A psychologist’s perspective on why, how and when digital privacy violations irk us

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Based on his field work, the world-renown anthropologist Richard Shweder has discovered that societies are constructed from three ethics: autonomy, community, and divinity. Autonomy largely concerns our personal sphere: how we construct our individuality and manage our private thoughts and feelings. The communal sphere contains the social norms that keep our society running smoothly and uniformly (driving on the right side of the road, avoiding fashion faux-pas, etc.). The final sphere, the divinity sphere involves religious and moral beliefs and rituals.

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Examples of moral reasoning at each of Lawrence Kholberg’s stages of development.

This theory has been adapted to understanding how and when moral development occurs. Psychologists like Lawrence Kholberg generally used to believe that children developed these ethics sequentially. First, a child’s sense of right and wrong depended upon whether an action would or would not benefit themselves (“autonomy”), then they would develop a sense of right and wrong based on social convention (is it legal or illegal?; “community”), until finally, they analyzed right and wrong based on post-conventional concerns (is the law just?, “divinity”). However, Elliot Turiel and Larry Nucci developed Social Domain Theory after pointing out the sequential development of these spheres is fallacious — even young children understand that Shweder’s domains are indeed distinct. They generally understand that there’s nothing morally wrong about eating with hands (but people think it’s strange), the color of underwear they’re wearing is no one’s business, and unsolicited harm is wrong even if rules allow it. …


“Universal Basic Services” is better than UBI, but for either to work, we’re going to have to re-evaluate economic meaning.

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In Part 1 of this series, I explained that the beginning of post-scarcity is already here, but is difficult to recognize because economics paradigms have thus far equated value with scarcity and demand. Goods which are scarce and highly demanded are those which fetch the highest “prices” on the market.

I pointed out that goods which are anomalies in these economic paradigms (good which are post-scarce), are met with regulations and attempts to create artificial scarcity (in the form of IP laws, or even simply waste). …


Why the post-scarcity economy is hard to reason about

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Many act like post-scarcity is some pipe-dream. The stuff of utopian fairy-tales and science fiction. I beg to differ. Actually, I think in many respects, it is already here in the US. We just don’t see the abundance right beneath our noses because our current economic paradigm makes it incomprehensible.

Post-scarcity is an economic situation in which the production of a good outpaces its demand.

But when I take a step back, I see millions of pounds of excess clothing being dumped in other nations. I see free couches on the side of the road. I see ballpoint pens that people take from banks without blinking an eye. …


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Dear (old-school) Hollywood, let’s chat frankly about pirates, Netflix (and other over-the-top video streaming services), and the battle for quality media. I’m going to be brutally honest with you about your failing monetization strategy. It’s going to hurt a little bit. But, if you hang in there with me, we’ll get to the good stuff: a strategic new way to eradicate revenue losses due to piracy and those pesky third-party subscription providers that scrape off the top.

So, let’s start with a history montage and some bad news.

A history montage and some bad news.

In 2001, BitTorrent was released and completely changed the face of piracy (and the internet as a whole). Now, rather than piracy largely involving physical VHS or DVD rips, anyone with an internet connection could access and host pirated content on demand from the comforts of home. And guess what? No amount of lobbying could stop it. At its peak, piracy accounted for 24% of global bandwidth traffic. Pirated content is now visited over 78.5B times per year, and it is estimated that piracy takes $2–6 billion from the TV, movie, and music industry, plus an additional $456 million dollars in lost would-be advertisement revenue. …


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DevChat.tv’s podcast network

DevChat.tv’s Charles Max Wood on the power of podcasting

Charles Max Wood is the founder of DevChat.tv, a network of podcasts which collectively reach an audience of 70,000+ programmers every week. Among the more popular podcasts are JavaScript Jabber and Ruby Rogues. Despite his huge listenership, when I interviewed him he told me he thinks that podcasts have yet to hit their soon-coming “heyday.”

