mfioretti: idiocy*

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  1. Blockchain systems do not magically make the data in them accurate or the people entering the data trustworthy, they merely enable you to audit whether it has been tampered with. A person who sprayed pesticides on a mango can still enter onto a blockchain system that the mangoes were organic. A corrupt government can create a blockchain system to count the votes and just allocate an extra million addresses to their cronies. An investment fund whose charter is written in software can still misallocate funds.

    How then, is trust created?

    In the case of buying an e-book, even if you’re buying it with a smart contract, instead of auditing the software you’ll rely on one of four things, each of them characteristics of the “old way”: either the author of the smart contract is someone you know of and trust, the seller of the e-book has a reputation to uphold, you or friends of yours have bought e-books from this seller in the past successfully, or you’re just willing to hope that this person will deal fairly. In each case, even if the transaction is effectuated via a smart contract, in practice you’re relying on trust of a counterparty or middleman, not your self-protective right to audit the software, each man an island unto himself. The contract still works, but the fact that the promise is written in auditable software rather than government-enforced English makes it less transparent, not more transparent.

    The same for the vote counting. Before blockchain can even get involved, you need to trust that voter registration is done fairly, that ballots are given only to eligible voters, that the votes are made anonymously rather than bought or intimidated, that the vote displayed by the balloting system is the same as the vote recorded, and that no extra votes are given to the political cronies to cast. Blockchain makes none of these problems easier and many of them harder—but more importantly, solving them in a blockchain context requires a set of awkward workarounds that undermine the core premise. So we know the entries are valid, let’s allow only trusted nonprofits to make entries—and you’re back at the good old “classic” ledger. In fact, if you look at any blockchain solution, inevitably you’ll find an awkward workaround to re-create trusted parties in a trustless world.
    A crypto-medieval system

    Yet absent these “old way” factors—supposing you actually attempted to rely on blockchain’s self-interest/self-protection to build a real system—you’d be in a real mess.
    https://medium.com/@kaistinchcombe/de...ally-a-medieval-hellhole-c1ca122efdec
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  2. acebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week made a historic concession about how his service should be governed. In an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, he asked, “How can you set up a more democratic or community-oriented process that reflects the values of people around the world?” Mr. Zuckerberg went further, saying Facebook users dissatisfied with the company’s decisions about what content is permissible should be able to appeal to something like a “supreme court,” whose judges didn’t work for Facebook.

    He is on to something. There might be a way to counter the undue social power of this company, whose 2.2 billion users represent the largest aggregation of people ever assembled for any purpose. An independent oversight body, working in partnership with Facebook, could be created with the responsibility of advising and even making decisions about content and company behavior that otherwise would inevitably be based on commercia
    https://www.theinformation.com/articl...design-it-needs-independent-oversight
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-04-05)
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  3. Well, yes. But it’s so 1950s. So analogue. Why not be really cool and have a proper networked timer socket, something that you can control from your smartphone from anywhere in the world? Something like the AuYou Wi-Fi Switch for example. Looks like it’s just the ticket. Plug it in, hold down the power button and it hooks up with the app on your (Android) smartphone, and – bingo! – job done. Now, where did you put that boarding pass?

    But, hang on. Maybe you should just check the product reviews, just to be sure. Ah, here’s one by a guy called Matthew Garrett. “There’s a lot to like about this hardware,” Matthew writes, “but unfortunately it’s entirely overwhelmed by everything there is to hate about it.”

    Yea, verily, toaster shall speak unto toaster and Amazon will know what you want before you can articulate it yourself

    Eh? Turns out that Mr Garrett knows a lot about computer security. And as he delves into how the AuYou switch works, he finds a real mess. Like all networked devices, the socket has a MAC address, a globally unique network address. You can set on/off times on the socket via the app on your phone and, if you’re in your house, that’s fine, because the command never leaves your wireless network. But if you’re on holiday in Spain, say, then the command goes via an intermediate server in China (where else?) The command is supposedly encrypted, but Mr Garrett found it laughably easy to crack.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentis...er-made-things-smart-devices-security
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-03-31)
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  4. “If everyone was to behave like us then the world would be a better place — we would be able to get rid of guilt, inequality, competition, greed and anger.”“If we all ate less and were less materialistic the world would be a better place.” “Only by changing ourselves can we change the world, by our living example.”

    This is the one foundational belief system of every intentional community that all members can agree on. This was also the justification that the hippies used for practically everything. The theory goes like this: Instead of acting in the world, all you have to do is become a peaceful, non-violent person — a model human, and others will follow your model. This is how you change the world, by focusing entirely upon yourself.

    The results of this experiment are, generations later, clear — changing yourself became a vast industry of self-help books and courses, dietary, fitness and personal “spiritual” planning regimes — a form of obsessive self-focusing and self-policing, which, it turns out, corporations are very happy to encourage.

    The Final Test of the Blank Slate: Children

    There is one other final and hard-to-face factor that is an unintended consequences of Utopian alternative parenting experiments. There is a reason that the average life of a Utopian project is the time to takes to settle and begin to raise children.

    Children are the authoritative test of the theory that humans are born a blank slate and that all behavior is conditioned “by society” — of Rousseau’s potent idea that man is “born free but is everywhere in chains.” Children of Utopians should behave very differently than “old world” children, because they have been brought as blank slates into an egalitarian environment, and have been raised with positivist behavioral conditioning.

    But the children of Utopians fail every test: they are selfish, they grab and steal, they fight, and love competitive sports, they bully and they lie — just like all other children. Lying, it turns out, is a necessary developmental stage in learning. These naturally dishonest, violent creatures disprove the theory of human mind as a blank slate upon which images of perfection can be drawn.

    As the behaviorist J. B. Skinner (creator of Walden Two) realized, you can’t pass what you’ve learned on through your DNA so any achievements in equality achieved have to be repeated from scratch. Utopian behavioral engineering is an ongoing struggle against something that Utopians deny even exists — human nature. Not only are Utopian parents horrified by the little dictators that they have spawned, they find that they themselves have horrible anti-Utopian cravings to put their children above all the others. The maternal bond and the need for privacy also seem to be pan-cultural. Children brought up communally suffer neglect, as other adults find ways of refusing to care for children that are not their own. The lack of childcare and of constancy in who is “mother and father” leads to kids not being taken care of at all, falling between the cracks, leading to abuse and damaged children. People care a lot more for their own kids than they do for other kids as an obligation. One frequently hears Utopians complaining that someone else’s children are ruining everything.

    As for mothers — we discovered after the 1970s that “free love” communes turn into coercive systems in which women are forced to sleep with men they don’t want to. They also lead to male dominated harems. John Humphrey Noyes, the father of “perfectionism” and “complex marriage” fathered 58 children in his commune in the 1850s. Another Utopian collective in Holland was so radical that it’s male leader removed the age of consent and slept with his own daughters and those of other parents. While, the Friedrich’s Hoff Commune, led by Viennese performance art guru, Otto Muehl, collapsed with Muehl being given a “seven year prison sentence for widespread sexual abuse of minors.” Variations on this sickening story have been repeated with convicted sex offender and cult leader William Kamm and Warren Jeffs with his “50 brides.” When a charismatic leader takes control and demands that others de-condition themselves, exploitation is tolerated and then becomes the norm. All of this is done, with the coercive Utopian alibi that all capitalist and patriarchal behaviors and boundaries must be swept away. Auroville, which attempts to be government-free, and money-free, has been plagued with growing reports of the crimes of Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and murder.

    No matter how much Utopian communities try to get rid of the idea of sexual ownership — the female desire to chose a mate may be a constant for our species. It does however ensure the continuation of competitive behaviors, which leads us once again to hierarchies. To get rid of this, female choice would have to be stopped, a process that we associate with cultures that are oppressive.

    The Shakers who were celibate and only adopted children became extinct after their adopted children refused to adopt the rules of Shakerism. The Harmony Society died out because it refused to reproduce. And the experiment in Fourierirsm known as Brook Farm ended after with many child related problems, one of which being when the children refused to be placed at the bottom of the Fourierist redistribution hierarchy and were forced to clean the toilets.

    So many intentional communities create trouble for themselves by trying to replace the nuclear and extended family structure with other forms of mating and child rearing, only to find that mothers and children simply want to leave.

    Intentions Are Not Enough

    One of the great mistakes we make in interpersonal behavior, is to judge people by their intentions and not by the real outcome of those intentions. To let them off with saying “we meant well.” The same is true for wider society and the many and repeated failures of applying Utopian ideas to reality are nearly always excused by the same means — people say “but we meant well” or “it’s still a good idea, it just hasn’t worked in practice yet.”

