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Wednesday October 22nd 2014

Konstruerede fortællinger og kold nødvendighed

Cory Doctorow skriver i Locus Magazine om den ubehagelige beslutnings nødvendighed – og ikke mindst om den intellektuelle uhæderlighed i de fortællinger, der iscenesætter den:

The first [example] is ‘‘The Cold Equations’’, Tom Godwin’s classic 1954 Astounding story about a shuttle pilot who has to kill a girl who has stowed away on his ship. The pilot, Barton, is on a mission to deliver medicine to a group of explorers on a distant world. They have contracted a fatal disease, and without the medicine, they will all die. The pilot has just gotten underway when he sees his fuel gauge dropping at a faster rate than it should. He deduces from this that there’s a stowaway aboard and after a search, he discovers a young girl.

She has stowed away in order to be reunited with her brother, who is on the plague-stricken world (though he’s a continent away from the sickness). She believes that she is to be fined for her rule-breaking, but then a stricken Barton explains the facts of the universe to her. The rescue ship has only enough fuel to reach the plague-planet, and with the girl’s additional mass, it won’t arrive. She will have to be pushed out of the airlock, otherwise the sick explorers will die of the plague. If Barton could, he’d sacrifice himself to let her live, but she can’t land the spaceship. It’s entirely out of his hands.

As the truth dawns on her, she weeps and protests: ‘‘I didn’t do anything!’’

But we know better, as does Barton – and as, eventually, does she. She has violated the laws of physics. The equations are there, and they say she must die. Not because the universe thirsts for her vengeance. There is no passion in her death. She must die because the inescapable, chilly math of the situation demands it.

Barton wanted her to live. Apparently, editor John W. Campbell sent back three rewrites in which the pilot figured out how to save the girl. He was adamant that the universe must punish the girl.

The universe wasn’t punishing the girl, though. Godwin was – and so was Barton (albeit reluctantly).

The parameters of ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ are not the inescapable laws of physics. Zoom out beyond the page’s edges and you’ll find the author’s hands carefully arranging the scenery so that the plague, the world, the fuel, the girl and the pilot are all poised to inevitably lead to her execution. The author, not the girl, decided that there was no autopilot that could land the ship without the pilot. The author decided that the plague was fatal to all concerned, and that the vaccine needed to be delivered within a timeframe that could only be attained through the execution of the stowaway.

It is, then, a contrivance. A circumstance engineered for a justifiable murder. An elaborate shell game that makes the poor pilot – and the company he serves – into victims every bit as much as the dead girl is a victim, forced by circumstance and girlish naïveté to stain their souls with murder.

Moral hazard is the economist’s term for a rule that encourages people to behave badly. For example, a rule that says that you’re not liable for your factory’s pollution if you don’t know about it encourages factory owners to totally ignore their effluent pipes – it turns willful ignorance into a profitable strategy.

‘‘The Cold Equations’’ is moral hazard in action. It is a story designed to excuse the ship’s operators – from the executives to ground control to the pilot – for standardizing on a spaceship with no margin of safety. A spaceship with no autopilot, no fuel reserves, and no contingency margin in its fuel calculations.

‘‘The Cold Equations’’ never asks why the explorers were sent off-planet without a supply of vaccines. It never asks what failure of health-protocol led to the spread of the disease on the distant, unexplored world.

‘‘The Cold Equations’’ shoves every one of those questions out the airlock along with the young girl. It barks at us that now is not the time for pointing fingers, because there is an emergency. It says that now is the time to pull together, the time for all foolish girls to die to save brave explorers from certain death, and not the time for assigning blame.

Doctorows overordnede konklusioner er endog meget relevante også uden for science fiction-genren:

If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?

Every time someone tells you that the environment is important, sure, but we can’t afford to take a bite out of the economy to mitigate global warming, ask yourself what’s out of the frame on this cold equation. Every time you hear that education is vital and taking care of the poor is our solemn duty, but we must all tighten in our belts while our lifeboat rocks in the middle of the precarious, crisis-torn economic seas, ask yourself whether the captain of our lifeboat had any role in the sinking of the ship.

Via Boing Boing.


Kontanthjælpsreform: Wer hat uns verraten?

Sozialdemokraten! Die ham uns verraten, und die ham uns auch verkauft.


Malucos de Estrada – gadehippier i Brasilien

Dette er en trailer, som forsøger at rejse penge til en hel dokumentarfilm.


Nej til krig mod Syrien – nu med britisk parlament

Det britiske parlament giver mig ret. In your face, Cameron!

Forfatteren Arne Herløv Petersen kommenterer krigsplanerne således:

- Bandekriminaliteten i København er forfærdende. De slås indbyrdes, og de kaster sig over uskyldige forbipassende og slår dem til lirekassemænd. Hvad skal vi dog gøre?
- Nu har jeg det. Vi går op i Rundetårn og smider nogle store sten ned over fodgængerne.
- Hvordan skulle det dog kunne hjælpe?
- Næ. Men så har vi da sendt et signal.

Fri os for krig og nyttesløse signaler. Hvis der skal gøres noget, så lad os gøre noget konstruktivt i stedet. Noget, som ikke med sikkerhed vil forværre situationen.


Nej til krig mod Syrien

Hvad Assad end har gang i (og det er endnu ikke ret klarlagt, hvad der er eller ikke er sket), må det anses for ganske usandsynligt, at et luftangreb på Syrien vil hjælpe. Nok snarere tværtimod. Sporene fra Irak og Afghanistan skræmmer.


Boykot Legoland

Legoland ejes af kapitalfonden Merlin, der ejer en masse lignende forlystelsesparker rundt om i verden og år for år indhøster svimlende overskud.

Disse penge tjener de på bekostning af deres ansatte, som de alle andre steder end i Danmark betaler sulteløn. For nylig kom flere hundrede tyske Legoland-ansatte af samme grund til Billund for at demonstrere mod Merlin-koncernens udnyttelse af dem.

Avisen.dk skriver:

Utilfredse tyske ansatte kan glemme alt om en overenskomst med Legolands ejere, koncernen Merlin. Det skriver Fagbladet 3F.

- Det er fuldstændigt udelukket, at vi vil indgå en overenskomst med en fagforening i nogen af de lande, vi har attraktioner, siger Sally Ann Wilkinson, der er kommunikationschef hos Merlin.

Lørdag besøgte to busser med vrede tyske Legoland-ansatte forlystelsesparken i Billund for at protestere over lønninger på 60 kroner i timen i Legoland i Günzberg i Sydtyskland. Fagforbundet NGG fortæller, at mange af de ansatte tjener så lidt, at de er nødt til at modtage socialhjælp ved siden af deres løn.

Fagbladet 3F skriver endvidere:

Det er betænkeligt, mener arbejdsmarkedsforsker Henning Jørgensen fra Aalborg Universitet.

– Det er en meget udansk måde at opføre sig på for Legoland. Vi har en tradition for aftaler mellem arbejdsmarkedets parter. Uden en overenskomst har de ansatte ingen kollektive rettigheder. Det bliver i stedet et arbejdsgiverparadis, hvor firmaet bestemmer uden indblanding fra andre, siger Henning Jørgensen.

Kirkbifonden, der ejer 34 procent af Merlin, er som erhvervsfond omfattet af en høj grad af skattefrihed. Fonden meddeler, at den har fuld tillid til Merlins ledelse i sagen.

- Det er en amerikansk strategi, der har bredt sig til Europa, hvor flere koncerner fjerner sig fra aftalemodellen. Det underminerer den model, det har taget 100 år at bygge op i flere europæiske lande, siger Henning Jørgensen.

Fagforbundet NGG fortæller, at mange ansatte i Legoland i Günzberg tjener så lidt, at de er nødt til at modtage socialhjælp ved siden af deres løn. I øjeblikket kører de en retssag om fyring af en tillidsmand i forlystelsesparken.

Kirkbi-fonden er de oprindelige Lego-grundlæggeres familiefond. Det er tankevækkende, at de skattefrit kan skovle penge ind, som de tjener ved at betale så lave lønninger, at deres ansatte må søge bistandshjælp. Jeg har i hvert fald sat mine ben i Legoland for sidste gang.


