2016/06/03: Ultimately, is paper the gold standard we should stick to?
Yes. Paper has some fundamental properties as a technology that make it the right thing to use for voting. You have more-or-less indelible marks on the thing. You have physical objects you can control. And everyone understands it. If you’re in a polling place and somebody disappears with a ballot box into a locked room and emerges with a smirk, maybe you know that there is a problem. We’ve had a long time to work out the procedures with paper ballots and need to think twice before we try to throw a new technology at the problem. People take paper ballots for granted and don’t understand how carefully thought through they are.
2018/10/05: Bolsonaro has warned about the danger posed by refugees from Haiti, Africa, and the Middle East, calling them “the scum of humanity” and even argued that the army should take care of them.
He regularly makes racist and misogynistic statements. For example, he accused Afro-Brazilians of being obese and lazy and defended physically punishing children to try to prevent them from being gay. He has equated homosexuality with pedophilia and told a representative in the Brazilian National Congress, “I wouldn’t rape you because you do not deserve it.”
In these and other statements, Bolsonaro’s vocabulary recalls the rhetoric behind Nazi policies of persecution and victimization. But does sounding like a Nazi make him a Nazi? Insomuch as he believes in holding elections, he is not there yet. However, things could change quickly if he gains power.
Recently, Bolsonaro argued that he would never accept defeat in the election and suggested that the army might agree with his view. This is a clear threat to democracy.
For left-wing populists, this was the case in recent years, for example, in the Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations in Argentina and the Rafael Correa administration in Ecuador. On the right, there have been plenty of traditionalist populists, including Carlos Menem in Argentina and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, who are not anti-democratic.
This is not what Bolsonaro stands for. Unlike previous forms of populism (on the left and right) that embraced democracy and rejected violence and racism, Bolsonaro’s populism harks back to Hitler’s time.
2018/08/29: something called the Lerna project has added a codicil to its MIT license denying the use of its software to a long list of organizations because it disagrees with a political choice those organizations have made.
Speaking as one of the original co-authors of the Open Source Definition, I state a fact. As amended, the Lerna license is no longer conformant with the OSD. It has specifically broken compliance with clause 5 (“No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups”).
Accordingly, Lerna has defected from the open-source community and should be shunned by anyone who values the health of that community. I will not contribute to their project, and will urge others not to, until and unless this change is rescinded.
We wrote Clause 5 into the OSD for a good reason. Exclusions and carve-outs like Lerna’s, if they became common, would create tremendous uncertainty about the ethics and even the legality of code re-use. Suppose I were to take a snippet from Lerna code and re-use it in a project that (possibly without my knowledge) was deployed by one of the proscribed organizations; what would my ethical and legal exposure be?
2018/09/14: while Brandeis believed that anyone had the right to express their views, he did not believe that anyone had the right to be amplified.
More importantly, he didn’t believe that anyone who had the means to shove a message down someone’s throat had the right to do so.
2018/09/16: our public school systems are barely providing basic literacy: about 1 in 7 American adults would struggle to read a children’s book. In higher ed, students last year graduated with an average of $39,400 in debt. The top 1 percent of American households today controls more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. Our justice system puts African Americans in prison at five times the rate of whites.
And voting suppression and intimidation is everywhere — purges to voting rolls in Indiana, Texas repeatedly found guilty of discriminatory practices, gerrymandering everywhere turning Democratic votes meaningless. And Republicans are trying to pass a constitutional amendment that would require voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls, which research, as well as common sense, tells us suppresses minority votes.
Do you ever stop and marvel how everything seems to be in crisis all at once? Or, as an African-American friend said to me recently, now everyone in America has a glimpse of what it’s like to be black.
It’s not a coincidence, of course. In the system of democratic society, all the parts are totally interdependent.
2018/09/12: In the book, the narrator, a sociologist, describes how a system in which status accorded by birth had been replaced by a society in which the classes are reconstituted in the basic formula, IQ plus Effort = Merit. The belief in a common good and a flourishing civic life is corroded. “If the meritocrats believe…that their advantage comes from their own merits,” Young wrote. “They can feel they deserve whatever they can get.
