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News 06.17.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 06.17.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The Making of a Millennial Woman

Being a millennial feels like being stuck in a permanent state of on-the-cusp adolescence. Sulky, prickly, and painfully hyper-visible, our every movement is tracked by a set of watchful guardians eager to land the next rage-inducing viral headline. We don’t like napkins says Business Insider; we like tiny houses, declares CNN. Goldman Sachs notes that more of us are “choosing” to live with our parents, while an opinion piece in the Guardian asks why we’re not trying to have children. No wonder we purportedly all have anxiety disorders and an insatiable love for killing heritage industries. One of the few things associated with millennials to have received a positive public reception is a particular form of millennial art. This art revolves around an archetypical Young Millennial Woman – pretty, white, cisgender, and tortured enough to be interesting but not enough to be repulsive. Often described as ‘relatable,’ she is, in actuality, not. The term masks the uncomfortable truth that she is more beautiful, more intelligent, and more infuriatingly precocious than we are in real life. But her charm lies in how she is still self-hating enough to be attainable: she’s an aspirational identifier. She’s often wealthy, but doesn’t think too much about it. Her life is fraught with so much drama, self-loathing and downwardly mobile financial precarity, that she forgets about it, just as we are meant to. Her friends, if she has any, are incorrigible narcissists, and the men in her life are disappointing and terrible. Try as she might, her protest against the world always re-routes into a melancholic self-destruction.

Read the rest of this article at: Another Gaze

News 06.17.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

What Really Happened to
Malaysia’s Missing Airplane

News 06.17.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

1. The Disappearance
at 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator. He flew it frequently, and often posted to online forums about his hobby. In the cockpit, Fariq would have been deferential to him, but Zaharie was not known for being overbearing.

In the cabin were 10 flight attendants, all of them Malaysian. They had 227 passengers to care for, including five children. Most of the passengers were Chinese; of the rest, 38 were Malaysian, and in descending order the others came from Indonesia, Australia, India, France, the United States, Iran, Ukraine, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russia, and Taiwan. Up in the cockpit that night, while First Officer Fariq flew the airplane, Captain Zaharie handled the radios. The arrangement was standard. Zaharie’s transmissions were a bit unusual. At 1:01 a.m. he radioed that they had leveled off at 35,000 feet—a superfluous report in radar-surveilled airspace where the norm is to report leaving an altitude, not arriving at one. At 1:08 the flight crossed the Malaysian coastline and set out across the South China Sea in the direction of Vietnam. Zaharie again reported the plane’s level at 35,000 feet.

Eleven minutes later, as the airplane closed in on a waypoint near the start of Vietnamese air-traffic jurisdiction, the controller at Kuala Lumpur Center radioed, “Malaysian three-seven-zero, contact Ho Chi Minh one-two-zero-decimal-nine. Good night.” Zaharie answered, “Good night. Malaysian three-seven-zero.” He did not read back the frequency, as he should have, but otherwise the transmission sounded normal. It was the last the world heard from MH370. The pilots never checked in with Ho Chi Minh or answered any of the subsequent attempts to raise them.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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Doublethink Is Stronger
Than Orwell Imagined

No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984. The title, the adjectival form of the author’s last name, the vocabulary of the all-powerful Party that rules the superstate Oceania with the ideology of Ingsoc—doublethink, memory hole, unperson, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Thought Police, Room 101, Big Brother—they’ve all entered the English language as instantly recognizable signs of a nightmare future. It’s almost impossible to talk about propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics, or perversions of truth without dropping a reference to 1984. Throughout the Cold War, the novel found avid underground readers behind the Iron Curtain who wondered, How did he know?

It was also assigned reading for several generations of American high-school students. I first encountered 1984 in 10th-grade English class. Orwell’s novel was paired with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, whose hedonistic and pharmaceutical dystopia seemed more relevant to a California teenager in the 1970s than did the bleak sadism of Oceania. I was too young and historically ignorant to understand where 1984 came from and exactly what it was warning against. Neither the book nor its author stuck with me. In my 20s, I discovered Orwell’s essays and nonfiction books and reread them so many times that my copies started to disintegrate, but I didn’t go back to 1984. Since high school, I’d lived through another decade of the 20th century, including the calendar year of the title, and I assumed I already “knew” the book. It was too familiar to revisit.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 11.26.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 06.17.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds

News 06.17.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Two rival civilizations are battling for supremacy. Civilization A is stronger than Civilization B and is perceived by Civilization B as a grave threat; its position, however, is more fragile than it seems. Neither side hesitates to employ espionage, subterfuge, and surveillance, because the rules of conduct—to the extent that they exist—are ill-defined and frequently contested. But the battle lines are clear: whoever controls the technological frontier controls the future.

