Saturday, December 08, 2007

In every great leap forward, the human groin leads the way, by design.

The Conversational Interface: Our Next Great Leap Forward:
"Let me go on record proposing that the conversational interface will be the single most important technological innovation the average person alive today will witness in their lifetimes (out of a long list of competing innovations, like personal computers, automated supply chains, and cell phones). In terms of broad scientific, technological, economic, political, educational, and social impact on human society, I expect it will make even the emergence of the internet seem minor by comparison. The CI makes both the greatest wisdom of the species and its lowest common denominator distractions perennially accessible to all of us. It will surely be greatly misused in its early stages, but in the long run it will allow what we say, and hear, to bring us to a whole new level of conscious insight about ourselves and the world."
Geeks (such as myself) are so cute when they try and pretend that getting laid is beneath them. I will admit that maintaining such a pose is infinitely superior to geeking on sex in the presence of the opposite. That can get you a very creepy reputation - along with most emphatically not getting laid.

Yep, we may finally become conscious of the fact that the best essences of our humanity are inextricably entwined with our "lower common denominator distractions."

Not that I'm disagreeing with the paragraph quoted. I just find the unstated, but apparent presumptions amusing as all hell, even as I agree that it will absolutely bring us to a whole new level of concious insight about ourselves and our world. Ideally, one hopes, an insight that puts a stake through the heart of Dualism once and for all.

I'm still in the middle of reading through this site, so I may be wrong in translating exactly what they mean by Conversational Interface, but in effect it's creating an interface for your computer (and through it, with other human beings) that is based on human language, including human body language. In other words, you would talk to your computer and it would respond to your inputs exactly as you would expect a human would - only millions of times faster. They also speak of human / computer interfaces that work to meet the computer half-way, wherein we become wirelessly wired into the web.

Try and program a totally genderless, yet broadly comprehensible "conversational interface." Go ahead, I dare you.

I've read a little more of what they are speaking of and the above assumptions were correct - so far as they went, but that wasn't very far. I think it's better to just go to the source:

conversational interface (CI) that is, at least technically, minimally useable by everyone in world, regardless of their education, language, or culture. It will need to be one that is free, or at least affordable to working adults in all nations. It will need to be fast, ubiquitous, reasonably reliable, and at least smart enough for children (and many adults) to access on a frequent basis, whenever their curiosi ty causes them to seek more information about the world in which they live.

We leave more precise definitions for others. It is clear from present developments (todays CIs for directory assistance, flight information, stock quotations, etc.) that there will be many small, domain-specific CIs en route to grander ones. Yet there will come an inevitable time when we will all feel connected, symbiotic with our technological extensions, and thenceforth forever naked outside the matrix.

We know it must be a largely stupid interface at first, speaking back to us in a 'pidgin' language with intelligence only in very circumscribed domains, such as cellphone, basic skills education, tool use, internet surfing, communications and productivity software, and other commonly accessed tasks. Nevertheless, with the entire planet coming to depend upon it on a daily basis, it is also clear that this interface will quickly become a more fluid and knowledgeable information source, for an ever-growing variety of subjects, than most humans we know.

How much would you presently pay for a cellphone-PDA that you did not need to touch to use, one that has no keypad? What would you give for a GPS-linked cellphone that could tell you the closest and cheapest place to find a product or service, one that would allow you to shop a store by video telepresence, and if it was one of those rare things you couldn't do by telepresence, provide realtime driving directions, given present traffic conditions? How about a phone that could relate all the interesting events occurring in your area that night, including what your friends have publicly posted to the "voice board" about their evening activities? Would you like one that could remind you of your calendar, inform, entertain, and enlighten you on any practical subject you don't presently understand?

Would you like a wearable phone-garment you can speak to by name, one that can provide news, entertainment, or ready answers to such questions as "the definition of transmute" (to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature, especially to a higher form), or "the name of that popular book on liberty recently written by that Newsweek guy" (The Future of Freedom, Fareed Zakaria, 2003), or verbal help in fixing any of your technologies when they invariably break? Would you like one that could archive and play back portions of anything you've said, seen, or heard in recent years, for your own edification? Each of these functionalities are add-ons to the basic CI structure, but we see where the system is headed—toward a profoundly empowering and awareness-raising human environment..

While these folks predict the first practical conversational interface emerging in 2020, it's amusing to note that, from a human to human viewpoint, a crude but effective approximation already exists; the various MMORPG simulated realities, such as World of Warcraft and Second Life. It is to a true CI what PINE and EMACS were to blogs, wikis and aggrigators, but the first must exist before the second can exits.

