jm + society   26

Maniac Killers of the Bangalore IT Department
On "techies" and their tenuous relationship with Indian society:
Technology was supposed to deliver India from poverty, but in Bangalore it’s also deepened the division between rich and poor, young and old, modern and traditional. As the city has grown richer, it’s also become unruly and unfamiliar. If the tech worker is the star of the Indian economy, then the techie is his shadow— spoiled, untrustworthy, adulterous, depressed, and sometimes just plain senseless. (“TECHIE WITH EARPHONES RUN OVER BY TRAIN.”) In one occupational boogeyman, Bangaloreans can see their future and their fears. [....]

“TECHIE’S WIFE MURDERED” read the headlines in both the Hindu and the Bangalore Mirror. “TECHIE STABS FRIEND’S WIFE TO DEATH” ran in the Deccan Herald. To read the Indian newspapers regularly is to believe the software engineer is the country’s most cursed figure. Almost every edition carries a gruesome story involving a techie accused of homicide, rape, burglary, blackmail, assault, injury, suicide, or another crime. When techies are the victims, it’s just as newsworthy. The Times of India, the country’s largest English-language paper, has carried “TECHIE DIES IN FREAK ACCIDENT” and “MAN HELD FOR PUSHING TECHIE FROM TRAIN”; in the Hindu, readers found “TEACHER CHOPS OFF FINGERS OF TECHIE HUSBAND” and “TECHIE DIED AFTER BEING FORCE-FED CYANIDE.” A long-standing journalistic adage says, “If it bleeds, it leads.” In India, if it codes, it explodes.
crime  tech  india  bangalore  pune  society  techies  work  jobs 
8 weeks ago by jm
Parable of the Polygons - a playable post on the shape of society
Our cute segregation sim is based off the work of Nobel Prize-winning game theorist, Thomas Schelling. Specifically, his 1971 paper, Dynamic Models of Segregation. We built on top of this, and showed how a small demand for diversity can desegregate a neighborhood. In other words, we gave his model a happy ending.
games  society  visualization  diversity  racism  bias  thomas-schelling  segregation 
10 weeks ago by jm
Video Games Are Boring
I'm not remotely interested in shockingly good graphics, in murder simulators, in guns and knives and swords. I'm not that interested in adrenaline. My own life is thrilling enough. There is enough fear and hatred in the world to get my heart pounding. My Facebook feed and Twitter feed are enough for that. Walking outside in summer clothing is enough for that. I'm interested in care, in characters, in creation, in finding a path forward inside games that helps me find my path forward in life. I am interested in compassion and understanding. I'm interested in connecting. As Miranda July said, "all I ever wanted to know is how other people are making it through life." I want to make games that help other people understand life.

We are all overwhelmed with shock, with information, with change. The degree of interactivity in our lives is amazing and wonderful and I wouldn't exchange it for anything, but it is also shocking and overwhelming and it's causing us to dig in and try to find some peace by shutting each other out. On all sides of the political spectrum we've stopped listening to each other and I fear we are all leaning toward fascist thinking. We should be using this medium to help us adapt to our new, interactive lives. This is how we become relevant.
essay  feminism  society  culture  games  gaming  life  art 
november 2016 by jm
The "Alpha Wolf" notion is outmoded and incorrect
via Saladin Ahmed -- the scientist who coined the term abandoned it as useless years ago:
The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species," written in 1968, published in 1970, republished in paperback in 1981, and currently still in print, despite my numerous pleas to the publisher to stop publishing it. Although most of the book's info is still accurate, much is outdated. We have learned more about wolves in the last 40 years then in all of previous history.

One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. "Alpha" implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that's all we call them today, the "breeding male," "breeding female," or "male parent," "female parent," or the "adult male" or "adult female." In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the "dominant breeder" can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a "subordinate breeder."
biology  animals  wolves  alpha  alpha-males  mra  science  wolf-packs  society  competition  parenting 
october 2016 by jm
“Racist algorithms” and learned helplessness
Whenever I’ve had to talk about bias in algorithms, I’ve tried be  careful to emphasize that it’s not that we shouldn’t use algorithms in search, recommendation and decision making. It’s that we often just don’t know how they’re making their decisions to present answers, make recommendations or arrive at conclusions, and it’s this lack of transparency that’s worrisome. Remember, algorithms aren’t just code.

What’s also worrisome is the amplifier effect. Even if “all an algorithm is doing” is reflecting and transmitting biases inherent in society, it’s also amplifying and perpetuating them on a much larger scale than your friendly neighborhood racist. And that’s the bigger issue. [...] even if the algorithm isn’t creating bias, it’s creating a feedback loop that has powerful perception effects.
feedback  bias  racism  algorithms  software  systems  society 
april 2016 by jm
Hey Microsoft, the Internet Made My Bot Racist, Too
All machine learning algorithms strive to exaggerate and perpetuate the past. That is, after all, what they are learning from. The fundamental assumption of every machine learning algorithm is that the past is correct, and anything coming in the future will be, and should be, like the past. This is a fine assumption to make when you are Netflix trying to predict what movie you’ll like, but is immoral when applied to many other situations. For bots like mine and Microsoft’s, built for entertainment purposes, it can lead to embarrassment. But AI has started to be used in much more meaningful ways: predictive policing in Chicago, for example, has already led to widespread accusations of racial profiling.
This isn’t a little problem. This is a huge problem, and it demands a lot more attention then it’s getting now, particularly in the community of scientists and engineers who design and apply these algorithms. It’s one thing to get cursed out by an AI, but wholly another when one puts you in jail, denies you a mortgage, or decides to audit you.
machine-learning  ml  algorithms  future  society  microsoft 
march 2016 by jm
J. G. Ballard predicted social media in a 1977 essay for Vogue
'In the intro essay to High Rise it says that J G Ballard predicted social media in a 1977 essay for Vogue. Here it is'
j-g-ballard  social-media  twitter  instagram  youtube  future  society  vogue  1977  facebook  media 
april 2015 by jm
Working Time, Knowledge Work and Post-Industrial Society: Unpredictable Work - Aileen O'Carroll
my friend Aileen has written a book -- looks interesting:

I will argue that a key feature of working time within high-tech industries is unpredictability, which alters the way time is experienced and perceived. It affects all aspects of time, from working hours to work organisation, to career, to the distinction between work and life. Although many desire variety in work and the ability to control working hours, unpredictability causes dissatisfaction.


On Amazon.co.uk at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Working-Time-Knowledge-Post-Industrial-Society-ebook/dp/B00VILIN4U
books  reading  time  work  society  tech  working-hours  job  life  sociology 
april 2015 by jm
Why are transhumanists such dicks?
Good discussion from a transhumanist forum (via Boing Boing):
"I’ve been around and interviewed quite a lot of self-identified
transhumanists in the last couple of years, and I’ve noticed many of them
express a fairly stark ideology that is at best libertarian, and at worst
Randian. Very much “I want super bionic limbs and screw the rest of the world”.
They tend to brush aside the ethical, environmental, social and political
ramifications of human augmentation so long as they get to have their toys.
There’s also a common expression that if sections of society are harmed by transhumanist
progress, then it is unfortunate but necessary for the greater good (the greater
good often being bestowed primarily upon those endorsing the transhumanism).

That attitude isn’t prevalent on this forum at all – I think
the site tends to attract more practical body-modders than theoretical transhumanists
– but I wondered if anyone else here had experienced the same attitudes in
their own circles? What do you make of it?"
transhumanism  evolution  body-modding  surgery  philosophy  via:boingboing  libertarianism  society  politics 
march 2015 by jm
Debunking The Dangerous “If You Have Nothing To Hide, You Have Nothing To Fear”
A great resource bookmark from Falkvinge.
There are at least four good reasons to reject this argument solidly and uncompromisingly: The rules may change, it’s not you who determine if you’re guilty, laws must be broken for society to progress, and privacy is a basic human need.
nsa  politics  privacy  security  surveillance  gchq  rick-falkvinge  society 
january 2015 by jm
No, Nate, brogrammers may not be macho, but that’s not all there is to it
Great essay on sexism in tech, "brogrammer" culture, "clubhouse chemistry", outsiders, wierd nerds and exclusion:
Every group, including the excluded and disadvantaged, create cultural capital and behave in ways that simultaneously create a sense of belonging for them in their existing social circle while also potentially denying them entry into another one, often at the expense of economic capital. It’s easy to see that wearing baggy, sagging pants to a job interview, or having large and visible tattoos in a corporate setting, might limit someone’s access. These are some of the markers of belonging used in social groups that are often denied opportunities. By embracing these markers, members of the group create real barriers to acceptance outside their circle even as they deepen their peer relationships. The group chooses to adopt values that are rejected by the society that’s rejecting them. And that’s what happens to “weird nerd” men as well—they create ways of being that allow for internal bonding against a largely exclusionary backdrop.


(via Bryan O'Sullivan)
nerds  outsiders  exclusion  society  nate-silver  brogrammers  sexism  racism  tech  culture  silicon-valley  essays  via:bos31337 
march 2014 by jm
Welcome to Algorithmic Prison - Bill Davidow - The Atlantic
"Computer says no", taken to the next level.
Even if an algorithmic prisoner knows he is in a prison, he may not know who his jailer is. Is he unable to get a loan because of a corrupted file at Experian or Equifax? Or could it be TransUnion? His bank could even have its own algorithms to determine a consumer’s creditworthiness. Just think of the needle-in-a-haystack effort consumers must undertake if they are forced to investigate dozens of consumer-reporting companies, looking for the one that threw them behind algorithmic bars. Now imagine a future that contains hundreds of such companies. A prisoner might not have any idea as to what type of behavior got him sentenced to a jail term. Is he on an enhanced screening list at an airport because of a trip he made to an unstable country, a post on his Facebook page, or a phone call to a friend who has a suspected terrorist friend?
privacy  data  big-data  algorithms  machine-learning  equifax  experian  consumer  society  bill-davidow 
february 2014 by jm
Girls and Software
a pretty thought-provoking article from Linux Journal on women in computing, and how we're doing it all wrong
feminism  community  programming  coding  women  computing  software  society  work  linux-journal  children  teaching 
february 2014 by jm
The Gardai haven't requested info on any Twitter accounts in the past 6 months
This seems to imply they haven't been investigating any allegations of cyber-bullying/harassment from "anonymous" Twitter handles, despite having the legal standing to do so. Enforcement is needed, not new laws
cyber-bullying  twitter  social-media  enforcement  gardai  policing  harassment  online  society  law  government 
february 2014 by jm
Capabilities of Movements and Affordances of Digital Media: Paradoxes of Empowerment | DMLcentral
Paradoxically, it’s possible that the widespread use of digital tools facilitates capabilities in some domains, such as organization, logistics, and publicity, while simultaneously engendering hindrances to [political] movement impacts on other domains, including those related to policy and electoral spheres.
society  politics  activism  tech  internet  gezi-park  tahrir-square  euromaidan  occupy 
january 2014 by jm
BBC News - Pair jailed over abusive tweets to feminist campaigner
When a producer from BBC Two's Newsnight programme tracked Nimmo down after he had sent the abuse, the former call centre worker told him: "The police will do nothing, it's only Twitter."
bbc  bullying  social-media  twitter  society  uk  trolls  trolling  abuse  feminism  cyberbullying 
january 2014 by jm
Stupid Simple Things SF Techies Could Do To Stop Being Hated - Anil Dash
I've seen a lot of hand-wringing from techies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley saying "Why are we so hated?" now that there's been a more vocal contingent of people being critical of their lack of civic responsibility. Is it true that corruption and NIMBYism have kept affordable housing from being built? Sure. Is it true that members of the tech industry do contribute tax dollars to the city? Absolutely. But does that mean techies have done enough? Nope.
anil-dash  politics  society  san-francisco  gentrification  helping  tech  community  housing 
january 2014 by jm
The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts - NYTimes.com
“The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats,” Dr. Hart said. “The rats that keep pressing the lever for cocaine are the ones who are stressed out because they’ve been raised in solitary conditions and have no other options. But when you enrich their environment, and give them access to sweets and let them play with other rats, they stop pressing the lever.”
crack  drugs  policy  science  addiction  society 
september 2013 by jm
Schneier on Security: Reforming the NSA
Regardless of how we got here, the NSA can't reform itself. Change cannot come from within; it has to come from above. It's the job of government: of Congress, of the courts, and of the president. These are the people who have the ability to investigate how things became so bad, rein in the rogue agency, and establish new systems of transparency, oversight, and accountability.
Any solution we devise will make the NSA less efficient at its eavesdropping job. That's a trade-off we should be willing to make, just as we accept reduced police efficiency caused by requiring warrants for searches and warning suspects that they have the right to an attorney before answering police questions. We do this because we realize that a too-powerful police force is itself a danger, and we need to balance our need for public safety with our aversion of a police state.
nsa  politics  us-politics  surveillance  snooping  society  government  police  public-safety  police-state 
september 2013 by jm
Being poor changes your thinking about everything
Very interesting research into poverty and scarcity, in the Washington Post:
The scarcity trap captures this notion we see again and again in many domains. When people have very little, they undertake behaviors that maintain or reinforce their future disadvantage. If you have very little, you often behave in such a way so that you'll have little in the future. In economics, people talk about the poverty trap. We're generalizing that, saying this happens a lot, and we've experienced it.
poor  poverty  society  economics  scarcity  washington-post 
september 2013 by jm
Perhaps I'm out of step and Britons just don't think privacy is important | Henry Porter | Comment is free | The Observer
The debate has been stifled in Britain more successfully than anywhere else in the free world and, astonishingly, this has been with the compliance of a media and public that regard their attachment to liberty to be a matter of genetic inheritance. So maybe it is best for me to accept that the BBC, together with most of the newspapers, has moved with society, leaving me behind with a few old privacy-loving codgers, wondering about the cause of this shift in attitudes. Is it simply the fear of terror and paedophiles? Are we so overwhelmed by the power of the surveillance agencies that we feel we can't do anything? Or is it that we have forgotten how precious and rare truly free societies are in history?
privacy  uk  politics  snooping  spies  gchq  society  nsa  henry-porter 
september 2013 by jm
An Taisce Fundamentally Opposes New Dublin City Council's Bizarre Plan To End Street Cleaning Services
No holds barred:
Speaking today, spokesman Charles Stanley-Smith said; "This idea is insane. This area has suffered from dumping due to a lack of enforcement - yet the council now propose to effectively withdraw services altogether.  As numerous studies such as 'the broken window hypothesis' indicate, where a small problem is left un-tackled it is likely to become far worse rather than better. In other words, rather than increase enforcement to solve the problem, Dublin City Council is going to remove enforcement.  How will this deal with the problem?  Imagine if that logic were applied to crime; would the removal of police services in an area help resolve criminal behaviour - or increase it? The answer is obvious."
an-taisce  environment  cleaning  dublin  ireland  dcc  rubbish  trash  society  d1 
april 2013 by jm
Universal properties of mythological networks - Abstract - EPL (Europhysics Letters) - IOPscience
Abstract:

As in statistical physics, the concept of universality plays an important, albeit qualitative, role in the field of comparative mythology. Here we apply statistical mechanical tools to analyse the networks underlying three iconic mythological narratives with a view to identifying common and distinguishing quantitative features. Of the three narratives, an Anglo-Saxon and a Greek text are mostly believed by antiquarians to be partly historically based while the third, an Irish epic [jm: "An Táin Bó Cúailnge", The Tain, to be specific], is often considered to be fictional. Here we use network analysis in an attempt to discriminate real from imaginary social networks and place mythological narratives on the spectrum between them. This suggests that the perceived artificiality of the Irish narrative can be traced back to anomalous features associated with six characters. Speculating that these are amalgams of several entities or proxies, renders the plausibility of the Irish text comparable to the others from a network-theoretic point of view.


Here's what the Irish Times said:

The society in the 1st century story of the Táin Bó Cúailnge looked artificial at first analysis of the networks between 404 characters in the story. However, the researchers found the society reflected real rather than fictional networks when the weakest links to six of the characters are removed.

These six characters included Medb, Queen of Connacht; Conchobor, King of Ulster and Cúchulainn. They were "similar to superheroes of the Marvel universe" and are "too superhuman" or too well-connected to be real, researchers said. The researchers suggest that each of these superhuman characters may be an amalgam of many which became fused and exaggerated as the story was passed down orally through generations.
networks  society  the-tain  epics  history  mythology  ireland  statistics  network-analysis  papers 
july 2012 by jm
The Totalitarian Buddhist Who Beat Sim City « Viceland Games
interview with the guy behind the "Magnasanti" video. [Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi] 'presented the world in a way I never really looked at before and that captivated me. Moments like these compel me to physically express progressions in my thought, I have just happened to do that through the form of creating these cities in SimCity 3000. I could probably have done something similar - depicting the awesome regimentation and brutality of our society - with a series of paintings on a canvas, or through hideous architectural models. But it wouldn’t be the same as doing it in the game, for the reason that I wanted to magnify the unbelievably sick ambitions of egotistical political dictators, ruling elites and downright insane architects, urban planners and social engineers.' WHOA
whoa  mental  architecture  culture  gaming  society  video  simcity  urban  vice  from delicious
may 2010 by jm
Dunbar's number
interesting anthropological stat - "the cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships" = 150. "a direct function of relative neocortex size", "in turn limits group size." See also Kaa's law
dunbars-number  society  social-networks  groups  scaling  sociology  anthropology  robin-dunbar  relationships  primates 
march 2007 by jm
Dunbar's number
interesting anthropological stat - "the cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships" = 150. "a direct function of relative neocortex size", "in turn limits group size." See also Kaa's law
dunbars-number  society  social-networks  groups  scaling  sociology  anthropology  robin-dunbar  relationships  primates 
march 2007 by jm

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