Author Topic: Episode #711  (Read 4525 times)

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Offline Steven Novella

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Episode #711
« on: February 23, 2019, 11:35:01 AM »
News Items: Warning About Big Data in Science; Live from the AAAS: What Is Scientific Skepticism; Science or Fiction; Who’s That Noisy; Follow Up on Jupiter’s Magnetic Field and Insect Apocalypse
Steven Novella
Host, The Skeptics Guide
snovella@theness.com

Online 2397

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2019, 05:47:07 PM »
You're all giddy about working with the CIA, but you're going to hide what you're doing with them behind a paywall, i.e. only expose it to your most loyal listeners, and still not offer a single piece of criticism of them. Other than vague references to history.

I hope you have something in the works of interviewing someone who is well-informed about the CIA but isn't one of their PR agents, so that it's possible to believe that you aren't dismissing their crimes against humanity for the sake of convenience, like Obama did.

Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2019, 06:46:23 PM »
Politics aside, collaborating with rank and file intel weenies to translate 'intel 101' for a public audience would be great.  There's a lot of material they could tap.

(I'm waaay behind on all my podcasts, have they outlined what they're doing yet?)

You're all giddy about working with the CIA, but you're going to hide what you're doing with them behind a paywall

Thematically appropriate.
If global warming is real then how come I just felt this chill down my spine?

Online 2397

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2019, 01:57:01 AM »
There's no setting aside the politics here. What if the SGU had decided to work with Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield to help them with outreach, just because we hadn't heard recent news about them trying to stop vaccinations from happening, but they had in no way tried to undo the damage they did, not even apologized for it?

The CIA have helped prevent vaccinations from happening, too, and gave conspiracy theorists some actual reasons to claim that there's a secret agenda behind vaccinations.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-cia-fake-vaccination-campaign-endangers-us-all/

I'd be okay with the SGU being involved with the CIA if they at least bring this stuff up and make it clear that they don't support it. Being as thorough as possible, instead of indirectly dismissing it. Don't act as if it doesn't matter because it happened in the past. The CIA was torturing people and transporting people for the specific purpose of being tortured. What's the point of the SGU if that isn't an issue? Pseudoscience can do nothing worse than deliberately cause people severe pain and lifelong trauma, injury and death.

We don't know who all was involved in the torture program but are still employed as if they did nothing wrong, because Obama stopped investigations from happening, or from mattering, and all it takes is a change in policy to bring it all back. We don't know what they're doing now, and we have no reason to trust that it's all above board when they're shielded from oversight. The SGU could be chatting and having fun with war criminals. And are apparently wanting to help them create a podcast to promote themselves to the public. Why?

Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2019, 03:17:40 AM »
We've always called them Ladybirds here in Australia as well. Never Lady Bugs. That's a North American thing.






Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2019, 07:18:36 AM »
We've always called them Ladybirds here in Australia as well. Never Lady Bugs. That's a North American thing.
Additionally we call them ladybird beetles. We never could wrap our heads around why y'all think they're birds.

Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2019, 09:50:05 AM »
Machine learning and data mining experts spend a lot of time worrying about the reliability of their results. As with any statistical problem, you have to look at the results from different angles. That's why we typically split our data into a development set and a hold-out test set. You get to look at the development set while you're optimizing your model, but not the test set.

The "internal control" Steve is referring to sounds a bit like cross-validation. It's a frequently used technique in classification and regression problems to get more reliable estimates for machine learning performance and prevent overfitting (which is a phenomenon in which the algorithm comes up with an overly complex model of the data that has a very good fit to the training data but not necessarily test data). In cross validation, you split your (development) dataset into n different parts, and then you take n-1 of those sets as training set and the rest as your (development) test set (and you do this n times, once for each combination). You then tweak each model you want to test and you use the one that performs best across these test sets on average (it's good to use multiple models and test a reasonable range of parameter settings for each). Finally, if you want to be rigorous, once you've found your best model, you test it once more against the (hold-out) test set.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2019, 10:36:50 AM »
The mission of the CIA is to support and implement U.S. policy abroad. The methods used are whatever they think they can get away with. Historically this has included murder of people perceived as opposing U.S. interests, whether by violent or peaceful means; it has included propagating lies and using other means to destabilize democratically-elected governments; it has included training, funding, and equipping military and paramilitary groups and outright terrorists, both pro- and anti-government (depending on country), including when U.S. law has specifically forbidden involvement in the country in question; it has included every sort of crime and dirty trick including systematically fabricating and promulgating lies directed at the American public for the purpose of creating support for policies that benefit the government at the cost of the American public. And these actions have generally backfired and come back to bite us on the ass.

The CIA is a criminal organization operated by the government without the usual checks and balances of our nominally democratic system. The vast majority of CIA employees are never directly involved in any of this, but their work has only one purpose: To support and make possible the mission of the agency, which is plain and simply criminal activity overseas on behalf of our government. (Sometimes they operate in the U.S., against American citizens, in violation of the law, but this is not part of their official mission. The crimes listed above are their official mission.)

The rogues have undertaken to assist the CIA by teaching them how to create a podcast. This may seem innocuous to them, but anything that helps the CIA to become more effective at public propaganda and internal communication helps them to become more effective. And since their mission is to commit crimes in the service of the government, the rogues' involvement, to the extent that it has any effect at all, makes them accessories before the fact to every sort of crime imaginable including murder, terrorism, and the overthrow of democratically elected governments.

If they continue to assist the CIA, this could be the thing that makes me withdraw my support.

I would encourage them to reconsider what kind of organization they are offering support to, and whether they really want to be a very small cog in a murderous criminal organization. The fact that they are not directly murdering people does not change the fact that they are accessories to murder if they give assistance to an agency that routinely and with impunity murders people.

But perhaps they do not share the views of some here. Perhaps they believe that murder and other crimes are "necessary evil" to "protect" our "democracy." If this is the case I could not support them.
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck

Offline JohnM

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2019, 02:04:48 PM »
Like others on here, I mystified by the SGU tacit relationship with the CIA.

To do it once as a learning experience I think is fine. For it to become a regular occurrence would be a disaster for the skeptic movement.

I remember when Steve, who was defending the science of GMO, got invites from Monsanto type companies. He outright said the last thing you want is me working with you as that destroy my credibility. why doesn't the same applied with CIA?

I can only imagine how amazing it feels to seem as being asked of your expertise from the CIA (it's a bit worrying they can't set up a podcast though?) but they need to look at the bigger picture here.


Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2019, 02:09:14 PM »
Quite a few Americans are enamored of the 'good men making hard choices' stuff

edit:



*squints dramatically at horizon*
« Last Edit: February 24, 2019, 02:13:56 PM by Soldier of FORTRAN »
If global warming is real then how come I just felt this chill down my spine?

Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2019, 02:27:56 PM »
Like others on here, I mystified by the SGU tacit relationship with the CIA.

To do it once as a learning experience I think is fine. For it to become a regular occurrence would be a disaster for the skeptic movement.

People here have a flair for hyperbole at times (not to single out JohnM). The SGU is not the entire scientific skepticism movement. Plenty of prominent skeptics have flirted with less-than-skeptical organizations. Penn & Teller are heavily biased towards libertarian think tanks. And it's not like they're defending the past criminal behavior of the CIA, or are even commenting on the politics. To just have a mutual learning experience with a shady organization does not mean that you are that organization's pawn.

I remember when Steve, who was defending the science of GMO, got invites from Monsanto type companies. He outright said the last thing you want is me working with you as that destroy my credibility. why doesn't the same applied with CIA?

Well for one thing, most of the issues surrounding the CIA are political in nature, and therefore mostly outside of the scope of what they deal with on the SGU anyway (except maybe in the case of conspiracy theories). For another, they pointed out that they're just interested in the processes the CIA applies to it's intelligence gathering; they're not even getting any actual new intelligence as far as I can tell, since that's classified. So all we're talking about here is whether the intelligence community is applying skeptical and scientific principles the best it can, in how they go about analyzing their data. We can like or dislike the CIA as much as we want, but in the end they are one of those organizations where critical thinking is life or death. There's a lot to be learned from an organization like that. As long as they don't just start taking what the intelligence community says at face value (which would be highly uncharacteristic), I really don't see the problem here.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2019, 02:32:28 PM by werecow »
Mooohn!

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2019, 03:37:17 PM »
In addition to the human rights abuses, massive intelligence failures, and the contribution to vaccine skepticism (see 2397's link above), there is the crazy pseudoscience that the C.I.A. has supported over the years.

Two words: Uri Geller.

Teaming up with the CIA seems about as logical as an SGU/Goop partnership. Ok, that might be a bit of hyperbole  :)

Online 2397

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2019, 04:25:00 PM »
So all we're talking about here is whether the intelligence community is applying skeptical and scientific principles the best it can, in how they go about analyzing their data. We can like or dislike the CIA as much as we want, but in the end they are one of those organizations where critical thinking is life or death. There's a lot to be learned from an organization like that. As long as they don't just start taking what the intelligence community says at face value (which would be highly uncharacteristic), I really don't see the problem here.

No, they're also talking about the possibility of a CIA outreach podcast, which the SGU don't seem to have any reservations about helping with.

And otherwise about how "cool" the CIA are.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2019, 04:37:05 PM by 2397 »

Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2019, 07:13:12 PM »
So all we're talking about here is whether the intelligence community is applying skeptical and scientific principles the best it can, in how they go about analyzing their data. We can like or dislike the CIA as much as we want, but in the end they are one of those organizations where critical thinking is life or death. There's a lot to be learned from an organization like that. As long as they don't just start taking what the intelligence community says at face value (which would be highly uncharacteristic), I really don't see the problem here.

No, they're also talking about the possibility of a CIA outreach podcast, which the SGU don't seem to have any reservations about helping with.

And otherwise about how "cool" the CIA are.

They're nerds. What nerd wouldn't freak out at a thought of talking to some actual spies? I had a job interview at a cybersecurity company a year or two ago and the mystery mongering was very appealing*. And regarding the podcast outreach, I'm fairly confident that the CIA could figure out podcasting on their own eventually. It seems like a pretty benign contribution in exchange for a peek at their processes.

* I went in knowing relatively little about the company. Pretty much all my questions about what the company did were answered with vague maybes and perhapses, with a little hint here and there of the kind of tech I'd be working with/on (which seemed vaguely defined but definitely cool). I considered working there for a moment, but they required me to do a several month long intensive training course and a long term commitment that I couldn't really make. After I visited them I looked up some more info. The first article I read said something about this company catching British hackers in the act of hacking or attacking Belgian government servers. The second article I read was dated a few months later and informed me that the company was bought by the British. I'm pretty sure they're still doing contracts for my government (the Netherlands). }|:op Although with Brexit, who knows.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2019, 07:16:46 PM by werecow »
Mooohn!

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Re: Episode #711
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2019, 01:03:31 AM »
So how many democratic governments had they overthrown? How many people had they had tortured? How many wars had they had a key part in instigating or crafting excuses for?

If I could talk directly with someone from the CIA, I would ask them why they want to work in an organization that is contrary to human rights, and what they would do if they ended up in a situation where they were told to violate them. If they don't consider it their duty to disobey illegal orders, they would not be someone that I could work with. Unless somehow working with them I could change them, or change something else that would make it less likely to happen. Which would mean not simply going along with whatever they wanted, and not brushing the issue aside.

 

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