Ethics


On campus today we were comparing how long we could go without a computer and internet. A guy had just returned from vacation and went ten days without a computer; he said he suffered withdrawal and didn’t think he could do it, but he did. I decided I could last  two days.  At some point my computer became my work station and my filing system. Twice I’ve had a virus  trash my computer so I’ve learned not to save anything valuable on it; instead I use a growing collection of USBs.  Considering the warnings out this week about the possibility of solar flares blowing out our computer systems, I assume  that banks and  the government have all their data backed up with a bunch of government sized USB drives. Something not made in China would be preferred.

I don’t know how many people  remember Hal, the authoritarian computer on board in Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, 2001 but my stomach has a sinking feeling that the  NSA missed the movie.  Here we are in 2011;  America is handing its space program over to Russia because we’re out of money and can’t afford it, yet the Federal Government has the funds to sink into virtual spying activity and aggregating the vast amounts of information they learned about us while spying.  And it’s not just spying on the bad guys but the good guys too- but wait- it gets worse:  then they take the data,  (using even more of our taxpayer money) and try to figure out ways to read our minds and predict our behavior with that information.   Hmmm.

And this  is legal why?

The NSA’s  artificial intelligent project,  Aquaint,  “Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence,” moved into new and larger headquarters three years ago to advance their research.  From Nova’s  article, The New Thought Police:”

The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.    The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.”

This spring when I attended the MIT 150 Symposium: Brains, Mind and Machines I was expecting lectures on cognitive research about human brains.  Wrong.  Current research is in the area of machination: building intelligent and creative machines by generalizing information they’ve gathered from studies on people and their brains.  What interested me most, and surprised me the most was seeing how very excited scientists and engineers are about the idea of AI being the next business venture. The development of computers changed the world and the marketplace, and from the money-making side of things, it literally opened a huge new venue of products to sell. The engineers and entrepreneurs who made fortunes with computer gadgets,  expect to cause the same explosion in the marketplace with AI.   I cringed; they cheered. Literally.

During the Bush administration countless  people ranted against the evils of his Patriot’s Act. Where are these people now? Busy Facebooking their life story, complete with personal information that ten years ago we would never have released.

I am no expert on AI or brain research but based on the research I have seen,   the NSA  project  to read our minds is probable, and will happen in the very near future.  That this data is in the hands of the government that developed nuclear energy, and instead of building peace, they built weaponry. …Need I say more?

Or that governments are being hacked by Chinese Communists…. need I say more?

I don’t know why my curiosity acted in hindsight but I decided to Google NSA “Acquaint” these few years later, -odd how nothing pops up.   I’m not pleased.   When a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

The Bastille was stormed because women had no bread to feed their families. The royalty was desacralized, dethroned and sentenced to death.  Five decades later Karl Marx wrote his manifesto on the plight of the working class. Ironically Marx did not work, but lived off the money of wealthy patrons.  Even when his child was dying as a result of being underfed, he did not go out and search for work, but searched instead for more entitlements.  How did his manifesto promulgate to a major economic movement?

Socialism and internationalism: the “theory” can be summarized in the well known oft repeated affirmation by Stalin that “the death of one man is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.”  Socialism, above all else, is  a condemnation of capitalism. It’s the attempt to level the playing field for all mankind, that no one be rich or poor, that all men are equal- and not just within a community or a county,  now the goal has become to socialize the planet.  The economic theory is a massive failure at all levels, yet it perpetuates.

Why does it fail?

Socialism in its attempt to redistribute wealth essentially means that as soon as a person or an entity builds a safety net, it needs to be taken away to provide for those who have yet to create their own. In the process of taking from one to give to the other, no one ever attains the security of a safe and happy existence.  It dooms everyone to fail, not just the few. When no one is allowed a safety net,  no one will have one:  under these circumstances it becomes impossible for an economy to improve.  Competition to survive will increase because no one is surviving. Mankind will live in a state of increased and perpetual chaos; mankind will fail, humanity will fail.

