A guy named Edward Snowden was
interviewed on the Joe Rogan Experience recently, and here is
something he said:
This is the context: You say you know, and — you know, let’s put it the other way: maybe you do know. Maybe you are an academic researcher, maybe you’re a technological specialist, maybe you’re just someone who reads all of the reporting and you actually know. You can’t prove it, but you know this is going on. But that’s the thing in a democracy: the distance between speculation and fact. The distance between what you know and what you can prove to everybody else in the country is everything in our model of government — because what you know doesn’t matter; what matters is what we all know … and the only way we can all know it is if someone can prove it, if you can prove it … and if you don’t have the evidence you can’t prove it.JRE #1368 1:51:50 – 1:52:35
Could we please sit back for a moment
and ponder that suggestion in the context of science and the
scientific method? Science can’t prove anything, but what Mr. Snowden
is suggesting is that evidence can — and that it’s the only
thing that can. I realize that many scientists as well as
numerous lawyers may very well shake their heads and scoff at such a
simplistic confusion of the term “evidence” from two
completely different fields, two completely different traditions, two
vastly separated realms of knowledge.
Yet what about the millions of men and women in the streets? What does the twitter universe tweet out across the world ad nauseam? Facts, evidence, and insurmountable floods of gossip — wrongdoing, rightdoing, likes, dislikes, regurgitation of suppositions, and whatnot other similar processed foods for thought.
We live in a land plagued with schizophrenia: on the one hand modern scientists maintain that nothing in the universe can ever be proven, but on the other hand modern journalists provide reams of evidence on a daily basis to prove to the public some facts as undeniable. This daily digest of tidbit proofs is leading to data flooding and causing catastrophic psychological indigestion for the countless global masses.
Is it possible in this day and age to reconcile these opposite world views, to bring about a little hope for coherence in our data and media diet? Why don’t we presume innocence before bombing the world to smithereens? Why can’t we acknowledge that we don’t know? Why not refute the notion of undeniability (is that even a word — how about “incontestability”)? Is there in fact no such thing as a self-evident proof?
Posted in remediary
Tagged big data, data, deniability, deniable, Edward Snowden, evidence, fact, facts, factual, false, gossip, information technology, journalism, journalist, language, mass media, natural language, proof, proofs, propaganda, prove, skepticism, speculation, true, undeniability, undeniable
In the following, I understand the Internet as a massive text connected by many participants conversing with one another. Parts of the text are in close connection, and the discussion can be viewed as heated insofar as the sub-texts reference each other in some way (links are merely one example of such cross-references). Other parts of the text are fairly isolated, hardly discussed, rarely (if ever) referenced. I want to argue that the former parts are “well formed” in the sense that they follow Grice (1975)’s cooperative principle, and that the latter seem to evidence a sort of prejudice (performed by the disengaged participants) — which I hope to be able to elucidate more clearly.
Before I embark on this little adventure, let me ask you to consider two somewhat complementary attitudes people commonly choose between when they are confronted with conversational situations. These are usually referred to as “feelings” — and in order to simplify, I will portray them as if they were simply logically diametrically opposed … whereas I guess most situations involve a wide variety of factors each varying in shades of gray rather than simple binary black versus white, one versus zero. Let’s just call them trust and distrust, and perhaps we can ascribe to elements of any situation as trustworthy versus distrustworthy.
Next, let me introduce another scale — ranging from uncertainty (self-doubt) to certainty (self-confidence).
Together, these two factors of prejudice (in other words: preliminary evaluations of other-trustworthiness and self-confidence) crucially impact our judgment of whether or not to engage in conversations, discussions, to voice our own opinions, whether online or offline.
As we probably all know, the world is not as simple as a reduction to two factors governing the course of all conversations. For example: How does it happen that a person comes to fall on this end or that end of either scale? No doubt a person’s identity is influenced by a wide variety of group affiliations and/or social mores, norms and similar contextual cues which push and pull them into some sort of category, whether left or right, wrong or fixed, up or down, in or out with mainstream groupings. One of the most detailed investigations of the vast complexity and multiplicity woven into the social fabric is the seminal work by Berger and Luckmann titled “The Social Construction of Reality”.
While I would probably be the first to admit the above approach is a huge oversimplification of something as complex as all of human interactions on a global scale, I do feel the time is ripe for us to admit that the way we have approached the issue thus far has been so plagued with falsehoods and downright failures, that we cannot afford ourselves to continue down this path. In an extreme “doomsday” scenario, we might face nuclear war, runaway global warming, etc. all hidden behind “fake news” propaganda spread by robots gone amok. In other words, continuing this way could be tantamount to mass suicide, annihilation of the human race, and perhaps even all life on the planet. Following Pascal, rather than asking ourselves whether there is a meaning to life, I also venture to ask whether we can afford to deny life has any meaning whatsoever — lest we be wrong.
If I am so sure that failing to act could very well lead to total annihilation, then what do I propose is required to save ourselves from our own demise?
First and foremost, I propose we give up the fantasy of a simplistic true-or-false type binary logic that usually leads to the development of “Weapons of Math Destruction”. That, in my humble opinion, would be a good first step.
What ought to follow next might be a realization that there are infinite directions any discussion might lead (rather than a simplistic “pro” vs. “contra”). I could echo Wittgenstein’s insight that the limits of directions are the limits of our language — and in this age of devotion to ones and zeros, we can perhaps find some solace in the notion of a vocabulary of more than just two cases.
Once we have tested the waters and begun to move forewards toward the vast horizons available to us, we may begin to understand the vast multi-dimensionality of reality — for example including happy events, sad events, dull events, exciting events and many many more possibilities. Some phenomena may be closely linked, other factors may be mutually orthogonal in a wide variety of different ways. Most will probably be neither diametrically opposed nor completely aligned — the interconnections will usually be interwoven in varying degrees, and the resulting complexity will be difficult to grasp simply. Slowly but surely we will again become familiar with the notion of “subject expertise”, which in our current era of brute force machinistic algorithms has become so direly neglected.
If all goes well, we might be able to start wondering again, to experience amazement, to become dazzled with the precious secrets of life and living, to cherish the mysterious and puzzling evidences of fleeting existence, and so on.
propaganda, rational media,
language, natural language,
algorithm, algorithms, algorithmic,
big data, data, research, science,
AI, artificial intelligence,
Posted in remediary
Tagged AI, algorithm, algorithmic, algorithms, artificial intelligence, big data, data, language, natural language, propaganda, qualitative, quantitative, rational media, research, science
I have recently been minding my gaping gap and just the other day I was talking with someone about filling in the gaps, so I’ve decided to give you all a what’s update (I’m thinking that could maybe catch on sometime as a new term, sort of like all gangsta ‘n’ neato).
But before I get too far off track, let me mix it up a little with some additional nerdiness: let’s talk about facts! I know there are plenty of data scientists and data journalists who can’t seem to get enough data (like they hope when they die and go to heaven, they will be able to hook up with a lot of ones and zeroes). Me, I’m all about being discrete, but to be honest I think I would much rather get a little more abstract every now and then.
First of all, there’s the starting point. Little did you know, but you are already past it. Then there’s the end point – and don’t worry: it’s coming up real soon. In between those two points, there are an infinite number of other points. Infinite means: “so much, that even a computer can’t figure it out” — a really bad translation might be something like: “nevermind“. OK, if that isn’t abstract enough for you yet, then get this: in between any two points (like even between any of the infinite number of points between the starting point and the end point) there are also an infinite number of points. I could keep going on like this, but I hope you get the point already (haha — get it? 😉 ).
Right here I’m pretty much right in the middle of the story. Everything I write here is another point, and all of it could also be referred to as data. But of course there are also missing pieces — like I haven’t told you whether it’s daytime or nighttime, whether it’s cloudy, all sorts of stuff. There are actually humongous gaps, if you think about it. The funny thing is: it’s entirely up to you to fill them in.
Whether you like it or not, you are going to have to make some assumptions. The sad truth is that you will never have all the data. Why? Well, consider this: even if you think you have pretty much all of the data, there will still be an infinite number of data points in between the two closest points of data in your collection.
I know it’s a big pain, but you will simply have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps.
But don’t fret — we haven’t reached the end yet. I still have something more to tell. It’s actually something like a piece of advice for how you could and should go about coming up with the missing puzzle pieces. Way back at the beginning I told you I was talking with someone just the other day, remember? We were talking about something called “confirmation bias” — this is when you fill in the missing pieces with something you already think is true (and therefore it confirms the truth of what you already think — see also this video for a really neato explanation of it with a bunch of examples, too).
Now there are perhaps also an infinite number of ways that someone could fill in the missing gaps in a story. Let me give you an example. I often talk about “retard media“. When you read those two words, you probably think something like “what does he mean?” (if you follow the link, you will see that I wrote a whole article about what I mean when I use that phrase — but even that article also has an infinite number of gaps that need filling in) Let me simplify this. Let’s pretend there are basically only two interpretations: 1. I am a bad person; or 2. there is something else “out there” that is bad (I am using “bad” here because it seems that a lot of people feel that way about the word “retard”). To flesh out the details a little more, this “bad” might have something to do with attitude — like a condescending attitude (so in other words, you might attribute “condescending attitude” to me or to something else). Now I have written more and more details here, but in the end it is still up to you to fill in the missing pieces, to accommodate the new information with your already existing beliefs and so on.
As you do this, your biases will influence you. Many people think that the more you are aware of your biases, the better will the accommodation process reflect the actual “facts“.
That’s it for now (we’re getting very near the end). Have a pleasant day! 🙂
Posted in remediary
Tagged bias, biases, data, fact, facts, fake, fake news, narrative, propaganda, retard media, story