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In the News 02.15.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 02.15.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 02.15.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 02.15.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Why Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For The Apocalypse In New Zealand

If you’re interested in the end of the world, you’re interested in New Zealand. If you’re interested in how our current cultural anxieties – climate catastrophe, decline of transatlantic political orders, resurgent nuclear terror – manifest themselves in apocalyptic visions, you’re interested in the place occupied by this distant archipelago of apparent peace and stability against the roiling unease of the day.

If you’re interested in the end of the world, you would have been interested, soon after Donald Trump’s election as US president, to read a New York Times headline stating that Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, considered New Zealand to be “the Future”. Because if you are in any serious way concerned about the future, you’re also concerned about Thiel, a canary in capitalism’s coal mine who also happens to have profited lavishly from his stake in the mining concern itself.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


Inside The Two Years That Shook Facebook – And The World


ONE DAY IN late February of 2016, Mark Zuckerberg sent a memo to all of Facebook’s employees to address some troubling behavior in the ranks. His message pertained to some walls at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters where staffers are encouraged to scribble notes and signatures. On at least a couple of occasions, someone had crossed out the words “Black Lives Matter” and replaced them with “All Lives Matter.” Zuckerberg wanted whoever was responsible to cut it out.

“ ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t,” he wrote. “We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls,” the memo went on. But “crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s.” The defacement, he said, was being investigated.

All around the country at about this time, debates about race and politics were becoming increasingly raw. Donald Trump had just won the South Carolina primary, lashed out at the Pope over immigration, and earned the enthusiastic support of David Duke. Hillary Clinton had just defeated Bernie Sanders in Nevada, only to have an activist from Black Lives Matter interrupt a speech of hers to protest racially charged statements she’d made two decades before. And on Facebook, a popular group called Blacktivist was gaining traction by blasting out messages like “American economy and power were built on forced migration and torture.”

So when Zuckerberg’s admonition circulated, a young contract employee named Benjamin Fearnow decided it might be newsworthy. He took a screenshot on his personal laptop and sent the image to a friend named Michael Nuñez, who worked at the tech-news site Gizmodo. Nuñez promptly published a brief story about Zuckerberg’s memo.

A week later, Fearnow came across something else he thought Nuñez might like to publish. In another internal communication, Facebook had invited its employees to submit potential questions to ask Zuckerberg at an all-hands meeting. One of the most up-voted questions that week was “What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?” Fearnow took another screenshot, this time with his phone.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired


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Get Schooled in the No-Nonsense Art of Survival

Before she climbed onto her snowmobile and drove away, leaving us to the ice, Sarah McNair-Landry had a few parting words. “Don’t burn the tent down,” she said, hugging all of us hard. “Don’t lose each other.”

She pulled away and headed to her machine. Soon its red tail light receded in the distance, veering right and left as Sarah steered along the ocean’s rough, frozen skin. A cold wind blew at our backs as we watched her go; the hum of the machine vanished almost immediately. We three people—who had met just a few days earlier—were alone on the sea ice of Frobisher Bay, on the east coast of Canada’s Baffin Island, 2.5 degrees south of the Arctic Circle.

Eirliani, a chatty, high-energy 41-year-old ex-diplomat from Singapore who went by Lin, broke the quiet. “This is weird, no?”

Jonatan, 31, a ponytailed Dane who could have been cast as one of the rugged men of Rohan in Lord of the Rings, was stoic. “Not really,” he said.

Read the rest of this article at: Outside

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The African Anthropocene

Every year, human activity moves more sediment and rock than all natural processes combined, including erosion and rivers. This might not shock you. In fact, you’ve probably seen similar soundbites circulating online, signals of the sheer scale of how we’re terraforming the planet in the era of the Anthropocene. Natural and social scientists argue passionately about almost everything Anthropocenic, from the nuances of nomenclature to the start-date of the new geological epoch, but most agree on one thing: the Earth will outlive humanity. What’s in doubt is how long we will populate the planet, and under what conditions.

But who, exactly, are ‘we’?

Consider the cover of Nature in March 2015, in which two Earths, one blue-green and one grey, are entangled in a human body. The title emblazoned across the man’s six-pack invites us to see this body as representative of ‘the human’. But there’s no such thing as a generic human, of course; the image repeats the centuries-old conflation of human with white man. Perhaps the artist sought to subvert such racist overtones by obscuring the man’s eyes, making him an unseeing subject blind to the damage he’s wreaked on his body and his planet. Still, the image impels a common critique of the Anthropocene concept: it attributes ecological collapse to an undifferentiated ‘humanity’, when in practice both responsibility and vulnerability are unevenly distributed.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.

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In mid-2016Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.”

The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.

“At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, ‘we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn’t even see the car,” he said.

Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

But it’s what he sees coming next that will really scare the shit out of you.

“Alarmism can be good — you should be alarmist about this stuff,” Ovadya said one January afternoon before calmly outlining a deeply unsettling projection about the next two decades of fake news, artificial intelligence–assisted misinformation campaigns, and propaganda. “We are so screwed it’s beyond what most of us can imagine,” he said. “We were utterly screwed a year and a half ago and we’re even more screwed now. And depending how far you look into the future it just gets worse.”

That future, according to Ovadya, will arrive with a slew of slick, easy-to-use, and eventually seamless technological tools for manipulating perception and falsifying reality, for which terms have already been coined — “reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and “human puppets.”

Read the rest of this article at: BuzzFeed

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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