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Rape as Strategy: Gaza and London

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- at least three ways of looking at a pair of tweets ]
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If there can be Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, there are at least three or four ways of looking at these two tweets:

The similarities are eerie, the differences are enormous.

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You could, I suppose, look at it as an Israel to London comparison, although I don’t think that approach would be particularly insightful. Or gang-members vs academics, which might be a little more interesting. I’d suggest, however, that the first way many people will read the comparison above will be as a statement about the Israeli-Palestinian situation: London fades into the background, a professor’s (from my POV intermerate) statement of a seemingly intractable problem gets equated with an actual gangland threat and praxis:

On that reading, the juxtaposition is an indictment of the Israeli side in the current Gaza conflict. And that’s a huge pity, because the professor’s words were specifically not about “what should be done” but about “what it would take” to do the job — in this case, of getting suicide bombers to refrain from killing themselves and others.

So from my POV the second reading, which critiques the first (IMO appropriately) is of a comparison between what in my diagram I’ll call “thought experiment” and “threat, tactic” — the latter word indicating that the threat is one that is carried out in practice, ie in the form of selective, vengeful, punitive rape of the daughters and sisters of enemies:

Here is a little more of the context — note the professor’s disclaimer, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts”:

“The only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” This assertion was made by Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University about three weeks ago on an Israel Radio program. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” added Kedar, of Bar-Ilan’s Department of Arabic. [ .. ]

“You have to understand the culture in which we live,” said Kedar. “The only thing that deters [Hamas leaders] is a threat to the connection between their heads and their shoulders.” When presenter Yossi Hadar asked if that “could filter down” the organization’s ranks, Kedar replied: “No, because lower down the considerations are entirely different.

Terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them — the only thing that deters them is if they know that their sister or their mother will be raped in the event that they are caught. What can you do, that’s the culture in which we live.”

When Hadar said, “We can’t take such steps, of course,” Kedar continued: “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts. The only thing that deters a suicide bomber is the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped. That’s all. That’s the only thing that will bring him back home, in order to preserve his sister’s honor.”

Now, is that a valid disclaimer — or a slippery slope?

Mileages, I fear, will differ greatly on the answers to that question.

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But wait.

What if you’re not a partisan of the Palestinian or Israeli side, but of a humanity long weary of wars but seemingly woven into them by nature and nurture — warp and woof on the loom of history?

What if you’re a woman?

I’m not a woman, and it is only through the promptings of friends like Elizabeth Pearson and Cheryl Rofer that I eventually get around to looking at this particular juxtaposition — and other analytic complexities as appropriate — with an eye to gender differences.

Here the picture may overlay one or both of the previous ones — or obliterate their carefully-drawn distinctions completely. The picture is this:

Wives, of course, too, aunts, nieces — wherever it hurts, whoever the adversary is honor-bound to protect.

And some will say, that’s the nature of war! — and not be entirely wrong.

What a world. And in it, across time, the minds and hearts that gave us the books of Isaiah and Job, the masses of Bach and Beethoven, the Mezquita of Cordoba and the Taj Mahal, Abhinavagupta and Chuang Tzu, Gell-Mann and Francis Crick

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Sources:

  • Guardian: Gangs draw up lists of girls to rape as proxy attacks on rivals
  • Haaretz: Israeli professor’s ‘rape as terror deterrent’ statement draws ire
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    Turing Test…..Passed

    Monday, June 9th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

    I am not an Ai aficionado but this would seem to be a pretty significant milestone:

    Turing Test: Computer Program Convinces Judges it’s Human

    Judges in England were fooled into thinking the computer program they were conversing with was a human on Saturday — making the it the first to pass the 65-year-old Turing Test.

    “Eugene Goostman” is not a 13-year-old boy, but 33 percent of the people who partook in five minute keyboard conversations with the computer program at the Royal Society in London thought it was, according to The University of Reading, which organized the test.

    The Turing Test is based on “the father of modern computer science” Alan Turing’s question, “Can Machines Think?”

    If a computer is mistaken for a human by more than 30 percent of judges, it passes the test, but no computer has accomplished the feat — until now.

    “Eugene” was created in Saint Petersburg, Russia, by software development engineer Vladimir Veselov and software engineer Eugene Demchenko, according to the University of Reading. The computer program was tested along with four others during Saturday night’s event, but was the only one to thoroughly imitate a person.

    “Our whole team is very excited with this result,” Veselov said. “Going forward we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as ‘conversation logic.’”

    Computers that are as smart — or smarter — than humans raise concerns of dire economic consequences and diabolical robotic plots fit for science fiction movies.

    But Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading says a computer that can think and act like a person will be an asset to battling cyber-crime. “Online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true … when in fact it is not,” he said.

    Warwick pointed out that this weekend’s test is also controversial because some claim it has been passed before, but the test did not pre-specify the topics of conversations and was independently verified. “We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing‘s test was passed for the first time on Saturday,” Warwick said. 

    How fast will this evolve, I wonder?

    Many readers are no doubt familiar with the “Turing Police” in Willam Gibson’s classic  Neuromancer.  While Ai will bring many tech advantages, at some point, at least for cybersecurity and CI purposes, there will need to be some kind of analog to reduce and punish the misuse or abuse of Ai with something short of a Butlerian Jihad.

      

    UPDATE!:

    Not so fast….

    ….Okay, almost everything about the story is bogus. Let’s dig in:

    It’s not a “supercomputer,” it’s a chatbot. It’s a script made to mimic human conversation. There is no intelligence, artificial or not involved. It’s just a chatbot.
    Plenty of other chatbots have similarly claimed to have “passed” the Turing test in the past (often with higher ratings). Here’s a story from three years ago about another bot, Cleverbot, “passing” the Turing Test by convincing 59% of judges it was human (much higher than the 33% Eugene Goostman) claims.

    It “beat” the Turing test here by “gaming” the rules — by telling people the computer was a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine in order to mentally explain away odd responses.

    The “rules” of the Turing test always seem to change. Hell, Turing’s original test was quite different anyway.

    As Chris Dixon points out, you don’t get to run a single test with judges that you picked and declare you accomplished something. That’s just not how it’s done. If someone claimed to have created nuclear fusion or cured cancer, you’d wait for some peer review and repeat tests under other circumstances before buying it, right?

    The whole concept of the Turing Test itself is kind of a joke. While it’s fun to think about, creating a chatbot that can fool humans is not really the same thing as creating artificial intelligence. Many in the AI world look on the Turing Test as a needless distraction.

    Oh, and the biggest red flag of all. The event was organized by Kevin Warwick at Reading University. If you’ve spent any time at all in the tech world, you should automatically have red flags raised around that name. Warwick is somewhat infamous for his ridiculous claims to the press, which gullible reporters repeat without question. He’s been doing it for decades. All the way back in 2000, we were writing about all the ridiculous press he got for claiming to be the world’s first “cyborg” for implanting a chip in his arm. There was even a — since taken down — Kevin Warwick Watch website that mocked and categorized all of his media appearances in which gullible reporters simply repeated all of his nutty claims. Warwick had gone quiet for a while, but back in 2010, we wrote about how his lab was getting bogus press for claiming to have “the first human infected with a computer virus.” The Register has rightly referred to Warwick as both “Captain Cyborg” and a “media strumpet” and has long been chronicling his escapades in exaggerating bogus stories about the intersection of humans and computers for many, many years.

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    I have set before you life and death

    Sunday, June 1st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- tasking Heuer's ACH theory with the old question of revelation vs scientific discovery? ]
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    For a very pithy take on the pivotal question facing those who adhere to the literal interpretation of a given scripture as God’s infallible Word, try these two quotes:

    A very similar question, it seems to me, can be put to those who hold that science, by virtue of its falsifiability, moves in a manner that will be seen to be asymptotic to infallibility.

    **

    I’m not saying the two options Pastor Hagee Jr offers are the only options, nor that Christianity is the only religion whose scriptures pose this sort of question to its followers.

    However, there are two fairly clear general options laid out here, and they cut across many fields, from “what sort of biological education would you like to see implemented in schools?” via “how should we respond to warnings of the accelerating risks associated with global warming?” to “are the Iranian nuclear negotiators bound by their concepts of Shia theology, and if so, how does that affect our analysis of their strategic thinking?”

    Let’s call the competing hypotheses here “revelation” and “discovery”. One interesting question: does each of them require evidentiary validation, or is one of them “obviously” self-validating, and if so, how?

    I ask this, partly because I just obtained ACH software, where ACH refers to the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses as described by Richards Heuer Jr in his Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, and specifically in chapter 8.

    Pitting an “infinite and revelatory” hypothesis against a “finite and discoverable” one is one way to test the limits of the ACH system — either it’s a totally irrational and foolish use of a rational tool, or a western equivalent of the zen koan system, depending on your — eh? — hypothesis.

