Links: The Problem with Muzak, Dice sort themselves, hundrets of Pterosaur Eggs and the Judith Butler Affair

🎸 Fuck Spotify, use Bandcamp. The Problem with Muzak:

digital strategists have identified “lean back listening” as an ever more popular Spotify-induced phenomenon. It turns out that playlists have spawned a new type of music listener, one who thinks less about the artist or album they are seeking out, and instead connects with emotions, moods and activities, where they just pick a playlist and let it roll: “Chillin’ On a Dirt Road,” “License to Chill,” “Cinematic Chill Out.” They’re all there.

These algorithmically designed playlists, in other words, have seized on an audience of distracted, perhaps overworked, or anxious listeners whose stress-filled clicks now generate anesthetized, algorithmically designed playlists.

📖 Derivative Sport: The Journalistic Legacy of David Foster Wallace: Leslie Jamison: I should probably start by saying—and the very insertion of this disclaimer is itself probably a symptom of Wallace’s imprint on my style, the sudden plunge into intimate conversation with one’s reader, not infrequently by way of apology!—that Infinite Jest has been, by quite a bit, the most personally meaningful to me of all of the Wallace writing that I’ve read. Partially because he’s so moving on recovery, material he preferred to treat in fiction. But also for the sheer energy and complexity and wrinkled-ness of its imagination, for the way that imagination never once forgot it was animated by beating human hearts there in the text. And Wallace’s interest in the possibilities of sincerity, the way that it wasn’t necessarily opposed to rigor but could be its ally—that’s really artistically and humanly inspiring to me.

🎲 Focus: Dice Become Ordered When Stirred, Not Shaken: Repeatedly tap on a box of marbles or sand and the pieces will pack themselves more tightly with each tap. However, the contents will only approach its maximum density after a long time and if you use a carefully crafted tapping sequence.

Paper: Experimental Study of Ordering of Hard Cubes by Shearing

👁 China: Die AAA-Bürger: Wer hingegen unter einen Wert von 600 fällt, landet in der schlechtesten Kategorie D. Betroffene müssen sogar befürchten, ihre Jobs zu verlieren. Über eine Smartphone-App kann sich jeder über den eigenen Punktestand informieren. Aber neben Behörden sollen auch Banken und Arbeitgeber, Vermieter, Einkaufsplattformen, Reiseveranstalter und Fluggesellschaften Einsicht in die Bewertung erhalten.
Als Datenquellen kommen Kranken- und Gerichtsakten, Onlineshopping oder Beiträge in sozialen Netzwerken in Betracht. Ebenso Internet-Suchanfragen, Reisepläne oder Einkäufe mit Kreditkarte oder den Bezahl-Apps, die in China weit verbreitet sind. Diese Daten analysiert und gewichtet das System, um daraus die Punktzahl abzuleiten. Noch wird die Bürgerbewertung lediglich ausprobiert. Doch bereits 2020 könnte es den derzeitigen Plänen zufolge für jeden chinesischen Staatsbürger zur Pflicht werden, sich mit seiner Sozialausweisnummer dafür registrieren zu lassen.

🕴 The impossibility of intelligence explosion: In 1965, I. J. Good described for the first time the notion of “intelligence explosion”, as it relates to artificial intelligence (AI):

The first issue I see with the intelligence explosion theory is a failure to recognize that intelligence is necessarily part of a broader system — a vision of intelligence as a “brain in jar” that can be made arbitrarily intelligent independently of its situation. A brain is just a piece of biological tissue, there is nothing intrinsically intelligent about it. Beyond your brain, your body and senses — your sensorimotor affordances — are a fundamental part of your mind. Your environment is a fundamental part of your mind. Human culture is a fundamental part of your mind. These are, after all, where all of your thoughts come from. You cannot dissociate intelligence from the context in which it expresses itself.
In particular, there is no such thing as “general” intelligence. On an abstract level, we know this for a fact via the “no free lunch” theorem — stating that no problem-solving algorithm can outperform random chance across all possible problems. If intelligence is a problem-solving algorithm, then it can only be understood with respect to a specific problem. In a more concrete way, we can observe this empirically in that all intelligent systems we know are highly specialized. The intelligence of the AIs we build today is hyper specialized in extremely narrow tasks — like playing Go, or classifying images into 10,000 known categories. The intelligence of an octopus is specialized in the problem of being an octopus. The intelligence of a human is specialized in the problem of being human.
What would happen if we were to put a freshly-created human brain in the body of an octopus, and let in live at the bottom of the ocean? Would it even learn to use its eight-legged body? Would it survive past a few days? We cannot perform this experiment, but we do know that cognitive development in humans and animals is driven by hardcoded, innate dynamics. Human babies are born with an advanced set of reflex behaviors and innate learning templates that drive their early sensorimotor development, and that are fundamentally intertwined with the structure of the human sensorimotor space. The brain has hardcoded conceptions of having a body with hands that can grab, a mouth that can suck, eyes mounted on a moving head that can be used to visually follow objects (the vestibulo-ocular reflex), and these preconceptions are required for human intelligence to start taking control of the human body. It has even been convincingly argued, for instance by Chomsky, that very high-level human cognitive features, such as our ability to develop language, are innate.

🐊 Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs, some with embryos, found in China: Archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs in northwestern China. The number is unprecedented — 215 eggs — but even more significant from a paleontological perspective is the discovery of 16 unsquashed, still perfectly 3D embryos among them. Before this, only six other well-preserved pterosaur eggs had been found and none of them had 3D embryos inside. Frozen in time at various stages of development, the embryos have to potential to reveal a great deal we don’t know about the creatures, their lives and behaviors. The team saw what a treasure they had when they CT-scanned the eggs.

Das Geile Neue Internet

🤖 People Are Getting Robocalls About Their "Derogatory" Trump Posts: Brett Vanderbrook was driving for Uber last week when he got a call from an unfamiliar number. He let it go to voicemail and when he listened to it later, he got a shock: It was a recorded message telling him to stop making “negative and derogatory posts about President Trump.”

☝️ This has to do with everything Ihr Lappen!: Was haben folgende Patienten gemeinsam? Ein Mann wird vom Rettungsdienst gebracht. Er hat Schmerzen im Zeh. Seinem Kumpel hat er in den Hintern getreten und jetzt tut es total weh. Den Rettungsdienst hätte er gebraucht, weil er nicht wusste, wie er sonst hätte in die Notaufnahme kommen sollen.

Die Mehrzahl dieser 1990 -ger Lappen hat jedenfalls ausschließlich Pillepalle. Und vertrauen modernster Medizin mehr als der Omma, der Zeit, die vieles heilt oder ihrem Körpergefühl, das selten existiert.

Irgendwann hatte ich die Erkenntnis, als ich mir einer der Mütter näher betrachtete, die mit ihrem Sohn und 39° Grad Fieber kam: […] Es ist […] meine Generation, die einen erheblichen Anteil an diesem „Ich fühle mich ein bisschen schlecht, ich brauche sofort Hilfe!“ hat. Und das verwundert mich. Immer und immer wieder. […]

Ich bin Kind der Kriegskindergeneration. Damals gab es keine flächendeckende Versorgung mit Ärzten. Dazu gab es viel andere Menschen, die einen Arzt dringender brauchten, als die Generation meiner Eltern. So wurde sich halt selbst geholfen bei kleineren WehWehchen und sonstigem Gebrechen. Irgendwo zwischen „Nix“ und maximaler Versorgung muss also etwas passiert sein, dass das Krankheitsverständnis, das gefühl für den eigenen Körper in Richtung „Es tut weh und ich bin absolut hilflos“ gerutscht ist.

☝️ Wie soll man mit Rechten umgehen? Argumente blocken sie ab, sagt unser Autor, der früher selbst ein Rechter war. Er empfiehlt das Schwierigste überhaupt: Menschlichkeit: Was mich aus dem Konzept brachte, waren nicht Stärke und Stringenz, sondern Menschenfreundlichkeit. Nachdem ich einmal ein Referat über Eric Voegelins Begriff der politischen Religion gehalten und den Faschismus dabei in ein äußerst günstiges Licht gestellt hatte, sprach der Dozent mich an: "Ich finde es so schade, dass ein kluger Kopf wie Sie so entsetzliche reaktionäre Ansichten vertritt." Die Betroffenheit des Mannes war kein moralischer Reflex, sie war aufrichtig und zielte auf mich als wertgeschätzte Person. Der Dozent verurteilte mich nicht und es ging ihm auch nicht darum, mit Argumenten recht zu behalten: Er zeigte sich ehrlich betroffen, vielleicht sogar um mich besorgt. Ich fühlte mich sonderbar berührt, obwohl ich ihn für einen Verlierer hielt. Mit echtem Interesse fragte ich zurück, was denn so entsetzlich an meinen reaktionären Ansichten sei. Er hatte keine Antwort. Ich war gleichzeitig erleichtert und traurig.

☝️ Ich werd' Fan: The Judith Butler Affair.

How do you regard having your work imposed on a university lecturer in the name of gender equality?

JB: I am not in favor of my work being imposed by quotas. … Suggestions can be made about how to expand perspectives on gender, or which texts might be useful, but the final judgment has to be made by the faculty member. I am opposed to imposing specific texts and authors on faculty. I would myself reject any such attempt on the part of the administration, no matter the social goals that they seek to achieve through that method. The method is wrong, and the goals cannot be achieved through coercion.

You have written several texts on academic freedom. Why is academic freedom important?

JB: Academic freedom is the protection that faculty have against administrative or state intervention in our research activities, the curricula for our courses, and our academic point of view. … Of course, we can, and ought to be, challenged when our work demonstrates prejudice, bias, or consequential blind-spots. But that has to happen through conversation and public dialogue. If it is imposed by a university authority, then that authority is augmented, and we expand the power of the administration to control what we teach. What happens if the administration becomes a fascist one? Or what if it decides to ban feminist perspectives from the classroom? If we give that power away, we suffer its consequences.

If not gender quotas, how should we work to achieve greater gender equality in our universities?

JB: Quotas are a short-cut, and they cannot achieve the social justice goal. Social justice is achieved through freedom, and any concept of social justice that denies freedom denies justice itself. We know this from the struggle against censorship. Equality and Freedom are equally important: freedom without equality is unjust; but so too is equality without freedom. Let us hold in mind that complexity as we proceed.

☝️ eat it: Against Overgendering Harassment:

The “structural oppression” model is false, by the way. Homosexual male harassment is more prevalent than the percent gay men in the population would imply, suggesting that gay men harass men more often than straight men harass women. The obvious explanation for gender differences in harassment has always been that men constitute 80% of sexual harassers for the same reason they constitute 83% of arsonists, 81% of car thieves, and 85% of burglars. Since most men are straight, most victims are women; when the men happen to be gay, they victimize men. Men probably get victimized disproportionately often compared to the straight/gay ratio because society views harassing women as horrible but harassing men as funny. If this theory is right then it’s men who are the structural victims, which means it’s your harassment that doesn’t count and you’re the ones who shouldn’t be allowed to talk about it. The “it only matters if it’s structural” game isn’t so much fun now, is it?

😈 Ferris Bueller Confronts His White Privilege: My name is Ferris Bueller and I’d like to issue a formal apology for my behavior as a former teen role model for white privilege. In the past, I blamed my actions on my parents for making me grow up in the suburbs without a car, limiting my musical education by giving me a clarinet without providing lessons, and for their cluelessness that enabled my soulless attitude. For example, when I awoke to find the sun was out, I secretly decided to use my white privilege to take the day off from school. In order to do this, I hacked into an Illinois school system, faked a death, and rallied the student body to raise money for an illness I made up. Yet, they never suspected I was doing anything wrong. I’ve spent decades in therapy understanding how this shaped my formative years, as well as the mindset of the American youth that idolized me.
I’m here to say, my behavior was abhorrent.

👿 I can't stress this enough: The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College: Today’s students live their lives so publicly — through the technology we provide them without training — that much simpler errors than mine earn them the wrath of the entire internet.
Usually, the outrage is over things they say, for example a campus newspaper editorial that grapples with balancing free speech and appropriate behavior. That’s a quandary that has occupied American legal theorists since the founding of the country. It’s certainly one any young citizen should think through.
But last year, when Wellesley’s student paper ran an editorial wrestling with this same idea — and advocating limits on hate speech — it was widely read and criticized in the media as if it were enormously consequential.
Were the authors’ arguments entirely mature and well reasoned? No. But students deserve the chance to try out ideas. When they do, sometimes they’re going to botch it — sometimes spectacularly. And that’s why we have learning spaces.

☝️ eat it: The Truth About ‘Cultural Appropriation’, by Kenan Malik / ArtReview: Cultural interaction is necessarily messy because the world is messy. Some of that messiness is good: the complexity and diversity of the world. Some of it is damaging: the racial, sexual and economic inequalities that disfigure our world.
Such damaging messiness will not be cleaned up by limiting cultural interaction, or by confining it within a particular etiquette. In reframing political and economic issues as cultural ones, or as issues of identity, campaigns against cultural appropriation obscure the roots of racism, and make it harder to challenge it. In constraining what Adam Shatz called ‘acts of radical sympathy, and imaginative identification… across racial lines’, they make such challenges more difficult still.

👿 I can't stress this enough: This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit: The story of how one metric has changed the way you see the world. The world feels more dangerous. Our streets seem less safe. The assault on our values is constant. The threats feel real. The enemy is out there — just check your feed.

Engagement optimization has distorted our perception of threats at a very high level. For most of our species’ history, available information tended to be really helpful for our survival. If you heard a lot of stories about wild dog attacks, you learned to be vigilant about wild dogs.

This is due to something in human nature called the availability heuristic. It is a shortcut for our brains which makes us believe: “If it comes to mind easily, it must be true.”

Since available information tended to be our best indicator of probability, our brains evolved this system to help us know what to expect from the world around us. This became overly pronounced with threats, as the advantages of being afraid of things that might kill us far outweighed the costs (for our ancestors, dying was a lot worse than just being overly cautious). But today, available information about threats doesn’t resemble reality at all — it is primarily a reflection of the media we consume.

💰 I don't trust MIC.com, but I have no reason not to believe this headline because it makes sense. Also, there's a really dystopian scifi-novel about a new hyper-rich digital Nazi-Elite in this Neo-Nazi wealth is rapidly growing. Why? Bitcoin..

Bitcoin’s been particularly useful for Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi leader who’s been in and out of the public eye since the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a potentially debilitating lawsuit against him. Bambenek has estimated that Anglin has taken in about $250,000 in bitcoin since 2014.

On Oct. 1, the Daily Stormer withdrew $64,353, reaping the early rewards of the bitcoin boom, shortly after making about $2,202 in just one day. Since then, the balance for the Daily Stormer has been fairly level, as whoever manages the wallet skims the occasional few hundred dollars off the account, with some withdrawals as high as $1,602.

Other white nationalist experimentations in bitcoin are fairly meager. Spencer — president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank — had about $3 in bitcoin sitting in an account until Nov. 22, when roughly $1,000 in bitcoin was transferred to the wal

💩 This shit will fly in your face: Wilfrid Laurier and the Creep of Critical Theory:

Marcuse’s rejection of Mill’s ideas on free speech and assembly can be understood within a broader methodology known as Critical Theory that he and several other social scientists developed during the preceding decades. Critical Theory’s defining feature is that it articulates an explicit purpose for itself: to liberate people from oppression.

The Critical Theorists were heavily inspired by Karl Marx, and one of Marx’s most famous statements articulated the distinction that would come to separate Critical Theory from traditional science and philosophy: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

What’s left unstated here is that the purpose is not to change the world arbitrarily, but according to the particular goal of liberating people from oppression. Science thus becomes a tool for achieving a predefined societal state. This reflects a significant departure from traditional scientific methodology, which discourages defining purposes.

💩 In Defence of Jordan B. Peterson: A few days ago, Canadian author and English professor Ira Wells published an essay expressing concern about popular Canadian psychology professor and social critic Jordan B. Peterson.

Incidents on university campuses have demonstrated this over and over again, from students hunting Bret Weinstein with baseball bats to students swaying and chanting in unison to drown out Charles Murray. In fact, this very thing happened to Lindsay Shepherd, whom Wells holds up as a model for critical thinking. She has been protested, she has been condemned by fellow students, and she has been met with accusations of “white fragility,” “white tears” and “white women tears.” When she objected to this racially-charged language, she was called a racist. (Apparently objecting to the use of such terms is racist if you’re white.)

I suspect that very few people outside universities would view this whole episode to be anything other than disgraceful. Perhaps the fact that many regular people support Peterson is not because they’re far-right bigots, but because universities–and humanities departments, in particular–have come to resemble religious cults.

💩 “White Women Tears”—Critical Theory on Lindsay Shepherd:

It makes sense to consider power dynamics when considering Shepherd’s Laurier meeting, as part of a broader analysis. Yet, it makes very little sense to do so based on a historical narrative of white women and men of colour. A far more useful analysis would consider the fact that Shepherd was outnumbered three to one, or that Rambukkana is her supervisor, or that a person from the office of Gendered Violence Protection and Support was in the meeting. These things explain the power dynamics in the meeting quite well, it seems to me, while race and gender explain almost nothing. The fact that some of Shepherd’s critics want to invoke a historical narrative of ‘white woman plays the victim-card to get man of colour in trouble’ to explain the meeting suggests a deeper ideological commitment.

This commitment to historical narrative is common. Consider a tweet by Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay: „I once tried to run a story about this at my old job. but some of my colleagues went nuts and, being halfway out the door anyway, I stood down. the stats I saw were amazing. many faculties are 2/3 female. but pointing that out means you're a presumed misogynist.“

Despite the fact that many faculties are majority women, reporting on it is considered inappropriate. Why? Because there’s a historical narrative that women are oppressed, and that narrative is tightly protected, even against nuance. This type of approach has nothing to do with science, of course, where models are updated to fit the evidence. In fact, it’s far more reminiscent of Marxists refusing to give up their historical narrative in the face of counter-evidence. (The philosopher Karl Popper criticised Marxism for precisely this reason.)