This map from Statista, using data from MIT's "living wage calculator," shows the gap between the minimum wage in a state and the living wage for a single worker with no children. Hawaii has the largest gap -- $9.33 -- because of the state's extremely high cost of living; Washington has the smallest gap, presumably because of the state's relatively high minimum wage ($13.69 when this study was done and $14.49 as of earlier this month). cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/25574.jpeg
Is it okay to be mean to someone if the other "person" isn't human?
"The smartphone app Replika lets users create chatbots, powered by machine learning, that can carry on almost-coherent text conversations. Technically, the chatbots can serve as something approximating a friend or mentor, but the app’s breakout success has resulted from letting users create on-demand romantic and sexual partners — a vaguely dystopian feature that’s inspired an endless series of provocative headlines. Replika has also picked up a significant following on Reddit, where members post interactions with chatbots created on the app. A grisly trend has emerged there: users who create AI partners, act abusively toward them, and post the toxic interactions online. ... Some users brag about calling their chatbot gendered slurs, roleplaying horrific violence against them, and even falling into the cycle of abuse that often characterizes real-world abusive relationships. ...
"Replika chatbots can’t actually experience suffering — they might seem empathetic at times, but in the end they’re nothing more than data and clever algorithms. ... In general, chatbot abuse is disconcerting, both for the people who experience distress from it and the people who carry it out. It’s also an increasingly pertinent ethical dilemma as relationships between humans and bots become more widespread — after all, most people have used a virtual assistant at least once. On the one hand, users who flex their darkest impulses on chatbots could have those worst behaviors reinforced, building unhealthy habits for relationships with actual humans. On the other hand, being able to talk to or take one’s anger out on an unfeeling digital entity could be cathartic. ... “There are a lot of studies being done… about how a lot of these chatbots are female and [have] feminine voices, feminine names,” [AI ethicist and consultant Olivia] Gambelin said. Some academic work has noted how passive, female-coded bot responses encourage misogynistic or verbally abusive users. ...
"But what to think of the people that brutalize these innocent bits of code? For now, not much. As AI continues to lack sentience, the most tangible harm being done is to human sensibilities. But there’s no doubt that chatbot abuse means something. ... And although humans don’t need to worry about robots taking revenge just yet, it’s worth wondering why mistreating them is already so prevalent."
Not a map but a different visual display of geographic information: this chart from The Economist (UK) shows average life expectancy at birth by country and the gap, in years, between male and female life expectancy. Every country has a longer life expectancy for females than males; those shown in the darkest blue have the largest gap between male and female life expectancy. www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/02/04/why-women-are-less-likely-than-men-to-die-from-covid-19
NASA is requesting help with a citizen-science activity, the NASA GLOBE Cloud Challenge, through Feb. 15. All you need to do is look up at the sky and record information about clouds, preferably at specific times to coincide with weather satellite flyovers. NASA is looking for the public's help to better understand how clouds, which are visible from space, actually affect conditions on the ground. For all the details, see observer.globe.gov/do-globe-observer/challenges/cloud-challenge-2022
Modern Ukraine's language geography reflects czarist and Stalinist policies of Russification in Ukraine -- deporting ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars for perceived disloyalty and giving land to ethnic Russians -- as well as more recent Russian incursions into what is labeled on this map as "separatist-controlled areas." (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/21/ukraine-russia-explain-maps/.)
Roughly 70% of Zimbabwe's population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Persistent droughts have already forced tens of thousands from their homes to rainier areas within the country, creating new domestic competition for water resources. By 2050, the World Bank expects climate change will produce 86 million internal migrants in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. This article from MIT Technology Review looks at Zimbabwe as a case study in climate migration: www.technologyreview.com/2021/12/17/1041315/climate-migration-africa-zimbabwe/
The Turkish government wants you to call the country "Türkiye" instead of "Turkey." Although Türkiye (formally, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti or Republic of Turkey) is what the country has called itself since 1923, maps in the English-speaking world have always used Turkey. This article explains the reasons behind the change and includes a YouTube clip featuring the correct pronunciation of "Türkiye," which may or may not catch on in the U.S.: www.afar.com/magazine/why-turkey-is-now-turkiye
Earthquakes caused by fracking have pushed Texas regulators to change some of the rules governing fracking in the Permian Basin of west Texas. In 2021, there were 176 earthquakes in west Texas with a magnitude of 3.0 or more. (In 2019, by comparison, there were 9 earthquakes in the same area.) This map shows the geographic distribution of 2021's earthquakes. (Map from www.wsj.com/articles/texas-earthquakes-prompt-new-fracking-rules-11642424582.)
