Re: The Internet deserves its proper noun

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Paul Pangaro.  DLH]

From: Paul Pangaro <>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] The Internet deserves its proper noun
Date: May 31, 2016 at 9:12:59 AM EDT


Bucky Fuller called it “Universe” not “the universe” or “the Universe”, because as he said, there is only one. Maybe that’s analogous to “God”.

My impression is use in Europe for some time has been “Internet” not “The Internet”.


The Internet deserves its proper noun


By Doc Searls


May 31 2016





Escaping the Local Minimum

Escaping the Local Minimum
Where AI has been and where it needs to go
By Kenneth Friedman
May 2016

This report is my final project for the MIT Media Lab Class “Integrative Theories of Mind and Cognition” (also known as Future of AI, and New Destinations in Artificial Intelligence) in Spring 2016. The paper is available here as a pdf: <>


Artificial Intelligence performs gradient descent. The AI field discovers a path of success, and then travels that path until progress stops (when a local minimum is reached). Then, the field resets and chooses a new path, thus repeating the process. If this trend continues, AI should soon reach a local minimum, causing the next AI winter. However, recent methods provide an opportunity to escape the local minimum. To continue recent success, it is necessary to compare the current progress to all prior progress in AI.


• Introduction
• Gradient Descent
• 1960s
• The First AI Winter
• 1980s
• The Second AI Winter
• Modern Day
• The Next AI Winter
• Deep Learning Checklist
• Logic Systems
• Minksy’s Multiplicity
• Story Understanding
• Contributions


I begin this paper by pointing out a concerning pattern in the field of AI and describing how it can be useful to model the field’s behavior. The paper is then divided into two main sections.

In the first section of this paper, I argue that the field of artificial intelligence, itself, has been performing gradient descent. I catalog a repeating trend in the field: a string of successes, followed by a sudden crash, followed by a change in direction.

In the second section, I describe steps that should be taken to prevent the current trends from falling into a local minimum. I present a number of examples from the past that deep learning techniques are currently unable to accomplish.

Finally, I summarize my findings and conclude by reiterating the use of the gradient descent model.


Eric Holder Now Says Edward Snowden Performed A “Public Service”

Eric Holder Now Says Edward Snowden Performed A “Public Service”
But the former Attorney General urged the whistleblower to return to the U.S. and face the consequences of his actions.
By Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
May 30 2016

Former Attorney General Eric Holder says whistleblower Edward Snowden performed a “public service” by leaking U.S. surveillance secrets because his actions ignited a public debate on surveillance and privacy. 

“We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made,” Holder told David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, on The Axe Files podcast.

The former CIA contractor’s 2013 leak revealed, among other things, that the National Security Agency was collecting telephone records of tens of millions of Americans.

However Holder, who headed the Justice Department when Snowden leaked U.S. surveillance secrets in 2013, said the whistleblower also harmed American interests through his actions. 

“I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromise,” he said.


The Internet deserves its proper noun

[Note:  This item comes from friend Doc Searls.  DLH]

The Internet deserves its proper noun
By Doc Searls
May 31 2016

The NYTimes says we are losing Internet as a proper noun: A pull-quote:

Thomas Kent, The A.P.’s standards editor, said the change mirrored the way the word was used in dictionaries, newspapers, tech publications and everyday life.
In our view, it’s become wholly generic, like ‘electricity or the ‘telephone,’ ” he said. “It was never trademarked. It’s not based on any proper noun. The best reason for capitalizing it in the past may have been that the word was new. But at one point, I’ve heard, ‘phonograph’ was capitalized.”
Yet we never called electricity “the Electricity.” And “the telephone” referred to a single thing of which there billions of individual examples.

So let’s stop and think about this: what was it about “the Internet” that made us want to capitalize it in the first place?

Is it right to stop respecting that?

Would we enjoy a common network by any name today if the Internet had been lower-case from the start?

Would makers or operators of any of the parts that comprise the Internet’s whole feel any fealty to what at least ought to be the common properties of that whole? Would the first considerations by those operators not have been billing and tariffs agreed to by national regulators?

Hell, would the four of us have written The Cluetrain Manifesto if the Internet had lacked upper-case qualities? Would David Weinberger and I have written World of Ends or New Clues?

Would we have anything resembling the Internet of today if making it had been left up to phone and cable companies? Or to governments (even respecting the roles government activities did play in creating the Net)?

I think the answer to all of those would be no.

The technical reason for a lower-case “internet” I most respect says that the “Internet” we’ve had for all these years is just one prototype: just the first and best-known of many other possible ones.

But I still don’t buy it. The Internet is like the Universe. There is just one of it. There are no other examples.

Formalizing the lower-case “internet,” for whatever reason, dismisses what’s transcendent and singular about the Internet we have: a whole that is more, and other, than a sum of parts.

I know it looks like the Net is devolving into many separate systems, isolated and silo’d to some degree. We see that with messaging, for example: hundreds of different ones, most of them incompatible, on purpose. We see it in specialized mobile systems that provide variously open vs. sphinctered access (such as T-Mobile’s “binge” allowance for some content sources but not others), in zero-rated not-quite-internets (such as Facebook’s Free Basics) and in countries such as China, where many domains and uses are locked out.

And maybe we will never have an agreement about what’s proper or formal about “the Internet.” (Arguments about “neutrality” clearly suggest that.)

And maybe it’s enough that the world has come to at least experience assumption of absent or minimized distance and cost across what I call The Giant Zero: a horse of perception that will never go back in the pre-Internet barn.

But the upper-case Internet is not bathwater, and by throwing it out we also toss a baby it sustains: freedom itself.


Governments Turn to Commercial Spyware to Intimidate Dissidents

Governments Turn to Commercial Spyware to Intimidate Dissidents
May 29 2016

SAN FRANCISCO — In the last five years, Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates, has been jailed and fired from his job, along with having his passport confiscated, his car stolen, his email hacked, his location tracked and his bank account robbed of $140,000. He has also been beaten, twice, in the same week.

Mr. Mansoor’s experience has become a cautionary tale for dissidents, journalists and human rights activists. It used to be that only a handful of countries had access to sophisticated hacking and spying tools. But these days, nearly all kinds of countries, be they small, oil-rich nations like the Emirates, or poor but populous countries like Ethiopia, are buying commercial spyware or hiring and training programmers to develop their own hacking and surveillance tools.

The barriers to join the global surveillance apparatus have never been lower. Dozens of companies, ranging from NSO Group and Cellebrite in Israel to Finfisher in Germany and Hacking Team in Italy, sell digital spy tools to governments.

A number of companies in the United States are training foreign law enforcement and intelligence officials to code their own surveillance tools. In many cases these tools are able to circumvent security measures like encryption. Some countries are using them to watch dissidents. Others are using them to aggressively silence and punish their critics, inside and outside their borders.

“There’s no substantial regulation,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, who has been tracking the spread of spyware around the globe. “Any government who wants spyware can buy it outright or hire someone to develop it for you. And when we see the poorest countries deploying spyware, it’s clear money is no longer a barrier.”

Mr. Marczak examined Mr. Mansoor’s emails and found that, before his arrest, he had been targeted by spyware sold by Finfisher and Hacking Team, which sell surveillance tools to governments for comparably cheap six- and seven-figure sums. Both companies sell tools that turn computers and phones into listening devices that can monitor a target’s messages, calls and whereabouts.

In 2011, in the midst of the Arab Spring, Mr. Mansoor was arrested with four others on charges of insulting Emirate rulers. He and the others had called for universal suffrage. They were quickly released and pardoned following international pressure.

But Mr. Mansoor’s real troubles began shortly after his release. He was beaten and robbed of his car, and $140,000 was stolen from his bank account. He did not learn that he was being monitored until a year later, when Mr. Marczak found the spyware on his devices.

“It was as bad as someone encroaching in your living room, a total invasion of privacy, and you begin to learn that maybe you shouldn’t trust anyone anymore,” Mr. Mansoor recalled.

Mr. Marczak was able to trace the spyware back to the Royal Group, a conglomerate run by a member of the Al Nahyan family, one of the six ruling families of the Emirates. Representatives from the Emirates Embassy in Washington said they were still investigating the matter and did not return requests for further comment.

Invoices from Hacking Team showed that through 2015, the Emirates were Hacking Team’s second-biggest customers, behind only Morocco, and they paid Hacking Team more than $634,500 to deploy spyware on 1,100 people. The invoices came to light last year after Hacking Team itself was hacked and thousands of internal emails and contracts were leaked online.

Eric Rabe, a spokesman for Hacking Team, said his company no longer had contracts with the Emirates. But that is in large part because Hacking Team’s global license was revoked this year by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.


Why Americans don’t trust government

Why Americans don’t trust government
By Lawrence H. Summers
May 26 2016

I have an op-ed in the Boston Globe today on infrastructure, addressing the issue of quality rather than quantity of investment. Rachel Lipson, a graduate student at Harvard, and I describe the fiasco that has emerged from what should have been a routine maintenance project on the Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River next to my office in Cambridge. Though the bridge took only 11 months to build in 1912, it will take close to five years to repair today at a huge cost in dollars and mass delays.

Investigating the reasons behind the bridge blunders have helped to illuminate an aspect of American sclerosis — a gaggle of regulators and veto players, each with the power to block or to delay, and each with their own parochial concerns.  All the actors — the  historical commission, the contractor, the environmental agencies, the advocacy groups, the state transportation department — are reasonable in their own terms, but the final result is wildly unreasonable.

At one level this explains why, despite the overwhelming case for infrastructure investment, there is so much resistance from those who think it will be carried out ineptly. The right response is to advocate for reforms in procurement policies, regulatory policies and government procedures to make the investment process more efficient and effective. This is all clear enough.

At another level, though, our story may illustrate phenomena that go way beyond infrastructure. I’m a progressive, but it seems plausible to wonder if  government can build a nation abroad, fight social decay, run schools, mandate the design of cars, run health insurance exchanges, or set proper sexual harassment policies on college campuses, if it can’t even fix a 232-foot bridge competently. Waiting in traffic over the Anderson Bridge, I’ve empathized with the two-thirds of Americans who distrust government.

Years ago, as president of Harvard, I did various events with the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino. I was always struck by his attention to the little things — while we waited at a playground, he would check the fence for holes, or when we visited a school, he would note the missing tiles. At the time, it seemed odd and micromanaging. Over time, though, I’ve come to appreciate what he intimately understood: Faith in government’s ability to do big things depends on its success in executing on routine responsibilities.

We do not want to learn what we can get used to. I’m sure once the historical commission had delayed the bridge for many months, there was an attitude of “What’s another couple?” In a broader sense, the Anderson Memorial Bridge tale tees up a bigger question. Where is the outrage? Why didn’t the governor or the mayors of Boston and Cambridge act? What about the great free press? We seem to be caught in a dismal cycle of low expectations, poor results and shared cynicism.


Meteorologists are seeing global warming’s effect on the weather

Meteorologists are seeing global warming’s effect on the weather
Weather is becoming more extreme, and meteorologists are taking notice
By Paul Douglas
May 27 2016

Whatever happened to normal weather? Earth has always experienced epic storms, debilitating drought, and biblical floods. But lately it seems the treadmill of disruptive weather has been set to fast-forward. God’s grandiose Symphony of the Seasons, the natural ebb and flow of the atmosphere, is playing out of tune, sounding more like a talent-free second grade orchestra, with shrill horns, violins screeching off-key, cymbal crashes coming in at the wrong time. Something has changed.

My company, AerisWeather, tracks global weather for Fortune 500 companies trying to optimize supply chains, increase profitability, secure facilities, and ensure the safety of their employees and customers. It’s my 4th weather-technology company. Our team is constantly analyzing patterns, providing as much lead-time of impending weather extremes as possible. As a serial entrepreneur I respond to data, facts and evidence. If I spin the data and only see what I want to see, I go out of business. I lay off good people. I can’t afford to look away when data makes me uncomfortable.

I was initially skeptical of man-made climate change, but by the late 1990s I was witnessing the apparent symptoms of a warming climate. They were showing up on my weather map with greater frequency and ferocity. I didn’t set out to talk about climate volatility and weather disruption, but by the turn of the 21st century this warming seemed to be flavoring much of the weather I was tracking, turning up the volume of extremes, loading the dice for weather weirding. Multiple strands of data confirm Earth has a low-grade fever, a warming trend that transcends periodic heat released from El Niño.

People ask “What’s a couple of degrees, Paul?” Well, when was the last time you were a couple of degrees warmer? Chances are you felt miserable. And there were visible, tangible symptoms: sweating, chills, headaches, nausea. Your physician popped a thermometer in your mouth and confirmed you had a fever. Chances are you didn’t make a fuss, argue with the doctor, or deny the diagnosis.

Is it a fluke, or evidence of a broader trend? Can we connect the dots with a high degree of confidence? Both NASA and local farmers confirm a longer growing seasons, with more allergens, pests and invasive species. Rainfall rates are increasing; wet areas trending even wetter. My home state of Minnesota has witnessed four separate 1-in-1,000 year floods since 2004. 

A warmer atmosphere is increasing water vapor levels overhead, juicing storms, fueling an increase in flash floods in the summer, and heavier winter snows along the East Coast of the USA. “All storms are 5 to 10 percent stronger in terms of heavy rainfall” explained Dr. Kevin Trenberth, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “It means what was a very rare event is now not quite so rare.”

In recent decades, weather patterns have appeared to become more sluggish and erratic, worldwide. Rapid warming of the Arctic may be impacting the jet stream, the high-speed river of air that whisks weather systems around the planet. These high-altitude winds are powered by north-south temperature gradients, which are being altered by rapid warming of northern latitudes. Preliminary research suggests a drop in jet stream wind speeds, creating a “wavier” pattern where weather systems can become “stuck”. This translates into supernaturally-persistent blocking patterns, where weather stalls for extended periods of time. 

When weather goes into a holding pattern consequences can be severe: record rains; deeper, drier droughts; a longer, more intense wildfire season; and longer periods of life-threatening heat. Worldwide, record highs have exceeded record cold by a significant margin. On July 31, 2015 the town of Bandar Mahshahr, Iran experienced a staggering heat index of 165°F. From relentless winter flooding in the UK to disruption of India’s monsoon to chronic fires in Indonesia to more midwinter rain and less snow from the Alps to the Rockies, the planet’s accelerating warming signal is now showing up in the weather.


Poll: Voters Feel Disconnected, Helpless In 2016

Poll: Voters Feel Disconnected, Helpless In 2016
May 30 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats feel a massive disconnect with their political parties and helpless about the presidential election.

That’s according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which helps explain the rise of outsider candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and suggests challenges ahead for fractured parties that must come together to win this fall.

“It feels like the state of politics is generally broken,” said Joe Denother, a 37-year-old Oregon voter who typically favors Republicans.

The divisive primary season has fueled an overall sense of pessimism about the political process that underscores a widening chasm between political parties and the voters they claim to represent. Just 12 percent of Republicans think the GOP is very responsive to ordinary voters, while 25 percent of Democrats say the same of their party.

Among all Americans, the AP-NORC poll found that just 8 percent consider the Republican Party to be very or extremely responsive to what ordinary voters think. An additional 29 percent consider the GOP moderately responsive and 62 percent say it’s only slightly or not at all responsive.

The Democratic Party fares only slightly better, with 14 percent saying the party is very or extremely responsive, 38 percent calling it moderately responsive, and 46 percent saying it’s only slightly or not at all responsive.

Denother, who works in health insurance, says he feels the disconnect with the party he usually supports.

“The Republicans have gotten away from their core message of fiscal responsibility,” said Denother, who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and is undecided this year. “I feel there’s an identity crisis. And with a lack of identity, it’s hard to have confidence in the party.”

The survey exposes an extraordinary crisis of confidence in most major political institutions just as both parties intensify efforts to connect with voters heading into the general election.

In general, only 15 percent of Americans report a great deal of confidence in the Democratic Party compared with just 8 percent who say the same of the GOP. That’s as only 4 percent say they have a great deal of confidence in Congress, 15 percent in the executive branch and 24 percent in the Supreme Court.

The findings come as Trump assumes the mantle of GOP leader, having won the number of delegates necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. Trump got there with an aggressive anti-establishment message, railing against his party leaders for months.

Now the New York billionaire appears to be changing course. He recently entered into a high-dollar fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee and plans to rely heavily on the RNC’s staffing and data programs to connect with voters.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton remains locked in a divisive primary battle with Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist who has inspired a large and loyal following. The Vermont senator has echoed Trump’s charges of an unfair political system that’s stacked against him and ordinary Americans, a criticism that resonates with many voters.


Immortal Rats Making Phone Calls

Immortal Rats Making Phone Calls
By Glenn Fleishman
May 27 2016

You’ve probably heard about the new study that provides a shocking link between exposure to mobile-phone signals and radiation!!!!! RIGHT?!?!?

It’s not shocking. It’s a pre-publication, not-yet-passed-peer-review release of incomplete data. The more correct headline on the coverage would have been, “Exposure to radiation leads to longer lives among male rats.” You can read the study yourself; particularly focus on the first few pages and the reviewers’ comments attached at the end. This hasn’t been replicated, and many people are already challenging the statistical validity of cherrypicked data that the researchers chose to focus on in the study and in interviews.

The control group of 180 rats in the study died much younger than the six groups of 180 rats exposed to varying degrees of signal strength (at far higher levels, for longer periods, than almost anyone experiences using a phone). Female rats in the study (50% of all the rats) exposed to radiation had vastly lower levels of cancer than the male rats, for reasons the researchers can’t explain…and are probably due to statistical variation. Due to the early mortality of so many in the control group who were isolated from signals, those rats didn’t have time to develop cancers at the rate expected.

