The Trap…

what’s happened to our dreams of freedom?

“The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom” is a 2007 BBC documentary series directed and produced by Adam Curtis (think: Hypernormalisation). It consists of three one-hour episodes which explore the concept and definition of freedom. In short, Curtis argues that today’s idea of freedom is based on a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures.

Episodes

01. — “F**k You Buddy.”
In this episode, Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.
📹  watch episode 1

02. — “The Lonely Robot.”
The second episode underscores the first but develops the theme that the drugs such as Prozac — Happy Pills — are being used to normalise behaviour and make us behave more predictably… more like machines.
📹  watch episode 2

03. — “We Will Force You To Be Free.”
The final episode focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty that were introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin.* Curtis explains how negative liberty might be defined as freedom from coercion, and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one’s potential.
📹  watch episode 3


P.S.

* “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, describes a thesis put forward by Isaiah Berlin regarding the philosophy of history. Although there have been many interpretations of the aphorism, Berlin uses it to mark a fundamental distinction between human beings who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Berlin’s extraordinary essay offers profound insights about Tolstoy, historical understanding, and human psychology.


Isaiah Berlin’s essay:
📙 The Hedgehog and the Fox

According to Berlin, humans can be divided into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (he cites: Plato, Dante, Hegel, Nietzsche and Proust), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be summed up into a single idea (he cites: Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Joyce).

The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).
The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).

English dogs

Quite why the British love dogs so much I dunno, maybe it’s cos they like to boss people around — dear reader I joke! I’m a proppa anglophile. Dogging is one thing (I’ll let you look up this pastime yourself) but, what’s it mean to be called a “poodle” or a “lapdog”?

Private Eye
Private Eye — subtext: The U.K.’s Prime Minister is a ‘control freak,’ he only appoints Ministers who will agree with whatever he does or says.

Poodle
[insult]
In politics, “poodle” is an insult used to describe a politician who obediently or passively follows the lead of others. It is considered to be equivalent to lackey. Usage of the term ‘poodle’ is thought to relate to the passive and obedient nature of this breed of dog.

Lapdog
[insult]
A weak person who is controlled by someone else.

Here’s one more but it’s Chinese in origin:

Running dog
[insult]
This is a pejorative term for a person who unquestioningly helps more powerful people. It is like being called a ‘yes-man’ or a ‘lackey.’ Usage of the term ‘running dog’ is thought to relate to the tendency of dogs to ‘blindly’ follow after humans in the hope of receiving food or a favour of some kind (e.g., shelter or a pat on the back).


FOOTNOTES

More Private Eye covers etc.

Political satire
Subtext: The U.K.’s PM is being pulled in two different directions.

This monkey’s gone…

⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚   /   ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚ ⚚

Pompeii: Casa dei Vettii
“A painting on a Pompeii wall”
by my writing’s on the rocks; i mean to say, gone to the dastardly dogs.
Wanna grow up to be
Be a debaser
Debaser

Souls on the Banks of the Acheron (depicting Hermes in the underworld) by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl (1898).
“Souls on the Banks of the Acheron”
by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl (1898).

The painting, “Souls on the Banks of the Acheron,” depicts Hermes in the underworld. Take a close look at the young boy, Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl really depicts the relinquishment of hope in that poor lad’s expression.


…to heaven

Ham Star ⭐️
Ham ⭐️ , ☀️ of Noah

Hats off to Bob

Britain’s Bob Weighton becomes oldest man in the world.

Bob Weighton
Bob was born in 1908.

Reacting to the news, Bob, a former teacher who still lives in his own flat, said:


Well, I don’t really feel satisfied, because it means someone else has died. I just accept it as a fact, it’s not something I ever intended, wanted or worked for, but it’s just one of those facts of life. You might find it amazing, but it’s just one of those things.

Rosie Lee


On quiet afternoons when others are at work or taking their siesta, I like to spend some quality time with my Rosie Lee, she’s hot…
…she never fails to wet and satisfy my whistle, I cup her gently and draw her slowly to my parted lips and expectant tongue.

tea
Some like it hot…
Tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world – whether it is drunk ‘English style’ in the morning (strong with a splash of milk) or with a slice of lemon or lime in the middle of the afternoon.


Assam tea
A strong, full-bodied black tea with a malty flavour, grown in north east India.


Darjeeling tea
High-grown tea from the foothills of the Indian Himalayas with a delicate flavour.


English breakfast tea
A blend of black tea from Sri Lanka and India with a full bodied and brisk flavour.


real_rainbow_02


real_rainbow


real_rainbow_03

⁓Total Control⁓

of our movements & mind

It is coming. Total control is coming. It is coming in the form of facial recognition, machine learning and the extant desire of man to control other men and, almost needless to say, to control fauna, flora, natural resources & women too.

Within this — within Facial Recognition (FR) — I’m including iris & fingerprint scans (which are now sort of ‘old-school’), one’s gait, one’s heartbeat, one’s breathing and one’s vocal idiosyncrasies (the grammatical structures & lilt one unwittingly employs and deploys). With FR, AI can now lipread effortlessly and almost without flaw. Perversely, oh irony of ironies, the last recourse for libertarians may well be to don a loose-fitting abaya and adopt the shayla with a niqab to boot (yet, letter-box style, such garb will be forbidden in due course in the name of national security; just look next door to KSA to see what I/m on about).

When I say Total Control is coming, I more accurately mean that it is basically already here. But I consider it latent and laying low for now. Under the radar, it is biding its time, it is potent, it has portent, it will be omnipresent and predominant. Men of good fortune, you see, they have all the time they need (after all, they’ve us where they want us to be and we are dancing diligently to their drumbeat).

Faces open phones
Snapchat has filters
Instagram takes selfies
Facebook now 'auto' tags
TikTok takes the bloody lot

Total Control you see, and the men of good fortune behind it, have us by hook (line & sinker) and, they have us by crook too (because if liberal state entities desist, your invisible-hand, capital-seeking company sure as night follows day won’t hold back and refrain). It is already in situ at our shopping malls,[1] retailers use Bluetooth to detect our smartphones as we roam around, allowing them to proffer us with real time special offers [sic]. They also track us to see where we linger to ascertain what’s hot and what’s not (i.e., in front of which product do we stand and look longingly at for the longest). There’s no real recourse to escape Total Control’s clasp, only the off-grid recluses have yet to succumb to its virtually all encompassing G P S enabled digital creep and seep.

Karen Hao et al.[2] suggests that while it is fashionable to fret about the prospect of super-intelligent machines taking over the world by say 2050, we should rather concern ourselves about the actual dangers that FR etc. do now present:

A.
FR is a formidable way to invade people’s privacy. AI tech.’s superhuman ability to identify faces has led countries to deploy surveillance technology at a remarkable rate. We know well that FR enables us to unlock our phones and automatically tags our photos on social media. It moreover enables anyone to find out about us via software such as Amazon Rekognition — take or get a picture of anyone, in the lecture theatre, in the mall, then feed it to Rek, it’ll tell you who it is and once you’ve their amalgamated social media profiles and web postings, you’ll — in seconds — know rather a lot about them. They could be sitting their listening diligently to the professor’s lecture on logical positivism and borne of boredom you silently photograph them and moments later you could be swiping through their Snapchat twerks and their Pintrest tips on yoga poses for better posture (and never quite getting the import of Wittgenstein’s change of mind).

B.
The fact that AI tech. is used by political manipulators like Cambridge Analytica to alter election and referendum results, undermine healthy debate and, isolate citizens with different views from one another has been with us for a good six years now. Our media feeds are tailored and we all exist in echo chambers whose outer walls are soundproofed padded cells.

C.
The proliferation of “deepfake” videos is another real and present danger. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), which involve two competing neural networks, can generate extraordinarily realistic but completely made-up images and video. Nvidia recently showed how GANs can generate photo-realistic faces of whatever race, gender, and age you want. Forget fake celebrity porn and idle tittle tattle, think: virulent political smear campaigns and claims based on false science. Think of The Tango, Rude Guliano, alternative facts and fake news.

Big Hands
^ my case in point

Many demand there to be appropriate safeguards in place and for a moratorium on biometric FR technology ((so, so true but capitalism’s been unleashed, the greed and ego of man is both clear and obvious, the proverbial genie’s been let out of Pandora’s box)) so while certain jurisdictions may halt their own agencies using FR tech., multinationals and nefarious individuals are hardly going to pay heed. It is known that presently FR tools generate many of the same biases as humans do, but with the false patina of technical neutrality, we are less likely to call out or even notice such biases. Greater accuracy is not however the only or even main bone of contention. No. It is that Total Control will soon rob us of our liberty and ability to think freely. As Kate Crawford says, “this technology will make all of us less free.”[3] Unfortunately, the idea, frankly, of us harnessing technology is, and I quote, “fanciful.” To hold that we can keep technology in check and use it only for the common good, may with hindsight, be seen as having been a rather naive contention. As I hear it said, be careful what you wish for, and in the lab, be careful with what you develop. No… that sounds wrong! Wish (in a daydream like way) for anything your heart craves and don’t hold back on any form of experimentation whatsoever but, ‘but,’ it is critical we think things through; ‘think before you speak.’

You know what’s the motto of America’s New Hampshire, don’t you: “Live Free Or Die.” Well, it is as moving as it is quaint. It was previously used by the French during their revolutionary years — Vivre Libre ou Mourir. This motto is so me… so much so I want it to be so . but alas no , I did all I humanly could but it wasn’t enough ; it could never ever be close to being enough unless the result is all of you, every sinew every single second : it is all {or} it is nothing at all . I am left with nothing and I feel not free but I have not yet been able to will myself to die. The Greeks said a similar thing and carry it today: “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος” (“Freedom or death”), I’m with them in mind, I am with them in desire but (1) I am alone [yet I’ve still not been able to consciously force myself to pass away] and (2) I am knowingly under Total Control’s auspices as much as every other person I know, if not even more so: I scroll, I refresh, I obsess [& again, I’ve not mustered the willpower to self-combust and abscond this mortal coil].

According to Anna Mitchell et al.,[4] China is perfecting a vast network of digital espionage as a means of social control ((and don’t we all just love cheap Chinese product nowadays)). In China, it is said, when you step outside your door, your actions in the physical world are swept into the dragnet: the government gathers an enormous volume of information by way of C C T V. According to some, one hundred percent of Beijing is now covered by surveillance cameras ((it ain’t just China, where I live there are cameras on every traffic light and all over the university campus)). As is so most everywhere, the main stated goal is to capture and deter criminals. Yet, the massive risks to privacy are there in plain daylight. As Anna Mitchell paints it and I paraphrase it:

Imagine a society in which you are rated by the government on your trustworthiness. Your “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. A high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked decision on a welfare payment or a hospital appointment. If you make political posts online or, for instance, question or contradict the government’s official narrative on current events, however, your score decreases. … To calculate such scores, private companies in partnership with government agencies will unceasingly trawl through vast amounts of your social media and online shopping data alongside your G P S movements and hangouts; you may be allowed to know your score but certainly wont be allowed to know the heuristics upon which it is derived.

In such ^^ scenarios ^^ — which I submit to you are basically underway if not yet overtly rolled out and, when they are rolled out will be, on the grounds of national security, bellicosely championed by state-backed sycophants and media outlets — citizens will refrain from any kind of independent or critical expression for fear that their data will be read or their movements recorded and their citizen score reduced. Indeed, my dear reader, this is the whole point and purpose of it. While we should monitor and denounce this sinister creep toward an Orwellian world, we… me… we mostly just do nothing at all.


Relevant past posts:
Poetry & ProseBooks1984
Poetry & ProseBooksBrave New World

Orwell's---1984


Live Free Or Die

— General John Stark (1809)


p.s.

Bellicose
Demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight.


Bide one’s time
This phrase means to wait quietly for a good opportunity to do something. — “She patiently bided her time before making her bid to escape and roam free.”

* Read the Nature magazine 2019 article by Kate Crawford,

Editable PDF: “Regulate facial-recognition technology”

which comes with the wonderful pull-out quote:


These tools are DANGEROUS when they fail and HARMFUL when they work.

— Kate Crawford (2019)