August 18, 2022

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The Edge
Ithaca Writers’ Advocacy Group Expresses Solidarity with Salman Rushdie

The board of Ithaca City of Asylum, a local organization that has been giving shelter to endangered writers for 20 years, joins with many authors and human rights advocates worldwide in condemning the brutal attack on novelist Salman Rushdie in Chautauqua, New York, on August 12th.

Targeted by Islamic extremists for many years after publication of his novel, “The Satanic Verses,” Rushdie has frequently spoken out for the need to protect the right of free expression for all artists. His is a courageous voice for freedom, and such vital voices must never be silenced.

Read Ithaca City of Asylum’s full statement on The Edge.

Serena Williams’ Evolution: Our Bodies, Our Choices

“Serena chooses birthing a second child in a society where women — every one of us — have lost the right to abortion, where our choices have been stripped down so that we are not full citizens with legal rights to our bodies.”

Zillah Eisenstein examines the contextual surround of Serena Williams’ decision to leave tennis, involving the strain of elite sports, pregnancy, wages, and choice.

“Serena’s decision puts the issue of ‘choice’ in bold, whatever the consequences might be. Choice about pregnancy and access to the health care that makes it possible, and access to abortion as well, is crucial to a meaningful self-determined life.

Read Eisenstein’s full commentary on The Edge.

How to See Wars Beyond the Frame

Wars are ubiquitous in the everyday lives of people who imagine themselves living in peace. Yet, it is easy not to see them.

It is even easier not to see wars when happening elsewhere, even if they are constantly in the news. David Shields’ careful analysis of The New York Times’ front-page photographs of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that the images were selected to go well with morning coffee; wars are made to be beautiful, especially when frequently served with breakfast.

Aida A. Hozić shows how artists look past beautiful, staged war images to see “an elephant, just at the edge of the photograph.”

Read Hozić’s commentary on The Edge.

LaMDA: How Google’s Chatbot Perpetuates the Socio-Political Status Quo

Cognitive scientist and software engineer Blake Lemoine recently made headlines by claiming that Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), is sentient. He lost his job.

Because LaMDA learns by studying the language we leave laying around on the internet, the case raises questions about our responsibility as members of publics that learn from their engagement with technologies such as LaMDA.

On continuing debates regarding AI sentience, Heidi Rae Cooley posits, “We are LaMDA. Whether or not it is sentient, we — the social we — are both its tutors and its clients. We need to take responsibility for the words we leave behind.”

Read Cooley’s full commentary on The Edge.

In Other News

1. Weisselberg pleads guilty to fraud as Trump team arrives for Mar-a-Lago affidavit hearing | The Independent

2. The Problem With Companies Promising to Pay for Abortion Travel | The Atlantic

3. Ron DeSantis Sued By Florida Prosecutor He Removed Over Abortion, Transgender Rights | HuffPost

4. Algeria forest fires: At least 38 dead, emergency officials say | BBC

5. Police call for Bolsonaro to be charged for spreading Covid misinformation | The Guardian

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The Indy Brief is edited by Jeremy Lovelett.