Sunday, December 13, 2020

Deplorables Official Status Reduced To Expendables...,

taibbi |  In sum, it’s okay to stoke public paranoia, encourage voters to protest legal election results, spread conspiracy theories about stolen elections, refuse to endorse legal election tallies, and even to file lawsuits challenging the validity of presidential results, so long as all of this activity is sanctified by officials in the right party, or by intelligence vets, or by friendlies at CNN, NBC, the New York Times, etc.

If, however, the theories are coming from Donald Trump or some other disreputable species of un-credentialed American, then it’s time for companies like YouTube to move in and wipe out 8000+ videos and nudge people to channels like CBS and NBC, as well as to the home page of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. This is a process YouTube calls “connecting people to authoritative information.”

Cutting down the public’s ability to flip out removes one of the only real checks on the most dangerous kind of fake news, the official lie. Imagine if these mechanisms had been in place in the past. Would we disallow published claims that the Missile Gap was a fake? That the Gulf of Tonkin incident was staged? How about Watergate, a wild theory about cheating in a presidential election that was universally disbelieved by “reputable” news agencies, until it wasn’t? It’s not hard to imagine a future where authorities would ask tech platforms to quell “conspiracy theories” about everything from poisoned water systems to war crimes.

There’s no such thing as a technocratic approach to truth. There are official truths, but those are political rather than scientific determinations, and therefore almost always wrong on some level. The people who created the American free press understood this, even knowing the tendency of newspapers to be idiotic and full of lies. They weighed that against the larger potential evil of a despotic government that relies upon what Thomas Jefferson called a “standing army of newswriters” ready to print whatever ministers want, “without any regard for truth.”

We allow freedom of religion not because we want people believing in silly religions, but because it’s the only defense against someone establishing one officially mandated silly religion. With the press, we put up with gossip and errors and lies not because we think those things are socially beneficial, but because we don’t want an aristocratic political establishment having a monopoly on those abuses. By allowing some conspiracy theories but not others, that’s exactly the system we’re building.

Most of blue-state America is looking aghast at news stories about 17 states joining in a lawsuit to challenge the election results. Conventional wisdom says that half the country has been taken over by a dangerous conspiracist movement that must be tamed by any means necessary. Acts like the YouTube ban not only don’t accomplish this, they’ll almost certainly further radicalize this population. This is especially true in light of the ongoing implication that Trump’s followers are either actual or unwitting confederates of foreign enemies.

That insult is bad enough when it’s leveled in words only, but when it’s backed up by concrete actions to change a group’s status, like reducing an ability to air grievances, now you’re removing some of the last incentives to behave like citizens. Do you want 70 million Trump voters in the streets with guns and go-bags? Tell them you consider them the same as foreign enemies, and start treating them accordingly. This is a stupid, dangerous, wrong policy, guaranteed to make things worse.

Students Have No 4th Amendment Rights Administrators Are Bound To Acknowledge

gizmodo |  In May 2016, a student enrolled in a high-school in Shelbyville, Texas, consented to having his phone searched by one of the district’s school resource officers. Looking for evidence of a romantic relationship between the student and a teacher, the officer plugged the phone into a Cellebrite UFED to recover deleted messages from the phone. According to the arrest affidavit, investigators discovered the student and teacher frequently messaged each other, “I love you.” Two days later, the teacher was booked into the county jail for sexual assault of a child.

The Cellebrite used to gather evidence in that case was owned and operated by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. But these invasive phone-cracking tools are not only being purchased by police departments. Public documents reviewed by Gizmodo indicate that school districts have been quietly purchasing these surveillance tools of their own for years.

Gizmodo has reviewed similar accounting documents from eight school districts, seven of which are in Texas, showing that administrators paid as much $11,582 for the controversial surveillance technology. Known as mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs), this type of tech is able to siphon text messages, photos, and application data from student’s devices. Together, the districts encompass hundreds of schools, potentially exposing hundreds of thousands of students to invasive cell phone searches.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the country with over 630,000 students enrolled in over 1,000 institutions in the 2018-2019 school year, has a Cellebrite device it says is used by a team that investigates complaints of employee misconduct against students. Its listed description for the job of Digital Forensics Investigator states, those with that role assist with “student safety issues, fraud, collusion, and/or conflicts of interest,” specifically mentioning expertise with Cellebrite as a qualification.

The Fourth Amendment protects people in the United States from unreasonable government searches and seizures, including their cell phones. While a search without a warrant is generally considered unreasonable, the situation in schools is a little different.

In the case New Jersey v. T.L.O, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools do not necessarily need a warrant to search students so long as officials have a reasonable belief a student has broken the law or school policy, and the search is not unnecessarily intrusive and reasonably related in scope to the circumstances under which the search was originally justified. The “reasonableness” standard is extremely broad, largely deferential to the whims of school officials, and can serve as the basis for fishing expeditions; courts have only rarely ruled that school searches violate the Fourth Amendment.

“The problem is as much with the legal standards as with the technology,” said Barbara Fedders, an assistant professor of law at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who focuses on the intersection of criminal law and school discipline. “Schools take student’s cell phones for all kinds of reasons, not because they think they are doing anything pernicious; you can see where racial bias could factor into this.”

Cell phones are deeply personal items, and it’s easy to imagine how embarrassing and potentially catastrophic it would be if an administrator or school resource officer used a Cellebrite to download students’ private text messages, photos, social media posts, location history, and more.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Democrat Preznit Of U.S. Council Of Mayors Declared Racism A Public Health Crisis

Forbes |  An executive order signed by Mayor Greg Fischer on Tuesday declares racism a public health crisis in Louisville, Kentucky, with Fischer stating that several of the city's "systems are more than broken" and that they need to "be dismantled and replaced."

At a press conference announcing the executive order, Fischer said that the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman who was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Metro police officers, made the city a "focal point for America's reckoning on racial justice." 

Fischer declared that for Louisville to move forward, it would first need to address the pain and root causes of racism, in addition to acknowledging its impact.

Under the order, seven specific areas will be targeted by the Louisville Metro Government: public safety, children and families, employment, Black wealth, housing, health and voting.

The order also calls for continuing to offer mail-in ballots for all elections.

Fischer pointed to several statistics Tuesday that highlighted the racial inequity in the city, such as the fact that Black residents own only 2.4% of Louisville's businesses, despite constituting 22.4% of the city's population.

Between some majority-Black and majority-white neighborhoods in Louisville, life expectancy can vary by as much as 12 years, according to the mayor. 

Crucial Quote: "For too many Louisvillians, racism is a fact of daily life, a fact that was created and documented in our country's laws and institutional policies like segregation, redlining, and urban renewal," Fischer said. "Laws and policies that restrict the freedom of all Americans to exercise their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.



Just Now Learned Why Our Little NippleHead Empty Suit Of A Mayor Lost His Mind...,

fox4kc |  Kansas City’s mayor is making a clarification on the COVID-19 restrictions for restaurants and bars, giving them a little more time to finish serving dine-in customers.

Bill Teel, executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, said restaurant staff can now take orders up to 10 p.m. but must have all customers out of the building by 11 p.m.

Previously, Kansas City restaurants were required to close for dine-in service by 10 p.m. under the city’s latest COVID-19 restrictions.

A spokesperson for Mayor Quinton Lucas said in order to remain consistent with neighboring jurisdictions, Kansas City has “only clarified that the 10 p.m. restriction means that no food or drink shall be served after 10 p.m., and that patrons can finish their visit in a reasonable amount of time.”

Restaurants and bars will not be able to take orders or sell drinks after 10 p.m., but it will give customers more time to finish their meals.

Carryout, drive-thru and delivery services can continue past 10 p.m.

In a letter to Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association members, Teel called this “a much needed step in the right direction.”

Restaurants and bars are still limited to 50% capacity under Kansas City’s restrictions, and dine-in customers must be seated at all times with 6 feet of distance between groups. Masks are required when anyone is not actively eating or drinking.

The news comes one day after Independence created its own COVID-19 guidelines, allowing its restaurants and bars to continue serving until midnight — instead of closing dine-in service at 10 p.m. like Jackson County’s order requires.

At A Deeper Political Level Gebru's Paper Said Google Machine Learning Creates More Harm Than Good

Gebru Called Into Question Google's Reputation  Based on the leaked email, Gebru's research says that machine learning at Google (the core of Google's products) creates more harm than good. Somebody finally figured out there that if she is effective in her role, she would be calling into question the ethical standing of Google's core products. If a corporation does ethics research but is unwilling to publicize anything that could be considered critical, then it's not ethics research, it's just peer-reviewed public relations. 

Google miscalculated with Gebru. They thought her comfy paycheck would buy her reputational complicity. Like a typical diversity hire at Corporation X, Gebru was supposed to function as a token figleaf and glad hander among snowflakes who might otherwise ask hard questions. Now Google couldn't just tell her that she was hired to be the good AI house negroe, could they?

Google wants the good narrative of "internal ethics research being done" They want to shape that narrative and message about all of "the improvements we can make" whatever it takes so that questions about their products don't effect their bottom line.  With internal ethics research you have access to exponentially more data  (directly and indirectly, the latter because you know who to talk to and can do so) than any poor academic researcher. 

The field has AI Ethics research teams working on important problems (to the community as a whole). These teams are well funded, sometimes with huge resources.  Now to get the best out of this system, the researchers just need to avoid conflicts with the company core business.  In the case of Gebru's paper,  it could have been reframed in a way that would please Google, without sacrificing its scientific merit. Shaping the narrative is extremely important in politics, business, and ethics.

 And Openly Flouted Managerial Authoriteh  Some are critical if machine learning SVP Jeff Dean for rejecting her submission because of bad "literature review", saying that internal review is supposed to check for "disclosure of sensitive material" only. 

Not only are they wrong about the ultimate purpose of internal review processes, they also missed the point of the rejection. It was never about "literature review", but instead about Google's reputation. Take another look at Dean's response email

It ignored too much relevant research — for example, it talked about the environmental impact of large models, but disregarded subsequent research showing much greater efficiencies. Similarly, it raised concerns about bias in language models, but didn’t take into account recent research to mitigate these issues. Google is the inventor of the current market dominating language models. Who does more neural network training using larger data sets than Google? 

This is how and why Gebru's paper argues that Google creates more harm than good. Would you approve such a paper, as is? This is being kept to the paper and the email to the internal snowflake list - we don't need to examine her intention to sue Google last year, or calling on colleagues to enlist third-party organizations to put more pressure on Google.

Put yourself in Google's cloven-hooved shoes. 

Gebru: Here's my paper in which I call out the environmental impact of large models and raise concerns about bias in the language data sets. Tomorrow is the deadline, please review and approve it. 

Google: Hold on, this makes us look very bad! You have to revise the paper. We know that large models are not good for the environment, but we have also been doing research to achieve much greater efficiencies. We are also aware of bias in the language models that we are using in production, but we are also proposing solutions to that. You should include those works as well.

Gebru: Give me the names of every single person who reviewed my paper otherwise I'll resign. Throw on top of this the fact that she told hundreds of people in the org to cease important work because she had some disagreements with leadership. 

Google: You're Fired!!! Get Out - We'll Pack Your Shit And Mail It To You!!!!

Superficially, Gebru Was Not Fired For Her Paper, She Was Fired For This Email

 platformer | Hi friends,

I had stopped writing here as you may know, after all the micro and macro aggressions and harassments I received after posting my stories here (and then of course it started being moderated).

Recently however, I was contributing to a document that Katherine and Daphne were writing where they were dismayed by the fact that after all this talk, this org seems to have hired 14% or so women this year. Samy has hired 39% from what I understand but he has zero incentive to do this.

What I want to say is stop writing your documents because it doesn’t make a difference. The DEI OKRs that we don’t know where they come from (and are never met anyways), the random discussions, the “we need more mentorship” rather than “we need to stop the toxic environments that hinder us from progressing” the constant fighting and education at your cost, they don’t matter. Because there is zero accountability. There is no incentive to hire 39% women: your life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people, you start making the other leaders upset when they don’t want to give you good ratings during calibration. There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything. We just had a Black research all hands with such an emotional show of exasperation. Do you know what happened since? Silencing in the most fundamental way possible.

Have you ever heard of someone getting “feedback” on a paper through a privileged and confidential document to HR? Does that sound like a standard procedure to you or does it just happen to people like me who are constantly dehumanized?

Imagine this: You’ve sent a paper for feedback to 30+ researchers, you’re awaiting feedback from PR & Policy who you gave a heads up before you even wrote the work saying “we’re thinking of doing this”, working on a revision plan figuring out how to address different feedback from people, haven’t heard from PR & Policy besides them asking you for updates (in 2 months). A week before you go out on vacation, you see a meeting pop up at 4:30pm PST on your calendar (this popped up at around 2pm). No one would tell you what the meeting was about in advance. Then in that meeting your manager’s manager tells you “it has been decided” that you need to retract this paper by next week, Nov. 27, the week when almost everyone would be out (and a date which has nothing to do with the conference process). You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity (let alone expertise recognized by journalists, governments, scientists, civic organizations such as the electronic frontiers foundation etc) is acknowledged or valued in this company.

Then, you ask for more information. What specific feedback exists? Who is it coming from? Why now? Why not before? Can you go back and forth with anyone? Can you understand what exactly is problematic and what can be changed?

And you are told after a while, that your manager can read you a privileged and confidential document and you’re not supposed to even know who contributed to this document, who wrote this feedback, what process was followed or anything. You write a detailed document discussing whatever pieces of feedback you can find, asking for questions and clarifications, and it is completely ignored. And you’re met with, once again, an order to retract the paper with no engagement whatsoever.

Then you try to engage in a conversation about how this is not acceptable and people start doing the opposite of any sort of self reflection—trying to find scapegoats to blame.

Silencing marginalized voices like this is the opposite of the NAUWU principles which we discussed. And doing this in the context of “responsible AI” adds so much salt to the wounds. I understand that the only things that mean anything at Google are levels, I’ve seen how my expertise has been completely dismissed. But now there’s an additional layer saying any privileged person can decide that they don’t want your paper out with zero conversation. So you’re blocked from adding your voice to the research community—your work which you do on top of the other marginalization you face here.

I’m always amazed at how people can continue to do thing after thing like this and then turn around and ask me for some sort of extra DEI work or input. This happened to me last year. I was in the middle of a potential lawsuit for which Kat Herller and I hired feminist lawyers who threatened to sue Google (which is when they backed off--before that Google lawyers were prepared to throw us under the bus and our leaders were following as instructed) and the next day I get some random “impact award.” Pure gaslighting.

So if you would like to change things, I suggest focusing on leadership accountability and thinking through what types of pressures can also be applied from the outside. For instance, I believe that the Congressional Black Caucus is the entity that started forcing tech companies to report their diversity numbers. Writing more documents and saying things over and over again will tire you out but no one will listen.


Stupid Stuff Leads Ignorant People To Believe Machine Learning Is AI Is Robbie The Racist Robot

Scientific American featured an article by LANL physicist and neuroscientist Garrett Kenyon, who wrote that one of the “distinguishing features of machines is that they don’t need to sleep, unlike humans and any other creature with a central nervous system,” but someday “your toaster might need a nap from time to time, as may your car, fridge and anything else that is revolutionized with the advent of practical artificial intelligence technologies.”


What Machine Learning (So-Called AI) Really Is
The vast majority of advances in the field of "machine learning" (so-called AI) stem from a single technique (neural networks with back propagation) combined with dramatic leaps in processing power.
Back-propagation is the essence of neural net "training". It is the method of fine-tuning the weights of a neural net based on the error rate obtained in the previous iteration. Proper tuning of the weights allows you to reduce error rates and to make the model reliable by increasing its generalization.
The learning mechanism is very generic, which makes it broadly applicable to almost everything, but also makes it ‘dumb’ in the sense that it doesn’t understand anything about context or have the ability to abstract notable features and form models.
Humans do this non-dumb "abstraction from feature and form context" stuff - all the time. It’s what enables us to do higher reasoning without a whole data center worth of processing power.
Google and other big-tech/big-data companies are interested in neural networks with back propagation from a short term business perspective. There's still a lot to be gained from taking the existing technique and wringing every drop of commercial potential out of it.
Google is engineering first and researching second, if at all. That means that any advances they come up with tend to skew towards heuristics and implementation, rather than untangling the theory.
I’ve been struck by how many so-called ‘research’ papers in AI boil down to “you should do this because it seems to work better than the alternatives” with no real attempt to explain why.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Why Has The NYTimes Broken Its Pre-election Embargo On Huntergate?

americanthinker |  Suddenly, though, the media is releasing information about the criminal investigations into not both Hunter Biden and Joe’s brother, James Biden. As the above tweet notes, these investigations have been ongoing for years. We also know that a sizable number of voters would have passed over Biden for Trump had they known about Biden family corruption. So, what gives? Why are Hunter and, by extension, Joe himself, suddenly fair game?

It could be that bad things are about to come down from the FBI. After all, Trump did promise that “a lot of big things” will happen soon. The sudden flurry of reports about the Bidens could just be the Democrats’ way of getting ahead of the story so that, if Hunter is shown doing the perp walk, they can say that it’s “old news.”

However, it’s equally likely that the Democrats are making plans to get Biden out of office as quickly as possible – or perhaps, sideline him before he’s even sworn in (assuming, of course, that Biden hangs onto that president-elect title). As Monica Showalter pointed out on Thursday, Biden is not making leftists happy. He’s filling his possible administration with corporate insiders, he wants a former military officer to head the defense department, and he’s continuing to show a very rapid cognitive decline. He's offering Clinton-era politics with a side of dementia and that is not what the hard left side of the party wants.

In any event, the goal, always, was to get Kamala into the White House. It didn’t and doesn’t matter that the voters don’t like her -- as demonstrated by the fact that even her home state of California didn’t like her and her early retreat from the primaries. What matters is that she, unlike both Hillary and Joe, is Barack Obama’s true third term.

Harris is as hard left as they come and willing to do whatever it takes to maintain power. While Joe Biden, despite his corruption and his shift to the hard left, still cherishes some residual notions about the Constitution, Kamala is not hindered by such old-fashioned ideas:

With Americans at large finally learning that Hunter Biden and James Biden are crooked and that Joe is the big, corrupt tree from which these rotten apples fell, there’s going to be lots of pressure on Joe to retire as quickly as is politely possible. It’s The New York Times that gives the game away. On Thursday, it published a positively wistful article entitled “Investigation of His Son Is Likely to Hang Over Biden as He Takes Office: Unless the Trump Justice Department clears Hunter Biden, the new president will confront the prospect of his own administration handling an inquiry that could expose his son to criminal prosecution.” The opening paragraph, speaks of Biden in a no-win situation that could be politically and legally perilous, and the report continues in that vein. The subtext is clear: Leave. Leave now.

Joe served his purpose by being the bland front person for a full leftist assault on the White House. Now it’s time for him to go. And while his handlers may reward him for a job well done with the pleasure of the inauguration, you can be sure that they’ll pressure him to do what he promised to do, which is to invent a respectable disease and quit ASAP.

Melinda Gates: Uh, We Were So Focused On Vaccinations We Really Didn't Think Through The Lockdowns...,

aier  |  In a wide-ranging interview in the New York Times, Melinda Gates made the following remarkable statement: “What did surprise us is we hadn’t really thought through the economic impacts.” A cynic might observe that one is disinclined to think much about matters than do not affect one personally. 

It’s a maddening statement, to be sure, as if “economics” is somehow a peripheral concern to the rest of human life and public health. The larger context of the interview reveals the statement to be even more confused. She is somehow under the impression that it is the pandemic and not the lockdowns that are the cause of the economic devastation that includes perhaps 30% of restaurants going under, among many other terrible effects. 

