40 votes

What's something that's a "really big deal" that has fallen out of public awareness and discourse?

Note: I don't love my title and am open to any community edits that improve it!

"Really big deal" is of course relative, and it doesn't have to be a big deal for everyone but can be big for a specific domain, field, or group of people. It also dosn't have to be recent. Many "big deals" of the past have yielded things that are largely invisible to us now and that we take for granted.

What is something that is hugely significant but also seems to have no common presence in current discussions or understandings of the world?

53 comments

  1. [20]
    patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    It's really striking to me lately how rapidly things that are important to our survival and the existence of stable human civilization fade from public attention. When I look on Google Trends,...

    It's really striking to me lately how rapidly things that are important to our survival and the existence of stable human civilization fade from public attention.

    When I look on Google Trends, it's as if Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 stories, Trump's various acts of lawlessness, the war crimes in Syria, Chinese suppression of the Uighurs and Hong Kong, environmental catastrophes, etc. all have an attention span half-life of about 5 days. [The search rate drop-offs literally look like a radioactivity decay curve...]

    It may be that we're learning helplessness because we can't individually control the frightful events that are besieging us. Maybe, as /u/Kuromantis implied, most effective action happens nearly immediately (or within the first 5 days, anyway). I can't pinpoint any single "big deal" about which we should all be continually interested, other than how we can be more effective at collective action and planning.

    29 votes
    1. [14]
      Moonchild
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Someone I know who was heavily involved in the design and implementation of modern internet infrastructure recently made an observation I thought was very interesting: Historically, periods of...

      Someone I know who was heavily involved in the design and implementation of modern internet infrastructure recently made an observation I thought was very interesting:

      Historically, periods of massive civil unrest have led to revolution. The internet as we know it interferes with this causality chain:

      • It normalizes outrage, reducing its personal impact; when you feel outrage about something, it's a familiar emotion, with a familiar outcome: get angry at someone on the internet and eventually move on. We're used to outrage over pointless things not leading to action, and outrage over things that actually matter feels exactly the same. This is related to (but notably distinct from) the fatigue and numbness mentioned in the siblings.

      • It provides an escape. We're never forced to deal with our problems head-on, because whenever things get hard, emotionally, we can go back to scrolling through facebook. Over time, this becomes an ingrained habit, and revolution becomes impossible, since revolution requires care, thought, and difficulty which we are unable to deal with.

      • It is an extremely effective tool for mass propaganda, which means that the dominant power structures (governments and corporations) are better able to consolidate and maintain their power.

      These things are not strictly new—books have always been available as an escape, and we were able to have WWII well after mass propaganda had been invented—but the internet enables them with unprecedented power and scale. The second is the most important; those in Power have learned that if they wait a few weeks or months, people will get tired of protesting. This also feeds back and leads to a cycle of learned helplessness.

      The fact is, I could finish this off with an inspiring/rising note, but I doubt it would do a lick of good. It's always been possible to radicalize a small minority of people (for an extreme example, see QAnon). Large-scale sustained public reform might not be possible, but it definitely won't happen for as long as the internet exists in its current form. And this complicates matters further, because the internet also provides a lot of value. It allows people from opposite ends of the world, who would otherwise never know about each other, to have high-quality discussions. The person I mentioned earlier was conflicted; on the one hand, his service is used to put cheap ads on machine-generated clickbait, but on the other, it dispatches ambulances that save people's lives.

      I'm not optimistic. I don't think humanity will recover in our lifetimes, or even our grandchildren's lifetimes. It will get worse before it gets better, and it won't get better for a long time. The world is beyond us, for now.

      28 votes
      1. [8]
        kfwyre
        Link Parent
        This is a great point, and I want to extend it. One of the ways outrage is normalized is that we're constantly encouraged to feel secondary outrage: literally outrage about other people's outrage....

        It normalizes outrage, reducing its personal impact; when you feel outrage about something, it's a familiar emotion, with a familiar outcome: get angry at someone on the internet and eventually move on. We're used to outrage over pointless things not leading to action, and outrage over things that actually matter feels exactly the same.

        This is a great point, and I want to extend it. One of the ways outrage is normalized is that we're constantly encouraged to feel secondary outrage: literally outrage about other people's outrage.

        One of the easiest ways to get people riled up is to simply say that people are angry about [whatever] and everyone will fall neatly into one of two camps: they'll also pick up a pitchfork if they feel the cause is just (primary outrage), or they'll get angry that people could be outraged over something they feel is not worthy of it (secondary outrage).

        This often falls along political lines. A simple and recent example: in the US -- at least, not sure how prevalent this is elsewhere -- liberals get portrayed as pissed off about the phrase "Merry Christmas". This pisses conservatives off in response, who see this as erasing religion. Meanwhile, conservatives get portrayed as pissed off about the phrase "Happy Holidays". This pisses liberals off, who see this as uninclusive. Whether or not anyone is actually pissed off doesn't matter, as all you have to do is say someone is pissed off and you'll generate a secondary outrage response, which consequently actually does make people genuinely pissed off. It's like money laundering for emotions.

        Even if nobody was ever really angry to begin with, you simply pretend like they are until the secondary outrage takes hold, and now the fake anger has become real anger. Now in December seemingly everybody in America is super angry over how others are treating some simple phrasing, and then everybody digs their heels in on their side, which makes the non-important source of secondary outrage important, but only because of the secondary outrage it produces. Thus, Conservatives will gleefully say "Merry Christmas" to own the libs while liberals will forcefully assert "Happy Holidays" to highlight the insensitivity of the right and all the while not a single one of us is filled with Christmas/Holiday cheer despite everyone on both sides constantly and literally encouraging it in every possible interaction for all the wrong reasons.

        It's outrage all the way down, and the more ridiculous the source of the outrage, the better, as that will generate more of a secondary outrage response, which feeds the importance of the [whatever] that's inciting it. This is why we see huge cultural flashpoints flare up over relatively minor things, and then those minor things become emblems in the ongoing culture war. Everyone's mad that some people are mad, and then they do/say/buy the [whatever] as a way of making people mad.

        The question is: does any of this come from a genuine place, or is arbitrarily creating conflict over minor things simply an easy way to get clicks, shares, comments, views, purchases, etc.? And, if so, what does it mean when we become habituated to that conflict? What would the world and our interactions look like if we weren't constantly pissed off all the time? It's not that there aren't things deserving of outrage, but, like you said, that outrage is normalized to the point of familiarity, over even the most minor, trivial things.

        22 votes
        1. [2]
          Deimos
          Link Parent
          Some internet journalists have also discovered that because Twitter is searchable, you can write this type of article about practically anything, and include "proof". So for your example, they'd...

          Some internet journalists have also discovered that because Twitter is searchable, you can write this type of article about practically anything, and include "proof".

          So for your example, they'd do something like search for "merry christmas" along with words that show the person's complaining about it, like maybe "bullshit" or "ridiculous", or ones like "liberals" or "left" if they explicitly want the political aspect.

          You can almost always find at least a few tweets about anything by doing this, so then they quote or embed them in the article. It doesn't matter that it's some random person that has 6 followers and nobody ever would have seen the tweet naturally, it still makes for passable proof that "people are upset about this".

          A lot of Twitter is basically people broadcasting random complaints about things, so being able to search it is a source of endless ammunition for this kind of outrage content. It's kind of like the "on the street" style interviews on TV where they ask random passers-by their opinion about a topic, but they don't even have to ask anyone. They can just go find someone that's already given them the exact response they want.

          15 votes
          1. Kuromantis
            Link Parent
            If you want a good example of this, see the reaction to This post from the paw patrol's twitter account and this post showing 4 tweets that showed up in Fox news. 2 of these tweets have less that...

            If you want a good example of this, see the reaction to This post from the paw patrol's twitter account and this post showing 4 tweets that showed up in Fox news.

            2 of these tweets have less that 10 likes, one is somewhat reasonable and the last one is a dumb remark.

            Social media is becoming increasingly similar to TV.

            1 vote
        2. monarda
          Link Parent
          I wonder also if it's not that these sorts of outrages are "safe." I could be outraged that someone has an issue with Happy Holidays, and I can actually do something about it. I can start saying...

          I wonder also if it's not that these sorts of outrages are "safe." I could be outraged that someone has an issue with Happy Holidays, and I can actually do something about it. I can start saying Happy Holidays! Whereas the outrage I feel about the genocide of the Uighur people seems pointless because there's nothing I can do.

          6 votes
        3. [2]
          patience_limited
          Link Parent
          Roger Stone is notorious in part for one of his rules of politics: "Hate is a more powerful motivator than love". It's impossible to maintain civilization without a collective bias in favor of...

          Roger Stone is notorious in part for one of his rules of politics: "Hate is a more powerful motivator than love".

          It's impossible to maintain civilization without a collective bias in favor of trust and altruism. That bias perversely makes it easier to manufacture outrage and hate - by inflating the perceived incidence of violations of trust, then ascribing them to outgroups.

          We're actually surrounded by contrary examples that are so common they're not newsworthy.

          5 votes
          1. kfwyre
            Link Parent
            This is a really great point, and one I hadn't ever really considered. Also, your latter article is wonderful. Hearing Latistia talk about her daughter's death with such grace was truly touching....

            It's impossible to maintain civilization without a collective bias in favor of trust and altruism. That bias perversely makes it easier to manufacture outrage and hate - by inflating the perceived incidence of violations of trust, then ascribing them to outgroups.

            This is a really great point, and one I hadn't ever really considered.

            Also, your latter article is wonderful. Hearing Latistia talk about her daughter's death with such grace was truly touching. Mallory's use of mailboxes as markers to alternate walking and running was ingenious! Those stories were a nice reminder that there are amazing people everywhere putting their energies towards a better world who never really get their due, and part of what makes them amazing is that they're not working for good out of any sort of self-aggrandizement or for any sort of reward. It's just who they are and how they're choosing to live.

            2 votes
        4. Moonchild
          Link Parent
          Now I'm outraged by your reports of people getting pointlessly outraged by others' fictitious outrage :)

          Now I'm outraged by your reports of people getting pointlessly outraged by others' fictitious outrage :)

          3 votes
        5. Eric_the_Cerise
          Link Parent
          That's awesome. I'm stealing this. Thanx.

          It's like money laundering for emotions.

          That's awesome. I'm stealing this. Thanx.

          2 votes
      2. skybrian
        Link Parent
        I'm wondering if it's less about the Internet and more about getting out of the habit of organizing to actually do things for real. It's gotten so that many people think of organizing as getting...

        I'm wondering if it's less about the Internet and more about getting out of the habit of organizing to actually do things for real. It's gotten so that many people think of organizing as getting together to demand things from authorities. When actually doing stuff is thought of as "unpaid labor" then it's no wonder that it's people who control money who call the shots.

        On the other hand, many of the things people want are best done by professionals and often only allowed to be done by professionals so I guess we're stuck?

