Aleppo; Fossil Fuel, Weapon Industry and Corporate Media

It doesn’t take conspiracy thoery paranoia, nor rocket science complexity to link the Syrian war to two strong industries on each side of the Syrian proxy war: Fossil fuel and the weapon industry. And the media outlet hasn’t been sitting idle when both groups on both sides need public opinions on their side at some strategic moments.

The latest wave of worries in the Western media over Syria didn’t start until the power shifted in Aleppo; the so-called “rebels” backed by the US, Nato, Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel lost control over their most important city they had held in Syria.

And in Aleppo those rebels are now primarily al-Nusra front, a previous branch of al-Qaeda that was rebranded this year for the sake of fundability, since al-Qaeda is a UN-recognized terrorist organization. This by the way means that the trillion dollar war on terror that officially started to fight al-Qaeda is now backing it.

Now we want to belive that the main concern that west has regarding the Syrian government is the genocide against its own people. Probably not. The pragmatic issues with Assad are strategic and financial. And on top of the list for many lobbyists who determine the destiny of the war in Syria, lies the choice of the Syrian government over the proposed alternatives for a pipeline that is going to bring gas from the Persian Gulf to the European markets.

Assad has for long rejected the Qatar-Saudi-Turkey pipeline and the unifying reason for the western media to chants for regime change in Syria is that the Syrian governmnet has sided with Iran and Russia for the pipeline to pass through Iraq and the Mediterranean see instead. He being back in charge of Syria means that the pipeline is not going to pass through the two most powerful allies of the west in the region, US-backed Saudis and Nato-member Turkey, both of them currently supporting ISIS, too.

Sadly this is the actual reason that the media needs your cries over children in Aleppo: al-Nusra (legitimately fundable al-Qaeda) is losing control over the city.

The new round of showcasing children filled with blood and dust narrated with fake emotions of the hosts accompanied by the *unbiased* informants in the field, are selected to justify the need for some further act of intervention in Syria. This pathetic level of propaganda conveys one message to the western citizens before christmas holidays: Syrian children are suffering and we are just sitting and watching.

No, you are not just sitting and watching in Syria. Your tax money has been spent actively to expand and prolong a war and to fund gladiators fighting each other. You are shown more children, more terrorists, more of good, bad and innocent guys so you keep buying the story.

aleppo

Have you seen the before/after pictures of Aleppo? (+). Perhaps what happened to Aleppo in the period from 2012 to 2016 was not precisely predictable at the dawn of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom. But this trend should have been seen right through. That this will inevitably happen to some cities, somewhere, for its nearly impossible not to happen.

If we can’t predict where and how a pressed balloon will be torn apart at least we can know for sure that it will explode. I have learned from data analysis that if the patterns of the data does not depend on one dimension, change the dimension. If the predictions fail on one fieldn, change the key. So here if we can’t predict the world by its cities, we can do it by its bombs. Right?

I don’t have business data from the weapon industry but it should be intuitive what bombs are made for! It should be more clear than ever that the weapons produced and sold every day have a rather unpredictable path with a predictable destiny: they will go off. They get sold, travel around, change countries, meet new wharehouses, change owners with the shift of power, but one day they eventually reach the hands and brands that will use them.

The arms pumped in to this region every day is likely to go off one day and those who manufacture and trade them know this. They are well aware that this will not forever be about the cold power.

And so when the US president (whoever who takes office) or any other leader signs arms contracts worth of dozens of billions of dollars to their for-now allies, they have already created this before/after picture. We just get to see their effect materialized a couple of terms later.

And so we should be really naive ignoring that this destiny is awaiting many more peaceful cities around the world. We don’t know the list, just yet, but there will be a list. And it will also be very naive to assume that such future list will be limited to the middle eastern cities; Aleppo, Mosul, Ben Ghazi, San’aa…

Forget about countries, flags, names and borders. They are just made-up divisions in our heads. They are good for the media to tell stories for your dinner table.

Our shitty civilization is globally connected.

PS. On the other side of the proxy war, there was no secret that the Iranian state-run Press-TV and the Russian RT have been feeding their own shameless bunch of lies, to protect friends in their own weapon industry and meet their own fossil fuel interests. The thing is that post-Brexit BBC and post-Trump CNN are apparently adapting to their new climate too. Lessons are learned from the fascist states: Lies don’t have to be so subliminal. They work anyway so why not going for the big bald lies?

Tech and Emotions

We pitched our HappIt app at Disrupt London 2014 and it didn’t take off. Our submission was immature and so was the tech savvy hackathon to understand some of its ellaborated features. It used facial expressions instead of text, had a social element to encourage emotional data logging, and used five-dimensional motion charts for visualization of historic emotions.

Two years later, same event, same city and eventually tech realizes the value of an independent platform dedicated to emotional data collection and analysis. Congratulation to Emotion Journal for wining the Disrupt London 2016 hackathon grand prize. It is a victory for promoting genuine psychometry in tech and they did it with a one-diensional donut chart!

Now the tricky discussion is always around the data collection medium. How do you fish for emotional data? How do you ask people how they feel?

This team has an implicit approach based on natural language processing. First a speech recognition module and then a sentiment analysis algorithm.

The catch is that the phonetic language did not evolve to capture or communicate human emotions at the first place. We had faces to do that. Double-articulated language evolved partly to fake those feelings even.

Right now as you read this, even if you knew me very well, you have no clue whether I write this in a state of happiness, jealousy, dissapointment, hope, anger, shame or pride and now by lining up these keywords I have made it even harder for the sentiment analysis algorithm to capture my real feelings. Technical challanges of parsing such as negation handling and so forth are not the main problems in this area.

I’d argue that facial expression is a better alternative to capture emotions, whether an implicit analysis of an actual selfie, or an explicit drawing of a simple emoticon on a smart watch in a crowded subway.

But of course a hybrid approach combining insights from all different channels (and for example taking voice intonations into account), would be ideal. Until that day, one thing I agree here the way they said it:

“If you do it once a day you can see a visual representation of your feelings and experiences over time.”

So, whichever future app you will use to log your emotions, remember to “happ” it!

Make it a happy habbit.

A bigger picture than politics

From the futuristic people of the past, also listen to Terence McKenna on politics, after the collapse of the Soviets:

Consider three or four minutes from 3:35 to 7:10, on the corruption of the two-party system of the American Republic and that the change must come from the independents. Suits our time after a quarter century. Doesn’t it? Now we get why Bernie Sanders stood no chance from within the democratic party platform.

Now let’s ask a more important question:

How can a quarter century old lecture by someone who was not even interested in politics, describe the geopolitical events of our time more accurate than opinions expressed by the up to date political commentators, op-ed writers of the prestigous newspapers and well-informed talkshow hosts of 2016?

How can experts be so zoomed in on the local events without the ability or tendency to connect them and infer more reliable conclusions?

We are an interconnected society of apes. Our geopolitics has roots in a deeper context, our anthropological roots. Knowing everything about the conventional world of politics is not enough to make a single correct prediction about it if we miss the bigger picture.

The explosion of articles about the personality of Donald Trump, the daily political interviews of the state media and the government-funded experts are all missing it.

The futuristic people of the past

I find it worth listening to the futuristic people of the past. These are the visionary breed who see the future better than us. Now while their futuristic stories are sometimes our trivial past, it could as well be our unforeseen future!

There’s something about their way of observing the world that makes their ideas more resilient against the test of time. Those ideas die out with a different time constant than the normal so they will eventually win over the temporary opinions of the habitual daily routines, the temporary, the mortal.

Now with that in mind listen to Terence Mckenna’s interview on the power of the Internet, from 20 years ago:

At a penetration rate of perhaps less than 1% of its current rate, the rise of the Internet is referred here as an example for “the emergence of the transcendental object”.

Mckenna foresees the rise of the citizen press, new media and grassroot journalism before the creation of mainstream blogging or digital social networking services. He ellaborates so beautifully on the social aspects of the digital disruption before the rise of new business models powered by the Internet. He has great especulations on the future of augmented reality and in other sources he had predicts the rise of data science. And he spells the long-tail theory, what Chris Anderson and other visionary entrepreneurs of the Sillicon Valley started branding 10 years later (half way between this interview and us). Fun to notice that some predictions of the long-tail theory have already failed, while Mckenna’s ideas are still – mostly – valid. And last but not the least his deep insights on the “technological singularity” and the implications of extrapolating the Moore’s [and similar] laws and the take over of AI, are neater than what people like Kurzweil did, trying to coin the term to their names.

And the striking fact is that McKenna has done the same thing in several other fields, epigenetics, linguistics, anthropology and sociology. Pretty much anything that he has been queried by his audience after he was back from the woods to give talks on his new insights.

This is the power that you get when you leave the civilization and observe merely plants for a couple of decades away from an urban settings. Some turn into Charles Darwin. Some turn into Terence Mckenna. I am very excited to have found this profile. And now if you don’t find this interesting, go ahead keep reading the morning news, the scientific paper right in front of you, or the manual of your vacuum cleaner.

P.S.1. the content of your sweeper’s manual may be still valid in 20 years, so I take that one back!

P.S.2. Many futuristic attempts fail to understand the importance of that “meme time constant”. As an example, in the expensive Hollywood sci-fi projects we see that long-term trends are masked by temporary hypes. If a movie is made today to depict 2040 you see they introduce spaceships and flying cars too early, next to the to-be-extincted numerical keypads (too late). But not even a vintage radio is seen in the scenery. In a futuristic depiction I find it unrealistic not to present the past’s profound achievements in retro style. I however understand that not many others find it as silly, just yet.

Economics is not Science

I love this daring video:

At the very least neoclassical economics is not science. It’s an elitist made-up language based on fake concepts such as supply and demand to maximize fabricated quantities in order to exhaust the nature and abuse the people.

Its higly prestigious Chicago school with their fraud models of trade and their deceptive political byproduct, neoliberalism, is responsible for much of the blind destruction of the environment and the uncalculated harms to our societies and nature.

Their influential *thinkers* and theorists are responsible and must be held accountable for bringing humanity to the disaster that it is facing now.

And the most recognized awards and medals of honor should not go to those unintelligent short-sighted charlatans. They should actually go to the people who can possibly figure out how to reverse this effect; how to take us out of the deep trouble caused by those prominent economists of the neoliberalism. After fourty years or so it is time to make a global U-turn away from the policies advocated by the Milton Friedman and his fellow politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Even so the consequences of their disastrous ideas are yet to hit us.

“Conventional economics is a form of brain damage.”

Well-said. Alter your language domain. Don’t be deceived by the illusions created by con artists. Stay real!

The Gaian Mind

Trondheim, Norway
Trondheim, Norway – View out of the plane window.

Could it be so that the Gaian mind is actually a purposeful mind, although much bigger than ours so its super-intelligence can’t fit in our scientific theories?

Could we as a species be just an allergic reaction of our planet to some cosmic danger that the Mother Earth has sensed through all the information it has acquired from all levels of species across its body?

And that our collective technology is supposed to protect it from some external hazards in the solar system instead of ruining it from within?

I hear this argument recently (and independently) more often. It doesn’t add up to what I think of the purposelessness of self-organization and randomness of emergent properties. But what do I know if I’m only a cell in this super-organism?

Where are Trump voters?

I thought I have a diverse and colorful social network or at least I did not expect that I have somehow excluded a big parallel reality of Trump supporters from my life.

Everybody in my social circle (residing in Europe, the middle East and the US) – literally everybody – is frightened and is mourning over Trump’s precidency. Where are the others who have actually voted for him? I would not be upset or sad, at all, to see them celebrating but I don’t get anything on my news feed.

Either I have Trump supporters and they hide their celebration from the world which I doubt it. Or Facebook hides it from me as their algorithms assume that this will keep me longer on their platform to click ads. Or simply, Trump supporters are nearly non-existing in my social circle. I seem not to have friends who have voted for Trump. Or I may have really few.

The thing is that I never removed someone from Facebook for being a Trump supporter and I won’t. I have taken similar wrongful measures previously when my philosophy was more tied to my reactionary political views. There and then I have happened to exclude people from my social friendship because our political views deviated. But I haven’t something like this lately, at least not because of politics, and certainly not becose of someone being a fan of the Republican party or a Trump supporter.

YET, I don’t seem to have any one in my social network who have voted for Trump. Where are they? How can I find them, befriend them and hang out with them?

I don’t befreind people in political rallies, why am I located on such a politically polarized spot now? How come I ended up with so many Clinton, Sanders and Jill Stein supporters and have I not come across anybody from the majority of the American voters? Can they be stereotyped for me to understand why not? They love country music, have family values, and call themselves socially conservative in some sense? Well there’s not any reason for me to have excluded them for any of thse reasons. Quite the contrary. And neither for them there should be a strong stereotypical reason to exclude me. But we have not come across each other, probably in any of the red states that I have travelled, or the places that I have been to. Is that so?

I will travel to the US next week and will make sure I meet some Trump voters/upporters and will hang out with them to break the social network’s self-reinforcing illusion that the world is in a full agreement with me. And well, which agreement? I was not even a Clinton supporter.

We seem to live in two parallel realities, divided with respect to the bi-partisan magnet of the US election lately. But I don’t wanna blame it on the social media’s news feed algorithms and their so-called “echo chambers”. I think the links between me and Trump voters hasn’t been simply formed in reality and social networks can’t capture something that is non-existent. They haven’t helped it form either though, which is a different topic.

Are we two parallel intertwined species minding our own business and pass each other bye only in public transport where people’s political agenda is not written on their foreheads? And then we crawl into our own bubbles to keep spreading our ideas to like-minded people?

The reality of Trump’s precidency didn’t hit me so hard as waking up to the gravitational forces of some mysterious dark energy that we don’t see but we can detect its effect on the universe, for example, after seeing the election results!

Come on people. Who voted for Trump? Let’s hang out!

I am still in shock.

Technology and the Substantiality of Experience

Melvin Sokolsky - from the bubble series
Melvin Sokolsky – from the bubble series

Technology is a great thing [for us humans], but it has a negative aspect not many talk about.

It deprives us from feeling the “real experience” in accordance to how we are biologically wired. Technology builds a protective bubble around the human body that however takes care of a lot of challenges for us, leaves us peculiarly unchallanged inside. And to elaborate a bit more on the “challange of unchallended”, it unemploys and unsues the sensorimotor circuitry in our pre-historic brains. And since we percieve happiness more directly inside our brains than on the surface of our skin or outside our bodies, this can be enough to spoil a good deal of fun for us.

In many cases technology offers the same functionality for our survival needs, but with less substance. Same outcome, less work for it. But what if “working for it” was a part of the satisfaction, that was planted in us by evolution to keep us motivated to persue tasks vital for our survival?

The main reason we have brains is sensorimotor circuitry. Some researchers claim it is the only reason. As organisms we need to act upon the world for our survival (the motor system) and in order to do that correctly we need to sense it by a sensory system. So the motor act is the primary goal and the sensory is secondary; it is needed only for the motor act to be decided correctly. Nature doesn’t care if you observe the details of the environment perfectly. Your gene code is passed on if you survive.

Now the technology sits in the way by enhancing the sensory channel and empowering the motor act. It eases the deeply emotional process of decision making, and by doing so leaves those circuitry unused and unemployed. But hasn this not made us unhappy? I used to think that technology enhances feelings and emotions since it assists and magnifies the sensory channel but at our core we are not passive sensors. We are active performers of our lives and spoiled in the comfort of our civilization we have truly lost our natural reference of comparison to our bodily similar ancestors. Lots of process that used to happen in our brains now takes place outside our bodies. Most of the signals that we used to constantly process and handle for survival does not reach the surface of our skins or don’t come even close to us. People go to the nature or gym, try extreme sports or play video games to experience those situations and trigger those condditions; It is a retro movement.

We have all heard modern-time complains about how people nowadays use digital messages instead of real ink on paper postcards, navigate the reality with GPS, and now get dates from apps without holding face-to-face conversations. The outcome is the same; conveying the message, mating or reprodution, or getting to a destination. But something is missing during the process.

Now, this familiar contemporary observations may be worrisome, but it is nothing new.

The technological dumb-down of mankind even if admitted is usually associated to the modern times. This seems to be a new trend in a couple of generations, if we take our own norms and typical lifestyles as the ultimate base for the real experience. Much of “the real experience” had already been taken away from us and before that from our ancestors for dozens of millenia:

* People express worry these days that driving skills, the real experience of navigating the roads is going to fade away with self-driving cars. But do we remember how horse riding felt before cars? Or did our horse-rider ancestors know what they were missing not to hunt an animal while running after it, barefoot?

* Spending too much time in the digital conversations and dealing with only letters and emojis makes us deaf to the intonations of the spoken language. The ability to grasp the meanings conveyed in the rise and fall of the pitch and loudness of the speech needs to be practiced. But was it not the verbal language itself that provided a parallel channel of communication and made us blind to the previous forms of communication, such as reading of emtions from facial expressions? How often do we even try to read each other’s eyes nowadays? In such intuitive social skills that were vital for tribal survival, our illiterate ancestors were more intelligent than us.

* Youth nowadays get dates for their digital profiles sometimes without composing a sentence, or having to make a face-to-face charm. An Irish man in Trondheim told me once “There was a time that people couldn’t hide behind dating profiles. You had to show up in person in real places and talk to real people and prove yourself”. As if a bar is a gladiator arena, or the spoken language itself, just like dating profiles, is not used for people to hide behind. This complain is sound but to me sounds like we would complain to our grand children: “There was a time that you couldn’t just telepathically go through a hundred thousand profiles with the chip in your brain to get a mutual date. You actually had to open an app, a real app! And had to go through profiles one by one. And you had to chat with them, for real. Like composing sentences word by word to make a connection. And then there was still a high chance that they wouldn’t match you because it was not pre-calculated!”

Much of our sensorimotor circuits are inactive since their function is outsourced to the technology. And I think that comes in an order. First the motor act, the outcome of the whole process gets outsourced and inactive, since the machinary around us does it on our behalf. Then there’s no longer need for the sensory part and so that part gets dull and dormant too.

Your worry may be right. The new generation gets spoiled by the new technology and loses the real feel of an experience. They are handed in something as functional but less sensational; less powerful, engaging, and real. Just like we were.

We know it, by comparison.
Our parents knew it, by comparison.
Their parents knew it, …

It’s been fifty thousand years folks!

The Merger

dragon

I could write this in a thousand and one narratives, but tonight is the “merger” narrative. This is because this week two telecom giants merged together. Another merger, indifferent from anybody’s struggle to stop them.

This time 85 billion dollars. Let this number sink in a bit and then try to see the pattern here. You have seen it if you follow the global business news regularly:

  • Mergers are getting more and more frequent.
  • The acquisition prices get exponentially higher.
  • The industries involved get more diverse, which means more aspects of our lives is going under monopoly.
  • The rules that used to control and stop the mergers and guarrantee a minimal competition keep getting weaker by corporate lobbyists and bribed politicians.

What do we expect from these dynamics? They will slowly kill the competition and change our norms and habits. The pace of changing our internal habbits like the external environmental changes are not fast enough to be seen by the naked eye. It’s like staring at the hour hand of the clock; A 100x time-lapse can reveal it. Actually that was a while ago. We are talking about undergoing an exponential change so a 10x time-lapse is enough to make it visible for us, what change is happening around, and inside us.

But we are extremely adaptive creatures. We collectively conform to the norms around us and if they change, we change with them. What mergers do with those norms, is that when they get enormous enough to take over a whole industry at a globel scale, they kill the competition and unify the decision making between previously copeting entities. If one of the giants starts poisoning you, the other one will make a scandal out of it. But not if both are controlled behind the same dashboard. Can we comprehend the dangers here?

Megamergers are slowly changing our lifestyles, the food we eat and what it contains, the information we get, the politicians that rule us, everything! They can already predict and influence some of the decisions we collectively make and they won’t let you notice it. They think in statistics and you are just data points in their analysis. It is not even a month passed from Monsanto/Bayer merger that broke the historic world record of acquisitions at an stonning price of $65B, that this one silently came along with $85B. Can we extrapolate such an exponential growth and see what is waiting for us? Should we be suprised in three years witnessing a half a trillion dollars merger between an already merged food/retail company and another giant social network/media multinational corporate?

Let us fast forward this, fellow frogs:

Fighting cancer gets harder when it passes a certain level. Confronting mergers is increasingly harder when they get to such an gigantic size. Still, we may have a chance to bleck them now or regulate them more by antitrust regulators, but if we keep failing and wait longer, there comes a point that we cannot change the irreversible. That day we will see more clearly what is going to happen, but we will not have the power to stop it.

If things go as they are, in the course of decades if not years, the whole civilization as we know it will be acquired by one (not two) multi trillion dollar super-company or the coalition of multinational corpotations. Then their ultimate board does whatever they want with us data points. And they will have the means to do that, because we will be totally numb by then.

Did you actually follow me this far? Most people typically fail to care to this depth since they are already numb.

But you know that I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Right? When I say “the board” I don’t mean the mysterious bad guys who are sitting and plotting the apocalypse right now. Or whatever Illuminati. Don’t buy into those naive theories. Conspiracy theories, most of them, are for the kind hearts and simple minds.

Nature is not designed. It is organized on its own, based on simple rules. And it repeats the same patterns over and over. Nature is full of collapses and Doomdays and apocalyptic events. Big and small in all scales. These collapses are smaller babies of the big bang, only reversed:

Reversed in the sense that more and more things will happen in shorter and shorter times!

Our apocalypse will have many faces. “The merger” is one of those one thousand and one faces. The merger is a “winner take all” game. It is a race and we are all in it, but we don’t know who will win, however, there will be a winner. And many many losers. No one can predict who eats whom at the end of the game, but that will eventually turn out. And everyone will be surprised.

Even the people who may think they are conspirist themselves. Even those who think they are the bad guys.

There is a power above us all; It’s cancer. It’s nature. It’s evolution.

I haven’t spoiled the movie for you yet, and I guarrantee it will be full of surprises that none of us can foresee.

Good night. Till another night of the 1001 night.