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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.
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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.