Archive for the 'Internet' Category
Posted by Zenpundit on 7th July 2012 (All posts by Zenpundit)
My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue of Pragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:
Adam Elkus – Confront, Conceal, Leak
David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.
Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style….
Mark Safranski –Drone invasions and cyber dystopias
….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.
Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft. A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….
Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, India, International Affairs, Internet, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 14th June 2012 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — Farrall and McCants, debate and discourse]
There’s a whole lot to be learned about jihad, counter-terrorism, scholarship, civil discourse, online discourse, and social media, and I mean each and every one of those, in a debate that took place recently, primarily between Leah Farrall and Will McCants.
Indeed, Leah still has a final comment to make — and when she makes it, that may be just the end of round one, if I may borrow a metaphor from a tweet I’ll quote later.
Briefly, the biographies of the two main agonists (they can’t both be protagonists, now, can they? I believe agonist is the right word):
Dr. Leah Farrall (left, above) is a Research Associate at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre (USSC). She was formerly a senior Counter Terrorism Intelligence Analyst with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the AFP’s al Qaeda subject matter specialist. She was also senior Intelligence Analyst in the AFP’s Jakarta Regional Cooperation Team (JRCT) in Indonesia and at the AFP’s Forward Operating Post in response to the second Bali bombings. Leah has provided national & international counter terrorism training & curriculum development. She recently changed the name of her respected blog. Her work has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and elsewhere.
Dr. William McCants, (right) is a research analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies at CNA, and adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University. He has served as Senior Adviser for Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State, program manager of the Minerva Initiative at the Department of Defense, and fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. He edited the Militant Ideology Atlas, co-authored Stealing Al Qa’ida’s Playbook, and translated Abu Bakr Naji‘s Management of Savagery. Will has designed curricula on jihadi-inspired terrorism for the FBI. He is the founder and co-editor of the noted blog, Jihadica. He too has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic and elsewhere.
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Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Blogging, Internet, Law Enforcement, National Security, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 14 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 12th June 2012 (All posts by Jonathan)
Crazy, overconfident; the opposite of the judicious, scientific, skeptical temperament.
The opposite of thoughtful.
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Posted in Business, Human Behavior, Internet | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 23rd May 2012 (All posts by Jonathan)
Using Firefox, many tabs open, my computer’s default state.
Eventually I open a Web page that has a badly written script that bogs down the browser and sometimes the whole computer and can’t be stopped or even identified.
I bookmark everything, close Firefox, kill the Firefox process in Windows Task Manager and reopen everything, login again, etc. Because this restart can take five or ten minutes and interrupts multiple things that I’m doing, I usually put up with erratic browser behavior until Firefox crashes or becomes unusable.
Why doesn’t Firefox isolate each tabbed window in its own thread or group of threads? That way, closing the tab with the runaway script would solve the problem. And why doesn’t Firefox provide a resource monitor to show the % of system resources being used by each tab, so that you can easily ID and close a problem tab? These seem to be the obvious questions.
I suspect that users are much more attuned to browser reliability than they used to be. We’re far removed from the days when PCs became unstable if you didn’t reboot them frequently and nobody used browsers for serious purposes. The programmers should make their browsers more robust as they’ve already done for operating systems.
UPDATE: This looks interesting. (There’s also this, which I remember seeing in book stores a long time ago.)
Posted in Book Notes, Internet, Tech | 13 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th March 2012 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
On the masthead of our blog at “Life in the Great Midwest” it used to read “We Shill for Nobody”. And that is still true. But if we find something that may be interesting to others we like to share it.
Recently I bought a Sony Blu-Ray Disc Player BDP-BX58. This replaces my existing Samsung DVD player (which worked fine). I bought it, after rebate, for about $100 at Costco.
I bought it to try out the internet through my television. It also allows you to stream other media (pictures from your PC, songs from your PC, etc…) through your TV which I wasn’t as interested in.
Although it is a DVD player, I only put a DVD in to make sure it worked and all the wires, sound, etc… were working correctly through my surround sound system. I remember reading an article about a focus group that tested a smart phone with a bunch of high school students – the researcher said in all the time he watched them text, stream, and run apps, he never saw them use the smart phone to MAKE A PHONE CALL. Like them, I was basically using this DVD player as a gateway to the internet not as a DVD playing device.
I went to You Tube and immediately started having fun. Recently I was at a friends’ condo and we were discussing music (for hours, since I know a lot of obscure stuff, but he dwarfs my knowledge on the topic). It was cool to just type in a band like “Mastodon” and all their videos come up, including all their appearances on late night shows like Letterman. Obviously there is a lot of stuff on You Tube and it is fun to watch it through your TV.
