Study: Banning Big Cups of Soda Will Lead People to Drink More
Post-rationalist government—where laws and regulations conform to human psychology rather than to the notion that each individual is a logical calculator—is a hot idea these days. Next to old-school policies that provide incentives (pay your taxes on time or you'll be fined!) there are now an abundance of "nudges" and nudge-like rules in place around the world. (For example, the British government tried a pilot program in which small business owners were informed that almost all their neighbors pay their taxes promptly—and it increased on-time payment substantially). Unfortunately, the debate about this psychological approach to regulation tends to the symbolic and ideological (it's a jackbooted nanny state! No, it's as helpful as giving people directions to where they want to go!). Lost in the drama is the more practical question of whether a particular policy, whatever its grand philosophical implications, would actually work. Take, for example, New York City's proposed ban on soda servings larger than 16 ounces. If the courts ever permit the city to enforce the rule, will it actually lower soda consumption, and thus obesity rates? According to this paper, the answer is no.
In the study, published earlier this month in the journal PLoS One, Brent M. Wilson and his co-authors make the sensible assumption that businesses would try to get around the 16-ounce restriction by offering customers an easy way to buy more than one container at a time. (If this hadn't occurred to the beverage industry before, it certainly will after they read the paper.) What happens when people who can't buy containers larger than 16 ounces are offered "bundles" of smaller containers that add up to more than 16?
According to Wilson et al., what happens is that people end up drinking more soda pop than ever.
In their experiment, they presented three different kinds of menu to 24 men and 76 women, all students at their institution (the University of California at San Diego). Along with various food options, one menu (the "Unregulated" version) presented a 16 ounce soda for $1.59, a 24 ounce soda for $1.79, and a 32 ounce soda for $1.99. The "Bundle" version offered a 16 ounce soda for $1.59, two 12 ounce sodas for $1.79, and two 16 ounce sodas for $1.99. And the "No Bundle" version offered only a 16 ounce soda for $1.59. These three test menus were mixed up with others, so that each participant saw 8 or 9 different menus. For each menu, each participantwas asked to mark what s/he would buy, and how much of it.
Results: Even though the "unregulated" menu offered soda in 24- and 32-ounce servings, it was the "bundle" menu that moved the most sugary drink. People who could buy two smaller sodas at once ended up buying more soda overall. On the other hand, when a 16-ounce cup was their only option (no multi-cup deals suggested), people didn't choose to buy two. Instead, they chose to buy far fewer total ounces of soda.
There were also significant differences in the number of people who chose not to buy soda at all. Nearly four out of ten people bought no drink from the menu that offered only a 16-ounce serving. With the menu that offered bundles of smaller sodas, though, far fewer—16 percent—abstained.
So Wilson et al. predict that the New York regulations, as currently written, will fail. Unless businesses voluntarily decline to try to make money, they will respond to the rules by bundling smaller containers, and that strategy will actually increase their soda sales. To really bring down soda consumption, the study suggests, the city will have to rewrite the rules to ban businesses from offering multi-soda packages. That, of course, would be quite a legal and practical can of worms. Banning a store from stocking 32- ounce cups is simple enough, but how is the city going to make sure that place doesn't sell two 16-ounce cups at once? Who is going to count the minutes between servings to make sure two cups don't constitute a "bundle"? Or keep tabs on who bought which cup, to make sure no one person gets too many containers?
One justification for the soda rule was the work of Brian Wansink and David Just, two Cornell economists who showed that larger portions can cause people to unthinkingly consume more. But those same two economists last year repudiated New York's approach, saying their work does not mean a large-cup ban will have any impact on obesity. Wansink and Just say they got their results in experiments where people aren't paying attention to portion size—the exact opposite of the situation we're in when we're ordering a drink from a menu. When they're actively thinking about what they want, the pair wrote, "people who want a little buy a little, and people who want a lot figure a way to get it." And now Wilson et al. have shown businesses exactly how to nudge people to want more, and get more, sugar water.
Cass Sunstein, in his new memoir/manifesto, Simpler (from which I learned about the U.K. tax nudge) repeatedly invokes the need to test policies in the real world. After all, as he writes, a key tenet of psychologically realistic rule-making is that small, logically insignificant details can have a huge effect on how people respond. The new paper doesn't constitute such a test—as the authors note, they asked people to fill out forms about hypothetical choices, rather than observing behavior at a real restaurant with real drinks—but it's an important reminder that when it comes time to turn lab results into laws, the mundane details probably count for more than the big philosophical questions.
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"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
Would you ever have sex with a robot?
- In 2016, "Harmony", the world's first AI sex robot was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix.
- According to 2020 survey data, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. This is an increase from a survey conducted in 2017.
- Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries.
From homemade dildos to Harmony, the AI sex robot<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3f7451615568e74c6a839f04329c9902"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-cN8sJz50Ng?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em>"...amid an economic crisis, with restaurants and retailers closing their doors and larger companies laying off and furloughing employees, the sex tech industry is booming."</em><br></p><p>A Bustle <a href="https://www.bustle.com/wellness/the-sex-tech-industry-is-booming-amid-economic-crisis-22819801" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">article</a> published in April 2020, weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, explored the drastic boost in the sex tech industry. According to the research, <a href="https://www.dameproducts.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dame Products</a> (a popular sex toy retailer) experienced a 30 percent increase in sales between the months of February to April, and popular sexual wellness brand <a href="https://unboundbabes.com/?utm_source=%7Bsource%7D&utm_medium=%7Bmedium%7D&utm_keyword=unbound%20babes&utm_matchtype=e&device=c&utm_campaign=%7Bcampaign%7D&utm_adgroup=%7Badgroup%7D&gclid=CjwKCAjw1v_0BRAkEiwALFkj5qYbdEwANUjCdRkCeVZ2HZzHjcGmpYbsOXYcMcNneLc2nySvrbaalBoChEsQAvD_BwE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Unbound</a> reported selling twice as many toys as normal in this period.</p><p>While the new coronavirus was crashing the economy in other ways, the sex tech industry was one of the few that actually saw improvements, likely due to people all over the world being advised, encouraged, and in some instances forced to stay at home.</p><p>Something similar happened in 2008, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2010/08/23/the-great-recession-is-a-turn-on-for-the-sex-toy-industry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during the recession</a>: the sex toy industry was one of the only industries at the time that didn't gravely suffer. </p><p><strong>The evolution of sex tech from stone dildos to artificial intelligence.</strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/what-is-the-history-of-sex-toys-from-stone-to-silicone-and-beyond/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The history of sex toys</a> is quite interesting. A 28,000-year-old siltstone dildo was uncovered in Germany in 2005. Luxury bronze dildos have also been found in China that are at least 2,000 years old.</p><p>Aside from various materials being shaped into dildos, there has always been an interest in how to advance sex technology, even before it involved actual technology at all.</p><ul><li>The 1700s: Steam-powered vibrators (such as the Manipulator).</li><li>The 1800s—1900s: The invention of the first electric vibrator (the Pulsoson) and "beauty tools" being used for sexual satisfaction (such as the Polar Cub massager)</li><li>The 1920s—1940s: The introduction of hand-held massagers (the Andis Vibrator) and compact devices (such as the Oster Stim-U-Lax)</li><li>The 1940s—1960s: Japan introduced the "Cadillac of Vibrators" (The Hitachi Magic Wand), which eventually made it's way to America.</li><li>1965: The invention of silicone, which most modern sex toys are made of.</li><li>The 1980s—1990s: The invention of the rabbit-style vibrator, made more popular with one of the first showings of a sex toy on television ("Sex and the City"). </li><li>The 2000s: Visual porn website Pornhub launched and sex toys became increasingly popular. Erotic literature also became more common and popular, with "50 Shades of Grey" and others like it. </li><li>The 2010s and beyond: Sex toys and technology start to blend, and the world's first internet-controlled sex toy was launched in 2010 by Lovense.</li></ul><p>In 2016, "Harmony", <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cN8sJz50Ng" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the world's first AI sex robot</a> was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix. </p>
From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.
Credit: Willyam Bradberry on Shutterstock<p>In 2020, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/science/articles-reports/2020/03/19/2020-both-men-and-women-are-more-likely-consider-h" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">YouGov conducted a study</a> in February 2020 that compared results from a similar study from 2017.<br></p><p>According to the results, 6 percent more people in 2020 are comfortable with the idea of having sex with a robot than in 2017.</p><p>YouGov points out that the increase in consideration is particularly significant among American adults between the ages of 18-34 years old. Additionally, how people feel about having sex with a robot has also changed. In 2020, 27 percent of Americans said they would consider it cheating if they had a partner who had sex with a robot during the relationship, compared to the 32 percent reported in 2017.</p><p><strong>"If you had a partner who had sex with a robot, would you consider it cheating?"</strong></p><p>The results from this interesting study also reveal that many people (42 percent) believe having sex with a robot is safer than having sex with a human stranger.</p><p>Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries. From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.</p><p>According to YouGov, "a <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/amazon-plans-high-end-echo-ramps-up-work-on-alexa-home-robot" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a> report outlining Amazon's plans for an Alexa-powered robot that follows and helps you around the home may redefine how these machines service humans in the near future." </p>