Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Genetic Locus Determining Altruism Identified in Microbial Eukaryotes

physorg |  Geneticists from the Universities of Manchester and Bath are celebrating the discovery of the elusive 'greenbeard gene' that helps explain why organisms are more likely to cooperate with some individuals than other.

The renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term "greenbeard gene" in his 1976 best seller The Selfish Gene.

The greenbeard is a special type of gene that, said Dawkins, could solve the conundrum of how organisms identify and direct selfless behaviour to towards other selfless individuals.

The existence of greenbeard once seemed improbable, but work published in Nature Communications by the team of geneticists has identified a gene that causes a whole range of 'beard colours' in a social microbe.

The microbes - 'slime moulds' - live as , but clump together to form a slug like creature when they run out of food. The newly formed slug can move to help them find new sources of food, but this depends on successful cooperation.

With funding from the Wellcome Trust, NERC and the BBSRC the research team found that slime mould cells are able to decide who they collaborate with. By sequencing their genomes, they discovered that partnership choices are based on a greenbeard gene.

The gene encodes a molecule that sits on the surface of a slime mould cell, and is able to bind to the same molecule in another slime mould cell.

Greenbeard genes stand out because they harbour enormous diversity, with most slime mould strains having a unique version of the gene.

The team discovered that individuals prefer to partner with those that have similar versions of the gene, and the slugs formed with preferred partners do better than those with non-preferred partners.
This demonstrates, according to the team, that there is a whole range 'beard colours' that function to identify compatible partners for cooperation.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Open Thread: Sistah Seriously Phugging With The Deep State's Consumer-Grade AI

Sistah Yvette Laser-Focused On BlackPo Folk's Economic and Political Truth(s)

BI |  In early 2017, the day came: Horton made her final loan payment. In just over three years, she had put a grand total of $220,561.21 toward becoming debt-free. Though it took longer than her original goal of just one year, Horton's dedication to repayment is nothing to scoff at. 

"You have to stick with it," she said. "You have to be willing to make some very drastic sacrifices, and you have to be creative in the ways that you produce extra income." 

Now that her loans are a thing of the past, Horton wants to continue buying and renting out properties; she has her sights set on finding real estate in downtown Chicago. Horton is also writing a book, and she hopes to one day speak to high school and college students about how to take on loans and responsibly pay them back. 

While everyone's situation is different — not everybody can move back home, and not everybody will have a small rental property gifted to them — Horton's willingness to ditch an expensive city like DC to move back to the Midwest, cut down living costs, and increase her earning power by purchasing more real estate helped her pay off a mountain of debt in just three years, when it may otherwise have taken a decade or more 

To anyone who feels overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on student loans — or paying back any debt they've incurred — Horton has a simple message: "I just want them to feel empowered that they can pay if off. If I can do it, anybody can."

Employers Seek Genetic Test Results Under Cover of Wellness Programs

statnews |  A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.

Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program.

The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. It has been overshadowed by the debate over the House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but the genetic testing bill is expected to be folded into a second ACA-related measure containing a grab-bag of provisions that do not affect federal spending, as the main bill does.

“What this bill would do is completely take away the protections of existing laws,” said Jennifer Mathis, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a civil rights group. In particular, privacy and other protections for genetic and health information in GINA and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act “would be pretty much eviscerated,” she said.

Employers say they need the changes because those two landmark laws are “not aligned in a consistent manner” with laws about workplace wellness programs, as an employer group said in congressional testimony last week.

Coming Soon To A Shopping Mall Near You (If You Still Have One of Those)

Fist tap Big Don

Friday, March 10, 2017

Deep State Diving in Deep DooDoo Without Its Shit-Suit Properly Sealed

oftwominds |  I highly recommend reading Wikileak's summary of Vault 7: Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed.

We now know that the CIA maintained a special program (UMBRAGE) to mimic Russia-based hackers and create false trails back to fictitious "Russian hackers." A number of highly experienced analysts who reviewed the supposed "Russian hacks" had suggested the "evidence" smelled of false trails-- not just bread crumbs, but bread crumbs heavy-handedly stenciled "this is Russian malware."

The body count from Vault 7 has not yet been tallied, but it wouldn't surprise me if former President Obama and his team eventually end up as political casualties. Non-partisan observers are noting all this over-reach occurred on Obama's watch, and it hasn't gone unnoticed that one of Obama's last executive orders stripped away the last shreds of oversight of what could be "shared" (or invented) between the Security Agencies.

Indeed, the entire leadership of the Democratic Party seems to have placed all their chips on the increasingly unviable claim that the CIA is the squeaky clean defender of America.

Vault 7 is not just political theater--it highlights the core questions facing the nation: what is left to defend if civil liberties and democratically elected oversight have been reduced to Potemkin-village travesties?

If there are no limits on CIA powers and surveillance, then what is left of civil liberties and democracy? Answer: nothing.

The battle raging in the Deep State isn't just a bureaucratic battle--it's a war for the soul, identity and direction of the nation. Citizens who define America's interests as civil liberties and democracy should be deeply troubled by the Establishment's surrender of these in favor of a National Security State with essentially no limits.

Americans tasked with defending America's "interests" globally should be asking if a CIA/NSA et al. with unlimited power is detrimental to America's soft and hard power globally, and toxic to its influence.

The answer is obvious: a CIA with unlimited power and the backing of a corrupt Establishment and media is more than detrimental to America's soft and hard power globally--it is disastrous and potentially fatal to America's interests, standing and influence.


WaPo |  We learn, for example, from Tuesday’s spectacular WikiLeaks dump that among the CIA’s various and nefarious cybertools is the capacity to simulate intrusion by a foreign power, the equivalent of planting phony fingerprints on a smoking gun. 

Who are you going to believe now? I can assure you that some enterprising Trumpite will use this revelation to claim that the whole storyline pointing to Russian interference in the U.S. election was a fabrication. And who was behind that ? There is no end to this hall of mirrors. My rule, therefore, is: Stay away. 

Hard to do with Washington caught up in one of its periodic conspiracy frenzies. Actually, two. One, anti-Trump, is that he and his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence. The other, anti-Obama-CIA-“deep state,” is that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower to ensnare candidate Trump. 

The odd thing is that, as of today, there is no evidence for either charge. That won’t, of course, stop the launch of multiple all-consuming investigations.

(1) Collusion:
James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, who has been deeply and publicly at odds with Trump, unequivocally states that he has seen zero evidence of any Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Nor has anyone else. 

(2) Wiretap:
The other storyline is simply fantastical. Congressional Republicans have uniformly run away from Trump’s Obama-wiretap accusation. Clapper denies it. FBI Director James Comey denies it. Not a single member of Trump’s own administration is willing to say it’s true. 

Loopier still is to demand that Congress find the truth when the president could just pick up the phone and instruct the FBI, CIA and DNI to declare on the record whether this ever occurred. And if there really was an October 2016 FISA court order to wiretap Trump, the president could unilaterally declassify the information yesterday.

The bugging story is less plausible than a zombie invasion. Nevertheless, one could spin a milder — and more plausible — scenario of executive abuse. It goes like this:

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Better Late Than Never - Wikileaks Live CIA Hacking Arsenal Press Conference

Why So Much Confusion About NYTimes January 20th Trump Wiretapping Story

zerohedge |  The NYT's public editor, Liz Spayd felt compelled to address its January 19 article which, implicitly, substantiated much of Trump's allegation, and to explain why that's not the case

She starts by saying that "Trump’s assertions, however overinflated, nonetheless echo certain aspects of The New York Times’s reporting from recent weeks. That, in turn, has allowed his administration to assert that the basis for his claims rests, in part, on reporting by The Times."
On the surface, there are similarities. Both The Times and Trump have referred to wiretaps. Both have referenced White House knowledge of the investigations. And both have described efforts by officials from the Obama administration to involve itself in the continuing investigations of Trump and Russia.
Maybe Trump is not a completely raving lunatic after all. So where are the differences:
For one, as The Times (and others) has made clear, these investigations have been conducted by the F.B.I., intelligence agencies and Congress, not by Obama himself. The Times has also said Obama administration officials sought to spread intelligence about a possible link between Trump and Russia to ensure a trail of evidence for investigators, but it said Obama himself was not involved. And no Times reporter has claimed that any warrants have been issued to spy on Trump or his associates.
And there it is again: several months after we thought we would never again hear the old "Obama had no idea what was going on excuse", it strikes yet again, only this time we find it very difficult to believe that Obama, who expanded the distributions of confidential NSA data to multiple offices just weeks before his final day in office, had no clue that Trump was being wiretapped.
There's more, and this is where things get delightfully Orwellian, because as Spayd "explains", the confusion is really just a function of readers being confused because, well, it's complicated:

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Did the NSA Clown and Depants the CIA?

libertyblitzkrieg |  By now, most of you have heard about the largest ever release of confidential CIA documents published by Wikileaks, known as Vault7. Many of you have also read various summaries of what was released, but reading the take of others is not the same as analyzing it yourself. As such, I strongly suggest you check out the original Wikileaks summary. It’s mostly written for the layperson without much technical expertise (like myself), and I think you’ll get a lot out of it.
In this post, I’m going to republish the entire press release, as well as provide key excerpts from the larger summary along with some personal observations. Let’s get started…
From Wikileaks:
Press Release
Today, Tuesday 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named “Vault 7” by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.
The first full part of the series, “Year Zero”, comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.
Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
Lovely. Just lovely.
“Year Zero” introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.
Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.
This leak might very well be from a competing government agency concerned about the unaccountable power and sloppiness of the CIA, or it could simply be a turf war.

Wait For It, Wait For It, Blaming Russia Starts in 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1...,

NYTimes |  In what appears to be the largest leak of C.I.A documents in history, WikiLeaks released on Tuesday thousands of pages describing sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.

The documents amount to a detailed, highly technical catalog of tools. They include instructions for compromising a wide range of common computer tools for use in spying: the online calling service Skype; Wi-Fi networks; documents in PDF format; and even commercial antivirus programs of the kind used by millions of people to protect their computers.

A program called Wrecking Crew explains how to crash a targeted computer, and another tells how to steal passwords using the autocomplete function on Internet Explorer. Other programs were called CrunchyLimeSkies, ElderPiggy, AngerQuake and McNugget.

The document dump was the latest coup for the antisecrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which uses its hacking abilities to carry out espionage against foreign targets.

The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first installment in a larger collection of secret C.I.A. material, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, many of them partly redacted by WikiLeaks editors to avoid disclosing the actual code for cyberweapons. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, the group claimed.

