Thursday, July 25, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The effect of technology on society

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The effect of technology on society.

Last time we discussed this topic was in 2006, although we discussed a few variations on technology since. The links to the essay by Ruel and I are below:

The effect of technology on society – By Ruel
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/the-effects-on-technology-on-society/

The effect of technology on society – by Lawrence
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/07/the-effect-of-technology-on-society.html


best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The effect of technology on society




The effect of technology on society


The effect of technology on society

In 2006 we discussed “The impact of technology on us*” so maybe it was time we had a second look at the subject. This time round I want to have a look at the impact on society when technology fails. I do not mean when our phone dies on us, but rather when the promised technology reaches the point when it becomes unfit for purpose and consequently have an impact on society.

Once again our function is not to look for the facts, nor to verify the facts, that’s the function of scientists and investigators. We are concerned with looking at the thinking and claims of those who make claims and promises about technologies. One of the problems with those who try to investigate what others are doing, thinking or researching, is that we are limited to the information we have access to and is available. For example:

“Big tobacco kept cancer risk in cigarettes secret: Study” By Ryan Jaslow - September 30, 2011 / CBS News (at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/big-tobacco-kept-cancer-risk-in-cigarettes-secret-study/ ) This short article claims that, “tobacco companies have known for 40 years that cigarette smoke contains cancer-causing particles, but deliberately hid the information from the public.” The problem with this situation is that forty or fifty years ago society had a different mindset from us today. To begin with, at least in theory, we can say that today there are more academically educated people, with analytical skills and complex data handling, than in the 50s or 60s. Today we can feel the outrage if people withhold vital information from us on such a product, but what are we supposed to feel if we are not aware that others are acting maliciously?

The consequence of producing cigarettes at an industrial level meant that more people had access to this drug and thus feeling high (similar to alcohol). The perceived benefits of smoking seem to out weight the rational thinking about possible harm caused, which in any case are long term events. Basically we understand feeling good much better than understanding that something that makes us feel good might actually be harmful. Empirical evidence it seems is more powerful than rational analysis.

Moving on, technology might have serious effects on society, not because of some sort of deception, but because of some sort of empirical value returns. I am thinking of antibiotic resistance. There are many academic papers written on this topic, and as many YouTube videos, but you can start with this video: Antimicrobial Resistance: The End of Modern Medicine? with Dame Sally Davies - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H_Ox1vVnTc . What interests us here is not only the bias we seem to have that if something is doing “good” then we ought to pursue it, but what seems to me a certain degree of lack of foresight by those who are responsible for creating and managing antibiotics. I am particularly thinking that at some point someone ought to have made the link that if something is fighting a biological system such as bacteria that bacteria might go into natural selection mode and thus become resistant to antibiotics. Sure, maybe we are not as clever at creating the antibacterial of the millennia as the bacteria are at surviving our antibiotics.

This thinking is not anything special, what might be special is that what would be the situation today if they did consider at the scientific level the evolutionary effect in such drugs. What we know for sure, however, is that bacteria are not clever they are just good at what they do. Maybe society and human beings are rather reckless and stupid by over prescribing and over use of antibiotics. I leave you to check out the horrors of antimicrobial resistance from the video. Technology has failed here not just because of misuse of certain solutions, nor maybe because our limited knowledge of the world, but maybe because we fail to see the big picture and fail to recognise the real nature of the threat: in this example the threat is not only the bacteria but the effectiveness of natural selection.

Sometimes technological failure is good news (somewhat). My favourite example of someone who failed to look at the big picture and compounded the situation by lack of understanding of technology is the failure of Hitler’s technology opinions. My favourite examples are Hitler’s obsession with large battleship such as the Bismarck and the really bad judgement of insisting that the Me262 jet fighter be converted into a bomber for the Eastern front.

The Bismarck was the most powerful battleship at the time and this class of ships were built to destroy the Atlantic convoys. What went wrong for Hitler and good news for us was that the ship was so advanced and efficient killing machine agiant modern technology, but what it couldn’t deal with was the Swordfish biplane which was a WW1 generation plane made with canvas and wire. This plane was so slow and flew so low that the defences of the Bismarck could not destroy these planes efficiently, and one of them managed to cripple the battle ship with a torpedo. The rest is history. It is ironic that one of the most effective solutions against bacterial infection is using soap and water to prevent infection. Advanced technology, it seems, is not immune to bad assumptions and never underestimate the effectiveness of old technology.

