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09 Feb 21:47

10 Samurai Jack Episodes You Need to Rewatch During Its Massive Online Marathon

by James Whitbrook

Excellent news: Samurai Jack is back next month! Even excellenter news: To celebrate, Adult Swim is streaming all 52 episodes of the show on loop, available for free online with no ads, right goddamn now. You should watch all of it, of course, but here are 10 episodes you just can’t miss before the new season returns…

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09 Feb 21:46

"Objects in mirror are on the dark side" Star Wars sideview stickers

by Jason Weisberger

My Lyft driver had these on his Toyota Camry today. I laughed.

Objects in Mirror Are on the Dark Side - Decals Stickers via Amazon

08 Feb 18:51

Tech Still Doesn’t Get Diversity. Here’s How to Fix It

by Michael Connor
Tech Still Doesn’t Get Diversity. Here’s How to Fix It
Opinion: By failing to hire more women and people of color, tech companies do themselves---and their shareholders---a disservice. The post Tech Still Doesn’t Get Diversity. Here’s How to Fix It appeared first on WIRED.
08 Feb 18:42

Introduction to Political Philosophy: A Free Yale Course

by Dan Colman

Democracy is not a given. The Greeks experimented with it. Then it faded into oblivion, only to return many centuries later. Nowadays, democracy structures much of our modern world. But could it do a disappearing act again? If there’s enough complaceny and duplicity, you can’t rule it out.

All of this is to say, it’s a good time to think about democracy and its alternatives. And to do that, you can spend time with Yale University’s free course, Introduction to Political Philosophy. Taught by professor Steven B. Smith, the course covers the following ground:

This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.

You can watch the 24 lectures from the course above, or find them on YouTube and iTunes. To get more information on the course, including the syllabus, visit this Yale website.

The main texts used in this course include the following. You can find them in our collection of Free eBooks, or purchase copies online.

Introduction to Political Philosophy will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. There you can find a specialized list of Free Online Philosophy Courses.

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Why Socrates Hated Democracies: An Animated Case for Why Self-Government Requires Wisdom & Education

6 Political Theorists Introduced in Animated “School of Life” Videos: Marx, Smith, Rawls & More

Free: Listen to John Rawls’ Course on “Modern Political Philosophy” (Recorded at Harvard, 1984)

Introduction to Political Philosophy: A Free Yale Course is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

07 Feb 23:46

Myst's Robyn Miller talks about his favorite music-making tools

by Mark Frauenfelder

My guest on the Cool Tools Show week is Robyn Miller. Robyn co-founded Cyan Worlds in the late 1980s, where he designed and directed the landmark video games Myst and its sequel Riven. In 2010, he co-founded Zoo Break Gun Club LLC, with producer/filmmaker Mischa Jakupcak. ZBGC has produced several films and has projects in development for film, television and virtual reality. (more…)

07 Feb 19:29

Why Setting Goals Can Actually Make You Less Successful

by Stephanie Vozza

Sometimes goal setting can lead to a narrow focus that may lead you to limit yourself and miss opportunities. Just ask cab drivers.

Sometimes goal setting can lead to a narrow focus that may lead you to limit yourself and miss opportunities. Just ask cab drivers.

It may seem that planning out your goals in weekly, monthly, and yearly increments would be a blueprint for success. But could a more haphazard approach actually be better?

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07 Feb 19:21

Anti-Defamation League Reports Striking Uptick in "Hate-Related Incidents" in Houston

Swastikas spray-painted on fences and signs in Sienna Plantation. Students saluting Adolf Hitler during Cypress-Ranch High School's senior class picture day. Racist and anti-Semitic  fliers distributed at universities and in neighborhoods across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. All of that happened in just one week, leading the Anti-Defamation League's...
07 Feb 18:49

I Am Not Your Negro Clip Destroys the “I Have a Black Friend Therefore Am Not Racist” Myth

by Keisha Hatchett

After watching Ava DuVernay’s 13th, a deep dive into America’s broken prison system and how it’s a new form of slavery, you should definitely check out the documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film is based on activist James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, and it explores racism in America through his recollection of civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The clip above, titled “Segregation,” perfectly explains how a white person who has black friends or is really nice to their black maid doesn’t automatically mean they’re not racist. As he recalls in the video, his friends would invite him other to their house but never came to his. They were segregated not just in school, but in life because that white friend doesn’t know his experience outside of their limited interactions. “I’m sure they have nothing against Negroes [but] that’s really not the question,” Baldwin says. “The question is really a kind of apathy and ignorance.”

