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Stuff Seen, Jan+Feb+Mar 2018

Posted by StepTb su aprile 3, 2018

Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990) [9]
Heat (Michael Mann, 1995) [9]
L.A. Takedown (Michael Mann, 1989) [TV] [7.5]
Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995) [8+]
Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017) [7]
The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999) [8.5]
Black Rain (Ridley Scott, 1989) [6.5]
Ransom (Ron Howard, 1996) [7.5]
Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997) [7.5]
Ronin (John Frankenheimer, 1998) [7.5]
Following (Christopher Nolan, 1998) [8]
The Enforcer (Bretaigne Windust, Raoul Walsh, 1951) [7]
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) [8]
Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) [8]
To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955) [6.5]
The Lineup (Don Siegel, 1958) [7.5]
Payback (Brian Helgeland, 1999) [6]
Pociag / Night Train (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1959) [6]
Katok i skripka / The Steamroller and the Violin (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1961) [7]
Something Wild (Jonathan Demme, 1986) [7.5]
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969) [9.5]
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974) [8+]
Major Dundee (Sam Peckinpah, 1965) [7]
Charley Varrick (Don Siegel, 1973) [7.5]
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) [9+]
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) [9.5]
Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014) [7.5]
Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017) [7]
The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) [7-]
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, 2016) [6]
Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010) [6]
Iron Man Three (Shane Black, 2013) [6]
L’eau froide (Olivier Assayas, 1994) [8]
Fin août, début septembre (Olivier Assayas, 1998) [7]
Die xue jie tou / Bullet in the Head (John Woo, 1990) [9] [Yes, this movie clearly wouldn’t even have existed without Cimino’s The Deer Hunter. But Woo managed to basically take that classic and change it on such a personal level, infusing it with his own complete philosophy and his own complete set of both East Asian and Western filmmaking influences, that Bullet in the Head really manages to stand on its own as a masterpiece]
Ying hung boon sik / A Better Tomorrow (John Woo, 1986) [7.5]
Dip huet seung hung / The Killer (John Woo, 1989) [9]
Fong juk / Exiled (Johnnie To, 2006) [7.5-]
Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, 1996) [7.5]
Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002) [7.5] [What a pity – it could have been an 8, if it wasn’t for that sudden fall into incoherent plot devices (which starts with the murder and then escalates at about 2/3), with the clear intention of imitating (without any of his brilliance) Lynch’s Lost Highway, then closed by a not really convinced moral provocation halfway between Videodrome and 8mm, just used as a tool for trying to give the final a meaning]
Clean (Olivier Assayas, 2004) [7]
Boarding Gate (Olivier Assayas, 2007) [6.5]
L’heure d’été (Olivier Assayas, 2008) [7.5]
Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014) [7]
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016) [6]

Annunci

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Is Poland growing to be the next economic powerhouse of Europe?

Posted by StepTb su aprile 3, 2018

Poland and Slovakia have been absorbing the bigger chunk of the European industrial sector that has relocated or expanded in the Visegrád area; Poland has also worked extremely well on its internal reforms and, especially, has managed to build one of the current best education systems in the world, which positions the country to be the most likely of the Eastern region to successfully make the jump to the advanced tertiary sector in the next 10–20 years (the first one has been Estonia, but the size isn’t comparable).

Emigration from Poland started to explode in the late 1990s, and hit a peak with the 2008 recession. A lot of young Poles with a good command of English and an excellent human capital overall were not able to be absorbed by the national labor market, and went on to be successfully absorbed by other economies.

It seems reasonable to think Polish emigration rate should now start to decrease, since the system has fully recovered from the recession, and has kept growing and showing its strength and sustainability, unlike what has happened in other countries (ex. Italy), but it’s not happening, and the net migration rate is still negative.
Recent political shifts and turmoils have also impacted negatively on this possibility.

Unfortunately, even without considering the brain drain issue, there’s an even bigger problem: their current birth rate, which is one of the lowest in the world and also a bit of a puzzle, is not conducive to reaching the status of “next economic powerhouse” in the span of the current + the next generation in any case.
This doesn’t mean we couldn’t see the relative birth rate trend reverting, the emigration rate trend reverting, and that result happening in the long-run, though.

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Is the media overreacting to the incident with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica?

Posted by StepTb su marzo 28, 2018

Yes, and it’s easy to choose between yes and no: compare this media hysterical coverage about a data breach interesting 50 million users to the same media’s reaction to the actual Internet biggest data breach ever, the Yahoo! one:

Marissa Mayer says Yahoo still doesn’t know who was behind Web’s biggest breach

Every single Yahoo account was hacked – 3 billion in all

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/busine…

Yahoo! data breaches – Wikipedia

Which was reported with quite a “normal” bad news tone, like “Yeah that was quite bad. Now here’s Tom with the weather”.

And did you see an Altaba stock crash after their public statement (Oct 2017)? No.

But we’re talking about a 60:1 ratio of hacked accounts (and actually, much more “hacked” in the Yahoo! case).
Do you see a 60:1 ratio in the coverage/reaction as well? No, and in fact it’s more something like 1:10.

Of course, it’s also easy to see why.
This time, the hype supports a story so many people desperately want to be true – we didn’t lose the election, it was STOLEN from us with a trick!
A bipartisan classic (sadly).

Despite next to zero proof behavioral microtargeting could reach similar results.

In general, people will always ignore the obvious when it comes to their own political bias.

Posted in food for thought, news | Leave a Comment »

What is the Cambridge Analytica controversy regarding Facebook data?

Posted by StepTb su marzo 28, 2018

The story‘s biggest takeaway is that, in the “wonderful” world of invasive, data-hungry social media and network effects, you’re only as smart, safe and in control of your data as *your weakest link* is, not as *you* are.

This goes against what we’ve been told over and over by both sm/data companies and public institutions about “make sure you keep your privacy settings in order and that’s it“.
It’s near-useless advice, because we’re not in control. But switching your point of view to adopt the correct one, in this case, implies going against the human deep instinct of believing you *are* in control (of your online persona, your data, your actions and their consequences…). It would be comparable to a paradigm shift– at least in the countries/cultures that score high on the individualism dimension, like the US, where the emphasis on the single person’s responsibility for anything that happens to him/her is deeply embedded and the automatic answer to all societal problems.
It also (together with many other stories in the recent past) flies against all the stuff we’ve been told about the greatly positive, progressive impact of digital democratization through social media.

Most sm users have yet to understand the degree to which they’re giving up control and the fact that you can’t know in advance how the data about you are going to be used, and even this big story will most likely have a limited impact on them – I doubt any change will come from the bottom-up, for the aforementioned reason (+ a layer of abstraction which makes the whole issue non-immediate to most).

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When will cryptocurrency holders realize that cryptocurrency is a scam?

Posted by StepTb su marzo 28, 2018

A bubble is not necessarily a scam, just something hyped and overvalued because of irrational exuberance and a relatively strong narrative behind it (the crypto narrative seems to fit very well the current climate – decline of trust in all kinds of institutions; pseudo-conspiracist bs a go-go everywhere online*; economic low growth, wage stagnation and increasing internal inequality in all the developed world; unsustainable levels of debt for either nations or households; long-term effects of austerity policies where they’ve been applied; widespread overvaluation of anything tech; etc).

Was the dot-com bubble a “scam”? No.
Were there scammers riding the wave and trying to make a buck? Yes.

To answer your question:

Nobody can say cryptos are a “scam” at the moment.

But basically everyone knows it’s a bubble. I’d say most holders have already realized that. They just hope to make money in it. But, in bubbles, late joiners typically don’t.

When will the hype stop? In terms of the aforementioned underlying climate changing, I don’t see the wave turning anytime soon, so the narrative is unlikely to lose force, but fads lose their excitement factor after a while nonetheless. If the narrative behind them maintains momentum, something new can easily come along and attention/excitement can easily change ship – that’s in the intrinsic nature of fads (and, in this case, I think we’re already seeing the 2017 excitement fading out, but there’s no equivalent substitute ready to catalyze it yet).

(*with the main one having been elegantly and succinctly debunked by Kevin Johnson on Quora, if you’re interested)

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What is the single most underrated trait a person can have?

Posted by StepTb su marzo 28, 2018

Historical perspective.

“A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries. He may regard the general, impersonal foundations of his existence as definitely settled and taken for granted, and be as far from assuming a critical attitude towards them as our good Hans Castorp really was; yet it is quite conceivable that he may none the less be vaguely conscious of the deficiencies of his epoch and find them prejudicial to his own moral well-being. All sorts of personal aims, hopes, ends, prospects, hover before the eyes of the individual, and out of these he derives the impulse to ambition and achievement. Now, if the life about him, if his own time seems, however outwardly stimulating, to be at bottom empty of such food for his aspirations; if he privately recognises it to be hopeless, viewless, helpless, opposing only a hollow silence to all the questions man puts, consciously or unconsciously, yet somehow puts, as to the final, absolute, and abstract meaning in all his efforts and activities; then, in such a case, a certain laming of the personality is bound to occur, the more inevitably the more upright the character in question; a sort of palsy, as it were, which may extend from his spiritual and moral over into his physical and organic part. In an age that affords no satisfying answer to the eternal question of ‘Why?’ ‘To what end?’ a man who is capable of achievement over and above the expected modicum must be equipped either with a moral remoteness and single-mindedness which is rare indeed and of heroic mould, or else with an exceptionally robust vitality. Hans Castorp had neither one nor the other of these; and thus he must be considered mediocre, though in an entirely honourable sense.”

– Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Posted in books, food for thought | Contrassegnato da tag: | Leave a Comment »

Oct+Nov+Dec 2017 Log

Posted by StepTb su gennaio 1, 2018

VIDEO:
Gaichû / Harmful Insect (Akihiko Shiota, 2001) [7]
Nabbeun namja / Bad Guy (Kim Ki-duk, 2001) [6.5]
Becoming Warren Buffett (Peter W. Kunhardt, 2017) [6.5]
Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999) [7]
Who Killed the Electric Car? (Chris Paine, 2006) [7]
Revenge of the Electric Car (Chris Paine, 2011) [7]
Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017) [6.5]
Who Am I – Kein System ist sicher (Baran bo Odar, 2014) [6-]
Racing Extinction (Louie Psihoyos, 2015) [6.5]
The Intern (Nancy Meyers, 2015) [6.5]
Joy (David O. Russell, 2015) [7+]
Hua li shang ban zu / Office (Johnnie To, 2015) [6]
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick, 1992) [8]
Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, 2015) [7-]
The War Room (Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker, 1993) [5]
Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2013) [7.5+]
Nomads (John McTiernan, 1986) [7]
Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1988) [7]
Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995) [6.5]
Hype! (Doug Pray, 1996) [7.5]
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, 2003) [7.5+]
Fail-Safe (Sidney Lumet, 1964) [8]
The Offence (Sidney Lumet, 1973) [6.5]
Running on Empty (Sidney Lumet, 1988) [7]
La société du spectacle (Guy Debord, 1973) [7]
The Cars That Ate Paris (Peter Weir, 1974) [6.5]
Maidan (Sergei Loznitsa, 2014) [6.5]

BOOKS:
The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills (Daniel Coyle, 2012) [LINK]
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Eric Ries, 2011) [LINK]
Status quo: Perché in Italia è così difficile cambiare le cose (e come cominciare a farlo) (Roberto Perotti, 2016) [LINK]
On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, and What Can Be Done (Cass R. Sunstein, 2nd ed. 2014) [LINK]
Misinformation : Guida alla società dell’informazione e della credulità (Walter Quattrociocchi, Antonella Vicini, 2016) [LINK]
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (David Hume, 1748) [LINK]
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy, 1886) [LINK]
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Cormac McCarthy, 1985) [LINK]
Al tempo di papà (Jirō Taniguchi, 1994) [LINK]

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Why is Italy poorer and more underdeveloped than other European countries?

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 18, 2017

First of all, Italy is quite wealthy, it’s one of the 10 top economies in the world.

The problem is where that wealth gets produced, and where that wealth goes.

A small part of the country (the North, and not even all of it) produces >60% of the national GDP; at the same time, internal inequality has been steadily increasing for decades, with fewer and fewer people actually seeing that wealth because of internal dysfunctions in both the public and private sector.

The dysfunctions are due to excessively high costs, excessively low productivity, and a distorted use of public resources. These problems found a weird vicious balance during the decades right after the economic boom, but the 1992 (both political and economic) crisis first and the 2007–2008 financial crisis later inflicted a fatal blow to the absurd system that was built up until then. Italians have yet to wake up to the fact that that system was absurd and that it needs to be forgotten, though. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s also impossible to make most of them understand the basic point that a country grows if its productivity does. For some reason, the argument gets constantly ignored or rejected by the public.

The 5 key reforms Italy needs ASAP are:
– Making pensions sustainable
– Making the public sector efficient and accountable, and creating a federalist system (a real one, unlike the fake federal reforms that have blown up public debt for decades), to make regions (especially in the South, but also Rome) accountable and fiscally responsible
– Cutting regressive taxes and bureaucracy (you can do this only after #1 and #2)
– Increasing the private sector productivity (you can do this only after #3)
– Reforming the banking system

Nobody is touching #5 because of rampant cronyism and corruption. Some micro reforms have been done during Italy’s darkest hour, after the financial recession nearly made us collapse (2011), especially about #1. But it wasn’t enough. Renzi tried to do something about #2, but it wasn’t enough, and his main idea (the referendum that didn’t pass) was going in the wrong direction in a certain sense.
The perfect moment to do all that was in the early 2000s, a stagnant but stable time when we had just joined the Euro and were enjoying low interest rates, but we lost a decade thanks to Berlusconi and his banana republic antics on one hand, and thanks to people obsessed by him 24/7 (rather than by those issues) on the other. Now it’s late. Anyone attempting to attack those points will lose the election, because most Italians live with the dream that things could just go back to Eldorado (the 1980s, basically, when money was growing on trees), and, if they don’t, it’s because there’s some conspiracy going on (blame the EU, the Euro, the immigrants, the masons, the technocrats, the CIA, politicians’ salaries, you name it – you can even find several examples in the other answers to this question here on Quora). They just can’t accept the fact that the world has changed and that’s what we should do as well, radically. Because we can’t afford to have an inefficient public sector anymore, we can’t afford to compete on low costs of labor anymore, and we can’t afford not to invest in innovation and not to jump to produce new things and leave behind the old models (non-innovative, non-meritocratic, family-run or relationship-based small-medium sized businesses and protected professions) anymore.

