From Bloomberg's "Woman Who Couldn't Be Intimidated By Citigroup Wins $31 Million" (HT Ted Hu)
In more modern literature, Cassandra has often served as a model for tragedy and romance, and has given rise to the archetypal character of someone whose prophetic insight is obscured by insanity, turning their revelations into riddles or disjointed statements that are not fully comprehended until after the fact. Some mythologies of the Arthurian Legends have Merlin living backwards, therefore telling of the future, that nobody believes.
In certain underground circles, in those groups of real and on-line communities of people where all aspects of psychic (or psi) abilities— and particularly, precognitive foresight— are accepted as a commonplace fact and not conjecture, the term "Cassandra Syndrome" has been coined to be a reflection of those who deliberately ignore warnings and predictions of any kind of impending trouble or doom because of disbelief, ignorance, skepticism, or just plain stubbornness when it comes to psychic abilities. When everything is all over, it is said that this person was a victim of the Cassandra syndrome.
On 27 March 2012, the Victoria & Albert Museum brought together the best and brightest of today’s thinkers and practitioners from across the globe to participate in Running With Scissors: Design & Risk. This timely event considered the ways in which design negotiates existential, environmental and economic risks, as well as the creative leaps encouraged by living through difficult times. This film features introductory remarks by Martin Roth, Director of the V&A; Professor Ulrich Beck’s keynote speech, which engaged with the implications for design of his seminal work, The Risk Society; and the design critic John Thackara’s sobering analysis of the relationship between energy, the environment and design.
John Thackara in "Oil-Powered Thinking": (John delivers this speech in 2nd half of video below after Ulrich Beck's edited speech)
Since Ulrich Beck published his book Risk Society in 1986, a powerful consulting industry has emerged to help global companies “manage” up to 500 different kinds of risk. How is it, then, that despite their efforts, the world is not, to put it mildly, a safer place?
One reason is that risk management does not exist to manage the safety of the world as a whole. The industry exists to serve the interests of its clients, and the biosphere does not appear on its client roster.
A curious phenomenon follows from this. Risk managers do not, by and large, advise their clients not to take risky actions. On the contrary: their job is to make it possible for their client to take those actions anyway – but to make sure someone else pays for any negative consequences.
A summary of Ulrich Beck's Risk Society here
From the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Operations Center Media Monitoring Capability Desktop Reference Binder 2011:
Twitter has 140 million users and more than 340 million daily tweets. If Twitter is the only social network monitored by Homeland Security — though it likely isn’t — the unit must use vast amounts of data processing power to monitor millions of tweets that flag up certain keywords.
It likely has more data-sifting capabilities than those Twitter leverages for its own analytics.
What the government then does with the data again is unclear. Though, we can all but bet it doesn’t print it out and stick it on the communal refrigerator for everyone else to see the good hard work of the junior staff.
As per an Associated Press report in November, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) now monitors more than five million tweets a day with the capability to monitor both Facebook and Twitter.
Sister site CNET reported last week that the FBI has formed a new unit tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, such as the ability to intercept Web, wireless, and VoIP traffic. It adds yet another U.S. government department — including the CIA, the NSA, and Homeland Security — with the ability to monitoring online activity.
From the few media reports that have covered the story, already the retweets and the combination of words have flooded the microblogging site rendering the document vastly useless.
It’s unclear how a “flagged” social media update then connects to an action. It’s unlikely that a seemingly inane tweet will lead to a teenager’s basement front door will get busted in an armed FBI raid. Although, the chances are the flags at Langley are going crazy with today’s tweets.
According to a Homeland Security spokesperson, speaking to the Huffington Post: “DHS will review the language contained in all materials to clearly and accurately convey the parameters and intention of the program.”
From Scott Huler's "NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal" at SciAm:
The key language is in section 2, paragraph e, talking about rates of sea level rise: “These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly. …” It goes on, but there’s the core: North Carolina legislators have decided that the way to make exponential increases in sea level rise – caused by those inconvenient feedback loops we keep hearing about from scientists – go away is to make it against the law to extrapolate exponential; we can only extrapolate along a line predicted by previous sea level rises.
Which, yes, is exactly like saying, do not predict tomorrow’s weather based on radar images of a hurricane swirling offshore, moving west towards us with 60-mph winds and ten inches of rain. Predict the weather based on the last two weeks of fair weather with gentle breezes towards the east. Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers. [...]
But while the rising sea may engender emotion, it exists in a world of fact, of measurable evidence and predictable results, where scientists using their best methods have agreed on a reasonable – and conservative – estimate of a meter or more of rising seas in the coming century. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave a hesitant estimate of up to 59 centimeters of rise —but even two years later that estimate already appeared low and scientists began to expect a rise of a meter or more.
No matter in North Carolina. We’ve got resorts to build and we don’t care what the rest of the ocean does – our sea isn’t going to rise by more than 15.6 inches. Because otherwise it’s against the law.
From Nick Turse's "A Drone-Eat-Drone World":
U.S. military documents tell the story vividly. In the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of West Africa, an unmanned mini-submarine deployed from the USS Freedom detects an “anomaly”: another small remotely-operated sub with welding capabilities tampering with a major undersea oil pipeline. The American submarine’s “smart software” classifies the action as a possible threat and transmits the information to an unmanned drone flying overhead. The robot plane begins collecting intelligence data and is soon circling over a nearby vessel, a possible mother ship, suspected of being involved with the “remote welder.”
At a hush-hush “joint maritime operations center” onshore, analysts pour over digital images captured by the unmanned sub and, according to a Pentagon report, recognize the welding robot “as one recently stolen and acquired by rebel antigovernment forces.” An elite quick-reaction force is assembled at a nearby airfield and dispatched to the scene, while a second unmanned drone is deployed to provide persistent surveillance of the area of operations.
And with that, the drone war is on. [...]
The military quit buying Predators in 2010, opting instead for the larger, more heavily armed Reaper. These have flown more than 261,000 hours, including 228,000 in combat. The Air Force has already requested the purchase of 24 new Reapers in 2013 and Air Force spokesperson Jennifer Spires tells TomDispatch it plans to buy a grand total of 401 MQ-9s in the coming years.
In other ways, however, a sci-fi-style future is far off indeed. In fact, after a decade of Defense Department cheerleading, as well as endless TV and newspaper puff pieces on the unlimited potential of drone technology, a grimmer and dimmer future for them is coming into view.
As a start, most of the drones in the Pentagon’s inventory aren’t sophisticated hunter-killer robots, but smaller, unarmed tactical models used only for battlefield surveillance. According to figures provided to TomDispatch by the Army, that service has approximately 5,000 drones, about 1,400 of them currently supporting operations in Afghanistan (where one of their key models, the Shadow, collided with a cargo plane last year). While it has plans to arm increasing numbers of its larger models with munitions, they’re hardly the stuff of Hollywood sci-fi flicks.
Even the Predator and the Reaper are little more than expensive, error-prone, overgrown model airplanes remotely “flown” by all-too-human pilots. They tend to crash at an alarming rate due to weather, mechanical failures, and computer glitches, leaving shattered silver-screen techno-dreams of cheap, error-free, futuristic warfare in the dust.
Risk Intelligence Quotient (RQ) is a measure of a person's ability to estimate probabilities accurately. People with high risk intelligence tend to make better predictions than those with low RQ.
This test is rather unusual in that you can score very highly even if you don’t know much. That’s because this test measures self-knowledge rather than factual knowledge. It rewards you for gauging your own level of uncertainty accurately, rather than for knowing a bunch of facts.
Risk intelligence really comes into its own when you are neither completely certain nor completely uncertain – in other words, when you give estimates from 10% to 40% or between 60% and 90% (assuming that we only allow ten percent increments in the estimates). This is the twilight zone between the stuff you really know and the stuff about which you don’t have a clue.
Think of your mind as a light bulb shining in a dark room. Those objects which are fully illuminated by the light from the bulb are the things you know for sure. The objects which are still shrouded in darkness are the things about which you know nothing. Between the light and the darkness, however, lies a grey area in which the level of illumination gradually shades away. In this “event horizon”, the objects are not fully illuminated, but neither are they completely invisible. These are the things which you don’t know for sure, but which you have an inkling. Gauging exactly how much you know you about these things is the basis of risk intelligence.