"Do you still feel like Silicon Valley has retained that idealism that struck you when you arrived here?"
"There’s still that optimism. But the optimism is tempered by a sense of deliberation. Things have changed quite a bit. You know, we deliberate about things a lot more, and we are more thoughtful about what we do. But there’s a deeper thing here, which is: Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too."
Google was enabling the DoD to be more efficient at killing people and China to be more oppressive until its workers protested. So he's right about humanity having to solve its problems but he's forgetting that Google, the corporation, is opting to make it harder for humanity to solve its problems by enabling those who do not have humanity's best interest in their heart.
The world is complicated, and things are never as simple as that.
Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?
It is always too easy to ignore the world as it is and focus on a utopian case. War will happen, with whatever tools are available.
Whether nuclear weapons and targeted drone strikes made the world in some broad strokes more peaceful on purpose, well, probably not. Nonetheless, we haven't had carpet bombings anywhere near the scale of WWII in decades.
Deaths in armed conflict form a fat-tailed distribution. Extreme events dominate, and the absence of any world wars for several decades is not evidence that humanity has gotten more peaceful if world wars happen roughly every couple hundred years. See Taleb, who is much more clear. http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/violencenobelsymposium.pdf
I think we’re definitely seeing the landscape of war changing. I really hope traditional bloody war is obsolete.
So, yeah, the importance of minds as resource might be part of the reason for the absence of major armed conflict, but for almost the exact opposite of the reason Hariri suggests.
And because the propaganda tends to kill less than bombs, the conflicts do not end up as wars.
I haven't read Sapiens, and I hope Harari is correct, but I'm not tracking the second argument. Certain governments believe they can conquer minds, as evidenced by detention/propaganda camps and universal surveillance/scoring. If a government with this perspective successfully invaded another country, wouldn't they institute a similar program there and expect similar results?
No country of consequence can be invaded like this today - nuclear weapons upped the stakes considerably.
No nuclear power can be, nor can any country closely allied with a nuclear power, but not every country of consequence is in one of those categories.
Unless you define “of consequence” specifically to mean in those two categories, and so exclude, e.g., Ukraine.
On the other hand, I'd personally rather take a 1% chance of obscene nuclear war and otherwise peace, than a (let's say) 40% chance of ongoing infantry warfare.
That's not the alternative, though. Drones are used in hundreds of situations where without them, the US simply wouldn't have taken action.
I see people pointing at cases where civilians were killed and saying "See! Its bad!". But that isn't an argument that it was a bad judgment. Collateral damage is, unfortunately, inevitable with the technology that we have. The question we have to ask is: is the amount of collateral damage we're causing worthwhile and/or could we substantially reduce collateral damage without harming our objectives. And i've basically never seen anyone even attempt to make that case.
But this raises a valid concern. Is drone striking weddings really winning the hearts and minds of people, or is it just setting up the next generation of (IMO, justified) hate toward the US?  
Adults are expected to understand the potential consequences of their actions. If you knowingly fire missiles into a populated area, you don't get to say "oops, I didn't mean to" when you accidentally kill a few dozen innocent civilians.
It absolutely matters. Intending to kill civilians and killing them accidentally are very, very different things.
> Adults are expected to understand the potential consequences of their actions. If you knowingly fire missiles into a populated area, you don't get to say "oops, I didn't mean to" when you accidentally kill a few dozen innocent civilians.
Are you alleging that they didn't understand the risks involved? Or are you alleging that they did understand the risks involved, and made a conscious decision that those risks were worth it? If the latter, do you have reason to believe that their calculation was wrong?
I take issue with your stance that the burden of evidence lies with the 'let's not shoot missiles crowd', though. While we don't have specific evidence on the specific efficacy of individual drone strikes, I'd argue that the intelligence community's track record (or what's been declassified or widely known) does not inspire the greatest confidence in their ability to make nuanced, apolitical judgment.
Well, we've elected people (who've then appointed people) to make those judgments on our behalf. Someone has to make them. If you have evidence that they're being made poorly, then that's something worth hearing. But what is that evidence? If you don't have such evidence...then are you arguing that nobody should be making decisions like that at all, ever?
If you bomb an outdoor wedding party with dozens of visible women and children, and then return to fire again when ambulances are on the scene, that's not an "unfortunate accident". That's deadly negligence at the very best. You're trying to twist the second example into the framework of the first.
Is it? Do you have a sense of what went into that particular decision? Was the wedding party the target, or were they hit accidentally? Did they know it was a wedding party? Did they actually do a double tap strike in this instance?
If he didn't bother looking closely enough to identify his target, that's negligence or incompetence. (Middle Eastern women are noted for dressing distinctively.) If he didn't care, that's intentional murder, or whatever euphemism we're supposed to use in those circumstances. If he was told it was all right to fire without being able to see the target clearly, that's bad policy. If he was told it's all right to knowingly kill women and children, that's also bad policy. If the drone was authorized to fire without any human in the loop somewhere, that's really bad policy, and also bad tactics--there's no point in wasting a missile on an empty field that you expected a terrorist to be standing in.
There is no circumstance where someone wasn't lethally and unnecessarily careless with innocent lives. Whether it was due to malice or incompetence is not really relevant.
> Did they actually do a double tap strike in this instance?
Yes. You've already been linked to relevant articles in this thread. Do your own homework.
You are not going to Socratic-method anyone into admitting that, yes, it actually is okay to blow up a wedding if we think there might be a terrorist in there somewhere.
No they didn't. Cite a source for that. Don't just editorialize nonsense.
> If he didn't bother looking closely enough to identify his target, that's negligence or incompetence. (Middle Eastern women are noted for dressing distinctively.) If he didn't care, that's intentional murder, or whatever euphemism we're supposed to use in those circumstances. If he was told it was all right to fire without being able to see the target clearly, that's bad policy. If he was told it's all right to knowingly kill women and children, that's also bad policy. If the drone was authorized to fire without any human in the loop somewhere, that's really bad policy, and also bad tactics--there's no point in wasting a missile on an empty field that you expected a terrorist to be standing in.
> There is no circumstance where someone wasn't lethally and unnecessarily careless with innocent lives. Whether it was due to malice or incompetence is not really relevant.
People like to make silly statements like this, maybe for rhetorical effect. Whether or not something is attributable to malice or incompetence is always relevant. Mistakes happen in war. This may well be an instance of that. But it is not evidence that the policy is net bad. There are hundreds of these strikes. Some of them will kill civilians, but sometimes it's worth killing a few civilians to kill some unusually bad actors. We have people who's job it is to make that tradeoff. Do you have evidence that they're doing so poorly?
> Yes. You've already been linked to relevant articles in this thread. Do your own homework.
Firstly, the wedding that got bombed twice was not by drones, it was by jets. So, if the point of this thread is to discuss drones, it is irrelevant. There have been many wedding strikes, which one are you referring to?
> You are not going to Socratic-method anyone into admitting that, yes, it actually is okay to blow up a wedding if we think there might be a terrorist in there somewhere.
What, exactly, is the terrorist density of a wedding that makes it bombable? 50%? 80%? 99%? Do you know what the terrorist density of these particular weddings were?
I'm...not sure how you think attack drones work? There is always a human in the loop, at least for now. Humans pick the targets and authorize weapon release.
> Whether or not something is attributable to malice or incompetence is always relevant.
It's relevant to the discussion of how and why these things happen. It's not relevant to the question of whether or not a wrong has been committed. If you drive drunk and kill four people, you certainly didn't mean to, but you still go to prison.
> We have people who's job it is to make that tradeoff. Do you have evidence that they're doing so poorly?
Do you have evidence that they're not? They've certainly had limited success in stopping international terrorism.
We discussed earlier how extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you believe that a goal was achieved here that outweighed 50 or so innocent lives, it's on you to demonstrate that, not on me to falsify it. Do your own homework.
Many of these wedding bombings didn't involve drones, they involved jets. The drones are also using fairly low res cameras, so if we are talking about one of the instances where a drone bombed a wedding, it may or may not have been clear to the operator that that's what it was. It may also have been a targeting issue. That is all to say that we do not know that a person consciously, knowingly chose to bomb a wedding full of civilians.
> It's relevant to the discussion of how and why these things happen. It's not relevant to the question of whether or not a wrong has been committed. If you drive drunk and kill four people, you certainly didn't mean to, but you still go to prison.
It's relevant to the level of the wrong, just as it is in the car case. If you kill four people in a car on purpose that is a much more serious crime than doing so by accident. Further, if the CIA intended to do this, then we are having a very different moral discussion than if they did this accidentally.
> Do you have evidence that they're not? They've certainly had limited success in stopping international terrorism.
Are they? By what metric? There have been very few Islamic terrorist attacks on US soil. Sure, they haven't wiped out radical Islam in the entire region...but we don't really have a basis for comparison here. We cannot conclude much of anything about its efficacy.
What we do know is that there are networks of people who have organized themselves for the purpose of enacting terrorist attacks on western soil. What do you propose that we do about it, if not this?
> We discussed earlier how extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you believe that a goal was achieved here that outweighed 50 or so innocent lives, it's on you to demonstrate that, not on me to falsify it. Do your own homework.
Ok. Drone strikes have killed hundreds of high ranking members of Islamic terror networks. And it is highly likely that to the extent that civilians were harmed, most of them were probably, at the very least, sympathetic to these people to begin with.
How about if your camera is so low res or your drones are too shitty to avoid killing innocent people, you stop fucking using drones?
I have 0 doubt you would find it ridiculous to use the same drones on US soil because of the risk but hey as long as its not your family/friends, its just a "risk" right?
I would not find it ridiculous at all. So, I guess your argument kind of falls apart then.
First of all, you cropped the start at 2001. Presumably after September 11th, 2001, because a whole lot more than 26 people died there. Second, Islamic terrorism is not just about attacks that happen inside the US. The difference between Islamic terrorism and most other forms of domestic terrorism, is that Islamic terrorism represents a global, organized threat to liberal democracies, in general. Islamic terror attacks have happened through western and eastern Europe, China, Canada, they are positively endemic in Africa, and they continue to plague many other places.
No doubt about it, there are real and serious domestic terror threats inside the United States, and it is important that our law enforcement agencies work to stop them. But in the regions of the world where we're employing drone strikes, substantial fractions of the population are involved in these organizations. In some cases, such as Afghanistan, the recognized government of the country (the Taliban) consisted of these people. There are no similarly large sections of the US population to target for drone strikes. That doesn't mean there aren't domestic terrorists here, there are, and many of them are not Islamic. The reason drones don't work here though is that they don't have the critical mass to organize - they're lone wolves. Drones simply aren't an effective tool in that context.
Don't pretend the US is doing this bullshit out of altruism for the world. You got hit once, 17 goddamn years ago, and you haven't stopped hitting back since then. Its just killing a 1000, 10000 people for every one of yours killed, responding so monstrously out of proportion that anyone who attacks the US will think twice.
There aren't "large sections" of Afghanistan population to target via drones either - believe it or not, most of the people there just want to live their lives like the rest of us. You think "substantial fractions of the population" are involved in terrorism in ANY country? Do you think more than 0.01% of the population is involved in terrorism? Its just a ridiculous claim.
But again, the US doesn't care about innocent bystanders killed or collateral damage or how little their efforts have reduced terrorism (they haven't). They only want to send a message - "you kill 10 of ours, we kill 10000 of yours". While pretending thats all A-OK morally and totally not terrorism. So 90% of the population of 2-3 entire countries suffer because of the 0.1% or 1% of bad apples who are terrorists. For 17 years. Entire generations of people who've known nothing but war for shit they had nothing to do with.
Even the phrasing grates at me. Killing a bunch of innocent people in another country is just a "risk" to some moron with a drone. If all of a sudden that moron was piloting a drone IN THE US and blew up a church/school on accident, I guarantee you wouldn't be so comfortable abstracting away lives as "risk".
By the way, if we count all the innocent people killed by the US as "mistakes", it is certain that number would be >10x the people who died to Islamic terrorists on 9/11... so isn't the US military as much of a terrorist?
Its a sick strain of sociopathic paternalism by which you can abstract away peoples lives as long as they aren't your own countrymen.
I wouldn't be happy about it. But these things are inevitable consequences of war. People get shot accidentally by the police, here, in the United States. We try our best to minimize it, but it happens. It is an inevitable consequence of law enforcement. If one of my family members were accidentally killed by a cop, I would be upset. I'd want to understand the specifics of the incident, and see if perhaps the cop was being negligent in some way. But, if they were not being negligent and the situation had warranted it, and it was just an unfortunate accident, then I would not be angry with the officer, or the department.
For some proper context, I really suggest reading this CS Monitor piece from back in 2001 .
Keen observers will quickly realize that pretty much everything written there has become reality over these past 17 years. It should also be noted that there's a certain irony to it when the "Christian Science Monitor" is peeved about your religious rhetoric being a bit too much on the extreme end.
This is something that seemingly passed by many US Americans like it never happened. But you can't declare yourself a "Christian nation" going on "crusades", hinging large parts of your popularity drive on this imagined "clash of the cultures", and then act all surprised and outraged when the opposite side also reacts with more radicalization.
Just looking at the trends for global terrorism for these past 2 decades , there's a very clear picture to be found there. Before 2002 countries like India, Colombia and Algeria topped the "terrorism charts".
But by 2003, as a response to the "War on Terror" started by the US, you already see Iraq and Afghanistan making their way up the list, steadily increasing in the number of attacks and fatalities until in 2005 they take the top.
Since then there's been little change, only Pakistan making their way up there some years, one might wonder why? 
But all three of these countries represent massive outliers and make up the vast majority of "Islamic terrorism", what do they all have in common?
9/11 was bad, no debate there. But the US's reaction to 9/11 was worse, it perfectly played into Osamas original intentions of starting a "culture clash", stigmatizing even moderate Islam in the Western world, making frustrated and discriminated moderates more likely to join his cause.
In that context, the US pretty much kicked a hornet's nest down the street and still keeps kicking it to this day. Yet many US Americans keep wondering where the angry hornets are coming from and "why they hate us so much".
Hm? Which crusades are those?
> Just looking at the trends for global terrorism for these past 2 decades , there's a very clear picture to be found there. Before 2002 countries like India, Colombia and Algeria topped the "terrorism charts".
You mean countries that had civil wars going on in them? That seems practically tautological.
> But by 2003, as a response to the "War on Terror" started by the US, you already see Iraq and Afghanistan making their way up the list, steadily increasing in the number of attacks and fatalities until in 2005 they take the top.
You mean that terrorist attacks increased in places when they had foreign military bases in their country to target? What is that evidence of, exactly?
> But all three of these countries represent massive outliers and make up the vast majority of "Islamic terrorism", what do they all have in common?
Fundamentalist Islam and low economic development.
So there may be irony in the name, but not in their practices.
I've never researched their actual background, but over the years I've noticed their content to be usually of very good quality.
I suppose it's a good example of why one should never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, the content of a website by its domain name ;)
If you look at the history of terrorism in Europe for instance, before the 70s it was mostly independentist mvts / de-colonisation related. 70s to early 80s was mostly far left terror attacks. Mid 80s state sponsored terrorism (Libya, Iran). 90s to now, islamist terrorism.
