Monday, September 08, 2008

Schneier on Privacy

"The most common retort against privacy advocates -- by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures -- is this line: 'If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?'

"Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

"We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need."

- Bruce Schneier, "The Eternal Value of Privacy".


Quotation of the Day for September 7, 2008
Chris Doherty
Aug. 26, 2008

Posted at 07:08 AM in Philosophy | Permalink

Friday, August 22, 2008

DAVE STEWART: An Anthem For Change

My pal Gene, who represents Dave Stewart, sent along this letter from Stewart about his new single:

Earlier this year when I was recording "American Prayer," a song I originally co-wrote with Bono, the phrase, "When you get to the top of the mountain, remember me" seemed to take on a whole new resonance, given the inspirational candidacy of Barack Obama.

The song always contained one of my favorite passages from Dr. King, which was hauntingly delivered the night before he was assassinated. King says: "I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!"

People long for a connection -- whether it is to music, to their country, or to a big idea. Regardless of what happens in November, Senator Obama has reminded millions of people that they have the power to connect to bigger ideas. He is, in essence, the embodiment of a new anthem for change. He has continued King's narrative from what was once thought of as a dream to a reality. I find it especially relevant that Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party Nomination for President 45 years to the day of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

When we were originally writing the song, Bono was crafting the words in a way that would make people think about the fact that 'America' as a concept was a truly great idea, based on the bedrock of equality. I find it more pertinent than ever to release it now; to the moment America finds itself in, daring to re-imagine itself and its place in the world.

When I set out to make a video for the new version of this song, I wanted to honor all of those millions of people, especially young people, who are, for the first time, feeling empowered to voice their beliefs. I wanted to capture how Obama's message of change has echoed across the broad fabric of what is America. To do that, we've cast the film with an eclectic array of personalities, including Forest Whitaker, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Cyndi Lauper, Barry Manilow, Joan Baez, Macy Gray and Joss Stone. They appear alongside veterans, teachers and everyday citizens -- all of whom have been touched by this simple idea of change.

As an Englishman, I'm not an expert in all the intricate details of American politics. But as an artist, I understand how rare it is to inspire a connection to a bigger idea or purpose. This video isn't so much an endorsement of Barack Obama as much as it is a celebration of all those who have picked up a sign, who have registered to vote and are working to make the world a better place. So as Senator Barack Obama ascends to the mountain top, let us not forget all of the others who for the past 40 years have sung anthems of change to make this moment possible.

Watch the video for "American Prayer" here:

Fans are invited to upload their own video for the anthem at

Click here to download Dave Stewart's "American Prayer" from iTunes and here to download the ringtone from MyXer.

Exclusive Premiere: An Anthem For Change
August 22, 2008 | 10:24 AM

Posted at 06:06 PM in Music, Philosophy, Video | Permalink

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Identify a Lie with 6 Simple Questions

Identify a Lie with 6 Simple Questions

1. How do you know this?
2. What are the major concerns or risks?
3. Why do you think others might have an opposing view?
4. Can you please explain this in layman’s terms?
5. Do you mind if I sleep on it?
6. How confident am I in this person?

Source:  Marc & Angel Life Hacks

See also:

How to Detect Lies

How to detect bullshit

Posted at 06:47 AM in Philosophy | Permalink

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Jesse Helms Quotes

Look who is dead this week: Jesse Helms, despoiling an otherwise lovely Fourth of July:

"I've been portrayed as a caveman by some. That's not true. I'm a conservative progressive, and that means I think all men are equal, be they slants, beaners or niggers."
-Jesse Helms, North Carolina Progressive, February 6, 1985, quoted in, "Yes, They Really Said It!"

"There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."
(States News Service, 5/17/88)

"Bill Clinton "better watch out if he comes down here [to North Carolina]. He'd better have a bodyguard." 
-Quote according to Helms (and refuted by military personnel), the military was likely to shoot Clinton if he came to North Carolina.

“We must have a full debate and votes on issues such as China's pitiful human rights record, China's brutal suppression of religious freedom, China's increasingly belligerent stance toward the Democratic Chinese government on Taiwan and China's unbroken record of violated agreements one after another on other matters. You can't trust them.”

University of North Carolina (UNC):  "University of Negroes and Communists".

“Terrorists around the world will realize that America's differences end at the water's edge, and that the United States' political leadership always has, and always will stand united in the face of international terrorism.”

"If God had wanted us to use the metric system, Jesus would have had 10 apostles."

"The destruction of this country can be pinpointed in terms of its beginnings to the time that our political leadership turned to socialism. They didn't call it socialism, of course. It was given deceptive names and adorned with fancy slogans. We heard about New Deals, and Fair Deals and New Frontiers and the Great Society."
— From a Helms editorial at WRAL-TV in Raleigh.

"They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro."
-- In response to Duke University students holding a vigil after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 1968

When a caller to CNN's Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for "everything you've done to help keep down the niggers," Helms' response was to salute the camera and say, "Well, thank you, I think."  (Wilmington Star-News, 9/16/95)

"Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands."
-Senator Jesse Helms

“The Indian government has not shot itself in the foot. Most likely it has shot itself in the head, ... By conducting five nuclear tests India made a major miscalculation not merely about the United States but about India's own capability. The Indian government has deluded itself into the absurd assumption that the possession of nuclear weapons will make India into a superpower at a time when hundreds of millions of India's people are in abject poverty.”

