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Posts Tagged ‘Wired Magazine’

From our first moments of consciousness up through childhood, the things we think we might be able to do with our lives broaden and broaden.  And then, at some point around adolescence, they start to narrow.  Our imaginations shrink, our obligations grow, we charge ahead on certain roads and avoid the ones less traveled.  Eleven is wonderful.  You’re aware of the world and its limitations, but if you’re lucky your imagination hasn’t been crimped yet.  Really, maybe, you can do anything.
    —    Nicholas Thompson
From his editorial: “An Awesome Question
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine, dtd: Apr 2020
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On This Day In:
2020 Democratic Aspiration
2019 Soul Before Will
2018 Small Things
2017 Clear And Warm To Me
2016 Ripple
2015 Amazing Or Full Of Wonder?
2014 Are You Confused?
2013 But The Odds Are Against It
2012 Far Better Off With Books
2011 Timid And Fainthearted

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2034: A Novel of the Next World War”  (2021©)  —  book review
The book subject to today’s review was written by Elliot Ackerman, James Stavridis Admiral USN (ret.).  Ackerman is a former White House Fellow and decorated Marine veteran.  Stavridis is, of course, best known as a four-star Admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.  Ackerman is a working journalist / opinion writer and both are authors of multiple books.  That’s pretty much their bonafides for writing a “future – history” about world war / combat.
This novel is set thirteen years in the future.  Putin is still in charge of Russia.  The U.S. has a female President from an Independent party.  And, we don’t really know much about anyone else in charge around the world.  We know China is pushing its claims in the northern Pacific, yet Taiwan remains an independent “nation” state.  India has somehow “resolved” the Pakistan issue in its favor, but we don’t know what that means for either India or Pakistan.  NATO is in disarray without strong U.S. leadership.  And, finally, Iran has had some success against Israel.  What isn’t exactly made clear, except Iran has somehow “freed” the Golan Heights.
Background:  The first third of this book was published as a special “full dedicated issue” recently in Wired magazine, which I subscribe to.  I have read EVERY issue of the magazine since inception back in 1993.  The company I worked for back in 2000 had all of the back issues on a shelf and I would “borrow” them one at a time, read cover to cover and then bring them back.  As far as I know, no one else EVER read any of them, as once I was hired, I kept the current ones on my desk and no one ever asked for them.  Shortly before leaving the company, I got a personal subscription and have continued reading them for the last 20 years.  Anyway, Wired‘s issue left you hanging with the promise of a future novel publication in March 2021.  My review is of the full publication.  This book was one of two I received as a birthday present from my wife.
And,…  This book is about a military conflict between China and the United States.  Supposedly, China is an ascending world power and the U.S. is a descending / failing world power.  China stages a confrontation in order to demonstrate its military superiority – and the world slips into war.
Is the book interesting?  Informative?  Entertaining?  Accurate – technologically, politically or militarily?  Is it worth the time to read it?  To be honest, the magazine promised more than the book delivered.  The answer to all five of those questions is mostly so-so…
It is a fast read at barely over 300 pages.  The problem is there isn’t much there – there.  I don’t know how much (if any) current military capability Ackerman has access to.  It is a given (to me) that Stavridis would have had nearly unlimited access (pre-retirement anyway).  The problem is, of course, the book would have had to be submitted to and cleared through State and DOD before it was published and neither agencies (nor the authors) would have been inclined to offer much useful information in a novel.
With nothing but the most general capabilities described we get a lot of implausible “magic” technology under the guise of “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) which seems to work perfectly and then not at all.  We get very poor strategic decisions / action by the U.S.; we get some oversimplification of other technologies (overseas internet cabling);  side tracks by Russia and Iran, which seem to have been added to make the conflict global rather than China vs. U.S.;  and then we get a couple of miracles at the end by India to conclude the novel / war.  That pretty much covers the “informative and accuracy” portion of this review.
What about interesting and entertaining?  Again, so-so…  There are five main characters: female American Admiral, male American fighter pilot, male American (Indian immigrant) NSC advisor, male Iranian officer (he ends up with various ranks), and the main Chinese (half-American) Admiral.  The story is told from each of their viewpoints.  (Yes, there are also another handful of secondary but important characters, but this is really about the big five.)
The problem I had was the number of characters made for a long, deep story which developed each character to the point where you cared about them without giving away too much plot / ending.  Unfortunately, this book is neither long nor deep, which meant you almost cared, but not quite.  And, again unfortunately, it was almost entirely predictable and therefore, while I finished feeling entertained, I didn’t feel satisfied – emotionally or intellectually.
Then is it worth your time, then?  Yes!  It raises the interesting question if military technology is useful if it is subject to (can be negated by) a less expensive counter-measure.  In this case, the apparent answer is that if the elephant is blinded, it is still an elephant and not easily overwhelmed.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This is not Tom Clancy or Sir John Hackett level political, military or strategy writing, but I did find it entertaining even if not informative or militarily consistent.  I’m grateful to have received it as a present, because I’d have waited for the paperback or a very reduced price before buying it myself.  So I got to read something almost literally hot off the presses…
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2020 First Buds
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2019 What If Nobody Believes Them Either
2018 It’s About Heart Not Skill
2017 Winning So Much I’m Already Tired Of It (Not)
2016 Punishing Red Binge
2015 Bits In The Soup
2014 More Beef, Less Bull
2013 Where Are Your Mountains
2012 Spherical Knowledge Of Hamsters
2011 Taking Stock Over Time

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Generations imply some giant disruption in the universe.  I like curves more.  Moore’s law (always more transistors), Metcalfe’s law (bigger networks are more valuable), experience curves (making things gets cheaper when you learn by doing), and so forth.  I like these thumbnail rules because they encapsulate the Great Muchness more than some theory of intergenerational strife.  It’s terrible that we’re headed into global climate catastrophe, but then again, we’re only facing doom because for 75 years no one started a nuclear war.
So our sleep will be transcribed and robots will deliver our sneakers, which will themselves be computers.  Technology will not solve bad marriages, bad eating, or racist thoughts, nor stop DisneyWarnerNetflixQuibiPlus from making superhero movies.  I find it profoundly helpful, then, to not just reject the concept of generations but to invert it: The immense changes in technology show us, again and again, year after year, that we are basically the same as ever, just reacting to our place along curves of life well out of our control.  One can get very mixed up about what makes us human.  And it would, in fact, behoove all of us on the grayer side to get to know and love our peculiar youths, so that they might speak well of us when we do not matter anymore.
   —    Paul Ford
From his article: “Generation Vexed
Appearing in Wired Magazine, dtd: March 2020
Online the article is titled: “How Technology Explodes the Concept of ‘Generations’
The link is: https://www.wired.com/story/millennials-genx-technology-explodes-generations/
(You may have to go through a “pay-wall” to view the article.)
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On This Day In:
2020 Pay It Forward
2019 From My Sullied Prison
2018 In My Room (2)
2017 Pretending
2016 And Songs Too…
2015 On The Road To Failure
2014 Each Moment
2013 Conversation
2012 4 Down, 11 Done (At Last)
I’m Not Afraid
2011 Who’s Risk Is It, Anyway?

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In 1971 the social scientist Herbert Simon anticipated the attention economy when he wrote that in an information-rich world, the most scarce resource is the one that information itself consumes: attention.  “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently,” he wrote.  Here’s how the designers of our devices, social platforms, operating systems, and websites have decided to allocate our attention: They have placed a bounty on it, monetizing our data and our gaze.  Advertisements and other types of persuasive communication — political ads, entertainment, social media alerts — are all gunning for that bounty.
  —   Zeynep Tufekci
From her article: “In Praise Of One-Trick Ponies
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: October 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Boxes
2018 Hoping For Better Come November
An Honest Binge
2017 Give And Keep
2016 No Change Here
2015 Campbell’s Law
2014 Dignified Values
2013 Unappreciated Skill
2012 Living Courage
2011 What’s Happening To Us?
2010 Toothbrush, Carbon and Monoxide
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

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Until we are bits in the cloud, we are bodies in spaces, and it would do us well not to forget the powers these meatsacks grant us.
  —  Ripley D. Light
From his editorial:  “Totally Wired
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine, dtd:  October 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Boxes
2018 Hoping For Better Come November
An Honest Binge
2017 Give And Keep
2016 No Change Here
2015 Campbell’s Law
2014 Dignified Values
2013 Unappreciated Skill
2012 Living Courage
2011 What’s Happening To Us?
2010 Toothbrush, Carbon and Monoxide
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

