Category Archives: Newsworthy

Digital frontlines

In the interview below, a Googler speaks about “the redirect method”, a technique her colleagues used to influence extremist sympathizers away from ISIS through targeted advertising. While any effort to combat extremism is good news, what the savvy young employee of the megacorporation misses is that it’s the targeted advertising itself, and the consolidation of media online, that her company and its very few rivals like Facebook have done to global society that may be the more relevant concern. As many have noted, Google and Facebook’s recommendation algorithms and market dominance create closed information systems, rabbit holes of intensification that steer viewers toward greater consumption of self-same information. So the young man who watches an ISIS video will be bombarded with more ISIS videos well before he ticks a blip on anti-ISIS algorithm, and is finally served alternative information that may pull him back from the abyss.

Alphabet and Facebook are not honest brokers. They have engineered, deliberately, media systems that offer free societies high-stakes emotional manipulation over civil discourse: propaganda over debate, all in service of that age-old, but deadly sin, avarice. This new old-reality begs a few questions: Who benefits? Can it be controlled? Would mandating a diversity of viewpoints from the algorithms be helpful? Maybe it’s time to consider breaking up businesses that control so much of what we see, what we think?

What is social media doing to society?

We need to deepen our understanding of how social media platforms are being weaponized-and to find technological solutions to counter this trend. MIT Technology Review’s Martin Giles and Yasmin Green of Jigsaw explore this topic.

Hybrid threat

I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.

— Marcus

Al-Amlaqa

The 51st state

15 years ago, it was predicted…

The Fifty-First State?

Going to war with Iraq would mean shouldering all the responsibilities of an occupying power the moment victory was achieved. These would include running the economy, keeping domestic peace, and protecting Iraq's borders-and doing it all for years, or perhaps decades. Are we ready for this long-term relationship?

 

— Marcus

What comes next…

Iraq: The Battle to Come

ISIS’s military defeat, which Western officials believe will come sometime later this year or early next, will hardly put an end to the conflicts that gave rise to the group. For much of the battle against ISIS has taken place in a region that has been fought over ever since oil was found in Kirkuk in the 1930s.

The subversive

Chinese Nobel Laureate Released From Prison

Liu Xiaobo was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. In 1996, Liu was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for criticizing China’s one-party Communist system. It was during this time that he married his wife, Liu Xia, who was placed on house arrest in 2010 after informing Liu of his Nobel Prize win.

 

‘The Songs of Birds’

Every month, the Chinese poet, photographer, and artist Liu Xia boards a train bound for the country’s north. Carrying food and books and escorted by four plainclothes police officers, she heads for a prison in the city of Jinzhou where her husband, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, is serving a sentence for subversion of state power.

A perfect setup for authoritarians

Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the podcast below. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states: algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole toward extreme ideas.

Persuasion and Control

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.

— Marcus

 

 

Leaving the prison state

“I was born in North Korea and stayed loyal to the country but got treated like a criminal. I got abandoned by China because I wasn’t their citizen, but the country that was supposed to be my enemy welcomed me with open arms… I couldn’t believe it.”

— North Korean defector

 

 

— Marcus

Worthy cause for warriors

Operation Surf

Operation Surf came into existence as a result of one wounded hero’s desire to learn to surf. Now, we are helping more heroes than ever. Participants of our program experience a decrease in PTSD symptoms by 36%, a decrease in depression by 47%, and an increase in self-efficacy by 68%.

When things get broken, they can be fixed. Surfing therapy for vets reflects the warrior ethos. It speaks less of fearsomeness, more of a willingness to transcend fear and approach life with empathy, honesty, courage, goodness and humor.

“The warrior ethos is not a luxury, it is essential when you have a military.”

— Marcus