Writer-Researcher-Activist | philosophy/spec-fi/future/art/internet/surveillance/ai/weird
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Mad Marx: The Class Warrior

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ahmetasabanci
30 days ago
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İstanbul
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3 public comments
rraszews
33 days ago
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Karl Marx of the Wasteland headshotting Ayn Rand is the single most beautiful thought I have ever been gifted with.
CarlEdman
33 days ago
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So true! All of the world's problems could be solved by Marx(ists) killing more of their opponents.
Falls Church, Virginia, USA
quad
33 days ago
Your irony game is so strong.
rclatterbuck
33 days ago
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I'd watch it

Dark Social

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“Dark Social” is the notion that people share “content” via private/secure messaging apps, one-to-one or one-to-select-group.  That social sharing activity can’t be measured in any useful way.  There is no freely-available prosumer tool to quantify the sharing of a link.  Hence, they call it “dark social.”  When you hear someone say “dark social,” they’re bemoaning the inability to get click reports off of actual conversation.  Because when you see someone on the street head-down in their phone and dabbing away at the screen, they’re not cut off from the outside world.  They’re talking to people. Fuck your Black Mirror narrative – they’re just more interested in a window to their friends and family than they are in you peering at them in judgement.  And all that action of being engaged in a life of having your loved ones in your hand all the time and being able to show them things and talk about it?  That’s Dark Social now.

 

RECENTLY BLURBED: the excellent forthcoming novel by Jeff Noon, A MAN OF SHADOWS.  Preorder links (UK) (US)

 

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ahmetasabanci
49 days ago
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cjmcnamara
51 days ago
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I actually like using ~Dark Social~ to describe e-mailing links to friends because it makes me seem very cool for using boring and reliable technology?
duerig
51 days ago
One reason I'm not worried about people having too much 'screen time' is because almost all of the activities people use 'screens' for are things that were once seen as virtuous. It is only through the lens of tech-anxiety that they assume this negative aspect. I would love to see a cartoon which shows a contrasting coffee shop of 'then' vs 'now'. In the 'then', it would show one person reading the newspaper, another writing a love letter, another filling out a crossword puzzle, another reading War and Peace, another making snarky comments to friends, etc. And then show a 'now' where everybody has a phone or tablet but are still doing all those same things.

Ancient Wine Star Cult

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From the superb STAR SHIPS by Gordon White (UK) (US):

…it appears mankind’s relationship with alcohol is a lot older than we expected. It used to be that historians assumed wine was first created with the domestication of grapes, but following discoveries in Iran or wine residue in stone bowls at the Neolithic burial site of Körtik Tepe – also in Southeast Turkey – we can now see that wine-making predates agriculture.

‘It can now be safely stated that people’s first interest in wild grapes in western Asia was for alcohol production, evidence for domestication only following in the fourth millennium BC.’ Dionysus: born wild on the hills and plains that are home to the ruins of a Palaeolithic star cult.

Wine is human. Wine is from the stars. I drink a glass every day, continuing a unbroken connection with human civilisation going thousands of years deep.

And seriously, STAR SHIPS is fantastic. Get a copy.

 

 

 

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ahmetasabanci
55 days ago
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2117 revisited

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Where are we going to be, a century from now?

Let's go back and chew on this old bone again--from a different angle.

Let me first eliminate from discussion a bunch of possible outcomes I'm not interested in examining. Total human extinction could happen in a variety of ways, ranging from wars over access to scarce resources (idiotic, but it's something humans have prior form for), to plagues, to the collapse of agricultural viability on a global scale due to climate change, sudden catastrophic collapse of unrecognized critical infrastrcture (e.g. the single factory in Bangladesh that makes the cheap quantum computer chips everyone uses to get around the central planning problem is taken out by a Cat-6 Typhoon: this causes a cascading loss of efficiency in global supply chains, leading to ...) to an asteroid mining operation gone horribly wrong. But scenarios in which everyone is dead are not currently interesting to me, as a fiction writer.

