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…
My Lyft driver had these on his Toyota Camry today. I laughed.
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.
The main texts used in this course include the following. You can find them in our collection of Free eBooks, or purchase copies online.
- Plato, Trial and Death of Socrates
- Plato, Republic
- Aristotle, Politics
- Machiavelli, The Prince
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
- John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Political Writings
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
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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 eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
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…)
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?
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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—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
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Ursula K. Le Guin Wants Everyone to Know the Huge Difference Between 'Alternative Facts' and Fiction
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…
William Smith’s 19th-century geological maps of Britain are now available online via an interactive map interface. [Maps Mania]
The Harvey Wallbuilder
Vodka, orange juice, and Galliano L’Autentico, garnished with an IOU from Mexico.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 ...
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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.
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:
There’s much more to see, including glacial movement in Antarctica, urban growth, forest gain and loss, and infrastructure development:
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.
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.
Ian McShane (Deadwood, Lovejoy) 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!
"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.
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…)
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…
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.
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.
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…)
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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:
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”