The Reality Of Mind-Reading: Neuroscientists Can Predict Your Choices 11 Seconds Before You Make Them

Authored by Dagny Taggart via The Organic Prepper blog,

Does free will truly exist?

According to a new study, maybe not. It appears that we may have less control over our personal choices than we think. Unconscious brain activity seems to determine our choices well before we are even aware of them.

Researchers at the Future Minds Lab at UNSW School of Psychology in Australia were able to predict basic choices participants made BEFORE they consciously declared their decisions. Their findings were published last week in the journal Scientific Reports.

For the experiment, the researchers asked 14 participants to freely choose between two visual patterns – one of red horizontal stripes and one of green vertical stripes –  before consciously imagining them while being observed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI).

They were given a maximum of 20 seconds to choose between the patterns. Once they’d made a decision, they pressed a button and had 10 seconds to visualize the pattern as hard as they could. Next, they were asked “what did you imagine?” and “how vivid was it?” They answered these questions by pressing buttons.

The results were unsettling.

Scientists were able to predict which pattern people would choose before their thoughts even became conscious.

Here is an explanation of the results, from the UNSW press release:

Not only could the researchers predict which pattern they would choose, they could also predict how strongly the participants were to rate their visualizations. With the assistance of machine learning, the researchers were successful at making above-chance predictions of the participants’ volitional choices at an average of 11 seconds before the thoughts became conscious.

The brain areas that revealed information about the future choices were located in executive areas of the brain – where our conscious decision-making is made – as well as visual and subcortical structures, suggesting an extended network of areas responsible for the birth of thoughts. (source)

Professor Joel Pearson said we may have thoughts on ‘standby’ based on previous brain activity, which then influences our final decisions without us being aware:

“We believe that when we are faced with the choice between two or more options of what to think about, non-conscious traces of the thoughts are there already, a bit like unconscious hallucinations.

As the decision of what to think about is made, executive areas of the brain choose the thought-trace which is stronger. In, other words, if any pre-existing brain activity matches one of your choices, then your brain will be more likely to pick that option as it gets boosted by the pre-existing brain activity.

This would explain, for example, why thinking over and over about something leads to ever more thoughts about it, as it occurs in a positive feedback loop.” (source)

The subjective strength of future thoughts was also dependent on activity housed in the early visual cortex, an area in the brain that receives visual information from the outside world. This suggests that the current state of activity in perceptual areas (which are believed to change randomly) has an influence on how strongly we think about things, the researchers explained.

This study isn’t the first to show that our thoughts can be predicted before we have them.

While these findings might seem shocking, this study isn’t the first to show that thoughts can be predicted before they are conscious.

This study builds on previous research, reports Quartz:

As the researchers note, similar techniques have been able to predict motor decisions between seven and 10 seconds before they’re conscious,  and abstract decisions up to four seconds before they’re conscious. Taken together, these studies show how understanding how the brain complicates our conception of free will.

Neuroscientists have long known that the brain prepares to act before you’re consciously aware, and there are just a few milliseconds between when a thought is conscious and when you enact it. Those milliseconds give us a chance to consciously reject unconscious impulses, seeming to form a foundation of free will. (source)

The researchers say that their findings may have implications for mental disorders involving thought intrusions that use mental imagery, such as PTSD. They cautioned against assuming that all choices are predetermined by pre-existing brain activity.

“Our results cannot guarantee that all choices are preceded by involuntary images, but it shows that this mechanism exists, and it potentially biases our everyday choices,” Professor Pearson said.

This kind of research could benefit people with certain disorders – but at what cost?

This kind of mind-reading technology certainly appears to have the potential for abuse and manipulation if it falls into the hands of the wrong people.

What does this mean for privacy? What does this mean for those being interrogated by law enforcement?

The list of ramifications could go on and on.

This is only part of a growing problem with invasive technology.

Just last month, a team of neuro-engineers at Columbia University reported that they developed a system that can translate people’s thoughts into intelligible, recognizable speech.

If you are concerned about how far all of this research is going to go, you aren’t alone. As I asked in Science FACT: Mind-Reading Technology Is Now Reality:

With this rapid progression of technological advancement, one has to wonder…how close are we to technological singularity?

Oh, and on that note – Facebook is really into the idea of accessing user information directly from their brains. Yes, you read that correctly: Facebook wants to read users’ minds. During a February interviewwith Harvard law school professor Jonathan Zittrain, CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned a brain-computer interface (it would look similar to a shower cap) the social media behemoth is researching.

In response, Zittrain said, “Fifth Amendment implications are staggering.”

Zuckerberg’s reply will surprise no one: “Presumably, this would be something that someone would choose to use as a product.”

Despite years of bad press, public outrage over privacy violations, and the loss of millions of users (and counting), Facebook remains determined to infect our lives whether we want it to or not. And if you believe you are safe from the tech giant’s creepy stalker tactics, think again: Even if you have deactivated all of your social media accounts – or never had any in the first place – your privacy is not guaranteed.

Technology is progressing so rapidly it is difficult to keep up.

Nearly every day, reports of new and potentially invasive developments are being announced. Scientists and technology companies claim that this research is for the benefit of society, even while warning us about its potential dangers.

It sure seems like a dystopian nightmare is approaching.

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Prosecutors Offer To Drop Robert Kraft Prostitution Charges, But There’s A Catch

Several weeks after America gasped in shocked amazement after prosecutors announced that some of the most wealthy and powerful people had been busted in a sting operation targeting a Jupiter, Florida strip mall spa where they paid about $70 for a rub and tug, and were charged with prostitution, on Tuesday Florida prosecutors offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a number of other men – including several Wall Street legends – charged with soliciting prostitution… but there is a catch.

As the WSJ reports, the settlement offered calls for the men to admit they would have been proven guilty at trial, in other words, unlike a typical SEC settlement where a party can get away with neither admitting nor denying guilt, in this case, the “johns” have to admit guilt.

While the proposed deferred prosecution agreement calls for completion of an education course about prostitution, completion of 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs, it also includes the unusual provision for the defendants to review the evidence in the case and agree that, if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove their guilt, a WSJ source said.

It isn’t clear whether Kraft and others would accept such a condition, especially since when the charges were announced, a spokesman for Mr. Kraft denied he engaged in illegal activity.

Perhaps the proposal is not that bizarre: a spokesman for the Florida attorney’s office said that it is the standard resolution for first-time offenders, or they go to trial.

While Kraft, whose Patriots won the Super Bowl in February, was one of more than two dozen men charged with solicitation last month in Jupiter as part of a multi-city investigation into multiple South Florida spas, and was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, acts prosecutors say were caught on video surveillance.

Kraft has pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, legal experts have raised questions about the tactics Jupiter, Fla., police used in obtaining search warrants for an investigation they said was intended to stop a growing human trafficking problem.

Here’s why it is odd: prosecutors and law-enforcement officials described the investigation as a probe into human trafficking and portrayed the men who patronized the spas as contributing to the demand for sex slavery.

The front door of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa

In announcing the charges, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, had called human trafficking “evil in our midst,” echoing the rhetoric of law-enforcement officials. And yet, several weeks later, not one person has actually been charged with human trafficking. In fact, prosecutors’ affidavits have not detailed evidence of human trafficking at Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

“The police are making this case that this is a major human trafficking ring, and that’s why it’s so serious,” said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner of Tucker Levin, PLLC who is not connected to the case. “The fact that they had cameras installed in the locations for so long somewhat undermines the claim that there was an extraordinary danger to the people working in the establishment.”

As the WSJ further notes, the Jupiter Police Department began its investigation in October, according to affidavits and in January installed covert surveillance equipment.

Men who visited the spas, including Mr. Kraft, were seen engaging in sex acts and identified after their visits on traffic stops, according to court documents. Legal experts have said the traffic stops could be argued as pretextual.

Prosecutors alleged they saw Mr. Kraft, 77 years old, enter Orchids of Asia Day Spa, located in a small strip mall, on two occasions and saw him pay cash and receive sex acts, which while striking some as bizarre that a billionaire would frequent a low-grade strip mall rub and tug instead of hiring “perfect 10s”, is hardly the pinnacles of crimes being conducted in US society in recent years. Regardless of the ethical framing, Kraft was identified in a traffic stop after his first visit on Jan. 19, when he was the passenger in a vehicle, and visited the spa again the next day, before the Patriots played the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

* * *

Even if he were to accept the agreement, Kraft could still face punishment from the NFL, which has said in regards to him that the league’s “personal conduct policy applies equally to everyone.” The league said it would “take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.” The league has previously disciplined players in cases where they were not prosecuted.

“I think Kraft’s biggest problem is going to be NFL management,” David Weinstein, a Miami lawyer and former prosecutor in the Southern District of Florida, told the WSJ. “Their standards are far lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Ron Paul: Is Trump Really About To Invade Venezuela?

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the last of the US diplomats out of Venezuela, saying their presence was a “constraint” on US policy toward the country. The wording seemed intended to convey the idea that the US is about to launch military action to place a Washington-backed, self-appointed politician to the presidency. Was it just bluster, designed to intimidate? Or is the Trump Administration really about to invade another country that has neither attacked nor threatened the United States?

While US Administrations engaged in “regime change” have generally tried to mask their real intentions, this US-backed coup is remarkable for how honest its backers are being. Not long ago the National Security Advisor to the president, John Bolton, openly admitted that getting US companies in control of Venezuelan oil was the Administration’s intent. Trump Administration officials have gone so far as mocking the suffering of Venezuelans when a suspiciously-timed nationwide power failure heightened citizens’ misery.

According to media reports, Vice President Mike Pence is angry with the Venezuela coup leader, Juan Guaido, because he promised the whole operation would be a cake walk – just like the neocons promised us about Iraq. Guaido said hundreds of thousands of protesters would follow him to the Colombian border to “liberate” US aid trucks just over the border, but no one showed up. So Pompeo and the neocons made up a lie that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s thugs burned the aid trucks to prevent the people from getting relief from their suffering. Even the pro-war New York Times finally admitted that the Administration was lying: it was opposition protesters who burned the trucks.

Was the US behind the take-down of Venezuela’s power grid? It would not be the first time the CIA pulled such a move, and US officials are open about the US goal of making life as miserable as possible for average Venezuelans in hopes that they overthrow their government.

Congress has to this point been strongly in favor of President Trump’s “regime change” policy for Venezuela. Sadly, even though our neocon foreign policy of interventionism has proven disastrous – from Iraq to Libya to Syria and elsewhere – both parties in Congress continue to act as if somehow this time they will get it right. I have news for them, they won’t.

Even weak Congressional efforts to remind the president that Congress must approve military action overseas sound like war cries. In Rep. David N. Cicilline’s (D-RI) statement introducing his “Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act” last week, he sounded more hawkish than John Bolton or Elliott Abrams! The statement makes all the arguments in favor of a US military attack on Venezuela and then – wink wink – reminds the president he needs authorization beforehand. As if that’s going to be a hard sell!

So is President Trump about to attack Venezuela? At a recent US House hearing, one of the expert witnesses testified that such an invasion would require between 100,000 and 150,000 US troops, going up against maybe three times that number of Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq. With a lot of jungle. All for a “prize” that has nothing to do with US security. If the president makes such a foolish move he might find the current war cheerleaders in the Democrat Party changing their tune rather quickly. Let’s hope Trump changes his tune and returns to his promises of no more regime change wars.

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Senators Stunned By Air Force Plan For More Boeing F-15X Fighters, F-35 Cuts

The Air Force has outlined its major near term goals by submitting a five-year plan to Congress related to the Pentagon’s 2020 budget proposal that favors procurement of Boeing’s new F-15X fighter — seen as a more cost effective compliment to Lockheed Martin’s F-35, and now apparently eclipsed as the Air Force plans to buy 48 F-35s each year during FY 2021-23 instead of the 54 previously planned.

But the F-15X, which is Boeing’s upgraded F-15, is not necessarily in competition with the F-35, instead it represents Pentagon efforts at better battlefield integration against enemy targets

In a future air fight, it’s possible that the more stealthy F-35A could get closer to enemies, spot them, then relay targeting data back to F-15Xs, which could launch the missiles at threats from a safe distance. The US military has embraced this kind of networked warfare as a whole, and the strengths of the F-15X and F-35A complement each other in such an environment.

Boeing F-15X, via US Air Force

The five-year plan calls for 80 F-15X fighters in a $7.8B investment that would increase from eight of the planes next year to 18 per year through 2024. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 will get $37.5 billion over the five years, according to the proposal, but in numbers cut down from prior projections. 

Gen. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the Pentagon is pursuing the  F-15X partly because it is “slightly less expensive for procurement than the F-35, but it’s more than 50% cheaper to operate over time and it has twice as many hours in terms of how long it lasts.” 

This cheaper F-15X Super Eagle, able to carry more weapons though without the stealth capability of the F-35 (the F-15X can carry nearly two dozen air-to-air missiles) is expected to have a service life of a whopping 20,000 hours. 

What appears a slowed trajectory for the roll out of the F-35 will likely touch off intense debate, which has already begun in the form of a letter sent to President Trump and Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan from leading Republicans including John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida. 

“As our nation’s only fifth-generation stealth fighter being built today, an investment in additional production and support for the F-35 fighter fleet is critical to ensuring the U.S. maintains air superiority,” five senators said in a letter last month, according to Bloomberg

Some information about the proposed F-15 Advanced. The F-15X will have near identical features but will be offered in single and two seat configurations. Source: The Drive/Boeing

* * *

Bloomberg has further summarized the other key features of Air Force’s five-year plan as follows:

  • Northrop Grumman Corp.’s new B-21 stealth bomber would get $20 billion over the next five years, with funding jumping from $3 billion in 2020 to $5 billion in 2023. Of the $5 billion, $2.3 billion would be for the first year of major procurement.
  • Boeing would get $19 billion through 2024 for purchase of 66 of its KC-46 tankers, fewer than the 75 previously planned through 2023. The new plan calls for 15 in 2021 but 12 each in 2022 and 2023, instead of the 15 previously planned each year.
  • The service plans to spend $12.4 billion through 2024 procuring space systems.
  • Research on the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared early-warning satellite would total $11.4 billion through 2024.
  • Lockheed’s F-22 fighter could see as much as $18 billion in spending for upgrades and support.
  • Air Force spending on setting up and running the new Space Force is budgeted at $363 million through 2024, averaging about $72 million annually.
  • Space investments for fiscal 2020 include $1.67 billion for space launch and ground service agreements pitting Elon Musk’s SpaceX against the United Launch Alliance that’s a joint venture between Lockheed and Boeing; $1.3 billion for Lockheed’s GPS-III satellites and Raytheon Co.’s OCX ground control station program; and $1 billion for satellite communications programs such as the family of “Beyond-Line-of-Sight” terminals.
  • The five-year plan calls for spending as much as $8.7 billion on precision-guided weapons made by Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon. That includes $1.4 billion on the new Small Diameter Bomb-II that can attack both fixed and moving targets in bad weather, $2 billion for the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition and $2.2 billion on the extended-range stealth Jassm missile used last year against Syrian military targets.

* * *

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Trump Wins: Supreme Court Rules Convicted Illegals Can Be Detained And Deported


The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration Tuesday, allowing federal officials to detain and deport illegal immigrants after they have served their time in the U.S. for other crimes.

It was a 5-4 decision that reversed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which restricted when the immigrants could be deported. For example, the 9th Circuit ruling stated that Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement would have to detain the illegal immigrants immediately or they would exempt from ever being detained.

The court’s majority opinion was delivered by Justice Samuel Alito.

Alito wrote that in the past, the court has “held time and time again, an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never.”

He also rejected the argument from lawyers representing the immigrants involved in the case that they are subject to mandatory detention only if they are arrested “on the day he walks out of jail,” giving the example that state and local officials “sometimes rebuff the government’s request that they give notice when a criminal alien will be released.”

Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, according to the Associated Press.

Justices Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.

