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Category Archives: Transhuman News
Posted: May 29, 2020 at 1:12 am
University of Oxford
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Oxford and Cambridge, the oldest universities in Britain and two of the oldest in the world, are keeping a watchful eye on the buzzy field of artificial intelligence (AI), which has been hailed as a technology that will bring about a new industrial revolution and change the world as we know it.
Over the last few years, each of the centuries-old institutions have pumped millions of pounds into researching the possible risks associated with machines of the future.
Clever algorithms can already outperform humans at certain tasks. For example, they can beat the best human players in the world at incredibly complex games like chess and Go, and they're able to spot cancerous tumors in a mammogram far quicker than a human clinician can. Machines can also tell the difference between a cat and a dog, or determine a random person's identity just by looking at a photo of their face. They can also translate languages, drive cars, and keep your home at the right temperature. But generally speaking, they're still nowhere near as smart as the average 7-year-old.
The main issue is that AI can't multitask. For example, a game-playing AI can't yet paint a picture. In other words, AI today is very "narrow" in its intelligence. However, computer scientists at the the likes of Google and Facebook are aiming to make AI more "general" in the years ahead, and that's got some big thinkers deeply concerned.
Nick Bostrom, a 47-year-old Swedish born philosopher and polymath, founded the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at the University of Oxford in 2005 to assess how dangerous AI and other potential threats might be to the human species.
In the main foyer of the institute, complex equations beyond most people's comprehension are scribbled on whiteboards next to words like "AI safety" and "AI governance." Pensive students from other departments pop in and out as they go about daily routines.
It's rare to get an interview with Bostrom, a transhumanist who believes that we can and should augment our bodies with technology to help eliminate ageing as a cause of death.
"I'm quite protective about research and thinking time so I'm kind of semi-allergic to scheduling too many meetings," he says.
Tall, skinny and clean shaven, Bostrom has riled some AI researchers with his openness to entertain the idea that one day in the not so distant future, machines will be the top dog on Earth. He doesn't go as far as to say when that day will be, but he thinks that it's potentially close enough for us to be worrying about it.
Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom is a polymath and the author of "Superintelligence."
The Future of Humanity Institute
If and when machines possess human-level artificial general intelligence, Bostrom thinks they could quickly go on to make themselves even smarter and become superintelligent. At this point, it's anyone's guess what happens next.
The optimist says the superintelligent machines will free up humans from work and allow them to live in some sort of utopia where there's an abundance of everything they could ever desire. The pessimist says they'll decide humans are no longer necessary and wipe them all out.Billionare Elon Musk, who has a complex relationship with AI researchers, recommended Bostrom's book "Superintelligence" on Twitter.
Bostrom's institute has been backed with roughly $20 million since its inception. Around $14 million of that coming from the Open Philanthropy Project, a San Francisco-headquartered research and grant-making foundation. The rest of the money has come from the likes of Musk and the European Research Council.
Located in an unassuming building down a winding road off Oxford's main shopping street, the institute is full of mathematicians, computer scientists, physicians, neuroscientists, philosophers, engineers and political scientists.
Eccentric thinkers from all over the world come here to have conversations over cups of tea about what might lie ahead. "A lot of people have some kind of polymath and they are often interested in more than one field," says Bostrom.
The FHI team has scaled from four people to about 60 people over the years. "In a year, or a year and a half, we will be approaching 100 (people)," says Bostrom. The culture at the institute is a blend of academia, start-up and NGO, according to Bostrom, who says it results in an "interesting creative space of possibilities" where there is "a sense of mission and urgency."
If AI somehow became much more powerful, there are three main ways in which it could end up causing harm, according to Bostrom. They are:
"Each of these categories is a plausible place where things could go wrong," says Bostrom.
With regards to machines turning against humans, Bostrom says that if AI becomes really powerful then "there's a potential risk from the AI itself that it does something different than anybody intended that could then be detrimental."
In terms of humans doing bad things to other humans with AI, there's already a precedent there as humans have used other technological discoveries for the purpose of war or oppression. Just look at the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example. Figuring out how to reduce the risk of this happening with AI is worthwhile, Bostrom says, adding that it's easier said than done.
I think there is now less need to emphasize primarily the downsides of AI.
Asked if he is more or less worried about the arrival of superintelligent machines than he was when his book was published in 2014, Bostrom says the timelines have contracted.
"I think progress has been faster than expected over the last six years with the whole deep learning revolution and everything," he says.
When Bostrom wrote the book, there weren't many people in the world seriously researching the potential dangers of AI. "Now there is this thriving small, but thriving field of AI safety work with a number of groups," he says.
While there's potential for things to go wrong, Bostrom says it's important to remember that there are exciting upsides to AI and he doesn't want to be viewed as the person predicting the end of the world.
"I think there is now less need to emphasize primarily the downsides of AI," he says, stressing that his views on AI are complex and multifaceted.
Bostrom says the aim of FHI is "to apply careful thinking to big picture questions for humanity." The institute is not just looking at the next year or the next 10 years, it's looking at everything in perpetuity.
"AI has been an interest since the beginning and for me, I mean, all the way back to the 90s," says Bostrom. "It is a big focus, you could say obsession almost."
The rise of technology is one of several plausible ways that could cause the "human condition" to change in Bostrom's view. AI is one of those technologies but there are groups at the FHI looking at biosecurity (viruses etc), molecular nanotechnology, surveillance tech, genetics, and biotech (human enhancement).
A scene from 'Ex Machina.'
Source: Universal Pictures | YouTube
When it comes to AI, the FHI has two groups; one does technical work on the AI alignment problem and the other looks at governance issuesthat will arise as machine intelligence becomes increasingly powerful.
The AI alignment group is developing algorithms and trying to figure out how to ensure complex intelligent systems behave as we intend them to behave. That involves aligning them with "human preferences," says Bostrom.
Roughly 66 miles away at the University of Cambridge, academics are also looking at threats to human existence, albeit through a slightly different lens.
Researchers at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) are assessing biological weapons, pandemics, and, of course, AI.
We are dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilization collapse.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)
"One of the most active areas of activities has been on AI," said CSER co-founder Lord Martin Rees from his sizable quarters at Trinity College in an earlier interview.
Rees, a renowned cosmologist and astrophysicist who was the president of the prestigious Royal Society from 2005 to 2010, is retired so his CSER role is voluntary, but he remains highly involved.
It's important that any algorithm deciding the fate of human beings can be explained to human beings, according to Rees. "If you are put in prison or deprived of your credit by some algorithm then you are entitled to have an explanation so you can understand. Of course, that's the problem at the moment because the remarkable thing about these algorithms like AlphaGo (Google DeepMind's Go-playing algorithm) is that the creators of the program don't understand how it actually operates. This is a genuine dilemma and they're aware of this."
The idea for CSER was conceived in the summer of 2011 during a conversation in the back of a Copenhagen cab between Cambridge academic Huw Price and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, whose donations account for 7-8% of the center's overall funding and equate to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
"I shared a taxi with a man who thought his chance of dying in an artificial intelligence-related accident was as high as that of heart disease or cancer," Price wrote of his taxi ride with Tallinn. "I'd never met anyone who regarded it as such a pressing cause for concern let alone anyone with their feet so firmly on the ground in the software business."
University of Cambridge
Geography Photos/UIG via Getty Images
CSER is studying how AI could be used in warfare, as well as analyzing some of the longer term concerns that people like Bostrom have written about. It is also looking at how AI can turbocharge climate science and agricultural food supply chains.
"We try to look at both the positives and negatives of the technology because our real aim is making the world more secure," says Sen higeartaigh, executive director at CSER and a former colleague of Bostrom's. higeartaigh, who holds a PhD in genomics from Trinity College Dublin, says CSER currently has three joint projects on the go with FHI.
External advisors include Bostrom and Musk, as well as other AI experts like Stuart Russell and DeepMind's Murray Shanahan. The late Stephen Hawking was also an advisor when he was alive.
The Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) was opened at Cambridge in 2016 and today it sits in the same building as CSER, a stone's throw from the punting boats on the River Cam. The building isn't the only thing the centers share staff overlap too and there's a lot of research that spans both departments.
Backed with over 10 million from the grant-making Leverhulme Foundation, the center is designed to support "innovative blue skies thinking," according to higeartaigh, its co-developer.
Was there really a need for another one of these research centers? higeartaigh thinks so. "It was becoming clear that there would be, as well as the technical opportunities and challenges, legal topics to explore, economic topics, social science topics," he says.
"How do we make sure that artificial intelligence benefits everyone in a global society? You look at issues like who's involved in the development process? Who is consulted? How does the governance work? How do we make sure that marginalized communities have a voice?"
The aim of CFI is to get computer scientists and machine-learning experts working hand in hand with people from policy, social science, risk and governance, ethics, culture, critical theory and so on. As a result, the center should be able to take a broad view of the range of opportunities and challenges that AI poses to societies.
"By bringing together people who think about these things from different angles, we're able to figure out what might be properly plausible scenarios that are worth trying to mitigate against," said higeartaigh.
Posted: at 1:11 am
All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.By Alison Foreman2020-05-28 11:00:00 UTC
HBO Max may have just hit the market, but we already know what it's bringing next month.
In June 2020, the streaming service will offer tons of new movie titles like Titanic, Ad Astra, Doctor Sleep, Bridget Jones's Baby, A Cinderella Story, Speed Racer, The Bucket List, The Neverending Story, The Good Liar, Uncle Buck, When Harry Met Sally, and more.
As for TV, HBO Max will debut new seasons of Search Party, Doom Patrol, and Summer Camp Island alongside the series premieres of Perry Mason, Karma, I May Destroy You, and I'll Be Gone in the Dark. Plus, we'll get Seasons 1-24 of South Park and a standup special from Yvonne Orji.
Check out everything coming to HBO Max in June 2020.
After three painful years, Search Party is finally back. The dark comedy from Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter originally premiered on TBS in 2016 with its spectacular second season arriving in 2017. Now, it has been picked up for its third and fourth seasons at HBO Max so if you're new to the search party, now's the perfect time to catch up.
This satirical joyride follows Dory (Alia Shawkat) and her gaggle of entitled friends as they seek to solve the mysterious disappearance of Chantal Witherbottom. Stupidly funny and surprisingly tense, this series checks all the boxes and escalates in ways you can't imagine.
How to watch: Search Party Season 3 premieres June 25 on HBO Max.
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Everything coming to HBO Max in June 2020 - Mashable
In a fitting finale, "The Good Fight" makes the case for nipping Jeffrey Epstein whodunit in the bud – Salon
Posted: at 1:11 am
Call it kismet, if you like. Usually the circumstances inspiring that term's invocation are poetic and positive. Colored thusly, it might not seem right to apply the world to the circumstances surrounding the unintentional fourth season finale of "The Good Fight" because roduction had to halt on the drama when the pandemic sped up its nasty sweep across the country and the globe. In a pre-COVID-19 world, creators and showrunners Robert and Michelle King had scripted three more episodes that did not get shot.
But ending a conspiracy-driven season with "The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein," its seventh episode, is apt if not ideal. Circumstances forced this episode to transform from one of the series' fictionalized departures into a stranger-than-fiction real story into if not the last word on this arc a cliffhanger at least. And the coincidental timing of its debut is remarkable, arriving in the same week as the debut of "Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich" on Netflixand the"Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?" special on ID.
The producers acknowledge these strange days and the crimes born from corrupt leadership in other ways, too. They replaced the drama's operatic theme with John Prine's "My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight" to open the finale. They did the same with the sixth episode, featuring Fountains of Wayne's "Hey Julie." Both were tributes since Prine and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger both died of complications linked to COVID-19.
Remember, though, that Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart partner Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) ushered us into this latest round of fictionalized adventures through the gateway of a nightmare her nightmare. The premiere dropped us into her dream of an alternate timeline in which Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election, but #MeToo never happened. Diane, in her dream, was assigned to lead the firm's defense of Harvey Weinstein which, understandably, made her apoplectic.
Capping off this round, "The Good Fight" going down the conspiracy water slide surrounding Epstein's deathcreates a convenient if coincidental bookend. Two of the biggest stories within this era of women shedding light on the sexual abuses inflicted by powerful men are acknowledged in this fourth season.
The "gang's" services are retained by U.S. Attorney Wilbur Dincon (Adam Heller), who tasks the firm with hunting down the truth of how Epstein died in his jail cell last August while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges, promising more work if they solve the case. The financier's official cause of death is suicide by hanging, but some believe he was killed.
Commence a wild airing of multiple conspiracy theories by way of a firm-wide tumble down some of the same conspiracy worm holes torn open on Reddit and 4chan, spearheaded by Liz (Audra McDonald). Some of them, and the evidence supporting them, were ginned up by the writers. But the kookiest details are connected to true stories.
One draws a connection between Epstein and Attorney General William Barr by way of a book written by Barr's father Donald titled "Space Relations," which is about child sexual slavery in space. The book actually exists.
Another branch of the path opens up by way of breaking down Epstein's obsession with transhumanism and seeding women with his DNA to create a "superior" breed of human, which also happens to be true.
The point of all this craziness, though, is to illustrate how efficiently evil works to distract the average person. While Liz and the associates are neck deep in digging through evidence, decoding odd messages ,and constructing an impressive crazy wall in the company's conference room, the other two name partners, Diane and Adrian (Delroy Lindo) are informed by their icy-blooded overlord Gavin Firth (John Larroquette) that they need to cut a fifth of their staff.
As for the season's core mystery, concerning a secret directive known as Memo 618 that renders the rich and powerful legally bulletproof, we don't get to the bottom of what the memo is or which entities are behind it. That will have to wait until the fifth season, whenever that airs. And when it does, the conspiracy's relevance and accompanying subtext will probably hold.
Part of the "to be continued" aspect of this storyline shows Julius Cain (Michael Boatman), a newly seated federal judge, being arrested on cooked-up charges after going to the Office of the Inspector General, hoping to blow the whistle on the memo's existence. Nearly everyone else is so glued to figuring out what really happened to Epstein that they barely notice the figurative guillotine being constructed in their midst, let alone dream their own heads might roll.
The episode title itself, "The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein," is intentionally misleading the gang doesn't get to the bottom of that mystery but not for lack of extreme effort. They do, however, come close to a shocking discovery when the firm's investigators Marissa (Sarah Steele) and Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) journeying by boat out to Epstein's exclusive island seeking the answer to who, or what a clue identified as "BUD" might be.
