5374
How high to dream? | On the rise of human rights
The heart of his argument is that human rights suffered from bad timing. When core documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) were being drafted in the wake of the Second World War, left-wing demands for distributive equality enjoyed a prestige and common currency they now lack. But the opportunity to enshrine those demands explicitly in the Declaration was missed. And if the drafters were open to them, it was only in limited terms: as demands for equalization within nation states, not between them. Moreover, when calls for international equality finally began to gain currency in the 1970s – partly due to energetic pleading on the part of newly assertive and historically disadvantaged postcolonial states – the timing wasn’t quite right.
history  politics  rights 
10 days ago
Before You Get Too Excited About That Trigger Warning Study… | Slate Star Codex
Some people read a trigger warning saying disturbing passages could cause emotional harm. Then they read a disturbing passage. Then, on a test, they were slightly more likely to agree with the statement that disturbing passages could cause emotional harm. Of note, they did not claim that they themselves had been harmed or triggered by the passage. In fact they specifically denied this; there was no difference in anxiety between the two groups after reading the passage. They just agreed, in a theoretical sense, that trauma was harmful.

The most boring possible explanation is that if you gave someone a passage saying “TRIGGER WARNING: SOME SNAKES BEAR LIVE YOUNG”, then made them read a book about torture-murder, then asked them whether some snakes could bear live young, they would be more likely to answer yes. Reading the statement about snakes doesn’t cause the snakes to bear young. It just convinces the reader of it.
psychology  academe 
10 days ago
How Donald Trump hacked the media - Vox
It is hard to read this paragraph from Postman without feeling he is speaking specifically about us:

When Orwell wrote in his famous essay “The Politics of the English Language” that politics has become a matter of “defending the indefensible,” he was assuming that politics would remain a distinct, although corrupted, mode of discourse. His contempt was aimed at those politicians who would use sophisticated versions of the age-old arts of double-think, propaganda and deceit. That the defense of the indefensible would be conducted as a form of amusement did not occur to him. He feared the politician as deceiver, not as entertainer.
The chaotic swirl of information, anger, conflict, identity, performance, and trivia that characterizes Trump’s governance also characterizes the mediums that created him. For all the talk of normalizing Trump, it was our normalization of the platforms he thrived on — reality television, cable news, and Twitter — that made Trump possible. Could Trump have won the Republican primary and the presidency in the days before he could call into cable news shows at will, get his rallies carried live on television, drive media coverage from the comfort of his Twitter account? Could he have won if we hadn’t come to see our politicians as entertainers, to believe conflict the true story of governance, to connect the quantity of media coverage with the quality of candidates? I doubt it.
politics 
10 days ago
‘Let the Whorehouse Burn’
"Speaking to Die Zeit in late June, two of the German architects of the euro, former finance minister Theo Waigel and former head of the finance ministry’s Europe division Klaus Regling, alluded to the lack of a Europe-wide bailout fund as a Konstruktionsfehler, or “design mistake.” If so, it is a design mistake that offers extraordinary political advantages to those guilty of the misdesign. The single currency is doomed to failure on every front except one—it is devilishly difficult and risky to dismantle. As long as the euro survives, its designers will hold onto the hope of provoking a crisis that forces European unity on recalcitrant nation-states, that achieves what Mody calls “fiscal union by the back door.”

European leaders provoke crises and emergencies that they use to seize power from democratic electorates. That has always been their preferred model of continental consolidation."
from instapaper
12 days ago
inch by inch — I get emails, sweet emails, from people who ask me...
I guess the thing that people want me to come back to is Being Somebody. That’s the seduction, of online life, is that you become an entity; you become defined, socially, and for awhile you think that definition makes you real. So many people - so many smart, good people - spend all day, everyday online, feeling out the contours of themselves as they are reflected in the gaze of others, trying to learn their own shape as they clumsily fail to dictate it. And it is that same dynamic, that false community-drawn portrait of the self, that motivates people to think that I need to apologize to them, or who think that they know me, my illness, my history. Because if you base your sense of self on other people, then you must define other people in turn, or else there is no bedrock to your life. It’s no way to live, and the people who are caught up in it lost the ability to see it long ago. So they police the boundaries, and they react violently to those who transgress.

So I’m not coming back. Not to that. Not ever.
socialmedia 
13 days ago
The new catechism
The Catechism is the summit of the consensus John Paul II forged. It cites, insofar as we can tell, scripture, the acts of the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul’s magisterium, almost to the exclusion of anything between the death of the last Apostle and 1963. The Catechism represented the idea that history had ended within the Church: we could finally say that there was a definitive compendium of Catholic teachings. Yet this end of ecclesiastical history in the Church required John Paul’s force of will to maintain the consensus. And as soon as John Paul went on to his reward, that consensus crumbled. Benedict XVI backed away from it, beginning with the Christmas address to the Curia, and definitely with Summorum Pontificum. And Francis has backed away from it even more decisively. As we have noted elsewhere, history has begun again in the Church.
Catholic  from instapaper
14 days ago
Happy 21st Century! - Charlie's Diary
Forget barbed wire, concentration camps, gas chambers and gallows, and Hugo Boss uniforms. That's the 20th century pattern of centralized, industrialized genocide. In the 21st century deep-learning mediated AI era, we have the tools to inflict agile, decentralized genocide as a cloud service on our victims.

Think in terms of old age homes where robots curate the isolated elderlies (no low-paid immigrant workers needed) and fail to identify their terminal medical conditions until they're too advanced to treat. People fed by vertical farms where solar/battery powered robots attend to the individual plants (thank you, Elon Musk's younger brother), food delivered by self-driving vehicles from lights-out warehouses, an end to high street shopping and restaurants and a phasing out of cash money.

Think in terms of a great and terrible simplification of our society that cleans out all the niches the underclass (which by then will include the struggling middle class) survive within.

Think in terms of policing by ubiquitous surveillance and social scoring and behavior monitoring. Think in terms of punishment by "community service"—picking up litter on starvation wages (and I mean, wages calculated to induce death through slow starvation), where if you fail to comply your ability to purchase the essentials of life using e-cash will simply stop working. Prisons where extensively drug-resistant TB runs rife as a discipline on the community service peons (as in: if you receive the sanction of an actual prison sentence, they won't need to execute you: 50% will be dead within 6 months).

There's no state censor in this regime. Just a filter bubble imposed through your social media and email contacts that downranks anything remotely subversive and gently punishes you if you express an unconvenient opinion or show signs of noticing what's missing—the way you don't see people with dark skins or foreign accents any more, for example. The corporate social media will of course comply with state requirements for a safe and secure internet—if they want to stay in business, that is.
algorithms  dystopia  futurism 
14 days ago
Where Else Could We Go? Reflections on #Revoice18
"Saying that Revoice is a work of the Spirit does not absolve it of criticism. I’m not seeking to appeal to the Spirit as a trump card that suggests that any with concerns about the conference or individual teachings should simply “take it up with God”. In fact, the conference desperately needs good-faith critics who can offer valuable pushback in places where it has gone too far affirming either spirit of the age or a spirit of self-righteousness. There are important conversations to be had about how to use language with respect to our sexuality at this cultural moment. There are differences among participants about how to talk about our identities as they relate to our orientations (though not a single attendee I met said anything other than that their primary, foundational identity was in Christ). There are important discussions to be had about how to best pastorally care for people who are single and celibate in the church—how can we make space for them to flourish in churches whose primary programs and small groups are often centered around the nuclear family?"
from instapaper
14 days ago
Reckless Love: Notes on Revoice '18
There were straight people at Revoice and that is great–parents of gay attendees, spouses in mixed-orientation marriages, pastors seeking to learn about our community and its needs. But the large majority of the attendees were not straight. I mentioned in my other Revoice post that gay people have often been conditioned to believe that we’re uniquely difficult to love–that we’re “challenging” Christians, if we’re even Christians at all. This is one reason I think it’s so important to get to know other gay people. As you begin to love and admire them, and see them as imago Dei, you start to trust that you yourself might be loved by God and made in His image. You begin to know that God loves in a way that isn’t abstract or dutiful; you learn that He can delight in His gay children, because you do. This is a gift Revoice gave to so many isolated or suffering people. [...]

But the reality is that we are trying something, if not completely new, then in a new context and facing new challenges. And we will make a lot of mistakes in doing that. I was struck by how often people discussed (often very insightfully!) ways of life they had been living for less than ten years. People who could have been our mentors are mostly very closeted, very heretical (often because very wounded by Christians), or very dead. And so we have these like thirtysomethings doing their best to guide and mentor people. Those who have been serving longer, like Tim Otto, have so much to teach us, but I know some of our witness is callow because the “elders” in our movement often don’t remember so far back as the disco era. This means that lots of younger people project their hopes and longings onto us–tell me there’s an okay future for me!–and we can be tempted to overpromise, and to put up a facade that we’re doing better than we really are.
sexuality  christian  from instapaper
14 days ago
The Useless French Language and Why We Learn It - Los Angeles Review of Books
"The linguistic comedy of Collins’s cross-cultural domestic life with Olivier sheds further light on her American habits of mind. She grew up “conditioned to believe in the importance of directness and sincerity, but Olivier valued a more disciplined self-presentation.” Unlike American men, with their claims to prefer a “natural” look, Olivier “trusted in a sort of emotional maquillage, in which people took a few minutes to compose their thoughts, rather than walking around, undone, in the affective equivalent of pajamas.” Americans may feel oppressed by the high regard in which the French appear to hold carefully constructed sentences and carefully constructed appearances: “Where I saw artifice, he saw artfulness.” But Collins doesn’t need to inhabit the francophone world for long to realize that “[t]he baseline register of my English — the English of an educated, coastal-dwelling white American — sounded like exaggeration. I might have been speaking in all caps.”"
from instapaper
14 days ago
The Bullshit Web
An actual solution recognizes that this bullshit is inexcusable. It is making the web a cumulatively awful place to be. Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.

They shouldn’t have to. Better choices should be made by web developers to not ship this bullshit in the first place. We wouldn’t tolerate such intrusive behaviour more generally; why are we expected to find it acceptable on the web?
internet  from instapaper
15 days ago
The Backdrop of Reality
I have never hitched my hopes for the church to the character of the nation or of national life. Those who have conflated these have set themselves up for disappointment. When you disentangle these things, you see all sorts of space for the church to become the church again. I also think that the old paradigms by which Christians sought to engage the world are mostly exhausted and, in my view, none too soon. Christian believers are longing for a new vision of human flourishing and ways to live that out effectively in a world that generates as much hurt as ours does. This is a moment of extraordinary creative opportunity. I don't think the church as a whole is prepared for it, but I do see seedlings of innovation taking root and beginning to grow. To see them come to maturity in the form of an alternative cultural economy will require extraordinary intellectual, educational, ecclesiastical, entrepreneurial, and financial resources, as well as time, but these things are within reach.
church  innovation  from instapaper
16 days ago
Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet
The gravitational pull that English now exerts on other languages can also be seen in the world of fiction. The writer and translator Tim Parks has argued that European novels are increasingly being written in a kind of denatured, international vernacular, shorn of country-specific references and difficult-to-translate wordplay or grammar. Novels in this mode – whether written in Dutch, Italian or Swiss German – have not only assimilated the style of English, but perhaps more insidiously limit themselves to describing subjects in a way that would be easily digestible in an anglophone context.

Yet the influence of English now goes beyond simple lexical borrowing or literary influence. Researchers at the IULM University in Milan have noticed that, in the past 50 years, Italian syntax has shifted towards patterns that mimic English models, for instance in the use of possessives instead of reflexives to indicate body parts and the frequency with which adjectives are placed before nouns. German is also increasingly adopting English grammatical forms, while in Swedish its influence has been changing the rules governing word formation and phonology.
language  from instapaper
19 days ago
Trump Turns the Power of the Government Against His Foes
On the one hand, no one wants a partisanship that takes no prisoners when parties exchange office. But this is not a normal time, and unfortunately, the Republican Party is no longer a normal party, but the compliant and spineless possession of a political buccaneer. It may not be entirely improper to teach the lesson that if you sign up with an administration so utterly lacking in decency, so contemptuous of historical norms of bipartisanship in national security, so lacking in consideration for critics and defeated opponents, you are not going to be treated with the respect normally accorded to senior members of the loyal opposition. The men and women in the shadows, who for the sake of a corner office and an official car and a high title have held their tongues and dishonored their principles, might want to think about that when Sanders tells her next lie.
politics  from instapaper
23 days ago
We need a new model for tech journalism
There is currently high-level global debate as to whether the tech giants should be broken up in the public interest. We should also have a debate about whether tech journalism should be broken up for the same reason: We need a new journalism which treats tech the same as every other major vested corporate interest—people who can sit back and aside from the tech industry maelstrom and try to see the picture from above.

Maybe we should simply scrap the idea of a “tech desk” altogether: The sector needs scrutiny, but since technology now touches every aspect of our society, keeping it siloed from the rest of the newsroom now feels artificial. Let it be covered, extensively, across desks.
tech  journalism  socialmedia  from instapaper
23 days ago
Opinion | Whatever Happened to Moral Rigor?
If even a fraction of the charges against him are true, Mr. Weinstein should be banished to the distant reaches of society. But however justice is finally administered in his case, we should try to grasp what social and psychological forces made him what he is, without the shrill, distracting din of moral denunciation forbidding us from doing so.

In matters of law and public morality, let justice take its course along the lines of due process and fair play. But in the realm of the free operation of intellect and imagination that is culture, let there bloom the suspension of moral judgment for the sake of a better understanding of our moral natures. It’s not because we owe anything to the likes of Harvey Weinstein; it’s because of what we owe ourselves.
ethics  politics  from instapaper
23 days ago
1462317X.2018.1476053
One of the more worrisome findings to come out of recent opinion polling is this: amongst white evangelicals, approval of Trump’s performance is now approaching 80%. In some ways, this is perfectly understandable. Trump has gone out of his way to shore up his (white) evangelical base. Amongst other things, he has assiduously courted (white) evangelical leaders and nominated many pro-life judges to the federal bench.

But in other ways, this continued support is completely incomprehensible. For Trump has also gone out of his way to attack the norms and institutions of American democracy. He has repeatedly lied to the American public and incessantly attacked the press and the judiciary. To say nothing of his personal and business conduct. Evidently, many American evangelicals have decided that achieving their policy goals is more important than protecting our democratic institutions.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised by this. After all, there is no necessary relationship between Christianity and democracy, either theologically or historically. The Christian scriptures are filled with talk of kingship and lordship, and Christian institutions were long conjoined with monarchical ones.
evangelical  politics  from instapaper
24 days ago
Does Facebook Need a Constitution?
Infowars has, among other things, claimed that the Sandy Hook shootings were a staged “false flag” event, that Democrats were planning on launching a civil war on July 4, and that the government is putting chemicals in the water that are turning frogs gay. At the very least, setting “banning” aside, it seems less than ideal to allow a publication like that to represent itself on Facebook as a “News & Media Website.” Similarly, Holocaust deniers are engaged in a specific political project intended to diminish the impact of anti-Semitism and rehabilitate the Nazi state. It’s naïve, at best, to say you can’t “impugn” their intent.

But at the same time, you can understand the company’s anxiety. It’s not just that Facebook is wary of activating the grievance machinery of modern conservatism (though it very obviously is), it’s also that it has a philosophical, institutional allergy to making qualitative judgments about truth and falsehood. And, frankly, shouldn’t it? I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to live in a world where Mark Zuckerberg gets to determine what counts as true and what doesn’t, even if he and I agree about Infowars and the Holocaust. (Especially since he seems to be under the impression that there’s some large portion of Holocaust deniers who are merely misinformed, not actively mendacious.)
tech  news  media 
27 days ago
The Expressive Function of the Russia Freakout
"Think of it as “the expressive function of the Russia freakout.” Just as there is what Cass Sunstein called “the expressive function of law” — “the function of law in ‘making statements’ as opposed to controlling behavior” — there’s a purpose served by the constant keening over Putin. It conveys liberals’ sense of bewilderment and disorientation at a country they no longer recognize — a feeling not so different from that which motivated the Right’s manifold freakouts in the Obama era.

On both sides there’s a sense of loss about a bygone America that no longer exists: for the Right, the white, middle-class utopia of the Eisenhower years. For liberals, the upright decency of the Jed Bartlet administration. The problem with these fantasies is neither of them ever existed."
from instapaper
27 days ago
Fundamental Value Differences Are Not That Fundamental
"I’m not saying you don’t have to fight for your values. The foreign aid budget still has to be some specific number, and if your explicitly-endorsed principles disagree with someone else’s explicitly-endorsed principles, then you’ve got to fight them to determine what it is.

But “remember, liberals and conservatives have fundamental value differences, so they are two tribes that can’t coexist” is the wrong message. “Remember, everyone has weak and malleable value differences with everyone else, and maybe a few more fundamental ones though it’s hard to tell, and neither type necessarily line up with tribes at all, so they had damn better learn to coexist,” is more like it."
from instapaper
28 days ago
Exploring The Digital Ruins Of 'Second Life' - Digg
I wonder if we can think about our digital social spaces in the same way. Many of those that were popular in the '90s and early '00s are now vaporware. The companies went bankrupt or were purchased and mismanaged to death. Users fled. Communities were destroyed. Data was liquidated.

We should be concerned that a majority of our online spaces are owned by corporations who do not have our best interests in mind, despite fuzzy PR statements about "building communities." Our digital spaces can suddenly be destroyed or altered in disturbing ways without our consent. Why don't we have control over them? Why can't we? Always remember: Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are malls, not parks.
28 days ago
The Kingdom of God Has No Borders—An introduction – The Immanent Frame
Throughout all three sections of the book, I argue that US evangelicals have been captured by two distinct (but linked) postures toward the rest of the world. The first of these I call “enchanted internationalism”—a longing for emotionally powerful forms of religious experience that American evangelicals have often identified with Christianity in the global south. American evangelicals have frequently operated with the assumption that worship in the modern West is too often stale and dry—disenchanted, in Weberian terms. As US evangelicals looked beyond their borders after 1960, toward the Christian populations of Africa, Latin America, and Asia, they often envisioned people in those regions as living embodiments of authenticity, passion, and zeal. In the charismatic worship styles of much of the evangelical community in Africa and Latin America—with their stories of miracles and faith healings—American evangelicals saw an exemplary “enchanted” faith, practiced by believers who were more intensely committed and perhaps more ideally Christian than most Europeans and Americans. In the late twentieth century, American evangelicals increasingly sought to enliven and “re-enchant” their own religious experience. This longing manifested itself in many ways, including the rise of Pentecostalism and “spirit-filled” charismatic churches, the fascination with apocalypse and end times theology, a renewed focus on ritual, and a growing belief in faith healings.

The other lens through which evangelicals saw the world was “victim identification.” The book traces how American evangelicals became galvanized by a vision of their own (global) persecution, as they spoke of Christians being martyred all over the world, prevented from spreading the gospel and persecuted for their faith. The spectacle and display of violated bodies of Christian martyrs was never simply informational. Instead, it engaged a complex Christian imaginary about the body—its centrality and its untrustworthiness. The process of both identifying with victims and identifying as victims has been a double-edged sword for evangelicals. Attention to victimization sometimes provides resources for social justice (showing, for example, how people have suffered from hunger or are oppressed by racism), yet that same attention has also laid the groundwork for the kind of “injury politics” identified by Wendy Brown, which constructs identity through a cultivation of woundedness.

I argue that Christian persecution, however real in certain times and places, also became a symbol that resonated far beyond what might be expected from the facts on the ground. Persecution became the logic through which some evangelicals envisioned a global conflict with Islam. Frequently, the discourse of persecution has tended to read political conflict as religious conflict, and thus it augmented the sense of anxiety, anger, and religious aggression that dominated far too much of the world’s politics in the twenty-first century. It is through an embrace of both enchantment and victimization—orientations that are religious, political, and emotional all at once—that American evangelicals have come to understand their place in the world.
christian  evangelical 
29 days ago
Elite Colleges Have No Monopoly on the Liberal Arts - The Chronicle of Higher Education
In covering topics like the emergence of new disciplines, changing classroom technologies, community-based learning, and speech on campus, feature articles on the culture of education draw on anecdotes from a small number of elite colleges. Meanwhile, writing about mass education uses data sets to represent students as groups and populations in stories about the price of college, student retention, and changes in majors and enrollments. These different kinds of evidence create the impression that students at elite institutions are individual learners connected to disciplines, while everyone else is a victim or vector of financialization in need of training, a bundle of responses to economic conditions.

This polar view of education serves the interests of those who profit from the idea that mass education can be scaled, commodified, and privatized, and those who make political capital out of culture wars and class polarization. But it does not reflect the reality of higher education, and it does not serve the interests of students. Teachers and students know that in practice, people pursuing vocational education are learners, not only trainees, and that liberal and vocational education are part of the same story.
academe 
29 days ago
WeWork's ban on meat tells us what the company is - Chicago Tribune
The meat ban is an exercise in brand building. In today's "meaning economy," what we buy carries value-laden significance. It defines our identity and marks our tribe.

The shift from function to meaning as a source of economic value also shapes who works where. Instead of trying to be blandly inoffensive, workplaces embody the cultural values of their tribe. That's why we see Google employees refusing to work on Defense Department projects or companies boycotting the National Rifle Association.

Nothing says "We're a tribe" like food taboos. Dietary restrictions establish boundaries and define identity. Think of kosher food and Jews, halal meat and Muslims, vegetarianism and Brahmins - or the cultural differences between completely secular vegans and paleo diet devotees.

"Any food taboo, acknowledged by a particular group of people as part of its ways, aids in the cohesion of this group, helps that particular group maintain its identity in the face of others, and therefore creates a feeling of 'belonging,'" observes ethnobiologist Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow in a much-cited paper. Think of the ban as team building.
sociology  ethics  food  taboo 
4 weeks ago
Balding Out
Any large American city will have a higher foreign born population than the entirety of China. America has one of the highest net migration rates of any major economy and accepts more immigrants than any other country. Of major economies, only Canada and Germany are higher as a percentage of foreign born population share. It is easy to focus on specific incidents that make the situation seem dire, but in reality America remains an enormously welcoming country to immigrants.

I think of an area where I know well academia and start ups. The ability of foreign born academics to rise to a position of prominence or create a start up in China is virtually zero. In the United States, Silicon Valley is rich with a foreign born population or the children of immigrants and the professor and deans ranks are filled with foreign born population. The United States is in a continual state of its own internal flux but that is what the experiment is: a country not founded on blood or ideology but a shared destiny of values and principles that all men are created equal.

The United States has repeatedly failed and continues to fall short of its ideals but has shown a greater sense of self correction than almost any other. In China you cannot talk about most of history, while in the United States there are constant reminders about failures and how to apply those lessons. We must remember that it is an ongoing experiment of values we hold to be self evident, not an already attained ideal but a continual working out of what we believe.
China  USA  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Jumping to Conclusions: Advocacy and Application of Psychological Research
In less than two decades since the first IAT and shooter bias studies were published, the public dissemination of information about implicit bias research has had a remarkable impact on how the public thinks about thinking and behavior and how governments and companies respond to the risks of discrim- ination (see Forscher et al., 2016). What is even more remarkable is how specu- lative this whole public education and influence effort has been (se Mitchell & Tetlock, in press, for a history of implicit bias claims). Before even a single piece of data had been collected from any workforce or police force, social psychologists were describing implicit bias as the primary cause of racial and ethnic disparities in housing, employment, health, representation in govern- ment, and police mistreatment and gender disparities in employment and rep- resentation in government, and as more powerful than explicit stereotypes and old-fashioned racism and sexism.

Seventeen years after introduction of the IAT, only a handful of studies have examined the influence of implicit bias on real personnel decisions, and those studies have provided inconsistent and at best weak evidence that implicit bias has any impact on employment decisions (Oswald, Mitchell, Blanton, Jaccard & Tetlock, 2015). Similarly, only a handful of studies have examined the behavior of actual police officers on the shooter bias task, and those studies likewise fail to provide support for the applied claims made by social psychologists.
psychology 
4 weeks ago
Letter from Shenzhen
Part of the original shanzhai economy began with copying DVDs. Since copied DVDs couldn’t be played by name-brand players (an attempt to control piracy or simply due to DVD quality issues), a whole set of products were created to support the copied DVDs — and from there, a wildly creative ecosystem appeared.

This is the new shanzhai. It’s open-source on hyperspeed — where creators build on each other’s work, co-opt, repurpose, and remix in a decentralized way, creating original products like a cell phone with a compass that points to Mecca (selling well in Islamic countries) and simple cell phones that have modular, replaceable parts which need little equipment to open or repair.

Shanzhai’s past has connotations of knock-off iPhones and fake Louis Vuitton bags. New shanzhai offers a glimpse into the future: its strength is in extreme open-source, which stands in stark contrast to the increasingly proprietary nature of American technology. As startups in the Bay Area scramble to make buckets of money, being in this other Greater Bay Area makes it clear why there’s so much rhetoric about China overtaking the US. It is.
tech  China  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives
If these insurgents are correct, it’s the Rigidity of the Right model, as it’s called, that’s the epicenter of misunderstanding. The RR model posits, as one summary puts it, that “a constellation of psychological attributes and evocable states — including dogmatism, closed-mindedness, intolerance of ambiguity, preference for order and structure, aversion to novelty and stimulation, valuing of conformity and obedience, and relatively strong concern with threat — leads to a preference for right-wing over left-wing political ideology.”

These have been very influential ideas in the public’s consciousness, generating a sizable body of news write-ups and explainers, including some I have written myself. The rigidity of the right model has given rise to a certain intuitive-feeling liberal consensus about the differences between “us,” the open and tolerant and relaxed liberals, and conservatives, who are, by comparison, close-minded and intolerant and scared of everything. And now that consensus is starting to feel a bit shaky. Or so argue the researchers trying to reform this corner of political psychology.
sociology  conservatism  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The Power of W. G. Sebald’s Small Silences
"The gravity, inescapability, and illegibility of historical trauma are themes of The Rings of Saturn and of Sebald’s work as a whole. A German born into World War II and writing in the wake of the Holocaust, Sebald made this his central artistic concern. The Rings of Saturn opens with the narrator ending his journey in a hospital in Norwich, immobilized, he suspects, by “the paralysing horror that had come over [him] at various times when confronted with the traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past, that were evident even in that remote place.” Yet The Rings of Saturn is not a direct account of history’s horrors. Rather, it attempts to reckon with them by circling them, allowing both narrator and reader to encounter them by coming into their orbit.

Sebald’s subtly unusual use of the dash performs this same function in miniature. In most cases, dashes connect. They link clauses and tie together ideas. But his dashes do the opposite; they create gaps. They aren’t ligaments, but lapses. They’re places to rest for a moment in the enormity of what Sebald has (and hasn’t) said before picking up and following the narrator on his way."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
From chapel to classroom — and back again
For many of my students, who have discovered liturgy and sacraments after sojourning in more low-church or “nondenominational” settings, this practice of elevating and honoring the Gospels is unfamiliar and perhaps even unsettling. And yet, in my classroom, they can see that the canon itself paves the way for this kind of practice. It also doesn’t seem to hurt when I point them to a very similar perspective from the undisputed evangelical saint J.I. Packer:
[We can] correct woolliness of view as to what Christian commitment involves, by stressing the need for constant meditation on the four gospels, over and above the rest of our Bible reading: for gospel study enables us both to keep our Lord in clear view and to hold before our minds the relational frame of discipleship to him. The doctrines on which our discipleship rests are clearest in the epistles, but the nature of discipleship itself is most vividly portrayed in the gospels. Some Christians seem to prefer the epistles as if this were a mark of growing up spiritually; but really this attitude is a very bad sign, suggesting that we are more interested in theological notions than in fellowship with the Lord Jesus in person. We should think, rather, of the theology of the epistles as preparing us to understand better the disciple relationship with Christ that is set forth in the gospels, and we should never let ourselves forget that the four gospels are, as has often and rightly been said, the most wonderful books on earth.
theology  bible  Anglican  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Review of Enlightenment Now
You may think that war has now become ubiquitous and that we live in an age of pervasive political violence. Think again. Pinker argues that the world has become a more peaceful place. Three charts support his claim: the first tracks the percentage of years of great power wars for every year between 1500 and 2015, which shows a steady decline. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this statistical trend—except that it captures a phenomenon that has been less and less representative of warfare. It also leaves out forms of extreme violence that were not included in the legal concept of “war” but which were nonetheless characteristic of the period covered by Pinker’s chart, in particular wars of conquest, colonization, and extermination. And just as wars with entities excluded from the European legal order were not considered wars, neither were wars tearing apart sovereign entities, i.e. civil wars. Their number has increased in inverse proportion to the number of inter-state wars and exploded in the twentieth century. None of this is reflected in the data. Yet, even taking the chart at face value, it still would not tell us anything about the devastation caused by war, simply because the nature of what we call “war” has changed overtime, from being a rather limited and highly codified kind of duel between regular armies to the total wars of the twentieth century. In other words, the decline in the number of wars opposing nation states is perfectly compatible with an increase of war-related violence.
enlightenment 
4 weeks ago
Survival of the richest: the wealthy are plotting to leave us behind
"So instead of considering the practical ethics of impoverishing and exploiting the many in the name of the few, most academics, journalists, and science-fiction writers instead considered much more abstract and fanciful conundrums: Is it fair for a stock trader to use smart drugs? Should children get implants for foreign languages? Do we want autonomous vehicles to prioritize the lives of pedestrians over those of its passengers? Should the first Mars colonies be run as democracies? Does changing my DNA undermine my identity? Should robots have rights?

Asking these sorts of questions, while philosophically entertaining, is a poor substitute for wrestling with the real moral quandaries associated with unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The Tech Backlash We Really Need
"Lewis Mumford, in the 1964 article “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics,” warned of a “magnificent bribe” at the heart of modern technology. Although its democratic aspects are “highly favorable,” it is nevertheless authoritarian:
Under the democratic-authoritarian social contract, each member of the community may claim every material advantage, every intellectual and emotional stimulus he may desire, in quantities hardly available hitherto even for a restricted minority: food, housing, swift transportation, instantaneous communication, medical care, entertainment, education. But on one condition: that one must not merely ask for nothing that the system does not provide, but likewise agree to take everything offered, duly processed and fabricated, homogenized and equalized, in the precise quantities that the system, rather than the person, requires.

It is a compelling image that helps us understand why tech backlashes, however powerful they may sometimes appear, never amount to much. It may be too late to refuse the bribe altogether — but we would do well to understand its terms if we are to make sense of our situation and the possible futures available to us."
Technopoly  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Surrender. It's Brian Eno
"What Eno likes about 77 Million Paintings is that he has no idea what will appear on screen, nor what aesthetic effects will be produced. "That's pretty interesting. But what interests me more is the way people experience them. My shows are not narratives. Nothing much happens yet people come and stay for hours in a contemplative state. I thought, 'What else is like this?' Somebody sitting down in the countryside on a sunny day looking at the river; somebody sitting at the back of a church in the city for a completely non-religious purpose. There's some of that – wanting to calm down and be still."

Eno's contention is that there are four areas – religion, art, sex, drugs – in which this kind of surrender is prized. "These are areas where you stop being manipulators of your surroundings and become recipients. In religion, you stop being you and you start to become us. With drugs, you go from being you to being part of everything. In lots of South American cultures, religion and drugs are very close. In Hinduism, sex and religion are very close." His eyes twinkle. "For us lucky few, all four are mixed up.""
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Bruno Latour Tracks Down Gaia - Los Angeles Review of Books
What happens when you combine the insights of Lovelock and Margulis? In the course of a seminar that I attended the next day, before the snow came to engulf the south of England, the answer came to me quite clearly: with the Gaia theory one can grasp the “power to act” of all the jumbled-up organisms without immediately integrating them into a unity that is superior to them and which they obey. In this sense, and despite the word “system,” Gaia doesn’t act in a systematic fashion, or at least it isn’t a unified system. Lenton has shown that the regulation can be very strong or very lax, depending on the scales of space and time. The homeostatis of an organism and the more erratic regulation of the climate are not of the same type. The Earth is not an organism. Unlike all living things, it lives off itself in a way, through continuous recycling with very little help from external matter (apart, of course, from solar energy). One cannot even say that Gaia is synonymous with the globe or the natural world because, after all, living things, even after several billion years of evolution, only are in charge of a thin skin of the Earth, a sort of biofilm, what the researchers with whom I am working at the moment call “critical zones.” [...]

Galileo invented a world of objects placed beside each other, without affecting each other, and entirely obeying the laws of physics. Lovelock and Margulis sketched a world of agents constantly interacting with each other. When I came back from this amazing day in Dorset, I said to myself that taking on board such a world had nothing to do with ecology, but quite simply with a politics of living things. And as I was going down the coast, I had the thought that another Brecht was needed to write a “Life of Lovelock.”
climate  biology  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Is Higher Education in Trouble? - Commentary Magazine
"However, if we were seeing a broad culture shift, we would expect to see big losses at the four year private and public universities where most of the protests have taken place. As Shaw recognized, the drop in enrollments has been primarily at community colleges, where enrollment decline has been fairly steep. At for-profit universities, there has been a jaw-dropping 43 percent decrease in enrollments since 2011. By contrast, enrollment at four-year public and private non-profit colleges is up slightly since 2011. This year, enrollments at four-year public and private non-profits fell two-tenths and four-tenths of a percent, respectively; not the kind of drop one needs a culture shift to explain."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Jaron Lanier Q&A: ‘We Won, and We Turned Into Assholes’
We used to be kind of rebels, like, if you go back to the origins of Silicon Valley culture, there were these big traditional companies like IBM that seemed to be impenetrable fortresses. And we had to create our own world. To us, we were the underdogs and we had to struggle. And we’ve won. I mean, we have just totally won. We run everything. We are the conduit of everything else happening in the world. We’ve disrupted absolutely everything. Politics, finance, education, media, relationships — family relationships, romantic relationships — we’ve put ourselves in the middle of everything, we’ve absolutely won. But we don’t act like it.

We have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness having won. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves, which is preposterous. And so in doing that we really kind of turn into assholes, you know?
Technopoly  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
The peer review drugs don’t work
Peer review is supposed to be the quality assurance system for science, weeding out the scientifically unreliable and reassuring readers of journals that they can trust what they are reading. In reality, however, it is ineffective, largely a lottery, anti-innovatory, slow, expensive, wasteful of scientific time, inefficient, easily abused, prone to bias, unable to detect fraud and irrelevant.

As Drummond Rennie, the founder of the annual International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, says, “If peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market.”
academe  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Quinn Slobodian – Globalists
"In his account, markets have not become disembedded from national societies and states so much as they have become re-embedded in international institutions. Neo-liberalism as manifested in the thought of Hayek and his European followers is the political project of looking to recreate state structures outside the grasp of democratic and non-democratic states. Far from thinking that markets are natural, neo-liberals accept that they are “products of the political construction of institutions to encase them.” (p.7) Instead of a double movement, we have a ‘double world’ of imperium, political rule exercised through nation states, and dominium, the world of economics and business, and a deliberate political effort to insulate the latter inside its own steel-hard casing against the depredations of the former. Neo-liberals then, look to an `interdependent’ world and a single global economy as a realm that should be held inviolate from national states, and the demands their people put upon them. This, as they came to realize over time, requires them to build their own quasi-constitutional structures at the international level, in order to fend off the persistent efforts of national states to shape and control competitive forces and economic flows that are better left alone."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
David Sedaris: ‘The audience thinks I’m monstrous’
A lot of times people will say after a reading: “I can’t believe what you said”, and I’m literally thinking: “What did I say?” I feel like so many of those issues are really just the enemies of comedy. After every show it’s something. There’s an essay where a woman shits in her pants on the aeroplane and I said it looked like she’d taken her skirt off a long-dead Gypsy, because I want people to see the colour of the skirt. I read that in Edinburgh and this young man comes up and says: “I have a bone to pick with you. I’m one-tenth Gypsy. I really don’t appreciate you using that word.” I’m like: “Call me when you’re nine-tenths Gypsy.” I mean, who isn’t one-tenth Gypsy? Writing isn’t propaganda.
writing  humor 
5 weeks ago
Informational Autocrats
In recent decades, dictatorships based on mass repression have largely given way to a new model based on the manipulation of information. Instead of terrorizing citizens into submission, "informational autocrats" artificially boost their popularity by convincing the public they are competent. To do so, they use propaganda and silence informed members of the elite by co-optation or censorship. Using several sources--including a newly created dataset of authoritarian control techniques--we document a range of trends in recent autocracies that fit the theory: a decline in violence, efforts to conceal state repression, rejection of official ideologies, imitation of democracy, a perceptions gap between masses and elite, and the adoption by leaders of a rhetoric of performance rather than one aimed at inspiring fear.
politics  information  propaganda 
5 weeks ago
‘We’re Winning the War’: A Q&A with SF writer, critic and historian, Adam Roberts
I’ll say this: science fiction is fundamentally a metaphorical literature, because it seeks to represent the world without reproducing it. Now the structure of metaphor as such is the knight’s move, my favourite manoeuvre in chess: leading you in a certain metonymic direction, the logically correct A to B to C, and indeed sometimes it leads you quite a long way down that consecutive path, but only in order to leap suddenly, not arbitrarily, but poetically, expressively, marvellously, in an unexpected direction.

