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writing for godot

What complicates our human rights work is the lack of information we have as realtes to hidden, semi-hidden or false truths.

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Saturday, 01 August 2020 14:22

Human rights: Food for a false truth thought  ‘HR and information sources’


Human Rights Reader 538


-This is the truth. These are the facts! The truth will be constructed from the facts.


1. Mind you: Before any truth, there is a judgment that is not objective, but subjective. For the French philosopher Michel Foucault, truths are fabrications of power. But today, who listens to Foucault? Global neoliberalism has triumphed and it is its power that imposes ‘truth’ as a means of control --that only survives thanks to a pre-judgment, an a-priori judgment. Today, objective facts have less appeal and influence on the public opinion than the call for emotions and beliefs. Fake news demonize today’s youth and their social networks. Subjective news are spread and cannot even compete with neoliberalism. The market has emerged as the source of truths. (Andres Polymeris)


The view from statistics


-You measure what you value.

-Anything difficult to quantify simply gets left out.

-Do we (you) get involved in the repetitive collection of some irrelevant data?


2. Statistics create subjects; they tell stories and shape cultures. For better or for worse, statistics have become crucial, if not the most crucial, of development tools. Of all the development tools, it is clear that statistics play a central role in amassing power and knowledge. However, statistics are often used unknowingly by development experts to further entrench the Northern development discourse. Wither human rights (HR)…


3. In short, statistics are political technologies that create reality and are understood as facts that supposedly translate into truth --and choice of indicators embodies certain values about what information counts…


4. Put another way, living in a world of computers, technocracy has conveniently forgotten human and nature’s rights. You see, we live in an era where technocrats (mis)lead us. The economic and statistical analysts handle an abstract reality at the highest bureaucratic levels ignoring hunger, poverty and the host of other HR violations.


5. [By the way, did you know? Half of the people you know are below average.  42.713% of statistics are made up on the spot…].


A sub-view from Big Data


-Big data are becoming an instrument of psycho-political control. (Pierre Clastres)


6. As an entity, the corporation is on the cusp of achieving ‘quantum supremacy’ as a result of its massive accumulation of data powered by algorithmic-based intelligence.* Social movements need to grasp this change quickly and act! (Anita Gurumurthy and Nandini Chami)

*: Algorithmic Injustice (Annette Zimmermann et al)

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already reshaping existing social and political institutions. Algorithmic decision-making and decision support systems are currently being deployed in many high-stakes social domains, i.e., AI is already here, working behind the scenes of many of our social systems. So, what responsibilities and obligations do we bear for AI’s social consequences in the present --not just in the distant future? Algorithms can purportedly avoid biased decision making, thereby (again purportedly) achieving a level of neutrality and objectivity that is not humanly possible. So, a great deal of recent work has critiqued this presumption; much ink (and pixels) have been spent on this aspect of the debate.
  • There is a wealth of empirical evidence showing that the use of AI systems often replicates historical and contemporary conditions of injustice rather than alleviating them. Algorithmic systems are simply not neutral at present. We need fairness, accountability and transparency in machine learning (!) --and need watchdog groups and other human organizations to monitor and measure the undesirable and unintended effects of machine learning.
  • Algorithms make predictions that mirror past patterns thus creating a pernicious and worrisome feedback loop in which social injustice is not only replicated but, in fact, further entrenched. These systems still learn from and rely on data born out of conditions of pervasive and long-standing injustice (and HR violations). We must carefully examine the relationship and contribution of AI systems to existing configurations of political and social injustice, lest these systems continue to perpetuate those very conditions under the guise of neutrality.
  • The assumption that existing regulations and research are adequate for ethical deployment of AI is unrealistic. Making choices about the concepts that underpin algorithms is not a purely technological problem. We need to first make it possible for society as a whole, not just tech industry employees, to ask the deeper ex-ante questions, e.g., should we even use weak AI in the social domain at all? We can learn from other recent democratic innovations, such as participatory budgeting, in which local and municipal decisions about how to allocate resources for infrastructure, energy, healthcare, and environmental policy are being made directly by residents themselves. Until we do so, algorithmic decision making will continue to entrench social injustice, even as tech optimists herald it as the cure for the very ills it exacerbates.


The view from the social media

-What the internet wants is volume and speed …and, doing so, the loudest voices prevail.

7. The ones that control our world’s economy are in the game of Twitter, Facebook and other such, not giving enough (or any) time to think about humankind, HR and nature. Worse: governments are the comfortable legal arms these actors use in this ploy.


8. The scant intellectual density of the conservative neoliberal forces controlling the above has substituted debate with insult and fake news magnified by the resonant boxes offered to them by the media that should actually be described as ‘persuasion-and-manipulation-media.** (Vicente Navarro)

**: Propaganda must limit itself to a small number of ideas incessantly repeated and presented over and over again from different perspectives, though always converging over the same concept; without gaps or doubts. (Joseph Goebbels!)


9. It is part of the nature of contemporary media and of the much used social networks that we loose so much time dealing with the branches to evade what is really important --moreover constantly interrupted by pervasive advertising. (Hermann Bellinghausen)


10. Should you thus spend a lot of time on social media since social media are too often but an echo chamber of half truths at best? [I like this anonymous quote: An indifference to sunlight is what is said to be necessary to become a world-class computer and cell phone addict (and gamer)].


11. We cannot be caught off guard in the battle for a ‘market share’ of the public mind. (K. O’Neill). Therefore, to give HR a better chance in the super highway, we must bypass the control of the internet space by the facebooks, the googles, the instagrams, the youtubes… of this world.


The view from journalism

-Good journalism gives power, but not a throne…. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Noticia de un Secuestro)


12. Beyond sad: Reporting has given way to opinion. In the eyes of the public opinion, opinion becomes certainty --a cheap trick in every way.


13.  Supposed freedom of expression*** reduces itself these days only to the alternative media with less coverage and resonance than the mainstream media. The ‘great dis-informers’ of the public opinion are in the hands of the economic power that treads with impunity its ideological line. Just look at open television completely devoted to defend the status-quo. Journalism in these media has become cheap currency and become blind towards the burning reality of grave national and international life-or-death structural and human problems parading under their noses. Think HR… (Edmundo Moure)

***: There is no such a thing as average press freedom!


14. [Not being facetious, I heard somebody ask: Would an ‘un-newspapering’ help since newspapers are like an epidemic in urgent need of eradication? (Karl Kraus)].


It s thus urgent to change this state of affairs


15. Under the commercial and political micro-targeting we live under, our collective views easily become ‘invented memory’ that seeps into our democratic everyday normality. Meanwhile, the judicial system and the rule of law to protect the weak against the arbitrary power of the strong fails the HR of those rendered poor. When the sole liberty that is left to the silent majority is the liberty to be miserable, we will have arrived at a state of misery in liberty. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos) We can indeed appoint ourselves as arbiters.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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