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Posts Tagged ‘Wired Magazine’

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 his 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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Humans are a social species, equipped with few defenses against the natural world beyond our ability to acquire knowledge and stay in groups that work together.  We are particularly susceptible to glimmers of novelty, messages of affirmation and belonging, and messages of outrage toward perceived enemies.  These kinds of messages are to human community what salt, sugar, and fat are to the human appetite.  And Facebook gorges us on them — in what the company’s first president, Sean Parker, recently called “a social-­validation feedback loop.”
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Sure, it is a golden age of free speech — if you can believe your lying eyes.
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There are, moreover, no nutritional labels in this cafeteria.  For Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all speech — whether it’s a breaking news story, a saccharine animal video, an anti-Semitic meme, or a clever advertisement for razors — is but “content,” each post just another slice of pie on the carousel.  A personal post looks almost the same as an ad, which looks very similar to a New York Times article, which has much the same visual feel as a fake newspaper created in an afternoon.
What’s more, all this online speech is no longer public in any traditional sense.  Sure, Facebook and Twitter sometimes feel like places where masses of people experience things together simultaneously.  But in reality, posts are targeted and delivered privately, screen by screen by screen.  Today’s phantom public sphere has been fragmented and submerged into billions of individual capillaries.  Yes, mass discourse has become far easier for everyone to participate in — but it has simultaneously become a set of private conversations happening behind your back.  Behind everyone’s backs.
  —  Zeynep Tufekci
From his 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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2018 Silence Presence
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On the phone, I ask Li if she imagines there could have been a way to develop AI differently, without, perhaps, the problems we’ve seen so far.  “I think it’s hard to imagine,” she says.  “Scientific advances and innovation come really through generations of tedious work, trial and error.  It took a while for us to recognize such bias.  I only woke up six years ago and realized ‘Oh my God, we’re entering a crisis.’ ”
On Capitol Hill, Li said, “As a scientist, I’m humbled by how nascent the science of AI is.  It is the science of only 60 years.  Compared to classic sciences that are making human life better every day — physics, chemistry, biology — there’s a long, long way to go for AI to realize its potential to help people.”  She added, “With proper guidance AI will make life better.  But without it, the technology stands to widen the wealth divide even further, make tech even more exclusive, and reinforce biases we’ve spent generations trying to overcome.”  This is the time, Li would have us believe, between an invention and its impact.
  —  Fei-Fei Li  (being quoted)
Quoted by: Jessi Hempel
From her article:  “The Human In The Machine
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, December 2018
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But what I miss more than sex is the feeling of closeness with another person, something I’ve never believed could be conjured up.  And though the sensory deprivation has become a little extreme, most of the time — can I put a percentage on it?  Is it as high as 80 percent? — I do not think about it.  I am semi-radically independent and some kind of artist and in many ways an unconventional liberal woman.  However alienating, for me this is a time of deep creativity.  It’s that additional 20 percent of the time — that’s when I feel dizzy.
This is where I’m at when I fly 17 hours to meet [Hiroshi] Ishi­guro.  And as a result, if I am honest with myself, my time abroad feels particularly fraught.  The very concept of “human connection” has never felt so enigmatic to me.  It makes sense that someone would be trying to measure it, to weigh it, to calculate its dimensions.  To be able to replicate the sensation of human intimacy would be to control the very thing that confuses us most and eludes so many.
  —  Alex Mar
From her article:  “Love In The Time Of Robots
Wired Magazine
November 2017
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When asked if he had any theories about why the error so enchanted people, Cailliau wrote “I don’t even have a hunch about the 404 fascination.  And frankly I don’t give a damn.  The sort of creativity that goes into 404 response pages is fairly useless.  The mythology is probably due to the irrationality, denial of evidence, and preference for the fairy tale over reality that is quite common in the human species …  These human traits were relatively innocent in the past, when individual influence was small and information spread slowly.  Today, and in no small way due to the existence of the net, these traits have gained a power that is dangerous.”  As examples, he cited the election of Donald Trump, the deterioration of the EU, meek political responses to gun violence, and the proliferation of euphemism (“climate change”).  Or the fascination could just be a dash of humanity, an appreciation that the internet is made by humans, and humans — especially on the internet — are often bored.
  —  Robert Cailliau
Quoted by:  Anna Wiener
In her article: “Page Not Found: A Brief History Of The 404 ERROR
Appearing in: Wired Magazine
Dated: December 2017
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I was in business for 30 years, and my experience is that the best way to operate is to work fairly and closely with partners over a long period of time.  The most expensive way to do business is to do it deal by deal, each of which is highly contentious.  If deal by deal is the model, where instead of partners or allies we have counterparts and competitors, that is very expensive, difficult, and dangerous.  OK, so look at the Paris agreement: It’s going to force the developed world to change its energy sources.  That means the US could be the leader in developing renewable technology for more than a billion people — a huge incoming market — who don’t have electricity at all.
The Paris agreement was a great achievement of American leadership.  So the idea that we’re going to walk away and give up leadership of 194 countries, and walk away from our position as a leader in the world for the past 100 years, will be an incredibly expensive and dumb thing to do.
  —  Tom Steyer
From the article: “The Billionaire on a Mission to Save the Planet From Trump
Article written by: Nick Stockton
Article appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: April 2017
Link to article: http://www.wired.com/2017/03/tom-steyer-interview/
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Part of the problem that we’ve seen is that our general commitment as a society to basic research has diminished.  Our confidence in collective action has been chipped away, partly because of ideology and rhetoric.
The analogy that we still use when it comes to a great technology achievement, even 50 years later, is a moon shot.  And somebody reminded me that the space program was half a percent of GDP.  That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in today’s dollars that would be $80 billion that we would be spending annually … on AI.  Right now we’re spending probably less than a billion.  That undoubtedly will accelerate, but part of what we’re gonna have to understand is that if we want the values of a diverse community represented in these breakthrough technologies, then government funding has to be a part of it.  And if government is not part of financing it, then all these issues that Joi has raised about the values embedded in these technologies end up being potentially lost or at least not properly debated.
I was a sucker for Star Trek when I was a kid.  They were always fun to watch.  What made the show lasting was it wasn’t actu­ally about technology.  It was about values and relationships.  Which is why it didn’t matter that the special effects were kind of cheesy and bad, right?  They’d land on a planet and there are all these papier-mâché boulders. [Laughs.]  But it didn’t matter because it was really talking about a notion of a common humanity and a confidence in our ability to solve problems.
A recent movie captured the same spirit — The Martian.  Not because it had a hugely complicated plot, but because it showed a bunch of different people trying to solve a problem.  And employing creativity and grit and hard work, and having confidence that if it’s out there, we can figure it out.  That is what I love most about America and why it continues to attract people from all around the world for all of the challenges that we face, that spirit of “Oh, we can figure this out.”  And what I value most about science is this notion that we can figure this out.  Well, we’re gonna try this — if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna figure out why it didn’t work and then we’re gonna try something else.  And we will revel in our mistakes, because that is gonna teach us how to ultimately crack the code on the thing that we’re trying to solve.  And if we ever lose that spirit, then we’re gonna lose what is essential about America and what I think is essential about being human.
Star Trek, like any good story, says that we’re all complicated, and we’ve all got a little bit of Spock and a little bit of Kirk [laughs] and a little bit of Scotty, maybe some Klingon in us, right?  But that is what I mean about figuring it out.  Part of figuring it out is being able to work across barriers and differences.  There’s a certain faith in rationality, tempered by some humility.  Which is true of the best art and true of the best science.  The sense that we possess these incredible minds that we should use, and we’re still just scratching the surface, but we shouldn’t get too cocky.  We should remind ourselves that there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know.
President Barack Obama
Discussing A.I., Star Trek and the future in an interview in Wired Magazine
The interviewer is: Scott Dadich
I read this in the November 2016 issue of Wired Magazine
The article is: “The President in Conversation With MIT’s Joi Ito and WIRED’s Scott Dadich
The link to the article:  https://www.wired.com/2016/10/president-obama-mit-joi-ito-interview/
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