Saturday, 21 October 2017

We're already living in a Black Mirror reality - How Facebook is polticising friendship itself

I've just logged into facebook. Facebook greeted me, as it normally does. There was a small note at the top of my feed from - 'The Facebook privacy team'. For some reason I thought I would actually bother to read it this time. It felt a little bit like I was the cashier in the supermarket who had been asked how they were and in a protested by not sticking to the script by saying "Fine, thank you".

>You control who can like and comment on your posts
Ben, it looks like someone recently liked your post. We want you to know how to control who can like and comment on your posts

Initially I thought, cool. More control. I don't want any perverts look at my stuff and exciting themselves over it. Shortly after this moment of empowerment had passed, I considered a scenario in which I am in a pub with friends and I want to shout over that I like my friends new style. I open my mouth but find that nothing is coming out because my friend with the new hairstyle has forbid me to express any fondness for it. They now look over to me and we make eye contact. We both know that I've been muted in this social setting. I feel really frustrated and obviously no longer wish to express how much I like my so-called friend's hair. I suddenly feel ostracized by the whole group, perhaps I'm just over reacting? But I do have a horrible deep pang of paranoid fear that even more of the  people I'm presently sat with, that are joking and flashing smiles at me could have actually censored my ability to like their things. find myself sat there in uncomfortable silence, feeling increasingly emasculated as the party vibe din of the pub continues unabated by my realisation,

A new facebook saga in the making

Facebook again creates and hands us a another power which is essentially destabilizing in its nature, and as users are bestowed with this new level of "control", it helps alleviate facebook of blame for any of the dynamic corollaries that subsequently take place.

On the surface it looks like a courteous little reminder of what facebook features are available to you, but it's banal placement and servile language help mask the reality that facebook is gradually becoming a highly politicised space, and they are now moving into the business of politicising friendship itself.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Is Paralympic sport classification fit for purpose?

A brief response to this article

I think it's important something like this is fixed immediately. When you get Olympic medalists handing back their medals because they felt the system gave them an unfair advantage to win then you have a problem which can hemorrhage integrity, trust and respect over night.

The reports by ex-classifiers of the kinds of tactics that are being employed to feign the appearance of increased impairment I found extremely saddening at first, then the reality kicked in. Add the factors of money and funding and wanting to survive in a tough industry and it suddenly makes a lot of sense. The scope for gaming the system in the paralymipcs I think is a lot greater than with able-bodied Olympics as making accusations and then backing them up is such a delicate and time consuming process. It's also tied to sentiments of human dignity and scenarios we read about in the news daily where the DWP has assessed a disabled person as being 'fit to work' despite glaringly obvious reasons why it would be impossible for them to do so. 

Leveling such an accusation at an athlete which basically says" You're not as disabled as you are making out to be" is one that can only be reached with any degree of confidence after a lot of resources, deliberation and cross-checking have been spent, and if the issue is as wide ranging as some athletes fear then the eradication of the problem may itself end up killing off the Paralympics in its current form or force it to become something radically different in order to survive.

In the future, celebrities will judge each other by the upkeep of their anus

In the near future, the nipple-slip will be replaced by the anus-peep and it will be desirable to have a part of the body not normally associated with cleanliness, to be clean and always kissable, such is society's obsession for paradoxes and maintaining impossibly high standards that set apart the elite from the plebs.
Soon, music celebrities will be suffering from 'wardrobe malfunctions' that accidentally reveal their delicately bleached perfect puckers.
In turn the general public will become anus crazy, another taboo will have been conquered and personal grooming will have reached its zenith.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Is Civil War in Trump-Era America Inevitable?

Civil war maybe a bit of an exaggeration. But something not far off that.

There is definitely a foreboding air of inevitability at the moment in the US. I had a crazy daydream that eventually Trump will need the threat of another civil war in order to stay in power. He'll need a situation so critical and dangerously loaded  that any idea of removing him from office at that time could be the spark that sets things off. At that point he will become the ideal person and only person capable of quelling the rage his loyal followers will want to unleash.

It took something like Charlottesville to force Trump into overtly showing his cards. He knows he would be finished if he didn't at least send some sort of signal of solidarity to the white nationalist's/sympathizers as they constitute a high percentage of base.

As long as he can satisfy his base by saying what they want him to say - he doesn't necessarily have to act upon what he says - but as long as the ideas his loyal supporters like to hear keep circulating, they stay emboldened, they stay relevant and have purpose going forward, which is why they will do absolutely anything to keep him there. Part of their identity is at stake and they're past the point of no return now in terms of how low Trump can go yet still receive their support. They have Trump's back no matter what.

This is where the daydream went a bit OTT

There'll be a last stand. Evangelicals will tie the narrative of how events play out into biblical prophecy and see the threat of civil war as an of end of days scenario, something which they have been preparing for and almost hoping would happen for millennia. An event which simultaneously annihilates humankind but provides them more importantly with the validation that their faith wasn't in vain.

As things stand now, I don't see a way out of this situation unless the tension which has reached ridiculous levels is released in a massive way.