        Open source excepted, although even then, there is often a lot more filing bugs and talking about features than coding. (Looks around guiltily.)

        4 votes
      3. [2]
        tempestoftruth
        Link Parent
        I agree with a lot of what you're saying here, and I want to add what I believe to be an important piece of the puzzle. All this learned behavior you've described (e.g. going back to the social...

        I agree with a lot of what you're saying here, and I want to add what I believe to be an important piece of the puzzle. All this learned behavior you've described (e.g. going back to the social media feed without taking material action after something made you feel outraged) is also behavior we've been manipulated into. That the algorithm is specifically designed to suck people in is important to realize, especially since the knowledge that it's manipulative can be useful in convincing people to snap out of it.

        3 votes
        1. Moonchild
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I'm not convinced of that. It's certainly an extenuating factor. But the basic mechanism of computers is instant gratification and feedback; and the basic mechanism of the internet is unlimited...

          All this learned behavior you've described is behavior we've been manipulated into

          I'm not convinced of that. It's certainly an extenuating factor. But the basic mechanism of computers is instant gratification and feedback; and the basic mechanism of the internet is unlimited gratification and feedback. Humans are not well-equipped to deal with these, especially in combination. And people wanted both of these. People wanted a metaphorical library of alexandria. Not manipulators, but creative, interested, smart people.

          It seems like a good idea.

          It was twisted and worsened by the likes of facebook, true; your facebook feed is designed to be addictive in a way that something like sci-hub is not. But I think a similar construct would have arisen organically regardless.

          7 votes
      4. [2]
        patience_limited
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I don't know that the revolution-suppressing capacity of the Internet attention black hole will persist past the point where ever-grimmer reality intrudes on people's lives. In the U.S., at least,...

        I don't know that the revolution-suppressing capacity of the Internet attention black hole will persist past the point where ever-grimmer reality intrudes on people's lives.

        In the U.S., at least, the number of people who've lost a loved one or their livelihoods to COVID-19, or their home to a climate disaster, or watched George Floyd's death for the n-th time, is growing daily.

        I can't see this continuing indefinitely. There's already a fair incidence of violent rage. The propaganda engines can't gaslight people forever, when they're so forcefully confronted with failed explanations for suffering.

        There's no economic model for the worst offenders (e.g. Facebook and Google) to perpetuate the cycle when advertising money starts to pull out, regardless of how many hypnotized eyeballs can be delivered.

        Footnote: Unbiasing the sample of people's behavior is important. I've been spending less time online (and by extension, Tildes) to work on political action, volunteering, and personal job/housing stuff. I'd suspect that this is also true for a great many people who are fomenting a revolution that just hasn't earned that label in the media yet. Revolutions don't necessarily involve open warfare; there are historical examples of non-violent mass action that drove vast political change. I hope we're simply too embedded in events to see that pattern emerging.

        2 votes
        1. Moonchild
          Link Parent
          How many in china have been baselessly kidnapped and imprisoned outright by the state (not to mention far worse), with nary a murmur from most of the population? How many corrupt governments of...

          I don't know that the revolution-suppressing capacity of the Internet attention black hole will persist past the point where ever-grimmer reality intrudes on people's lives.

          How many in china have been baselessly kidnapped and imprisoned outright by the state (not to mention far worse), with nary a murmur from most of the population? How many corrupt governments of poorer countries preside over yet more corrupt police, and have not faced judgement from the people?

          I find this comment from @ThatFanficGuy about the state of russia enlightening. A variety of repression strategies from the government, coupled with internal rationalisations and compensation strategies, and despite a majority aknowledgement that the system is broken, no one acts to change it. This is the complacency and inaction of our age.

          In the US, there is a feeling that it is supposed to be better than that. That this is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, and that if it is not, that is an outrage and—viva la revolution! (I don't mean to imply that this is specific to the US; it's the same in canada, and I'm sure something similar pervades western europe, japan, korea, new zealand, etc.) How long can this feeling of entitlement continue as our freedoms erode? The police are murdering citizens outright; how much reform has resulted? Change takes time, but I don't believe the situation has gotten any worse (if it is worse, it's certainly not significantly so); it's just better publicized now. The response, though rousing, has a disproportionately high level of outrage, and a disproportionately low level of actual change. (See: all the token press releases released only once they're approved and it's certain more people will be gratified than offended. See: the nonsense about changing programming terminology, so companies can pretend they're having an impact while only encouraging more complacency.)

          I would like to believe you are right. If there really is a revolution, one that involves millions of people marching into the capitol and ousting the current heads of state, I will gladly join it. But I really doubt it will happen.

          There's no economic model for the worst offenders (e.g. Facebook and Google) to perpetuate the cycle when advertising money starts to pull out, regardless of how many hypnotized eyeballs can be delivered.

          Right, ad-tech is definitely a bubble. (This is not just speculation on my part; it's also corroborated by another acquaintance, who works in ad-tech.) That doesn't mean it's going to evaporate, though. Eyeballs will still be worth paying for, they'll just be worth less, and surveillance+propaganda will always be useful to someone; if to no one else, then at least to the government, which is guaranteed a pretty big chunk of funding.

          4 votes
    2. bleem
      Link Parent
      fatigue. from trump being an onslaught of scandals every single day, to covid. it's fatigue. we arent meant for this much abuse

      fatigue. from trump being an onslaught of scandals every single day, to covid. it's fatigue. we arent meant for this much abuse

      10 votes
    3. [2]
      Deimos
      Link Parent
      Related to COVID-19 specifically, one piece of this that I haven't seen mentioned much is that a lot of the content is ineligible for advertising or otherwise demonetized. Because of that, there's...

