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When is a Computer No Longer Just A Computer? When Can a Computer Think Or Feel?

” A Pale Green Mermaid Blog “

  

  

  

Google translator is used worldwide as a basic translating system.  By feeding the system’s translator engine with transcripts from the United Nations proceedings and the European parliment, google hopes to create a system that will eventually preceed all other systems in accessibility to languages and communication between the peoples of the world.

  From NY Times Article,

“Google has fed its translation engine with transcripts of United Nations proceedings, which are translated by humans into six languages, and those of the European Parliament, which are translated into 23. This raw material is used to train systems for the most common languages.”

  

“This technology can make the language barrier go away,” said Franz Och, a principal scientist at Google who leads the company’s machine translation team. “It would allow anyone to communicate with anyone else.”

  

That is a lofty goal but what if in the process they are creating a  form of intelligence that grows and learns on its own, as indeed it is already doing,

 

“While many translation systems like Google’s use up to a billion words of text to create a model of a language, Google went much bigger: a few hundred billion English words. “The models become better and better the more text you process,” Mr. Och said.”

  

“Google has used a similar approach — immense computing power, heaps of data and statistics — to tackle other complex problems. In 2007, for example, it began offering 800-GOOG-411, a free directory assistance service that interprets spoken requests. It allowed Google to collect the voices of millions of people so it could get better at recognizing spoken English.

A year later, Google released a search-by-voice system that was as good as those that took other companies years to build.”

  

So if this system is getting faster, building quicker interior systems and using language as a base…how long will it take until all those billions of words sentences and essentially discussions of human feelings to form some kind of rudimentary thought processes / consciousness?

Maybe even before those at google realize it has happened…

Any scientists out there?? Let’s chat.

Peace

Note:

Excerpts from Article below,  Article from www.nytimes.com 

By MIGUEL HELFT
Published: March 8, 2010

Google Translate service handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate Web pages and other text.

The message said Google was a favorite search engine, but the result read: “The sliced raw fish shoes it wishes. Google green onion thing!”

Mr. Brin said Google ought to be able to do better. Six years later, its free

 

“What you see on Google Translate is state of the art” in computer translations that are not limited to a particular subject area, said Alon Lavie, an associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Google’s efforts to expand beyond searching the Web have met with mixed success. Its digital books project has been hung up in court, and the introduction of its social network, Buzz, raised privacy fears. The pattern suggests that it can sometimes misstep when it tries to challenge business traditions and cultural conventions.

But Google’s quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems.

The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world’s largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology. Last month, for example, it said it was working to combine its translation tool with image analysis, allowing a person to, say, take a cellphone photo of a menu in German and get an instant English translation.

“Machine translation is one of the best examples that shows Google’s strategic vision,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive of the technology publisher O’Reilly Media. “It is not something that anyone else is taking very seriously. But Google understands something about data that nobody else understands, and it is willing to make the investments necessary to tackle these kinds of complex problems ahead of the market.”

Creating a translation machine has long been seen as one of the toughest challenges in artificial intelligence. For decades, computer scientists tried using a rules-based approach — teaching the computer the linguistic rules of two languages and giving it the necessary dictionaries.

But in the mid-1990s, researchers began favoring a so-called statistical approach. They found that if they fed the computer thousands or millions of passages and their human-generated translations, it could learn to make accurate guesses about how to translate new texts.

It turns out that this technique, which requires huge amounts of data and lots of computing horsepower, is right up Google’s alley.

“Our infrastructure is very well-suited to this,” Vic Gundotra, a vice president for engineering at Google, said. “We can take approaches that others can’t even dream of.”

Automated translation systems are far from perfect, and even Google’s will not put human translators out of a job anytime soon. Experts say it is exceedingly difficult for a computer to break a sentence into parts, then translate and reassemble them.

But Google’s service is good enough to convey the essence of a news article, and it has become a quick source for translations for millions of people. “If you need a rough-and-ready translation, it’s the place to go,” said Philip Resnik, a machine translation expert and associate professor of linguistics at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Like its rivals in the field, most notably Microsoft and I.B.M., Google has fed its translation engine with transcripts of United Nations proceedings, which are translated by humans into six languages, and those of the European Parliament, which are translated into 23. This raw material is used to train systems for the most common languages.

But Google has scoured the text of the Web, as well as data from its book scanning project and other sources, to move beyond those languages. For more obscure languages, it has released a “tool kit” that helps users with translations and then adds those texts to its database.

Google’s offering could put a dent in sales of corporate translation software from companies like I.B.M. But automated translation is never likely to be a big moneymaker, at least not by the standards of Google’s advertising business. Still, Google’s efforts could pay off in several ways.

Because Google’s ads are ubiquitous online, anything that makes it easier for people to use the Web benefits the company. And the system could lead to interesting new applications. Last week, the company said it would use speech recognition to generate captions for English-language YouTube videos, which could then be translated into 50 other languages.

“This technology can make the language barrier go away,” said Franz Och, a principal scientist at Google who leads the company’s machine translation team. “It would allow anyone to communicate with anyone else.”

Mr. Och, a German researcher who previously worked at the University of Southern California, said he was initially reluctant to join Google, fearing it would treat translation as a side project. Larry Page, Google’s other founder, called to reassure him.

“He basically said that this is something that is very important for Google,” Mr. Och recalled recently. Mr. Och signed on in 2004 and was soon able to put Mr. Page’s promise to the test.

While many translation systems like Google’s use up to a billion words of text to create a model of a language, Google went much bigger: a few hundred billion English words. “The models become better and better the more text you process,” Mr. Och said.

The effort paid off. A year later, Google won a government-run competition that tests sophisticated translation systems.

Google has used a similar approach — immense computing power, heaps of data and statistics — to tackle other complex problems. In 2007, for example, it began offering 800-GOOG-411, a free directory assistance service that interprets spoken requests. It allowed Google to collect the voices of millions of people so it could get better at recognizing spoken English.

A year later, Google released a search-by-voice system that was as good as those that took other companies years to build.

And late last year, Google introduced a service called Goggles that analyzes cellphone photos, matching them to a database of more than a billion online images, including photos of streets taken for its Street View service.

Mr. Och acknowledged that Google’s translation system still needed improvement, but he said it was getting better fast. “The current quality improvement curve is still pretty steep,” he said.

 

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Metaphysical Meanderings: Trance / Mesmerizing States of Consciousness

” A Pale Green Mermaid Blog “

 

What is metaphysics and how does it relate to our lives?

Let’s Look at a discussion of  Clairvoyance.  (From www.Crystalinks.com  A science and metaphysical discussion site)

Clairvoyance

 

Clairvoyance is the art of ‘seeing’ beyond the five senses. Clairvoyance is often called the ‘sixth sense’ or esp. It is related to the images that are always present in our minds that bring messages from other frequency and realms. These images can be archetypes, colors, still frame, animations. They can be anything. They can remain on a few seconds or much longer. Initially its easiest to see them with your eyes closed. As you develop your psychic abilities will be able to look to higher frequency, with your eyes opened.

Rules to developing and trusting your increasing abilities.

 

  • Heal your issues and thus you will want to heal others
  • Create balance in your emotional and spiritual bodies or your messages will be as jumbled as your thinking
  • Your frequency will automatically raise and you will receive images
  • Experience, test and explore what is shown to you
  • The truth about reality will be given – your mission feeling here

In clairvoyance we ‘see’ with what is commonly called the third eye. In the human brain there is a gland called the pineal gland. It is located in the back area of the brain almost in the center of the head. This gland has degenerated from its original size comparable to a ping pong ball to its present size comparable to a pea, because we forgot how to use it a long time ago when our breathing patterns changed.

 

With our reality grid raising planetary frequency, people working out there issues, developing psychic abilities becomes easier in time. This is the Master Plan to awaken sleeping consciousness.

Some people become clairvoyant after a Near Death Experience, an alleged alien abduction, serious illness or accident, such as a blow to the head area, or opening the kundalini energies.

Some people use chemical stimulants or Psychedelics to heighten their awareness. This is something I do not advise as the information may not be accurate and physical side effects may occur later on.

Clairvoyance connects to the right side of the brain – the feminine, creative, and intuitive aspects. That explains the reason some people feel physical sensations in on the left side of their body. The energy enters in through the left side of your body so as to activate the right side of your brain.

 

 

Children can display psychic abilities leading parents to believe they are Indigo or Crystal Children.

Opening your clairvoyant gifts has to do with DNA activation of your encoded cellular memories, activation of your chakras, raising your frequency, balancing your energy bodies, your self esteem, the ability to trust in what you ‘hear’ and ‘see’, your emotional state, and expanding your knowledge base in all areas of physical reality.

You can’t do a reading for read someone on a subject, or understand symbols on a specific subject, if you have no knowledge of that subject. The brain will have no way of interpreting the archetypal symbolism into something you can understand. You can explain what you see, but we meaning must accompany imagery.

Once you have opened your clairvoyant gifts, it is like any other exercise … it gets easier and easier. Meditation and yoga help.

For centuries the gift of clairvoyance was forbidden and hidden in cryptic messages that few could interpret. People, and religious leaders feared the power of the gifted and the truth these people would bring to an enlightened consciousness.

Humanity has returned to an age of enlightenment in which we are all activating or DNA codes to discover who we are and why we are here. Clairvoyance is part of our total experience, the spiraling evolution of consciousness through the alchemy of time.

 


Clairvoyance – a noun from late 17th century French [clair (clear) & voyant (seeing)] – is defined as a form of extra-sensory perception whereas a person perceives distant objects, persons, or events, including perceiving an image hidden behind opaque objects and the detection of types of energy not normally perceptible to humans (i.e. radio waves). Typically, such perception is reported in visual terms, but may also include auditory impressions (sometimes called clairaudience) or kinesthetic impressions.

The term clairvoyance is often used broadly to refer to all forms of ESP where a person receives information through means other than those explainable by current science. Perhaps more often, it is used more narrowly to refer to reception of present-time information not from another person, there being other terms to refer to other forms: telepathy referring to reception of information from another person (i.e. presumably mind-to-mind); premonition and precognition that refer to gained information about places and events in the future. The terms clairsentience and remote perception are often used in reference to psi phenomena falling under this broader context.

As with all psi phenomena, there is wide disagreement and controversy within the sciences and even within parapsychology as to the existence of clairvoyance and the validity or interpretation of clairvoyance related experiments.

 

 

Have you ever had a metaphysical experience?

 

Peace

 

Images From Wikipedia

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Poem – ” Global Peace ” Poem A Day For 7 Days /3 – (Visual Poem)

” A Pale green Mermaid Blog”

A visual poem, Did pictograms or letters come first when writing began?  An experiment using images to express a sentence!

 

 

GLOBAL PEACE

 
 

 

 

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Random Rant / Edward R. Murrow And Creativity Unleashed (No Gratuitous Sex Or Violence Instead -THINK)

“A Pale Green Mermaid Blog”

 

If you watch TV these days there is a good chance you are being brain washed by some networks to accept drivel as entertainment.  Look, I am as guilty as anyone else, when looking for a  quick bit of entertainment after a tiring day of struggling to make a buck, of accepting drivel – after scanning  stations for 20 minutes but.. a perfect example of  this is NJ Housewives.

I forget what drivel I had accepted as view-worthy,  when I was repeatedly forced to watch (through excessive commercials ) what seemed to be the crux of the show called NJ Housewives.

 A few epiphanies follow,

1.  Believe you me, if you took a poll in NJ I doubt if even 1/2 of 1 percent of actual NJ housewives ever acted this way.

2.  Apparently  the “high ‘ point of the show was when a NJ wife upset a table,  at a restaurant and in response , some one, I think it was her husband, started choking her.

         A . what is that about ?  Excuse me but if you do not like how some one is behaving, walk away.  If you feel they are a danger to themselves or someone else call the  authorities or their therapist.     

2. Why did the camera person keep filming?  Why didn’t the production crew stop the altercation early on?

3. Why is this presented as entertainment ?  It is not.

By watching the violence and sex being presented to us through reality TV shows  we are diminishing our capacity to judge what is proper behavior and what is not.  The public is being force fed violence/cruelty and sex/humiliation. 

These two acts are the easiest and cheapest way for a network to fulfill its programming obligations.

 

Edward R Murrow warned the public at large, and the industry itself of the propensities and weaknesses of the medium  called television.  It is not about shying away or not portraying hard issues, it is about presenting them so there is no sensationalism – but to generate discussion/ thinking by the viewer,  not being told how to think,  but being asked to think -to draw conclusions of your own.

So keep your eyes open, when you sit down to watch a TV show, don’t allow the medium to tarnish your natural instinct to expect quality and sincerity in broadcasting.

 Thanks for listening to my rant!

 

Below is  Edward R Murrow’s  succinct and thoughtful  warning of what this medium could succumb to and how we as human beings should and must be ever vigilant in choosimg what we put into our minds and hearts.

 

Edward R. Murrow (born Egbert Roscoe Murrow;[1] April 25, 1908 – April 27, 1965) was an American broadcast journalist. He first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States and Canada.

Fellow journalists Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss and Alex Kendrick considered Murrow one of journalism’s greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news.

A pioneer of television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of TV news reports that helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Edward R. Murrow

April 8, 1956: CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow talking to reporters during a stop in Wiesbaden, Germany
Born April 25, 1908(1908-04-25)
Guilford County, North Carolina
Died April 27, 1965 (aged 57)
Brooklyn, New York

FROM WIKIPEDIA

 

Note:

EDWARD R. MURROWTelevision pioneer and philospher,    Speech made to the Rinda convention.

RTNDA Convention
Chicago
October 15, 1958

This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts. But the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television.

I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard that produces words and pictures. You will forgive me for not telling you that instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other. All of these things you know.

You should also know at the outset that, in the manner of witnesses before Congressional committees, I appear here voluntarily-by invitation-that I am an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I am neither an officer nor a director of that corporation and that these remarks are of a “do-it-yourself” nature. If what I have to say is responsible, then I alone am responsible for the saying of it. Seeking neither approbation from my employers, nor new sponsors, nor acclaim from the critics of radio and television, I cannot well be disappointed. Believing that potentially the commercial system of broadcasting as practiced in this country is the best and freest yet devised, I have decided to express my concern about what I believe to be happening to radio and television. These instruments have been good to me beyond my due. There exists in mind no reasonable grounds for personal complaint. I have no feud, either with my employers, any sponsors, or with the professional critics of radio and television. But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done–and are still doing–to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant.

I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry’s program planners believe. Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence. I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is–an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.

Several years ago, when we undertook to do a program on Egypt and Israel, well-meaning, experienced and intelligent friends shook their heads and said, “This you cannot do–you will be handed your head. It is an emotion-packed controversy, and there is no room for reason in it.” We did the program. Zionists, anti-Zionists, the friends of the Middle East, Egyptian and Israeli officials said, with a faint tone of surprise, “It was a fair count. The information was there. We have no complaints.”

Our experience was similar with two half-hour programs dealing with cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Both the medical profession and the tobacco industry cooperated in a rather wary fashion. But in the end of the day they were both reasonably content. The subject of radioactive fall-out and the banning of nuclear tests was, and is, highly controversial. But according to what little evidence there is, viewers were prepared to listen to both sides with reason and restraint. This is not said to claim any special or unusual competence in the presentation of controversial subjects, but rather to indicate that timidity in these areas is not warranted by the evidence.

Recently, network spokesmen have been disposed to complain that the professional critics of television have been “rather beastly.” There have been hints that somehow competition for the advertising dollar has caused the critics of print to gang up on television and radio. This reporter has no desire to defend the critics. They have space in which to do that on their own behalf. But it remains a fact that the newspapers and magazines are the only instruments of mass communication which remain free from sustained and regular critical comment. If the network spokesmen are so anguished about what appears in print, let them come forth and engage in a little sustained and regular comment regarding newspapers and magazines. It is an ancient and sad fact that most people in network television, and radio, have an exaggerated regard for what appears in print. And there have been cases where executives have refused to make even private comment or on a program for which they were responsible until they heard’d the reviews in print. This is hardly an exhibition confidence.

The oldest excuse of the networks for their timidity is their youth. Their spokesmen say, “We are young; we have not developed the traditions nor acquired the experience of the older media.” If they but knew it, they are building those traditions, creating those precedents everyday. Each time they yield to a voice from Washington or any political pressure, each time they eliminate something that might offend some section of the community, they are creating their own body of precedent and tradition. They are, in fact, not content to be “half safe.”

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize. Of course, to undertake an editorial policy, overt and clearly labeled, and obviously unsponsored, requires a station or a network to be responsible. Most stations today probably do not have the manpower to assume this responsibility, but the manpower could be recruited. Editorials would not be profitable; if they had a cutting edge, they might even offend. It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use the money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that is not libelous, obscene or defamatory. In that way one has the illusion of power without responsibility.

So far as radio–that most satisfying and rewarding instrument–is concerned, the diagnosis of its difficulties is rather easy. And obviously I speak only of news and information. In order to progress, it need only go backward. To the time when singing commercials were not allowed on news reports, when there was no middle commercial in a 15-minute news report, when radio was rather proud, alert and fast. I recently asked a network official, “Why this great rash of five-minute news reports (including three commercials) on weekends?” He replied, “Because that seems to be the only thing we can sell.”

In this kind of complex and confusing world, you can’t tell very much about the why of the news in broadcasts where only three minutes is available for news. The only man who could do that was Elmer Davis, and his kind aren’t about any more. If radio news is to be regarded as a commodity, only acceptable when saleable, then I don’t care what you call it–I say it isn’t news.

My memory also goes back to the time when the fear of a slight reduction in business did not result in an immediate cutback in bodies in the news and public affairs department, at a time when network profits had just reached an all-time high. We would all agree, I think, that whether on a station or a network, the stapling machine is a poor substitute for a newsroom typewriter.

One of the minor tragedies of television news and information is that the networks will not even defend their vital interests. When my employer, CBS, through a combination of enterprise and good luck, did an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the President uttered a few ill-chosen, uninformed words on the subject, and the network practically apologized. This produced a rarity. Many newspapers defended the CBS right to produce the program and commended it for initiative. But the other networks remained silent.

Likewise, when John Foster Dulles, by personal decree, banned American journalists from going to Communist China, and subsequently offered contradictory explanations, for his fiat the networks entered only a mild protest. Then they apparently forgot the unpleasantness. Can it be that this national industry is content to serve the public interest only with the trickle of news that comes out of Hong Kong, to leave its viewers in ignorance of the cataclysmic changes that are occurring in a nation of six hundred million people? I have no illusions about the difficulties reporting from a dictatorship, but our British and French allies have been better served–in their public interest–with some very useful information from their reporters in Communist China.

One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the coporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice-presidents, and at the same time– frequently on the same long day–to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs.

Sometimes there is a clash between the public interest and the corporate interest. A telephone call or a letter from the proper quarter in Washington is treated rather more seriously than a communication from an irate but not politically potent viewer. It is tempting enough to give away a little air time for frequently irresponsible and unwarranted utterances in an effort to temper the wind of criticism.

Upon occasion, economics and editorial judgment are in conflict. And there is no law which says that dollars will be defeated by duty. Not so long ago the President of the United States delivered a television address to the nation. He was discoursing on the possibility or probability of war between this nation and the Soviet Union and Communist China–a reasonably compelling subject. Two networks CBS and NBC, delayed that broadcast for an hour and fifteen minutes. If this decision was dictated by anything other than financial reasons, the networks didn’t deign to explain those reasons. That hour-and-fifteen-minute delay, by the way, is about twice the time required for an ICBM to travel from the Soviet Union to major targets in the United States. It is difficult to believe that this decision was made by men who love, respect and understand news.

So far, I have been dealing largely with the deficit side of the ledger, and the items could be expanded. But I have said, and I believe, that potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising. There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse. I do not suggest that news and information should be subsidized by foundations or private subscriptions. I am aware that the networks have expended, and are expending, very considerable sums of money on public affairs programs from which they cannot hope to receive any financial reward. I have had the privilege at CBS of presiding over a considerable number of such programs. I testify, and am able to stand here and say, that I have never had a program turned down by my superiors because of the money it would cost.

But we all know that you cannot reach the potential maximum audience in marginal time with a sustaining program. This is so because so many stations on the network–any network–will decline to carry it. Every licensee who applies for a grant to operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity makes certain promises as to what he will do in terms of program content. Many recipients of licenses have, in blunt language, welshed on those promises. The money-making machine somehow blunts their memories. The only remedy for this is closer inspection and punitive action by the F.C.C. But in the view of many this would come perilously close to supervision of program content by a federal agency.

So it seems that we cannot rely on philanthropic support or foundation subsidies; we cannot follow the “sustaining route”–the networks cannot pay all the freight–and the F.C.C. cannot or will not discipline those who abuse the facilities that belong to the public. What, then, is the answer? Do we merely stay in our comfortable nests, concluding that the obligation of these instruments has been discharged when we work at the job of informing the public for a minimum of time? Or do we believe that the preservation of the Republic is a seven-day-a-week job, demanding more awareness, better skills and more perseverance than we have yet contemplated.

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation. Heywood Broun once said, “No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch.” I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won’t be, but it could. Let us not shoot the wrong piano player. Do not be deluded into believing that the titular heads of the networks control what appears on their networks. They all have better taste. All are responsible to stockholders, and in my experience all are honorable men. But they must schedule what they can sell in the public market.

And this brings us to the nub of the question. In one sense it rather revolves around the phrase heard frequently along Madison Avenue: The Corporate Image. I am not precisely sure what this phrase means, but I would imagine that it reflects a desire on the part of the corporations who pay the advertising bills to have the public image, or believe that they are not merely bodies with no souls, panting in pursuit of elusive dollars. They would like us to believe that they can distinguish between the public good and the private or corporate gain. So the question is this: Are the big corporations who pay the freight for radio and television programs wise to use that time exclusively for the sale of goods and services? Is it in their own interest and that of the stockholders so to do? The sponsor of an hour’s television program is not buying merely the six minutes devoted to commercial message. He is determining, within broad limits, the sum total of the impact of the entire hour. If he always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologist will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or “letting the public decide.”

I refuse to believe that the presidents and chairmen of the boards of these big corporations want their corporate image to consist exclusively of a solemn voice in an echo chamber, or a pretty girl opening the door of a refrigerator, or a horse that talks. They want something better, and on occasion some of them have demonstrated it. But most of the men whose legal and moral responsibility it is to spend the stockholders’ money for advertising are removed from the realities of the mass media by five, six, or a dozen contraceptive layers of vice-presidents, public relations counsel and advertising agencies. Their business is to sell goods, and the competition is pretty tough.

But this nation is now in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command to empty the minds of their subjects and fill those minds with slogans, determination and faith in the future. If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us. We are engaged in a great experiment to discover whether a free public opinion can devise and direct methods of managing the affairs of the nation. We may fail. But we are handicapping ourselves needlessly.

Let us have a little competition. Not only in selling soap, cigarettes and automobiles, but in informing a troubled, apprehensive but receptive public. Why should not each of the 20 or 30 big corporations which dominate radio and television decide that they will give up one or two of their regularly scheduled programs each year, turn the time over to the networks and say in effect: “This is a tiny tithe, just a little bit of our profits. On this particular night we aren’t going to try to sell cigarettes or automobiles; this is merely a gesture to indicate our belief in the importance of ideas.” The networks should, and I think would, pay for the cost of producing the program. The advertiser, the sponsor, would get name credit but would have nothing to do with the content of the program. Would this blemish the corporate image? Would the stockholders object? I think not. For if the premise upon which our pluralistic society rests, which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right decision–if that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image but the corporations are done for.

There used to be an old phrase in this country, employed when someone talked too much. It was: “Go hire a hall.” Under this proposal the sponsor would have hired the hall; he has bought the time; the local station operator, no matter how indifferent, is going to carry the program-he has to. Then it’s up to the networks to fill the hall. I am not here talking about editorializing but about straightaway exposition as direct, unadorned and impartial as falliable human beings can make it. Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information. Let us dream to the extent of saying that on a given Sunday night the time normally occupied by Ed Sullivan is given over to a clinical survey of the state of American education, and a week or two later the time normally used by Steve Allen is devoted to a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East. Would the corporate image of their respective sponsors be damaged? Would the stockholders rise up in their wrath and complain? Would anything happen other than that a few million people would have received a little illumination on subjects that may well determine the future of this country, and therefore the future of the corporations? This method would also provide real competition between the networks as to which could outdo the others in the palatable presentation of information. It would provide an outlet for the young men of skill, and there are some even of dedication, who would like to do something other than devise methods of insulating while selling.

There may be other and simpler methods of utilizing these instruments of radio and television in the interests of a free society. But I know of none that could be so easily accomplished inside the framework of the existing commercial system. I don’t know how you would measure the success or failure of a given program. And it would be hard to prove the magnitude of the benefit accruing to the corporation which gave up one night of a variety or quiz show in order that the network might marshal its skills to do a thorough-going job on the present status of NATO, or plans for controlling nuclear tests. But I would reckon that the president, and indeed the majority of shareholders of the corporation who sponsored such a venture, would feel just a little bit better about the corporation and the country.

It may be that the present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live. I would like to see it done inside the existing framework, and I would like to see the doing of it redound to the credit of those who finance and program it. Measure the results by Nielsen, Trendex or Silex-it doesn’t matter. The main thing is to try. The responsibility can be easily placed, in spite of all the mouthings about giving the public what it wants. It rests on big business, and on big television, and it rests at the top. Responsibility is not something that can be assigned or delegated. And it promises its own reward: good business and good television.

Perhaps no one will do anything about it. I have ventured to outline it against a background of criticism that may have been too harsh only because I could think of nothing better. Someone once said–I think it was Max Eastman–that “that publisher serves his advertiser best who best serves his readers.” I cannot believe that radio and television, or the corporation that finance the programs, are serving well or truly their viewers or listeners, or themselves.

I began by saying that our history will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

We are to a large extent an imitative society. If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small traction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure would grow by contagion; the economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure–exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.

To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, “When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.” The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival. From Televisions Hidden Agenda

 www.rtnda.org    Electronic Journalist Organization – Edward R. Murrow award will be announced June 29 2009

 

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