But whatever history says and whatever futurists think should occur, the real heavy lifting for creating an inarguable CI or Virtual Reality interface will be done in order to support the "great misuse" of the technology - and further, just as the "misuse" of the internet for disseminating massive amounts of "subversive" and "pornographic" information has resulted in completely counter-intuitive results, such as statistically solid correlations between internet access to porn and the incidence of physical rape, the results will affect society and culture in ways that Repositories of Conventional Wisdom could never imagine. And if they could, they'd try and outlaw it.

Anyway, it's become a truism that sex fuels technological innovation, by pushing it through that awkward point where the energy spent on it is greater than any economically-justified return - unless, of course, it helps you get laid, or at least feel like you want a cigarette.

I don't happen to think that sex, sexual gratification, or sexuality are things that it's good to be embarrassed or shameful about, (though bragging IS tacky) and I don't happen to think that broadening one's reproductive options and strategies is a bad thing at all.

Feel free to check with any evolutionary biologist on that score. The Web has already done that; one of those lowest-common-denominator sites, the "internet dating site" has done more to improve the odds on making the "urge to merge" a viable proposition than any church denomination. I think a lot of that may well be due to the fact that just being there forces folks to admit that they do want to get laid, that getting laid is important to them, and that they have specific preferences in the how, by who, and for how much.

I personally look forward to a future in which the slang term, "doin' the nasty" is no longer emotionally comprehensible. And I expect that it will be rather sooner than any oldfarts like me will expect. My wife tells me that in her interactions with 3d and 4th graders, she has already seen indications that they don't comprehend racism. They see it every day - but they don't comprehend why. It seems stupid to them. Now where the hell did that come from, after 10000 years of standardized xenophobia?

A rhetorical question - but one well worth asking aloud. And I think a predictor that suggests that, in terms of the pace of social change, these futurists, as with every futurist we have the luxury of looking back upon, are rather quaint in their conservatism, rather like Verne predicting the fax machine - as a means of transmitting documents written with quill pens.

And while that culture will be strange and perhaps even incomprehensible to me - it will nonetheless be as strongly and inextricably linked to our hind-brains, our glands and our survival imperatives as our current culture, with it's own, unique and inevitable comedies and tragedies.

Are a candidate's religious beliefs fair game

While accepting that there may be no religious requirement for office - that someone be a Catholic a Prodestant or a Wiccan, Jesus's General meditates on why it would be foolish and particularly dangerous to assume that Mitt Romney could, would (or arguably, should) set them aside.

read more | digg story

Funny- I think NOT

A Dacono, Colo. councilwoman resigned this week over what some branded a racist e-mail, but Sandra Tucker said she won't apologize for posting it.
In the e-mail, Tucker, 61, said that being a Democrat is worse than "being a black disabled one-armed drug-addicted Jewish queer" who has a "Mexican boyfriend."
She posted the e-mail on a local Web site and said she thought it was funny.
"I'm sick and tired of all of this political correctness," Tucker told The Denver Post. "I'm not going to apologize if you don't have a sense of humor."
The mayor of Dacono, a town of 4,000 in Weld County, asked Tucker to remove her posting but said that she refused.
She said she's not a racist but understands the posting has made it almost impossible to carry on her second term in the city council.She submitted her resignation on Thursday
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Bigots won't admit to it or acknowledge it. They excuse is always that people are too sensitive, or too PC. Here's a clue, if you use the "Too PC" excuse you just might be a Bigot.

Give the Gift of Greg Palast

Greg Palast would like you to leverage some of your holiday green to support his work. And, my fellow bloggers, we need him working. And while an autographed copy of The Elections Files: The Theft of 2008," might not be a new plasma TV, it's not socks and underwear either.

On September 12, 2001, President Bush asked Americans to go shopping. And the Bush-bots did as told.

I’ve got a better idea: don’t shop - give a tax deductible donation to support my crew. Donate to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund and I will sign and send, in gratitude, a gift to you - or your friends or family. I’ll sign each item - just tell us the names of the gifted ones by December 14.

Make your tax-deductible donations at

BTW, since he's signing them, I don't imagine he'd object to including a personal message - if you sweeten the pot a little. So that might be an added bonus to a particularly appropriate (and perhaps even welcome) gift.

