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Psychopaths are not all inherently alike from country to country

psychopathWhen you think of a psychopath, what qualities do you imagine? Your answer may depend on the country you’re from. Newly published research suggests that psychopaths are not the same worldwide: The most salient feature of psychopaths in the US seems to be callousness and lack of empathy, while the most central feature of psychopaths in the Netherlands is their irresponsibility and parasitic lifestyle.

Source: Olivia Goldhill, Quartz

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Closer to Forever Than You Think?

depositphotos_10535612_m-2015Futurologist Predicts that Humans Will Be Immortal by 2050

‘If someone told you that the human race is very close to living forever, what would you say? According to futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, by 2050 we’ll have the capability to become “immortal.”

…One technique for extending our lifespan? Pearson points to advances in genetic engineering to prevent cell aging and scientists attempting to create 3D printed organs. This would allow us to simply replace “old parts” when necessary. While it might sound crazy, IFL Science points out that he may be alluding to factual studies, such as the gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas 9.

But Pearson is really banking on android bodies as our pathway to immortality. Equating it to “renting a car,” he theorizes that “the mind will basically be in the cloud, and be able to use any android that you feel like to inhabit the real world.”

One final theory by Pearson eschews a physical body altogether, in lieu of the virtual world. “You could make as much fun as you could possibly imagine online. You might still want to come into the real world,” he predicts. “You could link your mind to millions of other minds, and have unlimited intelligence, and be in multiple places at once.” But alas, if you are getting ready for 2050, you better start saving your cash. Pearson predicts the first wave of technology will only be available to the ultra-rich, with it taking about 10 to 15 years to trickle down to the rest of us….’

Via My Modern Met

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This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything

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‘Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads. So two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say and their vantage points….’

Via Washington Post

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Nobody Lives Here

usa_nobody_lives_hereMapping Emptiness in the U.S. and Beyond:

‘…[D]espite having a population of 310 million – the world’s third largest, after China and India – close to half of the U.S. is bereft of human habitation. …’

Source: Big Think

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How far away can you see a cherry red roadster?

elon_musk27s_tesla_roadster_284011030419229‘Yesterday, a telescope in Chile spotted Elon Musk’s electric car 3.7 million kilometers from Earth as it was passing by star cluster NGC 5694. Using orbital elements published by NASA, amateur astronomers are setting new distance records almost every day as they track the Roadster en route to the orbit of Mars. …’

Source: SpaceWeather

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Trump comes in last in expert presidential rankings survey

MATTHEW NUSSBAUM writes:

Worst. President. Ever. No. Surprise. 

‘…[T]he 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey [was] released Monday by professors Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston and Justin S. Vaughn of Boise State University. The survey results, ranking American presidents from best to worst, were based on responses from 170 current and recent members of the Presidents and Executive Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Obama moved from 18th in 2014, when the survey was last conducted, to 8th in the current survey. Reagan jumped from 11th to 9th. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, fell from 8th to 13th — perhaps as a result of heightened attention to sexual misconduct in the midst of the #MeToo movement.

Trump came in dead last. …’

Source: Politico

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Tools of Trump’s Fixer

‘As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies.

Mr. Cohen’s role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records. …’

Source: The New York Times

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The End is Nigh?

NewImageHouse Russia investigation has ‘abundance’ of evidence against Trump, says top Democrat

‘Adam Schiff said the panel had seen evidence of collusion with Russia and obstruction by Donald Trump’s campaign and administration that is not yet public…’

Via The Guardian

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Horny Werewolf Day

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Warren Ellis

Sorry to have missed my chance to post this yesterday:

‘Happy Valentine’s Day to all. And to those who hate the day, I say this: Valentine’s Day is a Christian corruption of a pagan festival involving werewolves, blood and fucking. So wish people a happy Horny Werewolf Day and see what happens….’

Via Warren Ellis

(And, yes, my sweetheart and I did celebrate the day with a nice dinner and flowers.)

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First Anti-Skynet Presidential Campaign Kicks Off

His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming:

NewImage‘Andrew Yang, a well-connected New York businessman, … is mounting a longer-than-long-shot bid for the White House. Mr. Yang, a former tech executive who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete — yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs to take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.

“All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society,” Mr. Yang, 43, said over lunch at a Thai restaurant in Manhattan last month, in his first interview about his campaign. In just a few years, he said, “we’re going to have a million truck drivers out of work who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or one year of college.”

“That one innovation,” he continued, “will be enough to create riots in the street. And we’re about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms.”Alarmist? Sure. But Mr. Yang’s doomsday prophecy echoes the concerns of a growing number of labor economists and tech experts who are worried about the coming economic consequences of automation. A 2017 report by McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, concluded that by 2030 — three presidential terms from now — as many as one-third of American jobs may disappear because of automation….’

