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Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history | Nature
The origins of religion and of complex societies represent evolutionary puzzles1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. The ‘moralizing gods’ hypothesis offers a solution to both puzzles by proposing that belief in morally concerned supernatural agents culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies9,10,11,12,13. Although previous research has suggested an association between the presence of moralizing gods and social complexity3,6,7,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18, the relationship b...
society  religion  gods  complexity  morality 
4 hours ago
Key Ideas & Concepts | wishcrys
This page lists some of the key ideas and concepts I have developed in my body of research.
influencers  youtube  internet  tech  digital  socialmedia  sociality 
'Fantastic Adventures' YouTube channel creator Machelle Hackney charged with abusing children - The Washington Post
Hackney was arrested Friday at her home in Maricopa, Ariz., along with her two biological sons. She was charged with molestation of a child, child abuse, unlawful imprisonment and child neglect. Her adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, face charges of not reporting abuse. Machelle Hackney’s biological daughter was the one who contacted authorities on March 13, prompting a welfare check at the home 30 miles outside of Phoenix, according to court records.

“Fantastic Adventures” remained available ...
YouTubers Are Fighting Algorithms to Make Good Content for Kids - Motherboard
Animated videos dominate the kids YouTube space. Humans are fighting against YouTube’s algorithm to try and compete.
2 days ago
Before Arrests in Bomb-Making Case, a Fascination With Conspiracies - The New York Times
The night Christian and Tyler Toro’s grandmother died, the twin brothers gathered around a kitchen table in their Bronx apartment and opened a folder of computer printouts.

The printouts were conspiracy theories pulled from the internet, including one about the meaning of the symbols on the dollar bill. Accompanying them were the brothers’ notes.

“They were showing it to me like somebody shows a stamp collection,” an uncle, Jose Melendez, said on Friday. “It’s almost like childish nonsense.”

pktoros  conspiracy  youtube 
3 days ago
Kompromat: Or, Revelations from the Unpublished Portions of Andrea Manafort’s Hacked Texts - Los Angeles Review of Books
In some ways, though, this example simply proves that the shift from due process of law to trial by journalism has its own temporal and moral gaps. Manafort’s story is journalistically problematic because there is no way to prove the allegations. One cannot verify these texts weren’t inserted post-hoc. Or access the men in foreign countries who were purportedly paid to participate in the gang bangs. And in this case, the putative victim — Manafort’s wife — has not announced her victimhood nor st...
race  sex  family  journalism  cuckoldry  trump 
9 days ago
Stumbling and Mumbling: The 1% vs the 0.1% - Chris Dillow
One is simply that they are aware of it. For the poor, the rich are out of sight, out of mind: in fact, they grossly under-estimate just how much the rich make. The 1%, however, see it more clearly. We compare ourselves to people like us. And the 1% benchmark themselves against the 0.1%. They are often university contemporaries, so one might resent why the no-mark who was no smarter than him is earning five times as much. Or they might compare social utilities. A doctor covered in blood will won...
wealth  psychology  resentment  1%  economy  class 
10 days ago
What Makes Elizabeth Warren’s Platform Proposal So Potentially Important. – Harold Feld
Rather than focus on specific companies, the Warren proposal makes a stab at defining something that could actually get translated into legislative language as a clearly definable market. Sure, it’s still somewhat vague (how do we define an “online marketplace?” Is it different from just the online extension of a traditional retailer? Should it be?). But the entire point is to have an actual debate to inform policy, which means starting somewhere. Every sector specific statute has to start with ...
antitrust  business  tech  platforms 
10 days ago
Other People’s Blood | Online Only | n+1 -Tim Barker
Debates about job guarantees, Green New Deals, and co-determination make clear a dominant question of our time: the renewal of political economy after decades of depoliticization. Trump made headlines last May by threatening to use emergency powers to keep unprofitable coal plants running (“an unprecedented intervention into US energy markets,” per Bloomberg). It was reminiscent of the late 1940s, when Harry Truman threatened that, if the steel companies refused to expand as much as government e...
economics  economy  finance  centralbank  volcker  money 
20 days ago
Drowned out by the algorithm: Pro-vaccination advocates struggle to be heard online
Then known as Every Child By Two, the organization had used its channel on the massive video platform to post interviews with doctors, public service announcements and testimonials from parents of children who had died of vaccine-preventable diseases.

But those messages were quickly sabotaged. YouTube’s recommendation system, which appears alongside videos and suggests what users should watch next, would direct viewers to anti-vaccination videos, according to Amy Pisani, executive director of V...
vaccination  platforms  youtube  conspiracy 
23 days ago
A Skeptical View of Information Fiduciaries by Lina Khan, David Pozen :: SSRN
The concept of “information fiduciaries” has surged to the forefront of debates on online platform regulation. Developed by Professor Jack Balkin, the concept is meant to rebalance the relationship between ordinary individuals and the digital companies that accumulate, analyze, and sell their personal data for profit. Just as the law imposes special duties of care, confidentiality, and loyalty on doctors, lawyers, and accountants vis-à-vis their patients and clients, Balkin argues, so too should...
data  information  privacy  law  technology  tech  platforms 
24 days ago
Facebook Grappling With Employee Anger Over Moderator Conditions - Bloomberg
The company’s decision to outsource these operations has been a persistent concern for some full-time employees. After a group of content reviewers working at an Accenture facility in Austin, Texas complained in February about not being allowed to leave the building for breaks or answer personal phone calls at work, a wave of criticism broke out on internal messaging boards. “Why do we contract out work that’s obviously vital to the health of this company and the products we build,” wrote one Fa...
facebook  labor  jobs  moderation 
24 days ago
Google Hired Gig Economy Workers for Project Maven
Emails obtained by The Intercept show that shortly after Google inked the deal with the military, the tech giant began working to label a set of satellite images captured by a technology known as wide-area motion imagery. In October 2017, Google sent a company called CrowdFlower — which subsequently changed its name to Figure Eight — the raw images with instructions on data labeling. The data labeling project started showing results quickly over the following month, as engineers developed better...
tech  google  ai  labor  crowdsourcing 
25 days ago
Federal Trade Commission oversight and the need for online consumer privacy legislation
However, if the idea is that “harder regulation” will somehow tame the big Silicon Valley platforms, the opposite has happened. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with similarly heavy-handed regimes such as California’s Consumer Privacy Act, entrenches established platforms that have the resources to meet their onerous compliance requirements. Since the GDPR’s implementation in May, the rank and market share of small- and medium-sized ad tech companies has declined by 18 t...
competition  antitrust  size  centralization  platforms  facebook  gdpr  tech 
25 days ago
The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America - The Verge
• Moderators in Phoenix will make just $28,800 per year — while the average Facebook employee has a total compensation of $240,000.

• In stark contrast to the perks lavished on Facebook employees, team leaders micro-manage content moderators’ every bathroom break. Two Muslim employees were ordered to stop praying during their nine minutes per day of allotted “wellness time.”

• Employees can be fired after making just a handful of errors a week, and those who remain live in fear of former colle...
facebook  moderation  labor  jobs 
25 days ago
Study blames YouTube for rise in number of Flat Earthers | Science | The Guardian
Interviews with 30 attendees revealed a pattern in the stories people told about how they came to be convinced that the Earth was not a large round rock spinning through space but a large flat disc doing much the same thing.