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Posted in Business, Internet, Tech | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th March 2012 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
I am an avid user of Facebook, for better or worse. The last few weeks many of my friends have been engaging in a large amount of slacktivism by linking a video called Kony 2012.
Some of the scenes in this video may be disturbing, as the topic is general violence and exploitation of children in Africa.
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Posted in Film, International Affairs, Internet, Media, Music, Video | 15 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th January 2012 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Contact information is here.
My Congressman is Danny Davis. It appears that he has not announced a position. I left a polite message asking him to vote against SOPA.
My two Senators are Mark Kirk and Richard Durbin. Kirk has come out against PIPA. Bully for him. I contacted his office and registered my approval.
I called Sen. Durbin’s office, and the person on the phone gave a well-rehearsed explanation of why the Senator supports PIPA.
I suggest that Illinois residents continue to call Sen. Durbin, and if possible have good reasons why PIPA is no good.
He may shift if the volume of contacts is large enough.
Keep working on this, please.
Update: I note that this issue seems to be a genuine example of Left / Right opposition to a naked power grab by one element of the Politico-Big Business Complex.
It is similar to the sliver of overlap on the Venn Diagram between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement: The one thing everyone who is not already an insider is opposed to is Crony Capitalism. See this post.
Does the Main Adversary at last come into view?
One can hope.
Information on SOPA and PIPA here.
Posted in Big Government, Internet, Politics, Tech, USA | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th January 2012 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
I heard on the way in to work this morning that Google was blacking out today in sympathy with Wikipedia, over the legislation currently working its way through the Democratic controlled Senate that supposedly will censor the internet. I haven’t had the time or energy to read what the actual legislation says, so I really don’t have a comment on that.
I checked over at Wikipedia and they are indeed blacked out.
So I went over to Google and as of this writing, their NAME is blacked out, but the search engine functionality is working the same as always. Oh huge stand Google.
I have been using Bing for a while now and it works just fine.
Posted in Internet | 14 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th November 2011 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
Below the fold, a review of the Kindle Fire ($199), if you are interested.
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Posted in Book Notes, Internet, Tech | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th November 2011 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
Huzzah! My Kindle Fire arrived just in time for the weekend. I ordered the (p)leather holster for that but it appears that it may be on back order. Oh well. Full report to come after I play with this thing.
Posted in Book Notes, Business, Internet | Comments Off on Kindle Fire
Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st October 2011 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
This article was featured on Drudge today (do you really have to hat tip Drudge anymore?). It is about the library staff all mad at Mayor Rahm for cutting the budget to the libraries.
In the comments, one guy (I think smartly) said the title of this post.
I think he is partially right. The new Kindle Fire (which I have an order in for and will review when it gets to me sometime later this month) is only $199. The cheap Kindles are only $79 now. Kindles come with tens of thousands of free titles of classic books that everyone should be reading anyways. That is the most exciting part of getting a Kindle Fire for me, the ability to have this immense database at my fingertips, for free (after the initial cost).
I imagine if you took the list of “frequent flyers” who actually USE the library (not just hang out there, I mean those who really check out books and return them) and bought them ALL Kindles for $79, or even the nice new version for $199, that you would be WAY ahead of the budget it costs to run all of those brick and mortar relics, the staff, and all the rest.
This way, a library would still be partially subsidized, but part user fee as well (if you don’t like the classic titles, buy your own), so folks like me, who haven’t set foot in a real life library in decades would perhaps feel a bit better about paying for libraries.
Posted in Chicagoania, Internet, Taxes, Urban Issues | 17 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th September 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ corss-posted from Zenpundit — archaeology, Biblical scholarship, eschatology, digital literacy ]
Both the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran and the Gnostic and associated codices from Nag Hammadi are now available for study online:
The Nag Hammadi Archive can be explored via the Claremont Colleges Digital Library, and the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls via the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Here’s a description of the War Scroll from Qumran, which “is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE”:
Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 7-12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the “Sons of Light” (the term used by Community members to refer to themselves), under the leadership of the “Prince of Light” (also called Michael, the Archangel) – and the “Sons of Darkness” (a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike), aided by a nation called the Kittim (Romans?), headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants, and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.
You can see why I’m interested.
The Nag Hammadi texts are a little less well known but include — along with a variety of other texts, some of them self-described as “apocalypses” — the now celebrated Gospel of Thomas, which Bart Erhman reads as continuing a “de-apocalypticizing” of Jesus’ message which he finds beginning in Luke and continuing in John:
In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, written somewhat later than John, there is a clear attack on anyone who believes in a future Kingdom here on earth. In some sayings, for example, Jesus denies that the Kingdom involves an actual place but “is within you and outside you” (saying 3); he castigates the disciples for being concerned about the end (saying 18); and he spurns their question about when the Kingdom will come, since “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the earth and people do not see it” (saying 113).
Again, you can see why I am delighted that these texts are becoming available to a wider scholarly audience…
In both the Nag Hammadi codices and Qumran scrolls, we have texts that were lost for almost two thousand years and discovered, somewhat haphazardly, in 1945 and 1947 respectively, providing us with rich insights into the religious ferment around a time and place that have been pivotal for western civilization.
Now, more than half a century later, the web — as it becomes our global museum and our in-house library — brings us closer to both…
Posted in Christianity, History, Internet, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Miscellaneous, Religion | 2 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th September 2011 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
There was a lot of discussion earlier this year and in a great many different writing and general interest venues regarding the success of indy writer Amanda Hocking – which, however you slice it, remains a self-published and e-book success story. Candidly, I think that we need another zombie-werewolf-vampire saga like Custer needed another Indian, but hey- that’s just me. Not my cuppa, but if it floats yer boat . . . To paraphrase the lyrics of a certain old pop song – I can barely run my own life, why the hell should I want to run yours? Yeah – Sunshine, go away and get those kids off my lawn!
Anyway – as an indy-POD-author, untrammeled by the shackles of the literary-industrial complex, I had to give the Ms. Hocking all kinds of mad respect, for writing savvy, plus marketing skills and the sheer neck to go out and just do it. 450,000 copies of nine books, each at a price of .99-2.99 and the author getting 30-70% in royalties . . . is . . . a . . . a lot of turnips.*
I’m an English major, dammit! But I appreciate the business aspects of it all.
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Posted in Advertising, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions, Internet, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th August 2011 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Global transition points like this are so rare, it’s a great time to be alive.
Right on. Yes. Yes.
More of this type of thinking, please.
If I could live at any time in history it would be now.
(If you are not a regular reader of Mr. Robb’s Global Guerrillas, get that way.)
(Also check out Mr. Robb’s way cool new Wiki MiiU, which is all about resilience. I eagerly await his book on resilient communities.)
(Here is an xcellent John Robb talk about open source ventures, but full disclosure, a lot of it sailed over my head.)
(And if you have not read his book, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, go get it.)
Friends, please let me know in the comments, on a scale of 1 to 5, strongly disagree to strongly agree, how you respond to this quote. Put me down as a 5, obviously enough.
Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Business, China, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Education, Elections, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Health Care, History, International Affairs, Internet, Libertarianism, Management, Markets and Trading, Media, Medicine, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Finance, Political Philosophy, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Science, Society, Space, Taxes, Tea Party, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 21 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th July 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — backstory of Google+ ]
Herrad von Landsberg seems to have corralled seven of his best friends — the Septem Artes Liberales— into his “Hortus deliciarum” on Google+ back in 1180.
Here’s a larger version, for your viewing convenience:
Posted in Diversions, Education, History, Internet, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy | 1 Comment »
Posted by James R. Rummel on 18th June 2011 (All posts by James R. Rummel)
This post at Technology Review muses about what happens if high tech crashes. Would our store of technical knowledge, which is increasingly found exclusively in digital form, survive? Or would we suffer a terrible backwards slide as people struggle to reinvent what was once taken for granted?
Glenn takes this to its logical conclusion, saying that there should be efforts to build an Encyclopedia Galactica. A vast repository of knowledge, the sum total of everything known up to this time, could be printed in a durable form and cached in a remote area. If any of the myriad civilization-smashing dooms should come to pass, then there would be a base of knowledge that would allow the survivors to rebuild in a very short period of time.
This dovetails neatly into the Social Cycle Theory of history, a discredited model that states flourishing civilizations are doomed to descend into periods of darkness and barbarism. Vast libraries might be constructed in cosmopolitan cities where culture and knowledge are revered, but those same books filling the libraries are going to be burned by illiterate savages when they sack the toppled empires.
So, if it is impossible to avoid the total destruction of all you hold dear, wouldn’t it be neato-keen to squirrel enough knowledge away so that the contributions made by your culture to the human condition are not lost?
There actually has been at least one effort to do this very thing that I am aware of. Known as the Georgia Guidestones, they are massive slabs of rock arranged in such a way that many are reminded of Stonehenge.
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Posted in History, Internet | 9 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th March 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
My son, Emlyn, turns sixteen today.
He’s not terribly fond of computers to be honest — but he does follow xkcd with appreciation, as do I from time to time: indeed, I am led to believe I receive some credit for that fact.
So… this is a birthday greeting to Emlyn, among other things. And a round of applause for Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd. And a post comparing more reliable and less reliable statistics, because that’s a singularly important issue — the more reliable ones in this/ case coming from a single individual with an expert friend, the less reliable ones coming from a huge corporation celebrated for its intelligence and creativity… and with a hat-tip to Cheryl Rofer of the Phronesisaical blog.
Today, xkcd surpassed itself / his Randallself / ourselves, with a graphic showing different levels of radiation exposure from sleeping next to someone (0.05 muSv, represented by one tiny blue square top left) or eating a banana (twice as dangerous, but only a tenth as nice) up through the levels (all the blue squares combined equal three of the tiny green ones, all the green squares combined equal 7.5 of the little brown ones, and the largest patch of brown (8Sv) is the level where immediate treatment doesn’t stand a chance of saving your life)…
The unit is Sieverts, Sv: 1000 muSv = 1 mSv, 1000 mSv= 1 Sv, sleeping next to someone is an acceptable risk at 0.05 muSv, a mammogram (3 mSv) delivers a little over 50,000 times that level of risk and saves countless lives, 250 mSv is the dose limit for emergency workers in life-saving ops — oh, and cell phone use is risk-free, zero muSv, radiation-wise, although dangerous when driving. [I apologize for needing to write “mu” when I intend the Greek letter by that name, btw — software glitch with the ZP version of WordPress.]
The xkcd diagram comes with this disclaimer:
There’s a lot of discussion of radiation from the Fukushima plants, along with comparisons to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Radiation levels are often described as “ times the normal level” or “% over the legal limit,” which can be pretty confusing.
Ellen, a friend of mine who’s a student at Reed and Senior Reactor Operator at the Reed Research Reactor, has been spending the last few days answering questions about radiation dosage virtually nonstop (I’ve actually seen her interrupt them with “brb, reactor”). She suggested a chart might help put different amounts of radiation into perspective, and so with her help, I put one together. She also made one of her own; it has fewer colors, but contains more information about what radiation exposure consists of and how it affects the body.
I’m not an expert in radiation and I’m sure I’ve got a lot of mistakes in here, but there’s so much wild misinformation out there that I figured a broad comparison of different types of dosages might be good anyway. I don’t include too much about the Fukushima reactor because the situation seems to be changing by the hour, but I hope the chart provides some helpful context.
Blog-friend Cheryl Rofer, whose work has included remediation of uranium tailings at the Sillamäe site in Estonia (she co-edited the book on it, Turning a Problem Into a Resource: Remediation and Waste Management at the Sillamäe Site, Estonia) links to xkcd’s effort at the top of her post The Latest on Fukushima and Some Great Web Resources and tells us it “seems both accurate and capable of giving some sense of the relative exposures that are relevant to understanding the issues at Fukushima” — contrast her comments on a recent New York Times graphic:
In other radiation news, the New York Times may have maxed out on the potential for causing radiation hysteria. They’ve got a graphic that shows everybody dead within a mile from the Fukushima plant. As I noted yesterday, you need dose rate and time to calculate an exposure. The Times didn’t bother with that second little detail.
In any case, many thanks, Cheryl — WTF, NYT? — and WTG, xkcd!
Once again, xkcd nails it.
I’ve run into this problem myself, trying to use Google to gauge the relative frequencies of words or phrases that interest me — things like moshiach + soon vs “second coming” + soon vs mahdi + soon, you know the kinds of things that I’m curious about, I forget the specific examples where it finally dawned on me how utterly useless Google’s “About XYZ,000 results (0.21 seconds)” rankings really are — but the word needs to get out.
Paging Edward Tufte.
Happy Birthday, Emlyn!
Posted in Announcements, Arts & Letters, Blogging, Diversions, Internet, Japan, Science, Statistics, The Press | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 12th March 2011 (All posts by Jonathan)
A Belmont Club thread linked to this great scene from the movie, Flight of the Phoenix. I saw that movie on TV when I was a kid, and ever since I wanted to know what a Coffman Starter was. And now there is the Internet. Drunk with power, I googled… and found this web site. Holy cow. I emailed the URL to Lex and he replied, “Fragments, like dinosaur bones.” He got that right. In a couple of hundred years, who is going to know what any of this stuff was?
(BTW, it appears that a Coffman Starter works by directing gas from an exploding cartridge against a piston, which is connected to a shaft, and that this shaft turns the engine. If that’s the case, how could James Stewart “clean out the cylinders” by firing a cartridge with the ignition off? Wouldn’t he have merely turned over the engine without cleaning out anything? Perhaps the movie makers used some artistic license here.)
Posted in Aviation, Diversions, Internet | 9 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 14th January 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
Foreign Policy has had two articles up in the last couple of days with somewhat similar headlines:
Links: Twitter – WikiLeaks
The site which specifically tracks WikiLeaks on Tunisia is TuniLeaks:
My rosette for best tweet of the week goes to Galrahn and all those who RT’d him:
What a world, eh?
Posted in Blogging, International Affairs, Internet, Media, Middle East, The Press, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 6th January 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross posted from Infocult ]
For your ghoulish winter entertainment…
Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Humor, Internet, Tech, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 3rd January 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
I for one am delighted to know that we can now play around with the iridology of the sciences, using the software available on the Science-Metrix Ontology Explorer site to view which fields have journals which cross-link to journals in other fields…
Seriously — that lower image is of the Field Citation Wheel that you can find, suitably enlarged for easy viewing, on that site.
And it’s heartening for me to know, for instance — taking a closer look at the segment of that image that’s roughly east north-east — that scientific journals do have some links on their pages to works of theology or philosophy:
Engineering, you’ll notice, has more links than history, philosophy, theology, the social sciences (even counting them twice), economics, business, the arts and humanities combined.
My own field, theology, has to share its thin segment with philosophy, and you can guess how small the number of links to articles on Islamic apocalyptic probably are…
Which is, in part, why I wonder whether a project like the ETH’s Living Earth Simulator will really manage to map such things as, well, a possible outbreak of global jihadist Mahdism and its consequences.
But then I look at another gorgeous graphic from the same source, focusing in on a part of the network of knowledge that interests me, and I can just faintly make out, lower left, entirely isolated, the field of music…
What splendid isolation! That’s all of Bach, mind you – and all the Beatles, too.
- It’s fascinating to be able to see how the various branches of knowledge cross-reference each other.
- Visual data representation is a gorgeous, fantastic, field.
- Mapping the all-of-everything is an irresistable lure for keen minds
- I’m betting the humanities will prove to be at least as good at it as the sciences.
- And I recall, not without a pang of regret, the time when my beloved Theology was Queen of the Sciences, and one might converse with Abelard on the streets of Paris…
Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Diversions, France, History, Internet, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Music, Philosophy, Religion | Comments Off on An Iridology of the Sciences?
Posted by Charles Cameron on 24th December 2010 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
This is a follow-up to my earlier post on Zenpundit and ChicagoBoyz, picking up on some comments made on both sites, explaining my own interests, and taking the inquiry a little further.
On Zenpundit, Larry said, “Your need to destroy Assange is getting embarrassing. Why not make lemonaid?” and JN Kish, “The real story here should be about the data – and who is helping Assange – not Assange himself.” Meanwhile on ChicagoBoyz, a certain Gerald Attrick commented, “Ah, but as we say in in art crit: Deal with the Art and not the Man…”
To Larry I would say, I think that my post WikiLeaks: Counterpoint at the State Department? — in which I point up the irony inherent in the same State Department spokesman celebrating World Press Freedom Day and chiding Assange for “providing a targeting list to a group like al-Qaida” on the same day — could as easily be read as pro-Assange as today’s post, Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange can be read as calling for his destruction.
More generally, it seems to me that there are a whole lot of stories to be told here: the ones I wish to tell are those where I have a reasonably informed “nose” for relevant detail, and which tend to be overlooked by others — and thus have the potential to blindside us.
My own main interest is in tracking religious, mythic and apocalyptic themes in contemporary affairs, where they are all too easily overlooked, misunderstood or dismissed. Thus I have posted on Tracking the Mahdi on WikiLeaks, and added related material in section 1 of my post today.
I am also interested in concept mapping, games and creative thinking — interests which led me to post WikiLeaks: Critical Foreign Dependencies and The WikiLeaks paradox, and more lightheartedly to take an amused sideways glance at WikiLeaks in The power of network visualization.
And I certainly find Assange himself an interesting figure, and have done what I can to illuminate his background in mythology, religion and games in Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology, again in Update: Wikileaks and Cryptographic Mythology and (again light-heartedly) in A DoubleQuote for Anders.
Let me be more explicit: I have no wish to lionize Assange, nor to feed him to the lions — I would like to understand him a little better.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Human Behavior, International Affairs, Internet, Iran, National Security, Religion, Society | 2 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 23rd December 2010 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
Martyr and messiah are two of the more intense “roles” in the religious vocabulary, and unlike mystics and saints, both martyrs and messiahs tend to have an impact, not just within their own religious circles but in the wider context of the times.
Martyr and messiah are also words that can be bandied about fairly loosely — so a simple word-search on “messiah” will reveal references to a third-person platform game with some gunplay and the white messiah fable in Avatar, while a search on “martyr” might tell you how to become a martyr for affiliate networks, just as a search on “crusade” will turn up crusades for justice or mental health – my search today even pointed me to a crusade for cloth diapers.
1. Martyrdom and messianism in WikiLeaks
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, both terms crop up occasionally in WikiLeaks, with the Government of Iraq, for instance, banning use of the word “martyr” for soldiers who died in the war with Iran, and US diplomats wiring home a report by an opposition psychiatrist to the effect that “Morally, Chavez [of Venezuela] combines a sense of tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to project a messianic image.” Indeed, the whole paragraph is choc-a-bloc with that kind of imagery, and worth quoting in full:
Ideologically, Chavez wants to project an image of a “utopian socialist,” which de Vries described as someone who is revolutionary, collectivist, and dogmatic. In reality, de Vries argues, Chavez is an absolute pragmatist when it comes to maintaining power, which makes him a conservative. Coupled with Chavez’ self-love (narcissism), sense of destiny, and obsession with Venezuelan symbolism, this pragmatism makes Chavez look more like fascist, however, rather than a socialist. Morally, Chavez combines a sense of tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to project a messianic image. De Vries, however, said Chavez is a realist who uses morals and ethics to fit the situation.
PM Netanyahu of Israel was using the term “messianic” with a little more precision when he described the Iranian regime as “crazy, retrograde, and fanatical, with a Messianic desire to speed up a violent ‘end of days.'”
2. Julian Assange in the role of martyr
The words martyr and messiah, then, carry a symbolic freight that is at the very least comparable to that of flags and scriptures – so it is interesting that both terms crop up in the recent BBC interview with Julian Assange.
My reading of the interview suggests that it is Assange himself who introduces the meme of martyrdom, though not the word itself, when he answers a question about the impact of the sexual accusations against him, “What impact do you think that will have on your organisation and what sort of figure do you think you, Julian Assange, cut in the face of all this. How will you be regarded? What will it do to you?” with the response, “I think it will be quite helpful for our organisation.”
In the follow up, interviewer John Humphrys twice uses the word “martyr” explicitly:
Q: Really? You see yourself as a martyr then?
JA: I think it will focus an incredible attention on the details of this case and then when the details of this case come out and people look to see what the actions are compared to the reality of the facts, other than that, it will expose a tremendous abuse of power. And that will, in fact, be helpful to this organisation. And, in fact, the extra focus that has occurred over the last two weeks has been very helpful to this organisation.
Q: Just to answer that question then. You think this will be good for you and good for Wikileaks?
JA: I’ve had to suffer and we’ve had incredible disruptions.
Q: You do see yourself as a martyr here.
JA: Well, you know, in a very beneficial position, if you can be martyred without dying. And we’ve had a little bit of that over the past ten days. And if this case goes on, we will have more.
3. Julian Assange in the role of messiah
If the role of martyr implies, at minimum, that one suffers for a cause, that of messiah implies that one leads it in a profound transformation of the world. Both terms are now found in association with the word “complex” – which applies whenever a individual views himself or herself as a martyr or messiah – but a “messianic complex” is presumably more worrisome than a “martyr complex” if only for the reason that there are many more martyrs than messiahs, many more willing to suffer for a cause than to lead it.
It is accordingly worth noting that it is the interviewer, John Humphrys, who introduces both the word “messianic” and the concept of a “messianic figure” into the interview, although Assange makes no effort to wave it away…
Q: Just a final thought. Do you see yourself… as some sort of messianic figure?
JA: Everyone would like to be a messianic figure without dying. We bringing some important change about what is perceived to be rights of people who expose abuses by powerful corporations and then to resist censorship attacks after the event. We are also changing the perception of the west.
Q: I’m talking about you personally.
JA: I’m always so focussed on my work, I don’t have time to think about how I perceive myself… I had time to perceive myself a bit more in solitary confinement. I was perfectly happy with myself. I wondered what that process would do. Would I think “my goodness, how have I got into this mess, is it all just too hard?”
The world is a very ungrateful place, why should I continue to suffer simply to try and do some good in the world. If the world is so viciously against it ,why don’t I just go off and do some mathematics or write some books? But no, actually, I felt quite at peace.
Q: You want to change the world?
JA: Absolutely. The world has a lot of problems and they need to be reformed. And we only live once. Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they’re in.
That is a value, that, yes, comes partly from my temperament. There is also a value that comes from my father, which is that capable, generous men don’t create victims, they try and save people from becoming victims. That is what they are tasked to do. If they do not do that they are not worthy of respect or they are not capable.
4. Julian Assange, martyr and messiah?
I think it is clear that both Assange and his interviewer are in effect reframing the religious terms “martyr” and “messiah” in non-religious, basically psychological senses — although I don’t suppose Assange is exactly claiming to have the two “complexes” I mentioned above.
Here’s what’s curious about this reframing, from a religious studies point of view:
Assange’s implicit acceptance of a “messianic” role undercuts the specific force of the role of “martyr” – one who gives his life for the cause. “Everyone” he says, “would like to be a messianic figure without dying.” Assange wouldn’t exactly object to being a martyr without dying, too.
Posted in Christianity, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Internet, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Media, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Privacy, Religion, Rhetoric, Society, The Press, USA | 9 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 9th December 2010 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
The most interesting part of the WikiLeaks-posted State Department Request for Information: Critical Foreign Dependencies, it seems to me, is the part that ties in with Zen’s recent post Simplification for Strategic Leverage.
Zen referenced Eric Berlow‘s recent TED talk to the effect that sometimes a complex network can be made effectively simple by reducing it to the graph of nodes and links within one, two or three degrees of the node you care about and wish to influence.
“Simplicity often lies on the other side of complexity”, Dr Berlow says, and “The more you step back, embrace complexity, the better chance you have of finding simple answers, and it’s often different than the simple answer that you started with.”
This resonates neatly with a few things I’ve been thinking and talking about for some time now.
1. There’s the need for visualization tools that don’t operate with as many nodes as there are data points in a database like Starlight — I’ve been wanting to reduce the conceptual “load” that analysts or journos face from thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of nodes, to the five, seven, maybe ten or twelve nodes that the human mind can comfortably work with:
What I’m aiming for is a way of presenting the conflicting human feelings and understandings present in a single individual, or regarding a given topic in a small group, in a conceptual map format, with few enough nodes that the human mind can fairly easily see the major parallelisms and disjunctions, as an alternative to the linear format, always driving to its conclusion, that the white paper represents. Not as big as a book, therefore, let alone as vast as an enormous database that requires complex software like Starlight to graphically represent it, and not solely quantitative… but something you could sketch out on a napkin, showing nodes and connections, in a way that would be easily grasped and get some of the human and contextual side of an issue across.
2. There’s the fact that the cause is typically non-obvious from the effect. In the words of Jay Forrester, the father of stocks and flows modeling:
From all normal personal experience, one learns that cause and effect are closely related in time and space. A difficulty or failure of the simple system is observed at once. The cause is obvious and immediately precedes the consequence. But in complex systems, all of these facts become fallacies. Cause and effect are not related in either time or space… the complex system is far more devious and diabolical than merely being different from the simple systems with which we have experience. Though it is truly different, it appears to be the same. In a situation where coincident symptoms appear to be causes, a person acts to dispel the symptoms. But the underlying causes remain. The treatment is either ineffective or actually detrimental. With a high degree of confidence we can say that the intuitive solutions to the problems of complex social systems will be wrong most of the time.
3. There’s the need to map the critical dependencies of the world, which became glaringly obvious to me when we were trying to figure out the likely ripple effects that a major Y2K rollover glitch – or panic – might cause.
Don Beck of the National Values Center / Spiral Dynamics Group captured the possibility nicely when he characterized Y2K as “like a lightening bolt: when it strikes and lights up the sky, we will see the contours of our social systems.” Well, the lightning struck and failed to strike, a team from the Mitre Corporation produced a voluminous report on what the material and social connectivity of the world boded in case of significant Y2K computer failures, we got our first major glimpse of the world weave, and very few of the possible cascading effects actually came to pass.
