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Archive for the ‘Self-Awareness’ Category

Rupert Sheldrake Questions Materialism

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March 31st, 2021 at 5:47 am

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Ram Dass – How To Accept Yourself

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Leo Gura – The Collective Ego

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January 15th, 2021 at 6:04 pm

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News of the World Review: Quiet Ballad of the Lost and Found – The Wall Street Journal

Posted: December 22, 2020 at 6:59 pm


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Tom Hanks gets the best lines in News of the World, playing exclusively in theaters. He does them justice, as always, but his co-star, an extraordinary 12-year-old named Helena Zengel, gets the best silences. They give the film its dimension of mystery.

The year is 1870, only a few years after the Civil War, and the place is northern Texas, where Mr. Hankss Capt. Jefferson Kidd is traveling by horse and wagon like a circuit-riding preacher, except that his gospel consists of news laced with political opinion and racy gossip. In an era when the word infotainment would have meant that the person saying it couldnt speak English, this impoverished widower ekes out a living reading broadsheet newspapers aloud in meeting halls for spectators who have each paid a silver dime to hear him.

Kidd is an affecting character plying an interesting trade thats made all the more so by his educated self-awareness; a storyteller who understands the power of stories, he also tries to be a conciliatorcan you hear Mr. Hankss calming voice?at a time when the nation is much younger and smaller than it is now, but no less bitterly divided. Still, the mans education and inherent decency cant suggest a course of action when, on the trail leaving town, he comes across a blond child with fierce blue eyes, evidently mute and obviously abandoned, who fights off his efforts to help her. (I cant resist likening her to the central figure of an all-but-forgotten masterpiece, Franois Truffauts The Wild Child, which is available on Amazon for streaming. In that film, based on historical fact, a physician in 18th-century France tries to civilize a feral boy whos been found living alone in a forest.)

Its not spoiling anything to tell you that the girl turns out to have two names, Johanna and Cicada, and a tortured history laid out in somewhat awkward expositiontaken from her German immigrant parents six years earlier by Kiowa kidnappers in retaliation for white settlers crimes against their tribe; renamed by the Kiowas and living with them until her discovery by federal authorities, from whom she recently fled. In other words, an orphan twice over. In Kidds gentler words, The little girl is lost. She needs to be home.

The director was Paul Greengrass; he and Luke Davies adapted the screenplay from a novel by Paulette Jiles. An accomplished documentarian early in his career, Mr. Greengrass established himself as an action-adventure virtuoso with The Bourne Supremacy and two Jason Bourne sequels. There isnt a lot of excitement in News of the World. In truth there isnt enough, notwithstanding a gunfight that constitutes a mini-seminar in how to stage, shoot and edit an action sequence. (The top-of-the-line cinematographer and editor were, respectively, Dariusz Wolski and William Goldenberg. James Newton Howard did the music.)

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News of the World Review: Quiet Ballad of the Lost and Found - The Wall Street Journal

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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Star Trek: Every Hologram That Gained Sentience (& Their Fate) – Screen Rant

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There have been many holographic characters to gain sentience in Star Trek, and some of their fates ended up being unexpected despite their origins.

Star Trek has explored many storylines about holograms since the introduction of the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with some of them going on to gain sentience. Because starship crews could use it to run programs in any time period or setting, the holodeck provided The Next Generationand subsequent series with the ability to do a story that wasn't strictly sci-fi every once in a while, from westerns to spy thrillers and everything in between. Generally, the holodeck acted as the storytelling vehicle for the main characters in any given episode, but occasionally it was the holograms themselves who ended up being the main characters.

Star Trek has always been interested in the concept of artificial life. This idea is probably best represented in the character of Commander Data, the android second-in-command on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apart from Data, however, many Star Trek shows used holograms to explore the concept of AI. There have been many episodes that dealt with the concept of both naturally occurring and artificially created "photonic" life forms.

Related: Star Trek: Every UFO Sighting Episode (& The Real Case That Inspired Them)

Naturally occurring photonic life was by nature sentient, but artificially created photonic life, or holograms, have been shown on numerous occasions to gain sentience and awareness of their surroundings as well. This idea was started in Star Trek: The Next Generation and continued into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, where it was explored to great effect. So far in the Star Trek franchise, there have been 7 holographic characters who gained sentience, all of whom have had subsequently fascinating storylines.

Star Trek: The Next Generation began exploring the concept of sentient holograms beginning in the season 1 episode "11001001" with the character of Minuet. Minuet was created by Commander William Riker to be part of his jazz program set in a bar on Bourbon Street, New Orleans in 1958. From her conception, however, it was clear that she was no ordinary hologram. She was incredibly intuitive and quickly evolved to become aware of the fact that she was a computer program, something holograms were not supposed to be able to do. As it transpired, The Enterprise was in the process of undergoing an upgrade by a race of technologically advanced beings called the Bynars, who were using the upgrade as a ruse to commandeer the Enterprise and use it to save the main computer on their homeworld.

The Bynars programed Minuet as a distraction for Riker so that they could accomplish their mission, but she ended up being the one to tell Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Riker about what the aliens were up to. Once the crew had uncovered what the Bynars were doing and subsequently helped them save their main computer, Riker returned to the holodeck hoping that Minuet would still be there. Unfortunately, her program had lost the enhancements the Bynars had made to it, and she was once again a normal hologram. Riker was severely disappointed, as he had begun to fall in love with Minuet. Although he was never able to recreate her successfully, Riker never forgot Minuet, and the character was referenced twice more during the series in seasons 2 and 4.

A hologram of Professor James Moriartywas the next hologram to gain sentience onboard the Enterprise, during the season 2 episode, "Elementary, Dear Data". Moriarty was created by Geordi La Forge, who wanted to make his Sherlock Holmesholodeck program a challenge for Data. Geordi asked the computer to create a character that would be capable of defeating Data. This led the computer to create a version of Moriarty that possessed Data's considerable knowledge, which caused the hologram to almost immediately become self-aware. In keeping with his villainous ways, Moriarty abducted Dr. Pulaski and attempted to take over the Enterprise so that he could continue to exist outside the holodeck. Captain Picard was only able to take control back by convincing Moriarty to allow his program to be put in storage until Starfleet could find a way to fulfill his request.

