Monday Miscellany: All Caps-y BRAINS Edition

Pete Etchells takes a look at what data we have on screen-time and mental health. (Spoilers: it’s not as simple as TV = bad.)

Miri on making the normal abnormal.

Here is a “normal” thing in our society: a young woman walks down the street at midnight, one hand clutching her keys and the other holding her pepper spray with her finger poised on the trigger. Her heart pounds and she walks as fast as possible. Few other women are still out, but plenty of men hang around, walking freely down the street. A few of them shout sexual comments at the woman just for shits and giggles.
So what I want to do is to get people to look at this differently. I want them to see how weird, how artificial, how bizarre this actually is. I want them to imagine a sentient alien species visiting Earth and furrowing their brows (if they have brows) and wondering, “Wait, so, you divide your species in half and one half can’t walk down the block without getting harassed or threatened by the other half? And your solution to this is not for the ‘men’ to stop harassing and threatening, but for the ‘women’ to stop walking alone?!”

GUYS. WE MADE A BRAIN-LIKE THING IN A LAB. It’s a bit of a proto-brain, without neural networks, but it is SO. COOL.

Pretty is a set of skills.

Have spare time? Want a less-jargony intro to artificial intelligence risk? Robby has curated one for you. I’m only on Part II–much like Wikipedia, I get lost in links within the linked articles.

Give people time to be stupid: compassion in the face of questions.

Haters gonna hate? Yeah, there’s a psychological explanation for that.

Poverty increases cognitive load, leading to a decrease in mental ability.

In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.

The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”

Binge-eating and the ‘rewards’ system.


7 thoughts on “Monday Miscellany: All Caps-y BRAINS Edition

  1. (The quote is from the Give People Time to Be Stupid link.)

    And so I try to have compassion. Because I know that sooner or later floating through the oft-squicky world of BDSM, I’m going to run into some other kink I’m unfamiliar with, and have a gut reaction of “Icky” – and though I’ve gotten better at reassessing and checking my initial reactions, I’m still probably going to go through a brief period of Absolute Stupidity before I can come to sanity.M

    It makes some sense as an aspirational goal. I strive to be patient and empathetic in meat space. But my physical and emotional resources are not unlimited. I don’t have enough compassion for an entire internet’s worth of fools and loudmouths.

  2. The “hater’s gonna hate” one really goes scientifically pear shaped at the end, taking and adulthood correlation and saying, “Maybe we’re born that way.” It would be interesting to track it over time along with other things and see if “lovers” become “haters” and vice versa given changes in their lives.

  3. About giving people time to be stupid: we can’t deal nicely with every idiot on the internet. But I cringe whenever I hear someone say “It’s not my job to educate you about…”

    Whose is it then? What is the point of outreach? Why bother? Because if it isn’t your job to educate anyone, and you feel that social justice is important, you might as well pack it in.

    I KNOW that there are trolls and fools. I KNOW that some basic stuff your parents should teach you and if you haven’t got it by adulthood there’s not much you can do on a blog space or whatever.

    But I also don’t assume that anyone “should” know anything. Lord knows I wasn’t born with an entire library of social justice literature in my head. That’s why I hate seeing that phrase. (Even when directed at the people who won’t look up stuff). There’s an air of self-back-patting that I get whenever I read that. It sometimes sort of misses that how you frame a question is often kind of important.

    As the OP said, not everyone has a teachable moment and not everyone is teachable, but I figure if I treat as many moments as possible as learning/ teaching moments I am less likely to miss one. (Doesn’t mean you can’t give p after X number of tries, either).

    1. Jesse

      Whose is it then? What is the point of outreach? Why bother? Because if it isn’t your job to educate anyone, and you feel that social justice is important, you might as well pack it in.

      Well, here’s the thing: The idiots didn’t show up during periods of outreach or education, or didn’t bother taking in any of the education bits in the piece to which they chose to respond, but either simply attack (and refuse to be educated anyway), or after delivering their Very Important Opinions and responding to others finally by demanding to be educated (while playing the ‘I think I’m being reasonable’ card) when the educational things had been pointed out above, or previously, and people have already provided links, citations, etc. Who wants to “outreach” with that kind of disingenuous bad faith and willful ignorance at that point? If that person is at all genuine, they will read/watch whatever was given, pay attention to the things previously documented when they dropped in (because context/history/previously noted evidence, and that’s already been pointed out before anyone uses the “It’s not my job” line), and generally soak a bit in the atmosphere of the subject matter and the community which they have engaged before any further education can be attempted. Also, mockery is a valid tool, as is displaying displeasure, in communication. Historically, they work. Beyond that, some people are deeply affected by some subjects, and they’ve tried to get their ideas across, but they sometimes have to say when they have had enough. And “It’s not my job to educate you” is a damn polite way to express it.

      I don’t generally see folks show up and say “hi”, only to receive the response “It’s not my job!”

      (Wait, I’m sure this is the address on the order for run-on sentences. Isn’t it?)

      I give some people time to be stupid. When my limit is reached with others, I revoke any further time and devote it to someone else more deserving of stupid-buffer. Maybe I should invest more for my own stupid moments, as i have little patience there when I find I have worked up some stupid.

  4. I could point out the fact that men are actually much more likely to be harassed, threatened and assaulted at midnight than women are… but why bother? The actual facts, the evidence, never meant much to feminists who are much more content to rely on a popular visceral stereotype reality.

    Fuck women. You want to know why men get most of the STEM degrees and other awards, do better at math, make more money, and hold more positions of power? I know feminists like to claim some nebulous “discrimination” or “patriarchy” without being specific or actually provided any evidence. But no. The reason is much more basic than that. Men are simply smarter than women. And idiotic blog posts like Miri’s confirm it time and time again.

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