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An observation for David Ronfeldt

Friday, August 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting that the “how do we know when a radicalized thinker shifts into violent action mode?” question is frankly a koan ]
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stern task-master image borrowed from The Zen Priest’s Koan

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We’d been discussing on FB The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism, and in particular this observation:

This movement is often called white nationalist, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting whiteness within the nation. But the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. It is the Aryan nation, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

and an idea occurred to me that seemed interesting enough for me to re-post it here on Zenpundit and Brownpundits:

We’re seeing a lot of discussion of how to foresee the switch from a terror-propensity thought into a terrorist act. Even in retrospect this is very difficult to manage, although lots of people elide the difference or feel constrained to separate the two, and managing an effective strategy to accomplish forewarning seems close to impossible.

I’d like to observe that the great leap between thought and act is in fact a leap across the mind > brain distinction, ie the “hard problem in consciousness”. > It’ds called the “hard problem” because it’s a question so basic that our best reaches of thought can’t stretch across the inherent paradox, a koan in effect.

Perhaps if we started with that koan, we could at least understand the “size” of the problem that predicting terrorist violence poses.

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I think that’s, technically, an audacious idea.

What the hell do I mean by that? It doesn’t threaten my physical well-being, nor, I’d suspect, national security. It’s “just a thought” — so what’s the big deal?

Well, it concerns a matter of immediate strategic and tactical concern, for one thing. And for another, it takes that strategic and tactical issue way past its present discursive parameters, and analyzes it to a level of fundamental abstraction — so much so that it invokes one of the few most basic unresolved issues in scientific thought, a veritable western koan.

That’s quite a reach, but I believe it’s a reach that illuminates the difficulty of the “strategic and tactical issue” from a fresh point of view that’s frustratingly so deep as to be virtually impenetrable.

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In Chalmers‘ words, the “hard” problem is:

how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience … the way things feel for the subject. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of an intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought

You remember the kids’ mathematical saying, “three into two won’t go”? Well here’s a case of “mind into brain won’t go” in the sense of Chalmers‘ hard problem.

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Leonard koan, yes, yes — from Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

A complexity consideration or two

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — that one is a many among many, and how many does that make? ]
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There are many, many distinctions that can be drawn at the group level, political, financial, religious, tribal, on the right side of the line in the diagram below — but every one of them in constituted of individuals, for each of whom the considerations on the left side would, to a greater or lesser extent, apply:

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How is this multiplied?

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Nice words, nice indeed. Bobby Kennedy‘s words.

But did the darker aspects of “the complex compound of pure and impure impulses” — in every individual, every “tiny ripple” — get lost in the niceness of the words?

I ask because for optimists it so often does, and that’s the great weakness of positive movements. And because for the cynical, so often, no glimpse of the positive aspects can make it through their fog.

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Consider this, for each individual:

As every man goes through life he fills in a number of forms for the record, each containing a number of questions . .. There are thus hundreds of little threads radiating from every man, millions of threads in all. If these threads were suddenly to become visible, the whole sky would look like a spider’s web, and if they materialized as rubber bands, buses; trams and even people would all lose the ability to move, and the wind would be unable to carry torn-up newspapers or autumn leaves along the streets of the city. They are not visible, they are not material, but every man is constantly aware of their existence…. Each man, permanently aware of his own invisible threads, naturally develops a respect for the people who manipulate the threads.

That’s not somebody writing about Cambridge Analytica or FaceBook — that’s Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in Cancer Ward, 1968, courtesy Bruce Schneier.

I may add further one and many instances and illuminations in the comments section as I find them — you are invited to do the same..

Sweet bird

Monday, January 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — let me present a little personal joy ]
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This evening, a little sweetness entered my life, via my long-time friend Jon Lebkowsky. JonL, as I think of him, posted one of a cluster of photos on his FB page — upper panel, below — and Pat Pagani Adams asked, innocently — with question mark — lower panel —

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You know, I’ve thought of cardinals and Cardinals, many times, toyed with the idea of cardinals and Cardinals, toyed with the idea of pairing them, of an appropriate DoubleQuote to feature them — but today that opportunity has arrived.

Maybe arisen is the better word.

Today, JonL and Pat Pagani Adams have brought me, all unknowing, the ideal visual image and the ideal surprised question:

Richelieu?

I thank you both — and enjoy, friends!

Good from Zeynep on Facebook moderation, plus a question

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — wondering, roughly: is the world digital or analog? if that even means anything ]
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This post — Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children — together with the tweet about it below —

— triggered Zeynep Tufekci‘s latest. Here she goes:

And here’s the tweet she’s quoting in that last one:

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A significant ouroboros from that ProPublica article, BTW:

Facebook also added an exception to its ban against advocating for anyone to be sent to a concentration camp. “Nazis should be sent to a concentration camp,” is allowed, the documents state, because Nazis themselves are a hate group.

That should give us pause for thought, I think.

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There’s something very important going on here in this discussion as a whole and Tufecki’s tweets in particular: quite aside from the powerful issue of Facebook and its rules for moderators, there’s a more general question about quality and quantity — or should I say qualitative and quantitative approaches?

I’m wondering how well this distinction between (depending which tweet you quote) “human societies” and “simple, abstract toy models” — or “human society” and “so neat Venn diagrams & uniform rules” or “code” and the “complexities and messiness of human societies” or a “2 billion user base” and “powerpoints” — maps to the distinction between digital and analog..

Any thoughts?

Influencing the vote, a reminder

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Not just Putin, Zuckerberg, remember? ]
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We’ve all been forcibly reminded of Russian attempts to influence the US electoral system — but have we forgotten Facebook?

Sources:

  • Weisburd, Watts & Berger, WOTR, Trolling for Trump, 2016
  • Micah Sifry, Mother Jones, Facebook Wants You to Vote on Tuesday, 2014

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