Year: 2017

Oman is turning to Twitter to help govern

Research conducted by the Dubai School of Government into the Arab Spring of 2010-11 found that mass protests on the ground were often preceded by revolutionary conversations online, and that social media such as Twitter played a central role in shaping the political events. Having studied changes in internet traffic and social media use, they concluded that social media during the Arab Spring played a critical role in “mobilisation, empowerment, shaping opinions, and influencing change”. In some cases, such as in Dubai, the government used social media to engage citizens and encourage participation in institutional rather than revolutionary change. In other cases, such as in Egypt, governments blocked access to websites used by protesters, or even shut down access to the entire internet. Following the Arab Spring, citizens of the Persian Gulf state of Oman became aware of Twitter’s potential and decided to adopt it as a platform for addressing social problems, rather than instigating revolutions. For example, unemployment for young people even with degrees is a problem in Oman, as it is in other …

Sam Harris

Sam Harris is known for many things, from being one of the leading figures of the New Atheist movement to a controversial critic of Islam. he is also known for arguing that science can provide answers to questions regarding morality. For him, morality is within the domain of science. How is this possible, exactly? After all, science deals with facts, not values. Harris proposes that the term science is far more inclusive than we normally understand. There is no fundamental distinction, for instance, between a scientist working in a laboratory and a plumber identifying problems in a plumbing system. The distinction between them is merely conventional, because what really counts is that doing science means using reason and observation. As long as a given domain can be the subject of reasoned inquiry and observation, it belongs to the broader domain of science. Here is how Harris himself puts it in his essay responding to Ryan Born’s critique: “For practical reasons, it is often necessary to draw boundaries between academic disciplines, but physicists, chemists, biologists, and …

Battles Over Memory Rage On

Battles Over Memory Rage On

Throughout the world postconflict societies have grappled with bitter wartime memories. Some succeed by casting aside disputes over the past, says David Rieff, author of In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies. Others, like postwar Germany, have repudiated their pasts. White nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month over the removal of Confederate monuments highlight how the United States has had no such reckoning, he says. This stems from the federal government’s failure to impose a narrative of emancipation of African Americans after the Confederacy’s surrender, Rieff says, adding, that “the rebellion won the peace, in terms of the memory war.” How do you distinguish between memory, collective memory, and history? The only thing that we can call memory is individual memory. You can testify on the basis of your individual memory in a court, but not on the basis of your collective memory. Even if we agreed on what happened [in Charlottesville], that wouldn’t mean we have a collective memory; it would just mean we share the same view. Collective memory is the …

Why Pay Workers More? skepticsociety.co.uk

Why Pay Workers More?

AN ECONOMIST’S GUIDE EFFICIENCY WAGES The term “efficiency wages” or “efficiency earnings” was first introduced by influential economist Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) to represent a unit of labor based upon the relationship between wage and efficiency. According to Marshall, the theory behind efficiency wages would require that employers pay based upon output or efficiency, meaning that more efficient workers would be paid more than less efficient workers which would render the employer theoretically indifferent towards workers of ranging efficiencies. Today, the term has taken on a different meaning. The modern use of the term efficiency wage is in reference to the hypothesis that wages in some markets are not always based upon the process of market-clearing, which requires that supply be equal to demand. Market clearing wage, for instance, is the wage or pay scale at which the quantity of labor is equal to the demand or need for labor. It is when this supply equals demand that the market is cleared of all excess. Efficiency Wage Theory In economic theory, market clearing presents the most …

Introduction to Holography skepticsociety.co.uk

Introduction to Holography

If you’re carrying money, a drivers license, or credit cards, you’re carrying around holograms. The dove hologram on a Visa card may be the most familiar. The rainbow-colored bird changes colors and appears to move as you tilt the card. Unlike a bird in a traditional photograph, a holographic bird is a three-dimensional image. Holograms are formed by interference of light beams from a laser. HOW LASERS MAKE HOLOGRAMS Holograms are made using lasers because laser light is “coherent.” What this means is that all of the photons of laser light have exactly the same frequency and phase difference. Splitting a laser beam produces two beams that are the same color as each other (monochromatic). In contrast, regular white light consists of many different frequencies of light. When white light is diffracted, the frequencies split to form a rainbow of colors. In conventional photography, the light reflected off an object strikes a strip of film that contains a chemical (i.e., silver bromide) that reacts to light. This produces a two-dimensional representation of the subject. A …

The Philosophy of Honesty

What does it take to be honest? Although often invoked, the concept of honesty is quite tricky to characterize. Taking a closer look, it is a cognate notion of authenticity. Let’s see why. TRUTH AND HONESTY While it may be tempting to define honesty as speaking the truth and abiding by the rules, this is an overly-simplistic view of a complex concept. Telling the truth – the whole truth – is at times practically and theoretically impossible as well as morally not required or even wrong. Suppose your new partner asks you to be honest about what you have done over the past week, when you were apart: does this mean you’ll have to tell everything you have done? Not only you may not have enough time and you won’t recall all details; but, really, is everything relevant? Should you also talk about the surprise party you are organizing for next week for your partner? The relationship between honesty and truth is much more subtle. What is truth about a person, anyway? When a judge …

Should the results of Nazi experiments ever be taken up and used?

During World War II, Nazi doctors had unfettered access to human beings they could use in medical experiments in any way they chose. In one way, these experiments were just another form of mass torture and murder so our moral judgement of them is clear. But they also pose an uncomfortable moral challenge: what if some of the medical experiments yielded scientifically sound data that could be put to good use? Would it be justifiable to use that knowledge? Using data It’s tempting to deflect the question by saying the data are useless – that the bad behaviour must have produced bad science, so we don’t even have to think about it. But there is no inevitable link between the two because science is not a moral endeavour. If scientific data is too poor to use, it’s because of poor study design and analysis, not because of the bad moral character of the scientist. And in fact, some of the data from Nazi experiments is scientifically sound enough to be useful. The hypothermia experiments in …

Whats wrong with Global Capitalism?

Global capitalism, the current epoch in the centuries-long history of the capitalist economy, is heralded by many as a free and open economic system that brings people from around the world together to foster innovations in production, for facilitating exchange of culture and knowledge, for bringing jobs to struggling economies worldwide, and for providing consumers with an ample supply of affordable goods. But while many may enjoy benefits of global capitalism, others around the world — in fact, most — do not. The research and theories of sociologists and intellectuals who focus on globalization, including William I. Robinson, Saskia Sassen, Mike Davis, and Vandana Shiva shed light on the ways this system harms many. GLOBAL CAPITALISM IS ANTI-DEMOCRATIC Global capitalism is, to quote Robinson, “profoundly anti-democratic.” A tiny group of global elite decide the rules of the game and control the vast majority of the world’s resources. In 2011, Swiss researchers found that just 147 of the world’s corporations and investment groups controlled 40 percent of corporate wealth, and just over 700 control nearly all of …

Women in gender-equal countries have better memory

Let’s try you. Read the title above once, then cover it and write down word for word what you remember. Having difficulties? How well you do may be down to which country you live in. That’s according to a new study, published in Psychological Science, involving an impressive 200,000 women and men from 27 countries across five continents. It revealed that women from more conservative countries performed worse on memory tests than those from more egalitarian countries. Demographics expert Eric Bonsang and his colleagues analysed national survey data from individuals above the age of 50. They used existing data on cognitive performance tests measuring episodic memory (memory of autobiographical events). These involved recalling as many of ten words read out by a researcher as possible in one minute either immediately or after a short delay. The team rated each country’s level of gender equality by looking at the proportion of people agreeing with the statement: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.” Women outperformed men on memory in …

Introduction to Ethical Egoism

Ethical egoism is the view that each of us ought to pursue our own self-interest, and no-one has any obligation to promote anyone else’s interests. It is thus a normative or prescriptive theory: it is concerned with how we ought to behave. In this respect, ethical egoism is quite different from psychological egoism, the theory that all our actions are ultimately self-interested. Psychological egoism is a purely descriptive theory that purports to describe a basic fact about human nature. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF ETHICAL EGOISM 1. Everyone pursuing their own self-interest is the best way to promote the general good. This argument was made famous by Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) in his poem The Fable of the Bees, and by Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his pioneering work on economics, The Wealth of Nations. In a famous passage Smith writes that when individuals single-mindedly pursue “the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires” they unintentionally, as if “led by an invisible hand,” benefit society as a whole. This happy result comes about because people generally are the …