Of  capitalist corporations, however, I will say this: They have purchased many a presidency in many a country.  Off the backs of the workers, they have made many a man at the top  filthy rich and with unlimited power the likes rarely seen in the years of monarchy. And when the monarchies over-reached, they were overthrown by various means of riot and war to be replaced with democracy.  It will be the same for the corporations. Not if, but when. In the eras of  kings and queens, the intermarriages between families were carefully planned to extend their reach of wealth and power; this model which proved to be so successful in building empires did the same for executives, corporations and corporate power.

At this point, how can people revolt, overthrow and dethrone that overreach of power? If we boycott their products, their profits crash and because our savings were pushed into their egg basket, we’ll crash and burn,- the executives will just cash out and move on. Must we sacrifice our-self to secure a future not harnessed under their control?

Breaking up the monopolies is one answer, but unfortunately the politicians are not willing to do this because they’re empowered by these corporation.  These corporations, including the stock markets, hold so much power they control the future of the planet; unfortunately – at least here in the United States they have shown little regard for the person and are wholly consumed with the manifestation of profit.

Corporations and their top tiers, including the stock market which serves them,  have grown so huge and so powerful they don’t see the loss of one job as a tragedy, they don’t see the loss of millions of jobs as a tragedy, all they see is statistics. The planet is going to exist in perpetuated chaos until the corporations recognize that there are people behind the numbers.  One day as the world is crashing around those on whose backs the corporations created their wealth, executives will look to the horizon and see that their Bastille is going to be stormed. They will be dethroned.  -Not because capitalism doesn’t work, it does- but because the people are starving, and they’re starving at the expense of corporate greed.  the kings and queens faced the axe because of their greed and overreach; likewise, corporations and the politicians who supported them, to prevent tragedy of a statistical proportion, need to seek a peace treaty while they have the chance.

UPDATE:

London is under the siege of riots. It isn’t the first time.  The tax riots that defeated Thatcher were led by communists, socialists and anarchists but there seems to be  no organized party or leader of these riots.  If there is a leader, they haven’t come forward yet. To organize, they use  Facebook,  the same method used in the Arab -spring protests. They’re not burning government property, but instead they’ve chosen to loot or destroy private property and businesses. This isn’t a group seeking change or trying to defeat the current crop of politicians, but a deliberate act of class warfare, against business, against property.  In Europe protests usually result in riots and destruction of property but  rarely in the United States do protests lead to violence.  Perhaps in America we have a sense of hope that the European youth lack, or disregard. We protest our politicians, not our neighbors or their property.

At Commentary Magazine, Jonathan Tobin has an article about anti-Semitism. Full article at  Contentions:

Should the federal government intervene when an American university permits its campus to become unsafe for Jews? When the prevailing atmosphere on campus is hatred against Israel and all things associated with the Jewish people?After a long and involved debate, the Obama administration finally did the right thing last October and stated definitively that such conduct is impermissible at institutions that receive federal funding. While that ruling, which was prompted by an epidemic of anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students at the University of California at Irvine, ought to have been welcomed by both academia and the organized Jewish world, it has now been challenged by the American Association of University Professors. In a newsletter on the AAUP website, Cary Nelson (the association’s president) and Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee contend that recent events on American university campuses—at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Rutgers in addition to Irvine—do not rise to the level of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism. Calls for redress by Jewish students and professors are nothing more, they conclude, than an unscrupulous effort to “censor anti-Israel remarks.”

For my experience I’ve not heard of antisemitism or antisemitic actions on any of the Fenway campuses, in fact it’s been the opposite with a great diversity and tolerance. I can say the same for Harvard and MIT. However, I made a very deliberate choice to not attend Smith College because of the intolerance.  I made my choice; rather than change the campus, the students  and the professors who propagate intolerance I elected to attend a campus where I felt at home. Yes, Smith had a program I very much wanted to study, but not enough that I was willing to sacrifice who I am and what I hope to be that I would make myself over to reflect their politics . I have to assume that those who do attend universities such as Smith where Israel can’t seem to do anything “right”  in the eyes of the professors, attend knowing the politics in advance and feel as much at home as I felt alienated. I have said many times, we seem to be unremembering everything we should have learned.  I have no answer as to why anti-Semitism  is on the rise in the US,  except it has to be taught; that it’s coming from our college campuses- therein lies the tragedy. Not to be forgotten is that in many cases this fervor against Israel is purchased, not inspired. The same for environmentalism and political campaigns.    If you’re young and looking for a good job this summer in the Boston area, Craigslist is listing many opportunities for activists at Downtown Crossing.  The positions are paid- not volunteer- and well above minimum wage.  I don’t know the source(s) of this fountain of money. But how easily the heart and mind of these “activists” are purchased is something I’ve yet to see put into a chart or analyzed by an academic institution.  No doubt we’d be shocked. Shocked! The UN is the bigger problem, if not the root.   Not only is there little interest in protecting democracy and nurturing  freedoms it has become incapable of it. Few politicians stand up to their intolerance  or dares debate the depth and breadth of the problem. Evidently the importance of  not offending world opinion, even when it supports and propagates oppression and destruction, has become more valuable than the importance of truth,tolerance,  ethics and equality.  America has a unique history as a stalwart and steady voice for democracy so we should not be surprised that leftists and socialists want that  history tarnished and the future altered, but what is surprising is the degree to which they are able to achieve it and to the peril of this once great  country.

A comment I made, that included the China Digital Times and their weekly list of stories suppressed by the Chinese Ministry of Truth, was moderated and removed  last week from a newspaper. Not once but twice.  As a result, I am banned and can no longer post. No, not from a socialist or communist newspaper, but from a very ordinary newspaper. Or so I thought.  As of this week the majority of the comments  are from paid Chinese posters about how the US has faked the death of OBL.  The other commenters follow along like mice hearing their Pied Piper.  And so the creeping of communism,  and with it all the suppression of anything of which it does not approve, has expanded from an oozing trickle to a rising tide. When the waves become a deluge it will of course be too late.

I wonder what the people  who took the  money offered by the Chinese (in exchange for their freedom) will think- will they rejoice in the suppression, will they bear guilt for falling prey, or will they be elated and join the ranks of the repressive? What of the many  who sit by and watch the debacle  unfold before their very eyes… and say nothing and do nothing… except to buy more products manufactured by the regime which serves to give the communist government even more profits which they use to spread that power. And now Iran is building a rocket launching site in Venezuela? Surely with the help of China.

You would think by now that we would know better  than to empower the forces that seek to control us. Why don’t these manufacturing concerns, such as Apple, conduct their business in countries that are democratic, countries which are friends to our belief in freedom and equality? Why do business with a country who pursues values opposite to ours?

There are thousands, tens of thousands, who knows- maybe it’s millions of people who believe that the US orchestrated the attacks of 9-11 and now we have large numbers who believe that OBL has NOT been killed, they believe that was staged as well;  plus the equally huge numbers who believe US is the Evil Empire, not China.  Hmmmm. Obviously people don’t conjure up these ideas themselves.  They have to be taught. These ideas and those who spread them they have to be supported, otherwise they’d be powerless. We lost a generation in the fight to preserve democracy and freedom only to lose the next entire generation to the voodoo of moral relativism, and now, another  generation is falling to the spell of communist propaganda. Now what?

All this Marxist Theology, Communism, Liberation Theology, Progressivism, -call it what you will, all this repressive propaganda has filled our sewers and now runs freely down our streets.

I really,  really, really do not know how this country is going to stay a democracy when so many work so hard at making “fuzzy” anything that confronts evil. I know evil when I see it, hear it, read it. Perhaps that’s why I’m willing to stand up, be counted, be heard and be banned for it. And if banned, protest it. Loudly. Legally. Morally.

Dreams Controller 2.1.7 for iOS – Influence Dreams, Remain Lucid Asleep

Good grief.  A “Dream Controller?”

In a consumer driven competitive,  creative  capitalist market, ( which I call the 4C’s market) it is always amazing what a person is willing to sell,  what another person is willing to buy and what the government under the cloak of pluralism is willing to allow.  Ethics?  Throw them overboard, ethics be damned- this is fun- this is  the new art- this the future!  And besides- it’s already a law that you can’t regulate art, or free speech or the future.  So now, for a pittance of a price of  adding an ap on your phone, you can have your thoughts manipulated by an absolute stranger. Not just anybody, or a friend, or a government official, but an absolute total stranger, no less,  an entire business of elves  conjuring up thoughts to control us.  Willingly.   Hmmmm….

Surely, we are in a pivotal time of ethics:  what is AI and what is not? (Define artificial, define intelligence, and who gets to do the defining

What is authentic and what is not? (define authentic, and who gets to make that judgment)

What is ethical and  what is not?

If we can’t define artificial, intelligence and authentic how can we define the ethics of a “dream controller 21.7 ” ap for an i-phone?

But would it change anything anyways? I don’t think so; this little “dream controller” will only effect a person in NREM sleep and stage one, two or three of NREM is not the source of the epic dream- the ones that change your way of thinking about something and maybe change your life. Research shows that the frontal cortex of the brain, the logical thinking part, is cut off and not active in dreams during REM sleep. What this means is that the dreams during  NREM are already self-filtering and remain part and parcel within the character of the dreamer; it  is during REM sleep that the mind is no longer self-filtering and the doors to the greater unconscious just might be opened. Jung calls it the collective unconscious, some call it the astral plane; whatever you chose to call it, It is from this state that the most important dreams occur, so despite whatever programming the dream controller inputs, it will  not be heard. We sleep through thunder storms and babies crying, so it stands to reason we’d sleep through the dream controller too.

The purpose of lucid dreaming is to attain a balance within your life,to accept who you are as a human being; that balance and gestalt kind of happiness comes from within yourself- it can’t be found in liquor or pills or a dream controller.  We are the accumulation of our memories and culture; If you want to change what you dream,make your own dream controller: the first step might be to read new books, like the old fashioned days when we read or talked to other people to expand our life and expand our horizons. 😀

From the press release:

Independent developer Taha Bebek today is pleased to announce Dreams Controller 2.1.7 for iOS, an update to his app that allows the user to influence the theme of their dreams and achieve a state of lucid dreaming. Inspired by the popular, mind-bending film Inception, and employing techniques based on scientific research, the app provides audio cues and suggestions at preset periods while the dreamer is sleeping. The conscious mind does not hear these sounds and the subject continues sleeping, undisturbed. However, the subconscious mind, active during some phases of sleep, hears and reacts to the various pre-programmed cues and suggestions. The update adds the capability to create customized audio dream cues. Dreams Controller includes in-app Facebook connectivity to share tips, experiences, and dreamscapes with other users.

It is a common experience for an individual to incorporate actual, external sounds into the ongoing story being lived in their dream. For example, the sound of a far off police siren may not be jarring enough to awaken the dreamer, but the sound of that siren may be incorporated into the dream, changing its direction as it unfolds. Beginning in the 1970’s, researchers began experiments into the phenomena of lucid dreaming, maintaining conscious awareness while dreaming. There followed many fascinating studies into the nature of REM sleep, lucid dreaming, and the ability of some individuals to control the theme and direction of their dreams. For the full story open link here.

The BBC has a story that the letters Kafka wrote to his sister and saved by her daughters will be on display at Oxford, and in doing so, apparently will be part of the effort to sure up their German credentials.    From the story: ” the proposed partnership with Marbach, the University of Oxford will strengthen its position as an important centre for studies of German and Jewish literature and culture.”  I would hope that the letters would be displayed because of the historical context, regardless of the  diversity goalpost. But….no doubt this academic moment will be added to the long list of   ‘The Uses of Kafka.”

It occurred to me while reading this little news story, that if all the banned works of all the banned writers, artists, musicians, scientists, journalists, and so on -( and- it’s a very long list- ) were brought together under one roof, there would be no roof on the planet big enough to house them.

