Forward how, to what, and why?
The Editor writes:Note on posting dates: as I have acquired some new duties since my last despatch from here I have to cut the frequency of postings. After this, postings will as far as possible be on 1st and 15th of the month
Anyway, back at last! I’d not expected ever again to find myself trading insults with the big boys (and women these days, I find) on ‘Centre Court’. Not that I am allowed to reveal much here. And if I did try anything unauthorised – maybe like this sentence I’m in right now – then I can be damned sure it’ll somehow fall over the edge of cyberspace before reaching any destination, which rather frees me up to write what I think, actually (which of course helps the cyberspace police patrol to find out what I really think.) But that is exactly what I want to write about. Admittedly it’s a complex business. Occasionally for some reason or other they let something through that you wouldn’t expect, maybe to make the masses and the ‘student activists’ nervous enough to soft pedal their activities and agitprop in case something unpleasant happens to them? But that’s hardly necessary really. The student activists usually turn into Jack Straw or something of that sort, and the masses don’t pay much attention to anything beyond football, food and fun, which is apparently current London slang for trying to reproduce in the privacy of online video broadcasts the pornographic contortions they have watched on other people’s online video broadcasts. The overall result is that the average member of the population of Western Europe has less idea of what’s really going on and how to deal with it than a hungry crow stuck in a lab empty except for a glass tube with food at the bottom and some bits of wire on the floor. Right, then. As an example of what I’m talking about, photocopiers hit the market in a big way somewhere around 1990. Now, older readers may remember the Spycatcher trial in Australia in 1986. Among the many interesting things learnt then was that British spooks already had a crude but effective photocopying tube that could be rolled across a document – in the 1940s. But the gap by which espionage tech is ahead of common knowledge is vastly bigger today. For instance, you may have read about the huge advances in facial recognition. Using cameras able to measure the small distances between up to 3,000 data points on the human face, with astounding precision, some venture capitalists, and others, are now claiming that given a photograph they can identify the owner of the face uniquely out of the entire world population, beard or no beard, gurning or meditating, asleep or howling as his side scores a goal. That’s started filtering slowly into the collective consciousness; prices of facemasks and balaclavas continue to rise. Meanwhile, however, the forces of spookdom have been roaring silently onward. The big project now is to use similar techniques of ‘data points’ from an individual’s behaviour record (secretly recorded in embarrassing detail on most of us for a decade or more). The idea is to be able to report with incredible accuracy what actions and reactions will be, or indeed have been, in any of tens of thousands of minutely differentiated circumstances. A prime aim is not mere prediction, but to be able to influence by the merest passing act or remark what future activity will be, even weeks or months later when the right combination of factors arrives. For instance, it has been calculated that in a delicately balanced situation, tipping off an accomplice to say ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ where that accomplice might reasonably have said instead ‘You never can tell’ could lead to dramatic differences of outcome for the victim, e.g. the difference between cabinet rank and political suicide. A version of the butterfly wing effect, or if you prefer delayed action psychological explosives. I leave it to you to wonder if it has ever been put into practice. The charm of this project is that using it not only is easily deniable but does a pretty good job of seeming quite ethical. Small casual remarks or actions, that might have occurred quite naturally – might just as easily have been uttered quite sincerely in all innocence by a different speaker. How could anyone object?
Question of the week (to be answered sometime in the next fifteen years or so on completion of the Maxwellisation of the re-run of a public enquiry into the management of the Chilcot enquiry): Can anyone explain how stating to Parliament that certain information is the case, knowing that it has not been established as true, could not be considered a lie?
Technically this might be called a reader’s letter. Maud found it hand written on a piece of wrapping paper stuffed under the door when she opened the office a couple of days ago. (Lucky for the writer that we don’t have that appalling dog on the premisses any more. Simon and Jeremy used to feed it when Manos wasn’t here by dropping the whale meat from the balcony above the yard.) Karela wants it put on record that she objects strongly to being considered a ‘toff’ (but Simon would probably be greatly satisfied, if he was here).
Dear Toffs. I do’nt know if that Toney Blair is getting help from aleins but seems to me how coud he know what their was going to be choas in the political, end of this June, and how could he fix it so that Chilcock report come out just before that, so every one nearlly would probably forget all about him and what he done. Yrs Dundy Quinsett
This name does not belong to anyone resident on the island, but I suppose once you let tourists in, the established order of civilised life begins to crumble.
The Musical Obama
Entrance (Nation entranced) : Fanfare (Gabrieli)
Anthem : ‘Yes we can! Yes we can!’
Incumbency: Medley of popular songs
Medley of unpopular songs
Closing Anthem : ‘No you didn’t’
Exit: Slow March from Aida
[Editor : shouldn’t that last word be ‘ideas’?]
Exeunt Omnes : The Last Trump
Try hard not to notice this. Talk to just about anyone in epidemiology and they will tell you that figures for allergies have been soaring for decades. The same is true for asthma, where the increase, even allowing for a lot of uncertainty about diagnoses and record-keeping, seems to be of something like a factor of three times. Recently figures have come out from the US showing the same change in respect of autism except that there it is even more pronounced (though this may partly depend on the enthusiasm of practitioners to spot the syndrome anywhere they thought there was a chance of treatment being needed). Nevertheless, for what it is worth the figures were given as follows: 1970, one child in 2,500; year 2000, one in 500; predicted for next year on current figures one in 45. Now what else has been increasing hugely and rapidly over this sort of period? I don’t think mobile phones would be the right answer, because they didn’t really get going until much more recently. But what has been rapidly and greatly increasing since about 1970 (led off by American military satellites) is exposure to electromagnetic radiation. There are two reasons for vigorously rejecting the suggestion of any link between the two types of increase. One is a complex based on “It’s all around us, and we don’t see it causing harm to people, do we, not shaped like a gun or anything obvious like that, I mean I never saw anyone fall over because of it.” (This complex is technically known as the ‘GM fallacy’.) The other reason is that the industries making extensive use of electromagnetic radiation are multiply intertwined with the whole of the world economy, and very rich, and would get extremely angry if anybody were to suggest they are anything but boons to humanity. Plus the fact that if anybody was able to turn the radiation off, it would make the Great Financial Crash of 2008 look like a kid spitting a grape pip into a garbage can. Where does the world go from here? Not (it hopes) to hospital. But is anyone setting up programmes to find out if there is a real link to harmful effects here (apart from enhancing the tendency of American police to shoot people, though we may have to blame that more on global warming anyway), and if so what they are, and how to shield human beings from them? Or how to do at least some of the stuff done by and with el. mag.in other ways? Help! And have a nice day!
There were 18 entries for Maud’s anatax competition (19-6-2016). Eleven of these had to be excluded as too obscene to be considered, let alone published. After careful and sympathetic scrutiny the judges (Maud and Karela) decided that only one of the rest worked properly:
crouching low over a fine breakfast she scanned the list of those facing imminent execution
facing imminent execution she scanned the list of those crouching low over a fine breakfast
(As Editor I feel it is important to add that this entry was received before the recent change of leadership in the Tory Party.) A boxed set of the Tale of Esmond Maguire is therefore on its way to Guinevere Tapness in Goblin Lane in Basingstoke.