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pierredv : thenewatlantis   7

Why Science Can’t Break the GMO Stalemate - The New Atlantis, Tess Doezema Sep 2019
Review of Mark Lynas’s new book, "Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong on GMOs"

"What has gone wrong with the debate such that even someone who has occupied both sides has no new insight into why the two continue to talk past each other?"

"In illustrating how entwined science is with the corporations capitalizing on its fruits, he inadvertently undermines his conceit that the issue is simply a matter of science, separate from economics, culture, and history."

"The goal is to flip the anti-GMO worldview on its head: Obviously someone is The Villain and someone is The Hero. With this approach, Lynas intensifies the polarization and the simplistic framing of the larger debate. To accept their facts is to be swayed by corrupt interests and ideologies; to deny our facts is to be post-truth."

"His friends present him with an understanding of science that is not simply a conglomeration of value-free facts. Instead, science in their view is a human and social enterprise, one with fields of inquiry that stretch back far before the present debate, and now shape which questions show up as worth asking of new technologies."

"The trouble is this: By reducing non-technocratic ways of seeing the world to mere gut reactions masked in rational language, Lynas delegitimizes them, while implicitly elevating the vision of a good world — namely, a technological one — widely shared within particular cultures of scientific reason."

"If the only legitimate register in which to criticize a new technology is that of risk, it should not be terribly surprising when this is how opponents articulate their concerns."

"A call to let all voices be heard means little when all must speak in the scientist’s tongue."
TheNewAtlantis  science  technology  culture  GMO  biotech 
12 days ago by pierredv
After Technopoly - Alan Jacobs - The New Atlantis - aug 2019,
Technocratic solutionism is dying. To replace it, we must learn again the creation and reception of myth.

What Neil Postman called “technopoly” may be described as the universal and virtually inescapable rule of our everyday lives by those who make and deploy technology, especially, in this moment, the instruments of digital communication. It is difficult for us to grasp what it’s like to live under technopoly, or how to endure or escape or resist the regime. These questions may best be approached by drawing on a handful of concepts meant to describe a slightly earlier stage of our common culture.
technology  ideas  TheNewAtlantis  NewAtlantis  myth 
27 days ago by pierredv
Tell Him Something Pretty - The New Atlantis - Robert Herritt, Number 59, Summer 2019.
"... a show that so aptly dramatized the very human tendency to back-fill and rationalize, to shoot first and give answers later. In the world Milch creates, reasoning, thought, speech, and even laws and institutions are largely after-the-fact enterprises, things people come up with to make sense of others’ actions, to make their own actions intelligible, and, as in Milch’s case, to ratify situations that already obtain. Deadwood is a place where the subterranean forces that shape human affairs are close to the surface, revealing the plans, theories, customs, and laws that people impose on their predicaments as mostly incidental, their meaning a consequence of time and repetition."
TheNewAtlantis  HBO  TV  shows  narrative  human-nature 
june 2019 by pierredv
The Ruin of the Digital Town Square - The New Atlantis - Spring 2019
"Across the political spectrum, a consensus has arisen that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other digital platforms are laying ruin to public discourse. They trade on snarkiness, trolling, outrage, and conspiracy theories, and encourage tribalism, information bubbles, and social discord. How did we get here, and how can we get out? The essays in this symposium seek answers to the crisis of “digital discourse” beyond privacy policies, corporate exposés, and smarter algorithms."
TheNewAtlantis  internet  socialmedia  politics  Facebook  culture 
may 2019 by pierredv
Modernity’s Spell - The New Atlantis, Clare Coffey, Winter 2019
Review of "Credulity: A Cultural History of US Mesmerism " by Emily Ogden

"Whatever beliefs the mesmerist professed, on the mesmeric stage his craft depended on performing the technique of mesmerism with seriousness and intent. With subjects selected for their predisposition to belief, mesmerist and subject constituted what Daniel O’Keefe, in Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic (1982), calls an “act-as-if group”: a social interaction that temporarily redraws the accepted borders of reality by mutual agreement.

O’Keefe believes that the act-as-if groups are the basis for magic. Mutual agreement overvalues a temporary subjective state, giving it new meaning, creating a framework around it. The agreement then allows the subjective state to be sustained. So, by Ogden’s account, you have an odd tension. By one light, the mesmerists who identified imagination as the active agent stand for greater enlightenment than those who believed in the non-existent magnetic fluid. And yet their attempts to control imagination in others hinged on encouraging and ritualizing false beliefs — exactly what some sociologists say magicians do."

"Ogden describes the process by which the debunking of mesmerism produced successor generations in terms of the “idol function” played by false beliefs. The destruction of an idol, the thinking goes, is not a closed and final process. When you destroy an idol, you must supply some account of the undeniable effect the idol had on the lives of its followers. Christians hewing down a tree sacred to the pagans, for example, might say that the boons received by worshippers of the tree were really the gifts of demons. In exploding the existence of animal magnetism — ostensibly a physical substance producing foreseeable effects — the debunkers imbued their subjects with much more powerful, protean, and elusive forces: credulity, credenciveness, imagination."

"Ogden’s animating insight — that irrational beliefs, at least in others, help one to build up a rational self — is probably true as individual psychology, unprovable as a universal law, and extremely plausible as a process of secularism in particular."

