The “Meh” Singularity

I encountered a singulatarian recently. And we had an interesting conversation, using mostly very old technology (called “language”) while he waxed poetic about the rapid increase of new technologies and how powerful they are. Now that I am becoming a grognard, I had to allow that I was less impressed. I did a version of this chart on a napkin, which I have since translated to powerpoint:

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The Fronde

I’ll say up front, I am somewhat biased about this book. I lived through its creation, which was over a decade of my father researching and writing and organizing his history. I’m also not necessarily recommending you all run out and buy it; it’s an academic’s piece for academics, though it can be read like a novel and it’s quite engaging if you do so. Growing up with a historian, surrounded by other historians, it was kind of impractical to ask my father “what about the American revolution?” and get a high-level answer. “It’s complicated.” Indeed.

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Snow Day!

I haven’t taken my bathrobe off all day, though I did get dressed. Eventually. Because I cannot see my driveway at all (it blurs into the corn field when there’s enough snow) trying to go out would be foolhardy. Which means: I spent most of the day writing and reading.

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It’s Worse Than You Think: Facial Recognition

Continuation at a tangent to [stderr]

Tools like Palantir are the tip of an iceberg: a gigantic iceberg of data. In case you don’t know, when organizations like the NSA are talking “big data” they are talking “yottabytes.” i.e.:

The Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.) [wired]

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Sunday Sermon: Balancing Acts

“That’s not fair!”

We seem to be on the fence about fairness: we want some things to be fair but not at our expense; suddenly it’s unfair to be taxed to support something we don’t agree with, when we would have happily paid the same taxes to support something we do like. I instantly spiral down into linguistic nihilism when I try to think through “what is ‘fair’?” in most cases, because all that I seem to be encountering is other people’s strongly-held opinions. But if we’re going to re-balance society, or decide who gets which slice of cake, we have to have a way of talking about what is fair.

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It’s Worse Than You Think: The Surveillance State

I’m usually surprised by the coverage regarding NSA/CIA/FBI spying: there’s some stuff we definitely should be scared of, and there’s other stuff that I file under “so, what?”

For example, the fact that the US government has consistently ignored its own laws regarding wiretapping: nobody who has observed any government in action should be surprised by that.

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