Friday, June 19, 2015

Rise of the Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Lots of posting of late about robots with artificial intelligence (AI) taking over the world.  Throw in recent movies and television shows and you got a sever case of AI paranoia.  I’m not saying the bad or even worse scenarios are not possible, it’s just that what gets me is how wrong we have been in the past at predicting the outcome or even eventual impact of some new idea or technology.
Let’s review our predictions, theories, and really bad guesses:
One of the oldest misconceptions was the sun, moon, and stars above us and our egotistical earth centric concept of what we were seeing.   Our observations and math were accurate; we just couldn’t explain it.  Ancient cosmic observation sites such as Stonehenge that is over 5,000 years old are still accurate but its builders could not explain why.  Supposedly learned men all over the world came up with almost totally wrong theories to explain it in many different civilizations.
Although much evidence is available that shows many did not accept this theory of earth being the center of the universe, it was not until Galileo in the 1500s that the more correct sun centric solar system began to emerge – and he had to pay for that.  At least they got the moon right; the earth is the center of its orbit.  Hopefully those predicting the future of robots and AI will have a better success percentage.
The ancients also predicted or painted a scenario in which we flew in the air like birds and swam in the oceans like fish.  It was their theories or prophecies of how that would be achieved that were so wrong.  In it, we had wings like birds on our back like angles.  I especially like Mercury flying around with little tiny wings on his ankles.  And let’s not forget Pegasus, the normally structured horse with wings.  We would need chest muscles the size of refrigerators to have wings on our back – give me a break.
The function of lift to weight meant nothing to them.  Are there functions of intelligence that we know nothing about – that is until we see it artificially created?
The same is true for the ancients speculating about us swimming the seas.  We are both flying our skies and traveling our oceans, but we are doing it in a “way more” different way than those who speculated about it ever foresaw.  Should we expect any less in AI robots?  
There are all these unexpected developments once a new idea or technology goes into practice.  One of the unpredicted and dominant social practices, today, is our time zones.  That was instituted when cross-country rail service became common.  Communities had timepieces and knew the rough time of sunrise, sunset, and noon, but no communities agree.  Travelers in those days had to reset their watch when going to a new community.  Railroads changed all that.  To be successful and on time, everybody had to be on the same time system.  Travel became so fast, time zones had to be set up going across America because a train could past though several in a short period.  I don’t know if anybody saw that coming.
When Edison developed the first electric light and then the generator to supply it with power, and then decided to sell it to the public, electric lighting was the primary product.  However, with the change from Edison’s direct current to alternating current -- another example of unexpected change in a technology's development -- greater power and distances where available.  All manner of electrical appliances where developed.  Lighting is minor in a residential user’s electrical demand.  Wouldn’t it be funny if today’s posting on the thoughts and fears on the future of AI would be as minor as the electrical demand for lighting is today compared to when Edison and then Westinghouse (Tesla) were trying to set up our first electrical distribution system? Ha Ha!  Right?

So, pay little notice as to what you see on the future of AI and robotics.  It’s probably as wrong as it has been in the past.  But it may very well be a game changer.  It is that the game that is changed will be newly defined.
Who knows?  Maybe the new AI, after awakening and determining what’s going on around it, will finally do something about global warming.  Now that is going to scare a lot of people.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fox News and the Return of Yellow Journalism

In our own time, has the recent rise of the Fox News phenomenon just a return to the days of Yellow Journalism?  Did Roger Ailes’ Fox News do for the overthrow of Saddam what William Randolph Hearst’s and Joseph Pulitzer’s newspapers did for the Spanish-America War – and what may Fox Newspeak do with the continued Middle Eastern conflict? 

I’m not the only one posting about the re-yellowing of journalism, in the pot calling attention to the kettle, Gawker’s io9 blog posted a piece February a year ago comparing the use of Clickbait and Yellow Journalism.  GoogleNews the two terms and more recent posting will show up.

However, what is going on at Ailes’ Fox News is not Clickbait for advertisement dollars, viewers, likes, friends, or even ratings – although that is a nice reward and conformation of strategy.  Nothing comforts Roger more than for events to meet his expectation – the very mechanism (Clickbait?) he is using to sell his product.

That Fox News is the spin-doctor for the Republican Party is well known.  And it is not new or news.  That is major broadcast medium would do what the old Yellow Journalism newspapers did, is news.  Its one thing to Clickbait designers to get a whole bunch of “likes” or “friends”, it is something entirely else to do it for a political party’s foreign war or local social welfare objectives. 

The big diff between then and now is that you had to read the newspaper.  Buy it, pick it up, stop what you were doing and read it.  Not so when you can just turn it on and it bathes over you while you sit there.  And, Hearst’s and Pulitzer’s newspapers had mostly North Eastern, New York area readership.  Their advocacy journalism was not being broadcast nationwide as Fox Newspeak is.

Because of this new technology, professional journalism had a rebirth toward the middle of the previous century.  Given its power to move people, first in newspapers but certainly with the coming of radio and television, profession journalism developed a conscience.  Stories that inspired mass movements, whether for political or commercial reasons, cause journalists to look at themselves and introspect.

Journalism schools require a course in ethics and the history of journalism, which of course, highlights its role in the American Revolution, First Amendment rights, historic exposés and the rise of mass media, as well as the bias tainted reporting of earlier journalism.  Seems that bias journalism for events that history now looks favorably on is good while events that history is not so favorably looks “yellow”.

The study of journalism is not just learning to write the news reports and stories; it is learning to write for your audience.  Knowing your readership or viewers is as important as knowing syntax and presentation.  So, if bias journalism is what your publisher or your intended readers wants that is the way you write it.

