"Until the end of the 20th century, there never was a nation or a culture that recognized marriage between two people of the same sex"
The title quote comes from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and can be found in the oral arguments in the recent gay marriage case. While I meant to write about this case when it was more recent, it's not like Alito's bad history has ceased to be bad because of the Supreme Court's decision. Equally, Justice Roberts' statement that "Every definition that I looked up, prior to about a dozen years ago, defined marriage as unity between a man and a woman as husband and wife" is also no less wrong (unless he's talking about his ability to research things, in which case I can't say one way or the other whether or not he's actually able to look things up). Supreme Court justices aren't historians, nor are they necessarily knowledgeable about all things, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to take them to task for being wrong. Of course, the first thing that needs to be considered is what a "marriage" is. Like most things in history - or, let's be real, human society - the definition of "marriage" is incredibly fluid and reflects the particular society it's in, if it exists in a society at all. For the purposes of this post, though, I'm going to first look at things that are legally recognised and specifically ordained by the laws of their particular society as "marriages" - or at least the equivalent of marriage in that society, considering that not everyone has the same concept - and then at things that aren't legally marriage, but were socially marriage. Alito and Roberts would probably be more interested in the first definition. Me, I'm an inclusive kind of gal, so I'll look at both of them. Plus, I didn't do all that reading for nothing. I will inflict it on you whether you like it or not. As I said, one problem with the statement that there has never been same-sex marriage is with that concept of "marriage." Across societies and history, there are different types of relationships with varying degrees of binding or non-bindingness. We also have the problem of "same-sex." Sex is another one of those things that isn't going to have a clear definition. Not to blend the definitions of "sex" and "gender," but when looking at a concept like two-spirit, it becomes abundantly clear that the concept of a gneder or sexual binary is not a universal one. With two-spirit, for instance, intersex is a class all its own, with individuals clearly being and identifying as neither male nor female. In a case like that, how does one figure out what is a "same-sex marriage" and what is not? Who is same-sex? What is marriage? Basically, people are complicated. Silly people, not agreeing that marriage and sex will have the same definitions in perpetuity. To get around this, I'm going to say that if people recognise themselves as being part of the same social group that their particular society recognises as being an equivalent to sex ("I'm a dude!" "No way, dude! I'm a dude too!" "Dude!"), then they are the same sex. Kay. So with these restrictions in place, let's have a look at the whole of human history. Can we find an example, of something that was recognised in its particular society not only as a marriage in the sense of a legal, committed relationship, but also involved two people of the same sex? The answer is yes. So much yes.
Hittite law codes make specific (if debated) mention of slaves being able to purchase male "brides" who, while called "brides," seem to have identified as "male" in every other way, making this look suspiciously like a same-sex marriage. Beyond that, while Hittite law doesn't say anything about free men having same-sex marriages, or indeed much about homosexuality at all beyond a prohibition on incestuous homosexual relations, it seems unlikely that slaves were permitted to have a certain kind of relationship that free men were not, especially given that the law seems to exist to specify that no one else has rights to a slave's rightfully purchased spouse.
Prior to British colonisation, Azande warriors of Sudan would take boys to be their "wives," paying a bride price for them and marrying them in the same ceremony that was used for marrying women. While on the surface, this looks the same as ancient Greek pederasty, the fact that there was a special ceremony and a bride-price that had to be paid which was identical to the women suggests that these marriages were, in fact, meant to be more akin to marriages. The marriages were recognised as such by their societies, and good son-in-laws were treated the same as if they'd married a daughter (except that, in addition to usual son-in-law treats, they'd get offered a daughter as another wife). Granted, the boy-husband would later go on to have his own boy-husband in a sort of circle of life, but I don't see that as delegitimising these "marriages."
The Nuer, also of Sudan and Ethiopia, are rather famous for being one of several groups who have a tradition of women marrying other women. With the Nuer, this is as a solution to the problem of barrenness or widowhood, though other groups will do it for financial reasons. In these sorts of marriages, the women both identify as women, though the barren woman will take the role of "pater" and be the head of household. All children born will be hers, and she treats the other woman like a man would treat his wife. Once again, it's in many ways identical to a heterosexual marriage, except that the wife is encouraged to sleep with other men.
In 17th century Chinese literature, we find reference to the fact that men in the Fujian province could get married. Li Yu's "Chronicle of Extraordinary Love", while a fictional story, still takes place in an area where there is evidence that male marriages did occur, with men paying bride-prices for other men, as they would for women, and going through the same ceremony they would for a woman. "Chronicle of Extraordinary Love" ostensibly documents some of the reaction to this, but is also evidence of how these marriages worked, and how they weren't different from different-sex marriages in the same society. Indeed, this isn't even the only example I can bring in from China. While it's stretching the rules of "marriage" a bit, the 3rd century scholars Ruan Ji and Shan Tao were well-known for their committed relationship and devotion to one another.
