Monday 10 October, 2022

The most glorious Main Street in the world

The Grand Canal, Venice. Not quite as Canaletto saw it. Still…

Looking forward to being there again next year.

Quote of the Day

”In America, journalism is apt to be regarded as an extension of history: in Britain as an extension of conversation.”

  • Anthony Sampson, in The Anatomy of Britain Today. ‘Today’ was 1965.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

David Lindsey | Starting All Over Again | Reggae USA



Long Read of the Day

 Ninety Years Ago, This Book Tried to Warn Us

A striking NYT column by Pamela Paul on Lion Feuchtwanger’s 1933 novel The Oppermanns.

The novel reads like a five-alarm fire because it was written that way, over a mere nine months, and published shortly after Hitler became chancellor, only lightly fictionalizing events as they occurred in real time. In “Buddenbrooks” fashion, the story follows the declining fortunes and trials of a family, the German Jewish Oppermanns, prosperous merchants and professionals, as they scramble to hold on while fascism takes hold of their country. It’s a book that fairly trembles with foreboding and almost aches with sorrow.

The essay continues with a list of the tragically mistaken assumptions Feuchtwanger took on in 1933 that continue to threaten democracies today. Worth reading just for that list.

Tech firms: EU laws to avoid bad AI will limit their ‘innovation’. Spot on!

Yesterday’s Observer column:

The new liability bill, says MIT’s Technology Review journal, “would give people and companies the right to sue for damages after being harmed by an AI system. The goal is to hold developers, producers and users of the technologies accountable and require them to explain how their AI systems were built and trained. Tech companies that fail to follow the rules risk EU-wide class actions.”

Right on cue, up pops the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the lobbying outfit that represents tech companies in Brussels. Its letter to the two European commissioners responsible for the two acts immediately raises the concern that imposing strict liability on tech firms “would be disproportionate and ill-suited to the properties of software”. And, of course, it could have “a chilling effect” on “innovation”.

Ah yes. That would be the same innovation that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian online meddling in 2016’s US presidential election and UK Brexit referendum and enabled the livestreaming of mass shootings. The same innovation behind the recommendation engines that radicalised extremists and directed “10 depression pins you might like” to a troubled teenager who subsequently ended her own life…

Do read the whole thing

Twitter Will Tame Elon Musk, Not the Other Way Around

Jack Shafer’s Politico column. My response: Oh Yeah? But Jack’s argument is that “the expert bloviator isn’t about to run a $44 billion purchase into the ground”.

Assuming Elon Musk and Twitter can iron out their legal differences in the next couple of days, he will take ownership of Twitter very soon. Will he wreck it by turning it into a disinformation playground, as some critics fear, based on his vow to lift the permanent ban on Donald Trump’s account? Or will he transform it into something that rivals the other triumphs in his portfolio, Tesla and SpaceX?

Knowing Musk, he could possibly do both, constructing a sewer that poisons you with lies and hate while making it an essential part of consumers’ lives. But you’ve really got to doubt that. Nobody, not even Elon Musk on his most perverse day, would buy a property for $44 billion — 20 percent of his net worth, by the way — and then rebuild it as the world’s largest sewage treatment facility. All the fretting about the “harm” Musk might cause as Twitter’s owner is misplaced: It will be in his financial interests to make Twitter as wholesome and welcoming a place as Starbucks, even if he changes the way the site works…

We’ll see. Full marks for trying, though, Jack.

My commonplace booklet

”We Have To Make It Big Enough For All Of Us!”

Lovely story from a lovely blog

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