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Kaj Sotala
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> Twitter, the most widely used social network for political discussions, doubled the limit of characters in a Tweet in November 2017, which provided a natural experiment to study the causal effect of technological affordances on political discussions with a discontinuous time series design. Using supervised and unsupervised natural language processing methods, we analyze 358,242 Tweet replies to U.S. politicians from January 2017 to March 2018. We show that the doubling the permissible length of a Tweet led to more polite, less informal, more analytical, and overall healthier discussions online.
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Cw: rape, discussion of serial rapist tactics.

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> Lisak doesn’t actually say this, but having read some of his work in depth now, I really think the major difference between the incarcerated and the non-incarcerated rapists are that the former cannot or do not confine themselves to tactics that are low-risk to them. The undetected rapists overwhelmingly use minimal or no force, rely mostly on alcohol and rape their acquaintances. They create situations where the culture will protect them by making excuses for them and questioning or denying their victims. Incarcerated rapists, I think, are just the ones who use the tactics that society is more willing to recognize as rape and less willing to make excuses for. [...]

> In fact, [non-incarcerated rapists] are unlikely to be reported because rape survivors know that the tactics these men use leave them with little real recourse. In fact, these rapists may put the victim in a position where she is so intoxicated or terrified or just isolated and defeated that she never even says “no,” and because the culture overwhelmingly refuses to call these tactics what they are, even the victims themselves may be unable to call it rape for a very long time afterward, if ever. [...]

> These undetected rapists:
> • are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;
> • plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;
> • use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;
> • use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;
> • use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious. [...]

> My first takeaway from this is that it may help some survivors to know this. I’ve seen and heard so many women beat themselves up about what they could or should have done — usually with no end of “help” in the self-flagellation. It might help some survivors of these kinds of rapes to know that they were not stupid and they didn’t make a mistake; that they were in overwhelming probability targeted and harmed deliberately by someone who has planned and maybe practiced a routine of testing, intoxication and isolation. Survivors shouldn’t feel like suckers.
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> The biggest and most frightening impact of the AI revolution might be on the relative efficiency of democracies and dictatorships. [...] We tend to think about the conflict between democracy and dictatorship as a conflict between two different ethical systems, but it is actually a conflict between two different data-processing systems. Democracy distributes the power to process information and make decisions among many people and institutions, whereas dictatorship concentrates information and power in one place. Given 20th-century technology, it was inefficient to concentrate too much information and power in one place. Nobody had the ability to process all available information fast enough and make the right decisions. [...]

> However, artificial intelligence may soon swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. AI makes it possible to process enormous amounts of information centrally. In fact, it might make centralized systems far more efficient than diffuse systems, because machine learning works better when the machine has more information to analyze. If you disregard all privacy concerns and concentrate all the information relating to a billion people in one database, you’ll wind up with much better algorithms than if you respect individual privacy and have in your database only partial information on a million people. An authoritarian government that orders all its citizens to have their DNA sequenced and to share their medical data with some central authority would gain an immense advantage in genetics and medical research over societies in which medical data are strictly private. The main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century—the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place—may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century.
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> One way of looking at human creativity is as a process of pulling balls out of a giant urn. The balls represent possible ideas, discoveries, technological inventions. Over the course of history, we have extracted a great many balls—mostly white (beneficial) but also various shades of grey (moderately harmful ones and mixed blessings). The cumulative effect on the human condition has so far been overwhelmingly positive, and may be much better still in the future. The global population has grown about three orders of magnitude over the last ten thousand years, and in the last two centuries per capita income, standards of living, and life expectancy have also risen.

> What we haven’t extracted, so far, is a black ball—a technology that invariably or by default destroys the civilization that invents it. The reason is not that we have been particularly careful or wise in our technology policy. We have just been lucky.

> It does not appear that any human civilization has been destroyed—as opposed to transformed—by its own inventions. We do have examples of civilizations being destroyed by inventions made elsewhere. For example, the European inventions that enabled transoceanic travel and force projection could be regarded as a black-ball event for the indigenous populations of the Americas, Australia, Tasmania, and some other places. The extinction of archaic hominid populations, such as the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, was probably facilitated by the technological superiority of Homo Sapiens. But thus far, it seems, we have seen no sufficiently auto-destructive invention to count as a black ball for humanity.

> What if there is a black ball in the urn? If scientific and technological research continues, we will eventually reach it and pull it out. Our civilization has a considerable ability to pick up balls, but no ability to put them back into the urn. We can invent but we cannot un-invent. Our strategy is to hope that there is no black ball.

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> Consider a thought experiment. Let us assume there is life after death. This after-life is temporally unbounded, it lasts eternally and within it conscious experience continues to exist. There is, however, an important difference with regard to the life you are living right now, as an active subject of experience: all conscious experiences after death are experiences you were permitted to choose from the set of subjective experiences you had in your current life – because after death there are no new experiences. [...]

