Saturday, March 02, 2013

Peter Fryer - A Brief Description of Complex Adaptive Systems and Complexity Theory

I found this brief article at a site called Trojan Mice, which was linked to in a PLoS ONE article on the insane costs of cancer treatment.

One of the issues Fryer touches on near the end of this article is that complex adaptive systems theory is a model through which to view the world (one of many such models), but it was never designed to be predictive (which is what chaos theory tried to do with it). There are still a lot of people trying to use it to model outcomes instead of using it to understand how complex systems change and adapt.

This model is useful in more ways than I can offer, but I find it particularly relevant in conceptualizing abusive families, brain adaptations to trauma, the etiology of many "mental illnesses," and so on. No matter how dysfunctional the system at which we are looking, at some point its patterns were the best (or only) adaptation available given the environmental surround (people, objects, systems that are in place in a given environment, all of which impact the agents in that surround).

Anyway, this is one of the most concise overviews I have seen - and Fryer offers a great list of properties for complex adaptive systems.

A brief description of Complex Adaptive Systems and Complexity Theory

By Peter Fryer

Cause and Effect

For many years scientists saw the universe as a linear place. One where simple rules of cause and effect apply. They viewed the universe as big machine and thought that if they took the machine apart and understood the parts, then they would understand the whole. They also thought that the universe's components could be viewed as machines, believing that if we worked on the parts of these machines and made each part work better, then the whole would work better. Scientists believed the universe and everything in it could be predicted and controlled.

However hard they tried to find the missing components to complete the picture they failed. Despite using the most powerful computers in the world the weather remained unpredictable, despite intensive study and analysis ecosystems and immune systems did not behave as expected. But it was in the world of quantum physics that the strangest discoveries were being made and it was apparent that the very smallest sub nuclear particles were behaving according to a very different set of rules to cause and effect.

Complexity Theory

Gradually as scientists of all disciplines explored these phenomena a new theory emerged - complexity theory, A theory based on relationships, emergence, patterns and iterations. A theory that maintains that the universe is full of systems, weather systems, immune systems, social systems etc and that these systems are complex and constantly adapting to their environment. Hence complex adaptive systems.

Complex Adaptive Systems

These can be illustrated as in the following diagram.

The agents in the system are all the components of that system. For example the air and water molecules in a weather system, and flora and fauna in an ecosystem. These agents interact and connect with each other in unpredictable and unplanned ways. But from this mass of interactions regularities emerge and start to form a pattern which feeds back on the system and informs the interactions of the agents. For example in an ecosystem if a virus starts to deplete one species this results in a greater or lesser food supply for others in the system which affects their behaviour and their numbers. A period of flux occurs in all the populations in the system until a new balance is established.

For clarity, in the diagram above the regularities, pattern and feedback are shown outside the system but in reality they are all intrinsic parts of the system.


Complex adaptive systems have many properties and the most important are,

· Emergence: Rather than being planned or controlled the agents in the system interact in apparently random ways. From all these interactions patterns emerge which informs the behaviour of the agents within the system and the behaviour of the system itself. For example a termite hill is a wondrous piece of architecture with a maze of interconnecting passages, large caverns, ventilation tunnels and much more. Yet there is no grand plan, the hill just emerges as a result of the termites following a few simple local rules.

· Co-evolution: All systems exist within their own environment and they are also part of that environment. Therefore, as their environment changes they need to change to ensure best fit. But because they are part of their environment, when they change, they change their environment, and as it has changed they need to change again, and so it goes on as a constant process. ( Perhaps it should have been Darwin's "Theory of Co-evolution". )

Some people draw a distinction between complex adaptive systems and complex evolving systems. Where the former continuously adapt to the changes around them but do not learn from the process. And where the latter learn and evolve from each change enabling them to influence their environment, better predict likely changes in the future, and prepare for them accordingly.

· Sub optimal: A complex adaptive systems does not have to be perfect in order for it to thrive within its environment. It only has to be slightly better than its competitors and any energy used on being better than that is wasted energy. A complex adaptive systems once it has reached the state of being good enough will trade off increased efficiency every time in favour of greater effectiveness.

· Requisite Variety: The greater the variety within the system the stronger it is. In fact ambiguity and paradox abound in complex adaptive systems which use contradictions to create new possibilities to co-evolve with their environment. Democracy is a good example in that its strength is derived from its tolerance and even insistence in a variety of political perspectives.

· Connectivity: The ways in which the agents in a system connect and relate to one another is critical to the survival of the system, because it is from these connections that the patterns are formed and the feedback disseminated. The relationships between the agents are generally more important than the agents themselves.

· Simple Rules: Complex adaptive systems are not complicated. The emerging patterns may have a rich variety, but like a kaleidoscope the rules governing the function of the system are quite simple. A classic example is that all the water systems in the world, all the streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, waterfalls etc with their infinite beauty, power and variety are governed by the simple principle that water finds its own level.

· Iteration: Small changes in the initial conditions of the system can have significant effects after they have passed through the emergence - feedback loop a few times (often referred to as the butterfly effect). A rolling snowball for example gains on each roll much more snow than it did on the previous roll and very soon a fist sized snowball becomes a giant one.

· Self Organising: There is no hierarchy of command and control in a complex adaptive system. There is no planning or managing, but there is a constant re-organising to find the best fit with the environment. A classic example is that if one were to take any western town and add up all the food in the shops and divide by the number of people in the town there will be near enough two weeks supply of food, but there is no food plan, food manager or any other formal controlling process. The system is continually self organising through the process of emergence and feedback.

· Edge of Chaos: Complexity theory is not the same as chaos theory, which is derived from mathematics. But chaos does have a place in complexity theory in that systems exist on a spectrum ranging from equilibrium to chaos. A system in equilibrium does not have the internal dynamics to enable it to respond to its environment and will slowly (or quickly) die. A system in chaos ceases to function as a system. The most productive state to be in is at the edge of chaos where there is maximum variety and creativity, leading to new possibilities.

· Nested Systems: Most systems are nested within other systems and many systems are systems of smaller systems. If we take the example in self organising above and consider a food shop. The shop is itself a system with its staff, customers, suppliers, and neighbours. It also belongs the food system of that town and the larger food system of that country. It belongs to the retail system locally and nationally and the economy system locally and nationally, and probably many more. Therefore it is part of many different systems most of which are themselves part of other systems.

Complex adaptive systems are all around us. Most things we take for granted are complex adaptive systems, and the agents in every system exist and behave in total ignorance of the concept but that does not impede their contribution to the system. Complex Adaptive Systems are a model for thinking about the world around us not a model for predicting what will happen. I have found that in nearly all situations I can view what is happening in Complex Adaptive Systems terms and that this opens up a variety of new options which give me more choice and more freedom.

TED Radio Hour - The Unquiet Mind (NPR)

The second season of TED Radio Hour’s is here, hosted by NPR’s Guy Raz. The first episode is “The Unquiet Mind,” a cool collection of stories that offers new perspectives on thinking. Here is a brief summary of the show from the TED Blog.
We’ve all had that moment when you see or hear something and wonder: am I going crazy? In this episode, TED speakers share their experiences straddling the line between madness and sanity. Neurologist Oliver Sacks explains a peculiar condition called Charles Bonnet syndrome — when people of sound mind experience lucid hallucinations. Law professor Elyn Saks shares stories about her schizophrenic episodes and how she was able to rise above her grave diagnosis. Plus, author Jon Ronson goes psychopath spotting, and wonders who among us is truly completely sane. 
Check your local NPR schedule to find out when the show premieres today. Or head to iTunes where the podcast is available now »

The Unquiet Mind
"People need depth, and depth means the possibility of unhappiness and frustration and sometimes torment — though hopefully not madness." — Oliver Sacks
We've all had that moment. The moment where you might see or hear something and you wonder: Am I going crazy? In this hour, TED speakers share their experiences straddling that line between madness and sanity — and question if we're all in the gray area between the two.

Listen to the Full Episode


What Do Hallucinations Reveal About Our Minds?

by NPR/TED Staff
About Oliver Sacks' TEDTalk
Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnet syndrome — in which visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail, and walks us through the biology of this underreported phenomenon.
About Oliver Sacks 
Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnet syndrome — in which visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail, and walks us through the biology of this underreported phenomenon. 
Since Awakenings first stormed the best-seller lists (and the silver screen), Oliver Sacks has become an unlikely household name, single-handedly inventing the genre of neurological anthropology.Sacks is a groundbreaking neurologist — and a gifted storyteller — who has enriched our knowledge of the infinite variations of human psychology. After his pioneering work with "sleepy sickness" patients (who were, in fact, survivors of an early 20th century pandemic), Sacks went on to study the connections between music and the brain, as well as disorders such as Tourette's syndrome, Parkinson's disease and many other little-understood disorders that often count Sacks as one of their first chroniclers. 
Sacks is well known as a writer of such best-selling case histories as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, and his memoir of his early work, Awakenings, all of which have breathed new life into the dusty 19th century tradition of the clinical anecdote. Sacks' writing, compassion and wide-ranging knowledge catapult the genre into the 21st century and bring the far frontiers of neurological experience into the view of millions of readers worldwide. His latest book is Hallucinations. He maintains a small practice in New York City.
Full Story

Kitty's Waltz - Caleb Sampson Details
Templefrog - Kiln Details
Spaced Out - Aeroc Details

What's It Like To Have A Psychotic Episode?

by NPR/TED Staff
About Elyn Saks' TED Talk
"Is it OK if I totally trash your office?" It's a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn't a joke. A legal scholar, Saks came forward in 2007 with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately. 
About Elyn Saks
Saks asks bold questions about how society treats people with mental illness. As a mental health law scholar and writer, she speaks for the rights of mentally ill people. It's a gray area: Too often, society's first impulse is to make decisions on their behalf. But it's a slippery slope from in loco parentis to a denial of basic human rights. Saks has brilliantly argued for more autonomy — and in many cases, for a restoration of basic human dignity. 
In 2007, deep into her career, she dropped a bombshell — her autobiography, The Center Cannot Hold. In it, she reveals the depth of her own schizophrenia, now controlled by drugs and therapy. Clear-eyed and honest about her own condition, the book lent her new ammunition in the quest to protect the rights and dignity of the mentally ill.
Full Story

Where Do Mental Illness And Creativity Meet?

by NPR/TED Staff
About Joshua Walters' TED Talk
Comedian Joshua Walters, who's bipolar, walks the line between mental illness and mental "skillness." He asks: What's the right balance between medicating craziness away, and riding the manic edge of creativity and drive? 
About Joshua Walters
Walters is a comedian, poet, educator and performer, whose work explores language, creativity, beatboxing and madness. He incorporates elements of spoken word and beatbox into his shows in a mashup of comedy, intimate reflection and unpredictable antics. In the past two years, Walters has performed in theaters and universities throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. His eclectic combination of performance disciplines and his activity as an educator in mental health have given him a national platform and audience. In 2002, he co-founded the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance Young Adults chapter in San Francisco, one of the few support groups in the country that's specifically for mentally ill young adults. As a facilitator, Walters developed humor to address the subject of mental illness, reframing it as a positive. Walters speaks as a mental health educator, and has engaged in mental health advocacy at conventions and in classrooms nationwide.
Full Story

Session 10: Ping - Tosca Purchase
Hoarse: Idol Tryouts Two: Ghostly International Vol. Two Details

Are We All A Little Psychopathic?