I’ve had cancer, I don’t trust large companies to act in the best interests of any humans at this point (cf., latest news about Oxycontin), and scientific research can be all over the map because researcher are pressured to provide positive results (showing a thing expected) rather than negative ones (we didn’t find a result). There’s a growing movement to require all federally funded research to publish all results. You also see things like researchers not counting people who drop out of studies before a certain point, even if that produces a healthier control group, etc.; there, the issue is control group rats dying early, which biases the experiment.

However, I’ve been reading studies about electromagnetic exposure and human health for over a decade and talking to researchers across that time. At the outset, I was highly concerned we’d find that cellular phone makers and carriers had suppressed data and it could wind up a huge health disaster — it’s the usual pattern of things, unfortunately, whether it’s cigarettes, a miracle drug (Vioxx), medical implants, magic pesticides, whatever. But then study after study (the peer-reviewed ones) showed a lack of association.

There are dozens of studies in which people who believe their (legitimate, real) symptoms of distress are caused by exposure to cellular radiation are put through tests. Some are double-blind experiments in which researcher and subject in a signal-isolated room are exposed to signals or not, and the subject indicates how they feel. The symptoms are real, measurable, and sometimes profound, but occurred at the same frequency whether or not a signal was present. (These real symptoms thus have another cause and tin-foil salespeople have misdirected people, rather than helping them find the cause.)

Likewise, researchers have done various longitudinal work in which they examine 100,000s of people’s calling records and find the people and get health histories. And epidemiologists have been examining cancer rates related to those that would be expected to occur if there were an effect related to holding a phone near your head, and those rates haven’t changed.

As I say, I don’t trust industry to do right, and some studies were funded by affected groups. However, many have now been performed under government auspices around the world. It’s a hard thing to suggest that reproducible studies are being coordinated in dozens of countries, each of which have different regulatory and safety regimes.


The (very) dark side of live streaming that no one seems able to stop

The (very) dark side of live streaming that no one seems able to stop
By Caitlin Dewey
May 26 2016

In an interview last month about Facebook’s recent push into live-streaming video, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeats the word “raw” as if it’s some kind of sacred totem. Facebook Live is “raw and visceral,” he says. It’s this “new, raw” way to communicate.

Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to realize that, when it comes to online video, “raw and visceral” — from viscera, which literally means guts (!) — can be a very bad thing.

In the weeks since, a woman live-streamed her suicide, a teenager broadcast her friend’s rape, and a man narrated his standoff with a Florida SWAT team. So it’s safe to say that Zuckerberg and other champions of the live-stream revolution are wising up to what “rawness” actually means.

Rawness is fast emerging, in fact, as the central paradox of live streaming: The very intimacy and immediacy that make the medium attractive are also the things that make it almost impossible to keep clean.

“These are real-time messages,” said Emmett Shear, chief executive of Twitch, the online platform in which a man recently broadcast audio of himself beating his partner and a high-profile gaming tournament was drowned out by a racist comments stream. “This isn’t like Facebook posts that get to sit there for a few hours. This is like, you gotta be on it 30 seconds after they posted it, because that’s the entire window of impact.”

These are still early days in the live-stream revolution, of course, and everybody emphasizes that they’re still working out the exact mechanics. Shear’s Twitch, a four-year-old site popular among gamers, only really hit the big leagues when it was bought in late 2014 by Periscope, a mobile streaming app owned by Twitter, launched just over a year ago in March 2015. And Facebook Live, that network’s big push into streaming video, is only just wrapping up its eighth week.

For even these newborn platforms, though, the need to nail down moderation is particularly urgent. On asynchronous networks, such as Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, content accumulates an audience over time — people see a tweet or photo only as it gets passed around. On Twitch or Periscope, however, the vast majority of a stream’s total audience will see footage, even graphic footage, the moment it goes out.

On top of that, while there’s no research on streaming video specifically, there’s plenty of research to suggest that graphic, widely circulated media can have a dangerous public-health effect: Videos about gun violence or self-harm tend to be “contagious.”

In one disturbing incident on May 9, 30-year-old Adam Mayo barricaded himself in his house and sent a series of nine live broadcasts showing his armed standoff with Tampa police. Despite the fact that Mayo brandished a handgun, and repeatedly promised to start shooting — “Miss,” he yells at one point, “you got a body bag ready?” — Facebook moderators didn’t step in to shut down the stream.