She doesn’t say that outright but, like many articles in the mainstream press over this year, she very carefully crafts her words to avoid the crucial subject of lockdowns as the primary cause of economic disaster. It’s possible that she actually believes this virus is what tanked the world economy on its own but that is a completely unsustainable proposition. 

Further, her comments provide a perfect illustration of the core problem all along: most of the people who have been advocating lockdowns in fact have no actual experience in managing pandemics. To many of these, Covid-19 became their new playground to try out an unprecedented experiment in social and economic management: shutting down travel, businesses, schools, churches, and issuing stay-at-home orders that smack of totalitarian impositions. 

Here is what she says: 

You can project out and think about what a pandemic might be like or look like, but until you live through it, it’s pretty hard to know what the reality will be like. So I think we predicted quite well that, depending on what the disease was, it could spread very, very, very quickly. The spread did not surprise us.

What did surprise us is we hadn’t really thought through the economic impacts. What happens when you have a pandemic that’s running rampant in populations all over the world? The fact that we would all be home, and working from home if we were lucky enough to do that. That was a piece that I think we hadn’t really prepared for.

There are plenty of specialists who have lived through pandemics in the past and managed them by maintaining essential social and economic functioning. A major case in point is Donald A. Henderson, who as head of the World Health Organization is given primary credit for the eradication of smallpox. He wrote as follows in 2006:

Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.

Melinda together with her husband Bill have been the major funding source for pro-lockdown efforts around the world, giving $500M since the pandemic began, but also funding a huge range of academic departments, labs, and media venues for many years, during which time they have both sounded the alarm in every possible interview about the coming pathogen. Their favored policy has been lockdown, as if to confuse a biological virus with a computer virus that merely needs to be blocked from hitting the hard drive.

Jennifer Zeng's Video Of Prof. Di Dongsheng Got Taken Down By Youtube….,

greenwald  |  Documents relating to Hunter Biden’s exploitation of his father’s name to enrich himself and other relatives through deals with China were among the cache published in the week before the election by The New York Post — revelations censored by Twitter and Facebook and steadfastly ignored by most mainstream news outlets. That concerted repression effort by media outlets and Silicon Valley left it to right-wing outlet such as Fox News and The Daily Caller to report, which in turn meant that millions of Americans were kept in the dark before voting.

But the just-revealed federal criminal investigation in Delaware is focused on exactly the questions which corporate media outlets refused to examine for fear that doing so would help Trump: namely, whether Hunter Biden engaged in illicit behavior in China and what impact that might have on his father’s presidency.

The allegations at the heart of this investigation compel an examination of a fascinating and at-times disturbing speech at a major financial event held last week in Shanghai. In that speech, a Chinese scholar of political science and international finance, Di Donghseng, insisted that Beijing will have far more influence in Washington under a Biden administration than it did with the Trump administration.

The reason, Di said, is that China’s ability to get its way in Washington has long depended upon its numerous powerful Wall Street allies. But those allies, he said, had difficulty controlling Trump, but will exert virtually unfettered power over Biden. That China cultivated extensive financial ties to Hunter Biden, Di explained, will be crucial for bolstering Beijing’s influence even further.

Di, who in addition to his teaching positions is also Vice Dean of Beijing’s Renmin University’s School of International Relations, delivered his remarks alongside three other Chinese banking and development experts. Di’s speech at the event, entitled “Will China's Opening up of its Financial Sector Attract Wall Street?,” was translated and posted by Jennifer Zeng, a Chinese Communist Party critic who left China years ago, citing religious persecution, and now lives in the U.S. A source fluent in Mandarin confirmed the accuracy of the translation.

The centerpiece of Di’s speech was the history he set forth of how Beijing has long successfully managed to protect its interests in the halls of American power: namely, by relying on “friends” in Wall Street and other U.S. ruling class sectors — which worked efficiently until the Trump presidency.

Referring to the Trump-era trade war between the two countries, Di posed this question: “Why did China and the U.S. use to be able to settle all kinds of issues between 1992 [when Clinton became President] and 2016 [when Obama’s left office]?” He then provided this answer:


Supporting The 2020 U.S. Election Bishes....,

youtube |  Yesterday was the safe harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect. Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, in line with our approach towards historical U.S. Presidential elections. For example, we will remove videos claiming that a Presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors. We will begin enforcing this policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come. As always, news coverage and commentary on these issues can remain on our site if there’s sufficient education, documentary, scientific or artistic context.

Connecting people to authoritative information

While only a small portion of watch time is election-related content, YouTube continues to be an important source of election news. On average 88% of the videos in top 10 search results related to elections came from authoritative news sources (amongst the rest are things like newsy late-night shows, creator videos and commentary). And the most viewed channels and videos are from news channels like NBC and CBS.

We also showed information panels linking both to Google’s election results feature, which sources election results from The Associated Press, and to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) “Rumor Control” page for debunking election integrity misinformation, alongside these and over 200,000 other election-related videos. Collectively, these information panels have been shown over 4.5 billion times. Starting today, we will update this information panel, linking to the “2020 Electoral College Results” page from the Office of the Federal Register, noting that as of December 8, states have certified Presidential election results, with Joe Biden as the President-elect. It will also continue to include a link to CISA, explaining that states certify results after ensuring ballots are properly counted and correcting irregularities and errors.

Additionally, since Election Day, relevant fact check information panels, from third party fact checkers, were triggered over 200,000 times above relevant election-related search results, including for voter fraud narratives such as “Dominion voting machines” and “Michigan recount.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Contemporary Longitudinal Breakdown Of The Hard Problem Of Martial Arts Dance Informatics

wikipedia |  Eshkol-Wachman movement notation is a system to record movement on paper or computer screen, developed by choreographer Noa Eshkol (daughter of Levi Eshkol) and architect Abraham Wachman.[2] It was originally developed for dance to enable choreographers to write a dance down on paper that dancers could later reconstruct in its entirety, much as composers write a musical score that musicians can later play.

In comparison to most dance notation systems, Eshkol-Wachman movement notation was intended to notate any manner of movement, not only dance. As such, it is not limited to particular dance styles or even to the human form. It has been used to analyze animal behaviour as well as dance (Golani 1976). 

Eshkol-Wachman movement notation treats the body as a sort of stick figure. The body is divided at its skeletal joints, and each pair of joints defines a line segment (a "limb"). For example, the foot is a limb bounded by the ankle and the end of the toe.

The relationship of those segments in three-dimensional space is described using a spherical coordinate system. If one end of a line segment is held in a fixed position, that point is the center of a sphere whose radius is the length of the line segment. Positions of the free end of the segment can be defined by two coordinate values on the surface of that sphere, analogous to latitude and longitude on a globe.

Limb positions are written somewhat like fractions, with the vertical number written over the horizontal number. The horizontal component (the lower) is read first. These two numbers are enclosed in brackets or parentheses to indicate whether the position in being described relative to an adjacent limb or to external reference points, such as a stage.

Eshkol-Wachman scores are written on grids, where each horizontal row represents the position and movement of a single limb, and each vertical column represents a unit of time. Movements are shown as transitions between initial and end coordinates. 

groundai |  Dance is an art and when technology meets this kind of art, it’s a novel attempt in itself. Several researchers have attempted to automate several aspects of dance, right from dance notation to choreography. Furthermore, we have encountered several applications of dance automation like e-learning, heritage preservation, etc. Despite several attempts by researchers for more than two decades in various styles of dance all round the world, we found a review paper that portrays the research status in this area dating to 1990 [1]. Hence, we decide to come up with a comprehensive review article that showcases several aspects of dance automation.

This paper is an attempt to review research work reported in the literature, categorize and group all research work completed so far in the field of automating dance. We have explicitly identified six major categories corresponding to the use of computers in dance automation namely dance representation, dance capturing, dance semantics, dance generation, dance processing approaches and applications of dance automation systems. We classified several research papers under these categories according to their research approach and functionality. With the help of proposed categories and subcategories one can easily determine the state of research and the new avenues left for exploration in the field of dance automation.

Hard Problem: Have You Ever Seen A Good Dance Martial Arts Text Book?

researchgate |  There is a need to develop tools to automatically read and translate dance scores. Dance has been one of the last artforms to develop objective records. Scores for dance, analogous to scores for music, have existed for more than half a century, but the notation systems are known only to a relatively few trained notators (also, there are a number of competing notation systems). In North America the Labanotation system is most widely used and LabanWriter, a computer based editor for this notation has been developed. Updating a report at WCGSÕ01, this paper describes progress with the project to develop a translator between LabanWriter and Life Forms™, a human animation system for the choreography and animation of human movement. The prototype translator will be demonstrated.

diegomaranan |  I am a transdisciplinary artist and researcher who investigates how technology can help us reimagine our relationship with the environment, with other people, and with ourselves. My work is eclectic, ranging from exploring how digital technologies are changing the way we move as well as perceive human movement, to co-creating socially-engaged art installations that build symbiotic relationships between plants, computers and people. As a Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD fellow in the CogNovo training program for Cognitive Innovation at Plymouth University, I adapted methods and insights from user experience and technology design, perceptual psychology and neuroscience, dance and somatic practices, and pragmatist philosophy to design a low-cost wearable technology that uses vibrotactile stimulation to create unusual, pleasurable, structured sensory experiences that demonstrably increase body awareness. 

benesh |  What is the Benesh Notation Editor?
The Benesh Notation Editor is a PC Windows software program for writing Benesh Movement Notation Scores. It acts as a ‘word processor’ for the notation enabling the production of publication quality multi-stave printed scores that can be edited, copied and stored digitally like other computer documents.

The Benesh Notation Editor was developed to meet the needs of professional notators but is also useful for notation teachers and students, all of whom will find that they can produce publication quality scores more easily and quickly than writing them by hand. Scores written using the Benesh Notation Editor are easy to edit, copy, store, print and transmit by email.

What are the benefits of using the Benesh Notation Editor?
Using the Benesh Notation Editor, writing scores by hand will soon become as obsolete as using a typewriter for text documents. Unlike hand-written scores, BNE scores need never become annotated beyond readability. Alterations can be entered easily and quickly into the BNE score without affecting the original document.

The information in a BNE score can be adjusted and the layout rearranged simply and easily. This means that, unlike hand-written scores, it is not necessary to pre-plan the layout of each page before any information can be entered. Individual ‘parts’ can be extracted from a full multi-person score creating separate, more manageable, role specific scores for use in the rehearsal room or as study resources.

A True Secret Is Still A Secret Even When It Is Revealed To All

feldenkrais-ip |  He based this work on a behavioral study of human beings that gave rise to the concept of using unconscious or instinctive responses for self-preservation. In other words, he wanted to design a self-defense system for the Haganah, based on “a movement someone would do without thinking.”7 

Feldenkrais mentioned this concept in the introduction to his translation of Emile Coué’s book,  Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion. Feldenkrais’ background as a survivor gave him a unique perspective on the practical use of judo in an emergency situation, outside the dojo. At the time, it was a rare judoka who thought about the use of judo for self-defense.8  We see Moshe’s interest in survival throughout his development of the Feldenkrais Method. As he said years later, “The most drastic test of a movement is self-preservation.”9 

From  a close reading of Better Judo we will also get a preview of Feldenkrais’ intellectualism. “In those days judo/jujutsu was an art of self-defense. Thanks to Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais it gained a scientific and more sophisticated facet. The Japanese art was increasingly seen as a science of combat practiced by intellectuals, university students, scholars…Moshe played a pivotal role in this evolution [of judo] from a utilitarian practice to a scientific one.”10  [Fig 1] Feldenkrais became involved with judo when he met its founder Professor Jigoro Kano in Paris in September of 1933. This was not merely a meeting between two giants; it was an event that would lead to a dramatic change in the direction and trajectory of Feldenkrais’ thinking. In his famous 1977 interview about martial arts, Moshe recalled that Kano had said to him that judo is “the efficient use of the mind over the body.”11  

At the time, Moshe had thought that this was a funny way to describe a martial art. During their initial meeting, Moshe was introduced to the concept of seiryoku zenyo (minimum efort, maximum eficiency). Kano challenged Moshe with a judo choking technique. Moshe attempted to free himself using the technique that had always worked for him, but this time it did not help him. As Kano described in his diary: “I grabbed him in a tight reverse cross with both hands and said, ‘Try to get out of this!’ He pushed my throat with his fist with all his might. He was quite strong, so my throat was in some pain, but I pressed on his carotid arteries on both sides with both hands so the blood could not get to his head, and he gave up.

Imagine a small Japanese man, at the age of 75, subduing a strong, young man of 29. This incident impressed Feldenkrais and changed his approach to the use of his own body.  [Fig 2] 

Feldenkrais began to study judo and in a relatively short time was promoted to black belt. More than a skillful practitioner of the art, he proved to be a unique judo teacher of the highest quality. Kano had a great deal of faith in Moshe.13  Supported by Kano’s authority, and through his own considerable abilities, Moshe became the leading judo teacher in France. Moshe’s influence on the development of the martial art in France was extraordinary, earning him the title “Pionnier du Judo en France.”14 As Moshe became more expert at judo, he learned from and cooperated with the judo master Mikinosuke Kawaishi. This partnership gave Feldenkrais the background to later write two judo books. He wrote in the forward of Higher Judo: “I wish to express my gratitude to my friend and teacher of many years, Mr. Mikinosuke Kawaishi, 7th Dan. The figures in the illustrations in this book represent him and myself.”15 

Seiryoku-Zenyo: Maximum Efficient Use Of Energy

kodokanjudoinstitute |  "This concept of the best use of energy is the fundamental teaching of Judo. In other words, it is most effectively using one's energy for a good purpose. So, what is 'good'? Assisting in the continued development of one's community can be classified as good, but counteracting such advancement is bad... Ongoing advancement of community and society is achieved through the concepts of 'Sojo-Sojo' (help one another; yield to one another) or 'Jita-Kyoei' (mutual benefit). In this sense, Sojo-Sojo and Jita-Kyoei are also part of the greater good. This is the fundamental wisdom of Judo.

Kata and Randori are possible when this fundamental wisdom is applied to techniques of attack and defence. If directed at improving the body, it becomes a form of physical education; if applied to gaining knowledge, it will become a method of self-improvement; and, if applied to many things in society such as the necessities of life, social interaction, one's duties, and administration, it becomes a way of life...

In this way, Judo today is not simply the practice of fighting in a dojo, but rather it is appropriately recognised as a guiding principle in the myriad facets of human society. The practice of Kata and Randori in the dojo, is no more than the application of Judo principles to combat and physical training... From the study of traditional Jujutsu Kata and Randori, I came to the realisation of this greater meaning. Accordingly, the process of teaching also follows the same path. Furthermore, I recognised the value of teaching Kata and Randori to many people as a fighting art and as a form of physical training. This not only serves the aims of the individual, but by mastery of the fundamental wisdom of Judo, and in turn applying it to many pursuits in life, all people will be able to live their lives in a judicious manner.

This is how one should undertake the study of Judo that I founded. However, in actuality there are many people throughout the world living their lives on the basis of Judo principles without knowing that this is the real essence of Judo. If the Judo that I espouse is propagated to society at large, the actions people undertake will become Judo without even thinking about it. I believe that if more people gain an understanding of the guiding principles of Judo, this philosophy will also help guide their lives. Thus, I implore you all to make great efforts, and initiate this trend in society." *2

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

The World Economic Forum Is Where BLM's "Trained Marxist" National Leadership Goes

To global neoliberalism’s headquarters, to the World Economic forum, wherein is planned the 4iR and 4th Globalization. 
Bill Clinton crossed a picket line and Angela Davis has been promoting the WEF. Warren Buffet and other billionaire backers have been getting quite a return on their investment. Maybe BLM leadership is not as leftist as they claim. If they’re planning a WEF-backed revolution, what’s their “trained Marxist” plan? Using Marxist analysis to promote and excuse mass layoffs, gig economy work, and increasing monopoly power?
If the political/economic current system is good at nothing else, it is good at identifying who to co-opt, who to buy off, and who to marginalize. It’s the same way original black revolutionaries were co-opted into the afrodemic complex, and how civil rights negroes became reliable cogs in the DNC political machine. It’s how some Sixties firebrands were neutered into mild-mannered academics and DNC aparatchiks, while others were shuffled off into obscurity.
Much like the first conspirator to snitch on his comrades gets the best deal, the same holds true for aspiring sell-outs.
Question: is there even “a national BLM leadership”, with lines of authority and meetings and a board of directors and everything? 

usatoday |  “I’m really proud of the work we’ve been able to do in the last seven years,” Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and chairwoman of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, said in a statement. “What is clear is that Black Lives Matter shares a name with a much larger movement and there are literally hundreds of organizations that do impactful racial and gender justice work who make up the fabric of this broader movement.”
 The foundation has already identified several movement organizations that it would like to support, said Cullors, who declined to name the groups. The foundation says it will “prioritize mutual aid organizations, direct service and organizations focused on creating sustainable improvements in the material conditions for all black people.” It also looks to support black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-led groups.

Over its nearly six years of existence, the BLM Global Network had received contributions from high-profile donors, including A-list entertainers such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Prince, who contributed to BLM mere weeks before his death in 2016. But unanswered questions of transparency and access to those gifts left some organizers in network affiliate chapters frustrated.

Adolph Reed: Elite Ratification Of Managerial "Authoriteh" Over The American Negroe Problem

thebaffler  |  The notion that black Americans are political agents just like other Americans, and can forge their own tactical alliances and coalitions to advance their interests in a pluralist political order is ruled out here on principle. Instead, blacks are imagined as so abject that only extraordinary intervention by committed black leaders has a prayer of producing real change. This pernicious assumption continually subordinates actually existing history to imaginary cultural narratives of individual black heroism and helps drive the intense—and myopic—opposition that many antiracist activists and commentators express to Bernie Sanders, social democracy, and a politics centered on economic inequality and working-class concerns.

The striking hostility to such a politics within the higher reaches of antiracist activism illustrates the extent to which what bills itself as black politics today is in fact a class politics: it is not interested in the concerns of working people of whatever race or gender. Indeed, a spate of recent media reports have retailed evidence that upper-class black Americans may be experiencing stagnant-to-declining social mobility—which is taken as prima facie evidence of the stubbornly racist cast of the American social order: Even rich professionals like us, elite commentators suggest, are denied the right to secure our own class standing. It is also telling that the study that provoked the media reports – Raj Chetty, et al., “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective” – rehearses the hoary recommendation that “reducing the intergenerational persistence of the black-white income gap will require policies whose impacts cross neighborhood and class lines and increase upward mobility specifically for black men.” These include “mentoring programs for black boys, efforts to reduce racial bias among whites, or efforts to facilitate social interaction across racial groups within a given area.” That’s pretty thin gruel, warmed over bromides and all too familiar paternalism and no actually redistributive policies at all.

In this context the pronounced animus trained on the figure of the “white savior” emerges as litmus test for the critical role of racial gatekeeper in respectable political discourse. The gatekeeping question has, for more than a century, focused on who speaks for black Americans and determines the “black agenda.” And the status of black leader, spokesperson, or “voice” has always been a direct function of contested class prerogative, dating back a century and more to Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and Anna Julia Cooper. Specifically, the gatekeeping function is the obsession of the professional-managerial strata who pursue what Warren has described as “managerial authority over the nation’s Negro problem.” How do “black leaders” become recognized? The answer is the same now as for Washington in the 1890s; recognition as a legitimate black leader, or “voice,” requires ratification by elite opinion-shaping institutions and individuals.

Gatekeeping hasn’t been the exclusive preoccupation of Bookerite conservatives or liberals like Du Bois. Even militant black nationalists and racial separatists like Marcus Garvey and the leaders of the Nation of Islam have pursued validation as black leaders from dominant white elites to support programs of racial “self-help” or uplift. From Black Power to Black Lives Matter, claimants to speak on behalf of the race have courted recognition from the Ford Foundation and other white-dominated nonprofit philanthropies and NGOs. And the emergence of cable news networks and the blogosphere have exponentially expanded the number and types of entities that can anoint race leaders and representative voices.

This new welter of platforms and voices seeking to promulgate and validate the acceptable terms of black leadership has made the category seem all the more beyond question, as black racial voices pop up all over the place all the time. So, for example, the self-proclaimed black voice Tia Oso was brought front and center in the 2015 Netroots Presidential Town Hall featuring Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, where she proclaimed that “black leadership must be foregrounded and central to progressive strategies.” Likewise, the presumed moral authority of race leadership enabled Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford to prevent Sanders from speaking at a Social Security rally in Seattle—as though the long-term viability of Social Security were not a black issue. The instant recourse to a posture of leadership is how random Black Lives Matter activists and a vast corps of pundits and bloggers are able to issue ex cathedra declarations about which issues are and are not pertinent to black Americans.



The Distributed Revolution Suppression Complex

wedothework |  Well known political commentator and activist Ralph Nader was recently featured in a Truthdig article titled, “Why Aren’t the 99% Revolting?”. The points made in the article sharply illustrate the scale of growing crisis and conflict across the US and globally. It covered issues as wide ranging as medical care, climate change, and the titanic disparity of global wealth distribution. It concluded with the following, hollow statement. “I could go on and on. Pick up the pace, readers. Senator Elizabeth Warren has correctly called for “big structural changes.” 

Of course, we are all asking ourselves the same thing. How bad does it have to get before widespread rebellion? How many unarmed people of color will be gunned down by police? How many civil rights are going to be stripped? How rich can the elites get off of our labor? How much pain do we all need to feel before we rise up? It’s a natural question to ask by anyone suffering the nature of US capitalism. Unfortunately, Nader’s article rings tone-deaf. Like so many liberal arguments, it places the burden of rebellion on working class people while ignoring the mechanisms that kill revolt wherever and whenever it threatens to spark into life.

Although the elements that prevent substantial rebellion are many, they really boil down to just three. They are the not for profit industry, the antiquated strategies of what is currently mislabeled as, “The union movement”, and the Democratic Party. These three elements, all loyal to each other and working in unison, act as the front-line protective mechanism for US capitalism and the political class that serves it.

Many of you will be tempted to flail at this stage of the discussion. Aren’t the Republicans so much worse? Why would anyone attack the forces that are on our side after all they have done, even if they have some traits we may disagree with? The answer is quite simple. These forces are not allied with the types of changes our world desperately needs. They are not there to build, nor even prepare the ground for those types of changes. They act, instead, as the professional brokers of negotiated surrender for communities, work forces, and the environment. They are not building movements; they are preventing them.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Fin D'Siecle American Male Identity?

patrickwyman |  The assumed subject of this culture is a straight, young-ish (18-40) dude who’s kind of into fitness of some kind, whether that’s lifting weights, a little jiu-jitsu, or what have you. He probably played sports and currently enjoys watching them. He’s familiar with but not super dedicated to video games and likes beer and maybe some weed from time to time. He may or may not have a college degree, but either way has a solid but not extremely high-paying job. He probably lives in the suburbs, exurbs, or a rural area, rather than a dense metro. He’s probably but not necessarily white. He’s disproportionately likely to have served in the military, and if he hasn’t, he knows people - family or friends - who do or did.

These various demographic, and therefore cultural and social affiliations, don’t exist in isolation from one another. Put together, they form a relatively stable melange, an ecosystem with its own influencers and heroes, values and principles, and connections to other social, cultural, and political phenomena.

It’s rooted in physicality and the body, self-ownership through activity. While it doesn’t necessarily eschew the life of the mind - Jocko Willink, for example, constantly discusses and advocates the reading of books on his podcast - that’s simply not the main focus for self-actualization or identity. If you want to talk about intellectual pursuits, you can do it while pulling 500 pounds or beating the hell out of a heavy bag.

Some aspects of this are obviously new, like social media and the role of influencers. But others aren’t. Fitness culture, one of Bro Culture’s constituent pieces, has been around in various guises for a long time; weightlifting came to prominence in the 1960s and 70s, Crossfit in the 2000s, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the last decade, but other manifestations - like respectable men’s Muscular Christianity around the beginning of the 20th century - have been around for much longer. Bare-knuckle boxing was a manifestation of rough-and-tumble, working-class manhood in later 19th century America. That working-class manhood revolved around taverns and drinking, gambling on fights and races, a combination of activities familiar to any self-respecting Bro today whether he participates in them or not.

One parallel that’s particularly striking to me, though I wouldn’t take the comparison too far, is with medieval chivalry.

Hear me out.

The popular conception of chivalry, as a moral code guiding the behavior of honorable knights, is flat-out, laughably wrong. That’s a creation of 19th-century authors like Walter Scott, and the popular fantasy authors (basically up until George R.R. Martin) who built on their worldview in the 20th.

In reality, chivalry was all about one particular version of Guys Being Dudes. Chivalry could refer to a few different things, but the most common meaning was simply battlefield deeds, executed with some style. This, what knights referred to as “prowess,” was at the core of the broader ideology of chivalry: raw, bloody, physical performance, violence done effectively and to an agreed-upon aesthetic standard. The second major concern of chivalry, honor, grew directly out of the first. Honor wasn’t an abstract concept to medieval knights; it was a possession, a recognition of their particular status and place in the social hierarchy, which they were well within their rights to violently defend and assert through their prowess. Piety was the icing on the cake, but no knight really doubted that God approved of their actions.


Via Fantasy - Oxford Sought To Capture And Control Young Minds

aeon  |  Tolkien articulated his anxieties about the cultural changes sweeping across Britain in terms of ‘American sanitation, morale-pep, feminism, and mass-production’, calling ‘this Americo-cosmopolitanism very terrifying’ and suggesting in a 1943 letter to his son Christopher that, if this was to be the outcome of an Allied Second World War win, he wasn’t sure that victory would be better for the ‘mind and spirit’ – and for England – than a loss to Nazi forces.

