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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

How to hand in your resignation

I thought about putting this in The Great Realignment, but the link to politics is slight. This is more about fantasy fulfilment. Have you ever dreamed of telling a bad boss what you think of him? Have you ever dreamed of telling the world what you think of your bad boss, shortly before making him your ex-boss? Meet Gareth Arnold, who until today seems to have handled the Twitter account for Jared O’Mara MP, regarded by all sides as the most useless MP in Parliament today. Actually as of now (20:36 BST) Mr Arnold still is handling Mr O’Mara’s account but Mr O’Mara may not be entirely happy with that.

The first indication that something was up came at 8:03. A tweet allegedly from Mr O’Mara said,

Jared O’Mara
@jaredomaramp

Comms Team signing off… forever: Jared, you are the most disgustingly morally bankrupt person I have ever had the displeasure of working with. You do not care about your constituents. You do not care about anyone but yourself.

Thick and fast they followed:

I cannot and will not defend you and your vile, inexcusable contempt for the people who voted you in. You selfish, degenerate prick.

*

My fear is that now (as I quit) the rest of the staff will leave and once again you will close your office and stop helping anyone but still take your wages until you have the decency to call a byelection.

*

Leaving constituents desperate for representation again. No matter if they are having their homes taken away, their liberaties disgraced or being deported because of your inaction.

*

Sheffield Hallam deserves so much better than you. You have wasted opportunities which people dare not to even dream of.

*

Consider this my resignation.

Thanks

Gareth Arnold
– @garetharnolduk

“GnasherJew” has archived the thread to keep it for posterity.

P.S. In other news, Boris Johnson will be made PM tomorrow.

Katie Jones is the face of the future

“That LinkedIn connection could be a spy using a fake, AI-generated face”, warns Raphael Satter of the Associated Press in the Tampa Bay Times.

LONDON — Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into the Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve.

But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, the Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

So what’s new? Haven’t the Russkies been stealing people’s photos for years and using them to illustrate fake profiles on sites like LinkedIn? They have, but on this occasion it seems that the one thing of which they were not guilty was identity theft:

Several experts contacted by the Associated Press said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.

“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”

Klingemann and other experts said the photo — a closely cropped portrait of a woman with blue-green eyes, copper-colored hair and an enigmatic smile — appeared to have been created using a family of dueling computer programs called generative adversarial networks, or GANs, that can create realistic-looking faces of entirely imaginary people. GANs, sometimes described as a form of artificial intelligence, have been the cause of increasing concern for policymakers already struggling to get a handle on digital disinformation.

Katie is telling us that the era of evidence is drawing to a close. What changes will this bring?

Meanwhile in other news…

The end of the world is imminent. The Guardian Observer reports,

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

Obviously my first thought was “Okaaay, tev. I will believe you believe it if it still keeps Brexit off the front page for, say, the rest of this week.” But given the stakes one should keep an open mind. You guys think there’s anything to this?

Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing all who read and write here a Happy …:

I don’t know why this shop near where I live was proclaiming its enthusiasm for 2019 in the particular way that it was, but I made the necessary adjustments.

Dr Norman Doidge on the contrasting fates of his grandparents (and on his friend Jordan Peterson)

In his foreword to Jordan B. Peterson’s Twelve Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos (page xv), Dr Norman Doidge writes:

To understand ideology, Jordan read extensively about the Soviet gulag, but also the Holocaust and the rise of Nazism. I had never before met a person, born Christian and of my generation who was so utterly tormented by what happened in Europe to the Jews, and who had worked so hard to understand how it could have occurred. I too had studied this in depth. My own father survived Auschwitz. My grandmother was middle-aged when she stood face to face with Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi physician who conducted unspeakably cruel experiments on his victims, and she survived Auschwitz by disobeying his order to join the line with the elderly, the grey and the weak and instead slipping into a line with younger people. She avoided the gas chambers a second time by trading food for hair dye so she wouldn’t be murdered for looking too old. My grandfather, her husband, survived the Mauthausen concentration camp, but choked to death on the first piece of solid food he was given just before liberation day. …

I was going to leave it at that, but this next bit is worth quoting also, hence what’s between the brackets in the title at the top of this posting:

… I relate this, because years after we became friends, when Jordan would take a classical liberal stand for free speech, he would be accused by left-wing extremists as being a right-wing bigot.

Let me say, with all the moderation I can summon: at best, those accusers have simply not done their due diligence. I have; with a family history such as mine, one develops not only radar, but underwater sonar for right-wing bigotry; but even more important, one learns to recognize the kind of person with the comprehension, tools, good will and courage to combat it, and Jordan Peterson is that person.

“With all the moderation I can summon …”. Nice one. How to shout without shouting, so to speak.

Two discussion points inspired by Stephen Wolfram

The first one is straightforward. The internet threw me a talk by the computer scientist and businessman Stephen Wolfram today. It lasts three minutes 21 seconds and is called “How humans can communicate with aliens”.The subject is one that has so often been used as the basis for fiction that we sometimes forget that when you look up at night, what you see is real. There is a whole universe out there. It might have intelligences in it. Mr Wolfram contends that we might have been seeing evidence of intelligences all the time without realising it.

Do you think he is right? And assuming we can talk to them, should we?

Alien contact sounds wonderful at first but then becomes terrifying as you think more deeply. The second topic for discussion I want to put forward sounds terrifying at first but then becomes –

Well, you tell me what it becomes. There is a very strange final paragraph to Mr Wolfram’s Wikipedia page:

Personal analytics

The significance data has on the products Wolfram creates transfers into his own life. He has an extensive log of personal analytics, including emails received and sent, keystrokes made, meetings and events attended, phone calls, even physical movement dating back to the 1980s. He has stated “[personal analytics] can give us a whole new dimension to experiencing our lives”.

One of my recurring nightmares is that as spy devices get smaller and the computational power available to analyse what they learn gets bigger someone – or lots of someones – will be able to analyse my life in that sort of detail, down to every keystroke I make. It had never occurred to me to think of it as something I might like to do to myself.

Does anyone reading this do anything similar? Would you like to?

Have a great Beltane…

Have a great or at least an interesting Beltane, or if you prefer, have a suitably reflective Gulag Remembrance Day

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge…

England’s favourite Roman-Greek dragon slayer grants us licence this day to drink beer and make appropriate Shakespeare quotes.

It’s Easter Sunday and it’s wind up day

Here in Britain, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day have today collided. But down in Australia they threw in winding the clocks back, just to liven things up even more.

Here the rule is that April Fool’s Day wind ups can only happen before 12 noon, so this is being posted in a rush to beat the deadline, assuming I have not miscalculated by an hour. No time to think of anything truly funny, but I can still ask. What have been today’s best Easter pranks? I’m sure there are lots of anti-Christian jokes along the lines of: Christ is risen, no he isn’t, gotcha. And last time AFD and Easter Sunday collided, Richard Dawkins converted to Catholicism. But I feel sure that our commentariat can do way better than that, or can at least report on someone doing better.

Strange how wind up as in “it’s a (pr) ‘wined’ up”, and wind up as in “put the (pr) ‘winned’ up” – and here’s hoping you made sense of that – are both spelt the same way and mean rather closely related things. English eh? (The government should sort it out. No it shouldn’t. Gotcha. Etc.)

Thoughts on crime fiction – provoked by the recent publication of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins

Some time towards the end of last year, my niece Roz emailed me to the effect that she was in London, and would I care to meet up with her for some coffee? I was intrigued. Because of our differing political views, Roz and I have had a polite but somewhat distant relationship. She is into feminism and environmentalism. I am into, well …: see all my other postings here. What was going on? Why this meet-up? I knew some unusual game was afoot. But what?

We duly met up, and after some further polite chit-chat, what was afoot was revealed. Roz had written a crime novel, called The Devil’s Dice. This book, she said, was in the process of being published, by a real publisher of the sort that you have heard of. I like crime novels, and I like detective dramas on television. And I know how hard it can be to write anything even as long as a longish blog posting (such as this one is (you have been warned)), let alone a book. So, I was impressed.

Although she didn’t spell this out, it was clear that Roz was then at the stage of communicating with everyone she could think of who might be able to help her sell this book. Which also impressed me. Good for her. And good for her also, and good for me, that she was content to include me in this process. Later, an advance copy of the book arrived at my home, in a bright gold bubble-wrapped package, together with some chocolate dice, in a little bag made of bright red netting.

I read the book, and found it thoroughly absorbing and entertaining. She writes really well.

A quote from the book? Try the dedication:

To my parents.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and advice on how to kill people.

Roz’s mum, my older sister, was a National Health Service doctor, and her husband was a psychiatric social worker. Short of having parents who were directly involved in the criminal justice machine, like detectives or coroners or forensic pathologists or suchlike, a crime writer couldn’t ask for a better start.

→ Continue reading: Thoughts on crime fiction – provoked by the recent publication of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins

Life is short

Tehran, Iran. January 2017

Barcelona, Catalonia. January 2017

Palermo, Italy. January 2017
Helsinki, Finland. February 2017
Riga, Latvia. February 2017
A Coruña, Galicia. March 2017
Istanbul, Turkey. March 2017Jodhpur, India. March 2017
Lumbasumba Pass, Nepal. April 2017
Dubai. May 2017
Wuppertal, Germany. May 2017
Oslo, Norway. June 2017.
 Afsluitdijk, Netherlands. July 2017
Berlin, Germany. July 2017
Madras, Oregon. August 2017

→ Continue reading: Life is short

A really great way for the police to make people uneasy

Truth in advertising?