Plato’s Digital Cave

original post 10 June 2016
It’s/It’ll really be like we’re living in a Matrix.
Someday, soon maybe, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning will be advanced enough to pump out millions of tweets (some accurate, others inaccurate – #HandsUpDontShoot) designed to go viral, advance a broader narrative, and lodge inside our minds.
Racist *Siri is just #Inception ver #T1000

1. “Microsoft’s newly launched A.I.-powered bot called Tay, which was responding to tweets and chats on GroupMe and Kik, has already been shut down due to concerns with its inability to recognize when it was making offensive or racist statements. Of course, the bot wasn’t coded to be racist, but it “learns” from those it interacts with. And naturally, given that this is the Internet, one of the first things online users taught Tay was how to be racist, and how to spout back ill-informed or inflammatory political opinions.”
Sarah Perez, Microsoft silences its new A.I. bot Tay, after Twitter users teach it racism, TECH CRUNCH, 24 March 2016,…
2. The United States Department of Justice report regarding the investigation into Brown’s shooting stated, “The media has widely reported that there is witness testimony that Brown said ‘don’t shoot’ as he held his hands above his head. In fact, our investigation did not reveal any eyewitness who stated that Brown said ‘don’t shoot.'”
The report also states that “Brown’s blood in the roadway demonstrates that Brown came forward at least 21.6 feet from the time he turned around toward Wilson” and “There is no witness who has stated that Brown had his hands up in surrender whose statement is otherwise consistent with the physical evidence. Again, all of these statements are contradicted by the physical and forensic evidence, which also undermines the credibility of their accounts of other aspects of the incident, including their assertion that Brown had his hands up in a surrender position when Wilson shot him.”
Wikipedia,,_don%27t_shoot citing, Department of Justice Report Regarding the Criminal Investigation into the Shooting Death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson, 4 March 2016, 
3. “Politics is usually basic #math,” he said, “and this is a little bit of calculus, #thinking a couple steps #ahead“:
WASHINGTON — A Twitter post recently caught the eye of Bill McKibben, the environmental advocate and godfather of the Keystone XL pipeline protests…. He promptly shared the post with his 150,000 Twitter followers, and the reaction was immediate.
Lost in the response was the source of the offending tweet. It was not another environmental organization or even a liberal challenger to Mrs. Clinton. Instead, it was a conservative group called America Rising PAC, which is trying, with laserlike focus, to weaken the woman who almost everyone believes will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 2016.
For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals.
The new-style digital campaign captures some basic facts about 21st-century communication: Information travels at warp speed on social media, it is sometimes difficult to know where that information comes from, and most people like to read things with which they agree. The result, said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who specializes in political advertising, is something more sophisticated.
“Politics is usually basic #math,” he said, “and this is a little bit of calculus, thinking a couple steps ahead.”
“The idea is to make [Hillary Clinton’s] life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left,” said Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director. “We don’t want her to enter the general election not having been pushed from the left, so if we have opportunities — creative ways, especially online — to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.”
Ashely Parker and Nick Corasaniti, The Right Baits the Left to Turn Against Hillary Clinton, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 16 May 2015, 
4. “System 1 continuously generates suggestions for System 2: impressions, intuitions, intentions, and feelings. If endorsed by System 2, impressions and intuitions turn into beliefs, and impulses turn into voluntary actions. When all goes smoothly, which is most of the time, System 2 adopts the suggestions of System 1 with little or no modification. You generally believe your impressions and act on your desires, and that is fine—usually.”
Daniel Kahneman, Of 2 Minds: How Fast and Slow Thinking Shape Perception and Choice [Excerpt], SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 15 June 2012,…
5. “In fact, #Foundation appears to contradict #Asimov‘s own definition of science fiction, as a “branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”
In this case, though, Asimov would later explain that he set out to create a genre he called “social science fiction.” He used the future as a template to explore a pivotal idea that we’ve been asking for centuries: Are there laws of human history as immutable as the laws of physics?
#Psychohistory is a blend of crowd psychology and high-level #math. An able psychohistorian can predict the long-term aggregate behavior of billions of people many, many years in the future. (However, it only works with large groups: Psychohistory is almost useless for predicting the behavior of an individual. Also, it’s no good if the group being analyzed is aware it’s being analyzed — because if it’s aware, the group changes its behavior.)
Mark Straus, What Absolutely Everyone Needs to Know about Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, GIZMODO, 19 November 2014,…

“Worse and worse decisions over time.”
Jeffrey Goldberg, The Obama Doctrine: The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world, THE ATLANTIC, April 2016.…/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/
7. Plato, Allegory of the Cave – we see but shadows of the truth.

