A Night at The Garden

On February 20, 1939, 20,000 gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City to celebrate the rise of Nazism.

Film producer Marshall Curry worked with an archivist to pull together the clips of footage to tell a cohesive story. Not surprisingly, it looks eerily similar to today’s events with some Americans succumbing to such evil. Said Curry:

 They attack the press, using sarcasm and humor. They tell their followers that they are the true Americans (or Germans or Spartans or…). And they encourage their followers to “take their country back” from whatever minority group has ruined it.

History is a GIF loop.

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Question the algorithms

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Photo by David Werbrouck

It is a canard to think that math can’t fail. All you need to do is look at the way society constructs algorithms – from job and college applications to Facebook feeds to find out that sorting can be wrong and biased.

In the case of the 2016 election, algorithms did more harm than good. Facebook fed the internet silos with fake news. As Cathy O’Neil author of Weapons of Math Destruction puts it in a 99% Invisible podcast: “The internet is a propaganda machine.”


We’ve adopted the factory mindset of mass-sorting, leaving the anxiety of decision-making up to machines. Humans are pieces of data, waiting to be organized by the least valuable candidate or customer.

There’s too many of us and not enough time to make individual considerations. But a conversation around algorithmic frailty might do us some good. Making generalizations impedes the magic of a discovering an outlier.

Elements that remove the glare

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Photo by Wells Baum

The emerging reality that the ones glaring inside are too noisy to ignore, making space for the meek to inherit the earth.

The powers of nature can too be political. But the elemental energies lend their powers to the working citizens.

There is no expiration date on the freedom of the communal tact. The amalgamation of hope carries with it the elements of uncertainty. But it also slides confidently with a gust of wind.

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gif by Wells Baum

The running contradictions in your head


A tangle or an analogy,

The justice of the individual or the institution,

The questioner or the lemming,

The power of the strongest or the hidden clout of subjects,

“We’d all be tyrants if we could,”

But we wouldn’t last very long if nature had its way,

If heaven is only a mile away,

Heaven on earth is in your heart.

Listen to In Our Time, Plato’s Republic

‘Forgetting makes us happy’

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Image by Wells Baum

“Forgetting makes us happy’ proclaimed Nietzsche. But it is in the pursuit of something better that we fail to realize the good we already have.

Look no further than at today’s barbarism. History is a gif loop; it dares to be repeated as we grow frustrated with the kindness of our cultured past.

The future thrives on the protection of ideals and ideas, even if they defy the laws of nature. Humans are inherently coercive and imperfect. But books exist to keep us honest. They remind us of the valor of doing the right thing.

Is it worth defying history and throwing in the towel to start all over again? ‘Destroy and rebuild it;’ it is the stain of bad tendencies that linger.

Never forget.

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Image by Wells Baum

On criticism

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via giphy

The doer wants acknowledgment for their work. They want people to scream their hosannas. But criticism is democratic.

Not everyone likes Radiohead’s last album. Every Trump tweet draws liberal contestants. Where you fall in the Messi versus Ronaldo or Jordan versus Lebron debate could be a preference based on your birth date. Opines literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch:

“Everyone brings his or her own values and standards to the work of judging. This means that it is also, essentially, democratic. No canon of taste or critical authority can compel people to like what they don’t like.”

As an artist, athlete, CEO, US president, some criticism is better than none at all. My newest book Train of Thought has zero reviews. I’d rather have one star and a bad review just to confirm that someone had a look.

Criticism is integral to an informed democracy. Even the maker is a critic. Their rebuttals are neither valid nor invalid but mere reason. Conversely, the reviewer is also a professional; even a stream of invective is a manifestation of analysis and interpretation.

Perhaps it is the inner-critic that is the most annoying of all. It’s the one that wants both artist and analyst to say and do nothing but remain in a state of paralysis.

What’s most important therefore is the opinion itself. Consent is an illusion reserved for lemmings. Now feel free to criticize this post in the comments below.

How status and likability affect your health 

gif via Tony Babel

Popular people live longer.

As social animals, the number of friends predetermines our well-being, all the way down to modifying our DNA.

Loners may pass away sooner, but it’s not a matter of popularity. The number of people we know means nothing if they don’t actually like us back. There’s return on relationships.

Think back to high school: were you amiable or sworn to attention?

The same question applies to our behavior online. It’s rare to have both status — millions of followers — and likability. And the difference between the two is subtle.

Explains UNC psychology professor and author of the forthcoming book Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World:

“Likability is markedly different from status — an ultimately less satisfying form of popularity that reflects visibility, influence, power, and prestige. Status can be quantified by social media followers; likability cannot.”

Trump has thirty million Twitter followers, a majority of which follow him to see what the lightning rod of criticism says next. Both the attention and scorn make him miserable. If you’re looking for happiness in the credibility of numbers, social media may be the wrong game to play.

Happiness is tied to likeability, not our number of followers. If we want to extend our lives, it pays to be both well-known and well-liked. Hint: try to be nice to people, share upfront, and don’t be surprised if they remember your name.

Shadow of a doubt


The software and hardware companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook want us to trust them. The theory is that our information is better kept stored with them in a private cloud rather than with the government. Outside America, however, the NSA can collect our information without a search warrant.

The internet companies are not only American-based, their manifest destiny makes them look like hegemonic colonizers.


“This is a dilemma of the feudal internet. We seek protection from these companies because they can offer us security,” says Maciej Cegłowski. “But their business model is to make us more vulnerable, by getting us to surrender more of the details of our lives to their servers, and to put more faith in the algorithms they train on our observed behavior.”

We are all citizens of tech companies, trading privacy for free communication. But the users are the ads and coders are the kings; the latter which convert our interests and attention into ad revenue.

Technology platforms appear to be doing more harm than the good. Most recently, they’ve facilitated fake news and ushered in FOMO-hitting mental health issues.

The internet is as indispensable as water but it’s also a perceivable threat when the few that run the show are creating new problems while hesitating to solve them.

Are You Lost In The World Like Me?

We reach for the phone to find ourselves. We’d rather outsource our frustration and boredom to a widget than deal with our anxieties directly.

The mobile phone makes it easier to cope (read: ignore) the world going on around us. It’s easy: we just don’t pay attention; plus, we can crush dissent with our own filters. But echo chambers confirm prejudice.

There’s chaos in the cosmos, disorder in peace. If we can’t tolerate ambiguity, then we’ll succumb to the fickleness of weather patterns.

Perhaps the lost are found, the only ones looking up.

Social media divides democracy 

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Social media divides democracy by allowing people to filter their own world and ignore the stuff they don’t agree with.

Disagreement is the pulse of an open society. The more ideas we throw out there and discuss, the more likely we are to land on the most advanced solution.

Facebook killed openness and smothered curiosity along with it. One way to rebuild healthy dissent is through more democratic design.

In his new book, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein proposes that Facebook should have ‘serendipity buttons’ that reveal the opposite side’s viewpoint with a click.

We are the sum of our parts, easily driven into stagnancy and sidedness through closed worlds. Nothing evolves through repetition. Variety yields results.

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Postponement…

Image via Ander Burdain

The foundation pen: it slows down your writing thereby strengthening the complexity/simplicity of your thoughts. At some point the prose will need to be digitized.  

Global warming: it accelerates the seasons so the weather is fickle all the time. We are living in the data without imminent catastrophe, hence the lack of urgency. 

Nationalism: its rerise imbalances world order, making countries ripe to engage in games of zero-sum. An empire falls. 

We sacrifice the long-game for short-term gains. The little things add up until they trigger an emergency. Yet, the alarm was on the whole time.