Related: Star Trek Reveals A Huge Starfleet Problem In TOS & TNG

While performing maintenance on the holodeck 4 years later, Lieutenant Barclay was inadvertently responsible for reactivating the Moriarty program. Enraged by the fact that the Enterprise crew seemed to have forgotten about him, Moriarty once again attempted to take over the ship, trapping Captain Picard and Data in a simulation of the Enterprise on the holodeck in an effort to get the ship's command codes. Once Picard and Data uncovered the ruse, Picard trapped Moriarty in his own simulation, containing his program within a data core that would keep it running and allow Moriarty to think that he had left the holodeck and was exploring the real world. The data core had enough power to let Moriarty have a lifetime of experiences and likely kept him busy until his program eventually degraded.

Vic Fontaine became a semi-regular guest character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from season 6 onwards. Played by accomplished actor and singer James Darren, Vic was created by a holoprogramer friend of Doctor Julian Bashir's and modeled after personalities such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Vic was part of a Las Vegas lounge program in Deep Space Nine's holosuites and not unlike Minuet was programmed to be immediately self-aware. He was intuitive, designed to learn from interacting with the program's participants, and even possessed the ability to turn his program on and off when he wanted.

Because of his self-awareness and extremely engaging personality, Vic became friends with many of the senior staff aboard Deep Space Nine. Most of them sought him out as a confidant and began to see him as a person in his own right the more they got to know him. The character was used as a way to explore the idea of a hologram that was programmed to be self-aware and subsequently allowed to evolve and become his own being, similar to Star Trek: Voyager's holographic Doctor. Vic was featured in Deep Space Nine all the way up until the end of the series and presumably continued to live in Deep Space Nine's holosuites even after the senior staff had left the station for other assignments.

The Doctor's storylinewas very similar to Vic Fontaine's, more fully exploring the concept of what could happen when a sentient hologram was allowed to evolve. Created to be Voyager's emergency medical holographic system, The Doctor was forced to become the full-time Chief Medical Officer on board the ship when the first CMO was killed during Voyager's abduction to the Delta Quadrant. Since Voyager was 70,000 lightyears away from Federation space and a replacement CMO couldn't be acquired, The Doctor's program remained in operation for the full seven years that Voyager traveled through the Delta Quadrant.During that time, The Doctor was allowed to evolve and expand his program to gain complete sentience.

Related: Star Trek: Voyager Series Ending Explained - How The Crew Gets Home

Initially treated dismissively by his colleagues, The Doctor's evolution allowed him to become a respected member of the crew and senior staff. By the time Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant, he was considered just as much a person as any organic member of the crew, had formed friendships and relationships, and had expanded his program considerably to include personality, hobbies, and even new emotional subroutines. During the show's course, The Doctor also gained full control over his own program and even acquired the ability to move around the ship freely through the use of his mobile emitter, a piece of 29th-century technology that Voyager obtain in events that involved time travel. Having gained full sentience, The Doctor was presumably allowed to remain in control of his program after Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant.

Dejaren provided fans with a darker take at what sentience could look like in a hologram. He was created by a Delta Quadrant species called the Serosians, who used their "isomorphic projections" as they called them to perform manual labor and often hazardous tasks aboard their starships. The isomorphs were entirely aware of what they were, but still considered little more than tools. In the Star Trek: Voyager season 4 episode "Revulsion", The Doctor and Engineer B'Elanna Torres responded to a distress call Dejaren sent out when he was left abandoned on his ship after his crew was killed. The two beamed to the ship, where Dejaren became intrigued by The Doctor as a fellow hologram and expressed troubling sentiments about organic beings.

Over the course of the episode, it became clear that due to a malfunction in his programming, Dejaren had become psychotic and killed his crew as revenge for their terrible treatment of him. He also attempted to kill B'Elanna when she uncovered what he had done, but with The Doctor's help, B'Elanna was able to destabilize Dejaren's holomatrix and terminate his program permanently. Although Dejaren's murderous actions were inexcusable, his story did provide a cautionary tale for what might happen when sentient artificial intelligence is subjugated by a given society.

Haley was the holographic assistant of Doctor Lewis Zimmerman, the holo-engineer who created The Doctor's EMH program. The Doctor met Haley in the Star Trek: Voyager season 6 episode "Life Line", when he transferred his program to Jupiter Station to help Zimmerman after he got word that his creator was dying of a degenerative virus. Zimmerman created Haley to be fully sentient, and she had worked as his assistant on the station for over ten years by the time she and the Doctor met.

Related:How New Star Trek Shows Avoid A Classic Voyager Trope

Haley was portrayed as a kind and caring assistant, and extremely loyal to Doctor Zimmerman. Zimmerman, likewise, held a great deal of affection for Haley and even put his in his will, requesting that should he die of the virus, Starfleet should keep her program running for as long as Jupiter Station was in use. Haley assisted The Doctor in getting Zimmerman to agree to treatment for the virus, and Zimmerman luckily recovered as a result of the treatment, meaning that the request in his will wouldn't come into effect quite as soon as he had thought. Haley continued to live on Jupiter Station and work for Doctor Zimmerman after he recovered, and developed a strong friendship with Lieutenant Barclay, who occasionally worked with Zimmerman.

Badgey was created by Ensign Sam Rutherford as a training program on the holodeck of the USS Cerritos in the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "Terminal Provocations". Rutherford made him in the form of an anthropomorphized Starfleet badge and used him to try and help Ensign D'Vana Tendi get over her fear of spacewalking. While Tendi and Rutherford were in the holodeck, however, an attack on the Cerritos caused the holodeck's safety protocols to go off and Badgey's program to malfunction. He flew into a murderous rage and attempted to kill Rutherford and Tendi before Rutherford subdued him.

