Beware of moral crumple zone

Author Judith Kerr is holding her cat at the table, while smiling.
Judith Kerr with her cat Katinka. Credit: Sam Pelly

Editing three more chapters due next Friday for submission! This is how life is for me currently! Fun fun fun!

Anyway, on a serious note. Very glad I am making such significant progress this year, both on my thesis and on the work front. I remember somewhat lamenting early this year that I wasn’t, and not making much progress — which is a personal conflict as old as time — so it’s nice to be reminded that well, something gets moving.

Here’s what I found out, learned about, and gasped at this week:

  • Ranjan Roy’s brilliant article on the ‘sweetgreen-ification’ of society. On how tech and customer segmentation are increasingly separating people into socioeconomic groups that no longer interact, therefore widening the inequality gap.
  • I have always been interested in spy movies — and as I grow older and enroll into academia, although not entirely sure of this whole causation is not correlation thing — I get even more interested to dissect the accuracy of spy scenes and techniques in movies and TV series. Definitely enjoying this.
  • To mark the 100th anniversary of The Allusionist, the podcast ran an episode where they went through summarisations of their episodes with 100 language-related facts. Who would’ve known that ‘guy’ did not derive from or denote a man, but actually is an eponym of Guy Fawkes? Or that ‘velcro’ is a portmanteau of velour and crochet!
  • “Brain scans during the two activities—typing on a keyboard and handwriting—show that forming words by hand as opposed to on a keyboard leads to increased cognitive activity. Scientific studies of children and adults show that wielding a pen when taking notes, rather than typing, is associated with improved long-term information retention, better thought organisation, and increased ability to generate ideas.” Something I somehow have already known, as an advocate of owning physical notebooks and writing frequently in them: old school writing will boost your creativity.
  • Trying to save the world? Slash those working hours. It is found that working 12 hours a week could let us achieve climate goals, where 1% decrease in working hours could lead to 0.8% decrease in GHG emissions.
  • When it comes to political discourse, it’s not that we are necessarily getting more polarised. It’s just that people in the middle are becoming quiet and withdrawn, while the extremes of both sides are becoming more outspoken.
  • TIL moral crumple zone, where it “protects the integrity of the technological system, at the expense of the nearest human operator. Humans act like a “liability sponge,” she says, absorbing all legal and moral responsibility in algorithmic accidents no matter how little or unintentionally they are involved.” Even in a highly automated system where humans have limited control of its behaviour, they still bear most of the blame for the system’s failures.
  • TIL cyberasociality: the inability or unwillingness of some people to relate to others via social media as they do when physically present.
  • “Something that both destroyed me and ultimately defined me.” – Nick Cave on his son’s death. As someone who had lost a loved one and somehow felt like going through a rebirth after his passing, I can relate to this a lot.
  • “All paradises, all utopias, are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.” – Toni Morrison.

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