    It could be that the greatest failing of intentional communities is contained within this very formulation. A community that is based upon declaring intentions is apt to be fearful of outcomes that would disprove those good intentions and invalidate them. So, the burying of facts about failure (moral, practical, political) would appear to be one of the secret tasks of those who live by intentions alone, who, rather than trying to address problems as they arise would rather bury the results, hide the outcomes and continue as if good intentions were all that was required. It is precisely this denial of outcomes that leads intentional communities to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Good intentions are clearly not enough but we shall undoubtedly continue to witness the communities of those who live by the constant re-affirmation of good intentions alone, continuing to fail and to bury the evidence of their failure in order to “keep on believing.” A result of this is that intentional communities will not learn from their mistakes, and will keep on springing up, not as a force that will gather momentum or lead to progress as we move through history, but as a ceaseless eruption of the same good intentions beset by the same systemic problems and doomed by internal contradictions to fail, all over again.
    https://areomagazine.com/2018/03/08/why-utopian-communities-fail
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  5. IoT will be able to take stock of your choices, moods, preferences and tastes, the same way Google Search does. With enough spreadsheets, many practical questions are rendered trivial. How hard will it be for the IoT — maybe through Alexa, maybe through your phone — to statistically study why, where and when you raise your voice at your child? If you can correlate people’s habits and physical attributes, it will be toddler-easy to correlate mood to environment. The digitally connected devices of tomorrow would be poor consumer products if they did not learn you well. Being a good and faithful servant means monitoring the master closely, and that is what IoT devices will do. They will analyze your feedback and automate their responses — and predict your needs. In the IoT, Big Data is weaponized, and can peer deeper into the seeds your life than the government has ever dreamed.
    https://www.salon.com/2018/02/19/why-...signed-for-corporations-not-consumers
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  6. interests are assumed to be determined by their membership in groups, particularly their sex, race, sexual orientation, and disability status. Its signature is the tic of preceding a statement with “As a,” as if that bore on the cogency of what was to follow. Identity politics originated with the fact that members of certain groups really were disadvantaged by their group membership, which forged them into a coalition with common interests: Jews really did have a reason to form the Anti-Defamation League.

    But when it spreads beyond the target of combatting discrimination and oppression, it is an enemy of reason and Enlightenment values, including, ironically, the pursuit of justice for oppressed groups. For one thing, reason depends on there being an objective reality and universal standards of logic. As Chekhov said, there is no national multiplication table, and there is no racial or LGBT one either.

    This isn’t just a matter of keeping our science and politics in touch with reality; it gives force to the very movements for moral improvement that originally inspired identity politics. The slave trade and the Holocaust are not group-bonding myths; they objectively happened, and their evil is something that all people, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, must acknowledge and work to prevent in the future.

    Even the aspect of identity politics with a grain of justification—that a man cannot truly experience what it is like to be a woman, or a white person an African American—can subvert the cause of equality and harmony if it is taken too far, because it undermines one of the greatest epiphanies of the Enlightenment: that people are equipped with a capacity for sympathetic imagination, which allows them to appreciate the suffering of sentient beings unlike them. In this regard nothing could be more asinine than outrage against “cultural appropriation”—as if it’s a bad thing, rather than a good thing, for a white writer to try to convey the experiences of a black person, or vice versa.

    To be sure, empathy is not enough. But another Enlightenment principle is that people can appreciate principles of universal rights that can bridge even the gaps that empathy cannot span. Any hopes for human improvement are better served by encouraging a recognition of universal human interests than by pitting group against group in zero-sum competition.


    How high are the stakes in universities? Should we worry?

    SP: Yes, for three reasons. One is that scholars can’t hope to understand the world (particularly the social world) if some hypotheses are given a free pass and others are unmentionable. As John Stuart Mill noted, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.” In The Blank Slate I argued that leftist politics had distorted the study of human nature, including sex, violence, gender, childrearing, personality, and intelligence. The second is that people who suddenly discover forbidden facts outside the crucible of reasoned debate (which is what universities should be) can take them to dangerous conclusions, such as that differences between the sexes imply that we should discriminate against women (this kind of fallacy has fueled the alt-right movement). The third problem is that illiberal antics of the hard left are discrediting the rest of academia, including the large swaths of moderates and open-minded scholars who keep their politics out of their research.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/steven-...nlightenment-values/article/2011595#!
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  7. General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. "One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E," reports BBC. Dr. Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. "He reported a significant improvement in his wellbeing and, after six months, I had a letter from his mother saying he was happier at school and integrated into the local community," says Dr. Chatterjee. That and similar cases have led him to question the role social media plays in the lives of young people. From the report:
    "Social media is having a negative impact on mental health," he said. "I do think it is a big problem and that we need some rules. How do we educate society to use technology so it helps us rather than harms us?" A 2017 study by The Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people aged 11-25 to track their moods while using the five most popular social media sites. It suggested Snapchat and Instagram were the most likely to inspire feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. YouTube had the most positive influence. Seven in 10 said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14-24-year-olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. Two-thirds said Facebook made cyber-bullying worse.

