Anne Applebaum talks to Renée DiResta about building a more trustworthy Internet.
Renée DiResta is the Director of Research at New Knowledge and a Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation, and Trust. She investigates the spread of malign narratives across social networks, and assists policymakers in understanding and responding to the problem. She has advised the United States Congress, the State Department, and other academic, civic, and business organizations, and has studied disinformation and computational propaganda in the context of pseudoscience conspiracies, terrorism, and state-sponsored information warfare.
Many talk about the right to freedom of speech online, but rarely do discussions delve a layer deeper into the idea of the “right to reach”. I’ve lately taken to analogizing the artificial reach of bots and partisan disinformation and labeled the idea social media machine guns to emphasize this reach problem. It’s also related to Cathy O’Neill’s concept of Weapons of Math Destruction. We definitely need some new verbiage to begin describing these sorts of social ills so that we have a better grasp of what they are and how they can effect us.
I appreciate Renee’s ideas and suspect they’re related to those in Ezra Klein’s new books, which I hope to start reading shortly.
The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales.
Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award.
I’d never considered it before, but I’m curious if the idea of the bolt on Talos’ leg bears any influence on the bolts frequently seen on Frankenstein’s monster? Naturally they would seem to be there as a means of charging or animating him, but did they have an powers beyond that? Or was he, once jump-started, to run indefinitely? Bryan Alexander recently called out his diet (of apples and nuts), so presumably once he was brought to life, he was able to live the same way as a human.
Read sections 1.0-1.3. I’m loving the graphs, charts, videos, and supplementary interactive material they’re including in the book. It’s completely fascinating and quite a different reading experience on a computer versus either paper or e-reader.
Having immediate access to data like this make for a more interesting Economics experience.
Annotations from Unit 1 Capitalism and democracy: Affluence, inequality, and the environment
But some have taller skyscrapers at the back, meaning a greater disparity between the top 10% and the rest of the population, whereas others have a less steep profile. ❧
It might be more interesting if the top decile in each country were broken into tenths to show the even more severe disparities. I suspect that some of the height differences would be even more drastic if we could see the top 1% or even the top 0.1% on these graphs.
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 12:36PM
A thousand years ago, the world was flat, economically speaking. ❧
I don’t think we have to go back even this far. If I recall correctly, even 150 years ago the vast majority of the world’s population were subsistence farmers. It’s only been since the 20th century and the increasing spread of the industrial revolution that the situation has changed:
Even England remained primarily an agrarian country like all tributary societies for the previous 4,000 years, with ca. 50 percent of its population employed in agriculture as late as 1759.
–David Christian, Maps of Time (pp 401) quoting from Crafts, British Economic Growth, pp. 13–14. (See also Fig 13.1 Global Industrial Potential from the same, for a graphical indicator.
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 01:03PM
If you have never seen an ice-hockey stick (or experienced ice hockey) this shape is why we call these figures ‘hockey-stick curves’. ❧
I’m glad they’ve included an image of a hockey stick to provide the context here, but I’ve always thought of it rotated so that the blade was on the ground and the sharp angle of the handle itself indicated the exponential growth curve!
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 01:18PM
Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done before - using augmented reality animation. In this spectacular section of 'The Joy of Stats' he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers - in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world most of us imagine.
More about this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l
I really love the visualizations here! There’s so much to pull apart and analyze. I do wish I had a more focused view on some of the time lapse. There are some countries moving around in interesting ways and I’d love to be able to watch what they’re doing and match them up with various historical events. Watching Japan, for example is fascinating. The near-global dip for large portions of the connected world in 1918 was particularly interesting to see as well.
A new way of understanding climate change and other phenomena.
We are obliged to do something about them, because we can think them. ❧
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 08:56AM
It’s very difficult to talk about something you cannot see or touch, yet we are obliged to do so, since global warming affects us all. ❧
It’s also difficult to interact with those things when we’re missing the words and vocabulary to talk about them intelligently.
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 09:00AM
Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University in Houston. He is the author of Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality and Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End Of The World. ❧
want to read these
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 10:10AM
Or global warming. I can’t see or touch it. What I can see and touch are these raindrops, this snow, that sunburn patch on the back of my neck. I can touch the weather. But I can’t touch climate. So someone can declare: “See! It snowed in Boise, Idaho, this week. That means there’s no global warming!” We can’t directly see global warming, because it’s not only really widespread and really really long-lasting (100,000 years); it’s also super high-dimensional. It’s not just 3-D. It’s an incredibly complex entity that you have to map in what they call a high-dimensional- phase space: a space that plots all the states of a system. In so doing, we are only following the strictures of modern science, laid down by David Hume and underwritten by Immanuel Kant. Science can’t directly point to causes and effects: That would be metaphysical, equivalent to religious dogma. It can only see correlations in data. This is because, argues Kant, there is a gap between what a thing is and how it appears (its “phenomena”) that can’t be reduced, no matter how hard we try. We can’t locate this gap anywhere on or inside a thing. It’s a transcendental gap. Hyperobjects force us to confront this truth of modern science and philosophy. ❧
A short, and very cogent argument here.
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 10:07AM
On objects and slices; on design systems and scale.
Robin brings a helpful name to this problem, by way of the philosopher Timothy Morton: hyperobject. A hyperobject is an entity whose scale is too big, too sprawling for any single person to fully appreciate their scale. Climate change, financial markets, socioeconomic classes, design systems—they’re systems we move through, but their scale dwarfs our own. ❧
Hyperobject is an interesting neologism and concept
Annotated on January 15, 2020 at 08:47AM
Personal news: I'm excited to announce that, starting in February, I will be in residence at the Santa Fe Institute for one year, as the inaugural Davis Professor of Complexity. I'm thrilled for this opportunity to work more closely with all the brilliant people at @sfiscience. pic.twitter.com/sjQ0QxiZGB
David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.