Lewis shared this abhorrence for ‘modern’ technologisation, secularisation and the swiftly dismantling hierarchies of race, gender and class. He and Tolkien saw such broader shifts reflected in changing (and in their estimation dangerously faddish) literary norms. Writing in the 1930s, Tolkien skewered ‘the critics’ for disregarding the fantastical dragon and ogres in Beowulf as ‘unfashionable creatures’ in a widely read essay about that Old English poem. Lewis disparaged modernist literati in his Experiment in Criticism (1961), mocking devotees of contemporary darlings such as T S Eliot and claiming that ‘while this goes on downstairs, the only real literary experience in such a family may be occurring in a back bedroom where a small boy is reading Treasure Island under the bed-clothes by the light of an electric torch.’ If the new literary culture was accelerating the slide to moral decay, Tolkien and Lewis identified salvation in the authentic, childlike enjoyment of adventure and fairy stories, especially ones set in medieval lands. And so, armed with the unlikely weapons of medievalism and childhood, they waged a campaign that hinged on spreading the fantastic in both popular and scholarly spheres. Improbably, they were extraordinarily successful in leaving far-reaching marks on the global imagination by launching an alternative strand of writing that first circulated amongst child readers.

These readers devoured The Hobbit and, later, The Lord of the Rings, as well as The Chronicles of Narnia series. But they also read fantasy by later authors who began to write in this vein – including several major British children’s writers who studied the English curriculum that Tolkien and Lewis established at Oxford as undergraduates. This curriculum flew in the face of the directions that other universities were taking in the early years of the field. As modernism became canon and critical theory was on the rise, Oxford instead required undergraduates to read and comment on fantastical early English works such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo, Le Morte d’Arthur and John Mandeville’s Travels in their original medieval languages.

Oxford for nearly 40 years officially sanctioned magic-filled medieval works as exemplars of English literature

Students had to analyse these texts as literature rather than only as linguistic extracts, a notable difference from the more common approach to medieval literature at the time. Tolkien and Lewis identified concrete moral lessons and ‘patriotic’ insights into the national character in these magical tales of long ago. The past they depicted was not, of course, England as it actually was in the Middle Ages, but England as poets had imagined it to be: the enchanted realm of heroism, righteousness and romance where 19th-century nationalists had identified the moral and racial heart of the nation. (The Oxford curriculum was, in this sense, a throwback to English studies’ roots in colonial education, which – as the literary scholar Gauri Viswanathan has shown in Masks of Conquest (2014) – often looked to prove English right to rule through the glory of its national literature.

The unique educational programme that dominated English at Oxford for nearly 40 years officially sanctioned magic-filled medieval works as exemplars of English literature for generations of students that passed through the university’s power-filled halls. And a number of these students went on to write their own popular children’s fantasy, some to great acclaim. Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Philip Pullman in particular, who each received their English degrees between 1956 and 1968, draw on medieval and early modern literary sources, many directly taken from the Oxford syllabus, to create new, self-reflectively serious fantasy for young readers. Together with Tolkien and Lewis, this group forms the Oxford School of children’s fantasy literature. Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising quintet (1965-77) and Crossley-Holland’s Arthur trilogy (2000-03) give King Arthur’s story fresh context and resonance for understanding contemporary Britain in their times; meanwhile, the works of Jones and Pullman delight in subverting fantasy expectations while introducing early English literature to new generations of readers. They all celebrate the purported wisdom of old stories, and follow the central tenet that Tolkien set out for fairy-stories: ‘one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in the story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away.’

The Oxford School’s reimagining of medieval tales for modern audiences injected these fantastical narratives into the public consciousness, largely eluding elite and scholarly notice because their works were branded as children’s literature. At the same time, taking ancient, canonical texts as the foundations for new stories helped to give their fantasy the historical depth and cultural weight to resist derisive laughter and make claims about the present. For instance, the dragon episode at the end of The Hobbit is full of parallels to the one in Beowulf, from the cup-theft that wakes the worm to its destructive expressions of rage. But The Hobbit uses this narrative to pit a traditionalist and noble-born hero (Bard, whose name means ‘poet’, ‘storyteller’) against an untrustworthy elected official, hammering home the significance of conservative traditions over the whims of easily swayed masses. Tolkien’s novel ends with the protagonist Bilbo’s delighted discovery of this barely veiled moral: ‘the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!’

Monday, December 07, 2020

Hacker Or Slave? CHOOSE!!!

islamtimes  |  The Digital Age was crucially associated with right-wing ideology from the very start. The incubation was provided by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF), active from 1993 to 2010 and conveniently funded, among others, by Microsoft, At&T, Disney, Sony, Oracle, Google and Yahoo.

In 1994, PFF held a ground-breaking conference in Atlanta that eventually led to a seminal Magna Carta: literally, Cyberspace and the American Dream: a Magna Carta for the Knowledge Era, published in 1996, during the first Clinton term.

Not by accident the magazine Wired was founded, just like PFF, in 1993, instantly becoming the house organ of the “Californian ideology”.

Among the authors of the Magna Carta we find futurist Alvin “Future Shock” Toffler and Reagan’s former scientific counselor George Keyworth. Before anyone else, they were already conceptualizing how “cyberspace is a bioelectronic environment which is literally universal”. Their Magna Carta was the privileged road map to explore the new frontier.

Those Randian heroes

Also not by accident the intellectual guru of the new frontier was Ayn Rand and her quite primitive dichotomy between “pioneers” and the mob. Rand declared that egotism is good, altruism is evil, and empathy is irrational.

When it comes to the new property rights of the new Eldorado, all power should be exercised by the Silicon Valley “pioneers”, a Narcissus bunch in love with their mirror image as superior Randian heroes. In the name of innovation they should be allowed to destroy any established rules, in a Schumpeterian “creative destruction” rampage.

 That has led to our current environment, where Google, Facebook, Uber and co. can overstep any legal framework, imposing their innovations like a fait accompli.

Durand goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to the true nature of “digital domination”: US leadership was never achieved because of spontaneous market forces.

On the contrary. The history of Silicon Valley is absolutely dependent on state intervention – especially via the industrial-military complex and the aero-spatial complex. The Ames Research Center, one of NASA’s top labs, is in Mountain View. Stanford was always awarded juicy military research contracts. During WWII, Hewlett Packard, for instance, was flourishing thanks to their electronics being used to manufacture radars. Throughout the 1960s, the US military bought the bulk of the still infant semiconductor production.

The Rise of Data Capital, a 2016 MIT Technological Review report produced “in partnership” with Oracle, showed how digital networks open access to a new, virgin underground brimming with resources: “Those that arrive first and take control obtain the resources they’re seeking” – in the form of data.

So everything from video-surveillance images and electronic banking to DNA samples and supermarket tickets implies some form of territorial appropriation. Here we see in all its glory the extractivist logic inbuilt in the development of Big Data.

Durand gives us the example of Android to illustrate the extractivist logic in action. Google made Android free for all smartphones so it would acquire a strategic market position, beating the Apple ecosystem and thus becoming the default internet entry point for virtually the whole planet. That’s how a de facto, immensely valuable,  online real estate empire is built.