The Longest Now


The Kostoff knowledge: Elsevier fakes peer review of COVID click-bait

The Kostoff knowledge v.8

Earlier this month, Elsevier‘s Toxicology Reports (CiteScore 6.2, top quartile) published a special issue on the COVID-19 pandemic.  Its includes a remarkable article by Kostoff, et al., claiming that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is, “extremely conservatively“, 5x as likely to kill people over 65 as it is to save them, and even more harmful to younger people. (Kostoff, et al., Tox. Rep. (2020), 7, 1448-1458)

This echoes the fraudulent claims of German homeopath Harald Walach, who briefly published a similar article in MDPI Vaccines in June, before it was promptly retracted.  A few of the most outrageous claims are listed below. None of this is subtle – unbelievable assertions start in the second paragraph of the abstract; the lead author has no past experience in the field; and the article puts “pandemic” and “vaccine” in scare quotes, and makes regular use of bold italics to emphasize points that are exaggerated.

This is why we have peer review, and editors, to distinguish research from polemic. Access to a reliable + competent body of reviewers is, in theory, a primary service that giant publishers like Elsevier offer to editors. Another is their name: being an Elsevier journal means you will be taken seriously out of the gate, and added to the major indices.

We should all be concerned that our publishing model allowed such a deceptive essay to be given the veneer of legitimacy – for weeks now, without correction.  And we must hold both journals and publishers accountable for fraud that they support or legitimize – through deceptive practice, lack of claimed review, or inaction.

I want to come back to this, and discuss ways to remedy this, and some current steps in the right direction.  But first let’s look at this instance in detail – as the errors were the most obvious that I’ve seen, related papers have been retracted in recent months, and it is impossible to imagine even casual peer review missing them.  And because, as we will see, this particular Elsevier journal has been gaming the system for some time.

Article-level fraud (by the authors)

1. Extensive misuse of VAERS data: VAERS is an open public registry of unvetted self-reports of health events occurring after vaccination. Most events are not caused by vaccines, but this is a starting point for further analysis. Doctors are supposed to report any deaths or hospitalizations occurring within a week of vaccination, regardless of potential causal link.

The very openness of this data has led to it being widely cited in anti-vax propaganda, misinterpreting VAERS as a catalog of known harms and side-effects. (“Don’t Fall for VAERS scares“)

(more…)



FSF splits up, dithering til only a Stallman corps remains
Thursday April 01st 2021, 12:34 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,Uncategorized

The FSF, bastion of advocacy for free & open software and the need for copyleft in general, split up last week – dividing its community in a lasting way.

At the end of the 2021 LibrePlanet conference, surprising staff and speakers and attendees, RMS announced he was returning to the Board.

In the immediate aftermath, all of the external conference keynotes, some former FSF trustees, and a number of other free software community leaders, published an open letter calling on the entire FSF Board to resign.

Since then:
* A number of large organizations withdrew their support for the FSF, including Mozilla, RedHat, EFF, and Creative Commons
* A number of GNU and other free software projects have signed the letter, including GCC, GNU Radio, GNU Mailman, X.org, and Tor
* A number of FSF staff gave notice, including the ED, Deputy ED, CTO, and President.
* Their most meticulous board member resigned.
* A member of the FSF staff was appointed to the Board.

Some 3000 people signed the open letter; another 4500 6000 signed a letter in support of Stallman. That split is likely to last, and to define the Foundation as it hires new leadership and looks for new Trustees.

(more…)



Teaching a poodle to make certain requests of his human partner
Sunday November 01st 2020, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The following is a lovely essay by John Lubbock on learning to communicate better with dogs by teaching them language to express concepts. It was first published in Nature in 1885 and included in his delightful On the Senses, Instincts, and Intelligence of Animals (1888)

That the dog is a loyal, true, and affectionate friend must be gratefully admitted, but when we come to consider the psychical nature of the animal, the limits of our knowledge are almost immediately reached. I have elsewhere suggested that this arises from the fact that we have tried to teach animals, rather than to learn from them—to convey our ideas to them, rather than to devise any language or code of signals by means of which they might communicate theirs to us. The former may be more important from a utilitarian point of view, though even this is questionable, but psychologically it is far less interesting.

Under these circumstances it occurred to me whether some such system as that followed with deaf mutes, and especially by Dr. Howe with Laura Bridgman, might not prove very instructive if adapted to the case of dogs. I have tried this in a small way with a black poodle named Van.

I took two pieces of cardboard about 10 inches by 3, and on one of them printed in large letters the word [ F O O D ],  leaving the other blank. I then placed two cards over two saucers, and in the one under the “food” card put a little bread and milk, which Van, after having his attention called to the card, was allowed to eat.
(more…)



Forging Social Proof: the Networked Turing Test Rules the First AI War
Friday September 25th 2020, 2:51 pm
Filed under: citation needed,fly-by-wire,Uncategorized

A few years ago I wrote about how our civilization was forfeiting the zeroth AI war — allowing individual attention hacks, deployed at scale, to diminish and replace our natural innovation and productivity in every society.  We gained efficiency in every area of life, and then let our new wealth and spare time get absorbed by newly-efficient addictive spirals.

Exploit culture

This war for attention affects what sort of society we can hope to live in. Channeling so much wealth to attention-hackers, and the networks of crude AI tools and gambling analogs that support them, has strengthened an entire industry of exploiters, allowing a subculture of engineers and dealmakers to flourish.  That industry touches on fraud, propaganda, manipulation of elections and regulation, and more, all of which influence what social equilibria are stable.

The first real AI war

Now we are facing the first real artificial-intelligence war — dominated by entities that appear as avatars of independent, intelligent people, but are artificial, scripted, automated.  

What is new in this? Earlier low-tech versions of this required no machine learning or programming: they used the veil of pseudonymity to fake authorship, votes, and small-scale consensus.  In response, we developed layers of law and regulation around earlier attacks — fraud, impersonation, and scams are illegal.  AI can smoothly scale this to millions of comments on public bills, and to forging microtargeted social proof in millions of smaller group interactions online. And these scaled attacks are often still legal, or lightly penalized and enforced.
(more…)



Out with a whimper: the .ORG heist averted, and its aftermath
Saturday May 02nd 2020, 11:27 am
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Not so popular

A quick positive update on the .ORG fire sale: at the end of April, ICANN rejected the proposed sale of .ORG to Ethos Capital. (EFF summary).  That is likely the end of this particular takeover bid, though the registry is still at risk of a reprise while it remains under current management.

Leading up to this:

  • NTEN and allies launched the SaveDotOrg coalition in November, including EFF, Wikimedia, and others. An extended advocacy campaign from many fronts included lawmakers in DC and in California, where ICANN is headquartered.
  • ICANN asked ISOC for additional background information.
  • In January, a new charity (CCOR) was founded to offer a not-for-profit alternative willing to take over .ORG from PIR.
  • California AG Xavier Becerra wrote a critical letter to ICANN about the sale.
  • On April 30, ICANN rejected the sale

Epilogue:
– In June, SaveDotOrg repeated its request to ISOC to implement contract protections for .ORG, to make it less tempting as the object of a future corporate takeover. ISOC declined.
– In July, the Ethos site listed Fadi Chehade as Co-CEO of the fund, after initially not listing him on the site at all.



The .Org Fire Sale: How to flip a .TLD in speed and secret
Monday December 02nd 2019, 12:13 am
Filed under: %a la mod,fly-by-wire,international,meta

Part 2 in a series.  (See also Part 1: The Great Dot Org Heist.)
Updates: Moz letter, El Reg, registry agreement, ISOC forumletter, Wyden

Ethos Capital seems on track to complete their takeover of .org early next year.  ICANN claims it is powerless to stop the acquisition. ISOC president Andrew Sullivan suggested nothing but a court order would make ISOC change their minds. (If the sale concerns you, you can write to the Virginia state DA, who has to approve the sale via the Orphans Court.)