The answer, revealed after the duo gains entry to a locked room, is in part a "Citizen Kane" reference but in larger portion a shocking visual commentary on the extreme hubris of the excessively wealthy: "BUD" is the codename for the organ Epstein prized most, kept in cryogenic storage alongside his brain, making for one hell of a season-closing last look.
Amazing, and yet credible. Epstein was a pedophile and, by most accounts, an otherwise unremarkable human save for his connections, libertine privilege, bacchanals, and displays of opulence.
Whatwere we talking about again? Ah yes: distraction. These seven episode of "The Good Fight" illustrate the two tiers of the justice system as it truly exists. Memo 618 is a fictional device made to helpfully explain why men like Epstein and Weinstein and Donald Trump can shred legal norms and do as they please without consequence.
It's much handier for dramatic purposes to give systemic injustice a device to blame as opposed to simply showing the good guys losing over and over again for no other reason beyond the understanding that the judicial branch of government is too thoroughly corrupted for the little guy, or even the relatively well-off, to get a fair shot. And the problem is, the people who have access to power and a sizable bank account are generally fine with this arrangement.
Adrian, a man with a hush-hush invitation to run for president in his back pocket, drops in on attorney's team whirlwind to urge his people to not get caught up conspiracy theories. Law enforcement's failure to hold Epstein's accountable for his crimes, including allowing him to ignore his court-ordered 90-day check-ins like every other sexual predator must do, may simply be an example of government incompetence, he says.
Diane sees it differently. "We all have to obey the law," she says. "If we're told we have to check in with the police every 90 days, we do it. But certain people don't have to. They get special treatment."
She angrily adds, "That is America. That is not incompetence. It's a special f**king off-ramp for the well-connected."
Smartly the writers don't make Memo 618 the season's sole tension, which goes against the established case-of-the-week format; "The Good Fight" is still a CBS-branded procedural at the end of the day. Instead, the sinister Memo is a corporeal representation of the invisible forces whose knees are on our necks and the enabling structures keeping them in place. The season premiere presented itself as a lark and a diversionary ride into an alternate reality but beneath the cynical humor of Diane's twisted dreaming is an indictment of white feminism's enabling of predatory, exploitative patriarchal structures. As long as some people reap the rewards of appearing to achieve parity, that's enough.
But as the plot progresses, the fourth season demonstrates how the various levels of privilege granted to some Americans can be exploited to the detriment of all but the 1%. And this structural decay is made possible by the fact that, like so many in Epstein's inner circle, many of us choose to look the other way.
A desperate Diane asks Dincon, point-blank, what Memo 618 is. He asks her why, and she says, "Jeffrey Epstein's life was built on it."
"Then you have your answer," the U.S. Attorney replies before walking away.
Marissa observes in the finale's closing moments that in all the obsessing over what happened to Epstein, the team (and the audience by proxy) has lost perspective on what really matters in his story, the teenage girls he violated and the justice they're owed but may never receive. "We're chasing a whodunit in the middle of a tragedy," she says.
"The Good Fight" rages at this unfairness as its lights temporarily turn off, leaving its viewers much to contemplate about our part in this imbalance of society's scales. Hopefully that's what will stick with us as opposed to its diversionary tactic of a flashing a dead rapist's BUD.
All episodes of "The Good Fight" are currently streaming on CBS All Access.
Folk’s Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in ‘Time Traveler’ (album stream) – PopMatters
Posted: at 1:09 am
Before he was known for his own songwriting, Jason Wilber played many musical stages alongside the legendary John Prine. As Prine's guitar player, Wilber cut his teeth on the live circuit in a big way, more recently becoming his musical director. Upon the country-folk icon's passing due to complications of COVID-19 earlier this year, Wilber reflected on his time with his boss and friend for an American Songwriter piece. Now, a small piece of the "Zen of Prine" lives on in Wilber. He is exmplary roots artist with his own collection of world-weary reflections and offbeat poetic to share, and he's been doing so since 1998's Lost in Your Hometown.
Now, Wilber is hot on the release of an all-new cluster of songs. Titled Time Traveler, his latest is a contemplative collection of acoustic folk and Americana. When it comes to the allegories that he weaves, Wilber is unafraid of the supernatural and intergalactic. If the album title weren't hint enough, Time Traveler features such songs as "The Disappearance of Bigfoot" and "Living in Space". Musically, it's serious, straight-shooting roots done up in a traditional style, making for a juxtaposition fully intended by the artist. At times irreverent, pensive, and worldlyand, at other times, all three at onceTime Traveler is a more-than-worthy new addition to Wilber's expansive catalog.
Wilber reflects, "Time Traveler is about the science fiction that has become our modern world. Futurism contrasted with some of our traditional musical forms. I had no idea how timely the themes would be now as the album is coming out. Living together and living in isolation, living on the earth and living off the earth; the seasons and cycles we live through in our own lives, and that we see played out in history."
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Folk's Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in 'Time Traveler' (album stream) - PopMatters
Posted: at 1:09 am
Unemployment Claims Update; Futurist Ponders New Normal; Interisland Shipper Seeks Funding Aid; Foster Parenting
Unemployment Claims Update
Thousands of jobless are still waiting for their unemployment checks but scammers may be trying to jump in line in front of them. State Labor Director Scott Murakami reviews the progress in processing the record-breaking number of claims. He assures the public that safeguards are in place to make sure the money gets into the right hands.
ThePandemic Unemployment Assistance websiteis available 24/7.
Scott Murakami, Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director
Futurist Ponders New Normal
With all the talk about reopening our economyhow can futurists studies help as we make tough decisions about what is going to be the new normal? Political scientist and Hawaii Research Center of Futures Studies Director Jairus Groves studies alternatives.
HPR Reporter Noe Tanigawa
Interisland Shipper Seeks Funding Aid
Today's RealityCheck is about one of the lifelines in our community, Young Brothers and the financial assistance needed to keep its interisland service running. Click here to read Stuart Yertons story at CivilBeat.org.
Chad Blair, Politics & Opinion Editor, Honolulu Civil Beat
During this health and economic crisis, children from broken homes are still in need of safe care from foster families. Jonathan and Danielle Mendoza have years of experience with foster care within Catholic Charities Hawaii, and they say that the challenging times have complicated what was already a tough situation. Click here to learn more about CCH's program, which connects foster parents with children in need.
Foster parents Jonathan and Danielle Mendoza with Catholic Charities Hawaii
Posted: at 1:09 am
Six months ago, Greater Victoria was celebrating one of its strongest business climate in years. Now, much like the rest of the world, its facing an economic recovery that could take years.
Around us, local economies are faltering. Health-care systems are strained. Were all told to stay at home and when we do venture out to observe social distancing.
Blame the coronavirus.
ALSO READ: Depression-era unemployment figures could hit Greater Victoria
Even futurist Jim Bottomley didnt see it coming.
This isnt like any economic downturn before because when you look at past recessions, typically theyre human made, said Bottomley, a Sooke resident.
This time its an actual physical threat. Its a very scary because people didnt see it coming.
But recovery is coming, say officials.
Paul Nursey, the CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, says the Islands tourism industry was the first to be affected by the COVID-19-induced slump, and will likely be the last to fully recover.
His group is working on an 18-month plan through to next summer that aims to keep as much of the industry intact as possible, including reaching out for more government support.
Its really about making sure [those government measures] can actually help us back to recovery and are not just there in the short term. Otherwise, I cant see how our small- to medium-sized businesses are going to last until next summer, Nursey said.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, who is also president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said recovery will likely look different from one corner of the province to the other.
We know a rush to recover economically will result in a spike of [COVID19] cases, she said.
The road to recovery will be long and hard for most industries, Bottomley said.
This is something thats not going away, he said, noting the 1918 flu pandemic lasted nearly two years, and the second wave was bigger than the first.
The scary part about this particular virus is that its very spreadable.
But there are positives, Bottomley said.
As with any major disruption throughout world history, society has changed often for the better.
He predicts a real disruption on how industries work, more entrepreneurs (although he admits many small businesses will likely shutter), and how we connect each with each other through innovation and technology.
Many businesses have realized that employees can work at home and be productive, and that will mean communities like Sooke could be in for more growth.
Companies wont locate to where they want to locate. Theyll be going to where the workers live, Bottomley said, noting we are entering an innovation age where jobs and careers are changing.
Tait said the District of Sooke is already seeing that movement as council work towards a new work plan for some of its employees.
READ MORE: Employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart
Were likely going to see more municipal staff work at home permanently, those who dont necessarily meet with the public on a daily basis, she said.
Weve seen through the pandemic productivity and performance climb through the roof.
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The quickest way to economic recovery is to find a vaccine for COVID-19, says futurist Jim Bottomley.
Vaccines are perceived as key to ending the restraints on work and life that have decimated the global economy, and returning to some sense of normalcy.
Worldwide, there are nearly five million positive cases and over 300,000 have been killed by the virus.
The vaccine is what everyone is hoping for and the sooner the better. But it could still be years away, Bottomley said.
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The long road to recovery will have a few bumps Victoria News - Victoria News
The stakes have never been higher as America reopens. What can a post-coronavirus world look like? – USA TODAY
Posted: at 1:09 am
Our new series, Rebuilding America, sheds light on the many efforts to resume life and reopen in the aftermath of the deadly coronavirus pandemic USA TODAY
America will rebuild. But much like shopowners removing boards off windows in the wake of a natural disaster, Americans aren't quitesurewhat the aftermath of the deadly coronavirus pandemic will look like.
Will our economic engine need to change what it sells and how it sells it? Will the same consumer habits return? Can the familiar rhythms of the nation's unabashedly capitalist system resume?
The galvanic forces exerted by pandemics have always shaped global history, says Marina Gorbis, executive director at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit think tank in Palo Alto, California.
Whether its the bubonic plague, the Spanish flu or coronavirus, pandemics inevitably are both health events and social events that cause transformations in society and politics, she says.
Leading indicators from soaring unemployment to looming bankruptcies suggest a rough re-start. As the nation opens, scientists continue afeverish search for a vaccine while health officials remain concerned that the coming fall and winter could bring a spike in new virus cases that require renewed quarantines.
But those possible obstacles aside, those who study the human march through history say it is vital to remember the nation'sfuture can be better than its past.
This isnt a snow day where youre waiting for the sun to shine and the world to return, because the world we have lived in for so long in many ways is never coming back, says Jamie Metzl, technology futurist and co-founder of OneShared.World, an online group that promotes a globally interconnected response to the pandemic.
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the country, the world and our species, says Metzl. Everyone has a role to play to build back something better than what is being destroyed.
From Maine to California,reconstruction has started, in most places with equal parts excitement and caution.
Kurt Smith wears a mask while helping a customer at the reopened Schnee's boot store on May 4, 2020 in Bozeman, Montana.(Photo: William Campbell, Getty Images)
In Roswell, Georgia, restaurant general manager Mikaela Cupp says "the communitys excited, theres this pent-up We want to get out of the house energy."
But in Atlanta, office worker Denita Jones fears bringing the virus home to her family since few coworkers wear masks.
I see people going back to pre-pandemic behavior like everythings OK in the world, and the rest of us are walking on eggshells, she says.
As this tenuous rebuilding phase unfolds, the USA TODAY Network took a deep dive intoa dozen societal sectors to get a sense of how things might look in the future for key facets of the economy.
The result is a portrait of a nation in the initial throes of a rebirth, one both painful and high-risk as the country continues to feel thetoll in human lives and economic livelihoods.Among ourglimpses into the future:
Health care:Despite its critical role in safeguarding the public during the pandemic, the virus has exposed the dire distress of those without healthcare, the financially tenuous nature of smaller hospitals, and the need to better secure nursing homes, whose residents and staff account for manyU.S. coronavirus deaths.
Education: School districts are facing massive shortfalls as state coffers get decimated by the coronavirus outbreak. That puts into jeopardy school feeding programs, teacher job security and online learning curriculum for students without at-home technology.
Visitors flocked to Utah's Sand Hollow State Park and barber shops in Georgia after some states reopened some public places.(Photo: AGENCIA EFE/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Employment: The highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, around 15%, is arguably the biggest threat to a robust recovery from the pandemic. Inevitably, sectors will face consolidation, new businesses will be created, and employees will be expected to develop new skills accordingly. The workplace environment also promises to be forever changed, with employees increasingly shifting to telecommuting.
Entertainment:Restaurants are in dire straits, with reservation service OpenTable recently predicting 25% of all restaurants might never re-open. Scripted TV shows will remain on hold until sets can be made safe.Movie theaters, when they come back, are likely to find patrons seated apart and the same film on multiple screens. Big concerts may well never return until there is an effective global vaccine.
Unmistakable in this emerging post-virus reality, experts say, are signs that human creativity will forge new approaches, new products and new social paradigms not only more adaptable to future global crises, but also more responsive to income inequality, climate change and other issues laid bare by coronavirus.
COVID-19 is a dress rehearsal for a more turbulent world, one that will require businesses to be more adaptable to a consumer that is forever changed, says James Allen, senior partner at global consulting firm Bain & Company and author of a recent blog post, The Great Retooling: Adapting for Coronavirus and Beyond.
Among a variety of coming trends, Allen sees a shift towardmore "values-based consumption, where consumers reward enterprises that are acting as good citizens during the epidemic."
Meanwhile, white-collar professions will combine lessons learned from remote working with the enduring need for some occasional high-touch experiencesat offices," he says. Andthose office spaces are likely to shrink, paving the way for a possible revitalization of urban cores as office buildings become condos.
1920 Tavern Owner Jenna Aronowitz takes the temperature of bartender Shane Goode before the Roswell restaurant opens for sit down meals in Brookhaven, Ga., Monday, April 27, 2020. (Photo: Steve Schaefer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Maria Bothwell, CEO of future-focused advisory firm Toffler Associates, a firm started by the late futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler, authors of the seminal 1970 book, Future Shock," says the nation will reach a phase called "the novel normal" in three to five years.
Bothwell anticipates a long period of discomfort in public spaces with strangers, as a heightened sensitivity to the vulnerability of our health causes a reflexive recoiling at sneezes and coughs even after there is a vaccine.
In addition, no-touch paymentsystems will proliferate. Public places will temperature screen. And expect an exodus from crowded cities for those whose jobs promote telecommuting.
In the end, theres little debate that the America that emerges from the coronavirus pandemic will be a New America, not unlike the new nations that emerged from the forge of the Great Depression and World War II.
The former created a nation of frugal savers, the latter created a young post-war populace that fueledan unprecedented era of optimistic consumerism.
People enjoy the sun and sand at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach on May 2, 2020. Although spring break hotspot, restrictions continue at Cocoa Beach, allowing only groups of five or less. (Photo: Craig Bailey, FLORIDA TODAY)
If there is one thing futurists seem to agree on as America rebuilds, it is the hope that resides in those children and young adults whose lives have been indelibly stamped by thispandemic, a group that may well prove to be the next Greatest Generation.
Says Bothwell: In 10 years, well look back at todays graduates in amazement at what they did as a result of this event.
Follow USA TODAY national correspondent Marco della Cava: @marcodellacava
Posted: at 1:07 am
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said governments wanting to censor social media platforms is not the right reflex.
Asked during an interview on Fox News about President Trumps plan to sign an executive order curbing the power of Twitter, Facebook and Google, Zuckerberg said it would depend on what the intent is.
But in general, I think a government choosing to censor a platform, because theyre worried about censorship doesnt exactly strike me as the right reflex there, he said in the interview that aired on Thursday.
The founder of the social media giant said such platforms strive for a balance: we try very hard to give people a voice, and we get a lot of criticism from some people who think that we censor too much.
Zuckerberg said his company cares deeply about giving people a voice and empowering individuals.
I dont think that you build a company that gives people a voice like this if you dont believe that individuals having a voice is a good thing, he said.
Zuckerberg said hes trying to give people a wide ability to express themselves, but warned that real harm can be done if its creating violence.
But broadly speaking, we try to give people as much latitude and having a voice as possible, he said.
Trump said hes preparing to sign an executive order on social media companies after Twitter added fact-checking links to two of his tweets claiming that allowing voting by mail would cause rampant fraud and result in a rigged election.
In an interview on MSNBC, Zuckerberg said he didnt think social media networks like Twitter should be fact-checking political speech.
I dont think that Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth, Zuckerberg said on Squawk Box.
Political speech is one of the most sensitive parts in a democracy, and people should be able to see what politicians say, he continued.
Posted: at 1:07 am
YouTube is automatically deleting comments that contain certain Chinese-language phrases related to criticism of the countrys ruling Communist Party (CCP). The company confirmed to The Verge this was happening in error and that its working to fix the issue.
Upon review by our teams, we have confirmed this was an error in our enforcement systems and we are working to fix it as quickly as possible, said a YouTube spokesperson. The company did not elaborate on how or why this error came to be, but said it was not the result of any change in its moderation policy.
But if the deletions are the result of a simple mistake, then its one thats gone unnoticed for six months. The Verge found evidence that comments were being deleted as early as October 2019, when the issue was raised on YouTubes official help pages and multiple users confirmed that they had experienced the same problem.
Comments left under videos or in live streams that contain the words (communist bandit) or (50-cent party) are automatically deleted in around 15 seconds, though their English language translations and Romanized Pinyin equivalents are not.
The term is an insult that dates back to Chinas Nationalist government, while , (or wu mao) is a derogatory slang term for internet users paid to direct online discussion away from criticism of the CCP. The name comes from claims that such commenters are paid 50 Chinese cents per post.
These phrases seem to have been accidentally added to YouTubes comment filters, which automatically remove spam and offensive text. The comments are removed too quickly for human moderation and are deleted even if the banned phrases are used positively (e.g., The are doing a fantastic job). YouTube says its been relying more on its automated filters in recent months due changes to its workforce brought about by the pandemic.
The accidental censorship is even more puzzling considering that YouTube is currently blocked in China, giving its parent company, Google, even less reason to censor comments critical of the CCP or apply moderation systems in accordance with Chinese censorship laws.
The automatic deletion of these phrases was highlighted on Tuesday by US technologist and former Oculus founder Palmer Luckey on Twitter. But earlier reports of the issue date back to the middle of May when they were spotted by human rights activist Jennifer Zeng. As mentioned above, though, The Verge also found complaints on YouTubes official help pages dated to October 2019.
Google has frequently been criticized for accommodating the wishes of the CCP by censoring content. Most notably, it created a prototype search engine known as Project Dragonfly that complied with Chinese state censorship. The project, which was never deployed, is part of the companys long-running struggles to enter the Chinese market.
When news of Dragonfly leaked in 2018 in a report from The Intercept, Google was criticized by politicians and its own employees for selling out its principles. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2019, the company said it had terminated the project and that it had no plans to launch Search in China.
Update, May 26th, 12:43PM ET: The story has been updated to include YouTubes response.
Update, May 27th, 04:18AM ET: The story has been updated with another response from YouTube confirming it is now working on a fix.
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YouTube is deleting comments with two phrases that insult Chinas Communist Party - The Verge
Trump Wants To Help Conservatives Sue Twitter For Censorship, But Hell Face An Obstacle: Justice Brett Kavanaugh – BuzzFeed News
Posted: at 1:07 am
WASHINGTON President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday aimed at making it easier for people to sue Twitter and other social media platforms for what Trump and his allies have denounced as unconstitutional political censorship.
But any future First Amendment lawsuits that Trump has in mind will run into a problem that his order doesnt appear to address: a US Supreme Court decision written by a justice he appointed, Brett Kavanaugh.
Trumps executive order doesnt and couldnt change Supreme Court precedent. Last year, the court ruled 54 that private companies arent government actors subject to the First Amendments free speech protections just because they open their platforms to the public. Kavanaugh, one of Trumps two appointees to the Supreme Court, wrote the opinion.
Just this week, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit cited that Kavanaugh opinion when a three-judge panel rejected a First Amendment claim against Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Apple brought by conservative activists, including far-right media personality Laura Loomer, who argued theyd been deplatformed and censored in violation of the First Amendment.
And earlier this year, the 9th Circuit relied on the same Kavanaugh opinion to reject an appeal from Prager University, a nonprofit that produces videos about conservative issues, which had sued YouTube for restricting access to some of its videos.
Social media platforms are not the government, they are not public fora, trying to superimpose that kind of framework on this makes no sense, and the courts have uniformly held that, First Amendment lawyer Bob Corn-Revere told BuzzFeed News. (Corn-Reveres law firm Davis Wright Tremaine has represented BuzzFeed News.)
Trumps order concerns Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which broadly says that companies that serve as platforms for third-party speech, like Twitter or Facebook, arent liable for what people post on their sites. It also says that these companies cant be sued for acting in good faith to restrict or take down obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable material.
Trump contends social media companies arent acting in good faith and are using Section 230 as a shield to censor conservative voices. Trump signed the order after Twitter fact-checked two of his tweets and flagged them as containing potentially misleading information.
It is the policy of the United States to ensure that, to the maximum extent permissible under the law, this provision is not distorted to provide liability protection for online platforms that far from acting in good faith to remove objectionable content instead engage in deceptive or pretextual actions (often contrary to their stated terms of service) to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree, the executive order states.
The executive order doesnt change anything about how Section 230 is applied in court right away. Trump directed agencies to propose new rules and draft legislation for Congress that would chip away at the immunity social media companies have against being sued.
The question of just how much immunity social media platforms should get has come up in the federal courts in recent years, but not always for the reasons Trump articulated in Thursdays order. Victims of terrorism and their families have tried to sue tech companies for serving as platforms for groups such as ISIS to recruit, but theyve lost, in part because courts have found that social media sites are immune under Section 230.
Rather than focusing on political speech, Attorney General Bill Barr brought up terrorism cases in a speech in February as one area where Section 230 had severely diminished the power of other tools Congress adopted to provide relief to victims. But Daniel Weininger, a lawyer for families involved in some of the terrorism-related cases, told BuzzFeed News that it didnt appear Trumps executive order would directly address the Section 230 issues that have come up in their cases.
The administrations concern seems to be some sort of pressing the thumbs on the scale of the content thats posted on the platform, and what were driving at is that there needs to be more activity from the big three [Facebook, Google, and Twitter] with respect to the content that is on there, Weininger said. We are asking for more vigilance in terms of policing the content.
Trumps order is couched in terms of the First Amendment. The first section reads: Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet.
Several courts have cited Kavanaughs June 2019 opinion in rejecting First Amendment claims against online platforms. That case, Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, wasnt about social media; it involved a private nonprofit that operated a public access TV channel in New York. The nonprofit faced a First Amendment claim after it suspended people from the network who had criticized the nonprofit. Kavanaugh, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., and Neil Gorsuch (Trumps other Supreme Court pick), wrote that the nonprofit wasnt acting as a government entity just because it opened up the channel to public speech.
As a private actor, and not a state actor, the nonprofit was not subject to First Amendment constraints on its editorial discretion, Kavanaugh wrote.
In February, the 9th Circuit relied on Halleck when it upheld the dismissal of Prager Universitys lawsuit against YouTube, which had restricted access to some of the organizations videos and limited advertising. The 9th Circuit found that the Supreme Court was clear that private entities dont become state actors just because they operate as a public forum for speech.
PragerUs attempt to foist a public forum label on YouTube by claiming that YouTube declared itself a public forum ... fails. YouTubes representation that it is committed to freedom of expression, or a single statement made by its executive before a congressional committee that she considers YouTube to be a neutral public fora, cannot somehow convert private property into a public forum, Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the three-judge panel.
And in yesterdays DC Circuit order, a three-judge panel wrote that a First Amendment claim against Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple brought by Loomer and conservative advocacy group Freedom Watch failed because there was no evidence that the platforms were engaged in state action.
In general, the First Amendment prohibits only governmental abridgment of speech, the DC Circuit panel wrote, quoting Kavanaugh, who had included the italics for emphasis in his opinion. Freedom Watch contends that, because the Platforms provide an important forum for speech, they are engaged in state action. But, under Halleck, a private entity who provides a forum for speech is not transformed by that fact alone into a state actor.