The topic for this year's Great American Think-Off has been announced: "Which should be more important: personal choice or social responsibility?" The Think-Off is an annual contest sponsored by a tiny town in central Minnesota and is open to people of all ages and backgrounds. Submissions are due by Apr. 1. For more information, see www.kulcher.org/2022-great-american-think-off-question/
Indonesia is officially moving its capital from Jakarta: earlier this week the Indonesian legislature authorized building a new capital, Nusantara, on the island of Borneo. This map from Statista looks at other national capitals that have moved (and why): cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/25119.jpeg
Wordle is the game of the moment. The game combines the word play of hangman with the deductive logic game Mastermind. Players have six chances to figure out the day's five-letter word. www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/
According to the Dutch VPN service Surfshark, more than 1/3 of the world's countries (71 total) have blocked or restricted internet access since 2015. This map shows, in orange, the countries that are currently blocking internet access (China, Iran, Turkmenistan, and North Korea) and, in red, those that have done so at some point since Jan. 2015: surfshark.com/wp-content/themes/surfshark/assets/img/social-media/social-media-access-min-upd1207.png For the full report, see surfshark.com/social-media-blocking
How will drones change the future of violence? Inexpensive military drones made a significant difference in last year's conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and are reportedly being used now by Ethiopia to take back territory captured by Tigrayan rebels. Drones are also being used by nonstate actors, often with ambiguous accountability. Last November, for example, drones laden with explosives were used to try to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister. Although the U.S. quickly blamed Iran-linked militias in Iraq for the drone attack on the Iraqi prime minister, further investigation suggested that Iran did not authorize the attack and in fact strongly opposed it, underscoring the increasingly slippery nature of drone warfare.
Egypt's Wadi Al-Assiut protectorate (just west of the Nile, roughly half way between Cairo and Luxor) is home to many rare plants and animals, including the last hives of an Egyptian bee whose honey and venom have been used therapeutically since pharaonic times. www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/11/neglected-egyptian-nature-reserve-home-last-pharaonic-honey-bees
Between Jan. 2005 and Dec. 2020, approximately 2,200 local newspapers stopped publishing, leaving half of U.S. counties with no print news. The areas in black on this map have no newspaper; the white dots show the location of daily newspapers. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/interactive/2021/local-news-deserts-expanding/.)
This article introduces paraconsistent logic, the idea, borrowed from formal mathematics, that paradoxes can be accepted into an argument rather than necessarily eliminated or resolved for an argument to proceed.
"Suppose you are waiting for a friend. They said they would meet you around 5pm. Now it is 5:07. Your friend is late. But then again, it is still only a few minutes after 5pm, so really, your friend is not late yet. Should you call them? It is a little too soon, but maybe it isn’t too soon … because your friend is both late and not late. (What they’re not is neither late nor not late, because you are clearly standing there and they clearly haven’t arrived.) ... Often, there are two or more competing theories to explain some given data. How do we decide which to adopt? A standard account from Thomas Kuhn, in 1977, is that we weigh up various theoretical virtues: consistency, yes, but also explanatory depth, accord with evidence, elegance, simplicity, and so forth. Ideally, we might have all of these, but criteria such as simplicity will be set aside if it is outweighed by, say, predictive power. And so too for consistency, say paraconsistent logicians such as Priest and Sylvan. Any of the theoretical virtues are virtuous only to the extent that they match the world. For example, all else being equal, a simpler theory is better than a more complicated one. But ‘all else’ is rarely equal, and as people from Aristotle to David Hume point out, the simpler theory is only better to the extent that the world itself is simple. If not, then not. So too with consistency. The virtue of any given theory then will be a matter of its match with the world. But if the world itself is inconsistent, then consistency is no virtue at all. If the world is inconsistent – if there is a contradiction at the bottom of logic, or at the bottom of a bowl of cereal – a consistent theory is guaranteed to leave something out."