Islamists were blowing bombs in the metro in Paris in the 90s, and tried a 9/11 style plane attack on Paris in 1994 .
Islamism is a worldwide phenomenon, like communism in its time. If you go through every single muslim country from Marocco to Indonesia, the largest or second largest political party is an islamist party, or the islamists are in power, or they have been outlawed after taking too much power, or they are one of the major party to a civil war. Terrorism is a side effect of this rise in islamism, like the red brigades, RAF, etc were to communism.
So no, it’s not just a reaction to the war in Iraq.
And what allowed Islamism to rise and prosper like that over these past decades?
The power vacuum created by the removal of Saddam in an illegal invasion? The resulting unleashed sectarian violence?
You can't just switch around cause and effect like that and call it a day. To quote from the 2001 article:
> Moderate Muslim opinion could also easily be swayed against America, predicted Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of the Muslim Parliament in Britain, an umbrella group for Muslim organizations. "If they end up killing innocent civilians it will be very unfair," Dr. Siddiqui said. "The problems will arise if people see that justice has not been done."
Now, nearly 2 decades later, we have relentless and ML driven drone warfare , torture scandals , a US president who is not only condoning it but actively advocating for it. The blatant injustice is done out in the open to see for everybody , justified in haphazard "They do not have rights" ways to a point where a US president just declares a "Muslim ban", followed up with pointless legal shenanigans how "it totally isn't a Muslim ban, but a Muslim country ban!", like that's in any way better.
How can you look at all that and deny it contributed to the rise of Islamist sentiments? Don't you think it's kind of telling that you have to summon the good ol "they caught the communism" bug to still justify these US actions?
Is it really that difficult to take a step back and admit: "We've fucked up, we've been going about this the wrong way from the very beginning"? Is doubling down on this oppressive and destructive path really the only way forward from here?
It seems to me that your question is coming at this from the wrong angle.
a) be aware of all the information relevant to each operation
b) make a judgment as to whether each individual operation is worthwhile
Now, i'm not saying that makes them infallible. It certainly doesn't. There's a long history of people in such positions making poor choices. But if you're implying that they are, i'd like to see some evidence. Because what I see is a lot of "civilians died, therefore it was bad", but very little consideration of the objective of the mission, and whether or not the possibility of collateral damage was justified. What we do know is that smart people in positions of power believed that it was, and i'm happy to second-guess those beliefs if given good reason, but thus far i've never seen anyone give good reason in the case of these drone strikes.
Because the very action they are using to eliminate enemy combatants may in fact be creating more of them?
That's an interesting statement. Do you have evidence for it?
“over the past 15 years. Increased US efforts are correlated with a worsening of the overall terror situation. Statistical modeling indicates for every additional billion dollars spent and 1,000 American troops sent to fight the war on terror, the number of terror attacks worldwide increased by 19 (data available from the author). Furthermore, the model finds up to 80 percent of the variation in the number of worldwide terror attacks since 9/11 can be explained by just those two variables—US money spent and military members sent to fight the war on terror. The data for both money spent and troops deployed come from the Congressional Research Service publication, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11 by Amy Belasco. The number of terror attacks is from the Global Terrorism Database, hosted by the University of Maryland.”
“The data show countries the US invaded had 143 more terror attacks per year than countries the US did not invade. Similarly, countries in which the US conducted drone strikes were home to 395 more terror attacks per year than those where the US did not.”
The fundamental problem is that where the US targets its drone strikes is (or at least, should be) correlated to where terrorism is in the process of springing up. So, if our government was actually doing a really great job analyzing these things, you would see the same data pattern - drone strikes lead terrorist attacks.
It does not trouble me at all from a moral position that these individual were targeted and killed, however. If they were not US citizens, i'd consider this an excellent example of a great use of drones. Do you disagree and if so why?
Regardless, not taking action at that time would likely have been better. They were US citizens, their rights were abrogated and they were killed illegally.
He was a 16 year old Al Qaeda member who was the son of a leader of the group.
> The second, because the president using his sole authority to order the assassination of someone shouldn't happen.
> Regardless, not taking action at that time would likely have been better. They were US citizens, their rights were abrogated and they were killed illegally.
Agree that because they were US citizens they should have been given due process, or at the very least, the legal rationale for their killing should have been subject to public scrutiny. But I don't think this really makes the case against drone strikes as a tool.
You could make the argument that targeted strikes authorized by a single person are acceptable in a state of war (which we are not in), but even with that an assassination should have checks on it, always.
Edit: Actually I'll go further than that. You lose all moral authority to wage war the moment you start deliberately targeting civilian medics, and that's standard policy with US drone strikes. See "double-tap."
You think their policy is designed to kill civilian medics? Or do you think the policy was designed to kill other terrorists who come by to try to save their brothers?
Was it being done in built-up areas? I see the word 'rescuer' being used in these articles. But I notably do not see the word 'civilian'. A terrorist who tries to save the lives of his terrorist buddies is still a 'rescuer', and that's exactly who these drone strikes ought to be targeting.
Do you believe that the CIA is purposefully targeting random villagers for drone strikes?
If no...then you must believe that the CIA is intelligent enough to have asked the very same question that you have, and concluded that the likely respondents would in fact be enemy combatants.
Of course not. I believe that the CIA doesn't care who dies as long as they get their guy, and if they make everyone afraid to help drone strike victims, then it's much more likely that any terrorists who survive the initial attack will bleed out on the ground. (Innocents too, but they don't care about them.)
This is hardly an unusual claim. You can't be unaware that the CIA is infamous for decades of murder and abuse.
So, your supposition is that the CIA is purposely killing civilians to deter them from giving aid to possible terrorists?
> This is hardly an unusual claim. You can't be unaware that the CIA is infamous for decades of murder and abuse.
The CIA has certainly assassinated people over the years. They've certainly fomented revolutions and meddled in geopolitics in myriad ways. I'm unaware of any explicit campaign to target civilians, though. Are you?
That's what I just said, yes.
> I'm unaware of any explicit campaign to target civilians, though. Are you?
There's been enough evidence presented so far that I believe it's now on you to demonstrate that it's false, if you can.
Maybe this has worked for you before, demanding indisputable evidence for every fiddly detail, hoping that your opponent takes the bait and gets bogged down in minutiae?
Zero evidence has been presented that the CIA targeted civilians intentionally. All you'd have to do to prove me wrong is link it, if it's already here.
> Maybe this has worked for you before, demanding indisputable evidence for every fiddly detail, hoping that your opponent takes the bait and gets bogged down in minutiae?
Maybe this has worked for you before? Where you insist evidence has been supplied elsewhere without ever providing any of your own?
Also, unfortunately other technologically advanced powers exist. Regardless of the desire for pacifist isolationism, Russia and China will continue to work on military technology, and it only takes a few decades of complacency to fall far behind.
Consider arming police officers with tasers. We were promised it would be an alternative to guns and help protect civilians but instead police officers use tasers a ton and still shoot people a ton as well.
There’s always the excuse new smarter technologies will save lives but it ends up the “safer” they are the lower the threshold to use.
1. Da_chicken’s reply below has a good source!
You cannot escape the law of unintended consequences.
A taser can't replace a gun, it doesn't function like a gun, it's not as reliable as a gun, it doesn't have the range, etc.
But it can be useful in lieu of physical force or if someone is resisting, which is what became its use case.
-- Joseph Weizenbaum in "Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" written in 1976, more timely than ever
Weren't drones used to carefully select targets inside cities and other areas with civilians. I'm not sure carpet bombing is an alternative for those cases:
"Carpet bombing of cities, towns, villages, or other areas containing a concentration of civilians is considered a war crime as of the 1977 Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions." - source Wikipedia entry for Carpet Bombing
Because there are more courses of action other than "drone strike" and "carpet bombing".
Indeed, but those courses aren't always available, and war will happen in the way war happens.
If not, your argument isn't about drones, it is about pacifism. That's like saying "I'll magically lift everyone out of the way" in the trolley problem. Sure, it is a nice thought, but it is not an answer to the question.
I'll ask again: if the only two options were carpet bombing and smart bombs, which one would you choose?
Don't run away from the question.
In some imaginary world where you are somehow being compelled to chose between a button that says "Drone Strike" and one that says "Carpet Bombing", obviously "Drone Strike" is the correct option. But, equally obviously, that is a terrible model for reality. In reality, the decision maker always has the option to not kill anybody at that time. Yes, always. There might be other consequences for that choice, but admitting that it exists isn't pacifism, it's just common sense.
Carpet bombing and a drone strike are not in the same "solution space", its like trying to tighten your shoelaces with your hands or with a 10 ton excevator.
Oh, but they are (particularly because I'm not just including drone strikes, but smart bombs).
Wanna destroy a factory, a power-plant, a bunker, a government office?
In WW2, you'd just carpet-bomb the surrounding area and hope some bombs hit the target.
Today, you deliver a payload to a specific part of it.
Compare the bombing of Belgrade in the Balkan wars to any WW2 bombing run.
There are two discussions in place:
- How we make weapons more precise and limit collateral damage - How we reduce the need for weapons in the first place
Both lead to a better situation than the status quo.
That’s a false dichotomy. You could do neither.
That's the only alternative?
Typical apologetics. It actually is quite simple, it all comes down to money like most everything else. The American government let 9/11 happen (there is ample evidence of that, in case you don't know) so that American companies could profiteer off of the ensuing conflict and so that the American government could further its strategic interests in the middle east. It's mostly only moronic Americans who believe that there is any nuance in all of this.
No one was ever going to carpet bomb a wedding.
Not a wedding, indeed, an entire town, with possibly dozens of weddings happening at the same time. Plus hospitals, schools, etc.
If you had to pick between carpet bombing and smart bombs, which one would you pick? (And consider you don't have a choice, like the trolley problem, you NEED to pick one).
How do we not have a choice to NOT bomb a desert on the other side of the world?
Can you at least accept that the burden of proof is on the guy who wants to go bomb random people not on the pacifists.
Can I choose to drop the bomb on Americans instead?
>killing 42,600 civilians and wounding 37,000 in Hamburg and virtually destroying most of the city.
>The unusually warm weather and good conditions meant that the bombing was highly concentrated around the intended targets and also created a vortex and whirling updraft of super-heated air which created a 460 meter high tornado of fire.
17 January 1991 – 23 February 1991
>2,000–3,000 Iraqi civilians killed
>100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs,
>Coalition bombing raids destroyed Iraqi civilian infrastructure. 11 of Iraq's 20 major power stations and 119 substations were totally destroyed, while a further six major power stations were damaged. At the end of the war, electricity production was at four percent of its pre-war levels. Bombs destroyed the utility of all major dams, most major pumping stations, and many sewage treatment plants, telecommunications equipment, port facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges were also destroyed.
NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999
>The bombing killed between 489 and 528 civilians, and destroyed bridges, industrial plants, public buildings, private businesses, as well as barracks and military installations.
>In 2000, a year after the bombing ended, Group 17 published a survey dealing with damage and economic restoration. The report concluded that direct damage from the bombing totalled $3.8 billion, not including Kosovo, of which only 5% had been repaired at that time
>In 2006, a group of economists from the G17 Plus party estimated the total economic losses resulting from the bombing were about $29.6 billion.
We're in a world where the destructive properties of a modern army are so extreme that combat has evolved/devolved to medieval like small scale/intensity battle. Instead of targeting economic output, social networks of individuals are targeted.
People always seek effective ways to kill their enemies in conflict.
> enabling those who do not have humanity's best interest in their heart.
This statement is all subject to your interpretation of "humanity's best interests". Not saying I disagree with your interpretation... Just saying: there are many interpretations, especially in other cultural bubbles.
Face the truth. If you want no killing, Your enemy isn’t Google, it’s your neighbour.
That person lost.
> it's not Google's fault either.
Starting from a false truth, you can come to any conclusion. Google is responsible for choosing to enable immoral acts and pretending there are no fault actors is one of your faults.
- If you continue this line of thinking, your only option probably is to extinguish all human being.
Enough said, enjoy your day.
You can withhold taxes by dropping your income below the minimum threshold.
You could ofcourse proclaim not wanting to take part in said nation anymore and not pay the taxes, but then you would also loose out of well, the rest of society basically.
Assuming isolated China vs. US war, there's still the whole Europe to manufacture trinkets for.
Maybe it's my memories of being taught about World War 1 and 2 speaking, but it seems more likely Europe would side with the US than China, and kinda unlikely they'd let both parties import goods as they please.
The chances of it remaining an 'isolated' war where no one else gets involved would be low enough than action would probably cost China most of the European market along with the likes of Canada/Australia/etc.
Of course, it's all pretty insane to speculate about, since:
A: Most countries now seem like they're trying to avoid actual wars as much as possible, and most remaining issues seem to be sparked off more by extremist nutcases/cults than a country's army trying to invade or fight off another.
B: The US, most of Europe, China, etc have nuclear weapons, so any actual war between any of them would probably end like everyone's worst fears about the Cold War made reality. Don't think there'd be much trade or economics left after that.
The US never has to surrender - they simply say we will use our nuclear weapons. These wars have no victor hence these wars have been replaced by proxy wars in various locations.
That's why Russia now focuses solely on disrupting elections and cyber warfare-only from within can these nations be affected and weakened.
> Quick question: in this hypothetical where China presents an existential threat to the US, what happens to the Chinese economy when they invade the largest consumer of their domestically produced goods and services?
WWII was not bad for the US economy. The car plants were converted to build tanks and airplanes, then they were converted back when the war was over.
I don't think China poses an existential military threat to the US itself in the medium term, but it does pose one to Taiwan and potentially some other countries in the region. Unfortunately, the main thing that contains that threat and maintains peace is US military superiority.
Is it personal liberty within the confines of enough law to provide some semblance of stability? The US is straining with that and it is arguably the most free of the Western Nations. Before the EU apologists jump on, keep in mind the EU Human Rights Court ruled that no one is allowed to speak against Mohamed (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/european-court-ind...). Gun violence appears to be leaving the ghettos and moving into more civilized neighborhoods.
Is it an authoritarian power that feeds, houses, and medicates its population? China does a lot of this. Hunger is down dramatically. People are still largely free to go about their daily lives.
Is it in-between? I don't know. The EU is starting to fray there. Nationalist movements are seeing that countries have to give up their current individual identities to conform with a Brussels/German worldview. Is this wrong? How are you to say?
My whole point in all this is that you've alluded to some truth claim as an attack on Google. Can you a) clearly define your truth claim, at least to yourself, and b) say why it's more true than the Chinese view that people are sheep and need a shepard? The Left in the US holds this view to varying degrees. That's why we need all this regulation. No one should be free to buy plastic straws.
No they didn't. They said you're not allowed to incite religious hatred by focussing attention on one particular religious figure from one particular time when the practice was common.
If that commentator is interested in paedophilia she will have made comments about the practice of child marriage among Christians -- something still happening in the US today. She did not mention any other region because she's not interested in attacking paedophilia, she's interested in attacking Muslims.
The greater part of the ruling is that you can't say something that might incite to violence a 3rd party. If I say that Manchester is a terrible team, am I not at risk of loosing my free speech? Many of those footballer fans are violent, as shown by numerous riots. Clearly making them fussy is a risky thing. Am I liable if some adults fair to act rationally when the honor of their team, of which they are not personally members, is attacked? According to the EU court, maybe.
Child marriage is not now, nor has it even been common in Christianity. There are fringe groups that endorse it, and they are rare. They are operating well outside of the bounds of the historic teachings of the church. This is not a no-true-scottsman argument. There are teachings of the churches throughout the ages. If someone behalves in a manner that countermands those teachings, they are an apostate (assuming they still claim fidelity to the great religion). You've created a false-dichotomy in order to remove the true issue here: as the West embraces Muslims with open arms, you're going to run afoul of cultural differences. The West can either say, "No, you many not mutilate a 9 year olds vagina and marry her!" Or it can say, "Sure, why not?" At present, the vanguard of the process such as Sweden, is already ruling on such unions . It is a thorny issue, but the EU will do what it always does: capitulate to invading forces.
But any time an entity is afraid to be challenged, it is selfishly choosing its own survival over the possibility that there exists a better provider for its citizens. That part is the "not best" part, and it's also the part Google is accused of helping with. If Google was secretly working with the PRC to improve Chinese citizens' medical care, there wouldn't be any concern.
If 90% of the population's standard of living improves at the expense of the 10%, is that wrong? Where is the line? Even when a rising tide raises all boats, there are many who will still get swamped. Should we stop forward progression due to that?
(Well, maybe it correlates, but then I'd argue you're just optimising the wrong variable...)
I'm not following how your second paragraph is connected to the question of governments protecting themselves at the expense of their citizens' well-being. It sounds like you're talking about the trolley problem, and tying that to some notion that we can halt 'progress'? What do you mean?
GPs framing of this as "EU Human Rights Court ruled that no one is allowed to speak against Mohamed" is very misleading, the court ruled no such thing. (I still don't like how that case went, on all levels, but it's no-where near extreme as some people claim)
IMHO no need to go from "this treaty isn't as absolute on free speech as I'd like" to "what's the point of any of it then?".
But Google has so much power to help, and in fact is better-positioned than almost any organization to help - and in fact has a duty to do so given that it helped create the problems. For instance, Youtube is one of the biggest sources of propaganda and uncivilized discourse there is.
That's a subjective judgement that depends on who, where and when you are. Kipling's vision of "humanity" and its interest is very different that Mao's, which is in turn very different from yours.
Technology makes things more efficient, but doesn't change the act. Getting your head bashed in by a caveman, cut off by a 19th century cavalry sabre wielded by a horseman, or vaporized by an explosive shell has the same end result.
Do you equate the person who whittled the caveman's club, raised the cavalryman's' horse or operated the supply train that transported the shell with Google?
Both are working in service of making it easier for the government to kill people.
No such product launched, so no enabling has occurred. You might be confusing Google with Apple here, but Apple's workers haven't protested, as far as we've heard.
Is it any wonder they did what they did?
They're starting to articulate a shift away from Larry Page's idealistic view of making information universally accessible and useful and toward tempering expectations about what technology can do.
After that they'll pivot increasingly toward a position that lets them justify the drone and censorship programs without the baggage of Page's original naivety.
Again, that's an overly cynical take. But it's kind of hard to avoid reading that as a possibility.
I'd argue you're being overly naive rather than overly cynical -- real-world trade offs have downsides, and require deliberation. They're not solvable with sloganeering or absolute purity.
It requires "humanity" to achieve those goals. So if idealistic goals aren't achieved, it's not because Google did the wrong thing, it's because Google's users didn't do the right thing.
So it's a diversion of responsibility away from Google, which frees them to take a less vision-directed and more financially-directed approach.
But that doesn't mean that he's an empty vessel. It sounds like he's thinking about it and trying to weigh upsides against downsides, even if Google would be disproportionately blamed for the downsides.
But then I've long thought that about the whole 'technology sector' shorthand. As if construction, agriculture, manufacturing, medicine, etc. were not technologies.
Until the world gets violent, technology is solving problems. Even then, it will be the politicians, not the programmers who caused this.
EDIT: HN whales, I'll never understand your silence.
People act like somehow the technology has a mind and it wants us to be free or some bs. Silicon Valley isn't special. It's part of the same system to maximize short-term profit and the whimsical wants of billionaires. Technology would absolutely solve humanity's problems. That is if we put our money where our mouth's are.
The atomic bomb is one obvious example of a technology that seems to be inherently bad not only for humanity, but for biological life itself.
You could argue that the problem of the bomb is more-so a problem of finding a bad technical solution to the problem of war, but it's quite difficult to think of a beneficial application of the atomic bomb, and thus, very difficult to justify its invention from a moral/valued standpoint.
I think it's also a problem that we seem to treat technological progress as a glorified end for humanity—we find it very difficult, for whatever reason (perhaps economic as you point out) to have the courage to admit when something shouldn't be invented, even if it presumably can be. I think part of this stems from the co-opting of science by technology, and science's silly claim to be "value-free" and neutral—which has had some disastrous consequences. If I'm engaged in a value-free enterprise, I have no reason to stop and wonder what devastation or havoc my creation might one day wreak, I'm doing it, after all, in the name of science, or progress, of unreflective pursuit of an end I can't forsee.
Just because it has “prevented ww3” is not a very adequate or admirable reason to ignore the other negative effects that you yourself admit have been caused by the bomb. This is the fundamental weakness of utilitarianism, which turns human life into a commodity and effectively nothing more than a calculable value which is not a very dignified image of mankind.
I’m open to arguments about the positive effects of the bomb, but not counter factual as that ignore the very real conditions of pain, war, and violence that are still occurring. The bomb’s effect as a deterrent being a positive thing is not very convincing—really the only thing it protects us from is the bomb itself, which wouldn’t be a problem had the bomb not been invented. Sure major economic powers are less gung-ho to engage in war directly but I’d argue the proxy wars they engage in now are more morally questionable then direct action against each other as they now use lesser developed countries as pawns of sorts, and the civilians and economies of those nations suffer while the big boys get to play an even “safer” (for them) little war game.
Large, efficient explosives in space is an obvious one. We will need to crack open asteroids to mine them or blow one up so it doesn't collide with something eventually. I hope.
The one thing worse than a large asteroid heading for you is dozens of medium-sized ones and thousands of small ones all heading for you.
Well, we know why it was invented in the first place, so it's justification is based on what you think of the II World War, and United States' involvement in it.
As for direct beneficial applications, those are after-the-fact, but two comes to mind:
1) Nuclear propulsion as currently the only feasible way we know of to move large masses through interplanetary space in reasonable timeframes.
2) Russians did some experiments with large-scale landscaping using nuclear bombs. Not sure what's the opinion of specialists in earth sciences, but it looks like a pretty useful tool to have.
2.) As for point 2, Look into the nuclear fallout in Kazakstan (for which the soviet tests are responsible). Unless there have been significant developments in controlling the effects of nuclear bombing technology and more recent tests (which there may have been, idk) I would hardly think anyone familiar with the environmental side effects from those experiments would recommend it as a good landscaping tool.
One could make a similar rebuttal as the above to space applications based on the environmental impacts nuclear bombs have on earth. We don't know much (afaik) about the negative side effects using nuclear bombs in space could have, even if they're useful asteroid detonators. Radiation takes quite a long time to dissipate. This would be one reason for dissuading its use in terraforming activity, at least without extensive consideration and analysis.
And arguably, nuclear weapons are keeping the world at peace. Sure, everyone has them pointed at each other, but it’s that threat that keeps us honest and peaceful. Just like how drivers in Chicago are courteous and never honk their horn - you’ll get shot if you drive like a dick.
This was a popular myth that Truman started. In fact, if we’d told the Japanese we would let them keep their emperor, they almost certainly would have surrendered. The Soviets had just entered the war in the Pacific and we wanted to end it before they captured much territory. Ironic since the Japanese had no intention to risk a Soviet occupation either.
The Empire also planned to resist a speculated US and Soviet invasion as leverage to negotiate better peace terms. The expected Japanese casualties (that is, the Japanese military's own estimates) of this planned defense numbered in the tens of millions. The Japanese high command deemed this an acceptable number of casualties and went forward with the planned defense.
The nuclear bombs were dropped on August 6 and August 9. The USSR announced it's declaration of war at 11pm Trans-Baikal time August 8, and began invasion at 12:01am August 9. So, at the commencement of the atomic bombing, the Soviets had not just entered the war.
> and we wanted to end it before they captured much territory.
So, what you are saying is that he Soviet entry into the war, absent the nuclear bombings, would put pressure on the US to grant Japan more lenient peace terms. Maybe that's true, but I'm not sure how that's an argument against the bombings.
We are just 70 years out but these crimes against humanity will haunt for generations to come.
This is a deliberate calculated war crime. Hundreds of thousands of people were burned, suffocated and boiled to death in seconds let alone the radiation for no good reason. No educated person is unaware of the horror of launching a nuclear bomb on a civilian population. This is an act of evil.
How many countries have used nuclear weapons? Why do you think nuclear weapons are controlled and treated as a separate class of weapons under strict control?
Conventional bombing was not limited to "armies" in WW2 at all, least of all by the Japanese.
Again, there were more Japanese civilian deaths by conventional bombing than by both atomic bombs combined.
Is it really inherently bad if it's just generating a lot of energy? Couldn't that technology be used to generate electricity?
I never did, perhaps you are replying to the wrong person? I was just pointing out that creating the atomic bomb was a very negative thing. Even though other many other fields in nuclear physics came about because of the bomb's development, there's nothing that says they couldn't have come about without developing an atomic bomb in the first place.
>It's part of the same system to maximize short-term profit and the whimsical wants of billionaires.
Maybe we should organise our production, decision-making, control and incentives structures differently then, rather than sticking to an old, disastrously inefficient, enormously wasteful and unfair model. Maybe some democratic, social system, if I do make myself clear...
1. Campaign finance reform. Money != free speech. Citizens United is a disaster.
2. Ranked voting in federal elections. A two-party system isn't that great.
3. Get rid of the Electoral college & make Gerrymandering illegal.
4. Shut the revolving door. I'm not sure about the best way to solve it so this is one proposal. Make appointed government officials sign a non-compete for the industry they work in. You shouldn't be able to go from Verizon Exec to FCC Chairman to Verizon Exec.
5. Increase regulation for large companies. Reduce it for small companies. Facebook/Google should have similar regulatory standards compared traditional media companies.
In other words:
Technology would solve humanity's problems, except it doesn't, because humanity is bad at choosing the right technologies.
Or, more succinctly:
TECHNOLOGY does not solve humanity's problems.
The problem is that in order to invest in "clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production" you need a huge amount of capital. A good way to build capital is to invest into technologies that bring a lot of profit such as advertising, you can then use this capital to invest in more noble, less profitable technologies (in the short term at least) such as new medicines, better transportation etc which is what Google is doing to be fair.
If you feel that these companies like Google are in it to make humanity better, you really need a better understanding of people. Google, Exon Mobile, Phillip Morris, and every other public company work in virtually the same way. They maximize profit. If you work at one of these companies and you don't help the company make more money, see how long you keep your job. Google is just in a different market. You may respond with why does Google invest in self-driving cars or 4g weather balloons? Very simply, to make more money. I'm not saying you can't make money from doing things to help humanity or that you shouldn't but let's be very clear, Google is not a person with a conscious. It's a system set up to make money and it will disappear as soon as it stops.
From a planning perspective, hoping large systematic changes will be brought corporations completely ignores history. The military has been behind virtually every significant technology at least in the United States. Even technologies created by corporations almost always have some sort of public assistance.
Our problem now is that corporations are seeping deeper into the centralized decision-making network we call the government. The whole point of government is to have a centralized power that can avoid the local maximums of profit motive. Corporations, in their bid to continue their existence, erode our public institutions. If we really wanted to, we could have the government mobilize trillions of dollars to solve any problem we wished. Capital may be the problem for figuring out fusion but it's certainly not the problem for clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production.
Not jet engines, rocket engines, transistors, ethernet, search, cloud computing, encryption, agricultural revolution, airplanes, steelmaking, telephones, electric power grids, movies, electric light, LEDs, microprocessors, Linux, vaccines, railroads, automobiles, television, radio, food preservation, tractors, printing, vacuum tubes, microcomputers, on and on.
Technology has failed over and over to provide an accountable, verifiable, and secure election process.
Mass producable pens and paper, decent locks, and nationwide logistic networks have made elections accountable, verifiable, and secure decades ago.
In this context (an article written by Google's CEO, about technology on computers), it arguably does.
By being pedantic, you might as well extend technology to everything up to, and including creating fire and making very basic hand tools. The article clearly isn't about that.
If you're saying computer technology has failed to solve election validity, that's a fair observation. It probably could if it was done correctly but the government has their best CS people working on spying on us while our elections are outsourced to idiots.
But not technology that guarantees what I mentioned previously.
> It's people who have failed to get it in use.
Some have, but some have resisted, for good reason too, because it fails to guarantee the things I mentioned previously.
Why? Because our social instincts don't change terribly fast, being coded in DNA. Our hardware/OS is more or less what it was when the last ice age ended. Nobody has extra arms or hearts. People still use "look each other in the eye" and other old school tropes to decide if they are comfortable with a new person.
The only thing that changes us is when some guy figures out you can melt certain ores and turn them into sharp tools. Or when some lady finds out the seeds she harvested from a certain grass can be nurtured into new plants.
Innovations like this change the economy and allow us to organize society differently. People no longer need to spend a large part of the day washing clothes. These days you don't even need to know how to farm or hunt. That means you can do other stuff while still having your needs met.
The only way to solve our social problems is to try to think of better ways use the planet. That's technology.
I am skeptical. What if instead of designing new tools and new ways of exploiting natural resources, we also shifted our cultural mores and practices to encourage more efficiency and less waste? New shiny tools are great, but there's something to be said for maintaining what's already laid down and properly utilizing what's already available.
There is a book on this dichotomy of environmentalists vs technologists, and how one group advocates efficiency/conservation and the other advocates innovation/change. I think both schools of thought are needed to move forward to the best outcome, wouldn't you agree?
That's exactly what we can do with technology. How are we going to clean up all the plastic? How do we build a house that doesn't leak heat? How do we avoid putting all that carbon in the air?
The answer is always going to be this: someone thinks of a new way to arrange things in order to achieve these goals, in a way where we get more goodness (utility, health, happiness, etc) out of the same blue sphere.
> There is a book on this dichotomy of environmentalists vs technologists, and how one group advocates efficiency/conservation and the other advocates innovation/change. I think both schools of thought are needed to move forward to the best outcome, wouldn't you agree?
Yes, they are two sides of the same coin. When the tech exists, society (ie environmentalists in this case) can plausibly push for new behaviours.
Both technologists and environmentalists are subordinate to economics and human psychology. People don't care about the environment until they're wealthy enough to do so and they're deeply suspicious about new technology.
I think the context here is "computer software and the internet doesn't solve humanity".
For anyone who would like ideas on how to get technology to do a better job of following needs, I'd strongly recommend the book 'Design For The Real World' by Victor Papeneck - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/190560.Design_for_the_Re...
Sundar seems to have done the inner work and understands this Truth. His "Cockroach Theory" is enlightening:
I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it's my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me.
It's not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me.
More than the problem, it's my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.
Lessons learnt from the story:
I understood, I should not react in life. I should always respond.
The women reacted, whereas the waiter responded.
Reactions are always instinctive whereas responses are always well thought of.
A beautiful way to understand............LIFE.
Person who is HAPPY is not because Everything is RIGHT in his Life..
He is HAPPY because his Attitude towards Everything in his Life is Right..!!
Silicon Valley thrives on startups spending money on all sorts of crazy stuff that accidentally succeeds once in a while, courtesy of plenty of investor cash to keep that going long enough to find out. The successes are wildly lucrative. There are probably more than a few future billion $ unicorns being nurtured to success in the valley.
However, as soon as unicorns succeed they turn corporate. I think Google is a great example of this. IMHO there's a clear difference between what Google accomplished technically before and after their IPO. At this point it seems they are mostly milking tech that they built/acquired around or before 2005 (search/maps/youtube/android/ads/etc.). It's not that they are getting nothing done but they are accomplishing far less at far greater cost since they probably spend more than ever on R&D while having increasingly less to show for it. They take less risk with their projects and their comfort zone has shrunk to the point that they felt a need to park their more wacky initiatives under the alphabet umbrella, outside of Google. Of course, this may end up being a clever move if some of those efforts succeed. But I would look outside of Alphabet for likely unicorns.
This CEO was employed to look after the cash cow while the Google founders focus on the more exciting stuff in Alphabet. He's not there to build the next Google, merely to keep the existing one going. Stagnation is not unique to Google. Many companies suffer from technical stagnation. Very few companies actually survive more than a few decades. In the tech world, things are trending down not up in terms of longevity.
That said, this also reads like a thoughtful and mature viewpoint; nuanced and understanding the reality of humans colliding with sophisticated technology.
Historians and philosophers have a lot to contribute to this world; I think there's an increasing awareness of that reality.
Replace "guns" with "technology".
You can't remotely exploit life-critical systems by studying which hammers were used to assemble them.
You can't send streams of hammers through web browsers and persuade the user to mint coins in their spare time.
You can't hammer a nail in a copper wire outside your beach house and catch a printer on fire in the midwest.
I have no opinion on the question about the morality of code. But no answer to that question has anything to do with a hammer.
They have a different underlying value system. Europe believes in individualism and privacy. China believes in collectivism and harmony.
Right to be forgotten protects the individual. China's wall protects the government.
That's - if you'll excuse me - a very amoral and commercial way of looking at things: you don't belong to any society, and don't wish to exercise any control in any society, and the only way in which you can or should exercise your rights is in where you do business.
It is precisely the rationale of democracy that you DO 'get to pick and choose which laws should be enforced' (to some extent).
As to the laws, yes, it's up to the citizens to shape and evolve them, through a referendum, elected official, regime change or whatever other way. But once they're signed, they're the law.
We can change the law formally, but rely on people following and enforcing that law in the absence of the formal change.
It's not for companies or individuals to decide, unilaterally, what laws they will enforce or follow, in any society.
For me personally, I am fine with passive censorship in China. My wife is Thai-Chinese so I can accept that there is a cultural difference. Where I would draw the line is when a company hands over information about individuals and then those individuals disappear with out any due process.
Europe is censoring personal and private information that harms ordinary citizens and is not of the public interest in order to protect European citizens. China is censoring information about the government, people's rights, and major historical events in order to control society. If you remove the absolutist "free speech is always right" position, the former is about protecting citizens and the latter is about protecting the government.
I was curious about it and my interpretation of the official company stance is they they can either do their best to give the Chinese what the best search they can or not try to give them any help at all.
The headline sounds so much like a copout, and to a degree, I think even the completed statement is. However, when you read the overall interview, I think I share a similar perspective:
Right now, technology has clearly amplified everyone's voice to vaguely the same level, and as a result has exponentially amplified the voices of fringe groups. And as a society, we have to confront that. But it's a relatively recent problem, and our earliest attempts at solutions have been entirely based on technology, instead of a better mixture of people and technology.
In other words, we need technology to enable people to better learn, then curate their world, and get involved in ways that show support and organization better than a Like/Retweet button.
I think we're not far from tools like this being widely available, but we're just at the beginning of such a concept, and the overall reticence society now has to technology thanks to the irresponsible stewardship of its leaders will inhibit technology's ability to fix the problem, too.
Amusingly even Socrates predicted as much thousands of years ago, "For if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus.. If, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves." Technology is, practically by definition, exactly what solves humanity's problems.
Though to be fair, this headline is somewhat clickbaity. The article is not really suggesting that technology doesn't solve humanity's problems. But rather than Google, and to some degree the entirety of Silicon Valley, has entered its twilight phase. And as Google has surprisingly rapidly metamorphosized into the next e.g. Microsoft, it's not an unreasonable suggestion.
An entire generation of Chinese kids grew up thinking the Tianmen Square was a god damn festival singing "Wo Ai Beijing Tianmen"
> When we follow “right to be forgotten” laws, we are censoring search results because we’re complying with the law. I’m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don’t know the answer.
This is an important point: Google has a lot to offer Chinese users. From providing a trusted search engine in a context where people still trust foreign products over Chinese ones, to simple access to its services which, let's be honest, are pretty solid for the average user. It's fair to criticize the company for trying to find a way to access an environment that will almost inevitably demand some degree of censorship, but it overlooks the real good that that such a presence would deliver.
Much of the criticism I hear of Google in this case centers on their presumed willingness to tolerate censorship. Pichai makes a good point here: complying with some degree of censorship imposed by a regime is just the cost of doing business in an international setting. No one is howling for Google to pull out of Europe after the ridiculous "right to be forgotten" censorship ruling. You can quibble about where to draw the line; censorship out of a misplaced desire to protect privacy and censorship to prop up a repressive, authoritarian regime are far from equivalent, but in either case it's a cost-benefit analysis with principles on one side and the potential gains for users on the other. This quote suggests Pichai hasn't yet found the best way to do that, or even that he ever will.
And to those cynics out there who will throw out thirst for profits, I say: if money were as strong a motivation for Google as y'all seem to think it is, Google would have never left China to begin with. They (full disclosure, we) lost tremendous leverage in that market when it became obvious that operating in China was not sustainable.
Technology definitely solves lot of problems and some tech enables to scale the solutions (e.g. discovery of antibiotics and tech to mass produce them). But then it gives rise to new set of problems which are much harder to solve. The harder the problems get more collaboration and working together is needed at global scale, which itself is very hard. In this sense, tech can only go so far.
What is bad are the neutral to bad actors who propagate technology, without planning or caring for its unintended consequences.
Technology is an amplifier, and like other amplifiers humans build, it is far easier boost some existing signal when you abdicate yourself from the goal of also maintaining the integrity of the signal: sure, you can get more power if you don't care about noise. In fact, building a perfect amplifier of arbitrary power is probably impossible.
For sure silicon valley has some serious problems, but humanity is a lot better off generally than it was a few centuries ago, and the reason isn't because we all became nicer people. Discounting technology as a driver of human flourishing is a grave mistake.
We did become better governed. Not unrelated to technology but not directly a result of it, either.
Facebook gives a lot more degrees of freedom in relationships with other people, YouTube and blogs and reddit give content creators the most meritocratic markets to have ever existed, the camera on your phone is better and more portable than 99% of old cameras.
On the most popular analysis, to be free is to be deprived of a personal power which one has, e.g. for some force to interfere and stop you from exercising your capacity for speech.
We cannot have been unfree to use facebook before the invention of facebook because we never had that power, and because it is not a personal power, but an instrumental power outside of our person.
