Category Archives: Politics

Musings on the body politic, on the way things are.

Ars Technica: Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

The documentary tracks how people form and maintain bizarre beliefs.

There’s a scene somewhere in the middle of a new flat Earth documentary that acts as metaphor for so much that surrounds it. Two of the central figures of Behind the Curve are visiting a spaceflight museum that pays tribute to NASA, an organization that they believe is foisting a tremendous lie on an indoctrinated and incurious public. One of them, Mark Sargent, sits in a re-entry simulator that suggests he should press “Start” to begin. He dutifully bangs away at the highlighted word “Start” on screen, but nothing happens.

He wanders away muttering even more about how NASA’s a giant fraud. Meanwhile, the camera shifts back to the display and zeroes in on a giant green “Start” button next to the seat Sargent was in.

I believe it’s not necessarily the seeing of facts that is the issue, it’s the underlying rules and patterns, the mental models that create selective attention and understanding.

Seeds of Destruction

file-20170522-25008-1fmr6bo-2019-03-10-17-05.jpg

Image taken from the article: Our ‘selfish’ genes contain the seeds of our destruction – but there might be a fix

The internet and social media spanning the world with billions of participants is changing the nature of our culture and civilization. Due to its fast spread its dramatic impact is likely higher in a shorter period than the invention of writing and the printing press. Film and radio as propaganda media had a dramatic impact on WW I and WW II. Will social media be seen as the fire that destroyed Western Civilization due to its pervasive impact?

In my view one of the most destructive culprits in the universe of social media is Facebook. It does not do this unknowingly.

Facebook’s seeding of social destruction is by cynical design. The system’s true monetary value is your data and ATTENTION.

ATTENTION is generated by siloing the user base and feeding each silo information that is bound to excite. It either fervently supports the shared outlook or fuels hatred of the opposition. The Facebook algorithm selects the user postings and seeded information from other sources in front of you based on deep analysis. If you look at the placed information, it is aimed at generating division even if it appears to support your point of view.

The silo user base amplifies this attention.

HATRED of the opposition is the strongest emotion here. Although we think we are debating facts, they move to the background. I should also note that the rules we use to view the facts in relation to the world are distorted impacting our perception of “truthiness.” More about that in another post.

In other words, Facebook’s SHAREHOLDER VALUE IS HATRED. It has earned them billions!

It is very destructive in its pervasiveness.

The destruction is on several levels:

  • The resulting divisiveness is poison to rational discourse.
  • Facts are no longer important, beliefs are.
  • It prevents rational resolution of issues based on compromise.
  • Trust in institution or experts is undermined and destroyed.
  • It leads to extreme leadership and demagoguery, which play into the tribal hatred. Centrism cannot compete in this atmosphere.
  • Eventually the polity is destroyed, because it cannot any longer be governed and function.

This is Stephen Bannon’s agenda. We are mid game in this regard, but well along the way of destroying institutions and regulation forged over the last decades and centuries. In fact, our Separation of Powers is no longer working! This is a constitutional crisis or at least Constitutional Rot. The real problem is not only that many people are seriously suffering (economic inequality) or dying (lack of healthcare,) but we are not furthering pace and the worldwide action required to solve climate change. And the window for climate change action is closing. Even if we get out polity back into a state of health, it might be too late to avoid catastrophic consequences, which will especially impact poor nations and lead to further global instability.

Although we seem to act like a “Banana Republic,” we are the largest economy in the world. Our leadership, action or inaction count in a dominant way.

To paraphrase Cato the Elder, Facebook must be destroyed,

Note: I originally posted this in response to a concern about social media’s destructiveness on the polity on Facebook. After some thought I had to elevate my response and start moving my focus away from Facebook only using it as a means of distribution and getting attention.

ps I first was alluding to the “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire, but then also found the Sons of Aeon, a melodic Death Metal Band wailing from Finland. My son really turned me on the genre, which actually has some very thoughtful if dark lyrics and exquisite instrument playing. I have become a fan of Katatonia (lately more progressive rock).

Here then the lyrics for Seeds of Destruction:

Sight into the future… Does not exist
We need no prophets to realise it
Next breath you’re about to take
Could be your last
Drown yourself in hatred, forget the past
This world of confusion
Where moral is just a word
Meaningless and forgotten…
Thing we should not talk about
Souls for sale
Dreams of yesterday… Drifting away
A glimpse of humanity… Does not exist
See the smile on their faces… You’ll realise it
Filth holds the reins of power
Rivers are turning red
Irrigate the fields of hate
Sow the seeds of destruction
There will be blood… Where dead roses bloom

And a quick taste of Katatonia from their track Last Song Before The Fade from their album The Fall of Hearts:


Who’s in control
Spite
So cold in this light.

Reflective summary
Froze me in a frame
My time had run out before the future came
Depart from insight
Breach was made.


For good reason this generation does not sound very hopeful. Time for some peaceful “Hearts of Space!”

Not just here: Post-truth politics is alive and well in Brexit Britain

url-2019-01-15-11-31.jpg

This is a fundamental problem of current politics amplified by social media. It is a fertile ground for fascist countries to seed discord. We need to get beyond it to survive as democracies.

“The various tribes have consistently hidden behind principles to avoid endorsing an option that is *actually* on the table — or building a consensus behind their preference. Worse, they have decided to ignore the real-world problems that accompany their solutions.”

Post-truth politics is alive and well in Brexit Britain

Unthinkable – The Atlantic: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

trumpunthinkable-2019-01-14-13-25.png

I am already looking back at a fairly long life. But the history of the last two years has created a horrific reality both surreal and seemingly improbable. It is like a nation and the world have completely lost reason.

I am still optimistic enough that eventually the pendulum will swing back toward fact and science based reasoning. Recent elections and the freshmen class in Congress give me a lot of hope. But the State of the Union is dire. I am now fairly certain that what we see in the US and UK – once beacons of the free world – is not just random action but a carefully staged sequence of events driven by ingenious manipulation of an evil oligarchy coupled with enormous short term greed and stupidity of our elites and media. There is also a healthy dose of gullibility introduced by lack of education in basic humanities and reasoning.

The distrust of “experts” is fatal in a world driven by complex science and engineering in a global economy.

In short, this is all a huge mess. The real tragedy beyond the suffering of the middle and lower income groups plus children in concentration camps is the insane pace of the approaching point of no return for our climate.

A significant fault lies with Donald Trump and his enablers in the Senate – all equally guilty. But media continues to fail to understand the implication of our “Attention Culture.”

Here is a collation of 50 Moments that defined a most surreal seemingly unthinkable reality: The Atlantic: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

The key to everything

dyson_1-051018-2018-04-21-12-06.jpg
via 3QuarksDailyNYBooks: The Key to Everyting

Freeman Dyson reviews Geoffrey Wests book on “Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies

“Geoffrey West spent most of his life as a research scientist and administrator at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, running programs concerned not with nuclear weapons but with peaceful physics. After retiring from Los Alamos, he became director of the nearby Santa Fe Institute, where he switched from physics to a broader interdisciplinary program known as complexity science.”

Freeman’s review nicely summarizes the book for some heady reading. But his view on the subject is not without criticism driven by differences in philosophy:

“The choice of an imagined future is always a matter of taste. West chooses sustainability as the goal and the Grand Unified Theory as the means to achieve it. My taste is the opposite. I see human freedom as the goal and the creativity of small human societies as the means to achieve it. Freedom is the divine spark that causes human children to rebel against grand unified theories imposed by their parents..”

I share Freeman Dyson’s view. But this is still worth reading and stimulating to think about.

Dude, you broke the future – a talk by Charlie Stross

050-056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1750-1-2018-01-3-00-20.jpg

Charlie Stross gave a talk at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress in Leipzig, December 2017. It puts our current history into a larger context. It includes a fresh view of AI as it has been with us for centuries in the form of corporations!

A real eye opener worth reading! Dude, you broke the future!

You can also watch the talk on youtube.

Bill Gates: “We Need an Energy Miracle”

1920-2016-09-11-18-37.jpg

Killing the fallacy that Capitalism and Markets are effective and efficient. And it is especially true when viewing the slow unfolding climate disaster.

Bill Gates on the surprising wisdom of government R&D: “When I first got into this I thought, How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget? And I was worried: Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that? But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these “Centers of Excellence.” They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

Read more on the Atlantic.