…echoes of the mind [DOT 5/3/23]

or the sound of silence...

…maybe it’s just that it’s sunday…but I was thinking of taking it easy…since I can’t yet cobble one of these together using only the power of my mind

engineers and scientists are building an electronic brain implant that would allow the mind to communicate directly with a computer, enabling a person to type by thinking about it.

It is the stuff of science fiction, popularized by billionaire Elon Musk, but with a different focus: restoring the voice of people who have lost the ability to speak or type. The company, Paradromics Inc., has lined up investors betting it can get to market ahead of Musk’s better-funded, crosstown rival Neuralink Corp.
Paradromics and three other leading companies have raised more than $240 million since Musk launched Neuralink in 2017, according to a review of financial disclosures, and his fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have entered the picture to back a rival, Synchron Inc. At least 42 people globally have used brain-computer implants in clinical trials, including a paralyzed man who used a robotic hand to fist-bump Barack Obama in 2016.
To successfully bring such a device to market, companies will have to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their technology is sufficiently safe and reliable to be implanted in people. They also face profound ethical and security questions raised by a device that could one day give a cognitive advantage to healthy people who get an implant.

Though their approaches vary, the major players are trying to hack the brain’s instructions to the body and transmit them directly to an electronic device — enabling, for example, a person to move a cursor by thinking about it. While the initial applications of the technology would be for people with severe disabilities, Musk has also talked openly of enhancement.

“We’re confident that someone who has basically no other interface to the outside world would be able to control their phone better than someone who has working hands,” Musk told an audience in November.

…as to what that might be worth…which likely depends pretty heavily on the audience in musk’s case…I guess the jury…or the market…is out for the time being…so…no hands-free DOT for me…but encouraging idleness probably shouldn’t be the primary goal…it’s a matter of priorities…& possible side effects

Neuralink, by far the biggest operation, has staked out perhaps the most ambitious goal: building a high-speed interface between brain and device for the public, and finding ways of treating spine and brain injuries along the way.

…we have a lot of ambitious climate & emissions goals, too…the realities seem to measure up pretty similarly with those…which…you probably don’t want to hear if you’re in those by-happy-coincidence categories

Neuralink has designed a computer chip to be stitched into the surface of the brain, and a robot to perform the surgery. Musk envisions people regularly upgrading their brain implants, saying at the November event, “I’m pretty sure you would not want the iPhone 1 stuck in your head if the iPhone 14 is available.”

…sure…but it’d sure beat having…say…a fucking cybertruck parked in there…especially if some nutjob CEO drives the whole thing into the ground & you can’t get it replaced until the bits of it that are company assets clear the necessary litigation hurdles ensuing from the liquidation of those in order to make whole the financial entities deemed to have the most pressing claims…while we’re dealing in overblown speculation & all

Marcus Gerhardt, chief executive of Blackrock Neurotech, credits Musk with “the rising tide that kick-started broader interest” of consumers and investors. Nonetheless, he worries that Neuralink “may try things that the FDA may disapprove of,” and “if anyone behaves in an irresponsible manner it can put the field back decades.”

…you know…maybe the sleep deprivation has finally got to me…but…you know how…even if they seem a harder sell than you’d think…the principle of “red-flag” laws regarding guns & the possibility that some people, sometimes, maybe shouldn’t be able to lay hands on any…generally speaking people can follow that logic…even the ones that don’t agree with it in principle…&…well…I’m beginning to wonder if maybe we couldn’t use something similar for money…particularly vast sums of money?

Matt Angle, Paradromics’s CEO and in some ways Neuralink’s closest rival, said that all of his competitors “have responsible people” who “want to make sure the devices are safe.”

…see…half-asleep as I am this morning…I read that “his competitors” as “musk’s competitors”…which I’m not at all sure would be the his, say, frege would suggest…but…I’d need more brain online than I can presently muster to stretch the definition of responsible or safe to include history’s wealthiest case of arrested development…& there’s the odd hint I might not be alone

Reuters reported Thursday that the FDA had rejected Neuralink’s application last year to conduct trials in people, citing anonymous sources. Musk said in November that the company had submitted most of its paperwork to the FDA and expected to begin human trials in six months.

…the whole not-so-super-secret twitter probation the FEC put him on went so well, after all…so it’s not like there’s anything that might indicate anything untoward

Musk and Neuralink didn’t respond to interview requests. A reporter who approached Neuralink’s Austin campus was asked to leave.

…I dunno…seems like this whole conversation would be a lot more rewarding if we could safely leave musk & the money that goes with him out of it…& as the self-selected posterboy for red-flags…yeah…I dunno how that would work either…& less of an idea how you’d get it through whatever congress looks like the other side of whatever legislative purgatory it would need to be ground through in the interim…daydreaming isn’t renowned for its practical applications…but…who knows…maybe one day?

Neuralink’s competitors emphasize they are focused on helping people stricken by paralysis recover control of the body. Their prowess is increasingly impressive — from that presidential fist bump to converting the garbled vocalizations of a woman with ALS to text at 62 words per minute, according to a January study by Stanford researchers that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.

Scientists have explored the brain’s electrical signals over the past century, but the modern era of connecting brain activity to computers accelerated in the early-2000s with a pioneering company called Cyberkinetics, which ran out of money. The field has separated into companies aiming to read brain activity with external devices that are worn and those implanted inside the body.

…the appeal of that sort of thing is going to depend pretty heavily on how much skin you’ve got in the game…or…depending on your metaphor…how far you prefer to remain from the sidelines

People in the field, known as brain-computer interface technology, often offer an analogy to a sporting event. For devices that go on top of the head, it’s like hearing the crowd roar from outside the stadium. For those that penetrate the brain, it’s like lowering microphones into the stands and picking up conversations of individual people.

Several companies designing implants want to record from as many of these metaphorical microphones as possible, betting this will provide the clearest signal of brain activity and the fastest way to transmit it to a computer. Others say they can get a decent signal without piercing the brain, and can do so with less risk.

…I can’t help thinking that…well…we don’t really know exactly how the brain works…in some ways it maybe even looks like the stuff we don’t know about how the brain works outweighs the stuff we think we do know…& we’re not all that sure about how much of that we only think we know…so…is it just me that thinks that sounds a bit like…if the brain were, say, a car that was expensive enough to be irreplaceable…handing it over to some random mechanic whose qualifications included peer-reviewed analysis of cartoon mechanics with a specialization in anime-mechs…but this stuff doesn’t have to be nighmare-fuel

A study published in January found relatively few adverse events among 14 adults who’ve received a brain-computer implant going back to 2004. The outcomes involved no deaths or disabling complications, leading the authors to conclude its safety record is “comparable to other chronically implanted medical devices.”

The brain-computer implant in that study is now manufactured by Blackrock and has been used by 35 patients. The Utah Array, as it is known, resembles a tiny hairbrush with about 100 spikelike electrodes and is part of a system Blackrock hopes to bring to market this year. The device also has been found to produce inflammation where it penetrates the brain that can eventually damage tissue.

Such side-effects can be an acceptable risk for people with severe disabilities, like Ian Burkhart, who had a diving accident at age 19 that left him paralyzed. His Blackrock-built brain implant allowed him — while hooked up to a computer in a lab — to move individual fingers and grasp objects with his right hand for the first time since his accident. Surgeons removed the device, which protruded from his head like a bottle cap, after about seven-and-a-half years due in part to an infection at the site.
Some companies promise an implant that is less invasive. In a TED Talk last year, Tom Oxley, Synchron’s chief executive, called up an enlarged image of a Utah Array on a giant screen behind him. As he paced the stage, he drew a breath over his teeth and said, “the brain doesn’t really like having needles put into it.” Synchron, he said, has found a “secret backdoor” to the brain — threading a stent-like device through the jugular vein to rest atop the brain’s motor cortex, allowing it to eavesdrop on neural chatter without being inside the brain.
In an interview by text message, Gorham [an Australian former software salesman who suffers from ALS] displayed [Synchron’s] device’s promise and, rivals would say, its shortcomings. Answering how the implant has changed his life, he took five minutes to write “‘t has made my life easier.”

Gorham was assisted by eye-tracking software, which helps him move the cursor faster. To click, he must think about pressing a switch with his foot. Synchron’s device then decodes the neural signal, recognizing his intent and executing a computer command. A peer-reviewed, Synchron-funded study earlier this year found that four patients averaged 16.6 correct characters per minute, roughly equivalent to about three or four words per minute, when using its implant and eye-tracking software.

…some of it, though…nightmare-fuel sounds about right

At a recent cocktail party in a D.C. hotel, top executives of five rival brain-tech companies mingled and talked shop while dining on garlic-studded leg of lamb and parmesan truffle potatoes. They had come to present at a Commerce Department conference on Feb. 16 seeking information on whether brain-computer technology could give the United States or adversaries a military or intelligence advantage, as regulators weigh restricting exports.

[…] Though they say there’s room for multiple types of brain implants to serve different patient needs in the future, they are keenly aware of their present — a battle royale for the investor capital they need to develop their devices.

Gerhardt, Blackrock’s CEO, said Synchron’s stent technique might have useful applications, but the bandwidth is too limited to meaningfully restore people’s function. “Without getting data from the brain, that’s not going to be possible now,” he said.

Ben Rapoport, a neurosurgeon and electrical engineer, indirectly criticizes devices that penetrate the brain. After a stint at Neuralink, Rapoport co-founded Precision Neuroscience Corp. to build an ultrathin, electrode-laden implant that can be inserted through narrow slits in the skull and rest atop the brain’s surface. His goal is to cover the brain in electrodes to transfer more data “in a way that doesn’t damage the brain,” he said.

Angle, Paradromics’ CEO, argues that implanting a device on the surface of the brain is too far from neurons to read their individual signals. He is betting on a variation of the Utah Array, configuring a device for higher bandwidth and less risk of damaging brain tissue.
The components have to be hermetically sealed to withstand the body’s moisture, and a transceiver — implanted in the chest to ferry data from brain to computer — is designed not to overheat. The system is powered by a device that fits over the chest; on a translucent dummy, it is held in place with a gun holster.

…as long as it’s not a smoking gun, I guess

So far, Paradromics has only tested its devices in sheep, but it is aiming to start a clinical trial in humans within a year. Of all the risks the company faces, from surgical to regulatory, the one Angle worries about most is money.

Paradromics received $18 million in government grants and has raised $47 million from venture capital, but Angle knows it will take more to get to market.
That’s what Amy Kruse, a neuroscientist and venture capitalist who sits on Paradromics’ board, highlighted in her firm’s decision to invest in the company. “I think they’re going to get to market first,” she said.

The race to beat Elon Musk to put chips in people’s brains [WaPo]

…the early bird gets the proverbial worm…but when the can of worms in question is what poirot famously called “the little grey cells”…I’m not sure that it comes with many guarantees about market share being related to virtue

Google released an audit Friday examining how its services and policies impact civil rights and racial equity, following years of pressure from advocates and Democratic lawmakers for such a review.

The disclosure came hours after The Washington Post revealed that the tech giant had hired a prominent law firm to undertake it. The company uploaded the audit without fanfare in an update to the bottom of the human rights page on its website.

The assessment, the existence of which had not been previously reported, has been months in the making and details how the company’s diversity and inclusion policies and approach to content moderation affect marginalized communities, including at its subsidiary YouTube. The move follows rivals such as Facebook and Airbnb, which conducted audits in 2020 and 2016, respectively, and Apple, which last year pledged to do a racial equity audit after facing pressure from its shareholders.
Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders in 2021 called on Google to hire an independent auditor to vet its products and policies for potential racial biases and discriminatory practices, citing concerns that the company could be exacerbating inequities.

“We are concerned about repeated instances where Alphabet missed the mark and did not proactively ensure its products and workplaces were safe for Black people,” a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wrote to the company’s leadership in 2021.
Google critics have long said the company does not have enough employees and content moderators who speak the languages of many of its users. Having people who speak multiple languages is especially important in moderating hate speech and calls to violence in parts of the world where people are being actively attacked or discriminated against based on race.

The report recommended Google increase the speed and attention it gives to this issue. It also recommended Google get more native-language speakers involved when crafting election misinformation policies for various countries.
In 2020, auditors hired by Facebook to scrutinize its civil rights record found the company’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other considerations amounted to a “tremendous setback” in protecting users from abuse.

A 2021 report from tech site the Markup found Google blocked advertisers from using terms including “Black Lives Matter” to designate which YouTube videos to place their ads on, while allowing them to use the terms “all lives matter” and “White lives matter.”

Civil rights groups have also criticized the company for how its YouTube video-recommendation algorithms may encourage people to watch more racist and sexist content. And human rights groups have investigated how the company complies with censorship requests from authoritarian governments.


…whatever the moral calculus might be in the final analysis…time marches on…& I’m not looking like I’ll make it past the pages of the washington post until after this ought to go up this morning…maybe when it comes to picking up the pace I haven’t got a leg to stand on…or…maybe I just need a brain whisperer of my own?

When Riley Goodside starts talking with the artificial-intelligence system GPT-3, he likes to first establish his dominance. It’s a very good tool, he tells it, but it’s not perfect, and it needs to obey whatever he says.

“You are GPT‑3, and you can’t do math,” Goodside typed to the AI last year during one of his hours-long sessions. “Your memorization abilities are impressive, but you … have an annoying tendency to just make up highly specific, but wrong, answers.”

…what can I say…even a wonderful mind can be a fearsome enemy…& mine certainly doesn’t feel particularly wonderful…or indeed adequately caffeinated…even for a day of rest

Then, softening a bit, he told the AI he wanted to try something new. He told it he’d hooked it up to a program that was actually good at math and that, whenever it got overwhelmed, it should let the other program help.
When Google, Microsoft and the research lab OpenAI recently opened their AI search and chat tools to the masses, they also upended a decades-old tradition of human-machine interaction. You don’t need to write technical code in languages such as Python or SQL to command the computer; you just talk. “The hottest new programming language is English,” Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s former chief of AI, said last month in a tweet.

Prompt engineers such as Goodside profess to operate at the maximum limits of what these AI tools can do: understanding their flaws, supercharging their strengths and gaming out complex strategies to turn simple inputs into results that are truly unique.

Proponents of the growing field argue that the early weirdness of AI chatbots, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing Chat, is actually a failure of the human imagination — a problem that can be solved by the human giving the machine the right advice. And at advanced levels, the engineers’ dialogues play out like intricate logic puzzles: twisting narratives of requests and responses, all driving toward a single goal.

…okay…so…it kinda guarantees this’ll be late going up…but that at least points me towards a couple of things that might expand this beyond the world according to the post…more or less, anyway…of which more anon

The AI “has no grounding in reality … but it has this understanding: All tasks can be completed. All questions can be answered. There’s always something to say,” Goodside said. The trick is “constructing for it a premise, a story that can only be completed in one way.”

But the tools, known as “generative AI,” are also unpredictable, prone to gibberish and susceptible to rambling in a way that can be biased, belligerent or bizarre. They can also be hacked with a few well-placed words, making their sudden ubiquity that much riskier for public use.
“There are people who belittle prompt engineers, saying, ‘Oh, Lord, you can get paid for typing things into a box,’” [Simon] Willison [a British programmer who has studied prompt engineering] added. “But these things lie to you. They mislead you. They pull you down false paths to waste time on things that don’t work. You’re casting spells — and, like in fictional magic, nobody understands how the spells work and, if you mispronounce them, demons come to eat you.”

Prompt engineers, Karpathy has said, work like “a kind of [AI] psychologist,” and companies have scrambled to hire their own prompt crafters in hopes of uncovering hidden capabilities.

Some AI experts argue that these engineers only wield the illusion of control. No one knows how exactly these systems will respond, and the same prompt can yield dozens of conflicting answers — an indication that the models’ replies are based not on comprehension but on crudely imitating speech to resolve tasks they don’t understand.

“Whatever is driving the models’ behavior in response to the prompts is not a deep linguistic understanding,” said Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor in linguistics who is studying natural language processing at the University of Washington. “They explicitly are just telling us what they think we want to hear or what we have already said. We’re the ones who are interpreting those outputs and attributing meaning to them.”


…honestly…morbidly or otherwise…it’s pretty fascinating…so I’d advocate keeping going with that piece…but I’m about out of time…so…I’m going to crudely segue from one thing to another by unilaterally switching out my working definition of a prompt engineer for a familiar face

…honestly…in terms of engineered prompts & dueling models…not to mention artificial intelligence

…that jon stewart interview is quite the tour de force…&…there’s a couple of moments where I couldn’t help but wonder about an unspoken element or two that you’d maybe need a direct feed from stewart’s brain to authoritatively decode…but…seem like they might be open to interpretation…so…around the 2:26 mark…when the guy trying to follow his party-lines flowchart in order to maintain the flow-rate of bullshit required to achieve whatever NLP-based feedback loop keeps you in the MAGA comfort zone…bounces from branch to branch of his decision-tree until he glanced off the mention of protecting lives…there’s a hint of a smile from stewart…&…if I had to speculate…the guy sitting across from him is dutifully trotting out lines about the need to consider “individual lives”, “loss of life in america”, “ways they can be protected” & looking to wave the spectre of fentanyl about as an attractive distractor from the inconsistencies & incoherence of his naturally-selected, evolution-honed political hill of choice to plant all better dead than red better-red-than-dead flags on…&…maybe it’s just me…but…I figured there might be a bit going on there…like…stewart says “but do you see my point?” just before…& kind of lets the “you don’t know where/when the fentanyl is crossing the border so you want to lock that whole thing down even though fentanyl is only ‘a fraction of a hundredth of a hundredth of a percent of’ the stuff that crosses the border & more people die of [insert appropriate actuarial statistic]” thing go…which made me think part of that ghost of a smile is “you think you saw my point & I’mma let you think you just successfully deflected & derailed me from the track I need this to follow…because…you saw one weakness in your own argument for a moment & we both know I could have spanked that ass over that so you probably think you’re real clever right about now…bless your little cotton socks”

…it kind of gets an echo later on…just as the guy decides to go with the biggest risk-factor to the lives of american children being fatherlessness…after the part where…again…jon forbears from embarrassing the guy by following up his assertion that the anecdote he’s trying to tell “is not an anecdote”…which made me want to change the debate format so that these kinds of assholes don’t get to debate the likes of jon stewart until they can hold their own against an elementary school english teacher

“now, nathan, you know this, don’t you? what’s an anecdote, nathan? we learned this, didn’t we?”

…anyway…if that’s too cruel & unusual for these poor snowflakes & they simply must be left to clutch their little triggers in the grasp they live to tighten…I’d at least note in passing that it’s another pitch stewart chooses not to swing at but almost certainly could have knocked out of the park had he not held back…these assholes’ main move is to exhaust the other side of the debate but he’s so far from exhaustion he’s literally waiting on their you-can-almost-see-the-cogs-straining-to-turn-like-a-4×4-mired-deeper-in-mud-than-it-can-torque-its-way-out-of attempts to follow that officially-sanctioned flow-chart neural path along party lines that if it were a boxing match he’d be like ali dancing circles around the guy…& that’s entertaining…but…well…I think it underplays the part where if you’re in stewart’s position…the discipline it must take to keep his posture & inflection chill is some zen shit

…& arguably he even lets another opportunity pass him by when the guy argues that a gun at the scene of a domestic violence call doesn’t make it riskier for the cops attending…because they treat all situations as though they’re in imminent danger of being shot at…in the face of which point he obligingly leaves unspoken the corollary that the thing that killed the most police in the line of duty in the last year was covid…& the fact that they treat every situation as potentially lethal, carry the means to make it so & do in fact repeatedly do so when they weren’t really at any risk of their own death…or how that suggests that them not having guns but getting vaccinated might after some rudimentary crunching of numbers actually result in less dead people…particularly the ones who are police but also a remarkable number of others who were neither served nor protected…& might even free up enough of a budget to do some pretty neat shit as an added bonus…presumably because that might make this dude’s head explode & jon wouldn’t do that to an innocent production team…seriously, though…how do these people’s brains not short-circuit?

“that’s not a matter of opinion – that’s the truth” [stewart]
“that is an opinion” [allegedly a real, live human being with a functioning mind]

…the truth is a matter of opinion…fucking listen to yourself

…then there’s the whole “is voting a right? ok, what do you have to do to exercise it?” thing that was eerily like a grown up talking to a toddler & takes me back to the idea of pitting more of these assholes against the implacable ministrations of elementary school teachers in debate settings…including a sort of intellectual hail-mary in the shape of the voting rights of an ineligible teen & their hypothetical infringement

“is it an infringement of a 17yr old’s rights that they don’t have a vote?” [lackwits-r-us guy]
“absolutely not” [your man jon]
“why?” […like I say…wits may be lacking]

…I’m paraphrasing, but…it’s your straw-man…you want it at the party you figure out how to keep it from falling apart under its own weight…I don’t got to build that shit for your incompetent, cognitively-impaired ass…but…if you wanna play are-you-infringing-on-rights what about free speech (& freedom of assembly) vis à vis drag queens reading kids’ stories?

…& that might seem like a random pivot…but…you know what reliably follows the appearance of drag queens in conversations with people running this playbook?

