Technology has a momentum all its own. It has a tendency to take us places before we consider whether they are places we need to or ought to go.

From the realms of my fuzzy memory: Twenty years ago I caught a noon broadcast by Paul Harvey on my car radio. A wealthy California couple had been killed when their small plane crashed. The childless couple had been trying to have a baby through in vitro fertilization. Their efforts remained frozen in a refrigerator at the fertility clinic. As the news reached the public, selfless local women were coming forward and volunteering to carry to term the heirs to the couple’s millions.

I laughed all the way home about technology getting out ahead of our ethics.

Yesterday at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk offered a darker tale about the development of artificial intelligence:

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

The classic formulation of that warning comes from a one-page, short story by Fredric Brown, titled “Answer,” from Angels and Spaceships (1954). After finally networking computers from ninety-six billion planets, the lead scientist puts the first question to the new supercomputer: “Is there a God?”

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of single relay.

“Yes, now there is a God.”

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

Around the coffee urn at the NSA, they must think, “How cool is that?”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Science
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I was hoping someone with a clue would pay attention. They reference my Thom’s Tholl Road op-ed in both commercials:

Democrats Attack Tillis Over North Carolina Toll Project


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“We’re not a democracy, we’re a republic,” friends on the right will cheerfully correct when a Democrat refers to this country as a democracy. It’s true — a true fact, if you hew to the right — but that’s not why they’re so adamant about it. For some reason, Republicans just like the sound of republic better.

But they also don’t really like the idea of democracy itself. It’s a plutocrat thing, Paul Krugman writes, quoting Leung Chun-ying, the leader of Hong Kong, on why full democracy there would be a bad idea: “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.” Plutocrats worldwide (and their sycophants) really hate the idea of having to share power with people they consider inferiors. Recall Mitt Romney’s 47% and the makers-takers narrative? Krugman does too:

For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

In fact, the very success of the conservative agenda only intensifies this fear. Many on the right — and I’m not just talking about people listening to Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about members of the political elite — live, at least part of the time, in an alternative universe in which America has spent the past few decades marching rapidly down the road to serfdom. Never mind the new Gilded Age that tax cuts and financial deregulation have created; they’re reading books with titles like “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” asserting that the big problem we have is runaway redistribution.

“So what’s a plutocrat to do?” Krugman asks. Since they can’t come straight out and say only the wealthy should have the franchise, they resort to propaganda about voter fraud, etc.

As I wrote at my home blog, they find the whole notion of government of, by, and for the people very, very inefficient.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, there were an estimated half million Tories in this country. Royalists by temperament, loyal to the King and England, predisposed to government by hereditary royalty and landed nobility, men dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal.

After the Treaty of Paris, you know where they went? Nowhere. A few moved back to England, or to Florida or to Canada. But most stayed right here.

Take a look around. Their progeny are still with us among the one percent and their vassals. Spouting adolescent tripe from Ayn Rand, kissing up, kicking down, chasing their masters’ carriages or haughtily looking down their noses at people they consider inferiors.

(cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Corruption
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Oct
24

Friday Open Thread

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Kinda busy. This shoulda posted at 7 a.m. That means pent up demand for your observations.


Categories : Open Thread
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Last night a colleague forwarded an email she received from an NC friend:

I was watching the Good Wife on Hulu Plus last night, and this ad with a couple of attractive young people talking about how cool it is that Sean Haugh wants to legalize marijuana. When it came up a few minutes later, I realized it couldn’t be for real, and I searched it on the internet, and yes, it’s the Kochs trying to pull votes away from Kay Hagan.

It is one of a series of 10 commercials that “came as a complete surprise” to Haugh. Whatever you are hearing from pollsters about the senate race in North Carolina, yes, Thom Tillis’ backers are just that desperate. Matt Phillippi at PoliticsNC:

Like many Americans I got rid of cable several years ago and now get a lot of my TV from streaming internet services. I was watching Hulu last night, and saw not one, but two different ad spots supporting Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. This is odd in itself, because political campaigns rarely advertise there (with the exception of the President in 2012). The ads looked very homespun, and only really got my attention because the message of the first one was “Get Haugh, Get High” with young people holding up pictures of marijuana while wearing tie-dyes and Bob Marley T-Shirts, which seemed a little outlandish even for a Libertarian candidate. The second ad positioned Haugh as the anti-war candidate, and labeled Hagan as a “War Monger” literally labeled, right over her picture. That was when I read the ‘paid for’ tags on the bottom of the ad.

The ads were paid for by the American Futures Fund, a 501(c)4 organization started in 2008 by several members of Mitt Romney’s first presidential primary campaign staff. The organization claims to promote “Conservative, free-market ideals.” In reality the organization spends the majority of its money attacking Democratic candidates. According to Opensecrets.org, during the 2013-2014 cycle, AFF has spent 84% of its money attacking Democratic candidates and 16% supporting Republicans (scroll down on that link for a nice graph illustrating this).

Hagan laughed when I told her on Saturday that Thom Tillis was her best campaigner. Tillis’ backers apparently think so too if they are down to this Hail Mary play in an attempt to draw votes away from Hagan.

Early voting gets under way in North Carolina this morning.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : NC Senate race
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Note: There are 8 Democrats in the Appeals Court race where John Arrowood is listed. He is the candidate endorsed by the NCDP Executive Council.

Blue Ballot image


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Harbor seal pup.Harbor seal pup. Source: http://www.public-domain-image.com/fauna-animals-public-domain-images-pictures/seals-and-sea-lions-public-domain-images-pictures/harbor-seal-pictures/harbor-seal-mammal-phoca-vitulina.jpg.html

“Super seals” are not the navy’s newest secret weapon, but they are double super-secret:

For your “I can’t believe this stuff happens in America” files:

Calling their conduct “constitutionally abhorrent,” a federal judge recently chided government prosecutors for working in secret to keep millions of dollars in cash and assets seized from a Las Vegas gambler and his family in a decadelong bookmaking investigation.

In his 31-page opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach cast light on the little-known court process that allowed the government to file civil forfeiture actions against Glen Cobb, his 82-year-old parents and his stepdaughter under “super seal” with no notice to anyone — not even the family it targeted.

The documents remain sealed in the court’s vault and not logged into any public database —
secret from both the public and affected parties:

“This is unacceptable,” Ferenbach wrote in court papers only recently made public. “Relying on various sealed and super-sealed filings, the government asks the court to rule against private citizens, allow the deprivation of their property and deny them a process to redress possible violations of their constitutional rights through a secret government action that provides no notice or opportunity to be heard.

“Saying that this would offend the Constitution is an understatement. It is constitutionally abhorrent.”

Civil-asset forfeiture laws sanction “official thievery,” as Digby put it, “yet another symptom of a justice system that is corrupt and unaccountable.” I first ran across the practice on 60 Minutes in the early 1990s, and can’t believe it still continues. (Maybe it’s the secrecy?) Victims face a “Kafkaesque world” of litigation, attorneys fees, bankruptcy, and blacklisting. The icing on the cake? Hiding the seizures from the public via a “super seal.”

Welcome to the land of the free, y’all. Star chambers and stripes forever.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : National
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Oct
21

Warren on message

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Not unlike ghosts in The Sixth Sense, The Village hears just what it wants to. Itself, mostly, and the jangle of coins. The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson hears in Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts something different, something many Democratic politicians lack: a clear message.

Stumping for Democrats across the country, Warren has a powerful message that ordinary persons can hear if the Village cannot. Like South Dakotan Rick Weiland’s
prairie populism
, Warren (born in Oklahoma) gets traction from a populist narrative:

There once was consensus on the need for government investment in areas such as education and infrastructure that produced long-term dividends, she said. “Here’s the amazing thing: It worked. It absolutely, positively worked.”

But starting in the 1980s, she said, Republicans took the country in a different direction, beginning with the decision to “fire the cops on Wall Street.”

“They called it deregulation,” Warren said, “but what it really meant was: Have at ’em, boys.”

Americans who have been had by the boom-and-bust economy that resulted (and which Democrats abetted) are tired of being lectured about pulling themselves up by their bootstraps by a Wall Street elite wearing golden parachutes. Warren says plainly what the faltering middle class knows in its gut, “The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it.” Warren is ready to fight when it seems many Democrats — including the incumbent president — just want to go along to get along.

Robinson writes:

So far this year, Warren has published a memoir, “A Fighting Chance,” that tells of her working-class roots, her family’s economic struggles, her rise to become a Harvard Law School professor and a U.S. senator, and, yes, her distant Native American ancestry. She has emerged as her party’s go-to speaker for connecting with young voters. She has honed a stump speech with a clear and focused message, a host of applause lines and a stirring call to action.

A Democratic candidate with a stirring message derailed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid eight years ago, Robinson concludes. It might just happen again.

The Village parachute riggers are on notice.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Uncategorized
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FlyerCapture


Categories : Action, Education
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As early voting gets started here this week, more thoughts about new voting restrictions.

Call a gun rights advocate’s AR-15 an assault rifle and he’ll think you’re a dumbass liberal who a) doesn’t know the first thing about weapons, and b) has no business anywhere near laws affecting his right to bear arms. What should voting rights advocates think of voter fraud vigilantes who call any and every form of election irregularity voter fraud?

Imposing new gun laws is counterproductive, many Republicans believe, because most criminals get guns illegally. More regulation just infringes upon honest Americans’ rights. But more regulations passed to prevent voting illegally? A nonissue.

The University of Texas-Austin’s Daily Texan weighed in on that last week:

The fact that over half a million Texans do not have the proper form of ID in order to comply with the law and will thus be disenfranchised this November is apparently a nonissue. That these Texans belong to groups that historically vote Democratic is also a coincidence.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker this month:

“I was at a town hall meeting yesterday in Appleton, and took questions from the crowd, and one person asked me how many cases of fraud there have been in the state. I said, does not matter if it was one or a hundred or a thousand. I ask amongst us, who would be that one person who would want to have our vote canceled out by a vote cast illegally?”

How many married couples who “cancel out” each others’ votes each election advocate laws preventing spouses from “stealing” their votes? Who amongst the tens of millions of real Americans without photo IDs would want to be kept from voting because of vigilantes’ “downright goofy, if not paranoid” fears about what they insist might be a “widespread problem“?

Mark Fiore takes on the Voter Fraud Vigilantes here.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)