Hope for Reason

Suppose I offer, at no charge, to drop a drug in the water supply that would cause almost everyone in the country to vote like you this November. You would probably feel at least a little bit tempted to take the deal. Presidential politics is a matter of grave import, after all. Still — many of us would hesitate, and rightly so. There seems to be something really wrong with manipulating people to believe things even when the stakes are high. We want to convince our opponents, yes, but we want them to be convinced by our reasons. [Michael P. Lynch]

Collective Motion of Humans in Mosh and Circle Pits at Heavy Metal Concerts

Human collective behavior can vary from calm to panicked depending on social context. Using videos publicly available online, we study the highly energized collective motion of attendees at heavy metal concerts. We find these extreme social gatherings generate similarly extreme behaviors: a disordered gaslike state called a mosh pit and an ordered vortexlike state called a circle pit. Both phenomena are reproduced in flocking simulations demonstrating that human collective behavior is consistent with the predictions of simplified models.

Source: Jesse L. Silverberg, Matthew Bierbaum, James P. Sethna, and Itai Cohen, Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 228701 (2013). (H/T Bwana_Mrefu)

Non-Letal Warfare

The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age. The 77th Brigade, to be based in Hermitage, near Newbury, in Berkshire, will be about 1,500-strong and formed of units drawn from across the army. It will formally come into being in April. The brigade will be responsible for what is described as non-lethal warfare. Both the Israeli and US army already engage heavily in psychological operations.Against a background of 24-hour news, smartphones and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, the force will attempt to control the narrative. The 77th will include regulars and reservists and recruitment will begin in the spring. Soldiers with journalism skills and familiarity with social media are among those being sought.An army spokesman said: “77th Brigade is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare. It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent.”

Via The Guardian.

Emotion and Communication Patterns in a Highly Polarized Political Discussion Forum

The article presents analysis of a Polish Internet political discussion forum, characterized by significant polarization and high levels of emotion. The study compares samples of discussions gathered at three periods during a 2-year time, during which events occurred that significantly increased the already strong political division of Polish society (the sudden death of the President in a plane crash, snap elections, accusations of assassination and treason). Despite these circumstances, we observe a remarkable stability of individual political support. Extensive discussions among the forum users did not lead to changes in their political affiliations or specific opinions. In contrast, emotions expressed by the forum users, mainly negative, were found to vary from post to post and between the discussion threads. An automatic emotion recognition algorithm is presented, giving results closely corresponding to human evaluations. The authors also show that differences in a user interface between the two alternative forum webpages, especially effects of features promoting direct one-to-one communication, have significant impact on message content and decrease negative emotions. Implications of such changes on promoting communication across a political divide are discussed.


The Ghost of Present ClimateBall ™

A guest post on another Climate blog.

...and Then There's Physics

Good news: Stephen G. McIntyre [0], whom I prefer to call “the Auditor” for obvious reasons, has started to “promote” (in a technical sense [1]) the concept of ClimateBall ™. Better yet, he distorts it by labeling an indefinite group of commenters with it; compare and contrast with what he did so many times to those gyrating in the extended circles of the Kyoto Flames [2]. Yet again, the Auditor celebrates the spirit of ClimateBall ™.

Here’s one instance of distortion where AT (hereafter Anders) is implicated:

From time to time, Anders of the ATTP blog has attempted to understand the dispute, but uncritically accepts ClimateBaller doctrine, as for example, his following comment at Brandon’s:

People, however, clearly interpret the results of MM05 as implying that random red noise typically produces hockey sticks, rather than random red noise sometimes (probably quite rarely) produces hockey sticks.

This is completely untrue. MM05…

View original post 832 more words

Long Now Foundation Debates

Every so often, the Long Now Foundation here in San Francisco hosts a debate. It might be about nuclear power or synthetic biology or perhaps the very notion of human progress — high-stakes stuff. But the format is nothing like the showdowns on cable news or the debates in election season.

Instead, it goes like this:

There are two debaters, Alice and Bob. Alice takes the podium, makes her argument. Then Bob takes her place, but before he can present his counter-argument, he must summarize Alice’s argument to her satisfaction — a demonstration of respect and good faith. Only when Alice agrees that Bob has got it right is he permitted to proceed with his own argument — and then, when he’s finished, Alice must summarize it to his satisfaction.

The first time I saw one of these debates, it blew my mind.

via The steel man of #GamerGate — The Message — Medium.