Change in education will come, but wait


February 15, 2019

Change in education will come, but wait

 

At a recent forum attended by the education minister, I had a unique chance to observe the citizenry in action with regards to the issue of education.

I suppose 30 years of pent-up anger about the issue was suddenly unleashed after May 9 and, with the openness of the new minister, an opportunity was raised to vent out these frustrations.

Everyone has ideas on revamping the education system. I, too, in many ways, have written or voiced out those exact comments in other forums and talks.

But what seems to be missing is patience and appreciation on the part of the citizenry of what has already been done: the planning and complexity of manoeuvring things in order to effect change in education.

The ministry has addressed many housekeeping issues on the provision of basic infrastructure like abandoned projects, broken furniture, inadequate book stocks, teachers’ workloads, and trying to change attitudes towards education management.

But the middle-class elites seem unimpressed with these efforts. They want to see change now.

Image result for malaysian education blueprint 2018

What are we waiting– for the Sun to rise in The West?

We can only expect to see change if we start to think in the right direction. In the case of religious education, it will be a miracle if we see change in the next 30 years.

On the issue of English, on the other hand, I can see change in five years’ time.

Why can’t change occur now? I think the reasons are pretty obvious.

Changing 450,000 teachers is a doable, but Herculean task. Changing the mindset of the academia will not be easy after 30 years of complacency due to the Universities and University Colleges Act.

Changing the curriculum of professional education will be near-impossible if the ministry has no control over the professional bodies who ride roughshod over universities’ professional programmes. But it can still be done.

Fighting off extremist Malay and Islamic groups is like walking on water. We need a miracle! But miracles, too, can be engineered and managed, and change will come eventually.

For me, hearing about “values-driven education” and “humanising education” is already the signal for change.

The ministry has proposed a drastic change from the factory production-oriented school leavers and university graduates to a more tolerant citizenry on differences of faiths and culture. All teachers and academics should answer this call immediately and with utmost urgency.

What we can do now, we should do. What we can plan to change a little later, we put plans in place. The onus is on us not to wait for another education blueprint.

The call for change has already been sounded. The strategies for change have already been placed. The long-term issues of education are already being planned and are undergoing minute scrutiny before implementation.

What is required of the citizenry is their own efforts to understand the vision and change according to their own capacities and abilities.

What is needed are new ideas and suggestions to strengthen the framework that is already in existence. What is desired most of the citizenry is an open mind to the various sensitivities and time bombs of socio-political constructs surrounding the issue of education.

At the end of the day, we must understand that the minister concerned has no magic wand to conjure miracles.

As long as the objectives of change are clear and some small change has occurred, we should accept patience as an investment in life.

The battle to put in place the right people and perspective of change has already been won. The question for the citizenry now is: can we accept what has come and endure with patience for what is promised?

Can we look at change as a continuing process and not as a singular momentous event?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Fake degrees and fake reforms


February 9,2019

Fake degrees and fake reforms

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

Ong said given the more serious nature of the revelation, Najib must ask the two ministers to quit to reflect his seriousness in upholding accountability.”

Malay Mail, June 26, 2013

DAP’s Dr. ONG  Kian Ming

A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do not need a professional qualification to do this.–S. Thayaparan

 Note. Dr. Ong Kian Ming (Chinese: 王建民; pinyin: Wángjiànmín; born 12 September 1975), is a Malaysian politician from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a component of Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. He is the incumbent Member of Parliament for Bangi since 2018 and also when the constituency was still named as Serdang earlier since 2013. Ong was picked as the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry by the new PH government in 2018.[1]

Ong was formerly an academic and a prominent political analyst in the Malaysian political scene before he turned Election Strategist for the DAP.[2][3][4] His articles were widely published in popular news portals such as Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and The Edge.[5] Prior to that he was a lecturer in Faculty of Economics and Policy Science, UCSI University, also a regional consultant for the Blue Ocean Strategy regional center. His experience includes being a policy analyst for Socio- Economics Development and Research Institute (SEDAR) and Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP). In addition, he was also associate consultant for the Boston Consulting Group Kuala Lumpur.

COMMENT | I really did not want to get into this whole “fake degree” fiasco but then I read Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming’s piece about not needing a degree to be an effective politician and realised how much trouble we are in. Ong couldn’t even bring himself to name the minister in question, and chose instead to backtrack on earlier positions he held while maintaining he has been consistent.

Ong’s piece is politics at its most craven. Ong is half-right. You do not need professional qualifications to be an effective politician. However, professional qualifications most times add a veneer of legitimacy to mendacious politics because people are conditioned to think that professional degrees add an element of credibility to political rhetoric.

But it adds very little to actual governing and policy-making which entails a different set of skill sets, most importantly political will.

Ong says that a professional qualification is not needed to be an effective politician. This is true. A politician lies or spins, works the party system, makes alliances and enemies and generally does despicable deeds to court votes, and you do not need a professional qualification to do this.

Do all politicians do this? Maybe not, but mainstream political parties are filled with elected politicians who do this.

Furthermore, Ong now claims that when being part of the government or a ministry, “it is more important for you to know your scope of work and your policy responsibilities. Having done a degree may be helpful in training you to think more broadly and critically and hence, better equip you to govern. But it is not guaranteed.”

With regards to “degree mills”, Ong said: “My stand on this issue is clear and has not changed. It is not acceptable for politicians to buy degrees from degree mills and then try to pass these off as being genuine academic degrees.”

On this issue, Ong’s stand is not clear. I would argue his stand on this issue was clear but since coming to federal power his stand has been reversed. What Ong says now is radically different from what he said back in the day. The justification he is making now is a mockery of what this Pakatan Harapan reform government is supposed to be about. It does, however, demonstrate that Harapan operatives are excelling in back-pedalling.

In 2013, Ong had asked then Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to sack two ministers who Ong claimed had fake degrees. If anything, his stand then was clear.

Two points need to be understood when considering Ong’s change of position. And this is so funny because the headline for the report blares out “Sack ministers with dubious degrees, DAP MP tells PM”.

The first, Ong has a clear position on this issue and demanded the resignation of ministers with fake degrees.

“It is truly disappointing that on the first day for ministerial replies in the first parliamentary sitting since the 13th general election, Malaysians have to accept the reality that Prime Minister Najib Razak has appointed two ministers with two dodgy degrees each from institutions which are degree mills.”

The second, Ong shifts the goal posts. In his piece yesterday, he claimed that not having a degree does not necessarily impede a politician’s ability to carry out his policy responsibilities but the question here is, does having a fake degree impede the minster’s ability to carry out his responsibility? We should refer to what Ong said before Harapan came into federal power:

“Therefore, to entrust two ministers with fake degrees with the serious responsibilities of human capital development and the management of certifications and standards is not only a gross embarrassment but also most ironic for a prime minister who has made transformation his clarion call.”

Bending over backwards

Should the police investigate someone for having a degree from a degree mill or a fake degree? Probably not. But if having a fake degree is part of the systemic corruption that someone like Ong used to rail against, then why is Ong now making all these justifications for a member of his coalition?

Ong asked then Prime Minister Najib for the resignation of the two ministers in 2013 and asked for the ministers to resign to prove their commitment to reform. Why is Ong not asking the current Prime Mminister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the resignation of Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya (photo)? Why is he not asking Marzuki to resign? Why is he not asking for the Harapan political elite to demonstrate they are committed to reforms?

In 2013, Ong made the case that fake degrees hamper the ability of ministers to effectively carry out their policy responsibilities. He called it an embarrassment for the reform agenda of the Najib regime. Now when a deputy minister who has to be a credible spokesperson for Malaysia has been caught with a fake degree, why isn’t Ong applying the same standards?

Does Ong really believe that his position has not changed? Does Ong really believe that his muted goal posts-shifting piece about fake degrees is really the way how to reform the system? I mean, does anyone else realise how funny this is?

Bersatu Deputy President Mukhriz Mahathir said that Marzuki was not appointed for his academic credentials and here we have Ong telling people that academic qualifications do not necessarily mean a minister would be good at his job, which directly contradicts what he said back in the day when he was going after the UMNO regime. Is there some sort of collaboration when it comes to shovelling the horse manure or do Harapan political operatives all think the same way?

Now people may say this is not a big issue. Truth be told, I am not really bothered by politicians who go around carrying fake degrees. As far as I am concerned, all the ministerial appointments have been a dodgy affair and it would not matter if the appointees had sterling academic qualifications. The reality is that most of them are not really interested in reform or do not have any ideas for reforming the system.

What is alarming is the way how politicians who used to claim to want to reform the system and hold the government accountable are now bending over backwards to defend issues which before they came into power they claimed were indefensible.

The question is not how Marzuki can be a credible Deputy Minister but how those who backtrack on their positions just to defend Marzuki be credible reformers?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

 

‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism


February 3, 2019

‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism

Shoshana Zuboff’s new book is a chilling exposé of the business model that underpins the digital world. Observer tech columnist John Naughton explains the importance of Zuboff’s work and asks the author 10 key questions

 

‘Technology is the puppet, but surveillance capitalism is the puppet master.’ Photograph: Getty Images

We’re living through the most profound transformation in our information environment since Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of printing in circa 1439. And the problem with living through a revolution is that it’s impossible to take the long view of what’s happening. Hindsight is the only exact science in this business, and in that long run we’re all dead. Printing shaped and transformed societies over the next four centuries, but nobody in Mainz (Gutenberg’s home town) in, say, 1495 could have known that his technology would (among other things): fuel the Reformation and undermine the authority of the mighty Catholic church; enable the rise of what we now recognise as modern science; create unheard-of professions and industries; change the shape of our brains; and even recalibrate our conceptions of childhood. And yet printing did all this and more.

Why choose 1495? Because we’re about the same distance into our revolution, the one kicked off by digital technology and networking. And although it’s now gradually dawning on us that this really is a big deal and that epochal social and economic changes are under way, we’re as clueless about where it’s heading and what’s driving it as the citizens of Mainz were in 1495.

That’s not for want of trying, mind. Library shelves groan under the weight of books about what digital technology is doing to us and our world. Lots of scholars are thinking, researching and writing about this stuff. But they’re like the blind men trying to describe the elephant in the old fable: everyone has only a partial view, and nobody has the whole picture. So our contemporary state of awareness is – as Manuel Castells, the great scholar of cyberspace once put it – one of “informed bewilderment”.

Which is why the arrival of Shoshana Zuboff’s new book is such a big event. Many years ago – in 1988, to be precise – as one of the first female professors at Harvard Business School to hold an endowed chair she published a landmark book, The Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, which changed the way we thought about the impact of computerisation on organisations and on work. It provided the most insightful account up to that time of how digital technology was changing the work of both managers and workers. And then Zuboff appeared to go quiet, though she was clearly incubating something bigger. The first hint of what was to come was a pair of startling essays – one in an academic journal in 2015, the other in a German newspaper in 2016. What these revealed was that she had come up with a new lens through which to view what Google, Facebook et al were doing – nothing less than spawning a new variant of capitalism. Those essays promised a more comprehensive expansion of this Big Idea.

And now it has arrived – the most ambitious attempt yet to paint the bigger picture and to explain how the effects of digitisation that we are now experiencing as individuals and citizens have come about.

The headline story is that it’s not so much about the nature of digital technology as about a new mutant form of capitalism that has found a way to use tech for its purposes. The name Zuboff has given to the new variant is “surveillance capitalism”. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behaviour of those users in astonishing detail – often without their explicit consent.

“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”

While the general modus operandi of Google, Facebook et al has been known and understood (at least by some people) for a while, what has been missing – and what Zuboff provides – is the insight and scholarship to situate them in a wider context. She points out that while most of us think that we are dealing merely with algorithmic inscrutability, in fact what confronts us is the latest phase in capitalism’s long evolution – from the making of products, to mass production, to managerial capitalism, to services, to financial capitalism, and now to the exploitation of behavioural predictions covertly derived from the surveillance of users. In that sense, her vast (660-page) book is a continuation of a tradition that includes Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi and – dare I say it – Karl Marx.

Viewed from this perspective, the behaviour of the digital giants looks rather different from the roseate hallucinations of Wired magazine. What one sees instead is a colonising ruthlessness of which John D Rockefeller would have been proud. First of all there was the arrogant appropriation of users’ behavioural data – viewed as a free resource, there for the taking. Then the use of patented methods to extract or infer data even when users had explicitly denied permission, followed by the use of technologies that were opaque by design and fostered user ignorance.

And, of course, there is also the fact that the entire project was conducted in what was effectively lawless – or at any rate law-free – territory. Thus Google decided that it would digitise and store every book ever printed, regardless of copyright issues. Or that it would photograph every street and house on the planet without asking anyone’s permission. Facebook launched its infamous “beacons”, which reported a user’s online activities and published them to others’ news feeds without the knowledge of the user. And so on, in accordance with the disrupter’s mantra that “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission”.

When the security expert Bruce Schneier wrote that “surveillance is the business model of the internet” he was really only hinting at the reality that Zuboff has now illuminated. The combination of state surveillance and its capitalist counterpart means that digital technology is separating the citizens in all societies into two groups: the watchers (invisible, unknown and unaccountable) and the watched. This has profound consequences for democracy because asymmetry of knowledge translates into asymmetries of power. But whereas most democratic societies have at least some degree of oversight of state surveillance, we currently have almost no regulatory oversight of its privatised counterpart. This is intolerable.

And it won’t be easy to fix because it requires us to tackle the essence of the problem – the logic of accumulation implicit in surveillance capitalism. That means that self-regulation is a nonstarter. “Demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists,” says Zuboff, “or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance on the internet is like asking old Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand. It’s like asking a giraffe to shorten its neck, or a cow to give up chewing. These demands are existential threats that violate the basic mechanisms of the entity’s survival.”

The Age of Surveillance Capital is a striking and illuminating book. A fellow reader remarked to me that it reminded him of Thomas Piketty’s magnum opus, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in that it opens one’s eyes to things we ought to have noticed, but hadn’t. And if we fail to tame the new capitalist mutant rampaging through our societies then we will only have ourselves to blame, for we can no longer plead ignorance.

Ten questions for Shoshana Zuboff: ‘Larry Page saw that human experience could be Google’s virgin wood’

Continuing a tradition that includes Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi, Marx… Shoshana Zuboff.

John Naughton: At the moment, the world is obsessed with Facebook. But as you tell it, Google was the prime mover.

Shoshana Zuboff: Surveillance capitalism is a human creation. It lives in history, not in technological inevitability. It was pioneered and elaborated through trial and error at Google in much the same way that the Ford Motor Company discovered the new economics of mass production or General Motors discovered the logic of managerial capitalism.

Surveillance capitalism was invented around 2001 as the solution to financial emergency in the teeth of the dotcom bust when the fledgling company faced the loss of investor confidence. As investor pressure mounted, Google’s leaders abandoned their declared antipathy toward advertising. Instead they decided to boost ad revenue by using their exclusive access to user data logs (once known as “data exhaust”) in combination with their already substantial analytical capabilities and computational power, to generate predictions of user click-through rates, taken as a signal of an ad’s relevance.

Operationally this meant that Google would both repurpose its growing cache of behavioural data, now put to work as a behavioural data surplus, and develop methods to aggressively seek new sources of this surplus.

The company developed new methods of secret surplus capture that could uncover data that users intentionally opted to keep private, as well as to infer extensive personal information that users did not or would not provide. And this surplus would then be analysed for hidden meanings that could predict click-through behaviour. The surplus data became the basis for new predictions markets called targeted advertising.

Sheryl Sandberg, says Zuboff, played the role of Typhoid Mary, bringing surveillance capitalism from Google to Facebook.

Pinterest
Sheryl Sandberg, says Zuboff, played the role of Typhoid Mary, bringing surveillance capitalism from Google to Facebook. Photograph: John Lee for the Guardian

 

Here was the origin of surveillance capitalism in an unprecedented and lucrative brew: behavioural surplus, data science, material infrastructure, computational power, algorithmic systems, and automated platforms. As click-through rates skyrocketed, advertising quickly became as important as search. Eventually it became the cornerstone of a new kind of commerce that depended upon online surveillance at scale.

The success of these new mechanisms only became visible when Google went public in 2004. That’s when it finally revealed that between 2001 and its 2004 IPO, revenues increased by 3,590%.

JN: So surveillance capitalism started with advertising, but then became more general?

SZ: Surveillance capitalism is no more limited to advertising than mass production was limited to the fabrication of the Ford Model T. It quickly became the default model for capital accumulation in Silicon Valley, embraced by nearly every startup and app. And it was a Google executive – Sheryl Sandberg – who played the role of Typhoid Mary, bringing surveillance capitalism from Google to Facebook, when she signed on as Mark Zuckerberg’s number two in 2008. By now it’s no longer restricted to individual companies or even to the internet sector. It has spread across a wide range of products, services, and economic sectors, including insurance, retail, healthcare, finance, entertainment, education, transportation, and more, birthing whole new ecosystems of suppliers, producers, customers, market-makers, and market players. Nearly every product or service that begins with the word “smart” or “personalised”, every internet-enabled device, every “digital assistant”, is simply a supply-chain interface for the unobstructed flow of behavioural data on its way to predicting our futures in a surveillance economy.

JN: In this story of conquest and appropriation, the term “digital natives” takes on a new meaning…

SZ: Yes, “digital natives” is a tragically ironic phrase. I am fascinated by the structure of colonial conquest, especially the first Spaniards who stumbled into the Caribbean islands. Historians call it the “conquest pattern”, which unfolds in three phases: legalistic measures to provide the invasion with a gloss of justification, a declaration of territorial claims, and the founding of a town to legitimate the declaration. Back then Columbus simply declared the islands as the territory of the Spanish monarchy and the pope.

The sailors could not have imagined that they were writing the first draft of a pattern that would echo across space and time to a digital 21st century. The first surveillance capitalists also conquered by declaration. They simply declared our private experience to be theirs for the taking, for translation into data for their private ownership and their proprietary knowledge. They relied on misdirection and rhetorical camouflage, with secret declarations that we could neither understand nor contest.

Google began by unilaterally declaring that the world wide web was its to take for its search engine. Surveillance capitalism originated in a second declaration that claimed our private experience for its revenues that flow from telling and selling our fortunes to other businesses. In both cases, it took without asking. Page [Larry, Google co-founder] foresaw that surplus operations would move beyond the online milieu to the real world, where data on human experience would be free for the taking. As it turns out his vision perfectly reflected the history of capitalism, marked by taking things that live outside the market sphere and declaring their new life as market commodities.

We were caught off guard by surveillance capitalism because there was no way that we could have imagined its action, any more than the early peoples of the Caribbean could have foreseen the rivers of blood that would flow from their hospitality toward the sailors who appeared out of thin air waving the banner of the Spanish monarchs. Like the Caribbean people, we faced something truly unprecedented.

Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free.

JN: Then there’s the “inevitability” narrative – technological determinism on steroids.

SZ: In my early fieldwork in the computerising offices and factories of the late 1970s and 80s, I discovered the duality of information technology: its capacity to automate but also to “informate”, which I use to mean to translate things, processes, behaviours, and so forth into information. This duality set information technology apart from earlier generations of technology: information technology produces new knowledge territories by virtue of its informating capability, always turning the world into information. The result is that these new knowledge territories become the subject of political conflict. The first conflict is over the distribution of knowledge: “Who knows?” The second is about authority: “Who decides who knows?” The third is about power: “Who decides who decides who knows?”

Now the same dilemmas of knowledge, authority and power have surged over the walls of our offices, shops and factories to flood each one of us… and our societies. Surveillance capitalists were the first movers in this new world. They declared their right to know, to decide who knows, and to decide who decides. In this way they have come to dominate what I call “the division of learning in society”, which is now the central organising principle of the 21st-century social order, just as the division of labour was the key organising principle of society in the industrial age.

JN: So the big story is not really the technology per se but the fact that it has spawned a new variant of capitalism that is enabled by the technology?

SZ: Larry Page grasped that human experience could be Google’s virgin wood, that it could be extracted at no extra cost online and at very low cost out in the real world. For today’s owners of surveillance capital the experiential realities of bodies, thoughts and feelings are as virgin and blameless as nature’s once-plentiful meadows, rivers, oceans and forests before they fell to the market dynamic. We have no formal control over these processes because we are not essential to the new market action. Instead we are exiles from our own behaviour, denied access to or control over knowledge derived from its dispossession by others for others. Knowledge, authority and power rest with surveillance capital, for which we are merely “human natural resources”. We are the native peoples now whose claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience.

While it is impossible to imagine surveillance capitalism without the digital, it is easy to imagine the digital without surveillance capitalism. The point cannot be emphasised enough: surveillance capitalism is not technology. Digital technologies can take many forms and have many effects, depending upon the social and economic logics that bring them to life. Surveillance capitalism relies on algorithms and sensors, machine intelligence and platforms, but it is not the same as any of those.

JN: Where does surveillance capitalism go from here?

SZ: Surveillance capitalism moves from a focus on individual users to a focus on populations, like cities, and eventually on society as a whole. Think of the capital that can be attracted to futures markets in which population predictions evolve to approximate certainty.

This has been a learning curve for surveillance capitalists, driven by competition over prediction products. First they learned that the more surplus the better the prediction, which led to economies of scale in supply efforts. Then they learned that the more varied the surplus the higher its predictive value. This new drive toward economies of scope sent them from the desktop to mobile, out into the world: your drive, run, shopping, search for a parking space, your blood and face, and always… location, location, location.

The evolution did not stop there. Ultimately they understood that the most predictive behavioural data comes from what I call “economies of action”, as systems are designed to intervene in the state of play and actually modify behaviour, shaping it toward desired commercial outcomes. We saw the experimental development of this new “means of behavioural modification” in Facebook’s contagion experiments and the Google-incubated augmented reality game Pokémon Go.

It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us. These processes are meticulously designed to produce ignorance by circumventing individual awareness and thus eliminate any possibility of self-determination. As one data scientist explained to me, “We can engineer the context around a particular behaviour and force change that way… We are learning how to write the music, and then we let the music make them dance.”

This power to shape behaviour for others’ profit or power is entirely self-authorising. It has no foundation in democratic or moral legitimacy, as it usurps decision rights and erodes the processes of individual autonomy that are essential to the function of a democratic society. The message here is simple: Once I was mine. Now I am theirs.

JN: What are the implications for democracy?

SZ: During the past two decades surveillance capitalists have had a pretty free run, with hardly any interference from laws and regulations. Democracy has slept while surveillance capitalists amassed unprecedented concentrations of knowledge and power. These dangerous asymmetries are institutionalised in their monopolies of data science, their dominance of machine intelligence, which is surveillance capitalism’s “means of production”, their ecosystems of suppliers and customers, their lucrative prediction markets, their ability to shape the behaviour of individuals and populations, their ownership and control of our channels for social participation, and their vast capital reserves. We enter the 21st century marked by this stark inequality in the division of learning: they know more about us than we know about ourselves or than we know about them. These new forms of social inequality are inherently antidemocratic.

At the same time, surveillance capitalism diverges from the history of market capitalism in key ways, and this has inhibited democracy’s normal response mechanisms. One of these is that surveillance capitalism abandons the organic reciprocities with people that in the past have helped to embed capitalism in society and tether it, however imperfectly, to society’s interests. First, surveillance capitalists no longer rely on people as consumers. Instead, supply and demand orients the surveillance capitalist firm to businesses intent on anticipating the behaviour of populations, groups and individuals. Second, by historical standards the large surveillance capitalists employ relatively few people compared with their unprecedented computational resources. General Motors employed more people during the height of the Great Depression than either Google or Facebook employs at their heights of market capitalisation. Finally, surveillance capitalism depends upon undermining individual self-determination, autonomy and decision rights for the sake of an unobstructed flow of behavioural data to feed markets that are about us but not for us.

This antidemocratic and anti-egalitarian juggernaut is best described as a market-driven coup from above: an overthrow of the people concealed as the technological Trojan horse of digital technology. On the strength of its annexation of human experience, this coup achieves exclusive concentrations of knowledge and power that sustain privileged influence over the division of learning in society. It is a form of tyranny that feeds on people but is not of the people. Paradoxically, this coup is celebrated as “personalisation”, although it defiles, ignores, overrides, and displaces everything about you and me that is personal.

surveillance capitalism illustration

Pinterest
‘The power to shape behaviour for others’ profit or power is entirely self-authorising,’ says Zuboff. ‘It has no foundation in democratic or moral legitimacy.’

JN: Our societies seem transfixed by all this: we are like rabbits paralysed in the headlights of an oncoming car.

SZ: Despite surveillance capitalism’s domination of the digital milieu and its illegitimate power to take private experience and to shape human behaviour, most people find it difficult to withdraw, and many ponder if it is even possible. This does not mean, however, that we are foolish, lazy, or hapless. On the contrary, in my book I explore numerous reasons that explain how surveillance capitalists got away with creating the strategies that keep us paralysed. These include the historical, political and economic conditions that allowed them to succeed. And we’ve already discussed some of the other key reasons, including the nature of the unprecedented, conquest by declaration. Other significant reasons are the need for inclusion, identification with tech leaders and their projects, social persuasion dynamics, and a sense of inevitability, helplessness and resignation.

We are trapped in an involuntary merger of personal necessity and economic extraction, as the same channels that we rely upon for daily logistics, social interaction, work, education, healthcare, access to products and services, and much more, now double as supply chain operations for surveillance capitalism’s surplus flows. The result is that the choice mechanisms we have traditionally associated with the private realm are eroded or vitiated. There can be no exit from processes that are intentionally designed to bypass individual awareness and produce ignorance, especially when these are the very same processes upon which we must depend for effective daily life. So our participation is best explained in terms of necessity, dependency, the foreclosure of alternatives, and enforced ignorance.

JN: Doesn’t all this mean that regulation that just focuses on the technology is misguided and doomed to fail? What should we be doing to get a grip on this before it’s too late?

SZ: The tech leaders desperately want us to believe that technology is the inevitable force here, and their hands are tied. But there is a rich history of digital applications before surveillance capitalism that really were empowering and consistent with democratic values. Technology is the puppet, but surveillance capitalism is the puppet master.

Surveillance capitalism is a human-made phenomenon and it is in the realm of politics that it must be confronted. The resources of our democratic institutions must be mobilised, including our elected officials. GDPR [a recent EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the EU] is a good start, and time will tell if we can build on that sufficiently to help found and enforce a new paradigm of information capitalism. Our societies have tamed the dangerous excesses of raw capitalism before, and we must do it again.

While there is no simple five-year action plan, much as we yearn for that, there are some things we know. Despite existing economic, legal and collective-action models such as antitrust, privacy laws and trade unions, surveillance capitalism has had a relatively unimpeded two decades to root and flourish. We need new paradigms born of a close understanding of surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives and foundational mechanisms.”

For example, the idea of “data ownership” is often championed as a solution. But what is the point of owning data that should not exist in the first place? All that does is further institutionalise and legitimate data capture. It’s like negotiating how many hours a day a seven-year-old should be allowed to work, rather than contesting the fundamental legitimacy of child labour. Data ownership also fails to reckon with the realities of behavioural surplus. Surveillance capitalists extract predictive value from the exclamation points in your post, not merely the content of what you write, or from how you walk and not merely where you walk. Users might get “ownership” of the data that they give to surveillance capitalists in the first place, but they will not get ownership of the surplus or the predictions gleaned from it – not without new legal concepts built on an understanding of these operations.

Another example: there may be sound antitrust reasons to break up the largest tech firms, but this alone will not eliminate surveillance capitalism. Instead it will produce smaller surveillance capitalist firms and open the field for more surveillance capitalist competitors.

So what is to be done? In any confrontation with the unprecedented, the first work begins with naming. Speaking for myself, this is why I’ve devoted the past seven years to this work… to move forward the project of naming as the first necessary step toward taming. My hope is that careful naming will give us all a better understanding of the true nature of this rogue mutation of capitalism and contribute to a sea change in public opinion, most of all among the young.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff is published by Profile (£25). To order a copy for £22 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel


January 28, 2019

 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel

Opinion  |
by S Thayaparan@ www. malaysiakini.com

Published:  |  Modified:

 

“The anti-Semites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.”
– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

 

COMMENT | Let me get this out of the way. When people say they are not anti-Semitic but rather anti-Zionist, most of the time this is complete horse manure. The people who most often say this apply the Zionist label to all Jews, thus making the distinction irrelevant.

This is like claiming there is a difference between ketuanan Melayu and the Malay ‘race’, but ignoring the distinction and claiming that all Malays are racial and religious supremacists. Are all Malays racist? Are all Malays religious bigots just because they support politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator? Or is the situation a little more complex than that?

However, this is not the article for that conversation. This is another article – my second, I think – on mainstream anti-Semitism in our politics.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang back in 2012 proclaimed that his party would cooperate with the Jews, especially in the realm of trade, but rejected Zionism. He said: “Nevertheless, PAS rejects Zionism because it is a fanatical ideology of the Jew race.”

See what Hadi did there? He made a distinction, but then negated it with his insistence that race and ideology were not mutually exclusive.

I will give you another example. The organisation Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia chairperson Nazari Ismail speaks for had a huge victory – at least the Palestine Chronicle thinks it is a huge victory – last year because it got Giant to withdraw jeans that were supposedly a product of Israel, but which the hypermarket chain claimed was made in China.

Two points from the Palestine Chronicle article are worth mulling over.

The first: “BDS Malaysia stated that an officer from the Giant branch in question reported that they had returned all the stock nationwide to the supplier. Following which a manager from Giant called Nazari and stated that the supplier of the product was from China and asking BDS to end its campaign against Giant.

“The professor refused, unless Giant could prove that the original company was not of Israeli origin. Upon checking various Giant supermarkets, BDS Malaysia members found that the product was still stocked.”

And the second: “A statement was received by BDS Malaysia from a Ms Roseta, corporate affairs, GCH Retail Sdn Bhd stating that thought the product was made and imported from China, and the management was willing to remove the product from all its outlets due to its sensitive nature. She also said that she would seek further clarification from the supplier.”

Both these examples demonstrate how the Malay ruling elite and intelligentsia manipulate the discourse, claiming victimhood while propagating racist or bigoted agendas.

Boycotting products because companies are enabling or propagating certain ideas is acceptable, but boycotting all products from a country and linking all companies, products and services to a Zionist agenda is not.

Why do we even have to have this conversation? The Prime Minister of this country, on the campaign trail in Cameron Highlands, claimed that people from Israel were “crooks,” and mainstream religious dogma have claimed that the Jews are the “enemies of Islam.”

Never mind that political operatives from the Malay right have invested in companies and have had dealings with the Jewish people for decades.

Who are the crooks?

What is needed is for the average Malay – who have not even met a Jew – to feel a sense of hatred towards Jews for a conflict in the Middle East, which has been used for decades to justify all sorts of malfeasance from Islamic regimes and extremists all over the world.

Does anyone actually believe that the Malay political elite and their mouthpieces make a distinction between Zionism and Jews? I have attended many rallies by the Malay right – and let me tell you something, there is only the Malay right and far right – and none of these people has made this distinction. All of them talk about how “evil” the Jews are and how they are not to be trusted. Some have gone so far as to cite religious texts and authority.

The Malay right hates liberals, but they make an exception for Jewish liberals who criticise Israel. A couple of years ago, I was talking to a scholar who opposes the Occupation, but who also said that there were similarities (“frighteningly so, Thaya”) between the ketuanan Melayu ideology and Zionism.

Both she argued centralised race as the determining factor for political and social action. Both relied on indoctrination to marginalise the other and both perpetrated injustice through a bureaucracy riddled with dubious personalities who were content to wallow in their petty power. Of course, this is not the kind of Jewish liberal who is embraced by the Malay right.

The Pakatan Harapan grand poobah, while campaigning, served up a large spoonful from the bigoted Kool-Aid that is served up to the Malays on a daily basis. He claimed that the Najib Abdul Razak regime had allowed crooks into this country and his administration, which was the principle behind not allowing these crooks into this country.

Who were these crooks? It was David Roet (photo) who was leading the Israeli delegation for a UN event. What did the progressives fighting against the “evil” BN say at the time? They accused the Najib regime of having an “affair” with Israel.

They claimed that the Najib regime was following in the footsteps of the Saudi regime which had close ties with Israel. They mocked Najib when he said this in 2015: “This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.”

Of the visit and its anti-Semitic reception by the then opposition, I wrote this: “This would have been a perfect opportunity for so-called moderate Islamic parties to change the discourse even a little by highlighting the fact that Islam from the Middle East, or at least that which was perverted by petrodollars, is changing.

“They could have taken the opportunity to learn from the Israeli experience of holding their leadership accountable like how Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible criminal charges for corruption, by highlighting the fact that a supposed enemy of Islam holds their leaders accountable to graft allegations submitted by (mostly) independent institutions.”

Instead, then, like now, what the Malay right is doing is merely reinforcing anti-Semitic narratives in an effort to maintain hegemony, while ignoring the very real consequences of such actions.

Remember, blaming the Jews for the problems of Muslims is exactly like blaming the Chinese for the social, economic and political problems of the Malay community.

Which brings us to the non-Malay component of Harapan’s anti-Semitic discourse. You will never see a non-Malay political operative speaking out against the anti-Semitism which is part of mainstream Malay politics. Why? Because to do so would expose the truth in the Hannah Arendt quote which opens this piece.

I know I am going to get into trouble for saying this, but Malaysia has not earned the right to condemn Israel. Maybe if Harapan actually delivered on its promises and slowly did away with this corrupt, bigoted system, we could be on the road to being a credible voice in the Palestinian discourse.


S. THAYAPARAN is a commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Dr. Fareed on DAVOS without America


January 28, 2019

Dr. Fareed on DAVOS without America

Image result for Fareed and Jane Goodall

The atmosphere at the 2019 World Economic Forum reflects the global picture perhaps more genuinely than in years past, and the painting is not very pretty. The mood here is subdued, cautious and apprehensive. There’s not much talk of a global slowdown, but no one is confident about a growth story, either. There is no great global political crisis, yet people speak in worried tones about the state of democracy, open societies and the international order”. — Dr.Fareed Zakaria

A Davos without America mirrors a world without America: The United States has withdrawn from the world.

DAVOS, Switzerland

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/1/24/a-davos-without-america-mirrors-a-world-without-america

The atmosphere at the 2019 World Economic Forum reflects the global picture perhaps more genuinely than in years past, and the painting is not very pretty. The mood here is subdued, cautious and apprehensive. There’s not much talk of a global slowdown, but no one is confident about a growth story, either. There is no great global political crisis, yet people speak in worried tones about the state of democracy, open societies and the international order.

The White House scrapped the official U.S. delegation’s trip to this year’s conference — an outgrowth of President Trump’s spat with Congress — providing a perfect metaphor for the broader outlook: The United States has withdrawn from the world.

Meanwhile, Europe is distracted, divided and despondent. Of the continent’s three major leaders, only one, Germany’s lame-duck Chancellor Angela Merkel, even showed up. British Prime Minister Theresa May did not attend because of turmoil over Brexit. French President Emmanuel Macron chose not to come because he faces ongoing populist protests from the right and left. In this environment, there is a gaping absence of leadership in Davos from the usual defenders of liberal democracy and the rules-based international system.

This does not mean that any new global leaders have stepped into the void. Contrary to some speculation, China is playing a more muted role at the forum than in the past. It sent a respected statesman, Vice President Wang Qishan, with an anodyne message aiming to reassure the world that Beijing seeks “win-win” solutions and global cooperation. This probably reflects the reality that — politically and economically — China faces its own challenges at home, with slowing growth and President Xi Jinping trying to tighten his grip over China’s vast society. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces a tougher-than-expected fight in upcoming national elections, so he didn’t show up, either.

Image result for Fareed and Jane Goodall

It is not really the dawn of dictators, few of whom came, perhaps a reflection of the fact that global norms and fora like Davos still do not celebrate strongmen. Although Western democracies may be flagging, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold a much weaker hand than most people realize. They, too, along with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, stayed home. Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil, did attend and gave a much-anticipated speech, but it was barely six minutes long — and was received with decidedly mixed reviews.

The one area of consistent optimism among the attendees remains technology. Executives from multinational corporations such as Novartis and Cargill spoke about the next great technological opportunity — leveraging artificial intelligence to make their companies far more efficient and productive. This is a trend that they see as inexorable, forcing them to adapt or watch the competition grow. Executives and experts alike foresee that another layer of white-collar jobs could be at risk — those involving routine analytic skills. But chief executives here voiced optimism that it will all work out.

Businessmen and executives are more openly pessimistic about trade. They worry that a U.S.-China trade war could spill over across the world. Whether it happens, it seems clear that the great expansion of globalization is over. For the past 15 years, there has been no significant forward movement on trade, and many minor setbacks. This hasn’t yet translated into large-scale protectionism and tariff wars, but it is a new stagnancy.

If the West is divided, so are other regions. Almost no Arab leaders showed up to last weekend’s Arab League meeting in Beirut, relegating the summit to even greater irrelevance than usual. Latin America is now split between leaders such as the right-wing Bolsonaro and the new leftist president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The leaders of several smaller countries (all of whom insisted on staying off the record) described the world as adrift and lacking in any collective purpose, with only voices about narrow self-interest and conflict being heard. “When the Americans are engaged, we have a sense of direction,” one of them said to me. “We might disagree on some points, but at least there is a larger conversation, some efforts at cooperation. Now the only energy is negative — worries about retreat, trade wars. That’s not a world in which it is easy for us to move forward. We are all stuck.”

This, then, is the post-American world. Not one marked by Chinese dominance or Asian arrogance. Not an outright anti-American one, but one in which many yearn for a greater U.S. presence. One in which countries are freelancing, narrowly pursuing their own interests, and hoping that the framework of international order remains reasonably stable. But with no one actively shoring up the international system, the great question remains: In a world without leaders, will that system over time weaken and eventually crumble?

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

 

 

Intuition Is The Highest Form Of Intelligence


January 25, 2019

Intuition Is The Highest Form Of Intelligence

ttps://www.forbes.com/sites/brucekasanoff/2017/02/21/intuition-is-the-highest-form-of-intelligence/#57695f4e3860

Image: R~P~M/Flickr

Intuition, argues Gerd Gigerenzer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, is less about suddenly “knowing” the right answer and more about instinctively understanding what information is unimportant and can thus be discarded.

Gigerenzer, author of the book Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, says that he is both intuitive and rational. “In my scientific work, I have hunches. I can’t explain always why I think a certain path is the right way, but I need to trust it and go ahead. I also have the ability to check these hunches and find out what they are about. That’s the science part. Now, in private life, I rely on instinct. For instance, when I first met my wife, I didn’t do computations. Nor did she.”

I’m telling you this because recently one of my readers, Joy Boleda, posed a question that stopped me in my tracks:

What about intuition? It has never been titled as a form of intelligence, but would you think that someone who has great intuition in things, has more intelligence?

My “gut instinct” is to say yes, especially when we are talking about people who are already intellectually curious, rigorous in their pursuit of knowledge, and willing to challenge their own assumptions.

Let me put this a bit simpler. If all you do is sit in a chair and trust your intuition, you are not exercising much intelligence. But if you take a deep dive into a subject and study numerous possibilities, you are exercising intelligence when your gut instinct tells you what is – and isn’t – important.

In some respects, intuition could be thought of as a clear understanding of collective intelligence. For example, most web sites are today organized in an intuitive way, which means they are easy for most people to understand and navigate. This approach evolved after many years of chaos online, as a common wisdom emerged over what information was superfluous and what was essential (i.e. About Us = essential).

Theo Humphries argues that intuitive design can be described as “understandable without the use of instructions”. This is true when an object makes sense to most people because they share a common understanding of the way things work.

You might say that I’m a believer in the power of disciplined intuition. Do your legwork, use your brain, share logical arguments, and I’ll trust and respect your intuitive powers. But if you merely sit in your hammock and ask me to trust your intuition, I’ll quickly be out the door without saying goodbye.

You might say that I’m a believer in the power of disciplined intuition. Do your legwork, use your brain, share logical arguments, and I’ll trust and respect your intuitive powers. But if you merely sit in your hammock and ask me to trust your intuition, I’ll quickly be out the door without saying goodbye.

Although this may be a paraphrase of his thoughts on the subject, Albert Einstein has been widely quoted as saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Sometimes, a corporate mandate or group-think or your desire to produce a certain outcome can cause your rational mind to go in the wrong direction. At times like these, it is intuition that holds the power to save you. That “bad feeling” gnawing away at you is your intuition telling you that no matter how badly you might wish to talk yourself into this direction, it is the wrong way to go.

Smart people listen to those feelings. And the smartest people among us – the ones who make great intellectual leaps forward – cannot do this without harnessing the power of intuition.

For over 10 years, I have been a ghostwriter/coach, helping leaders to conceptualize, create and share original ideas. I have created and led dozens of personal and corporate development programs, and am a LinkedIn Influencer with over 850,000 followers