12 August 2015

On AI and existential risk, continued

Bret Victor expands on something I mentioned in my article on AI: I am generally on the side of the critics of Singulitarianism, but now want to provide a bit of support to these so-called rationalists. At some very meta level, they have the right problem — how do we preserve human interests in a world of vast forces and systems that aren’t really all that interested in us? But they have chosen a fantasy version of the problem, when human interests are being fucked over by actual existing systems right now. ... Read more

5 August 2015

Defining race

Abstracted from a Google+ discussion: Technically, race refers to physical characteristics only. When people talk about race, they usually (pedantically speaking) mean ethnicity. Ethnicity includes physical racial characteristics, but also incorporates culture, nationality, language, religion, and so on. But if you’re not being a pedantic ass, you’ll use ‘race’ in its everyday sense as meaning ethnicity. With that out of the way, here’s the key part: What defines you as white (or black or Asian or…) is whether you can pass as that thing. ... Read more

4 August 2015

Google’s social failures, and how they could still win

Ars Technica has an article about Google’s failure in social, which ignores the toxic nymwars but is otherwise very insightful. I use Google+ and Gmail. I have an Android phone. I’m subscribed to Google Music All Access (because it works in a Linux browser and pays artists the most). I’m signed up to get Google Fiber. I’m not anti-Google at all, yet it seems like they keep trying to drive me away. ... Read more

4 August 2015

ECHELON confirmed

Ever since legendary British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell told the world in a 1988 magazine article about ECHELON — a massive, automated surveillance dragnet that indiscriminately intercepted phone and Internet data from communications satellites — Western intelligence officials have refused to acknowledge that it existed. […] As Campbell writes today, in a first-person article in The Intercept, the archive of top-secret documents provided to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contains a stunning 2005 document that not only confirms ECHELON’s existence as “a system targeting communications satellites”– it shows how the program was kept an official secret for so long. ... Read more

18 July 2015

A brief rant

Every now and again I read something so monumentally clueless from someone apparently intelligent that I find myself asking “Are you fucking kidding me?” For example, today brings David Brooks writing to Ta-Nehesi Coates. « In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam. But a dream sullied is not a lie. The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. ... Read more

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