Although it was not entirely clear how far Badgey's sentience extended, he consistently referred to Rutherford as "father", suggesting he was aware of the fact that Rutherford created him. After Rutherford reset the program, Badgey seemed to be back to normal, but when Rutherford tried to use him to create a computer virus to disable an attacking alien ship, Badgey once again attempted to murder Rutherford by blowing the ship up. Rutherford managed to escape the explosion, which presumably killed Badgey in the process, ensuring that his murderous streak came to an end.

While most holograms on Star Trek never got the chance to achieve sentience, the ones that did have provided fans with a fascinating exploration of what sentient, human-created AI might look like someday. Some, like Badgey and Dejaren, served as humorous or downright terrifying cautionary tales respectively, while others like Vic and The Doctor displayed the best of sentient holographic intelligence. Ultimately, sentient holograms have added a lot to Star Trek, and will hopefully continue to do so as the franchise progresses.

More: What Star Trek Fans Are Missing About Lower Decks

Who Plays Luke Skywalker in Mandalorian: Actors & De-Aging Explained

Dana Hanson is a freelance writer for Screen Rant, covering stories about Star Trek for the Movie/TV feature writing team. She attended Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 2019 with a degree in Media Arts production and a concentration in Writing for TV and film. She has previous experience working with an online and print publication as a freelance editor and has been passionate about both writing and Star Trek for years. She currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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Taking Charge Of Your Life: Could Your Questions Be The Answer? – Web Hosting | Cloud Computing | Datacenter | Domain News – Daily Host News

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Like Socrates said many years ago, the unexamined life is not worth living. We hardly give ourselves time tothink reasonably and logically about our lives and how to live it. In order to unlock our full potential and achieve our greatest dreams, we need to take a step back and examine the kind of life we are living and ask good life questions that make you think.

Living a conscious life

It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.

The instinct is to look for answers, but the truth is that it is the questions that teach us most. It can also be that the rhetorical questions the ones that dont even seem to have answers that push and push the hardest.Who do you think you are? What does all this mean? Why? Why? Why?

But it took me a while to even understand what questions I should ask of myself. Some of those doubts were always there in the background, hovering, emphasizing that I didnt understand life. I had a vague feeling that I wasdismaying over things that didnt matterwhile ignoring the universal realities that would pull me out of my little problem bubbles. But I wasnt sure. And I never took out time to pin those deep questions about life, and, hence, could never answer them.

Whether you want to be happier or become a better leader, a better team player, a better human being, asking the right questions can help you move on a more conscious path and enable better choices. When your own awareness goes up, you are not just aware of your own self but start becoming more aware about others as well. You also learn how you impact others. And this is just so important for leaders to understand. Many leaders think this self-awareness impacts ONLY them.. that is a myth! It a VUCA world, leaders really need to learn to ask better questions.

Do not ask why- ask how and find the what

I have always been curious and the process of questioning deepened over time when I started working, became a mother, experienced failure, faced relationship challenges and then when I went through the loss of my father. This started taking a large part of my mind space, creating a lot of clutter with no answers, or I found solace in externalising my problemsboth situations leading to loss of optimism, productivity and happiness levels.

In one of such lock jam situations of team work,Imetmy coachNasreen Khan. Iwenttoherin a state ofconfusion,with multiple questionsof why this, why that andcame backempowered, to make betterchoicesby changing thequestionsI was askingmyself. She helped meunlock themagic of self-awarenessthat helpedme take charge of my life andalsoinspires me to be a better version of myselfeach day. The simple shift was asking solution focussed question of how rather than the victim questions of why.

The marvellous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. These questions always have something to do with how you might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, more optimistic and they also have something to do with timing: when you might step through the doorway into something bigger, betterboth beyond yourselves and yet more of yourselves at the same time.

As Franz Kafka once said, Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins.

My effort continues

Nasreens philosophical knowledge and practical experience in conversation is truly insightful. The real life anecdotes shared by her, as a coach and a coachee are real, simple to understand and embrace to help you take charge of your life.

Allow your questions to challenge you and think.

The secret ingredients to true happiness really is, decisive optimism and personal responsibility of taking charge of ones life to be a happy person and an effective leader. And this starts with the asking better question.

Feeling like you are not in charge of your own life is an unsettling feeling. Worse yet, like many individuals are you not even aware that they you are acting according to the scripts laid out for you by society, family and other outside pressures, without any true self direction. The right question at the right time can change the course of a life, can still a turbulent mind, or heal an angry heart. Every situation can generate its own questions, to be asked not just once but many times over the course of a lifetime, some even many times over the course of the day.

Begin today, begin now, ask yourself, what are the 3 words that you would like to be used to describe yourself? I am sure your answer will be in the question itself, of thing you need to start doing, stop doing or do more of, things that truly matter to you and align with your authentic self.

You may or may not know the answer to your questions, but I can say from experience, there is value in letting them challenge you. Some questions may be simpler than others, sure, but the answers rarely are and the act of asking is the most important thing. If you let them do their work on you and let them change you, you will find the meaning of life.

Must watch this TOSB conversation and as Nasreen said , All you need to do now, is to take time to munch those peanuts and start asking some questions to yourself regularly. You will be surprised at how many answers you have, when you care enough to ask.

https://lnkd.in/drMeuxK

Be Curious, Ask Better Questions, Stay Optimistic and Take Charge of Your life!

Kriti Makhija

Credit: The Outstanding Speaker Bureau and Nasreen Khan

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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Most Organizations Still Miss the Mark on Diversity & Inclusion – GlobeNewswire

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December 21, 2020 13:05 ET | Source: Brandon Hall Group

photo-release

Brandon Hall Group research shows only about one-third of organizations rate themselves highly for critical drivers such as having a diverse talent pipeline, leadership that reflects the diversity of the customer base and workforce or a workforce that reflects the diversity of the customer base or communities the organization serves.

Boca Raton, Dec. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In the wake of the social justice movement and COVID-19, Diversity & Inclusion has never been more important, both as a business driver and as a way for organizations to connect with their increasingly diverse workforces.

In 2020, many organizations took action to improve inclusive practices, discuss social issues and support employee activism at work and in the communities they serve. Complicating the evolution of D&I is a lack of executive-level leadership, critical for culture change. said Brandon Hall Group COO Rachel Cooke.

Almost half of organizations have no clear D&I leader or efforts are led by a non-manager with other, often competing, responsibilities. Organizations that do have a senior leader or executive, such as a chief diversity officer, heading their D&I efforts are two- to four times more likely to say their initiatives are successful, the research shows.

Organizations that do not invest leadership, time, energy and resources into Diversity & Inclusion are missing a unique opportunity to improve organizational culture, business competitiveness, employee engagement and talent retention, said Brandon Hall Group SVP and Principal HCM Analyst Claude Werder.

Employers seeking to fully leverage the power of Diversity & Inclusion to improve business results must answer many critical questions, including:

Success in Diversity & Inclusion involves an organization-wide strategy. It is about building a culture through values, engaging talent, continuous learning, recognizing success and employee activism, said Brandon Hall Group CEO Mike Cooke. It is a complex journey, but one worth investing the time, money and effort required to drive business growth and improve the engagement of employees, customers and all other stakeholders.

Brandon Hall Group provided its membership community with the latest Diversity & Inclusion research, which includes two studies one on benchmarking and one focusing on how the importance of Diversity & Inclusion is changing. Based on both the quantitative research and scores of interviews, we offer our clients seven strategies to improve Diversity & Inclusion as a business driver.

To get a glimpse of the evidence-based insights Brandon Hall Group publishes for the most forward-looking corporate organizations, download the infographic Bridging the Diversity and Inclusion Gap Between Intent and Reality at https://go.brandonhall.com/l/8262/2020-12-17/bbc391 .

---About Brandon Hall Group Inc.

Brandon Hall Group is the only professional development company that offers data, research, insights and certification to Learning and Talent executives and organizations. The best minds in Human Capital Management (HCM) choose Brandon Hall Group to help them create future proof employee development plans for the new era.

For over 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world influencing the development of over 10,000,000 employees and executives. Our HCM Excellence Awards was the first to recognize organizations for learning and talent and is the gold standard, known as the Academy Awards of Human Capital Management.

Our cloud-based platform delivers evidence-based insights in the areas of Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Diversity and Inclusion, Talent Acquisition and HR/Workforce Management for corporate organizations and HCM solution providers.

To learn more visit https://www.brandonhall.com

Boca Raton, Florida, UNITED STATES

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Brandon Hall Group research shows only about one-third of organizations rate themselves highly for critical drivers such as having a diverse talent pipeline, leadership that reflects the diversity of the customer base and workforce or a workforce that reflects the diversity of the customer base or communities the organization serves.

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Most Organizations Still Miss the Mark on Diversity & Inclusion - GlobeNewswire

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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Has The Mandalorian Succumbed to the Dark Side? – Vulture

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The final moments of The Rescue continues the Disney-era Star Wars tradition of tying every supposedly new story back to the multigenerational adventures of the Skywalker family. Photo: Disney+

The second-season finale of The Mandalorian was the best of Star Wars and the worst of Star Wars, a momentarily thrilling and moving episode that, once you stepped back and took a hard look at it, felt more like a victory for the dark side.

Created by Jon Favreau Disneys speed-dial answer to David O. Selznick, a producer-director-writer who has worked on Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney Animation projects simultaneously The Mandalorian is earnest and lovingly crafted, easily the freshest thing Lucasfilm has given viewers since Genndy Tartakovskys 2003 Cartoon Network classic, Clone Wars. For two seasons, it has tapped into the light side of the franchise, represented by the humor, action, world-building details, and friendship narratives that have defined George Lucass science-fiction fantasies since 1977. But in the final moments of Chapter 16: The Rescue, the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disneys quarterly-earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.

Where to begin lamenting this self-defeat? For one thing, the Luke cameo in the final moments of The Rescue continues the Disney-era Star Wars tradition of tying every supposedly new story back to the multigenerational adventures of the Skywalker family. Even universe-expanding takes like Rogue One (a clever retcon of the original Death Stars structural flaw, with cameos by Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia, and other familiar characters) and Solo (an origin story for everyones favorite smuggler-general and the future daddy of Kylo Ren) fall prey to this tendency. It always feels like a sop to Disney stockholders and a way of hedging bets on any property that dares to take even a modest risk.

Its hard to capture in words the galaxy-collapsing shortsightedness of requiring that every new Star Wars tale ultimately connect, however tangentially, with the same handful of genetically linked characters. Star Wars bizarre obsession with Force-amplifying, midi-chlorian-rich blood, and the proximity of regular characters to those with special blood, makes Lucass galaxy far, far away a place so vast that you need hyperspace to cross it feel as rinky-dink as a backwater American town, the kind of place where everybody is required to kiss the same local familys butt for survivals sake. Every time a Star Wars story genuflects to the Skywalker saga yet again, Lucass mythos shrinks further in the collective imagination. Sometimes its so small-minded that youd think Disneys mandate was to reimagine Mayberry with starships and laser swords.

Thus does the galactic rim in the postCivil War era thrillingly envisioned by Favreau and his Mandalorian writers as a science-fiction fusion of two related genres, the spaghetti Western and the samurai adventure pivot without warning toward insularity. Thus does a great character like Pedro Pascals Din Djarin an orphan who adopted a fundamentalist interpretation of Mandalorian self-identity and a genocide survivor who feels kinship with members of the Alderaan diaspora become a mere extra upon the cosmic stage, fascinating not because of how he practices or compromises his beliefs but because he briefly met the dude who faced down Vader and the Emperor. And thus Grogu, a member of the same species as Yoda, becomes worthy of our attention not because hes a case study in nature and nurture possessing dark and light impulses and open to manipulation and corruption by vile tricksters like Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) but because Luke deemed him important enough to rescue. He has a special purpose, you see. Not like all those other gifted kids throughout the galaxy who need a parent to guide them toward the light.

We shouldve known things would wrap up this way the instant that Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) moseyed into The Mandalorian and pulled focus from Mando. Miraculously disgorged from the Sarlacc pit that devoured him in Return of the Jedi (a silly twist canonized in spinoff properties), Fett had come to reclaim the armor sported by one of The Mandalorians most charismatic new characters, a Tatooine marshal (Timothy Olyphant) who wore Fetts gear like a knight riding into battle against a dragon (actually a sandworm/sand-shark monster). But Fett was really onscreen to reclaim The Mandalorian for that sector of the Star Wars fan base that refuses to accept anything that feels like a revision, subversion, or expansion of what they already know they like particularly when the new iteration asks them to look beyond all the lovely, shiny things onscreen and think about whether their own relationship with the tried-and-true elements of Star Wars is healthy.

Speaking as a card-carrying OG Star Wars nerd literally: I bought the first set of trading cards at my neighborhood comic shop in Kansas City, and to this day I cant look at jpegs of those babies without hallucinating an olfactory Proustian bubblegum rush I truly do understand the grateful tears that some viewers shed during the last ten minutes of The Rescue, particularly at the surprise revelation of Grogus savior. When that hood dropped, waterworks flowed around the world. And the saltwater level rose when episode director Peyton Reed held that anguished close-up of Mando watching his emerald child depart.

But only one of these two moments is rooted in something achingly real. And its not the one that smashes a Pavlovian fan-service button after spending several minutes pandering to the toxic not my Luke faction of the fandom, which would prefer to forego themes of regret, failure, bitterness, and other unpleasant but inevitable adult emotions and instead watch a character they spent a lifetime identifying with flip through the air while dicing up foes with a magic sword. Like an action figure the kind I used to play with when I was 9.

Lending new pungency to the phrase zombie IP, The Mandalorian Frankensteined a Luke cameo, employing the same CGI that gave Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia their uncanny-valley vibes. A walking deus ex machina, Luke Rubberface arrived late yet just in time, like Han and Chewie at the battle of the first Death Star, then echoed (deliberately, one assumes) the most polarizing fan-service moment in the Disney-era films: Darth Vaders slaughter of Rebel troops in Rogue One.

Mingling terror and exhilaration, but settling mainly for exhilaration, Vaders hallway rampage in Rogue One underlined an area in which Lucass vision always needed bifocals: the tendency to let the spectacle of violent domination become an adrenaline-stimulating drug powerful enough to shatter any philosophical frame the storytellers try to put around it. Lucas envisioned the original trilogy and the prequels as anti-fascist tracts pitched at a level that a child could understand; despite sometimes getting lost in the weeds of merchandising, F/X innovations, and studio-building, the results consistently encouraged viewers to identify with the oppressed over the oppressors and tried to be clear about whom, in the real world, the oppressors were. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi brazenly drew a connecting line between imperial England, the Nazi war machine, and the postwar American military-industrial complex. The Galactic Rebellion conflated the American colonists, the World War II anti-fascist underground, and the Vietcong into basically same mentality, different uniforms and gadgets. The Death Star was Lucass equivalent of the atomic bomb, a weapon that the United States alone is guilty of dropping on civilian targets. A generation later, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith showed how democracies willingly let themselves slide into dictatorship: A complacent and out-of-touch Jedi Council lets young Senator Palpatine rise to power by solving crises that Palpatine himself secretly created, each time convincing the galactic legislature to surrender more authority to the chancellor and the military. By the end of his masterful campaign of manipulation, the Senate itself is dissolved, leaving power in the hands of a despot whose army pledges loyalty to him personally, rather than to any institution or creed.

Unfortunately, to a certain type of fan, good and evil, chaos and order, morality and treachery as laid out in Lucass cosmology are all mere pretexts for laser-sword fights, blaster battles, spaceship combat, and planets getting maimed or atomized by the bad guys doomsday weapon du jour. And heres where things get really dark: The power-fantasy thing has been an inextricable part of Star Wars appeal from the beginning, even when Lucas and his collaborators were studiously warning viewers that the Force should only be used for defense, never for attack, that there are alternatives to fighting, that fear leads to hate, hate to anger, anger to suffering, etc. The mirroring of the Rogue One hallway massacre and Lukes Cuisinarting of Moff Gideons death droids is charged with explosive storytelling potential, but its ideologically unstable. Any time Star Wars lets the mayhem genie out of the bottle, puffs of it stay out there in the world, where toxic fans can imbibe it, ignoring the context that Lucas and three generations of collaborators put around it.

Favreau, Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni & Co. need to keep a firm grip on possible fan takeaways moving forward and do all they can to make sure that any adrenaline rush that viewers may have gotten from watching Luke Skywalker make like a combo of the Terminator and Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil is properly called out for what it is: an invocation of the appeal of the dark side of the Force, which is powered by rage, insecurity, childishness, and other negative emotions. The scene is already being held up in some Star Wars forums as proof that the franchise is committed to eradicating any remaining self-aware and questioning elements that were raised by Rian Johnsons brilliant The Last Jedi an anti-nostalgia tract that rejects dogma and received wisdom, argues that we are what we grow beyond, makes one of its male heroes a hothead who endangers the good guys by not listening to a female superior, intimates that its fearless young heroine is a nobody who succeeded on talent and discipline alone, and ends with a shot of an anonymous slave boy fantasizing about being a Jedi on the heels of J.J. Abramss The Rise of Skywalker. The ninth, and unfortunately probably not final, Star Wars feature was an ideological doomsday weapon, the Snyder Cut of Lucasfilm, meant to placate Star Wars obsessives who did not appreciate being made to feel uncomfortable about any of the problematic aspects of the series that theyd either approved of or failed to notice in the past. Shoehorning Palpatine into a trilogy that had been chugging along nicely without him, and chucking original trilogy characters (including Force ghosts and a CGI Leia) into a fan-service gumbo, the film wasnt a do-over exactly, but it had that sour and dutiful spirit. It was the cinematic version of firing a wunderkind new employee who had dared to question the companys mission statement, then throwing out any object hed touched when he worked there.

That a good part of Star Wars fandom has enthusiastically embraced the dark side demanding implied loyalty pledges to half-baked notions of childhood innocence and playground fantasies of dominance confirms that even when Lucas worried that he was using a mallet as a tack hammer, his blunt instrument still wasnt blunt enough. And, really, thats on Lucas. Maybe all these problem areas are features rather than bugs, built into the essence of the dazzling, wildly popular thing that he willed into being. Maybe the phenomenon is adjacent to Franois Truffauts observation that theres no such thing as a truly antiwar movie, because war is so exciting to watch that viewers cant help getting lost in the reptilian brain rush, forgetting the misery that violence leaves in its wake.

The impulse of the power-fantasy-worshipping, Skywalker-centric, royalty-obsessed faction of Star Wars fandom, which treats any hint of maturity, humanism, and inclusiveness as a declaration of war against fun, is related to a movement in modern political discourse that conflates any questioning of reactionary sentiments as censorship or cancel culture. This impulse is forever implying, sometimes flat out saying, that things were better the way they used to be; that nothing needs to change; that theres no better way of doing things, or even looking at things; and, therefore, everybody needs to just shut up and watch those lightsabers-go-brrrr.

The nostalgic/reactionary impulse is so intense that it retroactively obliterates The Mandalorians sincere attempts to add complexity and contradiction to Star Wars, in scenes like the Clients season-one speech asking if the galaxy was really better off without the Empire in charge and the sequence in season twos penultimate episode where ex-Imperial soldier Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr) asks Mando whether theres functionally any difference between the New Republic and the old Empire if youre a peasant. Mayfeld, possibly the most philosophically conflicted character in 40-plus years of Star Wars stories, answers his own question in that same episode, purging his PTSD over participating in an Imperial act of genocide by shooting an officer who participated in it.

When Mayfelds long-suppressed guilt bomb detonates, Star Wars momentarily becomes as morally instructive and clearheaded as Lucas always wanted it to be. The episode asks viewers to think about the galaxys endless conflict from more than one point of view, and concede that, in the words of one of the greatest Onion headlines, the worst person you know might have a point but that awareness of relativity doesnt mean a person can throw their moral compass away and plead neutrality.

Its a pity that this same compass goes out the window when fans treat any self-questioning impulse in Star Wars as a personal attack. Like power itself, power fantasies corrupt absolutely. Thats how you end up with essays and YouTube videos arguing that the Empire was misunderstood or somehow right, or that, perhaps, somehow, it had a point. Its Walter Sobchaks famous line from The Big Lebowski played straight: Say what you want about the tenets of intergalactic fascism enforced by planet-killers, Dude at least its an ethos.

This is a dire development for a tale that Lucas first pitched to studios as a live-action Disney adventure like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: suitable for the whole family but with an edge that let viewers reassure themselves that they werent watching kid stuff. After all of the meticulous, thoughtful work that The Mandalorians writers, producers, and F/X team had done over the previous 15 episodes to expand and deepen Lucass universe and make it seem infinite in its storytelling potential a vast mindspace, populated with kajillions of eccentric, fascinating beings with no genetic or political connection to the Skywalker clan here comes the season-two finale, making like Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown. Now The Mandalorian, like Grogu, has the potential to go one way or the other: to embrace the light side or get swallowed up in the darkness. Cloudy the future is.

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Has The Mandalorian Succumbed to the Dark Side? - Vulture

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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Can Animals Recognize Their Own Reflection? : Short Wave – NPR

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A macaques monkey looking into the mirror of a motorbike in the grounds of a temple in Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Dominique Faget/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

A macaques monkey looking into the mirror of a motorbike in the grounds of a temple in Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Daniel Povinelli was in high school when he first read about a clever experiment, published in 1970, that showed chimpanzeesbut not monkeys--can recognize themselves in mirrors.

"I bought into the story of mirrors and self-recognition hook, line, and sinker," he recalls. "Because it is a compelling story."

All it took was a simple mirror, or so the story went, to reveal that our close chimpanzee relatives are self-aware, with the same kind of basic self-concept that humans have.

"The idea that there are other creatures out there for whom we can only access their mental states, their self-consciousness, through the trick of a mirror was somehow just deeply inviting," recalls Povinelli, now a scientist with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

He ended up devoting years of his life to studying mirrors and higher-order consciousness. As a result, he now has a much different view on what animals may be doing as they study their own reflectionsbut says after a half-century, the public seems stuck on the scientific tale that drew him in as a teenager.

"If I had a dollar for every time a reporter had called me over the last 30 years wanting to do a story about mirrors and chimps and monkeys and whatever," says Povinelli, "I would have a million dollars."

The famous mirror self-recognition test was dreamed up in the 1960's by Gordon Gallup, Jr., a scientist now with the State University of New York at Albany. Back then, he was a graduate student taking a course in psychology, and one of the class assignments was to come up with an idea for an experiment.

"And I found myself shaving in front of a mirror one day thinking about what I might propose," says Gallup. "It occurred to me, as I was shaving in front of the mirror, wouldn't it be interesting to see if other creatures, other animals, could recognize themselves in mirrors?"

Standing there shaving, still looking at the mirror, he realized that he could test an animal by secretly marking its face with some kind of non-irritating red dye, "to see if it could use the mirror to then access and investigate these strange red marks."

