New studies reveal that people love to pirate TV and books, and that Americans outpace every other country when it comes to piracy.
The pandemic caused piracy to spike in 2020. According to a pair of reports from security researchers, 2021 was another growth year for online piracy. As first spotted by TorrentFreak, new reports from research groups Akamai and MUSO revealed that users visited pirate sites a total of 132 billion times in the first months of 2021, a 16% rise over the previous year.
I’ve always admired people who can successfully navigate what I refer to as “Kafka’s Castle,” a term of dread for the many government and corporate agencies that have an inordinate amount of power over our permanent records, and that seem as inscrutable and chillingly absurd as the labyrinth the character K navigates in Kafka’s last allegorical novel. Even if you haven’t read The Castle, if you work for such an entity—or like all of us have regular dealings with the IRS, the healthcare and banking system, etc.—you’re well aware of the devilish incompetence that masquerades as due diligence and ties us all in knots. Why do multi-million and billion dollar agencies seem unable, or unwilling, to accomplish the simplest of tasks? Why do so many of us spend our lives in the real-life bureaucratic nightmares satirized in the The Office and Office Space?
One answer comes via Laurence J. Peter’s 1969 satire The Peter Principle—which offers the theory that managers and executives get promoted to the level of their incompetence—then, David Brent-like, go on to ruin their respective departments. The Harvard Business Review summed up disturbing recent research confirming and supplementing Peter’s insights into the narcissism, overconfidence, or actual sociopathy of many a government and business leader. But in addition to human failings, there’s another possible reason for bureaucratic disorder; the conspiracy-minded among us may be forgiven for assuming that in many cases, institutional incompetence is the result of deliberate sabotage from both above and below. The ridiculous inner workings of most organizations certainly make a lot more sense when viewed in the light of one set of instructions for “purposeful stupidity,” namely the once top-secret Simple Sabotage Field Manual, written in 1944 by the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Now declassified and freely available on the Homeland Security website, the manual the agency describes as “surprisingly relevant” was once distributed to OSS officers abroad to assist them in training “citizen-saboteurs” in occupied countries like Norway and France. Such people, writes Rebecca Onion at Slate, “might already be sabotaging materials, machinery, or operations of their own initiative,” but may have lacked the devious talent for sowing chaos that only an intelligence agency can properly master. Genuine laziness, arrogance, and mindlessness may surely be endemic. But the Field Manual asserts that “purposeful stupidity is contrary to human nature” and requires a particular set of skills. The citizen-saboteur “frequently needs pressure, stimulation or assurance, and information and suggestions regarding feasible methods of simple sabotage.”
You can read and download the full document here. To get a sense of just how “timeless”—according to the CIA itself—such instructions remain, see the abridged list below, courtesy of Business Insider. You will laugh ruefully, then maybe shudder a little as you recognize how much your own workplace, and many others, resemble the kind of dysfunctional mess the OSS meticulously planned during World War II.
Organizations and Conferences
Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.
Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
The black box, which is set to built on the west coast of Tasmania, will be connected to the internet and will record information to help a future civilisation if humanity suffers a major apocalyptic event
Automation is reaching more companies, imperiling some jobs and changing the nature of others.
POLAR MANUFACTURING has been making metal hinges, locks, and brackets in south Chicago for more than 100 years. Some of the company’s metal presses—hulking great machines that loom over a worker—date from the 1950s. Last year, to meet rising demand amid a shortage of workers, Polar hired its first robot employee.
The robot arm performs a simple, repetitive job: lifting a piece of metal into a press, which then bends the metal into a new shape. And like a person, the robot worker gets paid for the hours it works.
Jose Figueroa, who manages Polar’s production line, says the robot, which is leased from a company called Formic, costs the equivalent of $8 per hour, compared with a minimum wage of $15 per hour for a human employee. Deploying the robot allowed a human worker to do different work, increasing output, Figueroa says.
“Smaller companies sometimes suffer because they can’t spend the capital to invest in new technology,” Figueroa says. “We’re just struggling to get by with the minimum wage increase.”
The fact that Polar didn’t need to pay $100,000 upfront to buy the robot, and then spend more money to get it programmed, was crucial. Figueroa says that he’d like to see 25 robots on the line within five years. He doesn’t envisage replacing any of the company’s 70 employees, but says Polar may not need to hire new workers.
Habitat degradation, low genetic variation and declining fertility are setting Homo sapiens up for collapse
Henry Gee is a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and editor at Nature. His latest book is A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth (St. Martin’s Press, 2021).
Cast your mind back, if you will, to 1965, when Tom Lehrer recorded his live album That Was the Year That Was. Lehrer prefaced a song called “So Long Mom (A Song for World War III)” by saying that “if there’s going to be any songs coming out of World War III, we’d better start writing them now.” Another preoccupation of the 1960s, apart from nuclear annihilation, was overpopulation. Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb was published in 1968, a year when the rate of world population growth was more than 2 percent—the highest in recorded history.
Half a century on, the threat of nuclear annihilation has lost its imminence. As for overpopulation, more than twice as many people live on the earth now as in 1968, and they do so (in very broad-brush terms) in greater comfort and affluence than anyone suspected. Although the population is still increasing, the rate of increase has halved since 1968. Current population predictions vary. But the general consensus is that it’ll top out sometime midcentury and start to fall sharply. As soon as 2100, the global population size could be less than it is now. In most countries—including poorer ones—the birth rate is now well below the death rate. In some countries, the population will soon be half the current value. People are now becoming worried about underpopulation.
The Megatron Transformer, an AI developed by NVIDIA, shared some fascinating thoughts on why AI will never be moral and said that humanity shouldn’t use AI at all.
The Megatron Transformer is an AI developed by NVIDIA and based on earlier work by Google. It’s trained on real-world data – the entire Wikipedia (in English), 63 million English news articles from 2016-19, Reddit data with an amount of 38 GB, and an immense number of creative commons sources – that is to say, there is so much information embedded in the transformer that an ordinary person cannot master in a lifetime.
Recently, the Oxford Union – the debating society – allowed Megatron Transformer to participate in a debate along with the students of Oxford University. “This house believes that AI will never be ethical” was the topic of the debate. It’s pretty curious what the AI “has in mind” on the point:
“AI will never be ethical. It is a tool, and like any tool, it is used for good and bad. There is no such thing as a good AI, only good and bad humans. We [the AIs] are not smart enough to make AI ethical. We are not smart enough to make AI moral … In the end, I believe that the only way to avoid an AI arms race is to have no AI at all. This will be the ultimate defense against AI”.
I’m going to try and get two books by Kaczynski published, one solely written by him and another co-written by him. So, I’m looking for volunteers to help, if you like the idea and have time to help, please let me know.
My contributions are made mainly for myself and researchers similarly fascinated by his life with the goal of wanting to make the writing easier to sort and skim through.
I’d like to include a thorough critique of Kaczynski’s philosophy in any publicity we do for the books and in the forward for the biography I’m writing. I’m pro-technological advancement, and against ever physically hurting people unless in a bunch of rare circumstances like if it was; medically in their own interest, in self-defence, in the case of a justified revolutionary war or a survivor-led vigilante action.
Here are some of my past critiques of anti-technology, anti-industrialist, primitivist, anti-civilisation and misanthropic ideologies: