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The debate about “fake news” and the “post-truth” society we now supposedly inhabit has become the epistemological version of a feeding frenzy: so much heat, so little light. The failure to appreciate that the profitability, if not the entire business model, of both Google and Facebook depends critically on them not taking responsibility for what passes through their servers. So hoping that these companies will somehow fix the problem is like persuading turkeys to look forward to Christmas.
What we learned in 2016 was the depth of the hole that digital technology has enabled us to dig for ourselves. We’re now in so deep that we can barely see out of it. Liberal democracy could be facing an existential threat, for it’s not clear that it can endure if its public sphere becomes completely polluted by falsehoods, misapprehensions, ignorance, prejudice, conspiracy theories and hatred.
In that sense, we are confronted by the question that obsessed the young Walter Lippmann in the early decades of the 20th century: was it possible for a complex, industrialised society to remain a democracy when the vast mass of its citizens were unable to comprehend the decisions that had to be made by government in their name?
Like casting a magic spell, it lets people control the world through words alone
ANY sufficiently advanced technology, noted Arthur C. Clarke, a British science-fiction writer, is indistinguishable from magic. The fast-emerging technology of voice computing proves his point. Using it is just like casting a spell: say a few words into the air, and a nearby device can grant your wish.
The Amazon Echo, a voice-driven cylindrical computer that sits on a table top and answers to the name Alexa, can call up music tracks and radio stations, tell jokes, answer trivia questions and control smart appliances; even before Christmas it was already resident in about 4% of American households. Voice assistants are proliferating in smartphones, too: Apple’s Siri handles over 2bn commands a week, and 20% of Google searches on Android-powered handsets in America are input by voice. Dictating e-mails and text messages now works reliably enough to be useful. Why type when you can talk?
Originally published in the 1936 Annual of Our Lady’s School, Abingdon, Tolkien’s “Noel” was unknown and unrecorded until scholars Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull discovered it while searching for another poem in June 2013. In May 2015, Our Lady’s School, Abingdon discovered their copy of the Annual and in Feb 2016, news of the discovery was widely reported.
As the Tolkien Estate and Our Lady’s School has future plans to publish the poem, I include just the first section of the poem here.
NOEL by J. R. R. Tolkien
Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
From Star Wars Rogue One to quote-along screenings of Elf
Christmas and movies go together like new toys and unsupplied batteries. Whether it’s the annual viewing of a festive classic you could recite in your sleep, or escaping the Christmas madness in a darkened room for a few hours, it’s a highlight for many. But which to choose? Coach is here to save Christmas with the 10 best films you can see in the cinema over the next month.
Silicon Valley tech titan James Bell runs a state-of-the-art hospital with an ultramodern approach to medicine.
When a young leukemia patient comes to Bunker Hill in need of a miracle, James hopes a new t-cell cancer treatment will save her life, as her optimism inspires him to become a better person.
Chances are, you can’t afford this stuff. But it’s fun to daydream and spend imaginary millions.
Anyone who can afford even one product on this list probably has a bank account that could weather them all. This is the master list of what you see in the background of that scene in the movie when the normal everyday person visits their mondo-rich extravagant spendthrift of a “friend” in the billion-dollar condo. These items are all real, potentially fun, and certain to induce sticker shock.