Oh, and for those gifts of obligation:
Make a donation to the Palast Investigative Fund in someone’s name - and we’ll send them a thank you card. You get a tax donation - and ‘just the facts, ma’am.’

Just the right gift for your Congresscritter or local newspaper editor, don't you think?

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

1 Million Blogs for Peace - why I'm signing up.

clipped from
The Concept

Between 20 March 2007 and 20 March 2008 (the fifth year of the war), we will attempt to sign up One Million Blogs for Peace.
By signing up, a blogger is stating his or her agreement with The Pledge below. They will then be able to participate in
various challenges launched by One Million Blogs for Peace. They will also be listed on this website with a link to their
The Pledge

I believe in the immediate withdrawal of all foreign combat troops from the nation of Iraq. I believe in using my blog, in
whole or in part, as a tool toward this end

There will be two counts (toward 1,000,000). For one, a blog must be based in the home country of a nation currently engaged
in the Iraq War

The second count will include all bloggers worldwide, whether or not their countries are involved in the conflict. The
importance of keeping separate counts is explained
we will not post your name to the website, only your blog & URL.
20 March 2008:Deadline for One Million Blogs

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I'll be signing up on the 1 Million Blogs for Peace site in a moment. If you have a blog, you should too.

If you want reasons beside the obvious, here are mine. My view is the best arguments against the war are the words of those who support it. I have come to the conclusion that their arguments are stupid because there is no possible intelligent, ethical defense for this war, even if it had been true that Hussein had WMD and was up to his eyeballs in an undeclared war of terror against the United States.

Had that been the case, the need to do something would have been compelling, but an inadequately prepared invasion into a foreign nation with no significant world support against an enemy in fortified positions with the ability to kill both troops and our civilian population would have been the very last scenario anyone who graduated from the War College would have suggested.

I'm not some bleeding heart that thinks that in understanding our enemies, we can make them our friends, or that you should be nice to rabid doggies. Nope, not at all.

I think the proper way to deal with such matters is smoothly, routinely and effortlessly. In other words, there is an ideal correlation between terrorists and smoking holes - one to one. Any course of action that treats the disease of terrorism as anything more significant than the threat rabid dogs, feral bears or stray tornadoes represents grants it a significance it does not deserve. (All the above threats are, in fact, a significantly greater threat to the typical US citizen than all of the terrorist networks combined.)

We are just smart enough that we do not declare a "war on tornadoes." However, if we did, and if it were prosecuted as well as the war on Terror has been, we would be losing. Just as we are losing the "War on Terror" in general and the conflict in Iraq in specific."

In war, the simplest and most common way to lose is to pick a fight you cannot win, in a situation where you cannot easily extract yourself, under conditions where just being there rouses the population against you. In observing this, I'm saying nothing that Sun Tsu, Erwin Rommel, or Dwight Eisenhower would not have said to a particularly dim lieutenant placed on staff so he couldn't fuck up anything more important than a pot of coffee.

It is sometimes the case that it's possible to negotiate from a position of strength on the basis of understanding. But more directly, understanding your enemy means that you can maneuver them into defeating themselves.

Well, unfortunately, our involvement in Iraq is a text-book example of that principle. We done gone and sucker-punched dat tar-baby, an' B'rer Wolf, he be laughin!

Here's what one of the "deadenders" said in response to one commenter in the Clipmarks thread.

Sounds more like they should be called "Blogs for Ethnic Cleansing" or "Blogs for Insurgency" or "Blogs for Al Qaeda in Iraq"
When the first voices heard in defense of an agenda are those of fools and bigots, it's time to consider whether or not the agenda itself reflects the people in favor of it.

If you define "working" as proving that a slightly larger, but still inadequate force will reduce violence, yes, the Surge Worked - duh. Thirty odd violent incidents that would be headline news for weeks in any other nation, as opposed to double or more. It's an improvement, but it's not the fundamental change the situation requires.

Of course, this assumes that there's a legitimate reason to be there - and there is not.

It assumes that a victory in Iraq is critical to the war on terror - which it isn't, even if you could define "victory" in either case, which you can't.

I don't oppose this war because I'm a pacifist, a "peacenik" or a "liberal," I oppose it for the same reasons that SunTsu, George S. Patton, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Stonewall Jackson would. I oppose it from the perspectives and for the reasons it would have been opposed by great "liberal" thinkers like Barry Goldwater.

I could - and have - explained it in depth, but it boils down to this: Never stick your dick in a pencil sharpener and dare the enemy to turn the crank.

