The Internet is Just a Prototype The week in hyperlinks #19

A weekly reading list to stimulate thoughts about the (digitised) world you might (or might not) want to live in.

Here is this week’s collection of articles and ideas that caught my eye, with a focus on ‘digital life’ , broadband Internet and personal data. They offer data about the world we presently live in, and hints about the one we might wish to pass on to future generations.

Noteworthy news

The biggest news this week, of course, is the mainstream media silence about the trial of the NXIVM child sex slave cult, which just happens to implicate many senior members of the US media and political elite, including the billionaire Bronfman family. Can’t imagine why. Now, in other news…

Pedophiles Desperately Trying To Join LGBT Movement with Their Own ‘Acceptance’ FlagConservative Tribune

Following on from Netflix showing 7-9 year olds having an orgasm, and Facebook polling attitudes to paedophiles grooming kids using its service, and whilstleblowers on endemic paedophilia and abuse in Hollywood, we suddenly out of nowhere have a movement to normalise child rape. As a gay male who is a parent, I can’t tell you how unwelcome this is. Something in our media and tech world is very, very, very wrong.

The BBC just launched a chilling attack on free speechAnother Angry Voice

“However, YouTube have apparently decided to comply with the BBC’s efforts to shut down several pro-independence channels by enforcing copyright takedowns against all videos containing clips of BBC output (regardless of fair use consideration) and then suspending the pages for repeat violations. Interestingly anti-Scottish independence sites that have used BBC content to promote their cause have been left in peace.” See also Fake news a democratic crisis for UK, MPs warn and The state flexes its muscles.

Thousands Of Scientists Sign Pledge Against Developing Lethal A.I.Daily Sheeple

“Two leading experts backing the commitment, Demis Hassabis at Google DeepMind and Elon Musk at SpaceX, are among the more than 2,400 signatories whom have pledged to deter military firms and nations from building lethal autonomous weapon systems, referred to as Laws.” — Your values are your new value proposition.

Twitter May Be Demoting Controversial Accounts in Search ResultsGizmodo

“Overwhelmingly, the responses were a call to remove bad-faith actors, dangerous conspiracists, and outright white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It’s unclear if this tweak to the platform is in response to that feedback, given that enabling such groups has been a consistent criticism of Twitter for several years.” — Twitter has a pathetic response objecting to the term “shadow ban” whilst substantiating the actual criticism. If you can’t cope with “dangerous” ideas, maybe you don’t belong online? See also Twitter appears to have fixed “shadow ban” of prominent Republicans like the RNC chair and Trump Jr.’s spokesman and Twitter plunges as company moves to purge fake accounts.

Social media data shared by spy agenciesBBC News

“The details were revealed in an Intelligence and Security Committee report which, although heavily redacted, stated that so-called bulk personal datasets (BPDs) vary in size from hundreds to millions of records.” — Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. See also Australian government ‘drunk on surveillance’ and China Senses Silicon Valley Weakness.

Facebook’s shares tumble as growth disappointsBBC News

“Facebook said it expected revenue gains to slow, as people make use of new options to limit advertising and less profitable overseas markets drive growth. The firm also plans to spend billions to improve the way it monitors content, tracks advertisers and treats user data – areas where it has faced regulator scrutiny.” — Facebook is the Enron of personal data. Just watch. Major implosion ahead. See also Facebook death spiralFacebook Stands to Lose Tens of BILLIONS in Dozens of Lawsuits, and Facebook’s $100 billion-plus rout is the biggest loss in stock market history.

Judges Hear Warning on Prosecution of WikiLeaksCourthouse News

“[NYT lawyer] McCraw went on to clarify that while Assange employs certain methods that he finds discomfiting and irresponsible, such as dumping unredacted documents revealing the personal information of ordinary people, Assange should be afforded the same protections as a traditional journalist.” — But does the NYT itself report on this view? Guess! See also In Refusing To Defend Assange, Mainstream Media Exposes Its True Nature.

Cool tech

If the Moon were only 1 pixelJosh Worth

Incredible animation to give you a sense of the space of space.

The spooky world of the ‘numbers stations’BBC Magazine

From 2014, but still good: “Times have changed and technology has evolved, but there’s evidence that this old-fashioned seeming method of communication might still be used. Shortwave numbers stations might seem low-tech but they probably remain the best option for transmitting information to agents in the field, some espionage experts suggest.”

Pixelknot: Hidden MessagesGuardian Project

“Pixelknot is an Android application that allows users to hide short text-based messages in photographs and share them across trusted channels. Have a secret that you want to share? Why not hide it in a picture? With PixelKnot, only your friends with the secret password can unlock your special message. Everyone else just sees a pretty picture.” — I wonder which intelligence agencies have created or cracked it?

Important ideas

Platform Regulation Part I: Why Platform Regulation Is Both Necessary and Hard
Part II: Defining “Digital Platform”
Part III: Cost of Exclusion as a Proxy for Dominance in Digital Platform Regulation — Harold Feld, Public Knowledge

Whilst I and Harold have clashed in various fora, it would be churlish of me to deny that this is a sterling piece of work. He offers a reframing of market power around opportunity cost. No matter what your expertise or opinion, you will learn something from reading these articles on our digital world’s “balance of power predicament”.

Data of distinction

The Rise of Non “VC compatible” SaaS Companies — Clement Vouillon

“Not only an increasing number of founders shares their experience growing their SaaS business without outside funding but an increasing number of them shares their disillusion going the VC way as well.” — Software is eating capitalist institutions, too, so it seems.

Watch a Hacker Install a Firmware Backdoor on a Laptop in Less Than 5 MinutesVice

“These types of attacks are called evil maid attacks in the infosec world, because the imaginary attacker is someone who has access to your room and malicious intentions. Pwning a laptop via physical access is a true and tested method to hack someone. But there’s no better way to be reminded of how effective and sometimes effortless these attacks can be than an actual demo.” See also How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies.

Frontal Brain Asymmetry and Willingness to Pay — iMotions

“Our results demonstrate that prefrontal asymmetry in the gamma frequency band, and a trend in the beta frequency band that was recorded during product viewing was significantly related to subsequent WTP responses. Frontal asymmetry in the alpha band was not related to WTP decisions.” — Buy or die! It’s the teleology of tech.

84+ Known Blockchain Use CasesMark Morris

It’s just a list, but it’s a really good one.

Radiation from wi-fi and cell phones increases pregnant women’s risk of miscarriage by nearly 50%Natural News

“The participants were at different stages of pregnancy, and a number of them had suffered at least one miscarriage in the past. All of the women were given EMDEX Lite meters to carry for 24 hours in order to measure their MF radiation exposure on an average day. Following this, the researchers kept track of the participants’ pregnancy outcomes.” — Noting correlation and causation here are problematic. But interesting data, nonetheless.

Interesting views

Memes That Kill: The Future Of Information WarfareCB Insights

“Basically, Dr. Finklestein’s [2011] Meme Control Center would pump the internet full of “memes” that would benefit the national security of the United States. Finkelstein saw a future in which guns and bombs are replaced by rumor, digital fakery, and social engineering. Fast forward seven years, and Dr. Finklestein’s ideas don’t seem radical at all. Instead, they seem farsighted.”

“Bought Journalism” Update — Ersjdamoo’s Blog

“Ersjdamoo has searched in vain for any reports in the English-language press about Ulfkotte’s defection from the secret propaganda network. There seems to be a total news blackout in the West on what is now big news in Germany.”

How E.U.’s Google Fine Explains High Cellphone Costs in the U.S.New York Times

“This difference is amplified by the different types of appointees chosen. In the United States the head of the antitrust is generally a lawyer, leery of upsetting his future employment opportunities with too-aggressive enforcement. In Europe it is generally a career politician, eager to gain some popular consensus.”

Universal basic income and rewilding can meet Anthropocene demandsThe Guardian

“Another idea is Half-Earth – the simple but profound idea that environmental repair could come from allocating half the Earth’s surface primarily for the benefit of other species. Half-Earth is less utopian than it first appears, as we have become an urban species. Mass-scale forest restoration is already underway, with commitments across 43 countries to restore 292m hectares of degraded land to forest, 10 times the area of the UK.”

Provocative perspectives

Negative Forces (Seem to) Respect Freewill — And Why Evil Exists in a Benevolent CreationStillness in the Storm

A bit “woo” for me, but this caught my eye: “So while evil and the negative are not things we should exalt or try to maintain, in the act of overcoming them, we’ll not only grow as individuals but prepare the world for future ages of light and life.”

Psychopaths, Basketball Players & PoliticiansTomato Bubble

“In the realm of “democracy” politics, in which the object of the game is to sell 51% of the dumb-as-dirt public on the idea of voting for you, the psychopath will rise to the top more easily than an honest man — just as a 6′ 5″ basketball player will rise to the NBA more easily than a 5′ 11″ player. It is very difficult for a good man to compete with a degenerate scumbag who is willing to lie, cheat, make empty promises and take bribes in order to win an election.”

Media of merit

From YouTube:

From Twitter:

Buyable books

Introduction to Vedanta — K Sadananda, Dennis Waite, Dennis Waite

Our technology implicitly embeds our cultural, social and spiritual values. Just the contents of this book alone — covering Hindu philosophy — offers food for reflection on how we might see life differently. I’ll be wading into the contents when during the next month… See also My Tao isn’t the Dow.

The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millenium — Martin Gurri

“The Revolt of the Public tells the story of how insurgencies, enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere, have mobilized millions of ordinary people around the world. Originally published in 2011, this updated edition of The Revolt of the Public includes an extensive analysis of Donald Trump’s improbable rise to the presidency and the electoral triumphs of “Brexit” and concludes with a speculative look forward, pondering whether the current elite class can bring about a reformation of the democratic process, and whether new organizing principles, adapted to a digital world, can arise out of the present political turbulence.”

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