    Consultant psychiatrist Louise Theodosiou says one of the clearest indications children are spending too long on their phones is their behavior during a session with a psychiatrist. "Two or three years ago, it was very unusual for a child to answer their phone or text during an appointment. But now it is common," said the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital doctor. She has seen a rise in cases where social media is a contributing factor in teenage depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These problems are often complex and wide-ranging -- from excessive use of gaming or social media sites to feelings of inadequacy brought on by a constant bombardment of social media images of other people's lives, to cyber-bullying.
    https://tech.slashdot.org/story/18/02...3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot+%28Slashdot%29
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  8. As the Dow Jones industrial average collapsed 700 points in 20 minutes Monday afternoon and the stock market jerked from bad to cataclysmic, traders and analysts coalesced around an increasingly routine explanation: Blame the machines.

    Lightning-fast trading models, automated sell orders and an arsenal of sophisticated algorithms may not have driven every bit of misery in what became the biggest stock-market point drop in U.S. history.

    But investors and market experts say they are likely to have made a crazy trading day that much crazier, spooking anyone with a retirement fund and sparking an outburst of panic selling — and making Tuesday's rebound seem even more baffling.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/t...-much-crazier/?utm_term=.b4fffe7f1d34
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  9. Since the earliest days of Facebook, social scientists have sent up warnings saying that the ability to maintain separate "contexts" (where you reveal different aspects of yourself to different people) was key to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships, but Mark Zuckerberg ignored this advice, insisting that everyone be identified only by their real names and present a single identity to everyone in their lives, because anything else was "two-faced."

    Zuck was following in the footsteps of other social network entrepreneurs who attempted to impose their own theories of social interaction on mass audiences -- danah boyd has written and presented extensively on the user rebellions of Friendster from people who wanted to form interest-based affinity groups and use pseudonymous identities for different activities, which Friendster rejected out of a mix of commercial concerns (it wanted users to arrange their social affairs to make it easier to monetize them) and fringe theories of social interaction.

    But while all the other social networks collapsed, Facebook thrived, and imposed the Zuckerberg model of "one identity, one context" on billions of users, who, research consistently finds, are made unhappy and angry by their use of the service, but are nevertheless psychologically compelled to continue using it, creating a vicious feedback loop that even Zuck has acknowledged as a risk to his business.

    In 2008, I found myself speaking with the big boss himself, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I was in the second year of my Ph.D. research on Facebook at Curtin University. And I had questions.

    Why did Facebook make everyone be the same for all of their contacts? Was Facebook going to add features that would make managing this easier?

    To my surprise, Zuckerberg told me that he had designed the site to be that way on purpose. And, he added, it was "lying" to behave differently in different social situations.

    Up until this point, I had assumed Facebook's socially awkward design was unintentional. It was simply the result of computer nerds designing for the rest of humanity, without realising it was not how people actually want to interact.

    The realisation that Facebook's context collapse was intentional not only changed the whole direction of my research but provides the key to understanding why Facebook may not be so great for your mental health.

    The secret history of Facebook depression Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie/Phys.org »
    https://phys.org/news/2018-01-secret-history-facebook-depression.html
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  10. Beyond how vomit-inducing the video is generally, one wonders just how closely the message in the video overlaps with actual UK law. While UK law is more stringent on free speech when it comes to so-called "insulting" speech, it seems far too simple an explanation to state that any parody that is found insulting would be illegal. Let's say, for instance, that Ed Sheeran considers this parody depiction of him, complete with an anti-piracy message that comes off as the opposite of his own, is insulting. Is the UK's IPO really saying that its own video suddenly becomes illegal?

    Now, while the videos generally tread upon long-debunked ground...

    After the Meerkats found out that people were downloading their tracks from pirate sites and became outraged, their manager Big Joe explained that file-sharing is just the same as stealing a CD from a physical store.

    “In a way, all those people who downloaded free copies are doing the same thing as walking out of the shop with a CD and forgetting to go the till,” he says.

    “What these sites are doing is sometimes called piracy. It not only affects music but also videos, books, and movies.If someone owns the copyright to something, well, it is stealing. Simple as that,” Big Joe adds.

    ...there is also some almost hilarious over-statements on the importance of this messaging and intellectual property as a whole. For instance, were you aware that the reason it's so important to teach 7 year olds about copyright and trademark is because navigating intellectual property is a full-blown "life skill?"
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/201...ut-intellectual-property-piracy.shtml
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