling. Even a familiar location can do this, which helps to explain why many people never leave their home town. When I was an undergrad I had to read Joyce's "Dubliners" for a history class, and the book started with a story about a young woman who had saved money to buy a one-way ticket to America, intending to escape the general poverty and hopelessness of the place. But when she got to the end of the dock, she could not force herself to set foot on the ship. It's not likely Joyce ever heard of oxytocin, but what he described is very real. I imagine in Joyce's time they thought of this in more Freudian terms. People can develop an association between the place they live and the feeling created by the chemical - essentially an addiction - so if they try to leave, they start to suffer withdrawal symptoms.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Paul SB said...
"My posts are starting to disappear again!"

------

I wonder how that happens? This fraud Brin is an out and out Commie Control Freak. There is no freedom of thought in a CommieLand. I have yet to see a single original thought from this FRAUD ---> BRIN.

Try the Archdruid report. At least you'd be dealing with a real genius:

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/

Stephen Peterson said...

Living in Seattle I'll be very interested to see what people make of Amazon's new "Go" bodega thing: just a cursory glance at the patents shows an impressive mesh of surveillance tech. We're definitely in more of a Huxleyan scenario where people will be tempted by convenience even as the more Orwellian aspects are kept behind the scenes. And probably the corporate overlords won't do any secret policing, but that won't stop hackers. (I for one can't wait for exciting new advances in shoplifting!)

I wish Amazon would offer to publish customer data directly to said customer's account. A heatmap of my travels through a store would be interesting. Timestamps would be interesting. Calorie and nutrient counts might be cool. I'd even allow the data to be passed on to other partners... maybe.

But no... more people are apparently okay with getting convenience from a black box, even as they worry about the NSA reading their browser history. *sigh*

Jumper said...

Imagine going to the next town, going into a store, and singing a song in front of strangers.

Twominds said...

@anonymous 10:53 PM
There's no logic to your assertion, that Brin would block Paul SB's posts but let yours through.

And if you're trying to get traffic to the archdruid's site this way, you're doing it RONG!

And, hmm, genius? Last time I was there, couple of years ago I admit, I found his writings interesting, but in the end little more than a Romantic yearning for simpler times, which doesn't bring us any further.

Whether Brin's ideas will pan out in the end, is still to be determined, but at least he's throwing brain power at it and tries to find possible ways out of the maze.

And: IF you're not the same anonymous that spouted that antisemitic filth, use your name, or just take a handle that fits your position like I do, so we can distinguish you from that bit of vomit. Flesh out your opinions a bit and discuss. There are opponents of Brins ideas here, and they're welcome even if disagreed with a lot. Sometimes they bring interesting points. You didn't yet, but who knows?

Catfish N. Cod said...

To all anonymous cowards: until you put down a name, even a fake one, you could be a communist, anarchist, anti-Semitic Nazi, or Islamist. Or all of the above at once; they've all posted. You could be a bot, mentally ill, or a foreign intelligence agent. The point is, until you can establish accountability for your words and links, you're not worth listening to.

@Larry: I know you love the show, so I'm going to go ahead and blow your mind: I've seen it. Live, complete original Broadway cast. And I wish one day that every high school in America is expected to perform it, or parts of it, as a traditional part of their American History classes. It's just that good.

@Alfred: I went and read that whole Stratfor after that. Compelling, though my brain warns me that there's more than a bit of just-so story involved, and makes broad assumptions that technology will not upend its calculations as to economic costs. It does not address well why integrating the West Coast was quite as vital as securing the Mexican frontier, for instance. It does spell out why Russia is resurgent quite well, though.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@Larry: I know you love the show, so I'm going to go ahead and blow your mind: I've seen it. Live, complete original Broadway cast. And I wish one day that every high school in America is expected to perform it, or parts of it, as a traditional part of their American History classes. It's just that good.


The only reason I don't want to rip your heart out is that my family also has tickets to see "Hamilton". It won't be the original Broadway cast, and not until May, but it is here in Chicago, and my daughter already has a phone app which tells her the number of days remaining. (Back in my day, I counted down days without mechanical aids)

Have you seen Lin-Manuel Miranda in any other context. I've watched this season's SNL show he hosted on YouTube, and he seems like just the nicest guy for all of this fame and success to have happened to.

"Hamilton" isn't yet available for high schools to perform yet, but a school in my daughter's district did perform Miranda's earlier musical called "In the Heights". Naturally, she and her friends wanted to see it, and rather than just dropping them off, my wife and I saw the performance as well. Miranda's dialogue was true to form, and when the opening number rhymed "And take the escalator" with "I'm gonna test ya later", we knew we were in the right place.

During the standing ovation at the end, the drama director interrupted the applause (while acknowledging that you just don't do that) to announce that just a few hours earlier, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had called to invite that troupe to perform at the state level competition. The players on stage were obviously hearing this for the first time, and their joyful excitement was worth the price of admission alone. I'm tearing up again just describing it.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

George Washington. Not the best general who ever lived, by a mile. But definitely one of the luckiest. In Brooklyn, you can get an ice cream cone at the site where Washington's force, having just had their asses whipped by British in the Battle of Long Island, escaped by night across the East River to Manhattan in rowboats, protected from nearby British naval ships by a freaking miraculous fog bank. It dissipated just as the last of them got away.


That sounds like something out of "Exodus"!

After falling in love with the musical "Hamilton", I did some reading up on Aaron Burr, including Gore Vidal's 1970s novel "Burr". In there, the fictionalized character of Burr expresses nothing but contempt for Washington as well as Jefferson, Madison, and many of our sacred Founding Fathers. He had a certain professional respect for Hamilton, but it didn't stop him from killing the guy in a duel. The Revolutionary general whom Burr most respected seemed to be Charles Lee, who was portrayed as an incompetent clown in the musical.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

“Some people will tell 1,000 people on Facebook when their house is going to be empty while they vacation, or talk about Grandma's dementia so hustlers can rob the house and Grandma too.”
- Jumper’s comment here is an example of how human nature has issues with modern society. People talk, it’s a natural instinct driven by the neurotransmitter oxytocin


Good writers tell you intimate things about themselves in their writing. I'm reminded of the (somewhat heavy-handed) scene in Star Trek TNG where the crew takes leave of the 19th century, and Captain Picard says to Mark Twain, "I wish I had a chance to know you better," to which Twain replies "Well, read my books. It's pretty much all there."

I despair for a future in which connecting with readers simply makes one a target for identity theft.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Autocorrect me crazy! " ... looking for signs of dissent or treachery ... " and "... the church marm ..." not church warm. Humbug to "convenience"! All the convenience machine does is try to make everyone the same.

Paul SB said...

I have tried reposting the one that disappeared three times now, so maybe Tony is right, I am a flightless waterfowl. I dressed up as one for Halloween last year...

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

The last time your posts disappeared, you e-mailed them to me, and I copy/pasted them, and they also disappeared. So it's something in the text, not you personally.

Last time, when I broke your post up into separate segments, they stuck.

We never did figure out the determining factor, but it was something about the post in its entirety, separate from the sum of its parts.

Paul SB said...

Yes, I remember that. This one isn't so long, though, but I'll try breaking it up.

"Okay, I’m trying the disappearing post again, reconstructing from my very fallible memory.

Maybe when it gets to the point that readers have to wade through as much anonymous trollery as reasoned dialogue it will be time for Dr. Brin to invoke his incarnation as Shiva the Troll-Trasher. No surprise this is happening now, in the wake of the recent election."

Paul SB said...

"On our Anonymice and Locum Ranch, it’s possible. Remember that on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. He might have been doing that for years, or maybe I have, or maybe you, or you, or you… The host might do it, for all we know, though I’m not suggesting that he or anyone else actually does. We just don’t know. We could just as easily have tag-team trolls. Anyone dumb enough to buy the Clinton body count stuff that has been going around for the last two decades doesn’t have a lot of wits. As if a man who couldn’t get away with an elicit affair with an ugly intern could possibly cover up multiple murders, and with all the scrutiny hurled at his wife, that is even less likely. The old Bush Body Count sites were a little more credible, since they tended to focus on the victims of the Shrub’s unwarranted war on Iraq, which is a huge part of why we have ISIS/Daesh today. But back to our little loci, even if our anonymice sound kind of like him, his rants are hardly unique. There are any number of hate groups we could name which regularly make the same arguments, use the same tactics (including those described in Twominds’ article, as well as common obfuscation devices used by businesses, political parties and churches everywhere). Loci is a fascist at his core, but he doesn’t strike me as a coward who would hide behind anonymity to make cheap shots. I could be wrong, though, given some of the rhetorical dirty tricks he uses."

Robert said...

My apologies for going off on a scientific tangent but I thought you might find this of interest, Dr. Brin.

It's an article suggesting the Information Processing theory of the mind is invalid and it goes on to suggest we never will have neural downloads to computer systems because the human brain does not operate in this fashion.

I'm curious as to the repercussions this may have for Artificial Intelligence research seeing that if human consciousness and memory is not along the lines of information retrieval systems, then how can we replicate consciousness and intelligence using machine systems? Literally it would be like trying to make a robotic human. You can craft a machine that walks and looks human... but it will only ever be a machine.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB:
It's Treebeard who strikes me as more of an out-and-proud fascist. A Holnist, even. Loc seems to have many of the same goals and hatreds that I do, but he perversely blames the ills born of corporate fascism on "progressive urban Democrats" and even more perversely thinks that Republicans will put an end to those things.

In that, he finds himself in the position of a couple whose dual controls for the electric blanked have been switched. If he's too hot, he turns down the heat, which actually makes his wife cold, so she turns up the heat, but that's really the heat on his side. The more either one attempts to correct their temperature, the worse the problem gets for both of them. That is the functional equivalent to voting for Republicans in an attempt to put humanistic values above people's value as cogs in a machine.

While I hardly ever agree with either of those guys, they do seem to be contributing members of the community, completely separate from the anonymous drive-bys posting YouTube videos. Those are easy enough to simply skip over.

Paul SB said...

Larry, you might be right about the difference between Treebeard and Locum Ranch, but I think they are more alike. It's just that the former is more blunt while the latter is more skilled at obfuscation and solipsism. But I agree that they are more akin to contributors than our anonymous trolls. If the Anonymous button could be removed, it would help, but then, the trolls could simply create a new pseudonym every time they jump out from under their bridges, like having a huge collection of hats and wearing a different one each time.

Love the electric blanket analogy!

But to something more interesting to talk about, one of my fellow teachers just posted a video on Facebook that makes many of the points I have been making about brains, instincts and how modern life matches these badly. It is ostensibly about millennials and how they get along in the workplace, but the points he makes have much broader implications. I am tempted to show this to my anatomy classes when I go back to work. I found it on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

Paul SB said...

Robert,

I read over the article you liked to, and nothing in it really surprised me. No, brains are not much like computers, and thinking about them as if they were misleads us. One problem with the article is that the author assumes that we can understand without any metaphors, which isn't really possible. What humans basically do is refine their knowledge (real knowledge) until they realize that their model is just a metaphor and the metaphor no longer fits the knowledge. He goes through the metaphors humans have used to understand human intelligence for literally thousands of years, but misses the fact that at each point it was new knowledge that led to the metaphor.