Watch the full interview here

Part of his confidence is because podcasts are a unique, decentralized outlet for appealing to niche audiences. I asked him about whether the trajectory of podcasts might echo the history of television — at first representing local, niche interests but quickly standardizing and appealing to broad swaths of the population. He thought it was unlikely. “With these mass-appeal shows — they get people on — and they’ll talk about issues people care about, but sometimes it’s these niche areas that you’re going to make the biggest impact, and the mass appeal shows just can’t do that for everybody.” …


Toward ethical applications of machine learning

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When I was younger, I believed that psychologists possessed this uncanny, and somewhat mystical ability to read minds and understand what humans were thinking and planning on doing next. Now that I am a psychologist, people often ask me “are you reading my mind?” This type of question is so common in fact, that my psych friends and I have commiserated and constructed a joking response: “You’re not paying me enough for that.”

But for those of you who aren’t satisfied by my cheeky response, here’s a straightforward one: No. It turns out that psychologists don’t know what humans are thinking, and we’re actually very bad at predicting behaviors too. Part of the problem is that we are only as complicated as our subject matter — how could a fly understand the nature of itself fully — unless it was just a bit more complex than a fly? …


MetaMask co-founder Dan Finlay’s thoughts on the future of money

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Dan Finlay, MetaMask co-founder and CEO

Human needs are tangible goods, and cash is merely the means for exchanging tangible goods. A perfectly efficient economy, then, wouldn’t need cash as we currently understand it.

Dan Finlay, MetaMask co-founder, believes that healthy economies hinge upon establishing networks of trust — ones in which people rely on each other to meet those tangible needs. He believes that the power of blockchain rests in its “unprecendented degrees of automation,” in which a person can add others to their secure, shared pools of resources with ease. …


Interview with DTube’s Founder & CEO Adrien Marie

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YouTube is missing the big picture. At least that’s what Adrien Marie, founder of DTube, thinks. Adrien launched his decentralized video platform back in 2016 and it became an instant success. The idea behind DTube was to respect user privacy and to create a straightforward censorship-free platform with high-quality content. Today, DTube boasts 17 million sessions per month, across 800,000 unique visitors. This makes DTube the world’s most popular DApp.

Adrien attributes much of DTube’s instant success to the underlying incentive structure built into the platform. DTube is built on top of Steem, GUN, and IPFS, and as a user’s video is upvoted, they are paid in the social cryptocurrency. Unlike YouTube, if you visit DTube you won’t find ads. …


Thinking toward ethical behavioral cryptoeconomics

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The recent low in cryptocurrency morale has given our community a rich opportunity for reflection. The vast majority of us crypto enthusiasts have a genuine heart for marrying technology and social action, and I believe it’s time we reflect on where we wanted to go with digital currencies, honestly take stock of the state of blockchain technology today, and rigorously plan how to improve digital currencies moving forward.

I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in on many lectures discussing blockchain technologies and incentive structures in computer science at Stanford University, and it’s led me to the conclusion that crypto incentives have driven a lust for global consensus which obscures the important goals we originally had in mind. Although the trajectory of digital currencies is somewhat depressing right now, I believe that with some more compassion and creative thinking, cryptocurrencies can evolve toward the egalitarianism and liberation that inspires us so deeply. …


Let me know when blockchain liberates me. I’ll be six blocks down.

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I’m going to blaspheme blockchain. I’m not talking about its forgivable little blunders, like its inability to scale or even its inevitable forking block rollbacks and selfish mining problems. Instead, I’m going to question the moral-political fiber of the blockchain, and then run and hide from the inevitable burning arrows headed my way.

First off, let’s set the record straight: democratization and decentralization are not the same things. Democratization involves each member of the group having part control of the whole of a system. When I think democracy, I think casting my vote in a majority rules type paradigm. My vote gets counted up, but whether my vote is implemented depends upon the many votes of others as well. …

About

Amber Cazzell

PhD, Social Psychology, Stanford Visiting Scholar, University of Queensland Honorary Associate Lecturer

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