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10 Oct 13:41

Amazon's $15 Minimum Wage Proposal is A Brilliant Way To Get The Government to Hammer Amazon's Competition

by admin

Via the WSJ today

Amazon.com on Tuesday said it was raising the minimum wage it pays all U.S. workers to $15 an hour, a move that comes as the company faced increased criticism about pay and benefits for its warehouse workers.

The new minimum wage will kick in Nov. 1, covering more than 250,000 current employees and 100,000 seasonal holiday employees. The company said it also will start lobbying Congress for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which was set nearly a decade ago and is currently $7.25 an hour.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

Here is the cynical view of this:  Amazon likely is being pressured by the tightening labor market to raise wages anyway.  But its call for a general $15 minimum wage is strategically brilliant.  The largest employers of labor below $15 are Amazon's retail competitors.  If Amazon is successful in getting a $15 minimum wage passed, all retailers will see their costs rise but Amazon's competition will be hit much harder.

(Source)

The reason is that due to its internet sales model, Amazon's revenue per employee is MUCH higher than for most retailers -- you can see this in the chart above in a comparison to Sears.  If we had data on revenues per employee in small retail, the numbers would be even lower.  So a minimum wage increase raises costs to Amazon's competitors by a much larger percentage of revenue than it does for Amazon.  In short, Amazon's cost advantage over bricks and mortar retailers would be enhanced by a $15 minimum wage.

08 Oct 01:11

Luxury Watchmaker Hublot Unveils New Model, Available for Bitcoin Only

by Cointelegraph By Ana Berman

Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot unveils Big Bang Blockchain, a 210-piece limited edition that commemorates the upcoming 10th anniversary of Bitcoin

07 Oct 17:20

EOS Developer Acknowledges Claims of ‘Collusion’ and ‘Mutual Voting’ Between Nodes

by Cointelegraph By Ana Berman

EOS acknowledges allegations of voting manipulation amid claims on social media that main EOS nodes, including Huobi, were involved in “mutual voting”

07 Oct 17:02

Google's cloud business may have finally found the weapon it needs to beat Amazon's AWS (GOOG, GOOGL)

by Greg Sandoval

Diane Greene

  • Google's cloud division is taking its first steps into streaming games.
  • This could be a big source of revenue down the road, provided Google can pull it off.
  • Streaming video games is a complex engineering problem.  

Google is getting get into gaming in a big way with its new streaming project, but the move appears to be as much about fighting Amazon's massive cloud as it is about Google becoming a player in the world of gaming. 

The effort, announced on Monday, is being led by the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) group, which will provide the fundamental infrastructure for a new cloud-based videogame platform. 

Beginning on Friday, GCP will enable a limited number of US gamers to play Ubisoft’s popular “Assassin’s Creed” game via their Chrome browser. Users will play directly through their Chrome browser via streaming, and Google says that very little computing power is required on the user's end. 

This as an opportunity for Google to "drive traction for GCP," Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak wrote in a research note on Tuesday.

"In addition to its efforts to build a Twitch competitor at YouTube and its partnership with game engine Unity, launching a cloud gaming platform could allow GOOGL to form a more direct relationship with gamers, which it could leverage to expand further into the video game value chain," Nowak wrote.

The foray into gaming by GCP has long been rumored and comes as Google is searching for new sources of income. Investors see Google as a growth company and to keep that narrative going, managers need new revenue sources ready for the day when the company’s colossal ad business tops out. To that end, Google is throwing a lot of resources into developing cloud and artificial intelligence.

GCP's management, led by Diane Greene, have described the new streaming-game initiative as a test of Project Stream's technology, formerly code named Yeti (You can read more about the announcement here). Google will face steep technical hurdles in making the effort a success — as Business Insider's Dave Smith writes, this kind of thing has been tried before by others with mixed results.

But there's a big payoff if Google can pull it off by providing an opportunity to forge direct ties to gamers, which Google could mine in the future.

'A source of upside'

“We learned last week at our AMZN Disruption Symposium that AWS is currently the leading provider of cloud tools for video game development,” Nowak wrote. “This represents Google’s first attempt to move ahead in distribution... the company has strong engineering talent and cloud gaming has proven to be a difficult engineering problem.”

Project Stream also represents a chance for GCP to continue its rapid expansion into the broader cloud market, Nowak said.

When it comes to the market leaders, GCP trails Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure cloud services by a significant amount Nowak indicated.  

According to the analyst’s estimates, GCP has a value of $45 billion while he values AWS at $375 billion. Still, Nowak likes the direction that GCP is headed.

“Success in gaming,” he wrote, “could be a source of upside.”

SEE ALSO: Google's ambitious new project could fundamentally change the way we play video games

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Watch Apple unveil the new iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max

07 Oct 17:01

'Siri, I'm getting pulled over:' A new shortcut for iPhones can automatically record the police (AAPL)

by Kif Leswing

dallas police

  • A big new feature for iPhones this year is called Shortcuts, which is an app that lets you write scripts for the iPhone.
  • One Shortcut that has been widely shared is called Police. It records police interactions and texts a predetermined contact that you've been pulled over. 
  • It also sends video of the encounter to your contact.
  • The creator says that the shortcut can be adapted for other situations. 

There's a big new feature for iPhone experts this year: It's called Shortcuts, and with a little bit of logic and know-how, you can stitch several apps together and create a script that can be activated by pressing a button or Siri.

Some of the early uses are predictable: Saving Instagram photos, sharing the song you're listening to, or creating a morning routine that activates your lights and plays a song.

But Robert Petersen of Arizona has developed a more serious shortcut: It's called Police, and it monitors police interactions so you have a record of what's happened. 

Once it's installed, you just have to say: Hey Siri, I'm getting pulled over. 

Then the program, available on Reddit, pauses music you may be playing, turns down brightness on the iPhone, and turns on Do Not Disturb.

But it also sends a quick text to a pre-determined contact to tell them you've been pulled over, and it starts recording using the iPhone's front-facing camera. Once you've stopped recording, it can text or email the video to a different pre-determined contact and save it to Dropbox. 

"It seemed to me that if you’re getting pulled over it couldn’t hurt to have a recording of the incident," Petersen said in DMs on Tuesday. "The police these days in many places have body cams, so this could be the civilian equivalent."

The idea of a hands-free mobile app for fraught interactions isn't new: the American Civil Liberties Union has developed apps since 2012 that records and livestreams encounters with the police. While he didn't base the Shortcut on existing apps, Petersen said he's been inspired by projects by digital rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

While it's difficult to tell how many people have downloaded the Shortcut, it's the third most popular post of all time on the burgeoning subreddit dedicated to sharing Shortcut recipes, and it's been widely covered in the Apple enthusiast press. It's on version 1.4 and changes so far have focused on bug fixes and additional service support, like iCloud Drive.

Most of the responses he's received since the original post in September have been positive, and some people want to adapt the Shortcut to different potentially dangerous situations.

"Some [people] say they’ve had issues in the past with the police, and one woman planned on using the Shortcut to help with a stalker issue she was having with an ex-boyfriend so that she could send her location to family quickly should anything occur," Petersen said. 

"That's one of the great things about Shortcuts, anyone can edit a Shortcut someone else has made to suit their specific needs," he continued. 

You don't need to be a programmer to create your own Shortcut

Siri PoliceYou can examine all the steps a Shortcut takes and all the apps and services it uses — so you can be sure that the script isn't, say, uploading your data to a random server when you use a Shortcut you didn't write. The entire recipe for Police can be accessed in the Shortcuts app. 

Peterson says he doesn't have a background in programming, but he knows enough to get around, and has written scripts for MacOS in the past. He says he's an Apple fan, and that he's surprised that Apple has introduced this kind of feature for power users given the company's tendency to keep things simple and locked down. 

If you're interested in making your own Shortcuts, Peterson has some advice:

"The platform has a lot of potential, and if you read the Apple user guides and consult with others on forums, or just look at how other people’s shortcuts work and 'reverse engineer' them to your own needs you can learn a lot quickly."

You can download the Police shortcut here. Make sure you have the Shortcuts app installed

SEE ALSO: You can order a coffee directly from your lock screen with Apple's new 'Shortcuts' feature — here's how it will work

Join the conversation about this story »

04 Oct 19:57

The Grievance Studies Scandal: Five Academics Respond

by Quillette Magazine

Editor’s note: For the past year scholars James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian have sent fake papers to various academic journals which they describe as specialising in activism or “grievance studies.” Their stated mission has been to expose how easy it is to get “absurdities and morally fashionable political ideas published as legitimate academic research.” 

