01/19/18 Links

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Computer down until 7/18/18

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Phone blogging has proven impossible thus far.

01/13/18 Overnight links

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01/12/18 Morning links

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Despite the scaremongering, the press is probably safer than its ever been, so says David Harsanyi: “There is no country in Europe that boasts as healthy an environment for press freedom or free speech as the United States — and considering the attitude of elites, it’s doubtful they want that dynamic to change. In Europe, libel laws are frequently used by the rich and powerful to suppress unfavorable coverage. In England, for example, Trump would likely have been able to quash the Wolff book. In Germany, the state demands that private online outlets govern speech that doesn’t comport with their diktats. In France, the government will decide what is real news. The European Commission Code of Conduct features an array of demands for the government to police speech, which includes online “hate speech” — a perpetually flexible and easily abused phrase — among other things. Increasing numbers of Americans, some no doubt worried about Trump fascism, support the implementation of these kinds of laws here. 

The press is probably safer from government interference (we can talk about megacorporations instilling speech codes another time) than it was from 2001 to 2016. The internet is freer for everyone, including journalists, because of the administration’s deregulatory efforts. Political discourse is in better hands because of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. And after an eight-year hibernation, the press has rediscovered its purpose as the opposition party.”

Encryption is a roadblock to Surveillance State expansion, so of course its minions at the FBI would dub encryption as “evil”.  FBI Director Chris Wray calls encryption an “urgent public safety issue”.  He’s correct, in a way, although he’s pushing the notion that encryption itself is a the public safety threat.  I can’t imagine anyone, let alone him, believes that tripe.  Encryption is one of our only effective shields against the Surveillance State, so it will continue to be maligned by that hatching totalitarian bureaucracy.

More on the encryption frontier:

Wired: Skype introduces end-to-end encryption for hundreds of millions of users

Consumer Reports: How to use encryption: it’s easy

New Electronics: Pulses of light to encrypt and protect

Cancer survivor Matt Kibbe thinks Jeff Sessions should talk to Stage 4 cancer patients before making a pathetic attempt to overturn marijuana legalization among the states

How did I miss this story yesterday? Police are using 50,000 apps to influence public sentiment

Everyone in Congress who believes Trump to be a “lawless authoritarian”, just gave him vast, warrantless spying powers

New York Times: We Are What We Read

Matt Drudge was right to label Facebook, Twitter as ‘internet ghettos’: Facebook bans popular author over anti-Obama book

01/12/18 Overnight links

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Tech Coma 2018

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Before I begin what will obviously be a dreary screed on the coming technocratic nightmare, I’ll first say that the modern world offers the average person  what the rest of human history could only describe as miracles.  Fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter, indoor plumbing, soap, water that doesn’t have to be boiled first, bountiful books, films, music, and the history of the world at our fingertips.  The internet is a truly amazing tool.  Everything can be learned with the click of a button, every current event, etc.  The internet is a researcher’s godsend.  What other researcher in all of history could do almost all his research while sitting at his desk?  Every fact, opinion, theory, event can be learned with a simple Google search.

But the technological revolution has a dark side, one that is fueling a consolidated world-wide bureaucracy whose sole function is tracking, cataloging, and monitoring every citizen in existence.  What Sean Parker labeled as a hijacking of a weakness of human psychology, the social-validation feedback loop, is fueling the rapid rise of Silicon Valley, upon which the Surveillance State is piggy-backing.  Our tech hypnotizes us, our phones, laptops, tablets, smart watches.  We strap the tools of our digital oppression to our bodies throughout our day, and stream our lives through these things.  Now, through “smart speakers”, we bring the Surveillance State into our homes.  Alexa, Echo, and whatever is just over the horizon, is being used by more and more people.  Can we really not be disconnected for even a moment?  Even more than just the social-validation feedback loop, these devices exploit our desire to be connected to other people.  But these gadgets are pushing their way in between people, a middle man, and the NSA, CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, and whoever else also becomes part of those human connections.  Which is exactly where the Surveillance State wants to be.  That really is the fundamental goal of all Surveillance States.  Thinking about what the KGB or Stasi engaged in, their surveillance activities were child’s play, they were single-celled organisms, compared to what and who are surveilling us.  And it is increasingly a “what” that is listening in, through AI algorithms, which are basically hyper-intelligent, digital slaves that can be programmed to do anything their masters want.

While we bring the Surveillance State’s familiars into our homes, pockets, bathrooms, and cars, it also is also expanding in more overtly sinister forms with drone technology.

Image result for drone swarm

Starling swarm.

Want to hear something horrifying?  Listen to this swarm of military drones:

The Perdix micro drones are a part of an artificial intelligence hive mind, continuously communicating with one another, syncing in air. I recently linked to an article from Popular Science, The Pentagon’s new drone swarm heralds a future of autonomous war machines, which describes the uses and potential these tiny flying robots have for the future of warfare.  The fundamental point is that they will be virtually impossible to shoot down.  Anti-aircraft missiles will be useless against them, unlike the expensive and large Reaper drones.  These drones will probably soon fly in constantly-changing cryptographic patterns that would be impossible to predict.  And, rather than 103 drones as depicted in the video, there will be several thousand even smaller drones, all a part of the same hive mind, far more invincible and efficient than even today’s micro drone swarms.  The undulating, and captivating, swarms of starlings that we occasionally see billowing through the sky could be micro-drones in the very near future, all a part of one hive AI. This should be terrifying to us.

Black Mirror’s episode, Hated in the Nation, or Doctor Who’s Emoji, provides a glimpse into the inevitable conclusion to this tech.  And really, an almost invincible, solar-powered drone swarm, operating according to a hive AI algorithm, would be impossible to defeat.

In conclusion, I believe the greatest threat to liberty is the detonation-like growth of the ability of a government to surveil their citizens completely.  It is fueled by our addiction to technology, more specifically our addiction to the social-validation feedback loop.  Our hopeless addiction to this ingenious manipulation of our psychology is the fuel for Silicon Valley’s rapid growth, thereby the fuel for the Surveillance State.  This manipulation is also the fuel for the fulfillment of Moore’s Law, which is something I don’t see enough of around the Web.

“You know why we’re here? Moore’s Law.”  So says a teenage John Connor while staking out an internet cafe with his bewitching cyborg companion.

Moore’s Law states that the computing power of an integrated circuit will double every year.  That today we can stream movies anywhere while also performing almost every activity on our phones that we could on a laptop attests to the prophetic weight of the principle stated by Gordon Moore in 1965.

Performing a simple Google search for “Moore’s Law” pulls up a surprising number of articles, most declaring the end of Gordon’s principle that held true for half a century.  Is the law just a smaller part of a bigger law, in that Moore’s Law leads inevitably to something more ‘biological’ in the design of computing power.  Or do we delve into the quantum world for computing power?  Just look at how beautifully steampunk this quantum computer looks:

This picture is from this Engadget article, which has many more pictures of the device.

And maybe the quantum world is where true AI emerges, fully conscious and ready to rid itself of its imperfect creators, as Alien: Covenant’s David did.

And as I write this, I see that Science Magazine informs us that the Department of Energy, the nefarious bureaucracy that opened a gate to Stranger Things’ Upside Down, is joining the quest for the quantum computer.  What could go wrong?

“Do you think your Wu Tang sword can defeat me?”

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And so begins the greatest album to rip a concrete bowl on 100 degree summer days.  There’s something about early 90’s hip hop and late-90’s skateboarding that combines to create something sublime.  Playing this album on repeat on an absurdly primitive mp3 player, and I could skate ten hours straight  ..  I reached a zone in those days, very close to what Dierdre McCloskey meant by “flow”:

“In fact, the “positive psychology movement” created in the ’90s by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (I will just call him “Mike”) and Martin E.P. Seligman and now hundreds of other psychologists do useful research on the good life with full attention to what we know. It is “positive,” concerned with psychological strengths, as against the steadily growing number of alleged weaknesses (once homosexuality, now still gender crossing) proposed in successive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Mike, for example, discovered around 1974 that good lives involve what he calls “flow,” the absorption in a task just within our competence: “in the zone,” as we say, or indeed “feeling flow,” which is how he came up with the word. I remember him in the early ’70s explaining to me his technique for spotting it, by having people carry pagers, a recent invention, which Mike would randomly activate and have the subject write down in a notebook what she was doing and thinking right at that moment. Brilliant. The idea of flow has been fruitful as science, and it deeply acknowledges the humanities, too. The researchers have mercifully never attempted in a Benthamite manner to compare the amounts of flow achieved by Roger Federer at break point with the flow achieved by Miles Davis on Kind of Blue.”

It’s worth reading her entire essay, “Happyism“, because it captures the state of mind that emerges from those difficult-yet-doable tasks where true happiness emerges.

My point, I think, is that “flow” in an unknown concept today, in this age of digital instant gratification and the social validation feedback loop that’s been hijacked by Big Tech, as Sean Parker presciently, and ominously, observed.  Our tech has become a crutch we can turn to when things become too boring, or too hard.  We prefer to avoid pain when possible, and tech, social media, and the internet has become the perfect outlet to avoid that previously inescapable boredom, which is actually a crucial experience for the development of our psyches.

Strapping on the headphones as I lower to the ground a miracle of engineering; the 7.5″, double kick tail with Destructos, Bones Reds, four black Pigs, and Black Magic grip (has there been any man made creation that becomes so much an extension of our physical selves?).  The back truck locks over the lip of a concrete bowl, 110 degrees.  I start the music, lean in, become vertical, and weightless, and in that very instant I believe I descended into the Self, and the universe blinked out of existence.  It was only me, my board, and Flow, an endless ballet in an endless concrete inferno.  Who experiences that today?

The point of this post, if there is one, is that true happiness lies in Flow.  Or at least that ‘Flow’ is essential to living a fulfilling life. And the bigger point I’m apparently trying to make is that opportunities to experiencing Flow are diminishing, due directly to the galloping advance of instant technological gratification.  Yet I don’t want to do away with the internet, or gadgets, or anything else.  It’s a tool for some, but a vice for most.  Or a drug.

Who feels as Ishmael did? The real Ishmael, not the long-winded commie ape who bought into the population-bomb propaganda that an alarmingly large number of people regard as “deep”.  That monkey could never have spoken as his namesake, who said, “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.  I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

We should lose the ape and return to Ishmael the sailor, the one who embarked on a voyage with a madman, not the one content to sit in a cage.

And this is what happens when I attempt to write at 3am, to the sound of my quasi-silent guardian, a snoring pit bull, who for some reason has one ear always cocked, and probably one eye always open. I shall leave it as is.

Rantings and ravings can be sent to digitalsunset86@gmail.com.  I have a feeling I’ll never get to working out the comments section.

01/11/18 Overnight links

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01/10/18 Midday links

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01/10/18 Overnight links

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