“You were the best qualified for that job, but they had to give it to a minority.”

"Compromise, hell! That's what has happened to us all down the line — and that's the very cause of our woes. If freedom is right and tyranny is wrong, why should those who believe in freedom treat it as if it were a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at a time?"
— Helms writing in 1959 on compromise in politics.

"All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction." stated by Helms after Mexicans protested his visit to Mexico in 1986 to investigate allegations of political corruption."
-Helms investigation into whether there might be communists in Mexico

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."
— Helms responding in 1956 to criticism that a fictional black character in his newspaper column was offensive.

Posted at 07:13 AM in Philosophy, Politics | Permalink

Saturday, June 07, 2008

How to Detect Bullshit

On Bullshit:

Given our irrational nature and difficultly accepting tough truths, we’re collectively better off with some of our deceptions. They buffer us from each other (and from ourselves), avoid unnecessary conflicts, and keep the wonderful confusion of our psychologies tucked away from those who don’t care. White lies are the spackle of civilization, tucked into the dirty corners and crevices our necessary, but pretentiously inflexible idealisms create. Small lies prop up and support our powerful truths, holding together the insanely half honest, half false chaos that spins the world.

But lies, serious lies, should not be encouraged as they destroy trust, the binding force in all relationships. One particularly troublesome kind of lie is known as Bullshit (BS). These are unnecessary deceptions, committed in the gray area between polite white lies and complete malicious fabrications. BS is usually defined as inventions made in ignorance of the facts, where the primary goal is to protect oneself. The aim of BS isn’t to harm another person, although that often happens collaterally. For a variety of reasons BS can be hard to detect, which is why I’m offering this missive as a crash B.S. in BS detection. But be warned: to keep you on your toes there are several bits of BS tucked inside this essay which you will have to find for yourself.


How to detect bullshit
Scott Berkun,
August 9, 2006

Posted at 06:40 AM in Philosophy | Permalink

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cognitive Surplus

Here_comes_everybodyClay Shirky a asks, "What are you doing with your Cognitive Surplus?"

"She heard this story and she shook her head and said, "Where do people find the time?" That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, "No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you've been masking for 50 years."

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project--every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in--that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Now, the interesting thing about a surplus like that is that society doesn't know what to do with it at first--hence the gin, hence the sitcoms. Because if people knew what to do with a surplus with reference to the existing social institutions, then it wouldn't be a surplus, would it? It's precisely when no one has any idea how to deploy something that people have to start experimenting with it, in order for the surplus to get integrated, and the course of that integration can transform society.

The early phase for taking advantage of this cognitive surplus, the phase I think we're still in, is all special cases. The physics of participation is much more like the physics of weather than it is like the physics of gravity. We know all the forces that combine to make these kinds of things work: there's an interesting community over here, there's an interesting sharing model over there, those people are collaborating on open source software. But despite knowing the inputs, we can't predict the outputs yet because there's so much complexity."

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus 
Clay Shirky   
Web 2.0 conference, April 23, 2008

Posted at 06:07 AM in Philosophy, Television, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Randy Pausch, Final Lecture

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium.

Posted at 06:19 AM in Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Friday, February 15, 2008

What's it all about?

Amusing, via Mark My Words   


Posted at 06:59 AM in Humor, Philosophy, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Michael Shermer, Professional Skeptic, on the Mind of the Market

Very interesting:

Posted at 06:30 AM in Finance, Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, February 01, 2008

Study says many studies suck

Mark Morford, on the proliferation of idiotic surveys:

Question No. 1 (please be as specific as possible): Exactly how much of an idiot are you? More to the point: How arrogant and ignorant and out of touch with your body, your heart, your mind, your divine sense of self do you feel you are on a day to day basis? Are you, in short, a moron? How much of a moron? Too much of a moron to actually understand this paragraph? Please check the little box on the right. No, the other right. Thank you.

From what I have gleaned from glancing through a whole slew of recent studies, these are, apparently, the questions we most need answered. These are the questions that plague us and torment us and, oh my God, if we only had the answers to these questions and the many, many other urgent queries like them, such as: Is sunlight necessary? Is breathing compulsory? Is having a dog around sort of nice? If you eat less crap, will you feel better? Sleep: Who cares? Should humans move? God: WTF? — we might just figure out how to live long enough to, you know, accidentally stab ourselves in the eye with a fork and bleed to death.

Which is perhaps an overly snarky way of saying: Many of these studies are getting dangerously inane. And insulting. And actually harmful. Because if you believe many of these deceptive factoids that fill our newspapers and magazines and universities, if you take them as they're meant to be taken, as helpful guidelines for behavior or even as some sort of serious demarcation of human understanding, well, we are doomed indeed.

Go read the whole thing . .  .


Study says many studies suck
Mark Morford
SF Gate, Friday, February 1, 2008

Posted at 07:50 AM in Humor, Idiot!, Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack