News — At The Edge — 6/9
Two sets of unwanted harbingers this week.
- Undermining our future — banks, inequality, & bad faith — by going in wrong direction.
- Harming our future — panopticon & war — without any redeeming benefit.
Undermining our future
“That banks can’t be…trusted to judge the risks they take was a painful lesson…from the Great Recession…[so] Congress established the Volcker Rule… [that] restricted banks from speculating with depositors’ money…in hedge funds and private equity funds…[and] to demonstrate to regulators that such trades were for permitted purposes….
Not any more….[Fed says] banks would establish their own risk limits and determine whether such trades are compliant….In other words, trust them, they’re risk-taking experts….
If banks are overly burdened by [regulation]…it’s not apparent….‘Total revenue for the U.S. banks was the highest since 2009’….
Great Recession amply demonstrated that when banks chose between proprietary trading and customers’ interests, the customers lost out.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/opinion/volcker-rule-banks-fed.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront
“[UN] monitor on poverty is ripping…Trump’s policies…that rewards the rich and punishes the poor…[pushing] more people into poverty…[and] ‘undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own….
[UN] ‘blasted Trump and Republican lawmakers for the tax-cut law…[and] policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest…[turning] ‘basic health care into a privilege’….
[A] proposal from… (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson that would triple the rent for Americans on housing assistance….[It’s] ‘attack on those who are living on the poverty line or below it.’” http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/390263-un-poverty-official-trump-exacerbating-inequality
“There are dishonest individuals of every political persuasion, but if you’re looking for systematic gaslighting…you’ll find it disproportionately on one side…[and] an important reason for the mess we’re in….
[Media’s] squeamish about actually using the word ‘lie,’ and there’s still a tendency for headlines to repeat false talking points….
Why are there so few conservative scientists? It might be…as a career, appeals more to liberals….(There aren’t a lot of liberals in police departments)….[Also] being a conservative means aligning yourself with a faction that by and large rejects climate science and the theory of evolution….
[Today] conservative claims to be defending free speech…aren’t sincere. Conservatives don’t want to see ideas evaluated on their merits…[only] ideas convenient to their side…regardless of their intellectual quality….
[They] claim to want fairness…[but] is made in bad faith. It has nothing to do with fairness; it’s all about power.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/04/opinion/conservative-free-speech.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=8&pgtype=sectionfront
Who Do You Trust?
Civilization has inflated the “great man theory” of history. A19th-century idea in which history is largely explained…
Harming our future
“When you walk to work…cameras film you and…recognize your face. Drive out of town, and number-plate-reading cameras capture your journey. The smartphone in your pocket leaves a constant digital trail. Browse the web…and your actions are logged and analyzed…[thus] a minute-by-minute record of your life….
[China’s] is turning a nasty police state into a terrifying, all-knowing one…applying artificial intelligence (AI)…to create a 21st-century panopticon and impose total control over [people]….
In Western democracies, police and intelligence agencies are using the same surveillance tools….
Between freedom and oppression stands a system to seek the consent of citizens, maintain checks and balances…[and] set rules to restrain those who collect and process information. But with data so plentiful…these protections are being eroded.
Privacy rules… urgently need to be strengthened for the age…. Technologies that once seemed a friend of freedom…now look more Orwellian….
Fearing insurrection and separatism…[China] reinforced techniques of totalitarian control….ID cards include…name, sex and occupation…relatives’ details, fingerprints, blood type, DNA information, detention record and ‘reliability status’…[for] an AI-powered system, to generate lists of suspects for detention….China’s model of surveillance will surely inspire other autocracies….
West must look at itself, too…[since] police forces can also have access to a Stasi’s worth of data…[for] monitoring of possible attackers, but the potential for abuse is great. Hundreds of American police officers…have used confidential databases to dig dirt on journalists, ex-girlfriends and others….[Need]
- places where…people can enjoy privacy….
- encryption should not be curtailed….
- limit how long information on citizens is kept, constrain who has access to it and penalize its misuse fittingly….
- Misuse of police data should be a criminal offence…not a ‘mistake’ absolved by [apology]….
- monitor the use of AI. Predictive-policing systems are imperfect….Face-recognition may produce lots of ‘false positive’ results….
- algorithms must be open to scrutiny, not protected as trade secrets….
[Police] watch citizens to keep them safe. Citizens must watch the police to remain free.” https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/05/31/does-chinas-digital-police-state-have-echoes-in-the-west
Our Human Stain
Beyond accumulated scientific knowledge. art and magical technological artifacts, we humans remain primates with…
“[A] watchdog group Airwars.org estimates…U.S.-coalition…killed at least 6,259 civilians since anti-ISIS operations began…[and] U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have resulted in…deaths of more than 450,000 people, most of them civilians…[says] Costs of War project….
U.S. is now involved in counter-terror operations in 76 nations…[and] spends more on its arms and armies than the next seven biggest spenders combined…[and] been at war non-stop since 2001. Most of us don’t even question our nation’s militarism any more….
[Pentagon] sought alliances with the tech industry…[but] technology to assist the US…in military surveillance — and…lethal outcomes — is not acceptable….
We risk potentially catastrophic outcomes if…deploy global technical systems without care, deliberation, and a clear understanding of our significant responsibility….
By the end of this year, the U.S. will have spent $5.6 trillion on its post-9/11 wars…that could have been spent on education, health care and transportation….
Weapons research, rather than enhancing U.S. security, ultimately imperils it by triggering arms races….[So] ending war should be a moral imperative, akin to ending slavery and giving women equal rights.
We should ask not, Can we stop war? but, How?….
There are times when violence is justified to prevent or stop greater violence….[but] we should consider whether it is absolutely necessary — and whether it will take us closer to a world without war….None of the current U.S. wars…meets this standard. Nor does inventing ‘smarter’ ways to kill people….
If killing kids isn’t evil, what is?” https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/how-google-could-help-end-war/
Civilization’s Anti-Human, Not Machines
April 2000, as millennium celebrations passed into history, Silicon Valley luminary, Bill Joy, wrote a provocative…
Find more of my ideas on Medium at,
Or click the Follow button below to add me to your feed.
Prefer a weekly email newsletter — no ads, no spam, & never sell the list — email me firstname.lastname@example.org with “add me” in the subject line.
May you live long and prosper!