Subjective Historical Determinism

I’ve made a philosophical, historical and ethical hypothesis I’m calling ‘Subjective Historical Determinism’.  

Hypothesis of Subject Historical Determinism:

1. The uniqueness of our existence and glory of consciousness is so unlikely that we cannot have wished the past to have been any different were it to impact our chance of being born. 

2. Therefore, every ethical, historical and philosophical judgement that we make prior to our existence has primarily to be a calculation of how we may have been born to a given circumstance. For instance, one may have to assume gratefulness because of mass migration, even within the context of terror or disaster. 

3. To make an effective moral statement about the past one has to adopt the position, for instance, that while I am thankful that the Roman invasion of AD 43 led to my creation, I am of the opinion that the Roman Conquest was completely unjust. Therefore, all morality, ethics and problem solving must be founded on the conditional calculation of your being born, which, very often, leads towards embracing gravely immoral events and philosophical doctrines.

4. After someone has been born, they have the ability to make assertions on the present and future, yet must be aware that events they call  immoral or unjust will inevitably lead towards the greatest level of individual justice and morality through creating the unique conditions into which certain individuals will be born.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21786-0

More than half of current coal power capacity is in China. A key strategy for meeting China’s 2060 carbon neutrality goal and the global 1.5 °C climate goal is to rapidly shift away from unabated coal use. Here we detail how to structure a high-ambition coal phaseout in China while balancing multiple national needs. We evaluate the 1037 currently operating coal plants based on comprehensive technical, economic and environmental criteria and develop a metric for prioritizing plants for early retirement. We find that 18% of plants consistently score poorly across all three criteria and are thus low-hanging fruits for rapid retirement. We develop plant-by-plant phaseout strategies for each province by combining our retirement algorithm with an integrated assessment model. With rapid retirement of the low-hanging fruits, other existing plants can operate with a 20- or 30-year minimum lifetime and gradually reduced utilization to achieve the 1.5 °C or well-below 2 °C climate goals, respectively, with complete phaseout by 2045 and 2055.

Three key elements are featured in the proposed strategy. First, successful implementation of the pathways depends on an immediate halt of new construction of conventional coal plants in China. The sooner new construction stops, the lower the cost of deep decarbonization will be in the future. Cancellation of planned projects can reduce the risk of stranded assets and enhance the feasibility of existing plants’ phaseout. Second, a small set of existing plants (18%) is eligible for rapid shutdown in the near term, since they perform poorly across all the technical, economic, and environmental criteria assessed. Third, remaining plants can operate through a minimum guaranteed lifetime of 20 (or 30) years, but with gradually and responsibly reduced hours mainly for meeting peak load demand in China’s power system.

The three-part strategy is compatible with an accelerated coal phaseout in 2045 (or 2055) under the 1.5 °C (or 2 °C) climate goal. It also suggests a possible range of coal phaseout pathways in the power sector to achieve China’s 2060 carbon neutrality goal: without new builds, majority of existing coal plants can operate over a minimum lifetime between 20 and 30 years to achieve a phaseout of unabated coal power generation around 2050. However, such a pathway highly depends on taking immediate actions of the “no new coal” strategy, where continued coal builds will accelerate the retirement of all plants and the phaseout timeline.

An accelerated coal phaseout will be accompanied with increasing electricity generation from intermittent wind and solar power. Accommodating high penetration of intermittent electricity from wind and solar is not a unique challenge to China and would require substantial grid management and forward planning. Studies consistently show contributions of well over 50% of generation are viable but will require substantial evolution of grid management approaches25,26. This includes some amount of reliable generation capacity to complement intermittent sources. It also includes modernizing grid transmission and distribution, developing next-generation storage and other flexibility technologies, and deploying demand-side management technologies. A deeper assessment of this question is essential to a successful coal transition in China and needs to be answered by future research.

Finally, a successful coal phaseout needs to be equitable. It is also referred as a just transition27,28,29, where potential financial losses, and economic and social impacts, are well managed during the transition. Not only the overall magnitude, but also the distribution of these potential impacts across different regions, different stakeholders, and different demographic groups needs to be evaluated. Moreover, new research should focus on such impacts through the entire supply chain, while at a finer resolution. For example, although employment at coal power plants is only a marginal share of total population (less than 0.1% in most Chinese provinces, Supplementary Fig. 10), the number of employments in coal mining are much larger, and especially in certain regions where local economies and communities are heavily centered on coal. To answer those questions, more research is needed to integrate more research from other disciplinaries (i.e., social behavior, economics) into the coal phaseout strategy in China.

Marine Le Pen is a threat to the Paris Treaty

https://www.ft.com/content/10d839fc-a627-4317-97b1-5698732ff4a7

Le Pen, who champions a “non-punitive” approach to the environment, wants to take France out of an EU “green deal” that Macron has championed. It would make companies pay more for the cost of polluting in order to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The far-right candidate, who told France 3 on Sunday she was not a climate change denier, has stopped short of saying she would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, as former US president Donald Trump did. But her manifesto advocates reaching commitments to lower greenhouse gas emissions “at the rhythm [France] will have chosen”.

She plans to end investments in solar and wind power, saying this would allow her to reduce value added tax on fuel. The measure, aimed at drivers and some rural residents, is a reminder of the “yellow vest” protests that marred Macron’s first term in office when he tried to introduce a fuel surcharge as a form of green levy.

Le Pen’s arguments have alarmed companies in France’s nascent renewable energy sector. One executive involved in offshore wind projects said there was “a real concern for jobs”. Another said he was convinced Le Pen would have to reverse course so as not to imperil energy supplies.

XR London Rebellion 10th of April

https://www.mylondon.news/news/uk-world-news/extinction-rebellion-near-death-experience-23649385

London News

An Extinction Rebellion protestor has told of a “near-death experience” that led her to join the climate crisis activist group three years ago. “When I came out of hospital, what was important to me was put into high definition,” Kat explained, as she held a colourful homemade banner reading ‘nonviolence, direct action’ in Central London today (Saturday, April 9). She was one of 10,000 protesters, a figure reported by a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, who participated in the first day of the group’s latest round of organised protest, the April Rebellion.

She described this current moment as “pivotal”, saying: “Never has there been more urgency than after hearing what we have from the UN and the IPCC report last week.” The UN’s recent landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report suggested that action on climate change needs to happen ‘now or never’.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/09/extinction-rebellion-xr-climate-protesters-march-london-hyde-park

The Guardian

In Hyde Park, police vans and officers on horses patrolled the periphery of the crowd, but the policing presence appeared low-key. The crowd moved off at about midday for the march through central London, staging roadblocks on the way.

Direct actions were planned on the fringes of the march against specific targets, but XR kept quiet on the details of what those targets were. During the morning, protesters mainly milled about, joining with affinity groups, greeting friends who they had not seen since previous actions, and enjoying a burst of spring sunshine.

“I’ve been living away from the UK but I have been admiring the movement from afar, and I think it’s inspiring, the turnout here. I have been living in New York and I saw echoes of it in New York and I’m really excited to join today,” Goulianis said.

“I think we need radical action. I think often the oil and gas lobby does a good job of making us think it’s about individual consumption, but we need to change everything.”

On the edges of the crowd, with a small group, stood Marcelo Cervone, 28, who had adorned the peak of his baseball cap with XR stickers. He said: “I want to safeguard my son’s future … he’s four months old and I want to make sure he can dream but, as we were allowed to, dream big.”

Cervone said he had been protesting with XR for several years. “We are all hoping we can end the fossil fuel economy. That’s the number one goal: immediate transition out of the fossil fuel economy,” he said.

https://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/norfolk-extinction-rebellion-activists-london-protests-8887920

Evening News

James Harvey, a project manager from Salhouse said: “I’m going to London to join the Rebellion because I refuse to be a bystander while the UK government continues with its pursuit of dirty fossil fuels that are killing people around the world and driving destruction.  “These protests are what a people-powered response to the climate crisis looks like.

There have also been eight days of prolonged action at oil refineries by Extinction Rebellion and the Just Stop Oil coalition, blocking depots at 10 different locations, Essex, resulting in a number of suspended operations.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/police-extinction-rebellion-hyde-park-london-protests-disruption-b993471.html

Standard

Hundreds of activists gathered at Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park on Saturday morning before marching into the centre of the city.

The Metropolitan Police said protesters initially blocked “traffic in both directions” but later said only the “westbound carriageway on Oxford St. remains closed between Great Portland St. and Regent St and “nearly all of the protesters are now in Trafalgar Sq”.

The activists gathered in Hyde Park at 10am in preparation for an “unstoppable rebellion” that will “facilitate a mass flood of people to grind the capital to a halt”. “We will return to the streets day after day until our immediate demand – for the UK government to immediately end all new fossil fuel investments – is met,” the group said in a recent statement. It has announced plans for over a week of action in London.

Since 2018, XR has staged four extended campaigns of disruptive protest in London, calling for the government to take action on the climate and biodiversity crises.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-61050643

BBC

Climate activists are staging a sit-down protest in the heart of London’s West End shopping district, to call for no new investment in fossil fuels. Extinction Rebellion has planned protests in the capital every day until Sunday, 17 April. The Metropolitan Police said Oxford Street and Regent Street were blocked.

The BBC’s the most popular news site on the planet with over 1 billion monthly viewers. Last night this was the fourth most popular site.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/extinction-rebellion-oxford-street-ben-mitchell-london-government-b993485.html

Standard

Canoeist Etienne Stott, who won the slalom event with Tim Baillie at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said he was participating out of fear for the future of the planet.

The former athlete told the PA news agency: “I am here to demand the Government end the fossil economy.

Stott, who held a banner that read “I will need a bystander”, added: “Our voice is the voice of ordinary people saying ‘no, not in my name’.”

He chained himself to a boat with fellow British Olympian Laura Baldwin to blockade the entrance to ExxonMobil’s Fawley oil terminal in Hampshire last October.

He was convicted of a public order offence after Extinction Rebellion protests in 2019, when he was arrested on Waterloo Bridge with other demonstrators after they refused to comply with conditions imposed by police.

https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/extinction-rebellion-protest-london-oxford-street/

LBC

Canoeist Etienne Stott, who won the slalom event with Tim Baillie at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said he was participating out of fear for the future of the planet.

Stott, who held a banner that read “I will need a bystander”, added: “Our voice is the voice of ordinary people saying ‘no, not in my name’.” The 42-year-old, from Nottingham, earlier urged his Twitter followers to “come and join me” at Saturday’s protest, sharing a quote from the UN Secretary General which says that, instead of climate activists, “the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing production of fossil fuels”.

XR International Media Monitoring: 9th of April 2022

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-61029511

BBC

Tower Bridge has reopened after an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest, that saw two activists dangling over the Thames.

The pair used suspension cords to hang from the landmark and unfurl a banner reading, “End fossil fuels now”. 

Police closed the bridge to traffic during rush hour but cleared protesters by midday, arresting four people.

It comes after eight days of disruption at oil facilities caused by XR and the Just Stop Oil coalition.

Both groups are calling for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure as the government reviews its energy security in the wake of the Ukraine war.

https://www.itv.com/news/london/2022-04-08/extinction-rebellion-activists-force-closure-of-tower-bridge-after-abseil-stunt

ITV 

Amy Rugg-Easey, who is taking part in the demonstration, said: “I ask myself why I do these things all the time, and the main thing that drives me is that I have tremendous hope and optimism in humanity’s ability to fight the climate crisis – but there are certain people who continue to prevent that for their own profit.”

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/extinction-rebellion-london-protests-april-2022-when-where-b993344.html

Standard

Explainer: 

Extinction Rebellion is a protest group that puts “civil disobedience” at the heart of seeking government action on its aims.

