Significant and growing class of American voters

The voting patterns of religious groups in the U.S. have been scrutinized since the presidential election for evidence of shifting allegiances among the faithful. Many have wondered if a boost in Catholic support was behind Biden’s win or if a dip in support among evangelicals helped doom Trump.

But much less attention has been paid to one of the largest growing demographics among the U.S. electorate, one that has increased from around 5% of Americans to over 23% in the last 50 years: “Nones” – that is, the nonreligious.

I am a scholar of secularism in the U.S., and my focus is on the social and cultural presence of secular people – nonreligious people such as atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and those who simply don’t identify with any religion. They are an increasingly significant presence in American society, one which inevitably spills into the political arena.

The voters characterized as the “religious Right” continue at least as noisy as ever…while their economic and political power diminishes outside of the opportunist brigade in the Republican Party. And Trump has shattered that segment badly enough that it may be reduced to the same sort of historic footnote as George Wallace’s American Independent Party.

Meanwhile, I find Professor Zuckerman’s article encouraging – offering hope for scientific realism, hard facts, playing more of a role in American politics. Finally!

Might be you don’t want to take a human to a gunfight in the sky?

Last week, a technique popularized by DeepMind was adapted to control an autonomous F-16 fighter plane in a Pentagon-funded contest to show off the capabilities of AI systems. In the final stage of the event, a similar algorithm went head-to-head with a real F-16 pilot using a VR headset and simulator controls. The AI pilot won, 5-0.

The episode reveals DeepMind caught between two conflicting desires. The company doesn’t want its technology used to kill people. On the other hand, publishing research and source code helps advance the field of AI and lets others build upon its results. But that also allows others to use and adapt the code for their own purposes.

Others in AI are grappling with similar issues, as more ethically questionable uses of AI, from facial recognition to deepfakes to autonomous weapons, emerge.

The US and other countries are rushing to embrace the technology before adversaries can, and some experts say it will be difficult to prevent nations from crossing the line to full autonomy. It may also prove challenging for AI researchers to balance the principles of open scientific research with potential military uses of their ideas and code.

Trust your enemies? Trust your friends? Or worry about them behaving exactly how someone truly corrupt might recommend – like, for example, Congress!

Not publicly, of course.

5G – as it’s being rolled out – won’t transform much of anything

A blog post by Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile USA

❝ 5G is at the height of the hype curve right now…and there’s also a lot of misinformation. I’m not going to add to either…And when it’s ready for our customers…in a way that allows us to bring the benefits of 5G to the whole country…We are going to get it right.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the industry. But with the 5G path the other guys are on – what I’m calling the status quo – we will not see the transformational power this technology has to completely change EVERY industry. And that’s not good enough…

Verizon’s mmWave-only 5G plan is only for the few. And it will never reach rural America. Meanwhile, AT&T has rolled out a “5GE” icon to customers phones to dupe them into thinking their same-old 4G LTE service is something new and different (spoiler alert: it’s not)…

❝ Some of this is physics – millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum has great potential in terms of speed and capacity, but it doesn’t travel far from the cell site and doesn’t penetrate materials at all. It will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments.

Yes, we’re all being hyped by the buzzwords. Something like “Make America Great Again” for cellphones. RTFA to get a grasp of the questions that haven’t been answered well enough to bring this faster technology to everyone.

And there’s more…

❝ 5G is the “fifth generation” of wireless networks. It will cover a wide range of devices, including both mobile and fixed network infrastructure, i.e. both mobile smartphones, wearables and settled machines will be wireless. So does that mean in future we will need no fiber cables running around?

❝ Beneath the surface of the world’s wireless infrastructure lies a big net interwoven by the fiber optic cables. And at present 90% of all internet traffic travels over wireline fiber, even if it finally terminates in a wireless device. 5G is targeted at a connection speed of 1-10 Gbps, which is ten to hundred times higher than 4G. The overwhelming traffic to data centers will demand a transport media that is capable of high bandwidth and long distance, and fiber is the best future-proof choice among all mediums…

We won’t receiving 5G anything under most circumstances if it wasn’t delivered by fibre-optic cables to be broadcast in the first place.

Personally, my best hope is that cable providers bringing most of us existing broadband access capable of 4K movies and the 5K and 8K to follow…will have the smarts to compete and offer matching speeds at affordable prices. Technically, they can already step up to that standard across a lot of the map. They simply aren’t being pressed by sufficient competition to care to do that. Capitalism 101, 2nd semester.

Fake President May Have Left His Brain Behind in Some Other Dimension


Choose your favorite

❝ “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

And…

❝ “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID. They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.”

What? What?? WTF???

Way More Americans Probably Are Atheists Than We Thought

❝ After signing an executive order earlier this month that seeks to relax restrictions on the political activities of tax-exempt churches, President Trump said the order was an important affirmation of the American identity. “We’re a nation of believers,” he said. Trump is right in one sense — 69 percent of Americans say a belief in God is an important part of being American — but he’s wrong demographically: Atheists constitute a culturally significant part of American society.

❝ We’re not sure how significant, though. The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

❝ The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

Interesting article. Interesting methods. Having figured out I knew enough science to be an atheist by age 13, a philosophical materialist by age 18 – the questions are moot. If not boring. But, then, I don’t know anyone following my personal blog who’s older than me either. 🙂 Sorted these questions a long, long time ago.

Americans are a small measure less chickenshit about such questions, nowadays. Small.

And you’re afraid of what?

Attachment-1

TV talking heads keep talking about how Americans are all crapping their drawers over the terrorist threat. Have they considered analyzing how much of that is caused by their constant yammering – instead of reality.

I’m more likely to be killed by a stray bullet from a domestic violence shootout in the supermarket or a drug deal gone bad in the parking lot – than by gunfire from a terrorist sympathizer.