Friday 7 October, 2022

Above Coniston

This, the vista from the crag above John Ruskin’s house, must be one of the nicest views in the whole of the Lake District.

Quote of the Day

”When all is said and done, leading a good life is more important than keeping a good diary.”

  • Siegfried Sassoon, diary entry, 8 July 1923

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mozart | Piano Sonata No. 12 in F Major, K. 332 | II. Adagio


Perfect for a reflective moment after breakfast.

Long Read of the Day

‘The Onion’ goes to court 

And not any old court either but the US Supremes. It’s submitted an Amicus Curiae brief to the US Supreme Court, which is hearing a case brought by a guy who was arrested by Ohio police because he made fun of them on a Facebook page. The US Sixth Circuit court upheld the police’s case, and he has appealed to SCOTUS.

The Onion’s Brief is hilarious but profound. It is in fact the best justification for parody and satire that I’ve read. Among other things, it points out that “for parody to work, it has to plausibly mimic the original”.

The Sixth Circuit’s ruling imperils an ancient form of discourse. The court’s decision suggests that parodists are in the clear only if they pop the balloon in advance by warning their audience that their parody is not true. But some forms of comedy don’t work unless the comedian is able to tell the joke with a straight face. Parody is the quintessential example. Parodists intentionally inhabit the rhetorical form of their target in order to exaggerate or implode it — and by doing so demonstrate the target’s illogic or absurdity.

If you read nothing else this weekend, read the Brief.

This is how it opens:


The Onion is the world’s leading news publication, offering highly acclaimed, universally revered cover- age of breaking national, international, and local news events. Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.

In addition to maintaining a towering standard of excellence to which the rest of the industry aspires, The Onion supports more than 350,000 full- and part- time journalism jobs in its numerous news bureaus and manual labor camps stationed around the world, and members of its editorial board have served with distinction in an advisory capacity for such nations as China, Syria, Somalia, and the former Soviet Union. On top of its journalistic pursuits, The Onion also owns and operates the majority of the world’s transoceanic shipping lanes, stands on the nation’s leading edge on matters of deforestation and strip mining, and proudly conducts tests on millions of animals daily.

The Onion’s keen, fact-driven reportage has been cited favorably by one or more local courts, as well as Iran and the Chinese state-run media. Along the way, The Onion’s journalists have garnered a sterling repu- tation for accurately forecasting future events. One such coup was The Onion’s scoop revealing that a for- mer president kept nuclear secrets strewn around his beach home’s basement three years before it even happened.

The Onion files this brief to protect its continued ability to create fiction that may ultimately merge into reality…

You get the idea. Do read on.

The EU wants to put companies on the hook for harmful AI 

At the moment, the EU seems to be the only game in town when it comes to trying to rein in tech power. (The US under Biden is making real efforts, but we’ll have to see if any of them prove fruitful.) This MIT Technology Review article by Melissa Heikkilä provides a good background on the EU’s AI Act and its new proposal to impose strict liability on companies that release or deploy AI products which cause harm to individuals and/or organisations.

The EU is creating new rules to make it easier to sue AI companies for harm. A bill unveiled this week, which is likely to become law in a couple of years, is part of Europe’s push to prevent AI developers from releasing dangerous systems. And while tech companies complain it could have a chilling effect on innovation, consumer activists say it doesn’t go far enough.

Powerful AI technologies are increasingly shaping our lives, relationships, and societies, and their harms are well documented. Social media algorithms boost misinformation, facial recognition systems are often highly discriminatory, and predictive AI systems that are used to approve or reject loans can be less accurate for minorities.

The new bill, called the AI Liability Directive, will add teeth to the EU’s AI Act, which is set to become EU law around the same time. The AI Act would require extra checks for “high risk” uses of AI that have the most potential to harm people, including systems for policing, recruitment, or health care.

The new liability bill would give people and companies the right to sue for damages after being harmed by an AI system…

My commonplace booklet

”Google UK staff earned average of more than £385,000 each in 18 months” 

Guardian Link. Gives you some idea of how insanely profitable these tech companies are.

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