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This is a story about stories — and the way technology is changing the scope and structure of the stories we tell.  Right now, in untelevised reality, we are in the middle of an epic, multiseason struggle over the territory of the human imagination, over whose stories matter and why.  For me, it started with fandom.
While many millions of people out there felt that they had been written out of the future, not all of them agreed on who to blame.  Some of us blamed the banks, blamed structural inequality.  But some people don’t pay attention to the structure.  For some people, kicking up takes too much energy, and it’s easier to kick down — to blame women and people of color and queer people and immigrants for the fact that they aren’t leading the rich and meaningful lives they were promised.
But there are different kinds of love, aren’t there?  I used to believe that there was something universal about fandom, that our excitement and love for our most cherished myths could bring us all together.  This wasn’t the silliest thing I believed in my early twenties, but I had, at the time, swallowed a lot of saccharine nonsense about what love means and the work it involves.  I had not yet encountered in my adult life or in my fan life the sort of love which is always, and only, about ownership.
All nerds love their fandoms.  For some of us that means we want to share them and cheer them on as they grow and develop and change.  For others, loving their fandom means they want to own it, to shut down the borders and police their favorite stories for any sign of deviance.
Television and online streaming are driving the evolution of a new, powerful hybrid species of mass culture, one that can be collective without being homogeneous.  As arc-based television explodes, becomes more diverse and more daring, the film industry is lagging awkwardly behind.  Films are still hamstrung by their own format:  They have to tell stories of a certain length that will persuade enough people to leave their houses, find a place to park, and buy a ticket on opening weekend, or else be considered a flop.  This means mainstream cinema still needs to appeal to what the industry considers its broadest possible audience.  So it’s superhero blockbusters, endless remakes and reboots, and sequels to sequels that dominate the box office.  Safe bets.
Episodic narrative television, meanwhile, allows for many stories being possible at once.  Intimate and intricate, it may be the novel form of our age — but to reach its true potential, it took the advent of streaming platforms.  Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO.  Streaming technology changed one simple thing about the way we tell collective stories today:  It made any show theoretically accessible to anyone, at any time.  A TV writer is no longer obliged to appeal to a very large number of people at a specific time every week and hold their attention through ad breaks.  Suddenly, TV became a medium that could find its audience wherever they were in the world, so long as they had broadband and someone’s login details.  Nobody has to write “universal” stories anymore, because every show or series can find its audience — and its audience can engage on fan sites, forums, and various social media behemoths, in breathless real time.
  —  Laurie Penny
An excerpt from her article:  “We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine
Issue:  September 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/culture-fan-tastic-planet-fanfic/
[The online version of the article may be behind a paywall.  In which case, you can probably find the hard copy at your local library.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 Sounds Like #LyingDonald
2018 Start Building
2017 Woof! Woof!
2016 Cast Out
2015 Small Pieces
Happy Father’s Day!
2014 Uncertain Work
2013 Unpatriotic And Servile
2012 What Price Freedom?
2011 Particular Importance
Three From Bette…

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“A story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul,” Lee wrote in a 1970 edition of “Stan’s Soapbox,” the column he awarded himself that ran in every Marvel book.
And in another, from two years prior: “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.  But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun … it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion.”  Lee usually ended his column with the exhortation “Excelsior!”  (Ever upward!)  This one he signed off with “Pax et Justitia.”  Peace and justice.
    —    Adam Rogers
From his article: “Stan Lee Unleashed the Heroic Power of the Outcast
Appearing in Wired Magazine; dtd: Jan 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/marvel-comics-genius-stan-lee-outcasts-heroes/
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On This Day In:
2019 And Unlawful Orders From A President
2018 Instinct For Presence
2017 Hard Enough
2016 Jumps
2015 One View Of Failure
2014 We Speak For Earth
2013 Inward Urgency
2012 Delayed Reviews
Fulfilling My Duty
2011 Interference

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I’ve made a mistake, a lifelong one, correlating advancements in technology with progress.  Progress is the opening of doors and the leveling of opportunity, the augmentation of the whole human species and the protection of other species besides.  Progress is cheerfully facing the truth, whether flooding coastlines or falling teen pregnancy rates, and thinking of ways to preserve the processes that work and mitigate the risks.  Progress is seeing calmly, accepting, and thinking of others.
    —    Paul Ford
From his article: “Why I (Still) Love Tech: In Defense of a Difficult Industry
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 How Much Is Your Education Worth?
Is America Ready: Mayor Pete – 2020!!
2018 Disruptive Definition
2017 A History Of Small Insights
2016 Be Uncommon
2015 Ooops!
2014 What Price Freedom?
2013 Remembering Val
2012 Good-bye, Val
Survival Value
2011 Traitors In Our Midst
Life Ain’t Easy