As far as artificial intelligence and the idea of downloading consciousness into computers goes, I wouldn't be so dismissive. If we ever get to the point where we truly understand how our brains work, I'm sure some clever brains somewhere will find ways to make computers that work more like our brains and less like how computers work today. It might take a few more centuries...

Darrell E said...

Robert,

Thanks for the link to the Robert Epstein article. An interesting read. I found it completely unconvincing. The most repeated argument in it is forceful assertions that the human brain is not an information processor. The few arguments and examples the author offers in support of that range from caricatures to non sequiturs. The examples he adduces do not support the idea that the brain doesn't process information. Some of his examples do indeed support the idea that the brain does not function like a computer in any specifics, but that has been the prevailing understanding in cognitive science and AI for a long time. That doesn't imply that the brain doesn't process information. At all. It implies that brains are different from computers. And everyone already knows that.

My first thought would be that Epstein is a crank, a bore, or that he has a prior commitment to something and is allowing that to impair his understanding. His alternative explanation for the brain processing information is that experiences just change it somehow so that it just behaves differently afterwords. So that when a human memorizes a poem and then later recites it from memory there is no information processing happening in the brain. The brain has just been changed so that now it is capable of reciting the poem. No effort at an explanation of what the changes are, how they might occur, or how they might result in the brain reciting information when previously it had not been able to do so. Frankly, that's ridiculous. It sure as heck isn't any kind of science. There may be legitimate opponents of an "IP metaphor" of human cognition for all I know, but if so I seriously doubt that Epstein understands them.

I feel completely comfortable disregarding Epstein's claims and opinions about cognitive science and opining that others should as well.

Jumper said...

Well, he is a veteran of Psychology Today, that insufferable pop excuse for valid psychological thinking.
I think several here have read Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking
https://books.google.com/books?id=XkQT5eTnurYC
which shows a good model of how neural networks do process data and structure memory. I will highly recommend it yet again.

matthew said...

Off the political trail for a little bit, too.

Amazon has designs for flying warehouses to support drone deliveries.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/29/amazon-plans-for-giant-airship-warehouses-revealed

My first thought was why not blimps or balloons? Anyone see the reason to not use LTA?

Darrell E said...

Matthew,

The article doesn't have much detail but all references to "flying warehouses" is "airship" which typically is used to mean LTA. The drones, as in the image in the article, are the package delivery vehicles.

Paul SB said...

Darrell,

I was pretty uncomfortable with the author's insistence that human brains don't process information, but I thought the point he was making is not that brains don't process information at all, but that they don't process information in any way analogous to how computers process information. Memory storage is another issue and a very different one. Know one really knows how memory is stored in the brain, exactly. The idea that memories are stored inside individual neurons is very, very old, and very, very debunked. But a lot of ordinary people who have little understanding of brains do have this misconception. Mixed bag, and as I said to Robert, as humans comet understand their brains better, the technology will also change.

David Brin said...

It's not that I despise "psychology." It has created a context within which some people become "counselors" and "therapists" and a large fraction of those who are attracted to that calling are -- or are trained to be -- skilled listeners and healers. Just by providing that context for unhappy people to talk things through, the profession does good. And yes of course psychiatry is another matter. They talk very little now and dispense medicines that are starting, barely, to be scientific and genuinely helpful.

Still, sorry, very few fields have had so much earnest attention for so few actual breakthroughs. And America's current psychosis makes this evident.

Jeff B. said...

Thanks, Dr. Brin,

I hate calling for any sort of censorship, but some of the latest anons are crossing the line of civil discourse. I can choose to read or not read a missive by people with whom I disagree, but these are like accidents from which you just can't look away. "Is that really for real?" I'm not a delicate flower who will wither under such intemperate language, but it's not what I hope for here.

I am curious about your impression of that Sesame Credit story I linked. If real it would seem to address all the weaknesses of surveillance, and completely undermine any hope for sousveillance...

And it imaginarium isn't fully functional right now, so I'm having trouble postulating any way of effectively subverting or bypassing such a system.

Darrell E said...

Paul SB said...
Darrell,

I was pretty uncomfortable with the author's insistence that human brains don't process information, but I thought the point he was making is not that brains don't process information at all, but that they don't process information in any way analogous to how computers process information.


You could of course be correct, but I really don't think that is the case. He repeated himself many times, explained himself at length several times and emphasized his claim with sarcasm, many times. I think at best his conception of "information" is atypical of how the term is used in relevant scientific fields and therefore he doesn't really understand what he is saying when he claims that human brains don't process information. He clearly doesn't understand what he thinks the brain does do because he can't explain any better than "it gets changed so that now it can do X."

I'll go further and suggest that he sounds like his motivation is a prior commitment to some conception of human specialness. His apparent indignation throughout the article, and then the first sentence of the last paragraph make that seem probable. Don't get me wrong, I think human's are special too. But I don't use that value judgement as a premise for rationalizing how reality must work in order to accommodate that premise.

Jonathan Sills said...

The Sesame Credit concept seems similar to a situation in Aaron Diaz' webcomic Dresden Codak, in the ongoing "Dark Science" storyline. At one point, Vonnie is caught assisting Kim, a "mezzode" (someone with over 20% cyborg parts), to pass as human to get into a party. Being caught ruins her Social Score. "I'll never be able to afford new loved ones now!"

(Legalistic precision helped Kim escape later as well; the robots she had helped earlier assisted her in building a new cybernetic body to carry her brain in. This classed her legally as a "motor vehicle", meaning the arrest warrant they had for a mezzode was no longer valid...)

Zepp Jamieson said...

From someone calling himself "Wukchumni" on Comment is Free on the Guardian:
"But look @ the bright side of things, with so many aqua tourists wanting to dive the ruins of Flatlantis, Miami will be more popular than ever~"

Now there's a neologm I fully expect to see in one of Brin's future novels...

TCB said...

I say, let the anonymous posters (often tho not always trolls) post, but is it possible to change it so that instead of Anonymous it says Probably A. Chickenrapist?

Ben Franklin got his start as an anonymous poster (under such pseudonyms as Silence Dogood), so I can find some value in the idea.

On the other hand, it's best to treat lies the way we treat spam. There is a name for what Donald Trump, for example, has been doing: the Gish Gallop.

"The Gish Gallop (also known as proof by verbosity[1] and the Trump Tirade[2]) is the fallacious debate tactic of drowning your opponent in a flood of individually-weak arguments in order to prevent rebuttal of the whole argument collection without great effort. The Gish Gallop is a belt-fed version of the on the spot fallacy, as it's unreasonable for anyone to have a well-composed answer immediately available to every argument present in the Gallop. The Gish Gallop is named after creationist Duane Gish, who often abused it."

A good liar can pull ten lies out of his ass faster than you can refute one. Therefore the only effective response is to blacklist the source altogether, and assume that every statement therefrom is in bad faith, even though proof of that bad faith must wait.

This may sound a bit like ad hominem, but it is after all exactly what scientists do: caught falsifying data once, a researcher's career in the hard sciences is FINISHED.

Jeff B. said...

Jonathan Sills,

I've been reading Dresden Codak, and completely missed that reference. The month+ intervals between updates means I'm barely keeping up w. new events in it, and often have to re-read the last several pages before the new one makes any sense at all.

But looking at it now, the parallels w. Sesame Credit are apparent. In-comic, all the character had to do was walk away, though; if an entire society goes that route, I don't know if that'll be easy. Low Sesame Credit scores will make it impossible to travel, impossible to get good jobs, impossible to take education, so you'll essentially be trapped at the bottom with no hope at all unless you toe the line. Well-intentioned social criticisms, like the tainted milk scandal of a few years, would never materialize; deserved criticisms of local party apparatchiks like by the parents of the children killed in the recent quakes by shoddy construction would be muzzles and no action taken, instead of the punishments that were in fact handed out.

To me that looks like just the start.

David Brin said...

Zepp, as we being our long process of saying goodbye to Miami… then all of Florida and much of the Olde South… I am reminded of the scary novel War Against the Newts, a 1936 satirical science fiction novel by Czech author Karel Čapek. Humnanity loses all its lowlands which are converted into swamps for the intelligent salamanders we had abused. A different mechanism (one reminiscent of Uplift!) But the net result - humanity fleeing from the shorelines - is eerily and painfully redolent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_with_the_Newts

Čapek, who is best known for R.U.R. (coining the term “robot”), also wrote The Absolute, a satiric (1922) prediction of vast, worldwide war in 1943, though triggered by a new form of energy generation that fills the world with a pollutant — religious irrationality. Geez, what if it’s true? If you look at where and how fossil fuels get mined and burned and who controls them. Just sayin’.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Absolute_at_Large

Paul SB said...

Okay Darrell, I won't belabor the point. I just have a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt, until they give me a good reason not to. In this case, you're probably right. BTW, have you read the Surfaces and Essences book that Jumper referred to? My reading list isn't getting any shorter, and won't unless I manage to ditch my current career, but it sounds interesting.


Dr. Brin,

You wrote: "Still, sorry, very few fields have had so much earnest attention for so few actual breakthroughs. And America's current psychosis makes this evident."
- to which I say "Amen!"
There is some hope, though, signs that psychologists are beginning to pay attention to neuroscience (which is only just learning to crawl) and gain some real, effective insights. Do you remember that Invisibilia episode I posted here a long way back? In it a person who was having obsessive thoughts about violence went to a psychologist for help, but the psychologist he went to was a Freudian and did nothing, eventually giving up and not answering his phone calls. The next psychologist he tried was a cognitive behavior therapist, and that didn't work, either. The third used a newer paradigm called Third Wave or Mindfulness Therapy and was actually able to help the guy. The episode was called The Secret History of Thoughts.

http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/375927143/the-secret-history-of-thoughts?showDate=2015-01-09

Zepp Jamieson said...

Miami's demise might be a lot less gradual than we would like. One cat six hurricane (a type not devised yet but which would have sustained winds of 180mph with gusts to 200) hitting just south of the city should eliminate the economic and cultural existence of the town. Preceded in death by the drownings of NOLA and Sacramento.
Your mention of Karel Čapek prompted me to check the public domain listings, where RUR, written in 1922, resides. Under our insane copyright laws, War Against the Newts won't be available for another 13 years. I'll have to look for The Absolute, Vast, worldwide war by 1943? Really? Oh, you SF guys and your wacky imaginations! Although it escapes me as to why we would need any additional pollutants to promote the rise of religious irrationality. It seems to flourish even in the most pristine of environments.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Followup. Australia has different ideas on PD work, and I found both The Absolute and War with the Newts at the University of Adelaide.
https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/capek/karel/newts/contents.html
and
https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/capek/karel/absolute-at-large/
Bookmarked both!

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: I just can't bring myself to believe projections past 2100, unless we assume that technology development will come to a halt soon (low probability but not impossible). Remember, 1900 projections for 2000 had the #1 environmental problem for NYC being a horsedung crisis.

But yes, Miami is toast without absolutely outrageous investments. NOLA too, but NOLA is already starting to get those investments; Miami is just now realizing how much of a problem it has. How much longer can Florida live in denial? Fourteen of its eighteen millions live in a coastal county. When will the waves start trying to lap against the launch decks at Canaveral?

And that presumes that there isn't something really dramatic. My bet on the worm turning is the year the North Pole is visibly ice-free for weeks. A picture is worth way more than a thousand words, and you have to be brain dead to ignore that the world is warmer when Santa is swimming.

Twominds said...

Hey, now it happens to me too. Disappearing posts I mean. Three tries in two browsers, but the same result. I see it in the comment page, I refresh and poof! Gone. I had a longish comment that just doesn't stick. Good thing that I copied it before posting.
I checked the length, as I’ve had warnings when I went over 4000-something characters, but this is not nearly as long. Well, I’ll try again tomorrow.

David Brin said...

I ain't doin' it guys, I promise!

Zepp Jamieson said...

Twominds wrote: "More book recommendations from you. I'll be swamped! But in this case I can reprocicate: 'The Swarm: A Novel of the Deep' by Frank Schätzing. An ecothriller in which the ocean life rises up against humanity for what they are doing with the seas."
I'll heartily second that recommendation. Schätzing's writing combines the best of Arthur C Clarke and Peter Struab.

TCB said...

I have found that, if I fuck up a hyperlink in a post, I need to reload the page entirely and copypasta the comment or it's no go.

This is not the same as a comment being eaten, but if I were not experienced at losing comments, it would seem so to me.

For REALLY long comments I'll often bang it out in LibreOffice and THEN paste it in the web page when I have it how I want.

Twominds said...

@Zepp 6:40 PM

You do see my comment?? I still can'd find it. Curiouser and curiouser.
If it's still invisible to me tomorrow, I'll repost, but now for bed!

Jumper said...

One of mine seems to have gone missing, about sea level, disaster relief and storm surge. Does anyone remember it?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jumper: I just checked my email queue. This post asking if anyone remembered your previous post is the only one from you in this thread.

Jumper said...

Well, he is a veteran of Psychology Today, that insufferable pop excuse for valid psychological thinking.
I think several here have read Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking
https://books.google.com/books?id=XkQT5eTnurYC
which shows a good model of how neural networks do process data and structure memory. I will highly recommend it yet again.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I posted that earlier.

Jumper said...

That is, I got it off this page which I see above.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

And that presumes that there isn't something really dramatic. My bet on the worm turning is the year the North Pole is visibly ice-free for weeks. A picture is worth way more than a thousand words, and you have to be brain dead to ignore that the world is warmer when Santa is swimming.


Is that why penguins have mysteriously become part of the Christmas scenery? Because the north pole and reindeer will soon be obsolete references?

Slim Moldie said...

Sesame Credit seems like the first steps of an attempt to realize the purgatory system featured in Albert Brooks "Defending Your Life"

One of the issues I take with religions and reward/punishment systems is that they tend to produce (what I call) externally motivated individuals. Some of you might be experiencing this in managing adult millennials who behave like children. Person X will do something but only if you offer them an immediate reward or threaten them with a punishment.

I can see how parenting and education might produce internally motivated individuals. (Work for the love it, or desire to help others. Learning out of curious etc.)

Not so sure how transparency fosters what I'm calling the internally motivated adult.

Paul SB: curious how the oxytocin release might play in all this.

LarryHart said...

about missing posts...

From the earlier experience with PaulSB, it seems that it's not just a function of length, but that length has something to do with it. Our suspicion was that some combination of items in the post caused blogger to somehow identify the post as spam.

Another separate issue is alluded to above. Sometimes, your browser might be stuck displaying an old cached version of the blog comments, and stubbornly refuses to update even if you click "refresh". You might have to clear your cache to see any new posts. I suspect that some posts go missing when someone else posts while they are stuck on an older cache version.

But when Paul's posts went missing a few weeks ago, it had nothing to do with the cache. He went so far as to e-mail me the text of his post, so that I could post it for him, and the post still disappeared after it posted. In that case, the problem was "solved" by breaking the post into thirds.

LarryHart said...

The concern over a Sesame Credit equivalent here in America is that it would be McCarthyism on steroids. You can't get a job if you've ever said something nice about Hillary Clinton, or state that global warming is real, or express support for Black Lives Matter.

To prevent this, we would have to make the contingent who typically votes Republican painfully aware that they might be "graded" on Political Correctness by a socialist dictator like Obama. As long as Republicans can be made to fear and loathe the idea, it will never happen here.

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish N. Cod: The geopolitics articles have to be put in context that contains their forecasts (quarterly, yearly, and decade), Friedman's 100 year forecast example (a book), the sector analyses, and the material describing how they collect relevant data.

They DO consider what technologies are up and coming and how they might alter projections. For example, from geopolitics alone, one could expect the US to desire energy independence from the Middle East (which means everyone because oil is fungible) in order to simplify our relationships over there and open more policy options. This impacts Russia and Venezuela for obvious reasons. Looking at technology improvements and market growth for PVs, though, shows how Germany will likely exit its over-reliance on Russian energy sources which should enable policy options regarding Ukraine. I don't want to come across as an advertisement for Stratfor, but they are a source of knowledge for which I am willing to pay. They grade themselves on the accuracy of their forecasts and publish that too. Usually they do well, but when they are surprised, they admit it and adjust It is refreshing.

I remember someone asking for a geopolitics article that focused upon California. I seem to recall it was a deflating ego experience after Friedman declined and explained why. The US west coast is a convenience at best when it comes to US geopolitical strength. This can be seen by how late in our history the west coast developed. We are mostly a post-WWII development because earlier trade was dominated by Atlantic routes involving Europe. Obviously we bring a lot of trade in from the Pacific Rim and the wealth associated with being a trade hub shows up in our population centers and universities. The argument goes that an independent republic on the west coast would be heavily economically integrated with the US if it wanted to remain wealthy, thus we would take a Canadian path into the future. Heavy, heavy integration and no policies enacted that would roil the relationships. As part of the US, however, we can be much more cantankerous. 8)

In Friedman's book, he projects Mexico taking the integration path until it is so important to us that we have to put up with their independent thinking. A very strong trading partner need not be part of the US for us to find it in our best interest to cope they decide they can safely roil the waters without us retaliating. Friedman put that out about 60 years from now.