Basically, just because one isn’t burning crosses on their black friend’s lawn doesn’t mean they can’t be racist. For those with a black friend who refuse to visit that person’s neighborhood or are uninterested in hearing about their experiences, the question to ask yourself is why.

(image via screencap)

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03 Feb 18:21

'To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics'

by msmash
Excerpts from an article on Quanta Magazine, rearranged for clarity and space: Math conferences don't usually feature standing ovations, but Francis Su received one last month in Atlanta. In his talk he framed mathematics as a pursuit uniquely suited to the achievement of human flourishing, a concept the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia, or a life composed of all the highest goods. Su talked of five basic human desires that are met through the pursuit of mathematics: play, beauty, truth, justice and love. Su opened his talk with the story of Christopher, an inmate serving a long sentence for armed robbery who had begun to teach himself math from textbooks he had ordered. After seven years in prison, during which he studied algebra, trigonometry, geometry and calculus, he wrote to Su asking for advice on how to continue his work. After Su told this story, he asked the packed ballroom at the Marriott Marquis, his voice breaking: "When you think of who does mathematics, do you think of Christopher?" If mathematics is a medium for human flourishing, it stands to reason that everyone should have a chance to participate in it. But in his talk Su identified what he views as structural barriers in the mathematical community that dictate who gets the opportunity to succeed in the field -- from the requirements attached to graduate school admissions to implicit assumptions about who looks the part of a budding mathematician. When Su finished his talk, the audience rose to its feet and applauded, and many of his fellow mathematicians came up to him afterward to say he had made them cry. [...] Mathematics builds skills that allow people to do things they might otherwise not have been able to do or experience. If I learn mathematics and I become a better thinker, I develop perseverance, because I know what it's like to wrestle with a hard problem, and I develop hopefulness that I will actually solve these problems. And some people experience a kind of transcendent wonder that they're seeing something true about the universe. That's a source of joy and flourishing.

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03 Feb 16:41

Ursula K. Le Guin Wants Everyone to Know the Huge Difference Between 'Alternative Facts' and Fiction

by Katharine Trendacosta

The word “alternative” appears both in the fun new craze sweeping the government (“alternative facts”) and in a few science fiction staple ideas (“alternate history” and “alternate universe,” for example). Despite that superficial similarity, legendary scifi author Ursula K. Le Guin wants to make sure no one confuses…

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03 Feb 16:40

William Smith’s Geological Maps Online

by Jonathan Crowe

Screenshot

William Smith’s 19th-century geological maps of Britain are now available online via an interactive map interface. [Maps Mania]

03 Feb 16:39

List: Trump Cocktails for Every Occasion

The Harvey Wallbuilder

Vodka, orange juice, and Galliano L’Autentico, garnished with an IOU from Mexico.

Twittertini

140 ounces of all caps, exclamation points, and petty complaints. Best served at 3 AM with typos.

A Shot of Bannon

Mix pure evil, bad skin, rheumy eyes, and domestic abuse with white nationalism and fascism. Stir until you develop Cirrhosis of the Soul.

Muslims Go! Mojito

Create the most delicious, welcoming drink 200 years ago. Then decide in 2017 that it’s for Christians only. Sorry!

Gin and Panic

Gin consumed directly from bottle while sitting in a dark closet reading news alerts on iPhone.

Bloody Mary Bleeding Out of Her Wherever

Tomato juice and vodka, served with a jumbo tampon that was not procured at a local Planned Parenthood office.

Omarosa Mimosa

Bitter orange juice mixed with the only black liqueur the orange juice has ever tolerated.

Grab the Pussy on the Beach

A short-fingered pour.

Pre-existing Condition on the Rocks

Crushed Tylenol dropped into a large glass of whiskey. This is also now your Primary Care physician.

Alternate Factarita

Lime juice, with enough tequila to make you forget that you lost the popular vote and then declared yourself Bartender of the World.

St. Petersburg Ice Tea

Send email to your mother on a private server asking for recipe. Answer will be sent to you from a “Mrs. Nice Lady American Person Who Is Not Spy.”

The Kellyanne Cosmo

Vodka, Triple Sec, and not even a splash of compassion or morality. Prepare while wearing a garish red, white, and blue Teddy Bear costume.

White Russian Election Rigger

Coffee-flavored liquor and ice. Sip while simultaneously giving Putin his massage and Assange his foot rub.

The Really Really Old Fashioned

Bourbon on the rocks. Add a splash of Jeff Sessions bitters, then enjoy while the women are in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.

Hot Toddy Planet

Whisky, honey, and enough hot water to melt all the glaciers that aren’t really melting because climate change is a myth, you liberal moron.

Nuclear Sunrise

Tell dancing fool/Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to put tequila, OJ, and grenadine syrup in a blender, then accidentally push the red button for the nuclear arsenal instead of the mix button. You’ll never know what hit you!

03 Feb 16:38

How Madden Got So Silly Good at Predicting Super Bowl Winners

by Julie Muncy
How Madden Got So Silly Good at Predicting Super Bowl Winners
EA Sports' 'Madden' games have correctly predicted the Super Bowl's outcome nine out of 13 times. How? Data. The post How Madden Got So Silly Good at Predicting Super Bowl Winners appeared first on WIRED.
03 Feb 16:35

Newswire: Depeche Mode releases “Where’s The Revolution” from upcoming album Spirit

by David Anthony

In a lengthy Rolling Stone feature, Depeche Mode announced its new album Spirit, which is coming March 17, and released the record’s first single “Where’s The Revolution?” In the interview Depeche Mode vocalist David Gahan says Spirit isn’t expressly political, but that theme seems to appear time and again. “I don’t listen to music in a political way,” said Gahan, “But it’s definitely about humanity, and our place in that.” Those humanist and quasi-social themes are evident on “Where’s The Revolution?,” a song that Gahan claims was written by the band’s chief songwriter Martin Gore in “a very sarcastic, English way.” That can be seen in the song’s chorus which reads, well, a little odd. Gahan sings, “Where’s the revolution? / Come on people, you’re letting me down” at a time when people in America are regularly organizing and activating, but ...

31 Jan 21:52

Elon Musk Thinks We Will Have To Use AI This Way To Avoid a Catastrophic Future

by msmash
Elon Musk has long said that artificial intelligence will have to augment human abilities, rather than compete with them, in order to avoid a portentous future. He has been active in trying to find ways to evaluate and reduce potential risks posed by AI. From a report: On Monday, Musk tweeted out a set of principles for AI research and development created by a group of scientists at a recent conference for the Future of Life Institute (of which Musk is a board member). Musk said in response to a comment that ensuring AI augments human abilities is "critical to the future of humanity." Musk recently told a Twitter user that there may be an announcement "next month" regarding such as device, which Musk has called, in the past, a neural lace.

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31 Jan 21:52

It’s Dystopian Sci-Fi Total War. Also, The Expanse Is Back

by Daniel Starkey
It’s Dystopian Sci-Fi Total War. Also, The Expanse Is Back
Sci-fi has a knack for addressing the present by imagining the future. 'The Expanse' nails that. The post It's Dystopian Sci-Fi Total War. Also, The Expanse Is Back appeared first on WIRED.
06 Jan 20:00

Team Chat

2078: He announces that he's finally making the jump from screen+irssi to tmux+weechat.
16 Dec 18:17

Are planets like those in 'Star Wars: Rogue One' really out there? NASA plans to find out

In the "Star Wars" universe, ice, ocean and desert planets burst from the darkness as your ship drops out of light speed. But these worlds might be more than just science fiction.
16 Dec 18:14

Our most detailed view of Earth across space and time

by Chris Herwig

In 2013, we released Google Earth Timelapse, our most comprehensive picture of the Earth's changing surface. This interactive experience enabled people to explore these changes like never before—to watch the sprouting of Dubai’s artificial Palm Islands, the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, and the impressive urban expansion of Las Vegas, Nevada. Today, we're making our largest update to Timelapse yet, with four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016. We’ve even teamed up again with our friends at TIME to give you an updated take on compelling locations. 

Miruuixiang

Meandering river in Nyingchi, Tibet, China [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

Leveraging the same techniques we used to improve Google Maps and Google Earth back in June, the new Timelapse reveals a sharper view of our planet, with truer colors and fewer distracting artifacts. A great example of this is San Francisco and Oakland in California:

Bay Bridge
San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge reconstruction [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

There’s much more to see, including glacial movement in Antarctica, urban growth, forest gain and loss, and infrastructure development:

Shirase Glacier Antarctica
Shirase Glacier, Antarctica [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus)
Hourihan Glacier
Hourihan Glacier, Antarctica [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)
Dalian Liaoning
Dalian Liaoning, China [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)
Nuflo
Nuflo de Chavez, Bolivia [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)
O'Hare Chicago
O'Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

Using Google Earth Engine, we sifted through about three quadrillion pixels—that's 3 followed by 15 zeroes—from more than 5,000,000 satellite images. For this latest update, we had access to more images from the past, thanks to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program, and fresh images from two new satellites, Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2.

We took the best of all those pixels to create 33 images of the entire planet, one for each year. We then encoded these new 3.95 terapixel global images into just over 25,000,000 overlapping multi-resolution video tiles, made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab's Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.

Ft. McMurray

Alberta Tar Sands, Canada [View in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

To view the new Timelapse, head over to the Earth Engine website. You can also view the new annual mosaics in Google Earth's historical imagery feature on desktop, or spend a mesmerizing 40 minutes watching this YouTube playlist. Happy exploring!

*Landsat imagery courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and U.S. Geological Survey. Images also contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2015- 2016.

15 Dec 22:07

Ian McShane

Ian McShane (DeadwoodLovejoy) chats with Chris about his character Al Swearengen on Deadwood, how he got into acting on TV and how he picks new projects. Ian also talks about his dad who was a professional football player, they talk about being sober and his new film The Hollow Point!

15 Dec 21:06

This is what it's like when tyranny takes hold

by Andrea James

trump-tyrrany

"What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust."

The New Yorker's Evan Osnos, with one of the best essay openings of the year, examines the posthumous memoir of Xu Hongci, a Chinese revolutionary and true believer of Mao Zedong, later imprisoned.

(more…)

08 Dec 23:53

William Gibson on individual privacy, governmental secrecy and the future of history

by Cory Doctorow

gagged_by_privacy

In a thoughtful New York Times editorial, science fiction giant William Gibson mediates on the difference between the privacy that individuals have and deserve, the privacy that governments assert ("What does it mean, in an ostensible democracy, for the state to keep secrets from its citizens?"), and what this will mean for the historians of the future. (more…)

08 Dec 23:53

The 10 Best Foreign-Language Scifi Movies of the Last 10 Years

by Cheryl Eddy

Lots of incredible science fiction movies are made outside America, though many of those movies—like next year’s French production Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets—are still made in the English language. But movie history has fielded some stellar foreign-language scifi films from Alphaville to Godzilla—and…

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08 Dec 23:50

Paradox Girl Is One of the Best Time Travel Series We've Read All Year

by James Whitbrook

Time travel can be incredibly hard to get your mind around for storytelling—but Paradox Girl is a comic that manages to use the most daunting elements of time travel, all the complex loops and non-linearity, in some of the smartest and funnest ways we’ve ever seen. It makes for one hell of a comic.

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08 Dec 23:49

SpaceX loses major contract as launch schedule slips to 2017

by Ryan Whitwam
SpaceX-Falcon-9

SpaceX is nearly done with its investigation into the recent launchpad explosion, but not soon enough for one major customer.

The post SpaceX loses major contract as launch schedule slips to 2017 appeared first on ExtremeTech.

08 Dec 22:31

Harris County Flood Control Doesn't Think Climate Change or Growth Cause Flooding

Past and present leaders of the Harris County Flood Control District do not believe that climate change has contributed to more frequent major rain events in the region or that extensive development has contributed to major flooding. That’s according to a joint feature published yesterday by the Texas Tribune and...
08 Dec 22:30

Everything is a Remix, including Star Wars, and that's how I became a writer

by Cory Doctorow

artworks-000197371802-707t3h-t

Kirby Ferguson, who created the remarkable Everything is a Remix series, has a new podcast hosted by the Recreate Coalition called Copy This and he hosted me on the debut episode (MP3) where we talked about copying, creativity, artists, and the future of the internet (as you might expect!). (more…)

07 Dec 18:41

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Makes Game For Third Annual Hour of Code

by BeauHD
Eloking writes: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter account lit up today with a message all too familiar to many indie devs: Mr. Trudeau has made a video game, and he'd like everyone to play it. It was a cute bit of promotion for Hour of Code, the computer science education event masterminded every year by the Code.org nonprofit. While the Hour of Code websites hosts one-hour tutorials (in 45 languages) for coding all sorts of simple applications, game developers may appreciate that the lion's share appears to be game projects, like the one Trudeau modified into a sort of hockey-themed Breakout variant.

