Thursday, October 01, 2020

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma’ Review: Unplug and Run This documentary from Jeff Orlowski explores how addiction and privacy breaches are features, not bugs, of social media platforms. ......... That social media can be addictive and creepy isn’t a revelation to anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. But in Jeff Orlowski’s documentary “The Social Dilemma,” conscientious defectors from these companies explain that the perniciousness of social networking platforms is a feature, not a bug. .......... the manipulation of human behavior for profit is coded into these companies with Machiavellian precision: Infinite scrolling and push notifications keep users constantly engaged; personalized recommendations use data not just to predict but also to influence our actions, turning users into easy prey for advertisers and propagandists. ........ men and (a few) women who helped build social media and now fear the effects of their creations on users’ mental health and the foundations of democracy. They deliver their cautionary testimonies with the force of a start-up pitch, employing crisp aphorisms and pithy analogies. ......... Russia didn’t hack Facebook; it simply used the platform. ........ fictional scenes of a suburban family suffering the consequences of social-media addiction. There are silent dinners, a pubescent daughter (Sophia Hammons) with self-image issues and a teenage son (Skyler Gisondo) who’s radicalized by YouTube recommendations promoting a vague ideology. ............ the movie’s interlocutors pin an increase in mental illness on social media usage yet don’t acknowledge factors like a rise in economic insecurity. .......... many suggest that with the right changes, we can salvage the good of social media without the bad ......... two distinct targets of critique: the technology that causes destructive behaviors and the culture of unchecked capitalism that produces it. ......... the incursion of data mining and manipulative technology ....... The movie is streaming on Netflix, where it’ll become another node in the service’s data-based algorithm.

I think there is a solution. And the solution is to treat all data gathered around an individual to be the property of that individual. Companies may monetize that data, but the individual keeps the big chunk of the earning. The establishment of proper property rights might also be the antidote to the culture mindless data collecting. The data can fund the UBI, or Universal Basic Income, I think. 

One step could be the formation of a T100, the top 100 tech companies in the world by market cap. That T100 would voluntarily establish the data rights. It might be a 70-30 split in favor of the individual. 

 ‘The Social Dilemma’ Will Freak You Out—But There’s More to the Story    Dramatic political polarization. Rising anxiety and depression. An uptick in teen suicide rates. Misinformation that spreads like wildfire. The common denominator of all these phenomena is that they’re fueled in part by our seemingly innocuous participation in digital social networking. But how can simple acts like sharing photos and articles, reading the news, and connecting with friends have such destructive consequences? ............... the way social media gets people “hooked” by exploiting the brain’s dopamine response and using machine learning algorithms to serve up the customized content most likely to keep each person scrolling/watching/clicking. ........  “Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded,” says Jeff Siebert, a former exec at Twitter. The intelligence gleaned from those actions is then used in conjunction with our own psychological weaknesses to get us to watch more videos, share more content, see more ads, and continue driving Big Tech’s money-making engine. .............  For the first few years of social media’s existence, we thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Now it’s on a nosedive to the other end of the spectrum—we’re condemning it and focusing on its ills and unintended consequences. The next phase is to find some kind of balance, most likely through adjustments in design and, possibly, regulation. .......... The issue with social media is that it’s going to be a lot trickier to fix than, say, adding seatbelts and air bags to cars. The sheer size and reach of these tools, and the way in which they overlap with issues of freedom of speech and privacy—not to mention how they’ve changed the way humans interact—means it will likely take a lot of trial and error to come out with tools that feel good for us to use without being addicting, give us only true, unbiased information in a way that’s engaging without preying on our emotions, and allow us to share content and experiences while preventing misinformation and hate speech. ................ “While we’ve all been looking out for the moment when AI would overwhelm human strengths—when would we get the Singularity, when would AI take our jobs, when would it be smarter than humans—we missed this much much earlier point when technology didn’t overwhelm human strengths, but it undermined human weaknesses.”

Coronavirus News (247)

With Cross Talk, Lies and Mockery, Trump Tramples Decorum in Debate With Biden Interrupting Joe Biden nearly every time he spoke, President Trump made little attempt to reassure swing voters about his leadership. Mr. Biden hit back: “This is so unpresidential.”

MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman The portrait of MBS that emerges from the book resembles no one so much as the brash young man who took power in Libya in 1969: Muammar al-Qaddafi, who initially presented himself as an ambitious modernizer but who went on to spend the next 40 years destroying his own country and spreading mayhem throughout the world.

A Foreign Policy for the Day After Trump Reimagining—not Restoring—the Liberal International Order  ......... the new administration may be tempted to restore, rather than reimagine, U.S. foreign policy in the hope of reversing four years of damage to the liberal international order. But a Biden White House will also field calls from both sides of the political aisle for a military and an economic retreat on the grounds that U.S. security is best served by making the country more self-sufficient and reducing its global ambitions. ......... The country has a narrowing window in which to reconfigure its foreign policy to ensure that it remains mighty even though it is no longer the uncontested superpower. ........ The current period of disruption and turmoil presents the greatest world-ordering opportunity since the end of the Cold War—and perhaps since World War II. The United States must lead in turning the present destruction into a moment of creation. ...........  an epochal global pandemic has revealed that international institutions are threadbare and multilateral cooperation is elusive ............ An open world is one in which states are free to make independent political decisions; international waters, airspace, and space remain accessible to military and commercial traffic; and countries cooperate informally and through modernized international institutions. The United States should accept the reality that its rivals, such as China, are stronger than they once were and will have greater influence, but Washington must resist any attempts to establish spheres of dominance—whether territorial or technological—that are impermeable to outside commercial, military, or diplomatic access. That means opposing the efforts of hostile nations to dominate their regions, subvert the political processes of independent states, and close off vital waterways, airspaces, or information spaces. ............  Achieving an open world does not, however, require the United States to dominate all prospective military or political challengers, as it did in the post–Cold War era. ........... The United States should collaborate with its allies and partners to modernize international institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), and prevent closed societies like China’s from exploiting the openness of others, particularly when it comes to intellectual property and digital trade. The United States should also develop new institutions or regimes in undergoverned areas, such as cyberspace, in which Washington has a clear interest in setting open norms and rules. Authoritarian great powers will certainly compete to try to shape the future global order. But the United States and its partners must keep authoritarians from dominating beyond their borders, thereby ensuring that the world remains accessible and interdependent. ................  Such competition is already evident in areas subject to rapid technological change and few clear rules, such as Internet governance and artificial intelligence. China and Russia prefer a governance model that establishes state control over information. ............. Together with partner states, technology firms, and civil society groups, Washington should work to set down rules for data storage, privacy, cybercrime, and hacking. ...........  Autocracies may respond by developing “splinternets,” in which nations or blocs of nations cordon off flows of information. .........  An international order is similarly vital in confronting such existential threats as climate change and global pandemics. The United States should rejoin the Paris climate accord and lobby other major emitters to unite in embracing new and ambitious domestic climate goals. These additional commitments should be transparent and enforceable, allowing Washington to monitor the implementation of environmental measures and confront cheaters with economic sanctions. The United States must also return to the World Health Organization, working to reform and strengthen it. Washington should belatedly demonstrate leadership in the global response to COVID-19 by sharing vaccines and critical supplies with partners, and it should work with the G-7 to manage follow-on economic shocks and with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to provide economic relief to the developing world. ...............  foreign policy cannot be made by the Defense Department alone. The United States must revitalize the State Department and rebalance national security spending toward diplomacy and development. To make an open world, the United States needs a well-funded and expert diplomatic corps to manage ties with small and middling powers while engaging with great-power rivals. .................  Washington should envision success as the defense of U.S. interests without having to resort to war. ........... If the United States fails to assume this mantle of leadership, succumbing either to nostalgia for the post–Cold War order or to introverted nationalism, it will find itself utterly ill equipped for the world a decade from now.

How ‘Rage’ Challenged Bob Woodward He has covered nine presidents over 50 years, making him perhaps the country’s most enduring chronicler of the Oval Office. His latest is yet another best seller, drawing praise and criticism along the way.  .......  In his 50 years as a journalist, he has written 20 books and covered nine presidents. .......  At either end of his long bibliography are two of the most divisive American presidents in generations: Richard Nixon and Mr. Trump. ....... “When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.” ........ Mr. Woodward stood out at the newspaper for his tidy appearance. Newsrooms can be sloppy places, but Mr. Woodward was always neatly dressed. He was extremely polite, almost obsequious, Mr. Downie said, and he kept a toothbrush and toothpaste in his desk. .......... he always tries to schedule at least four hours for interviews, which often take place over a meal or coffee at his house, where he has lived since 1976. But if a source is dodging his calls, he’ll still show up on their doorstep — he likes to joke that 8:17 p.m. is the best time to drop by. ........... He estimates he has 200 cardboard boxes, kept in temperature controlled storage, that are filled with records going back to when he worked for the Montgomery County Sentinel. 

For a President Who ‘Needs to Touch the Flame,’ Bob Woodward Was Irresistible President Trump gave 18 interviews to the famed Watergate journalist, gambling that he could control the narrative. Instead, he undermined himself shortly before an election. .......... Why give so much access to a journalist who made his reputation taking down a president during Watergate? And the answer is: because he is Donald Trump. He has infinite faith in his ability to spin his own story. He is forever seeking approval and validation from celebrity and establishment figures like Mr. Woodward. And as much as he likes to excoriate the “fake news,” he is drawn irresistibly to the spotlight. ...............  “He’s profoundly addicted to public attention and the media is his vehicle for making sure he gets it. His view is he can live with negative coverage and positive coverage. He can’t live with no coverage. So he constantly puts himself in the cross hairs.” ........ “He always needs to touch the flame.” ........ Mr. Woodward has enjoyed access to the Oval Office that few journalists of his generation have. ........ “Instead of just sitting down for an interview, Trump treated a reporter famous for bringing down a president like his personal sounding board. It is truly one of the most stupidly self-destructive communications decisions made by a politician in memory.” .......... Indeed, Mr. Trump called Mr. Woodward at night when aides presumably were not around. He gave Mr. Woodward a phone number so that the author could call in and leave a message to have him call back without going through the elaborate bureaucracy that a presidential interview involves in a normal White House. ............ At one point, according to the book, when Melania Trump walked in, the president boasted, “Honey, I’m talking to Bob Woodward.” ........... “It actually reflects how deeply insecure he is about his own self-worth.” ............ “Bob Woodward is somebody that I respect, just from hearing the name for many, many years, not knowing too much about his work, not caring about his work,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a news briefing. “But I thought it would be interesting to talk to him for a period of calls.” “I did it out of curiosity,” he added, “because I do have respect and I want to see, I wonder whether or not somebody like that can write good. I don’t think he can, but let’s see what happens.” 

5 Takeaways From ‘Rage,’ Bob Woodward’s New Book About Trump Mr. Woodward reveals that President Trump sought to play down the severity of the coronavirus and repeatedly denigrated the U.S. military. ............... President Trump described his chemistry with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to the journalist Bob Woodward, saying: “You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it’s going to happen.” ............  Mr. Woodward wrote that he was stunned when the president said of South Korea, “We’re defending you, we’re allowing you to exist.” ....... Mr. Woodward pointed out that both he and Mr. Trump were “white, privileged” and asked if Mr. Trump was working to “understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country.” Mr. Trump replied, “No,” and added: “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”  

How to Keep the Coronavirus at Bay Indoors  Tips for dodging the virus as Americans retreat from colder weather: Open the windows, buy an air filter — and forget the UV lights.  .............  as winter approaches and temperatures drop, people will spend more time indoors, where the coronavirus is more easily transmitted ...... Southern states, for example, saw a spike in infections when the temperatures soared this summer, prompting people to remain inside with the air-conditioners humming.  ..... In poorly ventilated indoor settings, like most restaurants and bars, the virus can remain suspended in the air for long periods and travel distances beyond six feet ....... “Soap and water work beautifully.” .......  the optimal strategy is simply to wear a mask indoors ....... If possible, open your windows ..... “Everybody is inundated right now with the shiny new solutions that are being sold to them,” Dr. Allen said. “And the reality is, it’s a time for the basics.”

Time to shift focus to the maritime sphere Beijing is neither keen on ending the ongoing border stalemate nor reinstating the status quo with India as of March 2020. The peaceful India-China Line of Actual Control in the Northeast is now a thing of the past with China pushing back New Delhi’s claims on Aksai Chin and New Delhi defending against Beijing’s expansive territorial claims and their slow but aggressive implementation. China has crossed the red line with India and India’s LAC with China is not going to be the same ever again: It is the beginning of a long, bitter winter in the Himalayan borders between the two Asian giants. ............. the intensity of the China-Pakistan containment strategy against India today is unprecedented ......... To begin with, New Delhi must seek ways to break up the ‘nutcracker situation’ that the Pakistani and Chinese strategies have forced India into. ......... unlike in the continental sphere where India seems to be hemmed in by China-Pakistan collusion, the maritime sphere is wide open to India to undertake coalition building, rule setting, and other forms of strategic exploration. ............ the country is located right at the centre of the Indo-Pacific geopolitical imagination, in the midst of the oceanic space spanning “from the shores of Africa to that of the Americas” ......... The Euro-American interest in India’s land borders with Pakistan and China is negligible ..........  Germany recently released its Indo-Pacific guidelines following the example of France which brought out its Indo-Pacific strategy last year. ..... the maritime space is a lot more important to China than engaging in opportunistic land grab attempts in the Himalayas, thanks to the massive Chinese trade that happens via the Oceanic routes and the complex geopolitics around the maritime chokepoints which can potentially disrupt that trade. ........ New Delhi must use its Indo-Pacific engagements to dissuade Beijing from salami-slicing Indian territory in the high Himalayas. ............ The Asian geopolitical chessboard awaits bold moves by New Delhi.

Imperatives after India’s September virus peak  After having peaked in the middle of this month, COVID-19 infections could continue till March before turning endemic ......... For every laboratory-diagnosed infection, there were 80 to 100 undocumented infections in the country. ..........  India’s total burden of infection was between 480 million and 600 million. .......  In India’s population of 1,380 million, the proportion infected — in other words the herd immunity — was in the range of 35% and 43%. Since about 30% herd immunity is sufficient to reach the peak of the epidemic curve, we can be confident that India indeed has reached the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic. ............ By simple arithmetic we can foresee some 20-25 million infections annually. .......  Our epidemic began in mid-March and peaked after six months, in mid-September. So it is reasonable to assume that the epidemic will continue for a further six months, until mid-March 2021, before it turns endemic. ...... the risk of severe disease and death will remain among senior citizens and those with chronic diseases. Vaccination is the ready answer to prevent death in these vulnerable subjects. ............ These steps, large-scale total antibody testing and vaccine delivery for those who are antibody negative will entail expenses that must be accommodated in the budgetary allocation for health. They can be more than recovered by the liberation of the economy from COVID-19 constraints. 

On the Quad, define the idea, chart a path The Chinese, however, labelled it as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It became evident years later that the real reason for China’s hyperreaction was out of concern that such a grouping would “out” China’s plans for naval expansion by focusing on the Indo-Pacific maritime space. China was hoping that its naval build-up might slip under the radar because the Americans were distracted by continental challenges including Russia, Afghanistan and Iran, and would not look sea-ward. .......... The Chinese are skilled at obfuscation. ..........  “A ‘broader Asia’ that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form.”

A new dimension: On India-U.S.-Australia-Japan Quadrilateral  While India continues to engage China diplomatically, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have spoken of the importance of a resolution through talks, there is no doubt that an outcome of the tensions will be a strengthening of India’s ties with global powers such as the U.S., as well as formations like the Quad. ............ India is the only Quad member not already tied in a treaty alliance with the others