It’s the way the carefully world-built society of Asimov’s ‘Nightfall’ falls apart under stellar Sublimity, or the way the intricate anthropological detail of Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness is leavened by actual supernatural foretelling—a.k.a. magic—as a correlative to love, which is that novel’s wondrous theme, wondrously handled. It’s the way the scrupulously rational computational logic of Clarke’s ‘Nine Billion Names of God’ steps, in its last sentence, into amazing impossibilities. It can be the beautifully unexpected outgoing, as when Ellie Arroway enters the alien world-construct at the end of Contact, or it can be the beautifully unexpected homecoming, as at the end of Kij Johnson’s superb 26 Monkeys, also the Abyss’. It is the famous jump-cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the hurled bone that turns, unexpectedly, impossibly, yet somehow rightly, into a spaceship.

The thing is: this structure I’m describing here as formally constitutive of science fiction is also formally constitutive of the joke. The structure of a joke is a knight’s move: it leads you along a particular narrative trajectory only to finish with a conjurer’s flourish of the unexpected. The joke can’t be capped with a merely random or left-field unexpectedness, or it won’t be funny: but the flourish at the end must work. This is not to say that SF needs to be full of jokes to work. I am not talking content, I am talking form; and the point of this form is that the unexpected twist releases a quantum of joy. That’s why jokes are great, and that, although its content is very different, is why SF is great.
SF 
5 weeks ago
Prodigal’s return
I came back because I just didn’t have anywhere to put the things I’m reading. I just need to remember to review these bookmarks more often so I don’t lose track of all that I have recorded.
from notes
6 weeks ago
Why Silicon Valley can’t fix itself
Pathologising certain potentially beneficial behaviours as “sick” isn’t the only problem with the Center for Humane Technology’s proposals. They also remain confined to the personal level, aiming to redesign how the individual user interacts with technology rather than tackling the industry’s structural failures. Tech humanism fails to address the root cause of the tech backlash: the fact that a small handful of corporations own our digital lives and strip-mine them for profit. This is a fundamentally political and collective issue. But by framing the problem in terms of health and humanity, and the solution in terms of design, the tech humanists personalise and depoliticise it.

This may be why their approach is so appealing to the tech industry. There is no reason to doubt the good intentions of tech humanists, who may genuinely want to address the problems fuelling the tech backlash. But they are handing the firms that caused those problems a valuable weapon. Far from challenging Silicon Valley, tech humanism offers Silicon Valley a useful way to pacify public concerns without surrendering any of its enormous wealth and power. By channelling popular anger at Big Tech into concerns about health and humanity, tech humanism gives corporate giants such as Facebook a way to avoid real democratic control. In a moment of danger, it may even help them protect their profits.
Technopoly  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
LRB · John Lanchester · After the Fall
In recent decades, elites seem to have moved from defending capitalism on moral grounds to defending it on the grounds of realism. They say: this is just the way the world works. This is the reality of modern markets. We have to have a competitive economy. We are competing with China, we are competing with India, we have hungry rivals and we have to be realistic about how hard we have to work, how well we can pay ourselves, how lavish we can afford our welfare states to be, and face facts about what’s going to happen to the jobs that are currently done by a local workforce but could be outsourced to a cheaper international one. These are not moral justifications. The ethical defence of capitalism is an important thing to have inadvertently conceded. The moral basis of a society, its sense of its own ethical identity, can’t just be: ‘This is the way the world is, deal with it.’
economics  politics  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
H-Diplo Commentary 1 on Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress | H-Diplo | H-Net
We now see why a potted history of the Enlightenment is so central to Pinker’s argument: if the Enlightenment ideas have worked so far, it means that there is no reason they will not work in the future and it would be foolish and presumptuous to try to meddle with the majestic course of progress. What the book is in effect advocating is a form of political quietism in the face of the most important challenges of our time. For there are indeed problems that seem so intractable and pressing that they would warrant an urgent revision of our social, political, and economic choices: climate change and socioeconomic inequalities, in particular. Data on these issues can be quite disheartening—even though Pinker works his magic spin again on a number of graphs[11]—and one could easily be tempted to do something about it. This is where Pinker’s loosely connected observations about progress, about data, about cognitive biases and about the ineffable and unknowable power of the market to select technological solutions come together as an ideological argument in favor of the status quo and against political alternatives.
enlightenment  scientism  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
moving
To anyone who reads this: I'm going to keep this site up, but I don't expect to me using it in the future: I'll be posting quotes at my personal blog:

https://blog.ayjay.org

Trying to consolidate my life.
housekeeping  from notes
april 2018
Jenny Diski reviews ‘I May Be Some Time’ by Francis Spufford · LRB 18 July 1996
Scott – who incomprehensibly had taken an extra fifth man to share a four-man tent and rations – had been complaining to Wilson for days that it was time Oates made the final gesture. Oates, apparently not feeling all that Edwardian about it, was by no means keen to give up his life while there was even the remotest possibility that he might survive. By the time he took a walk, he was pretty sure that none of the others would try very vigorously to stop him. Somehow, once you know this, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time,’ begins to take on an ironic note. You can hear in your mind’s ear more than one tone of voice in which the resonating phrase might be said. Oates was a man of his times, but also of ours, it seems – inevitably since the changes the times have undergone do not account for everything.

Equally, it is not impossible, even with Scott thoroughly debunked in the way we do best, to find something in his thinking that accords with our own. The first men walking on the moon was still an event the most cynical paid attention to. Had the South Pole never been reached, we would not find it odd that someone should attempt it. Yet it is very hard to get excited about Ranulph Fiennes crossing the great white continent with atomic sledges, Internet and satellite communications and a computerised mobile igloo with facilities. The idea of testing the physical and mental boundaries of endurance in very difficult circumstances has not gone away. People still wonder how they would cope with adversity. There is a moral, interior component to exploration. And even without the Romantics flinging themselves about, there are still people who imagine themselves as rocks in the Arctic Sea. At least, I hope there are.
travel 
april 2018
I May Be Some Time
A history of this second kind -- an imaginative history of polar exploration -- would have to explain where Scott's feelings came from, how they got there and how they got to be too obvious to require comment or to elicit surprise. It would need a genealogy different from the simple chronological chain of events recorded by the first sort. It would require demonstrating, not that knowledge grew, or that one impression was succeeded by another, but that the means existed to make of the data of polar discovery a stuff of conventional imagination. While it is easy to uncover particular nineteenth-century manifestations of imaginative interest in polar matters -- like, for example, the huge Arctic diorama created in the Vauxhall pleasure gardens in the summer of 1852, to give the public a topical thrill at the height of the search for the missing explorer Sir John Franklin -- it is far harder to trace a line of influence on from them. 'Influence' is necessarily impalpable. But by the same token, it does not have to be proved that (for example) Scott was himself aware of particular books, plays, or fashionable enthusiasms, so long as the styles of feeling they gave currency to survived, and flourished, without marks of origin, in the repertoire of the obvious.

This book is an attempt to construct an outline of such a history. Implicit in it is the assumption that ideas lose their form when they decay, yet do not necessarily lose their place in the mentality of an age. They turn to imaginative compost. Complex reasoning lives on, perhaps, as a couple of self-evident maxims. A taste it took a book to establish, and many more to justify, becomes the single word 'attractive' in a tourist guide. Schools of thought, life's-works, artistic endeavours, all find their ultimate destination in a habit of vision scarcely worth discussion. So each chapter is intended to correspond to a particular area of unattributed, unexamined thought in the minds of those who, like Oates in Delhi, could perhaps scarcely say why exploration 'is most suitable to my tastes'. Each chapter is an archaeology of one aspect of the hazy love affair between the ice and the English. As Apsley Cherry-Garrard said of a book by a fellow veteran about the life of penguins, 'It is all quite true': except that in the next-to-last section of the final chapter, which pieces back together the story of Scott, I had to describe events for which there can be by definition no written evidence. That section is pure invention.
travel 
april 2018
Gun Culture Is My Culture. And I Fear for What It Has Become. - The New York Times
I don’t like being in places where I can’t find the exits. I don’t like crowds and being surrounded by more people than I can keep my eyes on. For the most part nowadays, I stay at the house. When I have to leave, I slide my holster into my waistband before I put on my boots. When a book tour sends me out of North Carolina, 36 states honor the concealed-carry license in my wallet. Unlike a lot of those who carry, I don’t buy into that only-way-to-stop-a-bad-guy-with-a-gun-is-a-good-guy-with-a-gun bravado. I have no visions of being a hero. Instead, I find myself looking for where I’d run, asking myself what I would get behind. The gun is the last resort. It’s the final option when all else is exhausted.

When Ashley and I left the store, we headed toward the Levi’s outlet, where she planned to buy a new pair of jeans. The walkway narrowed, and the sidewalks were filled with people and noise. Even though I knew the risk was remote, my mind raced with all those questions of what I’d do if someone suddenly opened fire. As we walked, I could feel the pistol holstered on my side, the weight of my gun tugging at my belt. The fear was lessened by knowing that there was a round chambered, that all it would take is the downward push of a safety and the short pull of a trigger for that bullet to breathe. I felt safer knowing that gun was there.
[What if always having a gun is not what eases the anxiety but what creates it? What if carrying a pistol everywhere you go keeps you constantly in mind of circumstances in which it might be used?]
guns 
april 2018
The Dead End of the Left? | Commonweal Magazine
Indeed, Del Noce said, if a society’s only ideal is the expansion of individual “well-being,” the left faces two equally bad options. One is to embrace what he calls the “reality principle,” and to compromise with the realities of late capitalism. Then the left must necessarily become the party of the technocratic elites, and end up pursuing power for power’s sake, because in the vacuum of ideals left behind by Marxism there is no common ground between the elites and the masses. This “realistic left” can only organize itself around two principles: trust in science and technology, and what Del Noce calls “vitalism,” sexual liberation, which provides a “mystified,” bourgeois replacement of the revolution. The second option is what Del Noce calls “unrealism”: dreaming the impossible, rejecting existing reality altogether, and embracing political extremism in various forms, all of which are destined for defeat. Unrealism “becomes an accomplice of the first attitude in the global rejection of all values.” [...]

Molnar put it quite bluntly: the left is doomed to oscillate between utopian anarchism and extreme political realism because of a philosophical mistake. He quoted Jacques Maritain in The Peasant of the Garonne: “The pure man of the left detests being, always preferring, in principle, in the words of Rousseau, what is not to what is.” But while Maritain viewed this as a mere temperamental inclination, Molnar believed that in the modern age “ontological restlessness” had evolved into a systematic and militant attitude, a habit of denying reality and “chasing the imaginary.” Molnar probably had in mind the counter-culture of the late ’60s, such as radical pacifism, absolute sexual freedom, the hippie movement, etc. However, he also cites some famous French left-wing intellectuals of his time, whose work is still very influential in American academia: Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Althusser, Foucault.
liberalism  left  from instapaper
april 2018
Antonio Damasio, Feeling, and the Evolution of Consciousness: Siri Hustvedt on “The Strange Order of Things” - Los Angeles Review of Books
Single-cell organisms do not have nervous systems. Insects, worms, fish, dogs, and human beings do. They all feel, and it is only with the entrance of feeling in the evolutionary picture that subjectivity and consciousness develop. Feeling, in Damasio’s hypothesis, is the mental expression of homeostasis, which allows the animal a significant advantage in monitoring its own state as well as avoiding danger and seeking the pleasures afforded by its environment. Importantly, Damasio does not view consciousness and culture as resulting from some additive ingredient unique to human beings: reason, logic, or language. In this story, a form of awareness appears in all animals equipped with nervous systems. Differences in animal mental life emerge with increasing anatomical complexity. Human beings are sophisticated, feeling, affective, social body-subjects who may speak, write, make art, and build technologies, but we share the homeostatic impulse with all other living things.
neuroscience  biology  psychology  from instapaper
april 2018
A Tale of Complexity – Structural Layers in Note Taking • Zettelkasten Method
There are emergent structures that underly every self-organizing body of knowledge. Software that helps you deal with these structures needs to fulfill a couple of criteria for its ability to handle complex structures. One criterion is: Does the software provide access to those different structural layers? If it doesn’t offer the means to deal with those structures, it won’t help you in your work once your archive becomes more complex.
notetaking  from instapaper
april 2018
Marilynne Robinson at Wheaton | Civitas Peregrina
That points to the more interesting disjunction. (Liberal Protestants complaining about evangelical line-drawing is hardly new, just as is their penchant for doing their own line-drawing at the same time.) The first half of her talk was an extended defense of the idea of conscience and the ways in which that was an important spur for the Reformation. But in the second half, she trotted out what feels like now a kind of almost pro forma critique of individualism (though there were some interesting intimations from her that suggested a kind of defense of individualism). What struck me, though, was how the two sides of the critique don’t fit together. Conscience is important but when you cite Emerson, as she did, you are almost inevitably headed toward the sort of disconnected, romantic individualism that she (rightly, in my view) finds so troublesome. Here, the Catholic tradition seems helpful, for it talks (so far as I understand it) in terms of *rightly ordered* conscience, not just conscience per se. Our contemporary cult of authenticity contains within it a view of conscience that merely demands a kind of coherence to your views. In practice everyone imposes limits (that is, draws lines on what counts as *proper* conscience) but the impulse is toward a solipsistic conscience, not a rightly formed one. What’s lacking here—and this is a problem in both liberal and conservative Protestantism alike—is a sense of rightful authority, things to which we owe obedience even when, maybe especially when, we do not find it easy to consent. I don’t know that I have an especially good answer to this dilemma—I’m just as American in that sense as the next—but it does seem to me an enduring dilemma, one that even as astute a person as Marilynne Robinson seems flummoxed by.
christian  ethics  conscience 
april 2018
Christians & the Death Penalty | Commonweal Magazine
Let us grant, for argument’s sake, that the death penalty is indeed a just and proportionate response to willful murder. So what? That has never been the issue for Christians, for the simple reason that the Gospel does not admit the authority of proportional justice, as either a private or a public good. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, is a shocking subversion of the entire idea. Christ repeatedly and explicitly forbids the application of such punishment, even when (as in the case of the adulterous woman) this means contradicting the explicit commands of the Law of Moses regarding public order and divinely ordained retribution. According to Paul, all who sin stand under a just sentence of death, but that sentence has been rescinded purely out of the unmerited grace of divine mercy. This is because the full wrath of the Law has been exhausted by Christ’s loving surrender to the Cross. Again and again, the New Testament demands of Christians that they exercise limitless forgiveness, no matter how grievous the wrong, even in legal and public settings. And it insists that, for the Christian, mercy always triumphs over judgment. In a very real sense, Christian morality is nothing but the conquest of proportional justice by the disproportion of divine love.
theology  politics  from instapaper
april 2018
1968 and the summer of our discontent
The British ’68 took a somewhat different form. There was a fundamental division between the working forces and the educational establishment, nicely illustrated by Vinen: at the end of the 1970s, the quarter of a million members of the National Union of Mineworkers contained 15 members of Militant Tendency, nine members of the Socialist Workers Party, and five members of the International Marxist Group. ‘There were fewer Trotskyists in the most important of British trade unions than there were among the staff at North London Polytechnic.’

By contrast, only 2 per cent of students matriculating at Essex in 1968 described themselves as Labour supporters rather than ‘non-party extreme/moderate left’. The occasional Maoist sociology student who tried to reach out to the labouring classes met with, it is fair to say, a ribald or bemused reception. Perhaps the single most effective limit on student protest was the curious English habit that meant that students lived on campus during term time, and went home to mum and dad during the vacation. A Sussex sociologist — not always, despite the impression, the most radical members of staff — observed that ‘the one redeeming feature of all the unrest is that revolutions always go on holiday’.
history  politics  England 
april 2018
A Plea To Trans Activists: We Can Protect Trans Rights Without Denying Biology - Quillette
Science is clear. Our biological sex indicates our role in the reproduction of our species. We are like other mammals. Some of us have male sex organs and others have female sex organs. I have three children and unless there were repeat visits from the Angel Gabriel that neither my partner nor I knew about, I was responsible for the male gametes that produced them. Arguments over labels do not change the underlying facts. I know that I am not biologically female.

Society is also real. Boys and girls are socialised differently. Boys never face the prospect of becoming pregnant, nor are they expected to take on more than their fair share of caring responsibilities or make sacrifices for their future spouse’s career. They are stronger, taller, and are generally given more freedoms, and their bodies are not subject to the same scrutiny that girls’ are.

To say that trans women are the same as women, therefore requires denial of some rather huge concrete truths. I can’t do that with any integrity and, rather than identify as a woman, – a rather meaningless concept – I identify with women.
sexuality 
april 2018
This is the single most alarming thing Trump has done
Under Trump, Fox News has evolved into something like a state-media outlet, marching in rigid lock-step with a Trumpified Republican Party. And now this model is metastasizing, as Sinclair's right-wing management enforces a rigid political line on hundreds of local news broadcasts while threatening with severe monetary penalties employees who might be inclined to resist the policy.

What's even worse is that Trump is actively urging his FCC to approve Sinclair's purchase of a network of Tribune stations that will increase the company's reach to three quarters of American households. This can only be described as an effort to establish a nationwide propaganda network that seeks to advance the agenda and political prospects of the president and the Republican Party.

If the effort succeeds, it will stand as one of the most blatant efforts yet on the part of the president to actively manipulate public opinion by uniting the formidable powers of the executive branch and the Twitter-based bully pulpit with the crucial support of wealthy allies in business and media.
politics 
april 2018
Death’s Best Friend
Medical students were invited to attend the seminars, but for a long time, none did. “The physicians have been the most reluctant in joining us in this work,” Kübler-Ross noted in On Death and Dying. “It may take both courage and humility to sit in a seminar which is attended not only by the nurses, students, and social workers with whom they usually work, but in which they are also exposed to the possibility of hearing a frank opinion about the role they play in the reality or fantasy of their patients.”

American doctors were so preoccupied with avoiding death that they avoided any discussion of it. “I observed the desperate need of the hospital staff to deny the existence of terminally ill patients on their ward.” This was typical for the medical profession at the time. In the early 1970s, years after Kübler-Ross began her research, only about 10 percent of doctors told their patients when they had a terminal condition; until 1980, the American Medical Association considered it a doctor’s right not to tell their patients if they had an incurable disease. At Kübler-Ross’s hospital, most doctors would inform the patient’s family of a fatal diagnosis and allow them to decide what to share with the patient.
health  medicine 
april 2018
Ways of getting along - Varieties of atheism
If the clash between theism and atheism were merely about metaphysical ideas, personal choices, or even quests made by consenting adults, then it should indeed be a negotiable difference in societies which allow for many other kinds of diversity. Thinkers like Mr Gray or even Bishop Jenkins may help us negotiate. But they do not entirely solve the problem. It is striking that the most intractable disputes between believers and non-believers concern the treatment of children: how and by whom they should be raised; what they should be taught about the origin of the world; whether, in the name of religious custom, their bodies should be mutilated; whether the education of boys and girls should be separate and in some way differentiated, as conservative Islam mandates; and at what point in their biological development one can speak of a life which cannot morally be terminated. With or without the guidance of brainy public intellectuals, these are hard arguments which lead to hard choices.
atheism  conflict 
april 2018
Waiting for the Light
The liturgical theologian Aidan Kavanagh, drawing on a remark of Urban T. Holmes, speaks of the crucial theological impact of a worshiping assembly’s “being brought regularly to the brink of chaos in the presence of the living God.” Perhaps the Vigil I attended all those years ago is still so vivid in my mind because it had the courage to invite us, in a thoroughly Christian ritual environment, to the brink of chaos, where both dark absence and wild rejoicing live. A small minority of worshiping communities will be blessed with the ample resources on which that parish drew, but anyone can turn out all the lights or set a real fire ablaze. Simple intentionality about worship’s artistic, dramatic, and nonliteral communication can work wonders, and inexpensively. If this all seems too foreign, gather some artists and give them the job.
Anglican  worship  liturgy 
march 2018
How to Talk About ‘Race’ and Genetics - The New York Times
From my point of view, it should be possible for everyone to hold in their heads the following six truths:

1. “Race” is fundamentally a social category — not a biological one — as anthropologists have shown.

2. There are clear genetic contributors to many traits, including behavior.

3. Present-day human populations, which often but not always are correlated to today’s “race” categories, have in a number of instances been largely isolated from one another for tens of thousands of years. These long separations have provided adequate opportunity for the frequencies of genetic variations to change.

4. Genetic variations are likely to affect behavior and cognition just as they affect other traits, even though we know that the average genetic influences on behavior and cognition are strongly affected by upbringing and are likely to be more modest than genetic influences on bodily traits or disease.

5. The genetic variations that influence behavior in one population will almost certainly have an effect on behavior in others populations, even if the ways those genetic variations manifest in each population may be very different. Given that all genetically determined traits differ somewhat among populations, we should expect that there will be differences in the average effects, including in traits like behavior.

6. To insist that no meaningful average differences among human populations are possible is harmful. It is perceived as misleading, even patronizing, by the general public. And it encourages people not to trust the honesty of scholars and instead to embrace theories that are not scientifically grounded and often racist.
race  intelligence 
march 2018
Opinion | Evangelicals’ support for Trump will cost them — spiritually
"Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace is a helpful concept because it illuminates a particular risk evangelicals are taking in their ongoing courtship with Trump: neither a risk to their political aspirations nor to the Christian religion itself, which has endured worse company in any case, but to their own souls. French novelist Paul Bourget observed that “one must live the way one thinks, or end up thinking the way one has lived.” It’s difficult for people to hold to contrary standards on those two counts. One either takes the Christian notion of forgiveness seriously — with all its accompanying expectations of repentance, contrition and accountability — or one doesn’t. Evangelicals who aren’t willing to hold Trump accountable for the way he has lived are themselves choosing a particular way of living, one which, with time, may dissolve whatever misgivings they may still maintain, somewhere deep inside."
from instapaper
march 2018
Striking, social media, and building a better university
The other thing we need, if we are successfully to resist the managerialists and avoid a drift back to “normality” is organization. The impressive growth of the union during the strike can be the foundation for that and may be, so long as people don’t drift off, dispirited, afterwards. But we also need to continue to meet at the level of our departments, schools and faculties in order to contest the metric-chasing, the performance targets, the rage-producing diktats and the consequent quotidian degradation of academic life. We need to stick up for one another when managers turn nasty and threaten us, or others, with disciplinary action or carefully crafted redundancy criteria. We need to discuss how we can teach well and what education is for rather than how to boost those “student satisfaction” scores. We need to think, together, and together with our students about the essentials of the university so that they remain communities of education rather than turning into Potemkin villages behind whose shiny facades hourly-paid drones struggle to “deliver learning objectives”.
academe 
march 2018
The Bard of Auburn: Getting Weird in the Long Valley - Los Angeles Review of Books
"After a series of escalating “rediscoveries” since his death in 1961, Smith’s reputation has grown among genre readers and writers, even though he has yet to enjoy the wider reputation he deserves as one of the great anti-modernist writers and poets of the ’20s and ’30s. While Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Joyce, Stein, H. D., and Stevens explored new ways to map human experience and interior-reflection, Smith abandoned any belief that human dreams, history, and character concealed any deep meaning at all. Instead he boldly marched off into his fantastic, improbable visions of a far-future earth populated by dueling necromancers, kings crowned with the feathers of exotic birds, islands of party-hearty torturers, invisible cities populated by invisible monsters, and remote civilizations crumbling into golden dust, presided over by immortal demons, monsters, and errant space-explorers."
from instapaper
march 2018
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s praise for dictators and extremists should be disqualifying.
Whereas Trump has merely expressed warm feelings for authoritarian leaders, Corbyn actually spent decades promoting, organizing alongside, and “normalizing” all manner of illiberal regimes and terrorist organizations. During the worst years of Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” Corbyn was a vocal champion of the Irish Republican Army, inviting several of its leaders to Parliament just weeks after one of its bombs nearly killed then–Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. For the four years prior to his becoming Labour leader, Corbyn was chair of the Stop the War Coalition, essentially a communist front organization whose rote opposition to any and all Western military intervention bleeds into shilling for a variety of terrorist movements and dictators, from the Iraqi insurgency to Syria’s mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad. Not only did Corbyn accept up to 20,000 pounds (about $25,600) for appearances on the Iranian state-sponsored propaganda network Press TV, he once praised the Iranian regime’s “inclusivity and tolerance.”

When Venezuelan strongman Chávez died in 2013, Corbyn declared that the strongman was an “inspiration to all of us fighting back against neoliberalism and austerity in Europe and showing us there is a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice, and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step towards.” (Asked recently by the BBC if his politics were closer to that of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair or the Venezuelan regime, a Corbynite MP refused to answer). Corbyn similarly described Fidel Castro as a “champion of social justice.” And although Corbyn has demanded that Blair be brought to The Hague on war crimes charges, he denies that the ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was a war criminal. In 2005, Corbyn sponsored a parliamentary motion referring to “a ‘genocide’ that never really existed in Kosovo.”
politics  England 
march 2018
The Catholic Fracture | National Review
"The Church wants to welcome families that are broken. Its pastors tire of the cold language of “irregularity” that greets them as they seek their way back to religion. But Douthat’s book, which begins on a personal note, speaks for all those who — like him, and like me — come from complicated family situations, and who found, in the unchanging doctrine of marriage, a credible witness of God’s mercy in our age. We want a Church that adopts into itself the children and parents of broken families, but what we fear is a Church that in its haste to make us feel “welcome” would ultimately bless the sins that estrange us from our siblings and parents. And if it can tolerate and bless these sins, whom will we call upon when faced with our own family difficulties?"
from instapaper
march 2018
Toward Micro-Likes
Imagine you had a wall-sized screen, full of social media items, and that while you browsed this wall the direction of your gaze was tracked continuously to see which items your gaze was on or near. From that info, one could give the authors or subjects of those items far more granular info on who is paying how much attention to them. Not only on how often and much your stuff is watched, but also on the mood and mental state of those watchers. If some of those items were continuous video feeds from other people, then those others could be producing many more social media items to which others could attend.
[what a horrific nightmare]
socialmedia 
march 2018
How Christianity saw off its rivals and became the universal church | The Spectator
"Where Hurtado differs from Ehrman, however, is by emphasising what the early Christians aspired to destroy alongside the worship of the gods. Ancient paganism, as both scholars are at pains to point out, focused on cultic practices: sacrifices, festivals, divinations. ‘Such activities,’ Ehrman writes, ‘lay at the heart of pagan religions. Doctrines and ethics did not.’ It is left to Hurtado, though, to tease out what the implications of this might be for anyone looking to explain the appeal of Christianity to potential converts. That the poor should be as worthy of respect as the rich; that the starving should have a claim on those with the reserves to feed them; that the vulnerable — children, prostitutes, slaves — should not be used by the powerful as mere sexual objects: all of these novel Christian doctrines must surely have had some influence on ‘the triumph of Christianity’ among the teeming masses of Roman cities."
from instapaper
march 2018
God Help Us, Let’s Try To Understand Friston On Free Energy
The discovery that the only human motive is uncertainty-reduction might come as a surprise to humans who feel motivated by things like money, power, sex, friendship, or altruism. But the neuroscientist I talked to about this says I am not misinterpreting the interview. The claim really is that uncertainty-reduction is the only game in town.

In a sense, it must be true that there is only one human motivation. After all, if you’re Paris of Troy, getting offered the choice between power, fame, and sex – then some mental module must convert these to a common currency so it can decide which is most attractive. If that currency is, I dunno, dopamine in the striatum, then in some reductive sense, the only human motivation is increasing striatal dopamine (don’t philosophize at me, I know this is a stupid way of framing things, but you know what I mean). Then the only weird thing about the free energy formulation is identifying the common currency with uncertainty-minimization, which is some specific thing that already has another meaning. [...]

As best I can understand (and I’m drawing from here and here again), this is an ultimate meaning of “free energy” which is sort of like a formalization of homeostasis. It goes like this: consider a probability distribution of all the states an organism can be in. For example, your body can be at (90 degrees F, heart rate 10), (90 degrees F, heart rate 70), (98 degrees F, heart rate 10), (98 degrees F, heart rate 70), or any of a trillion other different combinations of possible parameters. But in fact, living systems successfully restrict themselves to tiny fractions of this space – if you go too far away from (98 degrees F, heart rate 70), you die. So you have two probability distributions – the maximum-entropy one where you could have any combination of heart rate and body temperature, and the one your body is aiming for with a life-compatible combination of heart rate and body temperature. Whenever you have a system trying to convert one probability distribution into another probability distribution, you can think of it as doing Bayesian work and following free energy principles. So free energy seems to be something like just a formal explanation of how certain systems display goal-directed behavior, without having to bring in an anthropomorphic or teleological concept of “goal-directedness”.
probability  intelligence  neuroscience  from instapaper
march 2018
Hurrah for the First Amendment, but...
Last year, the pollster Karlyn Bowman and her team at the American Enterprise Institute looked into the history of our support for the right to free speech. They found a Gallup poll dating back to 1938, the very dawn of scientific polling. It showed that 96 percent of those responding—pretty much everybody—said they believed in freedom of speech. Meanwhile, more than half of them insisted that Communists shouldn’t be allowed to “express their views in [their] community.” Another survey 16 years later showed the same overwhelming declarations of devotion to the First Amendment. Even so, 89 percent of respondents thought a Communist caught teaching in a college should be fired, and a majority thought books by Communists should be removed from the public library. [...]

It should be obvious that no multicultural paradise would be possible at all if its citizens weren’t free to peaceably express their diverse views. Free speech is prior to diversity, as the philosophers say. It is a necessary condition of diversity, and probably diversity’s greatest guarantor. To extol inclusion at the expense of speech is incoherent and unserious—a mere reflex of campus ideology in our era of discontent.
freespeech  politics  from instapaper
march 2018
Enough With the Secular Saints | commentary
Ian n online essay Monday, the New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead compared Emma González, the Stoneman Douglas senior-turned-March for Our Lives leader, to Joan of Arc—a literal saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Mead reflected on the facial similarities between Gonzalez and Renée Maria Falconetti, the actress who played the French saint in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent-film masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Dreyer’s Saint Joan, Mead argued,
has the privileged knowledge of the inspired, not the earned knowledge of the experienced. The young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have already experienced more than their elders would wish upon them; their innocence is lost. Yet, like all young people, they’ve retained faith in their generation’s unique ability to challenge and rectify the failures of their elders. . . . Our urgent need for the illumination that [such youth] seem to offer—for the blunt, righteous conviction they uphold—is another indication, were it needed, that a new kind of medievalism is upon us. Our potential saviors gleam all the more brightly against the pervasive political and civic darkness of the moment.

Mead’s was only the most extreme (and wild-eyed) example of such beatification. Most mainstream outlets didn’t go nearly as far. Nevertheless, the overall tone of the coverage was reverent, full of awe and piety and sacred devotion—the kinds of emotions that used to be reserved for, well, religious subjects.
politics 
march 2018
Offscreen Magazine Interview: Craig Mod
That’s why I try to subvert my weaknesses, to subvert that persona. The easiest way is to turn off the internet. When I go to bed at night, the internet goes off. Phone into airplane mode. It doesn’t come back on until after lunch the next day (at the earliest). The difference in the quality of the day ahead between starting my morning with the internet on versus off is enormous.

If I wake up and touch my phone, I’ve already lost hours. Not because I’m browsing social media for hours, but because the mind has already been agitated, made unquiet, and the context switch back into thoughtfulness can take the whole morning. In other words, the addict part of my brain takes over and contaminates my ability to be contemplative. I lose the grace to dive into other worlds, the worlds of writing or programming or images.
In one of your essays you describe going offline for such a long period as a privilege. Does that mean that in the future going offline will be a luxury that only rich people can afford?

The default expectation today is “always available.” The systems we created are so frictionless that we haven’t noticed how insidiously over-engaged we are. Step by step we’re optimizing ourselves to “maximum” productivity without defining or thinking about “productivity” on a human scale. The digital world abstracts. One could argue most problems contemporary society faces are problems of over-abstraction. As an employer with a global workforce, you have no idea where your employees might be or what they might be doing, so you expect them to answer immediately. The concept of downtime is elusive.

So yes, it’s already a great privilege to be able to say ‘no’ to that system.
tech  socialmedia  from instapaper
march 2018
Beyond Sexual Identity: Not Whether But How
So if we want to move “beyond sexual identity,” here are three things we need to do:
First, give people safety and shelter from anti-gay attitudes. Remove the brutal pressure under which gay identity in our culture is formed.

Second, turn down the heat. Make this question of identity as uninflamed, as non-fraught, as possible. We should all care less about how other people identify, y’all. The less of a big deal it is, the easier it will be to move past.

And third, try out alternative frameworks for understanding the longings which we currently organize as “homosexuality” or “being gay” and “heterosexuality.”
sexuality  from instapaper
march 2018
The Ignoble Lie | Patrick J. Deneen
Our ruling class is more blinkered than that of the ancien régime. Unlike the aristocrats of old, they insist that there are only egalitarians at their exclusive institutions. They loudly proclaim their virtue and redouble their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They cast bigoted rednecks as the great impediment to perfect ­equality—not the elite institutions from which they benefit. The institutions responsible for winnowing the social and economic winners from the losers are largely immune from questioning, and busy themselves with extensive public displays of their unceasing commitment to equality. Meritocratic ideology disguises the ruling class’s own role in perpetuating inequality from itself, and even fosters a broader social ecology in which those who are not among the ruling class suffer an array of social and economic pathologies that are increasingly the defining feature of ­America’s underclass. Facing up to reality would require hard questions about the agenda underlying commitments to “diversity and inclusion.” Our ­stated commitment to “critical thinking” demands no less, but such questions are likely to be put down—at times violently—on contemporary campuses.

Campaigns for equality that focus on the inclusion of identity groups rather than examinations of the class divide permit an extraordinary lack of curiosity about complicity in a system that secures elite status across generations. Concern for diversity and inclusion on the basis of “ascriptive” features—race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation—allows the ruling class to overlook class while focusing on unchosen forms of identity. Diversity and inclusion fit neatly into the meritocratic structure, leaving the structure of the new aristocratic order firmly in place.
academentia  from instapaper
march 2018
The Real Scandal Isn’t Cambridge Analytica. It’s Facebook’s Whole Business Model.
TechCrunch’s Josh Constine has followed Facebook as closely as anyone in the media over the past five years, and he’s been known to defend the company when it seems just about everyone else is attacking it. Not this time. In a piece headlined, “Facebook and the Endless String of Worst-Case Scenarios,” he catalogues nearly a dozen instances over the years in which the company has launched products without the safeguards needed to prevent abuse, then ignored or downplayed the consequences.

That habit may be catching up to it at last: Facebook is not getting the benefit of many doubts when it comes to Cambridge Analytica, and it’s hard to feel much sympathy for it. The time for Facebook to self-regulate its way out of the hot seat has probably passed. Now it’s up to the public, legislators, and regulators to rework the terms of that agreement by which people sign away their personal data—and one another’s—for the benefit of tech platforms, their advertising clients, and whoever else might be sneaky enough to get their hands on it.
socialmedia  from instapaper
march 2018
Trusting Others to ‘Do the Math’
One could even argue that the organization of pages and URLs within websites are based on the same hierarchy of the file system that resulted in the folders and files of the desktop GUI. Perhaps the notion of content as sequential, filterable streams might have inspired different conceptual models.4 Many of the major players in the Web 2.0, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and even blogs and RSS feeds to some extent, now provide streams of content ordered by date rather than hierarchical web pages often seen in more traditional websites, but I would argue this is a newer development and not yet as pervasive and influential as the desktop metaphor and associated hierarchical file systems.

Given the layers of complexity in the world of software and the hardware it runs on, it seems inevitable that we must trust others to do to the math at some point, but perhaps we should be more cognizant of that fact. What checks are in place, and what credit should be given for software development that is done as part of or alongside scholarship? How is the software associated with scholarly work reviewed and assessed, and who is doing that work?
DH  from instapaper
march 2018
We Fear What We Can't Control About Uber and Facebook
When I see a new story or criticism about the tech world, I no longer ask whether the tech companies poll as being popular (they do). I instead wonder whether voters feel in control in a world with North Korean nuclear weapons, an erratic American president and algorithms everywhere. They don’t. Haven’t you wondered why articles about robots putting us all out of work are so popular during a time of full employment?

We are about to enter a new meta-narrative for American society, which I call “re-establishing the feeling of control.” Unfortunately, when you pursue the feeling rather than the actual control, you often end up with neither.
tech  socialmedia  from instapaper
march 2018
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