In 1883, in Algeria, a general named François de Négrier, addressing a group of legionnaires who were leaving to fight the Chinese in Indochina, said, in loose translation, “You! Legionnaires! You are soldiers meant to die, and I am sending you to the place where you can do it!”
Recently, near Marseille, an old legionnaire told me about a lesson he learned as a young recruit, when a veteran sergeant took a moment to explain dying to him. He said, “It’s like this. There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So fuck off with your worries about war.”
[..] He warned me that the smugglers had placed a lookout directly across the river from us, and that he was watching us now, and maybe wondering why I had arrived, except that he probably already knew. The Russian was a burly man, aged 40. Around 1993 he had been a young soldier in the Soviet Army in Berlin when his unit was suddenly disbanded. Feeling betrayed and uprooted, he had drifted for three years until finding the Foreign Legion forever.
His name was Pogildiakovs. He said, “You do not live in the forest; you survive.” His men did not love him as they loved Boulanger. Still, they called the camp “Pogigrad” in his honor.
There had been some excitement the week before when a patrol surprised two couriers hurrying toward Brazil along the riverbank. One of them jumped into the river and escaped. The other, who was captured, said that the swimmer was carrying 18 pounds of gold in plastic bottles taped to his body. The captain came to Pogigrad soon afterward for a visit. That night when he heard the story he said to Pogildiakovs, “Did you write it up? Write it up! The general will jump for joy, because we still don’t know where the gold goes!”
Pogildiakovs eyed him evenly. Jump for joy? Maybe that’s what generals do, he seemed to indicate, but let’s not forget that the gold got away. The night was hot. He had had a bit to drink. We all had, even the captain, if only as a gesture. Rum and water, with Tang stirred in. Ten men were sitting around a rough-hewn table by the camp kitchen under an assembly of tarpaulins in heavy rain. They spoke in whatever French they had. Drink. Pour. Another. Enough.
Pogildiakovs got up, scowling. He said, “I do not feel at all sorry for the bastards. These are not helpless victims. They are breaking the law. Some of them make more money than I do.”
He left. Later, a dark-bearded soldier sat beside me and said, “Yes, but the ones we catch, they’re always the poor.” He was born in the Cape Verde Islands. He emigrated to Brazil, went to school in Rio de Janeiro, got a master’s degree in computer science, became fluent in English, and three years ago found himself sitting in an office working on cyber-security. He checked out, flew to France, and joined the Legion. The surprise, he said, was to find himself now as a soldier involved in suppressing Brazilians.
That night after dinner I sat in the open-sided mess hall with another group of legionnaires, some of whom I would accompany on a one-week patrol into the most remote areas of Guiana. The talk was of women. One soldier was an Argentinean who had spent $25,000 on prostitutes, drugs, and drink during a one-month binge in Amsterdam.
Another soldier said, “You’re really crazy. You risk getting killed for six months in Afghanistan, then take the money and spend it like that?”
The Argentinean said, “Everyone should do it at least once in life.” He looked at me for affirmation.
"[On the U.S. Cyber Command emphasis on the offense: ]That was General Hayden's call. He dedicates a fair amount of space to that decision in his memoir. His basic calculus was that defense is 1000x harder than offense, so skip defense and punish your adversary through effective offense. I think the Air Force "Air Power" doctrine may have interfered with his thinking."
“Understand, I’m no angel,” he said. “In Russia, you have three paths: Be a revolutionary, leave the country, or be a conformist. So I’m a conformist.
“Vladimir Putin has dug a pretty big hole for himself. An attempt to go around the back of a major treaty that actively made his country safer has ended up sinking the treaty. Rather than endure a humiliating climb-down that would involve admission of cheating and the destruction of the new missiles, Putin is blustering new threats.”
“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”
First of all there was the arrogant appropriation of users’ behavioural data – viewed as a free resource, there for the taking. Then the use of patented methods to extract or infer data even when users had explicitly denied permission, followed by the use of technologies that were opaque by design and fostered user ignorance.
The combination of state surveillance and its capitalist counterpart means that digital technology is separating the citizens in all societies into two groups: the watchers (invisible, unknown and unaccountable) and the watched. This has profound consequences for democracy because asymmetry of knowledge translates into asymmetries of power. But whereas most democratic societies have at least some degree of oversight of state surveillance, we currently have almost no regulatory oversight of its privatised counterpart.
Nearly every product or service that begins with the word “smart” or “personalised”, every internet-enabled device, every “digital assistant”, is simply a supply-chain interface for the unobstructed flow of behavioural data on its way to predicting our futures in a surveillance economy.
Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free.( ... tālāk ... )
"I anticipate a great deal of migration and movement in the future. Developed countries won’t have a choice, eventually: the current methods by which modern developed democracies structure socialized services, such as medical care and welfare for the elderly, are unsustainable without at least maintaining population levels.
Japan, for example, is beginning to face serious population issues because their elderly massively outnumber their youth — and the elderly disproportionately utilize social services and programs intended to benefit the disadvantaged. The United States has known about the sustainability issue within our Social Security program for decades: there are not enough young people to support the old. Europe is well-known for the extent of “socialized” services that the government provides, but also has the lowest birthrates in the world.
Developed countries are victims of their own success. Their large economies enable the elaborate social mechanisms we’ve developed to benefit our respective peoples... But neither the economy nor those service mechanisms are sustainable without sufficient workforce, and that same large economy disincentivizes high birth rates.
So what is the solution here? Developed countries have too few children, developing countries have too many, and the solution seems obvious.
The United States is suspected to have dipped below a 2.0 replacement-level birthrate since the last census, yet has successfully delayed this crisis through immigration policy. It’s hard to remember, given the current levels of political toxicity, but the United States still accepts more immigrants legally than any other country in the world. We don’t have to have high birthrates here; we can just benefit from other countries’ unsustainable growth and maintain our own economy in the meantime. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have taken similar strategies.
But immigration isn’t the answer for everyone, unfortunately... because racism. Eastern Europe, suffering from both low birth rates and high levels of emigration, ironically finds their extant populations unwelcoming of migrants trying to do the same. The Japanese are so unwelcoming of other people that they’d literally rather build robots than welcome foreigners into Japan (and automation brings its own dilemmas). Western Europe opened its arms to refugees for many economic reasons, including alleviating their population issue — and the far-right is growing quickly there, feeding off of fears of immigrants.
These regions are doomed to growing pains until they figure out how to welcome external populations to boost their demographic imbalances. This next Great Migration is going to happen no matter what, and has probably already begun. Developed countries are going to need to figure out how to manage it to their benefit.""Japan’s model is currently the poster child for a terrible demographic situation. There are some serious problems that they’ll need to face in the near future as a result of their demographics problem — a problem which other developed countries have better solved by letting other peoples in. Two pensioners for every worker? A debt-to-GDP ratio over 200%? A perilously low birth rate, even compared to other developed countries? Robots and automation may alleviate some of the labor burden on the young, but you just can’t automate hospice care. Yet, Japan insists on maintaining its ethnic makeup (over 98% ethnic Japanese) when importing Filipino nurses would work just as well, and contribute to solving all of the above."
“Vai, mīļe! Nu jou kād’ trīsdesmit gād’ jūr’ nou redzējs, kouč jūr’ tepat aiz kartapeļ’ vāg. Tur dzeloņdrāt’ žoge un jūr’ i tāl apakše. Lab’, ka ar Diev’ palīg’ es var’ dzierdet, ka jūr’ krāc.”
Hammurabi's code (~1700 BC) includes this about building:
229. If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction sound, and the house which he has built collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house, the builder shall be put to death.
233. If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction sound, and a wall cracks, that builder shall strengthen that wall at his own expense.
"[T]he political realm is where Soros has made his most audacious wager. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, he poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the former Soviet-bloc countries to promote civil society and liberal democracy. It was a one-man Marshall Plan for Eastern Europe, a private initiative without historical precedent. It was also a gamble that a part of the world that had mostly known tyranny would embrace ideas like government accountability and ethnic tolerance. In London in the 1950s, Soros was a student of the expatriated Austrian philosopher Karl Popper, who championed the notion of an “open society,” in which individual liberty, pluralism and free inquiry prevailed. Popper’s concept became Soros’s cause.
It is an embattled cause these days. Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has reverted to autocracy, and Poland and Hungary are moving in the same direction. With the rise of Donald Trump in the United States, where Soros is a major donor to Democratic candidates and progressive groups, and the growing strength of right-wing populist parties in Western Europe, Soros’s vision of liberal democracy is under threat in its longtime strongholds. Nationalism and tribalism are resurgent, barriers are being raised and borders reinforced and Soros is confronting the possibility that the goal to which he has devoted most of his wealth and the last chapter of his life will end in failure."
"Progress is sometimes a regress in disguise. Like in the Futurama episode where Bender finds a phone booth: "Now I don't need to carry my phone with me all the time!""
Pasauli drīz gaida kārtējais lielais karš. Discuss.
"[H]aving an analytical thinking style and being non-religious – that tend to correlate with accepting the scientific consensus, but this is the first time that researchers have systematically studied people’s open-ended reasoning about controversial scientific topics. The results show that for many people, there are certain issues for which the truth is less about facts and more about faith and identity.
[T]he most common justifications people gave for their positions on the controversial issues were to simply re-state or qualify their belief – what the researchers called a non-justification, which made up 34 per cent of all responses. Among the actual justifications, the most common kind, making up 33 per cent of all responses, was to cite evidence – a promising result. However, 20 per cent of justifications were subjective and involved making a reference to one’s cultural identity, personal experience or fallacious reasoning."
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