> Let us take it that the smallest unit of conscious experience is one single subjective moment – because, if we look carefully, we find that we are always living our life through conscious moments. In so doing, most of us are always looking for the “meaningful now”, for those small “perfect” moments of satisfaction and happiness or even an enduring inner experience of wholeness and meaning. Often, but not always, the two subjective qualities of positive affect and of successfully “making sense” are deeply intertwined. Our life before death then is constituted by a finite chain of conscious moments, whereas the succession of consciously experienced psychological moments after the disappearance of our physical body is infinite – it will never end.

> Our thought experiment now consists of an idea and a question. The idea is that you are allowed to select exactly which conscious moments from your finite life will be transferred to a “playlist for eternity”: after your physical death all subjective experiences on this list will be replayed again and again, in random order. This process then creates your very own personal conscious eternity, and it is based on your very own selection of conscious experiences. During your lifetime you are like a phenomenological Cinderella attempting to pick out just the right ones: “The good into the pot, the bad into the crop!” And here is the question: if you were permitted to make this irrevocable selection all by yourself [...] which moments would you choose? Most importantly, how many moments, according to your own criteria, would you actually rank as truly worth living – in the sense of worth being relived?

> At Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, we began a first series of small pilot studies with a group of advanced philosophy students. We chose a signal-contingent, externally cued form of experience sampling. One tech-savvy student programmed an SMS server in such a way that, for seven days, it sent ten signals a day at random points in time to the participants, whose cell phones would then briefly vibrate. The participants’ task was to decide whether the last moment before the conscious experience of the vibration was a moment they would take with them into life after death. For many, the result was surprising: the number of positive conscious moments per week varied between 0 and 36, with an average of 11.8 or almost 31 per cent of the phenomenological samples, while at 69 per cent a little more than two thirds of the moments were spontaneously ranked as not worth reliving. If you are cued externally, it seems, less than a third of such experiential samples would have a chance of entering your very own “eternal playlist”.

-- Thomas Metzinger, "Suffering".
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> 1. Say you’re the local economist for a state government. You have some actions you really would like the government to take, even though your colleagues wouldn’t typically approve. You’re around a +4 on [an arbitrary scale of knowledge about macroeconomics], and your most knowledgeable colleagues are around a +2. Could you get away with pretending that macroeconomics has a very confident stance that happens to align with what you want to see happen? How would you do so?

> 2. You’re a local radio intellectual who’s a +3 on the macroeconomic scale. Almost all of your listeners are below a +1.5. You’ve been essentially lying to them for some time about macroeconomic theory because it helps your political message. A professor who’s a +5 starts writing a few articles that call you out on your lies. How do you respond? [...]

> I think the answers I’d expect from these questions can be summarized in the phrase “Overconfident talking down, humble or hostile talking up.”

> When you’re communicating with people who know less than you, and you have little accountability from people who know more, then you generally have the option of claiming to be more knowledgeable than you are, and lying in ways that are useful to you.

> When you’re communicating with people who know more than you, you have two options. You can accept their greater state of knowledge, causing you to speak more honestly about the pertinent topics. Or, you could reject their credibility, claiming that they really don’t know more than you. Many people who know less than you both may believe you over them.

> There are many examples of this. One particularly good one may be the history of schisms in religious organizations. Religious authorities generally know a lot more about their respective religions than the majority of citizens. Each authority has a choice; they could either accept the knowledge of the higher authorities, or they could reject the higher authorities. If they reject above authority, they would be incentivized to discredit that authority and express overconfidence in their own new beliefs. If they succeed, some followers would believe them, giving them both the assumption of expertise and also the flexibility of not having to be accountable to other knowledgeable groups.
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> Spain is planning a sweeping ban to remove the vast majority of cars from city centers across the country—and that the move has broad support among the public.

> According to a new poll released by IPSOS this week, 63 percent of respondents favored severely restricting car access in downtown areas. In the Northwestern region of Galicia, a favorable attitude toward such bans went as high as 78 percent.

> That’s sure to be welcome news to Spain’s current government as it drafts a law on that matter. It’s an effort that could ban all but zero-emissions vehicles in the center of any town of over 50,000 residents by 2025, a ruling that would apply to 138 cities across the country. The first of those zones has in fact just arrived: On Friday, central Madrid became an ultra-low emissions zone, protected against pollution and congestion by the toughest restrictions on cars in place on a large scale in any major European city.
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I've recently been getting a lot out of the psychotherapy model of Internal Family Systems, as described in this book. I just wrote a comment on Slate Star Codex describing some of its basics and what I've gotten out of it, and thought that I might as well repost it here:

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I recommend this book, though with the note that I often don't need to follow the full process outlined there. Sometimes it's definitely necessary, but what I've found even more commonly useful is something that it discusses at the beginning of the book, which it calls "getting into self".

Here's the basic idea. Suppose that a part of your mind is really angry at someone, and telling a story (which might not be true) about how that person is a horrible person with no redeeming qualities. Internal Family Systems says that there are three modes in which you might react to that part:

First, you may be entirely blended with it (for those familiar, this corresponds to what Acceptance and Commitment Therapy calls cognitive fusion). This means that you are experiencing everything in terms of the story that it is telling, and have forgotten that this is an emotional reaction. So you feel that it's just objectively true that the other person is horrible and with no redeeming qualities.

Or you might be partially blended with it. In this case, you realize that you are experiencing an emotional reaction, and that your thoughts and feelings might not be entirely justified, but you still feel them and might not be able to stop yourself from behaving according to them anyway.

Finally, you might be "in Self", meaning entirely unblended. Here you are still aware of the emotions and thoughts, but your subjective experience is that they're not your emotions, they're someone else's - they're coming from a part of your mind which is experienced as separate from "you". In this mode, you do not feel threatened or overwhelmed by them, and you can maintain a state of open curiosity towards whether or not they are actually true.

My experience is that usually if I have an unpleasant emotion, I will try to do one of two things: either reject it entirely and push it out of my mind, or buy into the story that it's telling and act accordingly. Once I learned the techniques for getting into Self, I got the ability to sort of... just hang out with the emotion, neither believing it to be absolutely true nor needing to show it to be false. And then if I e.g. had feelings of social anxiety, I could keep those feelings around and go into a social situation anyway, making a kind of mental move that I might describe as "yes, it's possible that these people all secretly hate me; I'm going to accept that as a possibility without trying to add any caveats, but also without doing anything else than accepting its possibility".

The consequence has been that this seems to make the parts of my mind with beliefs like "doing this perfectly innocuous thing will make other people upset" actually update their beliefs. I do the thing, the parts with this belief get to hang around and observe what happens, notice that nobody seems upset at me, and then they are somewhat less likely to bring up similar concerns in the future.

In terms of global workspace theory, my model here is that there's a part of the mind that's bringing up a concern that should be taken into account in decision-making. The concern may or may not be justified, so the correct thing to do is to consider its possibility, but not necessarily give it too much weight. Going into Self and letting the message stay in consciousness this way seems to make it available for decision-making, and often the module that's bringing it up is happy to just have its message received and evaluated; you don't have to do anything more than that, if it's just holding it up as a tentative consideration to be evaluated.

The book has a few different techniques that you can use for getting into Self. One that I often use is to try to get a sense of where in my body the emotional sensations are coming from, and then let my mind create a visualization based on those. Once I have a visualization and a physical location of the part, it's easier to experience it as "not me". Another thing that I do is to just make that mental move that I described - "okay, this is a possibility, so I'm just going to test it out". I find it useful to first stay blended with the part for a while, to get a sense of what exactly is the story that it's trying to tell, before unblending and getting into Self.

E.g. a while back I was having a sense of loneliness as I laid down for a nap. I stepped into the part's perspective to experience it for a while, then unblended; now I felt it as a black ice hockey puck levitating around my lower back. I didn't really do anything other than let it be there, and maintained a connection with it. Gradually it started generating a pleasant warmth, and then the visualization transformed into a happy napping cartoon fox, curled up inside a fireball that it was using as its blanket. And then I was no longer feeling lonely.

That said, sometimes a part is not content to just raise a tentative possibility; sometimes it feels like something is an emergency, so you must act right away. Obviously, sometimes you really are in an emergency, so this is justified! But often times it's based on the part having an unrealistic fear, which in the IFS model tends to be a result of some past trauma which it is reliving, not realizing that the circumstances of your life have changed and you're now capable of dealing with it. In that case, you need to do the full process described in the book, where you basically get in proper contact with the part in question and address its concerns. (Actually it's a bit more complicated than this, since the IFS model holds that there are many different kinds of parts that may have relationships with each other - so the "beer-drinking part" may be drinking beer in order to keep the traumatized part numb and safely out of consciousness, so you may actually need to deal with two different parts separately. The book goes into a lot more detail.)
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> Derber describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment. Here is a simple illustration:

> Shift Response
> Mary: I’m so busy right now.
> Tim: Me too. I’m totally overwhelmed.

> Support Response
> Mary: I’m so busy right now.
> Tim: Why? What do you have to get done?

> Here’s another example:

> Shift Response
> Karen: I need new shoes.
> Mark: Me too. These things are falling apart.

> Support Response
> Karen: I need new shoes.
> Mark: Oh yeah? What kind are you thinking about?

> Shift responses are a hallmark of conversational narcissism. They help you turn the focus constantly back to yourself. But a support response encourages the other person to continue their story.
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