Link Roundup: July 2018

The Lifespan of a Lie – Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment is one of the most famous experiments in psychology.  I knew it was questionable in methodology and ethics, but this exposé gathers all the details in a more shocking picture than I had imagined.  Zimbardo is a crook.  He repeatedly lied about key aspects of his experiment, persuaded subjects to also lie after the fact.  And when other researchers failed to replicate, he accused them of being frauds.  It is a disgrace that people in psychology still respect him.

I know that people still like to cite the Stanford Prison Experiment, because it “proves” something they already know to be true, but have you tried instead just… making assertions without proof, because at least then we’re honest?

The World’s Highest Paid Musicians vs Average Salaries – This is an infographic showing how long it takes for popular music artists to earn as much as people with other jobs make in a year.  It’s based on a Forbes list.  That just makes me think of when I asked my brother how much money he made being a rock star (although “star” is rather overstating it), and the answer was basically nothing.  So, this is your reminder that capitalism doesn’t produce anything remotely resembling “fair”.

What’s interesting to me, is that this is easily explainable.  I honestly don’t understand why CEOs get paid so much–it kinda seems like companies just overvalue CEOs, or there are principal-agent problems–but it’s easy to see why top artists get paid so much.  The popularity of music follows a power law distribution, so artist’s salaries follow that too.  I think it would be an interesting exercise to think up a more utopian system of art monetization.

Do algorithms reveal sexual orientation or just expose our stereotypes? – I’ve always found “gaydar” research to be disappointing, because it’s fixated on what you can determine from facial features alone.  In reality, when I can guess someone is queer, that’s based entirely on cultural markers.  So I would say “gaydar” research isn’t really about gaydars at all, and is about some loosely related concept that really ought to be given a different name.

This article I’m linking is a detailed critique of a “gaydar” study that built an AI that can purportedly guess people’s orientation from their faces.  The critique is that the AI is clearly basing its guesses on cultural markers and grooming habits.  And to me, the cultural differences are the more interesting ones.  I would not have guessed that same-sex attracted men in the US are more likely to wear glasses, or that they take selfies from higher angles.

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Link roundup: June 2018

This is my monthly link roundup, where I link to some stuff I found interesting, and offer brief comments.

The US Puzzle Championship is this weekend, on June 16.  This is an online competition featuring pencil-and-paper puzzles (think Nikoli).  I have been a participant since my teen years.  If that sounds like it might be interesting, you should register and try the practice test.

Ace survey infographics and interactives – Somebody from my team working on the Ace Community Survey put these together.  If you’ve never seen or heard of our survey, these may be the most accessible way for you to learn a bit about it.

Where are all the mothers in video games? … and why are there so many dads? (video) – I appreciate the approach of this video, which is to list lots of examples.  Wow, there are a lot of dads in video games!

Have you ever noticed how often the origin of breasts is explained as “for men”? (video and transcript) – PZ discusses several attempted evolutionary explanations for human breasts.  As with many evolutionary riddles, it’s fun to come up with adaptive explanations, and it satisfies our desire to view the world as full of narratives.  But non-adaptive explanations are usually better.

George Takei’s Accuser Has Changed His Story of Drugging and Assault – A while back, someone accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him in 1981. Now the accuser admits that he doesn’t recall the assault part of the assault. It’s more a case of poor recollection than malicious intent, and it seems that even if he wasn’t assaulted, he was negatively impacted by the experience. I don’t know what to say, except I feel for the guy, and we should aim to reduce the risk of upsetting hookup experiences.

I remember when I first read his story, one thing stuck out to me: Brunton believed that Takei had spiked his alcoholic drink with a date rape drug.  In fact, the most common date rape drug is alcohol by itself, and the use of other kinds of drugs is far less common than people think.  I thought that perhaps Brunton was hit harder by the alcohol than he expected, and he inferred date rape drugs too hastily. The toxicologist in the article agreed. But just because one part of a story is wrong doesn’t mean that the rest of it is wrong too.

Link Roundup: May 2018

Before I get to the link roundup, I’d like to mention an update I’ve made to an old post.  It was about an optical illusion you could make with origami, and now I’ve added nicer diagrams so that you can actually follow along and make it yourself.

IS SONIC 2 ABOUT CAPITALISM??!? (H Bomberguy video) – Ignore the title, this is a retrospective on gaming webcomics, especially the comic Control-Alt-Delete.  Hey, I’ve been into webcomics for a long time, I remember when people loved to hate CAD.  I think part of the reason was that webcomics were a new medium to most people, and we weren’t used to the fact that of course lots of webcomics are bad, and so what?  But the other major reason was that CAD was extremely popular.  I think it was easier to treat the author and his fans as having irrationally bad taste, instead of really examining what CAD said about gamer culture at large.

Sunday Sermon: Buddhism Sucks, Too – The treatment of Buddhism by anglophone atheist communities has always been problematic.  Buddhism is incredibly diverse, and has had a very long history across a very large part of the world, but atheists tend to flatten it into nothing but a philosophical and peace-loving counterpoint to western religions.  Marcus Ranum has the right idea by not even attempting to summarize Buddhism as a whole; instead he discusses how Tibetan Buddhists don’t live up to the image.

I’ve often thought that atheist attitudes towards Buddhism are the consequence of a movement that has systematically left out Asian Americans.  Or maybe it’s the other way around?

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OrbitCon schedule

The OrbitCon schedule is now online.  You might say, “Yeah yeah, another conference I can’t attend.”  But you can attend this one!  It’s held online!  This weekend!

I’ll be in a panel called “Ace/Aro Atheists“, held at 2:30 CDT Saturday, with Sennkestra and Emily Karp.  Come join us!

“Aro” is short for aromantic, and “ace” is short for asexual (usually denoting the asexual spectrum).  Yeah, last time I did one of these panels, somehow all the panelists were in romantic relationships.  But this time all the panelists are aromantic-spectrum.  That includes me–I’m both aro-spec and also in a relationship, funny that.

Link Roundup: April 2018

I have a lot of links this month, so I tried to organized them into themes.

Sexual violence & #MeToo

#MeToo is not all there is, and here’s why I’m not sharing my story – When activists like me criticize #MeToo, we’re not just hipsters trying to say, “we were fighting sexual violence before it was cool”.  We’re trying to say that #MeToo was a step forward in terms of reaching a greater number of people, but in some ways a step back in the level of discourse.  This is absolutely to be expected; whenever an important message reaches a new audience, it takes a step back to help people to catch up.  In the public conversation, people keep on asking if #MeToo has gone too far, and my answer is that it hasn’t gone nearly far enough.  This article talks about some things that #MeToo is missing.

Keep Your Acephobia Out of #MeToo, Jaclyn Friedman – Jaclyn Friedman, coauthor of Yes Means Yes, wrote an article about something she felt has been missing from #MeToo: a discussion of survivor’s sex lives, and how sex can be used to heal trauma.  It’s true, this has been missing from the #MeToo conversation, but that doesn’t mean it’s missing everywhere.  For some survivors, the narrative about sexual healing is so dominant as to be oppressive, especially for survivors who are ace.  The sexual healing narrative must be paired with alternative narratives, where survivors do not have sex, and are not dehumanized for it.

When Boys Are Victims of Sexual Assault – This article has several first-person accounts of sexual assault from boys and young men.  It seems that the experience interacts with masculinity in strange ways for many of them.

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Link Roundup: March 2018

Is Black Panther Alt-Right? (video) – Apparently several people in the alt-right are arguing that the fictional nation of Wakanda is an alt-right paradise.  Shaun deconstructs this in an entertaining way.  Note: I’ve not watched the movie.

The Ace Flag: A History and Celebration – This is mine, I’m plugging my own article.  It’s a little history of the purple-white-gray-black ace flag.  I was around when it was created.

Lawrence Krauss’s History of Sexual Harassment – Rebecca Watson talks about the Buzzfeed article that revealed Lawrence Krauss’ history of sexual harassment.  My reaction to the Buzzfeed article was, “Didn’t we already know that?”  I had recalled from the distant past that there were accusations, and all the skeptical orgs knew about it too.  But Krauss faced no consequences until recently.  Typical.

What Makes Celeste’s Assist Mode Special (video) – After all that talk about difficult video games, and whether they should include “easy modes”, it seems that some game developers have come up with an effective approach to offer players freedom to play how they want to play, while also maintaining a coherent vision of how the game should be played. The key is to offer options, but to clearly communicate (either explicitly or implicitly) the intended way to play. Also, rather than calling it an “easy mode” it’s best to call it something less judgmental, such as “assist mode”.

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Link Roundup: February 2018

Bi Any Means Podcast: Atheism and Asexuality with Emily Karp – I was excited to listen to this episode!  I was interviewed on Bi Any Means a few years ago on the same topic, but this interview should be more up to date.  As they discuss in the episode, atheist communities have become more cognizant and accepting of asexuality, but unsurprisingly, it very much depends on which communities you interact with.

Sapiosexuals: The Science of People Who Are Turned on by Brains – Rebecca Watson criticizes sapiosexuality and a recent study about it.  I also have a very negative reaction to sapiosexuality, and my main association is with men in skepticism who are low-key complaining that there aren’t enough intelligent women around.  On the other hand, sapiosexuality also has some connections with ace communities, and I realized that there are other angles to it–which is not to say that this eliminates my criticism of it.

I agree with Watson that the study she describes is garbage.  Asking people if they’re attracted to intelligence is not useful methodology.  Unfortunately, Watson’s suggested methodology of using electrodes and fMRIs is also problematic.  See there’s this infamous study of bisexuality, and long story short, objective measures of attraction have issues.  I propose instead that we give people a bunch of fake dating profiles and ask them who they would be interested in.

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