Via New York Times

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Extremely endangered frog has online dating profile created by scientists in effort to save species

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Josh Gabbatiss writes:

‘Romeo, “the world’s loneliest frog”, has had an online dating profile set up by scientists in an effort to save his species from extinction.

The lovesick amphibian is the only known Sehuencas water frog in the world, and he has been calling for a mate ever since researchers collected him from the wild a decade ago.

Now they have launched him into the world of online dating in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the rejuvenation of his species. …’

Source: The Independent UK

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More Religious Leaders Challenge Taboo Surrounding Suicide

NewImageNo excuse for silence?

‘In the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 13 minutes. For the longest time, there was a cloak of secrecy about the details of a death by suicide, but talking about suicide may be the best hope for stopping it, according to researchers.

Until recently, many religious leaders were not well-prepared to talk about suicide with their congregants. Now some clergy have become an important part of suicide prevention….’

Via NPR

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CERN may have just found a hypothetical quasiparticle

NewImageA hint of a guess of a supposition:

‘It’s been a long time since it was first proposed, but now scientists appear to have finally found evidence of a weird quantum object called an “odderon“. “We’ve been looking for this since the 1970s,” says Christophe Royon of the University of Kansas (UK)….’

Via Big Think

 

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Robert Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think

NewImage‘We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office—some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads. But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe..

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering…

2. Russian Information Operations…

3. Active Cyber Intrusions…

4. Russian Campaign Contacts…

and the big Kahuna,

5. Obstruction of Justice …’

Via Wired

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R.I.P. John Perry Barlow

 

Co-founder of EFF and Grateful Dead lyricist dead at 70:

NewImage‘John Perry Barlow, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, rancher, and lyricist for the Grateful Dead, died Wednesday at the age of 70.

The San Francisco-based digital rights advocacy organization said that it was mourning the loss of its co-founder. “It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership,” Cindy Cohn, the group’s executive director, wrote in a blog post. “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”…’

Via Ars Technika

 

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What Does It Mean to Die?

NewImageThe case of a 13-year-old Oakland girl whose family has fought to continue care for her for more than two years after she was declared dead (in the face of complications of a tonsillectomy) raises questions about our definition of death, the medical establishment’s response to costly mistakes, and largely overlooked dimensions of the disparity in the healthcare of ethnic and religious minority patients. 

Interestingly, she began to menstruate several years into this state, a change mediated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. A condition called ischemic penumbra, proposed by some (but hardly generally accepted) might lead to a misdiagnosis of brain death in patients whose diminished but continuing cerebral blood flow could not be detected by standard tests, holding out the promise of some degree of recovery. Moreover, even if she was brain dead, is it necessarily the case that “the destruction of one organ is synonymous with death”? How similar is our notion of brain death to the concept embraced by the Nazis after the publication, in 1920, of a widely read medical and legal text called “Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Living”

If one did not take the issues in this case seriously, some of them have a strong flavor of black comedy. The girl’s family brought a malpractice suit against the Oakland Children’s Hospital where she had undergone her surgery, but the hospital is fighting the legal standing of a corpse to bring a lawsuit. The IRS has rejected mother’s tax return saying that one of the ‘dependents’ she had listed was dead.I couldn’t help thinking of the movie Weekend at Bernie’s. 

The case has provoked a so-called shadow effect in which a number of families, many of them from ethnic or racial minorities, have been going to court to prevent hospitals from turning off the ventilators of their loved ones declared brain-dead. One neurologist has done research on hundreds of cases of what he called “chronic survival” after brain death. When the director of the Center of Bioethics at Harvard, which had been instrumental in the consensus conference fifty years ago establishing the definition of brain death, began to refer to it as a ‘catastrophic brain injury’ instead of death, he prompted a backlash from, among others, transplant surgeons decrying the immorality of “…[putting] doubts in the minds of people about a practice that is saving countless lives.” There is even growing discussion of the morality of taking organs from such patients even if we do not believe them to be dead.

Via New Yorker

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“Every Concussion in the NFL This Year” Documented in a Chilling Five Minute Video

NewImageHappy Super Bowl Day:

‘Over at  The Intercept, Josh Begley, a data visualization artist, has posted a video entitled “Field of Vision – Concussion Protocol.” By way of introduction, he writes:
Since the season started, there have been more than 280 concussions in the NFL. That is an average of 12 concussions per week. Though it claims to take head injuries very seriously, the National Football League holds this data relatively close. It releases yearly statistics, but those numbers are published in aggregate, making it difficult to glean specific insights….’

Via Open Culture

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The Myth of Canine Shame (Or Is It Guilt?)