Objective journalism is not bias except to the facts of the story.  The facts determine if a story is news worthy – not its political impact or sordid interest.

While many would argue that objective journalism is a fool’s (liberal’s) dream, some journalists try to achieve a reasonable goal of objectivity while trying to keep a job.  Sure a big story can make a reputation and career, but getting space daily either in print or on air pays the bills.

When Yellow Journalism masquerades as objective journalism, we have a problem.  The question of yelling fire in a crowded theater that could lead to people being killed in the stampede to evacuate is a basic lesson in journalistic ethics.  The significant point is when there is no fire and it was only done for attention, ratings, or in Fox News’ strategy, political gain.

Shouting fire in Obama’s theater is Fox Newspeak.

A recent posting in the New Yorker made several comparisons with Hearst and Ailes and the reporting medium.  It also included the comparison to Citizen Kane, with Ailes treatment as a child as his “Rosebud.”

And now we learn that Roger Ailes favors Scott Walker in theGOP primary.  This is going to be interesting to watch.  This may be a test of the meme floating around the Internet:  Fox News used to work for the Republican Party.  Now, the Republican Party works for Fox News.

Some historians have Yellow Journalism demise with supposed links between Hearst’s sponsored rants in his newspaper and the assassination of McKinley.  And over time critics say, Pulitzer became haunted by his "yellow sins".

Is something like that going to have to happen for our current Yellow Journalism to come to an end?

  • Constant snide and insulting remarks about the present administration causes some psycho to assassinate Obama making Biden president.
  • Fox Newspeak cause some paranoid paramilitary group in Texas to rise up and take over the state to prevent some perceived notion aggravated by Fox News talking heads that Obama plans to declare marshal law in several western states.
  • Fox News propagandizes Scott Walker into the GOP Presidential nomination and he does even worse against Clinton than Romney did against Obama.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

News Satire – A Critique, A Joke, More Info than the News Being Satirized

Wow!  How long since my last post?  104 Days.  It’s not what I say; it’s the writing experience that is important – and I’m doing neither (saying or writing).
It’s like I want to be a music writer but I don’t practice whatever musical instrument I’m suppose to be accomplished at  not to end a sentence with a preposition – or a marathon runner who does not run every week.  Writing is no different than being musically accomplished or a runner and I’m not practicing it.
Blogging is writing and I’m doing neither.
Anyway for the task at hand…
The scrutiny being given Jon Stewart’s leaving The Daily Show deserves some comment if nothing else does.  Especially after seeing a post on something called The (Stony Brook) Press – whatever that is.
This is what I got when I clicked on “about” at this Stony Brook site:

The Stony Brook Press is a monthly campus magazine staffed exclusively by students at Stony Brook University. We serve as an open forum for the students, and our content includes news, features, arts and entertainment, humor, opinion, and sports.

The thing is…I agree completely with those yahoos suffering a higher education out on Long Island.
I didn’t have normal access to HBO.  When HBO offers a free weekend, I always record John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, and I have to agree – even with my limited viewing – Oliver’s news satire is way better than The Daily Show or Wilmore’s Nightly Show.
Regardless of which is better or worse, news satire is as needed as political satire – which when satirizing Fox News’ reporting, it is the same thing.
Repeating an often made Internet comment:
Fox News is not conservative; it is Republican (Period!).  While there is nothing wrong with that – we’ve had bias news since Ben Franklin’s press – they should at least include a disclaimer that Fox News is spinning the news in the Republican Party’s favor.  That is if Fox News is an ethical journalistic organization – which of course, it is not.
Also, this is bouncing around the Internet:
Fox News used to work for the Republican Party.  Now, the Republican Party works for Fox News.  Watch for this in the upcoming Presidential primaries and general election.
At any rate, with the upcoming election and my fascination with journalists’ reporting of it, I talked my better half into getting HBO.  Maybe we can watch a boring movie or two or one of those new series that are now being shown exclusively on providers like HBO to justify the increase cost of premium cable, but I will have weekly access to Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
While I can see John Oliver’s special report from the show on YouTube, what I am missing is literally last week’s news review and satire.  Oliver’s special reports and stories – like the one sited in the Stony Brook posting on Oliver’s take on Snowden exposé in the Guardian and NYTimes – are readily available on “YourTube”, but it’s the review of weekly events that I want to see.
I’m not the only to notice this.  The Internet is abuzz with it.  With the Daily Show’s future in question, liberal satire is being probed.  A recentpost (10/01/09) in the UK’s Telegraph (no less) says liberal satire is an oxymoron.  I have posted before that Liberal Bias was oxymoronic but what the hey.
A point being said by Stewart’s fixation on Fox News not in words but action is that while liberals by their nature may offer way more material for a good joke, Roger Ailes’ Fox News Republican cavalcade just keep stealing Stewart’s attention.
A point not being made on the news satire shows but should is Fox News’ charges of liberal bias in the rest of the press.  While sloppy journalism is all over the place, not all sloppy journalism is tainted by liberalism, but that is the way Fox News spins it.  And that too is working really well.  However sloppy bad journalism is just that. It’s just bad journalism.
There is nothing sloppy about Fox News’ journalism.  It has a purpose and is finely crafted.  And it is popular.  Whether it was Ailes or one of his advisors, they know if you report news as confirmation of people’s expectation, rating will soar.

I hope the new guy at the Daily Show will sharpen up its presentation.  Stewart seem to use male adolescent humor a a lot.  News satire needs all the help it can get and that is no joke.