In Liu Cixin’s science-fiction trilogy, “Remembrance of Earth’s Past”—also known by the title of its first volume, “The Three-Body Problem”—Civilization A is a distant planet named Trisolaris and Civilization B is Earth. Life on Trisolaris has become increasingly difficult to sustain, so its inhabitants prepare to colonize Earth, a project made possible by their vast technological superiority. Using higher-dimensional geometry, they deploy supercomputers the size of a proton to spy on every terrestrial activity and utterance; Earth’s entire fleet of starships proves no match for one small, droplet-shaped Trisolaran probe. Yet Trisolaris’s dominance is far from assured, given the ingenuity of the underdogs. Seeking out the vulnerabilities of its adversary, Earth establishes a deterrence based on mutually assured destruction and forces the Trisolarans to share their technology.

When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent. For the Chinese, achieving parity with the West is a long-cherished goal, envisaged as a restoration of greatness after the humiliation of Western occupations and the self-inflicted wounds of the Mao era. As Liu told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction.

In the past few years, those threats and challenges have escalated, as China’s global ambitions, especially in the field of technology, have begun to impinge upon America’s preëminence. Disputes about tariffs, intellectual property, and tech infrastructure have become urgent matters of national security. The U.S. has blocked China’s access to certain technologies and has cracked down on cyber espionage. In January, the Justice Department filed charges against the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, for alleged offenses (denied by the company) including fraud, theft of intellectual property, and violations of sanctions against Iran; the company’s C.F.O., who is the daughter of its director and founder, was arrested in Canada, and faces possible extradition to the U.S. In May, Donald Trump signed an executive order that warned of foreign tech companies committing “malicious cyber-enabled actions” at the behest of their governments. The next day, Huawei was added to a list of organizations prohibited from doing business with American companies without explicit government approval, and, not long afterward, Google discontinued Huawei’s access to the Android operating system. In response, the president of Huawei told the Chinese media, “I’ve sacrificed myself and my family for the sake of a goal that we will stand on top of the world. To achieve this goal, a conflict with the U.S. is inevitable.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

The Making of a Youtube Radical

A sampling of the more than 12,000 videos that Caleb Cain watched going back to 2015, many but not all of which were from far-right commentators.

Martinsburg, W.Va. — Caleb Cain pulled a Glock pistol from his waistband, took out the magazine and casually tossed both onto the kitchen counter.

“I bought it the day after I got death threats,” he said.

The threats, Mr. Cain explained, came from right-wing trolls in response to a video he had posted on YouTube a few days earlier. In the video, he told the story of how, as a liberal college dropout struggling to find his place in the world, he had gotten sucked into a vortex of far-right politics on YouTube.

“I fell down the alt-right rabbit hole,” he said in the video.

Mr. Cain, 26, recently swore off the alt-right nearly five years after discovering it, and has become a vocal critic of the movement. He is scarred by his experience of being radicalized by what he calls a “decentralized cult” of far-right YouTube personalities, who convinced him that Western civilization was under threat from Muslim immigrants and cultural Marxists, that innate I.Q. differences explained racial disparities, and that feminism was a dangerous ideology.

“I just kept falling deeper and deeper into this, and it appealed to me because it made me feel a sense of belonging,” he said. “I was brainwashed.”

Over years of reporting on internet culture, I’ve heard countless versions of Mr. Cain’s story: an aimless young man — usually white, frequently interested in video games — visits YouTube looking for direction or distraction and is seduced by a community of far-right creators.

Some young men discover far-right videos by accident, while others seek them out. Some travel all the way to neo-Nazism, while others stop at milder forms of bigotry.

The common thread in many of these stories is YouTube and its recommendation algorithm, the software that determines which videos appear on users’ home pages and inside the “Up Next” sidebar next to a video that is playing. The algorithm is responsible for more than 70 percent of all time spent on the site.

The radicalization of young men is driven by a complex stew of emotional, economic and political elements, many having nothing to do with social media. But critics and independent researchers say YouTube has inadvertently created a dangerous on-ramp to extremism by combining two things: a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalized paths meant to keep them glued to their screens.

“There’s a spectrum on YouTube between the calm section — the Walter Cronkite, Carl Sagan part — and Crazytown, where the extreme stuff is,” said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, YouTube’s parent company. “If I’m YouTube and I want you to watch more, I’m always going to steer you toward Crazytown.”

Steven Crowder, a conservative commentator, has gained nearly four million subscribers like Mr. Cain with shock-jock antics like this parody, which drew from a widely recognized “Schoolhouse Rock” cartoon.
In recent years, social media platforms have grappled with the growth of extremism on their services. Many platforms have barred a handful of far-right influencers and conspiracy theorists, including Alex Jones of Infowars, and tech companies have taken steps to limit the spread of political misinformation.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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