As Young’s book predicted, opportunities to accrue social capital, the springboard that allows the middle classes to leap ahead, have been drastically reduced for those at the bottom of society even as, contrary to one of Young’s predictions, the rich have grown wealthier with 10% owning 40% of this country’s wealth.
Democracy does not require perfect equality but it does require that citizens share a common life.
Do we want a society in which everything is up for sale? Meritocrats might say, “Yes”. As Young pointed out all those years ago, the ability to buy what it wants when it wants is one way in which the meritocracy proves its “worth” – at least to itself.
2'18/09/16: For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.
Growth is also becoming harder to achieve due to declining productivity gains, market saturation, and ecological degradation. If current trends continue, there may be no growth at all in Europe within a decade. Right now the response is to try to fuel growth by issuing more debt, shredding environmental regulations, extending working hours, and cutting social protections. This aggressive pursuit of growth at all costs divides society, creates economic instability, and undermines democracy.
2018/09/14: I am beginning to think that these things cannot coexist. Technology - of this kind, unregulated, unmonitored, left to its own ends - and civilization.
two factors behind a growing global epidemic of mental breakdown: technology and imploding capitalism
we are building a world where they choice to believe all the foolish things that they want.
No, it is not really your "right" to believe any foolish thing you want. Beliefs, too, exist only within boundaries.
The decivilized have begun to believe in delusions. Delusions are fantasies.
social media lets us dehumanize people costlessly, frictionlessly, with ease
2018/09/14: Democracy didn’t create our problems, but it may solve them.
the extremist evils of our age are the result of anti-democratic action from the very institutions created to preserve the elite veto over "mob rule."
Yet we continue to misdiagnose America's political disease as "mob rule" rather than "elite rule." This misdiagnosis matters, because it leads to prescriptions that merely heighten the grip by elites.
An honest examination of democratic decline would look at the ways in which our counter-majoritarian institutions are thwarting the public will—as expressed through its elected representatives—and how that can create support for truly destabilizing forces.
The transformation of the GOP into a parliamentary-style party primarily responsive to donors, right-wing activists, and conservative media is arguably the central problem for American governance.
What declinist arguments like Rosen’s actually fear is the waning influence of elites. And what these arguments seem to seek - in voicing nostalgia for early American politics - is an era where elites could steer governance with only the cursory affirmation of a narrow and exclusive public.
If political and economic elites have lost their stature in American life, it’s only after a generation of profound mismanagement, from misguided foreign adventures to wage stagnation and broad economic collapse.
If we’ve seen light, it’s in those places where ordinary people have organized and begun to build new movements and new ways of democratic living.
2018/09/20: it is incumbent on the civic technology community to navigate these challenges and assume their duty to democracy, as their "public work," to deliver truly empowering technology.
Participatory democracy also demands that citizens hold these engineers and designers accountable for this responsibility, forming another virtuous cycle.
2013/08/09: What’s intriguing about Jeff Bezos, who purchased The Washington Post this week, is not that he’s a digital guy or that he has a lot of money—though both certainly help—but that ever since he founded Amazon, he’s specialized in the long view.
2018/09/04: Rightly or wrongly, many associate Mill’s On Liberty with the motif of a “marketplace of ideas,” a realm that, if left to operate on its own, will drive out prejudice and falsehood and produce knowledge. But this notion, like that of a free market generally, is predicated on a utopian conception of consumers. In the case of the metaphor of the marketplace of ideas, the utopian assumption is that conversation works by exchange of reasons: one party offers its reasons, which are then countered by the reasons of an opponent, until the truth ultimately emerges.
But conversation is not just used to communicate information. It is also used to shut out perspectives, raise fears, and heighten prejudice.
2018/08/16: The vision is a radical departure from the one-person, one-vote, once-every-year-or-two trip to the ballot box we are familiar with—and by which, in Siri’s view, we are so ill-served. Users of Democracy.Earth’s one-size-fits-all governance platform—code-named Sovereign—would have infinite flexibility to vote on any kind of topic or person, whenever they log on. In the Democracy.Earth future, every day will be election day, and the ballot will include anything that enough of us think should be there.
In this perfect world, Siri argues, the supposedly unhackable and absolutely transparent blockchain will ensure that no centralized election authority is required to tabulate a vote, and no corrupt politician or gridlocked legislature can interfere with the popular mandate. But coming up with a superior form of voting technology is just the beginning; the larger, far more revolutionary goal is to devise a decentralized decisionmaking process that eliminates the necessity for any kind of central government at all.
“We are not in the business of selling e-voting machines or helping modernize governments with internet voting,” Siri says. “We want to empower people down to the individual level without asking for the permission of governments.”
The proposition that new solutions are necessary for our strange new world is hard to argue against. The problem lies in proving that something as complex as Democracy.Earth fixes more than it breaks.
What Siri seemed to be saying is that Sovereign isn’t really intended as a replacement for how the United States elects a president or California passes an initiative. Instead, it's really an exercise in figuring out how to use the blockchain to make group decisions in the crypto-digital domain. Sovereign, in other words, represents government of the crypto-people, by the crypto-people, and for the crypto-people.
For all the recent hand-wringing in the United States over Facebook’s monopolistic power, the mega-platform’s grip on the Philippines is something else entirely. Thanks to a social media–hungry populace and heavy subsidies that keep Facebook free to use on mobile phones, Facebook has completely saturated the country. And because using other data, like accessing a news website via a mobile web browser, is precious and expensive, for most Filipinos the only way online is through Facebook. The platform is a leading provider of news and information, and it was a key engine behind the wave of populist anger that carried Duterte all the way to the presidency.
If you want to know what happens to a country that has opened itself entirely to Facebook, look to the Philippines. What happened there — what continues to happen there — is both an origin story for the weaponization of social media and a peek at its dystopian future. It’s a society where, increasingly, the truth no longer matters, propaganda is ubiquitous, and lives are wrecked and people die as a result — half a world away from the Silicon Valley engineers who’d promised to connect their world.
2018/09/05: Turns out too much free speech - and not enough listening - is a bad thing for democracy.
It’s not speech per se that allows democracies to function, but the ability to agree - eventually, at least some of the time - on what is true, what is important and what serves the public good.
"Democracy can’t operate completely unmoored from a common ground...We need new mechanisms—suited to the digital age—that allow for a shared understanding of facts and that focus our collective attention on the most important problems."
Trump-like so many other politicians and pundits-has found search and social media companies to be convenient targets in the debate over free speech and censorship online. "This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!"rnrnBut in this moment, the conversation we should be having-how can we fix the algorithms?-is instead being co-opted and twisted by politicians and pundits howling about censorship and miscasting content moderation as the demise of free speech online. It would be good to remind them that free speech does not mean free reach. There is no right to algorithmic amplification. In fact, that's the very problem that needs fixing.rnrnThe algorithms don't understand what is propaganda and what isn't, or what is "fake news" and what is fact-checked. Their job is to surface relevant content (relevant to the user, of course), and they do it exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that the engineers who built these algorithms are sometimes baffled: "Even the creators don't always understand why it recommends one video instead of another," says Guillaume Chaslot, an ex-YouTube engineer who worked on the site's algorithm.rnrn YouTube's algorithms can also radicalize by suggesting "white supremacist rants, Holocaust denials, and other disturbing content," Zeynep Tufekci recently wrote in the Times. "YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the rnrnThe problem extends beyond YouTube, though. On Google search, dangerous anti-vaccine misinformation can commandeer the top results. And on Facebook, hate speech can thrive and fuel genocidernrnSo what can we do about it? The solution isn't to outlaw algorithmic ranking or make noise about legislating what results Google can return. Algorithms are an invaluable tool for making sense of the immense universe of information online. There's an overwhelming amount of content available to fill any given person's feed or search query; sorting and ranking is a necessity, and there has never been evidence indicating that the results display systemic partisan bias. rnIt's imperative that we focus on solutions, not politics.
