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Orwell, Fascism, &c – we need our own red lines, but where?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — how far gone are we — from a sorta leftist-centrist-don’t-really-fit-labels POV? ]
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I’m not sure what exactly JM was responding to here, there have been too many pointers..

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I for one don’t think Charlottesville stacks up against Kristallnacht, and am wary of the words Fascism and Nazi. I wholeheartedly agree with JM Berger in his piece today, Calling them Nazis:

There’s an increasingly common argument online against referring to the alt-right by its chosen name. “Call them Nazis” is the refrain. If you haven’t said it yourself, you’ve probably seen other people saying it.

While this approach may be understandable and may suit certain rhetorical purposes, it’s a grave mistake for journalists and experts who substantively study and cover the movement to embrace this approach.

JM continues:

The alt-right category is extremely important to understanding what’s happening in this movement. Nazis are only part of this movement, or more correctly neo-Nazis, since most of them aren’t German nationalists. If neo-Nazis were America’s only problem, it would be a much smaller problem.

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My concern here is with a somewhat different angle, and not specifically with the Charlottesville clashes. I’m noting the widespread tendency to suggest we’re already in Brownshirt territory, if not deeper in than that, and I think it may be a bit premature.

IMO, we need to be cautious in where we draw the lines that say, beyond here is Fascism, or Nazism, it seems to me: exaggeration only serves to discredit those who indulge.

There are real problems, both with overt swastika-wavers and with those who support or merely tolerate them. Which way the wind will blow over the coming few years, however, is yet to be seen.

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However, getting back to Orwell

— it does seem to me that scooping up more than a million IP addresses of epople who may have an interest in protesting Trump gies way beyond some kind of Orwell Limit.

Orwell kept his resistance movement cellular and basically unnowable: datamining the web blows an enormous hole in that strategy.

I’d have to say that with today’s news about DOJ vs DisruptJ20, one of my personal Orwell Red Lines has been crossed.

DoubleTweet!

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — hat-tip JM Berger ]
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Yes!

Retweets as quantifiers of interest, but so what?

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — mostly skeptical of quantification of human affects ]
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TwShiloh retweeted these two NJ Homeland Security tweets (DoubleTweet in the Wild!) with a comment:

Two products released at the same time. Note the retweet/like rates. ?That’s what confirmation bias looks like on Twitter.

I’m just now sure what I should deduce from the fact that Anarchy gets so many more RTs than White Supremacy.

and:

Are we more inclined to favor attacks on the left (anarchists) than on the right (supremacists) — does left violence just seem more noteworthy — do more people from one side of the divide follow New Jersey Homeland Security, maybe — or is it all just a little to anecdotal and indeterminate to form any conclusions?

H/t JM Berger.

Would a democracy of artificial intelligences hold a variety of opinions?

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — opening a conversation ]
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I’m hoping to engage some of my friends and net acquaintances — Peter Rothman, John Robb, August Cole, Jamais Cascio, Monica Anderson, Chris Bateman, JM Berger, Tim Burke, Bryan Alexander, Howard Rheingold, Jon Lebkowsky and no doubt others — in a conversation on this topic, here at Zenpundit.

Starting as of now: with encouragement to come — send posts to hipbonegamer@gmail.com, any length, fire at will!.

On the face of it, AIs that are seeded with different databases will come to different conclusions, and thus the politics of the company of AIs, democratically assessed — ie one AI one vote — would be stacked in favor of the majority of kindred DBs from which the set was seeded. But is that all we can say? Imaginatively speaking, our topic is meant to arouse questions around both democracy and intelligence, artificial and oitherwise. and politics, we should remember, extends into warfare..

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Two announcements I saw today triggered my wish to stir the AI pot: both had to do with AI and religion.

The first had to do with an event that took place last month, May 2017:

Artificial intelligence and religion
Theos Newsletter, June 2017:

Can a robot love? Should beings with artificial intelligence be granted rights? The rise of AI poses huge ethical and theological questions. Last month we welcomed John Wyatt and Beth Singler from the Faraday Institute to discuss these issues.

Specifically:

Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have been making the headlines for some time now. Articles in mainstream media and features in prime-time television keep pouring in. There is clearly a growing interest in humanoid robots and the varied issues raised by their interactions with humans.

The popularity of films such as Ex Machina, Chappie, I-Robot and more recently Her reveal an awareness of the challenges hyper-intelligent machines are already beginning to pose to complex issues such as human identity, the meaning of empathy, love and care.

How will more advanced, integrated technology shape the way we see our families, our societies – even ourselves?

and one event next year:

AI and Apocalypse
Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM)
April 5 – 6, 2018. Inside the Big Top at the Panacea Charitable Trust gardens, Bedford, United Kingdom
CenSAMM Symposia Series 2018 / www.censamm.org

We invite papers from those working across disciplines to contribute to a two-day symposium on the subject of AI and Apocalypse.
Abstracts are due by December 31, 2017.

Recently ‘AlphaGo’, a Google/Deepmind programme, defeated the two most elite players at the Chinese game ‘Go’. These victories were, by current understandings of AI, a vast leap forward towards a future that could contain human-like technological entities, technology-like humans, and embodied machines. As corporations like Google invest heavily in technological and theoretical developments leading towards further, effective advances – a new ‘AI Summer’ – we can also see that hopes, and fears, about what AI and robotics will bring humanity are gaining pace, leading to new speculations and expectations, even amidst those who would position themselves as non-religious.

Speculations include Transhumanist and Singularitarian teleological and eschatological schemes, assumptions about the theistic inclinations of thinking machines, the impact of the non-human on our conception of the uniqueness of human life and consciousness, representations in popular culture and science fiction, and the moral boundary work of secular technologists in relation to their construct, ‘religion’. Novel religious impulses in the face of advancing technology have been largely ignored by the institutions founded to consider the philosophical, ethical and societal meanings of AI and robotics.

This symposium seeks to explore the realities and possibilities of this unprecedented apocalypse in human history.

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You’ll note that thse two events address religious and ethical issues surrounding AI, which in turn revolve, I imagine, around the still disputed matter of the so-called hard problem in consciousness. I’d specifically welcome responses that explore any overlap between my title question and that hard problem.

O Florida, Florida!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — with application to paras from JM Berger & WIll McCants ]
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Two from Florida, both yesterday!

Really!

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The kid who converts from Neo-Nazi to Islam and then kills his disrespectful roomies makes for a brilliant & provocative case study, becaause it so confounds our usual expectations.

Consider. We are used to the idea of otherwise unexceptional people joining extremist groups, religious or political — we term the process “radicalization”. And under the banner of “countering violent extremism” we encourage people to leave violent extremist groups and fade back into the normal fabric of society — some become anti-extremist messengers, Kerry Noble and Maajid Nawaz being well known examples. And both coming and going, there’s the little matter of messaging — messaging for radicaliziation, messaging for deradicalization.

But converting from a far-right political ideology to militant Islam? What kind of process us that, and what kind of messaging is involved, or called for?

I want to focus in on this poor dumb kid Devon Arthurs because he offers an almost too-good-to-be-true instance of two significant ideas from two of our finest analysts.

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Let’s take Will McCants first.

McCants’ point is that every jihadist (and every extremist, by extension) is subject to a wide mix of drives, some more potent than others, but none of which should be viewed as the exclusive “explanation” for radicalization. As he writes in a gobbit that is now pinned to the top of his twitter-feed:

The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

That’s the general case: but you could hardly have a better instance of how sui generis the process is than our case of the young Neo-Nazi turned Muslim.

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Things get even more interesting, however, when we see how this case fits with a point JM Berger has been at pains to meke recently. In Extremist Construction of Identity: How Escalating Demands for Legitimacy Shape and Define In-Group and Out-Group Dynamics, JM expresses his growing sense that extremism should be studied as a category unto itself — that we should not limit our studies to such brands as “Islamic extremism” or “Right Wing extremism”. He writes:

More broadly, this paper is a first step in developing and testing the hypothesis that extremist group radicalisation represents an identifiable process that can be understood as distinct from the contents of a movement’s ideology. That is not to say that the content of an ideology is meaningless or unimportant. Rather, this research seeks to explore whether universal processes of radicalisation provide a more useful window into why identity-based extremist movements form in the first place and how they evolve toward violence.

In the case of Devon Arthurs we have someone who doesn’t only espouse one extremism, but two, in rapid succession. And thus it is plausible to say that it is not Nazism, nor violent extremist Islam, that attracts him, but extremism as such.

Thinking through our ideas about narratives in radicalization and derad with Arthurs as our instance, raises all sorts of questions: what messaging if any do the Neo-Nazis and Jihadists have in common? What message allows someone to slip from one camp in to the other? And what messaging would be an effectove counterbalance not to one ideology or the other, but to the general propensity for extremism?

All in all, this kid makes for a fabulous case study in the ease with which our assumptions can deceive us.

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Sources:

  • CBS News, Cops: Florida man kills neo-Nazi roommates over Islam disrespect
  • RawStory, FBI busts ‘Atomwaffen’ Neo-Nazi in Florida for making explosives

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