But as Bill Gates shows, a lot of money clearly can solve many of humanity's problems.
- co2/global warming
- an increase in cancer from use of various radiation/chemical pollutants
- rapid transmission of disease via air travel and automobile travel
- all sorts of negative consequences from the rise and widespread adoption of social media (addiction, depression, bullying, terrorist recruitment, easier avenues for committing fraud, etc)
Technology is a tool like any other, can be a benefit and a curse. A gun can provide recreation, can put food on the table but at the same time can be used to murder. Dynamite allowed much more efficient (and safer) mining but it also showed that there was the possibility of far more stable explosives than black powder and nitroglycerin which almost certainly directly resulted in many other explosives, like TNT, being developed and used to wage war.
But it does. Vaccinations, for example, have solved humanity's smallpox problems. Technology has solved all kinds of medical problems, it has solved the famine problem, and on and on.
> we are probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too
A lot of the real changes in the world (immigration, cultural fragmentation, overreaching governmental power) have been masked by the continuous media infatuation with "social media". While they help people deal with these changes, these media are not the source of good and bad things, people are. From the euphimistically-called arab spring to Trump, social media have been fingerpointed, while ignoring the actual background forces which cause these changes.
1. Getting up in the morning earlier than my body wants to. I think I need to go to bed earlier but find myself watching TV or surfing social media/news.
2. Much of my work consists of repairing technical debt from stuff done 3-5 years ago with the best of intentions. There appears to be more money in this than architecting new software.
3. For lunch I go home and make a sandwich. This may very well be the highlight of my day. Is there a sandwich making machine?
4. I go back to work and work later than expected, usually leaving around 7 PM. The timer says I got 6 billable hours in, but I spent a day to do it. Is there technology that makes billable hours work better or is my efficiency really 50% or whatever. I don't know.
5. I go to the gym 5 days a week for 1.5 to 2 hours which includes 0.5 hours of cardio. I'm getting stronger but generally always look the same, and so does everybody else. I've been doing this for 20 years.
6. I go to the store on the way home and always get the same things. I could maybe set up some kind of delivery service. I worry that automation will put grocery stores out of business someday but am sick of going to the store constantly.
7. I drink a beer and watch Netflix all night. This is awesome. But is this the pinnacle of civilization? I don't know.
8. I see members of my family roughly once per week or less. They all live within 50 miles. Time becomes an inexorable march of lost days, each lost day growing more pressing in my mind as I fall asleep each night. The future implications of this are too painful to contemplate, so thoughts are troubled and fleeting.
9. I started a TODO list of inventions, projects I'd like to work on, etc. I stopped when it reached roughly 200 items. That was a decade ago, and I'd be surprised if more than a handful of items have been crossed off. Is there some kind of a machine that can lower my obligations each day to perhaps 2-4 hours so I can work on the things that might actually help the world? Or is this vanity, is it better to wait for them to spring themselves into existence within 2 weeks or 2 years, sometimes by just mentioning them on the internet?
10. Weekends are the hardest. The yawning mouth of obligation to family, friends and home maintenance stretches like a tunnel to infinity from which no light can be seen brimming from its depths. Holidays become a 2-3 month marathon of reactionary mode optimizing of the things that must be done like last year. A point is reached at which the distraction of daily minutia frees the mind from worrying about the things that will never be. As if all the technology in the world led to a place of maximum distraction, dilution and ineffectualism, each layer cementing the exhaustion beneath the one before. Where is the technology that gives me the time, that pays me the money so that I don't have to run the rat race anymore? If that doesn't exist, then is what we have now really technology?
As Sundar states, it is not that technology in itself is, in its essence, problematic, nor has it become the source of all humanitarian issues. The issue is an apparent incapacity or unwillingness on the part of most of the participants in the technological sphere to question the ideologies that underlie the development and deployment of particular technologies. Compound this with technology's tight coupling to the prevailing global economic structure and you're dealing with an aspect of human life that is as thorny and difficult to comprehend as it is constitutive of modern existence.
Here's a question: to what extent do algorithms mirror human reasoning and to what extent does human reasoning (at the macro level of social patterns) begin to mirror the predominant algorithms in use today? One's exposure to particular phenomena in a systems context is more or less dictated by the algorithms and structures the system employs (its rules and ontology). This is why an overly technified approach to social problems, such as politics etc., reduces the depth of social understanding and interaction. Because technical systems ultimately have to serve economic ends, whatever moral or social ends they might serve are eclipsed.
Social technologies are geared toward keeping users happy or blasting them with advertisements because doing so serves the economic ends necessary to keep said technologies functioning. Unfortunately, keeping users happy is often counteractive to other ends which we might reasonably say rest on morally and socially superior ground. Individual experience becomes systematic and "algorithmic" to the extent that the only inputs that remain in a grossly technological society are filtered through fixed patterns of technological interaction.
Twitter's character limitations, for instance, not only affect the system of twitter itself but conspire with its popularity as a means of social interaction to place strictures and limits on the very nature of modern social interaction. Thought, so often subject to truncated expression through mediums like Twitter, itself becomes truncated. Dialogue, which is given no space on social media platforms where people "comment" and "react" but never discuss begins to disappear as a meaningful, commonplace social practice. Thoughts and opinions are radicalized and tribalized. We participate in fixed echo chambers comprised of fellow individuals whose membership was not determined through a complex social process, but rather through an algorithmic process, which dumbs down the quality, depth, and sophistication of group formation and interaction.
Systems originate as expedients to serve some historical end and soon, by extension and unreflective adoption, dictate behavior, and dictate the ends.
- Human evil
- Human suffering
Empty words by Sundar Pichai employed to achieve a desired effect in Google's benefit.
The airplane is an example of a technology that has brought us closer together and helped advance the ideal of an interconnected global "village" and which I'm contrasting with the promise made for Google's products -- but don't get hung up on my example, because my argument is directed at Google.
Maybe it's just Google's tech that has failed to deliver on its promise for a better world.
It's time for Silicon Valley (I actually mean supporter's of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism actually) to learn what Classical Greeks discovered a long time ago.
I'd recommend reading Bernard Stiegler, a French philosopher whose work has yet to been translated to English though (as I just discovered). I think this English interview might be a good introduction: http://krisis.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/krisis-2011-1-05....
Note that he often gets political but it's really worth it though if you're interested in the way technology is being designed and adopted by mankind (he's also focused on the Anthropocene but that's another topic). His annual conferences at Pompidou Centre / IRI (specially the ones about IA – https://enmi-conf.org/wp/enmi18/, in French unfortunately). I'd recommend his seminaries on philosophy (via his School of philosophy http://pharmakon.fr/wordpress/le-projet/the-school-of-philos... and via the Ars Industrialis non-profit) but they aren't yet translated. Again, sorry for that.
All technology has no inherent moral compass, and allows for both desirable and undesirable effects, often in tandem.
Google has done more to make information accessible than any other company, and by extension has also done more to make misinformation accessible.
It takes a moral compass to use technology morally and ethically. There simply isn't a substitute, and technology itself will not provide one.
And if used long enough, will allow for rapid regional/global transmission of an epidemic/pandemic. The World of Warcraft 'Corrupted Blood incident' is actually a virtual example of this that shows just how quickly something highly contagious could spread in the real world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupted_Blood_incident .
But at the same time it allows things like getting medical diagnostic agents that have a usable life of a day or less to get where they need to be, donor organs to be moved quickly to recipients, etc.
Sundar Pichai of Google must also have Google in his mind when he speaks about technology.
Google is responsible for its actions.
It it also, ahem, playing a leading role in our environmental self-destruction.
That technology has also allowed for bad things like Guernica, Nagasaki&Hiroshima and the napalm fields of the Vietnam War.