No such test had been done before, even though people had long observed animals interacting with mirrors. Most species tend to treat a mirror image as a stranger to be courted or attacked, says Gallup, who notes that "parakeets will literally interact with themselves in mirrors as though they were seeing another parakeet for their entire lives."

Some scientists suspected that primates, however, might do better. Even Charles Darwin once watched, fascinated, as a captive orangutan named Jenny made faces at a mirror.

When Gallup was able to actually start doing experiments with chimps, a few years after he came up with his test, he found that the chimps initially acted as if the mirror image were another animal. But then, after a couple of days, their attitude shifted. The chimps began using the mirror to examine parts of their bodies like their teeth or genitals.

When Gallup anesthetized them and put red dye on their faces, the chimps later woke up and reacted to the unexpected mirror image as if they understood that the marks were on their own faces.

"What they did was to reach up and touch and examine the marks on their faces that could only be seen in the mirror," explains Gallup.

News of his findings caused a sensation. "It had quite an impactmuch, much greater impact than I anticipated," Gallup says.

Over the decades, researchers have subsequently tried his mirror self-recognition experiment, or slight variations, in a slew of other specieseverything from magpies to ants to manta rays.

In Gallup's view, only three species have consistently and convincingly demonstrated mirror self-recognition: chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans.

Others, though, think the list is longer. Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist and marine mammal scientist at Hunter College, has tested both dolphins and elephants and believes that both show signs of recognizing themselves in mirrors.

In one experiment, her team made marks on dolphins' bodies. The animals could feel the marks being made but could not see them. "And the idea was, Would they race to the mirror afterwards and orient immediately to the place where they've been marked?" explains Reiss, indicating that doing so would indicate that dolphins could use the mirror as a tool to look at their bodies. "And that's exactly what we found."

She notes that animals typically move through a series of distinct behavioral stages when they first encounter a mirror. Initially, they may think the image is another animal, or they will examine the mirror by looking behind it or under it. After that stage, some animals start to test the mirror by doing repetitive and unusual behaviors.

"I think that's where the light bulb goes on," says Reiss. If animals realize that their body movements are linked to the movements in the mirror, they can then potentially move on to self-directed behavior, meaning they can start to use the mirror as a tool to examine themselves.

"That last stage is the evidence that they're showing mirror self-recognition," she says, and Gallup's mark test is a good way to confirm that. But in her view the self-directed behavior should be sufficient.

After all, some animals may just not care about an experimental mark enough to bother with it. Elephants probably worry less about body cleanliness than primates, given that they sometimes bathe in mud and don't generally groom with their trunks. So when an elephant sees a random mark on its head, it may simply find the mark too insignificant and uninteresting to investigate further.

On the other hand, Gallup worries that without a clear-cut experimental test, it's too easy for researchers to see whatever it is they want to see as they film an animal interacting with a mirror. "The problem with many of these videotapes, not only of dolphins, but a variety of other animals in front of mirrors," he says, "is that videotapes are kind of like Rorschach tests."

He believes that passing his mark test is strong evidence that an animal is self-awarethat it can become the object of its own attention. And, he says, this self-awareness was an evolutionary leap made only by humans and their close relatives, one that then led to empathy and higher-level thinking.

"Once you learn to recognize yourself in the mirror and become the object of your own experience, you're then in the position, at least in principle, to use your experience to make inferences about comparable experiences in other creatures," says Gallup.

But Povinelli, who was once so entranced with Gallup's mirror test that it made him devote much of his life to studying animal cognition, says that's reading way, way too much into this one lab test.

He believes the mirror test reveals that chimpanzees have some kind of self-concept, but not necessarily a grand psychological one. Perhaps, he says, they may have a more sophisticated sense of their own body's movement and how it relates to the movements in the mirror.

With that kind of physical self-concept, a chimp could use a mirror as a tool to examine or groom its body, he says, but that wouldn't indicate anything about the richness of the animal's inner life.

"With respect to the mirror test, the million-dollar question about it is always: What is the chimp thinking about when it interacts with its own mirror image?" Povinelli says.

After all, humans can have all kinds of complex thoughts about themselves as they brush their teeth or shave, he says, "but is that what's required? Do I have to think about any of that in order to brush my teeth in front of the mirror?"

And while it's true that monkeys, unlike chimps, can live with mirrors for years without spontaneously showing signs that they recognize their own reflections, recent research shows monkeys can actually learn to perform this feat, if they're given proper training.

He says people live with cats and dogs and other animals all the time and tend to project our own understanding of the world onto them, but we can't directly interview them to ask what they're experiencing.

"And so when a test comes along that is dressed up in scientific garb like a mirror and then a mark and we're in a scientific laboratory," Povinelli says, "we immediately want to point to this as confirmation of what we thought we knew all along."

This episode was edited by Gisele Grayson, produced by Thomas Lu, and fact-checked by Ariela Zebede. The audio engineer for this episode was Josh Newell.

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Can Animals Recognize Their Own Reflection? : Short Wave - NPR

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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Self-Delusion on the Russia Hack – The Dispatch

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As the news about Russias broad digital espionage operation against the U.S. Defense, Treasury, and Commerce Departments, nuclear laboratories, and other governmental systems grows more ominous, prominent voices are calling for a vigorous response. [A]ll elements of national power, including military power, must be placed on the table, proclaimed Thomas Bossert, the former senior cybersecurity adviser in the Trump administration, in a New York Times op-ed. The United States must reserve [its] right to unilateral self-defense, and allies must be rallied to the cause since such coalitions will be important to punishing Russia and navigating this crisis without uncontrolled escalation. Sen. Richard Durbin had a similar but pithier assessment: This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the United States.

The lack of self-awareness in these and similar reactions to the Russia breach is astounding. The U.S. government has no principled basis to complain about the Russia hack, much less retaliate for it with military means, since the U.S. government hacks foreign government networks on a huge scale every day. Indeed, a military response to the Russian hack would violate international law. The United States does have options, but none are terribly attractive.