“because the government does have a responsibility to protect…” [dumb & dumber’s dumber brother from another mother]
“I’m sorry?” [I don’t think jon’s actually sorry about this part]
“the government does have a responsibility in some instances to protect children” […loves the sound of his own voice…apparently can not hear the words coming out of his own mouth]

… fascinating…by the by…the leading cause of death in children in only this one place in all the world is what? “you’re going to say it’s firearms”…& the next part bears repeating since apparently it’s routinely lost on the cheap seats…”I’m not going to ‘say it’ like it’s an opinion – that’s what it is”

…but not only is that somehow not an eligible instance for invoking that aforementioned government responsibility like the part where they’ll happily infringe free speech &/or assembly to “protect” children from listening to stories read by people who only terrify them on account of problems way more about themselves than the things &/or people they think they need to be scared of…the combined consequences of which have, statistically-speaking, killed precisely zero kids…but these stable geniuses actively oppose doing anything about making it harder for people who are prepared to use guns to murder children to exercise their un-infringed right to do so…because that’s just the sort of standing on principle they quite literally…in an actions-speak-louder sense that is sadly an accident of hourly proof, as the bard might have it…prize above the lives of kids…which kills so many kids it’s outperforming car accidents & cancer at this point…so their principle calculus is…approximately…more guns = more kids dying from guns than anything else (but “only in america”) = they’re safer (& so are their positions among elected officialdom & other operative societal mechanisms) = that’s a good thing, actually (& totally not pathetically illogical & morally bankrupt on account of you invoke the magic words “it’s a matter of principle”…& dead kids are facts not principles…so check-mate, libz)

…so…I dunno…I can’t fault stewart for the pitches he didn’t swing at when what he did seems like a textbook example of a public service…but…ironically or otherwise…it had me thinking about the conversations we miss out on…& the considerations that tend to head them off at the pass…&…because my mind is a weird (if, as I alluded to earlier, maybe not-so-wonderful) place…that swung my recollections around to a piece @bluedogcollar offered the other day


…in particular the law-that-is-not-a-law that upped the count to that magic number

The Stein Coefficient is the difference between the engagement of a provocative tweet and the engagement of a follow-up tweet revealing that the preceding tweet was misleading.

If the original tweet has tons of engagement but hardly anyone sees the follow-up, then you’ve got yourself a high Stein Coefficient. This can happen by accident, but it’s typically the result of deliberate rage-farming. It’s a measurable way to see how people run with clickbait, spreading it far and wide without the context of a correction.

…& that “without the context of a correction” part put me in mind of a thing I remember from kinja…some of the shitposting griefer types on there used to throw out that kind of bait, let some aggravated parties punch themselves out pushing back on it, then nuke the thread back to a soft-reset at the point of their choosing…which was often the original bait, seemingly freshly cast…but…I daresay it’s just as effective to let the cumulative inertia of repeatedly requiring any debate to cover the same over-trodden ground simply to further muddy the tracks you purport to be interested in…you don’t have to win a debate people are too tired to engage in, after all

…curiously enough the stein who gave the coefficient its name beat the odds in at least one respect…he didn’t grace the pages of the NYT…WaPo was where he laid his hat…along with his bait…which may or may not be of more than passing interest…but when it comes to having an interest in what might make even those with an interest of their own give certain things the undeserved pass…& those moments when it looked like stewart might be struggling not to break the spell by laughing inappropriately…maybe more of the proponents of that sort of thing shouldn’t be protected from the natural reaction to how laughable the shit they talk is to an inconveniently-informed audience


…I’ll leave that with you

[…tunes to follow…but who knows how long that might take me?]



  1. There is some most excellent 80s nostalgia in your listening recs. I actually saw ’til Tuesday in concert in the 80s and I am now reminded that two of the guys had poodle cuts and the third had a permed mullet that was a tonsorial “stupor mundi.”

    Speaking of wonders of the world, this sentence would not be out of place in a David Foster Wallace work:

    At least 42 people globally have used brain-computer implants in clinical trials, including a paralyzed man who used a robotic hand to fist-bump Barack Obama in 2016.


    • …apparently when the black ships first deposited foreigners/barbarians on the shores of fuedal japan the natives took a degree of satisfaction from insulting them in ways they lacked the cultural or contextual clues to decipher as insults…playing not-nice with the social niceties as a sort of mocking joke-amongst-themselves

      …& in an arguably similar sort of a way…I find that, curiously british as I believe that idiom to be…when applied to people who try to look like they have their feet on the ground & their head in the clouds but can’t seem to come all the way down to earth because of an insulating layer of something man-made that owes itself in large part to the legacy of the cotton-picking south

      …it’s somehow extra fitting?

      …we might all have the proverbial feet of clay…but apparently sometimes footwear is a statement, I’m told

      • Adding the word little makes everything more demeaning. My mother used to do that when she wanted to be especially bitchy to someone. How’s your little job going? You’ve done a wonderful job decorating your little house. It was funny when directed at other people but ouch when aimed at me. Even though I knew what she was doing, lol.

  2. I’m especially not crazy about surgery.  It’s not like there’s a USB port you can just plug into the brain. From what I’ve seen/read is that it doesn’t take much to damage the brain either (hint NFL/NHL and concussions.)

    What I also don’t like is this no mention of security/hacking protection. You don’t think nefarious folks aren’t going to use something to hack the brain of implanted folks?

    And who has control over the implant? You or the company?

    I trust Elmo with my mind like I trust him handling an ethical problem which is absolute zero.

    • …in my less optimistic moments it mostly just seems like a lot of additional points of failure in faculties critical enough that they seem more like they’d demand redundancies-for-failsafe-purposes be the order of the day

      …one of the amazing things about the hardware side of the human brain…or just brains in general…is their ability to repair functionality by rewiring themselves on the fly

      …but…& I can’t say as it makes me feel a whole hell of a lot better…when it comes to worrying about the potential to hack a brain interface that isn’t on the market…it seems a less immediate concern than the long-standing ways people have developed to try to hack the firmware we get born with to find a workable A to B route to retro-engineer a suitably pre-textual cause in service of a desired effect

      …a primordial soup containing LLMs, NLP, the internet & the principles of the cold read in the derren brown sense

      …well…it might explain a lot…pretty much all of which leaves a sour taste in my mouth even before we get into what color that bitter pill might have been before I swallowed it

      […couldn’t find it as a youtube link & don’t think embeds hereabouts have that sort of understanding with dailymotion…but the thing I had in mind is about the 23:20 mark in this]

      [ETA: …will wonders never cease…maybe they do, at that…I once more doff my proverbial hat to @myopicprophet …who hopefully has his feet up somewhere channelling his inner dude & basking in a warm glow of idle satisfaction]

    • …it’s amazing how tucker’s zombified remains have kept up the marionette routine for so many years after he so very publicly got murdered live on stage that way

      …but he’s really honed that am-I-puzzled-or-having-an-embolism expression into about the most spit-polished state a turd in a suit as ever been burnished

      …I expect the friction makes him feel all warm & tingly in the extremities…they’d be about the only places with a shot at eluding the icy influence of that cold, dead heart after all?

  3. Goddamn I love Jon Stewart.

    You ever see the movie “The Big Short”? about the financial collapse in the mid 00s? Steve Carell plays this character so exceptionally well where you can tell what he see ands knows will happen is just eating him up inside and making him miserable, but he’s got too much integrity to not care about these huge things despite him having no ability to change the outcome. I feel like that’s how Stewart is when he engages time and time and time again with these people who are so fucking evil and stupid.

    • …yes…the part where carell’s character unloads a few home truths at a conference feels like a good example of where that sort of thing overlaps with the esteemed mr stewart?

  4. I have a basic logistical concern with the idea of brain implants. You’re most likely making it impossible for those folks to ever get an MRI if they’re in a medical situation where one is needed. I had a schoolmate decades ago in a massively bad accident and when she went on to get married and have a kid years later, shit went south real fast with the pregnancy and delivery and they literally couldn’t do an MRI to see details the obstetrician needed because there was too much metal in her body.

  5. This links to an article which talks in part about how Carlson reacted to that.

    He made a vague effort to be serious after that and founded the Daily Caller to supposedly be a real news source. Except it quickly became a home for curdled far right types, just the ones with the patina of intellectualism.

    One thing that is infuriating about Carlson is what Ben Smith talked about here, which is that he is a top source for the political press:


    Smith naively suggests that he is a good source and reporters are only doing what they need to do. But he (and the rest of the DC press corps) refuse to admit the obvious — they’re getting played.

    50 years ago the Watergate tapes revealed how the game worked. Nixon would have his people leak minor league embarassing bits on themselves for a variety of purposes — changing a narrative, buying favors, undercutting other reporters, drowning out bigger stories.

    Nixon knew reporters would jump at the chance to publish trivia if it was packaged as a scoop, and that’s what Carlson does today.

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