update and more book notes


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The choir was excellent yesterday. One soprano told me that our rendition of Vaughan Williams’ O How Amiable gave her chills. It was good. It’s satisfying to be a part of something like this. We even did the little Dowland piece mostly unaccompanied (no mean trick). Dawn pulled stops for me on the prelude. I played Vaughan Williams’ Hyfrydol. It’s challenging to lift my hands and change stops to reflect the composer’s intentions. An extra pair of hands makes a lot of difference.

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I came home exhausted. I didn’t really get a second wind. I think that the organ music, the two anthems and beginning a half hour earlier, all of this, took a toll on the old guy. I wonder how I’ll do next week with the addition of our afternoon recital.

I’m even tired this morning. Eileen on her second day of her weaving conference at Hope. She seems to be very happy with it and enjoying it as she goes. I  reported in to my surgeon today for a six month look at my incision. This meant a drive to Grand Rapids. My surgeon’s office is right by a restaurant that Eileen and I discovered in the midst of our trips to his office. Eileen insisted that I pick up some food to go for us since she couldn’t make the trip today. Heh. This is what I did.

I also took back roads back and forth to GR since there is a lot of construction between here and Byron Center road.

Since Eileen’s busy with her conference this afternoon, I’m scheduled to meet the plumber. He is coming to begin work on repairing the leak under the shower.

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More notes from LikeWar

The United States remains “supremely ill-equipped” to confront the dangers the authors outline in this book. In fact “other nations now look to the United States as a showcase for all the developments they wish to avoid. [emphasis in the original]”

The good news is that some countries are doing better. They “have moved beyond … military reorganization to the creation of ‘whole-of-nation’ efforts intended to inoculate their societies against information threats. It is not coincidental that among the first states to do so were Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sweden, all of which face a steady barrage of Russian information attacks, backed by the close proximity of Russian soldiers and tanks. Their inoculation efforts include education programs, public tracking and notices of foreign disinformation campaigns, election protections and forced transparency of political campaign activities, and legal action to limit the effect of poisonous super-spreaders. [emphasis added]”

Super-spreaders are key  nodes in networks. The term is borrowed from biological contagion studies. When these key few influential social media accounts click ‘share,’ they can redirect huge swathes of the internet.

There is a historical precedent in the United States for responding to misinformation. “D]uring [the] Cold War …. the U.S. government [initiated]… the Active Measures Working Group. It brought together people working in various government agencies—from spies to diplomats to broadcasters to educators—to collaborate on identifying and pushing back against KGB-planted false stories designed to fracture societies and undermine support for democracy. There is no such agency today.”

But it’s worse than that.

“Today, a significant part of the American political culture is willfully denying the new threats to its cohesion. In some cases, it’s colluding with them. [emphasis in original}”

Next time “Dangerous Speech” as defined by these guys.

Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media


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I finished Likewar last night. I learned a ton of stuff from this book. Singer and Brooking are experts on their subject. According to the dust jacket bio, Singer is a consultant for the U. S. Military and the intelligence community. Brooking is a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Together, this two heavy weights, outline some recent history and have some clear ideas about what needs to be done in response to their topic.

All the folderol surrounding the Mueller investigation and the public handwringing about Russian interference in our elections pales next to their incisive history and analysis of how  countries and factions have been using social media in their wars and terrorist activity.

I am ambivalent about how to share the information I have gleaned from this book. I did put up a Facebook post in which I recommended it.

I’m thinking that instead of writing up my reading notes  privately, I might put some info here beginning today. There is a ton of information in this book, both historic and current affairs.

I think I will begin at the end of the book.

Three rules of LikeWar.

1.For all the sense of flux, the modern information environment is becoming stable.

“With all this talk of taking responsibility, it’s important to recognize that this is the appropriate moment in both the internet’s and these [social media] companies own maturation to do so. As internet sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has reminded us, ‘Facebook is only 13 years old, Twitter 11, and even Google is but 19. At this moment in the evolution of the auto industry, there were still not seat belts, airbags, emission controls or mandatory crumple zones.'” link to footnoted source of this 1918  quote

2. The internet is a battlefield.

“Like every other technology before it, the internet is not a harbinger of peace and understanding. Instead it’s a platform for achieving the goals of whichever actor manipulates it most effectively.”

3. This battlefield changes how we think about information itself.

“If something happens we must assume that there’s a likely digital record of it… however, an event only carries power if people also believe that it happened… a manufactured event can have real power, while a demonstrably true event can be rendered irrelevant.”

4. War and politics have never been so intertwined.

And both borrow techniques from each other. “… politics has has taken on elements of information warfare, while violent conflict is increasingly influenced by the tug-of-war for online opinion.”

5. We’re all part of the battle.

“In this new war of wars, taking place on the network of networks, there is no neutral ground.”

There’s much more. I will probably put some of it up here in future posts. But for now I would like to echo their conclusion that “if we want to stop being manipulated, we must change how we navigate the new media environment.”

To illustrate this, they cite a Stanford U study which gauged three groups’ ability to evaluate the accuracy of online information. The three groups were divided into college undergraduates, history PHDs, and professional fact checkers.

The first two fared badly despite their education. The fact checkers used the internet itself to verify stuff. They “understood the Web as a maze filled with trap doors and blind alleys, where things are not always what they seem. So they constantly linked to other locales and sources, seeking context and perspective. In short they networked to find out the truth.”

In the next paragraph the authors use my favorite story, the one about the blind men and the elephant. Then they put this advise:

When in doubt, seek a second opinion—then a third, then a fourth. If you’re not in doubt, then you’re likely part of the problem!