Issue #364: supporter edition

Hi reader,

Well, here we are friends, the last Thought Shrapnel newsletter of 2019! Thank you for supporting me this year. Remember, that I'm pausing your Patreon charges for November and December...

    There's some (good!) changes coming in 2020, including me having more availability to work with you and your organisation on projects. Please email for more details on how I can help.

    I wish you a happy and healthy festive period, and a prosperous New Year. See you in January!
    Stephen Collins - Controversial Berries

    Weekly roundup

    Check these links out:
    • Climate change deniers’ new battle front attacked (The Observer) "The battle between climate change deniers and the environment movement has entered a new, pernicious phase. That is the stark warning of one of the world’s leading climate experts, Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University... [D]eniers have not given up their opposition to plans to curtail fossil fuel use and among their new tactics they have also tried to encourage “doomism”, as Mann put it. “This is the idea that we are now so late in the game [in tackling global warming] that there is nothing that we can do about the problem,” he added. “By promoting this doom and gloom attitude this leads people down a path of despair and hopelessness and finally inaction, which actually leads us to the same place as outright climate-change denialism.”
    • Publishers Should be Making E-Book Licensing Better, Not Worse (EFF) "Starting last week, the publisher is imposing a two-month embargo period on library ebooks. When Macmillan releases a new book, library systems will be able to purchase only one digital copy for the first eight weeks after it’s published. Macmillan is offering this initial copy for half-price ($30), but that has not taken away the sting for librarians who will need to answer to frustrated users. In large library systems in particular, readers are likely to experience even longer hold queues for new Macmillan e-book releases. For example, under the new Macmillan embargo, the 27 branches of the San Francisco Public Library system, serving a city of nearly 900,000 people, will have to share one single copy right when the demand for the new title is the greatest."
    • Education, privacy, and big data algorithms: Taking the persons out of personalized learning (First Monday) — "Tech company foundations are once again active in framing issues about personalized learning, supporting advocacy organizations and research studies, and funding a range of edtech companies and initiatives in the area of personalized learning. Their voices in the landscape of K-12 education are particularly loud, amplified by their grant dollars and their networks of influence. The import of their policy influence in the area of personalized learning raises many of the same questions that education policy scholars have identified in the past — are they able to speak more loudly, more effectively and in more venues about the positive potential of personalized learning than those who have questions about the implications and effectiveness of personalized learning?"
    • A Q&A with David Bourget, Director at the Centre for Digital Philosophy (Wiley Humanities) — "I don’t want to rule out that there could be machine consciousness. In fact, I lean toward a kind of panpsychism, a view on which all matter is to some degree conscious (albeit not in the interesting way that we are). In principle we might be able to create machines that leverage consciousness in the same way as the brain. I just don’t think neural networks running on current hardware do this. It may well be that the machine that will be do this is some kind of quantum computer. So... yes, it’s probably possible for machines to be intelligent in the way that humans are, but this will likely require conscious machines."
    • When governments have access to DNA databases, you’re right to be scared (The Guardian) "On the one hand, as Iceland’s extensive research programme on genomics has shown, DNA databases have enormous potential for good, in terms of identifying genetic patterns in disease, devising preventive and curative strategies, understanding human evolution and so on. On the other hand, the data these databases contain is so sensitive that access to it has to be rigorously controlled and protected. And politicians – and their advisers – should never be allowed near them."
    • The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising (The Correspondent) — "The story that emerged from these conversations is about much more than just online advertising. It’s about a market of a quarter of a trillion dollars governed by irrationality. It’s about knowables, about how even the biggest data sets don’t always provide insight. It’s about organisations and why they are so hard to change. And it’s about us, and how easy we are to manipulate."
    • Her Amazon Purchases Are Real. The Reviews Are Fake. (BuzzFeed News) — "Third-party sellers know what it takes to make it on Amazon: Get good reviews and a high search ranking. But attracting genuine customers is tough, so some sellers use a reliable cheat — bribes. Because of Amazon’s vast scale, inscrutable algorithms, and capricious enforcement of its own rules, unscrupulous sellers and paid shills largely get away with it."
    • Russia bans sale of gadgets without Russian-made software (BBC News) — "The legislation was passed by Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday. A complete list of the gadgets affected and the Russian-made software that needs to be pre-installed will be determined by the government."
    • Sacha Baron Cohen Uses ADL Speech to Tear Apart Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook (The Daily Beast) “It’s like we’re living in the Roman Empire, and Mark Zuckerberg is Caesar,” he said at one point. “At least that would explain his haircut.”
    Image by Stephen Collins
    Until next week,
    PS I'll still be writing my weeknotes as usual!
    Doug Belshaw
    Dr. Doug Belshaw is an Open Educational Thinkerer, currently working with Moodle and We Are Open Co-op to improve our world.

    You can connect with Doug by replying to this email, or via Twitter, LinkedIn, or Mastodon (here's a guide to getting started with latter!)

    Some say he's serene. Others say he likes ice-cream. No-one thinks he smells like a latrine.
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