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Two eminently watchable TV series by Hugo Blick

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I suspect Mike Sellers & Ali Minai might find them of interest as subtle narrative avenues into complexity ]
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I’ve been watching Black Earth Rising , British writer-director Hugo Blick‘s latest series, starring Michaela Coel:

As with his earlier series, The Honourable Woman featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal, I’m transfixed. Here is complexity delivered — in both cases, brilliantly — on TV:

Once Blick puts down his first card, as a viewer you think, “Oh, that’s good. That will be interesting.” Then he essentially flips the other 51 into the air and lets them fall all over the script. That’s the ambitious beauty of The Honorable Woman, which explodes across each episode with elaborate twists involving the Israelis, the Palestinians, the British and the Americans.

**

Sources:

  • Hollywood Reporter, The Complicated, Ambitious Brilliance of ‘The Honorable Woman’
  • Hollywood Reporter, ‘Black Earth Rising’: TV Review
  • IndieWire, Netflix Thriller Shows the Danger of Treating Global Politics Like a Game
  • **

    I have been discussing systems dynamics and complexity with my game designer friend Mike Sellers recently — see his brilliant book, Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach — and complexity, glass bead games and AI with a new friend, Ali Minai — hear our podcast at BrownPundits. Let’s make it clear: I’m the student here.

    In the course of our discussion, I’d written:

    I think of novels and plays as offering approaches to an intuitive grasp of complex situations

    and

    I think polyphony and counterpoint are what we meet with in the social world, and indeed in our conflicted minds and hearts, and that Bach will prove to be the great master of our age, once we’ve matured enough to learn from him. But listening must come first, and that seems a skill that’s wildly at variance with our times..

    Mike responded:

    Novels and plays give us, I think, something of an implicit systemic view, in that we understand how a greater whole (a love story, a tragedy, etc.) emerges from the mutual interactions between actors. Same with counterpoint and polyphony — the notes mutually interact at the same time, and set up call-and-response interaction within our minds across time, to create a larger experienced whole from the entire musical piece.

    I’m trying to make those relationships more explicit and more generalized, seeing the commonalities in books, music, biology, and games

    so — for both Mike and Ali — I’d recommend these two Hugo Blick series as contemporary works of Shakespearean subtlety, to consider as avenues into coomplexity. And although I lack the linguistic skills to appreciate him I’m sure Ali would like to add the Urdu poet Ghalib to the list..

    So that’s my interest.

    Complexity, what is it? Which avenue takes us deepest into the heart of the matter?

    **

    Hugo Blick?

    Hugo Blick, who likes to teach the ambiguities to which a probing sense of morality will necessarily find itself subject, might like to examine “Combat charities” in the West and their jihadi twin:

    A NEW PHENOMENON OF THE 21ST CENTURY BATTLEFIELD

    “Combat charities”—entities that seek to provide non-profit military and political assistance to weaker armed groups or minorities resisting the military onslaught of others (like ISIS)—are one mechanism for foreign anti-ISIS volunteers to join the fight. “Combat charities” are a new rising phenomenon of the 21st century battlefield and political dispensation. They can significantly affect both local orders and international politics. [ … ]

    Thousands of Western foreign fighters have traveled to the Middle East in recent years to join the fighting that has engulfed the region. They have overwhelmingly participated on the side of jihadi organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS) or the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front).

    However, a smaller and often unnoticed segment of these volunteers has embedded with groups that resist the jihadis, such as Kurdish, Assyrian, and Yazidi militias. These fighters vary in their motivations for joining the fight: Some are driven by moral outrage and seek to prevent the atrocities minority groups have suffered at the hands of the jihadis, while others are motivated by co-religionist solidarity. Some seek a sense of adventure and the adrenaline highs of military tourism, while others wish to escape problems at home, finding in the fight a form of self-medicating for post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems. [ … ]

    THE WESTERN PATHBREAKERS

    SOLI is the oldest and most established combat charity in the world. Founded and led by American citizen Matthew VanDyke, it operates in Iraq, and is building abilities to operate in Syria and North Africa. Since its creation in 2014, SOLI has helped form, train, and to certain extent equip the two largest Assyrian militias in northern Iraq fighting against ISIS. [ … ]

    …AND THEIR JIHADI TWIN

    Founded in May 2016, Malhama Tactical is the first sunni jihadi private military company. As Rao Komar, Christian Borys, and Eric Woods reported in Foreign Policy magazine in February, during its short existence Malhama Tactical has provided training and battlefield consulting for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front, affiliated with al-Qaida) and the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Uighur extremist group from China’s restive Xinjiang province.

    Get that? Rival combat charities to throw a heavy dose of ambiguity into the already three-cornered Syrian situation..

    IMO, these combat charities on both sides of an already fraught situation might make excellent fodder for Hugo Blick‘s subtle story-telling mind..

    **

    Viewing:

  • Netflix, Black Earth Rising
  • Amazon, The Honorable Woman
  • Further reading — the full combat charities report:

  • Brookings, Combat charities or when humanitarians go to war:
  • Two from my FB feed this morning

    Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — well, three — what I read on FB, and what Chinese AI can now deduce about me ]
    .

    First:

    Carla Cahill‘s catch, I think, speaks for itself — the super blood wolf moon caught at exactly the right moment:

    Carla writes:

    Okay, I saw this jet coming, so I acted fast and got it along with the Blood, Wolf, Blue, Eclipse Moon!

    The photographer’s gift is eternal alertness.

    **

    Second:

    This DoubleQuote response to the #tenyearchallrnge showing a dying coral reef, via John Kellden and March for Science:

    Friend Marshall Massey contributed this example:

    I somehow suspect the photographer of the coral reef — the Great Barrier Reef? — didn’t mark the exact few “leaves” of coral he photographed ten years earlier, and then returned to those exact few leaves ten years later — I imagine he may have returned to the same rough spot where he — or she, why do I suppose a he? — had taken her first shot, and found a similar spot to take the second.

    Or were there in fact two photographers? The similarity of the two photos almost convinces me of a single photographer with his eye on the same exact sport for years — his or her wife, lover or friends bringing sandwiches every day for ten years, sleepless nights under a cold moon..

    Except both photos were presumably taken by a diver or divers, underwater..

    Ah, the human mind!

    And the forest / mine pair — were they taken at the same spot, roughly the same spot — or close enough to make a point, maybe a few miles apart, with the second shot positioned to include the truck..?

    **

    Third:

    This was too rich to omit. Ali Minai wrote:

    I don’t read or speak Urdu, so knowing Ali is an AI expert, I asked for translations from two AIs. FB’s in-house translator gave me:

    It’s very short of the dead country.
    The ironic is the same, yooo change.

    Google Translate gave me:

    History is very short of my country
    Satyam is the same, the stars keep changing

    Okay, those two give me state of the art, readily available AI capabilities. I then asked Ali how he would translate the couplet into English.. and gave my own best guess, sticking my neck out and working from similarities between the two AI versions:

    History short-changes my native land —
    ah, but truth’s the same, as changeable as the stars.

    .

    Here’s Ali’s very gracious response:

    Aha! Sense at last — English sense, that is.

    I think this entire episode is a living, breathing testament to the state of the art in intelligence — artificial and embodied. Way to go, Ali Minai

    **

    Chinese AI looking for vulnerabilities to exploit will now think I’m an Urdu speaker, because I commented on Ali Minai‘s Urdu post. And ZP’s version of WordPress couldn’t even render Ali’s couplet except as:

    ??? ??? ?? ??? ????? ?? ?? ?????
    ??? ??? ??? ????? ????? ???? ???

    — which captures my own sentiment when I first saw Ali‘s post exactly..

    All in all, a rich morning’s education!

    GOV Employees Can Now Attend Suits and Spooks DC During Gov Shut Down

    Friday, January 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — i’ve always thought Suits and Spooks would be a great conference to attend, but finances & health have never quite permitted me.. ]
    .

    Over to you:

    Jeffrey Carr has opened Suits and Spooks DC to government employees for a nominal $5 donation to some mutual support group. So I raise my cup to toast him for an excellent response to the shutdown, and am passing his message along to any Zenpundit readers who may be interested:

    Read Jeffrey’s pitch on his blog here:

    GOV Employees Can Now Attend Suits and Spooks DC During Gov Shut Down

    New Book: Strategy, Evolution and War

    Sunday, May 6th, 2018

    [mark safranski / “zen“]

    Strategy, Evolution and War: From Apes to Artificial Intelligence by Kenneth Payne

    This book by Kenneth Payne of King’s College  is newly released by Georgetown Press. I saw it mainly by chance while perusing my twitter feed and ordered a copy. At first glance, it looks very promising, albeit I have a bias toward cultural evolutionary frameworks. Perhaps it will get me more up to speed on the implications of Ai for emerging warfare.

    Just thumbing through, Payne has a solid bibliography and some intriguing chapter and section headings. For example:

    The Hoplite Revolution:Warriors, Weapons and Society
    Passionate Statesmen and Rational Bands
    The Ai Renaissance ad Deep Learning
    Chimps are Rational Strategists, Contra Humans

    Enough to whet the appetite. May discuss Strategy, Evolution and War further after I finish it.

    What have you been reading in the realm of strategy or war lately?

    On the Intelligence of the Artificial, thus far

    Saturday, August 12th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — YouTube removing videos that document war crimes in the Middle East, Elgar ]
    .


    YouTube removes video documenting Islamic State’s destruction of Nimrud artifacts (AFP)

    **

    Here we are on the merry-go-round:

    YouTube AI deletes war crimes evidence as ‘extremist material’

    YouTube is facing criticism after a new artificial intelligence program monitoring “extremist” content began flagging and removing masses of videos and blocking channels that document war crimes in the Middle East.

    Middle East Eye, the monitoring organisation Airwars and the open-source investigations site Bellingcat are among a number of sites that have had videos removed for breaching YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

    The removals began days after Google, which owns YouTube, trumpeted the arrival of an artificial intelligence program that it said could spot and flag “extremist” videos without human involvement.

    But since then vast tracts of footage, including evidence used in the Chelsea Manning court case and videos documenting the destruction of ancient artifacts by Islamic State, have been flagged as “extremist” and deleted from its archives.

    **

    Without human involvement?

    Humans were involved in the decision to let this AI proceed in real time “without human involvement”.

    H Sap or AI? — who’s to trust?

    **

    YouTube, Nimrod Barenboim conducts Elgar:


    Compare “YouTube removes video documenting Islamic State’s destruction of Nimrud artifacts”, illustrated above


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