Anyway, it is the what of thinking that is most valuable. The projections might be right or wrong, but the way of thinking helps a reader disconnect the interests of a nation from the interests of a few individuals within a nation. We have a hard time doing that when the political heat is on.

Paul SB said...

Slim Moldie,

Oxytocin works like several other neurotransmitters (we have about 60, and most of them we know little about what they do, still) in that it reinforces behavior or tries to extinguish it. I wrote earlier that oxytocin release is something that can be highly contextual, like when people get so comfortable with their home town they become afraid to go anywhere else. Culture can teach us what should be good or bad, to some extent, and if we are consistently reinforced for doing certain things, we develop an oxytocin-mediated dependence. So if, say, your parents did a family fun night every week and the whole family sat around playing Uno for a few hours every Friday night, then your brain associates playing Uno with the (hopefully) positive experience of being with family. when you go off to college and you are no longer playing Uno, you get a lot of uneasy, uncomfortable feelings (withdrawal symptoms). You are not getting the oxytocin you used to get. You can try playing Uno with your college roommates and your brain will start releasing the chemical, and feel kind of like you are at home again. If you keep up playing cards with your roomies, after several months your brain has learned to associate them with the same good feeling (oxytocin release) as you got from being with family.

Now if you want to understand what is happening with externally-motivated vs. internally-motivated people, you have to look at what behaviors are being reinforced by our culture. We live in a rather capitalistic society, where value is placed on money, immediate gratification, consumerism, you get the idea. There are a lot of forces in society that channel our thinking this way, rewarding the most "successful" people with admiration, respect, etc. But there are also currents within culture that reward different behaviors - things like the Golden Rule, all those more pro-social mores that society teaches, so when a person does a good deed, they are often rewarded with respect and admiration - which reinforces those behaviors with the good feeling of oxytocin release. (This is a simplification, as most of these behaviors are complex and multiple neurotransmitters can interact with each other - anandamide, for example, which is involved in laughter, is often released with oxytocin and even dopamine). So if you want to see people more internally motivated, they need to be more consistently rewarded with positive attention.

If you watch that video I linked to earlier today, it will explain how Millennials have been very much short-circuited in these terms (thought he speaker only talks about dopamine, not oxytocin) and I think that will give you some good insight into what you are on about - especially since eI forget half of what I intended to say half-way through typing it. Dory brain!

Paul SB said...

I'm going to be out of town for a couple days, taking the kids to see their grandmother. Since she doesn't have wifi and her 11 year old computer barely functions, I might not be on the internet, getting my oxytocin fix from the (mostly) friendly folks of Contrary Brin.

My daughter decided to put one of her comics up on a website. She is using Wix, the free web host, which has had problems when she used it before. Friends who looked at it said the pages wouldn't load or couldn't be viewed. She asked me to post the link here and ask if any of you could take a look to see if Wix is still having those problems. I can see it fine on mine, but when she tried it a few years ago people who had different operating systems had issues. Just a tiny favor.

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H.

There are a lot of people who want to cling to the notion that we can't be downloaded or copied somehow. Such a capability would confuse our notion of identity, thus it runs smack into faith assertions many already accept as justified beliefs.

I would trot out Hofstadter's work like others here have. Reading Surfaces and Essences cover to cover will take quite a while, but it is worth it. In that book, it is easy to see why Hofstadter left the field that today we call artificial intelligence, though he was a leader in that field many years ago. Most researchers went in the direction of what is better described as 'expert systems' while he was interested in how humans actually do what they do. Since modern computers with designed programs are best thought of as expert systems, this seems to support the idea that we can't be downloaded. Read Hofstadter's other books, though, and one gets a more complete picture. A Self is an emergent thing according to the Strange Loop book and Love is the act of one self copying parts of another into or onto itself depending on the age and size of the copier. Basically, a mind is not a brain which is the part everyone already knows. It is a recursion of activity on a brain that has emergent structure. Hofstadter Strange Loop book explains the recursive looping as an example of what appears to be his favorite bit of mathematics, namely Gödel's translation scheme for writing theorems as numeric equations. Add Surfaces and Essences to the mix and you connect the Loop structure to languages which appear to be essentially the same kind of thing. He didn't come right out and say it, but it looks like he was arguing that minds are language structures if one accounts for all the languages of which we are composed.

What really got me thinking after finishing Surfaces and Essences, though, is that our higher languages aren't structures built only by single minds. They are collective efforts. That means it should be easier to copy part of someone if we share our higher languages which is what I suspect we are doing. Cultures are built around shared experience, right? I suspect Hofstadter is onto something VERY fundamental about the nature of what it means to be human AND Human.

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H: (continued)

Now add onto this Robin Hanson's recent book about Em's. One doesn't have to agree with him on every detail, but he takes a very good swing at what it would mean to us IF we find a technological path to cheap reproduction of brain-like structures in silicon or whatever. Whether the hardware was built to imitate biological brains or we find a way to emulate biological brains on expert system hardware doesn't matter. The difference between them is just numeric translation scheme. Remember Gödel. Hanson's projections cover a small fraction of the possible ways things might go, but he deals well with the constraints on what is possible, plausible, and likely. Combine his work with Hofstadter and I think the people who want to cling to their belief we can't be copied are left with nothing to grasp.

The final defense such believers while mount will probably involve the interface between expert system hardware and human minds. Hanson argues that the first ems will likely be copies of people who die to have their brains copied in a way that would have killed them anyway. As the copying technology improves it might become possible to copy live humans, but by then there would probably be billions of tweaked copies of the original settlers doing all the jobs we'd like to have far cheaper than we can. I don't know that it will work quite that way, but I can imagine a way that puts a live human into the virtual world em's would use that involves feather-thin implants along the sensory nerve bundles with which we come pre-equipped. When them, we'd have built-in heads-up displays enabling us to augment our brains with external computation devices before we learned how to perform destructive full copying of a brain. That would make our own senses the interface some argue cannot be created.

David has argued elsewhere we might be too complex to copy in enough detail to image a complete person, but I think Hofstadter alone makes a hash of his argument. Anyone who loves his wife and children is already showing how it is done without the micro details of copied intra-cellular computations.

Paul SB said...

Oops, I forgot the url:

http://ophion34.wixsite.com/thebenthicoath

The Dory Brain Strikes Back!

Alfred Differ said...

It is probably the animated background that is causing problems for some of us. My CPU got real, real busy drawing the background, so that might interfere with image loading and other features that might be there.

Twominds said...

Problem persists. I'll break the comment and see what happens. I don't know if it's a cache issue, as I could post that smaller comment, and I do see other new comments coming. No url either.

@ Dr. Brin 3:50 PM
More book recommendations from you. I'll be swamped! But in this case I can reprocicate: 'The Swarm: A Novel of the Deep' by Frank Schätzing. An ecothriller in which the ocean life rises up against humanity for what they are doing with the seas.
And 'Nachrichten aus einem unbekannten Universum: Eine Zeitreise durch die Meere' also from Schätzing. Non-fiction, an overview of evolution of life, concentrating on what happens in the seas instead of switching to the continents as soon as something happens there.
I can't find a translation in English for that one, which is a pity for non-german speaking people here.

Twominds said...

Alright, that part sticks.

@Jeff B several posts:
A faulty setting in my system libraries prevents me to see the youtube link to Sesame Credit, but the description reminds me of a couple of pages in Wild Swans from Jung Chang, about Mao's Cultural Revolution, that in China there was no Stazi or other secret police that kept its eye on the people, that in Revolutionary China, everyone watched everyone for any behaviour or remark that could be relayed to the revolutionary guards. Next to the abuse and arbitrariness that came with it, Jung remembered the pervasive distrust that seeped through society vividly.
This is one of the moments that I wonder if beneficial transparency is possible.
I'm going to start on Brin's Transparent Society soon, see what clarity that book can bring.

Twominds said...

And the last part:

And now that I'm on a literary streak, I'm three quarters through 'Earth in Human Hands' that's recommended on this site. My first impression: interesting take on humanity as an unwitting geological force, that needs to take responsibility for what it has become, but isn't really ready yet. A rather large part of the book is devoted to the SETI/METI issue and how that could be used as a template for getting humanity used to think and act as a global force for good instead ill, over long time spans. I think that part is overlong, but there may be good reason for the author to dwell on it, that comes clear in the last chapter.
Till now I've the feeling that the book is not as densely packed with ideas and info as I'd hoped for such a vital and urgent subject.

I still don't understand why the complete comment wouldn't post.

John Sears said...


Alfred Differ wrote: "I think the profusion of German states before unification was a terrible thing for the people there"

I can vouch for that. I currently live in northern Germany, adjacent to a dairy and horse farm where the family has owned and worked the same land for 565 years. Their stories, passed down in their family, reveal a history of adjusting to one Duke or Prince after another, and just trying to concentrate upon providing needed food and sustenance to their nearby neighbors while curtseying to the latest ruler. I consider it an amazing accomplishment that they have endured with their lands intact.

TCB wrote: I say, let the anonymous posters (often tho not always trolls) post, but is it possible to change it so that instead of Anonymous it says Probably A. Chickenrapist?" I think that a generic moniker for those that post here anonymously (selected and coded by our host) is a wonderful idea.

David Brin wrote: our long process of saying goodbye to Miami" I am really conflicted about what to think about these prospects. When I read of past epochs, I see climate change as a recurring event and driver in evolution, and note how our genus has currently come to fore for its amazing ability to adapt to such changes. I remain confident that we will do the same with respect to present and future climate change, although I regret the costs of investment to accomplish it that will be needed and diverted from other worthwhile causes. I am also intrigued by the possibilities for climate modification, especially after studying the means by which Mars might be terraformed. On the other hand, I am disappointed to know that I will not live long enough to see these efforts. As we age (I am in my mid-60's), I think that the current political environment will push meaningful change out too many years for me to see results. Or perhaps, I do not see the forest for the trees... and things are really changing and I let the to-and-fro of daily events overshadow the beneficial trends.

Unknown said...

A patriotism score is a scary idea. A couple months back I posted about the idea of credibility scoring on social media. I liked the Idea as it was presented in Existence, where journalistic credibility is a sort of currency, like credit scoring, or likes. I read a article about civic scoring in china, and now this idea about scoring people on patriotism. Looks like we have wildly different ideas about how to use our new network tools, depending on who we seek to legitimize or discredit. So what is patriotism? Is it acceptance and furthering the cause of patriarchy? If so it is a principal of exclusion. Just a thought.

Darrell E said...

Paul SB said...
BTW, have you read the Surfaces and Essences book that Jumper referred to? My reading list isn't getting any shorter, and won't unless I manage to ditch my current career, but it sounds interesting.

I haven't read it, but it sounds interesting to me too. I know of the author and am somewhat familiar with his views about human cognition.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

So if, say, your parents did a family fun night every week and the whole family sat around playing Uno for a few hours every Friday night, then your brain associates playing Uno with the (hopefully) positive experience of being with family. when you go off to college and you are no longer playing Uno, you get a lot of uneasy, uncomfortable feelings (withdrawal symptoms). You are not getting the oxytocin you used to get. You can try playing Uno with your college roommates and your brain will start releasing the chemical, and feel kind of like you are at home again. If you keep up playing cards with your roomies, after several months your brain has learned to associate them with the same good feeling (oxytocin release) as you got from being with family.


No doubt, this is why I can still really enjoy re-reading old comics from the 1960s and 70s even though their plotlines hardly stand up for an adult reader.

Am I wrong that your scenario might go the other way as well? That you might try to recreate the good feeling you used to get when playing Uno, but "it's just not the same"? That would explain why reading 1990s (Marvel and DC) comics just doesn't get the job done. Or the more generalized sensation of "You can't go home again."

Your analysis also speaks to this past election season. It's one of the few things that Ayn Rand really did understand correctly--an emotional reaction is a very quick assessment of the situation all at once, before time sets in to do a more in-depth analysis. Before you have a chance to understand why, you get a "This is good" or "This is bad" sensation. Well, half of the American voters thought "This is really bad" about each of the major candidates. So strongly so that no amount of argument or evidence could overcome that visceral assessment. The takeaway for me is that our country is in big trouble, more than because of the one candidate who won in one election, but rather because of the irreconcilable divide between the two types of voters. It directly puts in jeopardy the notion of "One nation, indivisible."

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Oops, I forgot the url:

http://ophion34.wixsite.com/thebenthicoath


I'm using Firefox on Windows 10, and I can see it just fine.

Is that site easy to use for uploading scanned paper images? I might just try to put my old 4-page comic that sold in Columbus OH for you guys to see.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

David has argued elsewhere we might be too complex to copy in enough detail to image a complete person,


Dr Brin wrote a whole novel delving into this theme--"Kiln People".


but I think Hofstadter alone makes a hash of his argument. Anyone who loves his wife and children is already showing how it is done without the micro details of copied intra-cellular computations.


Look no further than my enthusiasm for "Hamilton", which is me copying part of my teenage daughter.

Yet, in the context of what you describe, I still wonder how you would account for intense romantic attraction. Now what I'm going to say may sound indelicate, but when I'm...let's say "making out"...with my wife, I'm certainly feeling love for her, and yet "copying" doesn't seem to accurately describe what is going on. And before anyone says that it's about making a baby, that might be what the genes are trying to do, but it's not what's on my conscious mind at the time.


LarryHart said...

Twominds:

Problem persists. I'll break the comment and see what happens. I don't know if it's a cache issue, as I could post that smaller comment, and I do see other new comments coming. No url either.


The old problem with Paul's post wasn't about url's either. We thought of that, and I posted his text after removing all of the url's. It still disappeared.


I can't find a translation in English for that one, which is a pity for non-german speaking people here.


Are you in Germany? My family visited Berlin last summer, and as we do anywhere, we dropped in on some bookstores including one devoted to sci-fi. I was pleased to see Dr Brin's Uplift collections on the shelf, both in English and in German.

Twominds said...

LarryHart,

It looks like that when a comment disappears, it's no use trying again with the same text, like it's marked as spam somewhere in Bloggers software. Dividing it in pieces changes it enough to work.
Fucking up on a hyperlink, as TCB said higher up, makes that I need to empty the response box, go back to Dr. Brins original post, go to the comments page again and then try again with corrected link. Otherwise it keeps trying with the faulty link. That's how I got into the habit of copying my comments just in case.

I live in the Netherlands, but I'm often in Germany. I read both of Schätzings books in German, and I was proud to see that my German language skills were up to that.
Larger German bookshops usually have a nice selection of SF, but most of it is translated from English, and I rather read those in the original. I admire a good translation, but I prefer the original if I can read that language.
I love to browse in the ubiquitous charity shops in England, a world of books, many long out of print, for pennies, literally.

Jumper said...

I think we're confusing the fluid aspect of individuality with the difficulties inherent with "downloading" copies of our cognitive "selves." If our personalities exist among several bodies, we'll have to download more than one brain, then. Download the whole village.

Our personhood - our model of our consciousness as a continuity - is stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Lorraine said...

Stephen Peterson said...

...

I wish Amazon would offer to publish customer data directly to said customer's account. A heatmap of my travels through a store would be interesting. Timestamps would be interesting. Calorie and nutrient counts might be cool. I'd even allow the data to be passed on to other partners... maybe.

It's called pubwan. That's what I call it, anyway, and I don't know of anyone else who's talking about it, directly. Until the above-cited comment came along, anyway. If it happens, it certainly won't be supplied by Amazon, and probably won't be supplied by any commercial entity. If it happens, hackers will make it happen. I'd say hackers, not crackers, but in this case I'm not sure, since what you are describing is, by definition, an unauthorized act of reverse engineering.

John Sears said...

LarryHart wrote: "Are you in Germany? My family visited Berlin last summer, and as we do anywhere, we dropped in on some bookstores including one devoted to sci-fi. I was pleased to see Dr Brin's Uplift collections on the shelf, both in English and in German."

Although I live in the countryside, I have found several bookstores in Hamburg that also have extensive sci-fi offerings, including many of Dr. Brin. Amazon.de, unfortunately, makes it difficult to discern the language in which books are written, so one like me who prefers to read in English must be very careful when buying.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

Our personhood - our model of our consciousness as a continuity - is stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.


But then, how do you define the entity telling the story and/or listening to the story?

David Brin said...

John Sears thanks for an insightful contribution. Though the thing about climate change is that even if a somewhat warmer world would be fine for us overall, humanity has invested heavily in stability. The capital losses, from homes and farms to whole cities could stretch to hundreds of trillions. And we will swap zones that currently have two growing seasons for far-north zones that will at-best only have one.

— Dang, sorry about the posting difficulties, guys.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

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