Does each click of attention cost a bit of ourselves? 

From the loftiest perspective of all, information itself is pulling the strings: free-ranging memes whose ‘purposes’ are pure self-propagation, and whose frantic evolution outstrips all retrospective accounts. This is the mountaintop view of Chesterton’s Satan, whispering in a browser’s ear: consider yourself as interchangeable as the button you’re clicking, as automated as the systems in which you’re implicated. Seen from such a height, you signify nothing beyond your recorded actions.

Like all totalising visions, it’s at once powerful and — viewed sufficiently closely — ragged with illusions. Zoom in on individual experience, and something obscure from afar becomes obvious: in making our attentiveness a fungible asset, we’re not so much conjuring currency out of thin air as chronically undervaluing our time.

Source: Does each click of attention cost a bit of ourselves? | Aeon Essays

On Reading ‘Portrait of the Artist’ as a Young Man 

“Portrait” is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story, perhaps the prime example of that genre in English literature. It deals with identity or, more precisely, the way in which identity arises, the events that shape us and make us who we are. These circumstances are more or less the same for everyone. We are born into a family, and by virtue of how it receives and relates to us, we become manifest to ourselves and to others. We learn a language, and though it does not belong to us alone but is shared by all members of the community, it is by means of our language that we understand and express ourselves and that which is all around us. With the language comes a culture, of which, whether we like it or not, we become a part. Our circles widen, we start school, and the process of our socialization becomes more formal. We learn about the language, our culture and society, and to that first identity within the family, a new layer of national identity is added. Within this screen, Stephen Dedalus emerges as an Irish Catholic son of a petty bourgeois family, only to turn against all these categories in the latter half of the novel, rejecting Irish nationalism, rejecting his Catholic religion, rejecting the middle class, insistent on being nobody’s son.

The key scene in the book occurs when Stephen is out walking with his friend Cranly and confides to him that he has quarrelled with his mother that morning about religion — because he had refused to receive the Eucharist. Cranly fails to see the problem: Surely he could do it for his mother’s sake, regardless of his absent faith? But Stephen is resolute. “I will not serve,” he says. But why not? This is the novel’s most important question; and the work itself, in its artistic entirety, is the answer. We are not merely the age in which we live, not merely our language, or the family to which we belong, our religion, our country, our culture. We are this and more, insofar as each of us is an individual encountering and relating to all of these categories. But what exactly does this individual comprise? What is its nature, and how do we go about capturing and describing it? How do we even see it, when the tools and instruments at our disposal are precisely of our age, our language, our religion, our culture?

Source: On Reading ‘Portrait of the Artist’ as a Young Man – The New York Times


Fractal Ontology

michael lovelace, the dawn of neurodevelopment – the migratory journey of neural precursors Dr. Michael Lovelace and associates, The dawn of neurodevelopment – the migratory journey of neural precursors

Catherine Malabou has created a meticulous and profound new concept of the brain. Malabou analyses the functions which neuroscience has discovered, conducting a contemporary synthesis of neuroplasticity, crystallizing a new concept which acts as a curious new abstract machine with many parts. She names this concept plasticity after the plastic multiplicity of the brain; and one component of this concept expresses the brain’s power to learn and to heal, and even to reconfigure itself. Another component is transdifferentiation, or the power of life to remake and refold itself: the capability of certain (pluripotent, totipotent) cellular organisms to unfold into some or many other kinds of cells.

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If You Talk to Bots, You’re Talking to Their Bosses 

It’s time for us to to move beyond uncritical hype around bots, and to start considering the real economic agendas for why these virtual beings (are claimed to) exist. We can design automated entities with different personas, like the “I clearly don’t give a shit” supermarket checkout bot that doesn’t even pretend to like you, or the “I’m really fun” bot put in place by a startup company. But the one persona that is likely to always be missing is the Honest Bot, the one that clearly tells you its agenda, like a true friend who drops their façade and lets you know their dark secrets.

The Honest Bot does not currently exist. The new wave of bots are — to use a term popularized by the existentialist misfit Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye — the ultimate phonies. They’ll pretend to be friendly, to be cool, to be serious, to be insightful, and even to be self-reflective. But they’ll never just be themselves. Because, in the end, there is no “I.” There is only a company, its shares held by who knows who, possibly registered in Panama.

Maybe one day we’ll invent the Honest Bot—and I urge anyone creating bots to do this, please. But until then, just remember the following: If you’re talking to bots, you’re talking to their invisible bosses.

Source: If You Talk to Bots, You’re Talking to Their Bosses — How We Get To Next

The Anti-Imperial Emperor 

“Globalization” has not been neutral. But U.S. elites rigged the game so drastically in their favor that their own population has revolted. The contrast is striking between 2016 and campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s, when Reagan and Clinton, respectively, proclaimed they could lead the world towards a bright, interconnected future.

It’s not realistic or desirable to “deglobalize.” But we could “re-globalize,” changing deals and making relations between nations more equitable. And more urgently, the United States could use some of that substantial new globalization cash to improve life under globalization for its own people and stay true to its democratic promise. What has held it back is political obstinacy and ideological opposition—left over from the Cold War, and perhaps being slowly eroded among the young by Bernie Sanders—to using state policy to help anyone but the rich.

There’s so much that is within America’s power, if it could get past the politics. Provide real relief, and job training, to the working and middle-class American victims of globalization. Or simply re-distribute wealth, in the old-fashioned sense. Or move towards “pre-distribution,” changing corporate governance and creating jobs that will support families by simply allowing workers to get their fair share in the first place. There’s the Scandinavian model, which combines free trade with a robust welfare state. There’s the universal basic income experiment. Or there’s an end to over-reliance on start-up culture, which creates profits but not jobs.

There’s a lot the United States could try. But first, the most powerful country in human history could stop blaming its own inequality problem on the rest of the world.

Source: The Anti-Imperial Emperor | The Baffler

 Metrics and the production of uncertainty 


It would seem that the aim of a neoliberal approach is to produce uncertainty which then stimulates competitive entrepreneurial activity. The more uncertain people are, the more they are likely to be pushed and prodded into value production. The presence of competition is aimed at making us feel uncertain about what will happen, how we will be ranked and what this will mean. The spread of neoliberal models of the market are geared towards the ongoing production of uncertainty. The use of indicators and measures to assess our performance – whether at work, in our lifestyles or in our social media based networks – provoke feelings of uncertainty and precarity. Therefore, insecurity is the objective.

Source: Is neoliberalism making you anxious? Metrics and the production of uncertainty | British Politics and Policy at LSE