01/22 Open Thread: January 22 saw the creation of The Central Intelligence Group, now the CIA
We are getting ready to head out on yet another multi-week adventure in the near future. This means that I need to write, post and schedule a whole bunch of OTs for the period of my absence, as well as some to bridge the gap between now and the start date. This means, among other things, that you shuldn't expect too much from them and will need to provide content as well as commentary yourselves (as if you don't already, heh). So, here we go ...
The CIA's birthday; truly a dark, dark day in history. This is a horrible insult to vultures, but I needed a pic.
ODDS & ENDS
Last week I opened with commentary and an article about government agencies here and elsewhere oficailly and formally slandering lefties and greenies as akin to terrorists and asserting that they need to be watched, reported and feared. I led into an article in The Guardian. Guess what? The Guardian also reports that US listed climate activist group as ‘extremists’ alongside mass killers
A group of US environmental activists engaged in non-violent civil disobedience targeting the oil industry have been listed in internal Department of Homeland Security documents as “extremists” and some of its members listed alongside white nationalists and mass killers, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The full linked article also discusses the attempts by the government-corporate-corporatist partnership to criminalize dissent and demonstrations.
Also from the Guardian, we learn that
Scientists use stem cells from frogs to build first living robots. The describe said robots and their creation and then note that the work is being funded by DARPA, of course. Specifically -
The research is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s lifelong learning machines programme, which aims to recreate biological learning processes in machines.
Ya know, just to learn about machine learning, it would never by part of DARPA's goal to develop more and better bioweapons, especially not ones that could reproduce ...
( https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/13/scientists-use-stem-cell... )
Even the NYT made my inbox, with Who Signs Up to Fight? Makeup of U.S. Recruits Shows Glaring Disparity ( https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/us/military-enlistment.html?utm_sourc... ) Those of us of a certain age tend to think, uh, yeah, old news, but this time there is a bit of a twist. The article explores how More and more, new recruits come from the same small number of counties and are the children of old recruits. Uh, huh. Maps and all. We're looking at clusters of multigenerational military families in multigenerational military enclaves of a sort. This bodes ill, at least to some extent, for attempts to shut down wars, warmaking and the MIC, and has a potential to become a variant of the threat that a standing, professional military always presents. Some military officials find it unsustainable, but is that good or bad?
Meanwhile, ars Technica has a story that has direct bearing on the matter. It’s the network, stupid: Study offers fresh insight into why we’re so divided.( https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/01/its-the-network-stupid-study-off... ) And, no, they'e not talking about the internet, or tv network, at least not specifically. They'e talking about the human, social networks those one lives, works and talks with, those in one's social "neighborhood". For the military families above, it is pretty clear from the NYT article that the recruits' networks are largely populated with prior recruits. In a similar fashion, the ars Technica article talks about a study that was done on social perception bias.
Social perception bias is best defined as the all-too-human tendency to assume that everyone else holds the same opinions and values as we do. That bias might, for instance, lead us to over- or under-estimate the size and influence of an opposing group. It tends to be especially pronounced when it comes to contentious polarizing issues like race, gun control, abortion, or national elections.
The thing is, that out interpersonal networks often (usually?) tend to reinforce this today. Among things noted in the study was that
"People who were surrounded by people similar to them think that their group is larger than it really is, and people who have more diverse social circles think their group is smaller than it really is," Galesic told Ars. "These biases are exaggerated with the relative size of the majority and minority groups."
Food for thought, yah? We can take that a step further with the unaccounted for fact that "Harbinger Households" also seem to cluster. BoingBoing tells us the basics about them here: ( https://boingboing.net/2019/12/03/harbringer-of-doom.html )
"Harbinger households": neighborhoods that consistently buy products that get discontinued, buy real-estate that underperforms, and donate to losing political candidates
It seems that there are individuals, groups of individuals, clusters and even zip codes such that the purchasing preferences are statistically good indicators of a product or brand's demise. These are the folks who bought Edsels, smokeless cigarettes, virtual boys, Apple Lisa and Harley Davidson Perfume. They voted for Alf Landon, used yogurt shampoo and drank Billy Beer. If you can find some of these folks, who have steadily and steadfastly bought dreck that is rapidly taken off of the market, watch them, and when they all run out to jump on some new bandwagon, go and short the product's manufacturer. This sounds like a fantasy, but seemingly isn't --
In "The Surprising Breadth of Harbingers of Failure (Sci-Hub mirror)", a trio of economists and business-school profs build on a 2015 "Journal of Marketing Research" paper that claimed that some households' purchasing preferences are a reliable indicator of which products will fail -- that is, if households in a certain ZIP code like a product, it will probably not succeed. The original paper calls these "harbinger households."
The BoingBoing article points us to the newer, follow-up study from 2019, which you can find here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022243719867935 . That source requires that you purchase to read, but the abstract (bait) is itself a good quick read and summary of the findings. As of yet, nobody quite knows how to explain these findings, or what as yet unknown factor(s) causes this behavior, let along the clustering of those susceptible to it. No doubt an mba and job in a marketing firm await those who ferret out the answers.
Title Image is torac_up_close
It's an open thread, so have at it. The floor is yours