News — At The Edge — 11/30

Since everything is now about data and information — Democratic malaise, tech human rights abuses, Putin’s malevolence, science, automation, AI, 4D tech — the actions of governing and economic elites are consciously undermining human civilization.

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“[T]he current mood of the West’s high command [despair]…with the assorted diplomats, military officials and security wonks…[at] gathering of leading democracies…[focused] on deepening malaise: a U.S. electorate riven over a volatile president…European leaders squabbling…and everywhere a leadership void….

[Need] ‘time shoring up our own democracies’…[and] anxious not just about the short-term threat Russian machinations pose to their own increasingly polarized societies, but also…insidious danger posed by…Chinese superpower whose true intentions are under suspicion everywhere….

’Russia is like a series of hurricanes. China is climate change….

‘Freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted in any country [anymore]…[and] figure out how to breathe back meaning into our values and institutions’….

NGO Freedom House, and academic researchers now fret about a ‘third wave of autocrat-ization’ sweeping the globe…[while] populist rabble-rousers are on the march, powered by social media and puffed up by economic discontent, dislocation and voters’ disillusionment with leaders who haven’t delivered on their promises…[with] countries sliding back into ‘illiberal democracy,’ as in Hungary, or simply dysfunction and paralysis, as in the United Kingdom….

[I]t usually takes populations a decade or more to wake up to the danger of authoritarian leaders…who in the meantime can tighten their grip on the state and make it nearly impossible for voters to dislodge them….

And the impeachment inquiry in Washington is only helping Russia sow mischief and division….

If there is a Cold War with China…[nobody] is willing to admit it…[yet] warned about the ‘concerted threat’ posed by state-linked Chinese technology companies…[and] ‘concentration camps’ in western China….[The] consensus was that while the West needed to do something to stand up to Beijing, everyone disagreed on what….

[Similarly] Western countries are in deep trouble, but few…agree on what needed to be done or…who, exactly, should lead.” https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/democracies-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown/ar-BBXi4Yz?ocid=spartandhp

“[C]all for reform of…business models of ‘surveillance giants’ Facebook and Google…[for] ‘human rights harm at a population scale’…[despite] value of the services [provided]…

[They] force people to make a Faustian bargain, whereby…enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse.

Firstly, an assault on the right to privacy on an unprecedented scale, and then a series of knock-on effects that pose a serious risk to…freedom of expression…[opinion,] thought and the right to non-discrimination…fed by a steady stream of…platforms’ pervasive and consent-less capturing and hijacking of people’s information for ad-based manipulation and profit.

This core power asymmetry is…topped off by self-serving policy positions which…fiddle around the edges of an inherently anti-humanitarian system….

[This] abusive modus operandi is now inspiring governments to…[develop] their own data-driven control systems to straitjacket citizens…[that’s] exceptionally chilling….

[S]till sorely lacking is an effective regulatory response to force reform of what is at base a moral failure…allowed to scale so big it’s attacking the democratic underpinnings of Western society….

[Further] surveillance-based business model…[means] the companies are not taking a holistic approach, nor are they questioning whether their current business models themselves can be compliant with their responsibility to respect human rights’….

[Despite] commitment to privacy, it is difficult not to see…privacy infringements as part of the normal functioning of their business, rather than aberrations….

The dominant internet platforms are…necessary part of participating in modern life…[so] the era of self-regulation in the tech sector is coming to an end’…[and] state-based regulation will be necessary…to rein in surveillance giants.” https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/21/amnesty-international-latest-to-slam-surveillance-giants-facebook-and-google-as-incompatible-with-human-rights/

“The law will come…in July 2020 and cover smartphones, computers and smart televisions…[but] will not mean devices from other countries cannot be sold with their normal software — but Russian ‘alternatives’ will also have to be installed…[as] determined by the government….

Russia has introduced tougher internet laws…including requiring search engines to delete some search results and calling on messaging services to share encryption keys…[and] weeks after…its ‘sovereign internet’ law…[giving] officials wide-ranging powers to restrict traffic on the Russian web….Kremlin says it will improve cyber security, but critics…[say] creates an internet firewall similar to that in China.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50507849

“As World War I wound down…Oswald Spengler argued in The Decline of the West that civilizations, like organisms, pass through a natural life cycle…[with] an era of vigorous growth, then ossify and die.

Each civilization’s science follows this same trajectory…when truth-seekers become so arrogant and intolerant of other belief systems that they sow the seeds of their own demise…[and] prophesied that western science would enter this phase toward the end of the 20th century….

Signs of decline abound…[as] productivity of applied science has slumped…[and] replication crisis…[because] harder time generating useful results, they become…desperate and prone to confirmation bias and fraud….

The health-care industry…[is] especially prone to corruption, because the financial incentives are so enormous…[and] pure sciences aren’t so pure…[with] anthropic principle…[and] mind-body theories [to] reflect our narcissistic insistence that we are central to the cosmos….

[As] global warming become more dire, scientists retreat into escapist fantasies…[like] establishing colonies on Mars…[the] imminence of the Singularity…[and] a whiff of end times in the air….

Is accepting gifts from a sex offender really worse than taking money from the Pentagon…[or] Koch brothers, who thwarted efforts to combat climate change….

In our hyper-capitalist world, careerism, ambition and greed trump ethics….

Marx prophesied that capitalism, by devaluing everything except profits, would inevitably self-destruct, dragging the rest…down with it….

[Reform] include making research more transparent and accountable, boosting support for young investigators and eradicating sexual harassment.” https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/jeffrey-epstein-and-the-decadence-of-science/

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“[T]he smartest algorithm…sometimes behave in unexpected and unwanted ways…[so] new framework for building AI programs…useful for non-experts…[that’s] ‘not always being fair or safe’…complicated by the fact that there are many ways to define ‘fairness’ mathematically or algorithmically.

The new approach…[to] building an algorithm so that, when it is deployed, there are boundaries on the results it can produce…’to avoid unsafe or unfair behavior’….

[This] approach is unlikely to solve the problem of algorithms misbehaving…[because] no guarantee organizations deploying AI will adopt…at the cost of optimal performance…[and] 30 different definitions of fairness…[make] it almost impossible for a non-expert to know if they are doing the right thing.’” https://www.wired.com/story/researchers-guardrails-prevent-bias-ai/

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“[A] merging of 3-D/4-D printing and photo-controlled/living polymerization…where the printed object can transform its shape in response to certain conditions…[using] visible light to create an environmentally friendly ‘living’ plastic…[that] opens a new world of possibilities for the manufacture of advanced solid materials.

Polymers can be synthetic…as well as biological, for example, DNA…[and] can be reactivated for further growth…after being made…[and] proven useful for making well-controlled molecules for many applications, including drug delivery and other biomaterials…[but] where the reaction must be fast for practical printing speeds….

[The] new method of using visible light [to]…control the architecture of the polymers and tune the mechanical properties of the materials prepared…[allowing] material to be transformed or functionalized, which was not previously possible….

[So] with 4-D printing, the 3-D-printed object can change its shape and chemical or physical properties and adapt to its environment…[and] reversibly change its shape when it was exposed to water and then dried.

For example, the 3-D object starts as a flat plane and when exposed to certain conditions, it will start to fold…a 4-D material…[the] fourth dimension is time….

[One] application is of course recycling, because…a plastic object…can be repaired and reused…[since] the new ‘living’ material it will be able to repair itself…[and] a living object and can continue to grow and expand’….

[Still] another major benefit is…compatibility with biomedicine, because extreme conditions were unnecessary….

’Using heat above 40 degrees kills cells, but for visible light polymerization…can use room temperature, so the viability of the cells is much higher’…[and] could more easily be used in advanced bio-applications, such as tissue engineering…where a tissue structure is used to form new, viable tissue for medical purposes….

[Many] fields like microelectronics and biomedicine — a huge area…[requires] advanced polymers….

[Also] would allow commercial and non-expert operators to produce materials with seemingly endless properties and applications.” https://phys.org/news/2019-11-d-technique-materials.html

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2017 McKinsey…said 50 percent of work activities were already automatable using current technology and…prevalent in manufacturing…[but now] white-collar workers…[with] more analytic thinking, higher paychecks, and relative job security — may not be safe….

The scope of jobs potentially impacted by AI reaches…knowledge workers like chemical engineers, physicists, and market-research analysts…[raising] concerns about how large swaths of Americans will be able to support themselves when their jobs become mechanized and whether the loss of low-income jobs will increase wealth inequality.’” https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/11/20/20964487/white-collar-automation-risk-stanford-brookings

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Doc Huston

Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder — dochuston1@gmail.com