Doc Huston


News — At The Edge — 10/20

Inasmuch as history never repeats itself but often rhymes — politics, speech, media, privacy and machines — it appears civilization is in for a long hard winter.


This Is War —

“[Kavanaugh’s] just one part of…plan by conservatives to fundamentally change the…political structure…[and] protect white male power even after America’s changing demographics and mores move away from that power….

For them, Trump is just a useful…[but] temporary anomaly…in terms of the next epoch….

The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy…[and] were dreadfully afraid of it. Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this…disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism….[It’s] what voter disenfranchisement and Citizens United are about….

’In the Electoral College, each individual Wyoming vote weighs 3.6 times more than an individual Californian’s vote’….

[Scariest] move is the call for a constitutional convention….[Republicans] ‘have commitments from 28 state legislatures. They need 34’….

[So s]top thinking you’re in a skirmish…you’re at war.”

Free Speech in the Age of Algorithmic Megaphones —

“Facebook took down 559 domestic political pages and 251 accounts…’working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing’….

Coordinated campaigns have never been the sole purview of outsiders…. For many years now, automated bot armies have artificially amplified perspectives and manipulated trending algorithms…[so] a handful of voices can mimic a broad consensus… to scare people into self-censorship…and eliminating those perspectives from the debate.

Fake likes, shares, comments, and retweets trigger algorithms into thinking that a piece of content is worthwhile…[calling] into question the capacity of social media to serve as a…marketplace of ideas….

People who study online disinformation generally look at three criteria….

  1. First is account authenticity….
  2. Second is the narrative distribution pattern….
  3. Third, source integrity…[is] the most difficult to get right.

Earned reputation governs much of how we assess the world…[but] can be biased. This leaves takedowns open to critiques of politically motivated censorship…[and] goads uncritical thinkers into defending…the manipulation of speech….

[So] the web becomes an arms race in which every political conversation is a guerrilla marketing battle fought between automated networks….

[Real] censorship is the silencing of specific voices…[or] a specific point of view…to repress that point of view. That is not what’s happening here…[rather] hard decisions about how to balance the preservation of free speech ideals with the need to reduce the impact of…manipulative tactics to warp our public discourse.

We are long past the point of more speech solving the problem.

There May Soon Be Three Internets. America’s Won’t Necessarily Be the Best —

“[Assumption] once that a unified, unbounded web promoted democracy through the free flow of information…don’t seem quite so simple anymore.

China’s tight control of the internet… and an increasingly sophisticated system of digital surveillance plays a major role in human rights abuses….Europe, America and China — are generating sets of rules, regulations and norms that are beginning to rub up against one another…[and] the actual physical location of data has increasingly become separated by region….

American companies that once implicitly pushed democratic values abroad are more reticent to take a stand….[It’s] clear that secretive digital surveillance isn’t just the domain of anti-democratic forces. The Snowden revelations in 2013…may have pushed the technology industry into an increasingly agnostic outlook on human rights….American corporations do little to counteract Balkanization and instead do whatever is necessary to…[make] money in all three of those worlds….

’This is a world none of us have ever lived in before’….What sorts of ideas and speech…privacy and security look like as the internets diverge?….

[T]he next decade may see the internet relegated to little more than just another front on the new cold war.”

Genome Hackers Show No One’s DNA Is Anonymous Anymore —

“[The] amount of DNA information housed in…companies like 23andMe and Ancestry have…genetic profiles for more than 12 million people…[many] who download their own information…[and] add it to public genealogy websites….

[Today] 60 percent of Americans with European ancestry can be identified through their DNA using open genetic genealogy databases, regardless of whether they’ve ever sent in a spit kit….

Golden State Killer, and the 17 other cases…[were] solved with this approach — known…as long-range familial searching….

  1. depending on how prolific a person’s forebears were…public records indicating where someone lives to within 100 miles cuts the candidate pool in half….
  2. Knowing age to within five years excludes 9 out of 10 of the remaining candidates….
  3. sex, which can be inferred from genetics, gets the list down [further]….
  4. Knowing exact birth year could get you down to just one or two people….

[So] once a genetic database covers roughly two percent of the adults in a given ethnic population, a match of a third cousin or closer is expected for almost any person….

Perfect for law enforcement…[especially] familial searches on data from offender databases….

’Supreme Court decisions about why existing offender databases don’t violate Fourth Amendment rights are all premised on the presumption that nothing personal can be gleaned from this junk DNA…. Now that’s all up in the air….

[T]he bottom line is now everybody is about to be under genetic surveillance…unless we regulate the government’s ability to conduct genealogy searches’….

With enough DNA, it doesn’t matter if you want to be found or not. Opting out is no longer an option.”

DARPA wants to teach and test ‘common sense’ for AI —

“’The absence of common sense prevents an intelligent system from understanding its world, communicating naturally with people, behaving reasonably in unforeseen situations, and learning from new experiences…perhaps the most significant barrier…[to] more general AI applications….

DARPA’s proposal involves building ‘computational models that learn from experience and mimic the core domains of cognition…[in] domains of objects (intuitive physics), places (spatial navigation) and agents (intentional actors)’ ….

[T]he amount of context and knowledge that we put into finding…[any] answer is enormous…and current models are getting it right about 60 percent of the time (25 percent would be chance)….

[It’s] part of DARPA’s big $2 billion investment in AI on multiple fronts.”

Atlas [robot] does parkour. (30 sec. video) —

“The control software uses the whole body…to marshal the energy and strength for jumping…up the steps without breaking its pace. (Step height 40 cm.) Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.”

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Doc Huston

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