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How “fake news” could get even worse - John Gray

Images and audio have been manipulated almost since their invention. But older fakes were made by snipping bits out of photographic negatives, combining them with others, and then developing the film again. New techniques are very different. Doctoring images and audio by fiddling with film or using photo-editing software requires skill. But generative software can churn out forgeries automatically, based on simple instructions. Images generated in this fashion can fool humans, but also computers. Some of the pixels in an image doctored using editing software will not match up with what might be expected in the real world. Generated images, because their creation requires convincing an adversary that checks for just such statistical anomalies, contain none of these tell-tale signs of forgery. A generated image is also internally consistent, betraying few signs of tampering.

 

20 years: Online platform Edge.org - Tobias Sedlmaier

In between, there are reflections on how AIs would see their builders, whether they are able to serve as caregivers or to demand rights of their own, whether they are incompetent, have ulterior motives, can develop creativity, merge with people organically or even relieve our conscience by killing autonomously. In the end, therefore, are questions. Many of them.

 

Post Truth, is this really a new era of politics? - John Gray

One of the implications of his analysis is that bullshit can be found across the political spectrum. He devotes remarkably little attention to the fact, but liberals engage in bullshit as much as populists. While leave campaigners may have exaggerated Britain’s financial contribution to the EU, as he shows at length,remainers launched “Project Fear” – a naked appeal to the emotions deploying unverifiable figures about the economic consequences of leaving the EU that were plucked from the air. Few voters can have imagined they were making their decision on the basis of brute facts. In the event counter-productive, Project Fear was an example of incompetent bullshit – a larger category of discourse than Davis seems to think. Most voters made their decision on the basis of what was most important to them – in other words, they were guided by their values

 

A day without media

This study conducted by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) asked 200 students at the University of Maryland, College Park to abstain from using all media for 24 hours.  After their 24 hours of abstinence, the students were then asked to blog on private class websites about their experiences: to report their successes and admit to any failures.  The 200 students wrote over 110,000 words: in aggregate, about the same number of words as a 400-page novel.

 

The world unplugged

Because Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and their counterparts are increasingly the way students reported getting their news and information, students were cavalier about any need for traditional news outlets, and in fact very few students mentioned any legacy or online news organization by name. Students wanted “news,” yes, but the term was blurred in their minds, as the same social network platforms that carry their personal news, also are the ways in which students get the bulk of their daily “hard” news, too. Rhetorically speaking at least, most students around the world didn’t discriminate between news that The New York Times, the BBC or Al Jazeera might cover, and news that might only appear in a friend’s tweet or Facebook status update.

 

Digital dissenters

The dean of the digital dissenters is Jaron Lanier. He’s a musician, composer, performer and pioneer of virtual-reality headsets that allow the user to experience computer-generated 3D environments. But what he’s most famous for is his criticism of the computer culture he helped create.

He believes that Silicon Valley treats humans like electrical relays in a vast machine. Although he still works in technology, he largely has turned against his tribe.

 

The End of Absence, by Michael Harris

There’s a solid body of writing on technology and its discontents — books like Neil Postman’s “Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology” (1992), James Gleick’s “Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything” (1999) and Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” (2010). Harris quotes many of these writers, as well as a range of psychologists, philosophers, neurologists and tech gurus, as he explores subjects as diverse as our mania for self-documentation and the nature of our relationships in the time of Internet dating.

 

Internet is not the answer

His first book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture, was a lacerating critique of the obsession with user-generated content which characterised the early days of web 2.0, and whenever conference organisers wanted to ensure a bloody good row, Andrew Keen was the man they invited to give the keynote address.

If his new book is anything to go by, Keen has lost none of his edge, but he’s expanded the scope and depth of his critique. He wants to persuade us to transcend our childlike fascination with the baubles of cyberspace so that we can take a long hard look at the weird, dysfunctional, inegalitarian, comprehensively surveilled world that we have been building with digital tools. In that sense, The Internet Is Not the Answer joins a number of recent books by critics such as Jaron Lanier, Doc Searls, Astra Taylor, Ethan Zuckerman and Nicholas Carr, who are also trying to wake us from the nightmare into which we have been sleepwalking.

 

It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies By Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

In my clinical work with over 1,000 teens over the past 15 years, I have found the old axiom of “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to be especially true when it comes to tech addiction. Once a kid has crossed the line into true tech addiction, treatment can be very difficult. Indeed, I have found it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than lost-in-the-matrix video gamers or Facebook-dependent social media addicts.

 

Machine-learning overlords - Maureen Dowd.

Here’s the nagging thought you can’t escape as you drive around from glass box to glass box in Silicon Valley: the Lords of the Cloud love to yammer about turning the world into a better place as they churn out new algorithms, apps, and inventions that, it is claimed, will make our lives easier, healthier, funnier, closer, cooler, longer, and kinder to the planet. And yet there’s a creepy feeling underneath it all, a sense that we’re the mice in their experiments, that they regard us humans as Betamaxes or eight-tracks, old technology that will soon be discarded so that they can get on to enjoying their sleek new world. Many people there have accepted this future: we’ll live to be 150 years old, but we’ll have machine overlords.

 

A Conversation With David Chalmers

Who controls the values and the goals that go into the AIs? Is it Google and Facebook—the industry—that gets to program these things? Is it the government? Is it somehow a collective? Is it just whoever is lucky enough to invent the first greater than human level AI? There’s a debate to have about that. Whose values? We don’t have a single set of collective human values. Whose society? What’s going to happen? It’s already happening. People thinking about the future of AI are having this debate. In a way it’s recapitulating the whole history of political philosophy when we think whose values are going to run our society, and how we collectively determine what those values are.      

 

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI - Will Knight.

Already, mathematical models are being used to help determine who makes parole, who’s approved for a loan, and who gets hired for a job. If you could get access to these mathematical models, it would be possible to understand their reasoning. But banks, the military, employers, and others are now turning their attention to more complex machine-learning approaches that could make automated decision-making altogether inscrutable. Deep learning, the most common of these approaches, represents a fundamentally different way to program computers. “It is a problem that is already relevant, and it’s going to be much more relevant in the future,” says Tommi Jaakkola, a professor at MIT who works on applications of machine learning. “Whether it’s an investment decision, a medical decision, or maybe a military decision, you don’t want to just rely on a ‘black box’ method.”


The End of Identity Liberalism - Mark Lilla.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them.

 

The last hollow laugh - Paul Sagar.

For Fukuyama, the long-run development of humanity was clearly discernible: from the Dark Ages, to the Renaissance, and then crucially the Enlightenment, with its inventions of secularism, egalitarianism and rational social organisation, paving the way in turn for democratic liberal capitalism. This was the cumulative, and thus far upward-curving, arc of human development.

Fukuyama jettisoned Hegel’s implausible metaphysics, as well as Marx’s idea of ‘dialectical materialism’, as the proposed motor of historical synthesis.

 

Brexit - Richard Dawkins.

Am I being elitist? Of course. What’s wrong with that? We want elite surgeons who know their anatomy, elite pilots who know how to fly, elite engineers to build safe bridges, elite athletes to win at the Olympics for Team GB, elite architects to design beautiful buildings, elite teachers and professors to educate the next generation and help them join the elite. In the same way, to decide the affairs of state, as we live in a representative democracy, we can at least hope to elect elite parliamentarians, guided and advised by elite, highly educated civil servants. Not politicians who abdicate their democratic responsibility and hand important decisions over to people like me...

 

In defence of hierarchy - Stephen C Angle.

As a society we have forgotten how to talk about the benefits of hierarchy, expertise and excellence. It's time we remembered...

 

An Interview with John Gray - Johannes Niederhauser

I define progress in my new book as any kind of advance that's cumulative, so that what's achieved at one period is the basis for later achievement that then, over time, becomes more and more irreversible. In science and technology, progress isn't a myth. However, the myth is that the progress achieved in science and technology can occur in ethics, politics, or, more simply, civilization...

 

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down - Hannes Grassegger.

Just how precisely the American population was being targeted by Trump's digital troops at that moment was not visible, because they attacked less on mainstream TV and more with personalized messages on social media or digital TV. 

 

China invents the digital totalitarian state

China has “an administrative rewards system” in which hundreds of thousands of people a year receive honours and titles, such as “outstanding cadre”, “spiritually advanced individual” and “civilised village”. Winners get money, a higher pension, better health insurance and the right to jump the queue for public housing. The honours system is valued by the leadership...

 

An interview with Yuval Harari - Derek Thompson.

The most important invention that’s spreading now is biometric sensors. They may become ubiquitous. Humans will consult their biometric data to determine how to live. That is really interesting and scary stuff, because we will no longer be in charge of our identity. We will outsource our executive decisions to biometric readings of our neurochemical signals to decide how to live...

 

The near future - Peter Diamandis.

In four years, we'll be able to fully manipulate photorealistic avatars of candidates to say, well… anything.

This year, researchers out of Stanford were able to take videos of humans and, in real-time, manipulate their faces to match expressions of another person in the lab. Scary...

 

Truth in a Post-Truth Age - Michael P. Lynch.

But the mere coherence of a story can’t by itself make it true. That’s because you can make any story internally coherent as long as you are willing to say enough crazy stuff. Nonetheless, there has been a disturbing tendency in both the US and certain parts of Europe to mistake coherent narratives for truth. This is a tendency that has only been encouraged by social media – plaforms that encourage coherence by wrapping our communications into tightly formed webs or “social networks” of like-thinking individuals. 

 

Esta selección de artículos ha sido realizada por Víctor Cortecero. Pueden visitar también victorcortecero.com y laciudadania.com