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In the News 22.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 22.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 22.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 22.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Dirty Birds

In the News 22.05.17-01

Dutch Harbor is a small town on a small island far out in Alaska’s Aleutian chain, nearly 1,200 miles from Anchorage at the edge of the Bering Sea. It’s the most productive fishing port in the United States. Every winter the tiny population swells with thousands of people who come to work in the fish processing plants, on the crab boats, or out on the big cod and pollack trawlers. But they’re not the only ones trying their fortunes in town or out on the boats.

People in town call them Dutch Harbor pigeons. The rest of us call them bald eagles. In a community of just over 4,700 permanent residents, there live an estimated 500 to 800 eagles. They stare judgily down from light posts, peer intently into people’s windows, eat foxes and seagulls while perched in the trees next to the high school, and sit on rooflines like living weather vanes. Down at the docks, they swarm every boat that comes into port like some sort of Hitchcockian nightmare, fighting for scraps of bait, elbowing one another for prime positions, crowding together on top of crab pots, and squawk-cheeping their opinions.

Read the rest of this article at The California Sunday Magazine




The Mathematics of Mind-Time

In the News 22.05.17-02

I have a confession. As a physicist and psychiatrist, I find it difficult to engage with conversations about consciousness. My biggest gripe is that the philosophers and cognitive scientists who tend to pose the questions often assume that the mind is a thing, whose existence can be identified by the attributes it has or the purposes it fulfils.

But in physics, it’s dangerous to assume that things ‘exist’ in any conventional sense. Instead, the deeper question is: what sorts of processes give rise to the notion (or illusion) that something exists? For example, Isaac Newton explained the physical world in terms of massive bodies that respond to forces. However, with the advent of quantum physics, the real question turned out to be the very nature and meaning of the measurements upon which the notions of mass and force depend – a question that’s still debated today.

As a consequence, I’m compelled to treat consciousness as a process to be understood, not as a thing to be defined. Simply put, my argument is that consciousness is nothing more and nothing less than a natural process such as evolution or the weather. My favourite trick to illustrate the notion of consciousness as a process is to replace the word ‘consciousness’ with ‘evolution’ – and see if the question still makes sense. For example, the question What is consciousness for? becomes What is evolution for?Scientifically speaking, of course, we know that evolution is not for anything. It doesn’t perform a function or have reasons for doing what it does – it’s an unfolding process that can be understood only on its own terms. Since we are all the product of evolution, the same would seem to hold for consciousness and the self.

Read the rest of this article at aeon

Her Eyes Were Watching The Stars: How Missy Elliot Became an Icon

In the News 22.05.17-03

At the photo shoot, the accoutrements of being her precede her. A tray of acrylic nails and an almost-empty bottle of professional-grade nail polish remover are carried by Bernadette Thompson, the Takashi Murakami of manicurists. A tall, strong-looking man walks around distractedly, wheeling a Louis Vuitton duffel bag that is smaller than his forearm; from time to time, he spins it in a wide circle out of boredom. Jewels—gold chokers, hoop earrings, and rings in a velvet-lined box—are attended to by a thin young man wearing a black Balenciaga fitted cap and high-top Nikes. There’s a bottle of jewelry cleaner harnessed to his chest and a chain of styling clips attached to his hoodie strings; he looks listless, like he has given his body over to the task. On the table, someone has set down two Kangol hats, one tan, one black: fuzzy, wearable homages to the golden era of hip-hop. They sit there like low-key crowns.

Read the rest of this article at Elle

How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful

In the News 22.05.17-04 (1)

Recently I handed over the keys to my email account to a service that promised to turn my spam-bloated inbox into a sparkling model of efficiency in just a few clicks. Unroll.me’s method of instant unsubscribing from newsletters and junk mail was “trusted by millions of happy users,” the site said, among them the “Scandal” actor Joshua Malina, who tweeted in 2014: “Your inbox will sing!” Plus, it was free. When a privacy policy popped up, I swatted away the legalese and tapped “continue.”

Last month, the true cost of Unroll.me was revealed: The service is owned by the market-research firm Slice Intelligence, and according to a report in The Times, while Unroll.me is cleaning up users’ inboxes, it’s also rifling through their trash. When Slice found digital ride receipts from Lyft in some users’ accounts, it sold the anonymized data off to Lyft’s ride-hailing rival, Uber.

Suddenly, some of Unroll.me’s trusting users were no longer so happy. One user filed a class-action lawsuit. In a blog post, Unroll​.me’s chief executive, Jojo Hedaya, wrote that it was “heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service.” He stressed “the importance of your privacy” and pledged to “do better.” But one of Unroll.me’s founders, Perri Chase, who is no longer with the company, took a different approach in her own post on the controversy. “Do you really care?” she wrote. “How exactly is this shocking?”

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America

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On March 2, a disturbing report hit the desks of U.S. counterintelligence officials in Washington. For months, American spy hunters had scrambled to uncover details of Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 presidential election. In offices in both D.C. and suburban Virginia, they had created massive wall charts to track the different players in Russia’s multipronged scheme. But the report in early March was something new.

It described how Russia had already moved on from the rudimentary email hacks against politicians it had used in 2016. Now the Russians were running a more sophisticated hack on Twitter. The report said the Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department. Depending on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.

As they scrambled to contain the damage from the hack and regain control of any compromised devices, the spy hunters realized they faced a new kind of threat. In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States? At any given moment, perhaps during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. As each tweet corroborated another, and covert Russian agents amplified the messages even further afield, the result could be panic and confusion.

Read the rest of this article at Dazed

Credits

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @janicejoostemaa; @livinginnottinghill; @sixsevensix