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*Intelligent machines as commercial artifacts
Introduction paragraph 13
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In this paper, we demonstrated techniques for generating accessories in the form of eyeglass frames that, when printed and worn, can effectively fool state-of-the-art face-recognition systems. Our research builds on recent research in fooling machine-learning classifiers by perturbing inputs in an adversarial way, but does so with attention to two novel goals: the perturbations must be physically realizable and inconspicuous. We showed that our eyeglass frames enabled subjects to both dodge recognition and to impersonate others. We believe that our demonstration of techniques to realize these goals through printed eyeglass frames is both novel and important, and should inform future deliberations on the extent to which ML can be trusted in adversarial settings. Finally, we extended our work in two additional directions, first, to so-called black-box FRSs that can be queried but for which the internals are not known, and, second, to defeat state-of-the-art face detection systems.
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In the “real world” and the “tech world”, the core problems are still cultural, political and socioeconomic. The bugs in our societies are ones that get patched across generations and governments, the end result of the status quo colliding with new ways of doing, urgent social movements and broad anxieties. While we are more connected with the world, the bonds we once shared in our villages and public squares have broken down. Speaking of our neighbors is often less of an expression of shared community than judgment and speculation of those who happen to be on the other side of social divides we’d rather not cross
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Out in a bed of mussels, off the Monterey coast in California in a space exposed at low tide, a handful of green LEDs blink, indicating the location of a cohort of robomussels.
The little black data loggers, formed from polyester resin, have been precisely engineered by Brian Helmuth and his lab at Northeastern University to mimic the mussels already living there, a few of which researchers plucked out to make space for the fake ones. They’re here for a study of climate change, and, more precisely, its effect on one of the most important species found in the ocean.
Helmuth, a climate scientist, has been the driving force behind more than 70 of these plots, scattered across the globe, over the last 18 years. They’ve been logging information, in 10-minute intervals, on the temperature not of the air or water, but of the actual bodies of the Mytilus californianus mussels that live there. This gives a much more accurate picture of how climate change is affecting the species than the temperature of its surroundings could.
The mussels, which biologists call an “engineering species,” drive biodiversity and create habitat for other animals, says Helmuth, and so the scope of his research extends beyond the state of the intertidal ecosystems where the mussels live and to the way we understand the impacts of climate change on species, and how, and where, mussel farmers put their farms.
Read the article if you’re interested in more detail about some of the new marine refuges described in this excerpt, and others. Excerpt:
Earth is on the brink of a sea change. Its oceans are still mostly wild, without the obvious human footprint often seen on land, but they’re also increasingly plagued by man-made dangers such as climate change, overfishing and plastic.
Yet despite our inertia on many terrestrial issues like air pollution or deforestation, we’re actually building some momentum for saving the seas. It’s just a drop in the bucket so far, but the recent pace of ocean protection is promising nonetheless.
The latest big marine refuge was created Oct. 28, 2016, when 24 countries and the European Union struck a deal to protect 600,000 square miles of Antarctica’s Ross Sea. That’s about twice the size of Texas, and makes this the largest nature preserve on Earth. The move bans commercial fishing to protect a rich array of marine life.
Beyond Antarctica, the past few years have brought a surge of new marine sanctuaries to other parts of the world, including sprawling reserves near New Caledonia and Hawaii that each cover about 500,000 square miles. The nations of Gabon, Kiribati and Palau have all made waves with huge new refuges off their coasts, and the U.K. recently approved a 322,000 square-mile reserve around the Pitcairn Islands. Conservationists are now working to string together an array of protected areas to create the 30,000-island Pacific Oceanscape.
In September 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama also unveiled the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will protect 4,913 square miles of marine ecosystems off the coast of New England from commercial activity and development. According to the White House, this includes “three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four underwater mountains known as ‘seamounts’ that are biodiversity hotspots and home to many rare and endangered species.”
Along with another recent expansion of a U.S. marine monument (see below), world leaders have protected nearly 2 million square miles of ocean so far in 2016. That’s a sizable increase from the previous record of 730,000 square miles protected in 2015.
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Complex wave interference with phase and amplitude modulation along a curved path
Perhaps the ambiguity of the term, and what it might imply for navigating complexity with a spirit of openness and creativity, is what makes it so tantalizing and intriguing to those of us who deal with the unpredictability of socio-technical change and the vagaries of human relations. Negative capability, as it’s been widely interpreted, suggests a uniquely human capacity for living with and tolerating ambiguity and paradox and opens a space for counterintuitive non-action. So, what is this capability that is negative and yet a source of ‘tolerance’, ‘openness’, acceptance of mystery, uncertainty and doubt. Is it a skill, a gift, an ability or something altogether different?
“In the middle ages, migration, vagabondage, and the rise of crimes against property were part of the resistance to impoverishment and dispossession; these phenomena now took on massive proportions. Everywhere–if we give credit to the complaints of contemporary authorities–vagabonds were swarming, changing cities, crossing borders, sleeping in the haystacks or crowding at the gates of towns–a vast humanity involved in a diaspora of its own, that for decades escaped the authorities’ control. A massive reclamation and reappropriation of the stolen communal wealth was underway. In pursuit of social discipline, an attack was launched against all forms of collective sociality and sexuality including sports, games, dances, ale-wakes, festivals, and other group-rituals that had been a source of boding and solidarity among workers. What was at stake was the desocialization or decollectivization of the reproduction of the work-force, as well as the attempt to impose a more productive use of leisure time. The physical enclosure operated by land privatization and the hedging of the commons was amplified by a process of social enclosure, the reproduction of workers shifting from the open field to the home, from the community to the family, from the public space, to the private.”
–Sylvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch (viacatalytic-chamber)
Introduction to Owl Tranquilzers by William Velcrope (1975)
An extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.
The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.
Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.
Canada and Western Europe grow different varieties of rapeseed (canola), but Canadian farmers have adopted genetically modified seed, while European farmers have not. Still, the long-term yield trend for both areas is up:
In the last three decades, corn yields in Western Europe have largely kept pace with those in the United States.
Meanwhile, in the last decade sugar beet yields in Western Europe have increased more sharply than those in the United States.
G.M.O.s Were Supposed to Lessen Pesticide Use. Manufacturers also said that genetically modified crops would reduce the need for pesticides. In France, where G.M.O.s are not permitted, pesticide use has significantly declined.
But in the United States, while the use of insect- and fungus-killing chemicals has declined, farmers are using even more weed killers.
Much of the growth in the use of weed killers has come in Monsanto’s Roundup, in which the active ingredient is glyphosate.
Lecture delivered at De Balie, 25 October 2016We’re living through the most exciting period of technological innovation for at least 200 years — and the worst ten years of economic history since the 1930s. The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, put it starkly in March at the G20:“The global economy risks becoming trapped in a low growth, low inflation, low interest rate equilibrium.”The only thing to disagree with there is the word equilibrium. Economic crisis spilled over into social crisis; now we have a crisis of multilateral institutions
Reaching back four decades into the past to help imagine a future four decades hence, the film’s visual reference points include Edward Hopper’s iconic 1942 painting Nighthawks, Miss Havisham’s clutter-strewn bedroom in David Lean’s classic Dickens adaptation Great Expectations, and Joan Crawford’s vampish outfits in Mildred Pierce. The film’s rousing score by Vangelis throbs with strident analogue electronica, but also lonely jazz saxophones and bluesy echoes from the past. Blade Runner is saturated in melancholy, overshadowed by death and peopled by ghosts. Visually and sonically, it is awash with hauntological whispers.
Space travelers have struggled to explain exactly what it is about seeing the planet as a pale blue dot that evokes this feeling. Yet artists, filmmakers and other Earth-bound creatives have been inspired by what the astronauts can share. Author Benjamin Grant, who just released a book, Overview: A New Perspective of Earth, that draws on the rich photographic resources collected by satellites, is the latest person striving to convey the feeling.
Here are a few of the photos:
Gemasolar Thermasolar Plant, 37.560755°, –5.331908° This image captures the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain. The solar concentrator contains 2,650 heliostat mirrors that focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through a 140-metre-tall (460-foot) central tower. The molten salt then circulates from the tower to a storage tank, where it is used to produce steam and generate electricity. In total, the facility displaces approximately 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. (All images in this gallery are reprinted with permission from Overview by Benjamin Grant, copyright © 2016. Published by Amphoto Books, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Images © 2016 by DigitalGlobe, Inc.)
Iron Ore Mine Tailings Pond, 46.407676°, –87.530954° Tailings are the waste and by-products generated by mining operations. The tailings seen here were pumped into the Gribbens Basin, next to the Empire and Tilden Iron Ore Mines in Negaunee, Michigan, USA. Once the materials are pumped into the pond, they are mixed with water to create a sloppy form of mud known as slurry. The slurry is then pumped through magnetic separation chambers to extract usable ore and increase the mine’s total output. For a sense of scale, this Overview shows approximately 2.5 square kilometres (1 square mile) of the basin.
Arlit Uranium Mine, 18.748570°, 7.308219° The Arlit Uranium Mine is located in Arlit, Niger. French nuclear power generation, as well as the French nuclear weapons programme, are both dependent on the uranium that is extracted from the mine—more than 3,400 tonnes per year.
It’s easy to think that we’ve discovered most of the species on the planet. In fact, the booming field of metagenomics is using big data to help scientists better understand new and vast unexplored regions of the natural world: the microbiome. In the last few years, the price of genetic sequencing has plummeted to the point where scientists can now study ecosystems in their entirety, not just the parts of it that they already know how to identify.This new way of working relies on the visualization of truly enormous sets of interrelated data about organisms that often are new to science.The Banfield Lab at Berkeley recently collaborated with Stamen to bring this data to life, using advanced data interaction and interactive visualizations to make it easier to understand these vast new landscapes of genetic diversity.
“The caption is made to constrain the photograph into a single state rather than open it up to amplification. If a photograph is said to be a worth a thousand words, very few of those words generally come to mind after a caption tells the reader what the photo is supposed to be about.”
After Photography Fred Ritchin (vianotesonphotography)
Amazon Cloud Drive has unlimited photo storage, so I backed up a lot of manuscript images there. Went into the new…
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Our first post on the blog of the Thingclash project was a compilation of writings about the Internet of Things that provide a critical lens on the IoT and its social and cultural impacts. We’ve put that list here so it can grow and become a dynamic resource over time.
“scene of the horror spider event”
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Nakamenugo, Meguro, Tokyo, 24 May. 2012
Is “now” expandable? Why do you seem to experience time in slow motion in a sudden emergency, like an accident? Eagleman’s (terrifying) experiments show that in fact you don’t perceive more densely, the amygdala cuts in and records the experience more densely, so when the brain looks back at that dense record, it thinks that time must have subjectively slowed down, but it didn’t. “Time and memory are inseparable.” This also explains why time seems to speed up as you age. A child experiences endless novelty, and each summer feels like it lasted forever. But you learn to automatize everything as you age, and novelty is reduced accordingly, apparently speeding time up. All you have to do to feel like you‘re living longer, with a life as rich as a child’s, is to never stop introducing novelty in your life.
Text summarization problem has many useful applications. If you run a website, you can create titles and short summaries for user generated content. If you want to read a lot of articles and don’t have time to do that, your virtual assistant can summarize main points from these articles for you. It is not an easy problem to solve. There are multiple approaches, including various supervised and unsupervised algorithms. Some algorithms rank the importance of sentences within the text and then construct a summary out of important sentences, others are end-to-end generative models. End-to-end machine learning algorithms are interesting to try. After all, end-to-end algorithms demonstrate good results in other areas, like image recognition, speech recognition, language translation, and even question-answering.
L̶e̶ ̶S̶o̶i̶r̶ édité (@lesoir_diff) est un twitter bot qui tente de capturer les changements et corrections d’articles publiés en Une du site du journal Le Soir. On le sait, l’information de nos jours court plus vite que le temps qu’on a pour la lire. Les rédactions se sont complètement informatisées et connectées de l’écriture à la publication. Ce qui permet évidemment beaucoup de choses: autant d’offrir un article à ses lecteurs dès qu’il est écrit, que de pouvoir le corriger ou de le compléter alors qu’il est déjà publié. Cela arrive aussi parfois que des articles soient même supprimés, comme l’a repéré la RTBF avec cette intox sur un adolescente qui aurait attaqué ses parents en justice à cause de photos publiées sur Facebook.
In a painstaking analysis, Gada drills down on the insight that economists have entirely missed a crucial feature of the modern world called “technological deflation”. While the concept is nuanced, the basic point of technological deflation is that technological things (like, say, iPhones) have the funny habit of becoming “almost free” very quickly. Remember that fancy new iPhone 6 you bought for $600 back in 2013? How much is it worth now? Well, today if you are so inclined, you can get a brand-new one for $150. One fourth the cost in three short years. Remember, we aren’t talking about buying a used iPhone 6, these are brand new. In another two years, you’d be hard pressed to give one of these away.You don’t see this kind of price deflation everywhere. In fact, in our modern society, we tend to expect to see prices rise over time. Oranges, for example, cost more today than they cost in 2012. Same with milk. A new Eames Chair from Knoll costs a solid $5,000. The same chair brand new cost a mere $310 in 1956. And if you want to ask “how much is that in today’s dollars” you are hitting the point: we are so very used to inflation that we intuitively think of the money itself as different. And yet, a brand new iPhone 6 today costs only one fourth as much as the same phone three years ago. Technological things are, quite vigorously, swimming against the inflationary current.
Happy birthday to Ursula K. Le Guin: “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”
So much for classical objects and time travel. But what would happen if a quantum particle entered a closed time-like curve? In the early 90s, the physicist David Deutsch showed that not only is this possible but that it can only happen in a way that does not allow superluminal signalling. So quantum mechanics plays havoc with causality but in a way that is consistent with relativity and so prevents grandfather-type paradoxes. Deutsch’s result has extraordinary implications. It implies that closed time-like curves can be used to solve NP-complete problems in polynomial time and to violate Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
A while back I roamed the streets of India with tiny Mars probes, speaking to strangers about space missions, aliens, climate change and nationalism. It was the start of a thrilling adventure exploring the history and future of India’s space program within the context of global geopolitics, militarization and cultural imperialism. From astronauts to afronauts, from cosmonauts to vyomanauts, how can deep space exploration inspire us to create more democratic future visions?
The first ever anthology of science fiction from Iraq, with the man himself, its editor!
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(photo by Brigitta Moser)
This problem has a name: the paradox of automation. It applies in a wide variety of contexts, from the operators of nuclear power stations to the crew of cruise ships, from the simple fact that we can no longer remember phone numbers because we have them all stored in our mobile phones, to the way we now struggle with mental arithmetic because we are surrounded by electronic calculators. The better the automatic systems, the more out-of-practice human operators will be, and the more extreme the situations they will have to face. The psychologist James Reason, author of Human Error, wrote: “Manual control is a highly skilled activity, and skills need to be practised continuously in order to maintain them. Yet an automatic control system that fails only rarely denies operators the opportunity for practising these basic control skills … when manual takeover is necessary something has usually gone wrong; this means that operators need to be more rather than less skilled in order to cope with these atypical conditions.”The paradox of automation, then, has three strands to it. First, automatic systems accommodate incompetence by being easy to operate and by automatically correcting mistakes. Because of this, an inexpert operator can function for a long time before his lack of skill becomes apparent – his incompetence is a hidden weakness that can persist almost indefinitely. Second, even if operators are expert, automatic systems erode their skills by removing the need for practice. Third, automatic systems tend to fail either in unusual situations or in ways that produce unusual situations, requiring a particularly skilful response. A more capable and reliable automatic system makes the situation worse.
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- Ernest Becker’s Ideas on Denial of Death and the Symbolic Self
- “A recent paper by the biologist Janis L Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult for people to repress thoughts of death, and that they might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival(14). There is already experimental evidence suggesting that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption(15). Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.” - Monbiot, Death Denial
Ted Chiang’s very short story, “The Great Silence” adds another set of questions to these speculations. Why, he asks, are we so interested in finding intelligence in the stars and so deaf to the many species who manifest it here on earth? And also: why have we demanded that, as proof of intelligence, non-human animals communicate to us in human language, and then dismissed those creatures that actually do so?
Last year I spent a lot of time covering the Greek crisis for Newsnight. Much of what I learned then feels relevant to Brexit. So, here are a few of those lessons.
We’ve long been fascinated by the Huaqiangbei electronics market area of Shenzhen. (Hereafter, we’ll just call it HQB.) If you need some bit of electronics or a phone accessory, you can find it in HQB. There is an entire multi-floor shopping mall that sells nothing but phone cases. There’s one that specializes in smartwatches. There’s a mall that sells cellphones wholesale. There’s one just for surveillance cameras. And then there are the component markets. Need a chip? Or 250,000 chips? Somebody there can get them for you.
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“A few things are certain: we have not always existed; we will not always exist; we exist right now. Whatever nothingness truly is, we are all something right now. And whatever exists right now, it did, at some level, come from nothing, no matter how you define nothing. And as best as we understand the Universe, it will return to a state approaching an infinite, physical nothingness as well. But as to just what the nature of the ultimate “nothingness” truly is? That’s still, perhaps, the secret we’re all fundamentally searching for.”
This question has been on my mind for over a year now. In a time that seems to become more dystopian each day, it might be rather normal to yearn for new positive visions. I’m also not very fond of the utopian visions of Silicon Valley’s libertarians (Musk, Brin & Page, Zuckerberg, Kurzweil, etc.). Furthermore, ten years of Merkel here in Germany might play a role. So I’ve been investigating the topic of utopia, read books (fiction and non-fiction), essays, articles, etc. It has been quite easy because of the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, last year. But I’m still finding it hard to answer the question if utopias are what we need right now, and if yes, what kind of utopias. Because the track record of past utopias is not exactly stellar.
I’ve written and given a lot of talks on how building a sustainably prosperous global economy is an opportunity — a set of investments that will leave us better off, even while we avoid the worst of the planetary crisis we face. It’s only now becoming clear what the scale of that opportunity is. It is only now easy to see that a giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like. The Guardian reported last week on a new study saying that over the next 15 years, to meet our climate goals, we’ll need to shift $90 trillion worth of new infrastructure spending to low- or zero-carbon models
Last Thursday, with friends and colleagues from Open Rights Group, I spent a few hours at the Adult Provider Network’s Age Verification Demonstration (“the demo”) to watch demonstrations of technologies which attempt to fulfil Age Verification requirements for access to online porn in the UK. Specifically: Age Verification (“AV”) is a requirement of part 3 of the Digital Economy Bill that seeks to “prevent access by persons under the age of 18” to “pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis”. There are many contentious social and business issues related to AV[…] there are many open questions and many criticisms of the Digital Economy Bill’s provisions; but to date there appears to have been no critical appraisal of the proposed technologies for AV, and so that is what I seek to address in this posting.
“The government is now recruiting clinical psychologists and therapists in its attempts to cut welfare spending. Friedli and Stearn (2015) have shown how ‘psycho-compulsion’ (a range of psychological ‘assessments’ and ‘interventions’) now control the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens with disabilities and mental health service users. Psycho-compulsion involves the imposition of psychological explanations for an individual’s unemployment. 5 This originates in the neoliberal view that unemployment is caused by ‘faulty’ beliefs about the reasons the person is unemployed. These beliefs in turn give rise to ‘faulty’ attitudes and behaviours, especially so-called ‘benefit dependency’. Consequently, unemployed people end up on benefits long-term, and resist seeking paid employment. This has led to a variety of assessments aimed at identifying the ‘faulty’ personal beliefs and attempts to ‘rectify’ them through ‘therapy’. These psychological ‘assessments’ and ‘therapeutic interventions’ are imposed on benefit claimants. If they refuse to comply, their benefits are suspended or stopped. Psychologists and therapists are recruited to modify the beliefs of people on benefits, who are punished if they fail to comply (Friedli& Stearn, 2015, p. 42).
Psycho-compulsion draws heavily on the ‘strengths-based’ literature of positive psychology, especially notions of confidence, resilience, optimism and self-efficacy in recovery. Positive psychology is suspicious of conventional ‘depth’ psychology that encourages the person to reflect inwardly on feelings, beliefs and past experiences, especially relating to trauma and adversity (Binkley, 2011). Instead, it encourages the person to take responsibility for his or her own feelings, dwelling on the importance of finding ‘happiness’. 6 It explicitly rejects attempts to understand the person’s problems in terms of past or current adversity, and instead focuses on future action. It renounces the main object of therapeutic work – the painful exploration of difficult emotional states by talking about them. It is not interested in engaging with suffering. It isolates and alienates the person from her or his peers; in doing so it fragments solidarity, thus weakening the possibility of collective action.”
–Thomas P (2016) Psycho politics, neoliberal governmentality and austerity. Self& Society,