August 19, 2019
“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”
“The dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness.”
– Samuel P. Huntington
AI: Affectionate Intelligence
In 2007, when 27-year-old Oxford MBA candidate Mihkel Jäätma founded his emotion AI startup “Realeyes,” he did it to give artificial intelligence some heart, some “emotional understanding and consciousness. So the better we make [AI], the more [likely it] will actually be good for humanity and not the other way around.”
Jäätma, along with two partners who worked on the technical side, decided initially to focus on advertising. Realeyes used the front facing computer or smartphone camera of volunteers to record their facial expressions — read: emotional responses — second by second as they watched videos of advertisements, then used predictive analytics to help map that reading to the video to provide feedback on an ad’s effectiveness.
Over a decade the company created a database of 420 million frames of volunteers as they watched video on their devices. These images were then labeled based on American psychologist Paul Ekman’s pioneering work in identifying six basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise — through facial expressions. Realeyes training algorithm is made to be culturally sensitive, although Jäätma believes the beauty of Ekman’s theory is that expressions of basic emotions are universal regardless of culture.
But emotion AI does raise concerns. For example do we want employers profiling us at work, perhaps making judgments on our stress management and overall competence? Andrew McStay, author of Emotional AI: The Rise of Empathic Media, says emotion AI is dangerous when it affects “future life opportunities.” He is especially concerned about its impact on the workplace: “What we are talking about is 360-degree surveillance.” Nevertheless, emotion AI is already in use, and McStay says in the near future we will be seeing much wider usage.
Trump Say, Netanyahu Do
- Last Thursday President Trump urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban the entry of two Muslim congresswomen scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday. Netanyahu did just that, saying Democratic Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan were not welcome, based on their criticism of Israel and support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement known as BDS.
- After a public outcry, Netanyahu reversed course and said the women could come in, but with restrictions as to what public comments they could make. So due to proposed infringement of their free speech rights the congresswomen declined to make the trip.
- Netanyahu, already becoming politically unpopular at home, has clearly made the decision to adhere even more closely to Trump. Now Netanyahu has fractured US bipartisan congressional support for Israel and caused some Democrats to openly discuss reconsidering foreign aid to America’s longtime ally.
- Furthermore, he has managed to elevate what previously had been two women, with very minority viewpoints, to almost martyr status. (WaPo)
- Israel’s Alliance With Trump Creates New Tensions Among American Jews (NYT $)
Men, Men, Everywhere But Not A Bride To Be
- China’s previous three-decade long one-child policy resulted in millions of families choosing to only keep and raise boy babies. Because the resulting over abundance of young men can’t all find wives, bride-trafficking has become very common.
- A public health study by Johns Hopkins and the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand estimated that between 2013 and 2017 some 21,000 young women and teenage girls from northern Myanmar were forced into marriage in one Chinese province alone. (NYT)
The UK Is Not OK
- A confidential government document obtained by London’s Sunday Times says should the UK crash out of the EU on October 31 without a deal, Britain would face gridlock at its ports, shortages of medicine, fuel and food, and a hard border with Ireland.
- The leaked document, compiled, under the code name Operation Yellowhammer, details the ways government leaders are working to avert a “catastrophic collapse in the nation’s infrastructure.” (NPR)
Rumors Rumors Are No Fun, Rumors Rumors May Contain Fatal Radiation
- The still mysterious nuclear accident that occurred last week in Russia killed at least 7 people and tripled radiation meters in two cities, including Arkhangelsk, a port with a rich history dating back to medieval times. And much like in the aftermath of the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986, authorities have offered scant information for communities near the explosion to assess their safety.
- Without knowing the radioactive substances used in the missile that exploded, the nature of the fallout remains unknown, and the flurry of misinformation and misdirection in Russian state media has not helped. (NYT)
- What a mysterious explosion tells us about Russia’s ‘doomsday weapon’ (CNN)
Additional World News
- What’s Behind A Cluster Of Vaping-Related Hospitalizations? (NPR)
- The water is so hot in Alaska it’s killing large numbers of salmon (CNN) And Marium, The Dugong Who Charmed Thailand, Dies After Ingesting Plastic (NPR)
- Iceland’s Prime Minister: ‘The Ice Is Leaving’ – Climate change is melting glaciers worldwide. Only we can stop it. (NYT, $)
- India Plans Big Detention Camps for Migrants. Muslims Are Afraid. (NYT, $) And India orders Kashmir government staff back to work amid protests Troops have reportedly used teargas, chilli grenades and pellets to disperse crowds during weekend of clashes (Guardian)
- Hong Kong Protesters Defy Police Ban in Show of Strength After Tumult (NYT, $)
Trump’s Right Hand Fan
- Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, wields enormous power. Since 2007 he has used his leadership position with inimitable ability, both to thwart President Obama’s agenda, and to advance President Trump’s.
- He decides which bills will be brought to the floor; it’s the reason no proposed election security, carbon reduction or gun control legislation has come up for a vote.
- While he wasn’t able to deliver a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act as Trump wanted, blame for that fell on the late John McCain; he did get credit for steering the big tax cut through the Senate. And by changing the Senate’s procedural rules that he used to avoid confirmation of Obama’s judicial appointments, McConnell has established a veritable assembly line for Trump’s judicial confirmations. (NPR)
We’ll Believe That When Horses Fly
- After considered deliberation, the Department of Transportation has released formal guidelines regarding service animals on planes. According to its 28-page document three types of animals should be prioritized for travel: cats, dogs and miniature horses.
- The sight of a small horse at the airport might still surprise many travelers, but minihorses have functioned for many years, not just as emotional support animals, but as service animals for people with disabilities. They are mild-mannered and easy to train, and unlike a guide dog who might have eight to ten years to assist a blind person, a minihorse can provide three to four decades of service.
- True miniature horses, not to be confused with ponies, are no more than 34 inches in height, and often under 30 inches. Their diminutive size means they can fit into the back of a hatchback.
- Airlines that have flown passengers with a minihorse typically put them in the bulkhead row, which has more legroom and no seats in front. The horse will stand quietly in front of its owner for the duration of the flight. (NYT) Note: This Daily Pnut writer has been breeding and raising miniature horses since 1982.
- Additional read: Clever Hans (Wikipedia)
- Fresh Starts, Guilty Pleasures And Other Pro Tips For Sticking To Good Habits (NPR)
- Is crying truly cathartic? We tend to think of crying as cathartic… yet that crying in public is a sign of weakness. But researchers have found that both of these beliefs are false. (BBC) Additional song: Boys Don’t Cure by The Cure.
- The double-edged sword of the shorter workweek: With less work to go around, will people twiddle their thumbs or find better things to do with their time? (BBC)
- The Forgotten Story of Operation Anvil: In August 1944, the United States executed a gigantic assault on southern France. Why does no one remember it? (NYT, $)
- Scientifically Proven Sources of Sex Appeal: Beards, scars, red clothes, and other secrets of attraction (Atlantic)
- Art Spiegelman: golden age superheroes were shaped by the rise of fascism (Guardian)
- Where to Check for Bedbugs in Hotel Rooms Before You Unpack (LifeHacker)
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