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[Regarding volunteer crowd-sourcing transcriptions of hand-written (formerly) personal notes…]  I do it a lot myself.  Branch Rickey’s papers are just awesome.  He is most famous for bringing Jackie Robinson into Major League Baseball, and through crowdsourcing we were able to transcribe 1,926 pages of his scouting reports on prospective players.  I would never have guessed how fun baseball scouting reports could be!  One of my favorite lines is “I doubt if he has any adventure in his soul.”
    —    Kate Zwaard
From a column: “Concordia open source software
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine, May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Only One Direction
2018 Respect Is Long Gone
2017 Dream Of Dreamers
2016 Dear Automakers
2015 And Some Not So Brave Too
2014 In My Lifetime…
2013 Democracy
2012 Borrowed Expectations
2011 Not Necessarily True

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Perhaps the most telling email is a message from a then executive named Sam Lessin to Zuckerberg that epitomizes Facebook’s penchant for self-justification.  The company, Lessin wrote, could be ruthless and committed to social good at the same time, because they are essentially the same thing:  “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected and the only way we can do that is with the best people and the best infrastructure, which requires that we make a lot of money / be very profitable.”
The message also highlighted another of the company’s original sins: its assertion that if you just give people better tools for sharing, the world will be a better place.  That’s just false.  Sometimes Facebook makes the world more open and connected; sometimes it makes it more closed and disaffected.  Despots and demagogues have proven to be just as adept at using Facebook as democrats and dreamers.  Like the communications innovations before it — the printing press, the telephone, the internet itself — Facebook is a revolutionary tool.  But human nature has stayed the same.
    —    Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein
From their article: “15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: May 2019
Online at: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-15-months-of-fresh-hell/
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On This Day In:
2019 Sometimes Too Subtle
2018 A Lot Like Teaching
2017 Wake Up
2016 I Like Dreaming
2015 Importance
2014 Unearned Humility
2013 Science Is Trial And Error
2012 Franklin’s Creed
2011 First Steps
2010 Home Ill…

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Now that I’ve turned my mind to reveling in the glory of technology, I’ve been gazing  back at the olden, golden days.  And the other day I remembered that, once upon a time, humans had to remember things.
    —    Ripley D. Light
From his editorial titled:  “Totally Wired
Appearing in Wired Magazine, dtd:  May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Two Guides
2018 A Call For You
2017 Because I Read
2016 On What Matters…
2015 Social Security
2014 Bewitching
2013 Visiting Joy
2012 Dedication To Today
2011 Project Second Chance – Adult Literacy
Turning Coal Into Diamonds

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The emergence of the mirrorworld will affect us all at a deeply personal level.  We know there will be severe physiological and psychological effects of dwelling in dual worlds; we’ve already learned that from our experience living in cyberspace and virtual realities.  But we don’t know what these effects will be, much less how to prepare for them or avoid them.  We don’t even know the exact cognitive mechanism that makes the illusion of AR work in the first place.  [“AR” = Augmented Reality  —  KMAB]
The great paradox is that the only way to understand how AR works is to build AR and test ourselves in it.  It’s weirdly recursive: The technology itself is the microscope needed to inspect the effects of the technology.
Some people get very upset with the idea that new technologies will create new harms and that we willingly surrender ourselves to these risks when we could adopt the precautionary principle: Don’t permit the new unless it is proven safe.  But that principle is unworkable, because the old technologies we are in the process of replacing are even less safe.  More than 1 million humans die on the roads each year, but we clamp down on robot drivers when they kill one person.  We freak out over the unsavory influence of social media on our politics, while TV’s partisan influence on elections is far, far greater than Facebook’s.  The mirrorworld will certainly be subject to this double standard of stricter norms.
I imagine it will take at least a decade for the mirrorworld to develop enough to be used by millions, and several decades to mature.  But we are close enough now to the birth of this great work that we can predict its character in rough detail.
Eventually this melded world will be the size of our planet.  It will be humanity’s greatest achievement, creating new levels of wealth, new social problems, and uncountable opportunities for billions of people.  There are no experts yet to make this world; you are not late.
    —    Kevin Kelly
From his article:  “Welcome To Mirrorworld
Appearing in Wired Magazine; dtd:  March 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/mirrorworld-ar-next-big-tech-platform/
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On This Day In:
2019 Too Difficult To Try
2018 Hold Fast
2017 The Only Real Security
2016 Time Said
2015 If Only Common Sense Were More Common
2014 PTI
2013 What Now, Then?
2012 Big C, Little B
Duty, Honor, Country

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Why do techies insist that things should be sped up, torqued, optimized?
There’s one obvious reason, of course:  They do it because of the dictates of the market.  Capitalism handsomely rewards anyone who can improve a process and squeeze some margin out.  But with software, there’s something else going on too.  For coders, efficiency is more than just a tool for business.  It’s an existential state, an emotional driver.
Coders might have different backgrounds and political opinions, but nearly every one I’ve ever met found deep, almost soulful pleasure in taking something inefficient — even just a little bit slow — and tightening it up a notch.  Removing the friction from a system is an aesthetic joy; coders’ eyes blaze when they talk about making something run faster or how they eliminated some bothersome human effort from a process.
   —    Clive Thompson
From his article:  “Efficiency Is Beautiful
In Wired Magazine, dtd: April 2019
Also online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/coders-efficiency-is-beautiful/
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On This Day In:
2018 Cursive In The News
2017 Coffee Crunch
2016 Preparation
2015 Scarcely Asked
2014 They Resemble Us
2013 Both
2012 That’s Success!
2011 Losing At Dominos
2010 1,001

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The Enlightenment sought to establish reason as the foundational pillar of civilized discourse.  In this conception, logical argument matters, and the truth of a statement is tested by examination of values, assumptions, and facts, not by how many people believe it.  Cyber-enabled information warfare threatens to replace these pillars of logic and truth with fantasy and rage.
   —    Herbert Lin
As quoted by:  Virginia Heffernan
In her article: “Clock Watchers: The Beautiful Benefits of Contemplating Doom
In Wired Magazine, dtd: Apr 2019
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On This Day In:
2018 Seven Minutes. Not Six, Not Eight
2017 Falling Forward One Step At A Time
2016 And Without Expectation
2015 Just Do It
I Am A Runner
2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

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The freedom of speech is an important democratic value, but it’s not the only one.  In the liberal tradition, free speech is usually understood as a vehicle — a necessary condition for achieving certain other societal ideals: for creating a knowledgeable public; for engendering healthy, rational, and informed debate; for holding powerful people and institutions accountable; for keeping communities lively and vibrant.  What we are seeing now is that when free speech is treated as an end and not a means, it is all too possible to thwart and distort everything it is supposed to deliver.
Creating a knowledgeable public requires at least some workable signals that distinguish truth from falsehood.  Fostering a healthy, rational, and informed debate in a mass society requires mechanisms that elevate opposing viewpoints, preferably their best versions.  To be clear, no public sphere has ever fully achieved these ideal conditions — but at least they were ideals to fail from.  Today’s engagement algorithms, by contrast, espouse no ideals about a healthy public sphere.
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The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech.
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Some scientists predict that within the next few years, the number of children struggling with obesity will surpass the number struggling with hunger.  Why?  When the human condition was marked by hunger and famine, it made perfect sense to crave condensed calories and salt.  Now we live in a food glut environment, and we have few genetic, cultural, or psychological defenses against this novel threat to our health.  Similarly, we have few defenses against these novel and potent threats to the ideals of democratic speech, even as we drown in more speech than ever.
The stakes here are not low.  In the past, it has taken generations for humans to develop political, cultural, and institutional antibodies to the novelty and upheaval of previous information revolutions.  If The Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will came out now, they’d flop; but both debuted when film was still in its infancy, and their innovative use of the medium helped fuel the mass revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the rise of Nazism.
By this point, we’ve already seen enough to recognize that the core business model underlying the Big Tech platforms — harvesting attention with a massive surveillance infrastructure to allow for targeted, mostly automated advertising at very large scale — is far too compatible with authoritarianism, propaganda, misinformation, and polarization.  The institutional antibodies that humanity has developed to protect against censorship and propaganda thus far — laws, journalistic codes of ethics, independent watchdogs, mass education — all evolved for a world in which choking a few gatekeepers and threatening a few individuals was an effective means to block speech.  They are no longer sufficient.
   —  Zeynep Tufekci
From her article: “It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: February 2018
On-line at: https://www.wired.com/story/free-speech-issue-tech-turmoil-new-censorship/
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On This Day In:
2018 The Births Of Spring
2017 Drug Epidemic In America
2016 Word Up, Chuck!
2015 Sometimes I Wonder About Things
2014 Still Racing
2013 Anew
2012 Make Both
2011 Are You Happy Yet?

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