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The anti-social in Social Media?

Friday, November 1st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — online community member for 20 or more years, usenet user before that, made good friends and happy overall ]
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There’s FaceBook vs Twitter — and then, well, Reuters has the stories:

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On the one hand:

Sources familiar with WhatsApp’s internal investigation into the breach said a “significant” portion of the known victims are high-profile government and military officials spread across at least 20 countries on five continents. Many of the nations are U.S. allies, they said.

The hacking of a wider group of top government officials’ smartphones than previously reported suggests the WhatsApp cyber intrusion could have broad political and diplomatic consequences.

WhatsApp filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Israeli hacking tool developer NSO Group. The Facebook-owned software giant alleges that NSO Group built and sold a hacking platform that exploited a flaw in WhatsApp-owned servers to help clients hack into the cellphones of at least 1,400 users between April 29, 2019, and May 10, 2019.

The total number of WhatsApp users hacked could be even higher. A London-based human rights lawyer, who was among the targets, sent Reuters photographs showing attempts to break into his phone dating back to April 1.

While it is not clear who used the software to hack officials’ phones, NSO has said it sells its spyware exclusively to government customers.

Some victims are in the United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan and India, said people familiar with the investigation. Reuters could not verify whether the government officials were from those countries or elsewhere.

Some Indian nationals have gone public with allegations they were among the targets over the past couple of days; they include journalists, academics, lawyers and defenders of India’s Dalit community.

On the other:

The U.S. government has launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.ly, according to two people familiar with the matter.

While the $1 billion acquisition was completed two years ago, U.S. lawmakers have been calling in recent weeks for a national security probe into TikTok, concerned the Chinese company may be censoring politically sensitive content, and raising questions about how it stores personal data.

TikTok has been growing more popular among U.S. teenagers at a time of growing tensions between the United States and China over trade and technology transfers. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said earlier this year. [ … ]

“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” Schumer and Cotton wrote to Joseph Macguire, acting director of national intelligence.

TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects. The company has said U.S. user data is stored in the United States, but the senators noted that ByteDance is governed by Chinese laws.

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Sources:

  • Reuters Oct 31 2019, Exclusive: Government officials around the globe targeted
  • Reuters Nov 1 2019, Exclusive: U.S. opens national security investigation into TikTok
  • Not bad for a two-day haul.

    **

    BTW, Twitter vs FaceBook:

  • Guardian 31 Oct 2019, Twitter’s canny political ad ban costs it little – and piles pressure on Facebook
  • .
    The Twitter co-founder and chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has turned a weakness into a strength, cutting off a minuscule revenue stream in order to heap pressure on his main competitor. In the hours since Twitter’s announcement, support has come from voices as diverse as the US-based campaign group Muslim Advocates, the Open Knowledge Foundation thinktank and the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. [ … ]

    Sorkin, writing in the New York Times, criticised Mark Zuckerberg for enabling the “crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together”. The screenwriter behind The Social Network, a film about Facebook’s early years, joined in a chorus of criticism of the site’s policy of explicitly allowing misinformation in political adverts.

    “Right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son. Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth,” he wrote.

    Go Twitter!

    **

    Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, TikTok — just lining up some ducks..

    A SITREP in four DoubleQuotes, holding the fifth for now

    Sunday, October 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — our substitute fifth today being a fine quote from a review of two books about analyzing humor, coming to us from down under ]
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    The purpose of this post it to present four facets of the present moment so as to leave a fifth perspective uncluttered for a later post..:

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    DQ #1: Complexity squared:

    Presenting two papers which sum up the huge diversity of definitions which complexity and terrorism respectively are prone to:

    It’s hard to say, exactly what terrorism is, but it’s no easier to define complexity- and when you think of the pair of them intersecting, the result is along the lines of complexity squared..

    Sources:

    :

  • Seth Lloyd, Measures of Complexity: a non–exhaustive list
  • Alex Schmid, The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism
  • Further, here’s a striking quote here from Alex Schmid:

    A description how [the Academic Consensus Definition] was arrived at can be found on pp. 39 – 98 of Alex P. Schmid (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. The same volume also contains 260 other definitions compiled by Joseph J. Easson and Alex P. Schmid on pp. 99 – 200.

    and a complexity analogy with electromagnetism from Seth Lloyd:

    An historical analog to the problem of measuring complexity is the problem of describing electromagnetism before Maxwell’s equations. In the case of electromagnetism, quantities such as electric and magnetic forces that arose in different experimental contexts were originally regarded as fundamentally different. Eventually it became clear that electricity and magnetism were in fact closely related aspects of the same fundamental quantity, the electromagnetic field. Similarly, contemporary researchers in architecture, biology, computer science, dynamical systems, engineering, finance, game theory, etc., have defined different measures of complexity for each field. Because these researchers were asking the same questions about the complexity of their different subjects of research, however, the answers that they came up with for how to measure complexity bear a considerable similarity to each other.

    Complexity, illustrated:

    Nothing in that image of waves lapping and overlapping on a shoreline could not in theory be explained in terms of von Kármán‘s equation for the “shedding” of vortices in a vortex street — but the breaking of waves across the coast of California –mathematicians can name the laws involved, but accurately describe the details over the last four decades from an Diego to Eureka? Waves bouncing off a fractal coastline?

    Ahem, it’s complex. Though I suppose Ali Minai might inform me it’s not so much complex as complicated.

    Consider, then, the complexity, complicated nature, or wickedness of the problem of definition in our two cases..

    **

    DQ #2: Yet another Uncertainty Principle:

    I’d been thinking about the timeline of black swan takeoffs, thinking we might know roughly what the next five years could bring, but far out, farther out.. who knows? With this President, however, I’m forced to say Peter Baker is closer to the mark here than I’ve been thus far.

    Time to adjust to the flappings of black wings…

    Sources & quotes..

    Both are quotes I overheard on MSNBC a couple of days ago, but didn’t have anything to hand with which to note program or time.

    **

    Dq #3: Cap’n’caps:

    To cap it off, you have to admit the feeling is clear..

    Here we see two kinds of explosive — the cap represents an explosive attitude, the caps the explosive power of 9mm rounds.

    Let me put it this way: the sense of the two ads is twofold — security and threat, and the threat may make some of us insecure.

    **

    And to end on a lighter note, laughing at the way one bureaucracy can disagree with another..
    DQ #4: Nature rejects, Nobel awards:

    It is with intense satisfaction that observers note the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine this year was awarded to Sir Peter Ratcliffe, for work that Nature, arguably the world’s top science journal, had earlier rejected.

    Note also that HM the Queen was ahead of the Nobrl committee, having given Peter Ratcliffe a knighthood in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

    But then Nobel Prizes are belated recognitions of what has long been obvious..

    **

    Okay, I’m holding the fifth DQ for its own post — but here to compensate is another entry in our budding encyclopedia of ouroboroi, this one from Ben Juers at the Sydney Review of Books, Stepping on Rakes:Terry Eagleton’s Humourand Peter Timms’ Silliness:

    ‘If you want to raise a laugh it is unwise to joke and dissect your joke at the same time’, Eagleton writes in the introduction, ‘but there are not many comedians who come up with a theoretical inquiry into their wisecracks at the very moment they are delivering them.’ No sooner had I scrawled ‘um, Stewart Lee?!’ unreadably in the margins than Eagleton butted in: ‘There are, to be sure, exceptions, such as the brilliantly original comedian Stewart Lee, who deconstructs his own comedy as he goes along and analyses the audience’s response to it.’

    Talk about self-referential! Let me count the ways..

    Clearly I need to watch me some Stewart Lee.

    Cascading effects of critical transitions

    Monday, September 9th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — for Ali Minai and Mike Sellers, my complexity maven friends ]
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    Complexity at intersections and overlaps.

    My intuition catches this from memories of Carmel and Big Sur, and my general snese of waves crashing on waves –and with a little searching, I find my instinct beautifully expressed in this detail from Henrique Pinto‘s gorgeous Rocks & waves @ Big Sur #4, CA:

    The approach from science-side delivers this:

    The authors said their paper, published in the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises.

    Unwelcome surprises, unanticipated consequences, unknown unknowns, what’s the odds?

    From the article page:

    Cascading effects of regime shifts

    The potential for regime shifts and critical transitions in ecological and Earth systems, particularly in a changing climate, has received considerable attention. However, the possibility of interactions between such shifts is poorly understood. Rocha et al. used network analysis to explore whether critical transitions in ecosystems can be coupled with each other, even when far apart (see the Perspective by Scheffer and van Nes). They report different types of potential cascading effects, including domino effects and hidden feedbacks, that can be prevalent in different systems. Such cascading effects can couple the dynamics of regime shifts in distant places, which suggests that the interactions between transitions should be borne in mind in future forecasts.

    I’ve been saying this, notably here, and thinking it for quite a while longer: in particular, I’d imagine a lot of waves of climate migration will founder on the rocks of nationalism and religion..

    Okay, Covington Scissoring the Overton Window?

    Sunday, June 30th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — different people have different insights, and if they’re any good, they may be worth bringing together to see how they intersect, overlap, intertwine, refute one another, or pass each other by unscathed ]
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    Two concepts from political science that deserve to be interlaced:

    The Overton Window:

    The Overton Window is a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window.

    But the Overton Window can both shift and expand, either increasing or shrinking the number of ideas politicians can support without unduly risking their electoral support. Sometimes politicians can move the Overton Window themselves by courageously endorsing a policy lying outside the window, but this is rare. More often, the window moves based on a much more complex and dynamic phenomenon, one that is not easily controlled from on high: the slow evolution of societal values and norms.

    Source:

  • Mackinac Center, A brief explanation of the Overton Window
  • **

    And The Covington Scissor:

    In a short story published last October, “Sort by ntroversial,” Scott Alexander imagines a Silicon Valley company that accidentally comes up with an algorithm to generate what it calls a “Scissor.” The scissor is a statement, an idea or a scenario that’s somehow perfectly calibrated to tear people apart — not just by generating disagreement, but by generating total incredulity that somebody could possibly disagree with your interpretation of the controversy, followed by escalating fury and paranoia and polarization, until the debate seems like a completely existential, win-or-perish fight.

    When you start arguing with someone over a Scissor statement, “at first you just think they’re an imbecile. Then they call you an imbecile, and you want to defend yourself. … You notice all the little ways they’re lying to you and themselves and their audience every time they open their mouth to defend their imbecilic opinion. Then you notice how all the lies are connected, that in order to keep getting the little things like the Scissor statement wrong, they have to drag in everything else. Eventually even that doesn’t work; they’ve just got to make everybody hate you so that nobody will even listen to your argument no matter how obviously true it is.”

    Source:

  • Ross Douthat, The Covington Scissor
  • **

    What happens when you Covington Scissor the Overton Window all the way open?

    One half of the answer can be found in this title and sub-title by Amy Davidson Sorkin:

    The Democratic Primary’s Moving Margins:
    In the first debates, radical ideas were as much at the center of the action as at the fringes.

    The other half is even more obvious, IMO — the Republican margin has been shifting to the further and far right, or at least that’s the view of political scientist Keith Poole of the University of Georgia:

    The short version would be since the late 1970s starting with the 1976 election in the House the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furtherest to the right that they’ve been in 100 years

    And the result, Overton-Window-wise?

    Getting there..

    Achtung!

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    Whoa boy, Roy Lichtenstein

    Sunday, June 30th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from comix-pop to painting paint to a swirling portrait of complexity, aka tohu=bohu ]
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    Whoa boy, I had no idea Roy Lichtenstein ever painted anything like this:

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    I knew, of course, that he’d painted blown-up mersions of comic frames:

    Whaam! 1963 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Purchased 1966

    But that’s too easily “cool” to impress me much. Far more interesting is his painting of painting:

    He’s still doing a blow-up, in this case even more extreme than in his comic-book blow up Whaam, above — but this time it’s self-conscious, a painter taking paint for his subject, a serpent biting its own tail you might say, an exemplary ouroboros.

    **

    And in the course of my quick search for Lichtenstein images, I also found this, which interests me as, potentially, an image of multiple musical voices intersecting and separating — a strange, wave-like form of polyphony:

    Composition II 1996 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015

    This in turn reminds me of the “wavy music” in Reynolds Stone‘s bookplate for my aunt Esther:

    **

    But to return to that first image:

    That’s an astonishing image of tohu-bohu, the “formless and void” just before creation as envisaged in Genesis. And here’s my point:

    This image is both patterned (with formal properties) and abstract (formless), as befits that great mirror in which all forms arise and fade away, and thus a superb image for complexity, which is both patterned like overlapping waves, and swirling beyond our comprehension..

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    Here’s R Cromb‘s version of tohu-bohu:

    And that of the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493:

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    Ah, for a breath of theology hovering above the waters, see Catherine Keller & a theology of chaos, Part 1 and, no doubt, Catherine Keller, The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming.


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