by NPR/TED Staff
About Jon Ronson's Talk
Is there a definitive line that divides "crazy" from sane? With a hair-raising delivery, Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, illuminates the gray areas between the two. His talk includes live-mixed sound by Julian Treasure and animation by Evan Grant. 
About Jon Ronson
Ronson is a writer and documentary filmmaker who dips into every flavor of madness, extremism and obsession. In his latest book, The Psychopath Test, he explores the unnerving world of psychopaths — a group that includes both incarcerated killers and, one of his subjects insists, plenty of CEOs. In his books, films and articles, Ronson explores madness and obsession of all kinds, from the U.S. military's experiments in psychic warfare to the obscene and hate-filled yet Christian rap of the Insane Clown Posse. He wrote a column for The Guardianand hosted an essay program on Radio 4, and contributes to This American Life.
Full Story

Tony's Theme: Original Music Composed by Paul Wier Details

Peter Singer - The Life You Can Save (Authors@Google)

As part of the Authors@Google series, philosopher Peter Singer talks about how each of us has a role to play in ending world poverty. His book on this topic is The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty.

Peter Singer: Authors at Google 
Peter Singer is recognized as one of the most influential philosophers alive. He is the author of Animal Liberation and Practical Ethics, and has motivated countless people to give more to charity. His most recent book is The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty, and he has recently set up an organization of the same name. In this talk he speaks about the ethical argument for charitable giving and steps we can take to have a positive impact.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Undermining of Science

From Bookforum's Omnivore blog, a collection of links on how popular culture is filled with nonsense masquerading as science. Two of the most entertaining stories detail a bunch of "big foot" fanatics starting a new journal to publish claims to have identified the big foot genome, and then there is bit about creationist claims that Thomas Nagel supports their cause because he believes there are flaws with the current evolutionary models.

The undermining of science

FEB 28 2013 

  • Paul R. Brewer (Delaware): “Science: What’s It Up To?” The Daily Show and the Social Construction of Science. 
  • From C2C Journal, a special issue on Quacks and Conspiracies: The undermining of science and your health. 
  • Michael J.I. Brown on Big Bang denial and the search for truth. 
  • Thomas Nagel is praised by creationists. 
  • George Dvorsky on how 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists. 
  • Sharon Hill on the trouble with pseudoscience — it can be a catastrophe. 
  • Bigfoot genome paper “conclusively proves” that Sasquatch is real — and it only took founding a new journal to get the results published. 
  • “Awash in false findings”: Is most scientific research factually distorted? 
  • Magnetic Myths: Donald R. Prothero on why magnets and magnetic fields attract New Age flimflam and flapdoodle. 
  • Mike Jay reviews Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks and Spiritualism, Mesmerism and the Occult, 1800-1920.

Tom Chatfield - Cyborg Dreams

Tom Chatfield is the author of How to Thrive in the Digital Age (School of Life), among other books, and he is a regular contributor to Aeon, from where this article comes. Chatfield is a regular commentator on media and technology, and in this piece he questions whether we are using all of our screens or if they are using us.

In essence, the question is whether all of our digital gadgets are an integrated part of our extended minds, or if they are masters of our time and awareness.

Cyborg dreams

Digital gadgets are the first thing we touch in the morning, and the last thing we stroke at night. Are we slaves to their magic?

by Tom Chatfield

Screen dreams: 'we cannot afford to believe in magic, or to overlook the effortful divide between us as we actually are and ‘us’ as we appear on screen.' Photo by Allen Donikowski/Flickr/Getty

Today, depending on your favoured futurist prophet, a kind of digital Elysium awaits us all. Over millennia, we have managed to unshackle ourselves from the burdens of time and space — from heat, cold, hunger, thirst, physical distance, mechanical effort — along a trajectory seemingly aimed at abstraction. Humanity’s collective consciousness is to be uploaded into the super-Matrix of the near future — or augmented into cyborg immortality, or out-evolved by self-aware machine minds. Whatever happens, the very meat of our physical being is to be left behind.

Except, of course, so far we remain thorougly embodied. Flesh and blood. There is just us, slumped in our chairs, at our desks, inside our cars, stroking our smartphones and tablets. Peel back the layers of illusion, and what remains is not a brain in a jar — however much we might fear or hunger for this — but a brain within a body, as remorselessly obedient to that body’s urges and limitations as any paleolithic hunter-gatherer.

It’s a point that has been emphasised by much recent research into thought and behaviour. To quote from Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, ‘cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not only with your brain’. Yet when it comes to culture's cutting edge, there remains an overwhelming tendency to treat embodiment not as a central condition of being human that our tools ought to serve, but rather as an inconvenience to be eliminated.

One of my favourite accounts of our genius for unreality is a passage from the David Foster Wallace essay ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and US Fiction’ (1990), in which he describes, with escalating incredulity, the layers of illusion involved in watching television.

First comes the artifice of performance. ‘Illusion (1) is that we’re voyeurs here at all,’ he writes, ‘the “voyees” behind the screen’s glass are only pretending ignorance. They know perfectly well we’re out there.’ Then there’s the capturing of these performances, ‘the second layer of glass, the lenses and monitors via which technicians and arrangers apply ingenuity to hurl the visible images at us’. And then there are the nestled layers of artificiality involved in scripting, devising and selling the scenarios to be filmed, which aren’t ‘people in real situations that do or even could go on without consciousness of Audience’.

After this comes the actual screen that we’re looking at: not what it appears to show, but its physical reality in ‘analog waves and ionised streams and rear-screen chemical reactions throwing off phosphenes in grids of dots not much more lifelike than Seurat’s own impressionist “statements” on perceptual illusion’.

But even this is only the warm-up. Because — ‘Good lord’ he exclaims in climax — ‘the dots are coming out of our furniture, all we’re really spying on is our furniture; and our very own chairs and lamps and bookspines sit visible but unseen at our gaze’s frame...’

There’s a certain awe at our capacity for self-deception, here — if ‘deception’ is the right word for the chosen, crafted unrealities in play. But Foster Wallace’s ‘good lord’ is also a cry of awakening into uncomfortable truth.

It reminds me of the scene in the film The Matrix (1999) in which Neo has to decide between taking the blue pill that will preserve his illusions, and the red pill that will reveal what his world actually looks like. He swallows the red pill, gulps a glass of water, and is led into another room. Nothing happens, until he reaches out to touch a mirror. Its surface shivers, sticks to his hand, then begins to flow over his skin like liquid cement, rising along his arm and down his throat. Choking, he screams — and wakes up somewhere else, naked, bald, gasping for air inside a cocoon filled with fluid.

It’s the perfect contemporary depiction of an atavistic fear: that the world around us is a lie. However, The Matrix is also a suitably ambivalent fable for modern times — because its lies aren’t supernatural tricks, but the apotheosis of human ingenuity. And the problem isn’t so much illusion itself as who’s in charge. The baddies here are the evil machines. But so long as we’re the ones running the show, it’s sunglasses, guns, and anti-gravity kung fu all the way, which is an infinitely more enticing destiny than unenhanced actuality.

What the red pill promises isn’t actually the real world at all. It’s the Matrix as it ought to be, knowingly bent to serve our desires: a dream of omnipotence through disembodiment.
Read more.

~ Tom Chatfield is a writer and commentator on digital culture. His latest book, Netymology: from Apps to Zombies, a Linguistic Celebration of the Digital World, is published by Quercus in March.

Take a Virtual Tour of the 1913 “Armory Show” - America's First Exposure to Avant-Garde Art

Marcel Duchamp. Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 1912. Oil on canvas. 57 7/8" x 35 1/8". Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This is the art show that all students of modernist art - from Dada to Surrealism, from Futurism to Cubism - know about and would love to have attended. For the first time in an American Gallery (actually the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York), major figures such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne, and Duchamp, among others, displayed their art to a new and unsuspecting audience.
The 1913 Armory Show was the largest and most widely publicized exhibition of European avant-garde art ever held in the United States to date. It was organized by a small group of progressive East Coast artists who, in December 1911, banded together to form the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS). Dissatisfied with the conservative standards of New York City's official arbiter of taste, the National Academy of Design, they were determined to hold exhibitions with a wider, more representative range of contemporary American artists. By the late summer of 1912, with the immense 69th Regiment Armory secured as their first exhibition's venue, the AAPS decided to include the most recent developments in art outside the United States as well.

Prior to the Armory Show, there were few places to see avant-garde art in the United States. European modernism had been slowly appearing on the New York art scene for some time through Alfred Steiglitz's pioneering gallery, 291, while nascent American modernists were welcomed at the Madison and the Macbeth Galleries, as well as at the studio of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. In Chicago, opportunities to see vanguard art prior to 1913 were even more limited. The most advanced art yet exhibited in the city's few progressive art galleries, like those of W. Scott Thurber, Albert Roullier, and J. W. Young—as well as at the Art Institute—was French and American Impressionism. In the year preceding the Armory Show's arrival, however, a number of more radical artists infiltrated the city. In March 1912, under a special arrangement with Steiglitz's 291, the Thurber Gallery presented the works of the American artist Arthur Dove to generally positive reviews. Less than a year later, the Art Institute itself mounted two exhibitions of contemporary European art: the Exhibition of Contemporary German Graphic Art (January 1913), which included works by such Expressionist artists as Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Lyonel Feininger, Vassily Kandinsky, Käthe Kollwitz, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, and Hermann Max Pechstein; and the Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art (March 1913), which consisted mostly of artists working in Post-Impressionist styles and featured Edvard Munch.

It was not a coincidence that the Art Institute was the only museum to host the Armory Show. Since its founding in 1879, the museum's progressive mission had been not only to educate the public about the history of art, but to serve as "a museum of living thought" that, through temporary exhibitions, lectures, club meetings, concerts, pageants, plays, and parties, would encourage a wide range of the public to take an active interest in the fine arts. Indeed, the regularity and frequency with which the Art Institute mounted exhibitions of works by living artists alongside its collection of antique casts and Old Master paintings was still unusual for the time. In January 1912, in response to recent criticism of the "rough-and-tumble of temporary exhibitions at the Institute," Harriet Monroe, one of the city's premier cultural critics, defended the museum's commitment to contemporary art:
Any museum which would offer only the perfect and absolute to the hard pressed, preoccupied American public would offer them in vain, keep them "in cold storage." Such a museum, superior to popular and momentary needs and desires, existing for the instructed and elect, would become cold, empty and soulless, a mere uninhabited treasure house, as so many museums are. The Art Institute may be over-active, over-hospitable, overcrowded with passing  exhibitions and students, but at least it is alive. There is always something doing there, its galleries are usually crowded, it is reaching the people. If the temporary exhibitions are too free, at least they try to offer a fair summary of contemporary achievement, to inform us of what is going on.1
This attitude of the Art Institute is responsible not only for the museum's bringing the Amory Show to Chicago but also for the very way in which it chose to present, advertise, celebrate, and remember the exhibition—an approach that, to some AAPS organizers, appeared more like the proceedings of a circus than a serious art exhibition.

1 Harriet Monroe, "Rothenstein Counsels Perfection as Standard for Museums of Art.," Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 14, 1912.
The show is a virtual tour, which is a little less fun to navigate, but it provides a feel for what the walls of the exhibit actually looked like and how viewers would have seen the works. As an added benefit, you download the original program for the show, as well as several other supporting documents.

Take a Virtual Tour of the 1913 Exhibition That Introduced Avant-Garde Art to America

February 28th, 2013

One hundred years ago, America had only just begun talking about “avant garde” art. Before the famous “Armory Show,” no one was even using the term; after it, United States’ art-watchers had many reasons to. It’s what they saw on display at the exhibition, mounted by two dozen artists entirely without public funding. Properly called The International Exhibition of Modern Art, the show got its popular name by starting out in the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York. It then moved to Chicago and Boston, provoking shock, dismissal, and sometimes even appreciation across the East Coast and Midwest. A little Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp can do that to you.

Or at least, they do that to you if you live in 1913 and have never seen such bold destruction and reinvention of visual art’s established forms. To mark the Armory Show’s centennial, the Art Institute of Chicago has recreated its viewing experience on the web. There you can explore the galleries as Chicagoans actually saw them a century ago, albeit in black-and-white. The site also provides much in the way of context, offering articles on the exhibition’s genesis, program notes, legacy, and more. You can learn more about the impact of the Armory Show in this recent NPR piece, which quotes Museum of Modern Art curator Leah Dickerman on the subject: “It’s this moment in time, 100 years ago, in which the foundations of cultural practice were totally reordered in as great a way as we have seen. And that this marks a reordering of the rules of art-making — it’s as big as we’ve seen since the Renaissance.”

via @coudal

Related content:
~ Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Roberts Court vs. Voting Rights - Is Racism Over?

Chief Justice John Roberts is exactly what he claimed to despise in his confirmation hearings - a judicial activist. This is a man who came to the Court with a well-defined agenda, and one of the areas in which he had a solid track record coming in was his desire to eliminate the Voting Rights Act.

This is from a recent article in Mother Jones:
When he was in his late 20s, John Roberts was a foot soldier in the Reagan administration's crusade against the Voting Rights Act. Now, as chief justice of the Supreme Court, he will help determine whether a key part of the law survives a constitutional challenge. 
Memos that Roberts wrote as a lawyer in President Reagan's Justice Department during the 1980s show that he was deeply involved in efforts to curtail the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, the hard-won landmark 1965 law that is intended to ensure all Americans can vote. Roberts' anti-VRA efforts during the 1980s ultimately failed. But on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, he'll get another chance to gut the law. Roberts' history suggests a crucial part of the VRA may not survive the rematch.
My guess is that the VRA will not survive this challenge, especialy with Roberts as the Chief Justice - a man with an agenda. This summary of the current challenge comes from the New York Review of Books.

The Roberts Court vs. Voting Rights

David Cole

Voters waiting in line, Birmingham, Alabama, November 4, 2008
Mario Tama/Getty Images

What happens when a Supreme Court ostensibly committed to judicial restraint confronts a long-standing civil rights statute that offends its conservative majority’s sense that law should be colorblind, even if the world is not? That question will be front and center when the Court hears arguments Wednesday in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The provision, known as Section 5, requires nine states, mostly in the South, and select jurisdictions in seven other states, to obtain federal approval for any change in their voting laws. Congress concluded that this was necessary to ensure equal opportunity in voting. But conservatives in some of the southern states have long complained that the law gives the federal government too much power, and now, Shelby County—a largely white suburb of Birmingham, Alabama found guilty of racial discrimination in voting as recently as 2008—has sued the US government to get it annulled.

If the Supreme Court majority exercises restraint, it will acknowledge that Section 5 falls within Congress’s constitutionally assigned authority to enforce rights of equal protection and voting. But if the Court chooses to impose its own view of racial justice—according to which laws should be drafted without regard to race, even if race-conscious efforts are needed to forestall discrimination—it will invalidate a core part of one of the country’s signal civil rights laws. The Court has frequently reviewed the Voting Rights Act since its initial enactment, and has until now always upheld it. But this time around, the result could well be different. It shouldn’t be.

The Voting Rights Act is the most successful anti-discrimination law in US history. It has transformed a nation in which minority voters were routinely and systematically denied access to the ballot box, through literacy tests and the like, into one where registration and voter restrictions are the exception. And the Act has also defeated many attempts by states and local jurisdictions to gerrymander minority voters into districts designed to minimize or negate their influence.

Yet while there has been great progress, many of the problems the Act was designed to address persist in different ways today. Quite apart from the battles over “voter ID” rules during the 2012 election, “racially polarized voting,” in which white and minority voters divide along racial lines in the candidates they support, continues to occur in many parts of the country; and de-facto residential segregation is all too common. As a result, it is easy for those drawing voting district lines to group black or Latino voters into districts in which they are a minority, meaning that their votes will rarely if ever “count,” because candidates will need to appeal only to the white majority. And because minority voters often favor Democratic candidates, there is great temptation among Republican-dominated state legislatures to minimize the influence of those voters, even if old-fashioned racial animus is not the prime motivator.

Section 5 has provided an effective and flexible way to address these continuing problems. It applies to specific states and locales that have histories of voter discrimination and especially poor records of registering minority voters. Although most of the covered jurisdictions are in the South—Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—the provision also governs all of Alaska and Arizona, and parts of California, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, and South Dakota. Importantly, states and counties that have not discriminated for ten years may “bail out” of Section 5’s obligations, and many jurisdictions have done so. (The Justice Department has approved every such application since 1982). The law also empowers courts to “bail in” non-covered jurisdictions that show a persistent pattern of discrimination, and courts have imposed this requirement on jurisdictions in nine states.

Moreover, there is continued evidence of discrimination in many of the original Section 5 jurisdictions. The majority of successful voter discrimination lawsuits in the twenty-five years leading up to 2006, for example, were against jurisdictions covered by Section 5. Yet those jurisdictions represent less than one-quarter of the nation’s population, and ought to be less vulnerable to lawsuits precisely because their voting rules must satisfy preclearance. In 2012 alone, Section 5 blocked Texas from implementing a voter ID law that would have disproportionately barred black and Latino citizens from casting their ballots, and prevented a statewide redistricting plan that was found to be designed to reduce black and Latino influence in federal and state elections. Section 5 also compelled South Carolina to modify its voter ID law to reduce its discriminatory impact, by providing an exception for those who faced a reasonable impediment to obtaining a government-issued identification card.

Critics of Section 5’s “preclearance” process argue that it is not needed because another provision of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2, already permits parties to sue in court to challenge discriminatory voting practices. But Congress found Section 2 insufficient because voting rights lawsuits are extremely expensive to mount, often necessitating complex expert analyses of voluminous demographic data, and can take years to resolve, whereas Section 5 creates an administrative process and puts the onus on states and localities with bad records to show that their changes to voting laws are not discriminatory. And the preclearance process’s deterrent effects are substantial, because officials in the covered jurisdictions know that any change they make will have to pass muster in Washington before it can go into effect.

While the Supreme Court has ruled against previous challenges to Section 5, it expressed grave doubts about the provision when it heard the last challenge three years ago. The Court’s concern centered on the law’s differential treatment of covered and non-covered states, and on what it considered the substantial “federalism costs”—or infringement on states’ rights—in the requirement that covered states obtain advance federal approval of changes in state law. The Court did not ultimately rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, but warned that the law’s “current burdens” had to be justified by “current needs” and gave a broad interpretation to the conditions under which the law’s “bail out” provision was available to the challenger.

This time, though, that way out is not available. Shelby County is not eligible for a “bail out” because it was found guilty of discriminating in its voting rules in 2008. County officials argue that the formula used to identify states and counties subject to preclearance requirements makes no sense, because it is tied to legal practices and registration rates from three and four decades ago. And they contend that discrimination is no longer sufficiently prevalent to warrant the extraordinary requirement that covered states come to Washington “hat in hand” for approval of their every voting law change.

How the Court decides this case will turn on its view of Congress’s power to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Those amendments do not merely create rights enforceable by courts, as do other “individual rights” provision in the Bill of Rights. They expressly authorize Congress to enforce their guarantees through “appropriate legislation.” The amendments’ drafters foresaw that judicial enforcement might not be enough to make equality guarantees meaningful, and therefore empowered Congress to play a coequal enforcement role.

Past decisions have found that Congress, in exercising this authority, can enact laws that go beyond core violations of the Constitution where appropriate to forestall such violations. Thus, even though only laws that are discriminatory in purpose violate the Constitution, Congress can also prohibit practices that have a discriminatory effect. Section 5 does just that. For example, in a city that is 30 percent black and 70 percent white, an ostensibly neutral rule that all ten members on the city council should be elected “at large” will often mean in practice that the 70 percent white majority will elect all ten representatives. If the council is divided into districts, however, it should be possible to ensure that black voters are able to elect some members to the council, particularly where, as is often the case, housing segregation makes it relatively easy to identify districts in which minority voters form a majority. Section 5 requires states and jurisdiction to show that their voting rules, even if ostensibly neutral, do not “dilute” minority voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.

But today’s Court features five conservative Justices committed to a “colorblind” view of equality, who find offensive laws that take race into account, even for ameliorative purposes. This skepticism was evident in the Court’s oral argument last fall in the case challenging the University of Texas’s affirmative action program, in which conservative justices questioned whether one could really determine the race of an applicant, and expressed doubts about the value of racial diversity. Section 5 bothers many of these justices for similar reasons: in order to ensure that a voting change does not have a discriminatory effect, states and local jurisdictions must consider the racial impact that an otherwise neutral change to a voting law might have. The court’s majority may well doubt that this requirement is truly warranted by “current needs.”

It is. Before Congress reenacted Section 5 in 2006, it held twenty-one separate hearings, compiled a record of over 15,000 pages, and concluded on that basis that Section 5’s preclearance obligations remained necessary for another twenty-five years—except in states or localities that can successfully demonstrate that they have a clean record and “bail out.” The question before the Supreme Court on Wednesday will be whether it should respect Congress’s considered, recent judgment as a co-equal branch of government. Do “current needs” justify the continued use of Section 5? As long as racially polarized voting and residential segregation persist, the need to protect voting rights remains urgent—and nowhere more so than in those states and jurisdictions that have the worst histories of discrimination and have been unable to show that they have cleaned up their acts.

February 26, 2013, 12:46 p.m.

Life Story - Bruce Hood, Galen Strawson, and Marya Schechtman Debate

From the Institute of Art and Ideas, this video offers an interesting discussion on the narrative construction of self between a developmental psychologist and neuroscientist (Bruce Hood, author of The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity), a philosopher who supports free will and panpsychism (Galen Strawson, author of Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics), and a philosopher of identity (Mayra Schechtman, author of Personal Identity and Fractured Selves: Perspectives from Philosophy, Ethics, and Neuroscience).

This is another great discussion - I recently posted "The Mind's Eye," also from the Institute of Art and Ideas, here as well.

Life Story - Bruce Hood, Galen Strawson, and Marya Schechtman Debate

We all create internal narratives of our lives. From moment to moment, but also spanning a lifetime. Do these stories of ourselves simply reflect our lives, or do they determine who we are and what we can achieve?

Bookforum Omnivore - The Age of Moral Machines

From Bookforum's Omnivore blog, a new collection of links that offer various perspectives on intelligent machines, from Ray Kurzweil's new project with Google to the not-too-far-away future of robots as "autonomous weapons," i.e., drone variations without the need for human navigators.

The age of moral machines

FEB 25 2013 

  • From Technology Review, Ray Kurzweil plans tocreate a mind at Google — and have it serve you (and more). 
  • From Transhumanity, Mark Waser on the “wicked problem” of existential risk with AI (artificial intelligence).
  • Colin Allen reviews The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics by David J. Gunkel. 
  • Killer instinct: Advances in neuroscience and technology could lead to the mind becoming the ultimate weapon. 
  • Stephen Pincock on the rise of the (mini) machines: Mimicking nature, nanotechnology is creating machines that can self-assemble and take charge of their environment. 
  • Our robot children: At what point will we trust robots to kill
  • Killer robots must be stopped, say campaigners: “Autonomous weapons”, which could be ready within a decade, pose grave risk to international law. 
  • The age of moral machines: An interview with Josh Storrs Hall on nanotech, AI and the Singularity.

The Richard Feynman Trilogy: The Physicist Captured in Three Films

From Open Culture, here are three films (and a television series) about the brilliant, charmingly eccentric, Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. Here is some background on the man from Wikipedia:
Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World he was ranked as one of the ten greatest physicists of all time.[3]

He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb and was a member of the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing,[4][5] and introducing the concept of nanotechnology.[6] He held the Richard Chace Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.

Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics through both books and lectures, notably a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called, There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and the three volume publication of his undergraduate lectures, The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman also became known through his semi-autobiographical books, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!and What Do You Care What Other People Think?, and books written about him, such as Tuva or Bust!.
Enjoy the videos.

The Richard Feynman Trilogy: The Physicist Captured in Three Films

January 6th, 2012

It’s another case of the whole being greater better than the sum of the parts. Between 1981 and 1993, documentary producer Christopher Sykes shot three films and one TV series dedicated to the charismatic, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988). We have presented these documentaries here individually before (some several years ago), but never brought them together. So, prompted by a post on Metafilter, we’re doing just that today.

We start above with The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a film directed by Sykes in 1981. It features Feynman talking in a very personal way about the joys of scientific discovery, and about how he developed his enthusiasm for science. About the program, Harry Kroto (winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry) apparently once said: “The 1981 Feynman [production] is the best science program I have ever seen. This is not just my opinion – it is also the opinion of many of the best scientists that I know who have seen the program. It should be mandatory viewing for all students whether they be science or arts students.”

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out was followed by Fun to Imagine, a Sykes-directed television series that got underway in 1983. Feynman hosted the series and, along the way, used physics to explain how the everyday world works – “why rubber bands are stretchy, why tennis balls can’t bounce forever, and what you’re really seeing when you look in the mirror.” 12 episodes (including the first episode shown above) await you on YouTube. Thanks to Metafilter, you can access them easily right here: 1) Jiggling Atoms, 2) Fire, 3) Rubber Bands, 4) Magnets (and ‘Why?’ questions), 5) Bigger is Electricity!, 6) The Mirror, 7) The Train, 8) Seeing Things, 9) Big Numbers and Stuff (i), 10) Big Numbers and Stuff (ii), 11) Ways of Thinking (i) and 12: Ways of Thinking (ii).

Let’s skip forward to 1989, when PBS’ NOVA aired The Last Journey of a Genius, a television film that documented Feynman’s final days and his longtime obsession with traveling to Tannu Tuva, a state outside of outer Mongolia. For the better part of a decade, Feynman and his friend Ralph Leighton schemed to make their way to Tannu Tuva, but Cold War politics frustrated their efforts. Sykes’ documentary runs roughly 50 minutes and features an ailing Feynman talking about his wanderlust. He died two weeks later, never having made the trip.

Five years after Feynman’s death, Sykes directed the final documentary in his trilogy, No Ordinary Genius. This film traces the professor’s adventures inside and outside of science, using stories and photographs provided by Feynman’s family and close friends. The documentary originally aired on the BBC in 1993, and it appears in our collection of 450 Free Movies Online. Also don’t miss the introductory physics lectures that Feynman presented at Cornell in 1964. You will find them listed in our big collection of 400 Free Courses Online. Just scroll down to the Physics section and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Some Scientists Aren't Happy About Obama's $3 Billion Brain Research Plan

From The Atlantic Wire, it seems some scientists are concerned about President Obama's desire to fund a 10-year mapping project of the human brain, at a cost of $3 billion. Some scientists believe the project "lacks clear goals" and "gobbles up money that could've gone to a lot more smaller studies."

Why Some Scientists Aren't Happy About Obama's $3 Billion Brain Research Plan

FEB 18, 2013

Funding-strapped researchers should be rejoicing at President Obama's promise to put $3 billion towards mapping the human brain, right? Not according to scientists who say the project lacks clear goals and gobbles up money that could've gone to a lot more smaller studies.

The front page of Monday's New York Times carried a story by John Markoff on a research effort called the Brain Activity Map, a huge neuroscience undertaking that the Obama administration plans to invest $300 million in annually for the next decade. A joint project between federal agencies, private research foundations, and leading neuroscientists, the envisioned project would create a definitive map of interaction between the human brain's approximately 100 billion neurons. Advocates say the findings could improve our understanding of diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, lead to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, and boost the economy. The President is expected to announce the Office of Science and Technology Policy initiative as early as March, making good on a segment from his State of the Union that teased a brain research program on the scale of the Human Genome Project:
Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar. Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s ... Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.
Harvard biologist George M. Church — who participated in the Human Genome Project and has been tapped to work on the Brain Activity Map — thinks this project could be even more profitable, saying it "will probably get a lot more bang for the buck."

With sequestration hovering over research like a blunt guillotine, you might expect scientists to be on board with Church and Obama, supporting such huge allocations. And you'd be right to think that plenty of themare cheering the windfall. But a cadre of researchers remain skeptical about this second "Decade of the Brain," expressing concern about the feasibility of the Brain Activity Map's goals and wondering whether this is the best use of federal resources. Let's look at a few of their objections.

Too Many Eggs in One Basket

The Human Genome Project may have been a major success for man-on-the-moon level research projects, accomplishing its goals ahead of schedule and paying off the federal government's investment in spades. But the track record for similarly scaled research efforts is far from spotless. In fact, following his involvement in the huge "junk" DNA research project ENCODE, UC Berkeley biologist Michael Eisenargued against such "Big Science"  projects. "The lesson I learned from ENCODE is that projects like ENCODE are not a good idea," he wrote on his personal blog. "I think it is now clear that big biology is not a boon for individual discovery-driven science. Ironically, and tragically, it is emerging as the greatest threat to its continued existence."

The Feds Should Diversify Their Research Investments

Related to the first objection, this complaint holds that scientific discoveries are more often cobbled together piecemeal from many small studies than from billion-dollar research projects. And while it's great to see Church and his Brain Activity Map co-researchers secure such enormous funding, the rest of the research community will still be screwed if sequestration goes into effect next month. While the Obama administration puts together the Brain Activity Map funding package, university research leaders arewarning Congress that automatic budget cuts threaten to ax "the discovery and innovation that fuels the economy."

It's Unclear What We Could Find With a Brain Activity Map

Even in the post-Jonah Lehrer science writing landscape, neuroscience remains one of the hottest areas of inquiry. Pop-sci junkies just can't get enough when it comes to colorful fMRI scans, insights into different brain region functions, and the mind-altering effects of various neurotransmitters. But the fact is that neuroscientists still know very little about the brain. UC San Diego professor Ralph J. Greenspan, one of the Brain Activity Map researchers, admits as much in the New York Times article, saying, "It was very easy to define what the genome project’s goal was. In this case, we have a more difficult and fascinating question of what are brainwide activity patterns and ultimately how do they make things happen?" When the National Institutes of Health funded a substantial brain research effort called the Human Connectome Project last year, Nature's Jon Bardin reported:
Many wonder whether the NIH is making a mistake. Researchers have yet to prove that MRI techniques can produce a reliable picture of normal connectivity, never mind the types of abnormal connection likely to be found in brain disorders, and some researchers argue that the techniques have not been adequately validated. “I would do the basic neuroscience before I started running lots of people through MRI scanners,” says David Kleinfeld, a physics and neurobiology researcher at the University of California, San Diego.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author at You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire


Eradicating Extreme Poverty Doesn’t Have to Be a Dream: Bono at TED2013

Bono received the TED Prize in 2005, and this year he returned to offer an update on the project to eradicate extreme poverty. This blog discusses his presentation - there is no video yet.

Eradicating extreme poverty doesn’t have to be a dream: Bono at TED2013

Posted by: Helen Walters
February 26, 2013

In 2005, the TED Prize was given to Bono. Eight years later, Chris Anderson asks, has there been any progress? The U2 frontman is here to tell us. But first, some good-natured Anglo-Irish joshing. “Chris Anderson asked me if I could put the last 25 years of of anti-poverty campaigning into 10 minutes. That’s an Englishman asking an Irishman to be succinct?” Bono is incredulous; the audience seems happy to laugh at both nations.

Bono’s passion: countering what Nelson Mandela refers to as “that most awful offense to humanity, extreme poverty.” His weapon of choice? Facts. “Forget the rock opera, forget the bombast, my usual tricks,” he says. “The only thing singing today will be the facts. I have truly embraced my inner nerd. Exit the rock star.” He removes his trademark sunglasses. “Enter the evidence-based activist.” He puts his glasses back on upside down. Bono is now a “factivist.” And he has the infographic-filled slides to prove it.

Here’s the surprise: there’s a lot of good news. Since 2000, eight million AIDS patients have been receiving retroviral drugs; malaria deaths have been cut by 75%; child mortality rate of kids under 5 is down by 2.65 million deaths a day. “Let’s think about that,” he says. “Have you read anything, anywhere in the last week that is as remotely as important as that number? It’s great news, and it drives me nuts most people don’t know this.”

More stats. Bono clearly has good graphic designers on staff. The number of people living in soul-crushing poverty declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000 to 21% by 2010. The audience approves and yet, he acknowledges, the rate is still too high. “If you live on less than $1.25 a day, this is not just data. This is everything. If you’re a parent who wants the best for your kids, and I am, this rapid transition is a route out of despair and into hope.”

Can the trajectory continue? Bono has tracked it forward. “If the trajectory continues, look at the number of people living on a dollar a day by 2030: zero. That can’t be true, can it?” But it is. The Zero Zone is possible, even for troubled countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Think of the benefits if this actually transpires, Bono challenges. For one thing, he jokes, “you won’t have to listen to an insufferable jumped-up Jesus like myself.” And 2030 is just around the corner. “That’s only three Rolling Stones farewell concerts away.” The audience laughs, even more when the singer adds drily, “I’m hoping. They make us look really young.”

Here’s the rub. We can’t take any of this for granted. “The opportunity is real, but so is the jeopardy. We can’t get this done until we accept that we can get this done. Inertia is how we screw this up. Momentum is how we bend the arc of history down towards zero.” But fighting those who would stand in the way of positive progress is a responsibility for everyone. Fighting corruption is easier by means of transparency and openness, and it’s critical that we all play our part. He cites a report from Uganda, where millennials are reporting and exposing government corruption by means of 2G phones and SMS messages.

“Once you have these tools, you can’t not use them. You can’t delete this data from your brain,” says Bono. “You can delete the cliché image from your brain of supplicant impoverished people not having control of their own lives. That’s not true.”

So can everyone here at TED also take up the cause, become so-called “factivists”? Bono’s on the hard sell. “We’re here to try and infect you with this virtuous database virus, the one we call factivism. It’s not going to kill you; it could save countless lives. We in the One campaign would love you to be contagious, spread it, share it, pass it on. By doing so, you will join us and countless others in what I truly believe is the greatest adventure ever taken. The ever-demanding journey of equality. Could we answer that clarion call of Nelson Mandela with science, reason, facts and dare I say it, emotion?”

In conclusion, Bono quotes Wael Ghonim, the former Googler who used social networking and technology tools with such effect in the Egyptian uprising. “I have his words tattooed on my brain,” says Bono. “We’re going to win because we don’t understand politics. We’re going to win because we don’t play their dirty games. We’re going to win because we don’t have an agenda. We’re going to win because the tears that comes from our eyes actually come from our hearts. We’re going to win because we have dreams. We’re going to win because we are willing to stand up for our dreams.”

“He’s right,” Bono reminds us. “We’ll win if we work together as one, the people. The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power.” And, for the man who earlier confessed that applause was his weakness, a standing ovation.