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It's really interesting to me how most people can easily spot propaganda in other cultures and rightfully mock it, but not only fail to notice even the most blatant propaganda in their own but even defend it. I suspect many Americans will do exactly that here, despite this being an obvious piece of fear mongering using basic techniques ripped straight out of a psychology textbook.

> "As the President said in announcing recent intelligence reforms, "We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves"

> "Mr. Snowden's dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it."

> "We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address."

There is nothing new here. From a different age, we had this observation from another power hungry man:

"The people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

-Hermann Göring

The U.S. constitution contains some strong protections against this road to fascism, but many have been eroded or subverted over time. Our government's design is intentionally inefficient, its members supposed to change regularly, and our court system is insular and slow for a reason. But these protections were created prior to the era of mass media, and now fear can be used as an even more powerful tool for control than when the country was founded.

I suspect that in the long term, even stronger hedges against totalitarianism will be needed. Democratic republics work well when the voting public is informed, patient, and aware of history. If you can whip them into a fervor with fear mongering, make them forget the past, and make quick emotional decisions, then instead of a nation of citizens you have a troop of apes--far easier to control.


There was a post on HN last week where the author provided a reasonable answer (or at least I think so) to this question.

The gist is that people who are willing to pay a subscription to disable ads are exactly the people that advertisers would like to target. When a service assembles a list of such people, the value of that list to the advertiser generally exceeds the sum of the individual payments provided by the subscribers.

You can increase the subscription fee, but then you'll have less subscribers and the ones who are left will be the most valuable to advertisers (i.e. they have the most disposable income). If you decrease the subscription fee, you will have more subscribers but not a lot more, because the primary obstacle for online subscription type services for most people is not the price but the idea of paying for something they are accustomed to getting for free.

So if you get 1000 people to pay $1.00 per month for your niche Swedish grunge music streaming service and double the price, a decent number of them will not like that and some of them will unsubscribe. But if you halve the price to $0.50 per month you won't see many new customers since many people aren't willing to pay even small amounts for music streaming. Advertisers, meanwhile, don't have these mental obstacles and just try to price things as objectively as possible. And they see a narrowly targeted list of people with a highly correlated list of interests and purchasing tendencies and value it appropriately.

This might explain why services like Hulu have gradually introduced more advertising into their paid subscription services. As long as two groups of people are are paying them (customers and advertisers) one will generally be willing to pay more. Economic forces on the internet seem to result in advertisers having more purchasing power here.


Do you have the link to the HN post you referred to?

Chrome wasn't released 10 years ago.

Yes, it was just a recent example – browser that launched without installation always existed.

True, though now that it's public they may start accounting for the potential cost of lawsuits within the next year.

Why stop with the implementors? Why not also blame the janitors that clean the office they work in? Why not blame the project managers to oversee the project? Or the politicians who approved funding for the technology? Or the voters who voted the politicians into office?

The human need to assign blame to a single source is an evolutionary remnant that we should be aware of and try to correct for, rather than embracing it. Just because something is terrible doesn't mean you can put all the blame for it on one person or group of people.


Blame whoever has the power to stop it. I wouldn't blame a janitor because they likely have nothing to do with what's happening. An interesting form of slippery slope.

Except that shooting someone is generally illegal, whereas having an affair is not. Allocate your sympathy as you wish, but don't pretend that a person deserves to be the victim of a crime because you or anyone else find their behavior distasteful.

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To cheat, to break your word given to a life partner, is not just distasteful. It is wrong. It makes the world a darker place, and not only to you and your partner (and that is what wrong means)

I know this kind of statement is viewed with distrust. And I see why this is so. But I think some moral discussion might be good (rather than just the bland 'lets not judge')

First, I am not saying that I think all marriages need to be monogamical or 'till death'. Both ideas are probably bad on average (i.e.: make the world a darker place as well, cause needless suffering). I, for one, think that promissing monogamy is a bad idea.

But to break the promice of monogamy is, indeed, bad. First, it is inherently unfair: One partner (Pa) might be resisting temptations, to the benefit of the other (Pb). Pb gets benefits from increased marriage security, increase sexual availability from Pa, increased emotional availability... But does not offer the same.

I mean, it would be clear that withdrawing all the money from a joint savings account is bad, right? That is the same thing... One side is doing a lot of effort to keep a mutual benefit working...

To cheat is a form of exploitation.

