Could the US become a democratic dictatorship?

China calls itself a democratic dictatorship, so it looks like the title’s question is a very odd one to ask. You can find various indices that measure countries on a line with dictatorship at one end and democracy at the other.

Read More

Advertisements

John Naughton: The crucial flaw of self-driving cars? They will always need human involvement | John Naughton

The introduction of new technology into everyday life will always take longer than you think

In 1979, Douglas Hofstadter, an American cognitive scientist, formulated a useful general rule that applies to all complex tasks. Hofstadter’s law says that “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s law”. It may not have the epistemological status of Newton’s first law, but it is “good enough for government work”, as the celebrated computer scientist Roger Needham used to say.

Faced with this assertion, readers of Wired magazine, visitors to Gizmodo or followers of Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s sainted technology correspondent, will retort that while Hofstadter’s law may apply to mundane activities such as building a third runway at Heathrow, it most definitely does not apply to digital technology, where miracles are routinely delivered at the speed of light. Think of the astonishing advances in machine learning, for example, or the sophistication of smartphones. Or think of the self-driving car, an idea that seemed preposterous only 15 years ago and yet is already a reality on the highways of a number of US states. Surely these and other achievements of digital technology took less time than we thought?

Related: Autonomous car innovations: from jam busters to cures for queasiness

Continue reading…

Owen Jones: Protest against what Donald Trump represents, not who he is | Owen Jones

The US president wants his theatrics to distract us. Instead, let’s focus on the hatred he epitomises

The mass protests must be as much about Trumpism as against the US president himself as he lands in Britain today. One of the dangers since Donald Trump became president is that it becomes all about him – his attention-seeking theatrics, his latest social media grenades thrown into cyberspace. Some of the establishment opposition has focused on Trump’s vulgarity, his manners, that he is somehow unpresidential, rather than his political substance and what he represents. As Naomi Klein explained in her book No Is Not Enough, the Trump performance becomes a distraction from scrutinising the dangerous political forces and economic interests he represents.

That Trump is somehow sullying an office previously held by respectable men of good character is a lie in any case. A succession of presidents have unleashed horror on the world in the last 50 years: backing or orchestrating bloody foreign coups; the slaughter in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; the US-backed death squads in Central America whose victims ranged from nuns to leftists; the killing fields of Iraq; the destruction of Libya; the indiscriminate drone strikes.

The protests must not see Trump as a pantomime villain, but as the representative of a dangerous global movement

Continue reading…