I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.
With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.
I’m always on the look out for new ways of thinking about and designing for neurological pluralism, especially when it comes in threes. Dandelions, tulips, and orchids designate low-sensitive, medium-sensitive, and high-sensitive people. I like the way this aligns with caves, campfires, and watering holes, the red, yellow, green of interaction badges, and the three speeds of collaboration.
This is a fascinating thesis with some interesting long term effects on evolution.
The media's "epistemic crisis," algorithmic biases, and the radio's inherent, historical misogyny.
In hearings this week, House Democrats sought to highlight an emerging set of facts concerning the President’s conduct. On this week’s On the Media, a look at why muddying the waters remains a viable strategy for Trump’s defenders. Plus, even the technology we trust for its clarity isn’t entirely objective, especially the algorithms that drive decisions in public and private institutions. And, how early radio engineers designed broadcast equipment to favor male voices and make women sound "shrill."
1. David Roberts [@drvox], writer covering energy for Vox, on the "epistemic crisis" at the heart of our bifurcated information ecosystem. Listen.
2. Cathy O'Neil [@mathbabedotorg], mathematician and author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, on the biases baked into our algorithms. Listen.
3. Tina Tallon [@ttallon], musician and professor, on how biases built into radio technology have shaped how we hear women speak. Listen.
Some great discussion on the idea of women being “shrill” and ad hominem attacks instead of attacks on ideas.
Cathy O’Neil has a great interview on her book Weapons of Math Distraction. I highly recommend everyone read it, but if for some reason you can’t do it this month, this interview is a good starting place for repairing that deficiency.
In section three, I’ll note that I’ve studied the areas of signal processing and information theory in great depth, but never run across the fascinating history of how we physically and consciously engineered women out of radio and broadcast in quite the way discussed here. I recall the image of “Lena” being nudged out of image processing recently, but the engineering wrongs here are far more serious and pernicious.
A few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, upsetting centuries of certainty about the history of life, he wrote a now-famous letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, British botanist and advocate of evolutionary theory. "But if (and oh what a big if),” Darwin’s letter reads, “we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etcetera present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes.”
That was 1871. Nearly 150 years hence, humankind has worked out the details of the evolutionary process to exquisite depth and resolution, but abiogenesis - the origins of life - remains one of the greatest mysteries of our world. Fierce theoretical debates rage on between those who think life got its start in deep sea hydrothermal vents and those who think it started in “some warm little pond” – not to mention more heterodox hypotheses. The consequences are enormous – shaping plans for interplanetary exploration, changing our approach to medicine, and maybe foremost, settling the existential question of what life is in the first place.
This week’s episode was recorded live at the Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlanetary Festival in June 2019. The panel features evolutionary theorist David Krakauer, President of SFI; biochemist Sarah Maurer, Assistant Professor at Central Connecticut State University; and SFI Professor Chris Kempes, who works on biological scaling laws. In this discussion, we present a spectrum of perspectives on the origins of life debate, and speak to the importance of presenting this unsettled science as itself an evolutionary object...
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What is history anyway? Most people would say it’s what happened in the past, but how far back does the past extend? To the first written sources? To what other forms of evidence reveal about pre-literate civilizations? What does that term mean—an empire, a nation, a city, a village, a family, a lonely hermit somewhere? Why stop with people: shouldn’t history also comprise the environment in which they exist, and if so on what scale and how far back? And as long as we’re headed in that direction, why stop with the earth and the solar system? Why not go all the way back to the Big Bang itself? There’s obviously no consensus on how to answer these questions, but even asking them raises another set of questions about history: who should be doing it? Traditionally trained historians, for whom archives are the only significant source? Historians willing to go beyond archives, who must therefore rely on, and to some extent themselves become, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, archeologists? But if they’re also going to take environments into account, don’t they also have to know something about climatology, biology, paleontology, geology, and even astronomy? And how can they do that without knowing some basic physics, chemistry, and mathematics? This inaugural volume of the SFI Press (the new publishing arm of the Santa Fe Institute) attempts to address these questions via thoughtful essays on history written by distinguished scholars—including Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann—from across a wide range of fields.
For 300 years, the dream of science was to understand the world by chopping it up into pieces. But boiling everything down to basic parts does not tell us about the way those parts behave together. Physicists found the atom, then the quark, and yet these great discoveries don’t answer age-old questions about life, intelligence, or language, innovation, ecosystems, or economies.
So people learned a new trick – not just taking things apart but studying how things organize themselves, without a plan, in ways that cannot be predicted. A new field, complex systems science, sprang up to explain and navigate a world beyond control.
At the same time, improvements in computer processing enabled yet another method for exploring irreducible complexity: we learned to instrumentalize the evolutionary process, forging machine intelligences that can correlate unthinkable amounts of data. And the Internet’s explosive growth empowered science at scale, in networks and with resources we could not have imagined in the 1900s. Now there are different kinds of science, for different kinds of problems, and none of them give us the kind of easy answers we were hoping for.
This is a daring new adventure of discovery for anyone prepared to jettison the comfortable categories that served us for so long. Our biggest questions and most wicked problems call for a unique and planet-wide community of thinkers, willing to work on massive and synthetic puzzles at the intersection of biology and economics, chemistry and social science, physics and cognitive neuroscience.