In one revelation that may especially trouble the tech world if confirmed, WikiLeaks said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services have managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate smartphones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Unlike the National Security Agency documents Edward J. Snowden gave to journalists in 2013, they do not include examples of how the tools have been used against actual foreign targets. That could limit the damage of the leak to national security. But the breach was highly embarrassing for an agency that depends on secrecy.

Robert M. Chesney, a specialist in national security law at the University of Texas at Austin, likened the C.I.A. trove to National Security Agency hacking tools disclosed last year by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers.

“If this is true, it says that N.S.A. isn’t the only one with an advanced, persistent problem with operational security for these tools,” Mr. Chesney said. “We’re getting bit time and again.”

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Does Technology Destroy Jobs?

mishtalk |  In light of my posts on robots, driverless vehicles, and automation, readers keep asking: where will the jobs come from?

I do not know, nor does anyone else. But does that mean jobs won’t come?

Is technology destroying jobs for the first time?

Daniel Lacalle on the Hedgeye blog offers this bold claim: Face It, Technology Does Not Destroy Jobs.

Should Robots Pay Taxes?

guardian |  It may sound strange, but a number of prominent people have been asking this question lately. As fears about the impact of automation grow, calls for a “robot tax” are gaining momentum. Earlier this month, the European parliament considered one for the EU. BenoĆ®t Hamon, the French Socialist party presidential candidate who is often described as his country’s Bernie Sanders, has put a robot tax in his platform. Even Bill Gates recently endorsed the idea.

The proposals vary, but they share a common premise. As machines and algorithms get smarter, they’ll replace a widening share of the workforce. A robot tax could raise revenue to retrain those displaced workers, or supply them with a basic income.

The good news is that the robot apocalypse hasn’t arrived just yet. Despite a steady stream of alarming headlines about clever computers gobbling up our jobs, the economic data suggests that automation isn’t happening on a large scale. The bad news is that if it does, it will produce a level of inequality that will make present-day America look like an egalitarian utopia by comparison. 

The real threat posed by robots isn’t that they will become evil and kill us all, which is what keeps Elon Musk up at night – it’s that they will amplify economic disparities to such an extreme that life will become, quite literally, unlivable for the vast majority. A robot tax may or may not be a useful policy tool for averting this scenario. But it’s a good starting point for an important conversation. Mass automation presents a serious political problem – one that demands a serious political solution.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

theatlantic |  In science fiction, the promise or threat of artificial intelligence is tied to humans’ relationship to conscious machines. Whether it’s Terminators or Cylons or servants like the “Star Trek” computer or the Star Wars droids, machines warrant the name AI when they become sentient—or at least self-aware enough to act with expertise, not to mention volition and surprise.

What to make, then, of the explosion of supposed-AI in media, industry, and technology? In some cases, the AI designation might be warranted, even if with some aspiration. Autonomous vehicles, for example, don’t quite measure up to R2D2 (or Hal), but they do deploy a combination of sensors, data, and computation to perform the complex work of driving. But in most cases, the systems making claims to artificial intelligence aren’t sentient, self-aware, volitional, or even surprising. They’re just software.
* * *
Deflationary examples of AI are everywhere. Google funds a system to identify toxic comments online, a machine learning algorithm called Perspective. But it turns out that simple typos can fool it. Artificial intelligence is cited as a barrier to strengthen an American border wall, but the “barrier” turns out to be little more than sensor networks and automated kiosks with potentially-dubious built-in profiling. Similarly, a “Tennis Club AI” turns out to be just a better line sensor using off-the-shelf computer vision. Facebook announces an AI to detect suicidal thoughts posted to its platform, but closer inspection reveals that the “AI detection” in question is little more than a pattern-matching filter that flags posts for human community managers.
AI’s miracles are celebrated outside the tech sector, too. Coca-Cola reportedly wants to use “AI bots” to “crank out ads” instead of humans. What that means remains mysterious. Similar efforts to generate AI music or to compose AI news stories seem promising on first blush—but then, AI editors trawling Wikipedia to correct typos and links end up stuck in infinite loops with one another. And according to human-bot interaction consultancy Botanalytics (no, really), 40 percent of interlocutors give up on conversational bots after one interaction. Maybe that’s because bots are mostly glorified phone trees, or else clever, automated Mad Libs.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Frying Chickens in the Barnyard...,

empireexposed |  The ruling elite’s longtime agenda has been to destroy the United States and the West from within. In reaction to last year’s growing anti-globalist movement, represented by the Brexit vote and “anti-establishment” Trump election, the elite is becoming desperately aggressive now, fighting for absolute domination and population control, insidiously whipping up unstable domestic conditions throughout the Western world, engineered to explode with racial, class, religious and politically charged civil war violence in both America and Europe. In the US this takes the form of mass deployment of a robotically dumbed down, highly manipulated yet well-organized political left, constituting the elite’s WMD against Trump’s reactionary militarized authoritarian federal forces, soon spilling blood and chaos as America’s very own Spring uprising. The coming riots are aimed at causing the violent breakdown of civil society in both America and Europe, of course co-timed with the ongoing, incessant MSM propaganda machine, 24/7 delivering the false narrative of overly hostile, aggressive Russia, China and Iran intended to ignite World War III, simultaneous to the implosion of the house of cards global economy - the New World Disorder’s perfect storm of cataclysmic events, mapped out long in advance to bring about its one world government tyranny.

Meanwhile, amidst this seemingly suicidal freefall decline of the unipolar American Empire is international law enforcement’s unprecedented crackdown under Trump of the controlling elite’s pedophile child sex trafficking operations, shaking loose the sickos embedded at the top of the predator food chain from their previously impenetrable, high and mighty perch of insulated privileged protection. With so many deeply disturbed criminal psychopaths literally, satanically feeding off the blood of our innocent children, while fronting so many of the West’s national governments, Fortune 500 corporations, central banking and entertainment industries, rather than be held accountable for their ungodly sins, they’ve escalated the launching of their genocidal counteroffensive to eliminate 90% of the global population within the next few years in virtual total earth destruction. The same evil forces so actively bent on destroying Trump, America and most of us on the planet, are the same pedophile bloodlines that have ruled this world for centuries. For a very long time they’ve been preparing for this epochal moment in human history, smugly counting on their bug-out contingency exit plan that includes continuing their life of luxury from safe, expansive subterranean dwellings and secret stellar space colonies, combined with their advancing transhumanism exploits, all designed to remain impervious to our human laws of justice, spiritual laws of karma, as well as the earth’s sixth mass life extinction they’ve been methodically engineering on our planet’s surface. 

naturalnews |  Looking into the context of history can be instructive to realize the importance of locations and legends from the past. Only to learn what the future may hold. Sometimes these artifacts of history come in the form of myths routed in reality and steeped in mystery with no definitive point of origin. Often these stories live on long after they have been marginalized as is the case with the Report from Iron Mountain. An urban legend crops up in the public consciousness that persists only because of it’s relevance and accuracy. A publication as controversial as the Report from Iron Mountain, an admitted satire by it’s author Leonard Lewin, could evoke such mystery. A statement of the research put out by cold war think tanks? A prototype Agenda21 white paper?

Originally setting out to profile the document itself only to find the real story behind the legend. There has been so much written about this document it could easily fill ten books. This publication’s origin may be in doubt. It’s namesake certainly isn’t.

Iron Mountain. What is not in doubt is secretive nature of the original locations that bear it’s name. Few articles detail their significance and never painting a full picture. Today the company is the one of the largest physical item and data storage corporations in the world. Now with hundreds of locations. Underground and above ground. The largest and most well known being in Boyers, P.A. tunneled 220 feet underground. Where Sony and Orbis corporations store music records and film. Among many other data storage clients. Another well known underground bunker is in Greenfield, Rhode Island. It can withstand a direct hit by a 5-megaton nuclear bomb. These were acquired by Iron Mountain years after the Report from Iron Mountain surfaced.

Supplying the storage needs for 90% of the Fortune 1000 corporations in physical records and data storage. As well as records disposal in both paper and electronic data form. Performing a valuable and needed service for business and government. In no way is this article implying any nefarious purpose to any of these locations. Only to inform the reader of this fascinating history in relation to the Report from Iron Mountain and it’s context to todayIt is no secret that Iron Mountain stores almost anything for the largest clients.

Including their top people in time of nuclear war or natural disaster. This is an attempt to geolocate the only two facilities in operation by Iron Mountain around the time the document was produced. In doing so this reveals a story that is perhaps more interesting and mysterious than the Report from Iron Mountain itself.

Intelligence Agencies DID Spy on Trump

washingtonsblog |  Washington’s Blog asked the highest-level NSA whistleblower in history – Bill Binney – whether he thought Trump had been bugged.

Binney is the NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, who served as the senior technical director within the agency, who managed six thousand NSA employees.

He was a 36-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency and the NSA’s best-ever analyst and code-breaker.

Binney also mapped out the Soviet command-and-control structure before anyone else knew how, and so predicted Soviet invasions before they happened (“in the 1970s, he decrypted the Soviet Union’s command system, which provided the US and its allies with real-time surveillance of all Soviet troop movements and Russian atomic weapons”).

Binney told Washington’s Blog:
NSA has all the data through the Upstream programs (Fairview/Stormbrew/Blarney)  [background] and backed up by second and some third party country collection.

Plus the FBI and CIA plus others, as of the last month of the Obama administration, have direct access to all the NSA collection (metadata and content on phones,email and banking/credit cards etc.) with no attempt at oversight by anybody [background]. This is all done under Executive Order 12333 [the order which allows unlimited spying no matter what intelligence officials claim] ….
FBI would only ask for a warrant if they wanted to be able to take it into court at some point given they have something meaningful as evidence. This is clearly true given the fact the President Trump’s phone conversations with other country leaders were leaked to the mainstream media.
In other words, Binney is saying that Trumps phones were bugged by the NSA without a warrant – remember, top NSA whistleblowers have previously explained that the NSA is spying on virtually all of the digital communications of Americans. – and the NSA shared the raw data with the CIA, FBI and other agencies.

If the FBI obtained a warrant to tap Trump’s phone, it was a “parallel construction” to “launder” improperly-gained evidence through acceptable channels.

The Basic Formula For Every Trump/Russia Revelation...,

medium |  The basic formula for every breaking Trump/Russia story is essentially as follows:
  1. The New York Times or Washington Post releases an article that at first blush appears extremely damning.
  2. Anti-Trump pundits and Democrats react reflexively to the news, express shrieking outrage, and proclaim that this finally proves untoward collusion between Trump and Russia — a smoking gun, at last.
  3. Aggrieved former Clinton apparatchiks *connect the dots* in a manner eerily reminiscent of right-wing Glenn Beck-esque prognostication circa 2009.
  4.  Self-proclaimed legal experts rashly opine as to whether the new revelation entails some kind of criminally actionable offense. (Recall the now-laughable certitude that felled National Security Advisor Mike Flynn violated the 200+ year old Logan Act.) This latest version is the certitude that Jeff Sessions committed perjury, when that at the very least is highly questionable.  (Probably best to at least read the relevant statute first.)
  5. The notion of Russian “collusion” being key to toppling Trump becomes further implanted in the minds of the most energized Democratic activists, as evidenced this time around by a troupe of protesters who showed up to the Department of Justice headquarters brandishing trademarked “Resist” placards, chanting “Lock Him Up,” and (as usual) hyperventilating about Putin. As I’ve written before, Trump/Putin theories are increasingly the top concern that plugged-in “Resistance” types bring up at the highly-charged town hall meetings that have received so much attention of late.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Artificial Intelligence and Creative Work

cnbc |  To the average person, the billboard on the bus stop on London's Oxford Street was a standard coffee-brand ad.  Every few seconds, the digital poster would change. Sometimes, it would feature a wide range of drab grays and blocks of text. Other times, it was a minimalistic image with a short saying.

What was unique about this particular poster, which ran in two locations at the end of July 2015, wasn't the fact that people were looking at it. Rather, it was looking at them — and learning. Using facial tracking technology and genetics-based algorithms, the poster took the aspects that people looked at the longest and then incorporated that into the next design evolution.

"We were surprised how quickly it learned," said Sam Ellis, business director of innovation at M&C Saatchi. "It got to a state of where it felt like it was in the right place a bit faster than we thought."

In less than 72 hours, the M&C Saatchi advertisement was creating posters in line with the current best practices in the advertising industry, which had been developed over decades of human trial and error like realizing three to five word slogans work best.

"We thought [our employees] would be nervous about it: Is this going to kill off creative?" Ellis said. "What they started to realize is that it could be really, really useful based on its insight."

M&C Saatchi's Ellis believes eventually ad agencies will be smaller, because AI will be able to accomplish tasks with a high degree of accuracy — for much less money than now — and will make outsourcing tasks a lot more effective.

As our machines become more sophisticated and more details about our lives are recorded as data points, AI is getting to the point where it knows a tremendous amount about humans. It can tell what a person is feeling. It knows the difference between a truth and a lie. It can go through millions of permutations in a second, coming up with more variations than a human could think of. It knows your daily routine, like when you're most likely going to want a cold beer on a hot summer day.

Better Be Careful What You Say To Me, Cause It Might Turn Around On You

justsecurity |  Once again, Donald Trump has kicked off a media firestorm with a series of early-morning Tweets, this time leveling the serious accusation that “President Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower”  just prior to the presidential election.

Though Trump asserted he had “just found out” about this surveillance, he appears to be referencing a series of reports that began with a piece by Louise Mensch in Heat Street back in November, which was later corroborated by articles published by The Guardian and the BBC in January.  The reports may have come to Trump’s attention by way of a Breitbart story that ran on Friday, summarizing claims of a “Deep State” effort to undermine the Trump administration advanced by conservative talk radio host Mark Levin.

If it were true that President Obama had ordered the intelligence community to “tapp” Trump’s phones for political reasons, that would of course be a serious scandal—and crime—of Nixonian proportions. Yet there’s nothing in the published reports—vague though they are—to support such a dramatic allegation.  Let’s try to sort out what we do know.

First, as one would hope Trump is aware, presidents are not supposed to personally order electronic surveillance of particular domestic targets, and the Obama camp has, unsurprisingly, issued a statement denying they did anything of the sort:
Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
Rather, the allegation made by various news sources is that, in connection with a multi-agency intelligence investigation of Russian interference with the presidential election, the FBI sought an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing them to monitor transactions between two Russian banks and four persons connected with the Trump campaign.  The Guardian‘s report alleges that initial applications submitted over the summer, naming “four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials,” were rejected by the FISC. But according to the BBC, a narrower order naming only the Russian banks as direct targets was ultimately approved by the FISC in October.  While the BBC report suggests that the surveillance was meant to ferret out “transfers of money,” the Mensch article asserts that a “warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons.”

Taking all these claims with the appropriate sodium chloride seasoning, what can we infer?

Saturday, March 04, 2017

"Computer Virus" Will Cease Being a Metaphor During My Lifetime

thescientist |  Yaniv Erlich and colleagues encoded large media files in DNA, copied the DNA multiple times, and still managed to retrieve the files without any errors, they reported in Science today (March 2). Compared with cassette tapes and 8 mm film, DNA is far less likely to become obsolete, and its storage density is roughly 215 petabytes of data per gram of genetic material, the researchers noted.

To test DNA’s media-storage capabilities, Erlich, an assistant professor of computer science at Columbia University in New York City, and Dina Zielinski, a senior associate scientist at the New York Genome Center, encoded six large files—including a French film and a computer operating system (OS), complete with word-processing software—into DNA. They then recovered the data from PCR-generated copies of that DNA. The Scientist spoke with Erlich about the study, and other potential data-storage applications for DNA.

The Scientist: Why is DNA a good place to store information?