    Life or death? Science or revelation? Which is which?

    How do you know? How can you be sure?

    **

    In the ballpark, btw?

    \

    Steven J. Brams, Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible

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    Krishna, Oppie and the Bomb

    Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- following a lead from Adam Elkus, a little more on the (Hindu) theological side of the Trinity test ]
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    WHen Oppenheimer saw the first nuclear fireball — apart from those supposedly recorded in legend, the sun in the sky, and presumably a whole heavenly host of stars — at the Trinity test in Alamogordo, July 16, 1945, he famously quoted the Indian scripture, Bhagavad Gita, either in his head or out loud:
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    This post is to give those who may be interested a brief update on the relevance of that quotation.

    I am grateful to Adam Elkus for pointing us to this post on Restricted Data, Oppenheimer and the Gita, which in turn led me to Dr Hijaya‘s paper, The Gita of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society.

    **

    I have a side note of caution here. Dr Hijaya notes in the Acknowledgments at the end of his paper:

    Sanskrit is Greek to me, and Hinduism a mystery. Therefore I am immensely indebted to two scholars who provided me not only with translations of the language but also with innumerable insights into the philosophy: Peter M. Scharf, classics department, Brown University, Providence, R.I.; and Roy W. Perrett, philosophy department, Massey University, Palmerston North, N.Z.

    Drs Scharf and Perrett both appear to be well qualified to have advised Dr Hijaya in matters Sanskrit, which seems si=gnificant since — among other things — Oppie himself had studied Sanskrit seriously, and was not simply quoting a line he’d picked up on a cursory reading of the text in some English translation.

    Like Dr Hijaya, I have no knowledge of Sanskrit, and like him I relied on the help of other scholars, and particularly Chandra Das, in writing my own commentary on Oppie, various scriptures and the bomb, What Sacred Games? My post for a bloggers’ roundtable on nuclear weapondry in different religious contexts may also be of interest — The religious and apocalyptic background to nuclear policy making.

    **

    Put into a nutshell, Dr Hijaya notes that the warrior Arjuna is unwilling at first to partake in the battle of Kurukshetra against an army that includes family, friends, and mentors. Krishna, who speaks with divine authority as the avatar of Vishnu, instructs him that it is his dharma or vocation as a warrior to fight, that he should perform actions because they are his to perform, without concern for their results, and that all those who will die in the battle are effectively already dead, since that is the divine will.

    From a mortal perspective this is a hard truth to bear, but from the perspective of Vishnu it is appointed, necessary, all part of the divine lila or play — a concept the western Neoplatonist Plotinus expressed thus:

    Men directing their weapons against each other- under doom of death yet neatly lined up to fight as in the pyrrhic sword-dances of their sport – this is enough to tell us that all human intentions are but play, that death is nothing terrible, that to die in a war or in a fight is but to taste a little beforehand what old age has in store, to go away earlier and come back the sooner. … Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing.

    **

    One of the topics that should have been mentioned in that 7,000 word post and (irresponsibly?) wasn’t, is the first Indian nuclear test, which if I recall was officially termed “the Buddha’s smile” — an irony both devastating and delicious!

    In a follow up post to be completed as time allows, I hope to address that issue.

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    Revisiting DoubleQuotes in the Wild

    Monday, May 19th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Paris Hilton, Nikolai Tesla, and back to Van Gogh ]
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    A lot of people seem to be using the idea I call “DoubleQuotes in the Wild”:

    This pairing (hat-tip Jan Saether) is of particular interest to me, since it raises (and intensifies, but without answering them) the hoary old questions, fresh in the time of Van Gogh himself, about the relationship of photography to painting — whether the former makes the latter irrelevant, and what the latter can do about it, if in some ways it does.

    **

    I like this one, too:

    — mainly because I can provide my own mashup in the words of Dorothy Parker:

    If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

    Those words should be given honorary entrance into scripture as a footnote to that verse about a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle, Matthew 19:24, IMO.

    **

    But back to van Gogh.

    As you may know if you’re a regular reader here, I see DoubleQuotes as a form that on occasion provides us with a form of stereoscopic understanding, in which two separate ideas simultaneously perceived give rise to a third, unified understanding that contains all the details of each while affording us an added dimension of depth…

    Bearing that effect — I call it stereophany — in mind, I’m delighted to see that someone else has blended the two images above to striking effect:

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