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Another rant about academia and open source

> You can win in two ways: you can research something that helps somebody beat > somebody else up or consume more, so that they give you funding. Or you can win > by not losing, by pulling some wild theoretical stunt that puts you out of > range of everybody else so that they can’t come after you. You become good at > critiquing things in ways that sound smart, and tell people who disagree with > you that they haven’t read your cannon. You hope that if they call your bluff > and read it, they will be so converted by the experience that they will leave > you alone.

This para drives home the point at so many levels. This is also something I need to be really careful while doing inter disciplinary research. Being from computational sciences I can use tools which no one in the humanities area understand and it will be trying to answer questions which no one in the area of the computational science cares about. So you'll be virtually unbeatable, which is a really bad place to be in.

Keeping your research in open and helping access it as much as possible not only increases the value of your research but also gives a proof that what you are working on is something somebody cares about.

Reason as memetic immune disorder

This was a very interesting analysis by PhilGoetz how "reason" can be thought of a memetic immune disorder. The idea is that people have lot of belives which might come from religion or tradition or culture. Since belives are often very general, they might not generalize well. In a situtation where live with that belive for a long time with people who's behaviour are based on similar belives you learn socially which parts of belives to follow and which you shouldn't. When some one tries to reason out those belives they loose the immunity they loose the immunity they have gained from the herd and try to apply the rules where where they shouldn't be used. EY puts is pretty well "rationality (is) a failure of compartmentalization - the attempt to take everything you hear seriously."

Machine Bias

There are two lessons I take out of this story:

  1. Promote Free Software, Free as in Free Speech, rather mandate their use in such cases. Even Free Software can also be biased but in case of non free software it can become practically impossible to find their biases and correct them.
  2. We as should selling algorithms as magic, instead of saying there is 60 likelihood that person X will commit the crime again, say according to my system the person X is sixty percent similar to other people who commit the crime again with my rather transparent definition of similarity. Ram and Rahim are brother, as brothers of course they are similar at many levels, Ram has commited a crime does that mean Rahim will do it too?

Why isn't the NSA a hot topic in the US elections?

The article talks about how NSA surveillance should be one of the topics of the US presidential election but isn't. It compares the situation with Germany where the population is very privacy conscious. It brings out important facts but doesn't connect them well, it says that German population is privacy conscious because of the human rights violation by Eastern Block Germany and earlier by the Nazi secret police, but it reaches the conclusion that surveillance isn't a hot topic because it is very nuanced and doesn't make good catch phrase. But every topic is nuanced if you look deep enough and every issue has only one answer on the surface. Politicians don't generally aim to change the norm during the election but rather try to attract a sect of people who already agrees with her/him. So the question here should be why does the German population care and US doesn't. Well one of the answers can be history as the author already mentioned, there have been thought policing in the McCarthy era too but not sure about the extent to which it affected the white population. Another important factor should be the corporate influence in politics and maybe media in America compared to Germany. Corporate surveillance goes hand in hand in government surveillance, if corporates doesn't support an issue the issue remains unattractive for the politicians. Also it would be an interesting exercise to study the relation between the profits a parent company make through breaches of privacy and its coverage on surveillance.