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Topics - Testy Calibrate

1
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/10/the-invisible-power-of-big-glasses-eyewear-industry-essilor-luxottica
Quote
But what we see masks the underlying structure of the global eyewear business. Over the last generation, just two companies have risen above all the rest to dominate the industry. The lenses in my glasses - and yours too, most likely - are made by Essilor, a French multinational that controls almost half of the world's prescription lens business and has acquired more than 250 other companies in the past 20 years.

There is a good chance, meanwhile, that your frames are made by Luxottica, an Italian company with an unparalleled combination of factories, designer labels and retail outlets. Luxottica pioneered the use of luxury brands in the optical business, and one of the many powerful functions of names such as Ray-Ban (which is owned by Luxottica) or Vogue (which is owned by Luxottica) or Prada (whose glasses are made by Luxottica) or Oliver Peoples (which is owned by Luxottica) or high-street outlets such as LensCrafters, the largest optical retailer in the US (which is owned by Luxottica), or John Lewis Opticians in the UK (which is run by Luxottica), or Sunglass Hut (which is owned by Luxottica) is to make the marketplace feel more varied than it actually is.

Between them, Essilor and Luxottica play a central, intimate role in the lives of a remarkable number of people. Around 1.4 billion of us rely on their products to drive to work, read on the beach, follow the whiteboard in biology lessons, type text messages to our grandchildren, land aircraft, watch old movies, write dissertations and glance across restaurants, hoping to look slightly more intelligent and interesting than we actually are. Last year, the two companies had a combined customer base that is somewhere between Apple's and Facebook's, but with none of the hassle and scrutiny of being as well known.

Now they are becoming one. On 1 March, regulators in the EU and the US gave permission for the world's largest optical companies to form a single corporation, which will be known as EssilorLuxottica. The new firm will not technically be a monopoly: Essilor currently has around 45% of the prescription lenses market, and Luxottica 25% of the frames. But in seven centuries of spectacles, there has never been anything like it. The new entity will be worth around $50bn (£37bn), sell close to a billion pairs of lenses and frames every year, and have a workforce of more than 140,000 people. EssilorLuxottica intends to dominate what its executives call "the visual experience" for decades to come.

The creation of EssilorLuxottica is a big deal. It will have knock-on consequences for opticians and eyewear manufacturers from Hong Kong to Peru. But it is also a response to an unprecedented moment in the story of human vision - namely, the accelerating degradation of our eyes. For several thousand years, human beings have lived in more or less advanced societies, reading, writing and doing business with one another, mostly without the aid of glasses. But that is coming to an end. No one is exactly sure what it is about early 21st-century urban living - the time we spend indoors, the screens, the colour spectrum in LED lighting, or the needs of ageing populations - but the net result is that across the world, we are becoming a species wearing lenses. The need varies depending where you go, because different populations have different genetic predispositions to poor eyesight, but it is there, and growing, and probably greater than you think. In Nigeria, around 90 million people, or half the population, are now thought to need corrective eyewear.

There are actually two things going on. The first is a largely unreported global epidemic of myopia, or shortsightedness, which has doubled among young people within a single generation. For a long time, scientists thought myopia was primarily determined by our genes. But about 10 years ago, it became clear that the way children were growing up was harming their eyesight, too. The effect is starkest in east Asia, where myopia has always been more common, but the rate of increase has been uniform, more or less, across the world. In the 1950s, between 10% and 20% of Chinese people were shortsighted. Now, among teenagers and young adults, the proportion is more like 90%. In Seoul, 95% of 19-year-old men are myopic, many of them severely, and at risk of blindness later in life.

At the same time, across the developing world, a slower and more complex process is underway, as populations age and urbanise and move indoors to work. The history of eyewear tells us that people do not, as a rule, start wearing glasses because they notice everything has gone a little out of focus. It is in order to take part in new forms of entertainment and labour. The mass market in spectacles did not emerge when they were invented, in 13th-century Italy, but 200 years later, alongside the printed word in Germany, because people wanted to read.

In 2018, an estimated 2.5 billion people, mostly in India, Africa and China, are thought to need spectacles, but have no means to have their eyes tested or to buy them. "The visual divide", as NGOs call it, is one of those vast global shortcomings that suddenly makes sense when you think about it. Across the developing world, straightforward myopia and presbyopia, the medical name for longsightedness, have been linked with everything from high road deaths to low educational achievement and poor productivity in factories. Eye-health campaigners call it the largest untreated disability in the world.

It is also a staggering business opportunity. Essilor and Luxottica know this. It was Essilor that worked out and first publicised the 2.5 billion statistic, in 2012. "For 2,000 years people were living mainly outside," said Hubert Sagnières, Essilor's chairman and chief executive, when we met recently in Paris. "Suddenly, we live inside, and we use this." He tapped his mobile phone on the table. The legal and technical details of the EssilorLuxottica merger will take a few years to iron out, but Sagnières was transparent about its mission: to equip the planet with eyewear over the coming decades. "I am driving a very profitable company," Sagnières told me. "You know, between 2020 and 2050, governments will not solve all the problems of the world."

The looming power of EssilorLuxottica is the subject of morbid obsession within the eyewear world. Everyone knows the new company is poised to have a profound impact on the way that we are going to see. "Forgive me," said one longtime entrepreneur in the sector. "But it is nothing short of control of the industry." One investor described the new corporation as a "category killer". In many conversations, people described its arrival, which would have been genuinely unthinkable a generation ago, as both extraordinary and somehow inevitable at the same time. That struck me as the kind of contradiction you come across more often in a person than in a business. And it is true of EssilorLuxottica and, to some extent, the business of vision itself, because it is - to an amazing degree - the legacy of a single man.
continued at link. Fascinating article and really good writing
2
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/blood-in-the-water/559229/
Quote
Horseshoe crabs are sometimes called "living fossils" because they have been around in some form for more than 450 million years. In this time, the Earth has gone through multiple major ice ages, a Great Dying, the formation and subsequent breaking up of Pangaea, and an asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs and most of life on Earth yet again. In other words, horseshoe crabs have truly seen some shit.

Yet, I would conjecture, some of their strangest experiences must have come in just the past few decades, as one of the soft-bodied mammals that came after dinosaurs began using their hands to scoop horseshoe crabs out of the ocean en masse. Contemporary humans do not deliberately kill the horseshoe crabs--as did previous centuries of farmers catching them for fertilizer or fishermen using them as bait. Instead, they scrub the crabs clean of barnacles, fold their hinged carapaces, and stick stainless steel needles into a soft, weak spot, in order to draw blood. Horseshoe crab blood runs blue and opaque, like antifreeze mixed with milk.

