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The Robot Fairy Godmother Cometh

18 min read

By Kabeia Rineaki Brock Sutton Allen

If futurists of the 70s were to be not only believed but also accurate, our world would be a colorful but dangerous landscape filled with rockets casually blasting off to martian colonies while personal jet-packs jockeyed in traffic with nuclear cars, zipping around domed mega-cities. To the chagrin of retro-futurist such as myself, such a horizon has failed to present itself in all of its glory and hazard. In that same sense, while the techno-optimism of the past did not foresee how slow change was to come the techno-pessimists of today will face equal disappointment. While a future filled with Artificial Intelligence(s) and Automation* may terrify the average consumer of Science Fiction- it will instead be one where unanticipated demands are fulfilled, fueled by the unstoppable momentum of progress, leading ultimately to either positive improvements or surprising mediocrity.

The Immigrant Robots Coming For Your Jobs

Change is constant. We don’t accumulate thousands of years of culture, layered with unrelenting innovation, without realizing the social, economic, and political flux it ignites. Yet despite the pounding of the machine of civilization, reactionaries and cynics lurk behind every historical corner. There is always another Thomas Robert Malthus trying to rain on the parade of progress, sermonizing of a new apocalypse coming to destroy our world, lives, or in this case our livelihoods.

The oft beat drum of those singing such pessimistic tunes is the assumed loss of jobs. Doomsayers consistently cite narrowly interpreted statics from the 2013 Oxford Martin School paper reporting “Of the 702 job categories examined, 47% were susceptible to automation within the next 20 years” and the National Bureau of Economic Research 2017 recounting “In the US between 1990 and 2007, the addition of each robot into manufacturing industries resulted in the loss, on average, of 6.2 human jobs.” (Dunlop)

In his seminal TED Talk at Cambridge, MIT Professor David Autor waves off such handwringing, “These predictions strike me as arrogant. These self-proclaimed oracles are in effect saying, ‘If I can't think of what people will do for work in the future, then you, me and our kids aren't going to think of it either.’ I don't have the guts to take that bet against human ingenuity. Look, I can't tell you what people are going to do for work a hundred years from now. But the future doesn't hinge on my imagination.” (Autor)

Complete automation which is rare does reduce employment, but partial automation which is the norm actually increases employment (Bessen). “This is what happened when weaving technology advanced during the Industrial Revolution, for instance. The price of cloth dropped, more people bought cloth, and factories hired more people to keep up with demand—even though each worker could, with the help of machines, be much more productive.” (Kessler)

Joss Fong of Vox explains how this effect compounds “... the part we tend to forget is the indirect effect of labor-saving inventions. When companies can do more with less, they can expand, maybe add new products or open new locations, and they can lower prices to compete. And that means consumers can buy more of their product, or if we don’t want any more of it, we can use the savings to buy other things. Maybe we go to more sports events or out to dinner more often. Maybe we get more haircuts or add more day-care for the kids. This process is how our standard of living has improved over time and it’s always required workers. [Heidi Shierholz (Economic Policy Institute):] ‘The key economic logic here is automation does indeed displace workers who are doing work that got automated, but it doesn't actually affect the total number of jobs in the economy because of these offsetting effects.’ Warnings about the “end of work” tend to focus on [jobs before Higher Productivity] and not all of this [after]” (Fong)

The Demand For Automation

In the end, jobs won’t be generated out of thin air, they’ll be created according to the needs of business owners and innovators who will take advantage of the technology and opportunities they afford. All that it takes is one sweaty employee or frustrated employer to stand up from some backbreaking or tedious task and say “there’s got to be an easier way to do this.”

The Verge wrote about a Cranberry Farm that was had been able to weather harsh times with the help of robotic assistants. “Despite the drought and competition from other growers, Mann [the farmer] says that his farm is on track to bring in a record harvest. Part of the solution is for farmers to optimize their farms as much as possible and to collect as much data as possible to guide decisions when it comes to production, Mann says.” (Liptak) The MIT Technology Review believes such a relationship will continue to beneficial if not commonplace. The article details, “Drones can provide farmers with three types of detailed views. First, seeing a crop from the air can reveal patterns that expose everything from irrigation problems to soil variation and even pest and fungal infestations that aren’t apparent at eye level. Second, airborne cameras can take multispectral images, capturing data from the infrared as well as the visual spectrum, which can be combined to create a view of the crop that highlights differences between healthy and distressed plants in a way that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Finally, a drone can survey a crop every week, every day, or even every hour. Combined to create a time-series animation, that imagery can show changes in the crop, revealing trouble spots or opportunities for better crop management.” (Anderson)

Having worked on a farm, I know that checking such vast swaths of cropland in such detail would require strenuous and excruciating effort. These jobs but as mere mortal individuals we would not want because they would but also because they would bore us out of our minds. Leaving one to ask, do we even want these jobs? This is the entry point we’ll most likely witness automation sleep through- mind-numbing tasks automated to bring about a subtle shift in labor.

 

The Monster Already At The Gate

While Skynet remains a distant dream, China is quietly preparing the ”Construction of a Social Credit System” in order to audit the loyalty or threat of its citizenry (Botsman). Though there is still some time until you need to flee hordes of murderous bots drones continue to grow in their fielding by the increasingly militaristic law enforcement agencies and departments throughout the nation (Margaritoff). And notwithstanding the seeming impossibility of a world ran by an Artificial Intelligence we’ve already given them a foot in the door by allowing them to influence courts responsible with convicting criminals (Tashea). When you couple that with examples like Palantir that armed the New Orleans Police Department with Minority Report style predictive police technology you a lethal combination of systems capable of ranking, predicting, and pursuing the conviction of people before they even do anything (Winston). Actually, this isn’t even Frankenstein’s monster that we’ve created, this is an angry god.

And the timing is nothing short of terrible. Recently its been determined that worshiping gods is an instinctive reflex built into our cognitive core. “Cognitive scientists talk about us being born with a “god-shaped hole” in our heads. As a result, when children encounter religious claims, they instinctively find them plausible and attractive, and the hole is rapidly filled by the details of whatever religious culture they happen to be born into. When told that there is an invisible entity that watches over them, intervenes in their lives and passes moral judgement on them, most unthinkingly accept it. Ditto the idea that the same entity is directing events and that everything that happens, happens for a reason.” (Lawton) Of course some people already ahead of the curve, which is why you have strangely charismatic individuals like Google’s Anthony Levandowski starting Way of the Future, the first AI Church (Harris).

 

Too Big to Fail

Like the banks of the early 2000s, AIs seemed poised to take a position that makes them too big to fail. Their construction grows progressively complex and their ability to further entrench themselves into society increases exponentially. Edd Gent wrote of their creation, “A long-standing problem in AI research has been the fact that deep neural networks are “black boxes.” You can’t tell how these algorithms work just by looking at their code. They teach themselves by training on data and there’s no simple flow diagram a human can follow. The way these networks reach decisions is encoded in the weights of thousands of simulated neurons.” (Gent) Metz explained in further detail, “In building a neural network, researchers run dozens or even hundreds of experiments across a vast network of machines, testing how well an algorithm can learn a task like recognizing an image or translating from one language to another. Then they adjust particular parts of the algorithm over and over again, until they settle on something that works. Some call it a “dark art,” just because researchers find it difficult to explain why they make particular adjustments… This is also a way of expanding the number of people and businesses that can build artificial intelligence. These methods will not replace A.I. researchers entirely. Experts, like those at Google, must still do much of the important design work. But the belief is that the work of a few experts can help many others build their own software.” (Metz)

This is the most essential part- the need for the human touch, and it’s cited by most industry experts. “Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google and its parent company Alphabet, has said he believes AI technology is developing so quickly it may soon turn against humans. ‘All the movie-inspired death scenarios... I can confidently predict to you that they are one to two decades away,’ Mr Schmidt told a security conference in Munich… ‘It is advisory, it makes you smarter and so forth, but I wouldn’t put it in charge of command and control.’”

(Sabur)

 

If Not Us, Who?

Automation and Artificial Intelligence are at their roots, nothing more than mere tools. Humanity has been crafting, using, and abusing tools since before written language. Arguably the most critical of these tools has been fire, a device and force of nature synonymous with potential for progress and destruction. The fact that we’ve gone thousands of years without having burned out (pun intended) with the help of any of toys we have at hand seems to indicate an optimistic trend. Is there great potential for destruction with the power we might lend to our digital offspring? Yes. But every step of the way will be the ultimate protectors of humanity’s interests- us.

This is the most critical and, yet again, a neglected aspect with automation and artificial intelligence: If we don’t embrace and control these systems they are certainly going to employed against us by authoritarian governments and rogue actors.

A report titled “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation” was published with 26 contributors from institutions including Oxford, Cambridge, and Yale universities which “details how new AI technology could maliciously affect digital, physical and political security over the next five years.” Such threats included but were not limited to:

“Digital

  • Automation of social engineering attacks

  • More sophisticated automation of hacking – AI is used (autonomously or in concert with humans) to improve target selection and prioritization, evade detection, and creatively respond to changes in the target’s behavior. Autonomous software has been able to exploit vulnerabilities in systems for a long time , but more sophisticated AI hacking tools may exhibit much better performance both compared to what has historically been possible and, ultimately (though perhaps not for some time), compared to human.

Physical

  • Terrorist repurposing of commercial AI systems – Commercial systems are used in harmful and unintended ways, such as using drones or autonomous vehicles to deliver explosives and cause crashes.

  • Endowing low-skill individuals with previously high-skill attack capabilities – AI-enabled automation of high-skill capabilities — such as self-aiming, long-range sniper rifles – reduce the expertise required to execute certain kinds of attack.

  • Swarming attacks – Distributed networks of autonomous robotic systems, cooperating at machine speed, provide ubiquitous surveillance to monitor large areas and groups and execute rapid, coordinated attacks.

  • Attacks further removed in time and space – Physical attacks are further removed from the actor initiating the attack as a result of autonomous operation, including in environments where remote communication with the system is not possible.

Political security

  • State use of automated surveillance platforms to suppress dissent – State surveillance powers of nations are extended by automating image and audio processing, permitting the collection, processing, and exploitation of intelligence information at massive scales for myriad purposes, including the suppression of debate.

  • Fake news reports with realistic fabricated video and audio –  Highly realistic videos are made of state leaders seeming to make inflammatory comments they never actually made.

  • Automated, hyper-personalised disinformation campaigns – Individuals are targeted in swing districts with personalised messages in order to affect their voting behavior.

  • Manipulation of information availability – Media platforms’ content curation algorithms are used to drive users towards or away from certain content in ways to manipulate user behavior. (“The next 5 Years Could Be Very Bleak According to a New Report on Malicious AI.”)

Now, ignore for a second all the promises of productivity and safety that automation and AI offers. Not only do we have nothing to gain from ignoring or avoiding opening the proverbial Pandora’s Box- we actually risk being ignorant of and unable to preempt such attacks. If the robot uprising is assumed to be a inevitability then the best way for us to understand this eventual enemy is to get closer and understand them. And we can’t accomplish this by burying our heads in the sand.

If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em.

Even if the sky were to begin falling there still remains one final stand for most optimists. Assuming AI and Automation runs rampant to the point of escaping human control the last resort is to conversion from meat puppets to digital equals. As Ryan Browne of CNBC details, Elon Musk, the most concerned, most public, techno-optimist still holds out hope despite his dire premonitions, “Musk believes that humans should merge with AI to avoid the risk of becoming irrelevant. He is the co-founder of Neuralink, a start-up that reportedly wants to link the human brain with a computer interface.” (Browne) Such transhumanist pipedreams might be easily waved away as unrealistic but the same could be said for the conditions that would require such a solution. That is to say, the likelihood of conscious digitizing is arguably as unlikely as the robot uprising. What actually comes about will most likely be less exciting and far more benign.

 

The Realistic Ending

The Foundation for Economic Education pins this concept of a Mundane Revolution on one of the most classic futurist failures, “The flying car, of course, was the height of the romantic vision of the technological future. The assumption was that our mastery of flight would link up with the obvious centrality of the car to the emerging suburb-oriented mass culture to give us the ultimate in personal conveyance. What the futurists overlooked was that technology alone won’t do the trick. Inventions have to be profitable to be real innovations. As it turns out, the flying car was, and still is, simply too expensive to produce to be worthwhile for the vast majority of Americans... Blinded by “big technology” and deaf to the importance of economic considerations and marginal adjustments, the futurists failed to imagine terrestrial vehicles with CD/mp3/DVD players, GPS, built-in cell phones, computer-monitored performance, sturdier tires, and enhanced safety devices, not to mention overall quality. Getting 100,000 miles, which used to be one measure of a high-quality car, is now expected. Our lives today have been notably enriched by the incremental improvements in the automobile.” (Horwitz)
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The future is coming and whether it is in the form of a bogey man of a fairy godmother it's going to come for all of us. Those who go kicking and screaming will no doubt be left bruised and battered however, those of us who jump in headfirst, might just come out alive and well. Such critical social shifts are appropriately described as waves, and it is always more enjoyable and safer to dive under such waves rather than fight it and end up tossed back onto the beach. So as for me and my house, I for one, welcome our Robot Overlords.













*A Note on the Distinction Between AI and Automation

Those more intimately familiar with the subject material will undoubtedly take issue with the author’s brutish fusion of the separate fields of Automation and Artificial Intelligence. It is to be noted that this obfuscation was intentional, as Automation is to the Body as Artificial Intelligence is to the Spirit. Without Automated systems in place, an AI is useless, a ghost amongst men of flesh, but with with them Artificial Intelligences can call upon all manner of robotic golem to manifest their digital will.

 

Sources Cited

Anderson, Chris. “How Drones Came to Your Local Farm.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 3 Feb. 2015, www.technologyreview.com/s/526491/agricultural-drones/.

Autor, David. “Will Automation Take Away All Our Jobs?” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, TedxCambridge, Sept. 2016, www.ted.com/talks/david_autor_why_are_there_still_so_many_jobs.

Bessen, James. “How Computer Automation Affects Occupations.” VOXEU, CEPR, 22 Sept. 2016, www.voxeu.org/article/how-computer-automation-affects-occupations.

Botsman, Rachel. “Big Data Meets Big Brother as China Moves to Rate Its Citizens.” WIRED, WIRED UK, 28 Nov. 2017, www.wired.co.uk/article/chinese-government-social-credit-score-privacy-invasion.

Browne, Ryan. “Elon Musk Warns A.I. Could Create an 'Immortal Dictator from Which We Can Never Escape'.” CNBC, CNBC, 6 Apr. 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/04/06/elon-musk-warns-ai-could-create-immortal-dictator-in-documentary.html.

Dunlop, Tim. “The Robot Debate Is over: the Jobs Are Gone and They Aren't Coming Back.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2017, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/31/the-robot-debate-is-over-the-jobs-are-gone-and-they-arent-coming-back.

Fong, Joss. “Why the Rise of the Robots Won't Mean the End of Work.” Vox, Vox, 13 Nov. 2017, www.vox.com/videos/2017/11/13/16635360/automation-robot-jobs-unemployment-debate.

Gent, Edd. “Why Google DeepMind Is Putting AI on the Psychologist's Couch.” Singularity Hub, 12 Feb. 2018, www.singularityhub.com/2018/02/12/google-deepmind-wants-to-put-ai-on-the-psychologists-couch/.

Harris, Mark. “Inside the First Church of Artificial Intelligence | Backchannel.” Wired, Conde Nast, 2 Feb. 2018, www.wired.com/story/anthony-levandowski-artificial-intelligence-religion/.

Horwitz, Steven. “Why Do Futurists Get So Much Wrong? | Steven Horwitz.” FEE, Foundation for Economic Education, 25 Aug. 2010, www.fee.org/articles/why-do-futurists-get-so-much-wrong/.

Kessler, Sarah. “Over the Last 60 Years, Automation Has Totally Eliminated Just One US Occupation.” Quartz, Quartz, 15 Mar. 2017, www.qz.com/932516/over-the-last-60-years-automation-has-totally-eliminated-just-one-us-occupation/.

Lawton, Graham. “Effortless Thinking: The God-Shaped Hole in Your Brain.” New Scientist, 13 Dec. 2017, www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631561-000-effortless-thinking-the-godshaped-hole-in-your-brain/.

Liptak, Andrew. “To Keep the Cranberry Industry in Its Birthplace, a Farm Turns to Drones, Data, and Automation.” The Verge, The Verge, 23 Nov. 2016, www.theverge.com/2016/11/23/12640282/farming-technology-cranberry-industry-dji-phantom-drone-data.

Margaritoff, Marco. “Drones in Law Enforcement: How, Where and When They're Used.” The Drive, 13 Oct. 2017, www.thedrive.com/aerial/15092/drones-in-law-enforcement-how-where-and-when-theyre-used.

Metz, Cade. “Building A.I. That Can Build A.I.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 Nov. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/technology/machine-learning-artificial-intelligence-ai.html.

Sabur, Rozina. “Google Exec: Artificial Intelligence Film Death Scenarios 'One to Two Decades Away' .” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 1 Mar. 2018, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/01/google-exec-artificial-intelligence-film-death-scenarios-one/.

Tashea, Jason. “Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now.” Wired, Conde Nast, 2 Feb. 2018, www.wired.com/2017/04/courts-using-ai-sentence-criminals-must-stop-now/.

“The next 5 Years Could Be Very Bleak According to a New Report on Malicious AI.” BusinessTech, MyBroadband, 3 Mar. 2018, www.businesstech.co.za/news/technology/227911/the-next-5-years-could-be-very-bleak-according-to-new-report-on-malicious-ai/.

Winston, Ali. “Palantir Has Secretly Been Using New Orleans to Test Its Predictive Policing Technology.” The Verge, The Verge, 27 Feb. 2018, www.theverge.com/2018/2/27/17054740/palantir-predictive-policing-tool-new-orleans-nopd.

 

The Noble Theory

7 min read

[Essay Written For Political Theory]

By Kabeia Rineaki Brock Sutton Allen

Socrates’ Noble Lie seems to be willfully misunderstood by skeptics who would take the concept merely at its face (or named) value. In reality it is the packaging of what would later become known as Plato’s Theory of Forms but applied to mankind. This is a simple concept, positing that everything has a perfect, ideal form but it is instantly polarizing and stratifying. While it offends the modern sensibilities of fairness and equality, the gravity of the Ideal demands not only observation but obedience in its obtainal. To consider the possibility of better invites jealousy but to comprehend the sureness of perfection invokes obsession. And it is that obsession for the ideal that has driven every civilization to either great achievement or destruction, it always will and always has, far before Socrates even gave it a name. The Noble Lie is as much a deception as the Sun above us is and we will continue to pursue it, despite its danger, with varying degrees of success; some falling as Icarus and others soaring as Elon Musk will with his rocket-strapped Tesla.

While detractors may take issue with the stratification of society, their concerns can be approached with the seriousness of one dealing with a child unwilling to do something good yet uncomfortable. If the pursuit of the ideal did not drive societies, would not this world run rampant with anarchic utopias? Or is their extinction not testament enough to the necessity of the ideal? While social order may merely be unpleasant symptom the aforementioned child (read: closet anarchist) might prefer to ignore, the underlying process at work remains a inescapable truth- it is a result of the collective will toward a better life. All participants in a community benefit from mutual efforts of everyone striving for the ideal lives. Everyone sticks around with the crowd either because it makes them happy, they hope it might make them happy later, or the prospects outside of the community seem less happy. Even now “woke” would-be-individuals rally enmasse at the prospect of raining on the parade of this rat race. They thrill at the thought of universal dissatisfaction leading to the severing of social bonds. Fortunately while there will always be those may who rail at the civilization they are privileged to belong to, brief punctuations of unrest remain minor in comparison to the long sentences and paragraphs of order and civilization. And so it can be observed that the evidence against the Noble Lie and the raw truth of Plato’s Theory of Form (applied to society), remains in short supply.

Instead what remains is thousands of years of mankind refining itself in the kiln of civilization. While the proposal that the inhabitants of the Socrates’ Just City in Speech be indoctrinated with a rudimentary caste system based on their mettle (pun intended) has not necessarily panned out, the idea has had its residual effects. So though the naive might reassure themselves that they are not sorted by the metallic properties of their souls, we still tend to organize ourselves to some degree. For better or for worse, individuals in societies are subject throughout their life to a battery of tests that filter according to a hybrid of equally vague concepts of meritocracy and virtue. In more totalitarian structures utility and conformity is emphasized, in liberalized environments individuality and creativity is sought. What remains constant in every society is the shifting nature of these ideals. A totalitarian empire might overcome an individualist commune only to be overrun with wild barbarians. With each overlapping, conquering culture comes the rule of the new gods and new gods require new heroes.

So from the zeitgeist emerge great men to champion the gods, each the embodiment of the ideals required by the culture. These heroes are specialists capable of fulfilling the needs leading up to their respective ideal lives full of happiness. Sometimes a happy life merely required the ability to survive to the next day. This is the realm of the farmers and warriors. Later it might require the subtle navigation of the whims of your fellow man or the angry gods. Such was the market for the merchant or priestess. But eventually it would be left to those capable of planning for and raising up the next generation of citizens. And happiest to seize these responsibilities were the statesmen and intellectuals. The trichotomy of these needs and those who fulfilled them was recognized instinctually by Socrates, Plato, then later Maslow and Toffler. Socrates and Plato constantly clashed with their peers for teaching new gods, but in reality they were pursuing the distillation of their flawed deities into refined, perfected forms.

What was sought and continues to be sought in art and religion, as with everything produced by triarchic civilizations is the purest embodiment of these ideals. At its core is what Hegel described as the Thesis- the statements of the way things are, then the natural, opposite reaction to way things are (the Antithesis) and their combination producing the Synthesis, greater than both. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when simplified (as all unnecessarily complex things can and should be) reveals the triarchic natural needs of man as first physical survival, emotional desires, and then the intangible fulfillment of self-actualization. We might recognize the way we used to be in the Past and when comparing it to our Present hope to find direction when headed into the Future. So if current intelligentsia and political activists are to be believed the (near) future is female, that is to say the present is increasingly matrifocal. This is underscored by the current gearing of marketing to the higher spending demographic of women. When viewed through lens of the reactionary nature of mankind and Hegel’s proposal, the logic then follows that the past was male or patriarchal and the far (actual) future will be a synthesis of Man’s past, Woman’s present. Maybe a Future of Families or one just for Children. Either way, while it might be tempting to chalk all of this merely to duality of man, the trichotomy extends outside of the individual, it is inherently beyond.

And so we will continue to plunge headfirst toward our true destination, the ideal. Alvin Toffler found these ideals informed our major revolutions and subsequently the forms of power and political structures built to contain them. First physical needs are fulfilled by the Agricultural Revolution that gave birth to civilization with farming and warfare. Then emotional needs are tended to by the Industrial Revolution which brought about mercantilism, capitalism, and fiat currency. And finally we are starting to see the beginnings of the fruits of Internet Revolution fulfilling our true intangible potential, Maslow’s final rung in his Hierarchy of Needs. Internationally, the nationstates of the world struggle to keep up.  While 3rd World Kingdoms and Empires with their conscripted armies still offensively expanded their power to in order to enforce their Rule of Sword, we’ve already seen the worst of them topple. And still 2nd World Unions and Democracies compel mercenaries to their defense with the Rule of Gold. But in the end, all of that will only continue to give birth to 1st World Adhocracies and Republics maintained by the Rule of Law, occasionally protected by the militias and special forces.

 These are the true forces at work, veiled by the Noble Lie. They are not simple to comprehend at first but their pervasive nature has become the governing protocol since the first village was settled. The moment a unit of three or more people, maybe a family, formed- our fates were sealed. The Noble Lie was always nothing more than the polishing of the Savage Truth. The truth that as triarchic beings we will progress, that we might actually eventually become the gods, the ideals, that we have constantly refined. The truth that nostalgia and regret for the past are useless in the face of the terrifying prospect of our impending ascendance. If we wanted simple we should have stayed in the caves but it is too late for that now.We needed the Savage Truth of our nature to function but always sought the Noble Lie in order to forgive ourselves.

 

The Math: How Net Neutrality Killed Competition

4 min read

(Article Extract)

By Kabeia Rineaki Brock Sutton Allen

The Problem

The Government

By the admittance of Net Neutrality supporters like the high profile Electronic Frontier Foundation, the villain is less obvious:

Thanks to policies at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as some careful planning by the major ISPs, there is no meaningful competition in the broadband market in most parts of the country. Instead, consumers are stuck with government-backed monopolistic ISPs that can get away with anti-consumer business practices.” [Emphasis added]

Now, ignoring the fact that most people have an uninformed definition of monopoly (usually tinged by such socialist biasing against even the slightest hint of it), the EFF gets to the root of the issue- Government regulation got us into this situation and the only reasons why ISPs are able to continue to operate in that way is because they’re propped up by that same government. This is not capitalism, this is unnatural. It’s textbook Crony Capitalism.

 

A Simple Fix, Made Complicated

Consistently, Net Neutrality Opponents such as myself offer the market supplied solution of competition only to have it shot down as unrealistic. After accusing market meddling as the culprit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls for additional regulation in the same manic breath,

“Those advocating for Pai’s rollback often accuse the FCC of overreaching in 2015 and applying unnecessary regulation on the broadband market. But that argument ignores the unique lack of competition in the broadband market. According to the FCC’s 2016 data, 51 percent of Americans have access to only one provider of high-speed Internet access. That means slightly more than half of the country has no other option for high-speed Internet if they don’t like something their ISP doing. Only 38 percent of Americans have access to more than one ISP. The remaining 10 percent doesn’t have access to a high-speed Internet at all.”

 

So the question is: Who Killed Competition?

In order to understand this, we need to understand when exactly Net Neutrality came out to play because the dates presented by NN advocates are as frenzied and inconsistent as they are misleading. While some obsess only with the Title II Rules set in 2015, others prefer 2003 when Tim Wu first coined the term, and a small but vocal group insists that such principles have guided the internet since its creation. I’ve been entertained by the mental gymnastics of Pro-NN disciples trying to leap back and forth between these dates: blaming the poor state of things on the ISPs (by citing later dates) and taking credit for everything great about the internet (by alluding to the earlier ones). Whether or not this is done intentionally or out of ignorance remains a mystery merely because I don’t care enough to ask. Neither speaks favorably of the Net Neutrality movement. Which is fine by me.

 

So, for the sake of simplicity and fairness I’ve decided to center my arguments around the idea that Net Neutrality’s origins lie in the middle of those extremes (being the dates between always/2003 and 2015 as referenced above). Specifically, I shall approach the cluttered timeline of this argument with the understanding that NN came into being in 2010 with the FCC’s Open Internet Order being given.

 

So let’s take a peek at some additional points of data provided by the FCC. In 2009 the FCC’s Standard for Broadband Internet Service was “approximately 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, with acceptable quality of service.” [emphasis added] That same year the Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2009 noted that 76% of the population had access to 2 or more ISPs offering this standard. I like to call this percentage Competitive Coverage.

 

Competive Coverage 2009

 

7 years later the State of the Internet report noted only 42% of the population having 2 or more providers offering the approximate of the 2015 FCC Standard of “At least 25 Mbps downstream and at least 3 Mbps upstream”

 

Competive Coverage 2016



So what happened?

TL:DR/Long Story Short

 

  • 2009 76% of Americans had access to competing Internet coverage

  • 2010 Net Neutrality happens

  • For another 6 years additional Net Neutrality rules and standards are installed

  • 2016 Only 42% of Americans have access to competing Internet coverage

 

SOURCE: MY PHONE

The Moral of the Story:

Increasing regulation = decreasing competition.

 

 

Rural White America (The Media’s Disposable Demographic)

3 min read

An Appetizer/Spinoff Rant for my upcoming essay arguing against Net Neutrality

In researching for Net Neutrality I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony that the statistics (of the US population lacking multiple ISP options) are probably inflated by Rural White Americans. This peaked my interest because last I heard they were persona non grata because of the 2016 Election.

 

 

 

Let’s flashback for a quick recap: My political biases aside (just kidding, totally indulging them) it was endlessly entertaining to see the about-face of the mainstream media mocking Trump about the election being rigged and stolen only to blame the electoral college and the rest of White America when he won. My favorite line was CNN’s Stephen Collinson wailing that “[Trump’s] accusations alone, experts say, could inflict long-standing damage on the US political system itself by eroding trust in the probity of the electoral process.” These fears seem to have been left on the wayside with CNN, Time, and Wired pushing headlines like “THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS GREAT FOR WHITER STATES, LOUSY FOR CITIES”. Since then the marching orders have been clear: if you’re angry about the election, get angry at how Rural White Americans voted for Trump. Get angry and stay angry. The classy result of such responsible journalism:

https://twitter.com/charliekirk11/status/906187274915799040?lang=en

Credit @charliekirk11

 

Now flashforward back to the present day, where the irony is this: In the rush to validate (the Chosen One) Obama’s Net Neutrality policies the media needs victims to give the narrative a subplot sob story. Those victims don’t have enough ISPs competing to give them the internet. But they’re white rural voters. The ones the media blames for putting Trump in the White House.

Compare this map to the first one in .mic tweets. Notice how Trump states lack coverage.

Tl;dr: Version: It’s hard to tote a token victim when you’re also pushing the narrative that they’re all terrible.

 

So here’s what’s going to happen: Net Neutrality will die. The media will discard the actual victims in their narrative (Rural) White Americans and promptly go back to trashing them:

 

Leaving FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to do the actual hard work of getting those Rural White Americans access to the internet while the media circus goes off to supply arms for another battle in the culture war.


Note from the Author: (because I enjoy anticipating weak objections) stay tuned for my next post- An essay against net neutrality including a portion on how racial minorities are also opposed to it. My parting shot: Net Neutrality is a bipartisan issue not because everyone is for it but because it provides a clear distinction between those who understand how the internet and economics work aaaand those who don’t.

 

I Don't Need Your Help Having Nightmares

7 min read

A Convoluted Post About Evil and Spooky Things

Waaaaaay back in July, I posted on Instagram that my next blog post would be named the same as this post. The reason I’ve take forever to update anything has been rationalized by the unreasonable notion that people would ever notice, care about, or hold me accountable to such obligations. Nonetheless, this is me making good on that promise.

My Insta post was a couple of snapshots from a sketch diary of some of my more dark story and movie ideas. Blended together they were intended to convey the sort of dread I was then experiencing. Looking back it's cringey as get out but it's difficult to tell if that’s sincere introspection or a self-depreciation as necessary social survival tactic.

The context of such vagueposting was a couple of my friends convinced me (Yes, they were girls, but I was physically restrained. No I’m not a grown man completely capable of escaping) to watch another dumb horror movie. Now, I had sworn off the whole genre back when I had made the mistake of seeing The Conjuring II with my buddy Andrew*. We both went with the intention of being entertained by a spooky but unrealistic movie but before it had even started we were already freaked out. I can’t even remember what it was for (it might have been Split), but a trailer played that had us both so on edge that we were even startled by a Coke commercial. So after being freaked out from the very beginning and watching what we each felt was a pretty creepy film we both went back home and proceeded to have terrible nights.

Andrew and I are both Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We both served missions, mine taking me to areas in Arizona including Native American reservations and his taking him to Uganda and Ethiopia. As Christians we believe in God, Heaven, Angels- the whole deal. But what comes with that is the understanding that there is something on the opposite side of the spectrum. Standing opposite of good there is bad. Both of us have had experiences that can attest the greatness of God but also the realness of the Opposition. Early on in our friendship we established an agreement that is common with most Elders with such shared experiences: to never go into detail about what we saw. We have only ever spoken in generalities about what happened on Dark Continent and in the hidden corners of the reservations and as I type this I shall endeavor to strike the balance between educating and shielding you.

Andrew and I encountered ancient evils linked to secret societies that should have died off with the barbaric practices they hid. There remain individuals so consumed with hatred and bitterness that they have willingly accepted evil into their lives at the cost of what makes us truly human: free will. At its tamest this can be seen in the drunk father who beats his child, the child who then goes on to join a criminal gang seeking kinship of any form, only to get tangled up in his own addictions. But beyond broken families, domestic violence, and communities torn up by crime, over the edge of the cliff, resides the vastly more malignant Skin Walkers and practitioners of Sangoma. I hate to pull a Professor Slughorn but beyond the names, I can’t give you any more detailed information. You’ll need to do your own research.

However to understand them in this context in the most general essence it's important to examine their religious parallel. In Mormon theology, these guardians of dark tradition are understood to be remnants of conspiratorial murder cults collectively called Gadianton Robbers. To summarize, the robbers were a brotherhood started by families and friends concealing a guilty compatriot’s role in a murder. Eventually the organization remain united in pursuit of more. Pledges were made and oaths exchanged, with promises of wealth and control being traded under the threat of fatal repercussions for exposure or reneging. In scripture, the ambitions of the robbers is described as purely political- sophisticated criminal syndicates installing their own member to public office whilst hiding the murder of those unfortunate enough to get in their way. But at the fringes of Mormon culture where aboriginal and western cultures mix, an even darker reputation for the Skin Walkers and Voodoo witch doctors has emerged. It is believed that these fraternities for the fallen pursued their goals to an extreme that led to a deal with the devil. These robbers sacrificed their free will and sometimes the lives of their loved ones for ungodly power.

So who are these big bad devil worshipers? The individuals we usually met were only the ones who were bad at hiding. Some were shamans by day and others were literal common thieves. But these were ones who we could tell had accepted evil into their lives and as such were making their lives and those around theirs as miserable as possible. Unfortunately the more chilling prospect that haunted us was that these represented the low hanging fruit, the initiates on the surface. In researching for this article, I was reminded of the terrible practice of murdering and mutilating children, specifically albinos. Andrew told me that these acts lurk behind old traditions like tribal medicine but had more recently presented itself as something with the mere appearance of Christianity. Harming children, as a rejected taboo, is shared across most communities by most individuals but the desire for unrighteous dominion over others remains equally insidious but less visceral and distinctly deniable. And that’s why the Gadianton Robber template refuses to die and continually sprouting three heads for every one cut.

If any semblance of the original Gadianton structure has been retained then it can easily be assumed that there remains scores of undetected crypto-conspirators. Imagine if you will an organization of pure evil- One stripped away of the clutter or obvious symbology, shaken free of past dust and rust associated with well known factions that have opposed the common welfare of mankind. It would be like a legion of demons capable of corrupting any community it came in contact with, wearing its face like a mask, satisfying its greed only enough to remain invisible to its unsuspecting host. [Incoming Sarcasm] But that’s just the stuff of fiction. Noooo, there haven’t been any recent headline examples of insidious conspiracies or secret societies with the self-admitted interest of expanding control.

