If there is a figure which stands out as the hero of our time, it is Christopher Wylie, a gay Canadian vegan who, at 24, came up with an idea that led to the founding of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum. Later, he became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign, creating Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool. Wylie’s plan was to break into Facebook, harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles, and then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup. At a certain point, Wylie was genuinely freaked out: “It’s insane. The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? It’s like Nixon on steroids.”[i]
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Alors qu’au cours de ces derniers mois, ma vie de veille a été, pour reprendre l’euphémisante expression catalane, «bonne, si nous n’entrons pas dans les détails», ma vie onirique a eu la puissance d’un roman d’Ursula K. Le Guin. Au cours de l’un de mes derniers rêves, je discutais avec l’artiste Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster de mon problème : après des années de vie nomade, il m’est difficile de décider d’un lieu où vivre dans le monde. Pendant que nous avions cette conversation, nous observions les planètes tourner doucement sur leur orbite, comme si nous étions deux enfants géants et que le système solaire était un mobile Calder.
Over the last few weeks, leading up to Tuesday night’s season two finale, I binged both seasons of Legion, the superhero drama on FX helmed by Noah Hawley. (He’s also the dude behind Fargo, which is an excellent show that everyone ought to watch.)
Legion is definitely the weirdest thing on TV right now. And after speeding through the first two seasons (FX recently renewed it for a third) I’m still not entirely sure I understand it. But that’s OK. It might even be the point.
La nazionalità è un concetto molto potente, è uno dei criteri principali che usiamo per definire noi stessi, ma non è sempre stato così”, dice il giornalista Max Fisher del New York Times. “Se ci pensate sentirsi vicini a milioni di estranei sulla base di confini geografici è un’idea molto bizzarra”.
L’identità nazionale è uno dei miti più diffusi costruiti dal mondo moderno, ma è anche un potente fattore culturale che ha contribuito ad alimentare il razzismo e a costruire le dittatura del novecento. Un video del New York Times spiega com’è nato e come si è sviluppato nel tempo il concetto di nazionalità.
She recited the names of all 17 Parkland victims, and then she stood mute, tears streaming down her cheeks, her eyes sometimes closed. The crowd, rooting for the poised young woman with the shaved head and wearing a braided choker, grew confused. A few minutes earlier, a nervous Parkland classmate had actually vomited on stage during her speech, and then recovered with world-class aplomb. “I just threw up on international television and it feels great!” the brave Samantha Fuentes told the crowd. Was Gonzalez having a case of nerves? Next to me, Parkland resident and substitute teacher Debbi Schapiro watched her anxiously, then shook her head and murmured, “This is too much responsibility for these kids.” In the crowd beneath Gonzalez, a few students tried to start the chant “Never again,” but it faded quickly. Spontaneously, they fell silent and simply held high their signs of protest. Behind us, people lifted their cell phones to record the unlikely silence.
Nothing seems guaranteed to spark an explosion of schadenfreude, in the world of psychology, like a new piece of research suggesting meditation might be hogwash. The latest, a review of 54 existing studies, found that mindfulness did little to boost compassion or empathy – and that other activities, such as watching a nature documentary, might help as much. (“Mindfulness No Better Than Watching TV,” ran the gleeful headline on a post by neurologist Steven Novella.)
The plot was made for front-page headlines and cable-news chyrons: A scientist-turned-political-operative reportedly hoodwinked Facebook users into giving up personal data on both themselves and all their friends for research purposes, then used it to develop “psychographic” profiles on tens of millions of voters—which in turn may have helped the Trump campaign manipulate its way to a historic victory.
No wonder Facebook is in deep trouble, right? Investigations are being opened; calls for regulation are mounting; Facebook’s stock plunged 7 percent Monday.
There’s no understanding the future of technology without understanding the future of its funders. And they have changed dramatically over the last three decades. First it was the military. Then the venture capitalists. Today, another chapter begins: massive funds, with billions to spend and often linked to governments, are technology’s new masters.
The undisputed leader is Japan’s SoftBank, which counts Uber, WeWork, Alibaba and Nvidia among its investments. Its companies make awe-inspiring robot dogs (Boston Dynamics) and offer dog walking as a service (Wag) for real canines. SoftBank’s model is simple: build stable, cash-generating businesses, such as mobile network operators; use them as collateral to borrow more funds – an investor presentation from last year put SoftBank’s “interest-bearing debt” at $125bn – and buy promising tech companies.
IN AMERICA, computers have been used to assist bail and sentencing decisions for many years. Their proponents argue that the rigorous logic of an algorithm, trained with a vast amount of data, can make judgments about whether a convict will reoffend that are unclouded by human bias. Two researchers have now put one such program, COMPAS, to the test. According to their study, published in Science Advances, COMPAS did neither better nor worse than people with no special expertise.