Tripoli threat: a warlords bid to take Libya
This economist podcast is brought to you by linked in jobs. Hello and welcome to the intelligence on economist radio. I'm your host. Jason Palmer every weekday. We provide a fresh perspective on the events shaping your world. The advertisements. You see on social media are chosen by algorithms? New research suggests that Facebook ads discriminate on the basis of race. But who to blame for the programmers biased where does their software just reflect the biases in society? We ask how to maintain a level playing field in age of algorithms. And slot machines bringing a surprising fraction of a casinos take. But young people just don't flock to them. Like prior generations, did the solution make one armed bandits more like video games that turns out to be trickier than it. Sounds. First up though. Today. History. Occasion in the political history of Libya today, we are told that Gadhafi is that it's been eight years since. Mm-hmm. Mortgage offie was deposed as leader of Libya and killed the country has been in turmoil ever since a u n backed so-called unity government holds a fragile power in the capital of Tripoli. Now, the country is in very real danger of descending into an all out civil war general Khalifa half tar is leading his rebel troops from the eastern part of the country to the capital twenty one people are reported to have been killed. General half. Tar is a former field marshal in Colonel Gadhafi's army who helped him seize power in nineteen sixty nine but also helped remove him more than forty years later calls for a ceasefire to evacuate civilians have so far and ignored. The warlord who controls the east of the country has pushed initially south. Roger McShane is are Middle East editor taking most of the southern part of the country, and is now pushing up towards Tripoli and has launched an offensive on the capital, which is controlled by a UN back government of national unity and right now, there's lots of fighting around the outskirts of the city not much fighting in the city, lots of finding around the disused airport. So you say there is this u n backed government is is it fully in control of Libya. No, it's not even really in control of the capital relies for security on militias and around Tripoli. It doesn't really provide any services to the people of Tripoli, and it certainly doesn't control the rest of the country. And what about flea tar would what are his objectives? Well, he thinks he's the only person in Libya who can unify and stabilize the country he has launched offensives against. Islamists and jihadists in cities like Benghazi, and he pushed further south in order to really stabilize that area. Which had been overrun with folks in the people smuggling trade in the drug smuggling trade and now he's pushing the Tripoli under the same pretenses. Of course, Tripoli is run by a UN back government, which sort of belies his intentions. How do you mean have has a habit of painting anyone who is against him as a terrorist Jihadist as an extremist? That's not quite the case. That's certainly not the case with the UN back government in Tripoli and the militias in and around Tripoli, and certainly the militias in MS rutta would not consider themselves extremists, which you really have is just a country that is full of armed groups full of militias each fighting for their own little patch of land and wealth. How did general have come to be in this position to to think of himself as the one man to unite the country? After as a pretty interesting background. He was a general under Qaddafi fill out with Qaddafi eventually moved to America and worked with the CIA for time in several tempts to overthrow Qaddafi. When the revolution broke out in two thousand eleven against Utah fee. He came back to help the rebels to overthrow him. And then he sort of retreated for while in two thousand fourteen as a country sort of falling back into civil conflict. He came back and took over what he called the Libyan national army, and sort of painting himself as just the one person who could really unite the country. And so why is he made this this big aggressive move? Now, if he's felt that way for all that time that's a really good question. And that's what everyone is trying to figure out. I mean, he moved south, and he moves south pretty easily took over most of the south pretty easily so that probably emboldened him, but this comes out of really odd time this offensive on Tripoli because you're the UN secretary general actually in. Tripoli as the offensive was launched. The secretary general was trying to organize a peace conference for the middle of this month. So it's a bit of weird timing, but it's sort of women people see us through the final bet for half. This is his final push that after this sort of diplomacy takes over. So this is his last chance to sort of really settle things militarily, and do you think it will work? What are the odds you think he can take Tripoli at the rate? He's going I think it'd be very tough. There was a thought that perhaps he can sort of by off militias and around Tripoli. But what we've seen actually is a lot of the militias are actually uniting you have the militias from his rutta coming in saying, they will defend the capital, and they're very powerful. I mean, if nothing else this is gonna be a long and bloody campaign if it continues, and how has the the international community responded to this. So the international community has come together and called for a stop to the fighting. But to this point they've been rather disunited. I mean, you have a number of parties that are behind have to our countries like Egypt countries. Like the UAE France sells them weapons Russia's well. And for different reasons, I mean, the UA and Egypt are anti Islamist, and they see Dr as an anti-islamic force France has oil interests in Libya that they think have doors best place to protect and and Russia sees a fellow third -tarian, and then you have other countries like America, like Italy like Britain. These are all countries that helped overthrow Qaddafi held back the rebels overthrew Qaddafi, and they have put their efforts behind the UN back government in Tripoli. I mean, really living is a bit of a forgotten country after the overthrow Qaddafi. Everyone just sort of backed off and forgot about it. In fact, Barack Obama has said that was one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency was forgetting about Libya, but it seems that there there is some level of American involvement there and there. Or even reports now of US troops being pulled out. I mean, how how involved is America America is involved in as much as it sees a civic counter terrorism interests in Libya, so it's helped with the fight against Islamic state in Libya, and other Jihadist groups. And you also have European powers? You'll quite interested in the I'm both for counterterrorism reasons. But also to stop the migrant-smuggling that occurs across the Mediterranean. So you have countries that are involved, but there's sort of all after their own interest in the not really working together to sort of help the u n back government in Tripoli, take hold. Roger, thanks for your time. My pleasure. This podcast is brought to you by linked in jobs. If you're looking to hire for your small business linked in jobs is the place to find them people come to linked in everyday to learn and advance their careers. So linked in understands what they're interested in and looking for which means when you use Lincoln jumps to hire someone you're matches are based on so much more than a resume posted job today at linked in dot com slash intelligence and get fifty dollars off your first job post. That's linked in dot com slash intelligence. Terms and conditions apply. The world is increasingly run on algorithms. These invisible lists of rules decide how much your flights caused what your next recommended TV program is even perhaps who you go on dates and fall in love with social media companies such as Facebook have made vast fortunes using algorithms to serve advertisements Senator. We run ads but new research has found that the software Facebook uses to distribute those ads has a problem. There was some research put online by a group of researchers at northeastern USC and advocacy firm called up work, and they were studying and measuring Facebook's distribution system, the automatic system that Facebook uses to send adds to the right people how Hudson is the economists technology correspondent what they found is that even if the ads that you Croft as an advertiser are completely neutral. They're not saying I want to send this to me white people earning black people or any. Live in this coder, that's code Facebook's own advertising system is taking upon itself. Automatically to deliver these adverts to a skewed audience more white people more black people, depending on the content of the ad depending on the picture, depending on the price. If you're selling something, and the reason this is worrying because it means that Facebook strike Antic. I'd network is discriminatory. Inheriting. He's been reporting on the bias built in to Facebook's algorithms if I place to ads that are otherwise identical for say a house for sale or for rent, or whatever the prices the same text in the ad is the same in the only thing that's different is the picture in one picture. It's a white family. And in one picture, it's a black family that I'd will be delivered differently to people depending only on the picture, and this is because face because using our fish intelligence in machine vision technology to analyze the picture. See what's in it? And then match it with people who I think are most likely to engage highly with it. So this means that. If I'm a real estate agency who just happens to us a lot of stock pictures of white families in my ads. What's happening is that those ads are being delivered less often to black people and the concern is that this is excluding black people and other minorities, it's not just about black people. But the study was mostly about black versus white. The concern is that Facebook's advertising system is excluding people from tune ity. And is there an implication that that's an intentional in some ways? Simply a more successful advertising strategy for them. No, there's zero implication that it's intentional. It's completely obvious that it's unintentional. There's no real reason. The Facebook would wanna introduce discrimination on purpose? The reason it is happened is slightly difficult to get one's head around. But affectively it is that Facebook is optimized its entire at distribution system. The software and the networks that look at odds and send them out to the right people at the right time. That is all the Mayes to get Facebook users to look those ads. Facebook wants engagement wants you to be paying attention to the ads that it sends to you. People pay it to send to you answered. The whole system is built around that. And it just turns out that humans engage in a way that is discriminatory, and when you measure their engagement and you say right on pasta. And this is what's going to work for engagement. It turns out that you're also introducing bias. How is this? So different from I have a particular demographic, I'm aiming to so with you know, luxury watch too, and you know, very much tailoring what you do in order to get that message out. So two things the first is that this is not about luxury watches. It's about ads for housing and jobs. Particularly credit is also another thing that there could be odds for that can be discriminatory, America's a society doesn't really mind. If you target high end jewelry adds to a certain group of people that might happen to be white more. So than black simply for the fact that because of the fact that in America, white people tend to be Richard black people on average this consumer good targeting doesn't matter. But the key point is that. Yes. Discrimination and targeting are kind of like two sides of the same coin by by definition, if I'm saying I want to send these people you're saying, I don't wanna send to those peop-. This is a real problem. And the question is how and whether targeting can continue without being discriminatory. And it looks like the answer is basically like really ease off on the targeting when it comes to things that were described to me by one of the people I spoke to for the story as life opportunity adverts things that really matter in your life, like housing and jobs. There is a set of rules in the United States called disparate impact. Which essentially says that even if you didn't mean to discriminate, it's still legal, and the reason that this was introduced because it became very easy for landlords to say, oh, I didn't mean to exclude black people when I advertised to rent my room. I just put it in the post codes that I like that have like people who I thought could afford it. And it turns out it's all white people in those neighborhoods. And so it became super easy to just like obstruct away. How and why you discriminated? So the rule is just like if you discriminate that's wrong. It's Facebook's responsibility. But it's maybe not so much their fault. And so what do you think the the the smart way forward is to ultimately this is yet another question of what's right for the world versus what's right for these companies? I think that probably the biggest fix would be. See for companies like Facebook to find a way to hire more diverse minds to work on these problems. You can imagine that even though it's not the software engineers, injecting the bias if you had had more people of color on your staff, for instance, they might have sort of thought about this. They might have been like, well, wait, you know, if we optimize for sending ads to people who are going to click in its ads for like housing than you know, they might have been able to see the steps that led to the discrimination in a way that a bunch of white people who've had relatively privileged lives going to Ivy leagues clearly did not they did not they missed that. And so, you know, it's at least an option that a more diverse set employees and staff set would have spotted these problems before they even happen in that would have been good for literally everyone does that can thing is that Facebook needs to really be fair. The Morty is trying to open up to outside researchers. Alan misled he's like the world expert on measuring Techsystems now, but he's doing it all sort of by hacking in from the outside the, you know, like. It's it's like a strana me compared to what it should be. It should be like biology where the microscope and nothing under the plate. He's having to work from a real distance. And I think that for Facebook to fix it self Enes outside help and it needs outside. Researchers to independently go say we found these problems, and there's indications that they're letting that happen to. So I actually think the diversity of staff thing is is the hardest and most important problem. I mean in a push to reduce bias can a an algorithm be designed bias free. No, absolutely. Not humans are all biased. We've all got cognitive bias sees if you go to the Kapiti a page of cognitive bias, easy, very very long and very in depth, and it will make you feel extremely insecure about yourself as a human being I suggest all listeners do it. It's really interesting. But the the bigger point is that it doesn't matter if we don't debiasi, the algorithms, what matters is that we have standards for how systems that operate in society work baselines, kind of like do not go below this line kind of thing and above that, you know, we're going to accept a little bit of discrimination. We don't really care who gets to see the adverts. For shoes we do really care who gets to see the adverts for housing. And so it's not about making bias free algorithms. It's about accepting that, you know, humans are biased and making sure that we don't propagate the worst bits of ourselves onto each other innocent of repeating loop for all of the future health things for much of your time. Sure. Jason good start. Columbia is on a historic path to peace after more than half a century of conflict. It's revolutionary army has demobilized and disarmed on the economist asks our interview show, my colleague and macelroy speaks to former Colombian president and Nobel laureate on Manuel Santos they chat about the peace process. How to resolve tensions in neighboring Venezuela and the economics of illegal drugs. The drug trade will never disappear as long as people in London or New York consume. This is a business that unfortunately is driven by the demand. And where there is the band. They will be surprised specially if prohibition increases the profits for the mafias that control the business. I just read the last biography of Winston Churchill, I I loved anecdote that appears in this biography when he went to the US through Canada during prohibition and he asked for a drink. And of course, they said this is prohibited. Any and he said, this is very strange country this huge profits that are made with the liquor sales here. The allow these profits to go to the mafias in my country, and in the UK, we give those pro. Treasury. And I think he was quite right. The economists asks is out every Friday find it wherever you listen. Here on the show. We've been asking journalists to drop in with numbers indicators and statistics that they've come across in the course of their reporting Benjamin, Sutherland writes about all sorts of things for the economist. And he's brought me one Benjamin. What number have you? Thirds. I I was expecting a whole number of to two thirds of what thirds of all gambling revenue at casinos in the United States. In Europe comes from slot machines percentage, that's a lot higher than many people would've expected. Well, exactly, there's there's all those table. The poker tables roulette wheels, craps tables, exactly. And and the table games play a far bigger role in in much of Asia. But in the United States in Europe, it's essentially the slot machines that are king. Right. But that seems to be changing the younger generation millennials haven't shown much interest in plain slot machines. And there's been something of a panic in the industry to try and figure out how in the world. Can they get younger millennial players was the answer? Well, one of the things that they've looked at as to introduce an element of skill in the slot machines to make them essentially like video games with the idea being that millennials and other younger people have grown up playing. Video games. There's an excitement there's a challenge. There's a skill. I mean that sounds simple enough. The better you are at the video game the more you could win. It seems pretty straightforward. It does. But it hasn't proven to be straightforward for starters. Jurisdictions have been reluctant to allow skill to be included in those games and regulators have been concerned that this is gonna lead to greater addiction in the so-called illusion of control that many gambling addicts have they feel that if they dress a certain way, or or or roll the dice a certain way it can control other chances of winning. Of course, that's not the case in and regulators have been hesitant. However in Vada in two thousand fifteen they change the law. And so those games have been introduced in innovative and New Jersey followed suit shortly thereafter, and I suppose the idea here is if it's a skill based thing then you'd want to sit there, and if you're really good at the game, you simply do better than the person next to you who's not so good at the game. Yes. Well, one of the problems is that some of the players are gonna feel concerned that they don't have the reflexes or the strategy is the guy sitting next to him in sold. They're kinda getting ripped off. But on a different level. You have the whole difficulty of getting what's known as the math model. Correct now with the standard slot machine. All the manufacturer has to do is twos. What's called a return to player, which is the amount of money that goes back to the gamblers over hundreds of thousands or even a million plays. But when some players are getting a higher return to player than others. The the house has to be a lot more careful in finding out. What's the sweet spot where the house is going to always win so to speak, but the players are gonna get enough return on their play to keep sitting there and keep pumping money into the machine. And that's that's proven very difficult. What do the people make of it is is this ploy working? It's been mixed essentially in certain places where the games have been introduced they've produced more money than the. Standard slot machines. But sometimes that novelty wears off and the amount of money. Those machines are earning his kind of come back down to normal. Thanks for joining us. Thank you very much. Enjoyed it. That's all episode of the intelligence if you like us give us a rating on apple podcasts, and you can subscribe to the economist at economists dot com slash radio offer, twelve issues for twelve dollars or twelve pounds. See about your tomorrow.