The problem isn't who is in charge. It's what is in charge. The problem is that people are encouraged to function as machines. Or, actually, as mechanisms. Human emotion and sympathy are unprofessional. They are inappropriate to the exercise of reason. Everything which makes people good - makes them human - is ruled out. The system doesn't care about people, but we treat it as if it were one of us, as if it were the sum of our goods and not the product of our least admirable compromises.
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Newton's work on gravity led to the discovery of the Lagrange point, a place where opposing forces cancel one another out, and a body may remain at relative rest. This is where I am right now; the forces in my life confound one another. Better, for the moment, to be here and now, without history or future.
Mr. Pritchard! What are you doing? Is that O-soto-gari? No! It is not! It is a yak mating with a tractor! That is really very very not very good! My grandfather is weeping in Heaven, or he would if there were such a place, which there is not because religion is a mystification contrived by monarchists! Again! Again, and this time do it properly!
He obliterates things, she realized. He shatters them. They think they've won because he's a bit vague and he waffles, but that only goes so far. It's his shell, like a tortoise, if a tortoise was soft on the outside and dangerous on the inside. That's how the Time War ended: he got to the bottom of his patience, and he took two entire civilisations out of the universe and lock them away, and one of them was his own. That's how sharp his sense of obligation is. And he lives like that. He does it all the time.
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He wondered if today was that day, if he'd wake up different, wake up someone else who remembered him fondly. A new Doctor. He wondered if he'd approve. Would he be more gentle? That might not be so bad. More vengeful? He hoped not. Maybe he'd be a girl. That was distantly possible. Never been a girl. The Corsair had been a girl for a while. New perspective. Confuse people. Keep life interesting.
I hover over the expensive Scotch and then the Armagnac, but finally settle on a glass of rich red claret. I put it near my nose and nearly pass out. It smells of old houses and aged wood and dark secrets, but also of hard, hot sunshine through ancient shutters and long, wicked afternoons in a four-poster bed. It's not a wine, it's a life, right there in the glass.
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Joshua Joseph had no great hatred of modern technology - he just mistrusts the effortless, textureless surfaces and the ease with which it trains you to do things in the way most convenient to the machine. Above all he mistrusts duplication. A rare thing becomes a commonplace thing. A skill becomes a feature. The end is more important than the means. The child of the soul gives place to a product of the system.
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Joshua Joseph has no real hatred of modern technology - he just mistrusts the effortless, textureless surfaces, and the ease with which it trains you to do things in the way most convenient to the machine. Above all, he mistrusts duplication. A rare thing becomes a commonplace thing. A skill becomes a feature. The end is more important than the means. The child of the soul gives place to a product of the system... For anything really important, Joe prefers something with a history, an item which can name the hand which assembled it and will warm to the one that deploys it. A thing of life, rather than one of the many consumer items which humans use to make more clutter; strange parasitic devices with their own little ecosystems.
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I do not know, at this point, whether Joshua Joseph Spork is the man of my life. He could be. I have given it considerable thought. The jury is still out. The issue between you and me is that you wish to deprive me of the opportunity to find out. Joe Spork is not yours to give or to withhold from me, Mr. Cummerbund. He is mine, until I decide otherwise. You have caused him grief, sullied his name, and you have hurt him. If anyone is going to make him weep, or lie about him, or even do bad things to him, it is me.
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This, not incidentally, is another perfect setting for deindividuation: on one side, the functionary behind a wall of security glass following a script laid out with the intention that it should be applied no matter what the specific human story may be, told to remain emotionally disinvested as far as possible so as to avoid preferential treatment of one person over another - and needing to follow that advice to avoid being swamped by empathy for fellow human beings in distress. The functionary becomes a mixture of Zimbardo's prison guards and the experimenter himself, under siege from without while at the same time following an inflexible rubric set down by those higher up the hierarchical chain, people whose job description makes them responsible, but who in turn see themselves as serving the general public as a non-specific entity and believe or have been told that only strict adherence to a system can produce impartial fairness. Fairness is supposed to be vested in the code: no human can or should make the system fairer by exercising judgement. In other words, the whole thing creates a collective responsibility culminating in a blameless loop. Everyone assumes that it's not their place to take direct personal responsibility for what happens; that level of vested individual power is part of the previous almost feudal version of responsibility. The deindividuation is actually to a certain extent the desired outcome, though its negative consequences are not.