      Related to COVID-19 specifically, one piece of this that I haven't seen mentioned much is that a lot of the content is ineligible for advertising or otherwise demonetized. Because of that, there's less incentive for all the ad-revenue-dependent internet media to keep covering it extensively, and they'd probably love to be able to move on to other stoires.

      There's still plenty of coverage overall, but I'm sure it's influencing how many resources some outlets are able to put into coronavirus articles and how much prominence they give them, compared to articles they can actually get revenue from.

      6 votes
      1. Moonchild
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Yep. A friend, who works for an ad company, was talking about this several months ago, after the news about covid first broke. Apparently, advertisers were not happy about having their content...

        Yep. A friend, who works for an ad company, was talking about this several months ago, after the news about covid first broke. Apparently, advertisers were not happy about having their content next to covid-related content. So there was pressure on the ad companies. He was building a system to automatically detect covid-related content, and funnel ads accordingly. Seems awfully bleak, but it's ineligibility for specific advertisements, not broad demonetization, which I suppose is not as bad. (Blame the free market...)

        Personally, I'm not quite sure why (selfish) companies wouldn't want their ads appearing next to covid news. People reading a lot of covid news are probably nervous or anxious, and nervous, anxious people buy things.

        3 votes
    4. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Americans always seemed to place great trust in their institutions. As if they would naturally sustain democracy through the motions. Turns out they were wrong—as would be about any country. I...

      Americans always seemed to place great trust in their institutions. As if they would naturally sustain democracy through the motions. Turns out they were wrong—as would be about any country. I hope they acquire some healthy skepticism after all that.

      5 votes
    5. Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      Not necessarily, that's what we were trained to expect until we outpaced evolution. Now things don't work like that anymore, but our brains still act as if they do, so if something can't be...

      Maybe, as /u/Kuromantis implied, most effective action happens nearly immediately (or within the first 5 days, anyway).

      Not necessarily, that's what we were trained to expect until we outpaced evolution. Now things don't work like that anymore, but our brains still act as if they do, so if something can't be immediately solved like throwing a stick at a pig for food but replace it with any news story you find relevant, you might as well forget about it, the pig went away.

      I said humans evolved like most animals to act quickly, decisively and given these circumstances, on gut feeling. Politics doesn't work like that, but we do, so the news cycle that we watch works accordingly and turns into rain/a waterfall.

      4 votes
  2. [5]
    dozens
    Link
    The Panama Papers. We were given detailed evidence of a conspiracy to make the global elite even more rich and powerful, and we all kind of collectively shrugged and ignored it.

    The Panama Papers. We were given detailed evidence of a conspiracy to make the global elite even more rich and powerful, and we all kind of collectively shrugged and ignored it.

    26 votes
    1. [4]
      EscReality
      Link Parent
      While I do agree its a big issue, its more a symptom of a larger issue; The 24 Hour News Cycle. The MSM has developed over the last two decades to become a force more concerned with ratings than...

      While I do agree its a big issue, its more a symptom of a larger issue; The 24 Hour News Cycle.

      The MSM has developed over the last two decades to become a force more concerned with ratings than with actual journalism. The Panama Papers is one of thousands of major issues that has gone forgotten because we have already moved on to the next scandal being shoveled in by our favorite MSM source.

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        It's easy to blame the media for this. Traditional media used to have full control over what was published and widely distributed. Now social media and other platforms challenge that. Others get...

        It's easy to blame the media for this.

        Traditional media used to have full control over what was published and widely distributed. Now social media and other platforms challenge that. Others get to set the agenda and media has had to adapt.

        The result is that media has to compete for our attention like never before. All media is viewer/reader-based to some degree today. Consumers are setting the agenda like ever before.

        What does it take for normal people to actually read, watch and listen to news? Something new all the time. Celebrity news. Sports. Influencers and all the other things that aren't important but for some reason get so much coverage: Because they get read and watched.


        It's easy to blame the media for not having a focus on really, actually important things. Who pays for the media? Almost every time a paywalled piece on something important is submitted on tildes, a summary or just a full ripoff of the text is immediately posted, undermining those who want to have the resources to pay for news.

        We as consumers, as Netflix users and youtubers who demand ever more entertainment, when young people increasingly don't interact with civil society or news because they spend their time on other things instead, we're the ones who're ensuring the neverending Trump show without substance, and that things just go away without anything really changing.


        As people are losing their lives, livelihoods and experiencing an extreme situation during a pandemic, how the hell are facemasks getting all the attention?

        How is kneeling, the ethnicity of voice actors and whether or not it's okay to call something a "master bedroom" getting all the attention in a supposed reckoning on systemic racism?

        Blame everyone who talk about those minor things in their daily lives rather than the real issues. It's a cop out to blame the media, just like it's a cop out to lay the blame for lack og environmental improvement and changes only at the feet of large companies.

        8 votes
        1. [2]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          I think this is a bit disingenuous - young people do interact with civil society and news just in a very fundamentally different way than the older generations do. News is distributed through...

          young people increasingly don't interact with civil society or news because they spend their time on other things instead

          I think this is a bit disingenuous - young people do interact with civil society and news just in a very fundamentally different way than the older generations do. News is distributed through social media in a way that older adults just aren't familiar with. Social interactions are increasingly through platforms in addition to in person, and supplements in a way that is often invisible to other observers.

          5 votes
          1. nacho
            Link Parent
            I don't disagree that young people interact with civil society and news in fundamentally different ways. I definitely don't disagree that online interactions can be equivalent to in-person...

            I don't disagree that young people interact with civil society and news in fundamentally different ways. I definitely don't disagree that online interactions can be equivalent to in-person discussions.

            But that quality of conversation requires the same commitment as in meatspace.


            Here are some Pew research survey results to put the US trends into some broad context. I won't spend the time to do the same for (western) Europeans because the EU research show pretty similar trends.

            • Per March 2020 only 18 percent of US adults have social media as their primary source of news. Those who do are consistently less informed

            • 22% of US adults listened to a podcast in the last week (2019)

            • In July 2019 only 28 percent of US adults say they get news on social media "often"

            • Two thirds of Americans exhibit "news fatigue", the same number as two years ago oct-nov 2019

            • 73 percent of those who follow political news "not at all" or "not too closely" say they're news-exhausted. (they didn't survey for the percentage these groups make up in this oct-nov 2019 survey)

            • Per 2017 49% of US adults are either information and news "weary" or "doubtful" and don't follow news or trust it. Those groups skew middle-aged and male (!)

            • Older and younger adults follow news links in social media equally often , but younger ones are worse at remembering what source they got news from. (feb-march 2016)

            • Only 14% of US adults say they've changed their mind on an issue due to social media over the course of an entire year. In 18-29s, the number is only 23%! Aug 2018

            • In June 2018 only 26% of US adults could correctly identify 5 factual statements and only 35% could correctly identify 5 opinion-statements. The more politically savvy, the better people are at separating (but being more partisan makes that worse again)

            • Only 7% of 18-29s and 9% of 30-49s have paid for local news (sept 2019).

            • Only 42% of adults 18-29 say they are following covid-19 news "closely" (mar 2020)

            • Traffic to news publications seems to have leveled off (after growth into 2017). The time the visits last are also shorter. On average each visit was down to 2 minutes (end of 2018).


            This same sort of cursory overview could be done with engagement in civil society too. I couldn't easily find data from a source I know on things like organization participation, percentage of people by age who say they've participated in ____ civil society activity/cause/group or similar stats.

            6 votes
  3. [6]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    We need to learn to be silent. Understanding that many if not most of our thoughts are not meant to be shared. There’s value in introspection. Sometimes being there is more than enough. In a world...
    • We need to learn to be silent. Understanding that many if not most of our thoughts are not meant to be shared. There’s value in introspection. Sometimes being there is more than enough.
    • In a world increasingly less influenced by religion, an understanding of philosophical ethics as a whole is extremely important. The self-improvement and self-help movements are largely concerned with professional and personal success, but what about our duty to humankind? How to sustain a consistent virtuous worldview that guides our action towards the better good?
    • It’s a tragedy that we abandoned Classical Greek principles of education that are more relevant than ever. Why aren’t our young thought logic and rhetoric? An elementary knowledge of those disciplines would avoid many large scale mistakes and also have an effect on personal relationships.
    22 votes
    1. [5]
      Atvelonis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Ethics are difficult to teach when our K-12 educational system is built around standardized testing, at least in the United States. Philosophy has no place on the SAT; the essay is graded in about...

      Ethics are difficult to teach when our K-12 educational system is built around standardized testing, at least in the United States. Philosophy has no place on the SAT; the essay is graded in about five minutes. It's a joke. There are IB and AP classes that have some amount of focus on epistemology (e.g. Theory of Knowledge), but they're limited in scope and most students don't take such heavy course loads to begin with. The reason that philosophy doesn't have a bigger place in schools is because districts are beholden first and foremost to parents, not students, and parents are more interested in their kids taking chemistry, math, and computer science than learning the humanities, which aren't perceived as equally desirable fields. I can't possibly tell you how many times I was told, "Ah, computer science, now that's something useful you've decided to pursue" by adults when I got to college. It irked me to no end.

      I don't have anything against STEM, but our society places so much emphasis on it during the educational process that rhetorical skills and such—whose uses are immense and far-reaching, but not as immediately obvious as knowing how to program computers or whatever—are left by the wayside. The best programmers I know are really good at coding. The best computer scientists I know took a few humanities electives on the side. They're good at expressing their intent and explaining out program design in documentation, and can argue persuasively for this approach or that. Maybe they can't actually write code as quickly or as well as their counterparts, but they can communicate better with others in general, and can think a little bit beyond the scope of what they're literally doing. I think it's extremely unfortunate that adults constantly discourage students from taking classes in English or philosophy or history. They could stand to have a less narrow set of skills.

      12 votes
      1. [2]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        While you are correct, this is less a problem of teaching to STEM and more a problem of teaching to a test. We score schools based on how well they accomplish this test, and it directly influences...

        While you are correct, this is less a problem of teaching to STEM and more a problem of teaching to a test. We score schools based on how well they accomplish this test, and it directly influences both funding and the ability to continue as a school. As a result, all studies of subjects unrelated to what is on the test are the first to the chopping block, and any critical thinking is tossed out in favor of rote memorization.

        The fundamental problem is that we need to celebrate the diversity of jobs that exist. Does someone who wants to become a tailor or cobbler really need the same skills as someone who wishes to become a professional athlete or someone who wishes to go into science? No they absolutely do not, and we need to teach them appropriately. The end goal should not be a high school degree, a college degree, a good score on a SAT or GRE - the end goal should be a person who has the skills to do the job they actually enjoy or at the very least to have learned what they find useful and important.

        I also believe we need to be teaching children some skills that are simply not taught in schools. For example, how many adults make it to adulthood without understanding some of the basics of nutrition? Do you know what a carb is? How much energy it has? Why fiber is important? How much protein should you have every day? What about some basic functions of your body - do you know how your kidneys work either conceptually or physically? What about your liver? Your lungs? Your heart? etc. What about some basic coping skills to deal with portions of your life that are depressing, how to manage relationships with your coworkers and how to have pick a good partner for yourself? How do you handle interpersonal communication during conflict? How do you manage negative emotions? How do you get people to like you and what are people likely to do when you confront their beliefs?

        At a basic level there are what I consider essential life skills that are simply not taught to most individuals and require people actively seeking it out. Frankly, I think knowing how your body works is quite a bit more important than another year of English, learning advanced math, or any number of other things we currently teach. I certainly use communication skills more often than my knowledge of European history and I make choices for my health on a constant basis. I wish someone had taught me how to approach relationships in a healthy way before relationship counseling and lots of therapy. All of these things should have been taught to me and all individuals, rather than the current system where I had to seek out knowledge to these things throughout my education and life.

        6 votes
        1. bloup
          Link Parent
          The problem is actually that somehow everybody got this strange idea that the whole purpose of an education should be to prepare a child for a lifetime of wage labor. The whole point of education...

          The problem is actually that somehow everybody got this strange idea that the whole purpose of an education should be to prepare a child for a lifetime of wage labor. The whole point of education has always (until very recently) been about giving students the tools they need to critically analyze anything they come across and the ability to take literally nothing for granted. An education should be about giving people the skills they need in order to be a good and virtuous citizen within a functioning democracy. Not preparing people for a lifetime of servitude to an owner class.

          3 votes
      2. [2]
        mrbig
        Link Parent
        That’s all very reasonable. I’d just like to point out that you don’t need to study a lot of logic, rhetoric, and ethics for it to make a difference. Just brief introductions to let you know...

        That’s all very reasonable.

        I’d just like to point out that you don’t need to study a lot of logic, rhetoric, and ethics for it to make a difference. Just brief introductions to let you know what’s out there can be very useful.

        Edit to add: Communication skills are certainly useful, but the duo logic/rhetoric is so useful to understand political discourse and manipulation it can actually change the makeup of a democracy.

        5 votes
        1. NaraVara
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Honestly technical skills have always been easy enough for me to learn through self-study. I never really understood why formal education needs to emphasize it. I got a lot more out guided...

          I’d just like to point out that you don’t need to study a lot of logic, rhetoric, and ethics for it to make a difference. Just brief introductions to let you know what’s out there can be very useful.

          Honestly technical skills have always been easy enough for me to learn through self-study. I never really understood why formal education needs to emphasize it. I got a lot more out guided discussion and graded written papers from experts in humanities that I couldn’t have done on my own.

          Things with clear right and wrong answers are very amenable to be a autodidact on, but an education is supposed to be more about teaching how to cultivate aesthetics and values in a way that lets you understand what you think and why. I think STEM educated people who try to learn softer subjects tend to bring that same mentality to other subjects that doesn’t fit.

          5 votes
  4. entangledamplitude
    (edited )
    Link
    “Science” is becoming a politicized religion based on cargo-culting rituals. This is not the biggest problem we have right now, but I see it becoming worse over the next few decades, as science...

    “Science” is becoming a politicized religion based on cargo-culting rituals. This is not the biggest problem we have right now, but I see it becoming worse over the next few decades, as science becomes a political tool for pushing policy.

    Very few people understand what actually goes into thinking and reasoning scientifically/critically, so naive empiricism (“scientism”) tends to often pass for science. The tricks we’ve learned over the last few centuries work fantastically well in simple systems, but are dangerously naive in complex systems.

    In modern media, the way to justify anything in a headline these days is “researchers say...”, effectively pushing scientists into the role of priests and messengers. In the same vein, science popularizers have a tendency to overreach in their explanations of what is “scientific”; when this brushes against common sense and cultural wisdom, people become distrustful of science, even though they might not be articulate enough to explain their reasons.

    We talk about some weird rituals like “the scientific method” as if there was some such well-specified thing, whereas it’s simply a Procrustean simplification of selected historical examples in science. As Steve Weinberg has said ”The best antidote to the philosophy of science is a knowledge of the history of science.”

    And I say all this as someone who cares enough about science to get a PhD (in physics), and spend a substantial fraction of the last decade pursuing scientific research — so believe me, I think science is definitely worth pursuing.

    10 votes
  5. [3]
    Moonchild
    (edited )
    Link
    Side channel CPU attacks (most notable examples being specter and meltdown). There's a bug in pretty much every computer processor made in the past couple of decades. This includes intel, amd,...

    Side channel CPU attacks (most notable examples being specter and meltdown).

    There's a bug in pretty much every computer processor made in the past couple of decades. This includes intel, amd, arm, and others. It almost certainly affects your computer, laptop, tablet, phone, smart tv, etc. The only exception is small processors for embedded use (so your microwave is fine...small consolation).

    This bug allows an attacker to read any memory on your system. This can include passwords and bank account information. The bug can be triggered from inside of a web browser; so a webpage you visit can steal your credit card information from another tab. Because it's part of the hardware, there is no software update that can fix it.

    The mechanism which allows this bug is also part of the mechanism that allows CPUs today to be much faster than they used to be. So it's not possible to simply fix the bug without crippling performance (barring a radical redesign, which won't be ready for at least a decade, if ever), so it hasn't been fixed and there aren't any plans to fix it.

    Sceptre and meltdown specifically were fixed; these fixes were a huge effort involving a number of sources: operating system kernels, web browsers, compilers, CPU microcode updates. But the fundamental bug is still there. There are almost certainly still ways to exploit it that aren't known to the public, and these exploits are probably being used by state actors or malicious hackers.

    13 votes
    1. [2]
      entangledamplitude
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      To stretch the metaphor a bit, I think side-channel attacks are a broader topic than just speculative execution in CPUs. We are very used to pretending that our computing devices are pure...

      To stretch the metaphor a bit, I think side-channel attacks are a broader topic than just speculative execution in CPUs. We are very used to pretending that our computing devices are pure information processors, while ignoring the substrate they’re implemented on (leaky abstractions all the way down) in a mad race for improvements. But those leaks mean that it’s only a matter of time before sensors improve enough to capture information leaking from the “side channel”. It’s a question of SNR of the sensors compared to the leakage, and having enough data & compute to run powerful statistical inference algorithms. Overhearing conversations from window vibrations, inferring computer passwords from shining light on keyboard vibrations, speculative execution attacks, de-anonymizing data of individuals and tracking their behavior (online and offline) by fingerprinting them with “enough bits” — all fall under the same broad paradigm.

      4 votes
      1. Moonchild
        Link Parent
        Another interesting avenue is timing attacks (of which some of the side channel attacks are a subset). You can formally verify that your crypto algorithm works and doesn't leak information....

        Another interesting avenue is timing attacks (of which some of the side channel attacks are a subset). You can formally verify that your crypto algorithm works and doesn't leak information. But—oops!—it takes a different amount of time to process different types of keys, which compromises an information leak.

        But none of these are something you actively need to worry about (probably).

        There is also rowhammer...

        2 votes
  6. [3]
    MonkeyPants
    Link
    That being wrong is good. That admitting ignorance is strength. That acknowledging you were wrong is noble. Nobody is right all the time. Those who refuse to admit fault are doomed to never learn...

    That being wrong is good.

    That admitting ignorance is strength.

    That acknowledging you were wrong is noble.

    Nobody is right all the time.

    Those who refuse to admit fault are doomed to never learn from their mistakes.

    15 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      And worse, people will follow them because of their confidence.

      Those who refuse to admit fault are doomed to never learn from their mistakes.

      And worse, people will follow them because of their confidence.

      3 votes
    2. culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      I don't know that being wrong is good in and of itself, but it's definitely not the mortal sin it's often made out to be.

      I don't know that being wrong is good in and of itself, but it's definitely not the mortal sin it's often made out to be.

      3 votes
  7. skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm just going to interpret this as "what's something that should be more widely known" and talk about catastrophic cancellation. This comes from numerical computing, and the idea is that if you...

    I'm just going to interpret this as "what's something that should be more widely known" and talk about catastrophic cancellation.

    This comes from numerical computing, and the idea is that if you take an approximate number and subtract another approximate number that's nearly the same size, then you can lose all precision and end up with noise.

    A simple example is a close election between two candidates. The winner is chosen by the difference between how many votes each candidate gets. The closer the election, the more accuracy you need, and polls are only so accurate, resulting in an unpredictable result.

    Often when we talk about what the future will bring, we are talking about large forces that we only know approximately and that oppose each other. Maybe the unstoppable force isn't really unstoppable, and the unmovable object isn't really unmovable, but when they collide, we should conclude that the result is unpredictable.

    So any time you see two large, evenly-matched forces that are opposed, you should be skeptical that anyone can predict what will happen, because it's unlikely that they know what's going on with sufficient precision to make a prediction.

    15 votes
  8. [4]
    bleem
    Link
    edward snowden. he is still hiding out in russia and the USA wants him detained forever

    edward snowden. he is still hiding out in russia and the USA wants him detained forever

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      ShroudedMouse
      Link Parent
      On a similar note, Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Dude was trying to help the world and now he'll likely die in a US prison for whatever charges they deem necessary.

      On a similar note, Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Dude was trying to help the world and now he'll likely die in a US prison for whatever charges they deem necessary.

      5 votes
      1. Loire
        Link Parent
        That is a very charitable outlook on Assange. While his operations did some good at some point, it's become apparent over recent years that he has operated as a an extension of Russian...

        That is a very charitable outlook on Assange. While his operations did some good at some point, it's become apparent over recent years that he has operated as a an extension of Russian disinformation and destabilization of western democracies. He also played a serious role in the election meddling that gave us Trump and all the related damage since then.

        The guy is no hero.

        10 votes
    2. culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      I was just about to post about PRISM and other forms of mass surveillance. I've seen the recent bills about banning facial recognition tech from federal and state agency use, but mostly there's...

      I was just about to post about PRISM and other forms of mass surveillance. I've seen the recent bills about banning facial recognition tech from federal and state agency use, but mostly there's just the odd ethical concern mentioned whenever a story about new tech bubbles up, or a general shrug of acceptance when talking about Google. I can only imagine what the NSA has been up to under this circus of an administration.

      2 votes
  9. Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    Probably the value of democracy and a lot of rights that seems to be taken for granted or conveniently ignored/sacrificed for the sake of owning minorities ("Imagine a boot stomping on a human...

    Probably the value of democracy and a lot of rights that seems to be taken for granted or conveniently ignored/sacrificed for the sake of owning minorities ("Imagine a boot stomping on a human face, but it's someone I don't like so it's okay lmao").

    How out-of-date our brains are when it comes to dealing with the modern world. (In a hunter-gatherer setting, there is rarely a reason to be uncertain for longer than a few seconds, modern evidence doesn't exist and anecdotes are the default, wealth as a concept doesn't exist and neither does capital, etc)

    How we're never taught about how the power structures in our world (government and business, also journalism/news businesses) work

    How science works (and can be corrupted) and evidence is made (or fabricated)

    Those are the ones I see.

    9 votes
  10. [2]
    greycrasan
    Link
    Privacy on the internet. I still remember when advice for the use of internet was never reveal your real name. Nowadays all the data about us is catalogued and analyzed. The data giants have such...

    Privacy on the internet. I still remember when advice for the use of internet was never reveal your real name. Nowadays all the data about us is catalogued and analyzed. The data giants have such a huge amount of data and they are more and more able to use it effectively. I worry about the influence they wield by exploiting that data.

    8 votes
    1. Shneebs
      Link Parent
      It's never too late to start. I finally did it this week, created a protonmail account, registered a domain name, setup my own nextcloud instance, got keepassxc setup (and on my nextcloud...

      It's never too late to start.

      I finally did it this week, created a protonmail account, registered a domain name, setup my own nextcloud instance, got keepassxc setup (and on my nextcloud instance), wiped my google passwords (my god you can just download them in plain text :( ), rooted and completely debloated my phone of anything that is required (https://www.serlonghi.com/UninstallSystemApps.html this app is amazing), it took some trial and error but it's as bare as can be, (LinageOS17 doesn't work at the moment, will go to that when I can), updated my pihole, built a pizerow wifi access point that tunnels all traffic through VPN (getting the TOR routing setup is a bit of a pain but getting there). GPS spoofing.

      Like fuck me, I'm still traceable (phone number, Wifi networks) but I feel at least, I've got a tiny bit more control of my data. You're fucked if you have no technical knowledge.

      6 votes
  11. [5]
    vegai
    Link
    There are still est. 900 nukes on high alert 24/7 in both America and Russia. Seems like everyone just forgot about them even though they are clearly a much bigger problem by far than anything...

    There are still est. 900 nukes on high alert 24/7 in both America and Russia. Seems like everyone just forgot about them even though they are clearly a much bigger problem by far than anything else that is happening on the planet.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      spctrvl
      Link Parent
      Are they really though? Both tensions and stockpiles are much, much lower than they were even thirty years ago. Not that we should be ever be totally blasé about nuclear weapons, but I think...

      Are they really though? Both tensions and stockpiles are much, much lower than they were even thirty years ago. Not that we should be ever be totally blasé about nuclear weapons, but I think climate change is certainly a much bigger concern at present.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Saigot
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        From what I understand the traditional reason to have a large stockpile of nukes is so the enemy isn't able to wipe out all your missile silos and attack you without retaliation, but developments...

        From what I understand the traditional reason to have a large stockpile of nukes is so the enemy isn't able to wipe out all your missile silos and attack you without retaliation, but developments in satilite monitoring means that a retaliatory strike is much more likely to launch before the enemy missile arrives. This means that nations need to maintain a smaller number of nukes in a smaller number of locations. So I wouldn't take the reduction in nuke counts as neccesarily a good thing.

        Personally I don't think Russia/us is a large threat compared to what's going on between India and China and India and Pakistan.

        2 votes
        1. spctrvl
          Link Parent
          That's fair, I was mostly thinking of Russia and the US because they still have the largest stockpiles, but a limited nuclear exchange between India, Pakistan, and China seems more plausible,...

          That's fair, I was mostly thinking of Russia and the US because they still have the largest stockpiles, but a limited nuclear exchange between India, Pakistan, and China seems more plausible, especially since the stockpiles aren't (yet) of a size and age that produces decades of stable MAD doctrine. I still maintain that climate change is a bigger threat, however, both due to being completely global and happening by default, as it were.

          1 vote
      2. vegai
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Is there any way to know what the level of tension actually is? Currently it might be rather low, since, you know, Trump and Putin. But Russia is a constant threat on the eastern border of Europe,...

        Is there any way to know what the level of tension actually is? Currently it might be rather low, since, you know, Trump and Putin. But Russia is a constant threat on the eastern border of Europe, with regular information war waged against several European countries and even battles going on in Ukraine since 2014.

        Climate change is disturbing yes, but it's not a thing where just a couple human beings can trigger the end of the species in less than 30 minutes. And this all could happen because of a mistake, like almost has happened already a couple of times.

        1 vote
  12. TheWanderer
    Link
    People don't know shit about how computers and internet works and they refuse to learn anything because "I am not a nerd" but at the same time this 2 things are controlling their life. I will give...

    People don't know shit about how computers and internet works and they refuse to learn anything because "I am not a nerd" but at the same time this 2 things are controlling their life.
    I will give you an example: once in my university there was a blackout so my friends wanted to download some lessons while we wait for it to be solve. I explained them that the servers were in the University and for sure turned off and they answer me "what? The webpage is not in the University is on the internet" and left laughing. Later they cameback saying that there was a problem with the internet because they couldn't access to the webpage and probably didn't had anything to do with the blackout.

    5 votes
  13. YogyrtMaej
    Link
    Uighur Muslim death camps, though it can be argued people never really cared much in the first place. Flint, Michigan. Aside from a few private pipelines, little has been done to fix the water....

    Uighur Muslim death camps, though it can be argued people never really cared much in the first place.


    Flint, Michigan. Aside from a few private pipelines, little has been done to fix the water.


    Fighting against corporate pollution and military pollution.


    Funding and combating corruption in public schooling.

    5 votes