Overcoming The Myth of Authority

This is a truly excellent article that I first linked to on the offline page and I have now also added it to the permanent content of the website.

 

“For thousands hacking at the branches there is one striking the root.” ~Henry David Thoreau

If, as Albert Einstein said, “unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth,” then it stands to reason that we should think critically toward, rather than blindly believe in, authority. No matter who or what that authority might be.

Whether it’s an eccentric physicist with wild hair or an authoritarian president demanding respect without giving it. Whether it’s a flat-earther challenging the very foundations of physics, or an overreaching cop high on false power. Belief in authority is a huge psychological hang-up for our species. It’s an evolutionary impediment of monumental proportions.

Even as we daily self-overcome, so too should we daily overcome the myth of authority. It’s a myth because it’s foremost a story. It’s a story we’ve all fallen for –hook, line, and sinker. It’s a story that most of us were culturally conditioned to believe in. It’s a story that most of us take as a given, but certainly should not. For, ultimately, “it’s just the way things are” is a cowardly copout.

Rather than cowardice, rather than willful ignorance, complacency, and intellectual laziness, we should challenge the myth of authority –across the board. We should be ruthless with our skepticism, like a scientist regarding his own hypothesis, like peer-reviewed interrogators keeping the science of others honest.

Because the art of life, especially an examined life that’s well-lived, isscientific, logical, and reasonable. It strikes at the heart of the orthodoxy, whatever that may be. It undermines the Powers That Be, whoever they may be. And that’s likely to upset more than a few blind worshippers, myopic rule-followers, and willfully ignorant law-abiding citizens. So be it. Upset their precious apple-cart anyway. Especially if that apple-cart is outdated, violent, and based upon parochial reasoning and fear. As Oscar Wilde stated, “Disobedience was man’s original virtue.”

Overcoming authoritarianism:

“As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.” ~Wendell Berry

The problem with belief in authority is that it leads to the idea that we need to give a group of people permission to control us. And, as Lord Byron taught us, power given to an authority tends to become corrupt.

The problem with power is not the intent behind it. The problem with power is that it tends to corrupt the one wielding it regardless of their intent. So, since we all know that power tends to corrupt whether one has good or bad intentions, and since we know that we will all seek power anyway, it behooves us to be mercilessly circumspect both with our own power and against the power of others.

It stands to reason that we should not ignorantly give power to an authority by blindly believing it. We should instead challenge authority first, and trust it second, if at all. The best way to use our power is to use it against authority by ruthlessly questioning it. It’s a social leveling mechanism par excellence. As a wise, young sixth grader once said, “Question authority, including the authority that told you to question authority.”

Otherwise, people will fight and murder and commit genocide and ecocide for the so-called authority that they “believe” in. But they might not have fought so violently and thoughtlessly had they simply taken the power dynamic into deep consideration, nonviolently challenged that perceived dynamic, and then moved on smartly with their lives.

The best way to maintain a healthy skepticism, and not devolve into an ignorant, sycophantic, violent mess, is to take things into consideration and question them rather than blindly believe in them.

Overcoming tribalism:

“To be modern is to let imagination and invention do a lot of the work once done by tradition and ritual.” ~Adam Gopnik

By becoming worldly patriots instead of patriotic nationalists, we turn the tables on xenophobia, apathy, and blind nationalism, and we become more compassionate and empathetic towards other cultures. When we celebrate diversity instead of trying to cram the square peg of cultural affiliation into the round hole of colonialism, we turn the tables on the monkey-mind’s one-dimensional moral tribalism and we usher in Joshua Greene’s multi-dimensional concept of metamorality.

By reinforcing global citizenry rather than nationalism, we turn the tables on both our lizard brains and the Powers That Be. Like Joshua Greene says in Moral Tribes, “We need a kind of thinking that enables groups with conflicting moralities to live together and prosper. In other words, we need a metamorality. We need a moral system that resolves disagreements among groups with different moral ideals, just as ordinary first-order morality resolves disagreements among individuals with different selfish interests.”

