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Javier E

The 'E-Pimps' of OnlyFans - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Over the course of two dozen interviews spanning six countries, I’ve discovered a thriving warren of companies employing a similar business model, using ghostwriters on OnlyFans to provide digital intimacy at scale. These agencies operate, out of necessity, a little below the radar. They collectively represent hundreds of models, and some claim to bring in profits that can range into the seven figures annually.
  • OnlyFans started in 2016, and has since emerged as the top platform worldwide for creators to sell monthly subscriptions for self-produced erotic content. The platform has become synonymous with this sort of business, though some use it for other purposes.
  • The real product is relationships. Money from subscriptions can be trivial compared with the profits earned by selling custom videos, sexting sessions and other forms of fan interaction that require more concerted engagement than simply posting to a feed.
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  • Above all, the manual emphasized efficiency. Managers were told to answer DMs in less than five minutes, since users were coming to OnlyFans for immediate gratification and would go elsewhere if ignored. It encouraged the creation of keyboard shortcuts, so that managers could deploy an arsenal of rote sexual phrases with a few keystrokes, steering conversations toward the hard sell. It also outlined a series of strategies to boost engagement on the pages, including a gambit in which models would offer to rate a picture of a subscriber’s penis for a fee.
  • “Every page needs to have an established back story to make the person seem more believable,” it stated. OnlyFans works because people pay for a connection that feels deeper than porn. The document encouraged Ekko’s employees, called page managers, to identify “big spenders” who would part ways with more than $200 in short order, and cultivate a deep rapport by asking about their life and what they do for a living.
  • This can be extremely time-consuming: In an interview with this magazine last year, an OnlyFans creator said she spends six hours a day just sexting with subscribers. But these relationships are important to cultivate. In a blog post on its website, OnlyFans encourages creators to cater to their “superfans,” who pay for custom content and will “give more if they feel they’re getting something special.”
  • But all of them take advantage of the same raw materials: the endless reproducibility of digital images; the widespread global availability of cheap English-speaking labor; and the world’s unquenchable desire for companionship.
  • The key to this business model is the ready availability of cheap English-speaking labor around the globe. Job postings for OnlyFans chatters are widespread on freelance sites like Upwork, many offering as little as $3 an hour. Agency heads told me they’ve hired workers from Eastern Europe, Africa and all across Southeast Asia. “At the end of the day, it is a geo-arbitrage business,”
  • This phenomenon is part of a broader boom in homespun online businesses that connect cheap developing-world labor with American consumers, allowing the proprietor to step back and reap the profits
  • During his stint as a chatter, Andre has become intimately familiar with the quirks and desires of the subscribers. Over time, he’s learned something of a sex-work cliché: More than sexual gratification, he said, many of the guys just want someone to talk to
Javier E

Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories.
  • Social media has weakened all three.
  • gradually, social-media users became more comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives with strangers and corporations. As I wrote in a 2019 Atlantic article with Tobias Rose-Stockwell, they became more adept at putting on performances and managing their personal brand—activities that might impress others but that do not deepen friendships in the way that a private phone conversation will.
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  • the stage was set for the major transformation, which began in 2009: the intensification of viral dynamics.
  • Before 2009, Facebook had given users a simple timeline––a never-ending stream of content generated by their friends and connections, with the newest posts at the top and the oldest ones at the bottom
  • That began to change in 2009, when Facebook offered users a way to publicly “like” posts with the click of a button. That same year, Twitter introduced something even more powerful: the “Retweet” button, which allowed users to publicly endorse a post while also sharing it with all of their followers.
  • “Like” and “Share” buttons quickly became standard features of most other platforms.
  • Facebook developed algorithms to bring each user the content most likely to generate a “like” or some other interaction, eventually including the “share” as well.
  • Later research showed that posts that trigger emotions––especially anger at out-groups––are the most likely to be shared.
  • By 2013, social media had become a new game, with dynamics unlike those in 2008. If you were skillful or lucky, you might create a post that would “go viral” and make you “internet famous”
  • If you blundered, you could find yourself buried in hateful comments. Your posts rode to fame or ignominy based on the clicks of thousands of strangers, and you in turn contributed thousands of clicks to the game.
  • This new game encouraged dishonesty and mob dynamics: Users were guided not just by their true preferences but by their past experiences of reward and punishment,
  • As a social psychologist who studies emotion, morality, and politics, I saw this happening too. The newly tweaked platforms were almost perfectly designed to bring out our most moralistic and least reflective selves. The volume of outrage was shocking.
  • It was just this kind of twitchy and explosive spread of anger that James Madison had tried to protect us from as he was drafting the U.S. Constitution.
  • The Framers of the Constitution were excellent social psychologists. They knew that democracy had an Achilles’ heel because it depended on the collective judgment of the people, and democratic communities are subject to “the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions.”
  • The key to designing a sustainable republic, therefore, was to build in mechanisms to slow things down, cool passions, require compromise, and give leaders some insulation from the mania of the moment while still holding them accountable to the people periodically, on Election Day.
  • The tech companies that enhanced virality from 2009 to 2012 brought us deep into Madison’s nightmare.
  • a less quoted yet equally important insight, about democracy’s vulnerability to triviality.
  • Madison notes that people are so prone to factionalism that “where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”
  • Social media has both magnified and weaponized the frivolous.
  • It’s not just the waste of time and scarce attention that matters; it’s the continual chipping-away of trust.
  • a democracy depends on widely internalized acceptance of the legitimacy of rules, norms, and institutions.
  • when citizens lose trust in elected leaders, health authorities, the courts, the police, universities, and the integrity of elections, then every decision becomes contested; every election becomes a life-and-death struggle to save the country from the other side
  • The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer (an international measure of citizens’ trust in government, business, media, and nongovernmental organizations) showed stable and competent autocracies (China and the United Arab Emirates) at the top of the list, while contentious democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and South Korea scored near the bottom (albeit above Russia).
  • The literature is complex—some studies show benefits, particularly in less developed democracies—but the review found that, on balance, social media amplifies political polarization; foments populism, especially right-wing populism; and is associated with the spread of misinformation.
  • When people lose trust in institutions, they lose trust in the stories told by those institutions. That’s particularly true of the institutions entrusted with the education of children.
  • Facebook and Twitter make it possible for parents to become outraged every day over a new snippet from their children’s history lessons––and math lessons and literature selections, and any new pedagogical shifts anywhere in the country
  • The motives of teachers and administrators come into question, and overreaching laws or curricular reforms sometimes follow, dumbing down education and reducing trust in it further.
  • young people educated in the post-Babel era are less likely to arrive at a coherent story of who we are as a people, and less likely to share any such story with those who attended different schools or who were educated in a different decade.
  • former CIA analyst Martin Gurri predicted these fracturing effects in his 2014 book, The Revolt of the Public. Gurri’s analysis focused on the authority-subverting effects of information’s exponential growth, beginning with the internet in the 1990s. Writing nearly a decade ago, Gurri could already see the power of social media as a universal solvent, breaking down bonds and weakening institutions everywhere it reached.
  • he notes a constructive feature of the pre-digital era: a single “mass audience,” all consuming the same content, as if they were all looking into the same gigantic mirror at the reflection of their own society. I
  • The digital revolution has shattered that mirror, and now the public inhabits those broken pieces of glass. So the public isn’t one thing; it’s highly fragmented, and it’s basically mutually hostile
  • Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a few other large platforms unwittingly dissolved the mortar of trust, belief in institutions, and shared stories that had held a large and diverse secular democracy together.
  • I think we can date the fall of the tower to the years between 2011 (Gurri’s focal year of “nihilistic” protests) and 2015, a year marked by the “great awokening” on the left and the ascendancy of Donald Trump on the right.
  • Twitter can overpower all the newspapers in the country, and stories cannot be shared (or at least trusted) across more than a few adjacent fragments—so truth cannot achieve widespread adherence.
  • fter Babel, nothing really means anything anymore––at least not in a way that is durable and on which people widely agree.
  • Politics After Babel
  • “Politics is the art of the possible,” the German statesman Otto von Bismarck said in 1867. In a post-Babel democracy, not much may be possible.
  • The ideological distance between the two parties began increasing faster in the 1990s. Fox News and the 1994 “Republican Revolution” converted the GOP into a more combative party.
