you are a computerized mask

“In ancient Rome, the word persona had two meanings: a mask, and a full citizen.

A person online, however, is de facto not a full citizen….”

Computers know your habits and your friends.

You must govern automated decisions about your job, loans, your health, shopping…

Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data

Technological progress should bring greater safety, economic opportunity, and convenience to everyone. Plus the collection of new types of data is essential for documenting persistent inequality and discrimination.

At the same time, as new technologies allow companies and government to gain greater insight into our lives, it is vitally important that these technologies be designed and used in ways that respect the values of equal opportunity and equal justice:

  1. Stop High-Tech Profiling. New surveillance tools and data gathering techniques that can assemble detailed information about any person or group create a heightened risk of profiling and discrimination. Clear limitations and robust audit mechanisms are necessary to make sure that if these tools are used it is in a responsible and equitable way.
  2. Ensure Fairness in Automated Decisions. Computerized decision-making in areas such as employment, health, education, and lending must be judged by its impact on real people, must operate fairly for all communities, and in particular must protect the interests of those that are disadvantaged or that have historically been the subject of discrimination. Systems that are blind to the preexisting disparities faced by such communities can easily reach decisions that reinforce existing inequities. Independent review and other remedies may be necessary to assure that a system works fairly.
  3. Preserve Constitutional Principles. Search warrants and other independent oversight of law enforcement are particularly important for communities of color and for religious and ethnic minorities, who often face disproportionate scrutiny. Government databases must not be allowed to undermine core legal protections, including those of privacy and freedom of association.
  4. Enhance Individual Control of Personal Information. Personal information that is known to a corporation — such as the moment-to-moment record of a person’s movements or communications — can easily be used by companies and the government against vulnerable populations, including women, the formerly incarcerated, immigrants, religious minorities, the LGBT community, and young people. Individuals should have meaningful, flexible control over how a corporation gathers data from them, and how it uses and shares that data. Non-public information should not be disclosed to the government without judicial process.
  5. Protect People from Inaccurate Data. Government and corporate databases must allow everyone — including the urban and rural poor, people with disabilities, seniors, and people who lack access to the Internet — to appropriately ensure the accuracy of personal information that is used to make important decisions about them. This requires disclosure of the underlying data, and the right to correct it when inaccurate.

Silicon Valley and Wall Street abuses:

black-box-societyFrank Pasquale’s Black Box Society takes a closer look at how your life is swept up and published.

“Here’s one paradox I’m trying to resolve: even as economic change seems to accelerate, existing hierarchies of power and wealth seem ever more ossified, stable, secure.

“I trace this problem to two, mutually reinforcing trends: the financialization of data, and the data-fication of finance.”

Current law fails to regulate data.


too fast for myself

summer fenceGoing too fast for myself I missed
more than I think I can remember
almost everything it seems sometimes
and yet there are chances that come back
that I did not notice when they stood
where I could have reached out and touched them
this morning the black shepherd dog
still young looking up and saying
Are you ready this time”

– W. S. Merwin, Turning



we come, we go

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

– Alexander Pope, “Ode on Solitude”


honesty, with breadth

There are plenty of schemes that could federate or safely encrypt our data, plenty of ways we could regain privacy and make our computers work better by default. It isn’t happening now because we haven’t demanded that it should, not because no one is clever enough to make that happen.


bewilderment for sale

“I sometimes think US politicians don’t know which way is up.”

you’ve known this since you were a kid
looming change is your blood
struggling in a shit pile to fix it
and now you’re tired
call it reverence if you must
it’s real exhaustion
relief and more relief
powerful youth could fix it
wouldn’t it be nice to do it over?

what happens isn’t the whole story
you’ve been waiting more than a heart can bear
nonsense month after month after month
hooked into a parade of chains
breathing isn’t what it used to be
you’re stuck with that
stop and you cripple yourself


sad, mad, or inspired?

Ladies & Gentlemen, what are we allowing History to do to us?

Princeton study reports the majority, that’s you and me lost at sea, have a
minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

Perspectives on Politics!  We are minuscule!
statistically non-significant
Lord Almighty, I am sad to my core.


don’t stand there and cry

her flat just to the right of the lobby. Stoessinger arranged for a neighbor to accompany me. It was decided that I might make a better impression if I were introduced as a musician rather than a journalist, because Herz-Sommer can find journalists tiring. The tactic misfired somewhat. When I was introduced, she commanded, “Play something,” in her richly accented, Central European voice. I sat reluctantly at the upright and stumbled through the first theme of Schubert’s great B-Flat-Major Sonata. She stopped me and said, “Now tell me your real profession.” I confessed that I was a writer, whereupon she looked a bit sad. Nonetheless, we had a lively chat. I had the impression that she was no longer greatly interested in the past, but she was alert to the present, to comings and goings in her building, to news of recent performances. She spoke fondly of her son, the cellist Raphael Sommer, who died in 2001. But she does not spend her time grieving. In her conversations with Stoessinger, she paraphrased Spinoza: “Don’t stand there and cry. Understand.”


of thee bits thyself coin

the precious human being so bombarded, it’s just the times and that’s all, awhile ago it was stooking wheat to nag you, now it’s penetrating broadcasters all over the place, well so what, it’s not so much of a big deal to get a grip, sourpuss isn’t based on much, anybody can be a sourpuss and say anything they want, following along with Universal NaySay, it’s harmful to the precious human being, honest care is required, pull away, don’t eat the garnish…

pants-on-foxthere’s true danger and crisis out there sometimes, we can be deeply grateful we live in pretty good regions, but there’s baloney danger out there which is vast sails of caustic opinions flying by, 99% nonsense and mood that’s so unnecessary to ingest, the precious human being, poor thing, we want to select away, walk away, see and think without abrasion, endless carney, points-of-view, phooey, 1000s of products per day built on flame and intrigue…

everything our poor human brain is wired to pay attention to, we are wary creatures, and in these modern times broadcasters fill us with high alert, breaking breaking, latest latest, it’s the old Extra Extra Read All About It…

frenzy of sales merchandizing all the way to kitchen table rabbles on the NaySay Channel, it’s about views, let’s count ’em on our domain report, phooey, these bits don’t say a word in a broadband of noise, they charge fees for the pipe, the TV pipe, the Phone pipe the Internet pipe, it’s a lot of money these days, per person, out of our pockets, well holy cow, it rains down, rains through the spectrum we own but we rent every month, explosion of our spectrum is fantastic, we’re blind to it, the flickering going by to suit our mood, our point of view, well, there we are again buying ourselves to please ourselves, precious human being, gripped in all that pipe dump, hits of anybody and their business plan,

on wonder awe curiosity learning, protect ourselves with civility and proof

[too many words, too sleepy to fix]


extincting ourselves

reticent tissue, that is the issue,
as time goes by, scratching vast mirrors,
the knitwork network

network to matrix and matrix to node, to coin a modern ode
the synthesis of reliable organisms from unreliable components
the relationship resource in the curiosity of breathing

ol’ english chorus, the metal of anarchy in the monolith of despots,
the analysts of share, incessant wet of relative deprivation,
competitive hostilities pummeling fulfillment

along the way from plankton to pulsar,
the executive HQ of the milieux


you got you goin’ on

“We share our lives with the people we have failed to be.”

Adam Phillips: Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

There is always what will turn out to be the life we led, and the life that accompanied it, the parallel life that never actually happened, that we lived in our minds, the wished-for life (or lives):the risks untaken and the opportunities avoided or unprovided. We refer to them as our unlived lives because somewhere we believe that they were open to us; but for some reason–and we might spend a great deal of our lived lives trying to find the reason–they were not possible. And what was not possible all too easily becomes the story of our lives. Indeed, our lived lives might become a mourning, a tantrum, the lives we were unable to live. But what we missed and suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are. As we know more now than ever before about the kinds of lives it is possible to live–and affluence has allowed more people than ever before to think of their lives in terms of choices and options–we are haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do. Often in “The ways we miss our lives,” we are grieving or regretting or resenting our failure to be ourselves as we imagine we could be.

…the roads untraveled, what we missed, our human identity as a constant looking back upon the lives we have chosen not to live–or the lives that we have failed to live–or the lives that, much to our frustration, have always eluded us.

We are as much a measure of the selves we aren’t as the self we happen to be facing in the mirror today. What about the one we used to love, or the one we picture ourselves loving someday? What about the job we longed for and never got? Or the job we got, but it could be in ten years?


As photographer Jimmy Nelson reports, “The purity of humanity exists. It is there in the mountains, the ice fields, the jungle, along the rivers and in the valleys… the world must never forget the way things were.”

These are the lives we are.



follow the bullies

“Robert Altemeyer, a psychology professor, outlined a series of dysfunctions linked to his extensive study of Right Wing Authoritarians, including being

more punitive,
more likely to make incorrect inferences,
more hostile towards feminists,
more fearful of a dangerous world;
being hypocrites,
more likely to inflame intergroup conflict,
avoid learning about their personal feelings;
being self-righteous,
less supportive of liberty and
being mean-spirited.

It sounds like people with RWA are a curse on our society.

“Scholars argue that these are the individuals who support oppressive dictatorships. In fact, dictators need such individuals to help them remove the rights of people seen as deviant. Individuals high in RWA are conceptualized as aggressive individuals submitting to tyrannical leaders as long as those leaders support conventional norms and punish society’s deviants.

Research on those with RWA generally asserts that religious and political conservatives have this vice. In fact, Altermeyer claimed that he searched for ‘left-wing authoritarians’ but was unable to find a single one.