Let's also ignore transport technology, Mars colonization, climate change, the shift to non-carbon energy sources and distribution, how the hell the west will survive the shift to robotic labour (I'm assuming that by 2117 we'll have robots that can make a good stab at changing the bed linen, which is just about the acme of low-paid but algorithmically intractable jobs right now). I mean, if we're currently hearing billionaires discussing the merits of a universal basic income system, I think that tells us where the SS Titans of Capitalism is trying to steer to avoid the iceberg ...

What new fun things can I project that are both plausible, likely, and didn't feature in my earlier prognostication set a century out?

Everyone's currently focussed on anthropogenic climate change and the in-progress mass extinction. Despite the odd attempt at resurrecting extinct charismatic megafauna, the folks focussing on de-extinction of mammoths aren't talking about raising the ghosts of mammoth lice and mammoth tapeworms; only bits of the gone-away biosphere are up for revival, like preserving the frontage of a 19th century building embedded in a modern glass-and-steel office cube. Similarly, there's another extinction event going on quietly in the background: languages are vanishing, and to the extent that we can only reason about things we have words for, this may be a subtle but far-reaching loss. In fact, language is just one aspect of human culture, and what's going on in the background is a mass extinction event of variant human cultures,and their replacement by a handful of global mega-cultures. From here in the west it's easy to point the finger at Arab/Sunni islam as a rival (perceived as hostile) culture; but there's a state-supported marketing push behind it, and it's not the only one: fish don't notice the water they swim in, and our own culture is also aggressively expansionist. (Note: justifying the western free market/capitalist hegemonic system on the grounds that it brings prosperity is all very well, but it only brings prosperity to the survivors: and since 2007 it has increasing brought prosperity to an ever-smaller elite at the very apex while conditions stagnate or decline for everyone else.)

So here's a projection: by 2117, there's going to be a marked decline in the diversity of ideological and social systems in which we live, brought about by faster communications and the forced spread of the most aggressive societies. The apex societies will be mixed at ground level--there will be plenty of places where followers of religion A rub shoulders with members of economic system B--but they're still hegemonic ideologies, and there will be friction where they rub up against each other. There's also going to be a decline in the number of languages spoken: the main world languages will be down to English, Mandarin, Spanish, and some dialect of Arabic (Arabic is highly fragmented), plus surviving secondary languages with large bodies of adherents (over a hundred million each: for example German, Russian, Japanese).

We're also going to see the widespread deployment of deep learning driven machine translation and, most importantly, near-real-time interpretation. There'll be less reason for a native speaker of an apex language to learn other tongues simply because such a language gives direct access to over a billion other people and translation between apex languages will be at least as accurate as translation between English and Donald Trump speeches at this time.

And the apex languages will have changed considerably.

This goes beyond picking up new vocabulary (imagine a time traveller from 1917 trying to follow a discussion about viewing youtube videos of cruise missile strikes on ISIS positions in Syria on iPhones: the grammatical structure is accessible but a lot of the noun parts cannot be clarified without a dizzying deep dive into unimagined-in-1917 new technologies). Let's consider English--which I expect will still be around as a trade language, at least, simply because it's already so widespread. We're already seeing a shift towards simplified spelling (as practied in the US dialect) and towards abandonment of some punctuation forms; the semi-colon may be on the way out, as is the plural apostrophe, just as a number of characters used in old English (the thorn or "y"-like character, for example) vanished. More controversially English: is going to acquire a new writing system. Not all languages use a single alphabet; consider Japanese, with its eclectic mixture of syllabaries (hiragana and katakana), logographic ideograms (kanji), and romanji (roman alphabet, mostly used for loan words), not to mention arabic numerals. English currently has about three main writing systems (if we exclude shorthand notations, now a dying form, and Braile): we have roman block lettering in upper and lower case, we have arabic numerals, and we have cursive handwritten forms (also now slowly dying out). But a fourth English form is rapidly emerging in the shape of emoji, which I think are best viewed as a secondary ideographic written form optimised for visually dense text on display devices. Emoji are pared down and lack a bunch of the characteristics we associate with English grammar such as tenses and punctuation and verb conjugation ... but that's not what they're for. I suspect that over the next century (assuming we don't lose our technological infrastructure) current mechanisms for writing will be supplanted by newer ones--e.g. the replacement of discrete mechanical keys on keyboards with multitouch keyboards and then with gestural/swipe interfaces, where each dictionary word is replaced by a directional ideogram swiped across a QWERTY keymap, until eventually the ideogram replaces the alphabetic word or is auto-replaced by a corresponding emoji.

So: gradual obsolescence of some grammatical forms, appearance of entire new writing systems, unforseen changes due to the vagaries of machine translation, assimilation of loan words from other cultures, and the 2117 equivalent of "don't drone me, bro" (new shorthand to describe stuff that has become the new normal).

What am I overlooking?

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ahmetasabanci
65 days ago
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A writer’s perspective

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Writers’ block is something different these days. It’s not just the fear of putting things on the paper and having them stand there in the physical world, to be dissected or dismantled or ignored by readers at some point in the future. Most blocks today aren’t about writing, but of having to deal with the immediate response of people reading one’s writing online.

I haven’t wanted to blog in almost a year. The web isn’t a safe place for writers anymore. Animosity toward “the media” as a whole has been so amped up by government propaganda that readers are open firing on “the messengers.” The user experience for reading online text is so uncomfortable that readers are even less able to differentiate between individual writers than 10 years ago when blogging was just starting to go mainstream. There is a detachment between the text and the people who created it in the minds of most readers. They hate “the media,” or “the liberal media” or “the conservative media,” so they lash out everywhere they can with their ill-informed opinions, not considering that “the media” is just a group of individuals with wide-ranging qualities. If someone says “I hate Americans,” and you are one, you say hey, that’s not fair. There are shitty members of the media just like there are shitty Americans, ones that damage the image of the group to outsiders. And then there’s everyone else. The ones who have to avoid people who think in binary terms.

Some readers of “the media” latch onto articles like toddlers grabbing a toy a few years too advanced for them, slobbering all over it without understanding what it does, and then throwing it aside, not caring if it breaks. The poor toy. That wasn’t how it was meant to be enjoyed.

One of the first interviews I conducted was with Bill Keller, the then-EIC of the New York Times. He described his role as being “a political chew toy.” I didn’t really understand what he meant back then, but I do now.

What if we could write knowing our content would go only where it’s respected? What if we could publish without having to worry about being objectified, insulted, threatened? We pretend like free speech is something that exists here in the United States, but let’s be real: if you can’t write about a touchy subject without having to worry about someone finding your personal information and burning your house down, are you really free to speak? I haven’t experienced a fraction of the abuse some writers have, but it hasn’t stopped me from developing an aversion to the whole system, a system that is mainly designed by men who crave control of the public consciousness.

Life as a writer has been strange all-around, but over the past few years it’s been downright unbearable. Once I met a guy at a party who was studying journalism at a big journalism university here in NYC. I told him I’m a journalist too. “Oh, what do you have like, a blog or something?” “Yeah.. or something.” Sometimes I don’t even want to engage anymore. When I walked away, and someone clued him in that my portfolio extends beyond a blog, he Googled me and came back full of compliments, wanting to get closer, to know me more. Sorry, but I saw you the first time, and I don’t actually want to know you at all.

If you’re a writer and you don’t guard yourself well, people behave like they are automatically entitled to your time, as if you’re a public utility funded by taxpayer dollars. Maybe we should be, because the alternatives are sure as hell not working, but we’re not, which makes our time ours. Sometimes, unprompted, they immediately dump their saddest story or deepest secret on you. I usually listen with inescapable empathy, while I think to myself, I didn’t ask, and I really don’t want to know. Being the bearer of secrets is a responsibility, a parasite that we’re forced to then carry around until we can find a new host. But it seems the machine that used to accept our burdens is only accepting parasites from corporations now. Freelance journalists are left to try to drown their parasites with trusted others in dimply lit bars, and they usually come back.

