Archive for October 2013

Love and Its Discontents: Irony, Reason, Romance (excerpts)

October 22, 2013

here are the ways in which public culture and capitalism transform and shape emotional life.

First= the power of Reason
beliefs —in transcendence and authority— become accountable to Reason

“the Empire of light and reason” exposes us to truths we cannot bear. (Burke)

The scrutinizing of social relations by the implacable gaze of Reason can only tear down the harmonious web of meanings and relationships on which traditional power, obedience, and fealty rested

only lies and illusions can make the violence of social relationships bearable

modernity is a “sobering of the senses,” a violent arousal from a pleasant if numbing slumber and a confrontation with the naked, bare, and barren conditions of social relationships (Marx)

Knowledge comes at the price of desecrating that which we revered

Modernity is defined by its ambivalence toward its legitimating cultural core, by a sense of dread of the powers it may unleash

in their impulse to control the natural and social world, the various modern institutions of science, technology, and the market, which aim at solving human problems, relieving suffering, and increasing wellbeing, also dissolve our sense of mystery (Max Weber)

he history of love is far from being a story of progressive emancipation from the shackles of economic rationality

while more emancipated and more egalitarian, and thus, more free and unconstrained, modern love is also counter-intuitively more rationalized than its premodern counterpart (premodern marriage was determined according to criteria of social rank, status, and wealth)

there is no longer a strong institutional distinction between interest-driven and purely romantic decisions

Second: from enchanted to disenchanted love. In a scientific way

“Enchanted” love is simultaneously spontaneous and unconditional, overwhelming and eternal, unique and total.

this approach to romantic love thus affirms the radical uniqueness of the object of love, the impossibility of substituting one object of love for another, the incommensurability of its object,
the refusal (or impossibility) to submit feelings to calculation and Reason, and the total surrender of the self to the loved person

modern love has become the privileged site for the trope of irony.

“enchanted” definition of love moves to a disenchanted cultural definition of love

What is an enchanted experience?
An enchanted experience is mediated by powerful collective symbols that key one to a sense of the sacred. It is based on beliefs and feelings that involve and mobilize the totality of the self; these beliefs and feelings are not processed in second-order cognitive systems and are ultimately. In enchanted experiences, there is no strong distinction between the subject and object.

What is a disenchanted experience?
Disenchantment is both a property of belief that becomes organized by knowledge systems and expert cultures (as opposed to hot symbols), and a difficulty in believing. This is because both the cognitions and emotions organizing belief become rationalized

what makes conduct rational is the fact that it is “methodical,” that it is systematic, that it calculates means to achieve ends, and is in Weber’s words, “controlled by the intellect.” (Max Weber)

A number of massively powerful cultural forces can be said to have refashioned the sentiment and experience of love, and to have contributed to its rationalization and thus to a profound change in the way in which we experience it: science, technologies of choice, and political values

Psychology, psychoanalysis, biology, and evolutionary psychology have explained the feeling of love by subsuming it under such categories as “the unconscious,” “sex drive,” “hormones,” “survival of species,” or “brain chemistry.” Under the aegis of scientific explanations, these frameworks undermine the view of love as an ineffable, unique, and quasi-mystical experience, ultimately undermining both its absoluteness and uniqueness.

The Freudian popular culture in which most modern polities have become steeped has made the forceful claim that love is a reenactment of early childhood conflicts and that it is often nothing but the repetition of a drama with other early protagonists who are the true origin, and even the cause, of the present object of love. Love is thus reduced to a universal psychic structure.

in prescribing models of intimacy based on negotiation, communication, and reciprocity, the psy-sciences make intimate relationships highly plastic, to be fashioned out of the design and reflexive monitoring of an autonomous will and tailored to the particular needs and psychological make-up of an individual, thus liquidating the association of love with an absolute form of transcendence

Autonomy is at the center of the model of selfhood advocated by psychology, and the practice of autonomy transforms the ideal of emotional fusion into an ideal of negotiation between two fully mature selves

psychology also makes the experience of romantic suffering into yet another symptom of an insufficiently mature psyche.

love—based on self-sacrifice, fusion, and longing for absoluteness—is viewed as the symptom of an emotional dysfunction

the emotional experience of love becomes harnessed to a utilitarian project of the self, a project in which one has to secure maximum pleasure and wellbeing, thus making love into an experience in which one should count his/her utilities.

About reduction of love to brain chemistry:
Studies in neuroscience have suggested that a consistent number of chemicals are present in the brain when people testify to feeling love. These chemicals include: Testosterone, Estrogen, Dopamine, norepinephrine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Vasopressin.

for instance, the Serotonin effects of being in love have a similar chemical appearance to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which in turn would explain why we seem not to be able to think of anyone else when we are in love. Oxytocin and Vasopressin seem to be more closely linked to long-term bonding and relationships characterized by strong attachments

The euphoria or exaltation we may feel as a result of being in love are nothing but a chemical and involuntary reaction of the brain. Research also emphasizes that these symptoms tend to disappear after two years on average

On their side, evolutionary psychologists similarly attribute the feeling of love to an extraneous factor that serves the human species

emotions like love (or guilt or jealousy) are thought to have helped resolve the “problem of commitment”. Romantic love in particular may have served the purpose of instilling a desire to reproduce and to ensure that men and women will not walk out on each other on a whim. Love becomes
nothing more than the blind necessity of nature and of the social group.

With the prevalence of scientific modes of explanation, it is difficult to hold onto the view of love as a unique, mystical, and ineffable feeling

Because scientific frameworks aim to explain and find causes, they naturally undermine any experience based on the ineffable and the irrational.

Holistic approach Vs reductionism:
non-scientific explanations might be superior to the scientific ones because they account for the totality of our lived experience. (Nicolas Gane)
nonscientific explanations are superior to the scientific ones in that they are holistic
and more organically connected to the totality of our experiences.
There is a way in which science makes our experience less intelligible, for there is an incompatibility between existential frames of meaning and abstract, systematic ones (Max Weber)

Third: The Internet, a technology for choosing a mate
A premodern actor looking for a mate was notoriously rational: s/he typically considered criteria such as dowry size, a candidate’s personal or family wealth and reputation, education, and family politics.
Actors made very few demands from prospective partners, and more often than not, settled for the first available satisfactory good enough marriage prospect

A modern actors, from adolescence to adulthood, develops an elaborate set of criteria for the selection of a mate. Such criteria are not only social and educational, but also physical, sexual, and perhaps most of all emotional.

By enabling users to investigate a vast number of options, the internet encourages the maximization of partner selection in unprecedented ways, in stark contrast to the methods of premodernity

the gradual permeation of the computer into the pores of modern life deepened what Max Weber called the rationalization of the world

the internet has radicalized the idea that the romantic encounter should be the result of the best possible choice

Fourth: A political influence in the rationalization of the emotion of love: the feminism
Second-wave feminism has profoundly transformed our understanding of the emotion of love.
the feminist movement, as a cultural formation, introduced rules of conduct that rationalized love and sexual relations in two important ways.
The cultural categories of “power,” “reciprocity,” and “equality” have reorganized romantic relationships, driving them to become predictable and controllable.
The demand that language be neutral and purged of its gender biases, that sexual relationships be cleansed from the long shadow of power, that mutual consent and reciprocity be at the heart of intimate relationships, and finally that impersonal procedures secure such consent—all of these have
had the effect of undermining the cultural practice of “seduction,” as a semi-conscious practice of playing with one’s body and language in order to arouse desire in another.
Seduction is ambivalent, and it is their ambivalence that makes the prototypical seducers of Western culture exemplary of a certain form of freedom from morality. Don Juan, Casanova, and Cleopatra embody a kind of sovereignty and self-possession that are not easily bound by rules

Fifth: Irony killing the emotion of love
Irony has replaced playfulness and has become the dominant trope and tone of our times. Irony is inimical to love and playfulness. The three cardinal experiences that demand the elimination of irony, or that cannot survive irony, are raw grief or suffering, religious transport, and sexual passion (David Halperin)

Irony is a figure of speech that feigns ignorance; it feigns ignorance but counts, for its effect, on the knowledge of the hearer. It is the trope of the person who knows too much but refuses to take reality seriously. Modern romantic consciousness has the rhetorical structure of irony because it is saturated with knowledge, but it is a disenchanted knowledge that prevents full belief and commitment.

Source: http://www.iasc-culture.org/THR/archives/Spring2010/Illouz_lo.pdf

Ancient Rome pleasures: Hic ego veni, futui, deinde redei domi (for 18 + only)

October 18, 2013

Ancient Rome: in a patriarchal society based on the family, the sexual behavior of wives was the main guarantee of stability and honor of the basic cell

so sexual behavior was rigorously codified, directed towards procreation and illustrating ​​modest chastity values that were a female variation of the “virtus”, a male moral and physical quality at the beginning, as can be heard of its “vir” root which means “man”.

As if the female had to have a manly soul if she wants to become a paragon of virtue, a paradox perfectly represented by Virtus, the goddess, embodied in the guise of a topless woman such as an Amazon, and wearing male warriors attributes

Under these conditions, eroticism was relegated to the margins. Wives and virgins were deemed untouchable. the Roman man took his pleasure with women of lower social status, with freed slaves he could possibly make his concubines or with prostitutes of any social condition found in a dark lane, between the columns of theaters or even under bridges, as “fornices” (mind the word!), especially in the many brothels of any class or in taverns

the nickname “she-wolf” (lupa) served from eternity to designate the prostitute, hence the french word “lupanar” that means brothel.

About the famous myth of the founding of Rome: there stands a heavy ambiguity regarding the alleged nurse of Romulus and Remus. the she-wolf and the nurse who took its succession could be one and the same person, Acca Laurentia, who got a solid reputation of harlot.

The criteria of beauty, not surprisingly, extolled the breasts, hips and buttocks.

The Venus de Milo and Marilyn Monroe have the same silhouette that awakens the male reproductive by triggering a sexual impulse.

It was thought that hip movements during intercourse prevented getting pregnant, erotic gyrations were so discouraged for wives but recommended to prostitutes and one can imagine that, in addition to the fun they gave, the women who practiced it got the same pleasure

Cunnilingus was considered a shameful practice because it blurred the codes of masculinity and was deemed to bad breath. Cunnum linguit (“he licks the vagina”) was also a common insult

Last but not least, mind this inscription left by a user of the brothel at Pompeii: “Hic ego veni, futui, Deinde Redei domi” (I came here, I fucked and then I went back home).

Source: http://www.franceculture.fr/emission-l-essai-et-la-revue-du-jour-les-femmes-et-le-sexe-a-rome-revue-france-culture-papiers-2013-

while only half of the students did traditional homework, 75 to 80 percent watch the videos

October 18, 2013

a “flipped school”

one where students watch teachers’ lectures at home and do what we’d otherwise call “homework” in class

Teachers record video lessons, which students watch on their smartphones, home computers or at lunch in the school’s tech lab. In class, they do projects, exercises or lab experiments in small groups while the teacher circulates

online education is highly controversial. But the flipped classroom is a strategy that nearly everyone agrees on

many people are holding it up as a potential model of how to use technology to humanize the classroom

Experimetal Flipped class were outperforming the students in the traditional classroom.
No student in the flipped class received a grade lower than a C+.

At first, teachers assigned 20-minute videos, but they now make them shorter — six minutes, even three minutes.

That promotes re-watching

Many students do not ask questions in class, worried they will look dumb. But they can watch a video over and over without fear

while only half of his students did traditional homework, 75 to 80 percent watch the videos

it frees up class time for hands-on work. Students learn by doing and asking questions — school shouldn’t be a spectator sport

Flipping also changes the distribution of teacher time. In a traditional class, the teacher engages with the students who ask questions — but it’s those who don’t ask who tend to need the most attention

it’s a lot harder for students to hide. The teacher can see pretty much where every student’s understanding is and how to help them. It’s a huge difference for students who didn’t seek out extra help and attention — who just sit back and keep silent

A new experience for students — but also for teachers, who are going from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”

Source: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/09/turning-education-upside-down/?_r=2

Computer warfare has some advantages

October 18, 2013

a cyber attack takes longer to prepare than a traditional military attack.
you must identify networks, workstations, weaknesses in systems, create the appropriate software, be sure that it worked the right way. In short , a cyber attack has not much to do with the fiction that shows a spectacled young men paralyzing a country by pressing three keys of his keyboard and sipping a can of Soda.

in 2011 the U.S.A have led 231 cyber attacks, mostly against countries with which they are not at war.

the main advantage of the computer weapon and of the technological weapon in general: to stand outside the scope of the war and of the law rules which governs it.

Computer warfare has some advantages: it does neither deadman, directly at least, nor ruin. It does not produce any image, somehow, it does not exist.

These advantages are all illusion. we accept that illusion because it is so difficult to understand that cyberspace is not somewhere else, unrelated to the physical world, so difficult to understand that we live in cyberspace and that what happens there affects us.

http://www.franceculture.fr/blog-numerique-matin-2013-09-03-si-offensive-il-y-a-en-syrie-sera-t-elle-aussi-informatique

Badiou: on the market of our personal satisfactions, passionate love is truly priceless

October 17, 2013

the one who has not experienced love can not achieve freeing the power of the idea of love into himself.

Reinventing love would also be reinventing thought.

All truth is universal. Such a truth also prohibits an individual who confronts it to keep as a rule of life, the simple persistence of his own appetites, which he thinks spontaneously, being, among other things, an animal, that satisfying them are sufficient to reach happiness.

But love is a sublime and dangerous passion. It is precisely the most available experience of this saving renunciation. Indeed, love is the decision to accept that an other person, initially completely unknown, do now, in its entirety, without limitation or qualification, part of our existence.

“love is a thought” (Pessoa). It is even more than that. it is an experience, almost a wild experience, of the thought, in general.

thinking (in art, science, politics …) is invariably a real exposure to otherness.

In this exhibition we expect, not the pleasures of satisfaction, but the incomparable joy caused by the discovery that we are powerful, selflessly, infinitely more than we have imagined we were.

love, true love, crazy love, is precisely the archetype of this dangerous exposure to this type of excessive joy

the wonderful pleasures brought by our bodies mingle with the joy. This is a further evidence of what a true thought, as outlined in the full and intimate acceptance that it exceeds its individual support, can raise, by itself, the satisfaction to the altitude of happiness.

Because we are considered as generic or anonymous individuals of our time, we are moving in this direction. We are tempted by the rather vain intangible photographic trade of innumerable “friends”, by the approval of relationships without commitment, or by contracts that binds a couple on the base, solid in appearance, precarious in reality (50% of divorces), of mutual benefit.

Reinvention (of love) can only come, today, as the primary movement of a defense. Yes, let us defend, whatever the cost, the unbearable passion.

this war in honor of love must be conducted on two fronts: one on the right side, the other on the left side.

on the right side: we must overcome the artificial ideology of amicable agreement. This agreement would assure the balance of benefits, the “fulfillment” of the concerned individuals , the “harmony” of each partner, in brief, the personal satisfaction of well-matched animals. This behaviour never crosses the boundary between the interest and the Idea, between the satisfaction and the joy. This representation is only the projection of the domestic law of our great companies: everything that exists has a price set by the market. However, on the market of our personal satisfactions, passionate love is truly priceless. therefore we simply opt for a contract that regulates the satisfactions.

on the left side: we must overcome the temptation to see, in the “freedom” of desires, the alpha and omega of existence. But love, as a thought, cannot be reduced to this kind of choice. No more than the contract, licentiousness escapes the laws of market appreciation. Its latent sadness, beyond the ritual of excitement, precisely results from this subordination, which is far from any joy, as any joy implies the infinity of a thought.

love is “a stubborn adventure”. Indeed, the thought that plays in it requires a selfless appetite for risk and the patience to bear the effects of such a risk. But the resulting joy is absolutely priceless.

Source: http://www.lemonde.fr/livres/article/2012/11/09/l-amour-une-aventure-obstinee_1787817_3260.html

testing the unicity of your browser fingerprints

October 11, 2013

the real-world practice of “device fingerprinting”: a process that collects the screen size, list of available fonts, software versions, and other properties of the visitor’s computer or smartphone to create a profile that is often unique to that machine.

Some websites deployed code based on Adobe’s Flash Player that fingerprinted users surreptitiously. Others used JavaScript-based fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting serves many legitimate purposes, including mitigating the impact of denial-of-service attacks, preventing fraud, protecting against account hijacking, and curbing content scraping, bots, and other automated nuisances.

But fingerprinting also has a darker side.
For one, few websites that include fingerprinting code in their pages disclose the practice in their terms of service.
For another, marketing companies advertise their ability to use fingerprinting to identify user behavior across websites and devices. That suggests device fingerprinting may be used much the way tracking cookies are used to follow people as they browse from site to site, even though fingerprinting isn’t covered by most laws governing cookies and websites’ Do Not Track policies

most end users have no idea that their computers are being fingerprinted, and they have few recourses to prevent the practice

fingerprinting works just as well in the ‘private-mode’ of modern browsers

device fingerprinting may have given the National Security Agency and its counterparts around the world an avenue to identify people using the Tor privacy service

users who want to prevent their systems from being fingerprinted have few options other than to run Tor.

Disabling JavaScript and Flash in the browser reduces some of the information websites can collect, but it does nothing to stop font probing, including the attack on older versions of the Tor Browser

how to test the anonymity of your browser (by the Electronic Frontier Foundation): https://panopticlick.eff.org/

source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/10/top-sites-and-maybe-the-nsa-track-users-with-device-fingerprinting/

Quantum computing could also pose a threat if used to factorize large numbers

October 11, 2013

Quantum computers process information in quantum bits, or qubits, which can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. In theory, this should one day allow quantum chips to vastly outperform regular PCs.

To be truly quantum, the qubits must be linked via the quantum property of entanglement (see below)

a commercially available quantum computer has been pitted against an ordinary PC: D-Wave compuer (D-wave is a company based in Burnaby, Canada)

D-Wave’s computers remain controversial, because they use a non-mainstream technique called adiabatic computing that does not conclusively exploit quantum phenomena to increase performance.

Adiabatic quantum computing does away with the circuits and separate components found in other quantum and classical computers, which are based on switches and logic gates.

Instead, a pool of qubits is encouraged to find the answer collectively.

The technique relies on a pool of qubits always seeking its lowest overall energy state; the trick is to adjust the system so that the lowest-energy state gives the answer to the problem.

It is a bit like putting a lightweight ball in the middle of a stretched out blanket, and then moving the blanket’s edges to manoeuvre the ball into the right spot. Only the right moves will coax it into position;

similarly, only the right quantum algorithm will enable a pool of qubits to solve a given problem.

Such computers start from a superposition of all possible quantum states, and qubits are linked in a uniquely quantum manner called entanglement.

D-Wave could beat PCs running general-purpose optimisation software, which is used in applications from image recognition to machine learning.

The overwhelming obvious killer app for quantum computation is optimisation

a particular kind of optimisation problem: minimising the solution of a complicated equation by choosing the values of certain variables. It sounds esoteric, but the problem crops up in many practical applications, such as image recognition and machine learning.

the D-Wave Two computer, has 439 qubits formed from superconducting niobium loops (Nobium is a chemical element with the symbol Nb)

 

Quantum computing could also pose a threat if used to factorize large numbers:

encryption schemes rely on the fact that factorising large numbers is hard for classical computers. As yet, though, no one has built a quantum machine big enough to harness this power.

 

Source: newscientist ow.ly/pJJQf