We see but shadows of the truth.
8. 2016 ELECTIONS Addendum – Didn’t expect I could tack this on:
We are seriously entering Matrix territory – what’s real, what’s not? 
“Russia’s troll factories were, at one point, likely being paid by the Kremlin to spread pro-Trump propaganda on social media.”That is what freelance journalist Adrian Chen, now a staff writer at The New Yorker, discovered as he was researching Russia’s ‘army of well-paid trolls’ …. ‘A very interesting thing happened,’ Chen told Longform’s Max Linsky in a podcast in December.”‘I created this list of Russian trolls when I was researching. And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff,’ he said.”
Natasha Bertrand, “Russia hired internet trolls to pose as pro-Trump Americans,” BUSINESS INSIDER, 27 July 2016,…
“If, as Ilyin wrote, the #arithmetical understanding of politics” is harmful, then digital meddling in foreign elections would be just the thing.”
Timothy Snyder, “How a Russian Fascist is Meddling in America’s Election,” THE NEW YORK TIMES, 20 September 2016,



The weaponization of information:

Assistant Secretary of State Benjamin Ziff told a Senate subcommittee in Washington… [that] modern Russian propaganda is no longer concerned with censorship. Rather, it is widespread and prolific, filling up the media space to such an extent that people sometimes can’t tell what is right and what is not.

Ziff said the Russians have “a sophisticated $1.4 billion-a-year propaganda apparatus.” They claim to reach 600 million people across 130 countries.

Molly McKitterick, “Russian Propaganda: The Weaponization of Information”, VOA EUROPE, 3 November 2015,


False information floods Twitter; many Americans “confidently wrong”:

“Many Americans — liberal and conservative alike — hold wildly incorrect ideas about public policy issues, including welfare, Social Security, and China’s share of U.S. debt, according to a study by Emily Thorson of George Washington University…. these false beliefs were widespread among Republicans and Democrats alike…. This pattern suggests that these misperceptions are not the result of exposure to politicians’ false statements. Instead, they likely occur when respondents attempt to “fill in the blanks” about complex policy issues.

AMERICAN POLICY INSTITUTE, New fact-checking research: False information floods Twitter; many Americans “confidently wrong”, 29 April 2015…/new-fact…/

 But cf.



16 Nov 2016

“A study by Oxford University’s Project on Computational Propaganda found that pro-Trump bots out-tweeted pro-Clinton bots at a 7-to-1 rate during the final presidential debate on Oct. 19. However, bot activity wasn’t enough to move the data in this analysis—Clinton scored +5 on Oct. 19, while Trump scored -7—potentially because those automated tweets are less likely to contain the kind of natural human language that sentiment algorithms like Brandwatch’s are looking for.


“Above all, it left him with a huge anxiety about the frailty of political elites, and how easily they can be overthrown by the people.”
Chris Bowlby, “Vladimir Putin’s formative German years,” BBC NEWS, 27 March 2015
George Kennan’s article, dubbed the Long Telegram, and originally published under the name “#X” in 1947, argued that (wiki)  “the Soviet Union would be sensitive to force, that the Soviets were weak, compared to the united Western world, that the Soviets were vulnerable to internal instability, and that Soviet propaganda was primarily negative and destructive. Kennan advocated sound appraisal, public education, solutions of the internal problems of U.S. society, proposing for other nations a positive picture of the world the U.S. would like to see, and faith in the superiority of the Western way of life over the collective ideals of Soviet Communists.”
(Kennan’s ideas were manifest in the US Cold War policy of containment, rather than military confrontation with the Soviet Union – and ultimately seen as prescient with the collapse of the Soviet Union from internal forces)
The unraveling of liberal democracies on their own, without imposition by external forces, though arguably influenced by Russian disinformation, is the #LongTelegram turned on its head-and would be one of the greatest geopolitical ironies of the last half-century.

Originally posted June 10, 2016. Updated November 5, 2016.


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