Usually when I tell people I’m a writer, they immediately try to exploit me. They want attention, they want “press” for their super cool new company that’s going to change the world because it’s the Uber for ___ (insert whatever bullshit people don’t actually need here). Why do they assume that their desire to know me, a New York writer, trumps my desire to be left alone? I don’t like to lie to people, so I just excuse myself and let them think what they want. It was worse when I was at Wired. That affiliation transformed me from Arikia Millikan into Internet Magazine Editor ID # 1835103. I have 150,000 unread emails in my inbox to prove it. To so many people, writers are a tool, a stepping stone, a weapon. Nobody asks us if we consent.

Usually, I write about people namelessly, as anecdotes to make whatever point I’m making, or just to stretch the blogging muscles. Sometimes they see a post and assume that it’s about them. Usually it’s not, but sometimes they’re right. Either way, someone is out there feeling entitled to qualify my literary perspective. They say: I can’t believe you made me sound so dumb, or so mean. They try to argue with my perspective, if it didn’t align with theirs. They attack me like it’s my fault for observing them acting a certain way. I want to tell them: have you instead considered not acting like that, if you don’t want to be seen as someone who acts like that? But usually I just wind up feeling censored. Inspiring a transformation in one person is never the goal with my writing, unless it’s a personal email addressed to them. If you want to play muse in a writer’s work, whatever, but don’t then go to her with hurt feelings because she saw something in you that you wouldn’t include in your conference biography.

People are so used to having Instagram filters, they forget what reality looks like.

Usually I’m mined but other times, when I meet someone randomly and they inevitably ask what I do, and tell them I’m a writer, they immediately go on the defensive. Like I’m a paparazzi who has somehow telepathically magnetized them over to me at a bar just so I can pry into their life. I then have to explain: I don’t do that kind of writing, I’m at a bar, I’m not working right now, I would never care enough to write about your Wall Street dealings to write about you even if I was paid. In fact, I would quit my job if I was forced to write about you. People are my favorite subject to write about, but I have no desire to write about most people on anyone else’s terms.

Increasingly, that’s what journalists are being asked to do in the professional world. The publishers sold out, the editorial walls have crumbled, or were never built in the first place online, the way they once were with print media. Advertisers feel entitled to demand journalists attention and coverage in ways they define with demands. I may think the more interesting angle is about how your company is destroying the rainforest, but my editor may tell me the obvious angle is to write about what a philanthropist the founder is. Why does anyone wonder why journalism is declining?

Most people don’t know the difference between PR and journalism. Even less people will be able to define in 10 years, as the new generation enters the arena. One time I was at a party for a big, trendy media company, and I went up to the VIP lounge to escape the crowd. I wound up talking to a woman who was about my age when I started off interning in the NYC media world. She was telling me about her job, how she reads the press releases and then she writes them up in fun language. I asked her where she finds stories outside of press releases, and she looked at me with bewilderment. It had never occurred to her that story ideas came from places outside of press releases. I think that was the moment I really lost faith in the industry.

So that’s it. That’s where I am right now, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. This is my dismal perspective, sponsored by no one. And I am entitled to it.




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ahmetasabanci
65 days ago
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Security Advice

3 Comments and 12 Shares
Never give your password or bank account number to anyone who doesn't have a blue check mark next to their name.
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ahmetasabanci
75 days ago
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sjk
52 days ago
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Is this in reference to the Correct Horse Battery Staple password schema that made user account security worse?
Florida
Covarr
81 days ago
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Don't respond to emails.
Moses Lake, WA
alt_text_bot
81 days ago
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Never give your password or bank account number to anyone who doesn't have a blue check mark next to their name.
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