Of the 30, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their minds after watching videos promoting conspiracy theories on YouTube. “The only person who didn’t say this was there with his daughter and his son-in-law and they had se...
youtube  flatearth  conspiracy 
27 days ago
Twin Brothers Plead Guilty to Bronx Bomb-Making Plot - The New York Times
Yet even after the guilty pleas, the brothers’ motive for building a bomb and what their target might have been remained unclear. “I just want you to know that I had no intention of using it, let alone on anyone or anything,” Christian Toro told Judge Richard M. Berman. Tyler Toro also contended that he had never intended to harm anyone.

The investigators recovered handwritten diary entries in the men’s apartment that referred to an operation code-named Flash. They also found a yellow backpack ...
27 days ago
Two Bronx Brothers Arrested in Bomb-Making Scheme - The New York Times
Investigators found an index card that read: “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror.”
youtube  terrorism  bombing  pktoros 
27 days ago
It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud | Alice Walker | The Official Website for the American Novelist & Poet
You will find some information,
Slanted, unfortunately,
By Googling. For a more in depth study
I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The
Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way
Into our collective consciousness.
Antisemitism  youtube  conspiracy 
27 days ago
'Bizarro World' - The Boston Globe
"It's funny," I told Flewin. "We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She's weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem."

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

"Oh, my!"

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

"Honey," I said. "You're not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who's in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world's largest classic video game tournament."
tetris  videogames  gaming  records 
29 days ago
The Sea Was Not a Mask - Rob Horning
Chaslot depicted his emblematic flat earther as someone whose situational depression drove them to isolating self-harm. Tweaking the algorithms in an effort to reprogram that person's consumption diet seems to reiterate and reinforce the problem: how we are caught up and subjectivized by systems we can't comprehend, that we can't situate ourselves within. It is much easier to imagine where you stand on a flat earth, even if it means looking over the edge.
youtube  conspiracy  flatearth  algorithms  tech  internet 
4 weeks ago
Private Mossad for Hire | The New Yorker - Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow
Burstien said that, before a parliamentary election in a European country, his operatives had created a sham think tank. Using avatars, the operatives hired local analysts to work for the think tank, which then disseminated reports to bolster the political campaign of the company’s client and to undermine the reputations of his rivals.
facebook  fakenews  fake  politics  elections 
5 weeks ago
Crisis Cranks | Dissent Magazine
Another proposal in Radical Markets, the Visas Between Individuals Program, would allow people in wealthy countries to “sponsor” immigrants from poor countries. These new entrants into the labor force would not be covered by minimum wage laws (or else, Weyl and Posner reason, there would be no incentive to “sponsor” them). Somewhat oddly, they answer the charge that this system is “uncomfortably close to indentured servitude” by pointing out that “we already have a subordinate class of low-wage workers,” namely “illegal [sic] aliens.” But merely proposing to extend an already existing institution of status inequality hardly seems radical, much less worthy of a chapter titled “Uniting the World’s Workers.” In place of the emancipatory vision of their Enlightenment forebears, Weyl and Posner counsel despair: “natural human instincts toward tribalism” make even a formally egalitarian solution to global inequality impossible. Their call for strict law enforcement to ensure that migrants do not defect from their “sponsors,” along with the Orwellian acronym “VIP,” does not make the proposal feel any less chillily inhuman.
economics  politics  libertarianism  markets 
6 weeks ago
Until the Next Crash | Online Only | n+1
What is different after the crash is that nobody can say with a straight face that liquidity is an intrinsic property of financial markets. The belief among bankers before 2008 that liquidity was a free good was an ideological illusion. Liquidity is not free. It is a product of the state power lodged inside central banks. The Fed’s balance sheet ballooned to over $4.5 trillion by 2014. At this writing, it is still more than $4 trillion. Today the ECB’s owns €4.6 trillion of assets. It is time to start seeing central banks for what they really are: not only institutions that set short-term interest rates, but also de facto asset managers operating in the name of publics—and therefore potential agents of public investment.

I can see no better way to begin to repair the broken link between capitalism and democracy than to convert central banks’ improvisational post-crisis responses—which cannot be put back into the bottle—into committed programs of long-term public investment. Such a program, a national investment board, could be split off from the task of managing the price level. It could compensate for the private owners of capital’s preference to hold liquid short-term financial securities, for purposes of either hoarding or speculation, which together continues to undermine long-term private investment.
economics  economy  finance  capitalism  banking 
6 weeks ago
Three opposing barometers between the digital news media and influencers - Crystal Abidin
Digital news media outlets are facing a crisis of trustworthiness amidst concerns over ‘fake news’, especially internet-only/internet-native websites as opposed to the digital estates of already established legacy media. And at a time when they are expanding on social media to sustain their business models (see below), it does not help that consumers’ trust in news derived from social media is wavering. On the other hand, Influencers are not so much judged for their objective trustworthiness as they are for their ability to stealthily provide opinionated persuasion. Followers turn to Influencers not for a fair assessment or balanced view of social issues, but for specific takes and stances that are filtered through the Influencer’s personal preferences and identity-as-brand – Influencers are ultimately in the business of inducement and primarily serve as vehicles for sponsored messages (be they products, services, or ideologies) after all. In other words, the average Influencer is not instituted to be held to fact-checking or a code of ethics, save perhaps for recent moves by various governments and trade commissions to institute transparency around sponsored content. But even then, these initiatives focus only on the declaration of commercial interest and do not curtail Influencers in their production of harmful op-eds or sponsored messages, even when Influencers have been revealed to intentionally produce negative reviews to sabotage a client’s competitors, and even when a growing number of Influencers boasts readership that drastically overshadows that of legacy media.
influencers  youtube  media  platforms 
6 weeks ago
A letter to Steven Pinker (and Bill Gates, for that matter) about global poverty — Jason Hickel
Since 2000, the most impressive gains against poverty (outside of East Asia) have come from Latin America, according to the World Bank, coinciding with a series of left-wing or social democratic governments that came to power across the continent. Whatever one might say about these governments (I have my own critiques), this doesn’t sit very well with your neoliberal narrative.

But there is something else that needs to be said here. You and Gates like to invoke the poverty numbers to make claims about the legitimacy of the existing global economic system. You say the system is working for the poor, so people should stop complaining about it.

When it comes to assessing such a claim, it’s really neither absolute numbers nor proportions that matter. What matters, rather, is the extent of global poverty vis-à-vis our capacity to end it. As I have pointed out before, our capacity to end poverty (e.g., the cost of ending poverty as a proportion of the income of the non-poor) has increased many times faster than the proportional poverty rate has decreased (to use your preferred measure again). By this metric we are doing worse than ever before. Indeed, our civilization is regressing. Why? Because the vast majority of the yields of our global economy are being captured by the world’s rich.
economics  poverty  statistics  liberalism 
6 weeks ago
Twins get some 'mystifying' results when they put 5 ancestry DNA kits to the test | CBC News
Last spring, Marketplace host Charlsie Agro and her twin sister, Carly, bought home kits from AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA, and mailed samples of their DNA to each company for analysis.

Despite having virtually identical DNA, the twins did not receive matching results from any of the companies.

In most cases, the results from the same company traced each sister's ancestry to the same parts of the world — albeit by varying percentages.

But the results from California-based 23andMe seemed to suggest each twin had unique twists in their ancestry composition.
genetics  genes  dna  twins 
9 weeks ago
The Myth of Cyberspace – The New Inquiry
Even Gibson has come to acknowledge that the cyberspace concept has little purchase in describing our current relationship with technology. He now argues that the realm of digital information is being “everted” into the physical world. That is to say, there are not two separate realities — one of atoms and one of bits — but one blended or augmented reality where atoms and bits interact and continuously influence one another.

But if lived experience is reflected so poorly in the concept of cyberspace, then what drove us to imagine cyberspace in the first place, and why does the concept still persist? The cyberspace myth — that digital information inhabits a world apart from physical matter — appears to have been a reaction to the proliferation of interactive communications technologies, not all of which were digital. In the introduction to The Hacker Crackdown, Bruce Sterling traces the genealogy of the concept back to our desire to make sense of what happens in the space between people engaged in a long-distance telephone conversation:
cyberspace  tech  internet  digital 
9 weeks ago
Geoff Cannon on Freddie DeBoer
speaking of malice, egoism, impulsiveness and bad judgment, FdB in his looong examination of the toast misses the point of Nicole Cliffe's "list." is it a joke? not really, it's a dare. i dare you to whine about this. i dare you to not get it. pipe up, fucker, see what it gets you with me. can you help yourself? no, i bet you can't.

i mean, look at the followup:

ok, fine, FdB isn't down with that kind of tribal entertainment. but he doesn't seem to really get why it exists. laziness? idk, maybe. i don't see how an unlazy, more diligent and industrious left would be any clearer of this kind of middle-finger raising stuff.

"hacky garbage" not up to the Toast's occasionally "perceptive" best? oh well, they can't all be hits i guess.

doesn't he get get how furious people are? it misses him what underlies the blank-faced non-humor of a post like this. what a respite it is to see something that's as fed up as you are. if there's one thing i've figured out from reading enough of the "online left" "identity politics" ppl is the realness of anger. living in the majority culture but marked as outside it in some/many ways is exhausting on a level i'll never get. people are pissed! they're pissed at white men! it's all so unmanageable for dB.
And none of this is even to begin to ask what, exactly, any of this stuff accomplishes, how continuing to build this immense shibboleth White Dudes — made by white people, for the entertainment of white people — actually helps in the fight against racism or sexism. Set those basic questions of what we’re actually doing here aside.


One-liners don’t build a movement. Being clever doesn’t fix the world. Scoring points on Twitter doesn’t create justice. Jokes make nothing happen.

are you sure? like are you really sure they don't? it all counts, buddy! i'm trying to imagine a left that was devoid of these things and it looks like something already empty and decapitated.

What did Emma Goldman say? "On the internet I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to do mean posts."
feminism  rhetoric  internet 
9 weeks ago
If You Don’t Have Bread, Eat Art!: Contemporary Art and Derivative Fascisms - Journal #76 October 2016 - e-flux
Art's organizing role in the value-process—long overlooked, downplayed, worshipped, or fucked—is at last becoming clear enough to approach, if not rationally, than perhaps realistically. Art as alternative currency shows that art sectors already constitute a maze of overlapping systems in which good-old gossip, greed, lofty ideals, inebriation, and ruthless competition form countless networked cliques. The core of its value is generated less by transaction than by endless negotiation, via gossip, criticism, hearsay, haggling, heckling, peer reviews, small talk, and shade. The result is a solid tangle of feudal loyalties and glowing enmity, rejected love and fervent envy, pooling striving, longing, and vital energies. In short, the value is not in the product but in the network; not in gaming or predicting the market but in creating exchange.

Most importantly, art is one of the few exchanges that derivative fascists don’t control—yet.

But as a reserve system for dumb, mean, and greedy money, art’s social value (auto)destructs and turns into a shell operation that ultimately just shields more empty shells and amplifies fragmentation and division. Similarly, arts venues are already shifting into bonded warehouses and overdesigned bank vaults inside gilded, gated compounds designed by seemingly the same three architects worldwide.

It’s easy to imagine what the motto for art as the reserve currency of a fully rigged system might be. Just envision a posh PR lieutenant policing the entrance of a big art fair, gingerly declaring to anyone pushed aside, displaced, exploited, and ignored: “If you don’t have bread, just eat art!”
art  currency  economics  fascism  finance 
9 weeks ago
The Perils of Pearl and Olga
Pearl did as she was told; when the train reached Times Square, she followed Olga through the door, pointed the parcel at her, and pulled the wire. There was a roaring explosion and the parcel nearly jumped out of her hands. Olga screamed and fell on her back, holding her left leg, which seemed to have been nearly blown off. A subway guard rushed up, asking “What happened? What happened?,” and Pearl, who had been so close to Olga that she was splattered with blood, said to him, “I just took a woman’s picture and somebody shot her.”
crime  truecrime  nyc 
9 weeks ago
Why the richest woman in Britain changed her will 26 times
The memoirs of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, are among the more remarkable documents of the 18th century. Begun by 1704, they were written, rewritten and ghostwritten over three decades before publication in 1742. An Account of the Conduct of the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, from Her First Coming to Court to the Year 1710 was a none too subtle attempt at vindicating her brief period as favourite to Queen Anne, justifying her personal and political roles, refuting slanders against her and her warrior husband, and defaming her enemies, both dead and alive. Through their numerous recensions, Sarah’s memoirs became more rather than less embittered. The slights she imagined in middle age stung harder as the years passed; the losing Whig causes, now lost, needed more emphatic defence. The mud Sarah cleansed from her own reputation she daubed on the reputation of others, especially the Queen who abandoned her and the favourite who replaced her. Although she was dissuaded from printing the most damaging of Queen Anne’s love-letters – the ones that had earlier been used for blackmail – Sarah was not unaware of the power of suggestion. Nor did she consider any measure of revenge beneath the dignity of a duchess. When Voltaire was shown a pre-publication manuscript he urged moderation. As one contemporary commentator observed, ‘the book was an answer to itself.’
history  england  aristocracy 
9 weeks ago
Renewed Labour
Marx’s savage treatment of nostalgic socialism in the Communist Manifesto, which established him as postcapitalist rather than anticapitalist, provides an instructive lesson. While 1848’s Manifesto shares much of the horror at capitalist degradations and depredations that marked the socialist tracts of his time and his own early work, Marx’s shrewd innovation was to claim that the productive virtues associated with capitalism would compel its demise, such that to critique it did not require a moral standpoint outside it. If such a futurist vision was rare on the left in Thatcher’s Britain, Marx’s warning is only firmer in our own times. “Let the dead bury their dead,” he wrote four years later, and let us take our “poetry [not] from the past but only from the future.”

These sentiments have not always been alien to the left. In the US, where to be “left-wing” has had especially dubious connotations since McCarthy, people call themselves “progressives” in an unconscious nod to this tradition. Lenin saw electrification as half the work of revolution. In Britain, Labour’s 1945 landslide election victory opened a new era by presenting nationalization as the image of the future: coordinated, efficient planning would overcome the anarchic backwardness of the free market. Two decades later another Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson, pitted scientific advances against the archaic gentlemen’s clubs of Conservative ministers to hone an image of socialism as progress again.
socialism  england  corbyn  labor  automation  future 
10 weeks ago
Giorgio Agamben and the Task of Health Law in a Biopolitical Age - Health Law - Christina Ho
So far so familiar. Trump’s rhetoric is saturated with references to bare life, reducing women to sexualized parts, mocking the disabled, attacking Hillary Clinton’s stamina, lying about his own weight and health. Trump’s claims to power also center pointedly on abandoning bare life. The border crises, with the exclusion of asylum seekers, is only the most obvious example as has been noted in the press. In the immigration context, his use of language like “infestation” similarly depends on the framework of exclusion from the body politic. This Agambian theme of bare life also characterizes his abandonment of Puerto Ricans to devastation and mortality.

Given Trump’s need to demonstrate power over bare life, it is no surprise that control of health system and its institutions are what our political system in crisis has sought to achieve. Thus Trump is abandoning people with preexisting conditions to the depredations of insurance market discrimination. He has effectively relegated the victims of gun violence to the status of homines sacri, unprotected and unacknowledged. Meanwhile, the upcoming Supreme Court nomination fight centers on whether to declare the fetus as politically qualified life. Trump has pushed to inscribe a boundary of exclusion between the working and non-working body, leading to the conditioning of Medicaid on work in ways contrary to the purpose of providing medical assistance, as at least one court has ruled.
healthcare  medicine  life  trump  homosacer 
10 weeks ago
Can we save social media from Facebook? - The Globe and Mail
So I am less persuaded by atavistic calls to simply withdraw from social media and return to some prelapsarian state before the internet. That’s because of the dream that really underpins such reckonings over Facebook’s worst realities, a goal that feels fundamental, necessary and hugely ambitious, if not impossible: to save social media from Facebook. And that might require us to reconceptualize social media itself.

After all, what Facebook has done is privatize and monetize what is simply the new cultural form of media. Facebook’s business model began as a kind of social analogue to PayPal: As the latter monetized the movement of money between people, the former predicates its business model on the transmission of the data made between people, using that fine-grain data to sell advertisers an opportunity to better market their products. In doing so, it formalized and then collected what sociologists call “weak ties” with acquaintances who become your audience, and that new feeling of “speaking to the world” – of having an access point to connect with others that emerged with forums and blogs in the late nineties – is now overwhelmingly owned by Facebook.
facebook  socialmedia 
10 weeks ago
[Essay] Machine Politics by Fred Turner | Harper's Magazine
At the time, most everyone thought Reagan was right. The twentieth century had been dominated by media that delivered the same material to millions of people at the same time—radio and newspapers, movies and television. These were the kinds of one-to-many, top-down mass media that Orwell’s Big Brother had used to stay in power. Now, however, Americans were catching sight of the internet. They believed that it would do what earlier media could not: it would allow people to speak for themselves, directly to one another, around the world. “True personalization is now upon us,” wrote MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 bestseller Being Digital. Corporations, industries, and even whole nations would soon be transformed as centralized authorities were demolished. Hierarchies would dissolve and peer-to-peer collaborations would take their place. “Like a force of nature,” wrote Negroponte, “the digital age cannot be denied or stopped.”
internet  media  tech  socialmedia 
10 weeks ago
An interview over Zizek – An und für sich
Žižek understands the Christian experience in terms of the death of God. For him, Christianity is the most radical form of atheism insofar as even God himself becomes an unbeliever in Christ’s cry of dereliction on the cross. This differs from other forms of atheism or skepticism, because Žižek believes that most people who deny a particular God still believe in something else that fills the same role. A scientist, for instance, will generally believe in something like the laws of nature, or a Communist might believe in the laws of historical necessity. Only the Christian experience of a God who doesn’t believe in himself provides the guarantee that we won’t be able to sneak in a new idol to take the old God’s place.

The Christian experience is thus the experience of the undeniable and irrevocable emptying out of any transcendent meaning or purpose—of any “master signifier,” in Lacanian terms. From the traditional Christian perspective, this may seem contradictory or strange, but from Žižek’s own perspective, it doesn’t seem right to call it paradoxical.
christianity  religion  christ  god  materialism 
10 weeks ago
Implicit model of other people’s visual attention as an invisible, force-carrying beam projecting from the eyes | PNAS
As a part of social cognition, people automatically construct rich models of other people’s vision. Here we show that when people judge the mechanical forces acting on an object, their judgments are biased by another person gazing at the object. The bias is consistent with an implicit perception that gaze adds a gentle force, pushing on the object. The bias was present even though the participants were not explicitly aware of it and claimed that they did not believe in an extramission view of vision (a common folk view of vision in which the eyes emit an invisible energy). A similar result was not obtained on control trials when participants saw a blindfolded face turned toward the object, or a face with open eyes turned away from the object. The findings suggest that people automatically and implicitly generate a model of other people’s vision that uses the simplifying construct of beams coming out of the eyes. This implicit model of active gaze may be a hidden, yet fundamental, part of the rich process of social cognition, contributing to how we perceive visual agency. It may also help explain the extraordinary cultural persistence of the extramission myth of vision.
science  telepathy  force 
10 weeks ago
Citizenship v. The Surveillance State
There is no reason to think this process will reverse. For the state, the ultimate goal of data accumulation is to possess a full portrait of every individual. In the intelligence community, this is referred to as the “person-centric” view of security. The goal is no longer simply to authenticate a person’s identity, but to paint a portrait of his or her trustworthiness. This raises grave civil liberty concerns, but also means we live in a world in which citizenship no longer possesses prima facie value. Indeed, from a security perspective, citizenship is antithetical to risk management. Given our security-obsessed times, it is hard to see how this trend can be reversed and the principles undergirding citizenship reclaimed. Data has no national sympathies, and increasingly neither do we.

This is the real crisis of border security: not an imagined caravan of asylum seekers, who come poor and tired to our doorstep, but the total erosion of our values. The logic of border security is all-expansive and is subverting our most cherished democratic institutions. Some solutions present themselves: we need better protections against data encroachment and renewed commitments to the principles of citizenship—not to mention clear parameters for how data can be used against others, migrants included, in accordance with our commitments to human rights. But more than anything else, we need to have an expansive national debate about the relationship between states, citizens, and data. This starts with changing our discourse about borders. As long as we view borders as lines in the sand, it makes sense to fixate on medieval walls. But this will not help us tackle the twenty-first-century challenges we actually face.
citizenship  borders  data  sovereignty 
10 weeks ago
My Stepdad's Huge Dataset
By 2018, we are now over a decade into the tube era. That means that most LA-area studios are getting their marching orders from out-of-town business people armed with up-to-the-minute customer data. Porn performers tend to roll their eyes at some of these orders, but they don’t have much choice. I have been on sets where performers crack up at some of the messages that are coming “from above,” particularly concerning a repetitive obsession with scenes of “family roleplay” (incest-themed material that uses words like “stepmother,” “stepfather,” and “stepdaughter”) or what the industry calls “IR” (which stands for “interracial” and invariably means a larger, dark-skinned black man and a smaller light-skinned white woman, playing up supposed taboos via dialogue and scenarios).
porn  data  fantasy  platforms  advertising  media 
10 weeks ago
This clever AI hid data from its creators to cheat at its appointed task | TechCrunch
Depending on how paranoid you are, this research from Stanford and Google will be either terrifying or fascinating. A machine learning agent intended to transform aerial images into street maps and back was found to be cheating by hiding information it would need later in “a nearly imperceptible, high-frequency signal.” Clever girl!
ai  machines  technology 
11 weeks ago
China Is Achieving AI Dominance by Relying on Young Blue-Collar Workers - Motherboard
The young people are “data labelers,” people who sit in front of computers for eight hours a day and click on dozens of photos, outlining backgrounds, foregrounds, and specific objects, all according to the specifications of a client who is working on artificial intelligence. Some may label medical scans; others, photos of landscapes and trees; and still others, pictures of the road for a driverless vehicle. This is the data given to artificial intelligence algorithms to learn to “see.” The artificial intelligence industry relies on this cheap, human labor as algorithms and “machine learning” are in many cases trained by real people.

Artificial intelligence requires large amounts of data to learn and discern patterns, whether those are pictures, audio or text as they interpret media differently from humans. To teach the algorithms how to accurately recognize an apple is an apple, it needs thousands to millions of pictures of apples. Further, it’s easily fooled. In one experiment, security researchers found that by distorting a picture of a school bus, although the change was invisible to the human eye, the artificial intelligence system could no longer recognize that it was a school bus.

Money is flowing into China’s artificial intelligence industry, and few places illustrate that better than Henan. In a province that just a few years ago was known for its Foxconn plant (which makes Apple products) and electronics factories, its towns now boast offices of workers who are doing the laborious input work that makes computers smart.
labor  data  ai  machines  technology  work 
11 weeks ago
Captivating algorithms: Recommender systems as traps - Nick Seaver, 2018
Algorithmic recommender systems are a ubiquitous feature of contemporary cultural life online, suggesting music, movies, and other materials to their users. This article, drawing on fieldwork with developers of recommender systems in the US, describes a tendency among these systems’ makers to describe their purpose as ‘hooking’ people – enticing them into frequent or enduring usage. Inspired by steady references to capture in the field, the author considers recommender systems as traps, drawing on anthropological theories about animal trapping. The article charts the rise of ‘captivation metrics’ – measures of user retention – enabled by a set of transformations in recommenders’ epistemic, economic, and technical contexts. Traps prove useful for thinking about how such systems relate to broader infrastructural ecologies of knowledge and technology. As recommenders spread across online cultural infrastructures and become practically inescapable, thinking with traps offers an alternative to common ethical framings that oppose tropes of freedom and coercion.
algorithms  platforms  tech  internet 
11 weeks ago
How can we break the Brexit deadlock? Ask ancient Athens | James Bridle | Opinion | The Guardian
The method of governance embodied in the kleroterion, which dates back to the very establishment of democracy, is called sortition, meaning selection by lot, as opposed to election by vote. The Athenians believed that the principle of sortition was critical to democracy. Aristotle declared that: “It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.” But along the way, sortition – and the even more exciting possibility of actual banishment – has fallen out of most democracies’ toolkits.

Sortition in ancient Athens had a number of important qualities. First, those eligible for selection included the entire suffrage (which, it must be noted, was at the time limited to adult male citizens). Second, it applied to much more than jury selection, which is the only form in which sortition survives in most places today, and included magistrates, legislators and the main governing councils of the city – all the important posts, in fact, bar the military. And third, and perhaps most significantly, it both embodied and enabled transparent and participatory governance: that is, anybody could come down to the agora and not merely see but understand how the machine worked – and anyone could be selected by it.
governance  democracy  politics  athens 
12 weeks ago
DOES ICT GENERATE ECONOMIC GROWTH? A META‐REGRESSION ANALYSIS - Stanley - 2018 - Journal of Economic Surveys - Wiley Online Library
Despite phenomenal technological progress and exponential growth in computing power, economic growth remains comparative sluggish. In this paper, we investigate two core issues: (1) is there really no connection between ICT and national economic growth? and (2) what factors moderate the ICT–growth relationship? We apply meta‐regression analysis to 466 estimates drawn from 59 econometric studies that explore the Solow or Productivity Paradox that there is little impact of ICT on economic growth and productivity. We explore the differential impact of ICT on developed and developing countries and the differential impact of different types of ICT: landlines, cell phones, computer technology and Internet access. After accommodating potential econometric misspecification bias and publication selection bias, we detect evidence that ICT has indeed contributed positively to economic growth, at least on average. Both developed and developing countries benefit from landline and cell technologies, with cell technologies’ growth effect approximately twice as strong as landlines. However, developed countries gain significantly more from computing than do developing countries. In contrast, we find little evidence that the Internet has had a positive impact on growth.
internet  technology  development  economics 
december 2018
Becoming a magician – Autotranslucence
The thing that confused me though was this – I could not work out how he did it. Like, I had zero mental model of how he created that piece in the same timeframe we all had; how he came up with it, designed it, practiced it. Even though he placed first and I placed fifth and logically we both existed on a scale of ‘competence at bodypainting’ it seemed like the skills required were completely different. You could not simply scale up my abilities and get Sanatan’s. You would have had to step back and build something completely different altogether. When I speak to Sanatan (I haven’t picked his brain relentlessly, but I have asked him a bunch of questions when I’ve had the chance) I don’t get any closer to a mental model that would allow me to paint like that. It seems to require completely different mental inputs entirely.

The feeling I get, as a very good bodypainter looking at Sanatan’s work, is that I am looking at magic. And that, in fact, is my definition of magic – competence so much more advanced than yours with such alien mental models that you cannot predict the outcomes of the model at all. If you asked me to imitate the work of any of the top 20 bodypainters, I could give you a fair imitation, given enough time and access to reference images. With his work I have no idea.
skill  quality  magic 
december 2018
Full speech: Sir Ivan Rogers on Brexit - News - University of Liverpool
The debate of the last 30 months has suffered from opacity, delusion-mongering and mendacity on all sides.

The Prime Minister’s call for opponents of her deal to “be honest” and not simply wish away intractable problems like the backstop, which was always, and will remain, a central question in any resolution of the issue, is reasonable enough.

I have talked briefly already of the quite extraordinary “cakeism” in the various options in the table.

And at the extremes we have the “no dealers” quite happy to jump off the cliff, lying openly about the extent to which WTO rules provide a safety net if we did, and producing fantasy “managed no deal” options which will not fly for the reasons I have set out.

And the “people’s voters”. I confess I deplore the term itself: they want a second referendum with remain on the ballot – for which one can make a case, given the dismal place we have now ended up, and given possible Parliamentary paralysis, but must surely understand the huge further alienation that would engender amongst those who will think that, yet again, their views are being ignored until they conform.
brexit  negotiation  europe  eu 
december 2018
Fake Genetics Can Be More Powerful Than Real Genetics – Hmm Daily
Everyone knows that knowing your genetic profile is supposed to tell you important, influential things about all sorts of aspects of your life and your health. So a paper published this week in Nature Human Behavior explored what happens when that knowledge isn’t true. Researchers tested people for genetic risk factors—one that reduces endurance and one that raises the risk of obesity—and then gave some of them false information about their genetic profiles.

What they found was that people responded, subjectively and physiologically, as if the fake genetic information had been real. People did a treadmill exercise test, then were told they had a bad gene for endurance, then returned to the treadmill. Believing they had that genetic risk not only made them say they felt hotter and that the exercise felt difficult, but it
led to poorer maximum capacity for CO2:O2 gas exchange, decreased the amount of air with which participants supplied their lungs by more than 2 litres per minute, and decreased how long participants ran before giving up during strenuous aerobic exercise compared with their own performance one week earlier when they were naïve to genetic risk.
dna  genetics  science  identity 
december 2018
The lives of the parties - Free exchange
that China’s economy, though nominally communist, resembles that of the Soviet Union seems on its face absurd. The fall of the Iron Curtain revealed a rusted shell of a country, incapable of manufacturing goods the West might want. China is the world’s biggest exporter; its cities are jammed with gleaming skyscrapers. Soviet citizens went without consumer luxuries or bought them dearly on the black market. China’s growing middle class can choose from scores of designer brands at the local mall.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, formed five years after the Russian revolution of 1917, came apart at age 69. At 69, the People’s Republic of China seems destined for world domination. Yet the Soviet economy seemed modern and dynamic once. China’s GDP per person, at purchasing-power parity, remains below that in the Soviet Union on the eve of its collapse. And despite its capitalist trappings, the Communist Party is piloting China’s economy in a direction similar to that of the Soviet Union in its twilight.
china  economics  economy 
december 2018
YouTuber Influencers vs. Legacy Media: PewDiePie, Weaponized microcelebrity, and Cross-media politics – wishcrys
4) YouTubers are perceiving the PewDiePie-WSJ scandal as a struggle between Influencers and legacy media more generally

The general sentiment from these YouTubers is unanimously that legacy media is attacking YouTubers and Influencers, targeting PewDiePie as an exemplar. h3h3Productions calls this incident “a huge smear campaign… that is the biggest consequence of this… a global case of defamation”. CinnamonToastKen reminds viewers that PewDiePie’s cancelled series affects the livelihoods of several others who worked on it, and that these repercussions have not been discussed by the media: “No one cares about all the other people who were working on this project… we got the big guy, good job everyone, we got him, pat yourselves on the back”. However, a recent news article reports that these folks “will almost certainly be paid out in full“.

The YouTubers feel that legacy media is capitalizing on the digitally-native popularity of PewDiePie to reel in clicks on their articles. Philip DeFranco reports: “Felix brings in the clicks. Outrage brings in the clicks. Get them in with a headline and whatever happens after happens… their intent was to take down and ruin Felix… We just need a good juicy headlines and we’ll make some points that, it’ll get across to 98% of the people that aren’t going to fact check or dive deeper on it”. The Amazing Atheist concurs: “It’s old media attacking new media. It’s the lumbering dinosaur of irrelevance lashing out against the next phase of evolution. PewDiePie is basically their worst fucking nightmare. He’s one guy with no masters holding his leash, who is basically accountable only to himself. And he’s making boatloads of money by giving people content created solely by his own passion”.
youtube  influencers  media 
december 2018
Facial recognition snares China’s air con queen Dong Mingzhu for jaywalking, but it’s not what it seems | South China Morning Post
Making a compelling case for change is the recent experience of Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman of China’s biggest maker of air conditioners Gree Electric Appliances, who found her face splashed on a huge screen erected along a street in the port city of Ningbo that displays images of people caught jaywalking by surveillance cameras.

That artificial intelligence-backed surveillance system, however, erred in capturing Dong’s image on Wednesday from an advertisement on the side of a moving bus.
surveillance  ai  china  tech 
december 2018
China’s Influencer Fatigue is Real. What Should Brands Do? | Jing Daily
While China’s influencer boom has created virtually unlimited options for marketers to reach consumers, it also created a serious problem: consumer fatigue. Driven by profit and market demand, many influencer agencies (also known as MCNs in China) are churning out new talent like mass-produced commodities. As a result, consumer frustration has increased as their social feeds are taken over by a never-ending stream of promotional content produced by unknown, generic influencers. As a result, consumers become less receptive to this content. Articles published through business accounts on WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform, have an average open rate of less than 5 percent.

Influencer overload may also make consumers less active on social media, which may lead them to switch platforms. Weibo, China’s second-largest social media platform, saw individual users’ activity decline despite a steady growth in user numbers. According to a report by China’s Xinhua News Agency, the average Weibo user only opens the app every third day.
influencers  china  advertising  socialmedia  media 
december 2018
Hypergamy, Incels, and Reality – Axiom of Chance
Except it’s not. That would only be the case if Johansson actually went on a date with me and thus stole me from someone else. My desires can not harm anyone; only my actions—to believe otherwise is magical thinking. To be clear, Robin Hanson is saying that men who have the undesired outcome of not having sex with women should consider resorting to violence. Jordan Peterson is talking about the outcomes different kinds of men (or lobsters) receive. These are the claims at issue.

It is certainly the case, and many men of the Peterson/Hanson world obsess about this, that they are not sufficiently desired by women. There is a constant fear of being a “beta”—which means that, even though you are no longer suffering from sexual deprivation, your partner really wants to be with someone else. This is a danger in most relationships, and a psychological fact that novelists have written about for centuries. It can be expected to harm women in a similar fashion, perhaps (just to drive the intuition) when pornography comes into the mix. But if this is the kind of inequality that these people are talking about, it is even crazier than we thought. For these people, it’s not what women do that must be controlled, it is literally what they think.
sex  sexuality  sociality  relationships  inequality 
december 2018
The Digital Maginot Line
There is a war happening. We are immersed in an evolving, ongoing conflict: an Information World War in which state actors, terrorists, and ideological extremists leverage the social infrastructure underpinning everyday life to sow discord and erode shared reality. The conflict is still being processed as a series of individual skirmishes – a collection of disparate, localized, truth-in-narrative problems – but these battles are connected. The campaigns are often perceived as organic online chaos driven by emergent, bottom-up amateur actions when a substantial amount is, in fact, helped along or instigated by systematic, top-down institutional and state actions. This is a kind of warm war; not the active, declared, open conflict of a hot war, but beyond the shadowboxing of a cold one.

We experience this as a state of continuous partial conflict. The theatre opportunistically shifts as geopolitical events and cultural moments present themselves, but there is no sign of abatement — only tactical evolution as the digital platforms that serve as the battlespaces introduce small amounts of friction via new security checks and feature tweaks. As governments become increasingly aware of the problem, they each pursue responses tailored to the tactics of the last specific battle that manifested in their own digital territory; in the United States, for example, we remain focused on Election 2016 and its Russian bots. As a result, we are investing in a set of inappropriate and ineffective responses: a digital Maginot Line constructed on one part of the battlefield as a deterrent against one set of tactics, while new tactics manifest elsewhere in real time.
cyberwar  war  tech  internet  platforms 
december 2018
potlatch: London riots: the limits of Left and Right - Will Davies
Do these anecdotes and qualitative impressions mean that it isn't about class, that it isn't about capitalism? Not quite. But Marxists need to remember the Hegelian distinction between 'in itself' and 'for itself'. In themselves, these riots may indeed be about inequality: the concentration of wealth and power may simply have become too unwieldy, regardless of what the rioters think is going on. But for themselves, they are about power, hedonism, consumption and sovereignty of the ego. Anyone who disagrees with that is simply not crediting the participants with being able to make sense of what they're doing. And if there's one thing likely to incite even more rioting, it's treating the participants as lacking independence of thought. In many ways, blame is what they each individually deserve, because recognition of their own individual agency is what they most desire.
riots  neoliberalism  blame  identity 
november 2018
Why we stopped trusting elites | News | The Guardian - Will Davies
But one thing that these diverse professions and authorities do have in common is that they trade primarily in words and symbols. By lumping together journalists, judges, experts and politicians as a single homogeneous “liberal elite”, it is possible to treat them all as indulging in a babble of jargon, political correctness and, ultimately, lies. Their status as public servants is demolished once their claim to speak honestly is thrown into doubt. One way in which this is done is by bringing their private opinions and tastes before the public, something that social media and email render far easier. Tensions and contradictions between the public face of, say, a BBC reporter, and their private opinions and feelings, are much easier to discover in the age of Twitter.