That says something very important and not to be forgotten, yet we seem on the verge of forgetting.  We are already on the downward slide watching the rise of anti-Semitism,  especially in the U.K.  Give it a new name with new attributes to disguise it, but even with its 21st century garb and modifiers, it is the same old problem.  The cold reality is, we aren’t born with these prejudices, it has to be taught.  I feel like asking is  it the drinking water? Surely, it must be!  Pathetic really.  The answer is this: there is no building big enough to house this mess caused by intolerance, furthermore, no such building would ever be built, no matter how much it should be built, because to do so would we would have to admit the problem existed beyond the German borders and beyond the war.  God forbid we should have to look at that. I need to look no further than the U.N. to realize that we are absolutely unlearning  everything we should have learned.

Michael Stein has written an honest and commendable  response to  Butler’s anti-Israel, anti-Zionism lecture. (below)

As to “who” should own Kafka? The actual Art can be kept from the public, but ideas can’t be  confiscated, burned or killed, – and they can’t be owned.  Like seeds thrown to the wind, ideas will float around and land some place, take root and sprout new ideas and new seeds.     As a German writer, there is no greater honor than  to be housed with the best writers of German literature; this means Goethe.  It may not be “home” for Kafka but being with Goethe is as close as it gets, and if Marbach includes what was stolen, it will have a greater purpose that even Israel will approve.  Rather than hire Israeli lawyers in the effort to win the right to bid on Max’s  trove, (which will become public to everyone at some point of time anyway) at this point of perpetual trials, the lawyers and the Marbach Archives should invest their time and money into  recovering and making public the work confiscated by the Nazi’s; and while they’re at it, they should go back to search Dora’s apartment and recover what the Nazis missed. All this work should be housed together because only when it’s complete  and together will the complete story be told.

As to the ‘use of Kafka,’ the law is the law and it’s time for the Nazis to return everything they stole, and admit what they stole, when, where and why. It would be excellent if Marbach was forefront in this effort and chronicled the process. I’m thinking of  “Menachem and Fred,” two survivors who wrote their memoirs and then produced a film which received a Peace Award last year.  The lawyers and the courts, in restoring Kafka to the open air, could learn much by emulating these two brave men and their families.  I spoke with Fred in private away from the crowd and also from a Q&A group after a showing of the film.  I cried.  I also found closure.

From the Czech article, The Uses of Kafka,” written by Michael Stein:

“Franz Kafka never had the fortune, whether good or bad, of being just a writer. During his lifetime he hardly published anything and had a firm principle against making his living with his pen. After his death it became even worse. He went from being a one-man Jewish oracle to a 20th Century prophet of doom, from a spiritual guide to a poster boy of neurotic failure – with the fiction he labored over being placed alongside letters and apocryphal conversations as mere pieces of evidence in the court of interpretation.

As modern as ever, the Kafka of the 21st Century is more like IKEA, a huge do-it-yourself store where you can furnish your intellectual arguments to your heart’s content. The lecture that American post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler gave February 4 to launch the London Review of Books’ winter series – “Who Owns Kafka?” – is a case in point.

The lecture is presumably centered on the long-running trial Israeli trial over the ownership of a trove of Kafka manuscripts and the papers of his friend Max Brod, who left the documents to his secretary and lover Esther Hoffe at his death in 1968. Upon Hoffe’s death in 2007 Israel’s National Library contested her will to leave the papers to her two daughters, claiming them by the terms of Brod’s will. The complexity of the case has all too predictably proven to be prime breeding ground for the much abused term “Kafkaesque.”

On February 25 the inventory of documents was revealed as including a manuscript of “Wedding Preparations in the Country” among other short stories as well as some of Kafka’s diaries and letters, along with Max Brod’s as yet unpublished diaries. Asking the question of who will, or even should, own this literary treasure plunges one back into an interminable labyrinth that neither lawyers nor literary scholars seem equipped to decide.

Though Butler’s lecture is titled with a question she doesn’t offer much of an answer to it. Quite the opposite in fact. The lecture was advertised with a description saying that she “proposes a reading of Kafka’s parables that quarrels with both sides of the legal case . .” Somehow I don’t see either legal team calling her in as an expert witness. (more…)