These are just a few examples. I found many, many more, but excluded them for one reason or another. My point is, though, that not only are these two justices wrong about the historical prevalence of same-sex marriage, but they misunderstand that their idea of marriage itself is based on something radically Western and modern. For instance, we make jokes about "Biblical marriage" being defined as monogamy despite tons of Biblical marriages being anything but, but it's an illustration of how the idea of marriage is based on something that isn't terribly traditional. As an example, until about the 12th century in Europe, homosexuality was far more tolerated than at any point afterwards. Flexibility with gender and gender roles was much more of an accepted thing up until that point. After that point, increased urbanisation meant that these relationships and flaunting of gender roles became more prominent - and therefore potentially more destabilising - and thus was cracked down on. More and more non-conformities were persecuted, not just sexual ones, as increasingly powerful nation-states began to view social stability as something that could be influenced. European history is a history filled with lovers who happened to be the same sex, and even marriages that were recognised as such by their particular societies. What we remember in our narrative of our history, though, is the narrative of persecution of deviance and that we are and always have been a society of heterosexuals. Really, if we want to get even more into where the idea of marriage that Justices Alito and Roberts seem to be espousing comes from, we should look at the fact, until the Civil War, cohabitation in England and America was incredibly common as a replacement for marriage, either because the costs for marriage were too great, because of social pressure against marrying, because divorce laws prevented remarrying, or because they just didn't like the idea of marriage. Indeed, consider for a moment that, legally, slaves in the South couldn't marry, putting the entire idea of the American marriage traditions in an interesting lens. The idea of marriage that Alito and Roberts seem to be drawing from is from the 1950s image of the nuclear family of man, woman, and two and a half children. While I won't claim that history is a parade of non-heterosexual relationships, I do think it's clear that the conception of marriage as being a monogamous, heterosexual relationship is a recent one, and certainly not one that can be stretched back throughout the annals of time. I can understand where this idea comes from - when you're raised with a certain image being "correct," there is, of course, going to be a backlash against ideas that are "deviant" - but wishes don't make it true. Justice Alito is wrong. Justice Roberts is wrong. Same-sex marriage was totally a thing, and marriage has absolutely been defined as being something other than one man-one woman. All you have to do is cursory research. Addendum! I wanted to include a bunch of stuff that I didn't include in the post itself because it didn't meet my definitions for one reason or another, but did meet other people's definitions because they weren't as strict. So more examples!
In 69 CE, Emperor Nero married a slave boy named Sporus.
Some scholars see Native American two-spirit marriages as examples of same-sex marriage because they involve someone who is biologically one sex or the other marrying someone of that same biological sex (sometimes). I don't think this counts because gender identity is not the same as biological sex and because the particular societies in which this occurred would not have viewed it as a "same-sex" relationship, but I'll throw it on this list anyway.
Brotherhood rituals throughout early Christian Europe strongly resembled marriage rituals, and sometimes those participating in them lived as a couple afterwards in much the same way a heterosexual couple would. However, I don't know how socially accepted these were, other than that the brotherhood part was performed by a priest.
Conquistadors worte about having difficulties suppressing same sex relationships throughout the New World. Other evidence has shown a disagreement about when prejudices towards homosexuality arrived in the New World, but also that Spanish colonisers would sometimes have same-sex relationships - albeit not marriages - with Native Americans.
In 15th century Venice and 16th century Rome, there are examples of men being banished or executed for either co-habiting in a long-term relationship or "marrying" each other in ceremonies that were not recognised by the state. Likely, this was more wide-spread than just the examples I found.
In 1687, Cornelia Gerritse van Breugel(Dutch source, sorry) disguised herself as a man to marry her longtime lover, Elisabeth Boleijn, in a church in Amsterdam. They were eventually found out, and banished from the city. There are tons of examples of women disguising themselves as men in order to marry each other - this one just happens to be my favourite because it ended when Cornelia just got tired of dressing as a man and stopped doing it. As we get into the 19th century, women stop dressing as men and just switch to co-habiting, having committed relationships through just being together.
Look, “tomboy” behavior is a phenomenon that existed long before feminism, and which certainly predates this kind of Gender Studies discourse about what “masculine” and “feminine” mean. Why do people believe that constantly jabbering on like this about “gender” signifies superior intellect or moral virtue?
So you know gender stereotypes can be innacurate but think we should get into why? Or see if these stereotypes are objectively based in reality?
OK, I’m going to rant about this at length later, but just note that Fox invokes “mother’s intuition” — a highly gendered concept — as authority for knowing that her son “was not subscribing to gender stereotypes” before he was even born
You state that as if she needs to be consciously aware and if such isn't a product of nurture instead of nature...also...
Pardon me for interrupting again, but what is the basis for assuming that Megan Fox is an expert qualified to advise other parents? For all we know, 20 years from now, he children might be drug addicts or violent felons. But please, continue . . .
Promoting this notoriously neurotic woman as a parenting expert is so irresponsible that only the liberal media would think it’s a good idea.
Um are you an expert? Because so far your criticism of her ideas have missed the mark...