It would seem from watching mainstream news that the memory of Nazism has faded to the point where the warning to future generations it left us has disappeared. I'm worried that humankind has to create another reason for us to have a period of real peace, and the best way it seems to achieve peace time is by having a war and then reflecting for a long time on how evil and wrong it is.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

stockfish for president

To play perfect chess, is to find the perfect way forward in the game.

If life is a game, and chess is a game, then chess is life, which would make chess engines the most successful decision makers in the world. Therefore Stockfish for President!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Cigarettes Should Be Made Illegal

I live in the UK, and over here drugs like heroin and meth are illegal. They not only lead to behaviours that can put others at risk (consider the bus driver taking a big hit of heroin before his morning shift), they also ravage the body resources, depleting nutrients, and over time often leaving it unrecognisable. In addition to this their highly addictive nature helps proliferate their continued use.

In these superficial times, more and more people feel the pressures to not only look good, but to project an image of health and well-being, a sense that there are doing well in life. I'd even go as far as to say that even the form this projection takes has been codified to some extent, which has led to many people projecting themselves is very similar ways.

Constantly having to exist in this environment is depressing for some and they may turn to drugs to temporarily alleviate them of this reality. Drugs that can do the holy trilogy 1. Place us in an alternative pleasant reality 2. Ravage our looks and body 3. Are highly addictive and leave users in a terrible place when they finally return. It's like going to the Bahamas for 2 weeks and coming back to find that your teeth are mysteriously missing, but while you're in the Bahamas, you don't realise it and don't even need teeth in order to have a good time there. Which is why many people taking these holy trilogy drugs will simply stay on vacation for as long as possible.

Addiction isn't inherently bad in itself. I could be addicted to helping people less fortunate than me, or to the feeling of succeeding in business.  But to be addicted to cigarettes (not nicotine), is a lose-lose-lose.

I make the distinction between nicotine and cigarettes because I feel that with the advent of vaping systems, issues such as stained teeth, increased risk of gum disease and aged leathery skin have largely been minimised, factors which play a crucial role in how one feels about one's appearance. Vapers get precisely what they want, without the bulk of the carcinogenic substances and damaging ingredients that steadily turn us into a population of Yodas.

The increasing worries of personal appearance in today's avatar age greatly impact upon our mental health. Looking good can feed into feeling good which then can feed into how we project ourselves, and so on. Cigarettes are anathema to this positive cycle. Some people may say state or even fight for the freedom to smoke cigarettes because we should all have the ability to choose our own destiny. If cigarettes were running for president I just don't see how anyone could bring themselves to vote for the fate it would promise the electorate.

"I solemnly promise to ruin your health. Increase your chances of cancer. Make you self-conscious about your teeth. Leave you smelling bad. Thin your hair. Decrease the circulation into your legs. Make you look gaunt and old. And  I swear that from this day forth, you will want to stick with me through it all"

For me, endorsing cigarettes is like giving the thumbs up to erosion of the body and health, and not even being given a happy place to go to while you're doing it.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Why Do We Want Power To Have A Human Face?

I love the reassuring tranquility of the motorway. Especially now. Everyone travelling in the same direction, at the same speed, on the same road. The din of debates and arguments existing in another dimension far away.
Weighing up both sides of an argument can be energy depleting work, especially when things have descended to the stage where both camps are insisting the other is just plain wrong. It's important not to retribalise as a result of blindly taking sides. Have no qualms about agreeing with an idea the enemy has as it doesn't mean you accept them as a whole. Likewise, feel no guilt critiquing your friends arguments if you feel they're wrong.

This should be a really useful time in history when ideologically opposed camps across the world try to synthesise a way forward out of ideas which are like oil and water.
One thing that's become more apparent is how much we appreciate it when Power wears a human face we can relate to, instead of a face that actually reflects the deeds it carries out. A little bit like a harmless box of Chicken Nuggets that masks the suffering of the chickens that hide inside the shell of crispy breadcrumbs. We are a nation of people whose practicing mantra is seemingly "out of sight, out of mind".
In a similar way, I feel like a truer sense of what injustices Power tends to commit is now being forced upon us in the form of Trump, who I think is a bit like a mirror, and it's important that we don't shy away from his gaze and ask for a replacement who doesn't offend our sensibilities.
Obama was the calming and soothing face of Power and so the question becomes, why would we want Power to have a human and relatable face to begin with?
This moment ought to be grasped more fully. Rarely do we get such an opportunity where Power naively parades its hypocrisy and transparency on a daily basis without a care in the world. So thankful this is all being recorded on the internet.
Being nice to each other is not the way forward, it's something people should be doing regardless of the situation. Seeing things from the other side or putting yourself in someone else's shoes or knowing a person's story is also not the answer. The answer, for me at least, is to get the blunt sword of critical thinking out and get it sharpened, ready to go toe-to-toe, and slay if necessary, arguments and assertions that are currently parading themselves as truths.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Protest Banners or Advertisements for One's Creativity

I wonder if a million people marching in the capital, all holding the same banners while protesting would send more of a message of solidarity and unity to the establishment than the multitude of individual messages that at times can seem like personal advertisements for one's own creative genius.

What message does having the same slogan on every banner send to a government? After 
reading an Adam Curtis article where he talked about how in the US when people began to protest at the news of Donald Trump's presidency, they were holding banners saying "NOT MY PRESIDENT". Similarly in the UK, when we protested against our part in the invasion of Iraq the slogan on ready-made banners and placards read  "NOT IN MY NAME". Curtis noticed how in the West, even when we are protesting, the individualism that drives capitalism is ever-present.

Curtis' example isn't exactly analogous to the observation I made above, but looking at recent trends in protests in the UK and US I do see some parallels. Many of the banners I saw were able to marry creativity and humour with a powerful message and really hit home, while others seemed more preoccupied with wanting to incorporate a popular phrase or saying at the expense of articulating the reason why they were protesting.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Trump has become Jaws

Trump seems to have found himself in the position of Jaws, the shark. A common enemy that ends up inadvertently uniting the people he threatens. His actions may even build bridges between groups that hate each other and are ideologically opposed, because they hate him 1000% more. In one sense I'm glad he made it to the top, and not Hillary, as he seems to be bringing people together, women especially, and caused them to want to walk the walk and put into action what they believe. But that wasn't his intention, so he deserves zero credit for it.
Unlike other big demonstrations, where the enemy was either too abstract, just out of reach or not there at all, Trump helps us focus our energies by needing to be right there, in the spotlight, soaking up all the adulation a president deserves, even if he has to pay for it. He doesn't mind if everything is fake because it's the spectacle that's important for the history books.
But with billions of people already enraged and still enraged the morning after, Trump has opened himself up to a whole new level of scrutiny. The poor quality stitching of his administration is already starting to fray and there is a sense that all the bad things about the world have been put on trial and entered the witness box to defend itself. I can't see the jury being very lenient.

Friday, 20 January 2017

My cats showed me how we are better off together than apart

You can learn loads from cats. Humility, patience, handling disappointment with grace, being the bigger cat, compassion, love, curiosity as well as sloth, greed, selfishness and just being a bit of a knobhead.
After getting two of my cats that were resting in separate spaces, into the same box, it was a nice surprise waking up to find they had been sharing the knowledge of this new co-existence with the third cat, who wisely had signed himself up. There was about 2 inches of space left, but that made the box even more cosy and each cat could be the next cat's pillow.
When they were sleeping in different rooms, two of them became shabbier because they find cleaning themselves a bit boring. The other one loves to clean things in general and so now that they've been spending more time together their coats have started to shine.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How To Create World Peace

One of the cats claimed the comfy box for itself to sleep in, while the other one had to kip on the cold hard floor in the corner. So I picked up the one on the floor and placed it in the box with the other cat. The other cat didn't like this and started growling in a 'get the hell off my turf' kind of way. So I started stroking them both at the same time and they soon forgot about their beef and focused their attention upon on how nice strokes feel. I stroked them so much that they began to settle and then started cleaning each other before falling asleep.

This technique could be used to create world peace. Instead of telling two opposing groups to be nice to each other, don't mention the issue at all and just be nice to both of them, to the point where they focus on and appreciate your constant niceness so much they forget about their worries and their strife, and passing on the nice vibes becomes the natural thing to do next.

Note: I'm not advocating that the UN ought to assemble Donald Trump and the leader of ISIS in a room together, and then start stroking them until both men feel compelled to bathe one another.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Bollocks of Blue Monday

Just woken up to the news informing me of the power of Blue Monday and how I should offset its negative effects by consuming positive images from film and nature. Does anyone take this day of mental health marketing seriously? It's absolute bollocks. If you want to, you can feel as cheerful and optimistic as you want, despite the weather and what other people are telling you.
Blue Monday was invented by Sky Travel in 2005 after they calculated the date using an 'equation' that was completely derided and laughed at by scientists. Blue Monday is considered pseudoscience in the scientific community and for me it's a couple of rungs below homeopathy, the science which claims a medicine increases in strength the more water you add to it.
Blue Monday, Black Friday and all these other fucking colourful campaign days are at best, self fulfilling prophecies that consumers buy into and then validate and make real themselves.
If you give contrived campaigns like these any credence whatsoever then you will be at the whims of others telling you how you should be feeling, and most likely start feeling guilty when you don't feel like how they say you should be feeling.
The equation that author Cliff Arnall used to calculate the date incorporated factors such as: Tt = travel time; D = delays; C = time spent on cultural activities; R = time spent relaxing; ZZ = time spent sleeping; St = time spent in a state of stress; P = time spent packing; Pr = time spent in preparation
This joke of a formula naturally produced some proper bollocks of the highest order.
"Ben Goldacre has observed that the equations "fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms", pointing out that under Arnall's original equation, packing for ten hours and preparing for 40 will always guarantee a good holiday, and that "you can have an infinitely good weekend by staying at home and cutting your travel time to zero"