Reading his dissent from the bench, Breyer warned the “greater importance in the case lies in the power that the majority’s interpretation grants to the government.”

“It is a power to detain persons who committed a minor crime many years before. And it is a power to hold those persons, perhaps for many months, without any opportunity to obtain bail,” he wrote.

For more on this story visit The Washington Examiner…

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Next-Generation Back-Packable Robots Slated To Enter Modern Battlefield In 2020 

QinetiQ North America has finalized a contract with the U.S. Army Common Robotic System-Individual (CRS-I) for small ground robots. The seven-year deal is worth up to $165 million, QinetiQ release states.

The contract includes an LRIP (Low Rate Initial Production) phase, which is worth $20 million over the first two years. The service has placed a $4 million order as part of the first phase.

Follow-on contracts and other options could boost the deal up to $400 million for approximately 3,000 ground robots.

CRS-I is an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) that is small enough for a soldier to carry in a backpack. The UGV is remotely controlled and features an interoperability chassis to support various types of payloads and missions to detect, identify, and counter hazards.

These new UGVs, which could be entering a modern battlefield by fiscal 2020, “will provide the dismounted soldier with enhanced situational awareness, force protection and increased standoff capability from enemy threats,” QinetiQ states.

“Providing robust, reliable, and exceptionally capable ground robots to support our armed services has been a driving passion at QNA for decades now,” said Jeff Yorsz, President of QinetiQ North America.

“Our CRS-I robot combines performance, intuitive control, and easy transport with a very competitive price point.  This will redefine the market for next-generation back-packable robots.”

CRS-I is a significant shift towards the Army’s modernization effort to transform its disorganized UGV fleet used in Middle East conflicts to a more uniform chassis.

The UGV features a universal controller capable of controlling current and future UGV platforms, as well as an “open architecture common mobility platform allowing for future capability growth,” QinetiQ states.

By modernizing infantry units with robotics and AI technologies, the Army is developing a lethal force for the modern battlefield.

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Brace For A Flood Of IPOs: Lyft, Levi’s And Many More

Submitted by John Hanlon, and IHS Markit

For the past six months, Lyft’s IPO has been on the edge of everyone’s tongue. During the past two weeks, more focus has been on the old American mainstay brand, Levi’s, a San Francisco innovator in their own right with origins in the 19th century.

More info below on these and other IPOs expected to price this and next week:

  • Lyft, Inc. aims to have one of the highest offer prices since 2001…

    • Only three IPOs have priced above Lyft’s currently filed range of $62-$68 since that year
  • Lyft may price just behind Google and tie with Alibaba…
    • If Lyft prices at the top of its expected range, it’ll be the fourth-highest offer price since 2001 after Google Inc, ServisFirst Bancshares Inc, Kinder Morgan Management LLC, and would tie with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd
  • Lyft seeks valuation at greater than $20B…
    • The high offer price is due to the company seeking a massive valuation

This Week: 3 IPOs are expected for proceeds of $1.38B

Notable information regarding the Levi Strauss & Co IPO:

  • Currently filed to raise $550.0M in proceeds, Levi Strauss & Co aims to become the second-largest Clothing and Accessories IPO deal since at least 2001

    • Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. raised $944.0M on December 14, 2011
  • Known primarily as a hotspot for Technology companies, San Francisco has been home to only three Consumer Goods IPOs since 2001
    • Most recently, Fitbit Inc. raised $841.2M on June 17, 2015
  • If Levi Strauss & Co lists on a public exchange, it will be the oldest Clothing and Accessories company to list on a US exchange since 2001
    • The company was founded in 1853

Notable information regarding the Up Fintech Holding LTD IPO:

  • Up Fintech Holding LTD is expected to come to market at a price in the range of $5.00 to $7.00, possibly becoming the cheapest Financials stock since at least 2001

    • The cheapest Financials IPO currently on record is China Rapid Finance Ltd, which came to market at an offer price of $6.00 on April 27, 2017
  • Following a record year of Chinese IPOs from the Financials industry, Up Fintech Holding LTD could become the fourth Financials company to go public out of China in six months
    • 360 Finance, Inc. priced on December 13, 2018
    • Weidai Ltd and CNFinance Holdings priced on November 14, 2018 and November 6, 2018, respectively
    • 2018 witnessed four Chinese Financials issuers come to market
  • If Up Fintech Holding LTD comes to market as planned, it will become just the third Asset Management firm from China to list on a US exchange since 2001

Notable information regarding the Alight Inc. IPO:

  • Domiciled in Illinois, if Alight Inc. comes to market as expected, it will become the first Technology IPO from the state since 2014

    • Workivia Inc., Grubhub, Inc., and Paylocity Holding Corp. all came to market out of Illinois during 2014
  • Alight Inc. is expecting to price in the range of $22.00 to $25.00, above the average Technology offer price of $14.39 among all deals out of the industry since 2001

Next Week: 3 IPOs are expected for proceeds of $2.18B

Notable information regarding the Lyft, Inc. IPO:

  • The highly-anticipated Lyft, Inc. IPO, currently expected to raise $2.0B in proceeds, could become the largest IPO in nearly a year

    • On May 9, 2018, AXA Equitable Holdings, Inc. raised $3.16B
  • Classified as part of the Consumer Services industry, Lyft, Inc. could be the second-highest proceeds raising US company out of the industry since at least 2001
    • Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. generated $2.71B out of the space on December 11, 2013
  • If Lyft, Inc. comes to market within its currently filed range of $62.00 to $68.00, it will be the fifth-most expensive offer price among all IPO deals since at least 2001

Notable information regarding the 8i Enterprises Acquisition Corp. IPO:

  • If 8i Enterprises Acquisition Corp. comes to market, it will become just the fifth Singapore-domiciled IPO since 2001

    • This deal, however, will be the first IPO in the Financials industry that is domiciled in Singapore
  • 8i Enterprises Acquisition Corp. is part of the Financials – Specialty micro industry, a niche space that has only witnessed 25 IPOs since 2001
    • Since at least 2001,  a company from the Asia-Pacific region has never debuted from this space on a US exchange
  • 8i Enterprises Acquisition Corp. is looking to raise just $50.0M at an offer price of $10.00
    • These are the lowest figures for both proceeds and offer price among all IPOs domiciled in Singapore since 2001
    • Similarly, these are the lowest proceeds and offer price among all IPOs from the Financials – Specialty micro industry since 2001

Notable information regarding the Precision BioSciences Inc. IPO:

  • Precision BioSciences Inc. looks to become the first company from Durham, NC to go public in nearly two years

    • The last deal took place on June 28, 2017 when Dova Pharmaceuticals raised $75.0M in its debut
  • Of the eight IPOs to launch out of Durham, NC since 2001, two have been unicorn IPOs; if Precision BioSciences, Inc. prices as expected for $126.4M, it will become the largest non-unicorn deal in that time frame
    • Quintiles Transnational Holdings Inc. and Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp. raised $1.09B and $1.06B, respectively
    • Square 1 Financial, Inc. raised $119.7M in its offering on March 26, 2014
  • Since 2001, Durham-based IPOs have experienced subpar performance in the public markets
    • Just one of the eight deals is currently trading above its offer price
    • Five of the deals are currently trading very far below their offer prices
    • Two issuers have been purchased by other companies since going public

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Newark Mayor Jumps On Universal Basic Income Bandwagon

Residents of New Jersey’s largest city might find themselves showered in cash, as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says the city will study a pilot program to provide universal basic income (UBI) to all residents whether or not they have a job. 

“We believe in Universal Basic Income, especially in a time where studies have shown that families that have a crisis of just $400 in a month may experience a setback that may be difficult even impossible to recover from,” said Baraka during last week’s State of the City address at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, noting that 1/3 of the city lives in poverty

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka

UBI has been floated as a solution to mass unemployment predicted to come from automation. It’s also a great way for politicians to get votes – and is a major component of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s platform. 

The 44-year-old businessman calls UBI a “freedom dividend,” and has promised to provide $1,000 a month to every person in the United States over the age of 18 at an annual cost of roughly $2.8 trillion – funded in part with a 10% Value Added Tax that would raise around $800 billion per year. 

“[M]y plan, the Freedom Dividend, would give every American adult $1,000 per month, $12,000 per year, starting at age 18. This would create millions of jobs around the country and allow families and individuals to help manage this historic transition that we’re in, in terms of technology transforming the labor force,” Yang told CBS News last week. 

California Sen. and 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris proposed a state bill last year that would provide middle class and working families an annual tax credit of up to $6,000, which could be accessed in the form of a monthly check of up to $500. Meanwhile Gov. Gavin Newsom says he supports pilot UBI programs. 

In February, Stockton, California launched a UBI program – sending $500 debit cards to a select group of residents the city once dubbed “America’s foreclosure capital.” As the Sacramento Bee notes, it was also the largest city to seek bankruptcy protection before Detroit’s massive 2013 filing. 

Now, as the city slowly recovers from financial disarray, officials and advocates look to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED, to provide insight on whether a long-term basic income program is a viable creative approach to lifting residents out of poverty. –SacBee

The city will send 130 lower-income adults $500 per month for 18 months and closely monitor how it affects their spending and saving habits – along with other factors such as quality of life and financial stability. The experiment has been bankrolled in part by a $1 million grant from the Economic Security Project – a network organization which has raised over $10 million to fund and explore UBI programs, according to the Bee. Another $2 million for the program is coming from individual donors. 

Exactly where Stockton would find the money for a city-wide program has yet to be determined. 

In Finland, a two-year UBI trial which ran in 2017 and 2018 made headlines worldwide as a test of UBI’s viability and social impact – giving $630 to unemployed people only to see if it would prompt more people to enter the workforce.

A preliminary report covering the first year of the trial found that it did not, as people were not motivated to seek jobs out of fear that they would lose their UBI stipend. That said, while it didn’t stimulate employment – the free money predictably made people happier. The people who actually worked for that money, perhaps not so much. 

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

The Coming Wave Of High-Tech Authoritarianism

Authored by John Rubino via,

One of history’s hard lessons is that collapsing financial systems beget authoritarian politics…

Today’s world, alas, is following this script, as rising debts lead to wrenching political changes in nearly every country that holds free elections, while fascism and socialism are once again being taken seriously by people who in normal times would inhabit the political center.

But there’s one big difference this time around: the advanced state of social control technology. Past governments, when trying to tamp down dissent, were limited to blunt-instrument policies like curfews, phone taps and press shutdowns. Today’s would-be Big Brothers can do vastly more, and in many cases will use the coming financial/political emergency as an excuse to place Orwell’s proverbial boot on their citizens’ necks.

Some examples from a recent Wall Street Journal article titled The Autocrat’s New Tool Kit:

  • Chinese authorities are now using the tools of big data to detect departures from “normal” behavior among Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region—and then to identify each supposed deviant for further state attention.

  • The Egyptian government plans to relocate from Cairo later this year to a still-unnamed new capital that will have, as the project’s spokesman put it, “cameras and sensors everywhere,” with “a command center to control the entire city.”

  • Moscow already has some 5,000 cameras installed with facial-recognition technology, and it can match faces of interest to photos from passport databases, police files and social media.

But scary as these things sound, they’re crude compared to what’s coming. From the same WSJ article:

“Microtargeting” enables governments to build personality assessments of citizens and tailor propaganda for targets’ psychological weak spots. Russia’s Internet Research Agency reportedly harvested data from Facebook to craft specific messages for individual voters during the 2016 US presidential race. Private firms are developing artificial intelligence that can automate this customization for whole populations.

Bots – algorithms that emulate human posters – will soon be indistinguishable from humans online, which is to say capable of denouncing anti-regime activists, attacking rivals and amplifying state messaging in lifelike ways.

Deep fakes. It is now possible to create images, voices and videos that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Targets will have no way of knowing whether what they’re seeing and hearing is real or a government-generated fake.

AI profiling. Artificial intelligence is learning to extract “attitude, emotion and intent” from our social media posts, giving governments the ability to see dissent coming before it can coalesce into unrest.

Extremely smart cards. Venezuela has introduced its own “carnet de la patria” (fatherland card), a smart-chip-based piece of identification that citizens need to get access to government services such as health care and subsidized food. Human Rights Watch reports that the card may capture voting history as well.

Super-human facial recognition. We’re good at recognizing familiar faces. Tomorrow’s computer networks will be vastly better. Already, the Chinese have deployed facial-recognition glasses, and are selling the tech in Africa and Europe. Such glasses can be used to help identify criminals like thieves and drug dealers—or to hunt human-rights activists and pro-democracy protesters.

Smart cities. Combine the Internet of Things with Big Data analytics and you get entire cities where cameras cover every outdoor inch and using public services like busses require biometric ID. Some Chinese restaurants already have “smile to pay” systems that interpret facial expressions.

As the Journal sums it up,

“The internet dispersed data, but new technological advances can concentrate its power in the hands of a few. With more than 30 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet by 2020, each one generating new data, those who can control, process and exploit the information rush will have a major advantage. A regime bent on stability may feel virtually compelled to do so.”

The take-away?

Preparing to the next financial crisis requires a little more thought than for those of the past. How do you preserve wealth when a panicked government can identify, track and debit financial accounts? How do you preserve freedom of thought, association and action when even your seemingly private conversations and social media interactions are flowing into automated profiling algorithms?

Obviously, gold and silver coins become vastly more valuable in this world as a means of private wealth storage and anonymous transaction. Geographic diversification (i.e., storing wealth in different countries) lessens the odds of complete confiscation by any one government. And finding ways to evade the emerging surveillance state is crucial. Here are a couple of books on the subject:

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Methamphetamine Back With a Vengeance: U.S. Drug Officials Warn

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that opioid-related deaths are starting to plateau, officials fret a surge in methamphetamine-related deaths could contribute to the next leg up in the American drug overdose crisis.

There were 1,854 meth-related deaths reported in 2010. By 2017, more than 10,300 deaths were linked to meth and or chemically-similar psychostimulants, which is a 550% jump from 2010.

The DEA told the Journal that their drug-tracking system recorded 347,807 law-enforcement meth seizures submitted to labs in 2017, a 118% increase from 2010. The recent inflow of meth into the U.S. has made it more affordable and easily accessible, the agency warns.

Officials say Mexican cartels are shipping more meth than ever into the country, mostly through ports of entry in hidden vehicle compartments.

“They’re flooding it through tunnels, they’re flooding it through ports of entry, they’re flooding it between ports of entry,” said Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Phoenix office.

 New Hampshire is one of the states where meth is becoming more common, said Jon DeLena, second-in-command at the DEA’s New England office.

“Everybody’s biggest fear is what’s it going to look like if meth hits us like fentanyl did,” he said.

People struggling with opioid addictions often use meth, said Silvana Mazzella, associate executive director at Prevention Point Philadelphia, a nonprofit.

“People are getting exposed to it and coming to like it and need it,” said Ms. Mazzella, whose group provides harm-reduction services from its headquarters in Kensington, the Philadelphia neighborhood known for its longstanding opioid problem.

On the West Coast, authorities in San Francisco are not just battling record homelessness, but also an alarming increase in meth overdoses. “Without more effective interventions, mentally ill and meth-addicted individuals will continue deteriorating on our sidewalks, in our emergency rooms and in our jails,” city supervisor Rafael Mandelman said in a press release.

Meth is also a concern in dying Rust Belt states, more specifically, in the Akron, Ohio metropolitan area, said Sally Longstreth Fluck, clinical director for Oriana House, a nonprofit that provides substance-abuse services for correctional facilities.

In 2006, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act to address the out of control crisis. In 2018, the Trump administration declared a public health emergency over the opioid epidemic. Now, Washington could be back to the drawing board, announcing, yet, another crisis, the return of meth.

From one drug crisis to another, the slow death of the middle class has been a direct effect of flawed monetary policy and the financialization of the American economy, which has driven wealth inequality to levels never seen before in modern time. As long as the wealth inequality gap remains wide, the drug overdose crisis will only expand. The country is imploding from within.

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden