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Intellectual Dark Web: New movement or just a rebranding of old ideas?
Is it a super-secret place for the global el33t? Or is it just a bunch of n00bs masquerading as true h4x0rs?
The Intellectual Dark Web sounds like a shady corner of the internet, a place to buy illicit David Foster Wallace novels or hook-up for a midnight rendezvous to discuss metamodernist urban planning. While the IDW certainly hosts its fair share of late-night bullshit sessions, it’s not as clandestine as its namesake, the dark web, suggests.
The term was coined, half-jokingly, by mathematician Eric Weinstein and gained prominence after Bari Weiss, staff editor, and writer at the New York Times, wrote an op-ed profiling the movement. It refers to a burgeoning group of thinkers looking to create a space where cultural discourse is both civil and fact-based. At least, that’s how its supporters see it. Others have argued the IDW is nothing special, just a new to sell dated and bad ideas.
Which is it: is the intellectual dark web an important new movement or a rebranding for old ideas?
What (or who) is the IDW?
As Weiss’s op-ed points out, the IDW is not a structured organization with group meetings, membership lists, or a policy manifesto. As such, who or what ideas belong remain, whether by design or its nascent status, nebulous. Thinkers identified by Weiss as a part of the IDW include:
Evolutionary biologists Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying
Clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson
Popular science and philosophy writer Sam Harris
Conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and Douglas Murray
Podcast host and MMA commentator Joe Rogan
American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers
Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer
Talk show host Dave Rubin
Human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Activist Maajid Nawaz
The group seems to have little in common, either politically or philosophically. Nawaz has publicly debated both Hirsi Ali and Murray on whether Islam is a religion of peace.1 Peterson and Harris have engaged in long-winded arguments on the nature of truth.2 Bret Weinstein and Heying, his wife, are professed progressives,3 while Ben Shapiro is considered the conservative cool kid.4
Of course, this list is not comprehensive as no official list of IDW members exist. The closest is this website, which rounds up Weiss’s usual suspects and adds intellectuals and personalities such as comedian Owen Benjamin, Quillette founder Claire Lehmann, and psychology professor Steven Pinker.
But this only leads one to wonder whether membership is by invitation, request, or if the movement merely pulls public figures into its orbit like some trending black hole. Pinker has shared the stage with several IDW members but has never proclaimed himself a card-carrying member. Economist Glenn Loury and linguist John McWhorter aren’t mentioned in the article or on the website, but others have claimed they represent the “black wing” of the IDW.
As for ideals, again, there’s nothing concrete to draw on. The IDW website’s anonymous host claims the movement converges on issues of “individualism vs. collectivism, liberty over authoritarianism, and the importance of freedom of speech.”
Weiss cites three qualities for IDW membership: 1) the willingness to discuss any topic civilly, 2) basing one’s opinions on facts and not what is politically convenient, and 3) being willing to stand up to organizations and individuals who are hostile to open debate.
“Of course, the whole notion of drawing lines to keep people out is exactly what inspired the Intellectual Dark Web folks in the first place,” Weiss writes. “They’re committed to the belief that setting up no-go zones and no-go people is inherently corrupting to free thought.”
Everything old is new again
The importance of free speech is a discussion with a long shelf-life, as are debates centered on truth, civility, liberty, and individualism. Given that such topics are a major focus of the IDW, commentators have argued the movement is a merely bull-polishing to shine up old ideas for clicks and Patreon donations.
“That’s what really gets to me about the so-called ‘Intellectual Dark Web’: I’ve heard nothing unique from any of them,” political commentator David Pakman said. “That is why it is abundantly clear that the entire intellectual dark web movement is not an intellectual movement; it’s a movement around marketing and presentation style, combined with using the internet and social media. Period.”
Under this lens, the IDW’s goal of creating a cultural space safe for speech and ideas is superfluous, as social mechanisms already manage the task, and the movement merely becomes a way for its members to combat status threat by carving out a space where they can express ideas without fear of protest or a loss of reputation.
Others have argued it is a cover for dated ideas, such as race-IQ theorizing, that society has already tested and rejected. If the IDW’s ranks expand far enough to encompass conspiracy theorists Mike Cernovich and Alex Jones, then things quickly escalate from dated to dangerous.
“[IDW members] are not driving the conversation, and sometimes are being driven from it,” Henry Farrell, a professor of political science at George Washington University, writes. “This loss of relative social status helps explain the anger and resentment that Weiss describes and to some extent herself embodies.”
Alternative sense-making collective
Eric Weinstein referred to the IDW as an intellectual movement in Weiss’s article but has since revised the labeling. He now refers to the network as “alternative sense-making collective.”5
If that’s the case, then what does it stand as an alternative to?
IDW affiliate Dave Rubin sees this network as one that opposes the ideologically stagnant gatekeepers of old media. According to Rubin, the IDW are people “who are figuring out ways to have the important and often dangerous conversations that are completely ignored by the mainstream. It’s why I would argue that this collection of people are [sic] actually more influential than whatever collection of cable news pundits you can come up with.”
Sidestepping the fact that many of the IDW’s members have appeared on cable TV (as pundits no less), Rubin’s take aligns closely with Weinstein’s. He notes that an IDW member’s analysis on current events will often run counter to mainstream media’s take, particularly left-leaning outlets.
“The so-called commentariat […] seem to have been somewhat captured by a new network which thinks it terms that are very different to the networks that have previously lived at these organizations,” Weinstein said. “As a result, I believe that the intellectual dark web is going to be perceived as rivals.”
At the Federalist, managing editor Joy Pullmann agrees, comparing the IDW’s rise to that of the talk radio phenomenon from the 1980s, where then “alternative media” personalities separated themselves from the mainstream to present their opinions unfiltered.
Today, the radio waves have simply been replaced by YouTube, podcasts, and social media, platforms that can reach much larger audiences than the AM signals of yesteryear. In fact, as Pullmann points out, Rogan, Peterson, Shapiro, and Rubin have a combined reach that competes with Fox News and legacy media such as the Times and the Washington Post.
As for why the IDW can’t get along with mainstream media, that depends on whom you ask. Supports would point to Rubin’s remarks, noting the mainstream ignores conversations that are politically inconvenient. Meanwhile, as we’ve seen, opponents believe the IDW isn’t ignored by the mainstream; they simply aren’t viewed as an unassailable narrative driving force.
One of the more interesting takes belongs to Jacob Falkovich. Writing for Quillette, Falkovich surveyed the seemingly disparate members of the IDW and found what he believes to be a linking personality trait. Most sport a “decoupling mindset” — that is, their goal is to explore and study an idea or incident from the basis of logic and data, disconnected from its historical context or personal experiences.
This is in stark contrast to mainstream journalists, whom Falkovich sees as having a “contextualizer” mindset and view the world through the historical context of personal narratives. The result? The decouplers and contextualizers talk past one another, leading to the formation of different tribes with an “us versus them” mentality.
So, which is it?
Unfortunately, it is difficult to say. As it stands, the IDW’s boundaries are too wide and its membership too amorphous for any clear verdict.
Under these conditions, commentators can pick and choose the ideas and individuals they need to prove their point. Want to prove the need for an alternative sense-making network? Focus on the maltreatment of Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College. Want to insist that IDW members proliferate bad, even dangerous ideas? Point out that Ben Shapiro tweeted Arabs like to “live in open sewage.”
At this point, the IDW feels more like a cultural Rorschach test than anything.
In time, these boundaries may solidify as some thinkers renounce the movement and others join it, as some ideas are rejected and others sanctioned. If that happens, we may be able to revisit this question for a clearer answer. If not, then the Intellectual Dark Web will likely be relegated to the cultural closet alongside other trendy, but ultimately fruitless, fads.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
1. Islam is a religion of peace. Intelligence Squared. Retrieved on July 19, from https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/islam-religion-peace.
3. When the left turns on its own. Bari Weiss. The New York Times. Retrieved on July 19, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/when-the-left-turns-on-its-own.html.
4. Ben Shapiro, a provocative ‘gladiator,’ battles to win young conservatives. Sabrina Tavernise. The New York Times. Retrieved on July 24, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/us/ben-shapiro-conservative.html.
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.
- Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
- With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
- The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Howard et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While this approach has wide implications for heritage management/museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that 'to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again'," they wrote in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y#Fig3" target="_blank">paper</a> published in Nature Scientific Reports. "Given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfilment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique."</p>
Connecting modern people with history<p>It's not the first time scientists have "re-created" an ancient human's voice. In 2016, for example, Italian researchers used software to <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hear-recreated-voice-otzi-iceman-180960570/" target="_blank">reconstruct the voice of Ötzi,</a> an iceman who was discovered in 1991 and is thought to have died more than 5,000 years ago. But the "Voices of the Past" project is different, the researchers note, because Nesyamun's mummified corpse is especially well preserved.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was particularly suited, given its age and preservation [of its soft tissues], which is unusual," Howard told <em><a href="https://www.livescience.com/amp/ancient-egypt-mummy-voice-reconstructed.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>.</em></p><p>As to whether Nesyamun's reconstructed voice will ever be able to speak complete sentences, Howard told <em><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/ancient-voice-scientists-recreate-sound-egyptian-mummy-68482015" target="_blank">The Associated Press</a>, </em>that it's "something that is being worked on, so it will be possible one day."</p><p>John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said that reproducing voices from history can make museum experiences "more multidimensional."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is nothing more personal than someone's voice," he told <em>The Associated Press.</em> "So we think that hearing a voice from so long ago will be an unforgettable experience, making heritage places like Karnak, Nesyamun's temple, come alive."</p>
New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.
What is deep acting?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ1NDk2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTY5MzA0Nn0._s7aP25Es1CInq51pbzGrUj3GtOIRWBHZxCBFnbyXY8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=333%2C-1%2C333%2C-1&height=700" id="ddf09" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9dc42c4d6a8e372ad7b72907b46ecd3f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Arlie Russell Hochschild (pictured) laid out the concept of emotional labor in her 1983 book, "The Managed Heart."
Credit: Wikimedia Commons<p>Deep and surface acting are the principal components of emotional labor, a buzz phrase you have likely seen flitting about the Twittersphere. Today, "<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/5ea9f140-f722-4214-bb57-8b84f9418a7e" target="_blank">emotional labor</a>" has been adopted by groups as diverse as family counselors, academic feminists, and corporate CEOs, and each has redefined it with a patented spin. But while the phrase has splintered into a smorgasbord of pop-psychological arguments, its initial usage was more specific.</p><p>First coined by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in her 1983 book, "<a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520272941/the-managed-heart" target="_blank">The Managed Heart</a>," emotional labor describes the work we do to regulate our emotions on the job. Hochschild's go-to example is the flight attendant, who is tasked with being "nicer than natural" to enhance the customer experience. While at work, flight attendants are expected to smile and be exceedingly helpful even if they are wrestling with personal issues, the passengers are rude, and that one kid just upchucked down the center aisle. Hochschild's counterpart to the flight attendant is the bill collector, who must instead be "nastier than natural."</p><p>Such personas may serve an organization's mission or commercial interests, but if they cause emotional dissonance, they can potentially lead to high emotional costs for the employee—bringing us back to deep and surface acting.</p><p>Deep acting is the process by which people modify their emotions to match their expected role. Deep actors still encounter the negative emotions, but they devise ways to <a href="http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/perch/resources/what-is-emotion-regulationsinfo-brief.pdf" target="_blank">regulate those emotions</a> and return to the desired state. Flight attendants may modify their internal state by talking through harsh emotions (say, with a coworker), focusing on life's benefits (next stop Paris!), physically expressing their desired emotion (smiling and deep breaths), or recontextualizing an inauspicious situation (not the kid's fault he got sick).</p><p>Conversely, surface acting occurs when employees display ersatz emotions to match those expected by their role. These actors are the waiters who smile despite being crushed by the stress of a dinner rush. They are the CEOs who wear a confident swagger despite feelings of inauthenticity. And they are the bouncers who must maintain a steely edge despite humming show tunes in their heart of hearts.</p><p>As we'll see in the research, surface acting can degrade our mental well-being. This deterioration can be especially true of people who must contend with negative emotions or situations inside while displaying an elated mood outside. Hochschild argues such emotional labor can lead to exhaustion and self-estrangement—that is, surface actors erect a bulwark against anger, fear, and stress, but that disconnect estranges them from the emotions that allow them to connect with others and live fulfilling lives.</p>
Don't fake it till you make it<p>Most studies on emotional labor have focused on customer service for the obvious reason that such jobs prescribe emotional states—service with a smile or, if you're in the bouncing business, a scowl. But <a href="https://eller.arizona.edu/people/allison-s-gabriel" target="_blank">Allison Gabriel</a>, associate professor of management and organizations at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, wanted to explore how employees used emotional labor strategies in their intra-office interactions and which strategies proved most beneficial.</p><p>"What we wanted to know is whether people choose to engage in emotion regulation when interacting with their co-workers, why they choose to regulate their emotions if there is no formal rule requiring them to do so, and what benefits, if any, they get out of this effort," Gabriel said in <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200117162703.htm" target="_blank">a press release</a>.</p><p>Across three studies, she and her colleagues surveyed more than 2,500 full-time employees on their emotional regulation with coworkers. The survey asked participants to agree or disagree with statements such as "I try to experience the emotions that I show to my coworkers" or "I fake a good mood when interacting with my coworkers." Other statements gauged the outcomes of such strategies—for example, "I feel emotionally drained at work." Participants were drawn from industries as varied as education, engineering, and financial services.</p><p>The results, <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fapl0000473" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">published in the Journal of Applied Psychology</a>, revealed four different emotional strategies. "Deep actors" engaged in high levels of deep acting; "low actors" leaned more heavily on surface acting. Meanwhile, "non-actors" engaged in negligible amounts of emotional labor, while "regulators" switched between both. The survey also revealed two drivers for such strategies: prosocial and impression management motives. The former aimed to cultivate positive relationships, the latter to present a positive front.</p><p>The researchers found deep actors were driven by prosocial motives and enjoyed advantages from their strategy of choice. These actors reported lower levels of fatigue, fewer feelings of inauthenticity, improved coworker trust, and advanced progress toward career goals. </p><p>As Gabriel told <a href="https://www.psypost.org/2021/01/new-psychology-research-suggests-deep-acting-can-reduce-fatigue-and-improve-your-work-life-59081" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PsyPost in an interview</a>: "So, it's a win-win-win in terms of feeling good, performing well, and having positive coworker interactions."</p><p>Non-actors did not report the emotional exhaustion of their low-actor peers, but they also didn't enjoy the social gains of the deep actors. Finally, the regulators showed that the flip-flopping between surface and deep acting drained emotional reserves and strained office relationships.</p><p>"I think the 'fake it until you make it' idea suggests a survival tactic at work," Gabriel noted. "Maybe plastering on a smile to simply get out of an interaction is easier in the short run, but long term, it will undermine efforts to improve your health and the relationships you have at work. </p><p>"It all boils down to, 'Let's be nice to each other.' Not only will people feel better, but people's performance and social relationships can also improve."</p>
You'll be glad ya' decided to smile<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88a0a6a8d1c1abfcf7b1aca8e71247c6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QOSgpq9EGSw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>But as with any research that relies on self-reported data, there are confounders here to untangle. Even during anonymous studies, participants may select socially acceptable answers over honest ones. They may further interpret their goal progress and coworker interactions more favorably than is accurate. And certain work conditions may not produce the same effects, such as toxic work environments or those that require employees to project negative emotions.</p><p>There also remains the question of the causal mechanism. If surface acting—or switching between surface and deep acting—is more mentally taxing than genuinely feeling an emotion, then what physiological process causes this fatigue? <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00151/full" target="_blank">One study published in the <em>Frontiers in Human Neuroscience</em></a><em> </em>measured hemoglobin density in participants' brains using an fNIRS while they expressed emotions facially. The researchers found no significant difference in energy consumed in the prefrontal cortex by those asked to deep act or surface act (though, this study too is limited by a lack of real-life task).<br></p><p>With that said, Gabriel's studies reinforce much of the current research on emotional labor. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2041386611417746" target="_blank">A 2011 meta-analysis</a> found that "discordant emotional labor states" (read: surface acting) were associated with harmful effects on well-being and performance. The analysis found no such consequences for deep acting. <a href="https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0022876" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Another meta-analysis</a> found an association between surface acting and impaired well-being, job attitudes, and performance outcomes. Conversely, deep acting was associated with improved emotional performance.</p><p>So, although there's still much to learn on the emotional labor front, it seems Van Dyke's advice to a Leigh was half correct. We should put on a happy face, but it will <a href="https://bigthink.com/design-for-good/everything-you-should-know-about-happiness-in-one-infographic" target="_self">only help if we can feel it</a>.</p>
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.