Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 23rd, 2016


Eternal Spirit

1.   Poets, philosophers and prophets

Have been telling us about

A common spirit to all mankind,

Eternal through the ages.

2.   I like to be clearer.

A common conscious and eternal

Regardless of cultures, races and climates.

We feel what is right and what is wrong.

We don’t need Books of wisdom to tell us that.

We don’t need Law and Justice

To remind us of what we feel.

We don’t need Religions

To put it down on paper,

To preach it and send missionaries.

3.   We all have common conscious

Of what feels right and

What feels bad and awful.

Law and Order won’t replace

Our conscious or improve on it.

4.   I can only change the world

When I care to change myself.

Decisions and ideas for change

Go hand in hand with changing ourselves.

Which is first?  Who cares!

Haunting Images Of Refugee Crisis

Pulitzer winner Yannis Behrakis

Two teams of photographers working for The New York Times and Reuters received the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography on Monday for documenting the journeys of migrants and refugees.

The photographers followed hundreds of thousands of people traveling from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to Europe over the past year, shining a light on the harsh realities of the trip and the thin line between hope and desperation along the way.

Among the winners were Yannis Behrakis, Alkis Konstantinidis and Alexandros Avramidis, three Greeks working for Reuters who captured the fight for survival within their own country’s borders. Their work took them from the shores of the Aegean islands to the port of Piraeus to the Greece-Macedonia border.

Their voice was heard through our photographs and our stories,” said Pulitzer winner Yannis Behrakis.

Behrakis, an award-winning photographer who serves as Reuters’ chief photographer in Greece, wrote on his Facebook page that this is the first time Greece is taking home a Pulitzer. He said he’s proud of sharing the prize with two younger colleagues he considers to be his students.

“With many personal sacrifices we achieved what we wanted, which was to become the voice of these people that come to this dot of land in the Aegean, seeing it as their last hope,” Behrakis told Athens News Agency. “The people on the islands welcomed them, showed them love and us journalists, who were there a very long time, finally became [like] life vests for them. Their voice was heard through our photographs and our stories.”

The photographers’ Pulitzer-winning images for Reuters can be seen below. Please note that some of them may be disturbing to viewers.

    • Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters
A Macedonian police officer in the Greek border town of Idomeni raises his baton to stop migrants from entering Macedonia on Aug. 22, 2015.
An overcrowded raft carrying Syrian refugees drifts in the Aegean Sea after its motor broke down off the Greek island of Kos on Aug. 11, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
An Afghan migrant jumps off an overcrowded raft onto the Greek island of Lesbos on Oct. 19, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
A Syrian refugee holds onto his children as he struggles to walk off a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos on Sept. 24, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Amoun, a blind 70-year-old refugee who lived in the town of Aleppo in Syria, rests on a beach moments after landing on the Greek island of Kos with 40 other people on Aug. 12, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
An Afghan migrant looks out a bus window after reaching the port of Piraeus in Greece. He and 2,500 other migrants arrived by passenger ferry from the island of Lesbos on Oct. 8, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Migrants and refugees near Idomeni, Greece, beg Macedonian police to allow them across the border during a rainstorm on Sept. 10, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Syrian refugees walk through the mud as they cross the border from Greece into Macedonia on Sept. 10, 2015.
    • Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
A Syrian refugee kisses his daughter as he walks through a rainstorm towards Greece’s border with Macedonia on Sept. 10, 2015.
    • Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
A Syrian refugee holding a baby swims toward shore after their dinghy deflated off the coast of Lesbos, Greece, on Sept. 13, 2015.
    • Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
A Syrian refugee tries to catch his breath as he stands in a crowded line to register at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on Aug. 12, 2015.

Predicting Wars? Using math models? And how Making War Make Sense mathematically?

Can Making War Make Sense, Mathematically?

How can we model the decisions of psychopaths?

Conflict seems incomprehensible, war a hellish mess. That is, unless you’re Sean Gourley.

The San Francisco-based physicist has applied numbers to conflict zones and several other unlikely places.

In 2009, he presented an idea at TED: that the apparent chaos of war contains in it some mathematical logic. Certain patterns, he and his team found, repeated themselves across a number of conflicts, each with its own unhappy mess of factions, problems and economic tensions: Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan, Senegal, Peru, Indonesia. (Kind of amalgamating civil wars with external pre-emptive wars?)

Armed with his analysis, they could actually “generate an equation that could predict the likelihood of an attack,” as Gourley explains in the accompanying TED Talk.

Jana Bou Reslan shared a link. 19 hrs ·
Conflict seems incomprehensible, war a hellish mess. Unless you’re this guy.|By Sanjena Sathian

Could anyone have predicted his own trajectory? It began in quiet New Zealand — first in Christchurch and then a small town nearby — with an idyllic beach and two parents who knew they had a smart kid.

While young Sean was good at math, his parents happily left him to his own devices instead of putting him in advanced tutoring classes. The boy ran, studied the humanities, did law and philosophy at university.

Math “was sort of on the side,” he recalls. The future Rhodes Scholar, physicist and AI expert might have ended up an attorney with a head for numbers.

Thank goodness he got B’s in the law classes — math and physics came a-calling (A big difference between man-made rules as in law and accounting, and axioms and theorems)

Fast-forward to roughly 2004, when Gourley was at Oxford.

Among those scholars, all the talk was about the war in Iraq, and Chelsea Clinton was around, waving American flags at protests against the war.

Though he was “nominally there” to do a Ph.D. on nanotechnology, the war caught his attention. Few quants outside intelligence communities used data, and defense agencies like the Pentagon weren’t exactly eager to part with it.

Gourley’s real catalyst came when he started to notice signals, or usable data, in the noise — in blogs, on newscasts, in NGO reports (130 sources in all). Now that was a big “wow.”

Over the next four years, Gourley and an interdisciplinary team began tackling a problem that didn’t fit anywhere obvious within academia: the mathematics of insurgency.

Gourley spent about a month in Iraq itself, where, he says, life “was pretty normal … except suddenly you’d have an explosion around the corner, or AK fire all of a sudden.” He witnessed the messiness of war not just in the cities but also in the people themselves — “the kid straight out of Iowa, the grizzled CIA operative, the people there for profit,” and even the faces of human trafficking.

How strange to discover that amid blood and destruction lay something predictable, something you could even model.

Remember the interdisciplinary thing? It turned out to be both the biggest flaw and biggest stroke of luck for Gourley.

“You find yourself berated by your own discipline for not doing ‘real work’ and by the discipline you’re entering into for not knowing enough,” he says.

“I never expected a new idea would encounter so much friction.” So it took some creativity to find a home for the whole thing. The researchers framed the study on war and math as an ecological argument. Huh?

They needed a discipline that studied systems, Gourley explains, and ecology is one of the few that studies mathematical interactions between objects. The big idea was suddenly deemed a study of “synthetic ecology.” In went the paper to one of the most prestigious journals around, Nature.

And then, for six months — nothing. Somewhere in there, Gourley got a call from TED. “It was really a gamble,” allowing him to speak, he says. The vindication came later, when, at 30, Gourley saw his research land on the cover of Nature.

Ironically enough, that long wait time “saved” Gourley from academia, he says now. Because he couldn’t win the academics over so easily, he began to think about applying his big theories to the real world. Without the frustration, he could very well have continued along the tenure-track path. And he’s glad to be outside of that.

Today, Gourley’s idea is still running around out there. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet changed the face of diplomacy as we know it, says Carne Ross, a former British diplomat who runs a nonprofit advisory group called the Independent Diplomat.

“Diplomacy is seeing remarkably little technological tools,” he says. “This community is very ideologically resistant to technology.” In intelligence and the military, though, he ventures that might not be the case.

As for Gourley himself? He’s no longer studying war anymore. Today finds him a couple of months into his second company; the first, Quid, helps companies do what Gourley did for war — crunch data, turn it into something visual and comprehensible, and act on it.

He’s worked with the Department of Defense, Hollywood types, Rupert Murdoch (who, he says, learned from the data that vampire movies are, in fact, still hot).

The second venture is a bit under wraps, but he tells me it’s tackling some tough AI problems.

“You can’t convince anyone with just math,” Gourley says now. “You have to build something.”

(The illusion that colored graphs from crunched data that fit a model is reality? I which I can get a copy of the war math paper to discuss it)




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