Democracy is a contact sport. Everyone gets bruises. Even the winners. And the kind of bickering we see today is not only unproductive.
If you don’t have the guts to focus on ideas and stop tearing down individuals, you belong in the stands, not on the field. I want more leaders who are brave enough to focus on ideas and not ad hominem attacks. I want more leaders who are willing to say, “I hate everything she stands for, but I do not hate her. And neither should you.”
And I want more Americans who demand these kinds of debates for the sake of our democracy. Just ideas against ideas, let them fight it out, and if you lose, come back with better ideas.
Are millions of Americans ready to start fighting fair for the sake of our democracy? For the sake of solving common problems we all face?
During the Obama presidency, there were many that were angered by the number of executive orders he issued to work around the gridlocked of Congress. One notable one was not enforcing deportation laws. Today, many on the other side of the political spectrum are angry at the executive orders that Trump are issuing. Here in Oregon, there is currently a lawsuit against the Trump administration for pulling funding for ‘sanctuary’ cities.
Executive orders are a strange beast. They can be easily passed by the president (without the approval of Congress) but have the full force of law, based on the authority derived from statute or the Constitution itself. Recent presidents have issued in the 100-300 range, which is nowhere near the 1000’s that were passed by some previous presidents (usually during war/Great Depression).
But they set a bad precedent – not for Republicans vs Democrats – but for citizens. Instead of forcing our politicians to follow the rule of law, we seemingly let them violate the checks and balances in our government to ‘get what we want’. It’s important not to let our politicians break the rule of law. The rule of law protects CITIZENS from POLITICIANS. It makes our politicians do their jobs – which is to make, pass, enforce, and abide by the rules of law. When we give them a free pass to violate the very laws/checks and balances, then we as citizens lose the ability to control our own government. We only hurt ourselves. Just like giving a kid scissors to run around the house just to shut them up, we will end up paying a much worse price later for short-term gains.
I plan on holding my politicians to a higher standard. Do what we hired you to do – the hard work of working out our laws and getting them passed. I for one will sacrifice getting something now vs later in order to preserve the important safety guards to hold our government accountable.
So where can you get your news? In general, one can start with this chart to know the rough bias of the source:
I usually hit up the BBC for general news, then start cross referencing facts between varied sources on a particular subject to get the spectrum of the ‘facts’. If more than a few jive and come from sources on both sides of the left/right bias line – then I consider it credible. I don’t consider sources more than one tick from center to be credible without serious distortion of the facts.
Facebook posts, however, is news curated by your friends. I love you all, but we’re not the most unbiased nor always check our sources and facts when we post (myself included). I must consider my sources.
The comment chain is where you can lose faith in humanity. Some people like posting inflammatory stuff to “circle their wagons”. These things become pits to vilify others, feel better about themselves, as well as become an echo chamber to entrench and deepen their own opinions. I’ve seen downright sexism, racism, threats and recommendations of violence spewed from people on both sides of the far right AND left of the political spectrum. If you’re one of these people – it’s time to check yourself. If your posts are nothing but hate, rejoicing in the destruction of others, and tirades of outrage – you are not helping.
These comment chains are like nuclear reactors. You take enough radioactive material of the same kind together, and on its own, just being close to more of itself, it turns into lots of heat, pressure, and radiation that kills anyone coming near it. The end result is to make everyone reading it more polarized as your circle of ‘yes men’ entrenches – because you’re no longer being challenged to deal in a civil way with others that disagree with you. Not that things aren’t wrong. They are. But a real effect of this last election has been to damage genuine dialog that seeks to understand the other, learning how to make convincing arguments that respect others and might actually change the mind of a reasonable person via facts and logic or building bridges between people that disagree. If you truly no longer believe that’s possible, then please make some effort or find those to help because the other logical courses of action (besides talking) are destruction.
We can still have a very strong personal identity and mission. But just as the bias of these news sources – the way we convey even actual truth can take perfectly good news and make it completely useless or even wrong. Exercise: Take one actual event and find it on each of these sites. Witness how they change wording, titles, and commentary from far left to far right. It’s a fascinating exercise each of us should do. I often challenge myself by going left/right to see the opposite spin – the goal is learning how to listen to a take I don’t agree with but not flip out.
Being outraged is easy. Being angry is easy. Wanting to hurt others or see them hurt is easy. It is harder to use your brain. It’s harder to build a common good. If an article makes me incensed or angry, my ‘Am I being played?’ light comes on and I go to more sources. I practice not immediately been swept up (which makes you easy to control), but to internally learn how to question or make meaningful counter-arguments.
If you believe you’re ‘open minded’ because you consider yourself a Democrat/left-leaning/etc – then I’ll challenge you with the fact I’ve read at least one person I know here in Portland that claimed all these things yet believes they have a right to use whatever means (even physical violence) without punishment because ‘those people are just wrong and I need to resist with everything I have.’ Violence begets more violence – and only makes whoever is physically stronger and willing to do what others won’t ‘right’.
If we can’t learn how to get along and civilly dialog with those we don’t agree with – then we have no hope as a nation nor as a people looking for the common good. As my old history prof said, “Democracy is not about getting everyone to agree – that will never happen. What it does is give us a form of government in which everyone gets some of what they want – enough to get along – without having to kill the other side like we did for millennia.” Instead, we are headed back to that attitude if it increasingly becomes all about ‘me’. It doesn’t help that our news has learned that outrage sells and fuels the idea of all-or-nothing ideals using inflammatory headlines. If we continue, we will pick even more and more radical people to lead us to our own destruction. All the while controlled and directed by a steady and constant fuel of ‘outrage’ that makes us act emotionally, not with our brains.
It is also not Christian. God does not delight in the death or destruction of even one sinner:
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. – Lk 15:7
Christ came not to judge the world, but to call all to himself:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.. – Jn 3:17
If our job is to continue the work of Christ, we do the same. We do not judge nor condemn but spread the good news. The news each can live in the light and truth without shame. That we do not need to live in the darkness of our past. It can be brought out and healed. We can live free from the darkness of the evil in our lives. Evil has a way of hurting us so that our decisions in the future are tainted by hiding from, or hiding the shame, of that hurt. It breaks up our relationships. And in the light, even if we fall again, that darkness can be healed and forgiven. Nobody is beyond forgiveness. Nobody is beyond hope.
Keeping with the intent of the week-long conference to share strategies to make the world better, Francis’s contribution to that conversation was to urge the people gathered here to use their influence and power to care for others.
“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said to applause. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”
How does that old adage go, “Sex sells”? I always wondered what would take its place. Now, I think we know. The new adage appears to be: “Outrage sells”.
In this excellent article, Ryan Holiday talks about how he created a marketing campaign in 2009 on a shoestring budget about a fictional internet blogger Tucker Max in order to promote an independent film. They then proceeded to troll the public and our institutions on their way to huge sales. They reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, sold out college bus tours, and made millions in ticket, dvd, and book sales. Often using our public institutions and media against each other – all for publicity.
“But my favorite was the campaign in Chicago—the only major city where we could afford transit advertising. After placing a series of offensive ads on buses and the metro, from my office I alternated between calling in angry complaints to the Chicago CTA and sending angry emails to city officials with reporters cc’d, until ‘under pressure,’ they announced that they would be banning our advertisements and returning our money. Then we put out a press release denouncing this cowardly decision.
I’ve never seen so much publicity. It was madness.”
It all worked. Ryan Holiday published all the manipulation he did and how uncontrollably successful it was in his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. He’s been approached by numerous people saying that this book is now ‘their bible’.
He describes his book thusly:
You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like me.
I’m a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, my job is to control blogs-as much as any one person can. In today’s culture… Blogs like Gawker, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda. Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see and watch-online and off. Why am I giving away these secrets? Because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it.
He talks about how outrage can be leveraged with ruthless exactness:
Niche players and polarizing personalities are only ever going to be interesting to a small subgroup. While this might seem like a disadvantage, it’s actually a huge opportunity: Because it allows them to leverage the dismissals, anger, mockery, and contempt of the population at large as proof of their credibility. Someone like Milo or Mike Cernovich doesn’t care that you hate them—they like it. It’s proof to their followers that they are doing something subversive and meaningful. It gives their followers something to talk about. It imbues the whole movement with a sense of urgency and action—it creates purpose and meaning.
While many worried about “normalizing” their behavior, that’s the one thing they don’t want to happen. The key tactic of alternative or provocative figures is to leverage the size and platform of their “not-audience” (i.e. their haters in the mainstream) to attract attention and build an actual audience.
Let’s say 9 out of 10 people who hear something Milo says will find it repulsive and juvenile. But let’s say he can acquire massive amounts of negative publicity by pissing off people in the media? Well now all of a sudden someone is absorbing the cost of this inefficient form of marketing for him. If a CNN story reaches 100,000 people, that’s 90,000 people all patting themselves on the back for how smart and decent they are. They’re just missing the fact that the 10,000 new people that just heard about Milo for the first time. The same goes for when you angrily share on Facebook some godawful thing one of these people has said. The vast majority of your friends rush to agree, but your younger cousin has a dark switch in his brain go on for the first time.
His solution is an observation:
I realize there is legitimate fear of normalizing repulsive behavior. I’m not suggesting anyone give credence to real Nazi doctrine. However, historically, it’s usually true that banning and blocking usually has the opposite of its intended effect. Effective counterinsurgency usually involves bargaining, partnering and the reestablishment of norms—not hardlines.
In this, I think he’s hit the nail on the head. We must admit these things are out there. But instead of trying to silence them, ban them, shut them up, and break their windows – we must engage and defuse them. We may not like it, but other tactics only pour gas on the fire.
Personally, I think this is where a person could take a few notes on how God engaged with our broken humanity. I hear a fellow went out teaching this and they wrote a lot of that down in a book somewhere… 🙂
A few points to consider on that front:
- The Christian always separates the infinite worth and beauty of the individual human person who is “created in the image of God” from their sin. This can be brutally hard at times – especially when that person wishes you real harm. This is how evil is disarmed. It is hard to hate others when someone sees the infinite beauty and possibility in you that they often do not see themselves. Hate is disarmed by love.
- The cross is the center of the Christian life. It means dying to yourself to do what is best for others. As Louis CK said: The only time you should look at another’s bowl is to see if they have enough, not if you got your ‘fair’ share. It may require you to turn the other cheek. It might even cost your life as in the case of Christ.
- A steadfast peace in your heart that comes from deep and daily relationship with God. With this relationship, cultivated in daily prayer and silence, you find something that can endure any trial and bring peace to any situation.
- Trust in Christ that when you follow him in this wisdom, you will be taken care of. I have seen this many times in my own life and the life of my friends who have become priests. It may not be what you expect, but those that follow Christ are never abandoned.
- Speaking only the truth. Without hyperbole, exaggeration, or outright lies. Let your ‘Yes’ mean yes, and your ‘No’ mean no. Anything else is from the evil one.
Steven Hawking added his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned that AI and automation are going to decimate middle class jobs, worsen inequality, and increase the risk of significant political upheaval.
A report put out in February 2016 by Citibank with the University of Oxford predicted that 47% of US jobs are at risk of automation. In the UK, 35% are. In China, it’s a whopping 77%. Hawking writes that automation will, ” accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”
This is what I’ve said for some time. AI allows you to replace whole swaths of employees. We can see how this is playing out by looking at the economies AirBnB and Uber are setting up. Instead of these nationwide chains of workers facilitating this new industry, the work is largely done by servers and AI on commoditized server farms. Instead of that money coming into a company of thousands, machine learning and automation can do it with only hundreds. Those hundreds are in narrow job titles with many traditional disciplines no longer needed. Further, it’s not hard to see how this concentrates money from a nation-wide chain into an incredibly small number of pockets instead of a host of employees they might have hired in years past.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for putting our heads in the sand and ignoring these new economies or saying we should stop them. That’s impossible. However, as Hawking and economists note, “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.”
So what will be lost and what will be left? Just like the industrial revolution – certain kinds of jobs will be affected, but others will not. Creative, supervisory, and health care roles are likely safe. Skilled workers that know how to build and maintain AI server systems as well. But jobs like cashiers, tellers, secretaries, logistics, quantitative marketing/planning/strategy, financial planning, truck drivers, possibly even train conductors or airline pilots could all see major parts of their job functions replaced with machine learning algorithms. We’re already seeing this with automated checkouts, automated driving vehicles, and logistics AI’s are already out-performing replacing live counterparts. Even if one’s job is not replaced, there might only need to be one or two persons in the cockpit instead of 3 to 5.
This is going to come to a head in our lifetimes, and it’s very important we start talking and thinking about it now.
The polls have consistently shown Hillary Clinton with a lead over Donald Trump, and yet, Trump just shocked the media, the polls, and the world with his victory. But it wasn’t a shock to some. Especially Genic.AI – a company that specializes in AI’s to solve complex problems. MogIA predicted his win months ago.
Genic.AI wrote a machine learning AI called MogIA that predicted the primaries and the last 4 elections perfectly. MogIA used 20 million data points from online platforms like Google, YouTube, and Twitter to come up with its predictions. It correctly predicted the past three presidential elections as well as the Democratic and Republican primaries. Now it’s 4 for 4.
“While most algorithms suffer from programmers/developer’s biases, MoglA aims at learning from her environment, developing her own rules at the policy layer and develop expert systems without discarding any data,” Sanjiv Rai, the founder of Indian start-up Genic.ai who developed MogIA, told CNBC. In October, Rai declared that Trump’s social media engagement had overtaken that of Barack Obama’s in 2008 by 25%, foreshadowing a Republican victory on November 8th. The predictions are now true.
It is not just that AI’s are doing complex tasks, it’s that they increasingly doing complex evaluative tasks better than the best humans in the whole world. These AI’s can be written by a few (or just one) persons using off-the-shelf compute. This makes it available to almost anyone – at prices far below the price of an average yearly employee salary. – Me 2014
Some are calling this the Truman defeats Dewey moment for our elections. What happens when several, or even one, cheaply made machine AI’s can now predict the results of huge upset elections months in advance better than thousands of people working at polling companies and the most astute political campaign machines like Mrs Clinton’s? Do those old companies and employees have any value anymore?
What would an election look like if we threw out the usual political rulebooks and went fully into AI guided campaigns? How will the face of online companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google that trade in your postings, opinions, and data shape our elections? How do we protect against their manipulation – such as the case where former Facebook employees admitted to regularly and actively censor conservative news? Or worse, protect against manipulation by domestic/foreign agents that might be able to write counter-AI’s to manipulate postings.
I think we’re very much on the breakthrough moment of AI’s taking over these very kinds of decisions and jobs in our society. I also believe we need to start looking at how to protect ourselves from equally capable AI’s that will attempt to manipulate results (such as we see today with AI bots writing product reviews) and companies that will attempt to skew data.
This is a graph of the ‘majority’ faith of each county in the US as of 2000. According to the chart, a ‘majority’ religion can claim more than 50% of the county’s population. I didn’t realize how Catholic most of the country is. I’m also surprised there aren’t more gray counties where it’s split between 3 or nobody has a ‘majority’.
I happen to know the Oregon numbers seem strange. The local paper listed Catholics as only 35% of the general population (statewide). Yet it is still the largest denominational church attended in Oregon by a wide margin. Why? Because more than 50% of the population don’t profess to belong to any denominational faith. Hence I was expect more grey squares.
I think a lot of folks (especially the average person in the pew) do not realize how powerful and how much they can influence things in our country. With voter turnout averaging less than 50% in a good number of elections, 50% of the country isn’t being represented. So in essence, each person that is voting is getting 2 votes (one for the guy that didn’t vote). Seen in that light, it’s no wonder our president and our congress have such amazingly low approval ratings (you did know congress has a lower approval rating than Bush right?)
Are we in a spiral? We’re dissatisfied with our public leaders so we don’t think our vote will matter – so we vote less. This makes our public leaders elected by fewer, more active/vocal voters who likely do not represent us or our values well. Wash, rinse, repeat?
Yet the cure is very simple – get out there and vote. Participate in the process, and it will start reflecting you.
Thoughts from recent talks with friends/coworkers:
- If we went to government funded healthcare, it would likely have an impact on lawsuit cases. Instead of the astronomical lawsuits for injury claims, it is likely one could no longer sue for hundreds of millions for their medial care – since that care would be ‘freely’ available. Now, they could probably still sue for loss of limbs/ability to work/anguish/etc. They might also still be able to sue for special care needed for rehab or the like – depending on where govt care ended… But the burden of payment on these injuries would shift to the government (us) where it might be much more reasonably paid for (discounted rates) and half of it wouldn’t go to the lawyers.
- Having the tight urban growth boundary around Portland that we do (a line around the city where nobody can build houses outside of) has arguably kept it from experiencing a lot of the recent mortgage collapse pain or falling prices. The price of housing is a local phenomenon – primarily dictacted by demand, incomes, and availability. An urban growth boundary has kept availability lower than other places (no urban sprawl), and even if demand or average area income drops, the boundary keeps availability tighter and helps cushion any downturns.
As if it couldn’t sting more. It’s a painful article to read.
The prediction now is that the bottom of the foreclosure and mortgage woes will not be till mid-2008. AIG reports that currently 10% of all sub-prime mortgages are 60 days or more delinquent; and an estimate 20% of all sub primes will default by 2011. Overseas lenders are having to freeze and inject funds to prop up their shaky markets. Unfortunately, the pain is spreading in the markets – driving folks to bonds. Could be some very rocky markets in the next 3-4 months.
Biggest problem is if this starts badly snowballing and collapsing. The slowing/dropping prices of homes causes people to default more than just gracefully selling/bow out since they can’t just sell the property and cover their mortgages. The defaults cause houses to come back on the market. If enough of this happens, a surplus develops – which drives the prices down – making it more likely you’ll default on your ARM since you can’t sell your house at enough to cover your loan, which drives house prices down, which …wash, rinse, and repeat. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be getting out of control, but people are going to take a pounding – investors, owners, and mortgage companies. Question is, how much of a pounding.