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抱歉2018年的世界只会更混乱,更疯狂

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Happy new year to you and yours, of course, but I’m going to have to put a halt to the festivities and play Frowning Farhad for a minute: You’re fooling yourself if you think 2018 is going to be any different, sanity- or anxiety-wise, from the roller coaster of the year just concluded.
当然,首先祝你和你的朋友们新年快乐,但我得先停止一下节日欢庆,暂时扮演一个眉头紧蹙的家伙:刚刚结束的那一年犹如过山车一样,如果你觉得2018年会有什么不同,那你就是在自欺欺人,不论从理性还是从焦虑水平方面来说。
Sure, as in any year, a lot of good things could happen in 2018, and perhaps lots of bad things will happen, too. (How’s that for a prediction?) But there is a deeper and more unsettling certainty about the ride upon which we’ve all just embarked: A lot of probably very crazy things will happen in 2018.
没错,和往年一样,2018年会发生许多好事,也可能会发生许多坏事。(这个预测怎么样?)但在我们大家刚刚开始的这个旅程之中,还存在另一种更深刻、更令人不安的必然性:2018年很可能会发生许多非常疯狂的事。
Get ready for even more events that don’t follow the rational course, and narratives that appear unmoored from the laws of politics, business and science. The background sensation of uncertainty that has pervaded much of the last two years isn’t going to abate. Just the opposite — my columnist’s Spidey sense tells me it’s only going to get worse. Strap in.
准备好迎接更多不合常理的事情吧,还有种种看起来脱离了政治、商业、科学规律的叙事。在过去两年中的大多数时候,我们都能察觉到空气中弥漫着不确定感,如今这个大背景不会消散。刚好相反——作为专栏作家,蜘蛛侠般的敏锐感觉告诉我,一切只会更糟糕。请系好安全带。
Just a few years ago, there was a dawning sense that technology would give us a peek around the corner. Thanks to reams of information — sensors and surveillance everywhere, and computing capacity to make sense of it all — it looked as if we were entering a “Minority Report”-type world, where much of the future could be foretold in our numbers. Google could predict flu trends, election-stats nerds could predict political outcomes, and predictive policing algorithms were going to give us a handle on crime.
仅在几年前,人们才刚刚产生一种感觉:科技会在角落里窥看我们。由于大量的信息——无处不在的传感器和监视器,以及让这一切产生意义的计算能力——我们似乎进入了一种《少数派报告》(Minority Report)式的世界,在这个世界里,我们的数据可以预言大部分的未来。谷歌能预计流感趋势,热衷选举统计的人可以预测政治选举结果,预测式的监控算法将会帮助我们解决犯罪问题。
Yet what has happened is rather quite different. Instead of revealing unseen order and predictability in the world, technology has unleashed a cascade of forces that have made the world more volatile — and thus made the future hazier and more open to out-of-the-blue results.
不过,实际发生的情况却与预测大相径庭。科技非但没有揭示世界上看不见的秩序和可预见的后果,反而释放出巨大的力量,使世界变得更不稳定,令未来变得更为模糊,更可能出现意外的结果。
Some of this isn’t news. In 2016 and 2017, the world began to appreciate how smartphones and social networks can upend what we once considered the natural order. Tech has helped undercut the power of incumbent institutions — governments, political parties, the media, the patriarchy — and it has created a new class of geopolitical actors whose presence and ricocheting power we’re all still getting used to: trolls, terrorists, conspiracy theorists, social-media activists, hackers and cyptocurrency bugs, among others.
有些情况不是新闻。在2016年和2017年,全世界开始意识到,智能手机和社交网络可能会颠覆我们曾经奉为天经地义的东西。科技帮助削弱了现有机构的力量(包括政府、政党、媒体和父权体系);创造了一个新的地缘政治群体:喷子、恐怖分子、阴谋论者、社交媒体活动分子、黑客和加密货币盗窃者等,我们仍在适应他们的存在,乃至他们急剧增长的力量。
These dynamics aided many of the biggest and most surprising stories in the last couple of years — Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the emergent resistance movement against him, the #MeToo avalanche, the decline of Uber, the rise of Bitcoin.
在过去几年里,这些力量帮助促成了很多最重大、最令人惊讶的故事——英国退欧;唐纳德·特朗普当选;对特朗普的紧急抵制运动;#MeToo(我也是)标签的大量使用;优步(Uber)的衰落;以及比特币的崛起。
Yet even as a barrage of surprising stories plays out, many of us have yet to come to grips with the permanence of this chaos. People seem to have a latent, hopeful sense that things are going to calm down, that we’re on the cusp of a more normal news cycle. I suspect that’s wrong. Chaos is the new normal; the apprehension you feel every time you get a notification on your phone — the fear that you don’t know what fresh horror it could bring — isn’t an overreaction but an adaptation. Thanks to phones and Facebook, anything really could happen tomorrow.
不过,尽管出现了一连串令人惊讶的故事,我们中的许多人还没有意识到这种混乱的持久性。人们似乎暗地里希望事态会慢慢平息,希望我们正在步入一个更为正常的新闻周期。我觉得这是一种错觉。混乱已成为新常态。你每次收到手机通知时所感受到的忧虑——你不知道它会带来什么可怕的新消息——不是过度反应,而是一种适应。由于电话和Facebook,明天真的什么事都有可能发生。
“I will tell you that as someone who does this professionally, my job has become a lot harder in the last few years,” said Amy Webb, a futurist who runs the Future Today Institute, a firm that helps big companies think about the possibilities of tomorrow.
“我要告诉你,作为一名专业人士,我的工作在过去几年里变得更加困难,”经营Future Today Institute公司的未来学家艾米·韦伯(Amy Webb)说。该公司帮助大公司思考未来的各种可能性。
“There are just a lot more variables in play,” Ms. Webb said. “Think about how a single tweet from Donald Trump can have all these strange reverberations across the world. You can almost apply chaos theory to Donald Trump’s Twitter account.”
“出现了许多新的变量,”韦伯说。“想想唐纳德·特朗普的一条推文能在全世界产生多少奇怪的后果,你就知道了。你几乎可以把混沌理论应用到唐纳德·特朗普的Twitter账户上。”
One of the touchstone ideas of chaos theory, which is the study of dynamic systems, is the “butterfly effect” — the idea that small changes in initial conditions can lead to huge differences in outcomes, like how a butterfly flapping its wings in Peru can cause a hurricane in Houston.
混沌理论是研究动态系统的学说,它的一个基本观点是“蝴蝶效应”,也就是说,初始条件下的微小变化会导致结果的巨大差异,比如,秘鲁的一只蝴蝶扇动翅膀会在休斯敦引起飓风。
Nowadays, because we’re hyperconnected, we see butterfly effects everywhere. A single confessional blog post by Susan Fowler, a former employee of the ride-hailing company Uber, led to a swirling online campaign that eventually brought down Travis Kalanick, Uber’s once indomitable chief executive — an outcome that, as far as I can tell, not a single observer of Uber predicted would happen long before it did.
现在,由于我们被非常紧密地联系在一起,我们发现蝴蝶效应无处不在。叫车公司优步的前雇员苏珊·福勒(Susan Fowler)发布了一篇自白性质的博客,在网上引发了一场庞大的运动,最终导致优步首席执行官特拉维斯·卡兰尼克(Travis Kalanick)下台,他的地位曾是那样不可动摇。据我所知,没有一个优步的观察者能在很久之前预测到这样的结果。
But it’s not just that one-off stories cause huge cascades; it’s that in a connected world, there are now so many one-off stories capable of setting off cascades, and no one knows which ones will hit.
但这不只是一个偶然事件造成巨大连锁反应的故事;如今,在这个相互联系的世界里,有很多偶然事件都能引发连锁反应,没有人知道哪些事件会产生重大后果。
Note how Mr. Trump was not brought down by the series of sexual harassment claims against him during the presidential campaign — and yet just a few months later, claims against a host of other powerful men spiraled into a culture-shaping movement that has upended many parts of the economy.
请注意,特朗普并没有因为总统竞选期间的一连串性骚扰指控而被打倒,但是仅在数月之后,对另一群有权势的人的指控就演变成了一场文化塑造运动,颠覆了经济的很多领域。
To continue the butterfly-effect analogy: “It used to be that there were a trillion butterflies each in their own weather system, but we have now connected all those butterflies into one planetary weather system — and you never know which one is going to have some kind of autocatalytic effect, and which one isn’t,” said Alexander Rose, executive director of the Long Now Foundation, an organization that aims to promote a long-term outlook on the world.
旨在促进世界长期前景的组织Long Now Foundation的执行董事亚历山大·罗斯(Alexander Rose)也使用了蝴蝶效应的类比,他说:“过去,有一万亿只蝴蝶存在于各自的天气系统里,但现在我们把所有这些蝴蝶联系起来,放到了一个行星天气系统里——你永远不知道哪只蝴蝶会产生某种自动催化效应,而哪只又不会。”
As if all that weren’t enough, there’s another complication to fold into the chaos: Technology isn’t stopping. The pace of technological change is in many cases too fast for anyone of us to comprehend or get used to; as a result, just as the world seems to get its head around one new force unleashed by tech, another comes along to discombobulate our efforts to respond to it.
所有这些似乎还不够,另一个复杂因素也加入了这场混乱之中:技术发展并没有停止。在很多情况下,技术变革的步伐太快了,我们任何人都无法理解或适应,因此,就在世界似乎刚搞清科技释放的一股新力量时,又出现了另一股力量,搅乱了我们应对之前那股力量的努力。
For example, in the past year and a half, social networks have tried several ways to tamp down the misinformation flowing online. Their efforts have been fitful at best, but already they risk being outdated. Soon artificial intelligence and augmented reality software will make it trivially easy to create not just text-based misinformation but entirely fake audio and video, too.
例如,在过去一年半的时间里,社交网络已经尝试了几种压制网上错误信息传播的方式。它们的努力充其量只是断断续续的,但已经有了过时的风险。不久后,人工智能和加强版虚拟现实软件将使创建完全虚假的音频和视频变得非常容易,而不仅是虚假的文本信息。
Last year, researchers at the University of Washington used A.I. to scan through footage of Barack Obama speaking, giving them a way to put just about any words into the former president’s mouth. Someone else thought up a more vulgar way to show off similar tech — a fake pornographic video of the actress Gal Gadot.
去年,华盛顿大学(University of Washington)的研究人员使用人工智能扫描了贝拉克·奥巴马的讲话片段,这种技术可以让这位前总统的嘴巴说出任何言论。还有人想出了一个更低俗的方式炫耀此类技术——他制作了一段女演员盖尔·加朵(Gal Gadot)的假色情视频。
In the run-up to the 2018 election, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have vowed to take on the kinds of misinformation and trolling that ran amok in 2016. But what if social media is hit with a wave of explosive, realistic-looking viral videos whose authenticity can’t be confirmed? It’s highly unlikely that the social networks, the news media or the political class will know how to respond to such a situation.
在2018年选举前的准备阶段,Facebook和Twitter等社交网络承诺要对2016年肆意泛滥的虚假信息和恶意挑衅采取行动。但是,如果社交媒体被一大波爆炸性的、看似真实的病毒视频淹没、而且它们的真实性无法得到证实,那该怎么办呢?届时社交网络、新闻媒体或政治阶层很可能并不知道应当如何应对这种情况。
抱歉,2018年的世界只会更混乱、更疯狂.gifMr. Rose pointed out that in the long span of human history, periods of turbulence aren’t unusual; technological change often prompts social and political instability and unpredictability. What is unusual now is that many of us aren’t used to this sort of chaos.
罗斯指出,在人类历史的长河中,动荡时期并不罕见,技术变革往往会引发社会和政治的不稳定和不可预测。现在的不同寻常之处在于,我们中的许多人不习惯于这种混乱。
“I’m 39, about to turn 40, and people like me who came of age in America in the ’80s and ’90s, we got used to a fairly predictable world,” said Nate Silver, the founder of the data-news site FiveThirtyEight, whose uncannily accurate forecast of the 2012 presidential election while at The New York Times set off wide interest in data-based journalistic predictions.
“我39岁了,马上奔四了,像我这样在美国的八九十年代长大的人习惯于一个非常可预测的世界,”数据新闻网站FiveThirtyEight的创始人纳特·西尔弗(Nate Silver)说。他在《纽约时报》期间对2012年总统大选的惊人准确预测引发了人们对基于数据的新闻预测的广泛兴趣。
“So I do think people are now realizing the world is less predictable than we thought it was,” Mr. Silver said. “But in some ways that’s a return to normal.”
“所以,我确实认为,人们现在意识到,世界比我们以为的更难预测,”西尔弗说。“但从某些方面讲,这是回归正常。”
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resistance [ri'zistəns]
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n. 抵抗力,反抗,反抗行动;阻力,电阻;反对
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indomitable [in'dɔmitəbl]
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adj. 不屈不挠的
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director [di'rektə, dai'rektə]
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n. 董事,经理,主管,指导者,导演
 
volatile ['vɔlətail]
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adj. 挥发性的,反复无常的,易变的,易爆的 n. 挥
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predictive [pri'diktiv]
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adj. 预言的,预兆的
 
predictability [pri.diktə'biliti]
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n. 可预见性
 
explosive [iks'pləusiv]
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adj. 爆炸(性)的
n. 炸药
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avalanche ['ævəlɑ:ntʃ]
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n. 雪崩
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comprehend [.kɔmpri'hend]
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vt. 充分理解,包括
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vulgar ['vʌlgə]
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adj. 通俗的,粗俗的
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