The Egg and I

A Tweet via the NR Corner:

Maybe we should set up a rival organization to PETA: PETP, People for the Ethical Treatment of People.

Ah. It's been done.

Briefly noted:

  • In case you had any doubt. David Strom looks at a recent factcheck, and concludes, correctly, that Politifact is trash.

    Randi Weingarten, for those of you unfortunate enough not to have read my article “Randi Weingarten is an evil liar,” is the President of the American Federation of Teachers. She is, perhaps, the single biggest reason that schools in the United States remained closed for so long. A year or more in many places.

    Randi has been going on a propaganda tour claiming she was desperately trying to get schools open as quickly as possible, as it becomes clear that school closures may be the single-biggest COVID-related disaster and one of the biggest government missteps in recent history.

    Kids are literally dying because of those school closures, and their mental health has taken a nosedive. Much of this transgender craze is related to all the TikTok time kids had during the pandemic.

    And Politifact has thrown its weight on the pro-Randi side. As Strom notes, it's "convoluted and deceitful", deftly "Cherry-picking things Weingarten said and ignoring what she did."

  • Another ass-covering retcon. Jacob Sullum follows the science: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Refuses To Acknowledge the Government's Misrepresentation of Mask Research.

    In a recent interview with The New York Times, former White House COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci conceded that face masks had, at best, a modest overall impact on coronavirus transmission during the pandemic. "From a broad public-health standpoint, at the population level, masks work at the margins—maybe 10 percent," he said. "But for an individual who religiously wears a mask, a well-fitted KN95 or N95, it's not at the margin. It really does work."

    This week CNN's Erin Burnett asked Surgeon General Vivek Murthy about Fauci's gloss, which she said might be perceived as "an extremely significant statement," because "we were told it didn't matter what kind of mask [we wore]." She also noted that children were required to wear masks in schools and day care centers, adding that "none of them wore them the right way." The contrast between that frequently mandatory advice and what Fauci is saying now, Burnett suggested, is "upsetting to a lot of people."

    Murthy's response illustrates the persistent difficulty that public health officials have in speaking honestly about this subject. He conceded that shifting government health advice "can be disconcerting" but said "sometimes guidance does evolve over time as you learn more." He also allowed that the pandemic "has been incredibly hard for a lot of people, especially kids and parents." And he mentioned "greater loneliness and isolation" as one consequence of the pandemic, saying the Biden administration is working on "a national strategy to address loneliness."

    Whoa, that last part?

    "Hi, I'm from Your Federal Government. Wanna go bowling, or something?"

  • An AI wouldn't have to be very intelligent to outwit Lina Khan. This Ars Technica article plays it straight: “We must regulate AI,” FTC Chair Khan says.

    On Wednesday, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan pledged to use existing laws to regulate AI in a New York Times op-ed, "We Must Regulate A.I. Here's How." In the piece, she warns of AI risks such as market dominance by large tech firms, collusion, and the potential for increased fraud and privacy violations.

    In the op-ed, Khan cites the rise of the "Web 2.0" era in the mid-2000s as a cautionary tale for AI's expansion, saying that the growth of tech companies led to invasive surveillance and loss of privacy. Khan feels that public officials must now ensure history doesn't repeat itself with AI, but without unduly restricting innovation.


    James Pethokoukis takes aim at Lina's op-ed at his Substack: ⚔ The FTC's Lina Khan vs. GenAI.

    (Yes, he really did find a Unicode "Crossed Swords" symbol in his headline. I have to start perusing the Unicode tables for stuff like that.)

    You have to dig a little to find the thesis of FTC Chair Lina Khan’s essay in The New York Times, “We Must Regulate A.I. Here’s How.” It’s way down in the twelfth paragraph, almost near the end: “The history of the growth of technology companies two decades ago serves as a cautionary tale for how we should think about the expansion of generative A.I.”

    There’s your trouble. The story of Big Tech in the 2000s isn’t a cautionary tale, not at all. Why would it be? These companies are the crown jewels of the American economy. Europe would love to have them, and China is trying to build them. To answer that question, Khan offers a version of the “surveillance capitalism” critique of the digital economy created by companies such as Facebook and Google. From her essay:

    Those innovative services, however, came at a steep cost. What we initially conceived of as free services were monetized through extensive surveillance of the people and businesses that used them. The result has been an online economy where access to increasingly essential services is conditioned on the widespread hoarding and sale of our personal data. These business models drove companies to develop endlessly invasive ways to track us, and the Federal Trade Commission would later find reason to believe that several of these companies had broken the law. Coupled with aggressive strategies to acquire or lock out companies that threatened their position, these tactics solidified the dominance of a handful of companies. What began as a revolutionary set of technologies ended up concentrating enormous private power over key services and locking in business models that come at extraordinary cost to our privacy and security.

    Sounds pretty serious. And it must frustrate those who worry about “surveillance capitalism” that there’s little evidence most of us share their concern. All those “invasive” business models that provide services at “steep cost” — in the words of Khan — seem to provide an acceptable tradeoff to most of us. This view was nicely summed up back in a 2019 piece by Axios reporter Erica Pandey who wrote, “I, like scores of others, have decided that I’m OK with giving up personal data in order to keep getting convenient, cheap (or free) services. Despite the known episodes of firms misusing data, the ease and quality of life under the reign of Big Tech generally seems worth it.”

    I also liked a tweet Pethokoukis included: