Andy Nash's Profile > Messages Posted

Subject: Today’s Shaming Culture

Forum: Today’s Shaming Culture
Jon Ronson, author of the best-seller “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”, reveals the fate of shamees after online mob attacks. Mob mentalities are nothing new, but there seems to be a lot more fickle public shaming these days driven by social media and the troll-lead mobs dwelling on them. And as in any other time, the norms & attitudes of the day, though not as cohesive anymore, tend to be the whimsical barometer of what speech or behavior—and thereby who—gets attacked. Depending on whose ox is getting gored, certain cultural attitudes have emerged over what is sufficiently appropriate or not for shaming. Fat shaming & slut shaming seem out, but lacking the proper sensitivity & racial etiquette, showing ableism, are fair game to name a few. Every generation had its attitudes, perhaps more judgmental than the prior, though about different things.

On college campuses prior to the Animal House era, you may have been shamed if you acted like a belligerent buffoon. When the counter-culture broke down the old values of politeness & social norms, much of what was lewd & rude became hip. Shaming no longer worked. Instead of eliciting what was artfully enlightening, free speech required profanity & vulgarity; curfews & requirements of chapel ceased; and the free love movement had students sleeping with their professors. Decades later, when the same generation found themselves running the schools, and new generations of students came in without those old social customs, they had to be reinvented and enforced with rules & policies. If there no longer was a sense of shame to keep your impulses in check, rules had to be imposed. New attitudes had to be formed to replace old-fashioned genteel morals. Ironically, the free-speech louts drafted speech codes, the free-lovers gave us expansive rules about consent, and moral relativism pervaded the same academe quick to recruit Social Justice Warriors commanding rigid obedience to their causes. No surprise today, we’ve reached a level of “academic mobbing” both in & out of the classroom, and a culture (aided by technology) to impulsively lash out against all that is associated with ‘hate’. And yes, we can find politicized examples left & right.

Are we more or less of a shaming culture today? Have we weaponized shaming to brow-beat the other tribe, rather than use it to maintain good behavior for its own sake? Do we know the difference? And can we still forgive?

Subject: Are we too over-politicized?

Forum: Are we too over-politicized?
With these midterms finally over, will Thanksgiving family dinner be less political? Asking if or why everything is political, is nothing new. But it certainly seems these days we’ve cranked it up to 11. It seems today nothing is free of politicization, whether it’s severe weather storms, Halloween costumes, athletes kneeling, virtually every joke by every late night comedian, any average day on a college campus, school curriculum, ancestry DNA, and I’m sure I can exceed my character limit.

What I’ve found disconcerting is the level of political saturation in everything, all facets of life we experience; and the level of toxicity we’ve reached on social media, blogs — everywhere. Whether it’s the Hamilton play a few years back, or flippant comments by celebrities at awards shows, you can’t even take a calm walk in the park without someone debating free-range parenting as a herd of kids run by (whereas before we’d just complain about the kids running by). Whether you agree or disagree, is there no escape?

With so much civic discourse so uncivil, what should we do? We seem to have become much more tribal along political lines than ever before. And all sides only continue to up the ante, reminding us each & every time that “this election is the most important ever”. And of course it is, but is it only because we’ve made it so? Is there really more at stake than before or during our nation’s most turbulent times: the Civil War, World Wars I & II, The Great Depression, Korea, Vietnam and the draft, Segregation and the Civil Rights movement? As fewer & fewer voters have the perspective of having lived through these times, people are more outraged now over same sex bathrooms and whether refusing to bake a certain type of wedding cake is a violation of civil if not human rights. Yet the indignation seems higher. Is it? Why? Should it be? Why / why not?

To be fair, it’s on both sides, although in different forms on the Left and the Right. Personally I’m glad the midterms are over, as I dig in for the annual war on Christmas. Maybe we’re too thin skinned, or we just sensationalize everything, maybe we’re just losing a common civic culture as we’re ready to pelt invective at those we deem as oppositional. How did everything rise to the level of an existential threat to my values or yours, or to civilization? Is it me, or are we just too overly political?

Subject: Does your College encourage viewpoint Diversity?

Forum: Does your College encourage viewpoint Diversity?
One of the staples of higher ed was to develop critical thinking, and “well-rounded” students, and to expose them to a variety of viewpoints to both challenge & strengthen one’s own beliefs; as well as to broaden & widen one’s understandings of the world.

When “Diversity” became a household buzzword in colleges & universities just over a few decades ago, it was mostly racial & ethnic diversification of both students & faculty, their retention; plus curricular, and extracurricular programs that displayed, showcased, and “celebrated” such diversity. The argument went: students & scholars of different backgrounds, life experiences & walks of life would benefit from increased exposure to varying viewpoints, by which they’d familiarize themselves of other cultural groups, and learn the plight & issues facing different them.

However, not everyone of a certain group has the same experiences or thinks alike, just because they belong to it. How much life experience do most 18-year olds have? It also implies that students who stand to learn something from other groups will, by their exposure alone, be intellectually curious enough to have that cultural exchange. But are they having it, when people of the same groups tend to socialize and cling together?

Then there was social justice: that historically disadvantaged groups would enjoy access to higher ed, thereby attaining better employment opportunities. But this is only if they’re prepared for college, graduate, and find gainful work after majoring in something promising.

Then there is everyone’s inclusion—the idea that learning is stifled if students don’t feel both safe & included. Hence all the conduct policies, guidelines & value statements mostly for students, warning about hate, intolerance, & harassment. One school even stated “Intolerance shall not be Tolerated”, until sued in court to change the policy claiming it created a chilling effect on free speech.

To eliminate hateful, harassing forms of expression and encourage civility, have we erred on the side of stifling robust, challenging, vigorous debate & discourse, in contrast to sharpening minds to prepare for the rigors of the real world? Can that happen if everything we hear that makes us uncomfortable, is ‘hate speech’, from which we seek isolation & protection in our ‘safe place’? Has well-intended Diversity become about making sure everyone looks different but thinks the same way?

Subject: 3D gun printing: 1st or 2nd Amendment?

Forum: 3D gun printing: 1st or 2nd Amendment?
3D gun printing has resurfaced recently as a controversy in the news. In 2013 Cody Wilson and his Defense Distributed organization was ordered to take down from his website plans and files to able to 3d print a gun, saying it violated International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) since anyone anywhere in the world could access it. He sued in 2015, and this summer the DoJ settled the suit along the lines of a free speech claim his lawyers made, that he has the right to spread information in addition to bearing arms. They also ruled that export of all such things related would soon fall under the Commerce Department.

To be clear, his files did not enable one to “print” a gun, they simply contained the code to print most of the receiver, or the frame of the firearm, which has to be further assembled with other parts to work. Although the plans outline for a metal firing pin and 3.7 ounces of metal to pass airport security, they do not contain serial numbers, so they can’t be registered to anyone.

Most experts aren’t worried about this as they say these 3d prints aren’t viable and they seldom work correctly and can’t be made effectively to continue working, given the types of printers. The type of printers you’d need to shape metal at the requisite temps would costs $100,000s. But opponents are already opposed to Wilson and others from spreading the software code, and they say printers will improve with time and become cheaper. A Washington State judge ordered an injunction further halting the activity. At least 20 states have joined to sue the federal government for allowing them to “settle” with Wilson, and seek to continue the prohibition.

The real interesting facet of this is the free speech argument. The fact that 3d printed firearms could cause harm, doesn’t strip one’s 1st amendment rights to publicize it. But should be considered as Protected speech ? Since the conveying of info is necessary in this case for the 1st amendment to apply, one could argue the code conveys info that instructs the computer and printer what to do. So is computer code free speech? Why or why not? And if so, should it be trumped by something like this? Why? Should the info be kept legal, but printing illegal?

Subject: The future of our Digital Souls

Forum: The future of our Digital Souls
In a sort of inverse of the Matrix, in the 2009 Bruce Willis movie Surrogates , people are connected to android versions of themselves that go about in their place in the physical world, in daily life, leaving their hosts safe at home. In the first few episodes of the 2010 Sci-Fi series Caprica , (Battlestar Gallactica spin-off), an engineer finds a digital avatar of his tragically killed teenage daughter Zoe, which held her thoughts and memories that she recorded, and infuses them into a robot called a cylon. This allows him to interact with her formal self.

But if sci-fi is any indication of the future, we may be already heading there. We put our lives on social media, creating a dense record over time, including our thoughts & likes, feelings, etc. But after we’re gone, that digital footprint remains, hence why Facebook is becoming a digital graveyard , where the number of deceased persons’ accounts will outnumber the living. But what if we harness & utilize all that data in a more dynamic way? There are companies like working on it right now, endeavoring to fix gaps & errors in the fallibility of human memory to recall accurately. Others are working on total brain emulation.

As explained in Back-up Brains , scientists are seeking to extract info without destroying the brain tissue, and remap the brain in 3d. The science is not there yet to do so viably, nor the computing power to map down to the molecular level to create the neural synapsis for memories, and ultimately consciousness as we know it to be simulated artificially. Also our brains actually don’t recall all things, we figure out how to place importance of certain memories over others.

