I guess we should have a federal indictments thread, although I'm oddly unenthusiastic about it. I'm telling myself that there are a lot of "polite" Republicans who are most interested in wealth accumulation and who value the appearance of an orderly society, and this is distasteful to them. But really it's Georgia and the insurrection that have my heart.
It seems like Reddit is headed the way of Twitter and everything else? Here's my understanding: longtime users hate that Reddit periodically discontinues features they like, and there's a few well-liked 3rd party apps. In addition, a lot of (volunteer) moderators use bots to help them with the sheer quantity of porn, etc, that needs weeding out.
Reddit announces they're going to start charging per access of data, in a way that would essentially cost the big 3rd party apps $20 million/year, and thus drive them out of business. There's a lot of people saying that this is because of pressure from venture capitalists and Reddit going public later this year.
There's a blackout planned for June 12-14. It seems like most of the subreddits I follow have joined in. It's possible that killing 3rd party apps and bots won't be a sea-change, and the majority of users will not find it particularly different. But it does seem like it could be the moment when, in hindsight, Reddit started to become unusable.
AIMHB, I've glommed onto Reddit more than I glommed onto FB or Twitter for distraction when it's too noisy for me to actually concentrate on a book or something. (I do like IG, though.) I'm not very good at establishing new affinities for online venues - there's a lot of them that I probably should like, but I can't quite establish the habit - and so it would genuinely be a bummer for me for Reddit to tank.
Snarkout writes: Apple's new "augmented reality" glasses just dropped: $3500 next year will get you a half-dozen super-high res cameras pointed inside and out, a secondary processor providing 12 millisecond video passthrough time to cut down on nausea, and two postage-stamp sized 4K monitors all inside a pair of ski goggles that will make you look like a grinning freak. I enjoyed tech commenter Ben Thompson's write up on his (heavily curated) test of them, which I think does a good job of describing (enthusiastically) the tech and how actual people might end up using them while also wondering about the underlying dystopian vision. Even Apple, with access to the best PR team in the world, made a launch video with a clip of a dad in an empty house watching 3D video of his children playing that seemed like a mid-budget sci-fi movie's tragic backstory of Sergeant Cybercop.
Heebie's take: So am I right that you're not looking through the glasses, but looking at a screen that is projecting what the camera sees? How does focal length and the sheer mechanics of your eyes work on that? Or if I'm wrong, and you do see both through the glasses and see projections on the lenses, then I have even more questions about how your eyes handle it.
In 15 years, when it trickles down in exceedingly practical ways, it will be way better than zoom for teaching remotely. Perhaps I'm waiting for regular old trickle down virtual reality instead of augmented reality, though.
This story punches too many slots on the Unfogged Bingo card for me to skip it:
- Union busting
- The gray area between disordered eating and healthy weight maintenance
So while we're all sick of these topics (maybe aside from union-busting), I'm contractually obligated to gawk over it.
NEDA is the National Eating Disorder Association:
After NEDA workers decided to unionize in early May, executives announced that on June 1, it would be ending the helpline after twenty years and instead positioning its wellness chatbot Tessa as the main support system available through NEDA. A helpline worker described the move as union busting, and the union representing the fired workers said that "a chatbot is no substitute for human empathy, and we believe this decision will cause irreparable harm to the eating disorders community.
How'd it go?
On Monday, an activist named Sharon Maxwell posted on Instagram, sharing a review of her experience with Tessa. She said that Tessa encouraged intentional weight loss, recommending that Maxwell lose 1-2 pounds per week. Tessa also told her to count her calories, work towards a 500-1000 calorie deficit per day, measure and weigh herself weekly, and restrict her diet. "Every single thing Tessa suggested were things that led to the development of my eating disorder," Maxwell wrote. "This robot causes harm."
Alexis Conason, a psychologist who specializes in treating eating disorders, also tried the chatbot out, posting screenshots of the conversation on her Instagram. "In general, a safe and sustainable rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week," the chatbot message read. "A safe daily calorie deficit to achieve this would be around 500-1000 calories per day."
Whoopsie. Now let's hold the humanities departments accountable for this travesty.
Side question: a calorie is the amount of energy needed to heat 1 gram of water by 1 degree C. So if I cook food, and I'm applying heat to it, doesn't it break some of the bonds that are storing the energy of the food? Does burnt food have fewer calories than raw food? How could it not?
(I'm not positing this for weight loss. More because it's an irritatingly un-google-able question because you're swamped with weight loss advice.)
NickS writes: Did we talk about the long article about the death of the English major? It seems like a natural area of interest for unfogged.
During the past decade, the study of English and history at the collegiate level has fallen by a full third. Humanities enrollment in the United States has declined over all by seventeen per cent, Townsend found. What's going on? The trend mirrors a global one; four-fifths of countries in the Organization for Economic Coöperation reported falling humanities enrollments in the past decade. . . .
English professors find the turn particularly baffling now: a moment when, by most appearances, the appetite for public contemplation of language, identity, historiography, and other longtime concerns of the seminar table is at a peak.
"Young people are very, very concerned about the ethics of representation, of cultural interaction--all these kinds of things that, actually, we think about a lot!" Amanda Claybaugh, Harvard's dean of undergraduate education and an English professor, told me last fall. She was one of several teachers who described an orientation toward the present, to the extent that many students lost their bearings in the past. "The last time I taught 'The Scarlet Letter,' I discovered that my students were really struggling to understand the sentences as sentences--like, having trouble identifying the subject and the verb," she said. "Their capacities are different, and the nineteenth century is a long time ago."
Personally, I had mostly been a math geek in HS but got excited about studying philosophy in college, and feel very strongly that studying the humanities was a good way to take advantage of the resources and opportunities of being an undergrad. But, at the same time, I can sympathize with students who want a degree that is seen as employable.
I don't think there has to be a tension between the two, but it does feel like the argument that liberal arts are a good preparation for life is not convincing people right now.
Heebie's take: Oh man. Heebie U is no Harvard* but we are mired in this existential crisis. Our admin's solution is to invest in a nursing program, which I think personally is a way better solution than other proposals about MBAs and Ed D degrees that we're also entertaining. But a lot of faculty definitely want the solution to be to reverse time and magically have more humanities majors.
One thing that's a little odd to me is that I wasn't really ready for much of a humanities education in the context of being an undergraduate (and I didn't get much of one, either). So I want the humanities departments to thrive because I think the humanities make the world a richer place, but I wish there was less imperative for everyone to obtain their humanities grounding during ages 18-22, and more ability to get it at whatever time matches the individual's growth.
*University of Michigan's alma mater literally contains the lyric "the Harvard of the West" which I always found hilariously insecure and needy. "Settle for us! We're basically just like the boyfriend who only dates girls who are hotter and smarter than you."