  • So cross-party relationships were already strained before 2009. But the enhanced virality of social media thereafter made it more hazardous to be seen fraternizing with the enemy or even failing to attack the enemy with sufficient vigor.
  • What changed in the 2010s? Let’s revisit that Twitter engineer’s metaphor of handing a loaded gun to a 4-year-old. A mean tweet doesn’t kill anyone; it is an attempt to shame or punish someone publicly while broadcasting one’s own virtue, brilliance, or tribal loyalties. It’s more a dart than a bullet
  • from 2009 to 2012, Facebook and Twitter passed out roughly 1 billion dart guns globally. We’ve been shooting one another ever since.
  • “devoted conservatives,” comprised 6 percent of the U.S. population.
  • the warped “accountability” of social media has also brought injustice—and political dysfunction—in three ways.
  • First, the dart guns of social media give more power to trolls and provocateurs while silencing good citizens.
  • a small subset of people on social-media platforms are highly concerned with gaining status and are willing to use aggression to do so.
  • Across eight studies, Bor and Petersen found that being online did not make most people more aggressive or hostile; rather, it allowed a small number of aggressive people to attack a much larger set of victims. Even a small number of jerks were able to dominate discussion forums,
  • Additional research finds that women and Black people are harassed disproportionately, so the digital public square is less welcoming to their voices.
  • Second, the dart guns of social media give more power and voice to the political extremes while reducing the power and voice of the moderate majority.
  • The “Hidden Tribes” study, by the pro-democracy group More in Common, surveyed 8,000 Americans in 2017 and 2018 and identified seven groups that shared beliefs and behaviors.
  • Social media has given voice to some people who had little previously, and it has made it easier to hold powerful people accountable for their misdeeds
  • The group furthest to the left, the “progressive activists,” comprised 8 percent of the population. The progressive activists were by far the most prolific group on social media: 70 percent had shared political content over the previous year. The devoted conservatives followed, at 56 percent.
  • These two extreme groups are similar in surprising ways. They are the whitest and richest of the seven groups, which suggests that America is being torn apart by a battle between two subsets of the elite who are not representative of the broader society.
  • they are the two groups that show the greatest homogeneity in their moral and political attitudes.
  • likely a result of thought-policing on social media:
  • political extremists don’t just shoot darts at their enemies; they spend a lot of their ammunition targeting dissenters or nuanced thinkers on their own team.
  • Finally, by giving everyone a dart gun, social media deputizes everyone to administer justice with no due process. Platforms like Twitter devolve into the Wild West, with no accountability for vigilantes.
  • Enhanced-virality platforms thereby facilitate massive collective punishment for small or imagined offenses, with real-world consequences, including innocent people losing their jobs and being shamed into suicide
  • we don’t get justice and inclusion; we get a society that ignores context, proportionality, mercy, and truth.
  • Since the tower fell, debates of all kinds have grown more and more confused. The most pervasive obstacle to good thinking is confirmation bias, which refers to the human tendency to search only for evidence that confirms our preferred beliefs
  • search engines were supercharging confirmation bias, making it far easier for people to find evidence for absurd beliefs and conspiracy theorie
  • The most reliable cure for confirmation bias is interaction with people who don’t share your beliefs. They confront you with counterevidence and counterargument.
  • In his book The Constitution of Knowledge, Jonathan Rauch describes the historical breakthrough in which Western societies developed an “epistemic operating system”—that is, a set of institutions for generating knowledge from the interactions of biased and cognitively flawed individuals
  • English law developed the adversarial system so that biased advocates could present both sides of a case to an impartial jury.
  • Newspapers full of lies evolved into professional journalistic enterprises, with norms that required seeking out multiple sides of a story, followed by editorial review, followed by fact-checking.
  • Universities evolved from cloistered medieval institutions into research powerhouses, creating a structure in which scholars put forth evidence-backed claims with the knowledge that other scholars around the world would be motivated to gain prestige by finding contrary evidence.
  • Part of America’s greatness in the 20th century came from having developed the most capable, vibrant, and productive network of knowledge-producing institutions in all of human history
  • But this arrangement, Rauch notes, “is not self-maintaining; it relies on an array of sometimes delicate social settings and understandings, and those need to be understood, affirmed, and protected.”
  • This, I believe, is what happened to many of America’s key institutions in the mid-to-late 2010s. They got stupider en masse because social media instilled in their members a chronic fear of getting darted
  • it was so pervasive that it established new behavioral norms backed by new policies seemingly overnight
  • Participants in our key institutions began self-censoring to an unhealthy degree, holding back critiques of policies and ideas—even those presented in class by their students—that they believed to be ill-supported or wrong.
  • The stupefying process plays out differently on the right and the left because their activist wings subscribe to different narratives with different sacred values.
  • The “Hidden Tribes” study tells us that the “devoted conservatives” score highest on beliefs related to authoritarianism. They share a narrative in which America is eternally under threat from enemies outside and subversives within; they see life as a battle between patriots and traitors.
  • they are psychologically different from the larger group of “traditional conservatives” (19 percent of the population), who emphasize order, decorum, and slow rather than radical change.
  • The traditional punishment for treason is death, hence the battle cry on January 6: “Hang Mike Pence.”
  • Right-wing death threats, many delivered by anonymous accounts, are proving effective in cowing traditional conservatives
  • The wave of threats delivered to dissenting Republican members of Congress has similarly pushed many of the remaining moderates to quit or go silent, giving us a party ever more divorced from the conservative tradition, constitutional responsibility, and reality.
  • The stupidity on the right is most visible in the many conspiracy theories spreading across right-wing media and now into Congress.
  • The Democrats have also been hit hard by structural stupidity, though in a different way. In the Democratic Party, the struggle between the progressive wing and the more moderate factions is open and ongoing, and often the moderates win.
  • The problem is that the left controls the commanding heights of the culture: universities, news organizations, Hollywood, art museums, advertising, much of Silicon Valley, and the teachers’ unions and teaching colleges that shape K–12 education. And in many of those institutions, dissent has been stifled:
  • Liberals in the late 20th century shared a belief that the sociologist Christian Smith called the “liberal progress” narrative, in which America used to be horrifically unjust and repressive, but, thanks to the struggles of activists and heroes, has made (and continues to make) progress toward realizing the noble promise of its founding.
  • It is also the view of the “traditional liberals” in the “Hidden Tribes” study (11 percent of the population), who have strong humanitarian values, are older than average, and are largely the people leading America’s cultural and intellectual institutions.
  • when the newly viralized social-media platforms gave everyone a dart gun, it was younger progressive activists who did the most shooting, and they aimed a disproportionate number of their darts at these older liberal leaders.
  • Confused and fearful, the leaders rarely challenged the activists or their nonliberal narrative in which life at every institution is an eternal battle among identity groups over a zero-sum pie, and the people on top got there by oppressing the people on the bottom. This new narrative is rigidly egalitarian––focused on equality of outcomes, not of rights or opportunities. It is unconcerned with individual rights.
  • The universal charge against people who disagree with this narrative is not “traitor”; it is “racist,” “transphobe,” “Karen,” or some related scarlet letter marking the perpetrator as one who hates or harms a marginalized group.
  • The punishment that feels right for such crimes is not execution; it is public shaming and social death.
  • anyone on Twitter had already seen dozens of examples teaching the basic lesson: Don’t question your own side’s beliefs, policies, or actions. And when traditional liberals go silent, as so many did in the summer of 2020, the progressive activists’ more radical narrative takes over as the governing narrative of an organization.
  • This is why so many epistemic institutions seemed to “go woke” in rapid succession that year and the next, beginning with a wave of controversies and resignations at The New York Times and other newspapers, and continuing on to social-justice pronouncements by groups of doctors and medical associations
  • The problem is structural. Thanks to enhanced-virality social media, dissent is punished within many of our institutions, which means that bad ideas get elevated into official policy.
  • In a 2018 interview, Steve Bannon, the former adviser to Donald Trump, said that the way to deal with the media is “to flood the zone with shit.” He was describing the “firehose of falsehood” tactic pioneered by Russian disinformation programs to keep Americans confused, disoriented, and angry.
  • artificial intelligence is close to enabling the limitless spread of highly believable disinformation. The AI program GPT-3 is already so good that you can give it a topic and a tone and it will spit out as many essays as you like, typically with perfect grammar and a surprising level of coherence.
  • Renée DiResta, the research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, explained that spreading falsehoods—whether through text, images, or deep-fake videos—will quickly become inconceivably easy. (She co-wrote the essay with GPT-3.)
  • American factions won’t be the only ones using AI and social media to generate attack content; our adversaries will too.
  • In the 20th century, America’s shared identity as the country leading the fight to make the world safe for democracy was a strong force that helped keep the culture and the polity together.
  • In the 21st century, America’s tech companies have rewired the world and created products that now appear to be corrosive to democracy, obstacles to shared understanding, and destroyers of the modern tower.
  • What changes are needed?
  • I can suggest three categories of reforms––three goals that must be achieved if democracy is to remain viable in the post-Babel era.
  • We must harden democratic institutions so that they can withstand chronic anger and mistrust, reform social media so that it becomes less socially corrosive, and better prepare the next generation for democratic citizenship in this new age.
  • Harden Democratic Institutions
  • we must reform key institutions so that they can continue to function even if levels of anger, misinformation, and violence increase far above those we have today.
  • Reforms should reduce the outsize influence of angry extremists and make legislators more responsive to the average voter in their district.
  • One example of such a reform is to end closed party primaries, replacing them with a single, nonpartisan, open primary from which the top several candidates advance to a general election that also uses ranked-choice voting
  • A second way to harden democratic institutions is to reduce the power of either political party to game the system in its favor, for example by drawing its preferred electoral districts or selecting the officials who will supervise elections
  • These jobs should all be done in a nonpartisan way.
  • Reform Social Media
  • Social media’s empowerment of the far left, the far right, domestic trolls, and foreign agents is creating a system that looks less like democracy and more like rule by the most aggressive.
  • it is within our power to reduce social media’s ability to dissolve trust and foment structural stupidity. Reforms should limit the platforms’ amplification of the aggressive fringes while giving more voice to what More in Common calls “the exhausted majority.”
  • the main problem with social media is not that some people post fake or toxic stuff; it’s that fake and outrage-inducing content can now attain a level of reach and influence that was not possible before
  • Perhaps the biggest single change that would reduce the toxicity of existing platforms would be user verification as a precondition for gaining the algorithmic amplification that social media offers.
  • One of the first orders of business should be compelling the platforms to share their data and their algorithms with academic researchers.
  • Prepare the Next Generation
  • Childhood has become more tightly circumscribed in recent generations––with less opportunity for free, unstructured play; less unsupervised time outside; more time online. Whatever else the effects of these shifts, they have likely impeded the development of abilities needed for effective self-governance for many young adults
  • Depression makes people less likely to want to engage with new people, ideas, and experiences. Anxiety makes new things seem more threatening. As these conditions have risen and as the lessons on nuanced social behavior learned through free play have been delayed, tolerance for diverse viewpoints and the ability to work out disputes have diminished among many young people
  • Students did not just say that they disagreed with visiting speakers; some said that those lectures would be dangerous, emotionally devastating, a form of violence. Because rates of teen depression and anxiety have continued to rise into the 2020s, we should expect these views to continue in the generations to follow, and indeed to become more severe.
  • The most important change we can make to reduce the damaging effects of social media on children is to delay entry until they have passed through puberty.
  • The age should be raised to at least 16, and companies should be held responsible for enforcing it.
  • et them out to play. Stop starving children of the experiences they most need to become good citizens: free play in mixed-age groups of children with minimal adult supervision
  • while social media has eroded the art of association throughout society, it may be leaving its deepest and most enduring marks on adolescents. A surge in rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm among American teens began suddenly in the early 2010s. (The same thing happened to Canadian and British teens, at the same time.) The cause is not known, but the timing points to social media as a substantial contributor—the surge began just as the large majority of American teens became daily users of the major platforms.
  • What would it be like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? We know. It is a time of confusion and loss. But it is also a time to reflect, listen, and build.
  • In recent years, Americans have started hundreds of groups and organizations dedicated to building trust and friendship across the political divide, including BridgeUSA, Braver Angels (on whose board I serve), and many others listed at BridgeAlliance.us. We cannot expect Congress and the tech companies to save us. We must change ourselves and our communities.
