Glenn Greenwald reports on more documents from Edward Snowden’s cache, this batch on how GCHQ uses online deception and other tactics to discredit hacktivists and possibly other political activists:
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. [...]
Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.
Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).
Full Story: The Intercept: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations
What’s more, the GCHQ admit in one of the docs that this activity has nothing to do with terrorism or even national security.
Obama advisor suggests “cognitive infiltration”
DARPA Looks to “Counteract” Propaganda in Social Networks
Adam Alter writes:
According to a great deal of research, positive fantasies may lessen your chances of succeeding. In one experiment, the social psychologists Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer asked eighty-three German students to rate the extent to which they “experienced positive thoughts, images, or fantasies on the subject of transition into work life, graduating from university, looking for and finding a job.” Two years later, they approached the same students and asked about their post-college job experiences. Those who harbored positive fantasies put in fewer job applications, received fewer job offers, and ultimately earned lower salaries. The same was true in other contexts, too. Students who fantasized were less likely to ask their romantic crushes on a date and more likely to struggle academically. Hip-surgery patients also recovered more slowly when they dwelled on positive fantasies of walking without pain.
Full Story: The New Yorker: The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking
The cult of “positive thinking” – Barbara Ehrenreich discusses her new book on Democracy Now
Smile or Die: Bright Sided as a 10 Minute Marker Board Cartoon
Beyond Growth – Technoccult interviews Duff McDuffee and Eric Schiller
Quartz reports on a recent study on scientific breakthroughs:
James Murphy, the former frontman of the band LCD Soundsystem, made what he called the biggest mistake of his life at 21, when he turned down a writing job on a sitcom that was about to launch.
The sitcom’s name was Seinfeld.
Instead, he lurched around, working as a bouncer and later a DJ before finally releasing the first LCD Soundsystem album at the not-so-tender age of 35.
Murphy might have been older than some of his dance-rock peers, but his experience is fairly common among people who experience major creative breakthroughs, according to a new paper from NBER.
The authors examined the high points of the careers of both great inventors and Nobel-Prize winning scientists, and they found that the late 30s were the sweet spot for strokes of genius.
Full Story: Quartz: Why major creative breakthroughs happen in your late thirties
Vice Mother Board reports on a report robotics job ads by Wanted Analytics:
So even if it seems more intuitive that robots should be taking over brick masonry, it also shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that robotics would also be in demand for health care. The first job of the robots is maintaining people, poetically enough. Still, the fact that Wanted found that 65 percent of robotics jobs were going toward health care is pretty surprising.
The robotics specialists are up to interesting things though. Physicians offices are looking for people to “design, develop, and analyze devices for the expansion of the image guided robotics program for minimally invasive procedures and surgery,” and assist in the use of those programs.
Full Story: Vice Mother Board: Where the Robots Are Creating Jobs
Black box recorders are a common feature in aircraft. They sit there keeping track of everything that is happening. Then, if something goes wrong the information can be reviewed to piece together exactly what happened and form a view of the events that may otherwise have been lost.
Now the Pentagon is attempting to develop a similar system for use in humans, and in particular soldiers who have suffered brain damage. If they could be fitted with a black box in their brain, then it may be possible to trigger memories surrounding a traumatic event and overcome memory loss quickly and easily. [...]
It’s common to see memory loss in someone suffering brain damage, but they can also forget their personal details and skills, such as remembering their own name, who their family is, and even how to drive. As well as stimulating the brain to recover recent memories, it is hoped the implant would be able to recall common information and therefore help them remember who they are.
Full Story: Geek.com: Pentagon wants to fit soldiers with a little black box brain implant
Fully Wireless Brain Implants Are Closer Than You Think
DARPA Temporary Tattoos Want a Tattoo That Tracks Troops’ Vitals
Researchers Call for the Creation of Supersoldiers
BBC radio is running an audio documentary on William S. Burroughs in celebration of his 100th birthday, which was February 5th:
Iggy Pop reflects on Burroughs’ extraordinary life with close friends and artists that felt his influence. Contributors include James Grauerholz, Will Self, Victor Bockris, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Genesis P-Orridge and John Waters.
Full Story: Burroughs at 100. It says “two days left to listen” at the bottom of the page, so hurry!
(via V. Vale)
Protesters stormed the stage during a Google-led panel on mindfulness at the Wisdom 2.0 conference last Saturday to display a banner reading “Eviction Free San Francisco.”
Tricycle’s Alex Caring-Lobel reports on the incident and concludes:
Bringing Buddhist meditation techniques into industry accomplishes two things for industry. It does actually give companies like Google something useful for an employee’s well-being, but it also neutralizes a potentially disruptive adversary. Buddhism has its own orienting perspectives, attitudes, and values, as does American corporate culture. And not only are they very different from each other, they are also often fundamentally opposed to each other.
A benign way to think about this is that once people experience the benefits of mindfulness they will become interested in the dharma and develop a truer appreciation for Buddhism—and that would be fine. But the problem is that neither Buddhists nor employees are in control of how this will play out. Industry is in control. This is how ideology works. It takes something that has the capacity to be oppositional, like Buddhism, and it redefines it. And somewhere down the line, we forget that it ever had its own meaning.
It’s not that any one active ideology accomplishes all that needs to be done; rather, it is the constant repetition of certain themes and ideas that tend to construct a kind of “nature.” Ideology functions by saying “this is nature”—this is the way things are; this is the way the world is. So, Obama talks about STEM, scientists talk about the human computer, universities talk about “workforce preparation,” and industry talks about the benefits of the neuroscience of meditation, but it all becomes something that feels like a consistent world, and after a while we lose the ability to look at it skeptically. At that point we no longer bother to ask to be treated humanly. At that point we accept our fate as mere functions. Ideology’s job is to make people believe that their prison is a pleasure dome.
Full Story: Tricycle: Protesters crash Google talk on corporate mindfulness at Wisdom 2.0 conference
(via Al Billings)
In the latest episode of Mindful Cyborgs, Chris Dancy, Alex Williams and I talked about distributed autonomous corporations (DACs), Her and more. Here I am trying to explain the idea of DACs:
Working on a couple of stories that should be up by the time this podcast goes up on an idea that’s spreading through the Bitcoin community called distributed autonomous corporations and the idea is that Bitcoin is actually already one of these things. It’s like a bank that isn’t really owned by anyone and exists on its own. So, as long as at least a few people running the Bitcoin software somewhere in the world is going to keep going. So, pretty much as long as people are using it will exist without anybody really going and shutting it down.
The only people with an ownership stake are the people who own Bitcoin who are the people which is awarded to miners. So, they’re sort of like shareholders in a corporation. So, it kind of rethinks Bitcoin as less as like a currency and more as a corporation that awards stock and there’s a few other of these things.
Alex and I talked about Twister I think last time which is a Twitter clone that uses Bitcoin protocol. Doesn’t actually use Bitcoins at all, the actual Bitcoin network for authentication and uses BitTorrent for distribution. So, it’s a similar thing only it’s a social network that just exists out there running in the world. The miners are just awarded with promoted messages on the network. The only way you get paid is through advertisements, which is a very attention economy sort of idea I guess.
Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Distributed Autonomous Corporations Find Love in All the Wrong Places
So far only one of the stories I mentioned, my article on Ethereum is up. But here’s another article on the idea of DACs.
Sci-fi writer Tim Maughan on graffiti:
My own interest in graffiti dates back to my first teenage introduction to hip-hop culture in the mid-1980s, when the first images of New York subway art started to make their way over the pond in magazines and, much rarer, snippets of TV alongside those first rare glimpses of block parties, scratch DJs, rappers, and breakdancers. Apart from their raw visceral energy, both hip hop music and graffiti struck me as intensely science-fictional. Both are about the appropriation of technology to create something new?—?hip-hop taking samplers and turntables to generate new sounds they weren’t designed to make, and graf taking car repair paint and the very architecture of cities to create new visual spaces and canvases. They are, perhaps, the most literal expression of William Gibson’s famous cyberpunk-defining phrase ‘the street finds its own use for things’.
Gibson’s early works, and those of his many lesser imitators, would herald the hacker as the rebellious hero of the future; a trope that would immeasurably shape everything from political activism to venture capitalism in the decades to follow. Perhaps the stereotypical image of the hacker as lone digital warrior, skulking over keyboards in screen-glare lit rooms seems very far removed from the image of the spray can welding, shadow dwelling, trespassing graffiti writer, but the two subcultures share a startlingly similar set of goals, values, and approaches: both look to subvert existing infrastructures and systems, both value one-upmanship and bragging rights, and neither can resist the illegal thrill of breaking-and-entering?—?whether physical or virtual?—?even when the risk of being caught may well lead to ruthless, draconian punishment. Both also share, perhaps most importantly, an aesthetic obsession with the future?—?something apparent in the work of artist Leonard McGurr, better known as FUTURA 2000.
Full Story: Futures Exchange: Graffiti: 40 Years of Hacking New York City
Maughan’s short story on graf “Paint Work”
More by Maughan