We used to buy DVDs or video cassettes; now viewers stream movies or TV shows with Netflix. Even the company's disc-mailing service is falling out of favor. Music lovers used to buy compact discs; now Spotify and YouTube are more commonly used to hear our favorite tunes.rnrnThe great American teenage dream used to be to own your own car. That is dwindling in favor of urban living, greater reliance on mass transit, cycling, walking and, of course, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.rnrnEach of these changes is beneficial, yet I worry that Americans are, slowly but surely, losing their connection to the idea of private ownership. The nation was based on the notion that property ownership gives individuals a stake in the system. It set Americans apart from feudal peasants, taught us how property rights and incentives operate, and was a kind of training for future entrepreneurship. Do we not, as parents, often give our children pets or other valuable possessions to teach them basic lessons of life and stewardship?rnrnWe're hardly at a point where American property has been abolished, but I am still nervous that we are finding ownership to be so inconvenient. The notion of "possessive individualism" is sometimes mocked, but in fact it is a significant source of autonomy and initiative. Perhaps we are becoming more communal and caring in positive ways, but it also seems to be more conformist and to generate fewer empire builders and entrepreneurs.rnrnWhat about your iPhone, that all-essential life device? Surely you own that? Well, sort of. When Apple Inc. decides to change the operating software, sooner or later you have to go along with what they have selected.rnrnrnDoes that sound like something our largely agrarian Founding Fathers might have been happy about? The libertarian political theorist might tell you that arrangement is simply freedom of contract in action. But the more commonsensical, broad libertarian intuitions of the American public encapsulate a more brutish and direct sense that some things we simply own and hold the rights to.rnrnThose are intuitions which are growing increasingly disconnected from reality, and no one knows what lies on the other side of this social experiment.
Free and fair elections require an informed, active body of citizens debating the electoral issues of the day and scrutinising the positions of candidates. Participation at each and every stage of an electoral campaign - not just on the day of the vote - is necessary for a healthy democracy.rnrnThose online have access to an increasingly sophisticated set of tools to do just this: to learn about candidates, to participate in political discussions, to shape debate and raise issues that matter to them. Or even, run for office themselves.rnrnWhat does this mean for those citizens who don't have access to the internet? Do online debates capture their needs, concerns and interests? Are the priorities of those not connected represented on the political stage?rnThe Mexican election: a story of digital inequalityrnrnMar195173a de Jes195186s "Marichuy" Patricio Martinez was selected as an independent candidate in Mexico's recent July 1 elections general election - the first indigenous woman to run for president. But digital barriers doomed her candidacy.rnrnIndependent presidential candidates in Mexico are required to collect 866,000 signatures using a mandatory mobile app that only runs on relatively new smartphones. This means that to collect the required endorsements, a candidate and their supporters all need a modern smartphone - which typically costs around three times the minimum monthly salary - plus electricity and mobile data. These are resources many people in indigenous communities simply don't have. While the electoral authorities exempted some municipalities from this process, it did not cover the mostly poor and indigenous areas that Marichuy wanted to represent. She was unable to gather the signatures needed.rnOffline and disconnectedrnrnIn Mexico, as in many countries, increased internet use has led to a growing number of political and electoral activities taking place online - a shift that offers new opportunities for broadening involvement and activating the electorate. In the country's July elections, the National Electoral Authority (INE) used its website, videos and social networks to encourage people to vote and to inform citizens about key electoral issues.rnrnBut just as Marichuy discovered, digital technology can only expand opportunities so far as people are connected and have the resources they need to engage. With only 64% of Mexico's population online, over a third of the country is shut out of the increasingly influential digital square. And those without internet access are disproportionately poor, female, indigenous and living in rural areas - people whose interests the institutions of government systematically fail to address, and who candidates should be paying particular attention to.rnrnMexico's digital divide is stark, with some entire communities without access. There are people living in indigenous communities who, to get online, must travel up to 40 kilometers to reach an area with connectivity. This is a huge burden that only a minority of people in these communities can afford according to research from the Heinrich Boll Foundation.rnrnIn a country as large and centralised as Mexico, ensuring broad based participation is critical. But as political parties shift from traditional campaigning to a digital-led model they are increasingly shifting their attention towards those citizens that are online, leaving those offline with fewer opportunities to inform themselves about candidates, their positions, and the issues on the table. These voices are being lost.