Look, here’s the point. Evil is real. There’s two distinct types mentioned in this post. The type that rots you from the inside with introduction of seemingly innocuous thoughts (for example through consumed media) and the type that you actively invite into your life when led by unrighteous desires (). They both have a source. As an optimist, I advocate the belief that someone can be inspired from above to do right, to bring about innovation for the betterment of his fellow man. Conversely, it is completely possible to lower your spiritual immune system to dark thoughts that seem to come from nowhere. And should you fail to remove and replace those thoughts the festering will turn into parasite that will drive you closer and closer to the source of darkness. I know it's real. Just as I know there is a God. But I’d prefer to only be reminded of only one of those deities. And I don’t need horror films to remind me. I have my own demons to haunt me and I have very little desire to add to that burden.

 

*

1 min read

As with pretty much everything else written on this blog, the views expressed in this post are those of my own and not of those included or cited. Additionally nothing I write should be viewed as a reflection of those for any organization I am a member or a part of.

 

WhatsUpdate July 28, 2017

2 min read

Remember how I was talking about how I entered into depression when I got kicked out of BYUH? Well I’m in school again! I’m at the Utah State University in Logan. I got sick the day after I drove down from WA. I was in the hospital for 10 days after getting slammed with pancreatitis. I’ve since slimmed down by 2 sizes since completely changing my eating habits. It took me forever to love food again but it’s still a bit of struggle to force myself to eat all three meals every day.

I pushed to get involved in the ward I was in because it was a little lonely just being stuck in my room, but I got more than I wished for. My official title is Activity Chairman but it’s put me in charge of Linger Longers, Dances, FHEs, and Activities, normally 4 separate callings back in Bellevue. It took me for a bit of ride when I had difficulty balancing work, school, church, and sleep but I think I’ve got a better handle of it now. I'm taking Music 1010 and USU 1730 (Stragies for Academic Success) for the second block of summer so it hasn't been too intense.

In addition to the wonderful Nemelkan’s and their extensive friends and family I’ve gained a fun little core group of friends that I’ve christened Party Force One. Still not sure where it will take me but its been a blast so far.

I’m working at a call center that affords me a little reading time in between dials and it fits alright with my schedule. And now I’m off to try to figure my schedule and classes for Fall semester!

 

 

The Prank That Never Was

3 min read

You know what would have been the most messed up April Fool’s prank? If I decided to tell everyone that for the last three years I’ve been depressed and at my lowest, I considered suicide.

There’s a certain beauty to saying such a terrible thing. April Fools is day when everything is considered a lie and it takes a really messed up person to find humor in such a dark subject. Let alone (seemingly) mocking those who suffer from something such things. But that would have been the punchline. I honestly was er, am depressed. The funny fat kid was really a sad fat kid. And when he decided pull back the curtain of lies about how everything was fine, it was on the day no one was supposed to take him seriously.

A joke about the lie hiding the truth with jokes. So meta. I am an artist.

 

But alas, I didn’t. So instead you get this: A blog post on World Health Day, which has been dedicated by the World Health Organization (who I still politically oppose because they’re a UN organ) to depression.

 

Many members of the congregation in the Bellevue Young Single Adult Ward were present when I first openly declared what has been crippling me for so long. I gave a long rambling talk about how my depression from getting kicked out of BYUH 3 years ago culminated in a suicidal low around the winter of 2016. Let me make this clear- I never made an attempt on my life, I just made plans. But something changed, I started to make progress in my life, little by little and gradually I clambered out of that darkest of pits. So now you’ll have to endure me making dark jokes and blog posts about it. Misery loves company.

 

So this is me- telling everyone: My name is Brock. And I use my humor to hide the fact that for the last 3 years I’ve suffered from the depression and because I didn’t do the right thing right away, it almost got the best of me.

 

I’m doing better. I’m seeing a counselor, and everyone who has already heard about it has been very supportive. I’ll admit it frustrates some twisted sense of pride to know that I need it. Nonetheless, thank you. I don’t like asking for help. But I did need it.


So there you go guys, now you know. Those weekends, where I don’t come and hang out- I’ve been moping around the house feeling bad for myself. But now I’m confronting it, I’ve made it goal to be more open about (almost to the point of being annoying) and to blog more.

So here’s to more inconsistently formatted blog posts in the future. And to me being more honest with you and myself and never going back to that dark place again.

 

Joy Despite My Depression: Talk Given on March 12th, 2017

9 min read

Brothers and Sisters ALOHA

My name as some of you know is Kabeia Rineaki Brock Sutton Allen. Kabeia Rineaki being the name given to me at birth and Brock Sutton Allen being the one given to me when I was adopted by a white couple from Arizona. This will be relevant later on in my talk.

 

When I was asked last week to give a talk today, my thoughts were first drawn to how I pigeonholed rap lyrics by Eminem into my last talk. I automatically started wondering if I could get away with it again...

 

Tupac Shakur once said…

[Obligatory pause for laughter]

I kid I kid

 

Another thing that came to mind was how in my recent Gospel Doctrine class lesson we used a laser and light projector to cast green stars and blue cosmic clouds on the ceiling of the pitch black chapel gym.

 

The reason why I bring all this up is I think it's apparent that when put in the position to teach or preach I tend to trend towards showmanship and cheap gimmickry. It has its pros and cons and what I hope to do today is shed that dazzling cloak of bombastic extroversion.

 

Let me first start, though, by telling you a story about paradise. I knew I wanted to go to BYU-Hawaii in a specific instant during the time that my mother's clan was visiting Laie for a family reunion. There we were, a small army of 30 or so white people -and me. At the time, the rest of my siblings despite also be adopted were white whereas I was the deluxe​ prized import.

[Not many kids have the luxury of being able to shut down one-upping with the fact that they were the most expensive baby.  And, no Andrew. They didn't pay by pound]

 

I had gone all my life knowing and being reminded that I did not look like the rest of my family. In fact I always found it a little eerie when people did, as they tend to naturally.

 

So when we were visiting the local ward and there's a pretty Hawaiian girl giving out leis and kissing visitors on the head and she skips me, it means a lot to me. Turns out they thought I was local. So here thousands of miles away from the hometowns of either of my white parents, I find a group a people who not only look like me but automatically​ assume I belong. And I do feel like I belong, for the first time in my life, really. And from that point forward I knew I needed to go to school in Hawaii.

 

That was then- before I was even old enough to pass the sacrament. Fast forward many years later and in my senior year I fake an acceptance letter from Harvard which I very loudly decline in order to go the much more real but almost equally prestigious BYUH.

 

My freshman year at BYU-Hawaii was a blur of beauty both in nature… and in person. I had turned out to be a late bloomer in high school, not kissing until I was 18. So to suddenly be surrounded by girls in college from every corner or the earth who made high school 9s and 10s look like 5s and 6s- all the while this happening on or near the paradisiacal beaches of Hawaii- well it turned out to be intense combination. One that proved both socially… and academically overwhelming. I eventually left BYUH behind for my mission in Mesa Arizona, with a forgettable note on my records of Academic Probation for my poor grades.

 

I served amongst the crispy Arizonians for 25 months all the while I received letters and packages from over 20 different girls (Which is still the mission high score). Anyways, most of whom regarded me as the fat safe friend. Little did they know…. that I was. Almost ALL of them are married and not to me so clearly they were right.

 

Nonetheless, when my suffering under the Arizonian sun finally came to an end, I was eager to jump back into the water both physically and… socially. But I was going to be smarter this time. Me and 6 other RMs buddies from my first year regrouped at Hawaii with a clear and simple game plan: focus on school, stay away from freshman girls, graduate on time. I was the first one to break those rules by dating the first freshman girl to sneak into our tight knit group. It lasted a week.

 

Fast forward to the end of that semester and I'm flying high. My History of Philosophy professor handpicks me to join a committee to create the curriculum for all incoming freshman. My reputation at the comedy improv group I helped​ my buddy start puts over 200 hundred people in the seats every week. Somehow I'm Elders Quorum President and the organization is practically running itself. And most importantly, after waiting patiently for weeks I've finally convinced, who would be, my 3rd girlfriend that semester to let me kiss her. 3 days later and I’m on my flight home for Christmas break. 4 days later and I receive an email effectively kicking out of school. Academic Probation knocked once more. A couple math classes I hadn't dropped fast enough and an International Law teacher who didn't appreciate my Libertarian sentiments were the final nails in my scholastic coffin. So with more than half of my possessions in my (now) former dorm room thousands of miles away, across the ocean- I was stuck on Christmas break forever.

 

And I was still in love.

 

For one of my first​ FHEs in Bellevue YSA I wrote a slam poem for her. We called for hours. Spent days writing in notebooks and shipped them back and forth. Skyped for weeks. Until we didn't. But it still hurt when she announced she was going to marry one of my friends.

 

There was a time when all of the things I loved the ocean, the culture, my personal success, the culmination of all my creativity, the general love for Hawaii, ALL of that got pinned on her. And despite knowing deep down we're weren't going to survive a long term relationship I had always hoped that paradise with her would always be there waiting.

 

Now, I've told this story, or fragments or variations of it to many if not most of you.

 

But what I've barely shared with almost none of my friends and very few family members is this: for more three years I've faced slight depression.

 

More accurately, I am barely coping let alone facing my depression. I've been self-medicating myself with fear, denial, and sometime pure ignorance. I have consistently refused to intimately, emotionally deal with my peers or any scenarios that would cause me to deeply reflect on the possibility that I am- sad. And that this sadness, that I have allowed to fester for over three years is the root cause of clearly suicidal compulsions.

 

It's an uncomfortable and socially stigmatic thing to even utter in public but this is the uncomfortable and necessary path the spirit has led me down to prepare my talk.

 

The source material for our talks [as you may have already heard] is Joy and Spiritual Survival by Russell M. Nelson.

 

I would be preaching with only half of the spirit if all I did was regale of happy I am without telling how sad I've been.

 

It has felt like I am in those “perilous times” he mentions we all must now face. For three years I have gone from leading as an active Elders Quorum President to weakly crawling for my very “spiritual survival”. Hawaii was heaven on Earth to me, and the only thing worse than seeing it get ripped away, is knowing that it was my own fault.

 

For me, to understand and continue healing, growing, and learning from my mistakes I've had to be confronted by the distinctions between mere happiness and true joy. I have been tossed to and fro seeking for anything that could stabilize me. Sometimes I built upon sandy foundations that quickly fell out from under my feet. Materialism, fleeting relationships, movies. These were temporary distractions that while fast and fun, never truly pulled me out of “that rut.”

 

While we are in it, while we’re wallowing in our lows, it's easy to think that our life is full and over. That our story is almost finished and it turns out it was a sad story. But in reality, we're in the 2nd Act, Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. It will get better and more than we can even imagine in the 3rd act, Episode VI Return of the Jedi. This is where i find myself now. Through painful trial and error I have discovered the beginning of my third act. And as usual I should have just listened to my parents. My mother’s prescription for any form of sadness has always been to go to work. To be in the service of others. To give yourself permission to be joyful by focussing on joy. Or as President Nelson taught: “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” Brothers and Sisters, I continue to echo the words of the apostle: “If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we will never know joy. The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy!”


But if you give yourself permission to be truly happy, you can have joy. You can find your paradise, even here: In overcast Bellevue, WA. And these things I leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Daydreaming at Night: Overly Poetic Whining and Reflection on My Depression

1 min read

 

It's nights like this that hurt the most. When I think about how beautiful everything was. When I can barely stand to touch upon the fleeting images, the harshly​ poignant memories of Hawaii. Something tells me I don't even deserve to even think about it. Let alone deserve to have been there in the first place. I miss everything about it. I miss how everything was a terrifying adventure to that shut-in I tend to be. No matter what I did with friends it felt like I was either risking my social, financial, or physical life. If things went wrong I could end up dying, broke, or friendless. Nothing was tame, life was vivid and ill-advised. But now everything is dull, I'm so safe and it's killing me.