It is rather easy for anyone — whether a professor or a neurotic actress — to deride “a more rigid traditional way” of raising children, to wax enthusiastic about the need for parents “to let their children be who they are,” or to praise “not subscribing to gender stereotypes.” This kind of rhetoric sounds benevolent and caring, positing an implied contrast to those bad parents who, supposedly, are forcing their children into “rigid” stereotypical gender roles, limiting their self-expression. However, we can point to functional, successful, happy, well-adjusted adults — actual living human beings — as evidence of what outcomes are likely (or at least, optimally possible) as a result of more traditional parenting. The argument for so-called “gender-neutral” parenting, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of evidence, simply because this “non-binary” approach is a recent fad among a small group of trend-conscious parents.
All of this suggests that Ms. Fox’s unusual parenting methods are not the result of any noble concern for her children’s well-being, but rather are an expression of her own personal frustrations, neurotic impulses and leftover resentments about her own unhappy childhood.
For more than a century, Americans have been subjected to a series of social-engineering projects that liberals have foisted upon us by via court rulings, legislation, bureaucratic regulation and the public school system. Many of these innovations have yielded obvious catastrophes (e.g., public housing projects like Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green) whereas in other cases, we have more difficulty identifying a cause-and-effect relationship between liberal good intentions and various social problems
Hello? . . . Yeah, there’s a family in my neighborhood who are stifling their children’s self-expression. . . . Well, I’ve noticed the boy spends a lot of time playing football, and they’ve got a little girl who always wears dresses. It must be abuse!”
Nononono. You don't get to flip your own straw man on its head and think it proves your point.
Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Addition, or the DSM-5 States that "GENDER is used to denote the public (and usually legally recognized) lived role as a boy or girl, man or woman, but, in contrast to certain social contructionist theories biological factors are seen as contributing, in interaction with social & psychological factors, to gender development."
Couple things to note here. 1) Biology influences Gender. 2) Look at that nice little fuck you to the social sciences in their sentence. 3) "boy or girl" "man or woman" There's only two genders, who would have guessed. "But wait, what about "Gender Identity" ?" Well the DSM-5 states; "GENDER IDENTITY is a category of social identity & refers to an individual's identification as male, female, or some other category other than male or female." There you go Tucutes a nice label for y'all to use. "Gender Identity is a Social construct while Gender is a mix." (Sarcasm) So, why the fuck is this important? This distinction is a real issue Now because, Tucutes & MOGAI are trying to pressure the American Psychiatric Association, or the APA to remove the Mental Illness label from Gender Dysphoria, and this isn't because the condition doesn't fit the definition of mental illness it's because, of Tucutes/MOGAI putting their feelings before facts. Just in case anyone is confused. Mental Illness =/= (Doesn't mean/equal) it's made up, or pyschological. People suffer from cronic depression because, of a chemical imbalance in their brain, So despite the counter intuitive name, it doesn't mean it’s made up. So, the problem is by attempting to cement this idea that Gender is entirely social into the minds of the masses, they're implying that anything under the label Transgender, Is Social. Except it's NOT. Gender Dysphoria is Biological. Transgender doesn't only mean "people that want to transition" i.e. ftm men & mtf women. Transgender is an incredibly broad label, that everyone has a somewhat different definition for. The APA, the people who write the DSM & all of its additions, State; "TRANSGENDER - the broad spectrum of individuals who transiently or permanetly identify with a gender different from their natal gender." So that includes people: - With Gender Dysphoria - Who are Gender Non-Conforming - Who are "Genderqeer" - and all that other bs ( the MOGAI "genders") AND THAT'S THE PROBLEM. We have evidence that Gender Dysphoria is a biological & neurological condition, but we don't yet have evidence that any of the MOGAI "genders" has any sort of biological basis. In fact the Tucute/MOGAI community completely miss that point completely by CREATING their own distinction between Sex & Gender. So, that they don't n e e d a biological basis. My purpose in saying all this is that Gender Dysphoria should NOT be in the same category as MOGAI “genders” Gender Dysphoria has biological evidence. MOGAI “genders” do not. Gender Dysphoria is a mental disorder. MOGAI "genders" are not. Not a medical mental disorder at least. (lol.) Having a biological & medical disorder lumped in with all that other stuff is creating too much fucking confusion. And, Yes I said disorder. Because, if you were born with a condition, that you have no control over, that makes you 'feel like you were born in the wrong body, or the wrong sex/gender' & this feeling is so debilitating it causes you untold ammounts of stress, discomfort, and most the time depression, that's a disorder. Mechanically that's obviously not supposed to be the way the brain works, because if it was, humans would've never made it past prehistoric times. "But, Alec, why is it so important that it retains the Mental Illness label? That just makes people feel bad?!?" It's important because it changes how the Medical Community treats the issue. As Blarie White once said, " Why can't we do both, though. That's like saying, that um, you can simultaneously fight for people to be kind to Autistic people and also look for a cure. How about we do both. That'd be great. Because, actually insisting on this accepting people, and to just don't worry about it because, “everything's normal, everything's fine”; It actually leads to political correctness, which leads to no research being put into a cure. Which exacerbates all the suffering." (Her response to, "We can't support trans people and a cure at the same time.) I don't agree that just because we don't currently have such a miracle pill, or maybe even something close to that, that doesn't mean we as a society should deny the Medical Reality and not continue research in that area. You're arguing Secondary reasons when agreeing with this, Not Primary reasons. You're arguing against the Medical illness label not necessarily because, on its face it shouldn't be labled as such but, because of a precieved secondary effect of; Some people can justify being biggoted or can make individuals feel real bad. Which I understand, I get the dog whistle concern here. However, that's not going to help medical treatment in the long run. "But, Alec. There's people who want to transition but, don't have [email protected]?!!" AND THAT IS WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO SEPARATE GENDER DYSPHORIA FROM MOGAI "GENDERS" Because, all the research on Transsexuals, (and for the record I'm going to start using the term Transsexual to refer to individuals who were born with Gender Dysphoria (a biolgical condition.) to distant it from the MOGAI "genders". ) All the research we have are of people with Gender Dysphoria, Because the idea that there are even people who believe they were born the wrong sex/gender BUT, don't have dysphoria is relatively NEW. So, it hasn't been studied. We don't even know if it's a biological condition or a pyschological one. Unfortunately, We don't yet have a biolgical/medical test to determine whether someone has gender dysphoria. We don't yet have a biological way of measuring what someones innate Gender or “Gender Identity” is, or what ever the fuck MOGAI & Tucutes are calling it. We do have evidence that it is indeed innate BUT, not a clear "let's scan your Brain to see if you have Gender Dysphoria. That is, Biological Gender Dysphoria. NOT a pyschological issue that makes you think you're transgender. Another reason why the distiction needs to be made so clear. People who have purely pyschological reasons for wanting to be the opposite gender ( or MOGAI "genders") should NOT being using biological hormones & physical surgery. Those options should only be for people that have a biological & neurological condition. People who use feelings towards their gender do not have the ability to be transient ( to change ) "But, Alec. It sounds like you're talking about Trans-Regret. That's a tiny number of cases and a dog whistle for Transphobia!!?" SHUT YOUR FUC-- Supposedly Trans-Regret is not common. I say supposedly because, I haven't done research into that yet. Cause' it's not a direct correlation to what I am talking about now. Regret could be very low now but, as Blaire White once said, " This is a very new phenomenon. There are no long term studies that show a person 30/40 years old, that had transitioned at 12/13 & how their life ended up. It's just never happened, it's all still very new." Because, until recently the stigma against transsexual people was so high that it would be very uncommon for someone who only has a pyschological complex to go through the transitioning process. However, Because we are living in F U T U R E W O R L D O F 2019 society has become far more accepting of Transsexual people. Which is good and the way it should be, BUT it does also mean that it would be more likely for people who are only psychologically "trans" or Gender Non-Conforming, to be confused with people who have a biological & neurological condition. The DSM and all it's addtions are supposed to be a guide book to help doctors make a distinction between someone who actually has gender dysphoria someone who does not. Biological VS Physiological. " But, Alec. I just read the DSM's criteria of Gender Dysphoria, and there is nothing specifically in it about making this distinction between biological VS pyschological???" Yes, and that's because psychiatry (APA) looks at stuff through primarily a biological lens. So, they are operating under assumption of if you don't have a biological reason for something, then you don't have it. Combine that with the fact that this current societal focus on understanding Transgender issues, is NEW, and the DSM-5 was written before that & this creates a problem. Since we don't yet know how to create a definitive biological test, We can only rely on Self-Reporting & Observable behaviors. Which is why it is so problematic. Doctors have to somehow navigate this complicated maze to figure out whether someone actually has gender dysphoria or is just Gender Non-Conforming, or going through a phase/MOGAI "genders". This is why Transsexual people feel like they have to go through so many hoops, and all this MOGAI stuff is only making the issue more confusing for everyone. Which means, you're making it harder for doctors to figure this shit out. Which means, more hoops. Now let me make myself clear I'm not blaming the Trans movement or even suggesting that it must go away because "tHeY're cOnfUsIng tHe cHilDRen!1!!" There's no hidden dog whilstle in what I am saying, I am only stating what is the reality of the situation and Unfortunately because our society, until recently, has been very biggoted for years aginast certain individuals that don't fit into specific gender roles, the Tucute Trans community is incredibly sensitive to anything that can even remotely be perceived as an attack. Which I understand. However, the problem is when ever people go under intensive physical treatment for a condition, it’s the Medical community and even society's duty to make sure that an individual really requires that treatment because, having medical treatments that are either 'over prescribed', or turned out horrible have littered our history from blood letting, to shock treatment, to even staring at the sun for health reasons, & we can't forget about lobotomy. Even now, there are concerns of kids being over prescribed Adderall & Riddilen*, Which is basically speed. Not to mention all the people with pain killer addictions. Being prescribed things you don't need can lead to messing with how your body and brain functions. That's why its important, although difficult, to put our emotions aside when dealing with these medical issues to avoid the Medical pitfalls that we humans have fallen into time, & time again. Or just take everything I just said as merely "a dog whilstle" for Transphobia because I'm actually "a hateful biggot." "Even if you're not a Transphobe Alec, you keep making this distinction between biological and pyschological, Assuming doctors can even untangle these 'interlinked concepts'. Why should a person, who only has gender dysphoria psychologically not be allowed to Transition????" Because, If your 'gender dysphoria' is purely pyschological, that means that “Gender Dysphoria” you’re experiencing is a SYMPTOM of another problem. It's not the problem itself. Allow me to give you a very over simplified example. Lets look at Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister, on several occasions has stated that she wishes she was born a male. Lets say there was some magic potion in G.O.T. that she could take to change her sex. You better believe she would drink it but, reason for this is not because, she has Gender Dysphoria. Its not because, she has some innate feeling of being born in the wrong body/gendesex. The reason is because she exist in a world where her biological sex/gender limits her ability to get power. Which is her primary goal. So, her complex for not being a male is secondary, it's a means to an end. The doctors evaluating whether or not someone has gender dysphoria needs to concentrate on making sure the underlying problem is that the person feels that they are born the wrong gender because, they simply are. Something biologically innate. Not that they were born the wrong gender, because they develop a negative pyschological complex about what means to be their birth gender, or a negitive pyschological complex about a specific body part that just so happens to be a body part realted to biological sex because, an issue like that is transient and can be revolved through other means. "Fuck you Alec, that Game of Thrones expamle was shit. It's far more complicated!!1!" Yes, real life is more complicated. So let me give you a more grounded example. While simultaneously criticizing the DSM & all of its additions. So far I have been seemingly deflating the DSM which maybe makes you believe that I think the DSM is some h o l y b o o k. The literal word from g o d. I don't and it's not. It has some very serious flaws in my opinion. One of those flaws is in the creitiera of gender dysphoria. Right now, and adolescent female could be going through puberty; the time her chest starts growing, & if you happen to be this female or simply talk to someone about their experience you will find that many of those individuals actually had a quite negative experience with it when they were adolescent. One such story that has always stood out to me is when a friend told me about how she developed breasts when she was 13, and how incredibly disturbing and some times scary for her it was to see grown men lusting sexually after her even though she was only 13. At least to me, it doesn't seem that out of the ordinary that someone in that position could develop a pyschological complex about their breasts. In today's confusing world they could incorrectly assume that complex is meaning you have some Gender related issue, possibly even gender dysphoria, & under the current DSM-5 criteria, someone in that position could be incorrectly diagnosed as someone having gender dysphoria. In fact, I once read an article titled, "My daughter isn't Transgender, She's a TomBoy." The article describes how because, of all this confusion, This young 7 year old girl who is Gender Non-Conforming keeps being asked by teachers, her pediatrician, and even random adults who have known her for years, if she's sure she's not a boy. Now, this girl has a strong sense of self so she's able to say, " No, I not a boy. I'm just a girl who likes things that are typically male." This is a happening because, of this confusion of Gender Dysphoria being compared to Gender Non-Conforming people &/or MOGAI "genders" and that’s because, we don't have this clear distinction between Transsexual and Gender Non-Conforming people &/or MOGAI "genders". My fear is that not only are we confusing the fuck out of adults with the incorrect conflation of these terms but also, confusing kids who may be simply gender non-conforming making them think they are Transsexual. And as a last note; Perhaps it's unfair for me to point this out but, I do find it somewhat ironic that the Tucute Trans community is fighting against the idea that the strict binary view of male and female gender by advocating a strict binary view of Sex & Gender. End Rant. Problems with the DSM-V: The DSM-V is heavily criticized by the medical community for not using any scientific evidence to back up many of the things it says. It’s also just heavily criticized in general. This alone makes it an unreliable source as there isn’t any scientific evidence suggesting you don’t need gender dysphoria to be trans ergo the statement “ you don’t need Dysphoria” means nothing. Psychology uses “transgender” as an umbrella term and has for a very, very long time. It includes trans people, transvestites, crossdressers, and other GNC people. Just because usage outside of the psychology field has shifted “transgender” to more mean “trans people” doesn’t mean that the psychology field has. This means that they’re likely speaking about their own term for what transgender is and seeing as how there’s no differentiation clarifying this, it’s ignorant to assume they’ve suddenly changed the meaning of one of their terms without stating as such. Potentially most importantly, transgendetrans falls under the field of neurology/biology, not psychology. This means that while mental health professionals can certainly help us, it doesn’t mean they have all the answers and it doesn’t mean that their word is more important than that of the harder sciences involved. Please share to spread awareness. I hope this helps someone.
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This is an open thread to discuss items of interest. I may also use it to drop thoughts as they occur to me as well -- something of a replacement of my former "tab closure" posts, as ... well, it seems tabs are simply running away from me. Consider this an experiment that's been mulling for some time. If you've got a question, observation, link, or anything else, feel free to post it, with a thought to the lair rules -- like house rules, but larrier.
I strongly recommend eleitl's subreddit, /collapsademic/. "Low-volume, low-noise, moderated discussion of our coming collapse". That's one of a set of "limits and collapse" subs I've created a multireddit for:
Facebook's secret sauce wasn't software, it was Harvard
That is, Facebook was once literally Harvard. Something it very much isn't anymore, a point I noted after cries of "but the normal people are coming" rang out on Mastodon. It's a point danah boyd has also made in her research. There's a corollary: if your interest is in creating the next Facebook, or even merely disrupting the present one, then it strikes me one viable option would be to identify whatever your next Harvard is -- a cohort of intelligent, attractive, interesting people, who aren't much impressed by Facebook Which Is No Longer Harvard -- and kick some funding and technical support at them. Your Next Harvard doesn't have to be Harvard, mind, though that's probably a good (and symbolic) target to include. And I can pretty much guarantee that the folks at 1 Hacker Way will go into a blind panic. Which might just be a sufficient disruption.
Veritasium: What YouTube's algorithm selects for
Derek Muller, among the higher-quality YouTube creators, has reflected from time to time on what makes for successful YouTube content. Much of that (as with other social channels) is strongly dependent on what the site's own algorithms incentivise for. This 12 minute video looks at recent changes, and what this suggests. Why YouTube Used to Prefer Quality. This ties in with a ... much larger .. reflection I've been engaged in on media generally. It also highlights one of many failings with The Information Diet, which is that the information appearing online, at social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, or on the sites and content farms feeding those maws, depends tremendously on what is being selected for and promoted. Muller also fails to consider a few elements:
Intentional access to media makes a tremendous difference. I've griped about YouTube's recommendations quality in the past, and it seems to be improving ... modestly. (I also don't use the site whilst logged in, so my history is, I hope, reset fairly frequently.) Its search is actually pretty good, and if your interest is a specific topic or speaker, it will often reward interest.
Tools which leverage reputation would help. I've long requested the ability to block an entire channel. A major problem with dreck content is that it carries very little reputational risk for the producer or poster. If users could respond by blocking a channel entirely (and this was followed through), some of the bottom-feeding behaviour might be reduced.
Gresham's Law. I think this topic has officially crossed the line from interest to obsession with me. Absent some corrective selector, increased audience virtually always means lower quality content. See Reddit's default subs as a prime exemplar.
One of the strongest reasons for drawing the line of separation clearly and broadly between science and art is the following:—That the principle of classification in science most conveniently follows the classification of causes, while arts must necessarily be classified according to the classification of the effects, the production of which is their appropriate end. Now an effect, whether in physics or morals, commonly depends upon a concurrence of causes, and it frequently happens that several of these causes belong to different sciences. Thus in the construction of engines upon the principles of the science of mechanics, it is necessary to bear in mind the chemical properties of the material, such as its liability to oxydize; its electrical and magnetic properties, and so forth. From this it follows that although the necessary foundation of all art is science, that is, the knowledge of the properties or laws of the objects upon which, and with which, the art dons its work; it is not equally true that every art corresponds to one particular science. Each art presupposes, not one science, but science in general; or, at least, many distinct sciences.
Comparing existing ontologies of technology. The Encyclopedia Britannica, the Bacons (Francis and Roger), the Library of Congress Classification System, the Random House Encyclopedia, and Joseph Needham's classifications come to mind. Comparison with mechanisms within biology. Why biology? Because human technology is, as I see it, an extension of biological mechanisms, at least in large part. Nick Lane in particular has some very interesting work here. Are the mechanisms themselves technologies? I think my answer here is no, though I want to check myself on this. The fundamental mechanisms. All the categories boil down to "do less" or "use more", I think. The Network Elements. Numerous of the categories I've defined have or represent network-type effects. I'm asking myself if these cannot be simplified. Keeping the end in mind. The ultimate goal of any classification scheme is to find an underlying and simplifying pattern. The realisation as I started putting this together was that each of the mechanisms implied specific benefits, and disadvantages, for the associated mechanisms, as well as a set of common features. Disruption. I'm looking for ways Clayton Christensen's concept comes in to play. See also Jill Lepore's The Disruption Machine: What the gospel of innovation gets wrong (2014).
This presupposes a few other questions, including defining what privacy is. Jill Lepore, again, has a University of Kansas lecture, "Unseen - the History of Privacy" (April, 2017), which suggests a progression from mystery to secrecy, then privacy:
Mystery: That which cannot be known, we're asked to believe in the absence of evidence. Frequently religious.
Secrecy: That which is known, but not to everyone. Often state.
Privacy: Kept to ourselves. Generally personal.
Lepore also notes that "the case for privacy always comes too late" -- after the horse is out of the barn. Debates over privacy always lag advances in technology. There's a related set of etymologies: cabinet, a chamber of secrets, secretary, one entrusted to secrets, and secret itself: "set apart, withdrawn; hidden, concealed, private", from PIE root *krei- "to sieve," thus "discriminate, distinguish". It seems to me that privacy is the abilty to set, define, and defend boundaries. (A source of rather constant friction with Google.) In which case some of the possiblities for measurement:
The degree to which boundaries can be set.
The scope of boundaries which can be defined.
The extent to which those boundaries can be defended.
The amount of information exposed.
The number of parties with access to that information.
Whether or not others are better informed of the state or tendencies than the subject of the information itself.
Who benefits by the information -- the subject or others?
That's a partial and speculative list, but it gives some sense of where I'm looking.
Employment and Automation: Why is factory work different?
The focus on the automation debate is over the likely falling wages, and apparently job security, of labour. This frequently prompts the counterargument that factory work was an earlier age's version of automation, and ultimately paid well. One though that occurs: What if manufacturing-based factory work was an exception? And if so, an exception to what, exactliy, and why? A few points come to mind, with Arnold Toynbee's Lectures on the Industrial Revolution and Robert Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Growth supplying much of the background here.
Early factory work wasn't highly paid. Better than farm wages, yes, though that's not saying a whole lot.
Gordon points to the period from ~1920 - 1970 as the peak period of productivity growth.
Much of which was directly related to the amount of power -- kilowatts of electricity, or horsepower of mechanical energy -- supplied per worker.
Still wages didn't increase until unionisation of the late 1930s.
Adam Smith writes of the five factors which provide for a premium on wages:
first, the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves; secondly, the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of learning them; thirdly, the constancy or inconstancy of employment in them; fourthly, the small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them; and, fifthly, the probability or improbability of success in them.
Several of these apply to factory work:
It's not entirely pleasant, and was often dangerous.
Many jobs required a fair amount of skill. This was generally on-the-job training, but this still manifests as both time-cost, and scarce resource.
Workers were in something of a position of trust: they oversaw expensive equipment, inputs, ouput, and process.
Employment was typically, though not always regular. While a factory could operate year-round without concern for weather, it would often be subject to business variability.
That's four of the five factors. The real key to me though is that the role of human workers was as the brains and control element of a structured, automated, and powered process. Factory work is very much literally a force multiplier of raw human skill. A single man, plus machines, could have his output multiplied many times. And due to the considerations above, plus unionisation, eventually claimed a high wage. The question is how these factors extend into the coming world of work. I have concerns. And I don't see any of the discussion of this point following the lines of analysis I've given here. Further development in a comment at The Other Place. And, back to unionisation: factories represent both a strength and a weakness of monopoly-as-network-control. On the one hand, a factory is a nexus of capital, access to financing, marketing and vendor relationships, transport, power or energy, and labour. On the other, a factory is much like a mine: you cannot simply pick it up an move it to another location. Or at least this was far less true in the 19th and much of the 20th century. Over the past 50 years or so, mobility of capital, and the ability to finance and construct new factories largely at-will has increased, with labour organisation falling largely in parallel.
When Owen asked C-3PO if he spoke the binary language of moisture vaporators, the proper answer for him to give (in binary) would have been "with neither too many hands nor too few," that being the idiom for speaking politely and properly. Moisture vaporators use their hands as communication ports, each finger transmitting or receiving a single channel, and touch hands to one another in order to speak; if you were to speak with more hands than the listener had available, they would miss part of what you were saying, and (especially if that were crucial metadata) they would not be able to understand you. Conversely, if you spoke with fewer hands than they listened with, your transmissions would be slow, stilted, taking far too much time. Speaking with the appropriate number of hands is a key aspect of their culture. But as with many societies, etiquette conceals notions of class: the number of hands a moisture vaporator has is largely determined by wealth and their role. As a result, a common worker with only two or three hands will always seem slow-witted and foolish when trying to speak to a five-handed member of their bourgeoisie, and that burgher would in turn feel profoundly uncomfortable in "seven-handed society." An eighth hand, by law and by custom, is permitted only to their Emperor, and in fact "the eighth hand" is both a symbol of and metaphor for Imperial power.
So, we get communications, class, wealth, status, and complexity of thought, in one package. I'd run across an item at Nautilus (fantastic online source, by the way, and they're actively soliciting support currently), "How Your Brain Decides Without You:
The structure of the brain [Lisa Feldman Barrett] notes, is such that there are many more intrinsic connections between neurons than there are connections that bring sensory information from the world. From that incomplete picture, she says, the brain is “filling in the details, making sense out of ambiguous sensory input.” The brain, she says, is an “inference generating organ.” She describes an increasingly well-supported working hypothesis called predictive coding, according to which perceptions are driven by your own brain and corrected by input from the world. There would otherwise simple be too much sensory input to take in. “It’s not efficient,” she says. “The brain has to find other ways to work.” So it constantly predicts. When “the sensory information that comes in does not match your prediction,” she says, “you either change your prediction—or you change the sensory information that you receive.”
To which I obseved on the Inevitability of the Eighth Hand, by the Emperor, that is, the decisionmaking centre of society:
Thus: the emperor must always have the eighth hand, and proper interpretation and framing of the Universe requires more processing power then sensing power, and/or the obligation to discard information which cannot be integrated into the receiving frame.
On which I'll note that the most startling element of this whole episode was that I was actually able to find it using G+ search -- otherwise almost wholly useless.
"Forward to the Past" -- the Digital Library as the problem, not the solution
Eric van der Velde writes on my newfound obsession, libraries, in "Forward to the Past". I've points of disagreement and agreement.
The catalogue is in fact a search tool, and a good one. Librarians discount the value of categorised, classified, and standardised-authority-organised collections to their tremendous disservice. That said, yes, the catalogue, as it now stands, pointing the way to informational paradise but withholding the fruits, is a significant problem.
Curation also has its place. Piles of crap, no matter how searchable, remain crap. Diderot's lament on information overload from 1755 is valid, and improved indexing and search can only delay, not prevent, being buried alive in dung. The Jevons Paradox likely means that the inevitable is being accelerated.
What particularly caught my attention, though, is this:
Why is there no scholarly app store, where students and faculty can build their own libraries?
Subreddit styling: Geopolitics has a wonderful thread-collapse design
I'd first run across this some time back ... and then couldn't recall which subreddit it was. /Geopolitics has a very slick CSS where the "collapse thread" control runs the full height of the left-hand margin, for each nesting level of a comment thread. If you've decided you've had enough of a particular digression, you can close any level of it with a single click, without having to hunt up-thread for the relevant comment. See this archived post for an example. I'm impressed and may well steal the concept. Good UI is very rare. This is a good UI. Why? It puts the control directly in context, makes it easy, makes it obvious, and, should you close an item by accident, makes undoing the action trivially easy.
China and classifications of industrial sectors
In a YouTube video, Mark Anderson of INVNT/IP makes mention of a classification by China of the global economy into 417 sectors, and apparently is targeting those for economic espionage. On inquiring as to where that classification is made: the Communist Party of China's 12th Five Year Plan, 2011 - 2015. Which I now feel I need to find an English translation of. I did track down a U.S. government assessment of the plan, however. And in that, a further interesting note on what it considers to be a failure of the plan: though the performance targets of the plan were generally hit (and fairly impressively so), the analysis argues that the structural foundations of the economy weren't adequately addressed. This strikes me as an interesting possible response to various "things are going so amazingly awfully terrifically swell!!!" glurge posts which emerge from time to time. Interesting how vision clears when focused outward....
The Tech Ontology Purity Test: Filters
Another aspect of the tech ontology: I'm somewhat stuck on the point of various purification processes and mechanisms and how these fit within the notional framework I've conceived. Especially as this capability is a highly fundamental biological process, one that is key to virtually any process. Actually, it gets us straight back to entropy and de-entropisation. A process by which a conglomeration of two (or more) things can be reduced to two (or more) separate collections, each with only one set of components to it, is what de-entroposiation is all about. That might be a mechanical sorting (e.g., hand-picking), size-based filters (sieves, nets, filters), density differentials (wheat/chaff sorting, bouancy, air-jet separation, charged beam, gas diffusion, centrifuge), magnetic properties, distillation processes, chemical solutions, ion-diffussion / proton-pump mechanisms (cell-wall), etc. The upshot is: how do you distinguish between what you want, and then, somehow, act differentially on the one vs. the other? Is this strictly a process knowlege, in which case it falls under "technology"? Is it a class of actions? Is it material properties? Systems management?
Asset price inflation and Adam Smith
A wonderful Smith quote:
As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.
Simple leadership strategies drive out the complex.
But then expands this more completely, showing the information-theoretical underpinnings of the fundamental Gresham's mechanism:
Simple, easily explained, easily comprehended, explicit-knowledge descriptions of a leadership strategy dive out subtle, complicated, tacit-knowlege appreciation for the potential of a complex leadership strategy to influence organizational behavior in ways that improve performance.
He continues to note that this comes in two forms:
We humans prefer simple leadership strategies to complex ones.
We also prefer simple explanations of complex leadership strategies to the subtle and complicated reality.
What I particularly like is the focus on several elements of psychology and cognition:
Easily explained. A simple, but difficult-to-explain concept, fares poorly.
Easily comprehended. As above.
The distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge. It is vastly more efficient to propagate explicit knowledge, that which can be acquired through reading, hearing, or seeing, than tacit knowledge, that which must be practiced, often under a skilled teacher.
Overt rather than potential value. Something which only pays off in indirect ways is far less appealing to us.
This suggests a subsuming mechanisms for Gresham's Law which jibes with concepts from Darwinian evolution: that systems evolve complexity costs, and that among the selective pressures which exist are those for a minimisation of complexity in light of such costs. There's an article on a computational evolution experiment, "Meet the Animats", which notes that there is a minimum complexity bound to various maze-traversal "animat" bots, though, without a complexity cost factor, the experiment found no constraint on the upward bound of complexity. A few minor edits -- mostly deletions -- makes Behn's formulation on page 42 (appropriate) much more general: "Simple, easily explained, easily comprehended, explicit-knowledge, descriptions ... drive out subtle, complicated, tacit-knowledge appreciation for the potential of a complex model."
Do you like what you're reading here? Would you like to see a broader discussion? Do you think there are ideas which should be shared more broadly? The Lair isn't a numbers game, my real goal is quality -- reaching, and hopefully interacting with, an intelligent online community. Something which I've found, in several decades of online interactions, difficult to achieve. But there's something which works surprisingly well: word of mouth. Shares, by others, to appropriate venues, have generated the best interactions. I do some of that, but I could use your help as well. So: if you see something that strikes you as particularly cogent (or, perhaps, insipid), please share it. To another subreddit. To Twitter or Facebook or G+. To the small-but-high-quality Metafilter. To your blogging circle, or a mailing list. If you work in technology, or policy, or economics, there as well. Thanks, Morbius.
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