Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How Many Likes Does It Take To Get To The Summit of Techno-Pop?

The way tech-talkers follow me on twitter when I use their favorite words and then unfollow me a day later when they realize I use their favorite words critically is actually quite hilarious.


jimf said...

> How Many Likes Does It Take To Get To The Summit of Techno-Pop?

Well, here's somebody who should know:
In something of a surprise move, Singularitarian Transhumanist
Robot Cultist Michael Anissimov has declared victory. Apparently,
the superlative futurologists have "won." The Robot Cult, it would
seem, has prevailed over the ends of the earth. . .

(Also, mockery and name-calling. ;->

"The last mosquito that bit me had to check into the
Betty Ford Clinic."

-- Patsy Stone)
You're right Dale, few will listen to you about superlativity,
now or ever. Meaning, few will start saying "yes Dale, you're right,
transhumanist discourse is wrong or silly or harmful."
To the contrary, a lof of serious, bright, and thoughtful
people will likely continue to see transhumanist discourse
as having value no matter how many times you repeat your critique.
Brian Wang, Mr. Fact Guy and "Big Thinker" wrote:

> Dale's website was ranked less popular then the
> top 2 million websites until he leached onto the
> Superlative stuff.

You mean "leeched", presumably. . .

> He is gaining some traffic because the "superlative technology"
> sites are more popular.

Well and good.

> Accelerating future is fairly regularly in the top 100,000 sites.
> It has 20 to 40 times the traffic of Dale's snark rants. My site
> advancednano has more traffic than Dale's and triple the technorati
> authority.
> I am slumming by talking to you more marginal people.

Too bad your intellectual sophistication doesn't track
your Nielsen and Arbitron ratings.

Really, you pay attention to numbers like that?
You getting paid by the click, or something?


Dale Carrico said...

As someone who is content, even honored, to influence a gathering in a classroom I have never quite understood those who would dismiss a small smart dedicated readership. The few posts of mine that have attracted more widespread notice -- like that "Unbearable Stasis" piece for whatever reason -- occasioned such a froth of vapid likes and dumb incomprehension it is hard to see what is so gratifying about being swarmed online on a regular basis. America is such an anti-intellectual place we can't distinguish glorified gossip columnists from public intellectuals.

jimf said...


jimf said...

> "The last mosquito that bit me had to check into the
> Betty Ford Clinic."

So speaking of mosquitoes, there was an article in the New York Times
a few days ago about a plan in the Florida Keys to release male mosquitoes
carrying a gene-spliced genetic "bomb" that causes the larvae of the
females they impregnate to die. This is ostensibly to control the
spread of the Zika virus, but some of the locals aren't having it.
In Florida Keys, Some Worry About ‘Science and Government’ More Than Zika
AUG. 24, 2016

KEY HAVEN, Fla. — To live here. . . requires a blend of carefree eccentricity
and go-it-alone grit.

So when, several years ago, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District
offered up the peninsula of Key Haven. . .
for the first United States test of genetically modified mosquitoes
built to blunt the spread of dengue and Zika, it was only a matter
of time before opposition mounted.

Today, . . Key Haven’s hardened position against the trial — or the
experiment, as they call it — is hard to miss. . . “No Consent to Release of
Genetically Modified Mosquitoes,” red-and-white placards declare.

“People here can survive what nature throws at them. . .
Hurricanes, bring them on; long-timers here seldom evacuate.
Mosquitoes, well, that’s the price of paradise. Zika,
this too shall pass, like dengue. But science and government,
I’m not so sure about.” . . .

[I]n the lower Florida Keys, as is true in large areas of the
United States, skepticism of corporate interests and scientific
findings abounds. . .

“This is Jurassic science. . . People distrust this because
there is so much corporate spin.” . . .

jimf said...

It's easy to roll one's eyes and dismiss this as redneck know-nothingism,
like the resistance to GMO food, or to food preservation by
irradiation, or to vaccination, etc.

But in the very same newspaper, there was yet another review of that new
book _Patient H. M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets_
by Luke Dittrich. This is a book largely about the kinds of things
"scientists" will do to people when they think they're serving a
"higher purpose" and they think they can get away with it.
‘Patient H.M.’ Recalls the Story of a Surgery That Took a Man’s Memories
AUG. 24, 2016

. . .

Dr. William Beecher Scoville, the neurosurgeon who brazenly removed
roughly 25 grams of H.M.’s brain, was Mr. Dittrich’s [the author's]
grandfather. . .

The first two-thirds [of the book] have far less to do with
[H.M.]. . . than with the man who operated on him and the
climate that made his brand of cowboy experimentation possible. . .
H.M.’s surgery did not happen in a vacuum. It was part of a much
larger and unseemly trend. . .

Mr. Dittrich very much wanted to interview Mr. Molaison, and
you can see why he thought he had a shot: He was connected
to him not just through his grandfather but also through
Suzanne Corkin, the neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology who worked most closely with H.M. She just
happened to be his mother’s oldest friend.

If you read between the lines, it’s clear that she didn’t like
Mr. Dittrich. He clearly didn’t like her either. He portrays
her as brittle, dislikable, unimaginative — a scientist who’d
struck gold and was now overzealously controlling access
to her star patient. (He quotes other scientists saying as much, too.)

Mr. Dittrich’s most incendiary reporting: Dr. Corkin told
him that she had “shredded” all files related to H.M.
(“It locks in stone your own telling of H.M.’s story,” he
points out. ) . . .

M.I.T. has already pushed back hard against Mr. Dittrich’s
charges. The university has issued two statements in the last
few weeks. . . Over 200 academics also signed a letter in
support of Dr. Corkin, after reading an excerpt from the book
in The New York Times Magazine. . .

Circling the wagons.

I'm reminded also of Dr. John Money a (reputedly extremely arrogant)
psychologist who thought he had a chance to perform the perfect
"natural" human experiment that would demonstrate that sex roles
are entirely a matter of nurture, not nature. There was coverup
and denial in that case, too, according to later accounts.
BBC Horizon - Dr. Money And The Boy With No Penis

jimf said...

> . . .the kinds of things "scientists" will do to people when
> they think they're serving a "higher purpose" and they think they
> can get away with it.

> . . .reputedly extremely arrogant. . .

There was a recent comment thread here
( )
that mentioned the denizens of the RAND Corporation in the
_Dr. Strangelove_ era -- people like Herman Kahn who thought "rationally"
about thermonuclear war, and the personalities of some of his colleagues.

I e-mailed some of that stuff, including the excerpt from the snarky
article "A Beautiful Behind" (a review of the bio of John Nash
_A Beautiful Mind_ that later became a movie) taken from a magazine
for mathematicians called _Ferment_, to a friend. The subject line
of my e-mail was "Is there such a thing as a **nice** mathematician?".

And my friend replied,

> It's hardly a unique observation now that most mathematicians are rude,
> obnoxious egotists. And - in the usual way that genius comes with associated
> weaknesses - if they're brilliant at science, they're usually lacking
> in empathy and people skills. Just like all the great artists and musicians
> whose personal lives consist of one wrecked relationship after another,
> with collateral damage like exes and children left behind to fend for themselves.

Of course, that's the stereotype. But what I found somewhat shocking,
when I grew up ( ;-> ), was that the stereotype is so often true [*]. This,
in spite of a good deal of propaganda I'd seen attempting to **debunk**
the popular image of the "mad scientist". In fact, those Bell Science
films I loved so much when I was in elementary school, I now see,
were partly counter-propaganda to that stereotype -- the patient,
kindly, bespectacled "Dr. Research" who appeared in many of those
films must've been very carefully chosen to appear as benign
and trustworthy as possible (the actor, Frank Baxter, was actually
an English professor).
In fact, "Dr. Research" comes across much like Robert Young as
"Marcus Welby, M.D." in the TV show from 10 or 15 years later.,_M.D.

The cold, callous, arrogant "mad scientist" stereotype
may not always be true. But it's apparently often enough true that
people are not being completely silly when they look for evidence
that a scientist they're asked to trust doesn't have the personality
of a Victor Frankenstein.

Hm. Speaking of RAND Corporation uber-rationalist
utilitarian game theorist authorities, I just remembered a not-too-bad
made for TV movie (once available on YouTube, which is where
I saw it a few years ago) called _The President's Plane Is Missing_
where, during a period of panic when the President of the United
States seems to have died in a plane crash, the National Security
Advisor (played by Rip Torn) almost manages to bully a
not-too-bright Vice President (Buddy Ebsen) into starting a
nuclear war.

[*] I suppose you could ask Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen why that might be
the case. (Or see some of the commentary on ).

Dale Carrico said...

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up...

jimf said...

> . . .the kinds of things "scientists" will do to people when
> they think they're serving a "higher purpose" and they think they
> can get away with it.

Like, for instance, the psychologists who participated in the CIA's
"enhanced interrogation techniques".
[S]hocking revelations about CIA "rectal hydration," rape by broomstick
(also known to Fox News and New Yorkers as "Giuliani Time") and other
acts of state-sponsored sadism ensure Americans won't soon forget the
term "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EIT). . .

As the Salt Lake Tribune first fretted in April 2009,
"LDS lawyers, psychologists had a hand in torture policies."
At the top of that list of Mormon Torquemadas are
John "Bruce" Jessen and James Mitchell, the two psychologists
who designed and also later helped administer the. . . tactics.

Earlier this year, James Mitchell defended himself by declaring,
"I'm just a guy who got asked to do something for his country."
Asked, that his, and paid over $80 million by the federal government.
(Of course, one man's war crime is another man's business model. . .)
Drs. Jesson and Mitchell started out as Air Force psychologists
whose Spokane, Washington company then made millions from dispensing
human misery. . .

[W]ord of their pain-for-profit enterprise didn't lead to
excommunication from their church, but instead greater esteem. . .

If LDS wasn't put off by Jessen and Mitchell's past, the APA
(the American Psychological Association), was horrified.
Last month, APA announced it "will conduct an independent review
into whether it colluded with or supported the government's use
of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush
administration." . . .

In a policy proposal drafted by Mitt Romney's advisers in
September 2011, Mr. Romney's advisers urge him to "rescind
and replace President Obama's executive order" and permit secret
"enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees
that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to
save American lives."

That December, the former bishop and former governor Romney
put it this way:

"We'll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond
those that are in the military handbook right now." . . .

Move over, Mitt.
Donald Trump Vows Torture (Again): 'I Like Waterboarding A Lot'
"I don't think it's tough enough," Trump says of waterboarding.

My very first exposure to anything Mormon (though I didn't know it
at the time) was one of the "People" stories by Zenna Henderson --
a somewhat saccharine tale of exiled extraterrestrials with
supernatural powers and a gentle piety.

On the other hand, Mormons' conservatism, fierce anti-Communism
(W. Cleon Skousen), and support of American exceptionalism are pretty
well known these days.

jimf said...

> All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up...

Cleopatra, scientist:

_Patient H. M._, Luke Dittrich
p. 116

The research conducted by the Nazis at Dachau and other concentration
camps was perhaps history's most brutal and sustained example of
inhumane human experimentation, but it wasn't the first. . .

[D]uring the first century B.C.E., the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra
supposedly ordered her own series of experimental vivisections on
humans. At the time, there was a debate about whether male fetusus
developed more slowly in the womb than female ones. In an attempt
to settle the question, Cleopatra is said to have had a number of
her own handmaidens forcibly impregnated, then dissected at various
stages of their pregnancies while still alive. . .

She blinded me with Science!