And for what exactly do humans need the blood of a living fossil? A sort of witchcraft, you might say, for it literally keeps people alive. Horseshoe-crab blood is exquisitely sensitive to toxins from bacteria. It is used to test for contamination during the manufacture of anything that might go inside the human body: every shot, every IV drip, and every implanted medical device.

So reliant is the modern biomedical industry on this blood that the disappearance of horseshoe crabs would instantly cripple it. And in recent years, horseshoe crabs, particularly in Asia, have come under a number of threats: habitat loss as seawalls replace the beaches where they spawn, pollution, overfishing for use as food and bait. Horseshoe crabs bled for the biomedical use in the United States are returned to the ocean, but an estimated 50,000 also die in the process every year.
continues at link
3
Sports / NBA playoffs
LeBron is superhuman. That is all.
5
I tend to dismiss it as running counter to other values I hold regarding art and the will to be weird, but I suppose as a white male that is to be expected. Anyway, this is a story about a white girl who wore a traditional chinese dress to prom and got a bunch of people all uptight about it.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/world/asia/chinese-prom-dress.html
Quote
"My culture is NOT" your prom dress, he wrote, adding profanity for effect.

"I'm proud of my culture," he wrote in another post. "For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology."

Some Twitter users who described themselves as Asian-American seized on Ms. Daum's dress -- a form-fitting red cheongsam (also known as a qipao) with black and gold ornamental designs -- as an example of cultural appropriation, a sign of disrespect and exploitation. Other Asian-Americans said the criticism was silly.

"This isn't ok," wrote someone with the user name Jeannie. "I wouldn't wear traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I'm Asian. I wouldn't wear traditional Irish or Swedish or Greek dress either. There's a lot of history behind these clothes. Sad."
not much need to read the article as these responses basically sum it up.

For the life of me, I can't understand how using art from another culture could be a bad thing unless it was used to intentionally denigrate that culture.
6
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611007/researchers-are-keeping-pig-brains-alive-outside-the-body/
Quote
In a step that could change the definition of death, researchers have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs and kept the reanimated organs alive for as long as 36 hours.

The feat offers scientists a new way to study intact brains in the lab in stunning detail. But it also inaugurates a bizarre new possibility in life extension, should human brains ever be kept on life support outside the body.

The work was described on March 28 at a meeting held at the National Institutes of Health to investigate ethical issues arising as US neuroscience centers explore the limits of brain science.

During the event, Yale University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan disclosed that a team he leads had experimented on between 100 and 200 pig brains obtained from a slaughterhouse, restoring their circulation using a system of pumps, heaters, and bags of artificial blood warmed to body temperature.

There was no evidence that the disembodied pig brains regained consciousness. However, in what Sestan termed a "mind-boggling" and "unexpected" result, billions of individual cells in the brains were found to be healthy and capable of normal activity.

Reached by telephone yesterday, Sestan declined to elaborate, saying he had submitted the results for publication in a scholarly journal and had not intended for his remarks to become public.

Since last spring, however, a widening circle of scientists and bioethicists have been buzzing about the Yale research, which involves a breakthrough in restoring micro-circulation--the flow of oxygen to small blood vessels, including those deep in the brain.

"These brains may be damaged, but if the cells are alive, it's a living organ," says Steve Hyman, director of psychiatric research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was among those briefed on the work. "It's at the extreme of technical know-how, but not that different from preserving a kidney."

Hyman says the similarity to techniques for preserving organs like hearts or lungs for transplant could cause some to mistakenly view the technology as a way to avoid death. "It may come to the point that instead of people saying 'Freeze my brain,' they say 'Hook me up and find me a body,'" says Hyman.

Such hopes are misplaced, at least for now. Transplanting a brain into a new body "is not remotely possible," according to Hyman.
Brain in a bucket

The Yale system, called BrainEx, involves connecting a brain to a closed loop of tubes and reservoirs that circulate a red perfusion fluid, which is able to carry oxygen to the brain stem, the cerebellar artery, and areas deep in the center of the brain.

"I think a lot of people are going to start going to slaughterhouses to get heads and figure it out."

In his presentation to the NIH officials and ethics experts, Sestan said the technique was likely to work in any species, including primates. "This is probably not unique to pigs," he said.

The Yale researchers, who began work on the technique about four years ago and are seeking NIH funding for it, acted out of a desire to construct a comprehensive atlas of connections between human brain cells.

Some of these connections probably span large regions of the brain and would thus be traced more easily in a complete, intact organ.

Sestan acknowledged that surgeons at Yale had already asked him if the brain-preserving technology could have medical uses. Disembodied human brains, he said, could become guinea pigs for testing exotic cancer cures and speculative Alzheimer's treatments too dangerous to try on the living.

The setup, jokingly dubbed the "brain in a bucket," would quickly raise serious ethical and legal questions if it were tried on a human.

For instance, if a person's brain were reanimated outside the body, would that person awake in what would amount to the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, without ears, eyes, or a way to communicate? Would someone retain memories, an identity, or legal rights? Could researchers ethically dissect or dispose of such a brain?
7
Computers and Technology / AI omnibus thread
It isn't hard to make the case that AI and evolutionary algorithms are the most significant thing to emerge from the digital revolution. It's relative importance makes me think an omnibus AI thread would be a good idea. There's just so much going on with it. It will no doubt forever change the political, social, technical, etc. landscapes so here is a random first article on using AI to discover new materials:
https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/25/17275270/artificial-intelligence-materials-science-computation
Quote
Now, instead of using artisan's knowledge, we can use databases and computations to quickly map out exactly what makes a material so much stronger or lighter -- and that has the potential to revolutionize industry after industry, according to Warren. The time between discovering a material and integrating it into a product like a battery can be more than 20 years, he adds, and speeding up the process is bound to lead us to better batteries and glass for cell phones, better alloys for rockets, and better sensors for health devices. "Anything made out of matter," says Warren, "we can improve."
"Another way of using AI is to create a "cookbook," or a collection of recipes for materials"

To understand how new materials are made, it's helpful to think of a materials scientist like a cook, according to Warren. Say you have eggs, and you're in the mood for something chewy and firm. Those are the properties of the dish you want, but how do you get there? To create a structure where both the white and the yolk are solid, you need a recipe that includes the step-by-step instructions for processing the egg -- hardboiling it -- just the way you want it. Materials science uses these same concepts: If a scientist wants certain material properties (say, light and hard to fracture), she will look for the physical and chemical structures that would create these properties, and the processes -- like melting or beating metal -- that would create these structures.