The news reports have emphasized that the Russian operation thus far appears to be purely one of espionageentering systems quietly, lurking around, and exfiltrating information of interest. Peacetime government-to-government espionage is as old as the international system and is today widely practiced, especially via electronic surveillance. It can cause enormous damage to national security, as the Russian hack surely does. But it does not violate international law or norms.

As the revelations from leaks of information from Edward Snowden made plain, the United States regularly penetrates foreign governmental computer systems on a massive scale, often (as in the Russia hack) with the unwitting assistance of the private sector, for purposes of spying. It is almost certainly the worlds leader in this practice, probably by a lot. The Snowden documents suggested as much, as does the NSAs probable budget. In 2016, after noting problems with cyber intrusions from Russia, Obama boasted that the United States has more capacity than anybody offensively.

Because of its own practices, the U.S. government has traditionally accepted the legitimacy of foreign governmental electronic spying in U.S. government networks. After the notorious Chinese hack of the Office of Personnel Management database, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said: You have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did. If we had the opportunity to do that, I don't think we'd hesitate for a minute. The same Russian agency that appears to have carried out the hack revealed this week also hacked into unclassified emails in the White House and Defense and State Departments in 2014-2015. The Obama administration deemed it traditional espionage and did not retaliate. It was information collection, which is what nation statesincluding the United Statesdo, said Obama administration cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel this week.

Some argue that it is time to end this accepting attitude. This seems to be President-elect Joe Bidens view. A good defense isnt enough; we need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place, he said yesterday. But this is much easier said than done, even beyond the hypocrisy in punishing others for doing to us what we do to them. The main lawful optionseconomic sanctions, criminally charging and trying to arrest those involved, recruiting adversary hackers, and the likehave been tried for years in related contexts, and failed to stop the digital carnage. Anything more than these rather modest retaliatory steps threatens an escalatory response by the Russians that might leave the United Statesdeeply dependent on weakly defended digital networksin a more vulnerable position. This in a nutshell is why the Obama administration was so paralyzed in responding to various cyber intrusions.

The Trump administration overcame these worries and asserted a more aggressive posture that is called Defend Forward. The basic idea is that U.S. Cyber Command will maintain a persistent presence in adversary governmental networks so that it can confront our adversaries from where they launch cyber attacks, as NSA Director Paul Nakasone put it. Defend Forward was deemed a success in preventing interference in the 2018 and 2020 elections. But it utterly failed to even detect the recent Russia hack. It is not hard to see why. Even Cyber Command has limited resources. It cannot monitor, detect and prevent all possible major cyber threats.

But there are other problems with Defend Forward as a potential response to the Russia hack. It requires the United States to do the very thing it is trying in part to preventmassive spying inside government networks. And it requires an additional and more controversial step beyond mere espionage: disruption of the adversary system to stop the attack before it succeeds. In 2018, this involved shutting down the Russian Internet Research Agencys internet access.

This additional step is legally much more contestable than mere espionage. And more importantly, now that the United States has widely touted this practice, nothing in principle prevents other countries from engaging in analogous disruptions in our systems following extended espionage. Some worry that the Russian presence in U.S. networks might allow them to conduct destructive attacks or change data inside government systems. But this is very much like what Defend Forward purports to do in order to prevent attacks on the United States.

The United States has spent billions of dollars to assemble the worlds most potent arsenal of cyberweapons and plant them in networks around the world, as the New York Times reported last year. It also reported that that as part of Defend Forward, the United States had deployed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian electric grid and other Russian computer systems, at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before, in order to warn and deter the Russians for meddling in our computer systems. This effort at deterrence appears not to have worked, but it highlights the dangers of Defend Forward. The United States and Russia have been involved in escalating tit-for-tat cyber operations against one another for a long time. Perhaps this years Russians hack is in part a responsive defend forward operation to warn and deter the United States from further action. It is hard to know where we are in the retaliatory cycle, but it is pretty clear that the United States has more to lose from escalating retaliation.

The larger context here is that for many reasonsthe Snowden revelations, the infamous digital attack on Iranian centrifuges (and other warlike uses of digital weapons), the U.S. internet freedom program (which subsidizes tools to circumvent constraints in authoritarian networks), Defend Forward, and morethe United States is widely viewed abroad as the most fearsome global cyber bully. From our adversaries perspective, the United States uses its prodigious digital tools, short of war, to achieve whatever advantage it can, and so adversaries feel justified in doing whatever they can as well, often with fewer scruples. We can tell ourselves that our digital exploits in foreign governmental systems serve good ends, and that our adversaries exploits in our systems do not, and often that is true. But this moral judgment, and the norms we push around it, have had no apparent influence in tamping down our adversaries harmful attacks on our networksespecially since the U.S. approach to norms has been to give up nothing that it wants to do in the digital realm, but at the same time to try to cajole, coerce, or shame our adversaries into not engaging in digital practices that harm the United States.

Despite many tens of billions of dollars spent on cyber defense and deterrence and Defend Forward prevention, and despite one new strategy after another, the United States has failed miserably for decades in protecting its public and private digital networks. What it apparently has not done is to ask itself, in a serious way, how its aggressive digital practices abroad invite and justify digital attacks and infiltrations by our adversaries, and whether those practices are worth the costs. Relatedly, it has not seriously considered the traditional third option when defense and deterrence fail in the face of a foreign threat: mutual restraint, whereby the United States agrees to curb certain activities in foreign networks in exchange for forbearance by our adversaries in our networks. There are many serious hurdles to making such cooperation work, including precise agreement on each sides restraint, and verification. But given our deep digital dependency and the persistent failure of defense and deterrence to protect our digital systems, cooperation is at least worth exploring.

Jack Goldsmith is Henry L. Shattuck professor of law at Harvard Universityand a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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Self-Delusion on the Russia Hack - The Dispatch

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