Saturday, November 12, 2022

Western propaganda

Caitlin Johnstone retweeted:
"Western propaganda means people always oppose the last war but not the war that's currently being pushed by the propaganda of today. The US provoking and sustaining its Ukraine proxy war is no more ethical than its invading of Iraq; it just looks that way due to propaganda."…

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Do the "Fruitcake" with Fred Schneider & The Superions

Funsies for us all.

This just now got on my radar, even though it was released way back in 2010. Whatever! You can't put a date on fun. Fred Schneider (of The B-52's, of course!) & the Superions made a kind-of-sexy, but also perfectly kitschy and weird, super low-budget music video for their song "Fruitcake." Yes, it's a song about fruitcake. I won't say another word, just watch it. New holiday favorite born.

screenshot via Fruitcake

Why the Afghanistan papers are an eerie reminder of Vietnam

So it goes...again and again and again. Why? Gotta feed the military-industrial complex. That is one screaming horror we must stand up to or die.


Noam Chomsky’s "The Backroom Boys" was a warning

Nancy Pelosi: if she ran for president, she'd beat Trump.

Preposterous in every way. And written by noted Republican troll, David Gergen.


Nancy Pelosi: if she ran for president, she'd beat Trump.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Symposium for John Perry Barlow

Quite a collection, especially Benkler.

John Perry Barlow, who passed away in 2018, penned two influential essays early in the web’s evolution A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace and Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net. It’s easy in retrospect to make fun of some of Barlow’s claims:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

or how about this painfully wrong prediction?

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

But as Cindy Cohn notes in Inventing the Future: Barlow and Beyond:

In talking about the Declaration at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) many years later, Barlow admitted that when he stepped out of a party at Davos to write it, he was both a little drunk and trying desperately to channel Thomas Jefferson. So maybe some of the sweeping rebukes are just trying to match his original bravado.

Moreover, Barlow was not nearly as utopian as one might imagine. He was, after all, one of the founders (in 1990!) of the Electronic Frontier Foundation which has worked to make the words true.

The symposium is of mixed quality. Cory Doctorow’s contribution is quarrelsome and weak. James Boyle’s overview and description of the WWW, however, is excellent:

Berners-Lee imagined a republic of ideas built on a vision of language.The whole thing had a whiff of Harry Potter magic.To click on the hyperlink was to summon its referent.The name was the magical command for the presence of the resource, as though every footnote animated itself, went to the library and brought you back the relevant book.To write a web page was to build a transporter of the mind.The link was a reference to the resource, a map to the place where the resource was held and a vehicle to take you there.Each new document wove the network a little wider and tighter.That’s why they called it the world wide web.And its architecture was “distributed.” Anyone could build the web—as if we could all wander outside our houses and build the Eisenhower freeways of the mind ourselves, draw the maps that chronicled those freeways, assemble the cars that traveled along them and then construct the libraries, bookstores, shops, coffee houses and red light districts to which they journeyed.All done through a decentralized process that required neither governmental permission, nor authentication of your content—for better or worse. Better and worse.

I’d also point to Imaginary Bottles on copyright by Jessica Litman and Yochai Benkler’s A Political Economy of Utopia? as excellent. Here’s Benkler:

What the past quarter century has taught us is that there are five basic failure modes of commons-based strategies to construct more attractive forms of social relations.

  1. Companies and countries can usually sustain focused strategic efforts for longer and more actively than distributed networks of users…
  2. Distributed social relations can themselves develop internal hierarchies and inequities (the Iron Law of Oligarchy)…
  3. Distributed open communications have provided enormous play for genuinely hateful and harmful behavior, such that we find ourselves seeking some power to control the worst abuses—the power of the platforms we want to hold democratically accountable, or the power of countries to regulate those platforms for us…
  4. More fundamentally, as long as we live in a society where people have to make money to eat and keep a roof over their heads, markets produce stuff we really like and want. For all the broad complaints about Amazon, it has produced enormous consumer welfare. More directly, for all the romanticization of fan videos and remix, the emergence of subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime has been a boon to professional video creators and underwritten a golden age of professional video entertainment and narrative, both fiction and non-fiction.
  5. States are still necessary to counter market power, provide public goods on a sustained and large-scale basis by using coercive taxing and spending powers, redistribute wealth,and provide basic social and economic security for the majority of the population.