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The time, place, and manner of sex or other activity that occurs between two consenting adults is none of my business whatsoever unless one of those people is my spouse. When one of those people is my spouse and the other is not me, then my problem is with my spouse, not with any website or other instrument used to facilitate the infidelity. What meaning would an agreement such as marriage have if cheating were literally impossible?

>But I think some moral discussion might be good

Let's discuss how we can keep from inflicting our own personal morals on those who do not share our moral philosophies; lest someone show up here and one-up us all with an even better morality than the one we already have.

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>Let's discuss how we can keep from inflicting our own personal morals on those who do not share our moral philosophies

The interesting question, is, of course, which are private matters and which are matters of injustice that 'society' should intervene to fix.

THE WHOLE QUESTION is whether or not cheating is 'a private matter' or 'an injustice that ...'. Just stating that it is 'private' does not seem to be an answer to the question. If I understood you correctly, your argument it 'is is private, leave it alone, else someone else will mess with other private issues'. Why do you think it belongs to the 'private' rather than 'injustice' category?

> one-up us all with an even better morality than the one we already have.

For me, that would be very nice indeed! Convincing moral arguments are very rare!

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I think I was quite clear as to why a marital relationship is a private matter.

I think we can agree that in society there are many different moral systems. Now I will use the words "good" and "bad" with the stipulation that these words have no inherent meaning, but instead only have the meaning that we apply to them from within our own personal moral system. You can compare another moral system to your own, and decide that it is "better" or "worse" but you cannot make an objective determination. Now, you can decide that your morality where adultery should be prohibited/prevented/punished is better for your purposes than mine where adultery is none of the government's business, but that is just your personal preference. The problem is that this may never end and there is always another fellow who is more moral than you or I or both of us, and whose morality tells him that shoes are immoral or that red-haired people are witches or something like that; and this fellow wants the government to segregate the witches for the protection of the good moral folks, and also prevent everyone from wearing shoes, even firemen. So, we have to compromise on our morality and find a set of common rules upon which most of us can agree and which will protect people from serious harm even if it allows for some behavior that makes some of us uncomfortable.

Why do you think that two other peoples' marriage is some concern to you, or to society at large? And please, no references to vague concepts that we have no real definition of such as 'making the world a darker place'

>For me, that would be very nice indeed! Convincing moral arguments are very rare!

That's because morals are very personal, arbitrary, and often irrational.

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Thank you for your reply.

No, I am not harmed when two people (Pa and Pb) are married, and Pa cheats on Pb. The reason I'd oppose AM is because it normalizes and helps the harmful behaviour of Pa towards Pb. I am quite sure that there is some marginal contribution of AM to the number of cheatings and broken marriages. I think we can objectively say that AM contributes to needless suffering. Do you agree?

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We can agree that act(s) of marital infidelity cause people to suffer. Sites such as AM are not my favorite thing, but it is simply not my place or yours to tell other people how to manage their personal lives. I do not think that the existence of AM causes anyone to think that infidelity is okay who did not previously think that was the case, therefore, AM is not contributing to the moral decay of society. I'm not going to transfer the blame to the third party. AM did not force anyone to participate. There would still be marital infidelity if AM did not exist, and as you say, I expect their contribution to be marginal.

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Let's discuss how we are forced to live with people who don't share our standards of behavior (like those who cling to 17th century individualistic philosophy which science has long debunked) and force us to compromise on the kind of society we want because of centralized government.

Let's also discuss how human behavioral biology predicts that if you are in favor of polygamy you are highly likely to be an arrogant, aggressive, sexist bully (like males of tournament species are) who makes society worse for everyone else.

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In another reply in this subthread, I explain my ideas about compromise based upon what I learned in elementary school. It may make me slightly uncomfortable to share the land with flat-earthers, but as long as they don't try to teach astronomy to my children I'll leave them be. I might even have them over for dinner or mow their lawn when they're away since, aside from being morons who don't vote the same as me, they are mostly pleasant, generous, peaceful people.

>Let's also discuss how human behavioral biology predicts that if you are in favor of polygamy you are highly likely to be an arrogant, aggressive, sexist bully (like males of tournament species are) who makes society worse for everyone else.

Okay, can we talk about how to best implement a eugenics program to help us solve this problem too? Or perhaps compulsory psychiatric medication? Compulsory hormone therapy?

I think the majority of people agree that polygamy is verboten, not that I really care in principle, at least as far as the law goes. What poly-amorous folks do with each other is none of my business.

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What's wrong with eugenism? Technology allows eugenism to be implemented without being unfair to anyone. But I fail to see how eugenism is needed to allow monogamous humans to exist on their own terms. I guess mentionning eugenism here is just a 'reductio ad hitlerum'.

Monogamous humans should be able to function in their own societies, with their own laws and a culture adapted to the non-trivial differences in social behavior monogamy entails without having to put up with the predatory behavior of polygamous humans and the cultural propaganda to glorify it. It's been shown that for monogamy as a trait to continue to exist it needs to be the dominant behavior in a group of animals. Others are free to revel in the "joys" of dog-eat-dog polygamous primate societies as long as they engage in this with others who consent.

Also noone exists in a vacuum. One's actions affect others (directly or indirectly) particularly when they live in the same society. Having people with deeply conflicting standards of behavior coexist in a futile attempt at a one-size-fits-all society that inherently favors one group over the other is not going to work.

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Cheating is also something that roughly 50-70% of married people do. Sex, along with food, water, and drugs, is one the basic, biological human compulsions and it's part of the human condition, for a large majority of us, to fall victim to it against our better judgment. As wrong as it is to cheat, it's even more wrong (and more harmful, which is perhaps the same thing) to invade people's privacy and expose cheating.

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Adultery is illegal in many bits of the US.

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It is but according to the Wiki it there hasn't been a conviction in the US since 1983.

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If you are part of the armed forces under DoD or DHS, you see people being convicted and brought up on adultery charges all the time.

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Having an affair actually is illegal in almost half the US, and in some states, it's even a felony.

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> Having an affair actually is illegal in almost half the US, and in some states, it's even a felony.

Wow! United Saudi Arabia (USA)!

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Saudi Arabia allows polygyny which is the complete opposite of this.

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Allowing polygyny is not the opposite of criminalizing adultery; its quite orthogonal.

Its the opposite of criminalizing polygyny, which is also common in the US, but that's a different issue.

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This is certainly what tumblr ideologues who haven't bothered checking scientific facts (behavioral biology) like to believe.

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Saudi Arabia criminalizes adultery which is "having an affair". Polygyny means you're legally married which is allowed in Saudi Arabia but having an adulterous relationship is criminal.

> "Secondly, surveillance is an essential tool in fighting crime."

This is a very dubious assertion. I'm not aware of any evidence that mass surveillance deters or prevents crime at all, much less is "an essential tool" for doing so.

But even if one, for the sake of argument, concedes the point that mass surveillance does significantly deter or prevent crime, you still have a system set up where the costs of that surveillance (loss of privacy, loss of accountability for abuses of power, introducing/secretly discovering backdoors, etc) are borne by the least powerful--ordinary citizens--while the benefits of mass surveillance (concentration of power, ability to bribe/extort/intimidate rivals, being seen as "doing something" about terrorism, etc) accrue only to those who are already powerful.

That is the real problem with mass surveillance. It creates a positive feedback loop that only exacerbates existing power imbalances, inevitably leading to corruption and capricious injustices by those who are most able to get away with it. Having a speedbump on the road to that inevitable destination, even a big one, is not much of a consolation if the heading is still the same.

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Exactly that, as long as you have those who have access and those that don't you have something to be exploited. There you move towards a great divided in power, towards total lack of privacy or you don't gather the data. I think the later is actually the least likely. There are a lot of really powerful things you can do with good data, that seems worthwhile. The issue is then exploitation of that knowledge. For sure advantage will be had by someone, question is extent of imbalance and lack of privacy.

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I'm not talking about mass surveillance. I'm talking about the targeted surveillance that comes from the warrants they sign off on.

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> I'm not aware of any evidence that mass surveillance deters or prevents crime at all, much less is "an essential tool" for doing so.

Oh, you think you are sneaky. This is so carefully worded. You explicitly twist the words of the GP, where they use "fighting crime" you turn that to meaning "deters of prevents crime." They mention "surveillance", and you turn that into "mass surveillance."

That's like me saying "I don't see how fingerprint analysis helps to deter or prevent crimes." Oh sure, it helps capture people after the fact, but I don't think there has ever been evidence show that fingerprint analysis has actually deterred or prevented crime.

So, while you can stand their, smug with your "technically correct" remark, the reality is "surveillance is an essential tool in fighting crime" has been proven to be correct time and time again, and has been instrumental in handing convictions for a long, long time.

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> "Instead of writing Xi, they should really write X[i]; because Xi is ambiguous. I find that dealing with all the ambiguity in syntax can be rather frustrating."

This is a feature of math, not a bug. The potential for ambiguity is the cost that one pays to have a flexible and extensible notation which can be adapted to concepts yet undiscovered. This is generally not the case with code [1]. When you are exploring new ideas you want the ability to redefine your notation to match the nature and structure of the abstactions you are examining.

There is a finite number of symbols in the set of all human languages, and thus far we know of no reason that there should be a finite set of concepts in mathematics. Enforcing a one-to-one mapping from a given sequence of symbols to a given concept forces you to either limit the space of concepts you can consider or to eventually deal with impractically large sequences of symbols for relatively simple concepts.

[1] Yes, Lisp and DSLs are a thing, but you still have to define what a given sequence of symbols means. In an interpreted language, the interpreter computes the meaning using inputs and any necessary state. In math, the meaning is necessarily dependent on context as well.

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> deal with impractically large sequences of symbols for relatively simple concepts.

I don't think they would ever have to be impractically large.

Right now they are just impractically weird.

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Nobody wants to see abusive speech being used. The question is whether or not the law should "protect" people from it. I'm not talking about making credible threats, because the crime of assault already covers that.

If a society decides that abusive speech is a special case that must not be tolerated, it also has to define what "abusive speech" is. This requires, by its very nature, a subjective and often emotional interpretation. That society must also determine whether unintentionally abusive speech is a crime.

If the law is charged with protecting people against abusive or potentially abusive speech, it has to have powers necessary to do so. This requires the power to censor, the power to silence dissenting voices, and the power to (re)interpret the words of others based on the emotional reaction of anyone who hears those words (which may not be the intended audience).

Those powers undermine the use of speech for all purposes, not just ones that society deems appropriate.

I don't understand why people seem to think that any kind of distinction here can be enforced without undermining free speech as a whole. By way of example, you have property rights and if, by exercising them, you erect a hideous statue on your property which your neighbor finds offensive, your neighbor has no right to have the statue torn down simply because he finds it distasteful.

Freedom of speech is only really valuable when you're saying something that someone might want to censor. Nobody cares if you're saying something everyone already agrees with.

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> By way of example, you have property rights and if, by exercising them, you erect a hideous statue on your property which your neighbor finds offensive, your neighbor has no right to have the statue torn down simply because he finds it distasteful.

Also on this unrelated topic, exactly the opposite is common in Europe.

In the UK, you would need planning permission to place a statue, a process which allows a neighbour to voice their objection to the planning committee of the local government.

e.g.

http://www.cherwell.org/news/2009/02/19/gormley-statue-place...

And this is considered normal and accepted. You don't get to place offensive statues in public.

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I think it's relatively easy to distinguish "speech" from "speech plus other action," such as protesting. Even someone who supported free speech and a person's right to protest wouldn't likely support them protesting on their front lawn because other rights besides freedom of speech exist (such as property rights).

I don't think it's controversial in Western societies that freedom of expression, especially in spoken or written form, is one of the most important rights of a free society, and as such is worthy of protection. Other actions associated with that speech may not be protected, so we need to distinguish between them.

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Is it? Publishing an anti-government article in a newspaper, something we think as the core of free speech, is actually speech (the writing) + action (publishing). So is putting anything up on facebook or sending it over the intertubes. You can apply a binary protection to speech, but that just moves the battleground to defining "speech" versus "not speech."

The U.S. approach is a pretty good one. It defines "speech" as almost anything expressive, and focuses the analysis instead on whether any restraints on speech involve the content of the speech. Protesting is protected in the U.S., which it would not be under a "speech" versus "speech plus other action" dichotomy. The attended activity may be limited, but not based on the content of the speech. Hate speech laws have been repeatedly ruled unconstitutional, because they ban particular types of expression based on content.

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> I don't think it's controversial in Western societies that freedom of expression, especially in spoken or written form, is one of the most important rights of a free society, and as such is worthy of protection.

I'll say that even given only my real world experience with hearing local opinion on the matter, there is in fact quite a controversy around the concept. This isn't even taking into account the similar opinions coming through in forms of media that aren't real-time, in-person conversation.

That freedom of expression is even an important principle is not something where there's clear-cut agreement. There exists dissent aplenty.

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