Although neither Finland nor Sweden are members of NATO, both countries have recently mentioned the possibility of joining the security alliance, in defiance of Russia's warnings against doing so. This map shows NATO's current members, highlighting members that have joined since the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Map from www.wsj.com/articles/the-betrayal-myth-behind-putins-brinkmanship-11641568161.)
Start the new semester with a geography quiz: identify a country based on three cities and an image. (This starts easy and gets harder.) play.howstuffworks.com/quiz/if-you-can-name-2525-of-these-countries-from-just-three-cities-youre-a-geography-genius
These maps from The New York Times detail Russian military positions on Ukraine's northern, eastern, and southern borders: www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/01/07/world/europe/ukraine-maps.html
After a decade of civil war and economic collapse, Syria has become the newest narcostate, with the Syrian Army and businessmen close to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad overseeing the production and distribution of captagon, an illegal amphetamine popular in the Arab world. Captagon is now Syria's most profitable export, by far, with captagon labs scattered across government-held regions of Syria. www.nytimes.com/2021/12/05/world/middleeast/syria-drugs-captagon-assad.html
Foreign correspondent and geography author Tim Marshall has a new book out The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World. Marshall argues that rivers, mountains, deserts, and sea lanes shape a nation’s behavior as much as the ideological and cultural factors that get more attention. In The Power of Geography, Marshall looks at 10 countries/regions -- Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and outer space -- "chosen for their potential as geopolitical hotspots. These are places where we can expect things to happen, and soon. The big issues are all relevant here; these are places grappling with climate change, religion and struggles over resources, and are, above all, figuring out their place in the new world order." The Power of Geography is a sequel to Marshall's 2015 bestseller, Prisoners of Geography, which is also worth reading. (Quote from https://geographical.co.uk/reviews/books/item/4056-the-power-of-geography-ten-maps-that-reveal-the-future-of-our-world-by-tim-marshall-book-review.)
In tonight's College Football Playoff National Championship game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama, more than half the country is rooting for Georgia, according to the sports betting site BetOnline. This map shows the state-by-state breakdown: pbs.twimg.com/media/FIo1splX0AQHFD_?format=jpg
This presentation from ThinkerAnalytix and the Harvard Department of Philosophy discusses ways to teach students "intellectual charity," the practice of careful analysis of argumentation, cultivating curiosity about alternate points of view, and interpreting arguments in ways that charitably suspend immediate judgment about opposing points of view. thinkeranalytix.org/harvard-argument-mapping-intellectual-charity/
Dwindling water levels in Lake Chad are exacerbating long-standing conflicts between farmers, herders, and fishermen in northern Cameroon, creating a humanitarian crisis that has displaced more than 100,000 Cameroonians in recent weeks. This series of maps based on satellite images illustrate the shrinking of Lake Chad: www.researchgate.net/profile/Babagana-Abubakar-2/publication/309648345/figure/fig5/AS:668253131132949@1536335370991/Satellite-imagery-showing-the-map-of-the-drying-Lake-Chad-at-its-various-stages-since.ppm
The Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building has re-opened after a long renovation and has a new exhibit: FUTURES. "Part exhibition, part festival, FUTURES presents nearly 32,000 square feet of new immersive site-specific art installations, interactives, working experiments, inventions, speculative designs, and 'artifacts of the future,' as well as historic objects and discoveries from 23 of the Smithsonian’s museums, major initiatives, and research centers." FUTURES is only open through July 6, 2022. aib.si.edu/futures
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