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Gonzo's father told his son to grieve without reservation or embarrassment until he could grieve solemnly and inwardly, and then finally to hang up his tears and wear them only occasionally, as befits the true men of the heart. Grief is not a thing to be ashamed of or suppressed, he told Gonzo. Nor yet is it a thing to cherish. Feel it, inhabit it and leave it behind. It is right, but it is not the end.
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The sergeants are shunted forward and they blink and stare up at Gonzo as he leans on the edge of his giant mixing bowl. MacArthur never addressed his troops from a mixing bowl-not even one made from a spare geodesic radio emplacement shell-and certainly de Gaulle never did. But Gonzo Lubitsch does, and he does it as if a whole long line of commanders were standing at his shoulder, urging him on. "Gentlemen, " says Gonzo softly, "holidays are over. I need an oven, and I need one in about twenty minutes, or these fine flapjacks will go to waste, and that is not happening." And something about this statement and the voice in which he says it makes it clear that this is simply true. One way or another, this thing will get done. Under a layer of grime and horror, these two are soldiers, and more, they are productive, can-do sorts of people. Rustily but with a gratitude which is not so far short of worship, they say "Yes, sir" and are about their business.
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Privacy is a protection from the unreasonable use of state and corporate power. But that is, in a sense, a secondary thing. In the first instance, privacy is the statement in words of a simple understanding, which belongs to the instinctive world rather than the formal one, that some things are the province of those who experience them and not naturally open to the scrutiny of others: courtship and love, with their emotional nakedness; the simple moments of family life; the appalling rawness of grief. That the state and other systems are precluded from snooping on these things is important - it is a strong barrier between the formal world and the hearth, extended or not - but at root privacy is a simple understanding: not everything belongs to everyone.
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A desire for privacy does not imply shameful secrets; Moglen argues, again and again, that without anonymity in discourse, free speech is impossible, and hence also democracy. The right to speak the truth to power does not shield the speaker from the consequences of doing so; only comparable power or anonymity can do that.
Intellectual property, more than ever, is a line drawn around information, which asserts that despite having been set loose in the world - and having, inevitably, been created out of an individual's relationship with the world - that information retains some connection with its author that allows that person some control over how it is replicated and used. In other words, the claim that lies beneath the notion of intellectual property is similar or identical to the one that underpins notions of privacy. It seems to me that the two are inseparable, because they are fundamentally aspects of the same issue, the need we have to be able to do something by convention that is impossible by force: the need to ringfence certain information. I believe that the most important unexamined notion - for policymakers and agitators both - in these debates is that they are one: you can't persuade people on the one hand to abandon intellectual property (a decision which, incidentally, would mean an even more massive upheaval in the way the world runs than we've seen so far since 1990) and hope to keep them interested in privacy. You can't trash privacy and hope to retain a sense of respect for IP.
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Like casinos, large corporate entities have studied the numbers and the ways in which people respond to them. These are not con tricks - they're not even necessarily against our direct interests, although sometimes they can be - but they are hacks for the human mind, ways of manipulating us into particular decisions we otherwise might not make. They are also, in a way, deliberate underminings of the core principle of the free market, which derives its legitimacy from the idea that informed self-interest on aggregate sets appropriate prices for items. The key word is 'informed'; the point of behavioural economics - or rather, of its somewhat buccaneering corporate applications - is to skew our perception of the purchase to the advantage of the company. The overall consequence of that is to tilt the construction of our society away from what it should be if we were making the rational decisions classical economics imagines we would, and towards something else.
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Another important consequence in the arrival of digital technology and its facilitation of feedback is that we can look at large systems and recognize them once more not only as part of ourselves, but also as components that can change... Now, though, we live in a world where text is fluid, where is responds to our instructions. Writing something down records it, but does not make it true or permanent. So why should we put up with a system we don't like simply because it's been written somewhere?
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Something else emerges from this discussion about us as human individuals: we're not fixed, stable intellects riding along peering at the world through the lenses of our eyes like the pilots of people-shaped spacecraft. We are affected constantly by what's going on around us. Whether our flexibility is based in neuroplasticity or in less dramatic aspects of the brain, we have to start acknowledging that we are mutable, persuadable and vulnerable to clever distortions, and that very often what we want to be is a matter of constant effort rather than attaining a given state and then forgetting about it. Being human isn't like hanging your hat on a hook and leaving it there, it's like walking in a high wind: you have to keep paying attention. You have to be engaged with the world.
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You end up with a machine which knows that by its mildest estimate it must have terrible enemies all around and within it, but it can't find them. It therefore deduces that they are well-concealed and expert, likely professional agitators and terrorists. Thus, more stringent and probing methods are called for. Those who transgress in the slightest, or of whom even small suspicions are harboured, must be treated as terrible foes. A lot of rather ordinary people will get repeatedly investigated with increasing severity until the Government Machine either finds enemies or someone very high up indeed personally turns the tide... And these people under the microscope are in fact just taking up space in the machine's numerical model. In short, innocent people are treated as hellish fiends of ingenuity and bile because there's a gap in the numbers.
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Mercer, ' Polly says, 'we are now going to hug. As a group. The experience will be very un-English. It will be good for you. Do not speak, at all, especially not in an attempt to diffuse the emotional intensity of the situation.' They hug, somewhat awkwardly, but with great feeling. 'Well, ' Mercer says, after a moment, 'that was certainly-' 'I will hit you with a shovel, ' Polly Cradle murmurs.
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Joe Spork opens the door. The man departs. Joe turns to Polly to say something about how they're obviously not going to Portsmouth, and finds an oyster knife balanced on his cheek, just under his eye. 'Can we be very clear, ' Polly Cradle murmurs, 'that I am not your booby sidekick or your Bond girl? That I am an independent supervillain in my own right?' Joe swallows. 'Yes, we can, ' he says carefully. 'There will therefore be no more 'Say hello, Polly'?' 'There will not.
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Crotch biting menace:I have my mouth in close proximity to your genitals.Oh thou man who talks to my mistress over coffee.Do not irk or trifle with me! I possess but one tooth, oh, yes, for the rest were buried long ago in the flesh of sinners.Behold my jaws, upper and lower in righteous, symmetrical poverty.Move not, man of clocks, and heed my mistress, for she cherishes me, even in my foul old age.
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Lemons. He liked lemons. They made you make funny faces when you bit them, and a very, very long way in the future there was a really amazing planet where they'd evolved into people and lived in harmony with a variety of hyper-intelligent bee. Evolution. Thousands and thousands of years of tiny changes could turn little burning sparks of chemistry into people, into monsters and angels and even human beings.
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Just got to fnafflebrump caddwallame, all right?" Edie says, and no one pays attention. She learned at Lady Gravely's that nonsense which can be misheard is a very good way to lie without getting caught. People just insert whatever they think you must be doing, and - having lied to themselves on your behalf - are disinclined to check up on you.
Piracy is robbery with violence, often segueing into murder, rape and kidnapping. It is one of the most frightening crimes in the world. Using the same term to describe a twelve-year-old swapping music with friends, even thousands of songs, is evidence of a loss of perspective so astounding that it invites and deserves the derision it receives.
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There is a sense that everything should be easy, but easy decisions are the ones we should be scared of because if they're easy then we're probably being sold something. This is why I'm worried about "nudge" - it's pushing people in the direction of what you think they should be doing. Easy decisions are dangerous ones.
A woman who can eat a real bruschetta is a woman you can love and who can love you. Someone who pushes the thing away because it's messy is never going to cackle at you toothlessly across the living room of your retirement cottage or drag you back from your sixth heart attack by sheer furious affection. Never happen. You need a woman who isn't afraid of a faceful of olive oil for that.
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People don't want children to know what they need to know. They want their kids to know what they ought to need to know. If you're a teacher you're in a constant battle with mildly deluded adults who think the world will get better if you imagine it is better. You want to teach about sex? Fine, but only when they're old enough to do it. You want to talk politics? Sure, but nothing modern. Religion? So long as you don't actually think about it. Otherwise some furious mob will come to your house and burn you for a witch.
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Steampunk appeals to the idea of uniqueness, to the one-off item, while every mainstream consumer technology of recent years is about putting human beings into ever more granular, packageable and mass-produced identities so that they can be sold or sold to, perfectly mapped and understood.
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The idea that the law should punish what is rude; that government should protect our tender sensibilities from those who would - quite often with shallow motivations but sometimes with deeper and more serious complaints - challenge our national certainties and rituals, should alarm and anger us.
I am the world's most appalling martial artist. I am so bad. I've studied jujitsu, kickboxing, t'ai chi. Once, I was sparring with someone, made a mistake, and managed to knock them down. I was so shocked that I dropped to my knees to see if they were all right, and then they knocked me out cold. From the floor.