Databases and computations can help find answers. "We do quantum mechanical-level calculations of materials, calculations sophisticated enough that we can actually predict the properties of a possible new material on a computer before it's ever made in a laboratory," says Chris Wolverton, a materials scientist at Northwestern University who runs the Open Quantum Materials Database. (Other major databases include the Materials Project and the Materials Cloud.) The databases aren't complete, but they're growing, and already giving us exciting discoveries.

Nicola Marzari, a researcher at Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, used databases to find 3D materials that can be peeled apart to create 2D materials of just one layer. One example of this is the much-hyped graphene, which consists of a single sheet of graphite, the material in a pencil. Like graphene, these 2D materials could have extraordinary properties, like strength, that they don't have in their 3D form.

Marzari's team had an algorithm sift through information from several databases. Starting from more than 100,000 materials, the algorithm eventually found about 2,000 materials that could be peeled into one layer, according to the paper Marzari published last month in Nature Nanotechnology. Marzari, who runs Materials Cloud, says these materials are a "treasure trove" because many have properties that could improve electronics. Some conduct electricity very well, some can convert heat into water, some absorb energy from the Sun: They could be useful for semiconductors in computers or batteries, so the next step is to investigate these possible properties more closely.

Marzari's work is one example of how scientists are using databases to predict which compounds might create new and exciting materials. Those predictions, however, still need to be confirmed in a lab. And Marzari still had to tell his algorithm to follow certain rules, like looking for weak chemical bonds. Artificial intelligence can create a shortcut: Instead of programming specific rules, scientists can tell AI what they want to create -- like a superstrong material -- and the AI will tell the scientists the best experiment to run to make the new material.
"Still, predictions themselves use a simplified model that doesn't take into account the real world"

That's how Wolverton and his team at Northwestern used AI for a paper published this month in Science Advances. The researchers were interested in making new metallic glasses, which are stronger and less stiff than either metal or glass and could one day improve phones and spacecraft.

The AI method they used is similar to the ways people learn a new language, says study co-author Apurva Mehta, a scientist at Stanford University's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. One way to learn a language is to sit down and memorize all the rules of grammar. "But another way of learning is just by experience and listening to someone else talk," says Mehta. Their approach was a combination. First, the researchers looked through published papers to find as much data as possible on how different types of metallic glasses have been made. Next, they fed these "rules of grammar" into a machine-learning algorithm. The algorithm then learned to make its own predictions of which combination of elements would create a new form of metallic glass -- similar to how someone can improve their French by going to France instead of endlessly memorizing conjugation charts. Mehta's team then tested the system's suggestions in lab experiments.

Scientists can synthesize and test thousands of materials at a time. But even at that speed, it would be a waste of time to blindly try out every possible combination. "They can't just throw the whole periodic table at their equipment," says Wolverton, so the role of the AI is to "suggest a few places for them to get started." The process wasn't perfect, and some suggestions -- like the exact ratio of elements needed -- were off, but the scientists were able to form new metallic glasses. Plus, doing the experiments means they now had even more data to feed back to the algorithm so it grows smarter and smarter each time.

Another way of using AI is to create a "cookbook," or a collection of recipes for materials. In two papers published late last year, MIT scientists developed a machine-learning system that scans academic papers to figure out which ones include instructions for making certain materials. It could detect with 99 percent accuracy which paragraphs of a paper included the "recipe," and with 86 percent accuracy the exact words in that paragraph.

The MIT team is now training the AI to be even more accurate. They'd like to create a database of these recipes for the science community at large, but they need to work with the publisher of these academic papers to make sure their collection doesn't violate any agreements. Eventually, the team also wants to teach the system to read papers and then come up with new recipes on its own.

"One goal is to discover more efficient and cost-effective ways of making materials that we already make," says study co-author and MIT materials scientist Elsa Olivetti. "Another is, here's the compound that the computational materials science predicted, can we then suggest a better set of ways to make it?"

The future of AI and materials science seems promising, but challenges remain. First, computers simply cannot predict everything. "The predictions themselves have errors and often work on a simplified model of materials that doesn't take into account the real world," says Marzari from EPFL. There are all sorts of environmental factors, like temperature and humidity, that affect how the compounds behave. And most models can't take those into account.

Another problem is that we still don't have enough data about every compound, according to Wolverton, and a lack of data means algorithms aren't very smart. That said, he and Mehta are now interested in using their method on other types of materials beside metallic glass. And they hope that one day, you won't need a human to do experiments at all, it'll just be AI and robots. "We can create really a completely autonomous system," Wolverton says, "without any human being involved."
8
Politics and Current Events / China! China? China?!?
https://newrepublic.com/article/148121/control-14-billion-people
Quote
China's social credit system, which becomes mandatory in 2020, aims to funnel all behavior into a credit score.
By Robert Foyle Hunwick
April 25, 2018

A few months ago, you accidentally defaulted on a phone bill. The mistake affects your credit score: It's hard to get a loan. You can no longer make jokes about Marco Rubio on Twitter; such remarks will algorithmically define you as a libertarian loon--another sort of person likely to default on social obligations. After a couple of close friends miss their student loan repayments, you can't even travel: your social circle is now all "discredited, unable to take a single step."

This is the incipient scenario in China, whose state-backed "social credit scheme" will become mandatory for all residents by 2020. The quoted text is from a 2014 State Council resolution which promises that every involuntary participant will be rated according to their "commercial sincerity," "social security," "trust breaking" and "judicial credibility."

Some residents welcome it. Decades of political upheaval and endemic corruption has bred widespread mistrust; most still rely on close familial networks (guanxi) to get ahead, rather than public institutions. An endemic lack of trust is corroding society; frequent incidents of "bystander effect"--people refusing to help injured strangers for fear of being held responsible--have become a national embarrassment. Even the most enthusiastic middle-class supporters of the ruling Communist Party (CCP) feel perpetually insecure. "Fraud has become ever more common," Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the CCP's National Development and Reform Commission, recently admitted. "Swindlers must pay a price."

The solution, apparently, lies in a data-driven system that automatically separates the good, the bad, and the ugly. But with President Xi Jinping, China's most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong, at the helm, much English-language coverage of the plan so far predicts "unprecedented" levels of dictatorial surveillance.

Commercial versions of the nascent national program are already in operation. Ant Financial, the finance arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is piloting Sesame Credit, which offers a range of perks, such as travel upgrades and deposit-free car rentals, to top scorers. But Sesame's system, which assigns a rating between 350 and 950, is murky and complicated. The company says even innocuous activities, like late-night web browsing or buying video games, could see one's rank downgraded for "irresponsible" behavior. One undergraduate saw her score plummet to 350 after being named in an unresolved civil suit: Sesame had automatically listed her as a laolai, a deadbeat, "subject to enforcement for breaking trust."

The worst-case scenario is a form of high-tech Stalinism for our brave new world, in which those who toe the line are kept doped with rewards like fast-track visas for countries with compliant customs (developing regions deeply indebted to China via its "One Belt, One Road" could end up having to align themselves with Beijing's emigration and other policies). Meanwhile, those whom the system considers dissenters, dropouts or deadbeats would be effectively excommunicated from mainstream society. How these miscreants are defined is one of the most worrying aspects. "I have no doubt that the current efforts are intended to produce a more authoritarian state," Stanley Lubman, a Chinese law specialist at UC Berkeley, tells me.

"Good" behavior is equally subjective. Sesame Credit automatically upgrades customers who purchase curtains or diapers, for example--items which suggest a certain middle-class stability. This is partly because Sesame "is designed to incentivize behaviors that drive profits for Alibaba," explains Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting, such as "heavier online and offline use of Alibaba's payment tool, Alipay, and the user's ability to recruit more friends to join their Alipay [social] circle." Mrs. Chu, a middle-class working mother in her early 30s, tells me she finds Sesame "very convenient... because I have a high score, I can get refunds [online] quicker, without having to wait to return the items."

But once compulsory state "social credit" goes national in 2020, these shadowy algorithms will become even more opaque. Social credit will align with Communist Party policy to become another form of law enforcement. Since Beijing relaxed its One Child Policy to cope with an aging population (400 million seniors by 2035), the government has increasingly indulged in a form of nationalist natalism to encourage more two-child families. Will women be penalized for staying single, and rewarded for swapping their careers for childbirth? In April, one of the country's largest social-media companies banned homosexual content from its Weibo platform in order to "create a bright and harmonious community environment" (the decision was later rescinded in favor of cracking down on all sexual content). Will people once again be forced to hide non-normative sexual orientations in order to maintain their rights? An investigation by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab also warns that social credit policies would be used to discourage protest.

State media has defended social credit against Orwellian charges, arguing that China's maturing economy requires a "well-functioning" apparatus like the U.S.'s FICO credit score system. But, counters Lubman, "the U.S. systems, maintained by three companies, collect only financially related information." In the UK, citizens are entitled to an Equifax report itemizing their credit status. In China, only the security services have access to an individual's dang'an, the personal file containing every scrap of information the state keeps on them, from exam results to their religious and political views.

While outside observers agree that the situation likely bodes ill for many unwitting citizens, few have considered how vulnerable the system is to the corruption, con artistry, and incompetence that plagues much of Chinese society. Who will have access to the data, and how will they be able to use or abuse it? Will it be shared between ministries and departments, or jealously guarded? Can it be manipulated, altered, faked--or stolen?

Private data in China is already openly (and cheaply) available on eBay-like platforms such as Alibaba's own Taobao, making the company indirectly responsible for both harvesting and selling its customers' data. Scams and identity theft are infuriatingly common. Sesame Credit requires highly sensitive personal information, such as degree certificates and title deeds, to be uploaded to its cloud to enhance users' credit scores--cybersecurity experts say such a centralized digital database would be a treasure trove for hackers.

Meanwhile, reports in China's financial media suggest the commercial systems are already being abused, with micro-lenders using it to scam clients. "Sesame Credit... is still unable to control the quality of the data reported by partner lenders," observed a Caixin article. "Information often includes errors like mistaken user identity, and some lenders deliberately misrepresent user information... they will actually put their favorite customers on their blacklist shared with other lenders, so that other platforms will reject the customer, allowing the original lender to have exclusive access."

And it's not just businesses and crooks looking to game the latest gimmick: Already accustomed to having their data mined and lives surveilled, tech-savvy Chinese are wondering how they can rig their scores--and entrepreneurial hackers will be more than willing to oblige. On the popular Q&A site Zhihu, users constantly wonder how to boost the numbers: "Can I click-farm this?" many ask. The top-rated answer skewers the system mercilessly: 

    With my countrymen's knowledge for seizing every opportunity, and penchant for taking shortcuts, it won't be long before we'll have plenty of companies willing to farm your score. What's that? Sesame scores are connected to the frequency you use your credit cards? Simple--my company will help swipe and repay your card for a year, then charge you for how many points your score accumulates.

    What? Sesame points are related to the scores of your circle of friends? Simple. I've got plenty of high-score friends: I'll bring you in. What's that? You're afraid of bringing down everyone else's scores? Don't be. Using some bullshit card-swiping method, we'll aggregate the IDs of all your parents, relatives and friends in the countryside to bring up your score, and when the time comes, divide up the points evenly. Don't think it's not possible.

The Zhihu user explains that he is simply applying a pattern of past behavior to the new model: "Some things that you can't do in other countries, you can do in China, like fake divorces to get around housing purchase limits, or driving restrictions in Beijing. I've a friend who got a dozen buddies to help him enter the license-plate lottery... Of course I think there's an urgent need for a credit rating system. But I really don't have faith that they'll do it well."

Marbridge's Natkin acknowledges some dangers and drawbacks, but suggests social credit ratings "will also create a greater disincentive to engage in anti-social behavior, like a landlord capriciously deciding not to return a security deposit, or a shared-bike user parking in the middle of the street." These are everyday grievances in China's scofflaw society that many will be glad to see gone, or at least punished.

Riding the country's flagship high-speed rail this year, I overheard an announcement warning passengers that bad behavior on board "could affect your personal credit"--now it's been revealed that a whole range of infractions, from smoking to having the wrong tickets, could land citizens on a "deadbeat blacklist." (So, too, will offering "insincere" apologies for defaulting on loans; one must not only learn to grovel, but like it.)

To work effectively, social credit requires Chinese citizens to place complete trust in both their unaccountable government and vast cartel-like corporations. And therein lies the problem: A secretive scheme that proposes to (literally) codify credibility within a society that inherently lacks any is more likely to undermine public trust that instill it. Few would knowingly risk signing up for such a scheme; unfortunately, by 2020, no one living in the People's Republic of China--foreign or Chinese--will have a choice.
9
For several weeks now I've been getting page not loading issues which have resolved usually within maybe 10-30 seconds. Today, I checked is it down for everyone and it was, indeed, down for everyone. Is this a miserable user hack or is there a hosting issue?
10
Politics and Current Events / liberty U: whoah
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/magazine/how-liberty-university-built-a-billion-dollar-empire-online.html
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
super long article so I am splitting into 2 posts but interesting
12
Philosophy / Ethics of technology
I am reading this article: https://anildash.com/2018/04/07/12-things-everyone-should-understand-about-tech/
and come across this tidbit:
Quote
5. Most tech education doesn't include ethical training.

In mature disciplines like law or medicine, we often see centuries of learning incorporated into the professional curriculum, with explicit requirements for ethical education. Now, that hardly stops ethical transgressions from happening--we can see deeply unethical people in positions of power today who went to top business schools that proudly tout their vaunted ethics programs. But that basic level of familiarity with ethical concerns gives those fields a broad fluency in the concepts of ethics so they can have informed conversations. And more importantly, it ensures that those who want to do the right thing and do their jobs in an ethical way have a firm foundation to build on.

But until the very recent backlash against some of the worst excesses of the tech world, there had been little progress in increasing the expectation of ethical education being incorporated into technical training. There are still very few programs aimed at upgrading the ethical knowledge of those who are already in the workforce; continuing education is largely focused on acquiring new technical skills rather than social ones. There's no silver-bullet solution to this issue; it's overly simplistic to think that simply bringing computer scientists into closer collaboration with liberal arts majors will significantly address these ethics concerns. But it is clear that technologists will have to rapidly become fluent in ethical concerns if they want to continue to have the widespread public support that they currently enjoy.

which kind of woke me to something I haven't thought deeply about.

Technology is media theory and social theory rolled into a weird Gordian knot. Successful technology alters human systems and our global communications landscape assures that successful technologies will shape the complex, dynamic, chaotic, and fundamentally nonlinear systems of human behavior and activity.  Relying on principles like 'pure free speech' or really any libertarian oriented principles as axiomatic will bring about the best and the worst outcomes of thought experiments regarding the extensions of those principles plus countless unanticipated consequences. Has ethics entered a new age of systems? How could we possibly educate about ethics on principles that place human welfare as results of a principle rather than as the intended cause of a policy? So, rather than saying freedom will produce prosperity for all, it is now imperative to be intentional about, for example, redistribution because systemically capital always concentrates and eventually r>g (as Piketty puts it) creates aristocracies and games of thrones. But that's just an economic example. We know that we cannot manage any chaotic system for sustained yield because externalitities will build up and feedback will collapse the system. i.e. series of collapse and bubbles in biosphere, politics, economies, etc will become the norm.

So, what does it even mean to educate tech workers in ethics?
13
https://nerdist.com/hand-dryers-spray-poop-feces-bacteria/
Quote
For decades, hand dryers have been presented as an environmentally and hygienically friendly way to remove water and bacteria after washing hands with soap. But while it seems like a good idea in theory, hand dryers may actually increase the spread of bacteria on skin and clothing. Previous studies have come to similar conclusions, but the latest research may be enough to give even the most ardent hand dryer supporters reasons to avoid them.

Via Boing Boing, researchers at the University of Connecticut published a study which confirmed hand dryers draw in "potentially infectious microbes" and spread them when activated. Even the low-powered hand dryers used in the study were prone to gathering fecal material and bacteria from from the air and blasting them on unsuspecting users.

How does it happen? Even the cleanest public restrooms are rarely hygienic environments. But the biggest issue comes from flushing toilets without lids. The flushes often send fecal material in the air, which are subsequently sucked in and pushed out by the active hand dryers. It should be noted hand dryers with HEPA filters can cut down on the intake of harmful particles and other unwanted objects in the air. But it doesn't fully eliminate them.

Unfortunately, moist hands and skin are an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, especially if the users don't realize what's happening. Many public restrooms don't even offer paper towels as an alternative, leaving the hand dryers the only option. It's almost enough to make us start carrying our own towels around.
14
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/04/google-ceo-drones-ai-war-surveillance
Quote
Dear Sundar,

We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.

Google is implementing Project Maven, a customized AI surveillance engine that uses "wide area motion imagery" data captured by US government drones to detect vehicles and other objects, track their motions and provide results to the Department of Defense.

Recently, Googlers voiced concerns about Maven internally. Diane Greene responded, assuring them that the technology will not "operate or fly drones" and "will not be used to launch weapons". While this eliminates a narrow set of direct applications, the technology is being built for the military, and once it's delivered it could easily be used to assist in these tasks. This plan will irreparably damage Google's brand and its ability to compete for talent.

    We request that you cancel this project immediately

Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public's trust. By entering into this contract, Google will join the ranks of companies like Palantir, Raytheon and General Dynamics. The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn't make this any less risky for Google. Google's unique history, its motto "don't be evil", and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.

We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties. Google's stated values make this clear: every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardize that. Ever. This contract puts Google's reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values. Building this technology to assist the US government in military surveillance - and potentially lethal outcomes - is not acceptable.

Recognizing Google's moral and ethical responsibility, and the threat to Google's reputation, we request that you: 1. Cancel this project immediately. 2. Draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.

    This open letter was originally published in the New York Times
15
Politics and Current Events / is twitter toxic?
https://www.fastcompany.com/40547818/did-we-create-this-monster-how-twitter-turned-toxic
Quote
Twitter is not alone in wrestling with the fact that its product is being corrupted for malevolence: Facebook and Google have come under heightened scrutiny since the presidential election, as more information comes to light revealing how their platforms manipulate citizens, from Cambridge Analytica to conspiracy videos. The companies' responses have been timid, reactive, or worse. "All of them are guilty of waiting too long to address the current problem, and all of them have a long way to go," says Jonathon Morgan, founder of Data for Democracy, a team of technologists and data experts who tackle governmental social-impact projects.

The stakes are particularly high for Twitter, given that enabling breaking news and global discourse is key to both its user appeal and business model. Its challenges, increasingly, are the world's.

How did Twitter get into this mess? Why is it only now addressing the malfeasance that has dogged the platform for years? "Safety got away from Twitter," says a former VP at the company. "It was Pandora's box. Once it's opened, how do you put it all back in again?"

In Twitter's early days, as the microblogging platform's founders were figuring out its purpose, its users showed them Twitter's power for good. Galvanized by global social movements, dissidents, activists, and whistle-blowers embracing Twitter, free expression became the startup's guiding principle. "Let the tweets flow," said Alex Macgillivray, Twitter's first general counsel, who later served as deputy CTO in the Obama administration. Internally, Twitter thought of itself as "the free-speech wing of the free-speech party."

This ideology proved naive. "Twitter became so convinced of the virtue of its commitment to free speech that the leadership utterly misunderstood how it was being hijacked and weaponized," says a former executive.

The first sign of trouble was spam. Child pornography, phishing attacks, and bots flooded the tweetstream. Twitter, at the time, seemed to be distracted by other challenges. When the company appointed Dick Costolo as CEO in October 2010, he was trying to fix Twitter's underlying infrastructure-the company had become synonymous with its "fail whale" server-error page, which exemplified its weak engineering foundation. Though Twitter was rocketing toward 100 million users during 2011, its antispam team included just four dedicated engineers. "Spam was incredibly embarrassing, and they built these stupidly bare-minimum tools to [fight it]," says a former senior engineer, who remembers "goddamn bot wars erupting" as fake accounts fought each other for clicks.

"You can't take credit for the Arab Spring without taking responsibility for Donald Trump," says Leslie Miley, a former engineering safety manager at Twitter. [Photo illustration: Delcan & Company]
Twitter's trust and safety group, responsible for safeguarding users, was run by Del Harvey, Twitter employee No. 25. She had an atypical résumé for Silicon Valley: Harvey had previously worked with Perverted Justice, a controversial volunteer group that used web chat rooms to ferret out apparent sexual predators, and partnered with NBC's To Catch a Predator, posing as a minor to lure in pedophiles for arrest on TV. Her lack of traditional technical and policy experience made her a polarizing figure within the organization, although allies have found her passion about safety issues inspiring. In the early days, "she personally responded to individual [affected] users-Del worked tirelessly," says Macgillivray. "[She] took on some of the most complex issues that Twitter faced. We didn't get everything right, but Del's leadership was very often a factor when we did."

Harvey's view, championed by Macgillivray and other executives, was that bad speech could ultimately be defeated with more speech, a belief that echoed Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis's 1927 landmark First Amendment decision that this remedy is always preferable to "enforced silence." Harvey occasionally used as an example the phrase "Yo bitch," which bad actors intend as invective, but others perceive as a sassy hello. Who was Twitter to decide? The marketplace of ideas would figure it out.

By 2012, spam was mutating into destructive trolling and hate speech. The few engineers in Harvey's group had built some internal tools to enable her team to more quickly remove illegal content such as child pornography, but they weren't prepared for the proliferation of harassment on Twitter. "Every time you build a wall, someone is going to build a higher ladder, and there are always more people outside trying to fuck you over than there are inside trying to stop them," says a former platform engineer. That year, Australian TV personality Charlotte Dawson was subjected to a rash of vicious tweets-e.g., "go hang yourself"-after she spoke out against online abuse. Dawson attempted suicide and was hospitalized. The following summer, in the U.K., after activist Caroline Criado-Perez campaigned to get a woman's image featured on the 10-pound note, her Twitter feed was deluged with trolls sending her 50 rape threats per hour.

The company responded by creating a dedicated button for reporting abuse within tweets, yet trolls only grew stronger on the platform. Internally, Costolo complained that the "abuse economics" were "backward." It took just seconds to create an account to harass someone, but reporting that abuse required filling out a time-consuming form. Harvey's team, earnest about reviewing the context of each reported tweet but lacking a large enough support staff, moved slowly. Multiple sources say it wasn't uncommon for her group to take months to respond to backlogged abuse tickets. Because they lacked the necessary language support, team members had to rely on Google Translate for answering many non-English complaints. User support agents, who manually evaluated flagged tweets, were so overwhelmed by tickets that if banned users appealed a suspension, they would sometimes simply release the offenders back onto the platform. "They were drowning," says a source who worked closely with Harvey. "To this day, it's shocking to me how bad Twitter was at safety."

Twitter's leadership, meanwhile, was focused on preparing for the company's November 2013 IPO, and as a result it devoted the bulk of its engineering resources to the team overseeing user growth, which was key to Twitter's pitch to Wall Street. Harvey didn't have the technical support she needed to build scalable solutions to Twitter's woes.

Toxicity on the platform intensified during this time, especially in international markets. Trolls organized to spread misogynist messages in India and anti-Semitic ones in Europe. In Latin America, bots began infecting elections. Hundreds used during Brazil's 2014 presidential race spread propaganda, leading a company executive to meet with government officials, during which, according to a source, "pretty much every member of the Brazilian house and senate asked, 'What are you doing about bots?'" (Around this time, Russia reportedly began testing bots of its own to sway public opinion through disinformation. Twitter largely tolerated automated accounts on the platform; a knowledgeable source recalls the company once sending a cease-and-desist letter to a bot farmer, which was disregarded, a symbol of its anemic response to this issue.) Twitter's leadership seemed deaf to cries from overseas offices. "It was such a Bay Area company," says a former international employee, echoing a common grievance that Twitter fell victim to Silicon Valley myopia. "Whenever [an incident] happened in the U.S., it was a company-wide tragedy. We would be like, 'But this happens to us every day!"

It wasn't until mid-2014, around the time that trolls forced comedian Robin Williams's daughter, Zelda, off the service in the wake of her father's suicide-she later returned-that Costolo had finally had enough. Costolo, who had been the victim of abuse in his own feed, lost faith in Harvey, multiple sources say. He put a different department in charge of responding to user-submitted abuse tickets, though he left Harvey in charge of setting the company's trust and safety guidelines.
more at link
16
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610339/dna-tests-for-iq-are-coming-but-it-might-not-be-smart-to-take-one/
Quote
     by Antonio Regalado April 2, 2018

Ready for a world in which a $50 DNA test can predict your odds of earning a PhD or forecast which toddler gets into a selective preschool?

Robert Plomin, a behavioral geneticist, says that's exactly what's coming.

For decades genetic researchers have sought the hereditary factors behind intelligence, with little luck. But now gene studies have finally gotten big enough--and hence powerful enough--to zero in on genetic differences linked to IQ.

A year ago, no gene had ever been tied to performance on an IQ test. Since then, more than 500 have, thanks to gene studies involving more than 200,000 test takers. Results from an experiment correlating one million people's DNA with their academic success are due at any time.

The discoveries mean we can now read the DNA of a young child and get a notion of how intelligent he or she will be, says Plomin, an American based at King's College London, where he leads a long-term study of 13,000 pairs of British twins.

Plomin outlined the DNA IQ test scenario in January in a paper titled "The New Genetics of Intelligence," making a case that parents will use direct-to-consumer tests to predict kids' mental abilities and make schooling choices, a concept he calls precision education.

As of now, the predictions are not highly accurate. The DNA variations that have been linked to test scores explain less than 10 percent of the intelligence differences between the people of European ancestry who've been studied.

Even so, MIT Technology Review found that aspects of Plomin's testing scenario are already happening. At least three online services, including GenePlaza and DNA Land, have started offering to quantify anyone's genetic IQ from a spit sample.

Others are holding back. The largest company offering direct-to-consumer DNA health reports, 23andMe, says it's not telling people their brain rating out of concern the information would be poorly received.

Several educators contacted by MIT Technology Review reacted with alarm to the new developments, saying DNA tests should not be used to evaluate children's academic prospects.

"The idea is we'll have this information everywhere you go, like an RFID tag. Everyone will know who you are, what you are about. To me that is really scary," says Catherine Bliss, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of a book questioning the use of genetics in social science.

"A world where people are slotted according to their inborn ability--well, that is Gattaca," says Bliss. "That is eugenics."
-more at link

my bolding. That seems about as good as this particular test will ever be able to get. Not least because a rigorous definition of IQ is unlikely to happen in our lifetime and MENSA is notoriously a haven for less than the most capable among us.
17
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/student-loans-are-too-expensive-to-forgive/
Quote
President Trump's Education Department and its inspector general, as well as lawmakers and think tanks of all ideological stripes, have raised concerns about the growing cost of the federal government's student loan programs -- specifically its loan forgiveness options for graduate students. Members of both chambers of Congress have said they are committed to passing new higher education legislation this year that will include changes to these programs.1

The costs of the suite of plans currently offered by the government to lessen the burden of grad school debt has ballooned faster than anticipated, and the federal government stands to lose bundles of money. A new audit from the Department of Education's inspector general found that between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, the cost of programs that allow student borrowers to repay their federal loans at a rate proportional to their income shot up from $1.4 billion to $11.5 billion. Back in 2007, when many such programs launched, the Congressional Budget Office projected they would cost just $4 billion over the 10 years ending in 2017.

The cost of the loan forgiveness programs exploded, in part, because policymakers did not correctly estimate the number of students who would take advantage of such programs, according to higher education scholar Jason Delisle. Now there's an emerging consensus that some programs should be reined in, but ideas on how much and in what ways vary by party affiliation. Senate Democrats just introduced a college affordability bill that focuses on creating "debt-free" college plans by giving federal matching funds to states that, in turn, would figure out ways to help students pay for school. In the past, President Barack Obama acknowledged the need to require borrowers to repay more of their debts and made some proposals for modifying the programs' rules. The GOP goes much further in its suggestions: A new proposal from House Republicans would eliminate some loan-forgiveness programs entirely.

The federal government currently offers several types of loans, with varying repayment terms, one of which can cover up to the full cost of a student's graduate program. If, after they leave school, a borrower signs up for an income-driven repayment plan, they will pay back their loan at the rate of 10 percent of their discretionary income2 each year, and the remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 years.

Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, however, a student's debt can be forgiven after just 10 years. The program was created to ease economic barriers to entering public service, which is defined as work for any federal, state, local or tribal agency, or any tax-exempt nonprofit.3

Right now, a Georgetown Law grad who's gunning for a job at a U.S. attorney's office and enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program would expect that the federal student loans she took out to help pay her $180,000 tuition will be forgiven after 10 years. If, like the typical lawyer, she graduates with $140,000 in federal student loan debt and her salary rises from $59,000 to $121,000 a year over her first 10 years on the job, she could have the government wipe out $147,000 in debt -- the full remaining principal of her debt plus interest -- according to a 2014 study from the think tank New America, which Delisle co-authored.

Or let's say a second-grade teacher with a master's degree and $42,000 in federal student loan debt (a typical amount for a first-year teacher after undergraduate and graduate school) earns in the 75th percentile for his age for 10 years. If he dutifully fulfills all the requirements for a federal debt forgiveness program -- including completing all of the onerous paperwork -- he, for now, stands to have about $33,000 of that debt forgiven, according to the New America report.

more at the link. but I can't help thinking they are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
19
Interesting
http://bigthink.com/the-conversation/people-with-depression-use-language-differently-nil-heres-how-to-spot-it
Quote
From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this "language of depression" can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Traditionally, linguistic analyses in this field have been carried out by researchers reading and taking notes. Nowadays, computerised text analysis methods allow the processing of extremely large data banks in minutes. This can help spot linguistic features which humans may miss, calculating the percentage prevalence of words and classes of words, lexical diversity, average sentence length, grammatical patterns and many other metrics.

So far, personal essays and diary entries by depressed people have been useful, as has the work of well-known artists such as Cobain and Plath. For the spoken word, snippets of natural language of people with depression have also provided insight. Taken together, the findings from such research reveal clear and consistent differences in language between those with and without symptoms of depression.
continued at link
20
Science / Intelligence predicted through DNA?
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-017-0001-5

Since Intelligence cannot even be defined in a rigorous manner and definitions such as there are are highly contentious, I have to assume this is sensationalism. But...
23
Science / Physiology study design?
This sort of blew my mind in that kind of WTF? way that the serious papers that Alan Sokal was imitating can. And the authors include two Sokal's which makes it even weirder.
Is NIH/NCBI just publishing whatever people send? Is there a reason this review is possible to conduct? April fools?  the questions are endless. It is cited in several other papers. You can see them:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
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Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth's Surface Electrons
Gaétan Chevalier, 1, 2 , * Stephen T. Sinatra, 3 James L. Oschman, 4 Karol Sokal, 5 and Pawel Sokal 6
Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ►
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
Go to:
Abstract

Environmental medicine generally addresses environmental factors with a negative impact on human health. However, emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth. Modern lifestyle separates humans from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. Reconnection with the Earth's electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being. Earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits--including better sleep and reduced pain--from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth's electrons from the ground into the body. This paper reviews the earthing research and the potential of earthing as a simple and easily accessed global modality of significant clinical importance.
1. Introduction

Environmental medicine focuses on interactions between human health and the environment, including factors such as compromised air and water and toxic chemicals, and how they cause or mediate disease. Omnipresent throughout the environment is a surprisingly beneficial, yet overlooked global resource for health maintenance, disease prevention, and clinical therapy: the surface of the Earth itself. It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact, that the Earth's surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The surface of the planet is electrically conductive (except in limited ultradry areas such as deserts), and its negative potential is maintained (i.e., its electron supply replenished) by the global atmospheric electrical circuit [1, 2].

Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth's negative potential can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems. Moreover, oscillations of the intensity of the Earth's potential may be important for setting the biological clocks regulating diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion [3].

It is also well established that electrons from antioxidant molecules neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS, or in popular terms, free radicals) involved in the body's immune and inflammatory responses. The National Library of Medicine's online resource PubMed lists 7021 studies and 522 review articles from a search of "antioxidant + electron + free radical" [3]. It is assumed that the influx of free electrons absorbed into the body through direct contact with the Earth likely neutralize ROS and thereby reduce acute and chronic inflammation [4]. Throughout history, humans mostly walked barefoot or with footwear made of animal skins. They slept on the ground or on skins. Through direct contact or through perspiration-moistened animal skins used as footwear or sleeping mats, the ground's abundant free electrons were able to enter the body, which is electrically conductive [5]. Through this mechanism, every part of the body could equilibrate with the electrical potential of the Earth, thereby stabilizing the electrical environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.

Modern lifestyle has increasingly separated humans from the primordial flow of Earth's electrons. For example, since the 1960s, we have increasingly worn insulating rubber or plastic soled shoes, instead of the traditional leather fashioned from hides. Rossi has lamented that the use of insulating materials in post-World War II shoes has separated us from the Earth's energy field [6]. Obviously, we no longer sleep on the ground as we did in times past.

During recent decades, chronic illness, immune disorders, and inflammatory diseases have increased dramatically, and some researchers have cited environmental factors as the cause [7]. However, the possibility of modern disconnection with the Earth's surface as a cause has not been considered. Much of the research reviewed in this paper points in that direction.

In the late 19th century, a back-to-nature movement in Germany claimed many health benefits from being barefoot outdoors, even in cold weather [8]. In the 1920s, White, a medical doctor, investigated the practice of sleeping grounded after being informed by some individuals that they could not sleep properly "unless they were on the ground or connected to the ground in some way," such as with copper wires attached to grounded-to-Earth water, gas, or radiator pipes. He reported improved sleeping using these techniques [9]. However, these ideas never caught on in mainstream society.

At the end of the last century, experiments initiated independently by Ober in the USA [10] and K. Sokal and P. Sokal [11] in Poland revealed distinct physiological and health benefits with the use of conductive bed pads, mats, EKG- and TENS-type electrode patches, and plates connected indoors to the Earth outside. Ober, a retired cable television executive, found a similarity between the human body (a bioelectrical, signal-transmitting organism) and the cable used to transmit cable television signals. When cables are "grounded" to the Earth, interference is virtually eliminated from the signal. Furthermore, all electrical systems are stabilized by grounding them to the Earth. K. Sokal and P. Sokal, meanwhile, discovered that grounding the human body represents a "universal regulating factor in Nature" that strongly influences bioelectrical, bioenergetic, and biochemical processes and appears to offer a significant modulating effect on chronic illnesses encountered daily in their clinical practices.

Earthing (also known as grounding) refers to contact with the Earth's surface electrons by walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems, some of them patented, that transfer the energy from the ground into the body. Emerging scientific research supports the concept that the Earth's electrons induce multiple physiological changes of clinical significance, including reduced pain, better sleep, a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and a blood-thinning effect. The research, along with many anecdotal reports, is presented in a new book entitled Earthing [12].
And, just for fun:
Quote
2. Review of Earthing Papers

The studies summarized below involve indoor-testing methods under controlled conditions that simulate being barefoot outdoors.

Has anyone ever heard of this? It seems like an unlikely candidate for the NIH to promote.
24
Science / humanzees
http://nautil.us/issue/58/self/its-time-to-make-human_chimp-hybrids
Quote
It is a bit of a stretch, but by no means impossible or even unlikely that a hybrid or a chimera combining a human being and a chimpanzee could be produced in a laboratory. After all, human and chimp (or bonobo) share, by most estimates, roughly 99 percent of their nuclear DNA. Granted this 1 percent difference presumably involves some key alleles, the new gene-editing tool CRISPR offers the prospect (for some, the nightmare) of adding and deleting targeted genes as desired. As a result, it is not unreasonable to foresee the possibility--eventually, perhaps, the likelihood--of producing "humanzees" or "chimphumans." Such an individual would not be an exact equal-parts-of-each combination, but would be neither human nor chimp: rather, something in between.

If that prospect isn't shocking enough, here is an even more controversial suggestion: Doing so would be a terrific idea.


The year 2018 is the bicentennial of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, subtitled the modern Prometheus. Haven't we learned that Promethean hubris leads only to disaster, as did the efforts of the fictional Dr. Frankenstein? But there are also other disasters, currently ongoing, such as the grotesque abuse of nonhuman animals, facilitated by what might well be the most hurtful theologically-driven myth of all times: that human beings are discontinuous from the rest of the natural world, since we were specially created and endowed with souls, whereas "they"--all other creatures--were not.
Book cover of Frankenstein.Bernie Wrightson

Of course, all that we know of evolution (and by now, it's a lot) demands otherwise, since evolution's most fundamental take-home message is continuity. And it is in fact because of continuity--especially those shared genes--that humanzees or chimphumans could likely be produced. Moreover, I propose that the fundamental take-home message of such creation would be to drive a stake into the heart of that destructive disinformation campaign of discontinuity, of human hegemony over all other living things. There is an immense pile of evidence already demonstrating continuity, including but not limited to physiology, genetics, anatomy, embryology, and paleontology, but it is almost impossible to imagine how the most die-hard advocate of humans having a discontinuously unique biological status could continue to maintain this position if confronted with a real, functioning, human-chimp combination.1

It is also possible, however, that my suggestion is doubly fanciful, not only with respect to its biological feasibility, but also whether such a "creation" would have the impact that I propose--and hope. Thus, chimpanzees are widely known to be very similar to human beings: They make and use tools, engage in complex social behavior (including elaborate communication and long-lasting mother-offspring bonds), they laugh, grieve, and affirmatively reconcile after conflicts. They even look like us. Although such recognition has contributed to outrage about abusing chimps--as well as other primates in particular--in circus acts, laboratory experiments, and so forth, it has not generated notable resistance to hunting, imprisoning and eating other animal species, which, along with chimps themselves, are still considered by most people to be "other" and not aspects of "ourselves." (Chimps, moreover, are enthusiastically consumed in parts of equatorial Africa, where they are a prized component of "bush meat.")

   It is at least arguable that the ultimate benefit of teaching human beings their true nature would be worth the sacrifice paid by a few unfortunates.

story continues.

Shades of Omelas
25
General Discussion / Love your washing machine?
https://thewirecutter.com/blog/speed-queen-washer/

kind of a crazy article. Stuff we don't think about.