As the AI improves, this future may become dystopian, where everyone gets a digital legacy, surviving death as a digital avatar, left to interact with their loved ones as they remembered them. What would your great Aunt May have said about selfies? Let’s ask her. The AI would simulate exactly how they thought, based on the entirety of the brain.

Software can be connected to hardware, invoking the cylons, or cyborgs like the TV series Humans. So we may end up with “Surrogates” for the deceased. Should these sentient entities have the same rights as humans to stay “alive”? Would/Should there be a Digital Soul?

Subject: Should you lose your driver’s license for unpaid s

Forum: Should you lose your driver’s license for unpaid s
The NYT reported there were 20 states that have programs that revoke any number of professional licenses for lawyers, teachers, nurses, cosmetologists, real estate brokers and many others for defaulting on student loan payments. At least 2 states, Iowa and South Dakota (with little public transit) may even revoke driver’s licenses. Of course these are last-resort measures used to “strong-arm” borrowers in default to become current, and which reinstate licenses in most instances once they do.

But as a result of the story, a bipartisan proposal by senators Rubio and Warren seeks to prevent any revocation or suspension of drivers and occupational licenses, but would allow states 2 years to comply. For many people an occupational license or permit is their bread & butter, and prohibiting their activity by pulling their license greatly impedes their gainful employment and ability to pay on loans. Perhaps the reasoning of state agencies, tasked with enforcing repayment, was that there were many voluntary dead beats, who only paid if not too inconvenient, or not at all. Nevertheless, the reality for a long time has been debt amounts exceeding income or too much of it.

While most other states rely on garnishments, what do you think about states revoking licenses for defaulted loans? What about driver’s licenses? If you can’t work the job you’re licensed for, nor can you drive to any other job, how are you supposed to earn enough to break the cycle so as to get current on your loan? On the other hand, what are states supposed to do?

Regardless if you believe states should not do this, should federal legislation prohibit states from taking such measures? Shouldn’t states be able to revoke any licenses they issue to their residents, on any basis they deem fit? It’s not your right to drive, but a privilege they would argue. Maybe there should be more of a democratic debate within each state among state lawmakers as to whether that state should take such measures, rather than leaving it up to agencies, bureaucrats and unelected officials. But that’s the technocratic world we live in. Should we just allow the states to be laboratories of democracy or are they not even capable of fairly doing so? Or do we have to rely on federal law to intervene before we vote with our feet fleeing to other states?

Subject: Sports Gambling legal – call your bookie now!

Forum: Sports Gambling legal – call your bookie now!
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was a federal ban prohibiting 46 states from allowing sports betting (Nevada & 3 others were grandfathered in due to previous laws). The ban did not outlaw gambling on sports at the federal level, but simply forbade states from permitting it. Former & current NJ governors Chris Christie & Phil Murphy, sued on the basis of the 10th amendment, citing the federal power to “impermissibly commandeer the regulatory power of States”. NJ wanted to reap the tax revenue from limited in-house sports betting. The NCAA opposed it. The Supreme Court just finally struck down the ban. The majority opinion concurred, not on whether it should be banned, but that if congress wants it banned they have to do so at the federal level, then regulate & enforce it. Otherwise leave it up to the states to decide accordingly if & how to do it in each state.

Gambling revenues from March Madness plus all of college & pro sports would be a multi-billion dollar industry, allowing tax revenue states won’t want to leave on the table. Critics worry about everything from the integrity of sports with game fixing, to the social effects of compulsive gambling.

Should the feds just ban it at the federal level, or allow the states to be the laboratories of democracy? Or might there be a too big of a rush too soon leading to many problems on the way?

There are interesting parallels with other issues. If the feds permit or ban something they have to pay for its regulation and enforcement. But that goes both ways. Immigration falls under federal, and some argue this absolves California from cooperating with ICE enforcement. With drugs like marijuana (brought up by the dissenting justices), some state laws also outlaw it along with the federal, but many are legalizing it despite federal bans remaining in place.

What precedent do you think this may set and what effects do you foresee in any number of other economic and other legal realms where state vs. federal law may be in conflict?

Subject: Facebook and your privacy - ahem.

Forum: Facebook and your privacy - ahem.
Facebook has been in the hot seat with Zuckerberg testifying in front of U.S. Senate committees, especially over privacy concerns after the recent fallout with 87 million users’ date being shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Among the many ideas questioned was how do users exactly “own” their data, when they don’t get royalties from any of it that’s shared with third parties or advertisers. And depending on the privacy settings that many either don’t set, don’t understand, don’t trust, or are perhaps ignored by apps connecting to your facebook, their terms of agreement state “you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License)”, prompting LA Senator John Kennedy to say “Your User Agreement Sucks!”
He said it’s really just a CYA for Facebook.

Of the many facets of this, I’d like to focus on privacy. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) last May introduced the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly (BROWSER) Act of 2017 to protect the online privacy. It would require both ISPs as well as media content providers like FB & Google to acquire your consent prior to collecting & sharing your data.

Would you agree with the BROWSER Act? Do you believe there should be any government regulation on Social Media to protect users from data breeches and for privacy? If so how or in what form? Do you believe you should “own” your data in any meaningful sense beyond the current limits? How so, to what extent?

Or should there be no expectation whatsoever of privacy left anymore? Many people I’ve asked said the Social Media companies know everything about us anyway, so who cares. The algorithms already figure out what we like or think we want to see, so will it just be a matter of time before the lines blur between suggesting vs. prescribing what we buy, consume, see and do (or proscribing what not to). What need for privacy will there be once everything is all figured out for us ahead of time?

Subject: Teacher Student Sex Scandals and Double Standards

Forum: Teacher Student Sex Scandals and Double Standards
With 26-year-old married Stephanie Peterson accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student in Florida, teacher-student sex scandals are on the rise. It’s estimated that female perpetrated sex offenses account for about 10% of all reported nationwide, and for about a third in teacher-student cases. Sadly, the amount of teacher-student sexual misconduct has gone up, and the number of female-on-male transgressions increasing as well. But if the media were any indication, you’d think the majority were female, as there are far more salacious stories of reporting on female teachers.

Some blame increased use by more students of smartphones and social media; and that female teachers tend to ‘lure’ their victims via social media more so than male teachers. I did a previous forum on whether schools should ban social media interaction b/w teachers & students altogether.

One of the Psychologists and experts suggest that for males the motivation is usually just lust, but with women, some of whom were married, it’s a mix of a desire for power or control, or living out some fantasy, or they’re looking for affection.

Whatever the reasons, the question of double standards arise. It seems both parents, especially a father, would be outraged if a male teacher preys upon a female student. But female on male, maybe not so much. Perhaps the mothers might, but the fathers especially, not as much. While cases vary with charges and circumstances, punishments generally seem lighter (more probation, less jail time) for females unless convicted of assault or rape. Should we be less afraid for our sons than our daughters? And is there a double standard in the media for reporting more heavily on female teachers than males?

What do you think is at the root of the rise in this behavior, particularly among female teachers? And is society to blame writ large for somehow thinking that a male teen is perhaps less adversely affected than a female teen? Nevertheless, people in whom we place our trust as students and parents betray that trust more often, feeding a viscous circle of abused kids, as some perpetrators were abused themselves. What do you think would help reverse the trend?

Subject: More Global or Local?

Forum: More Global or Local?
With the increase of economic & political globalism in the past couple decades, combined with the evolution of online technology, the world seems to have gotten smaller, though crowded with more info. The focus & mindshare of consumers of news has been increasingly national & even international, or global. Even the local paper seems to be a thing of the past, where small town papers are bought up by larger media conglomerates supplanting wire stories & nationally syndicated columnists. As we’ve become seemingly more ideologically polarized over nationally issues, and as people move around and travel with greater ease and regularity for work or school than in the past, there seems less connectedness that younger people especially may feel to where they’re from or where they move away to, such as they’re college town.

Protestors were always out in force over everything from foreign wars (since Vietnam) to the death penalty, international sweatshop labor, to more recently this past year, speech they simply disagree with (Middlebury, Berkely, etc.). Strangely, the politically conscious rarely seemed to be involved in the local issues that effected them directly, from landlord tenant issues to particular zoning ordinances and discriminatory housing regulations that targeted them directly. If it wasn’t along the lines of race or gender, the story wasn’t sexy enough. But yet, they missed the memo from Civics 101, that the local municipal and school administration buildings aren’t the place to protest national & international policies. “All politics is local” is the famous phrase, but many can’t imagine why.

Interestingly, Google & Facebook, are apparently shifting attention back to local news. FB may now put more local news in your News Feed with their algorithm. Google is experimenting with crowdsourced news, things people see & record themselves aggregated for the people in the locality. Many advertisers are skeptical. I’m skeptical too, because almost everyone is from elsewhere. Is your “local” where you are, or where you’re from?

How can we foster greater civic engagement & community involvement in reality among people where they are? Isn’t that supposed to be the good-habit forming exercise as you mature through adulthood and seek to plant roots somewhere forming communities of your own someday? Or are we too far gone living in our digital bubbles that take us everywhere but leave us nowhere?

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