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A Worker-Owned Cooperative Is Revitalizing Jackson, Mississippi

A dynamic yet under-documented experiment in radical social transformation taking place in the United States.


Left Out, a podcast produced by Paul Sliker, Michael Palmieri, and Dante Dallavalle, creates in-depth conversations with the most interesting political thinkers, heterodox economists, and organizers on the Left.

In this episode, we sat down with Kali Akuno — the co-founder and co-directer of Cooperation Jackson. We discuss the emerging network of worker-owned cooperatives and the people behind it building an alternative, solidarity-based economy inside the majority-black and impoverished city of Jackson, Mississippi.

In Jackson Rising, Akuno helps chronicle the history, present and future of one of the most dynamic yet under-documented experiments in radical social transformation taking place in the United States. The book follows the surprising story of the city’s newly elected Mayor, Choke Antara Lumumba, whose vision is to “encourage the development of cooperative businesses” and make Jackson the “most radical city on the planet.”

In the first part of the interview, we ask Akuno about the ongoing organizing and institution building of the black, working-class political forces concentrated in Jackson dedicated to advancing the “Jackson-Kush Plan.”

We then diver deeper into the different types of worker-owned cooperatives that makeup Cooperation Jackson; the importance of developing cooperatives with clear political aims; and the need for a nationwide network of cooperatives and solidarity economic institutions as a viable alternative to the exploitative nature of our current economic, social, and environmental relations.

Cooperation Jackson is one of the most important stories for those of us struggling for social justice, for human emancipation and self-determination, and for a solidarity economics as a base for working class political struggle and the fight against the systematic economic strangulation.

Pick up a copy of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi

***  Please donate to Left Out on Patreon to receive exclusive content and access to engaging with our future guests. We depend on your support to keep this show alive: https://www.patreon.com/leftout  ***

 

 

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A lot has happened since Three Sonorans first began in the summer of 2010. Racial tensions were heating up with the recent passage of SB1070, the Papers Please law, and with HB2281, the law banning Ethnic Studies. More than seven years later, we are glad to report that we have been there throughout the entire MAS trial and the federal […]

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A Worker-Owned Cooperative Is Revitalizing Jackson, Mississippi

A dynamic yet under-documented experiment in radical social transformation taking place in the United States.


Left Out, a podcast produced by Paul Sliker, Michael Palmieri, and Dante Dallavalle, creates in-depth conversations with the most interesting political thinkers, heterodox economists, and organizers on the Left.

In this episode, we sat down with Kali Akuno — the co-founder and co-directer of Cooperation Jackson. We discuss the emerging network of worker-owned cooperatives and the people behind it building an alternative, solidarity-based economy inside the majority-black and impoverished city of Jackson, Mississippi.

In Jackson Rising, Akuno helps chronicle the history, present and future of one of the most dynamic yet under-documented experiments in radical social transformation taking place in the United States. The book follows the surprising story of the city’s newly elected Mayor, Choke Antara Lumumba, whose vision is to “encourage the development of cooperative businesses” and make Jackson the “most radical city on the planet.”

In the first part of the interview, we ask Akuno about the ongoing organizing and institution building of the black, working-class political forces concentrated in Jackson dedicated to advancing the “Jackson-Kush Plan.”

We then diver deeper into the different types of worker-owned cooperatives that makeup Cooperation Jackson; the importance of developing cooperatives with clear political aims; and the need for a nationwide network of cooperatives and solidarity economic institutions as a viable alternative to the exploitative nature of our current economic, social, and environmental relations.

Cooperation Jackson is one of the most important stories for those of us struggling for social justice, for human emancipation and self-determination, and for a solidarity economics as a base for working class political struggle and the fight against the systematic economic strangulation.

Pick up a copy of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi

***  Please donate to Left Out on Patreon to receive exclusive content and access to engaging with our future guests. We depend on your support to keep this show alive: https://www.patreon.com/leftout  ***

 

 

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Trump Is Determined to Provoke War to Draw Focus from Racist & Erratic Behavior

Every wannabe dictator needs an emergency to cement their power, and Trump is determined to create his own.


The New York Times reports that the Pentagon is proposing widening the permissible use of nuclear weapons to include responding to cyberattacks and other non-nuclear attacks to U.S. infrastructure. The Pentagon has already outlined this expanded nuclear strategy in a draft document sent to President Trump for approval. It comes amid a series of moves by the Pentagon and President Trump that have escalated the threat of nuclear war. The Wall Street Journal reports the Pentagon is planning to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons. The New York Times also reports the Pentagon is conducting a series of war games to prepare for a potential war with North Korea. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, who has been covering Donald Trump for nearly 30 years. His latest book is just out, titled “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Uninformed. That was the word White House Chief of Staff John Kelly used to describe his boss, President Trump, on Thursday. According to The Washington Post, Kelly told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that some of Trump’s hardline immigration policies, including his call to build a wall along the entire southern border, were “uninformed.” Kelly said, quote, “Certain things are said during the campaign that are uninformed.” During the same meeting, Kelly reportedly said, quote, “The president is committed to a permanent solution to DACA,” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

But the president has struck a different tone. On Twitter this morning [January 18], Trump wrote, quote, “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.” In an interview with Reuters, Trump also criticized a proposed bipartisan deal on immigration and border security as, quote, “horrible” and, quote, “very, very weak.” This comes as the government could shut down on Friday if a funding deal cannot be reached.

AMY GOODMAN: The possible government shutdown comes as President Trump is preparing to mark his first year in office on Saturday. On that same day, anti-Trump protests will be held in scores of cities across the country to mark the first anniversary of the historic Women’s March.

Well, today we spend the hour looking at Trump’s first year in office with a journalist who has been covering Donald Trump since 1988. We’re talking about the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, the founder of DCReport.org. Last year, Johnston made international headlines when he obtained two pages of President Trump’s 2005 tax return. Johnston’s reporting on Trump’s taxes led the president to say this about him.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I know the reporter is a—he’s a weird dude who’s covered me for—he’s been following me for 25 years, so obviously he hasn’t done so well. He’s been following me in a negative fashion for 25 years, always a hit. And I’m president, so I guess he hasn’t done a very good job.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, joins us here in our studio, out this week with his new book. It’s called It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, David. You have been covering Donald Trump for over 30 years. You heard what he had to say about it: Look where you are, and look where he is today. But you’ve also been covering President Trump through this first year. Can you talk about, as we move into the first anniversary of his inauguration, what has surprised you most, since this is a man you have known back to his early days as a developer going bankrupt in New York?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Donald hasn’t, frankly, done anything that’s surprised me. And I said, and there’s lots of video of me saying, before the election, he would be increasingly erratic, his racism would come out, that he would try to find an excuse to use nuclear weapons, because during the campaign, he said, “I’m very good at war. I know more about ISIS than the generals. And of course we’re going to use nukes.” And, lo and behold, last week, the news breaks that they are loosening up the rules on the use of tactical nuclear weapons—that is, a nuclear weapon that will take out a block, not a city—and possibly even authorizing their use for a cyberattack. He’s looking for—

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is amazing. I mean, just to reiterate this—

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, it is.

AMY GOODMAN: —using nuclear weapon attack for a cyberattack.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right. And hopefully, the military will not follow an order to do this. But clearly, he is determined, if he can figure out how to do it, to provoke a war. After all, what helps strengthen your position if you’re a dictator-in-waiting, which is what Donald is, but some kind of incident that will stir the public and focus people away from his crazy, racist, uninformed, ignorant behavior?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, why do you think that he needs to strengthen his position? Do you think he feels he needs to strengthen his position because his position is weak?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, yeah, Donald—the Donald is aware that he has a large audience out there that is not supporting him and that it’s growing. And his own base, he’s certainly seen the data that it’s eroded. And remember, Donald is a man who is this empty vessel. I mean, he’s an unhappy human being. Be glad you are not Donald Trump, who will never know a day of joy and contentment in his life. And, you know, he wants us to all recognize Donald Trump is the greatest human being of all times. He wants people like Orrin Hatch—the greatest president of all times. That’s what he’s about: adoration.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I mean, you say, in fact, that what distinguishes him from all previous U.S. presidents is that his presidency is about Trump, period, full stop.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: This issue of use of nuclear weapons, you know, going back to the reported meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as he’s briefed on nuclear weapons: “If we have them, why don’t we use them?” And The Wall Street Journal reporting, just in the last days, this issue of the Pentagon planning to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons. The New York Times also reporting the Pentagon conducting a series of war games to prepare for a potential war with North Korea. I mean, this is very interesting. As North and South Korea come closer together, will have a unified team at the Olympics, President Trump is trying to amp up the opposition to and war with North Korea.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right. And one of the very interesting things about this is, there have been surveys of military officers, and they show that the officer corps of the United States military is very troubled about Trump. You know, good military officers are diplomats who want to avoid war. And they’re not supporting him. So that one good piece of news out of this is, I don’t think Donald Trump can get the military behind him to take over the country.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But do you think he can get the military behind him sufficiently to carry out a tactical nuclear strike?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, that’s the troubling part. What if, for example, somehow we’re provoked into something? And he’s clearly trying to provoke—you know, things like “My button is bigger than your button.” And understand, Donald Trump—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But what would constitute a provocation for him, though?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, I don’t—I mean, that, I don’t know. It would have to be enough that he could get the military behind him to do something, something we wouldn’t expect. But remember, the whole point of nuclear weapons is they’re defensive. Nobody invades a country that has nuclear weapons. We would never have invaded Iraq if it actually had had nuclear weapons. And Donald thinks that their purpose is to use them. He doesn’t even understand their purpose, that they’re defensive.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a break, and then we’re going to come back to David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, previously with The New York Times, now founder and editor of DCReport.org. Johnston’s biography of Donald Trump was The Making of Donald Trump. His new book, It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.

And when we come back, what exactly is happening? While the tax bill—and that’s certainly something that Donald—that David Cay Johnston is an expert about—has been touted as the one main piece of legislation that Trump has actually successfully gotten passed, what actually did happen in the last year? Tremendous amount when it comes to deregulating the agencies of this country that protect the nation’s land, air, sea and people. Stay with us.

 

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What Can Be Done About the Attention Economy’s Dark Side? Powerhouse Commission Ponders Reeling In Facebook and Google Before It’s Too Late

Big Tech’s algorithms have turned billions of device users into addicts whose every whim is tracked and baited.


Everywhere you look, high tech is in somebody’s bullseye. Take Apple. On the inside, top investors are worried about its products’ effects on children. On the outside, liberal activists are grousing about its offshore billions it can now bring home under GOP tax reform. Even usually anti-regulation conservatives at the National Review are asking why Big Tech isn’t regulated like Big Oil or Big Tobacco.

These examples, all recently in the news, confirm the trend but skim the surface. New national polling has found public opinion is shifting from a warm embrace to growing skepticism. It’s not just the way so-called fake news on social media had a role in recent elections in the U.S. and led to congressional inquiries. And it’s not just calls for federal anti-trust actions aimed at the most popular information curators, Facebook and Google.

Beyond these dots that attest to a backlash is understanding what’s really going on below the screens and in the minds of Facebook’s 2 billion users and Google-owned YouTube’s 1.5 billion users. There is a new phrase describing this sphere of human activity, the technology behind it and its effects. What’s being called the attention economy is coming under new scrutiny because it’s seen as undermining the journalism profession as well as trust in public institutions and democracy.

“We come here in friendship,” said Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, co-chair of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy, at Stanford University this week. The panel was created last fall to try to fix the attention economy’s biggest problems, including the way Google search and Facebook have demoted the visibility of independent media, under the guise of fighting fake news.

Marx’s comments elicited nervous laughter, because he had just presided over a panel that laid out in vivid and disturbing detail how Silicon Valley’s best minds have created brain-tracking, brain-mimicking and brain-triggering computational formulas. These algorithms have turned billions of digital device users into information addicts—and when put at the service of supercomputers, targeting online advertising or content placement, they have fractured society as never before.

“We’re at Stanford; the belly of the beast. This is where it all started. Which is why we’re here, why we need to understand what you all are thinking,” Marx said, speaking to panelists, an audience filled with tech executives and commission members culled from some of the monopolistic companies under attack.

“Let’s be very clear about two things,” he said, proceeding diplomatically. “One, you all have created this amazing tool. If you had said to me as a child that I would have something in my pocket that could connect me to all the information in the world, potentially, I wouldn’t have believed you. That’s astonishing. So thank you. That’s the good news.”

“The less good news is this is not taking us to a good place,” he continued. “It has not taken us to a good place. And I’m not supposed to say any of this, but your industry, the industry that you all are a part of, I think the world has changed its view of the industry in the last year, in a way that I have never seen the likes of before. Meaning what was thank you, is now uh-oh. Bad things are coming of this, and that puts us all on the spot, which is why we are here. We want to understand what is possible—what can be better.”

The Attention Economy

Those outside Silicon Valley’s innermost circles cannot access or evaluate the algorithms powering Facebook’s news feeds and advertising-driven content placement, or YouTube’s engine that recommends other videos individual users might like. However, panelists at the Commission’s Stanford University session were exceptionally articulate and forthcoming about the nature and goals of the algorithms, better described as brain-mimicking artificial intelligence.

One of the most outspoken explainers and critics was Tristan Harris, a former “design ethicist” at Google—his company was acquired by it in 2011—who now runs a non-profit, Time Well Spent, which seeks to improve Big Tech’s impact on society. What this under-40, ex-CEO said was as stunning as what looked like a blasé reaction from his industry colleagues.

Harris said the attention economy, or the media on everyone’s smartphones and computers, is not just the endless marketing we all see. There’s a deeper reason why many established news sources can be supplanted by shadowy propaganda on major platforms, why facts can be outrun by opinions and lies, and why narrower tribal loyalties can usurp democratic institutions.   

Harris pointed the finger of blame at the heart and circulatory system of Silicon Valley. Its artificial intelligence algorithms are designed to trigger brain responses and be addictive, he said. They power a business model loosely called online advertising, but that is a superstructure that cashes in by targeting and provoking shared interests, via curated content. But it also separates society into disconnected spheres.

“There’s the public rhetoric about what [information] technology ought to do and what the positive intentions are. But then there’s the reality, if you actually go inside the companies, and hear the engineers and designers talk about their daily objectives, everything comes down to what’s going to hook people to staying on the screen,” Harris said. “No matter what the positive intentions are, 2 billion people do wake up in the morning right now and they have one of these things in their pockets, and they do use one of a handful of services. As my colleague Roger McNamee, who is [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg’s mentor likes to say, there’s 2 billion people who use Facebook, that’s more than the number of followers of Christianity; 1.5 billion people use YouTube, that’s about the number of followers of Islam. These products have more influence over our daily thoughts than many religions and certainly more than any government.”

When John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus in 1966, he created an international uproar. The band received death threats and had to stop touring. But when Harris said Facebook was more popular than Jesus and YouTube served more people than entire continents, these breathtaking assertions barely raised eyebrows. That scale underscores why high tech’s biggest successes are facing a reckoning, from congressional inquiries on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, to new calls to break up tech monopolies under anti-trust laws, to solution-seeking forums like Knight Commission.

Harris studied how brains make choices at Stanford and went on to create technologies and a company that tapped the “invisible influences that hijack human thinking,” as his bio puts it. But that technology now poses an existential threat to humanity, he said, because it’s growing beyond the ability any one company—or handful of attention economy monopolies—to control.  

“We’re a species that…can study our own ability to be manipulated,” he said. “We have to talk about the advertising-based business model, which, paired with artificial intelligence, poses an existential threat. We have to get really serious about this. If you think about where are the most powerful AIs in the world located right now? Arguably, at two companies: Google and Facebook. The most powerful AIs in the world.

“Instead of pointing them at a challenge like climate change, and saying, let’s solve that, or pointing it at drug discovery for cancer, and saying, let’s solve that, we have pointed the most powerful AI supercomputers in the world at your brain. And we basically said, play chess against this brain and figure out what will engage it the best. And so every time we open up a news feed, we’re playing chess against a supercomputer that’s designed to see 50 million steps ahead on the chessboard of your mind, and figure out what will perfectly engage you.”  

The results are not always pretty, he said, a remark others echoed.  

“When you think about the global consequences of this—the fact that this supercomputer is doing this in languages, and in countries, the engineers and the companies don’t even speak [or live in], which is how you get the Rohingya genocide in Burma. And how you get some fake news pod creating certain deaths in India, in South Sudan. The engineers can’t put this thing back in the bag. We have created exponential impact without exponential sensitivity.”

It’s even worse than that, explained panelist Gina Bianchini, the founder and CEO of Mighty Networks, which specializes in niche social networks. She repeatedly said that there is a race in Silicon Valley to break Facebook and Google’s information monopolies that involve algorithms teaching—programming—themselves to execute a range of tasks, including bringing content to people who will be hubs in their own information networks. (Silicon Valley calls this “machine learning.”)

While she lauded the virtues of more competition, she and others described artificial intelligence as being at a threshold where the ability to get the biggest players in a room to agree to solutions would not be possible. That’s because artificial intelligence is becoming so decentralized that the ethical problems highlighted by Harris will be beyond anyone’s ability to rein in—because Silicon Valley and Big Tech isn’t a monolithic entity.

“There’s actually a scarier thing happening, which is today you can talk to two companies. Somebody shows up from Google. Somebody shows up from Facebook and wants to have the conversation, because they have the monopoly over attention today and over the advertising revenue,” she said. “The natural progression of software and where technology goes is it bends toward decentralization. It bends toward distributed technologies. Who do you talk to at that point?”

Bianchini gave an example that underscored why traditional anti-trust laws and government regulation are hopelessly outdated and ill-equipped to deal with the attention economy’s dark side. She cited Napster, which allowed music lovers to share audio files, so the recording industry sued and shut it down.

“We were able to shut down Napster and the next thing that happened was Bit Torrent [software], where there was nothing to shut down. That is where the world is going.”

What Would George Orwell Do?

These criticisms and explanations were not entirely rejected by their targets in the room. But as is often the case in high-stakes hearings, core issues can be sidetracked by expanding the focus—not by sticking with key questions such as whether the attention economy’s biggest players would change what’s powering their addictive algorithms and micro-targeted advertising.

Take commission member Richard Gingras, vice president of news for Google. Before asking questions, he said there are two historic developments to keep in mind. First, the internet put the “means of communication, the printing press, in everyone’s hands.” That has history-making benefits and challenges.

“We have diversity of information like we have never seen before. Some of that diversity is troubling. That’s par for the course, what freedom of the press is all about. Such that I’ve often posed the question of, is the true challenge to democracy the fact that we have unfettered free expression… that’s one component,” said Gingras.

“The second is I think the points about [ad and content] targeting are fair in the sense that we do have—and by we, it’s permeated throughout the ecosystem—companies have the ability to target or leverage targeting beyond the dreams of any direct marketer or in the history of politics. Here, again, it’s not that the behaviors are necessarily different, it’s just that they are more efficient,” he said. “These seem to me to be the key changes.”

Big technological changes always have intended and unintended consequences, Gingras said. History is filled with examples from professions that had to adapt, he said, adding that’s what the media and political culture need to do.

“It’s not sufficient to simply talk about this through the lens of technology,” Gingras said. “What is incumbent on the rest of society and its institutions to think about and address it as well. When you look at [an] environment where people are consuming information in different ways, forming opinions in different ways, this seems to me to suggest that we should rethink the mechanisms of journalism.”

“How we interact with our audiences,” he continued. “How we formulate content. The content models we use. Even business models we use to get there… How do these other institutions have to change? How do our basic cultural approaches to transparency and trust need to change to help folks understand why they are seeing what they are seeing.”


Gingras does not make this comment in a vacuum. He co-founded an initiative called the Trust Project, based at Santa Clara University Journalism School, which is urging news organizations to better label their online content and revise their websites so the search algorithms can elevate more authoritative content. That will help media stand out in the attention economy. Of course, it also helps Google do better searches—because Google search, unlike Facebook, directs users away from its website, and better results will fortify its search monopoly.

As the Knight Commission’s public sessions came to a close, the very issue Silicon Valley opposes the most—only second to revealing its secretive computational formula—was raised. What would be the result of government regulation, including the possibility of anti-trust actions breaking up the attention economy monopolies?

That question prompted one of the fiercest exchanges, and while unresolved, it suggests that Facebook and Google are going to have to become more transparent or face even greater backlash.

Gina Bianchini: “I have a very low confidence that the solutions are going to come from regulation. The solutions are going to come from the fact that we are building a grassroots mass motivation to move around centralization, which is going to be a whole different conversation.”

Richard Gingras: “I find this thread a little bit puzzling. If I had heard the discussion about possible solutions to the problem, absent any knowledge of problem, I would have thought that we were talking about the fact that we actually have a problem with monolithic information in a society which is over-guided and controlled in one direction. Right? But of course that’s actually not the problem we’re facing. In fact, the problem we’re facing is one that is completely the opposite. We have tremendous diversity and points of views, silos of thought, reinforced silos of thought, from one end of the spectrum to the other and around and back again. So when I look at that problem, I wonder what problem are we really trying to solve, and how? I’m failing to see the dots connected on this.”

Gina Bianchini: “From a monolithic perspective, who’s controlling that algorithm?”

Richard Gingras: “But the algorithm…”

Gina Bianchini: “It’s two companies [Facebook and Google].”

Richard Gingras: “This putative control isn’t controlling people’s points of view. If anything, it’s commending various points of view beyond their own level of comfort.”

Ethan Zuckerberg, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and commission consultant: “It’s impossible to know that from the outside world. It’s literally impossible.”  

Richard Gingras: “Outside world. It’s not hard looking at our world today to say we have a society that’s less unified than ever before.”

Ethan Zuckerberg: “And you can ask a question… about whether this information environment, around Facebook and Google, took a very extreme part of that and made it much, much more powerful. But we have a very, very hard time auditing that… All I am trying to say is that one thing short of regulation, and actually breaking up these entities, would be paths to a great deal more transparency, so we can ask these hard questions about how these platforms are shaping the information and knowledge that we are getting.”

The Knight Commission will continue meeting through 2018 before issuing a report and recommendations next fall. But in several brief hours at Stanford University’s alumni center, it laid out the issues, challenges and stakes for the problems in an attention economy where psychological manipulation and micro-targeting are used by the top information curators.

Notably, late Friday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would soon ask its 2 billion users to rate the trustworthiness of the media on their news feeds. That may help identify more and less trustworthy news sources according to each user’s values. But it won’t get at the “invisible influences that hijack human thinking” as Tristan Harris put it. Nor will it address the societal segmentation accelerated by online ad technology that Gingras acknowledged. Nor is it an action that would add transparency to the algorithms powering these information monopolies that MIT’s Zuckerberg noted.

Indeed, as New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo noted this week in a piece that pondered if Apple would save the day by adding elegant product features to blunt the excesses of the digital ad business, “I’m skeptical they’ll [the leaders of the attention economy] be able to suppress their economic interests.”

 

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A Dating App’s List of ‘Most Eligible Singles’ in America Looks Like a List of White People

This doesn’t look like the America we know.


For the past few years, Business Insider has partnered with popular dating app Hinge to publish a list of the “Most Eligible Singles” in major American cities. Sounds fun, right? But take a good hard look at this year’s list. You’ll notice a stunning lack of racial and ethnic diversity that seems to ignore the reality of the populations in the cities where these eligible singles live.

Take the New York list as an example. Hinge’s ten most eligible singles in the city look like this:

Credit: Business Insider/Hinge

Seriously, Hinge? In a city where only 33 percent of residents are white, at least 26 percent are Hispanic, 26 percent are Black and 13 percent are Asian, you’d think the list would include a bit more diversity. The above list plainly doesn’t reflect the diversity of New York in terms of skin color and background.

There’s limited diversity in sexuality in this list as well. On the New York list, only one person says they’re interested in dating people of the same sex. Not a single person on the roster for San Francisco, a city known to be a cultural mecca for the LGBTQ community, says they’re interested in a same-sex match.

A full scan of the “Most Eligible” lists for the other American cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and others, show similar diversity rates: there appear to be no more than one to three non-white people in each list of 10. The list for Atlanta, known to be a beacon of Black cultural and political power where only one of the four metro area counties remains majority-white, includes not a single African-American person.

Credit: Business Insider/Hinge

It’s unclear whether Hinge assembled this list though curation or through user-generated data. According to Business Insider spokesperson Mario Ruiz, “the source of the list is Hinge, which compiles its list based on the data they have about their users. Business Insider made no editorial decision about who should make the list. That said, we did review the list overall before we published it.” If Hinge staffers simply chose these names by selecting at will a list of attractive young people with interesting and well-paying jobs, it demonstrates a severe lack of judgment and understanding of the changing racial makeup of the country.

If the list was assembled by users—for example, if the ten people selected in each city regularly receive the most right-swipes or DMs—that would certainly fit data that shows dating app users tend to select light-skinned and white people more frequently. But it’s terrible marketing to showcase this so shamelessly, and Hinge should explain why they believed this particular list would be good for their brand image. It also reflects poorly on Business Insider for choosing to showcase the racially insensitive data. In an era in which our own president is trying to racially purge non-white people from the country, a list that looks so white-washed is unnecessary and counter to progress.

This isn’t the first time Hinge has come under controversy for its racist practices. Like some other dating apps, it allows users to choose which ethnic and racial groups are “deal breakers” for them, and will eliminate potential dates who identify as such from appearing on their feeds.

In general, dating apps have been found to promote racism. OKCupid found last year that its users were discriminating by race and ethnicity when swiping left or right. Male users in particular are more likely to select white and Asian women over black women. It’s not surprising that racial and ethnic groups launched their own dating apps in response to the racism users have encountered on more general online dating apps.

Hinge is like Tinder in that it feeds users potential dates through machine learning technology, pooling from a group of people who share your location and to whom you’re connected to loosely through mutual Facebook friends. Hinge doesn’t release regular user data, but there’s no denying its popularity and thus the impact of a list like this. In 2015, spokeswoman Jean-Marie McGrath told Vox that the app was making 35,500 dates per week. “In our major markets, one in five of your friends is on Hinge,” she said. Back then, Vox reported “the average user has about 50 Facebook friends on Hinge,” though the number has likely grown in the years since.

Hinge didn’t respond to a request for comment on the “Most Eligible” list.

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Microsoft’s AI Image Generator Construct Life-Like Pictures “Pixel By Pixel”

Microsoft researchers have developed an AI image generator that can create an image from scratch using text input. The technology is a three-fold improvement from previous image generators, the researchers say.

The post Microsoft’s AI Image Generator Construct Life-Like Pictures “Pixel By Pixel” appeared first on Futurism.

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Deep Learning Could Help First Responders Offer Critical Aid in the Wake of Disasters

The World Bank, in collaboration with WeRobotics and OpenAerialMap, has challenged developers to craft deep learning algorithms that can assess the conditions of roads and food production trees following natural disasters.

The post Deep Learning Could Help First Responders Offer Critical Aid in the Wake of Disasters appeared first on Futurism.

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Second Women’s March Draws Huge Anti-Trump Crowds as the Government Shuts Down

Women take to the streets again, empowered by #MeToo and fed up over immigration.


It’s exactly a year since the historic 2017 Women’s March, which brought millions out in protest of Trump’s inauguration, flooding the world’s streets with pink knitted hats. Thousands have taken to the streets again this weekend, empowered by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and fed up with Trump’s increasingly authoritarian and anti-immigrant policies, war-mongering and tantrum-centric presidency for the Women’s March 2018.

This year’s march arrives just one day after Trump’s attempt to block Planned Parenthood funding, and amid a dramatic government shutdown centering on immigration. The shutdown comes as Democrats and several Republicans refused to accept the border and deportation policies proposed by the Trump administration and GOP in the federal funding bill. It marks the first successful government shutdown under a single party controlled congress, and has become a big theme of the second Women’s March.

From Twitter:

#WomensMarch2018, reminding people that we need a #DreamActNow & that #TheFutureisLatina

pic.twitter.com/UJLiGMRAek

— Natalie Montelongo (@natimontelongo) January 20, 2018

 

.@realDonaldTrump

You didn’t need to do this.

But you did.

So today…

I march for the dreamers you didn’t protect.

And the children you left vulnerable. #WhyIMarch #TrumpShutdown #PowerToThePolls #WomensMarch2018

— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) January 20, 2018

 

 

These kids are ready to march for women’s rights and against racism #WomensMarch2018 pic.twitter.com/muQQWtvInc

— Emma Gray (@emmaladyrose) January 20, 2018

Hundreds of Women’s March anniversary events are already underway or kicking off this weekend in every U.S. state. You can look up an event in your state and watch a live feed of today’s events on the Women’s March website.

The central organized 2018 Women’s March event is a “Power to the Polls,” demonstration in Las Vegas on Sunday, which is focused on mobilizing national voter registration for the upcoming midterm election, which could reshape U.S. politics.

In Chicago, the turnout for the second Women’s March march had already exceeded last year’s numbers by 11:30am, with more than 250 thousand people descending on downtown. In Los Angeles a Weekend of Women movement kicked off Saturday morning with 200,000 expected attendees.

In New York City, hundreds of thousands filled more than 20 city blocks as the 2018 Women’s March kicked off at 11:30am in Columbus Circle and Central Park West, as Patch.com reports. Exact turnout is yet to be determined. Attendees interviewed by the New York Times on Saturday reported crowds that filled city blocks, but didn’t pack them quite as full as last year’s march.

Among the largest crowds of the second Women’s March are marching in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver—and even Rome, Italy. More the 250 additional cities and towns throughout the country and world have also drawn large crowds for the second Women’s March.

 

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