Whether in the media, politics or academia, liberal professions suffer a vulnerability that a figure such as Trump doesn’t, in that their authority hangs on their claim to speak the truth. A recent sociological paper called The Authentic Appeal of the Lying Demagogue, by US academics Oliver Hahl, Minjae Kim and Ezra Zuckerman Sivan, draws a distinction between two types of lies. The first, “special access lies”, may be better termed “insider lies”. This is dishonesty from those trusted to truthfully report facts, who abuse that trust by failing to state what they privately know to be true. (The authors give the example of Bill Clinton’s infamous claim that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”.)

The second, which they refer to as “common knowledge lies”, are the kinds of lies told by Donald Trump about the size of his election victory or the crowds at his inauguration, or the Vote Leave campaign’s false claims about sending “£350m a week to the EU”. These lies do not pretend to be bound by the norm of honesty in the first place, and the listener can make up their own mind what to make of them.

What the paper shows is that, where politics comes to be viewed as the domain of “insider” liars, there is a seductive authenticity, even a strange kind of honesty, about the “common knowledge” liar. The rise of highly polished, professional politicians such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton exacerbated the sense that politics is all about strategic concealment of the truth, something that the Iraq war seemed to confirm as much as anything. Trump or Farage may have a reputation for fabricating things, but they don’t (rightly or wrongly) have a reputation for concealing things, which grants them a form of credibility not available to technocrats or professional politicians.
elite  knowledge  trust  society  politics  fakenews 
november 2018
Anger Fast & Slow - Political Economy Research Centre - Will Davies
Adding the prefix ‘slow’ to things has become a new type of bourgeois affectation: slow food, slow fashion, slow news. But where anger is concerned, the need for anger to be slowed down seems pressing. To be against anger altogether – as if it’s irrational or vengeful or violent – is to buy into a form of political quietism, or liberal complacency about the adequacy of procedural justice. As Hannah Arendt wrote in On violence, “rage and violence turn irrational only when they are directed against substitutes.”[xii] But if anger is to be directed where it is deserved – where it is apt – not only must this avoid the problem of scape-goating, but it must be insulated from the culture of affective noise and scattergun violence that is gradually taking over the public sphere.
anger  emotion  kavanaugh  socialmedia  internet 
november 2018
Reactionary Misinterpretations of the Venezuela Crisis
Per the oft-repeated theme on Fellow Travelers, the left – lacking robust discourse on international relations – has not engaged this argument, ceding ground in a debate with implications for public policy at home. What’s more, the American left currently offers no new policy recommendations for how the US government could ensure that these situations are not repeated elsewhere. There are at least three policy objectives that the left could begin advocating today that would reduce the risk of Venezuelan-style crises in the future.

First, given the Venezuelan government’s perpetual struggle to safeguard its legitimacy, the US government should avoid worsening the problem by engendering the view that Caracas is incapable of protecting the country’s sovereignty. Second, international financial institutions like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank must develop better potential policy options that not only underscore the consequences of elite patronage, but also develop politically viable solutions for governments that are structurally fragile. Finally, the United States should encourage governments to cooperate with these institutions by firmly disavowing the advancement of a narrow, nationalistic foreign policy agenda through these bodies while simultaneously discouraging the imposition of conditionalities like austerity that are punitive to the general welfare of the people
venezuela  foreignpolicy  economy  politics 
november 2018
There was no “Chilean Miracle” – Pseudoerasmus – Medium
(7) But none of that makes Chile special. There is no “Chilean Miracle”.

Chile has grown in absolute terms, of course, and, had an Allende-like regime persisted, Chile would probably be much poorer today. But the actually existing Chile is no closer to convergence with the rich countries than it was in 1930. The best you can say for Chile is it has reversed its relative decline a little more than Argentina and Uruguay. (See first chart above.)

Chile’s GDP per capita is somewhat higher than Argentina’s or Uruguay’s, but all three are middle-income countries at more than $20,000 in current international dollars.
economics  politics 
november 2018
The Messianic Turkey – An und für sich
The encounter between sovereignty and the natural life of the turkey is thus a failed one, and therein lies the turkey pardon’s messianic promise. The ultimate sovereign prerogative of the presidential pardon falls idle in its application to a subject who is incapable of guilt or innocence. As against the “zone of indistinction” that opens up between law and life in the sovereign exception, here we have a separation of the two orders without any overlap — a law that is inapplicable, and a life that is simply lived, in blissful ignorance of the legal order. In the messianic kingdom, we will all, in a sense, be the pardoned turkey that is left to live out its life in peace.
satire  thanksgiving 
november 2018
Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’ | Science | AAAS
Either way, the winds and weather systems in 536 must have been just right to guide the eruption plume southeast across Europe and, later, into Asia, casting a chilly pall as the volcanic fog "rolled through," Kurbatov says. The next step is to try to find more particles from this volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland, in order to confirm its location in Iceland and tease out why it was so devastating.

A century later, after several more eruptions, the ice record signals better news: the lead spike in 640. Silver was smelted from lead ore, so the lead is a sign that the precious metal was in demand in an economy rebounding from the blow a century before, says archaeologist Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. A second lead peak, in 660, marks a major infusion of silver into the emergent medieval economy. It suggests gold had become scarce as trade increased, forcing a shift to silver as the monetary standard, Loveluck and his colleagues write in Antiquity. "It shows the rise of the merchant class for the first time," he says.
history  climate  science  economy 
november 2018
Let Malibu Burn
From the very beginning, fire has defined Malibu in the American imagination. Sailing northward from San Pedro to Santa Barbara in 1835, Richard Henry Dana described (in Two Years Before the Mast) a vast blaze along the coast of Jose Tapia's Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) Spanish prohibition of the Chumash and Gabrielino Indians' practice of annual burning, mountain infernos repeatedly menaced the Malibu area throughout the 19th century. During the boom of the late 1880s, the entire ex-Tapia latifundium was sold at $10 per acre to the Boston Brahmin millionaire Frederick Rindge. In his memoirs, Rindge described his unceasing battles against squatters, rustlers and, above all, recurrent wildfire. The great fire of 1903, which raced from Calabasas to the sea in a few hours, incinerated Rindge's dream ranch in Malibu Canyon and forced him to move to Los Angeles, where he died in 1905.
climate  california  fires  development  land 
november 2018
Feminist Ambivalences at Exclusive Women’s Social Club The Wing -BLARB
I noticed, one day, another woman reading academic articles, and started to talk to her. She told me that she had recently begun studying for a Masters degree in organizational psychology. She already owned a small “personal coaching” business, which focused on women. She pitched it to me automatically: “In a society that promotes individualism, it is sometimes hard to find your true self.” I asked her what it was like to start one’s own business. She had saved money, as I learned, from her previous job as a salesperson in a well-known cycling company. She also taught yoga privately, which provided her with the means to take the “leap of faith” required to set in motion one’s own business. As she was talking, the woman at the table next to us turned her chair to face us. Addressing the personal coach directly, she inquired about the specific cycling company where the latter used to work. Incidentally, both worked for the same company. The woman from the table next to us was now eager to compare experiences, carefully shutting her laptop screen. When the conversation about the cycling company died down, I asked her, too, what she did for a living. She had seemed immersed in what looked like a personal blog before turning her chair in our direction. It was her online platform of lifestyle recommendations. It began as a hobby, but was now her main gig. At the moment, she was busy editing an interview with a woman who curates snacks for theaters across the city. Apparently, she had this woman recommend the best snacks available out there, as well as the theaters that sell them.
feminism  women  work  jobs 
november 2018
Broken Social Scene - Art in America - Rob Horning
IN HIS COMMITMENT to passive recording, Warhol manifested the promise of media, casting a voyeuristic spell that brought out the masochistic performance latent in anyone who had ever hoped fame could bring salvation. Warhol embodied the promise of an audience and waited for the cast of characters around him to become unhinged. In a sense, he was a one-man YouTube. The implicit demand for content built into his pose turned receptivity into a cloaked form of manipulation. “Before I was shot,” Warhol wrote, “I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there—I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. . . . Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television.”5 When she was apprehended by police, Solanas spoke the inevitable corollary, explaining, in the officer’s account, that she had to shoot Warhol because “he had too much control over my life.”6
youtube  warhol  art  socialmedia  influencers 
november 2018
Ante Up The scales of power seen through Norman Podhoretz’s eyes | The Point Magazine
They had changed the system—and in culture created an entire vast secondary system of their own—and how the system had changed them! The oceanic efforts of the founders had trickled down into a spoon-deep pool reflecting every pose of the imperial Narcissus. The demon from Vienna, commanding the apocalyptic armies of a whole white continent and poised to flood all earth with genocide, had shriveled into the butcher from Tikrit, clinging to a middling fraction of the Middle East besieged by American sanctions and dissected by American no-fly zones, his slaughters matched or even exceeded by those of any number of American client states. Who could fail to see how Partisan Review’s conflicted martial benediction had swollen, over the course of a long chain of small and not-so-small compromises, into the New Republic’s suavely vehement hurrah for storming Baghdad?

Again the world seemed to be waiting, waiting for its new order. It was just that now the new order was no more than an endless present, an unsquanderable gift from an already-great America that one could unwrap time and time again with each new issue. Still, one problem remained—though the neoliberals, much like the neoconservatives, were far too high to see it at the time. A triumph of such magnitude had necessitated putting many others down and out. Should conditions, unfathomably, change, and that power over civilizing language on which their reputation rested slip from their grasp, what might all those barbarians make of the ones who had made it?
literature  sociality  nyc  books 
november 2018
Twentieth-century cousin marriage rates explain more than 50 percent of variation in democracy across countries today.
Political institutions vary widely around the world, yet the origin of this variation is not well understood. This study tests the hypothesis that the Catholic Church’s medieval marriage policies dissolved extended kin networks and thereby fostered inclusive institutions. In a difference-in-difference setting, I demonstrate that exposure to the Church predicts the formation of inclusive, self-governed commune cities before the year 1500CE. Moreover, within medieval Christian Europe, stricter regional and temporal cousin marriage prohibitions are likewise positively associated with communes. Strengthening this finding,I show that longer Church exposure predicts lower cousin marriage rates; in turn, lower cousin marriage rates predict higher civicness and more inclusive institutions today. These associations hold at the regional, ethnicity and country level. Twentieth-century cousin marriage rates explain more than 50 percent of variation in democracy across countries today.
marriage  church  jobs  history  catholicism  economy 
november 2018
Faked Out — Real Life
Our current moment tends to misunderstand the Enlightenment, which challenged a world governed by epistemic dogma, handed down by religion and royalty, that held truth as something frozen, complete, and beyond debate. The Enlightenment was an effort to treat truth as something that wasn’t a given but needed to be worked on, and could be failed at. The experience of the Enlightenment was and remains itself a crisis of reality.

Epistemic uncertainty isn’t something we are newly experiencing. It has, again, lingered through modernity. The modern rise of science and democracy, the industrial revolutions, globalization, the furthering of transportation, urbanism, and mass media all multiply that uncertainty by providing access to other cultures, ideas, and ways of knowing. Technology warps what we think is real faster than we can cope, which continues to bring both possibility and despair. Truth’s contestability means that the meaning of your life, or anyone else’s, is a question that is possible to ask, and possible to get wrong. You can fail to become the person you’re supposed to be. Truth, in short, was and continues to be radically contested. That was always the point.
fake  reality  internet  media  tech 
november 2018
Empire's Racketeers | Boston Review - Pankaj Mishra
PM: I think the fact that we have to ask this question shows how serious the problem has become. Many people we think of as intellectuals—our “thought leaders”—are basically global professionals, adept movers in the networks of Oxbridge, the Ivy League, the London School of Economics, think tanks, Davos, and Aspen. The result, as we see more clearly after Trump, has been a stultifying sameness in the public intellectual sphere: loud echo chambers in which you have a whole class of writers and journalists saying the same things over and over again. This is why our political crisis today is, first and foremost, a global intellectual crisis—the result of a feckless homogenization of thought.

We have had these academic superstars who went on about knowledge and power but were themselves busy climbing social ladders. Even writers and intellectuals with a great deal of integrity and courage have become too professionalized, too career-oriented, and too concerned not to upset their peers—not to mention those they regard as their more famous and successful superiors. This professional docility has allowed figures such as Ferguson to flourish, and that is why criticism drives them to hysteria today.

There is hope, though. It is true that Trump has opened up space for all kinds of intellectual racketeers, who pose as members of an intellectual Maquis while trying to save or advance their professional careers. These dead-end centrists—most of whom moonlighted as laptop bombers during the Iraq War and often advised the Clintons, Blair, Bush, and Obama—still dominate many high-circulation periodicals. They present a huge but neglected problem. You can get rid of incompetent or venal rulers through the democratic process, but there is nothing you can do with the deadweight at the highest editorial levels of mainstream media. These figures who were wrong or clueless about every major domestic and foreign policy issue—from Russia in the 1990s to Iraq and the financial crisis—remain entrenched, starving the public of much-needed fresh ideas and compounding the political calamity of elite centrism with a massive intellectual and moral failure.

But in response, the intellectual culture of the left is flourishing once again after many barren decades—often outside its usual setting of academia, in small magazines and webzines, including these very pages. Many academics—a few names attest to their range: Amia Srinivasan, Adam Tooze, Kate Manne, Samuel Moyn, Aziz Rana, Nancy Maclean, Quinn Slobodian, Jennifer Pitts, Corey Robin—have stepped into the fray with complex yet accessible analyses of the impasse we inhabit today. Bold charlatans such as Jordan Peterson will no doubt induce awe at the Atlantic, and Enlightenment-mongers such as Steven Pinker will continue to impress many rich dullards, but they will also be taken to the cleaners by historians and anthropologists.
democracy  politics  intellectuals 
november 2018
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