Extinction Rebellion said: “We promote civil disobedience and rebellion because we think it is necessary. We are asking people to find their courage and to collectively do what is necessary to bring about change.

Events: 

Extinction Rebellion have planned events through London from the 9 April to 17 April.

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/extinction-rebellion-protest-schedule-april-2022-xr-protests-list-where-events-london-1564409?ITO=newsnow

I

Amy Rugg-Easey, who is taking part in the demonstration, said: “I ask myself why I do these things all the time, and the main thing that drives me is that I have tremendous hope and optimism in humanity’s ability to fight the climate crisis – but there are certain people who continue to prevent that for their own profit.”

Events schedule 

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-extinction-rebellion-xr-protest-tower-bridge-london-disruption-hyde-park-b993359.html

Criticism

Sadiq Khan has said climate activists must “win over public opinion” as he accused Extinction Rebellion of being “counterproductive” following disruption on Friday morning.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/08/extinction-rebellion-fossil-fuels-protest-grind-london-halt

The Guardian

XR organisers are hoping a new strategy will enable them to evade police and again cause major disruption in London. Attempts to take and hold road junctions with large pieces of protest infrastructure, which police had learned to quickly isolate and remove, will be swapped for more mobile and adaptable blockades.

“We are not going to be coming in with huge objects necessarily, but the plan is to get lots of people to hold areas using their bodies, staying in roads and holding spaces,” said an XR source. “We are going to try to be really mobile as well.”

There would be “people moving around and trying to hold the space, holding spaces that are particularly disruptive and doing direct actions … We want to be movable so we can go to different areas if we want to. We want to be super-mobile and hard to pin down, but we also want it to be really inclusive, easy to find and get involved.”

On Thursday morning Juliette Brown, a 51-year-old psychiatrist from London who was sat in the road by St James’s Park outside the government department, said: “We know that the climate and ecological crisis is a health crisis. Global warming [and] air pollution are largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels.

“The government declared a climate emergency, yet they are still considering licensing new oil and gas fields [and] financing fossil fuels through tax breaks despite the clear evidence and advice from experts that we need to end all new fossil fuel investment immediately.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/04/08/tower-bridge-closed-extinction-rebellion-protesters-abseil-london/

The Telegraph

Alex Ede, 28, whose commute to work was disrupted by the protest, said: “I think their cause is a good one but the way they go about it can be very distressful, especially for the general public.”

“I’ve heard that someone’s hanging off the bridge – so, yes, I think the police had to close the bridge if someone’s life was in danger.”

Amy Rugg-Easey, who took part in the demonstration, said: “I ask myself why I do these things all the time, and the main thing that drives me is that I have tremendous hope and optimism in humanity’s ability to fight the climate crisis – but there are certain people who continue to prevent that for their own profit.”

https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-extinction-rebellion-supporters-hang-23642172

Get Surrey

Roger Lockey, aged 66 and a retired builder and property maintenance specialist from Reigate, said: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released this week tells all of us in no uncertain terms that we are in deep trouble, and that we need to stop burning fossil fuels now to have any chance of avoiding the worst of the climate crisis we have been facing for the last thirty years.

The Concerning Relationship Between Marine Le Pen and Putin.

1. Marine Le Pen has been campaigning for years to destroy the European Union.

2. In 2014 Marine Le Pen failed to recieve French investment for her political campaigns because of facist ties and got an 11 million Euro loan from Putin.

3. Marine Le Pen has joined Putin activists in Russia to resist what they characterised as a global sodomite conspiracy saying that ‘homophilia is one of the elements of globalisation’.

4. Marine Le Pen personally endorsed Russia’s invasion of Crimea. After Crimea, within the Russian presidential administration people were told to ‘thank the French’.

The Donald Trump Presidency

Leonard Cohen: An Honest Partner

Despite being a heavy authority on all facets of Anglo-American culture, Christopher Hitchens wrote with little enthusiasm for music. However some support is indicated for the great Leonard Cohen, describing ‘If It Be Your Will’ as ‘beautifully rendered’, adding that ‘Leonard Cohen is unimaginable without, and indissoluble from his voice (I now doubt that I could be bothered or bear to hear that song done by anybody else)’. This brief comment acts as legitimacy for my own obsession with Cohen.