To date, their project has been successful: seven papers have passed through peer review and have been published, including a 3000 word excerpt of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, rewritten in the language of Intersectionality theory and published in the Gender Studies journal Affilia.

Below is a response to the scandal from five academics who are currently researching, publishing and teaching in the fields of Philosophy, English Studies, Behavioral Genetics and Economics.

From Foolish Talk to Evil Madness — Nathan Cofnas (Philosophy)

Nathan Cofnas is reading for a DPhil in philosophy at the University of Oxford. His work focuses on the philosophy of biology, broadly construed. He has published on such topics as
innateness, the ethical implications of individual differences in intelligence, and Jewish cultural evolution. You can follow him on Twitter @nathancofnas

Twenty years ago, Alan Sokal called postmodernism “fashionable nonsense.” Today, postmodernism isn’t a fashion—it’s our culture. A large proportion of the students at elite universities are now inducted into this cult of hate, ignorance, and pseudo-philosophy. Postmodernism is the unquestioned dogma of the literary intellectual class and the art establishment. It has taken over most of the humanities and some of the social sciences, and is even making inroads in STEM fields. It threatens to melt all of our intellectual traditions into the same oozing mush of political slogans and empty verbiage.

Postmodernists pretend to be experts in what they call “theory.” They claim that, although their scholarship may seem incomprehensible, this is because they are like mathematicians or physicists: they express profound truths in a way that cannot be understood without training. Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose expose this for the lie that it is. “Theory” is not real. Postmodernists have no expertise and no profound understanding.

Critics of Sokal point out that his paper was never subjected to peer review, and they say it was unfair to expect the editors of Social Text to spot errors concerning math and science. This time there are no excuses. LBP’s papers were fully peer reviewed by leading journals. The postmodernist experts showed that they had no ability to distinguish scholarship grounded in “theory” from deliberate nonsense and faulty reasoning mixed in with hate directed at the disfavored race (white) and sex (“cis” male).

King Solomon said of the fool: “His talk begins as foolishness and ends as evil madness” (Ecclesiastes 10:13). Can a disregard for evidence, logic, and open inquiry combined with a burning hatred for large classes of people perceived as political opponents (“racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” “transphobes,” etc.) possibly lead to a good result? The editors and peer reviewers who handled LBP’s papers have revealed their true, vicious attitudes.

The flagship feminist philosophy journal, Hypatia, accepted a paper (not yet published online) arguing that social justice advocates should be allowed to make fun of others, but no one should be permitted to make fun of them. The same journal invited resubmission of a paper arguing that “privileged students shouldn’t be allowed to speak in class at all and should just listen and learn in silence,” and that they would benefit from “experiential reparations” that include “sitting on the floor, wearing chains, or intentionally being spoken over.” The reviewers complained that this hoax paper took an overly compassionate stance toward the “privileged” students who would be subjected to this humiliation, and recommended that they be subjected to harsher treatment. Is asking people of a certain race to sit on the floor in chains better than asking them to wear a yellow star? What exactly is this leading to?

The Battle was Lost Long Ago — Neema Parvini (English Studies)

Neema Parvini is a senior lecturer in English at the University of Surrey, and is a proud member of the Heterodox Academy as well as The Evolution Institute. He has has written five books, the latest of which is Shakespeare’s Moral Compass. He is currently working on a new book for Palgrave Macmillan called The Defenders of Liberty: Human Nature, Individualism, and Property Rights, a study of 500 years of thinking about freedom in the West, from Machiavelli to Milton Friedman. Follow him on Twitter @neemaparvini1

The news that these journals are nakedly ideological will not surprise many of those who work within the disciplines of the humanities in the modern academy. Now the ticking off of buzzwords seems to stand in for checking the quality of scholarship or the coherence of arguments. The battle was lost around 1991. Around that time the great historian of the Tudor period, G.R. Elton, had been fighting rear-guard action for the discipline he loved. He saw history in the tradition of Leopold von Ranke: a meticulous examination of the primary evidence and a refusal to allow present-day concerns or attitudes to colour the subject matter. But traditional history, like all other disciplines, came under attack. Elton fumed that the younger generation was on “the intellectual equivalent of crack”, addicted to the “cancerous radiation that comes from the foreheads of Derrida and Foucault”.1 But Elton lost the day to Hayden White who “deconstructed” history by complaining that:

Many historians continue to treat their “facts” as though they were “given” and refuse to recognize, unlike most scientists, that they are not so much “found” as “constructed” by the kinds of questions which the investigator asks of the phenomena before him.2

White’s point is that there can be no such thing as “objectivity” in history, it is merely a form of storytelling driven by the subjective interests of the scholar. Accordingly, historians now sought to rebuild their discipline “on assumptions that directly challenge the empiricist paradigm.”3

In literary studies, the radical feminist Hélène Cixous argued that the ideology of patriarchy was all around us: “a kind of vast membrane enveloping everything”, a “skin” that “encloses us like a net or like closed eyelids”.4How could anyone lay claim to “objectivity” in such conditions? By 1991, such thinking had become de rigueur. In an essay called “The Myth of Neutrality, Again?” the feminist critic Gayle Greene wrote bluntly:

Feminists and Marxists, who hold opinions that are not generally accepted, get called “ideological” (and “political”, “partisan”, “polemical”, and lots of other things) whereas those approaches which are more traditional, closer to what is familiar … get to pass as “neutral” and “objective”. … A fundamental premise of feminist scholarship is that the perspective assumed to be “universal” that has dominated knowledge, shaping its paradigms and methods, has actually been male and culture-bound. I find it astonishing this needs repeating.5

Where some of us might see Niccolò Machiavelli, Francis Bacon, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, or David Hume palpably struggling with the deepest questions of political philosophy or epistemology, Cixious or Greene see only dead white men. What they say matters less to them than who was saying it. Thus, the competing systems of knowledge that came out of the Enlightenment – rationalism and empiricism – are both always-already tainted as “products of the patriarchy.” It has been the explicit goal of post-modernity to reject reason and evidence: they want a “new paradigm” of knowledge. Should it come as any surprise to us, then, that their journals will publish explicit nonsense such as the papers authored by Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian?

References

1 G. R. Elton, Return to Essentials: Some Reflections on the Present State of Historical Study (1991; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 10, 12-3.
2 Hayden White, ‘The Burden of History’, History and Theory 5:2 (1966), p. 127.
3 Alun Munslow, Deconstructing History, 2nd edn (1997; New York and London: Routledge, 2006), p. 34.
4 Catherine Clément and Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman (London: I.B. Tauris & Co., 1975), p. 145.
5 Gayle Greene, “The Myth of Neutrality, Again?”, in Shakespeare, Left and Right, ed Ivo Kamps (London: Routledge, 1991), pp. 23-4.

Barking in Academia — Rosalind Arden (Behavioral Genetics)

Rosalind Arden is a Research Associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics. Her PhD in Behavioral Genetics focused on intelligence. Being brighter is associated with health benefits in humans. It may also be true in dogs; she is currently probing the feasibility and utility of the dog as model of ageing and dementia. Follow her on Twitter @Rosalind_Arden_

Does it matter that tax-payer funded scholars spread suppurating sores on the body academic? Twenty-two years ago Alan Sokal thought it did. Stepping lightly away, for the moment, from an apparently absorbing interest in zero-free regions for multivariate Tutte polynomials (alias Potts-model partition functions) of graphs and matroids, Sokal naughtily submitted to the journal Social Text a lampoon manuscript that married post-structuralist gobbledegook with physics catchphrases. They published it; it has garnered 1526 citations. Sokal’s spoof took aim at obscure language and epistemic relativism. But his quarry escaped.

Now, three academics have submitted twenty spoof manuscripts to journals chosen for respectability in their various disciplines. Seven papers were accepted before the experiment stopped; more are surviving peer review. This new raid on screamingly barmy pseudo-scholarship is the Alan Sokal Opening, weaponised. Like dedicated traceurs in a Parkour-fest, the trio scrambled over the terrain of what they call Grievance Studies. And they dropped fire-crackers. One published paper proposed that dog parks are “rape-condoning spaces.” Another, entitled “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism” reworked, and substantially altered, part of Mein Kampf. The most shocking, (not published, its status is “revise and resubmit”) is a “Feminist Approach to Pedagogy.” It proposes “experiential reparations” as a corrective for privileged students. These include sitting on the floor, wearing chains, or being purposely spoken over. Reviewers have commented that the authors risk exploiting underprivileged students by burdening them with an expectation to teach about privilege.