There are still many unanswered questions. Sullivan’s presentation of the offer to the ISOC Board highlighted a need for speed and secrecy. Details were redacted from the board minutes, and have been released grudgingly. Only last Friday did the price of the acquisition ($1.1B) finally emerge, which ISOC insists is a good price (or was before the price caps were lifted), but which most consider well below the market value of .org. (For reference, here’s PIR’s 990 and annual report:  $90M revenue, $60M gross margin, 77% renewal rate).

Sullivan shared some conflicting thoughts in an interview with The Register: he thinks not many people care about the sale; public pushback has been strong; the sale would not have happened if there had been public discussion.

Mozilla has compiled Questions about .org into a public letter, asking both ISOC and ICANN to answer them before concluding this sale.

Measuring the worth of a legacy registry

While there is a range of estimates out there for the true value of .org, the sale price is on the low end under conservative assumptions.  (more…)



Trump’s tee-totalling: why are so many meetings held on the golf course?
Sunday December 01st 2019, 6:17 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,citation needed,fly-by-wire,international

It is time we stop talking about “golf time” as leisure time away from the presidency, and start treating it as a primary channel for meetings, negotiations, and decision-making. (See for instance the last line of this remarkable story.)

Trump’s presidential schedule is full of empty days and golf weekends – roughly two days a week have been spent on his own resorts, throughout his presidency. Combined with his historically light work schedule, averaging under two hours of meetings per day, the majority of small-group meetings may be taking place at his resorts.

He has also directed hundreds of government groups, and countless diplomatic partners and allies, to stay at his resorts and properties.

On his properties, his private staff control the access list, security videos and other records.  They are also able to provide privacy from both press and government representatives that no federal property could match.

How might we address the issues involved with more clarity?

Paying himself with government funds

To start with, this is self-dealing on an astronomical scale: the 300+ days spent at his golf clubs and other properties have cost the US government, by conservative estimate, $110 million. The cost of encouraging the entire government to stay at Trump properties is greater still, if harder to estimate. (more…)



ICANN races towards regulatory capture: the great .ORG heist
Saturday November 23rd 2019, 6:13 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,fly-by-wire,international,Not so popular

Updates: EFF letter, PIR’s update; IGP’s insider take; ICANN resolution;
Ways to act, Reg essay x2Ohashi, Tim Berners-Lee response;
Letters from
ISOC(😇), Ethos(🌈), and a banker (🚩🚩📜)
(See also Part 2: How to Flip .org)

Ethos Capital, a new commercial investment firm founded in the past few months in Boston, has 2 staff and only one pending investment: a deal to acquire the 501c3 non-profit that currently runs the .org domain (valued at a few $B), for an undisclosed sum. This was initiated immediately after ICANN decided in May, over almost universal opposition, to remove the price cap on .org registrations with no meaningful price protections for existing or future registrants.

This seems to run afoul of a range of ethical, ICANN, ISOC, and non-profit guidelines.  It is certainly the privatisation of a not-for-profit monopoly into a for-profit one, which will benefit ISOC and a few individuals by inconveniencing millions of others.  I have questions:

  • Do affected parties have recourse?
  • Other than polite letters, do any responses have teeth?
    • Maybe: Official complaints have been filed, but don’t expect results.
    • Chronic optimists can .. take part in ICANN and ISOC governance
  • Has anyone currently at ICANN + ISOC made substantive comment?
  • Vint Cerf said: ‘Hard to imagine $60/year would be a deal breaker for even small non-profits.
    • How did we get to Net pioneers embracing 99% profit margins?

For more backstory, read on…
(more…)



Raw Ought: Norms as Frames for Life and Thought
Thursday August 22nd 2019, 10:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

…and Models of Enrageousness.

Fjordic Norway is a mix of lush beauty, arable land, and impassable terrain — rivers, lakes, and steep mountainsides, interlaced like the fingers and planes of so many hands intertwined in four dimensions.

Today that part of the country is striped with tunnels through the mountains, over 1000 in all, some over 20km long.  Tunnel-construction is a norm there, permeating many aspects of life.  Driving for a few hours outside of Bergen, I passed two being constructed from scratch; and at a few points had to follow a lead car through five that were under construction and so were staggering traffic to work on them.

The overall understanding of road usage and travel was different.  And national commitments to construction were made decades at a time.  Different approaches to innovation have led to quite divergent models of practice.

 



Generalized classification of claims’ meaningworthiness
Thursday January 03rd 2019, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,ideonomy,knowledge,meta,wikipedia

Generalizing a Foucault comment from 1970 on accepted shared knowledge, truth, and power:


The system of [assigning value to statements] is essential to the structure and functioning of our society.  There is a constant battle around this – the ensemble of rules according to which [valued and devalued statements] are separated and specific effects of power are attached to the former.  This is a battle about the status of truth and the practical and political role it plays. It is necessary to think of these political problems not in terms of science and ideology, but in terms of accepted knowledge and power.

Here are a few propositions, to be further tested and evaluated:

  1. Let τ be a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, [evaluation], and operation of statements.  A system linked in a circular way with systems of power that produce and sustain it, and with the effects of power which it induces and which extend it.  A regime of systems.  Such a regime is not merely ideological or superstructural; its [early stage] was a condition of the formation and development of its environment.
  2. The essential [social, political] problem for designers and maintainers of τ is not to criticize its ideology or [relation] to science, or to ensure a particular scientific practice is [correct], but to ascertain how to constitute new politics of knowledge. The problem is not changing people’s beliefs, but the political, practical, institutional regime of producing and evaluating statements about the world.
  3. This is not a matter of emancipating τ from systems of power (which would be an illusion, for it is already power) but of detaching its power from the forms of hegemony [social, economic, cultural], within which it operated [when it was designed].
  4. These [political, social, economic, cultural, semantic] questions are not error, illusion, ideology, or distraction: they illuminate truth itself.

I have been thinking about this in the context of recent work with the Knowledge Futures Group and the Truth & Trust coalition gathered around TED.

(from an interview with Foucault first published in L’Arc 70.)



Perec’s Valène’s dreams : Life: A User’s Manual’s story concept hoard
Wednesday January 02nd 2019, 1:31 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,Glory, glory, glory,ideonomy,Seraphic,Uncategorized

And a second catalog of tales, with fewer interconnections : Valène’s incomplete catalog of 179 stories from the Fifty-First chapter of Life, A User’s Manual, a life-work of Perec, poetic puzzlemaker and one of the great writers of the 20th century, lovingly translated into English by the meticulous David Bellos :

1   The Coronation at Covadonga of Alkhamah's victor, Don Pelage

2   The Russian singer and Schönberg living in Holland as exiles

3   The deaf cat on the top floor with one blue & one yellow eye

4   Barrels of sand being filled by order of the fumbling cretin

5   The miserly old woman marking all her expenses in a notebook

6   The puzzlemaker's backgammon game giving him his bad tempers
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Journey to the West : Wu Cheng-en’s Magnum Opus, from the Ming era
Sunday December 09th 2018, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the spirit of winter cataloguing:  Journey to the West, an ancient novel by Wu Cheng-en, has some spectacular chapter titles, which give the sense of the work without spoiling its story.  If you have read the work they remind you of it, but if you have not it is hard to know what to make of the couplets.

The work has been translated and interpreted constantly over the past 4 centuries; most recently in a series of films; but the texture of the original and its chapter structure is my clearest memory of it.  The poetry of the original has been hard to capture in translation; seen too in the title translations.  This version is from Yu’s 2012 revised edition.

Journey to the West 

Volume 1  

1 The divine root conceives, its source revealed;
  Mind and nature nurtured, the Great Dao is born.

2 Fully awoke to Bodhi’s wondrous truths,
  He cuts off Māra, returns to the root, and joins Primal Spirit.

3 Four Seas and a Thousand Mountains all bow to submit;
  From Ninefold Darkness ten species’ names are removed.

(more…)



Anonymizing data on the users of Wikipedia
Wednesday July 25th 2018, 12:22 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,citation needed,Glory, glory, glory,wikipedia

Updated for the new year: with specific things we can all start doing 🙂

Wikipedia currently tracks and stores almost no data about its readers and editors.  This persistently foils researchers and analysts inside the WMF and its projects; and is largely unnecessary.

Not tracked last I checked: sessions, clicks, where on a page readers spend their time, time spent on page or site, returning users.  There is a small exception: data that can fingerprint a user’s use of the site is stored for a limited time, made visible only to developers and checkusers, in order to combat sockpuppets and spam.

This is all done in the spirit of preserving privacy: not gathering data that could be used by third parties to harm contributors or readers for reading or writing information that some nation or other powerful group might want to suppress.  That is an essential concern, and Wikimedia’s commitment to privacy and pseudonymity is wonderful and needed.

However, the data we need to improve the site and understand how it is used in aggregate doesn’t require storing personally identifiable data that can be meaningfully used to target editors in specific. Rather than throwing out data that we worry would expose users to risk, we should be fuzzing and hashing it to preserve the aggregates we care about.  Browser fingerprints, including the username or IP, can be hashed; timestamps and anything that could be interpreted as geolocation can have noise added to them.

We could then know things such as, for instance:

  • the number of distinct users in a month, by general region
  • how regularly each visitor comes to the projects; which projects + languages they visit [throwing away user and article-title data, but seeing this data across the total population of ~1B visitors]
  • particularly bounce rates and times: people finding the site, perhaps running one search, and leaving
  • the number of pages viewed in a session, its tempo, or the namespaces they are in [throwing away titles]
  • the reading + editing flows of visitors on any single page, aggregated by day or week
  • clickflows from the main page or from search results [this data is gathered to some degree; I don’t know how reusably]

These are just rough descriptions — great care must be taken to vet each aggregate for preserving privacy. but this is a known practice that we could do with expert attention..

What keeps us from doing this today?  Some aspects of this are surely discussed in places, but is hard to find.  Past discussions I recall were brought to an early end by [devs worrying about legal] or [legal worrying about what is technically possible].

Discussion of obstacles and negative-space is generally harder to find on wikis than discussion of works-in-progress and responses to them: a result of a noun-based document system that requires discussions to be attached to a clearly-named topic!

What we can do, both researchers and data fiduciaries:

  • As site-maintainers: Start gathering this data, and appoint a couple privacy-focused data analysts to propose how to share it.
    • Identify challenges, open problems, solved problems that need implementing.
  • Name the (positive, future-crafting, project-loving) initiative to do this at scale, and the reasons to do so.
    • By naming the positive aspect, distinguish this from a tentative caveat to a list of bad things to avoid, which leads to inaction.  (“never gather data!  unless you have extremely good reasons, someone else has done it before, it couldn’t possibly be dangerous, and noone could possibly complain.“)
  • As data analysts (internal and external): write about what better data enables.  Expand the list above, include real-world parallels.
    • How would this illuminate the experience of finding and sharing knowledge?
  • Invite other sociologists, historians of knowledge, and tool-makers to start working with stub APIs that at first may not return much data.

Without this we remain in the dark —- and, like libraries who have found patrons leaving their privacy-preserving (but less helpful) environs for data-hoarding (and very handy) book-explorers, we remain vulnerable to disuse.



In eternal rhyme: as Cyberiad draws nigh, a tiny Lem shrine
Sunday March 25th 2018, 1:49 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,noetic,poetic justice

Stanislaw Lem‘s Cyberiad is a miracle of 20th century literature, and of translation. I want to preserve parts of two stories here in as many languages as I can find.  Sources wanted for both, if you have a copy in your language:

  • The poems of Trurl’s Electronic Bard, with their exquisite compact wordplay.
  • (to come!) The story How the World Was Saved — where everything beginning with a single letter is destroyed. Douglas Hofstadter’s paean to translation, Le Ton Beau de Marot, touches on the challenges with translating this story.  

(more…)



Mental battlefield: How we are forfeiting the zeroth AI war
Monday August 07th 2017, 6:03 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,knowledge,metrics,popular demand

Last week, Jean Twenge wrote the latest in a series of reflections on connected culture: “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

Some commentators wrote off her concerns as the periodic anxiety of an older generation seeing technology changing the world of their children, comparing it to earlier concerns about books or television.  But I don’t see this as Yet Another Moral Panic about changing tech or norms. I see it as an early AI conflict, one that individuals have lost to embryonic corporate AI.

The struggle is real

We have greatly advanced algorithms for claiming and retaining human attention, prominently including bulk attacks on shared Commons such as quiet spaces, spare time, empty mailboxes. This predates the net, but as in many areas, automation has conclusively outpaced capacity to react. There’s not even an arms race today: one the one hand, we have a few attention-preserving tools, productive norms that increasingly look like firewall instructions, a few dated regulations in some countries. On the other hand, we have a $T invested in persuasion, segmentation, attention, engagement: a growing portion of our economy, dinner conversations, and self-image as a civilization.

Persuasion is much more than advertising. The libraries of mind hacks and distractions we have developed are prominent in every networked app and social tool. Including simple things like adding a gloss of guilt and performative angst to increase engagement — like Snap or Duolingo adding publicly visible streaks to keep up daily participation.

We know people can saturate their capacity to track goals and urgencies. We know minds are exploitable, hard sells are possible — but (coming from a carny, or casino, or car salesman) unethical, bad for you.  Yet when the exploit happens at a scale of billions, one new step each week, with a cloak of respectability — we haven’t figured out how to think about it.  Indeed most growth hackers & experience designers, at companies whose immersive interfaces absorb centuries of spare time each day, would firmly deny that they are squeezing profit out of the valuable time + focus + energy of users :: even as they might agree that in aggregate, the set of all available interfaces are doing just that.

Twenge suggests people are becoming unhappier the more their attention is hacked: that seems right, up to a point. But past that point, go far enough and people will get used to anything, create new norms around it. If we lose meaningful measures of social wellbeing, then new ones may be designed for us, honoring current trends as the best of all possible worlds. A time-worn solution of cults, castes, frontiers, empires. Yet letting the few and the hawkers of the new set norms for all, doesn’t always work out well.

Let us do better.
+ Recognize exploits and failure modes of reason, habit, and thought. Treat these as important to healthy life, not simply a prize for whoever can claim them.
+ Measure maluses like addiction, negative attractors like monopoly, self-dealing, information asymmetry.
+ Measure things like learning speed, adaptability, self sufficiency, teamwork, contentment over time.
+ Reflect on system properties that seem to influence one or the other.
And build norms around all of this, countering the idea that “whatever norms we have are organic, so they must be good for us.



“‘I participate in contact origami’, The Book”, The Movie
Thursday March 09th 2017, 8:48 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,noetic

Footprints in a self-similar river. The occasional passing act of will that remains and is amplified downstream, so that at some future moment, perhaps fording at another spot altogether, you discover a print announcing to you alone that you have been there before.

screen-shot-2017-03-09-at-5-33-45-pmA decade ago, I once spent too long creating a stylesheet for a tiny “how-to” template: the numbers in boxes laying out a three-step process, whether to switch fonts, bold, padding, background and border colors. Making the css just right to work on screens of all sizes.

It looked something like this.  >>

In fact, almost exactly like that.  Some things worked, some didn’t.  I tried to add padding to the left of the roman numerals, tried to remove the pixel of whitespace above the bordered boxes, without success.  Should the roman numerals be left-aligned but the boxed text centered?  Since then, scores of similar templates have copied and remixed it, changing text and context but not style.  The color palette I settled on, almost content with it, shows up on hundreds of pages. It would now take a script and many hours to find and tweak each instance of the design.

I run across one myself every few months, and experience river-shock: the sense of seeing something simple you did once that has a quiet, pervasive mark that cannot be undone.  This is quite different from the sense of pride or dismay that comes from seeing the expected result of a major endeavor: a book in someone’s hands, a clinic building in use or in disrepair, a student now teaching others.

Another memory: One week I set about compiling a collection for a museum, a complete series of parts, diagrams and XO laptops: a few boxes full.  I had sent background context by mail, but at the last minute took a fine-tipped sharpie and attached clarifying notes to post-its on each cluster.

Years later, visiting the museum with a friend, I ran across the display as part of a history of computing; the electronics beautifully preserved as I had hoped, as I saw with pride.  And – river shock – a handful of my post-its, with small diagrams and 8pt-font notes to the curator, exactly where I had placed them.  Anyone with access to the materials could have chosen one of each and put them in a box; my handwriting made it seem like my own workdesk, enclosed in perspex and on display.

On occasion a visitor will find one of the historical texts I’ve preserved against linkrot and plagiarism, like the acquiantance checking up on the man trapped in Charles de Gaulle airport, or a friend running across their favorite college essay or spellpoem, and I have a shadow of that frisson.  A passing fancy, created to be found anonymously by others, appearing at least once more in the endless river of daily life.



The Memetic Zoo – Collaborative space where woke creatures share slang
Monday January 23rd 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,noetic,poetic justice

January is gray, and this now is the Ur-Jan, but today for a change was bright.  Thanks to the snain, red lettering, h’rissa and light.

And to you, dear Reader, for truth, presence, and ideas catalysed in telling – rarities that should be commonplaces. And for this box of potential thoughts about thoughts I will think Thursday.

I still have so many things to ask: what you know of supersimultaneity, quantified serendipity, if you feel a cool thrill in the small of your back when a crux or potentiality approaches, foreshadowing and afterimages. Sometimes I wake with the certainty I must pursue such things with all who might answer, before my pulse cools and I file it away as dream residue for review. Next time.

Today drew out instead improvements in preservation and propagation: idiogenics, cryogenic Seed Vaults and Culture Vaults, a vicariant Greenland. Advances in meme propagation as a critical piece of biological development, including RNA and human speech, but countless other innovations besides. Revisited a recurring dream of a summer camp (memezoo!) for animals who have learned to communicate with humans, to demonstrate relevant universalities.  These prodigies & their humans could spend time with the most precocious of their own species, sharing their newfound memetics, solving puzzles together, creating cross-species pidgins and developing contextual slang, to see what emerges // a place where Batyr and Kosik could have met, and Kanzi could build language bridges with more than just his step-sister.

And what is Earth herself but a planet methodically coated by a memetic zoo?  Once we have a more balanced sense of non-human memetics, we may be able to see our own more clearly, in both historical and current context.


techsolidThen Tech Sølidarity met in a converted warehouse, 150 people totally focused on the moment, technologists listening and thinking for over an hour. At most a handful of computers out, checking data or taking notes for the room. But the same narrow cross-section as before, 80% men, 90% white.

We agended aligning national efforts towards: visualizing data for local politics, streamlining calls to city pols; visualizing gerrymandering & voter disempowerment; securing voting machines; coordinating and sustaining responses to alt-facts (like the Guardian’s dangerously wrong WhatsApp bashing); listing things tech design decisions have broken & proposing fixes; devising mottos for technologists (Protect the Vulnerable?); building toolkits for curators and reviewers to ward off vandals and trolls.  And finally, looking for interfaith groups holding similar gatherings of religious leaders, with which we might cross-pollinate.

I worked with the group gathering voting-machine tech & policy wonks who could provide checklists and advice that we could adopt and share with city councils and mayors. We glissed an arpeggio of steps from procurement & policy to auditing & security, which could each be adopted by someone. Only pranksters whispered about blockchain, but agreed we needed a tacky sign to raise whenever the word came up. Next time.


They too agreed not to wait too long before the next, and to endeavour|fail|evolve rather than simply passing on the meme.




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