Rick Smolan on Data Exhaust
Rick Smolan is a photographer who used to work for National Geographic and Time and the creator of the Day in the Life series.
Rick Smolan: Data exhaust is probably my least favorite phrase in the big data world 'cause it sounds like something you're trying to get rid of or something noxious that comes out of the back of your car. But basically everything we're doing now is being recorded and it never is going to go away.
If you ever plan to run for office, if you’re a teenager, remember everything you do, every tweet, every Facebook posting, every picture you put on Instagram will be there forever for journalists and politic - for your competition to dig up. The whole idea of data exhaust is that between our smartphones and our credit cards and our easy passes and all the other things that are collecting information about us, there's this three-dimensional portrait of each of us and who we are. And that is being analyzed and sold to the highest bidder and is being used to understand peoples movements, behavioral patterns.
I'll give you an interesting example of that. There’s a company in Boston called Ginger IO that has a smartphone app that can predict two days before you get depressed, that you’re going to get depressed. I was very dubious when I first heard about this and I actually spoke to the gentleman who runs it, Anmol. And he said – I said, "First of all, how would a smartphone know I’m going to get depressed before I do? And why would somebody even want to know that?" He said, "Well, actually, first of all, you have a regular pattern of behavior. Basically each of us has a radius of travel, most of us go to work at the same place, we eat at similar restaurants, we have similar patterns of picking up our kids at school. So the first week the smartphone app just basically says this is the radius of travel for Rick.
On a day, two days before I start getting depressed my radius of travel starts shrinking, the amount time I spend at home goes up, the amount of e-mails and tweets that I send goes down. There’s this regular pattern of almost like withdraw. The reason that this is actually useful, from a health perspective, this is what Ginger IO is actually been focusing on, is people with diabetes have a very high correlation with depression. When you get depressed, people stop taking their medicine; a higher percentage of people than normal stop taking their medicine.
If you have diabetes, the consequences of not taking your medicine are quite severe. Organ failure, blindness; it’s quite dramatic. Insurance companies want to make sure that you stay on your medicine. So basically you sign up for this program if you're diabetic and it basically says if it looks like I'm going into one of these depressive episodes a few days from now, let my doctor know, let my kids know, let my spouse know, my friend, just to check it with me to make sure that somebody comes and notices that. So it’s interesting this idea of this - that our phones are starting to know us better than we know ourselves. They're starting to see patterns that we don’t detect on a day-by-day basis, but the phone sees this overall pattern and then it looks for changes in that pattern.
Our phones are starting to know us better than we know ourselves. They're starting to see patterns that we don’t detect on a day-by-day basis, but the phone sees this overall pattern and then it looks for changes in that pattern.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.
- A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
- This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
- The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like
violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students
do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones,
speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment
to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on
controversial issues is "always acceptable."
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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