Terms of Service: Al Jazeera’s Cool Web Comic About Big Data

Could you see any stalwart of the mainstream media in America using the medium of an online comic to address the tensions that so-called Big Data present? Upstart Al Jazeera America commissioned cartoonist Josh Neufeld and reporter Michael Keller to create a graphic novella that you can read here online and you’ll also find download links for iBooks, ePub and PDF versions. This is the first page:

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 4.06.04 PM

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My Brief and Curious Life As a Mechanical Turk

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via Gizmodo:

As accomplished as modern-day computers are, there are some very basic things even the smartest machines have yet to master: tough judgment calls, advanced image recognition, making goofy faces, conducting psychological surveys. These are an assortment of tasks we humans can still claim as our own. Or at least, that we can outsource to other, less fortunate humans. Like me.

In Amazon’s words, Mechanical Turk is “a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence.” But in reality it’s even simpler than that description implies: It’s a job board where the pay is low and the jobs are dumb. If you have a functional cerebral cortex, an internet connection, and a few minutes to spare, you can pick up a handful of odd jobs—the oddest of jobs—and make a few bucks, pennies, and nickels at a time. But what’s it like to be that “human intelligence?” As I found out last year, it’s weird, fascinating, perplexing, and a little depressing, all at once.

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The Islamic State: Grooming Children for Jihad

In Part 2 of VICE News’ exclusive look at the emergence of the Islamic State, filmmaker Medyan Dairieh meets an Islamic State member from Belgium who works to indoctrinate some of the youngest members of the group. He also gains further insight into the minds of Islamic State fighters as they host celebrations and military parades featuring American tanks and APCs seized from the Iraqi army.

The Islamic State, a hardline Sunni jihadist group which formerly had ties to al Qaeda, is now in control of a large swath of territory in Iraq and Syria. The group, which adheres to the strictest form of Sharia law, is determined to establish a caliphate that stretches across the Middle East and into the rest of the Muslim world.

As the Islamic State continues its violent expansion in Syria and Iraq, it is also working to win the hearts and minds of new recruits and potential new members in areas it controls.… Read the rest

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You’re powered by quantum mechanics. No, really…

"Schrödinger's cat" by El Alvi (cc by-sa 2.0)

“Schrödinger’s cat” by El Alvi (cc by-sa 2.0)

via The Guardian:

For years biologists have been wary of applying the strange world of quantum mechanics, where particles can be in two places at once or connected over huge distances, to their own field. But it can help to explain some amazing natural phenomena we take for granted.

Every year, around about this time, thousands of European robins escape the oncoming harsh Scandinavian winter and head south to the warmer Mediterranean coasts. How they find their way unerringly on this 2,000-mile journey is one of the true wonders of the natural world. For unlike many other species of migratory birds, marine animals and even insects, they do not rely on landmarks, ocean currents, the position of the sun or a built-in star map. Instead, they are among a select group of animals that use a remarkable navigation sense – remarkable for two reasons.

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Google Nanotech Pill Will Search Your Body For Disease Detection

There’s an emerging theme in contemporary science fiction of medical nanotechnology running amok with disastrous consequences for humanity. The inevitable science fact is catching up fast with fiction and no surprise, Google is among the first mega-corporations working on a nanotech pill that will run around the human body detecting problems (and no doubt eventually “fixing” them). From PC Mag:

Google X is working on another moonshot: a nanoparticle-filled pill intended to help doctors identify and prevent fatal diseases.

Andrew Conrad, head of the Life Sciences team at the Google X research lab, told attendees at the The Wall Street Journal’s WSJD Live conference (video below) that he wants to “functionalize” nanoparticles and “make them do what we want.”

These particles are less than one-thousandth the size of a red blood cell, and small enough that millions can fit within a grain of sand – or the human body. But don’t expect to start swallowing nanoparticle-infused pills during your next visit to the doctor.

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Study: Americans are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in the big bang theory

By JD Hancock (cc by 2.0)

By JD Hancock (cc by 2.0)

via The Washington Post:

Human beings are, in general, a superstitious lot. Our tendency to see patterns where they don’t exist, and to falsely apply cause to effect, may have helped keep us alive back when we were little more than a band of frightened critters scurrying about the savanna. Those tendencies linger to the present day, reflected in our stubborn belief in completely irrational things: Rabbit’s feet. Horoscopes. A return to the gold standard.

The Chapman University Survey on American Fears, a comprehensive study of the fears, phobias and irrational beliefs of the American people, was just released this week and contains an interesting section on belief in the paranormal. The results are drawn from a nationally-representative sample of 2,500 American adults.

It finds that belief in certain paranormal phenomenon – like influencing the world with physical thought, and foretelling the future with dreams – are fairly widespread.

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Our Pay to Play System, Embodied by Beanie Babies

By Dominique Godbout (CC by 2.0)

By Dominique Godbout (CC by 2.0)

Disinfo’s newest film, Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes will be available this Saturday (11/1) on our site. Join us for Pay 2 Play’s worldwide digital release. You’ll be able to stream the film for $4 or download for $10.

There was a political scandal I heard about that changed the way I looked at corruption and helped me understand the larger mechanisms at work in government and society. It rocked the swing state of Ohio right after a disputed election, toppled the state’s one-party rule and ended the Taft legacy that included a President, a U.S. Senator, a Supreme Court Justice. And it started with Beanie Babies.

In Toledo, Ohio, Tom Noe was a small-time rare coin dealer who sought to raise his business prospects by getting involved in politics. He would later testify under oath that giving money to politicians “kept my business alive.” Noe elevated his status as a political player by bundling contributors together in North East Ohio in order to get more attention from statewide candidates.

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Humans, Chimps and Why We Need Personhood for All

Not Tommy the Chimp. By Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr (CC by-nd 2.0)

Not Tommy the Chimp.
By Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr (CC by-nd 2.0)

via Time:

We accord rights to babies, the profoundly disabled and elderly people with dementia. Is Tommy the ape that different?

Advocates of animal rights are eagerly awaiting the results of a case brought before a New York state appellate court in Albany earlier this month that will decide if a chimpanzee named Tommy is a person. The judge’s decision may be handed down at any time between late October and December. If, in the eyes of the law, 26-year-old ape Tommy is deemed a person, he will be released from the small cage where he is kept in isolation by his owner near Gloversville, New York, and sent to an ape sanctuary in Florida.

Tommy would then become the world’s first non-human animal to be legally granted personhood.

The idea behind the court case, argued on October 8th by lawyer Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project, rests upon Tommy’s right to determine what happens to his own life.

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Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin, Says Black Swan Author

By Rebecca W via Flickr (cc by 2.0)

By Rebecca W via Flickr (cc by 2.0)

Written by The Physics arXiv Blog via Medium:

It is 20 years since the FDA approved the Flavr Savr tomato for human consumption, the first genetically engineered food to gain this status. Since then, genetically modified food has become a significant part of the human diet in many parts of the world, particularly in the US. In 2013 roughly 85 per cent of corn and 90 per cent of soybeans produced in the US were genetically modified.

Given the ubiquity of this kind of foodstuff, you could be forgiven for thinking that the scientific debate over its safety has been largely settled. It is certainly true that a large number of scientists seem to take that view. In 2012, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science declared that genetically modified crops pose no greater risk than the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques.

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