Jihad i Danmark

En gruppe muslimer pønser på at lave jihad i København. Her ser vi resultatet.


Google: Du kan ikke forvente, at din Gmail er privat

Google har, i et forsøg på at undgå en retssag om krænkelse af privatlivets fred, erklæret til retten, at brugere af Gmail ikke med rimelighed kan forvente, at deres kommunikation er privat.

The Guardian skriver:

People sending email to any of Google’s 425 million Gmail users have no “reasonable expectation” that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing.

Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a “stunning admission.” It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals.

“Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director. “People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy, don’t use Gmail.”

Google set out its case last month in an attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of breaking wire tap laws when it scans emails sent from non-Google accounts in order to target ads to Gmail users.

That suit, filed in May, claims Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages”. It quotes Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman: “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

The suit claims: “Unbeknown to millions of people, on a daily basis and for years, Google has systematically and intentionally crossed the ‘creepy line’ to read private email messages containing information you don’t want anyone to know, and to acquire, collect, or mine valuable information from that mail.”

In its motion to dismiss the case, Google said the plaintiffs were making “an attempt to criminalise ordinary business practices” that have been part of Gmail’s service since its introduction. Google said “all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.”

(…)

Simpson, a long-term Google critic, said: “Google’s brief uses a wrong-headed analogy; sending an email is like giving a letter to the Post Office. I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don’t expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it.

“Similarly, when I send an email, I expect it to be delivered to the intended recipient with a Gmail account based on the email address; why would I expect its content will be intercepted by Google and read?”

På en måde er der ikke noget nyt i det – det har altid været sådan, at systemadministratorer kunne være nødt til at åbne emails af rent tekniske årsager, hvis der for eksempel opstod en fejl på systemet. Emails har af den grund altid skullet betragtes som åbne postkort, medmindre de er krypteret.

Men derfra og så til systematisk at scanne emails og stille indholdet til rådighed for sine egne systemer, som Google gør, er der alligevel et stykke. Men i lyset af, at NSA alligevel opsnapper og gemmer en kopi af alle de mails, det kommer i nærheden af, er Googles omgang med brugernes data måske blot et eksempel på, hvor udvandet vi har tilladt begrebet “privatliv” at blive i denne vor digitale æra.


Træk dig, Trine Bramsen!

Mads Bondo Dydensborg, tidligere byrådsmedlem for de radikale og aktiv i det IT-politiske miljø, har i dag dette læserbrev i Jyllands-Posten:

Trine Bramsens (S) pinagtigt uinformerede og tåkrummende fordomsbaserede indlæg refereret på JP online 2/8 savner ikke alene hold i virkeligheden, men bør samtidig få Socialdemokraterne til at overveje, efter hvilke kriterier de uddeler ordførerskaber. På trods af anerkendelse af fagligheden sætter it- og teleordføreren fra det regeringsbærende parti i praksis lighedstegn imellem det meste af Danmarks it-sektor og en større gruppe af introverte, dårligt klædte og usoignerede ”it-nørder”, der »gør alt hvad de kan for at være så lidt attraktive som overhovedet muligt«.

Trine Bramsen forsøgte efterfølgende i forskellige medier at slå det problematiske i sit indlæg hen, men der kan ikke være tvivl om, at indlægget er dybt krænkende for hele it-branchen. Samtidig skader det branchens muligheder for at tiltrække f.eks. kvinder, idet indlægget på alle måder er med til at cementere fordommen om en branche befolket af mandlige ”nørder”.

Det er oplagt for enhver med kendskab til it-sektoren, at Trine Bramsen efter dette indlæg ikke længere vil kunne tages alvorligt af branchen. Dette er allerede mere eller mindre bekræftet af Prosa, der i forvejen ikke er imponerede over hendes udmeldinger.

Post uden prestige

Branchen er generelt sjældent imponeret af de folketingsmedlemmer, der får tildelt it- og teleordførerskaberne. Det er tilsyneladende ofte en lavprestigepost, der uden løftede øjenbryn kan tildeles til juniormedlemmer som Trine Bramsen.

Det burde være anderledes. Det er afgørende for Danmarks konkurrencedygtighed, vækst og f.eks. realisering af digitaliseringspotentiale hos det offentlige, at it-branchen har fornuftige kår, og at politikerne fører en aktiv og engageret politik over for branchen. Området er komplekst, præget af hurtig udvikling og dækker over alt fra den nyeste teknologi til juridiske spidsfindigheder i forbindelse med f.eks. immaterielle rettigheder.

En forudsætning for at den rette politik kan føres, er kontinuitet med engagerede, erfarne og vidende politikere på it- og teleordførerposterne – ikke juniormedlemmer.

For Trine Bramsen bør løbet være kørt. Socialdemokraterne bør benytte lejligheden til at give ordførerskabet til en fra gruppen, der kan løfte opgaven. De øvrige partier bør benytte lejligheden til at overveje, om deres ordførere udfylder rollen godt nok.

Og han rammer desværre lige i plet. Det er besynderligt, at posten som IT-ordfører prioriteres så lavt – det drejer sig trods alt “kun” om hele den infrastruktur, vi er i fuld gang med basere vort fremtidige samfund på. Det burde være vidende og kyndige folk, der afstikker de politiske retningslinjer for den udvikling – ikke døgnfluer som Trine Bramsen. Måske endda skandaler som NemID og Rejsekortet kunne have været undgået, hvis der havde været kompetente folk ved roret.


Terroreksperter: “Komplet vanvittigt” at evakuere ambassader

Cory Doctorow skriver på Boing Boing:

By an amazing coincidence, the worst terrorist attack that never happened since 9/11 is not happening right now, proving that everyone who was worried about out-of-control NSA spying had lost the plot. Which is ZOMGTERRISM. So 28 US diplomatic posts have been evacuated (that is to say, “experienced an ordered departure”), including ones in places like Mauritius or Madagascar, where al Qaeda has nefariously never operated as part of its devious plan to lure everyone there into a false sense of security.

Well, some people are cynical and just don’t believe it, despite all the overwhelming secret evidence that we’re not allowed to see or know about or hear about or even have described to us. People like State Department counterterrorism advisor Will McCants, who called the evacuation of the diplomatic posts “Crazy Pants” (“you can quote me”). Loose cannons like Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who called the terrifying and nonspecific warnings “absurd hyperbole that is coming almost entirely from reckless commentators or ill-informed or ill-spoken [Capitol] Hill folks…no one who really knows al Qaeda or its history thinks that this is as huge a deal as portrayed—and certainly nothing remotely close to the worst thing we have seen since 9/11.” But what the hell does he know?

“It’s not completely random,” said another expert of the administration’s reaction, “but most people are, like, ‘Whaaat?’” Other terms used to describe it in addition to “Whaaat?” and “crazy pants”: “willy-nilly,” “baffling,” “tenuous,” “head-scratching,” and “who really knows, anyway?” White House spokesman Jay Carney wasn’t helping any: “What we know is the threat emanates from, and may be focused on, occurring in the Arabian Peninsula,” he said yesterday. “It could potentially be beyond that, or elsewhere. We cannot be more specific.” So, just stay away from everywhere, thanks.

But we have to do something, don’t we, because isn’t this “the most serious threat [Sen. Saxby Chambliss has] seen in the last several years,” reminiscent of “what we saw before 9/11″? Actually, “[t]hat is absurd hyperbole that is coming almost entirely from reckless commentators or ill-informed or ill-spoken [Capitol] Hill folks,” or so said Michael Leiter, but what does a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center know about counterterrorism? “I don’t think this was purposeful hype,” Leiter continued, “but no one who really knows al Qaeda or its history thinks that this is as huge a deal as portrayed—and certainly nothing remotely close to the worst thing we have seen since 9/11.”

Security Expert: Broad U.S. Terror Alert Is “Crazy Pants” [Lowering the Bar]

Og ja, hvis man var rigtig kynisk, kunne man få den tanke, at panikken faktisk handler om at få os alle til at synes, at NSAs overvågning af alt og alle er fjing fjong. I alle tilfælde har terroreksperterne og Doctorow ret i, at så overbevisende ser det heller ikke ud.


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