Going Meta with morality launches us into a big-picture perspective. We’re shot out of the box of outdated tribal thinking and into a realm of higher consciousness, where our inherent tribalism gets countered by an updated logic and reasoning. We gain the holistic vision of “over eyes” (like the astronaut Overview Effect), where societal delusions and cultural abstractions dissolve into interconnectedness and interdependence.

Overcoming magical thinking:

“Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and ‘progress,’ everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man’s refusal to bow to Authority. We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent.” ~Robert Anton Wilson

Overcoming magical thinking is vital for the healthy and progressive evolution of our species. Healthy progress depends upon courageous individuals capable of challenging authority. Especially authorities that are based in magical thinking.

If we don’t have the courage to challenge an authority that preaches magical thinking, then we are doomed to become a victim to their magical thinking. It’s for this reason, above all, that authority should be challenged.

Refusing to bow to an authority is not without its consequences. But upsetting an authority should not be avoided at the expense of progress. Progress should be embraced at the risk of upsetting an authority.

Otherwise, there would be no progress. We would remain stuck in parochial, magical thinking. We would become a stagnant –or worse, devolving– species. To avoid unhealthy stagnation and entropic devolution, we need courageous individuals who refuse to bow to authority and instead choose to ruthlessly question and nonviolently challenge that authority.

Without those who are willing to disobey, we are lost. Without them, we are left with cowardly conformists, xenophobic nationalists, complacent pacifists, dogmatic believers relying upon blind faith, and tyrannical powermongers using their power to control others. In short: we are left with magical thinking over logic and reasoning.

So, I implore you, if you would be courageous, reasonable, healthy, progressive human beings: challenge Authority. Strategically disobey. Nonviolently revolt. Lovingly crush out. Tenderly recondition the cultural conditioning of others lest they collapse in upon their own cognitive dissonance. Dare to pull the blindfold from your brother’s eyes lest they unwittingly force the blindfold back upon you.

Above all, practice self-overcoming. Otherwise, power –either yours or someone else’s– will overcome you. Be just as circumspect with your own power as you are toward the power of others.

Authorities will come and go. As they should. Your own authority will wax and wane. As it should. The balance of power within the human condition is vital for the healthy and progressive evolution of our species. And nothing balances out power better than the courage to challenge authority. The biblical courage of David pales in comparison to the individual who bravely challenges the modern-day Goliath of entrenched authority.

Source: themindunleashed.com

 

The Essence of The Freedom Of Speech

 

 

 


How Algorithms Are Shaping The World

We live in a world that is increasingly being designed for and run by algorithms. Algorithms are highly complex computer programs that can solve problems and even determine espionage tactics, stock prices or what script will be a successful movie. An obvious, but key distinction, needs to be made here between automation and AI. Automation is just a machine performing a rote, repetitive task – like the work robots currently do on auto assembly lines. With AI, machines actually observe and learn new capabilities – on their own.

That’s the essence of machine learning. Computer programmers don’t have to write every line of code for an algorithm to execute a function; they just have to design the algorithm to learn from the “experience” of a data set. It’s not like Google’s developers wrote every line of code for self-driving cars; rather, the algorithms observed real life drivers and now draw from that database to make the right decision. 

In the talks in this playlist presenters Kevin Slavin and Christopher Steiner warn that human beings are now writing code that they can't understand, and are losing more and more control of their lives by depending on complex algorithms to manage their decisions.

Sources: ted.com and R. Hessel's article: Are Robots Going To Replace CEO's?

When Seeing and Hearing Isn’t Believing

By William M. Arkin
Special to washingtonpost.com 
Monday, Feb. 1, 1999

"Gentlemen! We have called you together to inform you that we are going to overthrow the United States government." So begins a statement being delivered by Gen. Carl W. Steiner, former Commander-in-chief, U.S. Special Operations Command.

At least the voice sounds amazingly like him. But it is not Steiner.

It is the result of voice "morphing" technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. By taking just a 10-minute digital recording of Steiner's voice, scientist George Papcun is able, in near real time, to clone speech patterns and develop an accurate facsimile. Steiner was so impressed, he asked for a copy of the tape.

Steiner was hardly the first or last victim to be spoofed by Papcun's team members. To refine their method, they took various high quality recordings of generals and experimented with creating fake statements. One of the most memorable is Colin Powell stating "I am being treated well by my captors."

"They chose to have him say something he would never otherwise have said," chuckled one of Papcun's colleagues.

A Box Of Chocolates Is Like War


Most Americans were introduced to the tricks of the digital age in the movie Forrest Gump, when the character played by Tom Hanks appeared to shake hands with President Kennedy.

For Hollywood, it is special effects. For covert operators in the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, it is a weapon of the future.

"Once you can take any kind of information and reduce it into ones and zeros, you can do some pretty interesting things," says Daniel T. Kuehl, chairman of the Information Operations department of the National Defense University in Washington, the military's school for information warfare.

PSYOPS seeks to exploit human vulnerabilities in enemy governments, militaries and populations.

Digital morphing — voice, video, and photo — has come of age, available for use in psychological operations. PSYOPS, as the military calls it, seek to exploit human vulnerabilities in enemy governments, militaries and populations to pursue national and battlefield objectives.

To some, PSYOPS is a backwater military discipline of leaflet dropping and radio propaganda. To a growing group of information war technologists, it is the nexus of fantasy and reality. Being able to manufacture convincing audio or video, they say, might be the difference in a successful military operation or coup.

 

Allah On The Holodeck


Pentagon planners started to discuss digital morphing after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Covert operators kicked around the idea of creating a computer-faked videotape of Saddam Hussein crying or showing other such manly weaknesses, or in some sexually compromising situation. The nascent plan was for the tapes to be flooded into Iraq and the Arab world.

The tape war never proceeded, killed, participants say, by bureaucratic fights over jurisdiction, skepticism over the technology, and concerns raised by Arab coalition partners.

What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad?
 

But the "strategic" PSYOPS scheming didn't die. What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad urging the Iraqi people and Army to rise up against Saddam, a senior Air Force officer asked in 1990?

According to a military physicist given the task of looking into the hologram idea, the feasibility had been established of projecting large, three-dimensional objects that appeared to float in the air.

But doing so over the skies of Iraq? To project such a hologram over Baghdad on the order of several hundred feet, they calculated, would take a mirror more than a mile square in space, as well as huge projectors and power sources.

And besides, investigators came back, what does Allah look like?

The Gulf War hologram story might be dismissed were it not the case that washingtonpost.com has learned that a super secret program was established in 1994 to pursue the very technology for PSYOPS application. The "Holographic Projector" is described in a classified Air Force document as a system to "project information power from space … for special operations deception missions."

War Is Like A Box Of Chocolates


Voice-morphing? Fake video? Holographic projection? They sound more like Mission Impossible and Star Trek gimmicks than weapons. Yet for each, there are corresponding and growing research efforts as the technologies improve and offensive information warfare expands.

Whereas early voice morphing required cutting and pasting speech to put letters or words together to make a composite, Papcun's software developed at Los Alamos can far more accurately replicate the way one actually speaks. Eliminated are the robotic intonations.

The irony is that after Papcun finished his speech cloning research, there were no takers in the military. Luckily for him, Hollywood is interested: The promise of creating a virtual Clark Gable is mightier than the sword.

Video and photo manipulation has already raised profound questions of authenticity for the journalistic world. With audio joining the mix, it is not only journalists but also privacy advocates and the conspiracy-minded who will no doubt ponder the worrisome mischief that lurks in the not too distant future.

"We already know that seeing isn't necessarily believing," says Dan Kuehl, "now I guess hearing isn't either."


William M. Arkin, author of "The U.S. Military Online," is a leading expert on national security and the Internet. He lectures and writes on nuclear weapons, military matters and information warfare. An Army intelligence analyst from 1974-1978, Arkin currently consults for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, MSNBC and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Source: washingtonpost.com

 

A playlist to further illustrate the points that are made in this article

Links to the articles that are mentioned in the last video in this playlist can be found here

And to conclude this article, the Biggest Hologrammed PSYOP to date: 9/11: An In-Depth Study, No Conclusive Evidence Of Airplanes