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William Brennan writes:

‘…”[D]og shaming” has become popular on Twitter and Instagram, as owners around the world post shots of their trembling pets beside notes in which the dogs seem to cop to bad behavior… Human enthusiasm for guilty dogs seems boundless: A 2013 collection of dog-shaming photos landed on the New York Times best-seller list; [one] video has been viewed more than 50 million times.

But according to Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition expert at Barnard College, what we perceive as a dog’s guilty look is no sign of guilt at all… Far from signaling remorse, one group of researchers wrote in a 2012 paper, the guilty look is likely a submissive response that has proved advantageous because it reduces conflict between dog and human …’

Source: The Atlantic

However, I’m not sure I share the conclusion that this does not represent guilt. What we call guilt in humans is assumed to reflect a sense that one has done wrong by violating some moral code. But moral philosophers and psychologists know that some proportion of humans operate on the level not of governing their actions by some intrinsic sense of what is right or wrong but rather that of simply not getting caught by some powerful other — just what the researchers are saying is happening in the canine world.

PS: There is also a difference between “shame” and “guilt”. A rule of thumb is that shame is discomfort at who you are, whereas guilt is discomfort at something you’ve done. If you shame someone for something they did, you are globally condemning them as a person — or a dog — for a single action.

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You Think You Know Fruit?

NewImage‘…[F]ruit can still surprise us. Whether it’s a bright-orange bulb that tastes like peanut butter, a poisonous lychee relative that becomes edible and egg-like when cooked, or a Pacific Island native that doubles as sugary treat and fibrous dental floss, these plants show us that the fruit world still holds many wonders for those willing to explore it….’

Via Atlas Obscura

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R.I.P. Gene Sharp

Global Guru of Nonviolent Resistance Dies at 90:

NewImageGene Sharp, a preacher’s son whose own gospel of nonviolent struggle inspired velvet revolutions that toppled dictators on four continents, died Jan. 28 at his home in Boston. He was 90.

His death was announced by Jamila Raqib, an Afghan refugee who is the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution, which Dr. Sharp founded in 1983 to promote indigenous regime change that does not invite violent retaliation.

His strategy was adopted by insurgents in the Baltics, Serbia, Ukraine, Burma (now Myanmar) and Egypt, during the Arab Spring turmoil. The Occupy Wall Street movement and other “occupy” demonstrations to protest economic inequality in the United States also drew from the Sharp manual.

Dr. Sharp became an intellectual father of peaceful resistance and the founder of an academic discipline devoted to his lifetime cause, one that synthesizes the philosophies espoused by Einstein, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Thomas Hobbes, Henry David Thoreau and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He could also be a pragmatic strategist and, though generally shy and mild-mannered, a sometimes strident advocate.

Continue reading the main story He armed his diverse followers with a list of 198 of what he called “nonviolent weapons” of protest and noncooperation to disrupt or even paralyze oppressive authorities.

“In South America, they’re not tweeting Che Guevara; they’re tweeting Gene Sharp,” said the Scottish journalist Ruaridh Arrow, who made an acclaimed documentary film about Dr. Sharp in 2011, “How to Start a Revolution,” and wrote his biography, to be published this year….’

Via New York Times

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How Responsible are Killers with Brain Damage?

NewImage‘Can murder really be a symptom of brain disease? And if our brains can be hijacked so easily, do we really have free will?

Neuroscientists are shedding new light on these questions by uncovering how brain lesions can lead to criminal behavior. A recent study contains the first systematic review of 17 known cases where criminal behavior was preceded by the onset of a brain lesion. Is there one brain region consistently involved in cases of criminal behavior? No—the researchers found that the lesions were widely distributed throughout different brain regions. However, all the lesions were part of the same functional network, located on different parts of a single circuit that normally allows neurons throughout the brain to cooperate with each other on specific cognitive tasks. In an era of increasing excitement about mapping the brain’s “connectome,” this finding fits with our growing understanding of complex brain functions as residing not in discrete brain regions, but in densely connected networks of neurons spread throughout different parts of the brain.

Interestingly, the ‘criminality-associated network’ identified by the researchers is closely related to networks previously linked with moral decision making. The network is most closely associated with two specific components of moral psychology: theory of mind and value-based decision making…..’

Via Scientific American

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China has put a railgun on a warship

SNewImageShould America be worried?

‘…[W]e can rest somewhat assured that the railgun might not actually work. Fancy though it may be, it’s not easy to get a machine this powerful to fire at a target. The American military had up until fairly recently working on railgun technology but since dropped it in favor of more short-range weaponry; it looks like China was watching pretty closely and picked up the ball where America either lost interest or lost focus.

So, should anyone be worried? Maybe. It could be a while until the railgun actually gets used, and… this [might be] the kind of show-off weapon that is built mostly as a deterrent and/or status symbol. And besides, it’s not like we have a head of government who likes to tick off the Chinese. Oh, wait! We do. Well, we might be seeing the railgun sooner than later….’

