Sunday Paper - Philosophy and Science, Understanding AI, Cultural Appropriation Police, Indie Social Media, Undergraduate College Admission

Sunday Paper is my collage of long-form articles, between 1,000 and 20,000 words, that I have saved during the weekend, that I found interesting and which I think require deep, slow thinking. I think they are a great way to read on a Sunday morning as a sort of personal Sunday newspaper.

Once upon a time, it was not just that philosophy was a part of science; rather, science was a branch of philosophy. We need to remember that modern science began as natural philosophy – a development of philosophy, an admixture of philosophy and science. Today, we think of Galileo, Johannes Kepler, William Harvey, Robert Boyle, Christiaan Huygens, Robert Hooke, Edmond Halley and, of course, Isaac Newton as trailblazing scientists, while we think of Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz as philosophers. That division is, however, something we impose on the past. It is profoundly anachronistic.Natural philosophy redux by Nicholas Maxwell in Aeon

We are understanding that we don't' understand AI.

It seems that if we leave it up to the nine big companies that dominate the field of AI alone, we raise the spectre of a corporate controlled world of surveillance and conformity –– especially so long as gender, ethnic and global diversity is also lacking among their ranks of employees at all levels of a company. Having engineers, ethicists and human rights experts address collaboratively how AI should work increases the chance for better outcomes for humanity.

Each and every one of us who cares about the health of the internet –– we need to scale up our understanding of AI. It is being woven into nearly every kind of digital product and is being applied to more and more decisions that affect people around the world. For our common understanding to evolve, we need to share what we learn. In classrooms, Stefania Druga is making a small dent by working with groups of children. In Finland, a grand initiative sought to train 1% of the country’s population (55,000 people) in the elements of AI. What will you do?Let's ask more of AI

How a prom dress triggered the cultural appropriation police.

The question is inspired by a spasm of social-media cruelty that caught wide attention recently. A young woman in Utah bought a Chinese-style dress to wear to her high school formal. She posted some photographs of herself on her personal Instagram page—and suddenly found herself the target of virulent online abuse.

For once, the story has a happy ending. Good sense and kindness prevailed, and instead of her prom being ruined, the young woman exited the dance buoyed by worldwide support and affirmation, most of all from within China.

Yet the idea persists that there is something wrong and oppressive about people of one background adopting and adapting the artifacts of another. Sadly often, these stories end as successful power plays enforced by local bullies.
The Chinese dress young Kezia Daum wanted to wear to prom originated in a brutal act of imperialism, but not by any western people. It originated in the Manchurian conquest of China in 1648, an event comparable to Europe's Thirty Years War in its society-shattering murderousness. Millions of people, perhaps tens of millions, lost their lives in the upheaval.

The new rulers of Beijing required Chinese men to adopt Manchurian styles of dress and hair, including the notorious pigtail. When the Manchu dynasty was finally overthrown in 1911, Chinese people found themselves free for the first time in 250 years to dress as they pleased. In the decade afterward, creative personalities in the great commercial metropolis of Shanghai devised a new kind of garment for women. They called it the cheongsam.

The new garment was a fusion of old and new, east and west. Manchurian-style fabrics were tailored to a European-style pattern. In the past, upper-class women’s clothing had conveyed status and restricted movement. The cheongsam was equally available to women from a wide range of statuses—and enabled Chinese women to move as their western counterparts did. Every Culture Appropriates by David Frum in The Atlantic

I have been blogging continuously since about 2003 but when I discovered the IndieWeb about two years ago. I started using a set of WordPress plugins that have only enhanced my experience. I feel less of a need for Facebook and Twitter than I ever have.

Could the IndieWeb movement—or a streamlined, user-friendly version of it to come—succeed in redeeming the promise of social media? If we itemize the woes currently afflicting the major platforms, there’s a strong case to be made that the IndieWeb avoids them. When social-media servers aren’t controlled by a small number of massive public companies, the incentive to exploit users diminishes. The homegrown, community-oriented feel of the IndieWeb is superior to the vibe of anxious narcissism that’s degrading existing services. And, in a sense, decentralization also helps solve the problem of content moderation. One reason Mark Zuckerberg has called for the establishment of a third-party moderation organization is, presumably, that he’s realized how difficult it is to come up with a single set of guidelines capable of satisfying over a billion users; the IndieWeb would allow many different standards to emerge, trusting users to gravitate toward the ones that work for them. Decentralization still provides corners in which dark ideas can fester, but knowing that there’s a neo-Nazi Mastodon instance out there somewhere may be preferable to encountering neo-Nazis in your Twitter mentions. The Internet may work better when it’s spread out, as originally designed.Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us? by By Cal Newport in the New Yorker

American undergraduate college admission is rotten to the core.

The corrupt undergraduate admissions process at most schools today can flourish because the higher branches of the American academic tree are so good. But the lower branches are rotten with grade inflation and social promotion. The move away from an emphasis on genuine academic achievement and meritocratic promotion has done a disservice to the least well-off while offering more opportunities for the rich and connected to buy the trappings of success for their offspring. Make School Hard Again

Author: Khürt Williams

a human, an application security architect, avid photographer, nature lover, and formula 1 fan who drinks beer.