Category: General (page 2 of 247)

Pain, suffering, and scuba diving

In this post, Derek Sivers shares his experience of a panic attack during a scuba diving trip and being calmed down by his instructor. He then subsequently used the same technique to help someone else who wasn’t OK on a later trip.

Pain and suffering are part of the human experience. For anyone ask “why me?” doesn’t make sense. There are those who dissimulate and those who don’t, but underneath it all there is hardship.

There is less stigma around therapy than there used to be, but I haven’t met anyone (me included!) who hasn’t transformed their life for the better after going through some form of counselling.

I learned a few lessons from this experience.

There are things in life we think won’t apply to us: Panic. Addiction. Depression.

I thought that was for other people. I thought I wasn’t that type. Why is this happening to me?

But I learned so much empathy that day. These things that only seem to happen to other people can happen to me. We’re not so different. It helps me recognize it in others, and be most helpful by remembering that feeling.

I imagine this is why people, who have been through really hard times, become counselors.

That day also reinforced the power of imitation. My teacher calmed me down so well that it was best to just imitate him.

Source: scuba, panic, empathy | Derek Sivers

How long before everyone’s using decentralised messengers?

I first experimented with Linux in 1997. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I was running it as my default operating system.

I hope it doesn’t take as long for something like Briar to be my default messaging app! It’s difficult to make the case for it when everyone’s got WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, or the like.

But the radical, decentralised, approach to privacy that Briar takes is refreshing.

Wildire

Another potential use case scenario for Briar are natural disasters. With the climate crisis getting worse day by day, destruction of critical infrastructure is a problem affecting more and more parts of the world, as the recent floods in Europe and China and the wildfires all around the world have shown.

While Briar can definitively be useful in those situations, its trade-offs in favor of privacy are severely limiting its connectivity capabilities. To make an example, imagine your city just got nearly extinguished by a wildfire, destroying all the telecommunications infrastructure that was once there. Fortunately, you and your friends got Briar installed, so when a friend of you drops by you grasp at the chance and write messages to all your friends in-town. One could think that all those messages get synchronized to your friend’s device, so she can serve as a carrier for your other friends’ messages. Unfortunately, that’s not how Briar works.

As I’ve outlined before, metadata protection is one of Briar’s primary goals. Therefore, Briar doesn’t synchronize messages to your friend Alice with Bob when you meet him in order to not let Bob know that you’re communicating with Alice. This is very useful when you can’t trust even your contacts not to be spying on you, but it’s most likely a huge problem when connectivity is all you want in the face of natural disasters.

This message routing scheme used by Briar is called “single-hop social mesh” because you only ever send messages to your contacts if you have a direct connection to them. During catastrophes you most likely want to have at least “multi-hop social mesh” or yet even better “public mesh” where you share messages not only with your contacts but with anybody using Briar. However, as connectivity improves, privacy gets worse because people will know when you’re communicating with whom.

The good news are that Briar is currently receiving funding to conduct research on supporting other types of mesh. Still it will take a lot of time until something gets implemented in Briar, so all of this should be considered long-term perspectives. Note, though, that this mainly affects private chats and private groups. If you and all your friends are part of a forum (Briar’s “public” version of group chats), Alice will indeed serve as a carrier for your messages sent to that forum.

Source: Confronting Briar with disasters | Nico Alt

Moral outrage and social media

I’ve largely quit Twitter these days, mainly because the social network I joined in 2007 turned into a rage machine sometime in the last 5-10 years. I suspect it had something to do with their IPO in 2013 and transformation to what I term “software with shareholders”.

This Yale study proves a link between increased outrage and the number of likes and retweets received. But then, we already knew that.

Moral outrage can be a strong force for societal good, motivating punishment for moral transgressions, promoting social cooperation, and spurring social change. It also has a dark side, contributing to the harassment of minority groups, the spread of disinformation, and political polarization, researchers said.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter argue that they merely provide a neutral platform for conversations that would otherwise happen elsewhere. But many have speculated that social media amplifies outrage. Hard evidence for this claim was missing, however, because measuring complex social expressions like moral outrage with precision poses a technical challenge, the researchers said.

To compile that evidence, Brady and Crockett assembled a team which built machine learning software capable of tracking moral outrage in Twitter posts. In observational studies of 12.7 million tweets from 7,331 Twitter users, they used the software to test whether users expressed more outrage over time, and if so, why.

The team found that the incentives of social media platforms like Twitter really do change how people post. Users who received more “likes” and “retweets” when they expressed outrage in a tweet were more likely to express outrage in later posts. To back up these findings, the researchers conducted controlled behavioral experiments to demonstrate that being rewarded for expressing outrage caused users to increase their expression of outrage over time.

Source: ‘Likes’ and ‘shares’ teach people to express more outrage online | YaleNews