There are two reasons for this:

First - it proves your dick will fit in a pencil sharpener. To validate the metaphor, in making such a threat, you demonstrate that your ability to project force in a way that successfully achieves your end is sharply limited by your ability to cope with an intelligent and resourceful enemy or by other things that become obvious once you engage.

Second - It occurs to the enemy that a man with his dick stuck in a pencil sharpener tends to be completely focused on the situation at hand.

From the viewpoint of the worldwide strategic goals of any putative "Islamofacist" movement, there could be no better recruiting tool than Iraq - and no easier way to keep our forces pinned down than to maintain just enough pressure on the crank to keep us focused on "the job at hand."

Of course, I believe the same rationale appeals strongly to Bushco, so compellingly that I have personal suspicions that the war between the US and Al-Queda exists only to serve the ends of each - and any decisive engagement, with ANY outcome would be a disaster from both perspectives.

This whole "we are fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" meme is nonsense.
Any decent military leader will tell you that if you want to win a war decisively, you pick ground the enemy has difficulty getting to, is not familiar with, where it's difficult for them to blend into the countryside. For most of our history, our entire national security has depended on the fact that "fighting them over here" is far superior to "fighting them over there." It's better, far better, to BE the pencil sharpener.

This philosophy has been seriously degraded by dick waving cold warriors talking about "projecting force," but the fact is that our founders, in choosing to rely on militias to defend until a scratch regular army could come running, were displaying both political AND strategic brilliance. That's an essay for another time; but let's remember that many of them were noted for their military services and successes, unlike the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If there is a "war on terror," wherein "turrists" from "Islamofacists" are motivated to come and try their tricks, it would be a hell of a lot easier - and far more decisive - to let them come.

But the Dubai ports deal - and many other key infrastructure ownership issues, as well as the insistence on security measures that have the effect - and only the effect - of restricting the movement of US citizens, while habituating them to intrusive searches and arbitrary abuses tells us all we really need to know.

You see, I don't much put my faith in what people in authority say. There are all kinds of reasons why they might be less than totally forthcoming, even if their motives are as pure as the driven snow. What I place my faith in is evidence of actions achieving a visible end - and using what is visible as an indicator of the general shape and form of that which is unseen.

I base my views on a very solid appreciation of what war can and cannot achieve, human nature, and of course, cause and effect.

The only clear, certain and measurable benefit to anyone is the consolidation of executive power and the erosion of individual liberties within the United States.

Further, the most seriously defended actions on the part of the Administration, it's highest priorities for covert action - have been aimed at US. Warrentless wiretapping. The elimination of habious corpus. The pernicious idea that anyone - including US citizens - may be detained indefinitely without trial or even public notice as "enemy combatants" on the say-so of George or his designated heir to power.

These are the fruits of victory Bush seeks, I must conclude. And that means that "a terrorist" is anyone who doesn't think Bushco should own their ass and be able to sell it off wholesale.

In joining this effort, I'm also calling for a return to the fundamentals of Constitutional National Security - which means a return to state and local defense networks that are on polite, but distant terms with federal authorities, and who's proper response to being told to drop everything and prosecute a foreign war of choice is "Sir, fuck you, Sir; I'm needed at home."

Oddly, Mike, our domestic prison system doesn't make me feel all that safer either.

Mike Huckabee has put his thumb squarely on the issue I and much of the world has with Guantanamo Bay:

People who think that when you deprive someone of their liberty for reasons that are excused so casually as "erring on the side of protecting the American People."

The same exact thing was said about transporting people - not always felons - to Australia, or sending them to Devil's Island, or locking them in The Tower of London. Of course, the conditions in the Tower were quite luxuriously appointed, compared to prisons of the day. Or even compared to some homes.

But the key was, you couldn't leave and in many cases, nobody knew you were there.

It's bizarre to me that an American could possibly be confused on the ethics of this, that there is any significant issue here aside from the unjust deprivation of liberty.
clipped from
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —  Detainees being held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of connections to terrorism enjoy conditions better than many prisons in the United States, Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee said Sunday.

While the government's handling of Guantanamo detainees has come to symbolize "what's gone wrong" in the fight against terrorism, the former Arkansas governor said, it's better to err on the side of protecting the American people.

"I can tell you most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States," Huckabee said on a cable news network.

"It's (Guantanamo) more symbolic than it is a substantive issue because people perceive of mistreatment when in fact there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given really every consideration," he said.

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