Category: Society and Culture

Online Polarization: Suffocated By My Overgrown Green Beard

[Content note: this post contains brief discussion of a suicide attempt] In 2007, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote an essay in which he argues for a social physics understanding of group extremism.  Why do cults often become stronger after the failure of a prophecy?  How do online forums become echo chambers?  Yudkowsky makes a physical analogy to evaporative cooling:

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Sequoia Elementary

Two former schoolmates and I recently published an open letter to the Berkeley school board (BUSD), along with a historical account of our elementary school’s 2005 democratic process to change our name from “Jefferson Elementary.”1 After two years of hard work by adults in the community, who wanted to create a more anti-racist learning environment for us,

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Everybody Hates Los Angeles

Every December, I head up to Northern California to see family and friends, and mostly I love catching up with everybody, and feasting, and singing, and other holiday things, but I also have to brace myself for a particular type of interaction: “How’s Los Angeles?”  “You haven’t become an LA native, have you?”  “They haven’t converted you, have

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Marketing Shapes How We Interact With Our Bodies

Health is one of those nebulous concepts that seems straightforward and obvious, but then on closer investigation is very difficult to pin down.  Of course, some health judgements are easy, but many aren’t possible to make without aesthetic judgements that are person- or culture-specific.  How important is physical capability?  How important is longevity?  Are athletes

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The Ironic Cultural Misrecollection of Sherlock Holmes

A couple years ago, sick of all the heavy literature I had been reading, I picked up the complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, expecting, in essence, a fun romp.  Sherlock Holmes was, I thought, the original puzzle-fiction: solvable who-dunnit (or how-dunnit) mysteries that encourage the reader to exercise their reasoning skills and that maybe teach something about

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Spiritual Connection to Nature is Punk AF

In her biography of Alexander Von Humboldt (influential 18th/19th century scientist who has been largely neglected by history), Andrea Wulf convincingly argues that Humboldt’s study of American biology was an important factor in the formation of a pan-American identity that led to Latin American independence from Spain.  Up until Humboldt’s observations indicated otherwise, Europeans generally

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Knowledge is a Human Project

I. I like to be generally personally correct.  This tendency of mine is nothing special.  Probably most people like to be correct.  Or at least we think we like to be correct. Often, I notice my opinions changing according to circumstance—according to who I’m talking to.  And like, what’s up with that?  Obviously the state

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