As a teenager, the pursuit of finding new music seemed more concerned with the style and the social than with the literary, likely explaining why Hitchens did not care for it. Cohen was an exception from most Rock and Roll stars. He had attended Columbia University and prior to writing songs, had written two novels, The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966). This experienced command of the English language distinguishes Cohen from all other modern songwriters. It gives him the courage to confront themes of love, suffering and irony with an eloquence not expected from a guitar wielding performer.

When one listens to Cohen there is the immense sense that, through virtue of repeated plays, one may acquire the gifts of being irresistible to women and command over an empire of emotions. The desire to become Cohen is based on more than just his song writing. The songs act as a window to a polymath, a magician, a poet, a psychonaut, a man at home in Hampstead Heath, New York, Hydra, a member of one of the most powerful Jewish families in Montreal, a monk, a ladies man, a chain smoker, a poser, a novelist.

Cohen

The gift of Cohens song writing stems from his honesty. Cohen is an artist who seeks to represent life as it is, articulating the truth merely for the power of doing so. The value of this quality is immense and the relevance of his words grow with all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

In the face of George Floyd’s murder and subsequent Black Lives Matter protest, it is Cohen, on There is a War (1974), who articulates an attitude that would get most politicians and journalists fired:

‘there is a war between the rich and poor, a war between the black and white, a war between the odd and the even’.

Following the nomination of Donald Trump, it was the Cohen song Everybody Knows (1988) that provided the most effective insight towards the collective disturbance, singing:

‘Everybody knows the war is over/ Everybody knows the good guys lost/ Everybody knows the boat is leaking/ Everybody knows that the Captain Lied/ Everybody got this broken feeling/ Like their father or their dog just died’.

No singer has articulate the fear of accelearting to a planet of 3 degrees global warming better than Cohen in The Future (1992):

‘Your servant here, he has been told/ To say it clear, to say it cold/ It’s over, it ain’t going any further/ And now the wheels of heaven stop/ You feel the devils riding crop/ Get ready for the future it is murder’// ’Things are going to slide/ Slide in all directions/ Won’t see nothing/ Nothing you can measure anymore/ The blizzard, the blizzard of the world/ Has passed the threshold/ And it has over turned the order of the soul’.  

Cohen’s lessons are free from the chains of ideology or retail. While Johnny Rotten may go from the Sex Pistols to advertising Country Life butter, Cohen is worthy listening from Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1969 until his last album, You Want It Darker, released just 17 days before his death on the 7th of November 2016.

So Long Marianne, found on The Songs of Leonard Cohen, introduces us to Leonard Cohen’s longest love affair, conceived in Hydra and concluded on Marianne’s death bed. Songs from a Room includes a The Partisan a song originally sung by the French Resistance during World War Two and to my mind the provides the best use of French in English popular music. Famous Blue Raincoat from Songs of Love and Hate provides a riddle of lost love and rivalry through the medium of a letter. New Skin Old Ceremony houses Lover, Lover, Lover, written during the time of performances to Israeli troops during the Yom Kippur War, provides a vision of conflict through love, the self and the family.

Death of a Ladies Man, produced by a gun wielding and cranky Phil Spector, offers songs like Memories where Leonard Cohen injects 1950’s ballads with a heavy dose of lust. Came So Far for Beauty on Recent Songs provides a story, familiar yet never articulated, of an individual who fails to gain respect for spiritual and aesthetic achievements. Various Positions provides Cohen’s most famous song Hallelujah featured in The OC, The Watchmen and Shrek. Hitchens’ interpretation that Cohen’s voice elevates his songs beyond reach of covers is truest when listening to covers by John Cale and Alexander Burke but for many challenged by Jeff Buckley’s version. With the line ‘there is a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in’, found on Anthem in The Future, Cohen pens what would come the title of the planet’s biggest philosophy festival (HowTheLightGetsIn).

Ten New Songs provided the first Leonard Cohen album following a five year hiatus in the Mt. Baldy Zen Center. In my Secret Life, a song I first heard drinking in a beach hut in Gorkana, South India, Cohen confronts the difference between public persona of competition and conformity with the private persona of memory and principle. If you’ve ever thought what happens to lust around the age of 70, the song Because of on Dear Heather provides an intimate expression of the carnal appetite. The song Nevermind on Popular Problems articulates political contradictions and resignation in the face of an objective understanding of the past; ‘There’s truth that lives/And truth that dies/I don’t know which/So nevermind’.

On You Want It Darker, Cohen uses his final breaths to warn of the eternal struggle of existence. Cohen talks to the God of genocide, ‘they’re lining up the prisoners and the guards are taking aim’, and the murderous middle class ‘I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim’. In the last verse Cohen sings the same words Abraham replied on the suspension of his sons sacrifice, ‘hinenei hinenei/ hinenei hinenei’ (here I am here I am/ here I am here I am (Isaiah (6:8)) followed by ‘I’m ready my Lord’.

 

Rhetorical Madness 

Christopher Hitchens’ describes understanding that with the emergence of identity politics in the 60’s a ‘truly Bad Idea had entered the discourse’. Sam Harris supports the condemnation arguing that ‘the nature of any argument is that its validity doesn’t depend on who you are… a person’s identity and life experience often aren’t relevant when talking about facts’. In effect the casual identity politics argument can very often be the oratorical equivalent of the water bomb in rock, paper, scissors as the moment someone asserts identity as a legitimate argument their opponent, if not of that identity, is expected to either be silenced or respectful given the absence of the subject’s identity. Taken seriously this logic suffocates the ability to seriously entertain and interrogate ideas. 

Douglas Murray describes how much of the desire of social justice campaigners ‘is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn’. Obama shares this conviction describing the pitfalls of wokeness saying ‘if all your doing is casting stones you’re probably not gonna get that far’. In conjunction with undermining people’s logic and reasoning through their lack of identity is an attempt from those that willingly recognise their lack of identity and seek to contribute nothing towards an argument aside from protecting the given identity claim. 

This rhetorical madness of weaponizing identity serves to undermine reasoning and destroy freedom of speech. If we are not able to flexibly wield language then we arrest the development of imagination and creativity.

The Eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg

The idea of advertisers playing the role of God is around a century old. In The Great Gatsby, written in 1925, the ‘blue and gigantic’ eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg, a billboard for an oculist, watch over the ‘valley of ashes’. At one stage Wilson, mourning the death of his wife, looks ‘at the eyes’ of Doctor T.J Eckleburg and says ‘You may fool me but you can’t fool God…. God see’s everything’.

Eckleburg

Today, the internet is the most omnipresent tool mankind has created. The advertising industry provides Facebook and Google with 90% of its profits. In return they are given the power to wield the all seeing eye of the internet. Like all Gods the advertising industry is decorated in myth. One of the most commonly told tales is that people’s phones are listening to them. These days, we fear that Doctor T.J Eckleburg hears everything we say.

People with power and authority have started to believe that advertising companies are listening to their phones. I asked a room of ten business experts and PHD researchers how many thought that companies were listening to their phones to maximise targeted advertisements. 70% believed that they were.

On the 30th of October Zeynep Tufceki, a leading thinker on Social Media surveillance, publically challenged the myth on Twitter. She highlighted that ‘Facebook has lost so much trust that I’m constantly explaining to strangers that no, it’s not listening to you through your phone’, however, this resolution lasted just 6 days. On November 5th she declared that she had gotten so many targeted ads that she was leaning towards the view that ‘Facebook is listening’ through your phone.

The reaction from both the Virt-Eu seminar and Tufceki demonstrates the overwhelming cloud of distrust. Through not only speculating but accepting that their phones are being listened to, there is a resignation towards the omnipotence of technology companies.