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07 Dec 18:41

How I detect fake news

by Tim O'Reilly

How I traced the falsity of one internet meme, and what that teaches us about how an algorithm might do it.

I have a brother who is a big Donald Trump fan, and he frequently sends me articles from various right-wing media sources. Last week, he sent me a variant of the image below:

Fake maps
Figure 1. Fake maps claiming to correlate crime rates and Democratic votes, circulated via email.

I immediately consulted Snopes, the fact checking site for internet hoaxes, and discovered that it was, as I expected, fake. According to Snopes, these are actually both electoral maps. Per Snopes: "On 11 November 2016, the Facebook page "Subject Politics" published two maps purportedly comparing the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the 2013 crime rate in in the U.S. ... The map pictured on the bottom actually shows a 2012 electoral map that was created by Mark Newman from the Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan." Snopes was unable to verify the source of the first map, but concluded (presumably by comparing with known electoral maps) that it is in fact an incomplete electoral map from the 2016 election.

Snopes, which uses human editors for fact checking, does a good job, but they can't find every fake news story. Still, when a reputable fact-checking organization like Snopes or Politifact identifies a story as false, that's a pretty good sign.

Continuing my research, I used Google to search for other sources that might provide more insight on the relationship between the electoral map and crime rates. I quickly found this 2013 article from Business Insider, "Nine Maps That Show How Americans Commit Crime." It shows a very different picture:

violent crime per one hundred thousand people
Figure 2. Data on violent crime per one hundred thousand people, from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2012.

Since Business Insider told me the source of the data (the FBI Uniform Crime Report), I could go verify it for myself. Sure enough, the data on the FBI site matched the Business Insider map.

I tell this story of two maps to emphasize that when people are discussing the truth or falsity of news, and the responsibility of sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to help identify it, they somehow think that determining "truth" or "falsity" is something that only humans can do. But as this example shows, there are many signals of likely truth or falsity that can be verified algorithmically by a computer, often more quickly and thoroughly than they can be verified by humans:

  • Does the story or graph cite any sources? If no sources are given, it is far from certain that the story is false, but the likelihood increases that it should be investigated further. Note how the fake story with which I opened this article provided no sources, and how it was debunked by Snopes by finding the actual sources of the graphs.
  • Do the sources actually say what the article claims they say? For example, it would have been entirely possible for Business Insider to claim that the data used in their article was from the FBI, but for there to be no such data there, or for the data there to be different. Few people trace the chain of sources to their origin, like I did. Many propaganda and fake news sites rely on that failure to spread falsity. Checking sources is something that computers are much better at doing than humans.
  • Are the sources authoritative? In evaluating search quality over the years, Google has used many techniques. How long has the site been around? How often is it referenced by other sites that have themselves been determined to be reputable? (Google's PageRank algorithm, which revolutionized internet search, was a variant of scientific citation analysis, where the importance of scientific papers is evaluated by the number of other papers that reference it, and the reputation of the individuals or institutions making those references. Previous search engines had used brute force matching of the words contained in a web page with the words that the user was looking for.) Most people would find the FBI to be an authoritative source. We don't think about the tacit knowledge that lets us make that determination, and might be surprised that an algorithm lacking that knowledge might still be able to come to the same conclusion by other means. Yet, billions of people have come to rely on Google's algorithms to do just that.
  • Do the sources, if any, substantiate the account? If there is a mismatch between the story and its sources, that is a clear signal of falsity. Last week, I wrote about an eye-opening experience with fake news. I'm no Donald Trump fan, so I was prepared to believe the headline I saw on Facebook: "Mike Pence Gets 'Booed Like Crazy' at 'Hamilton'." But something quickly became apparent when I watched the actual video embedded in the story: it didn't match the description given in the article or the headline. As shown in the video, many people cheered Mike Pence as he entered the theater, and the most apparent "Boo" sounded like it was from the person holding the camera. By contrast, in the New York Times story about the same event, the description in the text closely matched the video. Many fake new stories contain jarring discrepancies between the headline and the story or between the story and its sources. Again, this is something that can be detected by a computer program (although comparing text to video may be at the outer edge of today's capabilities.) Note that the program does not have to find absolute truth; it just has to cast a reasonable doubt, just like a human jury.
  • Are there multiple independent accounts of the same story? This is a technique that was long used by human reporters in the days when truth was central to the news. A story, however juicy, would never be reported on the evidence of a single source. (The movie All the President's Men, about the reporting of the Watergate scandal, made a powerful impression on me as a young man, as have many interactions with first rate reporters in stories that I myself have been involved in over the years since.) The Huffington Post's "Booed Like Crazy" was a quote from a Tweet about the event. How many Tweets were there from audience members reporting booing? How many reported cheering, or a mix of cheering and booing? Again, searching for multiple confirming sources is something that computers can do very well.
  • If the story references quantitative data, does it do so in a way that is mathematically sound? For example, anyone who has even a little knowledge of statistics will recognize that showing absolute numbers of crime without reference to population density is fundamentally meaningless. Yes, there are more crimes committed by millions of people in New York City or Chicago than by hundreds in an area of rural Montana. That is why the FBI data referenced by the Business Insider article, which normalized crimes per 100,000 people, was inherently more plausible to me than the fake electoral maps that set me off on this particular quest for truth.

Note that when fake news is detected, there are a number of possible ways to respond:

  1. The stories can be flagged. For example, Facebook (or Gmail, since much fake news appears to be spread by email) could show an alert, similar to a security alert, that says "This story appears likely to be false. Are you sure you want to share it?" with a link to the reasons why it is suspect, or to a story that debunks it, if that is available.
  2. The stories can be given less priority, shown lower down, or less often. Google does this routinely in ranking search results. And while the idea that Facebook should do this has been more controversial, Facebook is already ranking stories, for example featuring those that drive more "engagement" over those that are more recent, and showing "more engaging" stories or stories related to ones we've already shared or liked. Once Facebook stopped showing stories in pure timeline order, they put themselves in the position of curating the feed algorithmically. It's about time they added source verification and other "truth" signals to the algorithm.
  3. The stories can be suppressed entirely if certainty is extremely high. We all rely on this level of extreme prejudice every day, since it is what email providers do to filter the email we actually want to see from the billions of spam messages sent every day.

As I wrote in my first article on the topic of fake news, Media in the age of algorithms, "The essence of algorithm design is not to eliminate all error, but to make results robust in the face of error." Much as we stop pandemics by finding infections at their source and keeping them from finding new victims, it isn't necessary to eliminate all fake news, but only to limit its spread.

Continue reading How I detect fake news.

07 Dec 18:38

Of Levant and Leviathan: Cautionary Tales from a Turbulent World

by Morgan Meis

Libya2011Muhammad Idrees Ahmad at the LA Review of Books:

A SPECTER is haunting the Levant — the specter of Hobbes.

As the democratic upheavals that swept the Arab world in 2011 have given way to bloodshed and instability, Western mavens are reverting to old verities. The Arab world is “not ready for democracy” they say. To restore order, to contain passions, and, above all, to protect the West from the twin dangers of terror and migration, the Arab world will need its Leviathans. For most of the post-colonial era, friendly autocrats had protected the West from these threats; they are being called into service again. If dungeons and dictators are the price of security, they reason, at least the costs are borne by others.

The United States’s dalliance with “democracy promotion” was brief and had already ended in Iraq by 2010. The Arab Spring was a blip. In Iraq, despite Nouri al-Maliki’s determined effort to shape the outcome of the 2010 parliamentary elections, his sectarian bloc had secured fewer seats than a cross-sectarian alliance led by Iyad Allawi. In a surprise move, the US government backed Maliki to serve as prime minster for a second term. “Iraq is not ready for democracy,” General Ray Odierno was told by Chris Hill, an Obama Administration official, “[it] needs a Shia strongman.”

more here.