Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 11th, 2016

Language filters on reality vary by language

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This is old hat to many, but I found it interesting. It’s from David Anthony’s fascinating book, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, which I recently started rereading.
From Locations 442-462:

The people who spoke the Proto-Indo-European language lived at a critical time in a strategic place. They were positioned to benefit from innovations in transport, most important of these the beginning of horseback riding and the invention of wheeled vehicles. They were in no way superior to their neighbors; indeed, the surviving evidence suggests that their economy, domestic technology, and social organization were simpler than those of their western and southern neighbors. The expansion of their language was not a single event, nor did it have only one cause.

Nevertheless, that language did expand and diversify, and its daughters—including English—continue to expand today. Many other language families have become extinct as Indo-European languages spread. It is possible that the resultant loss of linguistic diversity has narrowed and channeled habits of perception in the modern world. For example, all Indo-European languages force the speaker to pay attention to tense and number when talking about an action: you must specify whether the action is past, present, or future; and you must specify whether the actor is singular or plural. It is impossible to use an Indo-European verb without deciding on these categories. Consequently speakers of Indo-European languages habitually frame all events in terms of when they occurred and whether they involved multiple actors. Many other language families do not require the speaker to address these categories when speaking of an action, so tense and number can remain unspecified.

On the other hand, other language families require that other aspects of reality be constantly used and recognized. For example, when describing an event or condition in Hopi you must use grammatical markers that specify whether you witnessed the event yourself, heard about it from someone else, or consider it to be an unchanging truth. Hopi speakers are forced by Hopi grammar to habitually frame all descriptions of reality in terms of the source and reliability of their information. The constant and automatic use of such categories generates habits in the perception and framing of the world that probably differ between people who use fundamentally different grammars.14 In that sense, the spread of Indo-European grammars has perhaps reduced the diversity of human perceptual habits. It might also have caused this author, as I write this book, to frame my observations in a way that repeats the perceptual habits and categories of a small group of people who lived in the western Eurasian steppes more than five thousand years ago.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Books

The Rockefeller Family Fund Takes on ExxonMobil

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David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman have a very interesting review in the NY Review of Books. It begins:

In the first part of this article, we described recent reporting that ExxonMobil’s leaders knew humans were altering the world’s climate by burning fossil fuels even while the company was helping to fund and propel the movement denying the reality of climate change.1 Ever since the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News started publishing articles showing this in late 2015, ExxonMobil has repeatedly accused its critics of “cherry-picking” the evidence, taking its statements out of context, and “giving an incorrect impression about our corporation’s approach to climate change.”2 Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is one of several officials who have been investigating whether the company’s failures to disclose the business risks of climate change to its shareholders constituted consumer or securities fraud.

Since ExxonMobil claims that it has been misrepresented, we encourage it to make public all the documents Schneiderman has demanded, so that independent researchers can consider all the facts. In the meantime we suggest that anyone who remains unconvinced by the record we have collected and published of the company’s internal statements confirming the reality of climate change consider its actions, especially its expenditures. Regardless of its campaign to confuse policymakers and the public, Exxon has always kept a clear eye on scientific reality when making business decisions.

In 1980, for example, Exxon paid $400 million for the rights to the Natuna natural gas field in the South China Sea. But company scientists soon realized that the field contained unusually high concentrations of carbon dioxide, and concluded in 1984 that extracting its gas would make it “the world’s largest point source emitter of CO2 [, which] raises concern for the possible incremental impact of Natuna on the CO2 greenhouse problem.” The company left Natuna undeveloped. Exxon’s John Woodward, who wrote an internal report on the field in 1981, told InsideClimate News, “They were being farsighted. They weren’t sure when CO2 controls would be required and how it would affect the economics of the project.”3

This, of course, was a responsible decision. But it indicates the distance between Exxon’s decades of public deception about climate change and its internal findings. So do investments that Exxon and its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil made in the Arctic. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 3:14 pm

Very interesting discussions on consciousness

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Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks talk about consciousness in two fascinating interchanges so far:

Part 1: The Challenge of Consciousness

Part 2: The Color of Consciousness

I’m hoping Part 3 will be “The Cost of Consciousness.” There’s got to be an evolutionary reason why consciousness is quite rare among species. So I would expect there are tradeoffs, as there always are: if a bird’s going fly, it must be lightweight. But a bird can be big and strong and fierce (emu, ostrich, cassowary), but then flying is no longer possible. A mammal can adapt to life in the sea (whales, dolphins), but at the cost of losing mobility on land.

We certainly gain something when we get consciousness, but what have we had to forsake to have it? Perhaps the divisiveness, corruption, wars, and so on are one of the costs of consciousness. You certainly don’t see other animals acting as we do.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 2:39 pm

Luxury Shave Lounge: Classy looking razor

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Take a look at these. I like the looks of the one on the right. I just heard about this site, and it looks of interest the DE people. Has anyone used one of these?

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Shaving

They Have, Right Now, Another You: The things Facebook knows about you that are wrong.

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In the NY Review of Books Sue Halpern reviews two interesting-sounding books on the expanding memeverse:

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
by Cathy O’Neil
Crown, 259 pp., $26.00Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy
by Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice E. Stucke
Harvard University Press, 356 pp., $29.95A few months ago The Washington Post reported that Facebook collects ninety-eight data points on each of its nearly two billion users. Among this ninety-eight are ethnicity, income, net worth, home value, if you are a mom, if you are a soccer mom, if you are married, the number of lines of credit you have, if you are interested in Ramadan, when you bought your car, and on and on and on.

How and where does Facebook acquire these bits and pieces of one’s personal life and identity? First, from information users volunteer, like relationship status, age, and university affiliation. They also come from Facebook posts of vacation pictures and baby pictures and graduation pictures. These do not have to be photos one posts oneself: Facebook’s facial recognition software can pick you out of a crowd. Facebook also follows users across the Internet, disregarding their “do not track” settings as it stalks them. It knows every time a user visits a website that has a Facebook “like” button, for example, which most websites do.

The company also buys personal information from some of the five thousand data brokers worldwide, who collect information from store loyalty cards, warranties, pharmacy records, pay stubs, and some of the ten million public data sets available for harvest. Municipalities also sell data—voter registrations and motor vehicle information, for example, and death notices, foreclosure declarations, and business registrations, to name a few. In theory, all these data points are being collected by Facebook in order to tailor ads to sell us stuff we want, but in fact they are being sold by Facebook to advertisers for the simple reason that the company can make a lot of money doing so.

Not long ago I dug into the depths of Facebook to see what information it was using to tailor ads for me. This is a different set of preferences and a different algorithm—a set of instructions to carry out an operation—than the one Facebook uses to determine which stories it is going to display on my so-called news feed, the ever-changing assortment of photos and posts from my Facebook friends and from websites I’ve “liked.” These ad preferences are the coin of the Facebook realm; the company made $2.3 billion in the third quarter of 2016 alone, up from about $900 million in the same three months last year.

And here is some of what I discovered about myself according to Facebook: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 2:01 pm

Timely: The Imposter Phenomenon

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Very interesting article in Motherboard by Ashwin Rodrigues. He provides various examples of those who might experience the imposter phenomenon:

The feeling that you don’t belong somewhere is common. It can be fleeting, like accidentally boarding a train headed the wrong way. Sometimes, it’s less temporary.

Perhaps you’re the only person of color in your office. You worry that others might have better experience, you figure they must be smarter, they must have a more decorated resume.

Maybe you’re an engineering graduate student. Despite high standing in class and multiple awards, as one of the few women in the department, you get the feeling you don’t belong there. You figure the success you’ve enjoyed can all be attributed to a perfect combination of dumb luck and hard work compensating for your perceived lack of intelligence.

Maybe you half-seriously run for president and end up getting elected. In your gut, you feel this is a consequence of external factors, none that you can truly take credit for. After all, you never thought you won. Maybe you make a series of insane cabinet appointments and go on multiple Twitter tirades to see if they’ll fire you. You even put the word “real” in your Twitter handle, to assure yourself you’re not an imposter.

These feelings are described as the imposter phenomenon.

The imposter phenomenon (IP), also known as imposter syndrome, was initially identified in 1978 by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes of Georgia State University in the paper, “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.” Clance and Imes describe the phenomenon based on the experiences of high-achieving women (achievement indicated by academic performance and professional accomplishments) that felt they were not deserving of their success, and dismissed it as a fluke. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 1:40 pm

Marijuana dispensaries advise from ignorance, by and large

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Daniel Oberhaus reports at Motherboard:

When I first received my medical marijuana card, my visits to the local dispensary were generally long, drawn out affairs. The bud tenders on staff would meticulously walk me through each strain on display, describing in detail their psychoactive and somatic effects. As someone prone to cannabis-induced anxiety I eventually learned that strains with low THC and high CBD counts were what I needed, but it took a lot of trial and error to find the right strain of medicine. Although the bud tenders spoke with authority about the effects of their medicine, I would often find that the effects of the bud recommended for me didn’t at all match what the bud tender had told me.

According to a new study published last week in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, my dispensary experience is likely a common one.

Led by clinical psychologists at Stanford University, the new study found that many dispensary staffers have had little to no training that would allow them to recommend types of weed to their patients in a responsible and informed manner. It is the first study to systematically look at the characteristics and practices of dispensary staff, otherwise known as ‘bud tenders.’

“Although each state has created its own legislation to govern the cultivation and distribution of cannabis to individuals, there is currently little to no guidance or oversight of associated patient care,” the authors of the study wrote. “This is troubling, as cannabis comprises more than 400 chemical compounds and is associated with widely variable effects among humans.”

The study was based on a survey of 55 dispensary staffers from nine different states, although the majority of the participants were in Colorado, California and Arizona. The survey found that 94 percent of dispensary staffers would provide specific cannabis advice to patients, although only 55 percent reported having any sort of formal training. For 36 of the respondents, this training was limited to customer service and business practices. Only 11 respondents had any sort of medical training and 7 had some background in science.

The survey also asked the respondents to record the types of bud recommendations they would make for patients. It found that dispensary staff were more likely to recommend a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD for anxiety, PTSD or trauma than high THC, and more likely to recommend high CBD for ailments like arthritis or Alzheimer’s.

As the study’s authors note, some of the recommendations provided by dispensary staffers were consistent with current medical understanding, such as recommending indica strains for chronic pain. The problem of course is that this medical information is often inconsistent itself. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2016 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Medical

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