When Facebook first unveiled its news feed feature, a Northwestern student created a group called, “Facebook gains consciousness, sends machines back in time to kill Sarah Connor.” It was a popular group, at the time, but eventually people got used to Facebook’s seeming omnipotence. But how far will that tolerance last?
Inc has recently reported that the tech giant has filed a patent for technology that will predict where you’re going––based on past locations––even when you’re offline. Facebook has already drawn fire for the proposal.
The patent’s abstract reads:
In one embodiment, a method includes determining a current location of a user based on location data received from a client device; and calculating a transition probability of the user transitioning, within a predetermined time window, from the current location to each of a number of candidate geographic locations. The calculating of the transition probability is based at least in part on previously logged location data associated with a number of users who were at the current location. The method also includes determining metadata associated with the user; and calculating an offline probability associated with each of the number of candidate geographic locations using a computer model and the metadata associated with the user. The computer model is generated using machine learning and metadata associated with users who were at the respective candidate geographic location.
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Johnson & Johnson shares plummeted 11% following a Reuters report that demonstrates the company knew its baby powder was tainted with asbestos. According to the report, talc and asbestos are often found together, and
from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.
The Reuters report details the company’s discovery of the problem with their talc sources, as well as their decades-long efforts to avoid dealing with the consequences––both before and after litigation.
After the report, investors began dumping their shares in the company. A similar event occurred in 2002, following “former employee’s allegations of false record-keeping at a Johnson & Johnson plant that makes an anemia drug linked to serious side effects.”
Wells Fargo believes that the sell-off is “excessive,” and that the company will outperform. They will almost certainly take a hit as class-action lawsuits will most likely skyrocket after this report.
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A recent book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Study of Adult Development summarizes the results of a decades-long study and reveals keys to happiness, success, and longevity. Harvard Magazine summarizes: “The book examines the lives of a group of Harvard men who have been studied from their college years all the way to retirement and, in some cases, death…Their life histories open a remarkable window onto the process of human maturation in its physical, psychological, and social aspects. It turns out that the pathways that lead to physical health and joyful living in later years are actually quite distinct from each other” but both are needed.
Business Insider summarizes six of the biggest takeaways:
Don’t smoke or drink. Smoking is a strong indicator of overall bad health, and drinking will lead to depression, social problems, and health issues.
More education = better lives.
Raise your children with love––happy childhoods are stronger indicators of success than social class.
Constantly cultivate relationships.
Don’t blame others for your problems or avoid them. Take one of these “mature” strategies: “Such virtues can include doing as one would be done by (altruism); artistic creation to resolve conflict and spinning straw into gold (sublimation); a stiff upper lip, patience, seeing the bright side (suppression); and the ability not to take oneself too seriously (humor).”
Be generous with yourself, especially as life goes on.
More about your health.
Statistically speaking, America is a Christian nation. According to the Pew Research Center, about 70% of Americans are Christian. Christianity is in the fabric of our nation. But new research indicates that it is declining among younger generations. A recent New York Times opinion piece ponders whether America will ever move away from Christianity for good. The upshot of that article is this:
…much of what we understand as the march of secularism is something of an illusion, and that behind the scenes what’s actually happening in the modern culture war is the return of a pagan religious conception…that divinity is fundamentally inside the world rather than outside it, that God or the gods or Being are ultimately part of nature rather than an external creator, and that meaning and morality and metaphysical experience are to be sought in a fuller communion with the immanent world rather than a leap toward the transcendent.
The author brings up an interesting question. Given the declining numbers of Christians, and the increasing adherence to moral relativism among Generation Z, we might see more people seek “fuller communion with the immanent world rather than a leap toward the transcendent.” One thing to consider, though, is the cultural power––and cultural staying power––of Christianity. As I said before, it is woven into the fabric of society, and even things that seem as secular as Oprah have deeply Christian roots:
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Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s attorney and the former Republican National Convention’s Deputy Finance Chair, has been sentenced to three years in prison following a plea deal that implicates Trump in both political and financial crimes. According to NPR,
First, Cohen told authorities that Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women ahead of Election Day in 2016 to keep them quiet about sexual relationships they said they had had with Trump — allegations Trump denies…Later, Cohen admitted that he and other Trump aides continued negotiations with powerful Russians about a potential real estate project in Moscow well into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen appeared to express remorse for his behavior, saying, ““I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today, and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this [Donald Trump] that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. And although the president has recently called him “weak,” Cohen said that it was “for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass.”
If you’d like to read some interesting insight on these developments, check Reddit’s megathread.
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Matthew Yglesias, a senior correspondent for for Vox and an accomplished journalist, recently published an article entitled, “It’s ridiculous that it’s unconstitutional for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for president.”
For those who might not remember their U.S. government courses in high school, you cannot be president unless you’re 35. Yglesias writes:
…the really awful thing about being old is that you just keep getting older over time…With youth, by contrast, it’s the exact opposite situation. You might worry that a new youthful president is underexperienced (but then again, which president hasn’t been a little underexperienced), but lack of experience is guaranteed to improve with time. Things are as bad as they’ll ever be during the campaign, so voters can judge for themselves without worrying about lurking problems.
This last sentence is mind-bogglingly inane, as it is perfectly belied by what happened in the 2016 election. Things during that election were decidedly not as bad as it would get, and there are so many lurking problems we had to appoint a special counsel to investigate. Does Yglesias think that Democrats are somehow immune to this and can somehow see into the future to spot those “lurking problems”?
He also writes:
The constitutional prohibition on people under the age of 35 serving as president is just one of these weird lacuna that was handed down to us from the 18th century but that nobody would seriously propose creating today if not for status quo bias.
Me. I would. I’m 32 years old as of this writing, and if someone tried to appoint me president I’d call them a fool. If I wouldn’t trust myself as president at 32, why would I trust someone even younger than that to be, you know, the most powerful person on the planet?
But if you’re swayed by all of that, you should read the most powerful argument Yglesias made. It might win you back: “One good sign that AOC should run for president is that she has a nickname — AOC.”
Good grief. To be fair, Yglesias was trying to make a different point with that nickname nonsense: “it’s proof positive that she’s an honest-to-goodness political superstar, and it’s clear that’s what many Democrats are looking for in 2020.”
That statement is, by far and away, the most ridiculous of the entire piece. Yglesias is saying that fame and popularity should be enough to change the Constitution and elect someone president. So by that logic, it would make sense to vote for a reality TV star, right? Or a popular business man?
And here’s the thing. I actually love “AOC.” I think she’s great. But I think it’s absurd to say that she should be president because she’s a “superstar.” The Democrats don’t need a superstar. They need to get their house in order, fix their alienating policy platform, and root out the corruption in their ranks. They do not need to fall into the same trap the GOP did and elect some flavor of the week, only to deal with the inevitable consequences.
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A Barna research report reveals that the members of Generation Z are less likely to identify is Christian and the number “that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.”
Here are the takeaway numbers:
13% of Gen Z identify as atheist, compared to 6% of adults.
59% of Gen Z identify as Christian, while 75% of Boomers do.
Teens and young adults are more likely to call the problem of evil a dealbreaker than their adult counterparts.
Teens are less likely(!)to call religious people judgmental than adults (17% versus 24%)
“For many teens, truth seems relative at best and, at worst, altogether unknowable.” (I’m quoting directly from the report)
Beware of over-interpreting this data. It’s very, very soon to make the claim that Gen Z’s relatively high percentage of atheism and low percentage means that religion is on the decline in America. That claim has been made again and again, and it has always been wrong. In fact, historically speaking, a rising number of non-believers might actually lead to an increase in religion in the long term for a variety of reasons: evangelists will see opportunity, churches will unite against non-belief and work hard to return members to the fold, and like any societal movement secularization eventually leads to a pendulum swing in the opposite direction.
TIME magazine has named “The Guardians” Person of the Year, specifically in reference to Jamal Khashoggi, who tortured and killed earlier this year for speaking out against the Saudi Government. According to time, Khashoggi’s death hit the news so hard because
it laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?
The Guardian summarizes the TIME piece as a tribute to persecuted journalists:
Those named also included the journalists killed in the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland in June, two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar after investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims and Maria Ressa, a journalist in the Philippines facing tax evasion charges that she has called “political harassment”
Today interprets TIME’s Person of the Year as an homage to the warriors in the “war on truth.”
Multiple news sources, including TIME, point out that journalists are particularly embattled in the age of social media and fake news, because most of the public has forgotten the standards of journalistic integrity.Read More
One of my favorite shows is Person of Interest. It explores the power of the internet and cellular technology has to become surveillance devices. When the show first came out, it seemed like they took the whole “cellular tracking device” thing to an extreme. But nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that cell phones are literally tracking devices. A New York Times exposé has revealed just that.
Here’s the upshot from the article:
At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.
You can check whether your apps share data here. The article reveals how sneaky apps can be when they sell your location data, with some simply saying they’re going to use it to deliver targeted ads. They don’t tell you that they’re actually selling it to third parties.
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The Proud Boys are a group that defines themselves as “western chauvinists.” Many have accused them of being racists, but their tenants are a little more complex than that. They’re fiercely isolationist and libertarian, they are also patriarchical insofar as they “venerate the housewife,” which presumably means they’d prefer women not be in the workplace.
Although they have participated in violent alt-right protests, the FBI has said that they are not a hate group. That does not mean they’re not violent, and that does not mean their ideology isn’t a bit silly, but it’s significant because the Proud Boys have been booted from Facebook and Twitter for violating community standards. YouTube went a sneakier route and banned the founder for copyright violations.
The interesting this about these tech bans is that the Proud Boys are not, technically speaking, a hate group. They’re just a small group of guys with views that can be (and should be) easily refuted with some thoughtful argumentation. Social media users and companies have nevertheless quashed their activity on the platform. If they were indeed encouraging violence, it’s well and good that they’ve been banned. If they were attempting, say, a massive and well-organized effort to interfere with U.S. elections, then they certainly should be banned.
Meanwhile, Russia continues its cyber assault on our democracy and these companies are only slowly ramping up their policing.Read More
Facebook’s press has been bad lately. From their international scandals and legal troubles to Sheryl Sandberg’s fall from grace, Facebook’s reputation has been pummeled and their share price has suffered accordingly. But the worst may be yet to come, and the problems may not be coming from outside the company––they may be coming from within.
According to a Buzzfeed report, the recent scandals have caused rifts within Facebook:
Internally, the conflict seems to have divided Facebook into three camps: those loyal to Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg; those who see the current scandals as proof of a larger corporate meltdown; and a group who see the entire narrative — including the portrayal of the company’s hiring of communications consulting firm Definers Public Affairs — as examples of biased media attacks.
Morale within the company is so low, in fact, that employees are paranoid that exec’s are spying on them. They’ve allegedly started using burner phones to “talk shit about the company with each other.” So not only do Facebook employees not trust each other, but they also do not trust their leadership. These internal conflicts are only going to be exacerbated by the external pressures, such as the secret documents just released by the British.
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A New York Times investigation has revealed that dozens of doctors failed to disclose their financial relationships with health care or drug companies when they published studies in medical journals, and medical journals did not adequately vet doctors for financial ties to such companies.
There’s a lot to say about this––including that the medical-scientific publishing “system is broken”––but we’ll leave that to others. In this piece, I want to focus on a concept called scientism. Scientism, in short, is an ideology characterized by the belief that science provides answers to all meaningful questions in life and will ultimately lead to humanity’s perfection.
Scientism contributes to the ideas that science and religion are totally incompatible and totally separate. For those who buy into scientism fully, religion becomes the realm of the corrupt––think televangelists and faith healers––while scientists are righteous.
This study is a good reminder that science, like any human endeavor, is prone to corruption. The implications of that corruption are as grave as the corruption that takes place within religious institutions. People trust the kinds of scientific papers that appear in these medical journals with their lives––little do they know that trust has been bought and paid for by drug companies that care only for the bottom line.Read More
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