"Identifying primitive belief and calling it “enchantment” — the term for that state of the world before modernity when one is in awe but in error, like Max Weber’s propitiating savage — is a defining aspect of modern secular culture. Enchantment is a periodizing word, that is: The world used to be enchanted, and now it is not. In this way, enchantment and modernity are not opposing forces but belong together."
TheNewAtlantis  books  reviews  history  culture  magic  belief 
may 2019 by pierredv
How Tech Utopia Fostered Tyranny - The New Atlantis -Winter 2019
"Authoritarians’ love for digital technology is no fluke — it’s a product of Silicon Valley’s “smart” paternalism"

"ools based on the premise that access to information will only enlighten us and social connectivity will only make us more humane have instead fanned conspiracy theories, information bubbles, and social fracture. A tech movement spurred by visions of libertarian empowerment and progressive uplift has instead fanned a global resurgence of populism and authoritarianism."

"But what we are searching for — what we desire — is often shaped by what we are exposed to and what we believe others desire. And so predicting what is useful, however value-neutral this may sound, can shade into deciding what is useful, both to individual users and to groups, and thereby shaping what kinds of people we become, for both better and worse."

"As long as our desires are unsettled and malleable — as long as we are human — the engineering choices of Google and the rest must be as much acts of persuasion as of prediction."

"Each company was founded on a variation of the premise that providing more people with more information and better tools, and helping them connect with each other, would help them lead better, freer, richer lives."

"Moreover, because algorithms are subject to strategic manipulation and because they are attempting to provide results unique to you, the choices shaping these powerful defaults are necessarily hidden away by platforms demanding you simply trust them"

"We can see the shift from “access to tools” to algorithmic utopianism in the unheralded, inexorable replacement of the “page” by the “feed.” "

"By consuming what the algorithm says I want, I trust the algorithm to make me ever more who it thinks I already am."

"What’s shocking isn’t that technological development is a two-edged sword. It’s that the power of these technologies is paired with a stunning apathy among their creators about who might use them and how. Google employees have recently declared that helping the Pentagon with a military AI program is a bridge too far, convincing the company to cancel a $10 billion contract. But at the same time, Google, Apple, and Microsoft, committed to the ideals of open-source software and collaboration toward technological progress, have published machine-learning tools for anyone to use, including agents provocateur and revenge pornographers."

"They and their successors, based on optimistic assumptions about human nature, built machines to maximize those naturally good human desires. But, to use a line from Bruno Latour, “technology is society made durable.” That is, to extend Latour’s point, technology stabilizes in concrete form what societies already find desirable."
politics  surveillance  technology  TheNewAtlantis  Google  Facebook  AI  prediction  ethics  morality  search  trust  behavior 
april 2019 by pierredv - The New Atlantis, Adam White, Spring 2018
"Google exists to answer our small questions. But how will we answer larger questions about Google itself? Is it a monopoly? Does it exert too much power over our lives? Should the government regulate it as a public utility — or even break it up?"

"Rather, the ultimate source of the special bond between Google and the Obama White House — and modern progressive government more broadly — has been their common ethos. Both view society’s challenges today as social-engineering problems, whose resolutions depend mainly on facts and objective reasoning. Both view information as being at once ruthlessly value-free and yet, when properly grasped, a powerful force for ideological and social reform. And so both aspire to reshape Americans’ informational context, ensuring that we make choices based only upon what they consider the right kinds of facts — while denying that there would be any values or politics embedded in the effort."

"This approach, if Google were to accept it, could be immensely consequential. As we will see, during the Obama years, Google became aligned with progressive politics on a number of issues — net neutrality, intellectual property, payday loans, and others. If Google were to think of itself as a genuine public good in a manner calling upon it to give users not only the results they want but the results that Google thinks they need, the results that informed consumers and democratic citizens ought to have, then it will become an indispensable adjunct to progressive government. The future might not be U.S. v. Google but"

"Google’s awkward moral dance with China offers a case study in what happens when its two core missions — providing objective searches of all the world’s information and Not Being Evil — come into conflict. It suggests an important and paradoxical lesson: Google is willing to compromise the neutrality of its search results, and itself, for the sake of what it deems the broader public good, a goal that is plainly morally driven to begin with."

"Nor does a vast gulf separate Google’s increasingly confident goal of answering questions you haven’t asked and Obama’s 2007 sketch of the American people as full of untapped common sense yet often ignorant, so that what they need is a president to give them the facts from the bully pulpit. The common theme is that we make wrong decisions not because the world is inherently complex but because most people are self-interested and dumb — except for the self-anointed enlighteners, that is."

This Obama comment is naive, because it's about the structure of the conversation not the curated content the conversation is based on: "He noted his belief that informational tools such as social media are a “hugely powerful potential force for good.” But, he added, they are merely tools, and so can also be used for evil. Tech companies such as Google “are shaping our culture in powerful ways. And the most powerful way in which that culture is being shaped right now is the balkanization of our public conversation.”"

"For search results are supposed to be objective in no small part because they’re based on massive amounts of data about what other people have actually looked for and clicked on. Google seems to have it backward: The vexing problem is that people are increasingly getting offensive, misleading search results because that’s increasingly what people are looking for."
TheNewAtlantis  Google  politics  regulation  culture  Adam-White 
january 2019 by pierredv

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