Via Big Think

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How to Get Over Yourself

NewImageWhat Freud and Buddhism agree on about the ego, paraphrased from Mark Epstein’s essay, an excerpt from his excellent book A Guide to Getting Over Yourself:

Ego is the affliction we all have in common, and it is not an innocent bystander. While claiming to have our best interests at heart, ego-driven pursuits undermine the very goals it sets out to achieve. We need to loosen ego’s grip to have a more satisfying existence.

How we interact with our ego is up to us. We have gotten very little help with this in life; no one teaches us how to be with ourselves constructively. Goals which develop a stronger sense of self are generally cherished in our society but self-love, self-esteem, self-confidence and aggressively seeking what one wants do not guarantee well-being. If we look around, we see that people with a strong sense of self are suffering. In fact, the most important events in our lives from falling in love to giving birth to facing death all require the ego to let go.

We have the capacity to bring unbridled ego under control by focusing on internal successes instead of merely success in the external world. Our culture does not generally support such conscious de-escalation of the ego but there are advocates to be found, among them both Buddhist psychology and Western psychotherapy. Although developing in completely different times and places and until recently having nothing to do with each other, both the Buddha and Freud came to a virtually identical conclusion, identifying the untrammeled ego as the limiting factor to our well-being.

Neither Buddhism or psychotherapy aim to eradicate the ego, which would render us either psychotic or completely helpless in navigating the world and mediating conflicting demands of self and others. Both practices, in fact, build up some executive functions of the ego. Much of the benefit of modern meditation practice, for example, which has found a modern place in healthcare, on Wall Street, in athletics and in the military, lies in the ego strength it confers by giving people more control. But ego-enhancement, by itself, can only get us so far.

Both practices aim to rebalance the ego by strengthening the “observing I” over the “unbridled me.” Freud based his approach on free association and the interpretation of dreams. The self-reflection borne from psychoanalysis, staring into space and “saying whatever comes to mind,” shifts the ego toward the subjective, making room for uncomfortable emotional experiences, greater acceptance, and relaxation of ego struggles.

Buddhism teaches people to watch their minds without necessarily believing, or being captivated by, everything they see. In so doing, one is freed from being victimized by one’s most selfish momentary impulses. By making room for whatever arises in the mind and dwelling more consistently in an observing awareness, a meditator is training herself neither to push away the unpleasant nor to cling to the appealing. Observing ego is balanced and impersonal, more distant from the immature ego’s insistent self-concern and its fluctuation in the face of the incessant change life throws at us.

However, there are some differences between the focuses of psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation. Freud found the most illuminating thing to be the unconscious instincts that came to awareness through the process of psychoanalysis, giving people a deeper and richer appreciation of themselves and thus humbling the ego with a wider scope, greater awareness of its limitations, and greater freedom from being dictated to by instinctual cravings.

Buddhism finds inspiration, in contrast, in the phenomenon of consciousness itself and seeks to give people a glimpse of pure awareness. Not only do I experience things, I know that I am experiencing them and even know that I know I am doing so, in an endless regress. But once in awhile through deep meditation the whole thing collapses and there is no ‘I’, no ‘me’, just the pure awareness. It is hard to talk about but it is an indubitable result of this kind of mind training, and the consequent freedom from the limitations of one’s identity comes as a relief. The contrast from one’s habitual ego-driven state is overwhelming, and much of Buddhist tradition is designed to consolidate the perspective of this expanded awareness with one’s everyday perspective.

Via Big Think

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Study finds brains of jazz musicians have superior flexibility

NewImagePlaying jazz can make you cooler under pressure:

‘A small study by Emily Przysinda of Wesleyan University suggests that the brains of jazz musicians react differently to unexpected events than the brains of classical musicians or non-musicians. It also supports previous findings that learning to play music at all improves creativity….

…The researchers suggest that the jazz musicians, who study a musical tradition that places a high value on improvisation and often uses strange chord structures, were well trained to expect the unexpected…’

Via Big Think

And what about listeners who prefer improvisational styles?

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Excessive political correctness feeds radical ideas

NewImageSteven Pinker at Davos:

‘…[P]olitical correctness may be responsible for feeding some of the most odious ideas out there, developed by tech-oriented loners who grow such thinking in isolation from the mainstream discussion.

Pinker pointed out that by treating certain facts as taboo, political correctness helped “stoke” the alt-right by “giving them the sense that there were truths the academic establishment could not face up to.” He said the alt-right feeds on overzealous political correctness, pushing back with wrong-headed ideas that develop in their own bubbles – ideas on differences between the genders or capitalist and communist countries or things like crime statistics among ethnic groups….’

Via Big Think