I still think there was a great deal to be gleaned there — as I’m quoted as saying here, I’m of the opinion that: “a Y2K lessons learned might be a very valuable project, and even more that we could benefit from some sort of grand map of global interdependencies” – and agree with Tom Barnett, who wrote in The Pentagon’s New Map:
Whether Y2K turned out to be nothing or a complete disaster was less important, research-wise, than the thinking we pursued as we tried to imagine – in advance – what a terrible shock to the system would do to the United States and the world in this day and age.
4. That such a mapping will necessarily criss-cross back and forth across the so-called cartesian divide between body & mind (materiel and morale, wars and rumors of wars, banks and panics):
You will find I favor quotes and anecdotes as nodes in my personal style of mapping — which lacks the benefits of quantitative modeling, the precision with which feedback loops can be tracked, but more than compensates in my view, since it includes emotion, human identification, tone of voice.
The grand map I envision skitters across the so-styled “Cartesian divide” between mind and brain. It is not and cannot be limited to the “external” world, it is not and cannot be limited to the quantifiable, it locates powerful tugs on behavior within imagination and powerful tugs on vision within hard, solid fact.
Doubts in the mind and runs on the market may correlate closely across the divide, and we ignore the impacts of hope, fear, anger and insight at our peril.
Getting back to the now celebrated WikiLeak, which even al-Qaida has noticed, here’s the bit — it’s really just an aside –that fascinates me:
Although they are important issues, Department is not/not seeking information at this time on second-order effects (e.g., public morale and confidence, and interdependency effects that might cascade from a disruption).
It seems to me that the complex models which Starlight provides, and Eric Berlow pillories, overshoot on one side of the problem – but avoiding all second-order effects?
One cause, one effect, no unintended consequences?
What was it that Dr Berlow just said? “if you focus only on that link, and then you black box the rest, it’s actually less predictable than if you step back, consider the entire system”…
Avoid all second-order effects?
If you ask me, that’s overshooting on the other side.
Posted in International Affairs, Internet, National Security, Tech, USA | Comments Off on WikiLeaks: Critical Foreign Dependencies
Posted by Charles Cameron on 8th December 2010 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
[ note: all links are to youtube videos ]
The pianist Glenn Gould is celebrated for his ability to bring the different and at times positively oppositional voices in a fugue by Bach to our attention, so that we follow each one separately while hearing all at the same time as a single whole. What is less known is that he liked to sit at a table in a truck stop and listen to the different conversations at the other tables and booths, mentally braiding their pale or brightly colored threads of human together into an analogous tapestry — one voice harmonizing with or conflicting against another, here a new subject introduced, there an echo of an earlier idea heard in a fresh context, with the murmurings of waitresses punctuated by the kaching! of the cash register, the hydraulic hiss of a door closing — conversation as counterpoint.
Organizations and individual alike, we all have different and at times dissonant voices, and strive to bring them to some kind of resolution. The many stakeholders debating an issue in town halls, blogs or letters to the editor, the many drives within each one of us, idealistic, hopeful, defeated, paralytic, angry, evasive, sluggish, vengeful, curious, alert, defiant, all have voices, all constitute an experience of polyphony, a “music of many voices”, in point counter point.
One of my interests is to find a way to score these many fugues, these musics of meaning.
My DoubleQuotes, then, can be considered as two-part inventions, attempts to show the multiple tracking of the mind — whether of a single individual, as in this case, or of a group, a community, a world divided – so that something of the music begins to be visible, and some of the dissonances can move towards necessary resolution.
I believe there is unresolved irony between these two statements, made on the same day by Philip J Crowley, the US State Department’s Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs – but each has its reasons, and there are arguments to be made for both transparency and opacity, diplomacy and publicity, secrets and revelations.
Between them lies the possibility I think of as a virtual music of ideas.
Bach published a series of two-part inventions, BWV 772–801, and wrote of them that he intended to offer them as an honest method
by which the amateurs of the keyboard – especially, however, those desirous of learning – are shown a clear way not only (1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress, (2) to handle three obligate parts correctly and well; and along with this not only to obtain good inventions (ideas) but to develop the same well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style in playing and at the same time acquire a strong foretaste of composition…
Later comes the Art of Fugue.
Posted in Civil Liberties, International Affairs, Internet, Law, Libertarianism, Morality and Philosphy, Music, National Security, Quotations, Rhetoric, The Press | Comments Off on WikiLeaks: Counterpoint at the State Department?