Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ready Player One

Pareceu-me uma espécie "Matrix" + "O Senhor dos Anéis" (com uma pitadinha de nada de "Star Wars" e outra de "Indiana Jones e a Grande Cruzada").

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Censura em versão Parceria Público-Privada

Prodding private companies into censorship by proxy is a dangerous government tradition, por Jesse Walker (Los Angeles Times, via Reason):

When YouTube, Facebook or Twitter cracks down on some form of expression — conspiracy theories, radical rants, terrorist propaganda — some of the targets inevitably complain that their freedom of speech is under attack. (This feeling of victimhood may be what sent Nasim Aghdam to YouTube headquarters, gun in hand.) There is a strong retort to this: These are private platforms with a right to decide what they publish. It is no more a violation of the 1st Amendment for YouTube to muzzle a channel (...) than it is for this newspaper to refuse to run a column calling for Minnesota to invade Wisconsin.

But what if a private platform suppresses speech because it’s afraid the government might otherwise step in?

Just as one effective end-run around the 4th Amendment is to ask private companies for data they slurped up on their own, the 1st Amendment can be sidestepped when officials pressure the private sector into self-censorship. The end result can be rules more restrictive than the companies would impose on their own — and more intrusive than the government could get away with if it tried to impose them directly.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Os falsos resultados nos inquéritos a adolescentes

'Mischievous Responders' Confound Research On Teens, por Anya Kamenetz (NPR):

Teenagers face some serious issues: drugs, bullying, sexual violence, depression, gangs. They don't always like to talk about these things with adults.

One way that researchers and educators can get around that is to give teens a survey — a simple, anonymous questionnaire they can fill out by themselves without any grown-ups hovering over them. (...) chool districts use them to gather data; so do the federal government, states and independent researchers.

But a new research paper points out one huge potential flaw in all this research: kids who skew the results by making stuff up for a giggle. (...)

"We were interested in the disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT youth in suicidal ideation, feelings of belonging, text-message bullying," he recalls. "One of our reviewers asked us, 'How do you know these kids are actually gay?' And giving some thought to it, we said, 'Let's figure out who those kids are.' "
Robinson-Cimpian and his co-author came up with a clever test.

They chose a set of answers on the survey — questions with responses that adolescents were likely to find funny, but ones that were statistically unlikely to be related to being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Their height, for example.

The more of these way-off-base answers that someone gave on these questions, the researchers surmised, the more likely they were to be lying about being LGBT as well.

And they did find a correlation. For example, 41 percent of the students who claimed they were transgender also claimed to be extremely tall or short, and the same percentage also claimed they were in a gang.

This is important because researchers are often the most interested in minority groups, and so the undetected presence of a small number of jokesters can seriously mess up results.

In a 2003 study, 19 percent of teens who claimed to be adopted actually weren't, according to follow-up interviews with their parents. When you excluded these kids (who also gave extreme responses on other items), the study no longer found a significant difference between adopted children and those who weren't on behaviors like drug use, drinking and skipping school. The paper had to be retracted. In yet another survey, fully 99 percent of 253 students who claimed to use an artificial limb were just kidding

Monday, April 02, 2018

A sociologia dos tiroteios em massa

Isto é um artigo que eu já estava a algum tempo para postar, mas vou pô-lo agora porque acho que trata de um tema muito próximo deste:

The Sociology of Mass Shootings, por "Phil":

A different approach is adopted by Joel Cappellan in his PhD dissertation, submitted and examined in September 2016. This is the first properly full-length sociological study of the topic. As Cappellan notes, existing social science literature tends to look at individual risk factors instead of identifying it as a social problem that brings social forces into play. That isn't an invitation to crude sociological determinism, that shooters are helpless puppets of the forces animating them. The relation between context and agency is always complex, but never so rarefied that individual responsibility disappears. Nevertheless, there is social patterning, the shooters mostly share similar biographical characteristics and, yes, they tend to be men.

Cappellan advances two hypotheses: that low rates of social integration and social cohesion make populations more vulnerable to these sorts of attacks, and that media reportage boosts incidence and distribution of them. A review of cases 1970-2014 showed the hypotheses turned out not to be the case, in fact the opposite was true. Mass shootings are more likely in rural states with stable marriage rates and, interestingly, steady socio-economic status - profiles, Cappellan remarks, that bear more similarity to suicide rates than "normal" homicide.

This requires further work, of course. But really it shouldn't be that surprising. Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a middle American school. Sandy Hook is a middle American school. Columbine is a middle American school. What they appear to have in common is their situation in communities where social cohesion wasn't particularly frayed. Rather, the shooters were effectively outcasts within their communities. Nicholas Cruz, the latest name added to the roll call of infamy, was the stereotypical loner excluded from school. Adam Lanza hadn't left the house for three months prior to his attack, for which he planned methodically for. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were well known in their school for being weird, and were shunned and occasionally bullied. It seems the relationship between cohesion and exclusion is worth exploring in more depth, that from their standpoint the appearance of comfortable normalcy within sight but not within reach is a social tension that may (or may not) be a significant contribution to the making of a mass shooter.
O post é muito maior que isto, mas o que me chamou a atenção foi esta parte - de que o típico tiroteio em massa não ocorre no anonimato dos grandes centros, em localidades em que as pessoas não se conhecem, onde predominam as famílias desestruturadas, etc. Não, é ao contrário - é nas pequenas comunidades aparentemente unidas e coesas que surgem os atiradores em massa (embora eles próprios sejam indivíduos - por vontade própria ou por exclusão involuntária - socialmente isolados). Não sei bem o que se poderá concluir disso, mas talvez signifique que ser um "estranho" é pior numa comunidade de resto unida e coesa do que numa comunidade mais desestruturada; talvez a tal "multidão solitária", tão criticada por sociólogos e pensadores diversos, tenha um lado bom afinal?

Definam melhor "bullying", s.f.f.

Face às noticias que os colegas do atirador de Parkland, Florida, terão admitido que o ostracizavam e/ou que o "bullyavam" (esta conjugação verbal não existe, pois não?), e às réplicas estilo "right wingers are doubling down on the claim that young white men are entitled to friends, no matter how terribly they act towards said friends, and failure to befriend an awful young men should result in death", acho que seria boa ideia definir bem o que se quer dizer com "bullying", "ostracizar" e conceitos afins.

Já há muito tempo que vejo mensagens "anti-bullying" no Facebook listando coisas que supostamente são "bullying", e incluindo o item "pôr de parte"; acho que isso não faz grande sentido: se há uma pessoa que tem gostos ou interesses diferentes dos dos outros, não há muito a fazer - ou tenta-se obrigá-lo a participar nas mesmas atividades que os outros, se calhar pelo método de lhe fazer a vida negra até ele se "integrar" (e aí temos inequivocamente bullying), ou então segue-se o método do "vive e deixa viver / por um alho não se estraga uma alhada", isto é, os outros continuarem a dedicar-se às suas atividades e interesses preferidos, e simplesmente ignorarem o elemento "desviante"; mas se considerarmos que "pôr de parte" também é "bullying" não há solução - não há nada que se possa fazer com um colega "diferente" que não seja considerado "bullying", quer seja deixá-lo em paz quer seja tentar obrigá-lo a se integrar.

Ainda a este respeito, as expressões norte-americanos "popular" e "unpopular", muito usadas para referir a dinâmica social entre adolescentes e pré-adolescentes, são potencialmente enganadoras, já que levadas literalmente significariam que é uma questão de ter ou não muitos amigos, de ser ou não convidado para festas, etc. - mas (pelo menos guiando-me pelos filmes e séries de adolescentes nos EUA que passam na nossa televisão - até porque me parece que esses termos só são usados no contexto norte-americano) não me parece ser isso que signifique exatamente a dialética do popular/unpopular; sobretudo a expressão "unpopular" parece-me ser muito um eufemismo, nomeadamente pegando no que Paul Graham escreveu sobre o assunto: "Nerds would find their unpopularity more bearable if it merely caused them to be ignored. Unfortunately, to be unpopular in school is to be actively persecuted."

E agora regressando ao caso do atirador da Florida, o problema é que eu leio este artigo e fico sem perceber se os colegas faziam "bullying ativo" sobre ele (estilo baterem-lhe, chamarem-lhe nomes, fazerem-lhe partidas, roubarem-lhe as coisas, etc.) ou se simplesmente o punham de parte; a Emma González diz que o "ostracizavam", o que à partida pareceria mais no campo "pôr de parte", mas dá-me a ideia que a expressão "ostracizar" tornou-se ela mesma quase tão vaga como "bullying", não sendo de excluir que também seja usada em referência a algumas práticas de bullying ativo.

E isto é relevante sobretudo para a conversa do "entitled to friends"; se os colegas simplesmente o ignoravam, é um argumento válido, já que ninguém tem obrigação de ser amigo de ninguém (eu pelo menos sou bastante seletivo nas pessoas que aceito como amigos, quer seja na vida real, que seja em redes sociais); mas se eles faziam "bullying ativo" sobre ele, esse contra-argumento torna-se um disparate, já que o que estará aí em causa não é serem amigos deles, mas simplesmente não serem ativamente inimigos.

Nota - eu acho que sou um caso extremo de personalidade INTP / Eneagrama tipo 5 (um tipo psicológico que não é exatamente dos mais sociáveis); será que isso me leva a desvalorizar o sofrimento que ser "posto de parte" pode representar para algumas pessoas?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Liberdade de expressão e censura social/privada (II)

The Free Speech Dilemma, por Chris Dillow:

What role should social pressure play in the policing of free speech? (...)

Such social pressure has worked well in the case of David Irving. He should be legally free to deny the holocaust, but the rest of us are entitled – and correct – to treat his as a pariah.

I’m even relaxed about most cases of no-platforming. Nobody has a right to speak at (say) a students union, any more than I have a right to a column in the Telegraph. A right to speak does not give the rest of us an obligation to host you.

Nor does that right entail freedom from the consequences of exercising it. You have a right to speak, and the rest of us have a right to tell you forcefully that you’re talking shit or to ignore you.

In fact, if the marketplace of ideas is to work, bad ideas must be weeded out. This is done by vigorously opposing them.

All this leads me to think that we should police speech not with the law but with the force of others’ opinion – either shunning them or opposing them depending on context.

Except, except, except. Here are four counter-arguments:

- Some privately-provided platforms are so widespread and important that withdrawing them is, as Robert Sharp says, a form of “privatized censorship.” He’s talking of Facebook’s banning of Britain First. They deserve no sympathy, but there’s a slippery slope here: if Facebook can ban them, it can – as Robert says – also censor others.

- Private sanctions against speech we don’t like can be excessively harsh. For example, I wouldn’t want firms to be able to sack employees just because they have opinions their employers don’t like.

- There’s a point, perhaps not easily defined, at which vigorous and widespread opposition becomes bullying: was Mary Beard bullied after her (I think) ill-judged tweet about “’civilized’ values”? I’m not sure. But women are especially vulnerable to an ugly mob rule.

- John Stuart Mill had a point in warning us of the tyranny of the majority. This he wrote, is
more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them;

My point here is that we face a genuine dilemma. On the one hand, there’s much to be said for using social rather than legal sanctions against speech we don’t like. But on the other, those sanctions can be as excessive and misapplied as legal ones.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Em defesa da mudança da hora

Agora parece que é moda dizer mal da mudança da hora.

Pois eu acho uma maravilha – no Verão posso, depois do trabalho ficar mais uma hora na praia do que ficaria se tivéssemos a hora “solar” (que não é bem, porque já está meia hora adiantada, mas pronto…) o ano todo.

E não, não era melhor ficarmos sempre na hora de Verão (mais uma hora e meia do que a hora solar), porque assim tínhamos (bem, muitos já têm, mas seriam ainda mais) que ir para o trabalho ainda de noite no Inverno, e não se ganhava quase nada ao fim do dia, porque de qualquer maneira normalmente não há tempo – tanto “weather” como “time” – suficiente para se fazer qualquer coisa depois do  trabalho que requeira luz solar (frequentemente está frio, chuva, e de qualquer maneira anoitece cedo).

Sim, há quem diga que a mudança de hora afeta a saúde, mas também há quem diga que não; confesso que a mim custa-me a acreditar - em primeiro lugar, por experiência própria: nunca senti mais dificuldade em acordar nos dias a seguir a uma mudança de hora nos que em qualquer outro dia (mas pronto, admito que eu não seja estatisticamente significativo); mas sobretudo porque isso me parece difícil de conciliar com a nossa história evolucionária - durante (creio) dezenas de milhares de anos fomos caçadores-recoletores, uma atividade que frequentemente requeria grandes mudanças no horário de trabalho durante o ano e até durante a semana - mesmo há bocadinho estive a ver um documentário sobre os esquimós do Canadá a apanharem mexilhões, atividade que está muito dependente das marés (no caso deles, porque a maré cria "grutas" no gelo onde eles vão apanhar os mexilhões, grutas essas que se fecham quando a maré muda, em principio matando quem não saia de lá a tempo), pelo que imagino que a rotina diária deles mude bastante ao longo da semana conforme as marés (de certeza que não vão todos os dias à mesma hora à pesca); e depois uns milhares de anos como agricultores, uma atividade talvez mais regular que a caça-e-recoleção, mas também com mudanças de ritmo ao longo do ano (logo o clássico trabalhar de "sol-a-sol" em vez de "das tantas às tantas", que por si só implicaria que, pelos padrões modernos, a hora do levantar e do deitar estaria sempre a mudar ao longo das estações). Assim, custa-me a acreditar que tenhamos mesmo essa necessidade de nos deitarmos e levantarmos a horas certas (padrão de comportamento que me parece mais otimizado para assalariados numa sociedade industrial ou pós-industrial - por um lado dependendo muito menos dos ritmos da natureza, e por outro dependendo muito mais dos ritmos das outras pessoas, pelo que dá jeito termos horários sincronizados, ou pelos menos previsíveis - do que para humanos vivendo em estado natural) e que vamos ficar cheios de perturbações na saúde por causa da mudança da hora.

Admito uma exceção ao que escrevo - os trabalhadores por turnos, que têm que trabalhar ao fim de semana e por isso muitos terão menos uma hora de sono no dia da mundança de hora (nem me admirava que os tais estudos que indicam um aumento de problemas de saúde nos dias a seguir à mudança de hora estejam a ser inflacionados por dados referentes aos trabalhadores por turnos).

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Liberdade de expressão e censura social/privada (I)

A Litany of the Ways In Which Facebook Corrupts the Spirit of Free Speech, por Robert Sharp:

Inciting violence and hate is what Britain First group appear to have been doing, so the Facebook decision to ban their page feels righteous. Good riddance? Nothing to see here? Move along?

Not quite. This development is still problematic and draws our attention to the unexpected role that social media plays in our politics. We have been discussing these problems for years without, in my opinion, coming any closer to solving them.

It is important to remember that this is not an example of state censorship. Facebook is a private company, and it is entitled to set its own terms of use and to enforce them as it sees fit. The Britain First Facebook page has no protection under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights or the First Amendment to the United States constitution.

And that is the first problem, because no-one else’s Facebook page has such a protection either. Vast swathes of political discourse take place on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform. We treat it like a public square, but it is not. At any moment, the messages we post, and the networks we have built can be taken away from us.

Whatever mechanise that has been used to shut down the far right will be used to censor other groups. Campaigners will note the demise of the Britain First page and seek to have other pages similarly banned. Islamist groups and the Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists will be at immediate risk, but other kinds of political discussion will soon be targeted. Any legitimate political cause that contains militant elements, such as pro-Palestine or pro-Kurdish groups, could easily find their Facebook privileges are revoked when those who are ideologically opposed start gaming the complaint features.

This is privatised censorship. Individuals and interest groups can and will enlist the help of a billionaire to shut up people with whom they disagree. (...)

Our response to this cannot be “well, you can always go elsewhere”. Where exactly? MySpace? Friends Reunited? Independent websites (such as this blog) do not have the same networking opportunities and potential for ‘virality’ that the leading social media platforms offer. Social media is where our discourse happens now and all other content is filtered through these platforms. They are private spaces where we conduct very public politics. Denial of access to these spaces presents a huge barrier to expression for anyone thus suppressed. A single American company should not be the final arbiter on what organisations get to participate in British politics. We may think they have made the right call in banning Britain First… but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. (...) 

Another problem, most relevant internationally, is that social media platforms present a single point of failure. Recent history is littered with examples of governments seeking to block access to social media. Iran did so during the ‘Green Revolution’ protests of 2009 and Egypt did so during the ‘Arab Spring’ protests of 2011. During the London riots that same year, British members of Parliament
expressed support for the idea that the government might take social media services entirely off-line during times that suited them. I wrote a commentary on this idea at the time.


The counter to this threat is to distribute the network. Use different platforms or use technologies that do not require a centralised server like RSS or Mastodon. By spreading out we are harder to stop. We have known that this is important for nearly a decade, but everyone, including yrstrly, seems wedded to the corporate silos.