  • when we look away from our dysfunctional federal government, disconnect from social media, and talk with our neighbors directly, things seem more hopeful. Most Americans in the More in Common report are members of the “exhausted majority,” which is tired of the fighting and is willing to listen to the other side and compromise. Most Americans now see that social media is having a negative impact on the country, and are becoming more aware of its damaging effects on children.
Javier E

Climate Change: The Technologies That Could Make All the Difference - WSJ - 0 views

  • The modularity of DAC systems implies that costs for CO2 removal might drop 90% to 95% over a couple of decades, just like the recent cost declines for other modular solutions such as wind turbines, solar panels and lithium-ion batteries.
  • Unlike other pollutants, what matters with carbon dioxide isn’t the location of its release but the total atmospheric accumulation. Releasing greenhouse gases in industrial corridors and then removing them from the atmosphere in remote locations has essentially the same net effect as if the carbon wasn’t emitted in the first place. That means we can deploy DAC systems wherever the energy for their operation is cheapest, ecosystem impacts are lowest, and the economic activity would be welcome.
  • A solar microgrid, which generates, stores and distributes clean energy to homes and facilities in a local network, provides a strong answer to these needs and wants. It can integrate with the main electric grid or disconnect and operate autonomously if the main grid is stressed or goes down. The physical pieces—solar panels, batteries and inverters—have been improving for a while. What’s new and coming, though, is the ability to orchestrate these different pieces into agile electric grids.
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  • With digital tools and data science, demand for energy can now be sculpted locally to match available resources, reducing the number of power plants that utilities need to keep in reserve.
  • The key is giving consumers the ability to separate flexible energy uses—say, operating a Jacuzzi—from essential needs, which can now be done with phone apps for smart appliances and service panels.
  • Meanwhile, connections between groups of customers can be opened and closed as needed with modern, communicating circuit switchgear.
  • The good news is that record amounts of batteries are being installed in U.S. homes and on the electric grid, despite supply-chain bottlenecks.
  • The bad news is that current battery technology only offers a few hours of storage. What’s needed are more-powerful battery systems that can extend the length or scale of storing, which could be even more enabling to sun and wind power.
  • Two such solutions are on the horizon. Stationary metal-air batteries, such as iron-air batteries, don’t hold as much energy per kilogram as lithium-ion batteries so it takes a larger, heavier battery to do the job. But they are cheaper, iron is a plentiful metal, and the batteries, whose chemistry works via interaction of the metal with air, can be sized and installed to store and discharge a large level of electricity over days or weeks.
  • improved large iron-air batteries are poised to become a great new backup for renewable energy within the next couple of years to address those times of year when drops in renewable energy production can last for days and not hours.
  • For households, a battery configuration called a virtual power plant also holds huge potential to extend the use of renewables. These systems allow a local utility or electricity distributor to collect excess energy stored in multiple households’ battery systems and feed it back to the grid when there is a surge in demand or generation shortfall.
  • Electrification is a good choice for smaller vessels on short voyages, like the world’s largest all-electric ferry launched in Norway in 2021. It isn’t yet a viable option for ships on transoceanic voyages because batteries are still too large and heavy, though innovative approaches for battery swapping are being explored.
  • Greener Shipping
  • For longer voyages, e-ammonia, a hydrogen-derived fuel made with renewable energy, has been identified as a prime candidate, although work is needed to ensure safety. Ammonia has a higher energy density than some other options, making it a more economical option for powering large ships across oceans.
  • Among ammonia projects in the works, MAN Energy Solutions is developing engines that can run on conventional fossil fuel or ammonia, a coalition of Nordic partners is designing the world’s first ammonia-powered vessel, and Singapore is evaluating how to bunker the fuel.
  • Some EV makers such as Tesla are now embracing an older, less-expensive battery technology known as lithium-iron-phosphate, or LFP, used originally in scooters and small EVs in China
  • . It draws entirely on cheap and abundant minerals and is less flammable. The power density of LFP is less than NMC, but that disadvantage can be overcome by advances in vehicle design.
  • One approach being tested eliminates the outer packaging of the batteries altogether and directly installs cells, packed in layers, into a cavity in the EV’s body chassis.
  • Eventually, solid-state batteries—with a solid electrolyte made from common minerals like glass or ceramics—could become a key EV battery technology.
  • The solid electrolyte is more chemically stable, lighter, recharges faster and has many more lifetime recharging cycles than lithium-ion batteries, which depend on heavy liquid electrolytes.
  • these innovations are good news for those hoping to speed up EV adoption. They also suggest that batteries, far from becoming a standardized commodity, are going to be customized as auto makers create their own vehicle designs and battery makers develop proprietary platforms.
Javier E

Opinion | Barack Obama's smart way to change the disinformation debate - The Washington... - 0 views

  • The former president spoke at Stanford University on April 21 to lay out his vision for fighting disinformation on the Internet. His focus on the subject is fitting; the dusk of his administration marked a turning point from techno-optimism to pessimism after election interference revealed how easily malicious actors could exploit the free flow of information.
  • His diagnosis is on target. The Internet has given us access to more people, more opportunities and more knowledge
  • This has helped activists drum up attention for overlooked causes. It has also enabled the nation’s adversaries to play on our preexisting prejudices and divisions to sow discord
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  • Mr. Obama starts where most lawmakers are stuck: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives platforms immunity from legal liability for most third-party posts. He suggested a “higher standard of care” for ads than for so-called organic content that everyday users post. This would strike a sensible balance between eviscerating Section 230, making sites accountable for everything they host, and doing nothing.
  • On top of that, “an instant, 24/7 global information stream,” from which audiences can pick and choose material that confirms their biases, has deepened the social divides that bad actors seek to exploit.
  • Mr. Obama identified another problem with the Section 230 talk: homing in on what material platforms do and don’t take down risks missing how the “very design” of these sites privileges polarizing, inflammatory posts.
  • With this, Mr. Obama adds something vital to the mainstream debate over social media regulation, shifting attention away from a debate about whack-a-mole content removal and toward the sites’ underlying structures. His specific suggestions, while fuzzy, also have promise — from slowing down viral material to imposing transparency obligations that would subject social media companies’ algorithms to scrutiny from researchers and regulators.
  • Mr. Obama calls this “democratic oversight.” But the material companies reveal could be highly technical. Ideally, it would get translated into layman’s terms so that everyday people, too, can understand how decisions so significant in their daily lives and the life of the country are made.
Javier E

The War in Ukraine Has Unleashed a New Word - The New York Times - 0 views

  • As I read about Irpin, about Bucha, about Trostyanets, of the bodies crushed by tanks, of the bicyclists shot on the street, of the desecrated corpses, there it was, “рашизм,” again and again
  • Grasping its meaning requires crossing differences in alphabet and pronunciation, thinking our way into the experience of a bilingual society at war with a fascist empire.
  • “Pашизм” sounds like “fascism,” but with an “r” sound instead of an “f” at the beginning; it means, roughly, “Russian fascism.”
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  • The aggressor in this war keeps trying to push back toward a past as it never happened, toward nonsensical and necrophiliac accounts of history. Russia must conquer Ukraine, Vladimir Putin says, because of a baptism a thousand years ago, or because of bloodshed during World War II.
  • The new word “рашизм” is a useful conceptualization of Putin’s worldview. Far more than Western analysts, Ukrainians have noticed the Russian tilt toward fascism in the last decade.
  • Undistracted by Putin’s operational deployment of genocide talk, they have seen fascist practices in Russia: the cults of the leader and of the dead, the corporatist state, the mythical past, the censorship, the conspiracy theories, the centralized propaganda and now the war of destruction
  • we have tended to overlook the central example of fascism’s revival, which is the Putin regime in the Russian Federation.
  • A bilingual nation like Ukraine is not just a collection of bilingual individuals; it is an unending set of encounters in which people habitually adjust the language they use to other people and new settings, manipulating language in ways that are foreign to monolingual nations
  • I have gone on Ukrainian television and radio, taken questions in Russian and answered them in Ukrainian, without anyone for a moment finding that switch worthy of mention.
  • Ukrainians change languages effortlessly — not just as situations change, but also to make situations change, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, or even in the middle of a word.
  • “Pашизм” is a word built up from the inside, from several languages, as a complex of puns and references that reveal a bilingual society thinking out its predicament and communicating to itself.
  • Putin’s ethnic imperialism insists that Ukrainians must be Russians because they speak Russian. They do — and they speak Ukrainian. But Ukrainian identity has as much to do with an ability to live between languages than it does with the use of any one of them
  • Those six Cyrillic letters contain references to Italian, Russian and English, all of which a mechanical, letter-by-letter transliteration would block
  • The best (if imperfect) way I have found to render “рашизм” from Ukrainian into English is “ruscism”
  • When we see “ruscism” we might guess this word has to do with Russia (“rus”), with politics (“ism”) and with the extreme right (“ascism”) — as, indeed, it does
  • I have had to spell “рашизм” as “ruscism” in English because we need “rus,” with a “u,” to see the reference to Russia. In losing the original Ukrainian “a,” though, we weaken a multilayered reference — because the “a” in “рашизм,” conveniently, allows the Ukrainian word to associate Russia and fascism in a way English cannot.
  • If you don’t know either language, you might think that Russian and Ukrainian are very similar. They are pretty close — much as, say, Spanish and Italian are.
  • the semantics are not that close
  • From a Russian perspective, the false friends are legion. There is an elegant four-syllable Ukrainian word that simply means “soon” or “without delay,” but to a Russian it sounds like “not behind the bar.” The Ukrainian word for “cat” sounds like the Russian for “whale,” while the Ukrainian for “female cats” sounds like Russian for “intestines.”
  • Russians do not understand Ukrainian, because they have not learned it. Ukrainians do understand Russian, because they have learned it.
  • Ukrainian soldiers often speak Russian, though they are instructed to use Ukrainian to spot infiltrators and spies. This is a drastic example of a general practice of code-switching.
  • Ukrainians are perfectly capable of writing Russian correctly, but during the war some internet commentators have spelled the occasional Russian word using the Ukrainian writing system, leaving it looking unmoored and pitiable. Writing in Ukrainian, you might spell “oсвобождение” as “aсвобaждениe,” the way it is pronounced — a bit of lexicographic alchemy that makes it (and, by extension, Russians) look silly, and mocks the political concepts being used to justify a war. In a larger sense, such efforts are a means of displacing Russia from its central position in regional culture.
Javier E

Rich countries that let inequality run rampant make citizens unhappy, study finds | Ine... - 0 views

  • Countries that allow economic inequality to increase as they grow richer make their citizens less happy, a new study shows.
  • Until now, researchers have believed that inequality was largely irrelevant to levels of life satisfaction,
  • his study of 78 countries spanning four decades – the largest longitudinal research of its kind – punctures that myth
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  • “When inequality increases, people with high incomes don’t benefit much from their gains – many rich people are focused on those who have even more than they do, and they never feel they have enough,”
  • “But people who earn little really suffer from falling further behind – they feel excluded and frustrated by not being able to keep up even with people who receive average incomes.”
  • examined survey data of life satisfaction levels, where people rate their life satisfaction on a scale of one to 10, and linked it to Gini coefficient numbers – a measure of inequality – from 1981 to 2020.
  • In 1981, as the UK was gripped by a recession, life satisfaction stood at 7.7. But during the economic boom of the 1980s, inequality grew, and the research shows that the happiness figure dropped to 7.4 by 1999.
  • However, as measures to reduce inequality began to take effect, happiness slowly returned so that by 2018, life satisfaction stood at 7.8.
  • Any country that moved from the lowest quarter of countries in terms of inequality to the highest quarter saw a decrease in life satisfaction of about 0.4 on the 10-point scale, he found.
  • India’s life satisfaction declined from 6.7 in 1990 to 5.8 in 2006 as inequality rose. By 2012 it was still lower than in 1990, despite the country’s prolonged economic boom.
  • The US and Australia also both saw pronounced falls in life satisfaction, but those countries where inequality had fallen were generally happier, such as Poland, Peru, Mexico and Ukraine, before the Russian invasion.
  • “In some of the previous research, you see people saying ‘inequality isn’t that big a deal, so all efforts to address inequality are misguided because inequality is beneficial’.
  • “I think that’s misguided – inequality is generally damaging to people’s life satisfaction so we should pay attention to efforts to mitigate it,
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