Cropped version of a piece by Turkish artist Uğur Gallenkuş

Just to set an emotional container for these reflections, there are nuances and complexities in the way any of us exist in the world. These reflections are not meant to be overly targeted, call out, or paint STEM-inclined folks with any broad brush. Some ideas may apply, others may not. I hope everyone feels called in by these reflections, as they do not reflect your personal worth as much as the social systems we exist in and internalize.

From time to time I get a feeling bubbling up from the depths of me. It usually comes from taking an honest…

The immediate response by one of the people who should receive the most blame for stoking a violent constituency over the years. | Source

“As long as people sincerely believe they can change things by voting, they stay calm. They don’t burst into the House chamber. They talk and they organize and they vote. But the opposite is also true if people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, that voting is a charade, that the system is rigged and it’s run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests. Then, God knows what could happen.”

- Tucker Carlson, 1/6/20

What went down yesterday at the U.S. Capitol building was nothing short of terrifying…

If you’d rather watch this post…

You may have heard the words “surveillance capitalism” thrown around lately, but it also may not be obvious what that means. We’re going to briefly explain what surveillance capitalism is, and reflect back on what that means for our lives.

This theory is based off of a book of the same name by Shoshana Zuboff, professor at the Harvard Business school. She motivates this theory by talking a lot about Google, and how they became the first company to tap into this new form of profit-making.

Reinvesting for Customers

But first, it may be useful to do…

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a 2018 Congressional hearing on privacy (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images | Source)

It has been a tragic saga, for people who are familiar with the ways that social media platforms and companies operate, to watch government regulatory sessions with Big Tech companies. For many young people, this began with U.S. lawmakers’ questioning in Congressional hearings; sessions that revealed the lack of understanding of social media by, frankly, elder legislators. However, for those of us who study modern technology and the way that it has mutated capitalism into an entirely new beast, the frustrations with how lawyers, government officials, and any who engage in mainstream regulatory discourse, continue and intensify.

This is primarily…

A photo of now-Justice Amy Coney-Barrett’s swearing in at her first confirmation hearing. | Source, originally Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Last night’s ceremonies ushering in new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney-Barrett are drawing parallel ire and adoration from distinct sides of the partisan aisle. Fox has a slew of stories that paint Republicans as the innocent victims of Democratic hate and anger, while sites like Huffington Post condemn the decision as rushed and note the zero Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the decision. As is to be expected, opinion is severely split along partisan lines, and has been for months.

Central to arguments for now-Justice Coney-Barrett is the idea that she is a professional champion of impartial justice…

Our realities are fractured, and we are unwilling to even give an audience to the other side. | Source

For the almost six months past, the world has been living through the nightmare of the coronavirus pandemic. This is news to nobody. Around the world, in so-called free democracies, authoritarian countries, in small towns, big cities, and likely in isolated communities we don’t know about, everybody knows that COVID-19 is a problem.

However, there is intense disagreement about what comes next: why the pandemic arose, what we are to do, who is to blame, or even if it is over yet. Now more than ever, some of us are being alerted to the enormous slew of misinformation surrounding the…

A visualization of political social networks from research by Bakshy, Messing, and Adamic. | Source

In Chris Wylie’s tell-all book, Mindf*ck, detailing his work at Cambridge Analytica, he gives a frank account of how the company used psychographic manipulation to sway portions of the U.S. voting public. Particularly, when seeding discord in vulnerable populations, they preyed on the psychology of identity to build their angry army. Wylie explains that Steve Bannon — then Vice President of Cambridge Analytica — wanted to target racial bias in vulnerable voters, and used the tools to push narratives of “racial realism,” opposed to political correctness, in a way that inoculated the victims against rational critique.

This framing effect of…

Information technology and its interactions with our psychology have dramatically changed the underlying processes of democracy. Will we be able to adapt? | Source

We don’t often think about it, but our brains are all very different from one another. At the end of the day, sure, we mostly have the same brain regions, there are statistical correlations that show commonality of the interconnections between regions, and people can be grouped similarly by personality. But if we’re really honest about people’s psychology, it becomes apparent that we all have different strange things that trigger us: I have a personality that sees some authority as threatening; I know friends who love order and organization to the point of driving their behavior. Our differing brains lead…

Apparently, a landscape in Provence, France. When in doubt, use a random landscape photo. | Source

We live in times where truth is not a given. The age of information ushered in such a deluge of opinions, reports, and supposed-facts that we are no longer able to keep up. Perhaps some of the most diligent can stay on top of the infinitely-expending pile of things we’re supposed to know about in our daily lives, but most of us are simply humbled by its enormity. Amidst so much information that is supposedly all equally crucial, it is no surprise that truth has become a rare commodity. Some of the best methods that humanity has developed to systematically…

We may someday be able to be like this gray penguin, but if we are a brown penguin, the odds are not in our favor. | Source

In times that we feel a distinct lack of confidence — that we may as well simply sit and wallow away because there is no way that we would be the subject of something bold or great — we are apt to put all of the blame on ourselves. We are lazy, stupid, undeserving, weird, and the list likely gets more creative from there. …

Nick Rabb

PhD student in Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Tufts University, organizer with Sunrise Movement, Dissenters, MA Peace Action. Philosophy nerd.

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