News — At The Edge — 11/25

How Stupid Are We?

Two sets of articles this week —

  • Present Issues Undermining the Future — from money to information we are seen as stupid — show how dangerously distorted the world has become.
  • Confounding Future Issues — digital world needs to become secure and trustworthy — will exacerbate our well-being and fears if not addressed soon.

Here are links to articles of mine on these subjects that may be of interest to you:


Present Issues Undermining the Future –

We’re With Stupid -

“[We’ve] a mess of misinformation…[and] getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship….

Trump’s presidency…[has] 1,600 false or misleading claims…[or] five times a day, on average [he]…says something that isn’t true…[and] a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction [and]…clueless about the basic laws of the land….

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government…[and] mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real…[but] Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere…[because] we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship….

[Today] one in three Americans fail the immigrant citizenship test…[with] questions like, ‘What major event happened on 9/11?’ and ‘What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?’….[1960s] students [had] to take three separate courses in civics and government before they got out of high school. Now only a handful of states require proficiency in civics as a condition of high school graduation.

Students are hungry, in this turbulent era, for discussion of politics and government. But the educators are failing them….By a 48 percent to 38 percent margin Americans think states’ rights, rather than slavery, caused the Civil War. So Trump’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, can say something demonstrably false about the war, because most people are just as clueless as he is….

[New] initiatives will mean little if people still [live]…in digital safe spaces closed off from anything that intrudes on their worldview.”

Governments in 30 countries manipulated media online to silence critics, sow unrest or influence elections –

“[Countries] are now ‘mass producing…content to distort the digital landscape in their favor’…[and] 18 countries’ elections, ‘damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate…[with] restrictions on…citizens’ internet use [rising]….

[China’s] historic, unrivaled limits on online speech, its penchant for hacking opponents and media [and]…willingness to imprison critics [is worst]…[though] nine countries over the past year sought to block live video streaming…to ‘halt real-time coverage of anti-government demonstrations….

[There’s] new skepticism about U.S…heightened harassment of American journalists online…[and] government’s ongoing attempt to undo…net neutrality rules….

14 countries seeking to stop malicious bots and other nefarious activities…introduced rules…that ‘actually restricted internet freedom,’ perhaps unwittingly…[for] content flagged as offensive in a way that ‘lacks judicial oversight….

The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but…ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline.’”

Android devices seen covertly sending location data to Google -

“Android devices send…location data to Google even if…user has disabled location services…in their device settings…had been reset to factory default settings…[or] with no SIM cards installed…[so] there is currently no way for Android users to prevent their location data from being sent….

[Google] intends to end the practice by the end of November, having had the location tracking [discovered]….[It’s] another troubling instance of the company slurping up sensitive user data without making people explicitly aware it’s doing so [or]…giving users controls to opt out….[Recently] Google Home Mini devices were shown to have…been persistently recording audio in the background in their owners’ homes….

Location data is highly sensitive personal data from which much can be inferred about a person’s life and lifestyle…[and] Google was apparently collecting…data from all modern Android devices.”

Richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, study finds -

“[Richest] share of the globe’s total wealth increase from 42.5% at…2008 financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or $140tn…[while] world’s 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000…[and] 70% of the world’s working age population [has]…just 2.7% of global wealth….

36 million people…are collectively worth $128.7tn…[and] those with a net worth of $50m or more — has increased even faster….

The biggest losers…are young people…[with] high unemployment, tighter mortgage rules, increased income inequality and reduced pensions…[yet] much more educated than their parents….

Paradise Papers revelations laid bare…main drivers of inequality — tax-dodging by rich individuals and multinationals.

Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality…undermining economies…dividing societies and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives.”

Most ‘Wealth’ Isn’t the Result of Hard Work. It Has Been Accumulated by Being Idle and Unproductive –

“[T]he basic claims of capitalism is that people are rewarded in line with their effort and productivity…[and] economy is not a zero sum game….

[Since 1995] three quarters of the total increase [in wealth]…due to increases in house prices rather than a change in the volume of dwellings’…[as] market value of land has quadrupled…[and] cost of homeownership has become increasingly prohibitive….

[In] mid-1990s low and middle income households could afford a…deposit after saving for around 3 years, today it takes…20 years…[In] rental market, the proportion of income spent on housing costs has risen from around 10% in 1980 to 36% today….

[So] wealth has come straight out of the pockets of those who don’t own property…[while] total productive capacity of the economy is unchanged because nothing new has been produced…[rather] stolen from future generations….

Misleading accounting and irresponsible economics have provided cover for this heist…[with] government’s national accounts record house price growth as new wealth, ignoring the cost it imposes on others in society…accumulated by being idle and unproductive.”

Confounding Future Issues –

Schneier: It’s Time to Regulate IoT to Improve Cyber-Security -

“The time has come…to start regulating Internet of Things (IoT)…[since] everything is basically a computer, whether it’s a car, a watch, a phone or a television….

’We’re creating an internet that senses, thinks and acts [like]…a robot the size of the world and most people don’t even realize it’…[so] internet security is now becoming ‘everything’ security….[T]here is a difference between when a hacker crashes a computer and…hacks your car’….

[M]any of the existing security paradigms fail in the new world of IoT…[since] devices are often not patched quickly, if at all…[so] cannot be effectively solved by industry alone…[because] short-term profit motivated and can’t solve collective action problems…[so] need to have a counter-balancing force for corporate power…..

’As technologists, we need to get involved in policy since IoT brings enormous potential and enormous risks…[and] never get policy right, if policy makers get technology wrong.’”

5 issues that will shape the future, according to the experts

“Our future’s bright…[and] also frightening….

  1. The quantity of information is growing at a dizzying speed. Now’s the time to focus on quality….
  2. Data isn’t enough. It needs to be relatable and actionable….
  3. Blockchain could manage everything….
  4. Look at the big picture before you decide what problems need solving…. Zooming out to look…in terms of ‘systems’ [and]… linked rather than…separated — frees specialists of all kinds to look at challenges afresh….
  5. It all comes back to trust….[The] public has deep anxieties about the pace of change. If you are worried about losing your job, having to re-skill, or not being able to keep up…it’s easy to start to feel the…system is not acting in your favor and that breeds mistrust.

Society is struggling to adapt as fast as technology is moving.”

Find more of my ideas on Medium at, A Passion to Evolve.

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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston



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