While technically the collective may be ignorant, communication is one tool we can use to defend ourselves. Interviews and conversations paint a picture of how we believe advertisers are using technology to target us.

Emma, described how the CEO of the company Klook was going to speak at her company. After long conversations with work colleagues about the CEO, she went on to her Facebook and found an advert for them. At first it seems that this may be a result of cookies tracking her website searches, alas, she claims not to have searched the work Klook on Google nor sent it through an email.

Katie, gave the example of talking on the phone to a friend about some trainers that she wanted to buy. After the conversation, the very trainers she had mentioned started to be advertised on her friend’s homepage. This could suggest the language from dialogue was being recorded by the phone and then translated by machine learning.

Cece, detailed how she had been speaking about ‘Hygge’ with her family, and lo and behold, an hour later the following advert was on her Instagram.

Hygge

The online advertising industry is big business with approximately half a trillion dollars being spent every year. As, the technology gets more complex, it is likely that adventurous ways of targeting users will be deployed.

One anonymous source claimed that he worked for a start up that ‘if you downloaded an app with their code, they could see the users web history, what apps they owned and for how long they’re on them’. This company acted as the middle man doing technological dirty work. When working for Nike they would make sure to send adverts to people who viewed the Adidas homepage.

The companies machine learning would continually analyse online reactions to adverts and modulate the way adverts were targeted. The method was hugely successful, as they received an astonishing 30% engagement with all their adverts.

This article does not reveal the methods of Doctor T.J Eckleburg. Instead, it is a witness to the miracles that people claim to have seen. Without drawing any firm methodological conclusions, it seems we are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the surveillance economy. As Doctor T.J Eckleburg looks on in silence, it is up to activists, journalists and academics to meet his gaze.

Sam Gangadin-Guinness (07.11.12)

The Group Chat and The Network (22.11.17)

Across Facebook and WhatsApp I am part of six group chats. As long as I am accompanied by a suitable phone and app these avenues know no spatial barriers. These communal networks can pervade my daily existence, at work, on the tube, or in a nightclub. These group chats exchange information that will organise my day and construct my imagination; instructions may be given over what to do on the weekend, or alternatively, someone may link my new favourite song. While Facebook profiles and Instagram pages are too public, WhatsApp and Facebook group chats combine effective tools of sharing information with the informality and intimacy of conversation and thus have created one of the most important communal spaces on the internet.

Matt Houlbrook’s seminal text Queer London demonstrates the significant impact spaces have on the establishment of networks. Houlbrook argues that spaces, such as the WhatsApp or Facebook group chats, are ‘not simply a passive backdrop against which social and cultural processes are enacted but constitutive of the cultural and social formation’ of the spaces themselves suggesting that these groups and chats are culturing the networks we form. Writing about Soho in the 1960’s, Houlbrook argues that ‘at home, men could be isolated from wider social networks. In certain venues, by contrast, they could make friends, find sex or socialise’. While in the 1960s nightclubs may have provided the space for socialising, in the 21st century the group chat is the space that builds social networks.

For better or worse, our phone makes us both involved and vulnerable to a series of different group networks at any given time of the day. For some, this increased networking may provide a transcendence from a tricky home life. For others, this may constitute an extreme disturbance from a deserved moment of privacy. The group chat is the concrete paving the avenues of cyberspace and regardless of where you go, you must walk on the pavement.

The Cultural Transformations of the Group Chat

I am part of six group chats constantly. Of these six tribes, one is for my family chat, three are from school and two are from University. Each group relays different information. One chat from school constitutes a group where music and only music is shared. The University chat allows people to organise events as well as share job opportunities, while my family chat allows my parents to update their children on their hourly location. Each group constructs a network where different forms of information can be transferred instantly towards one another. The platforms of WhatsApp and Facebook provide the tools to easily transfer text, photos and videos. Depending on the group the style of language differs. Niall Ferguson forecasts that ‘literacy will ultimately cease to be a barrier to connectedness’ as we transition from text speech towards the language of the image, video and microphone. I can draw two conclusions from the groups that I have been part of. Firstly, group chats have allowed me to be ever present in a multitude of groups at the same time. Secondly, oral and textual language are increasingly being replaced by the sharing of photos and videos. The space of the groups chat is helping us organise our lives and in doing so conditioning the way people communicate.

While the previous paragraph demonstrates how the tools of the group chat shape our own cultural practices, a comparative study by UCL has demonstrated how national cultures are subsequently conditioning the way different nations interact with group networks. Anthropologists, for instance, found that in Trinidad the group chat had worked to reinforce familial connections. With high levels of migration, group chats were imperative for sustained and continual familial contact.

Contrastingly, research suggested that in Europe people tend to ‘live together with the people with whom they socialise online’ suggesting the group chat was replacing the family group with collectives of friends or collectives from work. While people in Europe may share more stories with friends or work groups this does not suggest that the family is being displaced. Instead, this could imply that group chats are merely strengthening our bonds towards collective groups, including the family.

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Hierarchy and The Networked World

Niall Ferguson’s new book The Square and the Tower gives warning to the troubles of the hyper-networked world we have built. Ferguson’s diagnoses that ‘the lesson in history is that trusting in networks to run the world is a recipe for anarchy’, adding that ‘those who lived through the wars of 1790 and 1800s learned an important lesson… unless one wishes to reap one revolutionary whirlwind after another, it is better to impose some… hierarchical order on the world and give it some legitimacy’. Applying this thesis to social media networks Ferguson argues that ‘the world today frequently resembles a giant network on the verge of a cataclysmic outage’. Thus, for Ferguson, the networks constructed on spaces like Facebook and WhatsApp are argued to be a destabilising force in society as these networks offer little or no legitimacy. Our mass connection to large numbers of groups allows memes to be ‘spread even more rapidly than natural viruses’.

Efforts to legitimise networks have been forwarded by Anne Marie Slaughter who has argued that the networks of NATO must turn into ‘hubs of network security partnerships’ and thus be ‘flatter, faster, more flexible’ incorporating ‘good web actors, corporate, civic and public’. Similar efforts at legitimising networks have been highlighted by Labour MP Lucy Powell who admits that she is a member of eight parliamentary WhatsApp groups, such as a Women’s PLP group including heavyweights Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry. Therefore, the group chat may well provide the networking tools to support legitimate bodies through strengthening ties of communication between relevant groups and thus leading to a more efficient organisation. Just as the WhatsApp groups have restructured parliamentary factions, they may well reconstruct the machinery of NATO.

On the other hand, while the group chat can be used to strengthen and weaken existing hierarchies, Ferguson suggests that Silicon Valley’s control of these networks is the most toxic societal impact in our cyber-world. The small area of California contains the most important WhatsApp collectives in the world. Due to these company’s ability to design our networks they are creating the most profound cultural, social and political changes without any social, cultural or political legitimacy. In other words, Silicon Valley is paving the stones of cyberspace without a building permit.

The group chat is one of the world’s most effective tools for organising the collective. WhatsApp allows us to be present and active in 5 different conversations at the same time. In turn, these tools are transforming the way people communicate lending heavily on the use of photography and video, be they memes or vines. At the same time, the cultures of different nations are leading to different cultural applications of group chats. In Trinidad family members who migrate remain in touch through WhatsApp, whereas in England, teenagers form strong bonds with their peers through continually conversing in collectives on Facebook and WhatsApp. Either way, the roads between networks are being paved by the group chat. Ferguson demonstrates how these powerful networks have no hierarchy and thus lack legitimacy – something he argues has historically led to societal instability, nevertheless, politicians like Lucy Powell demonstrate how group chats can be used to support those in positions of hierarchy. Through flagging the societal changes caused by the group chat we are concurrently inspecting Silicon Valleys extraordinary power in building Cyberspace. If Ferguson’s forecast of revolution and instability are accurate it is time attempts were made to survey and check the powers of Silicon Valley.