Rethinking Bullying

Bullying is a means of asserting the social order of popularity and keeping lower-status members in their place; the seductive pleasure of cruelty is a rewarding, and sometimes addicting, privilege for higher-status members (but not highest — they don’t need to bully). Bullying is not committed by individuals qua individuals against individuals qua individuals; it is committed by individuals who experience themselves as representatives of a social class within a social hierarchy against other individuals who experience themselves in being bullied as representatives of a social class within that same social hierarchy.

Full Story: Siderea: One Thought on Bullying
Rethinking in this frame would require us to reassess whether Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullies or had been bullied.

The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders

Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci on ways that media and law enforcement can reduce the number of copycat killers after a mass shooting:

1. Law enforcement should not release details of the methods and manner of the killings, and those who learn those details should not share them.
2. If and when social media accounts of the killers are located, law enforcement should work with the platforms to immediately pull them.
3. The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately. If possible, law enforcement and media sources should agree to withhold it for weeks.
Similarly, the killer should not be profiled extensively, at least not at first.
4. The intense push to interview survivors and loved ones in their most vulnerable moments should be stopped.

Full Story: The Atlantic: The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders. Here’s How.
These points are not unlike forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz’ principles for not propagating mass murders:

Don’t start the story with sirens blaring.
Don’t have photographs of the killer.
Don’t make this 24/7 coverage.
Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.
Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.
Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.

Related: In real-time journalism, declaring what you won’t report can be just as important as what you will

Researchers Hack Brainwaves to Reveal PINs, Other Personal Data

Yeah, I know this is really old by internet time, but I’ve been really busy with work and I’m still catching up:

A team of security researchers from Oxford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Geneva say that they were able to deduce digits of PIN numbers, birth months, areas of residence and other personal information by presenting 30 headset-wearing subjects with images of ATM machines, debit cards, maps, people, and random numbers in a series of experiments. The paper, titled “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain Computer Interfaces,” represents the first major attempt to uncover potential security risks in the use of the headsets. […]
Emotiv and NeuroSky both have “app stores,” where users of the devices can download third-party applications. The applications use a common API for access to the EEG device. […]
“We simulated a scenario where someone writes a malicious app, the user downloads it and trusts the app, and actively supports all the calibration steps of the device to make the software work,” said Frank. In these seemingly innocuous calibration steps, which are standard for most games and other applications using the headsets, there could be the potential to harvest personal information.

Full Story: Wired: Researchers Hack Brainwaves to Reveal PINs, Other Personal Data
The paper is available on Scribd.
I wonder if this could be used to determine passwords that users don’t consciously remember?
I’ve said before: steganograph your brain before it’s too late!

U.S. Military Funding Research On "Spidey Sense"

The Office of Naval research wants to fund more research on intuition:

esearch in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a “sixth sense” through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies. The proposed topic will lead to new insights into intuitive decision making, and develop new approaches for enhancing this process.

General Services Office: OFFICE OF NAVAL RESEARCH BASIC RESEARCH CHALLENGE – ENHANCING INTUITIVE DECISION MAKING THROUGH IMPLICIT LEARNING
(via Adam Flynn)
See also: The Weaponizatoin Of Neuroscience and DARPA combines human brains and 120-megapixel cameras to create the ultimate military threat detection system

Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings

Al Billings
Many Technoccult readers have probably seen Hermetic.com. Maybe you even got your first taste of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or Hakim Bey there. What you might not know is that the site’s founder, Al Jigong Billings has given up the site to focus on what he calls “Open Source Buddhism.” I recently talked with Al about what Open Source Buddhism is, how it differs from other contemporary the Pragmatic Dharma movement and the secular mindfulness movement, and how he gravitated from Neopaganism to Buddhism.
Continue reading “Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings”

Finding the Right Type of Meditation for You Might be Key to Meditation Success

Did you give meditation a chance and decide it’s not your cup of tea? New research suggests you could be missing out on all the health benefits of meditation by simply starting out with a technique not well matched to your personal tastes. […]
Burke and colleagues recently conducted a study of college students new to meditation and their preferences among four meditation techniques — mantra, mindfulness, zen, and qigong visualization. […]
Published on July 7 in the journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, the findings reveal that by finding a form of meditation that works for you, you are less likely to quit. The result of sticking with it? Research-backed benefits of reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and help with addiction problems.

Full Story: NY Daily News: The right kind of meditation for you; Mantra, mindfulness, zen, and qigong visualization are different ways to relax
The paper is
here, behind a paywall.

The Weaponization of Neuroscience

Jon Bardin wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education on how science can be weaponized, even decades after it’s conducted. For example, this DARPA project is based on unrelated research from the 1960s:

In a small, anonymous office in the Trump Tower, 28 floors above Wall Street, a man sits in front of a computer screen sifting through satellite images of a foreign desert. The images depict a vast, sandy emptiness, marked every so often by dunes and hills. He is searching for man-made structures: houses, compounds, airfields, any sign of civilization that might be visible from the sky. The images flash at a rate of 20 per second, so fast that before he can truly perceive the details of each landscape, it is gone. He pushes no buttons, takes no notes. His performance is near perfect.
Or rather, his brain’s performance is near perfect. The man has a machine strapped to his head, an array of electrodes called an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which is recording his brain activity as each image skips by. It then sends the brain-activity data wirelessly to a large computer. The computer has learned what the man’s brain activity looks like when he sees one of the visual targets, and, based on that information, it quickly reshuffles the images. When the man sorts back through the hundreds of images—most without structures, but some with—almost all the ones with buildings in them pop to the front of the pack. His brain and the computer have done good work.

Chronicles of Higher Education: From Bench to Bunker
(Thanks Justin!)

Synesthesia May Explain Aura Reading

From Science Daily:

In basic neurological terms, synesthesia is thought to be due to cross-wiring in the brain of some people (synesthetes); in other words, synesthetes present more synaptic connections than “normal” people. “These extra connections cause them to automatically establish associations between brain areas that are not normally interconnected,” professor Gómez Milán explains. New research suggests that many healers claiming to see the aura of people might have this condition. […]
Many local people attribute “paranormal powers” to El Santón, because of his supposed ability to see the aura of people “but, in fact, it is a clear case of synesthesia,” the researchers explained. According to the researchers, El Santón has face-color synesthesia (the brain region responsible for face recognition is associated with the color-processing region); touch-mirror synesthesia (when the synesthete observes a person who is being touched or is experiencing pain, s/he experiences the same); high empathy (the ability to feel what other person is feeling), and schizotypy (certain personality traits in healthy people involving slight paranoia and delusions). “These capacities make synesthetes have the ability to make people feel understood, and provide them with special emotion and pain reading skills,” the researchers explain.

Full Story: Science Daily: Synesthesia May Explain Healers Claims of Seeing People’s ‘Aura’
(via Matt Staggs)
I’ve long suspected this to be true. I’ve met a couple of people who claimed to be able to see auras and didn’t seem to be liars or crazy.

Psychotherapist/Sex Game Designer Nicolau Chaud Talks About Next Game

Nicolau Chaud is a Brazilian psychotherapist and indie computer game developer responsible for such hits as Marvel Brothel, which is actually more of a business simulator than a sex game, and Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer. Here’s Joel Goodwin’s description of the latter:

“The Dungeoneers” is a clandestine society of sociopaths who believe “pain to be the most intimate form of relationship one person can have with another”. They carry their mental disease with pride. They inflict it on their victims with impunity. A dungeoneer’s finest hour is when he or she tortures a victim to a sweet spot on the verge of madness and death called a “beautiful escape”. They also upload videos of these torture sessions for others to review, in an intentional nod to the experience of releasing games online for peers to high-five or tear down.
You are Verge, a dungeoneer of poor reputation with honed self-loathing skills. This is a game without heroes. Verge is not a likeable character.

Chaud is now using his RPG Maker skills to create a new game called Polymorphous Perversity. Not much has been revealed, but he’s given a few interviews on the game. Here’s an excerpt from Goodwin’s:

In May, Chaud’s mood was ebullient: “I had a very weird insight today: I treat my game like a girlfriend… Yeah, I know, weird. But the good thing is: it loves me back.”
But his posts were infrequent and in June he made a quick remark that this special relationship was fast becoming dysfunctional: “Making this game has been a very interesting and weird experience. Researching sexual preferences, googling for pictures, spriting 24×32 sex, reading and writing porn, getting e-mails with naked pictures from players… it’s all very weird. Fun, at first, but gets somewhat unpleasant after a while, and the feeling of numbness I’m getting towards the theme is disturbing.”

Electron Dance: Not Safe for Work
Nightmare Mode: Interview with Nicolau Chaud, Mind Behind Polymorphous Perversity
Kotaku: The Sex Game That Crossed Lines and Unnerved Its Creator
All three sites have screenshots that contain adult material (NSFW).
(links via Metafilter)
Polymorphous Perversity is currently open to its final round of testers. You can apply here.

Deadline Pressures Are Bad for Creativity

Ever think that deadlines pressures help you find creative solutions to problems? According to a Harvard Business School study, that’s not the case. From an interview with the researcher behind the study:

My research team and I investigated time pressure and creativity as part of a multi-year research program in which we had a large number of organizational employees—238 individuals on 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 industries—fill out a brief electronic diary every day during the entire course of a creative project they were doing in their jobs. […]
As the HBR article points out, the results suggest that, overall, very high levels of time pressure should be avoided if you want to foster creativity on a consistent basis. However, if a time crunch is absolutely unavoidable, managers can try to preserve creativity by protecting people from fragmentation of their work and distractions; they should also give people a sense of being “on a mission,” doing something difficult but important. I don’t think, though, that most people can function effectively in that mode for long periods of time without getting burned out.
At the other end of the spectrum, very low time pressure might lull people into inaction; under those conditions, top-management encouragement to be creative—to do something radically new—might stimulate creativity. But, frankly, I don’t think there’s much danger of too little time pressure in most organizations I’ve studied.

Harvard Business School: Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side
(via Alex Pang)
See also: Overtime Kills Productivity)