Until then, we’ll just keep stagnating and electing worse and worse demagogues promising us to go back to Eldorado through some silly or nasty slogan.
And, with a stagnating growth and a broken public sector, wealth will be shared with fewer and fewer people.
And young people with college degrees and work ethic will remain unemployed, or forced to compete like crazy for the few good jobs in the few productive centers, and to accept miserable wages to sustain the privileges accumulated by the Baby Boomers during the past crazy decades – or forced to move out of the country, somewhere where they can be absorbed by the economy and be productive.

If you want to know more about the crazy policies that undermined the Italian public sector and distorted the social contract, I suggest two books: Il macignoLa lista della spesa.
If you want an overall analysis of the major problems of the Italian economy, then read I sette peccati capitali dell’economia Italiana.
All these three books were written by the economist Carlo Cottarelli.

A related video, in English, focusing especially on the productivity problem of the Italian private sector and how it deliberately missed the IT train in the 1990s (it’s a must-watch, and probably the best one on Youtube on the subject, if you’re interested in understanding the Italian economy):

Posted in food for thought, generic stuff | Leave a Comment »

Why did Europe become so leftist and liberal?

Posted by StepTb su novembre 6, 2017

When will you Americans stop using the term “liberal” in the wrong way?

It’s quite sad to hear, especially since the US was founded as a liberal society.
The US, EU, and the rest of the modern developed nations are, thank God, all liberal societies, with a strong rule of law that exists to promote and protect individual liberty.

Then, within liberalism, there are different currents and schools of thought.
Social liberalism thinks that putting public money into the creation of safety nets and development programs is a better way to achieve the collective sum of individual liberties, because without a certain level of fairness in society, a random-born individual will have too high a probability of being unable to have choices and thus freedom. The debate among parties, here, is more on the effectiveness of specific solutions and resources allocations than on anything else.
Economic liberalism thinks the individual should be as free as possible to create wealth, and this will translate into a wealthier and freer society. Social liberalism advocates normally agree with this position, both in the US and in Europe. The whole debate on the best degree of economic freedom revolves around market failures and negative externalities. European countries are well aware of those points, and actually the debate in a lot of EU countries on how to best preserve economic liberalism is conducted in a more serious way than in the US, see for example Sweden’s fiscal policies for innovation and new businesses (How Sweden became the startup capital of Europe, Why does Sweden produce so many startups?), or Denmark’s labor market liberalizations, or anti-trust actions against big business giants.
(Your real-life average conservative is actually a mix of the two; for example, he thinks putting a lot of public money into military and defense is a good strategy to protect people’s freedom, and is ok with politicians doing it. So it comes down to a difference in allocation preferences.)
I’m making it brutally simplistic, but that’s how it is, basically. The differences are really small.
Take a look at China if you want to start to see some radical differences, not at the opposite party or at Europe.
I’m well aware politicians and media pundits want to create a climate of cultural war and polarization so they can manipulate your emotions and profit, but you shouldn’t play their game. That’s what a negative externality looks like.

Please educate yourself – consider that if you keep talking in those terms, when you’re doing it with someone coming from a European university or even just high school, you’re showing a lack of basic knowledge about Western history and/or a lack of critical thinking. Not a good signal to give, *especially* if you label yourself as a conservative. Conservatives should be the first ones to be interested in preserving historical knowledge.

See also:
– Human Freedom Index
– Index of Economic Freedom – Country Rankings
Year after year, these indexes keep showing a strong correlation between freedom and higher incomes, between democracy and freedom, between personal freedom and economic freedom.
Feel lucky and grateful to live in a liberal society where these are the common values.
Try to live for a couple of years in some of the countries scoring <5.5 if you think a less liberal society would be better.

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Why do Americans work more than Europeans? Is there a cultural bias to live to work?

Posted by StepTb su ottobre 2, 2017

There are many countries with longer working hours than the US: Mexico, Korea, Greece, Chile, Russia, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Israel, Estonia, Portugal, Iceland, Lithuania, Turkey, and Ireland.

Which countries work the longest hours?

With 1788 hours, US workers are just above the OECD average, which is 1770. So they’re not exceptional in this area.

Why then do Americans say they work so much more? Probably it’s just a cultural thing. Compared to other countries, Americans overwhelmingly believe everything in life depends just on hard work and not on luck, so they prefer to tell themselves and to people around them they work all the time.
Check the “Work-Luck Beliefs” map in the paper Culture and Institutions by Alesina & Giuliano.
When just the idea of “working hard” is so much linked to personal sense of worth and “social capital” compared to other places, you’re incentivized to signal to the rest of the world that you do work hard, and ironically it becomes even more important than *actually* working hard.

So you have this surreal situation where the average-working American thinks he’s the hardest worker in the world, and calls the extreme-working Mexican “lazy”, while instead Mexico tops the world’s chart.
Another seemingly bizarre thing is that nobody would ever call the average German “lazy”, but Germans are at the bottom of that chart, at 1363. How is it possible? Probably because they’re high in Conscientiousness but also strongly believe hard work *doesn’t* trump luck for life outcomes, unlike Americans. This combination makes you engineer a system where productivity gets maximized, instead of working hours, so you can have a more balanced overall life and at the same time feel like you work a lot. So you don’t waste time chatting and checking emails at work, you actually follow priorities. And then you also get to enjoy leisure/family/private time.

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Stuff Seen, Sep 2017

Posted by StepTb su ottobre 1, 2017

Twin Peaks, s3 ep17 (David Lynch, 2017) [7.5]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep18 (David Lynch, 2017) [7.5] [TP3 had its ups and downs, and it probably should have been a 12 eps. season, but it’s been overall a satisfying experience, with an otherwise just ok quality bumped up by 4-5 excellent episodes and a good “one-two combo” finale; let’s hope to see Lynch work again soon, and, even more importantly, to see other series with a similar or larger degree of artistic boldness]
Drachenmädchen (Inigo Westmeier, 2012) [7]
Real Value (Jesse Borkowski, 2013) [5]
Brother (Takeshi Kitano, 2000) [7]
Dolls (Takeshi Kitano, 2002) [6.5]
Zatôichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003) [6.5]
Takeshis’ (Takeshi Kitano, 2005) [8]
The Wrong Guy (David Steinberg, 1997) [7]

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Who is the richest person alive right now?

Posted by StepTb su settembre 27, 2017

I agree with Jasmin Bataille’s analysis.
Not to mention all the other natural resources other than oil that Russia is full of.
Putin de facto has strategic control over the entire national economy, which at 1283 billion US dollars constitutes the 2.07% of the entire world’s economy, and rule of law doesn’t apply to him (and others).
Proof and reinforcement to this is also the fact that, in just 10 years (2005-2015), Government plus State-owned companies have grown their share from 35% to 70% of the Russian GDP.
Even Saudi Arabia, at 646 billions and without a single person having a comparable position, is no match.
Charts like the one by Forbes only estimate wealth obtained via the very well defined set of rules of current US free market capitalism, they’re useless once you move away from that. You can’t use those formulas to compute how much wealth public sector (or crony private sector) figures de facto control in countries with a non-liberal, non-free market (by the western/US definition) system.

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Is there scientific consensus on social media being echo chambers? Whenever I see the expression used, the author seems to imply it’s an established fact

Posted by StepTb su settembre 22, 2017

No. Even if the “echo chambers theory” gets cited by politicians and journalists as if it’s a fact (because it provides a simple way for those two groups to explain phenomena and justify personal stances), in reality there isn’t a real scientific consensus on it.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12315/full doesn’t find evidence of a worse fragmentation pattern in online media relative to offline, as well as of the existence of filter bubbles, in the 6 selected developed countries.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227747056_Politically_Motivated_Reinforcement_Seeking_Reframing_the_Selective_Exposure_Debate doesn’t find empirical evidence of the “selective exposure” concept as formulated by the EC theory defenders, who say reinforcement seeking and challenge avoidance are strictly related; it finds, instead, that the trend seems to follow the first one without following the second one (which would be the real dangerous one of the two),

Another study here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0267323117695734

And another one here: New theory, old problem (EC theory fails to replicate)

Here’s another one, specific to politics: Epistemic Factors in Selective Exposure and Political Misperceptions on the Right and Left

And here’s another one: Exposure to Political Disagreement in Social Media Versus Face-to-Face and Anonymous Online Settings (the perception of political conflicts increases on social media instead of decreasing, ergo social media don’t work as filter bubbles)

And here’s another one, observing the last USA presidential elections: Helping populism win? Social media use, filter bubbles, and support for populist presidential candidates in the 2016 US election campaign

Another network analysis paper with a focus on Australia can be found here: http://snurb.info/files/2017/Echo%20Chamber.pdf

And another one: News consumption on Facebook led to less polarization and greater exposure to counter-attitudinal content https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1444783?journalCode=rics20

In general, the negative feelings seem to derive from an idealized view of the offline world. If you think about it, for a person it’s on average way easier to build a customized bubble in his or her offline life. Just take into consideration the daily lives of people once you eliminate interaction with media: they’re exposed to the same social circle, the same workplace, they go to the same places, etc. Social media are relatively more unpredictable, and even if you try to build your own personal bubble (mimicking the regular behavior humans exhibit offline), you’ll have actually more chances to come across new trends and diverging content.

Another interesting point: some decades ago, another version of the EC theory was formulated for what we now call ‘traditional media’. McGuire, one of the pioneers of psychology applied to political science, wrote that the first part of that theory (seeking ideas that reinforce your own ideas) had found some relative validation, while the second part (avoiding different opinions) never got proven.
It’s curious to observe how some people have taken, and shaken the dust off, the same exact theoretical framework, but this time for new media.

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Why does Poland have such a low birth rate?

Posted by StepTb su settembre 14, 2017

It really seems to be a bit of a puzzle, when you look at the numbers: Poland | Economic Indicators

  • Poland has experienced a stable economic growth for many years
  • The trend in wages growth has always remained positive
  • The unemployment rate, at 7%, has never been so low since the 1990s, and it will probably go down even further in the next years
  • The youth unemployment rate was very high in 1998–2004, but then went rapidly down (the Visegrád Group joined the EU in 2004), went up again a bit after the 2008 crisis, and then went down again and it’s now at a sustainable 15%
  • It should be therefore safe to say that people in Poland don’t have many reasons to hold a bleak/pessimistic view of the future, which instead can explain the <1.5 birth rate of other countries (Greece, Italy)
  • On top of all that, Poland is also a homogeneous and religious country, with 94.30 % of its citizens identifying as Christians – which is a trait positively correlated with high birth rates

Why then does Poland have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, at 1.2–1.3?

I suspect it’s another good example of reality not matching the model’s predictions – at least if you use simplistic models with simplistic assumptions.

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

Posted by StepTb su settembre 5, 2017

Random House, 2012 Buy Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
433 pages

The book with which Taleb completed his transformation into a right wing incoherently rambling wannabe guru.

The most brilliant idea this book has is stealing the concept of Resilience (from the field of study of Complex Adaptive Systems), re-naming it “Antifragility”, and insisting it’s a totally different concept from Robustness, you idiots! Well, yeah, that’s because it’s Resilience through Adaptive strategies, not Robustness. And you stole it and re-named it. And called yourself a genius (and critics ignorants and idiots, ofc) for such a groundbreaking move.
If that’s the best contribution, imagine the quality of the rest.

I’m still puzzled by the fact so many people are citing, giving credit and/or looking up to this guy.
A textbook case of pseudo-intellectualism.

(See also my review of The Black Swan, same observations apply.)

4/10

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Why do intelligent people end up being lonely in life?

Posted by StepTb su settembre 3, 2017

I can come up with two explanations.

1. Being very different than the average (in any trait, really) means that, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, most things around you don’t satisfy you, since they weren’t built “for you” (or people like you). This will make you change your environment due to dissatisfaction and lack of sense of belonging at a certain point, and move somewhere else. And this, in turn, will basically kill the social environment you were a part of before the change; like expats and refugees, you’ll have to start a new life from scratch. And, as everyone knows, the older you get the harder it is to build a social circle – it’s easy to end up being lonely no matter your efforts.

2. Having a remarkable talent usually comes with a curse: the realization you’re also wasting it. This makes you visualize bigger goals and work more, because you’re driven by the fear of wasting your potential.
In the case of highly intelligent people, this translates into utilizing your abilities to solve complex problems. But working on hard stuff, of course, implies sacrificing most (if not all) of your time to study in depth a field, then an area of specialization, and finally hypothesizing and developing possible solutions through trial and error.
In the meantime, the people around you will go on with their lives. You’ll basically disappear from their lives, and the overall divide between you and them will increasingly grow – at a certain point, even having a casual conversation will become difficult, for the lack of common ground. Other people don’t put studying and working 24/7 before social relationships and communities, and will think you’re strange, and possibly unlikable or disagreeable, for doing it. So, at the end of the day, you’ll both end up with what you aimed for: social relationships for them, expertise and loneliness for you.

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Stuff Seen, Aug 2017

Posted by StepTb su settembre 1, 2017

Kôrei / Seance (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2000) [TV] [6.5]
Kairo / Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001) [8]
Dopperugengâ / Doppelgänger (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2003) [7]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep13 (David Lynch, 2017) [7]
Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015) [7] [overall, a better result than To the Wonder: the back story is less linear and with more subtleties, the settings and chosen locations are more varied and visually stimulating, and the editing is more interesting and similar to The Tree of Life; as uncompromising as always, and, this time, underrated]
Minnâ-yatteruka! / Getting Any? (Takeshi Kitano, 1994) [6.5]
Kizzu ritân / Kids Return (Takeshi Kitano, 1996) [7]
Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu / Gozu (Takashi Miike, 2003) [6.5]
The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom, eps. 1-3 (Adam Curtis, 2007) [TV] [7]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep14 (David Lynch, 2017) [7.5]
HyperNormalisation (Adam Curtis, 2016) [6.5] [a mixed bag by Curtis; his statements about Assad creating suicide terrorism are just wrong (which is particularly bad, since they’re the glue keeping all the film’s thesis together), his whole coverage of the Middle Eastern conflicts contains gigantic omissions, and his complete omission of anything involving the Dems (just in time for the 2016 elections) is painfully biased; other than that, he knows how to narrate and provides lots of insights, but it looks like he can’t avoid to manipulate stuff enough to make an otherwise good final product fatally flawed]
It Felt Like a Kiss (Adam Curtis, 2009) [6]
Blackhat (Michael Mann, 2015) [7] [the low ratings this film received prove people don’t seem to care about/recognize a beautifully shot and edited movie anymore, which is absurd since it’s become a rare event in contemporary digital cinema, especially within the mainstream action genre (with Mann, for some mysterious reason, being one of the few who care/know how to do it). 10 years after Miami Vice, and the reaction is still the same, if not worse. This time, even a technically well written script where computing and hacking managed to get well translated into audovisual narration and to be, for once, realistically depicted, didn’t get any appreciation. Too bad there are some hardly believable plot devices and the film loses a lot of its power during the last 30 minutes, going into genre cliché territory, but everything before that is just great cinema, proving Mann is still innovating and absolutely fresh. The film also launches a new type of action hero, with physical/combat skills just as central as cognitive/nerdy skills for his success (no need for the scientist/nerd supporting character trope anymore). And it’s even an overall better movie (more visually complex, interesting, with better rhythm and sound design) than Public Enemies]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep15 (David Lynch, 2017) [7+]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep16 (David Lynch, 2017) [8]

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What music from films is now better known than the film it came from?

Posted by StepTb su agosto 22, 2017

Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise is one of the biggest hip-hop hits of all time, but virtually nobody cares about or remembers the film Dangerous Minds, where it first appeared.
The whole album Dangerous Minds: Music from the Motion Picture went on becoming triple platinum.

A similar thing happened with Warren Beatty’s political satire Bulworth.
Bulworth O.S.T. went platinum, and the single Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are) went platinum in the US and seven other countries.
Not many people remember the actual movie, though (which was actually quite interesting, even on a purely musical level, mixing R&B/hip-hop with a great original score by Morricone).

Everyone on Earth knows Chariots of Fire by Vangelis, but how many of them have seen the film of the same name?

To an extent, it’s also true for Whitney Houston’s cover of I Will Always Love You for The Bodyguard.

Also, Taylor Dayne’s cover of Original Sin became more famous than both the original version (by the amazingly underrated Jim Steinman’s project Pandora’s Box) and the movie it was recorded for, The Shadow.

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Why did Hillary Clinton lose the U.S. elections to Donald Trump?

Posted by StepTb su agosto 20, 2017

I’d say there are three reasons, and I’ll list them all because they’re connected.
#1 and #2 would be already enough to explain it, and #3 put the last nail in the coffin.

  1. 8 years of Dems in the WH, and they underdelivered.
    – To find the last >8 years Dem Presidency, you have to go back to the extraordinary time of FDR+Truman.
    – You could say Obama’s original vision was a modest version of LBJ’s Great Society. Even as a modest version, it didn’t really come into action.
  2. Hillary wasn’t really a weak candidate, but she definitely was the wrong one. She represented a dynasty, in a moment where Americans strongly demanded change. She’s been in the WH or in other top positions of power for decades, and people wanted an outsider. Look at Jeb, he was the media’s favorite on the right, and probably the best Bush out of the three, but people rejected him for the same reason. Most even had no problems laughing and applauding at Trump bullying him.
  3. The last nail in the coffin was Hillary calling a segment of voters “deplorables”, and everything it implied. That was just an incredibly amateurish move for such a seasoned politician. You never-ever insult voters – they’re legitimately using their rights through the democratic process of a democratic country YOU are asking them to govern. And you especially don’t do anything like that if you’re branding/positioning yourself as the morally better option. If you think they’re making an absurd choice, it’s on you to understand why and give them a better answer. Otherwise, you’re not a strong alternative. That fit so wonderfully the Trump narrative of the “smug liberal elite” that he couldn’t have asked for anything better. It also wonderfully went hand-in-hand with an overall political strategy that was faulty from the start.
    I’ll expand a bit.
    As the statistician Andrew Gelman shows (book Red State Blue State, Rich State Poor State), lower classes vote based on economics and are much more similar in their behavior, while upper-middle and upper classes have the luxury of voting based on social values and are much more politically heterogeneous. Of course, a big geographical and cultural divide between the two during moments of crisis or stagnation results in an economically stressed segment of voters who want economic answers… and instead the affluent, metropolitan and liberal media and politicians talk to them about social values (since that’s the battleground in their world), while they actually don’t decide based on that dimension. Doubling down on this mismatch (not to mention calling them animals, bigots, deplorables, etc.) just shows them your complete disconnection, therefore inability to understand their issues, therefore inability to solve them. The majority of those voters would support left-leaning policies benefiting them (Gelman also shows “poor people voting against their interest” is a myth), but, if that’s the interaction, they’ll stay home or vote someone who “gets it” a bit better.
    Ideally, you should aim at a nationally unifying message (Obama’s 2008 campaign). Your second best bet is unifying a relative majority (Trump’s strategy, applied by channeling negative emotions against a precise series of enemies). What was Hillary’s strategy? Something quite amorphous – and anyway, whatever it was, anything else will lose to those two.
    If the Trump strategy keeps being applied, Dems will need to radically re-think whatever they’ve been trying to do, and find a strategy able to neutralize it. Some very interesting pieces have recently been written on this topic:
    Safety Pins and Swastikas
    Debating the liberal case against identity politics
    Richard Rorty’s prescient warnings for the American left

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Stuff Seen, Jul 2017

Posted by StepTb su agosto 1, 2017

World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt, 2015) [short] [7]
Black Mirror, s1 ep1 “The National Anthem” (Otto Bathurst, 2011) [6.5+]
Black Mirror, s1 ep2 “Fifteen Million Merits” (Euros Lyn, 2011) [7]
Black Mirror, s1 ep3 “The Entire History of You” (Brian Welsh, 2011) [7]
Black Mirror, s2 ep1 “Be Right Back” (Owen Harris, 2013) [6.5+]
Black Mirror, s2 ep2 “White Bear” (Carl Tibbetts, 2013) [6.5]
Black Mirror, s2 ep3 “The Waldo Moment” (Bryn Higgins, 2013) [7.5] [a truly solid script: coherent, well developed and effectively satirical – the best episode in this series so far; it also looks like it’s the least liked by fans judging by IMDb ratings, I really can’t understand it]
Black Mirror, “White Christmas” (Carl Tibbetts, 2014) [7+]
Black Mirror, s3 ep1 “Nosedive” (Joe Wright, 2016) [6.5+] [it starts extremely well; the main point here is not about social media, which are just a tool, but about a society entirely built on reputation capital. Which results in a pastel-colored world where all negative emotions are repressed. The figure of the social reputation consultant is a particularly brilliant touch. Too bad the script suddenly drops in quality once the truck sequence ends, and the entire final part is mediocre at best – it feels like the authors didn’t have any idea how to end the story, and went with improvising, ultimately ruining a great premise]
The Expanse, s1 ep1 (Terry McDonough, 2015) [6]
Black Mirror, s3 ep2 “Playtest” (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) [6]
Black Mirror, s3 ep3 “Shut Up and Dance” (James Watkins, 2016) [6.5]
Black Mirror, s3 ep4 “San Junipero” (Owen Harris, 2016) [7]
Black Mirror, s3 ep5 “Men Against Fire” (Jakob Verbruggen, 2016) [7] [well written and directed, but entirely too similar to The Outer Limits s4 ep3, “Hearts and Minds”]
Black Mirror, s3 ep6 “Hated in the Nation” (James Hawes, 2016) [6.5]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep9 (David Lynch, 2017) [7+]
Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller, 2015) [6.5]
Cure (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1997) [8.5]
Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi / A Scene at the Sea (Takeshi Kitano, 1991) [7.5]
Hana-bi (Takeshi Kitano, 1997) [8.5]
Kikujirô no natsu / Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999) [7+]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep10 (David Lynch, 2017) [7]
Am zin / Running Out of Time (Johnnie To, 1999) [7]
John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski, 2017) [5] [from the Gianna’s death sequence on, it’s an entertaining 6/10 (well-shot, good cinematography and editing, some nice touches relatively to sets and locations, but still a cartoonish plotline with horrible dialogues) – too bad everything prior to that is a 4/10, and it constitutes roughly half of the movie. overall, worse than the first film]
The Man in the High Castle, s1 ep1 (David Semel, 2015) [7]
Homeland, s1 ep1 (Michael Cuesta, 2011) [7]
Swimming with Sharks (George Huang, 1994) [7]
In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute, 1997) [8+]
Bound (Wachowski & Wachowski, 1996) [7]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep11 (David Lynch, 2017) [7]
Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson, 1997) [7.5]
Twin Peaks, s3 ep12 (David Lynch, 2017) [6-] [worst episode until now – a filler with lots of bad dialogues]

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