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Maureen Dowd Talks with Eric Schmidt about A.I. – It’s Not A-OK!

Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt Credit…Axel Dupeux for The New York Times

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, discusses a conversation she had with Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and co-author of new book entitled, “The Age of AI,” written with Henry Kissinger and Daniel Huttenlocher.  Entitled, “A.I. Is Not A-OK,” Dowd raises questions about the future of A.I.   Here is an excerpt.

“.. I wanted to ask him the same question about A.I.: “Friend or foe?”

“A.I. is imprecise, which means that it can be unreliable as a partner,” he said when we met at his Chelsea office. “It’s dynamic in the sense that it’s changing all the time. It’s emergent and does things that you don’t expect. And, most importantly, it’s capable of learning.

“It will be everywhere. What does an A.I.-enabled best friend look like, especially to a child? What does A.I.-enabled war look like? Does A.I. perceive aspects of reality that we don’t? Is it possible that A.I. will see things that humans cannot comprehend?”

I agree with Elon Musk that when we build A.I. without a kill switch, we are “summoning the demon” and that humans could end up, as Steve Wozniak said, as the family pets. (If we’re lucky.)”

Schmidt responses are  provocative throughout the column (see below).  Dowd concludes:

“Schmidt said that his book poses questions that cannot yet be answered.

Unfortunately for us, we won’t know the answers until it is too late.”

Tony

————————————————————————————

The New York Times

A.I. Is Not A-OK

Oct. 30, 2021

By Maureen Dowd

Opinion Columnist

The first time I interviewed Eric Schmidt, a dozen years ago when he was the C.E.O. of Google, I had a simple question about the technology that has grown capable of spying on and monetizing all our movements, opinions, relationships and tastes.

“Friend or foe?” I asked.

“We claim we’re friends,” Schmidt replied coolly.

Now that the former Google executive has a book out Tuesday on “The Age of AI,” written with Henry Kissinger and Daniel Huttenlocher, I wanted to ask him the same question about A.I.: “Friend or foe?”

“A.I. is imprecise, which means that it can be unreliable as a partner,” he said when we met at his Chelsea office. “It’s dynamic in the sense that it’s changing all the time. It’s emergent and does things that you don’t expect. And, most importantly, it’s capable of learning.

“It will be everywhere. What does an A.I.-enabled best friend look like, especially to a child? What does A.I.-enabled war look like? Does A.I. perceive aspects of reality that we don’t? Is it possible that A.I. will see things that humans cannot comprehend?”

I agree with Elon Musk that when we build A.I. without a kill switch, we are “summoning the demon” and that humans could end up, as Steve Wozniak said, as the family pets. (If we’re lucky.)

Talking about the alarms raised by the likes of Musk and Stephen Hawking, Schmidt said that “they think that by unleashing A.I., eventually, you’ll end up with a robot overlord that’s 10 or 100 or 1,000 times smarter than the humans. My answer is different. I think all the evidence is that these A.I. systems are going to think, not like humans, but they’re going to be very smart. We’re going to have to coexist.”

You don’t think Siri and Alexa are going to kill us one night?

“No,” he said. “But they might become your child’s best friend.”

Opinions on A.I. are wildly divergent. Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality, rolls his eyes at the digerati in Silicon Valley obsessed with the “science-fiction fantasy” of A.I.

“It can sometimes become a giant, false god,” he told me. “You’ve got these nerdy guys who have an awful reputation for how they treat women, who get to be the life creators. ‘You women with your petty little biological wombs can’t stand up to us. We’re making the big life here. We’re the supergods of the future.’”

We have known for a while that Silicon Valley is taking us down the drain. Preposterous claims that once could not have gotten traction — on everything from Democratic pedophilia rings to rigged elections to vaccine conspiracy theories — now spread at the speed of light. Teenage girls can be sent spiraling into depression by the glossy, deceptive world of Instagram, owned by the manipulative and greedy company formerly known as Facebook.

Schmidt said an Oxford student told him, about social media poison, “The union of boredom and anonymity is dangerous.” Especially at the intersection of addiction and envy.

The question of whether we will lose control to A.I. may be passé. Technology is already manipulating us.

Schmidt admits that the lack of foresight among the lords of the cloud about where technology was headed was “foolish.”

“I’ll say, 10 years ago, when I worked really hard on these social networks, maybe this is just naïveté, but we never thought that governments would use them against citizens, like in 2016, with interference from the Russians.

“We didn’t think it would then stitch these special interest groups together with these violently strong belief systems. No one ever discussed it. I don’t want to make the same mistake again with a new foundational technology.”

He said that the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which he chaired earlier this year, concluded that America is still “a little bit ahead of China” in the technology race but China is “overinvesting against us.” The authors write that they are most worried about other countries developing A.I.-facilitated weapons with “substantial destructive potential” that “may be able to adapt and learn well beyond their intended targets.”

“The first thing for us to look at between the U.S. and China is to make sure that there’s no ‘Dr. Strangelove’ scenario, a launch on a warning, to make sure there’s time for human decision making,” he said. “Let’s imagine you’re on a ship in the future and the little computer system says to the captain, ‘You have 24 seconds before you’re dead because the hypersonic missile is coming at you. You need to press this button now.’ You want to trust the A.I., but because of its imprecise nature, what if it makes a mistake?”

I asked if he thought Facebook could leave its troubles behind by changing its name to Meta.

“The problem is, what do you now call FAANG stocks? MAANG?” he said of the biggest tech stocks — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. “Google changed its name to Alphabet, and yet, Google was still Google.”

And what’s with that creepy metaverse Zuckerberg is trying to lure us into?

“All of the people who talk about metaverses are talking about worlds that are more satisfying than the current world — you’re richer, more handsome, more beautiful, more powerful, faster. So, in some years, people will choose to spend more time with their goggles on in the metaverse. And who gets to set the rules? The world will become more digital than physical. And that’s not necessarily the best thing for human society.”

Schmidt said that his book poses questions that cannot yet be answered.

Unfortunately for us, we won’t know the answers until it is too late.

 

President Biden joins world leaders in endorsing global corporate minimum tax at G-20 Summit!

Image: G20 summit in Rome (Ludovic Marin / Reuters)

G20 summit in Rome (Ludovic Marin / Reuters)

Dear Commons Community,

President Joe Biden and other world leaders gave their support for a global corporate minimum tax at yesterday’s  G-20 summit, a monumental agreement that U.S. officials are hoping will lead to an increase in revenue to fund Biden’s Build Back Better agendaAs reported by several news outlets.

“Following the first plenary session on Saturday, a senior Biden administration official said that the leaders “all came out in support of a global minimum tax.”

While finance representatives from most G-20 countries have already agreed to implement a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations — ending a race to the bottom on corporate taxation that could keep companies from leaving the U.S. for low-tax countries — approval from heads of state is an important step forward towards implementing the deal.

A final endorsement of the new tax was expected to be included in the joint communique, the statement that G-20 leaders issue at the end of the summit outlining their priorities and actions they agreed to take. Each country will then have to go through their own process to ratify the tax.

An administration official said that the global corporate minimum tax would lead to at least $60 billion in additional revenue every year in the U.S. alone.

Covid, climate change and spiking energy prices were also expected to be high on the agenda during the opening session of the G-20.

“The President underscored his commitment to ending the global pandemic and securing an inclusive global economic recovery, including by supporting developing countries through debt relief,” the official said in a statement. “He reminded G20 Leaders that new pandemics can arise any time so it is important that we strengthen global health systems and do more to create the global health security infrastructure to make sure we are prepared against the next pandemic.”

In opening remarks at La Nuvola, where the summit is taking place, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi emphasized the need to come together to tackle some of the world’s most complex challenges.

“From the pandemic to climate change to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option,” Draghi said. “We must do all we can to overcome our differences. And we must rekindle the spirit that led to the creation of this group.”

Biden and other G-20 leaders posed for a group photo before sitting down for the meeting. First responders joined, and several of them took selfies with Biden at the end.

Biden was seen briefly interacting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Draghi cautioned the group in his opening remarks that the pandemic was far from over and that more must be done to combat global vaccine inequality.

“In high income countries, more than 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose. In the poorest ones, this percentage drops to roughly 3 percent,” he said. “These differences are morally unacceptable and undermine the global recovery.”

The Group of 20, an annual gathering of international leaders representing the world’s biggest economies, meets every year to discuss some of the world’s most challenging economic problems.

In addition to the United States, the G-20, which was founded in 1999 following a series of global economic crises, includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and members of the European Union.

Combined, member countries make up roughly 80 percent of global GDP and 60 percent of the world population, although some of the most populous countries — such as Pakistan and Nigeria — are not part of the G-20.

Great start to this summit!

Tony

U of Florida Bars Three State Professors from Testifying in Voting Rights Case!

Florida Bars State Professors From Testifying in Voting Rights Case -  LastTimes.News - Breaking news, Instant news, World news,

Dear Commons Community,

After being hired as expert witnesses for groups opposing a restrictive voting law, three University of Florida academics were told they could not participate in the lawsuit against the state and have been barred from assisting plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn the state’s new law restricting voting rights. The ban is an extraordinary limit on speech that raises questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights.  The three professors in question are: Dr. Daniel Smith, the chair of the university’s political science department; Michael McDonald, a nationally recognized elections scholar; and Sharon Wright Austin, who studies African American political behavior.  As reported by The New York Times.

University officials told the three that because the school was a state institution, participating in a lawsuit against the state “is adverse to U.F.’s interests” and could not be permitted. In their filing, the lawyers sought to question Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, on whether he was involved in the decision.

Mr. DeSantis has resisted questioning, arguing that all of his communications about the law are protected from disclosure because discussions about legislation are privileged. In their filing on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the federal questions in the case — including whether the law discriminates against minority groups — override any state protections.

Two university representatives said they could not comment on pending litigation. Mr. DeSantis’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

“The university’s refusal to allow the professors to testify was a marked turnabout for the University of Florida. Like schools nationwide, the university has routinely allowed academic experts to offer expert testimony in lawsuits, even when they oppose the interests of the political party in power.

Leading experts on academic freedom said they knew of no similar restrictions on professors’ speech and testimony and said the action was probably unconstitutional.

One of the professors in the latest filing, Daniel A. Smith, testified with the University of Florida’s permission in two voting rights lawsuits against Florida’s Republican-led government in 2018. One suit forced the state to provide Spanish-language ballots for Hispanic voters. The other overturned a state-imposed ban on early-voting polling places on Florida university campuses.

But university officials reversed course after a coalition of advocacy and voting rights groups sued in May to block restrictions on voting enacted this year by the Republican-controlled State Legislature. Among other provisions, the new law sharply limits the use of ballot drop boxes, makes it harder to obtain absentee ballots and places new requirements on voter registration drives.

Among other claims, the plaintiffs argue that the law disproportionately limits the ability of Black and Hispanic voters to cast ballots.

In rejecting Dr. Smith’s request, the dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences, David E. Richardson, wrote that “outside activities that may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the state of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida.” A university vice president overseeing conflicts of interest issued the other two rejections.

One lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, Kira Romero-Craft, said that reasoning “goes against the core of what the University of Florida should stand for in terms of academic freedom.”

“It seems reasonable for us to understand whether the executive office of the governor had any role in participating in that decision,” she said.

An author of two books on academic freedom, Henry Reichman, called the state’s new restrictions “crazy.”

“The whole purpose of a university and academic freedom is to allow scholars free rein to conduct research,” said Mr. Reichman, a professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay. “The ultimate logic of this is that you can be an expert in the United States, except in the state where you’re actually working and being paid by the state.”

Robert C. Post, a Yale Law School professor and expert on academic freedom and the First Amendment, said he knew of no other case in which a university had imposed prior restraint on a professor’s ability to speak.

“The university does not exist to protect the governor,” he said. “It exists to serve the public. It is an independent institution to serve the public good, and nothing could be more to the public good than a professor telling the truth to the public under oath.”

Why the university reversed its position is unclear, but the professors’ demand to question Governor DeSantis appears aimed at discovering whether the school’s administrators acted under pressure.

The state’s new voting restrictions were a priority for Mr. DeSantis, who signed them into law before a crowd of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump in a ceremony broadcast by Fox News. Local reporters were barred from the event.

The governor had earlier described the 2020 election as the most efficient and secure in Florida’s history, but said he was calling for stricter voting rules because “we cannot rest on our laurels.”

Mr. DeSantis has close allies at the University of Florida. The head of the school’s board of trustees, Morteza Hosseini, is a major Republican Party donor and DeSantis adviser who co-chaired a transition team formed after the governor’s victory in 2018.

The two men made headlines this week when The Gainesville Sun reported that Mr. Hosseini, who is known as Mori, had arranged this fall for the University of Florida to hire and grant tenure to a controversial U.C.L.A. professor, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, in only two weeks. Mr. DeSantis quickly named Dr. Ladapo as the state’s surgeon general.

Dr. Ladapo’s views on Covid-19 protections such as vaccinations and masking are in line with Mr. DeSantis’s but sharply at odds with federal guidelines. His first act in the post was to ban Florida schools from quarantining students exposed to Covid-19 as long as they show no symptoms of illness.

In an Oct. 13 letter to university officials, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida branch noted that Mr. DeSantis had signed legislation this year requiring universities to annually assess the state of academic freedom and ensure that students hear a variety of viewpoints, including those they disagree with.

Barring the professors’ testimony goes against those very tenets, the letter stated, adding that the university “simply should not be looking to Governor DeSantis to decide which speech activities it will engage in. That is precisely the opposite of the values that universities are thought to stand for.”

What a weird set of circumstances!

Tony

New Book:  “Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy” by Nathaniel Philbrick!

 

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy by Nathaniel Philbrick.  This book retraces the routes of Washington as he traveled the country after being elected President to talk and meet with everyday people about his new government and to imbue in them what it means to be an American at a time when many  questioned federal authority.  Philbrick follows Washington’s trails from his home in Mt. Vernon to Philadelphia, New York City, New England, Long Island, and the South.  He compares the places  Washington visited in the 1700s with what they are in the present day. Accompanying Philbrick are his wife, Elaine, and their dog, Dora.  Elaine is a pleasure to read about, Dora less so.  I thought parts that talk about Dora chasing a squirrel, soiling a bedspread, and finding a snake detracted from the important messages in this book.  Philbrick has some fine commentary on Washington and the rift that develops between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson over the powers of the central government and the bitterness that threatened to destroy the country.  Below is a review that appeared in The New York Times.

Interesting subject matter about Washington and our country then and now.

Tony

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The New York Times Review of Books

George Washington Slept Here? Then So Will Nathaniel Philbrick.

By Richard Brookhiser

Sept. 14, 2021

TRAVELS WITH GEORGE
In Search of Washington and His Legacy
By Nathaniel Philbrick

Early in his first term as president, George Washington visited every state in the Union. The United States was relatively new, having won its independence half a dozen years earlier; the presidency and the Constitution were brand-new. Think of Washington’s trips as test-drives.

Nathaniel Philbrick is a prizewinning maritime historian who has recently turned his attention to the founding period. “Travels With George” is an account of his retracing Washington’s footsteps — and carriage tracks — accompanied by his wife, Melissa, and their Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, Dora. The book is a hybrid: part history, part travelogue.

Philbrick’s survey of Washington’s journeys draws on his own knowledge of the period, and on his eye for detail. He begins with Washington’s eight-day trip in April 1789 from Mount Vernon to New York City, then the nation’s capital, to be inaugurated. Washington’s election had been unanimous, and his journey through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey was a rolling ovation. The crowds that greeted him when he arrived in New York, one congressman wrote, were “thick as ears of corn before the harvest.” In the fall of 1789 he spent a month traveling in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. (Rhode Island, still hesitating to ratify the Constitution, was pointedly excluded; he picked up that state in August 1790 after it had seen the light.) In April 1790 he toured Long Island, possibly to thank the members of the Culper Ring, the spies who had kept watch on British-occupied New York during the Revolution; protective of his assets, like all good spymasters, he never admitted that this was what he was doing. His journey through Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia in the spring and early summer of 1791 was a bear, taking three months to cover more than 1,800 miles.

Washington, according to a French diplomat at the time, had “the advantage of uniting great dignity with great simplicity of manner.” This gift enabled him to embody both the monarchical and populist yin and yang of the presidency. In Boston, homeowners rented their windows so that admirers could get a glimpse of him; in Charleston he was greeted by the intendant (mayor) carrying a six-foot-tall gold crowned staff. In Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, by contrast, he stopped to help raise a rafter of a one-room schoolhouse, led the workmen in three cheers and left a dollar to treat them. He made a point of staying in inns and paying his own way, so as not to be beholden to anyone, but this independent-mindedness caused difficulties of its own. Twice in New England, hostelries turned him away; once in North Carolina his entourage, after a dawn start, enjoyed a big breakfast at a roadside house only to discover that they had barged into a private dwelling.

Washington had more in mind than scoping out accommodations. As commander in chief during the Revolutionary War, he had already been seen by more of his countrymen than any other living American. By showing himself as president, he wanted to put a face on the new Constitution. Philbrick explains: “Washington was a celebrity and he used that star power to win as much support as possible for a federal government that many in Virginia were predisposed to distrust.” Many elsewhere too. At the same time, Washington was blinkered by his own prestige: People told the hero what he wanted to hear, and so discord that would flower in the first two-party system, pitting his secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, against his Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, escaped him.

Philbrick’s present-day experiences and thoughts are skippable, except when he wrestles with problems, some of Washington’s vintage, that continue to afflict us. Of greatest concern to us now are slavery and its child, racism. Philbrick introduces us to several enslaved people whom Washington owned: William Lee, the servant who was at his side throughout the Revolution; Ona Judge, who belonged to the estate of Martha’s first husband until she freed herself by fleeing to New Hampshire, from which Washington strove, in vain, to retrieve her. We might have heard more about the 123 others he owned whom he freed in his will. The descendants of one of them, Nancy Carter Quander, hold an annual family reunion. Philbrick could have attended.

The problem of greatest concern to Washington during his presidency was national union. America’s regions barely knew one another; there had been a rebellion of overtaxed farmers in 1786-87 and there would be another in 1794 during his second term. Philbrick quotes Washington’s Farewell Address, delivered in the twilight of his administration. “The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism.” It was a hope, more than a statement of fact.

How is the hope faring these days? Philbrick finished “Travels With George” in September 2020. The riots associated with the George Floyd protests had ceased, the Capitol riot was still to come. He ends with an appropriately stern injunction, referencing both Washington and his secretary of state: “The sinews of this country have been stretched to what feels like the breaking point. If those sinews should ultimately fail and the floodgates of rage and disorder swing open, it won’t be Washington’s and Jefferson’s fault. With the combined gift of the Declaration of Independence and the Union, they provided the means for future generations to transcend the injustices and inadequacies of their own time. The fault will lie with ourselves.”

 

Joe Biden said yesterday that Pope Francis told him he was a “good Catholic” who can receive communion!

Abortion: Biden says Pope told him he's a good Catholic and should continue  receiving communion - CNNPolitics

Dear Commons Communiyt,

Joe Biden said yesterday during his visit with the Pope, that Francis  told him he was a “good Catholic” who can receive communion thereby widening a gulf between Francis and conservative U.S. bishops who want to deny it because of Biden’s support for abortion rights.  As reported by Reuters.

Biden and the pope held an unusually long 1 hour and 15 minute meeting at the Vatican as a debate raged back in the United States about the divisive issue. 

Asked if the topic of abortion came up, Biden said: “No it didn’t. It came up — we just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving communion,” Biden told reporters. 

The president, who goes to weekly Mass regularly and keeps a picture of the pope behind his desk in the Oval Office, has said he is personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose his views as an elected leader. 

In June, a divided conference of U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft  a statement on communion that some bishops say should specifically admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden. They take up the issue again next month. 

But the pope’s comments to Biden, who disclosed them at the start of a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, may make it difficult for the bishops to follow through on their plans. 

Asked if he and the pope discussed the U.S. bishops, Biden said “that’s a private conversation.” 

Biden’s most ardent critics in the U.S. Church hierarchy doubled down ahead of the visit. 

“Dear Pope Francis, you have boldly stated that abortion is ‘murder’. Please challenge President Biden on this critical issue. His persistent support of abortion is an embarrassment for the Church and a scandal to the world,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said on Twitter before the meeting. 

After the meeting, Tobin tweeted: “I fear that the Church has lost its prophetic voice. Where are the John the Baptists who will confront the Herods of our day?”, apparently comparing Biden to King Herod, who beheaded the preacher John for calling out the king’s sins. 

Last month, the pope told reporters that abortion is “murder” but appeared to criticize U.S. Catholic bishops for dealing with the issue in a political rather than a pastoral way

“Communion is not a prize for the perfect. … Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church,” the pope said, adding that bishops should use “compassion and tenderness” with Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. 

Since his election in 2013 as the first Latin American pope, Francis has said that while the Church should oppose abortion, the issue should not become an all-consuming battle in culture wars that detracts attention from matters such as immigration and poverty. 

….

The White House said Biden thanked the pope for “his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution”. Biden also praised the pope’s “leadership in fighting the climate crisis, as well as his advocacy to ensure the pandemic ends for everyone through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery”. 

The Vatican said the two discussed “care of the planet”, health care, the pandemic, refugees, migrants, and “the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience”. 

The Vatican said the private meeting lasted one hour and 15 minutes and then about another 15 minutes were spent for picture taking and the exchange of gifts in the presence of other members of the delegation, such as Biden’s wife, Jill. 

A meeting between the pope and former President Donald Trump in 2017 lasted about 30 minutes and one with Barrack Obama in 2014 lasted about 50 minutes. 

Biden gave the pope a coin sometimes awarded to soldiers and leaders and told him: “You are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.” 

Yes he is!

Tony

 

 

Anderson Cooper blasts Rupert Murdoch and Fox News for pumping ‘poison into the media ecosystem’

Murdoch's Time Warner Bid Puts Spotlight on CNN - VarietyRupert Murdoch speaks out about contract talks with Megyn Kelly

Dear Commons Community,

On CNN last night, Cooper called out media tycoon and Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch for spreading inflammatory misinformation. The rebuke came after the trailer release of Tucker Carlson’s three-part special documentary Patriot Purge. The trailer insinuates that the Capitol insurrection on January 6 was a ‘false flag’ operation, and it has been met with a great deal of bipartisan backlash.

“This really isn’t about Tucker Carlson,” Cooper said. “It’s really about the empire that he works for that continues to pump poison into the media ecosystem. Poison that has, at times, violent and even deadly consequences.”

Cooper discussed the Fox News proclivity for promoting the “Big Lie,” which suggests Donald Trump won the 2020 election. He also highlighted some of the right-wing extremist violence outside of the January 6 attack. Like the death threats directed at a Florida state senator battling cancer who asked the surgeon general to wear a mask while in her office.

“Why would something as simple as wearing a mask to be gracious and protect others be controversial enough to threaten to kill over if Fox and others weren’t stoking the anger?” Cooper asked. “Rupert chooses to enable this. He profits off it. He does very well.”

Cooper brought on Fox News’s former Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron, who left the network after more than 20 years because he believed it was spreading right-wing partisan misinformation. While he agreed with Cooper’s accusations towards Murdoch, he went a step further in suggesting major legal troubles ahead for Fox News.

“Those who continue to lie about our election processes and try to undermine the government – I mean it used to be people would call that sedition or treason and at some point the Justice Department will start taking names,” Cameron said. “The laws are the laws, and the Supreme Court would have to be bending a hell of a lot of them if they were to allow some of this behavior to continue.”

I agree fully with Anderson.  Murdoch and his media outlets hurt our country and its people.  He should follow his son  back to Australia,

Tony

 

Mark Zuckerberg Redefines Facebook as Meta (verse)!

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has been committed to building the “metaverse,” a composite universe melding online, virtual and augmented worlds that people can seamlessly traverse.

Dear Commons Community,

Mark Zuckerberg, under fire for spreading misinformation and other issues, said a change was necessary at Facebook on the next digital frontier called the metaverse. Yesterday, the social networking giant took a step toward an overhaul, de-emphasizing Facebook’s name and rebranding itself as Meta. The change was accompanied by a new corporate logo designed like an infinity-shaped symbol that was slightly askew. Facebook and its other apps, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, will remain but under the Meta umbrella.

The move punctuates how Zuckerberg, the chief executive, plans to refocus his Silicon Valley company on what he sees as the next digital frontier, which is the unification of disparate digital worlds into something called the metaverse.  At the same time, renaming Facebook may help distance the company from the social networking controversies it is facing, including how it is used to spread hate speech and misinformation.  As reported by Mike Isaac for The New York Times.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity” with this new chapter, Mr. Zuckerberg said, speaking at a virtual event on Thursday to showcase Facebook’s technological bets on the future. “Over time, I hope we’re seen as a metaverse company.”

Facebook rose to prominence over the past two decades with some of the world’s most recognizable branding: a big blue-and-white letter F.

No longer. On Thursday, the social networking giant took an unmistakable step toward an overhaul, de-emphasizing Facebook’s name and rebranding itself as Meta. The change was accompanied by a new corporate logo designed like an infinity-shaped symbol that was slightly askew. Facebook and its other apps, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, will remain but under the Meta umbrella.

The move punctuates how Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, plans to refocus his Silicon Valley company on what he sees as the next digital frontier, which is the unification of disparate digital worlds into something called the metaverse. At the same time, renaming Facebook may help distance the company from the social networking controversies it is facing, including how it is used to spread hate speech and misinformation.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity” with this new chapter, Mr. Zuckerberg said, speaking at a virtual event on Thursday to showcase Facebook’s technological bets on the future. “Over time, I hope we’re seen as a metaverse company.”

With the change, Mr. Zuckerberg telegraphed that his company was going beyond today’s social networking, which Facebook has been built on since it was founded 17 years ago. Having Facebook as the corporate name when the company now owned many apps and was fundamentally about connecting people was no longer tenable, he said.

That was especially the case, Mr. Zuckerberg said, as Facebook has committed to building a composite universe melding online, virtual and augmented worlds that people can seamlessly traverse. He has said that this concept, known as the metaverse, can be the next major social platform and that several tech companies will build it over the next 10-plus years. On Monday, Facebook had signaled its intent to be a big player when it separated its virtual reality and augmented reality business into a division known as Facebook Reality Labs.

But evolving Facebook into a metaverse company will take time since the concept is theoretical and may take years to achieve. Facebook and its sister apps also remain a giant business, generating more than $86 billion in annual revenue and serving more than 3.5 billion people globally.

The timing of the name change has a double advantage. Facebook has grappled with some of the most intense scrutiny in its history in recent weeks. Lawmakers and the public have criticized its Instagram photo-sharing app for hurting some teenagers’ self-esteem and the company has faced questions for its role in amplifying misinformation and stirring unrest with inflammatory content.

The outcry reached a fever pitch after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, leaked internal documents that showed how much the company knew about the harmful effects it was causing. Findings from Ms. Haugen’s documents were first published by The Wall Street Journal and then other media organizations, including The New York Times.

The revelations have led to a slew of congressional hearings, as well as legal and regulatory scrutiny. On Monday, Ms. Haugen spoke to British lawmakers in Parliament and urged them to regulate Facebook. On Tuesday, Facebook told its employees to “preserve internal documents and communications since 2016” that pertain to its businesses because governments and legislative bodies had started inquiries into its operations.

Corporate rebrands are rare but have precedent. They have generally been used to signal a company’s structural reorganization or to distance a company from a toxic reputation.

In 2015, Google restructured itself under a new parent company, Alphabet, dividing itself into separate companies to better differentiate its internet search business from the moonshot bets it was making in other areas. In 2011, Netflix announced plans to cleave its video business into two parts, briefly renaming its DVD-by-mail arm as Qwikster.

After The Verge reported last week that Facebook might change its name, social media erupted with less desirable comparisons. Some recalled how Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, rebranded itself to Altria Group in 2001 after years of reputational damage over the health costs and effects of cigarettes on the American public.

Nicholas Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global policy and communications, has rejected the comparisons, calling them “extremely misleading.”

Facebook’s name change is largely cosmetic. It will begin trading under the stock ticker MVRS beginning on Dec. 1. The company will also rebrand some of its virtual-reality products as Meta, shifting away from the original brand name of Oculus.

The company was not restructured and no executive changes were announced. Mr. Zuckerberg also remains chief executive and chairman. He holds majority voting power over any changes that could affect the future of the company.

“No matter what Mark Zuckerberg calls it, it will remain Zuckerberg Inc. until he relinquishes some power and yields to functional corporate governance,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor and social media researcher at Syracuse University.

For months, Facebook has been building up to the metaverse announcement. Last year, it released its newest virtual-reality headsets, the Oculus Quest 2. In August, it unveiled virtual-reality service called Horizon Workrooms, a virtual meeting room where people using the virtual-reality headsets can gather as if they were at an in-person work meeting. And in September, it announced a new line of eyewear with Ray-Ban, which can record videos.

Those products are all pieces of the metaverse, which Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged on Thursday sounded like “science fiction.”

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s chief technology officer, has also said the metaverse will need significant technological breakthroughs to happen and that the company was working on new versions of virtual reality and augmented reality hardware to make them smaller, less expensive and more immersive.

Even so, Mr. Zuckerberg on Thursday talked up the idea as “the successor to the mobile internet” and said mobile devices would no longer be the focal points. The building blocks for the metaverse were also already available, he said. In a demonstration, he showed a digital avatar of himself that transported to different digital worlds while talking to friends and family, no matter where they were on the planet.

“You’re really going to feel like you’re there with other people,” he said. “You’re not going to be locked into one world or platform.”

Mr. Zuckerberg said creating the metaverse would take work across different technology companies, new forms of governance and other elements that would not come in the short term. But he laid out several areas where the metaverse would be applicable, citing video gaming, fitness and work.

Mr. Zuckerberg showed Horizon Workrooms, a virtual conference room product, where colleagues could work together remotely on different projects that they might have once done at the office. He talked up several immersive video games. And he demonstrated Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality-based social network, where friends and family could come together and interact.

Success will depend partly on attracting others to create new apps and programs that work in the metaverse. As with the mobile app economy, users are more likely to join new computing ecosystems if there are programs and software for them to use.

As a result, Mr. Zuckerberg said he would continue offering low-cost or free services to developers and invest in attracting more developers through creator funds and other capital injections. Among other things, Facebook has earmarked $150 million for developers who create new kinds of immersive learning apps and programs.

“We are fully committed to this,” he said. “It is the next chapter of our work.”

We shall see!

Tony

Brian Rosenberg: Administrators Are Not the Enemy in the Academy!

President Brian Rosenberg announces sabbatical - The Mac Weekly

Brian Rosenberg

Dear Commons Community,

Brian Rosenberg, president emeritus of Macalester College and president in residence of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled, “Administrators Are Not the Enemy,” in which he laments the contempt that some faculty have for nonfaculty employees.  He quotes Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Fall of the Faculty (Oxford, 2011), that “Generally speaking, a million-dollar president could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed.” And while some administrators might actually serve a purpose, “large numbers have little to do besides attend meetings and retreats and serve as agents of administrative imperialism.”

This hyperbole is not the feelings of the majority of the faculty but truth be told, an element of this  does exists in the academy. It is the extreme notion of Nobel Laureate Isidore Rabi’s quote “Mr. President, We are not employees of the university. We are the university.” when he interrupted Dwight Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, who had started off a speech by addressing the faculty as “employees of the university.

As someone who has spent 50 plus years in higher education and having served as a faculty member and administrator, I think that in these troubled times (pandemic, financial stresses, consolidations), it would be wise that we work together on our campuses for the good of our institutions and all of its constituents (students, faculty, and administrative staffs).

Rosenberg’s message is timely.  Below is an excerpt from his essay.

Tony

————————————————————————————————————-

“…It appears at times as if the condescension of some faculty members toward the administrative staff of a college or university — a group that by definition includes everyone from the president to the most newly hired admissions officer — is nearly limitless. In a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, administrators are characterized as both autocrats and “widget makers.” The authors of another recent piece, in The Chronicle, opine that “the authority of academic administrators is only solid to the extent that they themselves are credible practitioners of the scholarly life”: that is, unless one is or has been a faculty member, one has no right to tell faculty members what they should or should not do.

No nonfaculty employee at any college campus in the United States will be surprised in the least by these observations, which may be especially blunt but are by no means unusual. One of the many unexamined but implicitly acknowledged truths on these campuses is that they are — despite the rhetoric of equity and inclusivity — deeply hierarchical. Or, to cite again the same piece in The Chronicle, “Traditionally, authority in the academy has been hierarchical and related to assigned functions, the most important of which is faculty teaching.”

While it is not unreasonable to argue for the centrality of teaching in the academy, it is problematic in any workplace to declare openly that the work of some people is simply less important than the work of others. Administrative staff are expected to recruit the students and to maintain the technological infrastructure, to raise the funds for scholarships, and to care for the physical and mental well-being of the community. But they should not for a moment believe that their work is as important — as close to the top of the hierarchy — as the work of those who teach classes.

It is problematic in any workplace to declare openly that the work of some people is simply less important than the work of others.

It seems fair as well to ask whether the unparalleled importance of teaching, as opposed to research, is reflected in the criteria for tenure and promotion at many of our most selective institutions, or whether faculty with light teaching loads are thereby neglecting their main responsibility, or whether tenured faculty typically afford non-tenure-track faculty the place in the hierarchy due to fellow teachers — but perhaps those are subjects for another time.

Universities are built around the primacy of expertise. Everything from the organization of academic departments to the most common forms of pedagogy rests on the assumption that in order to do a job well, one needs an appropriate level of training, knowledge, and experience. Yet the definition of expertise is for many very narrow: Expertise in an academic discipline — traditionally defined through the possession of a Ph.D. or its equivalent and through the production of scholarship — is legitimate and provable. Expertise in other areas without which the university could not function is at best less important and at worst nonexistent. The most extreme form of this view is that faculty experts have become burdened on college campuses by armies of incompetent “widget makers” who are both disposable and an impediment to the pursuit of the “scholarly life.”

The canonical text for anti-administrators is Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Fall of the Faculty (Oxford, 2011). “Generally speaking,” he writes, “a million-dollar president could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed.” And while some administrators might actually serve a purpose, “large numbers have little to do besides attend meetings and retreats and serve as agents of administrative imperialism.” Years later, by way of acknowledging the advent of new forms of time-wasting, David Graeber — since deceased — suggested that many staff members typically spend their work hours “sitting around playing fruit mahjong all day or watching cat videos.”

Please.

I spent 15 years as a faculty member and confess, to my shame, that I sometimes held this view, or at least did little to discourage others from holding it. Now, having spent 17 years as a college president, I realize that it is both wrong and destructive: wrong because there are many nonfaculty jobs within the university that are both essential and require high levels of expertise, and destructive because a community cannot be both truly inclusive and openly contemptuous of a large number of its members. Of course there will always be things like organizational charts and reporting lines, but these are different from the blanket claim that the work of some people — many people — is simply less meaningful and challenging than the work of others.

The truth is that being a mental-health counselor or a residential-life director or a financial-aid officer — or a college president — is different from being a faculty member but not necessarily (or even typically) easier or less dependent upon the expertise that comes with training and experience. When people who hold those positions hear and read regularly — and if they read the academic press, they do read this regularly — that they are not only unimportant but actually impediments to the “real” work of the university, it makes their already challenging jobs even more difficult.”

 

Former New York Times Columnist, Nicholas Kristof, announced yesterday that he is running for governor of Oregon!

Nicholas Kristof Saves the World

Nicholas Kristof

Dear Commons Community,

Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, announced his candidacy yesterday for Oregon governor, saying the state needs a political newbie to solve problems like homelessness and rural despair.

“I’ve never run for political office in my life,” Kristof said in a campaign video, expressing it as an asset. He said he felt compelled to run for governor because, after covering crises around the world, he was heartbroken to see ones afflicting his home state.  As reported by the Associated Press.

Kristof pointed out that many of the kids he grew up with in Yamhill, 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Portland, are dead, their deaths drug- or alcohol-related. Kristof calls them victims of inequality.

Kristof joins a crowded field of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to be the candidate in the 2022 election, including Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read. Democrats have held the governor’s office since 1987.

In his video, Kristof said political leaders have been unable to resolve issues such as drug addiction, homelessness, unaffordable housing, a spiraling homicide rate in Portland and weak mental health support.

“Nothing will change until we stop moving politicians up the career ladder year after year, even though they refuse to step up to the problems Oregon faces,” said Kristof, wearing a jacket with the logo of Portland-based Columbia Sportswear.

Kristof has faced questions of whether he’s even eligible to run for governor. According to the law, a candidate must have been a resident of the state for at least three years before an election. Kristof voted in New York state in November 2020.

“I probably should have changed my registration. I wasn’t focused on paperwork. I was focused on voting to remove President Trump and vote for Joe Biden,” Kristof told reporters in Portland on Wednesday.

A legal opinion by lawyers working for Kristof, first reported by Willamette Week newspaper, said Kristof has always considered Oregon his home, even though his job required him to live around the world.

“Nothing in the Oregon Constitution or the historical sources used to interpret its meaning suggest that registration to vote in another jurisdiction alone disqualifies a person from residential eligibility for governor,” said the opinion, co-written by Misha Isaak, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s former general counsel.

Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn — who was a New York Times reporter — bought a 150-acre property in Yamhill in 1993 and have worked the land and paid Oregon property taxes on it.

Also trying to illustrate Kristof’s ties to this Pacific Northwest state, the lawyers added that Kristof has hiked its entire length on the Pacific Crest Trail, backpacked around Mount Hood (the state’s tallest peak) and eaten at Mo’s Seafood and Chowder in Lincoln City, a restaurant chain that’s an institution on the Oregon Coast.

Richard Clucas, a political science professor at Portland State University — where Kristof’s parents used to teach — said Kristof won’t be able to coast to election victory on name recognition. Many Oregonians don’t know who Kristof, who won two Pulitzer Prizes as a foreign correspondent and columnist, is.

“He is not a prominent actor, or a professional wrestler, or a reality TV star. He’s a columnist for a publication that has a specific kind of a readership,” Clucas said.

On Monday, he asked his class of around 30 students on state politics who had heard of Kristof. Only two did.

Media coverage of Kristof’s announcement will help him gain name recognition, but he faces an uphill battle ahead of the May 17 primary elections in which the Democratic and GOP gubernatorial candidates will be elected.

Kristof’s background in rural Oregon could resonate with voters, Clucas said.

“Clearly the issues he has raised are ones that people are concerned about in the state. Some parts of rural Oregon have remained in economic recession since the 1980s,” Clucas said.

Kristof, who left The New York Times earlier this month, has written frequently about the economic and social problems of the people he grew up with in Oregon as the region’s manufacturing and timber economy collapsed.

“I think we do need to try to build some bridges and try to knit this state together,” Kristof said. “I would hope that, perhaps as a liberal from a rural area, I may have some advantage in trying to do that.”

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is term-limited and can’t run for the state’s top office again. About a dozen Republican candidates have also said they will run for their party’s nomination.

I read Kristof’s columns on a regular basis and wish him good luck with his candidacy.

Tony

 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus could be making a comeback – without the animals!

The big top comes down: Ringling Bros. circus is closing after almost 150  years – The Denver Post

Dear Commons Community,

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which shut down in 2017 after a storied 146-year run of three-ring entertainment around the world, could be making a comeback.

Officials from Florida-based Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus operation, said during a recent panel discussion that a new version of the circus without animals is expected to make its debut in 2023.

Many observers believe that animal rights protests targeting Ringling Bros. contributed to a decline in ticket sales that led the company to cease operations. It grew famous on the strength of animal trainers like Gunther Gebel-Williams, among others, working with lions and tigers. The company dropped elephants from its shows in 2016 and said at the time that ticket sales declined more than expected. As reported by USA Today.

“In 2023 we will be relaunching Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” Feld’s chief operating officer Juliette Feld Grossman told the VenuesNow Conference in Seattle last week, according to a report published by venuesnow.com.

According to the report, Grossman got choked up as she spoke. “You can see it’s emotional and exciting for us as a family. We really feel that Ringling Bros. has incredible relevance to today’s audience.”

Nicole Zimmerman, a Feld spokeswoman, said the company is “still in the planning phase for the relaunch of the Greatest Show on Earth” and an official announcement about the return of the circus is expected sometime in 2022.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which organized many of the protests, cheered the announcement that no animals would be featured in the new circus shows.

“The exciting announcement sends a powerful message to the entire industry, something that PETA’s been saying for decades: Cruelty doesn’t belong in the circus or in any other form of entertainment,” the organization said in a statement.

For years, PETA representatives and other groups claimed the circus mistreated the elephants, tigers, lions and other animals featured in its shows.

While Ringling Bros. struggled before it shut down, the Canadian company Cirque du Soleil exploded with dozens of shows around the world, all without animals.

As a child growing up in the 1950s, my father took my brothers and me to Madison Square Garden every year to see the Ringling Brothers Circus. It was an awesome experience.

I hope it comes back.

Tony