The symposium is here.


The post A Symposium for John Perry Barlow appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Google is about to get a lot better at understanding your search queries

This is a bit of a Halloween-spooky announcement.

Google has announced its rolling out a major upgrade to its search engine, which should mean it gets better at understanding your queries in context – rather than just matching keywords, it'll actually figure out what you're trying to say.

Thanks to a new machine learning process, Google says, you won't have to try and stuff your searches with keywords to try and get the right results up first. Instead, you can be more natural and conversational.

"Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like 'for' and 'to' matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query," says Google's Pandu Nayak.

"No matter what you’re looking for, or what language you speak, we hope you’re able to let go of some of your keyword-ese and search in a way that feels natural for you," adds Nayak.

Seek and you will find

Let's give you some of Google's examples to show how the changes work. Previously, in a "2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa" search, Google would ignore the "to" because it's so common, and return results for US citizens going to Brazil. Now it recognizes the "to" and that the query is about travelers going from Brazil to the US.

On a search like "do estheticians stand a lot at work", Google previously wouldn't understand the context "stand" was used in (i.e. relating to the physical demands of the job). With the new update, it'll realize what you're trying to say.

These improvements are substantial enough that Google is calling this its most important search upgrade in five years. To begin with the new technology is only being applied to searches in US English, but it will expand to more languages over time.

For a more detailed look at the neural network innovations underpinning this improvement – specifically a training model called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers or BERT – head over to Google's blog post on the changes.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A call to action: We need the right incentives to guide ethical innovation in neurotech and healthcare

Indeed we do


Ana Maiques, CEO and founder of neurotech company Neuroelectrics, writes up a compelling case in her recent article, summarized thus:

“I strongly believe that Neurotech entrepreneurs can not afford not to be involved in neuroethics. It is simply not an option anymore.”

I share that belief and would like to take it one step further:

“I strongly believe that healthcare practitioners, researchers, executives and regulators can not afford not to be involved in neuroethics. It is simply not an option anymore.”

Having spent 10+ years tracking and analyzing the growing industry of digital brain/ mental health and non-invasive neurotechnologies, let me share why I believe so, and why we will need to set incentives right.

Timely conversation to have

Only ten years ago, neurotech largely remained the domain of research centers and high-end medical centers. Today, the industry is touching millions of practitioners, patients and consumers worldwide, thanks to an explosion of low-cost, non-invasive and eminently scalable technologies that can be used to assess and/ or to improve brain and mental health.

At the recent 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit, which I helped produce from May 7th to the 9th, Dr. Tom Insel –former Director of the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) turned Google executive turned entrepreneur– surveyed the ongoing revolution in digital biomarkers and therapeutics and why it matters: While brain/ mental healthcare has failed so far behind other areas of health, probably due to the old axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”, emerging neurological monitoring technologies can allow us to remedy that and help us identify problems early and intervene early.

Multiple other speakers during the Summit built upon Insel’s remarks sharing research, tech and examples. Start-up Sana Health won the 2019 Brainnovations Pitch Contest by presenting a novel combination of audio-visual stimulation and neurofeedback training to help alleviate chronic pain, while entrepreneurs, investors and researchers described the growing opportunities and risks brought forward by digital therapeutics and neuromodulation – the latter technology class, as described by Maiques in her piece, deserves significant attention as it could mean a non-invasive, non-pharmacologic treatment for a variety of conditions.

Anticipating risks, researchers Dr. Anna Wexler and Dr. Karen Rommelfanger joined industry insider Jacqueline Studer on a fascinating session about privacy and ethics, helping identify ethical problems and potential solutions. »Keep reading commentary To Be Involved in Neuroethics: A Must for Entrepreneurs and for Healthcare as a Whole (requires subscription to AJOB Neuroscience)

News in Context: