Guardian: Facebook’s war on free will

The horror creeps up on you slowly like a good scary movie. Considering how much time we all spend on FB, it’s not too much to take 15-20 minutes to peer behind the veil of this utopian algorithmic persuasion.

“Zuckerberg’s fantasy is that this data might be analysed to uncover the mother of all revelations, “a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about”. If that doesn’t sound creepy, then you’re probably going to be okay with what’s coming.

Humanity is imperfect, inefficient, chaotic. It is not an algorithm, it is not maths. By seeking to impose “a fundamental mathematical law” on humanity, at some point, humanity will have to go.

“The problem is that when we outsource thinking to machines, we are really outsourcing thinking to the organisations that run the machines.” Until the organisation is itself subsumed, as it must, by the laws of the machine, and our entire existence becomes just an automated customer service hotline where the options are finite and hermetic.

Be less human doesn’t mean we should be less than human. We mean to think more, not less.

Read the full article here.


One week to German election

The AfD party is polling at over 10%. Sure that’s not 46.4% but it’s still horrifying. In a country of over 80 million people, we’re talking more than 8 million Germans who are planning to vote for this unashamedly nationalist and violently anti-foreigner party. And of course the 10% aren’t evenly distributed across the country, meaning there are likely areas, maybe even whole towns, where voting AfD is unexceptional. Unexceptional!


Guardian: Hang on to your cash.

Worth more than a cursory glance. Something to think about for the coming decade. If you think there is no danger here, then you’re probably not understanding the extent society can and is being consciously shaped and groomed.

Put succinctly: “The only reason Visa ran its “cashfree and proud” campaign is because Visa loses revenue when you use cash.”

But the dangers go way beyond money-making.

Guardian: New AI can guess whether you’re gay or straight from a photograph

Fascinating study. The consequences of the technology are certainly foreboding. But it’s the fact that our sexual orientation can be deduced with high accuracy simply from our facial features that will deepen our understanding in the long run of what it is to be human. Of course the case is far from closed. For example, do those detectable features reflect our core sexuality, or do they affect the development of our sexuality? Or are these just two sides of the same coin?


Thank you, Mr Steinbeck

From Cannery Row by John Steinbeck: “It has always seemed strange to me … The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

Thank you Steinbeck for capturing so succinctly the core problem of our capitalist society. It’s up to us to change it.

BBC: Why Trump’s supporters will never abandon him

I realise there’s a cultural war going on and you think your side must win at any cost. I understand your motivation though I strongly disagree with your conclusion. So tell me you are a selfish, racist, bigoted, willfully-misinformed asshole and I will concede that you simply have different moral priorities.[1] But stop giving me these bullshit justifications and rationalisations for your views and actions.


[1] Surprisingly, I have heard not one person admit this.

The Guardian: Don’t blame addicts for America’s opioid crisis.

Good opinion piece for a beginners’ understanding of this: “almost uniquely American crisis driven in good part by particular American issues from the influence of drug companies over medical policy to a “pill for every ill” culture.” There’s a lot there to unpack.

Old England, Old World

Old England is an imaginary place, a landscape built from words, woodcuts, films, paintings, picturesque engravings. It is a place imagined by people, and people do not live very long or look very hard. We are very bad at scale. The things that live in the soil are too small to care about; climate change too large to imagine. We are bad at time, too. We cannot remember what lived here before we did; we cannot love what is not. Nor can we imagine what will be different when we are dead. We live out our three score and ten, and tie our knots and lines only to ourselves. We take solace in pictures, and we wipe the hills of history.

-Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk

Beyond Human

We, with our propensity for murder, torture, slavery, rape, cannibalism, pillage, advertising jingles, shag carpets, and golf, how could we be seriously considered as the perfection of a four-billion-year-old grandiose experiment? Perhaps as a race, we have evolved as far as we are capable, yet that by no means suggests that evolution has called it quits. In all likelihood, it has something beyond human on the drawing board. We tend to refer to our most barbaric and crapulous behaviour as “inhuman,” whereas, in point of fact, it is exactly human, definitively and quintessentially human, since no other creature habitually indulges in comparable atrocities.

-Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas