The world’s megacompanies are about to become true stateless superpowers—in all their power and complexity — Quartz

in the long run, the fragmentation of regulation likely implies the morphing of global companies themselves into new governance and operating structures. One possible model is to have the company organized as affiliated networks of independently operating, locally registered, privately held partnership structures to avoid anti-foreign backlash. We are entering an important phase where the choices of regulators will determine the geography of business and innovation more than the presence of technology and talent. The policy choices we make over the next few years will change not just the structure of future global businesses but also the competitiveness of entire nations.

Source: The world’s megacompanies are about to become true stateless superpowers—in all their power and complexity — Quartz by Parag Khanna and Sangeet Paul Choudary

Neil Postman, Revisited: Are We Having Too Much Fun? – The Atlantic

Source: Neil Postman, Revisited: Are We Having Too Much Fun? – The Atlantic by Megan Garber

In 1985, Neil Postman observed an America imprisoned by its own need for amusement. He was, it turns out, extremely prescient.

I thought of Neil Postman, the professor and the critic and the man who, via his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, argued preemptively against all this change-via-chuckle. Postman wasn’t, as his book’s title might suggest, a humorless scold in the classic way—Amusing Ourselves to Death is, as polemics go, darkly funny—but he was deeply suspicious of jokes themselves, especially when they come with an agenda.

He might whisper that, in politics, the line between engagement and apathy is thinner than we want to believe.

It wasn’t Nineteen Eighty-Four that had the most to say about the America of the 1980s, but rather Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. “In Huxley’s vision,” Postman noted, “no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history.” Instead: “People will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”

we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us

a condition, Postman put it, in which “facts push other facts into and out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation.”

“In a print culture,” he argued, “writers make mistakes when they lie, contradict themselves, fail to support their generalizations, try to enforce illogical connections. In a print culture, readers make mistakes when they don’t notice, or even worse, don’t care.” In a television culture, he argued, the opposite is true.

Source: Neil Postman, Revisited: Are We Having Too Much Fun? – The Atlantic by Megan Garber

How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents – FindLaw

you are not qualified to know whether you are innocent of wrongdoing under federal criminal law

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to: 1) knowingly and willfully; 2) make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation; 3) in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States. Your lie does not even have to be made directly to an employee of the national government as long as it is “within the jurisdiction” of the ever expanding federal bureaucracy. Though the falsehood must be “material” this requirement is met if the statement has the “natural tendency to influence or [is] capable of influencing, the decision of the decisionmaking body to which it is addressed.” United States v. Gaudin , 515 U.S. 506, 510 (1995). (In other words, it is not necessary to show that your particular lie ever really influenced anyone.) Although you must know that your statement is false at the time you make it in order to be guilty of this crime, you do not have to know that lying to the government is a crime or even that the matter you are lying about is “within the jurisdiction” of a government agency. United States v. Yermian , 468 U.S. 63, 69 (1984).

the only avenue for reform with respect to Section 1001 is in Congress

you can politely decline to be interviewed by the FBI agent. Tell the agent that you have an attorney and that “my attorney will be in contact with you.” If the agent persists, say that you will not discuss anything without first consulting counsel. Ask for the agent’s card, to give to your attorney. If you have not yet hired a lawyer, tell the agent that “I want to consult a lawyer first”

The absolutely essential thing to keep in mind is to say nothing of substance about the matter under investigation. It is preferable to do this by politely declining to be interviewed in the absence of counsel. … It is crucial to note that affirmatively declining to discuss the investigation in the absence of counsel is not the same thing as remaining completely silent.

You are not obliged to explain your decision to anyone.

I am not suggesting that you should obstruct the FBI or invariably decline to answer an agent’s questions. … Neither am I suggesting that it is generally acceptable to be interviewed by federal agents as long as your attorney is present. In fact, it is usually unacceptable and is often quite risky.

Source: How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents – FindLaw by Solomon L. Wisenberg

Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Long touted as the “perfect” energy source, fusion reactors share many drawbacks with fission—and even add a few new ones of their own.


  • Terrestrial fusion reactors need to use tritium (neutron-rich hydrogen isotope) as fuel.
  • Tritium fuel can only be acquired from fusion and fission reactors, and it cannot be fully replenished from the fusion reactor itself.
  • The power required for a power plant to operate itself is called “parasitic power drain”. Fusion reactors require an enormous amount of power to operate and this parasitic power drain forces fusion reactors be very large in order to be economical. Furthermore, 75 to 100 megawatts of parasitic electric power is used (e.g. for refrigerators) even when the fusion reactor is off (e.g. for maintenance).
  • Deuterium-tritium reactions’ fusion energy output is 80 percent energetic neutron streams (deuterium-deuterium is 35 percent), not usable electricity or heat. These streams lead to radiation damage to structures, radioactive waste, the need for biological shielding, and the potential for the production of weapons-grade plutonium 239.
  • Neutron streams must be cooled to produce usable heat, but this incurs radiation damage to the reaction vessel (swelling and fracturing) and everything that it irradiates (e.g. coolant, the vessel, fuel assemblies,
    non-structural components) will become radioactive waste over time.
  • production of plutonium 239 is possible in a fusion reactor simply by placing natural or depleted uranium oxide at any location where neutrons of any energy are flying about. The ocean of slowing-down neutrons that results from scattering of the streaming fusion neutrons on the reaction vessel permeates every nook and cranny of the reactor interior, including appendages to the reaction vessel. Slower neutrons will be readily soaked up by uranium 238, whose cross section for neutron absorption increases with decreasing neutron energy.

  • Tritium handling is hard and tritium is environmentally hazardous.
  • Deuterium and tritium are themselves usable as boosting/supplemental components to nuclear weapons.
  • a fusion reactor would have the lowest water efficiency of any type of thermal power plant, whether fossil or nuclear.

To sum up, fusion reactors face some unique problems: a lack of natural fuel supply (tritium), and large and irreducible electrical energy drains to offset. Because 80 percent of the energy in any reactor fueled by deuterium and tritium appears in the form of neutron streams, it is inescapable that such reactors share many of the drawbacks of fission reactors—including the production of large masses of radioactive waste and serious radiation damage to reactor components. These problems are endemic to any type of fusion reactor fueled with deuterium-tritium, so abandoning tokamaks for some other confinement concept can provide no relief.

Source: Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Daniel Jassby

His Holiness Pope Francis: Why the only future worth building includes everyone | TED Talk |

First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.

How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. … How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.

allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly.

The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other.

Source: His Holiness Pope Francis: Why the only future worth building includes everyone

Learning To Love Scientific Consensus | Slate Star Codex

There’s a list of scientific mavericks who were ridiculed by hidebound reactionaries but later vindicated that’s been going viral. … my impression is that only a third of these people really fit the pattern. Most of them were doubted for very short periods, continued to be respected in their fields for their other accomplishments even during those periods, or were part of medium-sized movements rather than being lone geniuses. After a few years – maybe an average of ten, very rarely as long as thirty – their contributions were recognized and they assumed their rightful place in the pantheon. Science isn’t perfect. But it is darned good.

I’ve always thought something like:

Scientific consensus is the best tool we have for seeking truth. It’s not perfect, and it’s frequently overturned by later scientists, but this is usually – albeit not literally always – the work of well-credentialed insiders, operating pretty quickly after the evidence that should overturn it becomes available. Any individual should be very doubtful of their ability to beat it, while not being so doubtful that nobody ever improves it and science can never progress.

– and I still think that. But I’ve shifted from being the sort of person who shares viral lists of maligned geniuses, to the sort of person who debunks those lists. I’ve started emphasizing the “best tool we have” part of the sentence, and whispering the “isn’t perfect” part, rather than vice versa.

I knew some criticisms of a scientific paradigm. They seemed right. I concluded that scientists weren’t very smart and maybe I was smarter. I should have concluded that some cutting-edge scientists were making good criticisms of an old paradigm. I can still flatter myself by saying that it’s no small achievement to recognize a new paradigm early and bet on the winning horse. But the pattern I was seeing was part of the process of science, not a condemnation of it.

Most people understand this intuitively about past paradigm shifts. When a creationist says that we can’t trust science because it used to believe in phlogiston and now it believes in combustion, we correctly respond that this is exactly why we can trust science. But this lesson doesn’t always generalize when you’re in the middle of a paradigm shift right now and having trouble seeing the other side.

where this fails is not in the experts but in the ability of people who don’t listen to the experts to get disproportionate social power and hide the existence of the expert consensus.

Scientific consensus hasn’t just been accurate, it’s been unreasonably accurate. … The idea that scientific consensus is almost always an accurate reflection of the best knowledge we have at the time seems even more flabbergasting than any particular idea that scientists might or might not believe. But it seems to be true.

Source: Learning To Love Scientific Consensus | Slate Star Codex

Related to: Contrarians, Crackpots, and Consensus, How Common Are Science Failures?

Cloning voices: Imitating people’s speech patterns precisely could bring trouble | The Economist

Until recently, voice cloning—or voice banking, as it was then known—was a bespoke industry which served those at risk of losing the power of speech to cancer or surgery. Creating a synthetic copy of a voice was a lengthy and pricey process. … Not any more.

any voice—including that of a stranger—can be cloned if decent recordings are available on YouTube or elsewhere. Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, led by Nitesh Saxena, were able to use Festvox to clone voices based on only five minutes of speech retrieved online. When tested against voice-biometrics software like that used by many banks to block unauthorised access to accounts, more than 80% of the fake voices tricked the computer.

The upshot, according to George Papcun, an expert witness paid to detect faked recordings produced as evidence in court, is the emergence of a technology with “enormous potential value for disinformation”.

it is easy to imagine the mayhem that might be created in a world which makes it easy to put authentic-sounding words into the mouths of adversaries—be they colleagues or heads of state.

Source: Cloning voices: Imitating people’s speech patterns precisely could bring trouble | The Economist

See Also: Demo – Lyrebird – An API to copy the voice of anyone

Want to rescue rural America? Bust monopolies. – The Washington Post

Source: Want to rescue rural America? Bust monopolies. – The Washington Post by Lillian Salerno

Globalization and technology aren’t the only factors crushing the heartland. Monopolies are, too.

one major force behind the steep economic decline is something that, until very recently, has received virtually no attention: the unprecedented level of corporate monopoly power that has been concentrated throughout the American economy.

Let’s look at just one indicator — new business formation. From 2010 to 2014, 60 percent of counties nationwide saw more businesses close than open, compared with just 17 percent during the four years following the 1990s slowdown. During the 1990s recovery, smaller communities — counties with less than half a million people — generated 71 percent of all net new businesses, with counties under 100,000 people accounting for a full third. During the 2010 to 2014 recovery, however, the figure for counties with fewer than half a million people was 19 percent. For counties with less than 100,000 people, it was zero.

Two decades ago, in the seed industry alone, 600 independent companies existed. Today there are six giants, several of which are pursuing high-profile mergers that will result in even more radical concentration.

The question is whether we will recognize the error of our ways and put taking on monopolies high on the economic agenda — for rural and small-town America, and for everyone who wants to ensure our country can once again be the land of opportunity.

Source: Want to rescue rural America? Bust monopolies. – The Washington Post by Lillian Salerno