These psychoactive hoax papers, some penned in just a few hours, are taken seriously because they fit with social science sub fields in which reason has been exchanged for ideology. How did we get here? Did it begin with scholars wanting to right social wrongs? A wish to emphasise, within academic writing, the value of treating one another fairly, of reducing, or eliminating, discrimination on grounds of ancestry, disability, sex, or sexual orientation? Perhaps such scholars were fed up with an implicit hierarchical model of academic discourse in which (like the wrong-headed March of Progress apes-to-man illustration) poetry sits meekly at the left of the line, while biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics strut proudly, at the far right, triumphal, end? If scholars wanted to reduce bias and barriers, the wrong fights have been picked. Here are just three problems with parts of academia that this new manuscript hoax has exposed.

The first is a battle with language. Readers are ill-served by opaque writing. Text can be hard-going because of its specialised content (such as string theory), or hard to decode because it has been written to sexily seduce the reader into slowly undressing the meaning (such as poetry, take, for example, the metaphysicals). But the shamed hoaxed journals too often host unintelligible waffle. Clear writing is not a matter of style; it’s a matter of clear thinking. The dog-park hoax paper, honoured by the journal as exemplary scholarship, contains gems like this: “Dog parks are microcosms where hegemonic masculinist norms governing queering behavior and compulsory heterosexuality can be observed in a cross-species environment.” It looks like a case of reviewers asleep at the wheel.

James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian successfully published an academic paper on the rape culture of dog parks

Secondly, for academia to be worth anything, it is crucial that reviewers and editors understand what any particular experimental design can deliver. This holds for quantitative, qualitative, and post-qualitative (whatever that is) research. Reviewers and editors must object when results or interpretation over-reach the methods. If a hypothesis is unfalsifiable, it doesn’t hurt to say so. The function of empirical work is to steer us closer to the truth about the world. It is therefore crucial to distinguish between what can constitute evidence and what cannot.

Lastly, and most importantly, there is evidence from this experiment, and from the literature in which it is embedded, of a great change in perceptions about what constitutes vice. When I grew up something like the following order of badness prevailed: murder (the worst), followed by serious physical violence, cheating and lying, nasty shouting, nasty speaking and at the milder end, nasty thinking. This has changed. There is evidence that many scholars favour punitive thought-reform. Orwell had a word for this.

It is emblematic of that huge change that I feel queasy here, at risk of being misquoted, when I say that a sexist, racist, or foolish thought or comment is likely to be punished with what was formerly reserved for someone who throws a punch at the Dean’s snout. This, while actual scientific waffle—and worse—is published without criticism. Another sign is the widespread use of that dead metric, the Implicit Association Test, which should long ago have been put out of its misery with a shot of pentobarbital.

Where the hell is Orwell when we need him? We’ve sleep-walked into a Cultural Revolution in our own backyard and I fear we have not seen the worst yet. What to do? Make the academic literature freely available to the public; tear down the paywalls. At least, then, people could see what we are up to. That would be a start.

Philosophy’s Carefully Guarded Secret — Neven Sesardic (Philosophy)

Neven Sesardic is a Croatian philosopher who has taught philosophy at universities in Croatia, the United States, Japan, England, and Hong Kong. His recent books include When Reason Goes on Holiday: Philosophers in Politics (Encounter Books, 2016) and Making Sense of Heritability (Cambridge University Press, 2005). He has also published a number of articles in leading philosophy journals. Follow him on Twitter @NSesardic

One cannot properly judge this new (multiple) version of the Sokal affair before studying the fake articles that were part of the project conducted by Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose.

Among all these submitted papers mixing “absurdities and morally fashionable political ideas” the project collaborators single out the article that was accepted by the journal Hypatia (A Journal of Feminist Philosophy) as their most important success. Indeed, kudos to them. Yet the reader should know that it is a carefully guarded secret in philosophy that feminist philosophy is often not characterized by intellectual rigor and high academic standards. (The secret is so well-guarded, though, that many philosophers do not dare to admit even to themselves to know it, let alone express it publicly.) So Hypatia was a logical and easy choice for the attempt to place a fake paper in one of the well-known philosophy journals.

Occasionally, however, unintentional absurdities of feminist thinking have crept into much better philosophical journals than Hypatia. A good example is an article from the Australasian Journal of Philosophy in which a feminist describes a “phallic drama” involving two statements, p and ~p (the negation of p):

There is really only one actor, p, and ~p is merely its receptacle. In the representation of the Venn diagram, p penetrates a passive, undifferentiated universal other which is specified as a lack, which offers no resistance, and whose behavior it controls completely.

Note that this is no longer a Sokal-type hoax but an instance of authentic feminist philosophy. Sometimes it is impossible to tell the difference. For more information about how caving in to feminism damages philosophy as a discipline see the 2014 article co-authored by Rafael De Clercq and me.

At the beginning of the text in which the three collaborators explain their project, they write: “Because of the politicized nature of these disciplines, it bears mentioning that all three of us would be best classified as left-leaning liberals.” Sokal himself also found it important to stress, while explaining his hoax, that he was a man of the Left. I am puzzled by this. If you are criticizing a trend that clearly belongs to the political Left, why should you feel it necessary, or useful, to say that you are yourself leftist? Isn’t it enough that you offered arguments in support of your criticism, which presumably should speak for themselves? What’s the point of making that additional step and showing your political colors? Hoping to placate those you criticize by signaling that you are actually one of “them”? Or making clear that you should not be associated with the “right wing,” to which you (honest!) do not belong anyway?

I was in a similar situation in 1981 when I wrote my first article in a series of criticisms of Marxism in what was then Yugoslavia. A friend of mine, slightly worried about me and possible consequences of publishing that article, advised me to add one sentence and say that despite attacking Marxism I at least supported socialism. I refused to do that, not only because I was not a socialist, but primarily because I thought that the question whether I was a socialist or not was entirely irrelevant for my article.

Besides, even if I had been a socialist I would still have been against publicly subscribing to socialism on such occasions. For, although in this way it might have been somewhat easier for me to attack Marxism, the widespread practice of declaring one’s political views might have made the discussion more difficult for those who were not socialists and who had political opinions that were widely and more strongly condemned.

The same applies to the current situation of the dominance of the Left in Western universities. Leftists criticizing the Left should not hurry to identify themselves as leftists while making that criticism. First, because this information is irrelevant. And second, because this could put pressure on conservatives to come out of the closet, which for obvious reasons many of them might be reluctant to do. Or, alternatively, under the circumstances their conservatism could be inferred from their silence about their politics.

The Grievance University — Jonathan Anomaly (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics)

Jonathan Anomaly is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Practical Ethics at UCSD, a founding faculty member of the Philosophy, Politics, & Economics program at USD, and will be a visiting scholar at Oxford University in Winter 2019.  His current research focuses on the moral and legal dimensions of synthetic biology, including gene editing, and the use of synthetic phage viruses to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  More generally, he writes about the relative role of social norms and legal institutions in solving different kinds of collective action problems. Anomaly is co-author of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (Oxford University Press, 2015), his publications can be found here, and he can be contacted at anomaly@ucsd.edu

The authors have pulled off a modern Sokal hoax. The sequel is rarely as good as the original, but in this case it was more comprehensive and more fun than Sokal’s mockery of postmodernist scholarship (a computer-generated version of which can be found here). The project exposes some of the cultish ideas shared by faculty who have created fake subjects and staffed their departments with political activists. Many faculty in these departments seem alarmingly eager to hijack for their own ends the emotional circuitry of teenagers who arrive on campus in search of a tribe to join and a dragon to slay.

If this were the extent of the problem, we could laugh it off as a strange new sport that occurs on college quads rather than in football stadiums. But it is much worse than this. The main problem is not the rise of trendy disciplines with names that end with the word “studies,” or the opportunity cost of spending taxpayer money on bogus scholarship and bad education rather than medical research and space exploration. The problem is that many students are required to take these classes as part of a “diversity” requirement at universities, and that when students graduate, these ideas influence leaders of corporations like Google, which can manipulate its search engine to alter elections and change our epistemic environment in subtle ways.

To take an example, many students in universities and employees at Google take bias training courses that tell them “white privilege” and “systemic racism” explain disparities in outcomes between groups, despite the fact that—to take one example—Asian Americans from China and India (‘people of color’) make more money and are incarcerated at lower rates than whites. According to the conspiratorial worldview of many faculty in grievance studies departments, citing statistics and making arguments that go against the privilege narrative proves that you have an unconscious bias against minorities, and that you’re probably a white supremacist.

Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose did not publish their articles in the top journals of core fields like economics or psychology, so some skeptics might dismiss the project as a waste of time. But their articles did pass peer review in journals from fields whose basic assumptions are shared by mainstream subjects like literature, sociology, and (increasingly) philosophy.

Some of the most insidious dogmas many faculty in these fields defend include the idea that evolutionary biology can explain animal behavior but isn’t relevant to people; that differences in personality and intelligence can only be explained by education and parenting (not genes); that IQ tests don’t predict anything useful; that differences in outcomes for different groups can only be explained by oppression or systemic racism/sexism; and that five decades of behavioral genetics research can be safely ignored when it threatens environmental explanations. These are the dangers of our time. It is worth reminding those who subsidize this circus that we’re not in Las Vegas.

What happens on campus doesn’t stay on campus.

The post The Grievance Studies Scandal: Five Academics Respond appeared first on Quillette.

04 Oct 15:21

Can We Just Ignore the Flaming Dumpster?

image

Vox’s Carlos Maza had a great piece called “Why every social media site is a dumpster fire.” He hit all the usual notes- Russian trolls, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists. 

But he also hit on something bigger- the social media dumpster fire is not an accident or something that got out of control. What we have now is an intentional, man-made disaster. The fire was set on purpose and investors poured on the gasoline. As Maza says,

The problem with these social media sites isn’t that a few bad apples are ruining the fun. It’s that they’re designed to reward bad apples.

Even Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook says, “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Parker is probably giving himself too much credit as an evil genius, but it’s obvious that when Facebook exploded, he and his colleagues were more than happy to fuel the conflagration. 

Breaking Up With Social Media 

We certainly weren’t the first to warn people that its time to turn off social media. If you watched HBO’s new documentary Swiped, the film made the case that the gamification of social apps is breaking human relations. It’s a terrifying a portrait of a generation addicted to social apps.

We all know social media is manipulating us. Let’s stop taking this stuff seriously. It’s not real. If something makes you angry, wait and read next-day’s take. Don’t react with a smiley face or frowny face. Think about stuff.  Can you even remember what social media outrage fest was consuming all of your mental energy last week? Human nature can be nasty and ugly, but we don’t have to let the social media platforms profit from it. 

03 Oct 23:00

Improving Bitcoin Reliability through Child Pays for Parent

by Brock Miller

By Brock Miller & Eli Haims

At Coinbase we strive to be the most trusted and easiest to use cryptocurrency company in the world. As part of being the easiest to use, one of our goals is to provide a great user experience for customers who are sending and receiving cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Sending cryptocurrency today can be difficult; transaction fees are volatile and unpredictable, which can result in significant swings in the amount of time it takes for a transaction to confirm. As a result of this, we’ve had many days here at Coinbase where some users’ transactions would get stuck due to fee rate spikes and general Bitcoin network congestion (which peaked in December 2017). First and foremost, this gives our users a frustrating experience because it takes longer than expected for their transactions to arrive. Second, it means that engineers at Coinbase are getting paged frequently to investigate a situation that is mostly out of their control. To address these challenges, we leaned on a well-known procedure which uses economic incentives enabled by the Bitcoin protocol for improving confirmation time of transactions: Child Pays for Parent (CPFP), and we’ve implemented this at Coinbase scale, sometimes using it to rescue thousands of transactions in a single day.

How it Works: Bitcoin Fees

When a customer wants to send some bitcoin to another address on the network, there are two major factors that we try to balance:

  1. The transaction fee, or how much the customer pays to have their transaction included in a block, and
  2. The speed at which that transaction gets included in a block.

Unlike a credit card processor that generally specifies fees as a percentage of a charge, Bitcoin operates with a fee market. This is somewhat analogous to a pay-as-bid auction, which is structured as follows: potential buyers will submit bids at different prices, and the auctioneer will select the highest bidders as the winners. Similarly, users select a transaction fee when sending a transaction to the network, and miners will select the set of transactions with the highest fees to include in a block. Typically, a user will decide how long they are willing to wait for their transaction to get included in a block, and will either ask a node or some third-party software for an appropriate fee at the time the fee estimate request is made. Between the time this transaction is broadcast and the next block is mined, there are likely to be many other people also broadcasting transactions. If they are also all trying to get their transaction in the next couple of blocks, the required fee rate will increase with each transaction. By the time this block is mined, our estimate may be too low relative to all available transactions for miners to select it.

Figure 1. Historic Daily Average Transaction Fees in Satoshis per Byte (source: https://bitcoinfees.info/)
Figure 2. Average Recommended 2-Block Transaction Fees in Satoshis per Byte for September 18–25 2018

The Problem

To illustrate this fact, let’s look at an example. Consider two Coinbase customers, Alice and Bob, both of whom would like to send some bitcoin to pay for a transaction on their way to work in the morning. Alice submits her transaction at a time when estimated fees are 5 satoshis/byte, a relatively low fee in today’s market. Seconds later, the network suddenly becomes very busy, and thousands of transactions appear in the mempool. Bob then submits his transaction with a fee of 25 satoshis/byte, where the fee is much higher than Alice’s because of the network congestion. Seconds later a block is mined; Bob’s transaction is included because of its high fee, but Alice’s remains pending. The congestion continues, and transactions are submitted with ever-growing fees. Alice’s transaction is now “stuck.” The funds won’t arrive at their destination, and she therefore can’t do anything with the funds, until the flood recedes and the fee rate drops.

A Solution

So, what can we do about Alice’s transaction? Is it stuck indefinitely, or can we help to incentivize miners to confirm her transaction? It turns out we can help Alice in this situation using a strategy that relies on economic incentives called Child Pays for Parent, or CPFP.

Before explaining CPFP, let’s first briefly look at how Bitcoin transactions are structured. Simplified, a Bitcoin transaction is nothing more than a series of inputs and outputs, where inputs represent some value (in bitcoin) that is being “spent” by the sender. When a recipient wants to then spend the bitcoin that they received, one or more of the outputs that they control will become an input to a new transaction. This new transaction is then a “child” of the previous “parent” transaction. Additionally, a typical Bitcoin transaction includes what’s known as a change output. This change output is generally sent back to the original sender so that they can use it in a future transaction. This concept is no different than if you were to pay for a $5 coffee with a $10 bill and receive $5 in change from the cashier. When you are spending inputs with a fixed amount (in bitcoin or in dollars), there is generally change that you collect from the transaction. This change output is what we will utilize to enable CPFP.

Figure 3. Example Diagram showing Parent and Child Transactions with Change Outputs

Now that we understand what a child and a parent transaction are, let’s look at how CPFP works. Remember, miners always choose which transactions they want to include in a block based on relative rewards. The Bitcoin protocol does not allow for a child transaction to be included in a block before its parent transactions have been added — it must be included in either the same or a later block because later transactions depend on earlier ones.

Building on that fact, whenever there are dependent transactions pending at the same time (parents and children), Bitcoin mining software will actually look at those transactions as a group and compute their corresponding fee rate over the entire set, rather than individually. This makes sense for miners to do so, since those transactions are really only valid when confirmed together. Since miners compute the fee rate over this group of dependent transactions, we can submit a child transaction (spending change outputs that we control) that has a higher fee rate than its parent(s), thus boosting the overall fee rate of the group. This is exactly how CPFP works. Essentially we are making a more profitable transaction available to miners, but the structure of this transaction requires the miners to also pick up some less profitable transactions. To take advantage of this and give our customers a better experience, we built a feature that automates this process of bidding up a stuck transaction.

How We Are Using It

Over the past few months, we’ve rolled out this feature in an automated fashion to all customers who are sending bitcoin on our platform. If a customer’s transaction happens to be stuck pending for at least 4 blocks, we’ll broadcast and pay for a child transaction at a sufficient fee rate in order to rescue the parent transaction (we actually batch these so that we can rescue multiple parents with one child). This is done without any interaction from the end user, and we’ve seen really positive results thus far with its use. Over the past few months, we have saved thousands of user transactions that our customers would have otherwise not seen for many hours. We love making our customers happy, and are excited that this feature has enabled us to bring more consistent reliability to their bitcoin transactions while ensuring that we are being good participants of the network.

The CPFP feature is a great example of our daily work on crypto technologies as well as the interesting challenges of complex distributed systems. If you enjoy working in a fun, high energy environment and want to work on scaling challenges like this one, then apply here or checkout all open positions. We’d love to hear from you.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images and diagrams provided herein are by Coinbase.


Improving Bitcoin Reliability through Child Pays for Parent was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

02 Oct 17:59

Helping People Understand, Explore and Buy Cryptocurrency

by Dan Romero

The vision of an open financial system depends on people’s ability to understand, explore, and choose cryptocurrencies. We expect that millions of people will make their first cryptocurrency purchase in the coming years. But all too often, getting started can be overwhelming for people learning about crypto for the first time.

Today, we’re starting to roll out a series of updates that simplify every step of the journey to owning your first cryptocurrencies:

  • Coinbase Bundle: A market-weighted selection of the five cryptocurrencies available to buy and sell on Coinbase. You can buy a bundle of 5 cryptocurrencies for as little as $25.
  • Informational Asset Pages: Asset pages to learn about the top 50 cryptocurrencies (by market cap) — including many that are not currently available to buy or sell on Coinbase.
  • Coinbase Learn: A new section of the Coinbase website to educate people who are new to cryptocurrency, answering some of their basic questions.

Coinbase Bundle — A brand new way to buy

Buying a single cryptocurrency can be easy if you know what you want. But knowing which cryptocurrency to buy — and feeling confident in the amount you purchase — is where a lot people lose confidence. The Coinbase Bundle takes the opposite approach.

Customers choose how much cryptocurrency they want to own. Using the current market cap at the time of purchase, Coinbase calculates a diversified portfolio of available cryptocurrencies that can be purchased with just a few taps. Bundles start as low as $25 and make it easy for anyone to own as much (or as little) of a stake in cryptocurrency as they see fit.

Once a bundle is purchased, the underlying cryptocurrencies are stored in their respective wallets and behave just like separate cryptocurrencies in your Coinbase account. You can buy, sell, send and receive each cryptocurrency as an individual asset. Coinbase Bundles begin rolling out today, and will be available to customers in the US and Europe over the coming weeks.

Learn more about the Coinbase Bundle at coinbase.com/coinbase-bundle

Coinbase Asset Pages — A new way to track the market

Only 3% of people can name four or more cryptocurrencies. We want to be sure everyone learns to think beyond “Bitcoin” when building out their cryptocurrency portfolio. That’s why we’re launching informational asset pages for the top 50 cryptocurrencies, based on market cap.

While most of these cryptocurrencies are not currently available to buy or sell on Coinbase, these informational pages are designed as a starting point to learn about new cryptocurrencies. Anyone — not just Coinbase customers — can view historic trading data, current market cap, a description of the cryptocurrency, and links to relevant white papers and project websites*.

Coinbase asset pages can be found at coinbase.com/prices

Coinbase Learn — Where crypto journeys begin

We know from talking with people that the breadth and depth of information about cryptocurrency can be overwhelming. There isn’t a simple resource for understanding the fundamental principles behind the technology. That’s why Coinbase is launching a new section of our website to educate those who are new to cryptocurrency at coinbase.com/learn.

The questions and answers in this portal are inspired by customer research and vetted with people totally new to cryptocurrency with the goal of helping anyone decide with confidence whether buying cryptocurrency is right for them.

Earlier this week, we announced a new process for listing assets, including our intention to develop more educational tools that help our customers make informed decisions about cryptocurrency. Today’s announcement is a first step in that direction, and we’ll continue adding more resources in the future. We’re starting to roll out these new features today, and hope they help simplify the process of getting started with crypto.


Helping People Understand, Explore and Buy Cryptocurrency was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

02 Oct 17:51

Facebook Is Using Your Two-Factor Authentication Phone Number to Target Advertising

by Bruce Schneier

From Kashmir Hill:

Facebook is not content to use the contact information you willingly put into your Facebook profile for advertising. It is also using contact information you handed over for security purposes and contact information you didn't hand over at all, but that was collected from other people's contact books, a hidden layer of details Facebook has about you that I've come to call "shadow contact information." I managed to place an ad in front of Alan Mislove by targeting his shadow profile. This means that the junk email address that you hand over for discounts or for shady online shopping is likely associated with your account and being used to target you with ads.

Here's the research paper. Hill again:

They found that when a user gives Facebook a phone number for two-factor authentication or in order to receive alerts about new log-ins to a user's account, that phone number became targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks. So users who want their accounts to be more secure are forced to make a privacy trade-off and allow advertisers to more easily find them on the social network.

01 Oct 15:40

The latest Google Easter egg is a secret adventure game hidden inside Google Search — here's how to play (GOOG, GOOGL)

by Paige Leskin

Google Search

If you were looking for an excuse to delay productivity, an adventure game found hidden inside Google Search can easily take up at least a few hours of your Monday morning.

Thanks to a Reddit user who posted on the r/google thread, we now know about a secret game hidden inside Google's code. Upon entering the game, the user is sent on a wild goose chase to hunt down the colorful letters that make up the Google logo. The game is a text adventure, meaning you only have to type in simple words and commands to navigate through it.

Google has become well known for its number of tricks and surprises hidden within the confines of its search engine. There's an entire Internet community out there devoted to discovering these "Easter eggs," and an extensive list of them can be found on this Wikipedia page.

Here's how you can access the game yourself:

SEE ALSO: You can now use Google Maps to poll your friends on where to eat — here's how to do it

Start by entering "adventure game," "text adventure," or "text game" in your Google Search engine.



Next, right-click on the page and select the "Inspect" option.

The game can be found through the web browser's developer console. This is can be accessed one of two ways: right-click on the page and select the "Inspect" option, or use your keyboard for the shortcut option (Command + Option + I on your Mac or Command + Shift + I on your PC).

The game will work best on Chrome, Google's internet browser.



Toggle over to "console," and this prompt will appear. Type in "yes," obviously.

Opening up the Inspect feature will access the browser's developer mode, which may look a bit confusing at first with lines of code and developer jargon. However, you don't have to worry about all that — it's not a part of the game.

Locate the "Console" tab, where you'll find a prompt that asks (somewhat reminiscent of the "Saw" movies) if you want to play a game.

Enter "yes," because you haven't gotten this far to not play the game.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
28 Sep 21:29

You wore a gown of gold….

by lucia


Open thread. Yes. This is politics.

28 Sep 14:20

Tech Giant GMO Wants to Help You Mine Zcash – For a Cut

by Wolfie Zhao
Japanese IT giant GMO Internet has made another move into the cryptocurrency space with the launch of a GPU mining client for zcash.
26 Sep 21:01

Breaking: Google to Reverse Crypto Ad Ban for Exchanges Advertising in US, Japan

by Cointelegraph By Andrew Marshall

In an official announcement Tuesday, Google said that it will allow registered crypto exchanges to advertise in the U.S. and Japan

26 Sep 20:04

Overstock.com CEO Acquires Stake in Blockchain Land Registry Startup

by Jimmy Aki
Medici Land Governance

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has acquired a stake in blockchain startup, Medici Land Governance (MLG). Byrne purchased a 43 percent stake in the blockchain land registry in a private transaction.

Blockchain land registries have been getting a lot of traction around the world, as they promise a viable solution to the problem of fragmented paper records and unverifiable claims.

Medici Land Governance, the blockchain-powered property rights subsidiary of Overstock, was founded in 2018 to help people legitimize the ownership of their properties using blockchain and other technologies.

MLG is one of the portfolio companies under Medici Ventures — Overstock's blockchain tech accelerator wing — which includes other blockchain projects such as tZero and Factom.

“Proper land governance is the crystallization of the rule of law and the foundation of a successful, prosperous and free society," Byrne noted in the announcement.

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Byrne said he believes secure land titling and property management systems have the potential to eliminate poverty across the world.

“Once individuals in emerging economies have systems in place to help them establish formal ownership of their property, they can more easily access credit and public services necessary to become a true, sustainable member of the global economy," he said.

“Blockchain land registry systems are a large step in the goal to democratize capital, and I’m proud to be a member of the team leading that charge."

Medici Land Governance CEO Dr. Ali El Husseini describes the investment from the Overstock CEO as a "vote of confidence” in the land registry's “unprecedented mission.”

“Patrick Byrne’s investment comes at a pivotal time as we are coordinating staff, resources and technology at two locations separated by continents with the aid of governmental and global partners, most notably the World Bank,” he remarked. “Teams both in the African nation and the U.S. are implementing the basic infrastructure and formal digital tools to deliver land titles to holders.”

Medici Land Governance recently signed an MOU with the World Bank to create, implement and evaluate pilot programs that ensure secure land tenure for underdeveloped communities. The blockchain startup also inked a deal with the Zambian government to overhaul the current land ownership system in a bid to allow rural landowners to formalize the ownership of their estates and gain access to the financial world.



This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

26 Sep 16:03

WLinux brings a custom Windows Subsystem for Linux experience to the Microsoft Store

by Richard Speed

What's better than one Linux distro? Dozens of 'em, of course!

The Windows Subsystem for Linux has begun to attract the attention of custom distributions with the arrival of Debian-based WLinux in the Microsoft Store.…

25 Sep 19:07

America once again ranks as a top ten nation for economic freedom. But there’s a twist … - Publications – AEI

by James Pethokoukis

AEI
America once again ranks as a top ten nation for economic freedom. But there’s a twist …

Economic Freedom of the World: 2018 Annual Report from the Fraser Institute

To the extent “Make America Great Again” is an economic argument, it’s one that doesn’t make much sense. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump described America as pretty much a failed state, even using the phrase “third world country” multiple times. As he told The Washington Post, “I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now.” This dystopian view was also part of the claim that 2016 was the “Flight 93” election where the nationalist 99% had one final chance to “charge the cockpit” and seize control from globalist Davoisie oligarchy running Washington and ruining America.

Of course, exploiting economic discontent is what so-called populists do, whether they are of the left or right. And they aren’t going to let facts — such as America having a net worth of over $100 trillion — get in their way. Yet it’s worth making sure those facts stay front and center as much as possible. Helpful in this endeavor is the new “Economic Freedom of the World” report from the Fraser Institute, which “measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom.” And some good news: America is back in the top ten. The US economy scores particularly high in areas such as “sound money” and “regulation.”

So give some credit to Trumponomics? Not really. Turns out that the underlying data is from 2016, as the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome helpfully notes on Twitter. Indeed, the comprehensive US score bottomed in 2011 after a long decline since 2000. It will be interesting to see if the next report shows the recovery that started during the Obama presidency continuing into the Trump years. One criteria that may trip up the future US ranking: “freedom to trade internationally.”

America once again ranks as a top ten nation for economic freedom. But there’s a twist …
James Pethokoukis

25 Sep 15:42

Video: What’s wrong with the surface temperature record?

by Anthony Watts
This was a surprise to me. A previous presentation I made on the issues with the surface temperature record got turned into a video. From the YouTube description: Anthony Watts, founder and editor at wattsupwiththat.com, explains why the oft-reported surface temperature record is inaccurate, misleading, and an insult to proper science. Some graphics in this…
24 Sep 17:53

HODL No More? The Amount of Bitcoin in Active Wallets Is Near Record Highs

by Leigh Cuen
An increasing amount of bitcoin is held by active individual users, suggesting the market is ripe for transactional growth, according to Chainalysis.
23 Sep 15:07

When Blockchains Go Down: Why Crypto Outages Are on the Rise

by David Floyd
It used to be that downtime was unheard of on blockchain networks. As new protocols and new trade-offs emerge, that's no longer the case.
23 Sep 14:27

Curve-Fitting

Remlaps

h/t Mccand

Cauchy-Lorentz: "Something alarmingly mathematical is happening, and you should probably pause to Google my name and check what field I originally worked in."
23 Sep 14:20

eCash Founder David Chaum Makes Bold Promises with Elixxir Blockchain

by Jimmy Aki
eCash Founder David Chaum Claims Invention of World’s Fastest Blockchain

Over 30 years after creating eCash, a predecessor of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which spawned the Cypherpunk movement of the 1980s, Dr. David Chaum is back in the public eye with a claim of having invented “the world’s fastest cryptocurrency.”

Chaum is widely regarded as the forefather of cryptocurrencies and the wider world of cryptographic security and online privacy because of his pioneering security research work in the ’80s. His academic paper, “Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments,” laid the groundwork for modern cryptography used in securing blockchains and cryptocurrencies. The “private key” and “public key” framework he laid out decades ago is still the basis for how cryptocurrencies are kept secured in wallets.

Birth of Elixxir

Now he claims to have invented the first blockchain in the world with the capacity to handle all the needs of consumer-scale messaging and payments. The new platform, dubbed “Elixxir,” is reportedly able to process hundreds of thousands of confidential, quantum-resistant transactions every second.

According to Chaum, the Elixxir blockchain offers faster and cheaper messaging and payment solutions than all other existing blockchains, with the ability to scale to levels current blockchains cannot dream of. While Elixxir claims to be able to handle hundreds of thousands of concurrent transactions every second with no problem, Ethereum, by comparison, is only capable of handling about 15 transactions per second.

In correspondence with Bitcoin Magazine, Chaum said the response to Elixxir has been overwhelming.

"Since our announcement, 24 hours ago, we’ve had over 600 express interest in running nodes and thousands express interest in our community. Our team is delighted and humbled by the response, and we look forward to further growing and working with our community."

Building on the background of eCash alongside more recent cryptographic innovations, Chaum claims that Elixxir will give users the benefit of speed and scalability on the level of non-blockchain platforms like PayPal or Visa — something which, if it can deliver, promises to be a game changer for the crypto industry regarding mass adoption.

Huge Promises

According to Chaum, Elixxir succeeds at two majors things that other blockchains generally fail at. The first is that it has changed the makeup of the digital signatures used to verify ownership of cryptocurrency tokens. In his view, modern digital signatures are too much of a computational hassle, which in turn prevents blockchain platforms from scaling or achieving anything approaching the speed of non-blockchain networks. Elixxir will use one digital signature per block for each node contributing to that block.

"There's no way we can get speed and scalability if for every transaction a server has to do a public key operation like making a signature or checking a signature. We can cheat a little bit,” Chaum remarked at the recently concluded Consensus event in Singapore.

Elixxir effectively “cheats” by carrying out public key operations “in advance,” a framework that Chaum claims has not been attempted before, and which delivers speeds that are up to 1,000 times faster than any other blockchain in existence. This, Chaum says, is a breakthrough.

When asked if his blockchain can rival some popular networks such as Lightning, Chaum said, "Elixxir can take blockchain to a new level.

"A consumer messaging and payment app with performance, privacy and capacity that consumers are used to with today’s centralized systems. But at the same time, it can be resistant to attack even at the national adversary level."

In addition to speed, Elixxir’s cryptography “cheating” effectively future proofs the network against the specter of quantum computer attacks at a time when there is a substantial amount of debate over whether quantum computing poses a threat to blockchains.

For now, the project remains focused on transactions and is still not ready to hit the market anytime soon. Nevertheless, Chaum believes that Elixxir could eventually grow into much more than just a cryptocurrency by becoming a fixture in online security frameworks.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

20 Sep 20:36

Meet the Robot Lawyer Fighting Fines, Fees, and Red Tape

by ReasonTV

Joshua Browder is trying to cut red tape and upend the legal services industry with DoNotPay, a company that's running a "denial of service attack on the legal system."

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Reason is the planet's leading source of news, politics, and culture from a libertarian perspective. Go to reason.com for a point of view you won't get from legacy media and old left-right opinion magazines.

----------------

Joshua Browder is trying to upend the legal services industry. His company, DoNotPay, has built an AI-powered chatbot that interviews users about their legal problems in plain English and then uses their answers to complete and submit legal paperwork on their behalf.

Browder describes DoNotPay as "the world's first robot lawyer," and believes that the system he's building will one day be able to address the majority of legal issues.

"DoNotPay will have succeeded if the word 'lawyer' is completely removed from the dictionary for average people," Browder told Reason.

The 21-year-old entrepreneur from the UK, who taught himself to code by watching YouTube videos, lives and works with his eight-person team out of the same Palo Alto house that Mark Zuckerberg rented during his first summer in California building Facebook. Browder says the legal industry is so ripe for disruption through software because most services involve nothing more than standardized processes and boilerplate language.

DoNotPay initially focused on fighting parking tickets because Browder views them as an unfair tax on the poor. He says DoNotPay has succeeded in overturning citations about half the time, saving users $16 million in fines over its first three years. Now, operating on just over $1 million in venture capital funding, the start-up is expanding to cover a broad range of legal problems.

DoNotPay's app, which is in development, will monitors users' accounts and gets them money back whenever the law allows. It can automatically rebook plane tickets when prices drop, request refunds when banks charge illegal overdraft fees, and help users reclaim security deposits from shady landlords.

Browder says DoNotPay will never charge for any legal services, and he doesn't need much cash to continue expanding and thus has time to figure out a revenue source. This allows the company to serve clients who can't afford to hire lawyers, such as refugees seeking asylum and homeless people applying for public housing in the UK. DoNotPay is also working on a service that helps navigate the US visa process.

"These processes are so bureaucratic that if you have no resources at all, it really is impossible to get the help you need," says Browder. And as long as lawyers have an incentive to keep laws complex and their services expensive, he thinks it will take a bottom-up approach to make the system fair. DoNotPay has built bots that can query automated email, chat, and telephone systems thousands of times to, for example, get users a quick appointment at the DMV.

Browder calls this tactic "DDoSing the legal system to make it better." Beyond helping his users navigate bureaucracy, Browder hopes to flip the script by making legal complexity more of a pain for governments than for average people, and thereby incentivize lawmakers to slash red tape in general.

"There's a $200 billion legal industry at the moment," Browder says, "and DoNotPay will hopefully one day make it free for everyone."

For full text and downloadable versions, go to https://reason.com/reasontv/2018/09/19/robot-lawyer-fights-fines-fees-red-tape

Produced by Justin Monticello. Camera by Monticello and Zach Weissmueller. Music by Gunnar Olsen, Matt Harris, Geographer, Text Me Records & Bobby Renz, and Silent Partner.

Image credit: ID 126279773 © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com
20 Sep 20:09

“There Has Never Been An Energy Transition”

by David Middleton
Guest laugh by David Middleton If this wasn’t funny enough… This is too fracking funny.! Richard Newell, Daniel Raimi Aug 17 EXPERT VOICES Despite renewables growth, there has never been an energy transition Since 2010, the costs of producing electricity from solar photovoltaic systems have decreased by more than 80%. Wind and solar now vie…
20 Sep 16:08

Oklahoma City stores will deliver groceries with autonomous vehicles

by Mallory Locklear
Remlaps

h/t Roumen.ganeff

Next year, Oklahoma City residents will be able to have their groceries delivered to them by an autonomous vehicle. Udelv announced this week that a new partnership will bring its self-driving delivery vehicles to the city's largest local chain of gr...
20 Sep 14:22

Why Are Nondiscrimination Statements Not Diverse?

by David Rozado


David Rozado is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Enterprise and Development at Otago Polytechnic (New Zealand).


The term diversity can be operationalized demographically (in terms of race, gender, nationality and the like) or intellectually (in terms of viewpoints, beliefs, political opinion and the like) (Duarte et al. 2014). Numerous studies have shown the severe lack of ideological diversity in universities across the US, with the vast majority of faculty leaning left-of-center (Cardiff & Klein 2005; Inbar & Lammers 2012; Langbert, Quain & B. Klein 2016).

Arguably, one of the largest contributors to viewpoint variance among humans is political orientation, since political beliefs closely align with an individual’s views on a large array of policy and moral issues (Emler, Renwick & Malone 1983).  Thus, the ideological composition of college faculty can serve as a valid proxy to gauge the degree of viewpoint diversity in the Academy.

Despite the marginal representation of non-liberal viewpoints in the Academy, the degree of institutional protection granted to intellectual minorities in universities has been scarcely studied. Said disparity in representation of political opinion within the Academy and its infrequent study motivated the current research to determine the degree of protection that universities provide for intellectual minorities in their institutional statements.

In a recent study (“Why Are Nondiscrimination Policies Not Diverse?“), we carried out a quantitative content analysis for the presence of demographic and intellectual diversity related themes in mission, diversity and non-discrimination statements of US elite universities to compare the degree with which said statements embrace and protect demographic and viewpoint diversity. We have uncovered a relevant pattern, which could be symptomatic of an underlying ideological power structure. While most mission statements and diversity statements in the studied universities openly claim a commitment to protecting and fostering both demographic and viewpoint diversity, only a minority, 14%, explicitly protect viewpoint diversity in their non-discrimination statements. In contrast, archetypal categories of demographic diversity are overwhelmingly protected in non-discrimination statements. We find this disparity suspicious on the grounds of the vast underrepresentation of non-liberal viewpoints in the Academy.

Religious orientation defies straightforward categorization into the 2 clusters of demographic and intellectual diversity since religion can be both interpreted as a set of internal beliefs that relate humanity to the supernatural or transcendental and as a set of cultural practices, texts, sanctified places and organizations. Here, we focus on intellectual diversity associated with nonreligious beliefs, such as non-supernatural or non-transcendental viewpoints, ideas and political opinion. Therefore, we will ignore religion as a partial subtype of intellectual diversity.

 

Methodology

Universities Institutional statements represent a useful source of data for gaining a glimpse into a university perspective on matters of purpose, aspirations, hidden assumptions and power structures. In this work, we carried out a content analysis of 3 widely prevalent University institutional statements: mission, diversity and non-discrimination statements.

Between February and March of 2017, we collected the mission, diversity and non-discrimination statements of 50 elite universities in the US, as ranked by US News University Ranking Charts, 2017. To analyze the content of the gathered institutional statements, we used an emergent coding technique where the themes and categories to be searched in the statements were established following preliminary examination of the data by the authors. Subsequently, 3 human raters examined each statement and binary coded the presence of diversity related themes into 3 tables, one for each type of statement: mission, diversity and non-discrimination (available in the supplementary material). We found high levels of interrater agreement on this task (Fleiss kappa=0.83). A detailed description of the methods used for coding the statements content is available as supplementary material (here).

 

Results

Mission statements 

We found a differential presence of 8 target themes in the studied mission statements (Figure 1). All mission statements analysed explicitly mentioned the commitment of the institution to the “education of students” and the “generation of new knowledge (research)”. The theme of the University serving as an agent for “improving the world“, had a 90% prevalence.  The commitment of the University to “embrace” and/or “promote diversity” appeared in 80% of the mission statements studied.

 

Figure 1: Prevalence of 8 themes across the mission statements of 50 US elite universities.

 

Further analysis about the specific appearance of the diversity theme in mission statements revealed that out of the 40 universities (80% of our sample) that mentioned diversity in their mission statement, 29 (73%), explicitly referred to viewpoint diversity.

 

Diversity statements

Archetypical categories of demographic diversity such as race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or ethnicity are fairly prevalent in diversity statements, see Figure 2. Interestingly, explicit references to the desire of the institution to promote/welcome viewpoint diversity was the most cited type of diversity, appearing in 88% of the diversity statements studied.

 

Figure 2: Prevalence of demographic and viewpoint diversity categories in diversity statements of 50 US elite universities.

 

Nondiscrimination statements

Analysis of the non-discrimination statements revealed the most striking pattern of this work. Most demographic categories of diversity (race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, age) were explicitly and overwhelmingly protected in non-discrimination statements, see Figure 3. Oddly, diversity of ideas (beliefs, viewpoints, political orientation) was only explicitly protected (mentioned) in 14% of the non-discrimination statements studied.

 

Figure 3: Prevalence of demographic and viewpoint diversity categories in non-discrimination statements of 50 US elite universities.

 

Discussion

We have uncovered a pattern of elite universities in the U.S. overwhelmingly claiming to embrace both demographic and intellectual diversity in their mission and diversity statements. Yet, only 14 percent of the universities studied explicitly protect viewpoint diversity in their nondiscrimination statements while most archetypical types of demographic diversity receive extensive protection. This stark contrast warrants the question of whether an institution can claim to truly value viewpoint diversity, as most of the studied universities say they do in their mission and diversity statements, when there is no actual protection of viewpoint diversity in their nondiscrimination statements. A related outstanding question is whether the conspicuous absence of viewpoint diversity protection in nondiscrimination statements is intentional or accidental.

The themes and features contained in institutional statements probably reflect the standpoint of those doing the writing— in the case of universities, faculty and university administrators. This raises the question of whether the absence of viewpoint diversity protection in nondiscrimination statements is due to latent hostility from the ideological majority toward nonconforming viewpoint minorities, a not uncommon phenomena in intellectually homogenous groups.

We can conceive of several criticisms regarding this work. First, it could be argued that institutional nondiscrimination statements are simply fixated on complying with federal laws as well as additional ordinances at the state level which specifically forbid discrimination for a number of protected classes, usually demographic subtypes of diversity such as race, gender or ethnicity. Political affiliation or belief is not considered a protected class under federal law, albeit a few states and jurisdictions do protect it (e.g. California, D.C. and New York).

However, as of the writing of this paper, there is also no federal law in the United States protecting individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. A few states provide protection against employment discrimination for those groups, yet thirty U.S. states do not explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity in their antidiscrimination statutes. Still, most of the studied universities have overwhelmingly chosen to provide protection for sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination statements, despite not being required to do so by law. Hence, a minority group not being officially protected by federal or state law does not preclude its inclusion in nondiscrimination statements when universities judge that such groups deserve protection. Furthermore, even when not compelled by federal or state law, a minority of universities (14 percent) still chose to explicitly protect viewpoint diversity in their nondiscrimination statements, suggesting that at least some universities recognize a need for protecting underrepresented viewpoints in the Academy.

A counterargument could be made that institutional statements are not a valid source for analysis since they are filled with vague platitudes that attempt to please a large variety of stakeholders with little actual consequence. Additionally, it is not prudent to state definitively that an institution does not protect viewpoint diversity just because their nondiscrimination statements are bereft of explicit language indicating that they do. Actions may confirm or refute the content of the nondiscrimination statement. It is true that mission and nondiscrimination statements, which are required by accreditation agencies and federal law, serve a normative role. However, institutional statements also serve a utilitarian purpose by signaling institutional beliefs, communicating with key stakeholders and protecting underrepresented groups. In that sense, they play a significant role in shaping institutional behavior and are therefore valid objects of analysis when studying the degree of protection offered by universities to demographic or intellectual minorities.

Critics could also point out that humans tend to discriminate more acutely against demographic categories of diversity such as race, sex or nationality than against intellectual types of diversity such as beliefs or political opinion. We find this argument to be at odds with the historical record on discrimination against ideas, such as pervasive political repression and persecution of viewpoints within dictatorial regimes. Recent research even hints at the strong tendency of humans to discriminate in terms of viewpoints by showing how educational attainment is related to decreases in interethnic/interracial prejudice, but also to increases in ideological prejudice (Henry & Napier 2017).

It is conceivable that greater protection of minority viewpoints in the academy could embolden underrepresented intellectual factions, which in turn could lead to polarization and antagonistic relationships between viewpoint clusters. Yet, the empirical evidence on the performance of polarized teams, embodying diverse cognitive resources and perspectives, suggests that such groups, when facing a complex problem, produce ideas, solutions, and designs that outperform those from homogeneous groups (Page 2008; Shi, Teplitskiy, Duede & Evans 2017; Williams & O’Reilly 1998; Jang 2017). Therefore, it would be beneficial for educational institutions to encourage adversarial collaboration of intellectually heterogeneous teams while establishing systems that ensure dissent or debate can take place in a productive and amicable manner.

Finally, it can also be contended that the lack of viewpoint diversity protection in nondiscrimination statements is due to universities’ reluctance to protect individuals or groups with extreme opinions, such as those justifying or inciting violence against other groups. We obviously do not endorse that universities should protect viewpoints that promote violence. Yet, this concern is inconsistent with universities’ attitudes towards religious diversity. Some extreme interpretations of religion can potentially lead certain followers to violent behavior against those they perceived as antagonists. Yet, the potential for occasional violent interpretation of religion does not prevent universities from overwhelmingly protecting religious diversity in their non-discrimination statements.

The results of our work suggest an easy step for educational institutions to wholeheartedly signal their welcoming of intellectual diversity. Namely, proactive institutional protection of viewpoint diversity in their nondiscrimination statements by extending to this type of diversity the same degree of protection already provided to archetypical categories of demographic diversity. Such a policy would communicate to internal and external stakeholders a strong institutional commitment to prevent discrimination and harassment based on ideas.

Full paper:

David Rozado & Stephen Atkins (2018). “Why Are Nondiscrimination Statements Not Diverse?” Academic Questions 31 (3): 295-303.


As an organization that prizes pluralism and disagreement — with more than 2k members holding diverse views on most issues — Heterodox Academy does not really have “official positions.”

Opinions expressed here are those of the author(s). Publication does not imply endorsement by Heterodox Academy or any of its members. We welcome your comments below. Feel free to challenge and disagree, but please try to model the sort of respectful and constructive criticism that makes viewpoint diversity most valuable. Comments that include obscenity or that sound like a tirade or screed are likely to be deleted.

The post Why Are Nondiscrimination Statements Not Diverse? appeared first on Heterodox Academy.

18 Sep 19:22

August 2018 global average temperatures unremarkable

by admin

The latest lower troposphere—the part of the Earth’s atmosphere where weather occurs and life exists—monthly average temperature anomaly from UAH is shown in the revised chart to the top right of this page. Click the thumbnail image for a larger image and table of recent data.

The August figure was 0.19°C, little different from the 2007 Bet base year average of 0.16°C.

18 Sep 11:55

Study: people tend to cluster into four distinct personality “types”

by Jennifer Ouellette
Remlaps

h/t PheliX

Article intro image

Enlarge / Average, Reserved, Role Model, and Self-centered: not everyone falls into these four categories, but you might. (credit: Northwestern University)

People love taking online quizzes; just ask Buzzfeed and Facebook. A new study has sifted through some of the largest online data sets of personality quizzes and identified four distinct "types" therein. The new methodology used for this study—described in detail in a new paper in Nature Human Behavior—is rigorous and replicable, which could help move personality typing analysis out of the dubious self-help section in your local bookstore and into serious scientific journals.

Frankly, personality "type" is not the ideal nomenclature here; personality "clusters" might be more accurate. Paper co-author William Revelle (Northwestern University) bristles a bit at the very notion of distinct personality types, like those espoused by the hugely popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Revelle is an adamant "anti-fan" of the Myers-Briggs, and he is not alone. Most scientists who study personality prefer to think of it as a set of continuous dimensions, in which people shift where they fall on the spectrum of various traits as they mature.

What's new here is the identification of four dominant clusters in the overall distribution of traits. Revelle prefers to think of them as "lumps in the batter" and suggests that a good analogy would be how people tend to concentrate in cities in the United States.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

18 Sep 02:02

YouTube Does Not Actually Understand The Skeptic Position: It Put A Warning On My Climate Video Saying Exactly What I Said

by admin

I have made this point in the past, but very few folks on the warming-panic side of the climate debate actually are familiar with even the most basic outlines of what skeptics argue.  The climate debate is one of the worst examples I can think of where partisans gain their only knowledge of what the other side is saying from slanted and ill-informed descriptions of the opponents by their own side.  This is roughly like my informing myself of Hillary Clinton's political positions solely from listening to Rush Limbaugh.

YouTube has adopted a policy of putting information / warning labels on videos by climate skeptics.  Here is a screen shot, the YouTube addition is in the beige box:

This is the only example I know of YouTube doing this -- for example, you can't find information labels on, say, 9/11 Truther videos reading "steel doesn't have to melt to fail" or on Bernie Sanders socialist videos saying "adopting Marxism led to the deaths of tens of millions of people in the 20th century."  So I guess we climate skeptics are considered by Google to be the worst of the worst on the truth scale.

But the truly hilarious part is that I don't disagree with this statement one bit**.  Neither does any other prominent skeptic I know of.  In fact, I have queued up the video to the 19:30 mark and you can watch me say exactly this.


Clearly, Google does not actually know what climate skeptics say.  In fact, much of the video (which despite being 2 years old is still my current position on the topic and a good introduction to the climate debate) is about this very topic -- how what skeptics actually say and what warmists say what we way are so different, and how that SNAFU's the climate debate.  One of my most popular articles in Forbes was on the same topic.

Postscript:  I am not a conspiracy theorist, and try not to assign arcane outcomes in chaotic systems to subterfuge.  But I do find it odd that when I Google myself, in the fourth position is random critique of one of my climate articles.  There have been much more intelligent critiques of me historically than this one, and this particular critique garnered far fewer reads and inbound links than the original article, which shows up nowhere in the search.  I am not persuaded that Google is putting its thumb on the scale in favor of critiques of skeptics, but I could be.

**Though I might quibble with equating climate change and global warming.  They are obviously related but certainly not equivalents.

17 Sep 14:13

Verizon is bringing fixed 5G to businesses (VZ)

by Peter Sarnoff

This story was delivered to Business Insider Intelligence Apps and Platforms Briefing subscribers hours before appearing on Business Insider. To be the first to know, please click here.

Verizon and wireless network equipment provider Cradlepoint launched a new trial program, dubbed Pathway to 5G for Business, that's based on Verizon’s 5G fixed wireless service with Cradlepoint’s wireless router.

5G MWC

The program, which provides the first fixed 5G service for businesses in the US, enables participating enterprises to enjoy internet speeds around 300 Mbps, with peek speeds of up to 1Gbps, for a limited time. The move marks Verizon’s latest step to expand its presence in the 5G space, as the company unveiled its fixed 5G service targeted at the home last week.

Verizon’s fixed 5G wireless service is expected to be highly sought after by companies due to the technology’s improvements to business processes:

  • 5G’s network speeds will enable more seamless enterprise communications and collaboration. 5G’s low latency will largely dispel network lags, which cause spotty video and audio conference calls that occur on slower broadband networks, for example.
  • The next generation of wireless networking will enable more capable, intelligent office spaces. 5G’s increased bandwidth will allow more internet-connected devices in the office to engage in data-rich activities without suffering from performance issues related to bandwidth congestion. A news company, for instance, with hundreds of TVs, cameras, and computers would be able to quickly upload a 4K video to its website without concern over the other internet-connected devices soaking up the network’s bandwidth.

Verizon is poised to benefit from being the first to launch fixed 5G for the enterprise. Although Verizon’s new partnership only offers a trial program for businesses, the move will allow Verizon to be enterprises' first touchpoint with 5G. And if enterprises that opt into the trial program decide 5G is promising, it could secure more business for Verizon.

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