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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: May 13, 2020
Posted: May 13, 2020 at 7:45 pm
I should reach Medicine Hat this week, my next choice will be closer, trying to shorten the number of steps and length of time it takes me to reach a destination.
At a regular Council meeting, Town Council voted to forgo painting the rainbow crosswalk this spring. Part of the decision was due to budget considerations based on the COVID-19 situation. To hear the full discussion, visit the Towns Facebook page. There will be further discussion June 9 at an open meeting. If you want to contribute to this, email the Town at email@example.com for more information.
Ever wondered if there is a difference between a ventilator and a respirator? It seems a ventilator is a device designed to assist a patient to breathe. Respirators are masks designed to protect the wearer from particulates in the air.
I read somewhere that music has a proven power to help heal the mind, body and soul. Have you ever had the experience of hearing an old song and suddenly get taken back to your childhood or young adult years, remembering all the words to the song, even dancing a bit to the beat?
Some songs from my past can even bring me to tears remembering where I was and what was happening in my life at that time. Other music can have me laughing remembering what was going on then. I find that being at home a lot more right now, I am searching my collection for those old songs, old music and sometimes dancing along.
FYi doctors are offering complimentary prescription safety glasses for health care workers. They have secured a limited supply of these glasses and want to donate them to front line workers. Call 250-847-3611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
The Writers Studio Online: SFU is offering a community-focused approach to creative writing instruction, joining formal learning with individual mentorship and group workshops. For more information on this, SFU will be hosting an online information session on Saturday, May 30, check out The Writers Studio or email email@example.com.
CICK, 93.9FM, Smithers Community Radio continues to broadcast news and music. Many of the DJs are doing their programs from home studios. I have a program called Porch Talk and, honestly, it has been a struggle as I am not computer literate. But it is happening and I am getting better at recording and uploading music to the weekly program.
My goal is to highlight two Canadian singers in alphabetical order, forcing myself to listen to music that I do not usually appreciate. I have been surprised by some of it and now look forward to the next two on the list. If you have a song, a story or an interview you would like covered by CICK, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or message CICK on facebook@cicknews.
A lady stopped me in Safeway to tell me that the Evangelical Free Church can provide prayer service, or assist if you have an urgent need for groceries or medication to be picked up. Contact 778-210-1217 for more information.
Closing with: arboreal, of or relating to a tree. Spring is here!
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Posted: at 7:45 pm
Here is a link to many coronavirus resources
Among the many changes for students this year, as the coronavirus pandemic has moved all classes online, are major changes to testing for Advanced Placement courses. Typically, AP exams happen in the first two weeks of May and are in very controlled environments. This year, AP exams started Monday and will continue until next Friday.
What are the changes this year to the AP exams?
The College Board, in order to accommodate students who have worked for the entire year to master college level content, took the initiative to provide students with an online exam opportunity since they knew that schools across the country were closed.
So instead of sitting for a traditional exam sometime during the first two weeks of May, where its pencil and paper and there are multiple choice questions and some free response, short answer, essay type questions, College Board designed an exam that is online, that is roughly 45 minutes.
For some subjects its one question thats an essay response and for many other subjects its two questions with the first question being about 60% of the exam and the second question being about 40% of the exam.
No, its absolutely an open book and open notes. The College Board designed it that way knowing that it was really a lot to expect that students would just work on an honor system in an online environment where theyre sitting at home.
What they have to attest to is that they havent had assistance from another human. So they can use whatever notes they have from the class, they can use their textbooks from the class.
But really the questions have been designed theyre not answers that kids are just going to be able to look up online or look up in their textbook or look up in their notes. It really takes a lot of what theyve learned and synthesizes it and applies skills theyve learned to go with the content.
When someone thinks about an AP class and an AP test, at least this is what I think about it, I think of it as very standardized. If you go from one region of the country to another or if you go from year to year to year they are very standardized. And now you have this one aberration year hopefully, its just one year.
Based on what I know from the things that College Board has communicated to us and communicated with universities, that universities have been part of the conversation in developing this. Because if universities dont have the confidence to use these scores to translate into college credit, then it would really be a pointless experience for students, right?
So every college Ive spoken with and every college that Ive seen information through the college board from have been very positive about this.
Theyve had to make their own shifts during this very strange time in education and so they recognize that they dont want to devalue what kids have accomplished in any way and that if theyre able to get their hands on some data that demonstrates kids have mastered the majority of the concepts in an introductory college-level course, then that student should get the credit for it.
I think if you go and review some of the stuff that College Board has on their website youll find a really wide range of colleges that have endorsed this online exam experience given the circumstances. And that ranges from the Florida State University System being on board with continuing with the same credit articulation that theyve always had, several other state university systems all the way up the chain to Ivy League schools being very supportive of the whole process.
AP exams are always two weeks. Its typically the first two weeks of May. The exams actually started yesterday which was one week late. It will still be a two-week exam window so exams will be done next Friday.
I think if I were a parent or student the thing I would want to hear is: go into it with an open mind. The students can just do their very best.
And even if they dont finish a response, uploading what they have is going to demonstrate some mastery, right? And so just take a risk and put it out there and do your best because there is literally nothing to lose and a lot to gain for students.
So I just want students to go in with an open mind and feeling really confident about what theyre doing.
For our teachers teachers have probably been more nervous about this than anybody else. Because the AP teachers have been working with these kids and they know what theyre capable of. And their hearts are a little broken right now because theyre concerned that its not going to come out the way it should.
But I think we have to have every confidence that College Board wouldnt have gone into this endeavor if they didnt feel like they could do right by students. Theyre a very student-focused organization. And so just take a leap of faith and a deep breath and dive in and do your best. Thats all we can ask of our students.
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Posted: at 7:45 pm
Weather can be a bummer in Edinburgh. The so-called Windy Citycan huff and puff and blow your brolly inside out, and even on the sunniest afternoon theres a routine shower waiting in ambush.
A trip to the Scottish capital, its fair to say, is often characterised by cumulonimbus rolling in. Here, weather retains a certain independence of mind.
Its not the same, of course, but if the coronavirus lockdown has got you down, consider a virtual tour of the city instead.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Youll brighten your days at home, feel inspired to visit once life returns to something like normal and be able to do it all without getting wet once. Because for a while, at least, this is your ultimate Edinburgh day out.
First, youll want to see the big sights, albeit virtually. On the plus side there are no queues to buy a ticket and you dont need to elbow past others to chew over the exhibits. Little perks, but silver linings all the same.
Take a virtual stroll through the Museum of Scotlands collection (istock)
You hear the words National Museum of Scotland and your mind conjures certain images: claymores and kilts, Outlander and assembled fragments from the times of Rob Roy and William Wallace.
Theres plenty of that kind of history to ogle inside Scotlands most memorable museum, but with some 20,000-odd objects to discover from Egyptian sarcophagi to cloned domestic sheep the galleries are devoted to Scottish history and influence on a far wider scale. All together, it paints a picture of a modern, thriving, and,at times,ingenious country beyond the bagpipes cliche.
On a clear day, you can see Edinburgh Castle from as far away as Fife across the Firth of Forth. In days like these, its a quantum leap from the streets of Edinburgh right to your front room.
Google does the best job of showcasing the citys landmark castle on its virtual tour, taking you on an interactive walkabout from Castle Rock into the inner courtyards of the Royal Palace, the Great Hall and St Margarets Chapel, Edinburghs oldest building.
Not to be outdone, Visit Scotland has an augmented reality app Portal AP, which lets you step into the castle too.
First impressions can be poor at the former royal yachtof Her Majesty the Queen.
The boat, in service from 1954 until 1997, promises five levels of state rooms and is a sweet reminder of the days when the royals took to sea. But its located outside Ocean Terminal, an ugly shopping mall surrounded by dockyards and the Port of Leith. Not that youll see any of that online out of context, the yacht brims with razzmatazz and a virtual snoop around feels likes walking into an episode of The Crown (just without all the Princess Margaret sex scenes).
There are plenty of DIY tours uploaded to YouTube, but the most insightful experience is to watch Secrets of the Royal Yachts, available to stream on Sky.
Fancy a virtual ramble up Edinburghs extinct volcano? Theres nothing fancy about Visit Scotlands tour of the 251m crag, but its weirdly revelatory and instead of taking you up to an hour, it fast-tracks you to the top in a matter of minutes.
So laudably conservation-minded is this zoo that it was the worlds first to house and breed penguins. One of whom, Sir Nils Olav, is so important hes the colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian Kings Guard.
Unlike elsewhere in the UK, there are also koalas and pandas, both of which can be seen on live video feeds of the enclosures. The safari-style webcams also capture the tigers and rockhoppers, with plenty of tail-twitching magic at play. Its safari, but not as you know it.
Intimate yet unforgettable, The Stand has built a formidable reputation for more than 25 years. The comedy club has given a foot up to the likes of Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle, and is now lauded as one of the best laughter factories in the world.
You cant come to it right now, but the show can come to you, because the venue is streaming live shows every Saturday (the first of which attracted more than 100,000 online viewers). Expect heavyweights like Mark Watson, Mark Nelson and Omid Djalili.
Trainspotters take note: no Edinburgh highlights tour is complete without a visit to the greatest railway bridge ever built. Experience it on live streaming here, then puzzle over the 53,000 tonnes of steel used during its construction.
The regal exterior of The Raeburn
The opulent Whiskey Room at Prestonfield
The Scapa Suite at the restorative Dunstane Houses
Enjoy some of Edinburgh's best dining, before sloping off to bed at 21212
The Skerryvore Suite on the luxury Fingal
This 14-bedroom property benefits from superb city views
Design-led apartment hotel Eden Locke is hidden inside a rebooted six-storey townhouse
The master bedroom, complete with William Morris wallpaper
The Stevenson House
The bold colour scheme at Tigerlily pulls no punches
The regal exterior of The Raeburn
The opulent Whiskey Room at Prestonfield
The Scapa Suite at the restorative Dunstane Houses
Enjoy some of Edinburgh's best dining, before sloping off to bed at 21212
The Skerryvore Suite on the luxury Fingal
This 14-bedroom property benefits from superb city views
Design-led apartment hotel Eden Locke is hidden inside a rebooted six-storey townhouse
The master bedroom, complete with William Morris wallpaper
The Stevenson House
The bold colour scheme at Tigerlily pulls no punches
Normally theres no point in listing a place you cant visit, but if youre desperate to see more of Edinburgh, join an Invisible Cities virtual tour. The online price includes videos, photos and audio, plus a virtual Zoom meeting with a guide.
Rarely do haggis spaghetti and crepes with clootie dumpling appear on the same menu. If youre up to the job, however, both can crop up in your kitchen if you take inspiration from Edinburghs most gifted chefs.
The recipe books of curly-haired enthusiast Tom Kitchin offer a masterclass in Scottish cookery. In particular, Kitchin Suppers is a tour of his Edinburgh kitchen, showcasing the one-pan wonders he cooks for his family. Traditionally, for example, his smoked salmon frittata comes loaded with cheddar and dill (his Swedish wife Michaelas influence, no doubt).
Chef patron Neil Forbes of Cafe St Honore, meanwhile, is continuing his tradition of uploading recipes online. One of the latest, brose (uncooked porridge) with cockles and mussels, delivers that perfect Edinburgh foodie hit: an outrageously-comforting dish, accompanied by a whiff of the sea.
Youll have plenty of time on your hands, so another recommended all-rounder is Visit Scotlands ebook The Scottish Recipe Collection. Cue tummy-tingling dishes from the likes of Edinburgh-based Mark Greenaway of Grazing By Mark Greenaway and Tony Singh, who now cooks at home at The Supper Club.
To better understand Edinburgh, switch on your stereo and TV.
This is the city of the Bay City Rollers (for a time, the worlds most successful boy band), Idlewild and Young Fathers, as well as the defunct The Rezillos, The Fire Engines and Josef K. All of whom have a story worth telling.
Two essential songs to stream while dreaming of Leith are Streets of Edinburgh and Sunshine on Leith by The Proclaimers. Like the band itself, both are inherently celebratory yet maudlin.
If you want to get geeky, you can trawl through a collection of movies filmed here. From Avengers: Endgame to Chariots of Fire to Mary Queen of Scots to Sunshine on Leith, all brim with local personality. The mood might take you to Danny Boyles classic Trainspotting, but the 2017 sequel captures the capital in a far more dazzling light.
Turns out, theres something more spirit-lifting than all of that. The Illusionist, from Oscar-nominated, Edinburgh-based animator Sylvain Chomet, is the ultimate sustained love letter to the city and is eminently watchable. Spot The Cameo cinema and Arthurs Seat, as well as pastel-splattered Broughton Street, Princes Street, Jenners department store and the New Town.
The age of ordering products from our favourite cities is upon us so go with it.
Start with a tote or clutch from Melville Street-based Strathberry (Meghan Markles a fan). Order a bottle of Edinburgh Gin, or join its weekly movie nights (Wednesday, 8pm). How about sodding the stuck-at-home diet by building a box of tablet and fudge from The Fudge Kitchen? Locals swear by the slabs of sea salted caramel and maple walnut.
Queen Victoria once commented that Edinburgh is fairy-like and what you would only imagine as a thing to dream of, or to see in a picture. That sentence, read at home while living under lockdown, now really takes on a whole new meaning.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And thats a message Visit Scotland, the countrys national tourism body, has run with in the first few weeks of the lockdown. Its been pulling heartstrings with its evocative, if melancholic video tribute to the country, encouraging previous visitors to think back to the places within Scotland that live on in the memory.
The call is to share moments using the hashtag #VisitScotland, while Edinburghs tourist office is providing inspiration of a different sort on Twitter (@edinburgh) and Instagram (@thisisedinburgh). Among the spookily-empty shots of gothic streets are invites to join quizzes, virtual guided tours and submit photos of the day.
Social media can only skim the surface of Edinburgh, particularly when it comes to the citys Unesco-worthy scientific and literary credentials. The answer is to visit the online collection of the 17th-century Surgeons Hall Museum, where you can connect the dots between Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Ian Rankin and John Rebus, and grave-robbing body snatchers Burke and Hare.
Stories help define Edinburgh and this is a city bursting to life with them. Even if some hide in the unlikeliest of places.
Posted: at 7:45 pm
STRANGE though it sounds, I felt a little gleeful when I heard the news that foreign summer holidays will not be going ahead this year.
Of course my heart goes out to all the hard-working parents longing for a week in the European sunshine with their families.
But I cant help thinking a summer spent in Britain will do our spoiled metropolitan millennials a world of good.
Why? Because having spent their formative years jet-setting around the world, far too many of them are mind-bogglingly and unashamedly stupid about their own country.
Take my old university flatmate as an example.
After gap-yearing in Borneo and Bali, he turned up in the ancient, bustling city of York laden with so much fancy coffee making equipment it looked like he was carrying the whole of Starbucks on his back.
When questioned, he casually revealed that as a born and bred Londoner hed never travelled north of Wembley before and wasnt quite sure if cafes existed up here.
Hes not the only one.
Living in London over the past five years, Ive met a postgraduate student who confused Birmingham with Newcastle (whats the difference? Theyre both up North), a globe-trotting teenager who thought Glastonbury was in Wales, and most bizarrely of all a confident young lawyer utterly convinced that the Lake District was a fictional place.
On the face of it, their ignorance is laughable. And Ill admit, I didnt correct the lawyer (I want to see the look on his face when he gets sent to Cumbria on business).
But theres a darker side to it. A generation of young city dwellers who know nothing about Britain were always bound to underestimate our four great nations.
And so they did in the 2016 referendum.
The overlap between London and the Remain campaign has been well documented 60 per cent of the capital voted in favour of remaining in the EU.
Among Londons student population, the depth of support for the EU was overwhelming.
And with some ultra-liberal friends, there were moments when it would have seemed easier to come out as a paedophile than a Brexiteer.
Of course, ardent young Remainers convinced themselves that their love of the European Union was borne out of a sophisticated appreciation of all things global.
But it seems more likely to me that they saw the EU as the saviour to a backwards, grisly country they imagined in their ignorance to be Britain.
This summer, that ignorance could finally be shattered.
Thanks to Covid-19, the nations young people wont have the option of scurrying to Heathrow the second their uni exams are over.
Instead if they want holidays at all theyll be minibreaking in Manchester or camping in the English countryside.
Yes, they might turn their noses up at rolling hills, stunning architecture and incredible free museums.
But I have a sneaking suspicion theyll be surprised and impressed with what they find beyond the confines of the M25.
And, reconnected to their roots at last, they might just begin to feel the first stirrings of patriotism running through their British veins.
Eating time online
TOO much time on social media is making me potty.
When the Government published its new guidelines for lockdown in England, I like the rest of Twitter found myself getting very worked up about whether or not Im allowed to play tennis with someone outside of my household.
The problem, as my mum gently reminded me, is that in my case its a bit of a moot point: Ive never played tennis before and Im not entirely sure how to hold a racket.
I doubt either my housemate or my friends will be begging for a game any time soon.
ITS not often I find myself welling up at the radio. But LBC caller Liz, from Witham, Essex, got me in the gut this week.
Through uncontrollable tears, she explained that if coronavirus didnt kill her, being forbidden from touching her grand-children surely would.
Shes not alone. After nearly two gruelling months of lockdown, millions of us are experiencing real, gut-wrenching loneliness.
They dont like to complain they know their suffering is dwarfed by that of frontline health and care staffers. But starved of the company of those they love, they are withering like plants out of sunshine.
Youd expect a Conservative government instinctively to get this. For generations, Tory MPs have told us that family is crucially important to the functioning of the UK.
Theyve thrown their weight behind policies designed to strengthen families and made many moving speeches about how a family unit is more than the sum of its parts.
But it seems all that was just for show. For in their admirable haste to propel Brits back to work, this Government seems to have forgotten about families altogether.
Boris Johnsons Sunday night speech stuffed full of specific advice for workers didnt have a single word of hope for single adult relatives craving each others company.
And the millions of young adults longing to know when they can next hug Mum will have been bitterly disappointed.
Of course, the PM is right to say we need to get the economy going again.
Forecasts from the Treasury on the upcoming recession could hardly be more alarming and despite the best efforts of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his bailouts, millions of businesses will go bust if they cant get up and running again soon.
But if were expected to get up close with colleagues for the sake of the economy, surely we should get to see those we love best for the sake of our mental health?
The people of Britain are humans, not cash cows. And if they are to get through this long, draining war in one piece, they need the support of the people they love.
No Brucey bonus...
LISTENING to BBC News anchor Fiona Bruce casually describe carers as low-skilled workers really set my teeth on edge.
To the shame of this nation, care home staff are indeed low paid.
But low skilled? I reckon plenty of them would be more than capable of reading the news from an autocue for 250,000 a year.
And Id like to see coiffed Fiona feed, clean and comfort a newly widowed dementia sufferer without losing her cool.
FOR the best part of the past decade, bespectacled experts gravely predicted that online dating would kill romance.
Apps they told us would transform the dating scene into an endless virtual marketplace where singles could shop for each other (like an Amazon for human companionship), or else would turn dating into a minimal-effort pursuit of on-demand hook ups (like an Uber for sex).
How wrong they were.
Rather than bonking their way round new digital acquaintances, millennial Brits in the 21st Century spend their downtime uploading photos and biographies to their smartphones and earnestly looking for love.
And my, do they succeed.
Last year a whopping 39 per cent of newly married couples met online, and Hinge the dating app geared towards lifelong relationships is gaining users faster than any of its competitors.
Granted, these apps arent perfect.
We all like a good romance story, and Dad messaging Mum with a winky face because he liked her bikini selfie is hardly the stuff of Hollywood.
But now that flirting in the pub is a thing of the past, lets thank our lucky stars that the countrys poor singles have a shot at love at all.
Made with love
IT fills me with hope that apps dedicated to selling hand-made goods have soared in popularity during lockdown.
Rather than sitting on the sofa twiddling their thumbs, furloughed folk have been busy sculpting, chiselling and painting and selling the fruits of their labours online.
These plucky, small-time entrepreneurs are the very best of Britain.
And with them around, I have no doubt this country will be back on its feet in no time.
IM absolutely loving Normal People on BBC3.
The chemistry between Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) is really quite something.
And as an ode to young love, the whole thing is pitch-perfect.
In fact, my only quibble is why on earth are all the characters so darn sophisticated?
Theyre 19, for goodness sake.
Lets see fewer candle-lit, red wine-soaked dinner parties and more tins of warm Fosters.
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Posted: at 7:44 pm
Dario Gil from IBM Research
In this video, Dario Gil from IBM shares results from the IBM Quantum Challenge and describes how you can access and program quantum computers on the IBM Cloud today.
From May 4-8, we invited people from around the world to participate in the IBM Quantum Challengeon the IBM Cloud. We devised the Challenge as a global event to celebrateour fourth anniversary of having a real quantum computer on the cloud. Over those four days 1,745people from45countries came together to solve four problems ranging from introductory topics in quantum computing, to understanding how to mitigate noise in a real system, to learning about historic work inquantum cryptography, to seeing how close they could come to the best optimization result for a quantum circuit.
Those working in the Challenge joined all those who regularly make use of the 18quantum computing systems that IBM has on the cloud, includingthe 10 open systemsand the advanced machines available within theIBM Q Network. During the 96 hours of the Challenge, the total use of the 18 IBM Quantum systems on the IBM Cloud exceeded 1 billion circuits a day. Together, we made history every day the cloud users of the IBM Quantum systems made and then extended what can absolutely be called a world record in computing.
Every day we extend the science of quantum computing and advance engineering to build more powerful devices and systems. Weve put new two new systems on the cloud in the last month, and so our fleet of quantum systems on the cloud is getting bigger and better. Well be extending this cloud infrastructure later this year by installing quantum systems inGermanyand inJapan. Weve also gone more and more digital with our users with videos, online education, social media, Slack community discussions, and, of course, the Challenge.
Dr. Dario Gil is the Director of IBM Research, one of the worlds largest and most influential corporate research labs. IBM Research is a global organization with over 3,000 researchers at 12 laboratories on six continents advancing the future of computing. Dr. Gil leads innovation efforts at IBM, directing research strategies in Quantum, AI, Hybrid Cloud, Security, Industry Solutions, and Semiconductors and Systems. Dr. Gil is the 12th Director in its 74-year history. Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Gil served as Chief Operating Officer of IBM Research and the Vice President of AI and Quantum Computing, areas in which he continues to have broad responsibilities across IBM. Under his leadership, IBM was the first company in the world to build programmable quantum computers and make them universally available through the cloud. An advocate of collaborative research models, he co-chairs the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, a pioneering industrial-academic laboratory with a portfolio of more than 50 projects focused on advancing fundamental AI research to the broad benefit of industry and society.
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Posted: at 7:42 pm
For many years, the eugenics mentality has been gaining ground all over the world. Currently, there are debates concerning medically assisted procreation, as well as all kinds of medical practices made possible by technical progress and technological innovation. FSSPX.News is offering a series of articles to take stock of eugenics.
What is hiding behind the eugenics term is often not well understood. Generally it has been used regarding a limited period of history, as if to imply that there is no reason to tackle this problem today. However, eugenic practices, in the most derogatory sense of the word, are very much present today and are spreading insidiously, under the pretexts of human development and freedom. To such a point that some personalities, however far removed from morality, or even foreign to all morality, are worried and are raising the alarm.
There are even men of the church, in different ways and to different degrees, to develop arguments in favor of eugenics or to justify it in certain cases. This is one of the painful chapters of the crisis that the Church has experienced for more than half a century.
The word eugenics is a recent one. According to the Etymology Dictionary it is a doctrine of progress in evolution of the human race, race-culture, from 1883, coined (along with adjectiveeugenic) by English scientist Francis Galton (1822-1911) on analogy ofethics,physics, etc. from Greekeugeneswell-born, of good stock, of noble race, fromeu-good and genosbirth (from PIE root*gene-give birth, beget).
The word indicates the discipline which studies the methods likely to improve the characteristic characters of the human populations, and the adjective which concerns or applies this discipline. () Similarly, EUGENIE n. (1930) is dated. EUGENISM n. (1887), is didactic, like EUGENIST n. (1935) and adj. (1941), borrowed from the English eugenist (n., 1908; adj., 1921); these terms are marked by their time and by their subsequent use relating to the politics of racist and dictatorial regimes. [Historical Dictionary of the French Language, Le Robert]
Larousse gives this definition: the theoretical and practical study of all the means capable ofprotecting, increasing and perfecting the most robust and best endowed elements of the human races, i.e., to safeguard the genetic quality of future generations.
The word therefore covers all the sciences and methods which seek the progress of the human race, and it is sometimes used in this very general sense. But in a more limited sense, it is above all about dealing with population problems:
1) problems concerning the quantity of the population (positive measures favorable to the increase in the number, from the prohibition of abortion and neo-Malthusian propaganda, to the institution of family benefits, tax-free family allowances, etc.; negative measures tending, on the contrary, to limit this number: contraceptive propaganda, legal abortions, sterilization, etc.);
2) problems concerning the quality of the population (measures relating to normal or pathological inheritance: positive and negative measures; and measures relating to the environment: positive prophylactic measures; or negative measures: fight against social ills, alcoholism, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases). [S. de Lestapis, Eugenique et Eugnisme in Catholicism.]
Note that these measures refer to a distinction that has become commonplace between positive eugenics which seeks to promote the reproduction of the fittest, and negative eugenics which seeks, on the contrary, to prevent the multiplication of the unfit.
Some eugenicists go so far as to promote, through appropriate methods, an artificial selection leading to the appearance of a superior race, under the guise of improving the human race. This concern, which might seem anachronistic at the start of the 21st century, when we know the repulsion it provoked as a result of its use by the Hitler regime, is present explicitly in many circles. Robert Edwards, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2010, who carried out the first in vitro fertilization, nicknamed father of the first test-tube baby wrote: We have to improve the human race.
In order to distinguish among the different types of eugenics that exist, it is necessary to construct a historical panorama.
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Posted: at 7:42 pm
s coronavirus continues to rampage across the globe, it has become apparent that, while biologically the virus may not discriminate, it is having a much worse effect on people from ethnic minorities. As the researcher Omar Khan has noted, BAME Covid-19 deaths track existing social determinants of health such as overcrowding in homes, insecure work and lack of access to green spaces. In other words, the virus is hitting people harder not because it can see their race but because racialised people those who are categorised by societies as, say, black or brown are more vulnerable.
And this is not the only way that race is playing a role in the crisis. All around the world, minority communities are disproportionately targeted by ramped-up policing that has accompanied the enforcement of lockdown measures. Data from New South Wales in Australia reveals that, although the richer, whiter Sydney beach suburbs have the majority of Covid-19 infections, it is in the neighbourhoods with larger numbers of people of migrant origin and indigenous Australians that people have received the most fines for breaching social distancing directives. The US has seen a business-as-usual approach to police brutality targeting black people while, at the same time, groups of overwhelmingly white people in New Yorks West Village freely breached social distancing.
Some voices are uninterested in this connection between race and the virus or treat it with derision. Campaigners are twisting BAME Covid data to further their victimhood agenda, reads a commentator in the Daily Telegraph. An article in Quillette the online magazine of the so-called intellectual dark web asks the question Do Covid-19 racial disparities matter? before concluding: The fact is our culture is obsessed with race. These responses are the product of a discourse in the west that for decades has claimed that making it about race unnecessarily sensationalises an issue. But as BAME people die and suffer disproportionately from a virus, it is clear that race is about power which is very much contrary to the way that it is usually discussed.
The usual discussion of race in Britain is exemplified by conservative academics and political commentators who argue against what they see as an unhelpful leftwing moralism around issues of race and migration, which silences the concerns of a working class that they portray as uniquely white. In 2018, the online publication UnHerd organised a panel discussion originally titled Is rising ethnic diversity a threat to the west?, before this was changed following a backlash. In response to an open letter against the event signed by more than 230 academics, two of the organisers, Eric Kaufmann and Matthew Goodwin, wrote that large numbers of people across western democracies do feel under threat from immigration and rising ethnic diversity. There is no point shying away from it.
Through books, media appearances and social media, these commentators have created a climate where the conversation around race is defined by free-speech rationalists pitted against irrational antiracists. These antiracists see race everywhere, supposedly demonising and silencing everyone with concerns about migrants, Muslims or black people the same people who are now dying disproportionately of Covid-19. But race is not a category that antiracists impose on the world, or a debating point about individual morality: it is a factor that shapes the lives of the people who are racialised.
At its most extreme, this discourse has enabled a return of eugenics treating the pseudoscience as just another part of the marketplace of ideas. The seemingly benign term race realism is defended by a growing circle of pundits who argue for the spurious claims of behavioural genetics and differential IQ dividing the middle class from the poor; white and Asian from black people.
The British associate editor of Quillette magazine, Toby Young, epitomises the worrying nexus between free speech advocacy, eugenics cheerleading and now coronavirus scepticism. Young has advocated for genetically engineered intelligence to be offered to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs. He has now started Lockdown Sceptics, a website opposing measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 by staying home. It publishes links to articles by other sceptics whose past output has the common thread of opposing antiracism in the name of free speech.
Racial inequality is expressed in all dimensions of life. But given that it takes the form during the coronavirus pandemic of disproportionate deaths, the growing calls to relax social distancing measures across the global north further signal societies disregard for the lives of racialised people. This disregard was made possible in societies that declare themselves post-race by the treatment of racism as a matter of mere opinion, with commentators and activists given carte blanche to vilify migrants and Muslims, double down on anti-blackness and anti-Roma racism, and ramp up antisemitism in the interests of media balance.
The pandemic shows us that race is not a biological fact, as the race realists believe, since there is no meaningful biological explanation for the BAME experience of Covid-19. Instead it is a technology of governance that shapes the life chances of many racialised people and maintains white supremacy.
Alana Lentin is an associate professor in cultural and social analysis at Western Sydney University and author of Why Race Still Matters
Viewpoint: Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man’ is both deeply disturbing and more relevant than ever – Genetic Literacy Project
Posted: at 7:42 pm
Charles Darwins Descent of Man is full of unexpected delights such as the trio of hard drinking, chain-smoking koalas that appear within its first few pages to illustrate our affinity to animals.
Yet Darwins great treatise on human origins is also, in parts, deeply disturbing.
Published a century and a half ago as of February, 2021 many of the opinions expressed in this seminal text (koalas aside) are still pertinent today. Indeed, despite (or rather, because of) the recent revolution in our understanding of genetics, the Descent is more relevant than ever.
Darwins wider musings on mankind have had an immense and lasting influence on our beliefs about human nature and behavior, not just scientifically, but socially and politically as well. And while the more reprehensible later applications of evolutionary theory to human society were not truly Darwinian at all, many troubling arguments about race, class, eugenics and the like can nonetheless be discerned within his Descent of Man.
Darwins intellectual legacy is part of the DNA of modern genetics, within which still lurk like malignant metaphorical retroviruses liable to revival and resurgence many of the odious beliefs that plagued its past.
What follows, therefore, are a few brief illustrative examples of problematic passages in the Descent of Man. The point is not as is common with many of Darwins detractors to simply cherry-pick quotes to make Darwin look bad (although, unfortunately, this is easy to do); rather it is to highlight how Darwin himself struggled with the social implications of his theory and this despite the many decades he had to dwell on these questions. Indeed, the rapid, recent explosion in our knowledge of genetics has not made the situation clearer, but rather more confused.
But lets begin with the contrast of some of the more captivating aspects of the Descent those which provide a glimpse of Darwin as an actual human being. (The on-going fascination with Darwin and the impetus for the seemingly inexhaustible Darwin Industry is not just due to his ideas and his genius, but also because he was a fascinating individual.)
Within the first few pages of Chapter 1, for example, Darwin notes that [m]any kinds of monkeys have a strong taste for tea, coffee, and spirituous liquors: they will also, as I have seen, smoke tobacco with pleasure. Not content with this as a single amusing anecdote of animals addictive affinities to mankind, he proceeds to discuss the three koalas mentioned above ones that acquired a strong taste for rum, and for smoking tobacco and an American Ateles monkey that, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus was wiser than many men. He also delights in describing the consequences for a group of African baboons of over-indulgence in strong beer:
On the following morning they were very cross and dismal; they held their aching heads with both hands, and wore a most pitiful expression: when beer or wine was offered them, they turned away with disgust
Similar endearing animal anecdotes pepper the rest of the text, culminating after chapter upon chapter of detailed argument and speculation on the evolutionary origins of mankind (plus an extended interlude of the theory of sexual selection) with the rousing conclusion that we should not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in [our] veins.
For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogsas from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
Darwin clearly liked animals better than people. Less facetiously, it is lurid passages such as these that make modern readers uncomfortable. Admittedly, this particular quotation does come straight after another glimpse of Darwin as an actual person; already in his sixties when he wrote these words, he evokes the memories of his 20-something self, aboard the Beagle, on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore:
The astonishment which I felt will never be forgotten by me for the reflection at once rushed into my mindsuch were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful.
Given a modern appreciation of the manifold horrors of colonialism, it is a thorny question how we should deal with descriptions that clearly reflect the prejudices of their author. Does such obvious subjective opinion, for example, undermine the purportedly objective arguments that accompany it?
In this instance at least we can perhaps make allowances; after all, the first encounter between Darwin a wealthy young man from what was then the most technologically-advanced nation in the world and the Stone Age inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego must indeed have been astonishing. Moreover, unlike his cousin Francis Galton (who both coined and promoted the concept of eugenics), Darwin was not an explicit racist. (His loathing of slavery, for instance, comes across particularly strongly in the Journal of the Voyage of the Beagle.) Yet Darwin was also a product of a time when it seemed patently obvious that the English (and possibly the Scots) were the first among the civilized races. Further, the Descent also reflects the prevailing concept of a human hierarchy, descending from Europeans through the various barbarous, savage or lower races to mankinds closest living relatives amongst the anthropomorphous apes.
In a now-notorious passage, Darwin ranks the native inhabitants of Africa and Australia as just above the gorilla in the natural scale. At the same time, he callously concludes that the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.
Nor was Darwins chauvinism confined simply to other races the lower classes of his own society were equally a target for his blatant prejudice. Indeed, as he remarks, at least [w]ith savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health.
We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.
And it is perhaps here that Darwins legacy even if distorted and exaggerated by the likes of Galton is most worrying in the modern age of embryonic screening, genetic manipulation and, potentially, genetically-enhanced designer babies. Today we are increasingly able to use genetic techniques to eliminate deleterious genes such as those for Huntingtons disease from future generations. But where is the line between an obviously harmful trait and an undesirable one? Is termination of fetuses with Down syndrome actually eugenics? Or what about those screened as having autism?
In Darwins pre-genetic age, these were questions that could not yet be asked, let alone answered. Of more relevance, however, was Darwins personal concern, having married his first cousin, Emma Wedgewood, with the possible inherited ill-effects of inbreeding on his own children. But even here, as he confidently asserts in the Descent, science would eventually come up with an answer:
When the principles of breeding and inheritance are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.
Yet while science can certainly inform our moral (or, in this case, legal) decisions, it cannot decide them facts do not determine values. Darwin half-heartedly acknowledges this when he concedes we ought not check our sympathy [for the weak], even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.
In the concluding paragraph to the Descent of Man, he goes on to claim, we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. And while many of Darwins own hopes and fears appear inextricably tangled with his subjective version of the truth, it is his final closing description of humankinds noble qualities and exalted powers that perhaps shows the way beyond these ethical dilemmas: the sympathy which feels for the most debased, the benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, and our godlike intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system.
Modern genetics now allows us to penetrate into the very constitution of life itself. Informed by the history of what Darwin and his followers got right and what they got wrong, surely we can extend our sympathy, our benevolence and our godlike intellect to confront the moral demons that this new exalted power has conjured in our path.
Patrick Whittle has a PhD in philosophy and is a freelance writer with a particular interest in the social and political implications of modern biological science. Follow him on his website patrickmichaelwhittle.com or on Twitter @WhittlePM
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Posted: at 7:42 pm
Jewish ethicist Paul Root Wolpe will discuss Ethical Challenges of the COVID Pandemic in this years Tzedek Lecture on Thursday, May 14.
The Oregon Humanities Center talk will start at 4 p.m. on Zoom.Registration is required.
Wolpe will speak on emerging ethical issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Included will be questions about allocating scarce resources; inherent biases of age, class, race and disability; privacy; the ethics of social distancing; and the importance of leadership.
Wolpe is the Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics and director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, where he is a professor in the departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Sociology.
Wolpes work focuses on the social, religious, ethical and ideological effects of medicine and technology on the human condition. His teaching and publications range across multiple fields of bioethics and sociology, including death and dying, genetics and eugenics, sexuality and gender, mental health and illness, alternative medicine, and bioethics in extreme environments such as space.
He also writes and talks about the Jewish contribution to thinking about the ethical aspects of medicine and technology.
Wolpe, a member of Atlantas Congregation Shearith Israel, participates in Scientists in Synagogues, a program that explores interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. He is the son of the late Rabbi Gerald I. Wolpe, one of the great figures in American Jewish life, and brother of Rabbi David Wolpe, the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
Wolpe spent 15 years as a senior bioethicist for NASA, where he still serves as a bioethical consultant. He is the editor in chief of theAmerican Journal of BioethicsNeuroscience. He is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, the current president of the Association of Bioethics Program Directors and served as the first national bioethics adviser to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Posted: at 7:42 pm
Image Description: Books on a shelf about eugenics.
Warning: this article refers to content which may be considered disturbing, including incitement to hatred, physical violence, racism, ableism, eugenics, and Nazis. It also discusses trigger warnings, triggering content, prejudice, discrimination, and hate crimes.
The most frustrating thing in the debate about the SU motion, and in the broader societal discourse it represents, is that so many people refuse to acknowledge that it is a matter of where to draw the line. Both sides agree that sometimes free speech should be curbed to prevent harm. Thats why incitement to hatred is illegal. And both sides agree that free speech should not be curbed by people being mildly irritated. Calling someone stupid is not very nice, but we should not ban the word.
The point is that there are two key qualities which are incompatible, and hence we must draw a line. Legally, in the UK, the line between freedom of expression and preventing harm has been represented by hate speech. Where we put the line depends on the context: the legal context is one of effectively banning speech by illegalising it. The debate about the SU motion? Also, at its core, about free speech and preventing harm. But we can have a slightly lower bar than the UKs legal bar because we are not banning speech. We are just making it non-mandatory and giving it trigger warnings.
But it would be helpful if people like Dawkins could recognise that the SU is sometimes right. Moreover, if the SU could recognise that Dawkins is sometimes right. Let me illustrate. Imagine a 20-minute long video portraying in graphic detail the physical violence involved in a warincluding gruesome shots of people being shot. I think Dawkins and everyone on the side of free speech shouting about snowflakes would agree that this should not be mandatory. They would probably agree that before being shown it, we would expect a warning of what is to come. If you are not convinced by this example, just make the content more and more graphicat some point, you will agree. There are some things people should not be forced to see, even for the sake of education. Butobviouslynot everything. Some things must be mandatory.
So, the simple question is this: where do we draw the line? How do we define which content counts, and which does not? It is worth really emphasising this: the definitions matter. Not only do they matter, but they are vital when discussing and resolving this debate. Because the real disagreement is about where we should locate the definition. The reason why there is so much debate and concern echoed by moral philosophers and commentators on Twitter alike is because they worry about the definition setting too low a barespecially when it is imprecise. So, if we really do want to introduce TWs and non-mandatory content, it is worth getting this right.
There are some things people should not be forced to see, even for the sake of education. Butobviouslynot everything. Some things must be mandatory.
And that is why the SU motion failed usbecause their motion was devoid of definitions, sloppy, and unclear. It is also why the debate around it is always so slippery and inconclusive. For where did they draw the line and thus what did the motion achieve? Those who are in favour of the general sentiment, or align themselves with the SU/liberally, interpret it as drawing the line where they feel it should be. No wonder, then, that they support it. Those shouting about free speech and snowflakes are also imagining up a line. Moreover, they are imagining it being so low as to genuinely threaten free speech. No wonder, then, that they are so vocally against it.
But no ones ever going to resolve the debate when we are at crossroads like this. We need to look not at where the SU might have drawn the line, or what they might have intended. Rather, we should look at what the SU did, and where they drew the line. I think we should interpret the SUs intentions charitably. Maybe they did have a clear line in mindmaybe they intended to draw a line which is well-motivated. But that is not what is on paper. That is not what the motion does.
Let us first consider the intention to make certain content non-mandatory. What definition did they use to define whether content should be mandatory rather than non-mandatory? Well, officially, the appendix defines this as content which would legally be considered criminal hate speech. Thats assuming that concept is applied to trans, non-binary, disabled, working-class, and women* groups, as well as those already protected. But in the Council Notes section 2, it suggests setting guidelines on non-mandatory content based on what is prejudicial towards these same groups.
So, which is it? Prejudicial content, or criminal hate speech? And it matters because they are completely different. When Boris Johnson wrote the disgusting phrase regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies, he was unequivocally being prejudicial. But it was not criminal hate speech. The SU draws two very different lines, and it is unclear why. This is sloppy, and as I will explore, it has extremely problematic consequences.
One worry is that this falsely equates prejudicial content with criminal hate speech. As I say, these are not the same. That is why they are dealt with separately in the law. The CPS notes that a hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property. Sure, these things might be done on the grounds of prejudicethen it would be a hate crime. But prejudicial content itself is not a hate crime.
And that is why the SU motion failed usbecause their motion was devoid of definitions, sloppy, and unclear. It is also why the debate around it is always so slippery and inconclusive. For where did they draw the line and thus what did the motion achieve?
Its clear that the SU doesnt really mean to make use of the criminal hate speech criterion because the *one* example it gives as the sort of content that ought to be non-mandatory wouldnt itself be considered criminal hate speech. Yes, the article entitled Why We Should Pick the Best Children is prejudiced. But it does not constitute verbal abuse, intimidation, threatening, harassment, assault/bullying or damage to property. And the protection of freedom of expression explicitly states that this does not prohibit or restrict discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule [or] insult.
Just to give an example, in 2009 Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were acquitted after insulting Ericka Tazi for wearing a hijab. If insulting someone for wearing a hijab does not count as criminal hate speech, it is unlikely insulting someone for their disability counts. Certainly, the items on the reading list would not.
Some may think that content which does not amount to criminal hate speech should be non-mandatoryin which case, the SU motion was insufficient. Others may think that this definition is about rightbut then, the SUs example and the intent was wrongin which case, the SU motion was insufficient. There is a common theme: the SU motion was insufficientand all because it was sloppy with definitions.
Either way, the fact that their example does not count as criminal hate speech leaves us with just prejudicial as a definitionwhich is far too low a bar. But before I explain why, note that the SU determines content should have a TW on the same basisif it is prejudicial. The phrase trigger warning is used just once in the entire motion and appendix; as it happens, in the last sentence of the appendix. There it proposes introducing TWs for prejudicial material. But content should not be made non-mandatory (or require a TW) just because it is prejudicial. Prejudicial is too low a bar to set.
Some may think that content which does not amount to criminal hate speech should be non-mandatory Others may think that this definition is about rightbut then, the SUs example and intent was wrong There is a common theme: the SU motion was insufficientand all because it was sloppy with definitions.
Lets start by showing how setting too low a bar for content to become non-mandatory is genuinely and seriously problematic. That is if we made all content which irritates people non-mandatory; or content we dislike, annoys us, or that we simply disagree with. All these stifle debate and stop people from engaging with rival or opposing views. And no matter what, you will have to come across such beliefs in the worldit is part of life to disagree and get a bit annoyed. And the benefit of engaging with irritating content is that we engage with other viewpoints. But also that we learn about other viewpoints: what they are, why people believe them, and how we might convince others to change their mind. These are key reasons we should engage with prejudicial content.
Consider content which discusses Nazi propaganda. Nazi propaganda is certainly prejudicial. But should such content be made non-mandatory? Absolutely not. How can one learn about what happened without understanding what the Nazis believed? How can one appreciate the dangers of something similar happening againand how to stop itwithout understanding what the Nazis were saying? And how can one convince the very few contemporary Nazi sympathisers they are wrong without engaging with their prejudiced views? One cannot. Engaging with prejudicial views is as essential to a university education as engaging with positions one dislikes or disagrees with.
But there are times when Nazi propaganda, or prejudicial content more generally, should be made non-mandatory. For instance, when it commonly evokes feelings of trauma or severe distress in people. But this content should not be made non-mandatory because it is prejudicial, but because it is triggering.
That is my proposal for how the SU should have gone about this. Content should be made non-mandatory if it is genuinely psychologically triggering. This goes neatly together with my other proposal: we should introduce trigger warnings for triggering content, not prejudicial content. And, bonus: this makes it super clear which content is/is not mandatory: the content with TWs is non-mandatory.
If we made all content which irritates people non-mandatory; or content we dislike, annoys us, or that we simply disagree with. All these stifle debate and stop people from engaging with rival or opposing views. And no matter what, you will have to come across such beliefs in the worldit is part of life to disagree and get a bit annoyed.
But that is not what the SU proposed. Their proposal only mentioned TWs once and did not attempt to define them. Sure, its really hard to define when trigger warnings should be introducedyou have to account for what counts as feelings of trauma. Moreover, you have to consider how commonly a stimulus must cause such feelings in people to require a trigger warning. But the SU didnt even try, nor did they outsource the definition to an appropriate body that has done the job for them. Guy Boysens article comes to mind.
(c.f. Evidence-based answers to questions about trigger warnings for clinically-based distress: A review for teachers).
Trigger warnings should be reserved for content, which is genuinely triggering, not just prejudicial. One could introduce content warnings (CWs) for that. But that is another debate. Equivocating prejudicial and triggering content trivialises TWs. So many people as it completely misunderstands the entire concept of triggers. Therefore, the last thing we should do is completely misrepresent and trivialise them.
And this trivialisation of TWs can be found in the SU motion, which was marked with a TW for misogyny. The only word in the entire motion (and its appendix) which could be considered misogynistically triggering is misogyny (or derivatives) itself. And this obviously cannot be triggering because the very word appears in the trigger warning itself! Where they find misogynistically triggering content in the Councils motion/appendix, I do not know. Similarly of the TWs for transphobia and classism. The only trigger warnings which arguably do apply are ableism and eugenics because of the mention of the FHS Medical Law and Ethics reading list titles.
A recent article eloquently explained that reading could be triggering because it questions someones existence based on their identityincluding, for example, a disability. This is an extremely valid discussion, and it is not an open-and-shut case. It is not clear whether such content is triggering or should amount to hate speechbut I agree with the author that such content hinders rather than helps students learning. In short, as Kate Manne wrote, trigger warnings are not about feelings being highly unpleasant or prejudiced but about them temporarily render[ing] people unable to focus, regardless of their desire or determination to do so.
Trivialisation of TWs can be found in the SU motion, which was marked with a TW for misogyny. The only word in the entire motion (and its appendix) which could be considered misogynistically triggering is misogyny (or derivatives) itself. And this obviously cannot be triggering because the very word appears in the trigger warning itself!
In response, I think it would be easy to slightly broaden our definition to make content that questions someones existence based on their identity non-mandatory and include content warnings for them. And we can do this without making the far more problematic, broad-sweeping, and vague definition about prejudicial content.
But that is not what the SU did. So, what does their proposal entail?
Firstly, by being so utterly unclear, future interpretations about what content should be non-mandatory/display TWs could range from any mildly upsetting content to only incitement to hatred. But the latter is far too high a bar and does not rule out enough content. Hence, the SU motions sloppiness might enable future commentators to completely undermine the intention of the motion.
Yet more worrying is the mildly upsetting interpretation, under which virtually all content would be non-mandatory, and feature TWs. By their own demonstration, any content including the word misogynistic should have a TW, which is ludicrous. The reason for this is that the motion entirely fails to distinguish directly prejudicial from indirectly prejudicial content. Consider the difference between contemporary content arguing in favour of the holocaust and historical studies of the holocaust that quote historical content arguing in favour of the holocaust. The former I call directly prejudicialand indeed, directly counts as hate speech. The latter is indirectly prejudicial: it is not itself prejudicial, or hate speech, but it features content that is.
I imagine that the motion primarily meant to make content non-mandatory if it directly counts as criminal hate speech or is directly prejudicial. But there is no real reason why the embedded hate speech in indirectly hateful content would be less triggering than the hate speech indirectly hateful content. Quotations of Nazi propaganda are as capable of render[ing] people unable to focus and triggering feelings of trauma as the Nazi propaganda itself.
So, the motion would not only rule out all content that is directly prejudicial but all content that is indirectly prejudicialwhich includes virtually any work of history or literature. And this is unbelievably problematic. Is it wrong to make a lecture mandatory which, in a discussion of Martin Luther King Jr., considers the prejudice levelled against him and other people based on race by looking at quotations which are prejudicial? As far as I am concerned, no one can engage with the issue of the Civil Rights movement without considering the prejudicial beliefs and statements faced at the time. That is why it should be mandatory.
Consider the difference between contemporary content arguing in favour of the holocaust, and historical studies of the holocaust that quote historical content arguing in favour of the holocaust. The former I call directly prejudicialand indeed, directly counts as hate speech. The latter is indirectly prejudicial: it is not itself prejudicial, or hate speech, but it features content that is.
And if such a low bar is adopted, it would not even help. If we start adding TWs to the majority of items, students avoiding these TWs will feel like theyre stuck with two rubbish options. Either they could risk reading content marked with a TW because theyre overwhelmingly commonwhich is unfair on them. Or, they could stick with reading an insufficient part of the reading listwhich is not only unfair on them academically but also undermines academic engagement with a variety of viewsthe whole point of university. Similarly to making most of the content non-mandatory. And, as noted, it would massively trivialise TWs.
Most worrying of all is the ominous last line of the appendix. This states that prejudicial content should require trigger warnings at a bare minimum. In combination with the fact that it fails to define what counts as prejudicial content, this predicts extremely oppressive future policies. Do we ban all prejudicial content? Even indirectly prejudicial content? Do we ostracise or even kick out people promoting or discussing it?
The SU may have not intended for the potential consequences I have discussed, where completely benign items are made non-mandatory. Or where virtually nothing on the history syllabus is mandatory, and where virtually everything requires a trigger warning. But the devil truly is in the details because intention doth butter no parsnips when it comes to subsequent interpretation and actual consequences. When looking back on what has been passed on paper (or rather, over the internet), the original intentions and the context in which it was written will be irrelevant and lost to the winds of time. The scarily broad applications I have highlighted could be enforced.
I can hear people saying that being pedantic like this is not good enough reason to quash the motion. But we should judge the motion not on what it may or may not have intended, but on what it does. Scrutinising keywords and definitions is vital to determining what a policy achieves. Imagine a political policy which intends to help the least well-off in society but does notit is in fact to the detriment of the least well-off. Should we cheer on the political policy because of its good intentions, or criticise its actual consequences and shortcomings? I know where I stand.
The devil truly is in the details because intention doth butter no parsnips when it comes to subsequent interpretation and actual consequences. When looking back on what has been passed on paper the original intentions and the context in which it was written will be irrelevant and lost to the winds of time. The scarily broad applications I have highlighted could be enforced.
So, criticisms of the SU motion are valid. The intention behind it may or may not have been right, but there is no point criticising or praising their intentions since they are so unclear. And anyway, criticising what a motion does is not the same as criticising its intention. And what it does is bad. The motion trivialises TWs. It hinders intellectual engagement. It enables restrictions on academic free speech. So, I suppose, Dawkins was right.
Mental health, trigger warnings and the rights of minority students are so important. And they do have a tough battle. So, we owe it to students to deal with them properly. And this SU motion completely fails to do so.
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