War, on drugs

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Beserk! Almost certainly, the superhuman strength and focus was the result of ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms. From Asterix and the Vikings, 2006. Photo by Rex Features

 

Killing people is hard and horrible. No wonder that warriors, from berserkers to jihadis, need drugs to get in the mood

by Peter Frankopan 

Peter Frankopan is the director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research and a senior research fellow at Worcester College, Oxford. His most recent book is The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2015).

All of Gaul is divided into three parts,’ wrote Julius Caesar at the start of his Gallic Wars. ‘No, four,’ corrected one author writing slightly later, ‘for one small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the Roman invaders.’ It was, of course, the French comic-book hero Asterix’s unnamed Breton village. The secret of the success of Asterix and his fellow villagers was their superhuman strength – that is, when their druid was willing to make them some of his secret potion. One gulp made Asterix’s Gauls invincible, irresistible in attack and extraordinary in defence. The only thing the potion could not cure was the village bard, Cacophonix, whose terrible voice alone was immune to the magic drug of Getafix, the village’s druid and superchemist.

Having grown up reading the Asterix books, I wondered about supplements that turned normal soldiers into heroes. Valour, bravery and virtue were all prized characteristics in the ancient texts that captivated me. In fact, in Greek and Latin, the words for courage (‘ἀνδρεία’ and ‘virtus’) derive from the word for man (‘ἀνδρὸς’ and ‘vir’). Being a man in the classical world meant being brave. Heroes such as Hector, Ajax, Agamemnon and Odysseus relied on their wits, muscles and character alone. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Augustus likewise took difficult decisions, earning the respect of both their lieutenants and their foot-soldiers.

Further east, Kings of Persia presented themselves as just and brave rulers. In China, the philosophy of Mengzi (Mencius) taught men to consider personal bravery as an essential part of a purposeful life. Being strong meant being blessed by the gods – or even being part-divine, as was the case with Herakles, son of Zeus, or Achilles, son of the nymph Thetis. Ancient heroes sometimes turned to substances in order to alter their moods, or their minds. In the Odyssey, for example, Odysseus and his men find themselves in the land of the Lotus Eaters, which is populated by ‘men who make food of flowers’. The Lotus Eaters are extraordinarily relaxed. Odysseus’s scouts sink into repose as soon as they taste the ‘honeyed fruit’ of the lotus flower, which makes Odysseus’s men so deeply indolent that they refuse to return to their own camp. Resolving not to move, they ignore all orders and give up any thought of returning home.

Ancient China, the Arabic-speaking world and Europe all showed deep interest in the remedial and medicinal qualities of plants and seeds. For example, cinnamon was used in treatments of the heart, stomach and head in China, Persia and the Eastern Mediterranean, where it was prescribed by Dioscorides 2,000 years ago as being helpful in establishing regular cycles of menstruation. Cinnamon was also prescribed in medieval medical manuals as helping ‘the man whose head is heavy and stuffed’ with mucus. Later pharmacy books produced in Spain outlined at length how useful nutmeg oil was as a treatment for diarrhoea and vomiting, as well as fighting the common cold, and also reported that cardamom oil soothed the intestines and helped reduce flatulence.

The list of uses of spices and herbs is a long one. In the eighth century, Charlemagne ordered the large-scale cultivation of mallow after becoming convinced of its healing powers when it came to battlefield wounds. Some ancient medical research extended beyond the treatment of injuries into more adventurous pursuits. An Arabic manual written in the Middle Ages contains a chapter entitled ‘Prescriptions for Increasing the Dimensions of Small Members and for Making them Splendid’. It suggests rubbing a mixture of honey and ginger onto the private parts. The medical manual promised an effect so powerful and productive of such pleasure that the man’s sexual partner would ‘object to him getting off her again’.

Roughly contemporary to the Homeric epics are the Sanskrit Rig Vedas. More than 3,000 years old, they espouse cannabis as ‘a source of happiness’, ‘a liberator’ from anxiety, and ‘a joy-giver’, such that a guardian angel was said to live within its leaves. Ancient Chinese texts that mention hemp say nothing about the effects of cannabis – until the first century BC, when one text, thePen Ts’ao Ching, notes that ‘if taken in excess [the fruit of the hemp] will produce hallucinations (literally ‘seeing devils’). If taken over a long term, it makes one communicate with spirits and lightens one’s body.’

The use of cannabis as an intoxicant was known in India and Iran 3,000 years ago, and became so widespread in the Middle East that some practitioners warned of the long-term effect of regular usage. Not all listened. In the late 11th century, young men flocked to a charismatic leader named Hasan i-Saban. Marco Polo referred to i-Saban as ‘the old man of the mountain’. According to the Venetian traveller, he gave his followers copious amounts of hashish (literally, ‘grass’ in Arabic). He also supplied them with sensuous women, and – in return – they murdered Hasan’s political rivals. His followers became known as the Hashishiyans, lending their name to today’s assassins…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/berserkers-and-jihadis-alike-have-used-drugs-to-help-wage-war

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Your Self-Driving Car Will Be Programmed to Kill You—Deal With It

Your Self-Driving Car Will Be Programmed to Kill You—Deal With It

Source: gizmodo.co

A recent survey shows that people want self-driving cars to be programmed to minimize casualties during a crash, even if it causes the death of the rider. Trouble is, the same survey shows that people don’t actually want to ride in cars that are programmed this way. That’s obviously a problem—and we’re going to have to get over it.

These are the kinds of thought experiments that are taught to Ethics 101 students during the first weeks of class—but now they’re actually being applied to real life. Similar to the vexing trolley problem, manufacturers are struggling to come up with new rules for autonomous vehicles to guide them when a crash is inevitable, and the lives of people, both inside and outside of the car, are at stake.

A new study published in Science shows there’s a big disconnect between the kinds of ethical programming we want these vehicles to have, and the kinds of cars we actually want to ride in. Surveys done last year demonstrate that people tend to take a utilitarian approach to safety ethics. That is, they generally agree that a car with one rider should swerve off the road and crash to avoid a crowd of 10 pedestrians. But when the survey’s respondents were asked if they’d actually ride in a vehicle programmed in this way, they said no thanks.

“Most people want to live in in a world where cars will minimize casualties,” said Iyad Rahwan, a professor at MIT who co-authored the study. “But everybody wants their own car to protect them at all costs.”

The researchers call this a “social dilemma” whereby consumer choice—and the urge to act in one’s own self-interest—could make road conditions less safe for everyone. Frustratingly, there’s no known way to design a cake-and-eat-it-too algorithm that reconciles our moral values and the understandable human desire to not die.

Results of the survey showed that people are on board with utilitarian-minded robotic vehicles, and would be content to see others buy them. This is an easy sell; the needs of one or two individuals, we tend to agree, is greatly outweighed by the needs of the many. The more lives saved, the more inclined people are towards this utilitarian attitude. As shown in the survey, as many as 76 percent of respondents were cool with a vehicle being programmed to sacrifice one passenger if it meant saving the lives of 10 pedestrians.

But these same people showed considerably less enthusiasm when it came to their desire to purchase or ride in one of these autonomous vehicles. When asked to rate the morality of a car programmed to crash and kill its own passenger to save 10 pedestrians, the favorable rating dropped by an entire third when respondents had to consider the possibility that they’d be the ones riding in that car.

The study also revealed that people don’t like the idea of having the government regulate the auto industry to enforce utilitarian principles. Respondents were only a third as likely to purchase a vehicle regulated in this way, as opposed to an unregulated vehicle, which could conceivably be programmed in any number of ways.

Rahwan and his colleagues warned that the concerns over regulations could “paradoxically increase casualties by postponing the adoption of a safer technology.”

Patrick Lin, the director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, says we humans are a fickle lot, and that we don’t always know what we want or what we can live with.

“What we intellectually believe is true and what we in fact do may be two very different things,” he told Gizmodo. “Humans are often selfish even as they profess altruism. Car manufacturers, then, might not fully appreciate this human paradox as they offer up AI and robots to replace us behind the wheel.”

What’s particularly bizarre about this latest research is that many of these survey respondents, should they find themselves in a situation where they’re driving a car and are suddenly confronted with a similar situation, would probably go out of their way and make a suicidally evasive maneuver to avoid a crowd. There appears to be a bit of a disconnect between the morality of human decision-making in these matters, and having robots make these decisions on our behalf. We’re clearly uncomfortable with it, but we’re going to have to get over it if we ever want to see safe and responsible self-driving vehicles on the road…

more…

https://redice.tv/news/your-self-driving-car-will-be-programmed-to-kill-you-deal-with-it

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Women Are Far Happier and Less Regretful After Divorce, but a Lot of Men Fall Apart in Destructive Ways

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And a larger percentage of women are loath to share the blame for relationships ending.

19-Year-Old Develops Robot Lawyer that Dismisses Your Unjust Parking Tickets

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by Vic Bishop, Staff, Waking Times

Simply and aptly named, Do Not Pay, the ingenious business of a 19-year-old Londoner has already saved citizens of the UK an estimated £2.9 million in civil fines for unjust parking tickets. Less than 2 years old, the already popular ‘Robot Lawyer’ service has assisted people in absolving some 160,000 tickets by helping users take advantage of the appeals process, which is generally overlooked and underused.

DoNotPay uses a simple chat-based interface to guide users through a range of basic questions to establish if an appeal on their parking ticket is possible. These include queries on whether there were any visible parking signs at the location where the ticket was given. The AI lawyer then guides the user through the lengthy appeals process.” [Source]

Receiving too many parking fines near his home, and discovering that most could be dismissed through the appeals process, Joshua Browder was motivated to act, and created the artificial intelligence service that became an instant hit . The service is now free and easy for anybody to use, providing public legal advice that not only helps people to avoid paying excessive parking fines, but also to avoid having to hire expensive law firms to represent them in such relatively simple legal matters.

‘I felt bad, because I knew that these drivers would be forced to go to exploitative law firms to get their issues resolved. To solve this problem, I realised that the best way to help people would be to create a computer program that could talk to users, generate appeals and answer questions like a human. I decided to create the UK’s first robot lawyer for consumers.’ – Joshua Browder

Browder, a Stanford University student of economics and computer science, has already turned down offers to buy him out, and now that the service is operating in London and New York City, he plans to open a DoNotPay site for the city of Seattle next.

“The robot was designed by Joshua who received advice from professors. His original website took three weeks to build, but the robot has been trickier and longer to create.

Donotpay was originally built to appeal parking fines, allowing motorists to pick one of 12 reasons of defence, then enter the relevant details and send a custom-generated appeal created by the website’s algorithm to the council in question.

With a success rate of 40 per cent, based on an average parking penalty of £60, Joshua has helped thousands of drivers save a total of more than £2million in parking fines.

He then it expanded it to help with other compensation battles.” [Source]

Revenue generation has sadly become a key priority for law enforcement agencies, and the reality is that government is frequently caught breaking their own laws in order to suck as much money as possible from the tax cattle. Browder’s views on exploitative policing are quite mature for someone of his demographic, and rather easy to comprehend for the public, especially to those who are familiar with the changing current of policing in the West, where departments now place greater emphasis on making money rather than ensuring public safety.

“I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society. These people aren’t looking to break the law. I think they’re being exploited as a revenue source by the local government.” [Source]

What do you think about ideas like this? Are we seeing the evolution of revolution, where ingenious young entrepreneurs take on state corruption by making common sense solutions easy and affordable for the public?

How much longer will the state permit the existence of services like these which directly threaten the rich revenue streams of corporatized, for-profit government?

About the Author

Vic Bishop is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and OffgridOutpost.com Survival Tips blog. He is an observer of people, animals, nature, and he loves to ponder the connection and relationship between them all. A believer in always striving to becoming self-sufficient and free from the matrix, please track him down on Facebook.

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This article (19-Year-Old Develops Robot Lawyer that Dismisses Your Unjust Parking Tickets) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Vic Bishop and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement. Please contact WakingTimes@gmail.com for more info. 

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2016/06/29/19-year-old-develops-robot-lawyer-that-dismisseses-your-unjust-parking-tickets/

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Many Brits believe technology could take over humanity by 2036

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AI and virtual reality might even replace doctor visits

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Slavery as free trade

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Plan of the French slave ship La Marie Seraphique c.1770. © Château des ducs de Bretagne – Musée d’histoire de Nantes.

The 18th-century thinkers behind laissez-faire economics saw slavery as a great example of global free trade

by Blake Smith

Blake Smith is a PhD candidate in history at Northwestern University in Illinois and the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. His research, focusing on the French East India Company, has appeared in scholarly journals such as French Cultural Studies and the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, as well as popular media such as TheWire.in and The Appendix.

For nearly four centuries, the Atlantic slave trade brought millions of people into bondage. Scholars estimate that around 1.5 million people perished in the brutal middle passage across the Atlantic. The slave trade linked Africa, Europe and the Americas in a horrific enterprise of death and torture and profit. Yet, in the middle of the 18th century, as the slave trade boomed like never before, some notable European observers saw it as a model of free enterprise and indeed of ‘liberty’ itself. They were not slave traders or slave-ship captains but economic thinkers, and very influential ones. They were a pioneering group of economic thinkers committed to the principle of laissezfaire: a term they themselves coined. United around the French official Vincent de Gournay (1712-1759), they were among the first European intellectuals to argue for limitations on government intervention in the economy. They organised campaigns for the deregulation of domestic and international trade, and they made the slave trade a key piece of evidence in their arguments.

For a generation, the relationship between slavery and capitalism has preoccupied historians. The publication of several major pieces of scholarship on the matter has won attention from the media. Scholars demonstrate that the Industrial Revolution, centred on the mass production of cotton textiles in the factories of England and New England, depended on raw cotton grown by slaves on plantations in the American South. Capitalists often touted the superiority of the industrial economies and their supposedly ‘free labour’. ‘Free labour’ means the system in which workers are not enslaved but free to contract with any manufacturer they chose, free to sell their labour. It means that there is a labour market, not a slave market.

But because ‘free labour’ was working with and dependent on raw materials produced by slaves, the simple distinction between an industrial economy of free labour on the one hand and a slave-based plantation system on the other falls apart. So too does the boundary between the southern ‘slave states’ and northern ‘free states’ in America. While the South grew rich from plantation agriculture that depended on slave labour, New England also grew rich off the slave trade, investing in the shipping and maritime insurance that made the transport of slaves from Africa to the United States possible and profitable. The sale of enslaved Africans brought together agriculture and industry, north and south, forming a global commercial network from which the modern world emerged.

It is only in the past few decades that scholars have come to grips with how slavery and capitalism intertwined. But for the 18th-century French thinkers who laid the foundations of laissez-fairecapitalism, it made perfect sense to associate the slave trade with free enterprise. Their writings, which inspired the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), aimed to convince the French monarchy to deregulate key businesses such as the sale of grain and trade with Asia. Only a few specialists read them today. Yet these pamphlets, letters and manuscripts clearly proclaim a powerful message: the birth of modern capitalism depended not only on the labour of enslaved people and the profits of the slave trade, but also on the example of slavery as a deregulated global enterprise…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/why-the-original-laissez-faire-economists-loved-slavery

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We Have Reached an Age of Disintegration: How Greedy Neoliberalism and Deadly Wars Are Destroying Modern Life

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Seven ongoing wars, ushering in an era of instability.