Yaniv Erlich: First, we’re starting to reach the physical limits of hard drives. DNA is much more compact than magnetic media—about 1 million times more compact. Second, it can last for a much longer time. Think about your CDs from the 90s, they’re probably scratched by now. [Today] we can read DNA from a skeleton [that is] 4,000 years old. Third, one of the nice features about DNA is that it is not subject to digital obsoleteness. Think about videocassettes or 8 mm movies. It’s very hard these days to watch these movies because the hardware changes so fast. DNA—that hardware isn’t going anywhere. It’s been around for the last 3 billion years. If humanity loses its ability to read DNA, we have much bigger problems than data storage.

TS: Have other researchers tried to store information in DNA?

YE: There are several groups that have already done this process, and they inspired us, but our approach has several advantages. Ours is 60 percent more efficient than previous strategies and our results are very immune to noise and error. Most previous studies reported some issues getting the data back from the DNA, some gaps [in the information retrieved], but we show it’s easy. We even tried to make it harder for ourselves . . . so we tried to copy the data, and the enzymatic reaction [involved in copying DNA] introduces errors. We copied the data, and then copied that copy, and then copied a copy of that copy—nine times—and we were still able to recover the data without one error. We also . . . achieved a density of 215 petabytes per one gram of DNA. Your laptop has probably one terabyte. Multiply that by 200,000, and we could fit all that information into one gram of DNA.

It Will Take AI to Discern and to Prove Genetic Discrimination

thescientist |  It wouldn’t be the first time Shubhayan Sanatani wrote one of these letters, nor would it be the last. A child under his care at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital had been unable to obtain health insurance ever since testing positive in a genetic screen for a sudden arrhythmia death syndrome (SADS). Whenever this happened to one of his patients, Sanatani, a pediatric cardiologist, would write a letter to the insurance company in question, explaining that the positive test did not necessarily indicate a significant increase in risk for a cardiac event.
“We haven’t had much to offer, other than to write letters of support saying the child has an extremely low risk of an event,” Sanatani told The Scientist. “All we can do, really, is advocate for our patients. I’m not confident about how successful we are.”
How often do parents discover that a genetic screening result has rendered their children uninsurable, or subject to prohibitively high insurance premiums? Sanatani resolved to find out. In a January 24 study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, Sanatani and colleagues conducted informal interviews of 202 people across North America who had either a SADS diagnosis (which, in 73 percent of cases, involved a genetic screen) or an affected family member. Despite its limitations—the survey did not ask when the alleged acts of insurance discrimination occurred, for instance—the self-reported results shed some anecdotal light on what Sanatani said he had been observing in his medical practice.
Thirty-nine percent of the respondents with a SADS diagnosis or an affected family member reported an increase in their existing insurance premiums. Just more than half said they applied for insurance only after receiving the diagnosis; 60 percent of these respondents indicated that they were rejected by insurers.
Before initiating the study, “a lot of families came to us with the notion that having their kids tested would impact their health coverage, but whenever we went to the literature to see if we could substantiate this or refute this, we couldn’t find much,” Sanatani told The Scientist. Yet, after examining the data, the team concluded that “a large percentage of the respondents had experienced some form of insurance rejection,” he said, “with most of them being rejected on the basis of the diagnosis.”
The results were surprising because, according to the researchers, most of the survey respondents were from the United States, where the 2008 Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) should have protected them.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Open Post: Prove You're Not a Bot

How a typo took down S3

28blackdaysin2017 |  If you already recognize that Black gestures, speech, trends, ideas and attitudes are not exclusive to actual Black Bodies then you are ready for the concept of BlacOS.
If you already recognize that Not All Black People Are The Same (aka, I'm not your Monolith,) and that Alain Locke was onto something with his "New Negro," and that "Black Is Beautiful" was an adjustment in Black folks' ways of being in the world then you are ready for the concept of BlacOS.

If you understand that any given instance of Black representation in the media is a complex mixture of agency, randomness, creative inspiration, hopelessness and straight coonery then you are ready for the concept of BlacOS.
It's simple: Blackness, however you understand, celebrate or loathe it, is software: an operating system (OS) to be specific. The job of the OS is to make the resources of a computing system's hardware and programs available to the user. Windows. Macintosh. Linux. Be. Android. iOS. These are all systems that sit on top of a layer of hardware, and make it possible for you to interact with web browsers, video games, word processors, screen savers, and spreadsheets. You know, the stuff that makes the computer usable. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Music as a Means of Social Control

PenelopeGouk |  Ancient models: Plato and Aristotle

Anyone thinking about music and social control in the early modern period would tend to look for precedents in antiquity, the most significant authors in this regard being Plato and Aristotle. The two crucial texts by Plato are his Republic and the Laws, both of which are concerned with the nature of the best form of political organisation and the proper kind of education for individuals that lead to a stable and harmonious community.

Education of the republic's citizens includes early training in both gymnastics and mousike, which Andrew Barker defines as 'primarily an exposure to poetry and to the music that is its key vehicle.' (For the rest of this discussion I will simply refer to 'music' but will be using it in the broader sense of poetry set to musical accompaniment.) The crucial point is that within Plato's ideal society the kinds of 'music' that are performed must be firmly controlled by the law givers, the argument being that freedom of choice in music and novelty in its forms will inevitably lead to corruption and a breakdown of society. 

Plato's distrust of musical innovation is made concrete in his Laws where he describes what he thinks actually happened once in Greek society, namely that the masses had the effrontery to suppose they were capable of judging music themselves, the result being that 'from a starting point in music, everyone came to believe in their own wisdom about everything, and to reject the law, and liberty followed immediately'. (To Plato liberty is anathema since some people have much greater understanding and knowledge than others.) 

This close association between the laws of music and laws of the state exists because according to Plato music imitates character, and has a direct effect on the soul which itself is a harmonia, the consequence being that bad music results in bad citizens. To achieve a good state some form of regulation must take place, the assumption being that if the right musical rules are correctly followed this will result in citizens of good character. It is fascinating to discover that Plato looks to Egypt with approval for its drastic control of music in society, claiming that its forms had remained unchanged for ten thousand years because of strict regulation that 'dedicated all dancing and all melodies to religion'. To prescribe melodies that possessed a 'natural correctness' he thinks 'would be a task for a god, or a godlike man, just as in Egypt they say that the melodies that have been preserved for this great period of time were the compositions of Isis.' (In fact as we shall see there were similar arguments made for the divine origins of sacred music in the Hebrew tradition.) 

Perhaps thinking himself to be a 'godlike man', Plato lays down a series of strict rules governing musical composition and performance, a prescription that if correctly followed would ensure the virtue of citizens and the stability of the state, as well as the banishment of most professional musicians from society. First, Plato wants to limit the kind of poetry that is set to music at all because songs have such a direct and powerful effect on people's morals. Thus any poems that portray wickedness, immorality, mourning or weakness of any kind must be banned, leaving only music that encourages good and courageous behaviour among citizens. The next thing to be curtailed is the range of musical styles allowed in the city, which Plato would confine to the Dorian and the Phrygian 'harmoniai', a technical term for organisations of musical pitch that for the purposes of this paper need not be discussed in any more detail. Between them these two 'harmoniai' appropriately 'imitate the sounds of the self-restrained and the brave man, each of them both in good fortune and bad.' Thirdly, as well as controlling the words to be sung and the manner in which they are performed, Plato would also regulate the kinds of instrument used for accompaniment, the two most important being the lyra and the kithara. Those that are forbidden include the aulos as well as a range of multi-stringed instruments capable of playing in a variety of different modes. Finally, Plato is emphatic in stating that the metrical foot and the melody must follow the words properly for the right effect to be achieved, rather than the other way around. 

Of course these rules are intrinsically interesting, since they tell us about what Plato thought was wrong with music of his own time. However, for my purposes they are also interesting because they seem to have had a discernable influence on would-be reformers of music and society in the early modern period (that is, between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries) which I will come to further on in my paper.

Bioaccoustic Biology?

soundhealthinc |  Welcome to The Journal of BioAcoustic Biology (JBAB), sponsored by the Sound Health Research Institute, Inc., a duly recognized exempt organization (SHRI). This Journal has been established in response to the calls for a peer-reviewed venue for the publication of articles and practice notes on the subject of Human BioAcoustic Vocal Profiling and Sound Presentation. 

The SHRI trustees responded by adopting, as part of the Credentials System sponsored by the Institute, authorization for the establishment of this Journal. According to the enabling Resolution, “The Journal publishes in the area of Human BioAcoustics as established by the research initiated by Sharry Edwards…” articles and practice notes subject to the oversight of the Peer Review Subcommittee. The general Peer Review Standards can be found under the JBAB links to the right. 

Our Premier Public Issue features a seminal article on the Theory of Human BioAcoustics. This issue was prepared by the Journal staff under the direction of Ms. Edwards. This issue represents the first public issue of a Journal that has been privately published since 1995. 

The Research Reports published in the Journal have had any specific Frequencies referenced redacted (and usually replaced with the musical note in which the Frequency occurs). The Reports are intended to provide brief introductions to ongoing research.

Exploring the Mechanisms of Music Therapy

thescientist |  A man with Parkinson’s disease sitting in a crowded restaurant has to use the rest room, but he cannot get there. His feet are frozen; he cannot move. The more he tries, the more stressed he becomes. People are beginning to stare at him and wonder what is wrong. Then he remembers the song “You Are My Sunshine,” which his music therapist taught him to use in situations like this. He starts humming the tune. In time with the music, he steps forward—one foot and then the other—and begins walking to the beat in his head. Still humming, he makes it to the rest room, avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation.

Freezing of gait is a common occurrence for many people with Parkinson’s disease. Such struggles can limit social experience and lead to seclusion and depression. Unfortunately, available pharmacological and surgical treatments for Parkinson’s do a poor job of quelling this and many other symptoms. But where conventional medicine has failed, music therapy can sometimes provide relief.

Music therapy is the use of music by a credentialed professional as an intervention to improve, restore, or maintain a non-music-related behavior in a patient or client. As a music therapist, I have worked with many people with Parkinson’s disease and have seen how music can provide an external cue for patients to walk in time to, allowing them to overcome freezing. I have also used group singing to help patients with Parkinson’s improve their respiratory control and swallowing. Impaired swallowing can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which is a leading cause of death among this patient population.

But perhaps the most powerful component of music therapy is the social benefit derived from making music together, which can help patients combat depression. When patients with Parkinson’s engage in music therapy, often one of the first behaviors to emerge is smiling, and the flat affect and masked face that are characteristic symptoms of the disease fade away. These participants comment on how music therapy is the best part of their week, and their caregivers state that their loved ones are in much better moods—with fewer Parkinson’s symptoms—after returning home from music therapy.

While all of this is interesting, it is not new. Aristotle and Plato were among the first to write on the healing influence of music. The earliest references to music as therapy occurred in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and the field formally began after World War I, when professional and amateur musicians played for veterans who had suffered physical and emotional trauma as a result of the war. Nowadays, certified music therapists seek to do more than just play the right song at the right time. They use music to help people with many different physical and emotional disorders or diseases.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Big Data Won't Make People Unsee the Democratic Party's Shrivelled Nakedness....,

nakedcapitalism |  It has long been the case that “Big Data” has been treated as a magical, unstoppable force that will reap power and profits for those who can channel it effectively. In the 2016 Presidential election, the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee relied heavily on Ada (named after Lord Byron’s mathematician daughter, a perfect identitarian for Clintonian Democrats, combining as she does into one symbolic person aristocratic status, the creative class, feminism and computing). Ada was the Democrats’ attempt at a Big Data Election-Winning Machine, apparently created for it in secret in a dark cave at the top of a mountain by Eric Schmidt and unknown coding slaves who were probably killed as soon as Eric carried his prize down the mountain to Hillary’s waiting arms.

That last part is made up.

But the Democrats did have Ada, which only top aides were allowed to use or even see. Very little is known about Ada, because (spoiler alert) Clinton lost and the brain trust leading the party (if you can call it that) didn’t want anyone to focus on their incompetence and wasteful spending because RUSSIA. Ada said Wisconsin was a safe state. Ada said paying Jay Z to perform would win Ohio. Ada failed, along with Clinton.

Yet now there are rumblings that there is a REAL Death Star, a Big Data system perfect in its design, malevolent in its intent, and all-powerful in its capacity to segment and manipulate every human being on Earth. (No, not the NSA – how silly of you to worry about an arm of the government!) It’s Cambridge Analytica, of which Robert Mercer, right wing hedge fund billionaire, is a major investor. That Robert Mercer, who backed Donald Trump, the crazy-haired real estate hair and game show host who won the 2016 Presidential election.

The thinking is, now that Trump has access to all that otherwise completely benign NSA data, he and Mercer can conspire to feed all of America into the gaping maw of this algorithmic monster, and manipulate otherwise good-thinking Americans into…I’m not sure, exactly. Trump already won the Presidency. The Republican Party – the party notably less aligned with Silicon Valley, although that is rapidly changing because Silicon Valley boys know to go where the money is – is already so dominant, it controls not only every branch of the Federal Government,1 but such a large percentage of the states it only needs one or two more to call a Constitutional Convention. It did all of this without an Election-Winning Death Star.

This suggests a number of questions:
  • How much should we fear Big Data?
  • How much should we fear Cambridge Analytica?
  • Are we on the verge having of a new, uniquely powerful propaganda tool?
  • And the secret question, the one unsaid in most of these pieces: Can the Democrats get their hands on it to win back power?
The short answers are:
  • A lot
  • No more or less than every other Big Data operation
  • No
  • No
All this extensive data gathering and mining of people without their full knowledge and consent is bad. It’s bad when the NSA does it. It’s bad when Facebook does it. It’s bad when Cambridge Analytica does it. There is the potential for tremendous harm. There is also the potential (which is, to some degree, already occurring) for massive manipulation of people’s emotions in new ways. Targeted segmentation and messaging works for many purposes. Here’s a primer.

"Truth" is Whatever Those in Authority Say It Is

consortiumnews |  On Nov. 20, the Times published a lead editorial calling on Facebook and other technology giants to devise algorithms that could eliminate stories that the Times deemed to be “fake.” The Times and other mainstream news outlets – along with a few favored Internet sites – joined a special Google-sponsored task force, called the First Draft Coalition, to decide what is true and what is not. If the Times’ editorial recommendations were followed, the disfavored stories and the sites publishing them would no longer be accessible through popular search engines and platforms, essentially blocking the public’s access to them. [See’s “What to Do About ‘Fake News.’”]

On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page story citing an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, blacklisting 200 Web sites, including and other important sources of independent journalism, because we supposedly promoted “Russian propaganda.”

Although PropOrNot and the Post didn’t bother to cite any actual examples or to ask the accused for comment, the point was clear: If you didn’t march in lockstep behind the Official Narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis or the war in Syria, you were to be isolated, demonized and effectively silenced. In the article, the Post blurred the lines between “fake news” – stories that are simply made up – and what was deemed “propaganda,” in effect, information that didn’t jibe with what the U.S. State Department was saying.

Back then, in November, the big newspapers believed that the truth was easy, simple, obvious, requiring only access to some well-placed government official or a quick reading of the executive summary from some official report. Over the last quarter century or so, the Times, in particular, has made a fetish out of embracing pretty much whatever Officialdom declared to be true. After all, such well-dressed folks with those important-sounding titles couldn’t possibly be lying.

That gullibility went from the serious, such as rejecting overwhelming evidence that Ronald Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contra rebels were deeply involved in drug trafficking, to the silly, trusting the NFL’s absurd Deflategate allegations against Tom Brady. In those “old” days, which apparently ended a few weeks ago, the Times could have run full-page ads, saying “Truth is whatever those in authority say it is.”