The Me 262 was the first operational jet-powered military aircraft, which first flew as a jet in 1942. In mid 1943 Hitler wanted to develop this jet as a bomber; the plane was not built as a bomber. The consequence of all this delay was that had this fighter been introduce in 1943 and used against allied bombers, Germany would have been guaranteed full mastery of the skies over Europe in a matter of months. QED. But the good news does not stop there. Today cheap air fares and fast air travel are possible because of the swept wings concept was inherited from the innovative design of this powerful jet fighter from WW2.  Sure 20/20 hindsight is a marvellous skill but stupid is always stupid. There is no doubt that technology fails, but nothing makes technology fail than human failure.

A similar Hitler type of stupid mistake was achieved by the Americans in what in 1958 was supposed to be the best fighter-bomber of all times, the F-4 Phantom. This was a sort of Me262 story all over again: the powers that be decided that future air combat would be done by missiles and so they did not fit a cannon/machine gun in the airframe. As a consequence at the start of the Vietnam War many of these aircraft were lost to enemy machine gun fire from enemy aircraft many times due to failure of the American missiles. This was eventually fixed and it was also the germ seed of a famous film of elite pilots in the US Navy. You know the film, but from what I know there were no females involved; today they fixed both these oversight in the military!

In built obsolescence is a well know feature in consumer technology, and if manufacturers fail to build this obsolescence correctly, humans will certain cause enough damaged to goods that will need replacement. As I have shown humans are a key cause of technology failure; but it is also true that technology is the result of value judgments. And sometimes we get those judgments wrong as well, not necessarily out of malice but maybe for other human factors.

What is clear, however, is that when we use technology, such as trains, planes, medical equipment, we should not only be afraid because the owners paid the lowest possible price for the technology. But also what false assumptions and invalid thinking went into the technology?


*The impact of technology on us


Best Lawrence


Thursday, July 18, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Importance of Sleep

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The importance of Sleep.

We should all be experts on the subject, but even still what are the philosophical implications of sleep? Ruel has kindly written an essay for us on the subject and I have discussed some issues about sleep which might not be obvious. However, whatever you do you need to listen to the videos by Prof Walker which Clara sent us, details below.

The importance of Sleep  by  Ruel F. Pepa
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/the-importance-of-sleep/

The importance of Sleep  by  Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/07/the-importance-of-sleep.html

The TED presentation by Prof Walker sent to us by Clare is here:
TED talk: Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker
https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_sleep_is_your_superpower

There is also a more detailed presentation and interview from the "How To: Academy" channel:
The New Science of Sleep and Dreams | Professor Matthew Walker
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j9xCC_VtQA


Best Lawrence


tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Importance of Sleep




The importance of Sleep




The importance of Sleep


Clara kindly sent us a link to a TED talk by Professor Matt Walker on the subject of Sleep:
Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker
https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_sleep_is_your_superpower


You can also see a presentation and interview by Prof Walker at this YouTube link from the “How To: Academy” channel.
The New Science of Sleep and Dreams | Professor Matthew Walker
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j9xCC_VtQA


For practical purposes, we can safely assume that sleep is a biological necessity and that we need a good period of sleep every day, maybe of about eight hours. From our perspective what is important is not the numbers of the science, but that the science gives us a fair idea on what the biological human needs are regarding sleep.


How is sleep relevant for philosophy? What can philosophy contribute to the subject of sleep? To start with we need to remind ourselves the purpose of science, in this particular case, medical and biological science, and philosophy. Science deals with empirical observations, refutation of hypothesis and methodology. In effect science is about statistical inference, to be specific, and more generally, scientific inference. First and foremost philosophy is also about applying the various philosophical tools to evaluate our thinking. And from this we arrive at valid value judgements based on valid or sound arguments.


A scientific inference would suggest that with regular sleep of a certain number of hours we can improve our memory, and reduce our risk to such things as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and so on. This is all explained by Prof Walker. However, even knowing the science behind sleep, we might still decide to stay late at night to read a book or watch an interesting film. Value judgements are not necessarily about what is good and what is good for us but more about our desires and beliefs. But value judgments can also be wrong and disastrous and this is when philosophy is relevant. We might not like the science, but we might like our flawed thinking even less.


During World War 2, it was believed that bombing at night would demoralise the population and as a consequence people under the flight path of the bombers had to leave their homes during their sleep time and go to the shelters. Except that the low morale did not make the people turn against the regime nor affect productivity. There are two issues here: today we know that productivity in Germany during the war was not terribly affected by low morale but because they produced their armaments in different locations. And this had nothing to do with the resolve of the Germans to fight the war or support the regime.


The second issue as Prof Walker makes it quite clear is that sleep affects the individual and not the collective. Different people have different reactions to sleep deprivation; what is clear is that sleep deprivation has serious consequences on each of us. But sleep deprivation does not necessarily affect everyone at the same time in the same manner. Which might explain why sleep is an evolutionary dangerous activity but still very important for survival: People react differently even under the same conditions, thus in evolutionary time some might have coped better sleeping less whilst guarding those who slept at night.


What is clear is that the productivity logic of the Germans is today standard practice amongst multinational companies, and why something like Brexit won’t affect multinational companies as much as it will hurt the British economy. What this illustrates is that making the wrong assumptions about individuals might backfire on us.


And yet sleep deprivation is a standard torture weapon used by states and the military. Psychological warfare was effectively used by US forces when Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Holy See embassy in Panama. US special forces used loud music, amongst other things, to dislodge Noriega from the embassy which they succeeded after a few days.


For us the question is whether sleep deprivation, as torture or a weapon of war (eg night bombing), can be classified at the same status and condemnation as rape in war, chemical and biological warfare, and mines? This is where science helps us with the value judgements and maybe moral disapproval: given that sleep is a biological human necessity ought using sleep deprivation as a weapon of war be a crime against humanity? Or is it legitimate to deprive the enemy population of sleep, whether military or civilian? But anti personnel mines are disapproved of not because they kill people, but rather because they maim and injure people even long after the conflict is over. Likewise sleep deprivation can have long term effects on people long after the conflict.


Sleep, as I have tried to argue is directly linked with human rights, international criminal law and war crimes and up to an extent strategic planning. Thus ought sleep deprivation be a necessary and sufficient condition in legal matters to take into consideration when making reasonable inferences (ie legal decisions) or even beyond reasonable doubt inferences (criminal decisions)? If our neighbour decides to play music loud at night would that just be a social nuisance or an infringement of our human rights at the same level as racism or homophobia?


A 101 definition of capitalism is that private investors own the means of production to provide goods and services for profit. Those means of production include the element that other people have to be involved in the programme to make things happen. Employees are paid for their services to the employer. This model and this theory is accepted as the best possible economic model. But there are two basic issues with this model.


The first is a historical bias in the model that assumes that people who use manual labour, such a digging holes in the streets, are somehow different from professional or services employees such as book keepers, lawyers or chief executives. What is common for all these people is that all of them offer their time to perform their duties apart from the physical exertion. The work we do for others is always a function of our time and physical exertion. Thus even accountants, lawyers and CEO give up their time and mental energy to perform their duties. This means that the biological rules of sleep apply to all these people irrespective of what they do. The capitalist model (and any other ideology) does not take into account this fact that humans need sleep. And sleep is a matter of time available to do it in.


The other problem is best illustrated by this headlines from the TUC website: Workers in the UK put in more than £32 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year - TUC analysis,

March 2019 (https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/workers-uk-put-more-%C2%A332-billion-worth-unpaid-overtime-last-year-tuc-analysis). This is not only a problem in the UK but worldwide. Many of us have worked in companies where they have the culture of working late at the office. This is endemic in Japan(1), and even more in other countries where they don’t even collect reliable data on overtime work.


But even when countries legislate to protect employees against unpaid overtime there are legal loopholes to prevent some people from receiving overtime pay. The new labour law reforms in Japan(2) exclude people earning more than ¥10.75 million a year (88,816.50 Euros) from legal protection on overtime pay. Similarly in the USA: under president Obama legislation was introduced to set the threshold for Salaried Employees starting with $23,660 (31,484.14 Euro) in 2004 but automatically increasing the threshold every three years. President Trump’s administration is proposing a $35,308 threshold but do away with the three year rule (3).


Working unpaid overtime, or staying late at the office, is not only theft of employees’ time and energy, but staying late deprives people of necessary rest and sleep which is well covered by Prof Walker.


In effect, the present economic and business models are not only failing the theory of the capitalist model, but what we call the capitalist model depends on inefficiency and basically downright theft. The problem is not so much the unpaid overtime money, but rather that without these extra unpaid hours the companies involved would probably be unprofitable and maybe even untenable. In effect, employees are being asked to assume risks that involve the future of companies that by rights should be borne by the investors and shareholders.




In conclusion humanity does not seem to have a valid economic model and business model that respect human rights and human biological needs. And this general statement, I would argue, applies to all political ideologies since they all follow the basic capitalist model; the only difference seems to be the level of exploitation of people.


(1) Japan has some of the longest working hours in the world. It’s trying to change
By Uptin Saiidi (2018)
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/01/japan-has-some-of-the-longest-working-hours-in-the-world-its-trying-to-change.html


(2) Abe's work-style reforms give Japan's employers the green light to demand unpaid and unsafe overtime
by Hifumi Okunuk
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/23/issues/abes-work-style-reforms-give-japans-employers-green-light-demand-unpaid-unsafe-overtime/#.XTBpFUdS_Dd


(3) Trump administration proposes overtime pay expansion
Daniel Wiessner
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-overtime/trump-administration-proposes-overtime-pay-expansion-idUSKCN1QO2UW


best Lawrence












Friday, July 12, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Deep State


Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The Deep State.

The irony is that although this sounds like a political monster, it is, what is interesting for us is that this is nothing new to political philosophers. In the meantime you can find the links to the essay by Ruel and I below:

The Deep State –by- Ruel F Pepa
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/the-deep-state/

The Deep State  -by- Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/07/the-deep-state.html

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Deep State




The Deep State


The Deep State

Whilst each generation create their own identity and concepts, it is very difficult to change entrenched human attitudes and behaviour. The deep state as a concept is a relatively modern concept to describe the exercise of power by those who are not in front line politics. In his book “Deep State”, Mike Lofgren (ISBN 0525428348, 9780525428343) gives the modern version of this term in the USA.

According to Lofgren, today we look at the big social media and internet companies to understand the deep state. But this is nothing new, in 1961 President Dwight D. Eisenhower was warning the world about the “military–industrial complex” that will influence public policy for private vested interests. The operating key for us is “vested interests”.

However, there is a big problem with having an accurate insight into the deep state for the simple reason that the insiders of the deep state also control the information about the deep state. And if that was not enough, the deep state is not a single hydra creature but rather a disjointed grouping each with a vested interest that is unique to them. We can, therefore, understand the deep state not from the structure and constitution of some institution or group of people but rather from a similar behaviour pattern by some people based on the principle of vested interest.

A second issue that is relevant here is to attempt to disentangle the functions of the state: legitimate activities of the state,  the wheeling and dealing people connected or working for the state get into to make things happen and, of course, the illegal and criminal activities.

When we cross the road, when the traffic lights turn green for us, make an appointment with the doctor, buy goods made in a different country, or make a telephone call all these things are part of the business of the state to make sure they happen. And a stable and democratic state will continue to function even if at the cutting edge of democracy (front line), that is the political government and parliament, things are unstable or unsettled. This is also not the deep state, but it is the function of a society where law and order and progress are the key to prosperity and justice. It is not that we cannot become rich and prosperous in Hobbes’s wild state, but rather it is not clear why someone should bother to wake up early in the morning to turn off the street lights. Contracts have no meaning in the wild state but also constitutions have no meaning when the legitimate state is over run by a criminal deep state.
The concept of deep state is not new and we’re not deprived for terminology. In Britain we are familiar with the idea of the “establishment” and even more common is the term “state within the state”. This makes our interest more difficult because we are dealing with an evolving “meme” that is evolving in a historical dimension, in language terms and behavioural activities.

For us a key issue is: how do we recognise the legitimate function of the state from the illegal activities of the deep state?  By definition if we want to identify the illegal activities of the people involved in the deep state we have to go beyond the face value of the stories the illegal deep state actors disseminate through misinformation or by make information to access and process extremely difficult.

We have a saying that goes like this: if something is too good to be true, it probably it too good to be true. Meaning that if someone is intentionally or by accident offering you the bargain of the century there is probably something wrong with the item you are interested in. Politicians and members of the state are very common practitioners of this “promise”.

What matters for us is not so much to discover the empirical facts of the illegal activities of the deep state, but rather to identify the flaws and unusual thinking of the people trying to hide the illegal activities of the deep state. It is the job of investigative journalists and international prosecutions to discover the empirical facts, ours is to find the flaws in the thinking and language of the deep state.

The narrative today is that the west needs to exert pressure on Middle Eastern countries to protect their oil supplies to the world. Some might remember the oil crises of the 1973 oil crisis and how this created a hostile environment ever since between the Middle East and the West (ie the USA). Some have even argued that the US invaded Iraq for their oil. No doubt a malicious deep state would easily put forward this argument to arm the Middle East countries especially to arm allies and friendly governments. The illegal deep state would want allies to spend more money on arms than on social wealth creating activities such as education.

Remember our mission is to identify flaws in the logic (including of course inductive logic) and thinking of the illegal deep state. Now look at this headline from the CNN Business July 5, 2016 : U.S. has more untapped oil than Saudi Arabia or Russia. (https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/05/investing/us-untapped-oil/index.html). This is where we come in as philosophers: why would a country with one of the highest oil reserves (264 billion barrels as per article) go to war with a country that has a reported 142 billion barrels of reserves (Iraq: Wikipedia)?

Indeed the article does point out that countries do not necessarily report the real figures of their reserves, but this is not too relevant for us. What matters is that from basic economics when supply is much less than the demand the price goes up. Surly by having an oil rich region in constant chaos with uncertain oil supplies the price of oil of the other countries who also have reserves will go up. Incidentally, turmoil in the Middle East also influences the price of Russian oil reserves.

This looks like a plan maybe even a conspiracy, but we don’t even need to go there. An unstable Middle East directly benefits the “military–industrial complex” as mentioned above. What matters here is that whether by design or by correlation (think babies and storks during the nesting time of storks) the military complex is doing quite well with the developing and testing of new weapon system.

But there is another benefit from all this: the players at what I called the “cutting edge of democracy” that is politicians, are today in the USA very busy rejecting and playing down Climate Change. If we had to really tackle Climate Change all that money sitting in oil reserves would all of a sudden disappear.

Of course, I am not saying, as I said before, that there is some sort of concerted conspiracy. All I am saying is that once we investigate the logic and rhetoric of the state including the deep state, we can boost our view of applied political philosophy from black and white vision to 4k full colour vision.

Best Lawrence











Thursday, July 04, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid: No Meeting this Sunday + Topic +News

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are not meeting but will be back on the 14th with the topic: The Deep State. Enjoy your research on the topic,

In the meantime Jose has asked me to share details of a house he has in Cantabria which he is renting out for the summer months: You can see images here:
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/07/san-vicente-de-toranzo.html
Details:
 ….CANTABRIA, alquilo habitaciones  en casa de pueblo, SAN VICENTE DE TORANZO, a 40 kms. de Santander, a orillas del río Pas. Por días o semanas. No hay internet. Julio y agosto. Contacto por teléfono o whasapp. 651-099-874.
1habitación individual, baño compartido: 22euros/noche
1 habitación doble con baño: 26 euros/noche 1 persona. 39 euros 2 personas

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid: No Meeting this Sunday + Topic +News





SAN VICENTE DE TORANZO


  From Jose

CANTABRIA, alquilo habitaciones  en casa de pueblo, SAN VICENTE DE TORANZO, a 40 kms. de Santander, a orillas del río Pas. Por días o semanas. No hay internet. Julio y agosto. Contacto por teléfono o whasapp. 651-099-874.


1habitación individual, baño compartido: 22euros/noche


1 habitación doble con baño: 26 euros/noche 1 persona. 39 euros 2 personas



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