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Daily Archives: May 21, 2022

Chart: FANG Stock Market Cap Down US$2 trillion from the Peak in November 2021

Source : Bloomberg

In Pictures: 1923 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost 7-Passenger Oxford Tourer

Source : Bring A Trailer

Infographic: The Science Behind Cultured Meat

Research Shows the Role Empathy May Play in Music

Can people who understand the emotions of others better interpret emotions conveyed through music? A new study by an international team of researchers suggests the abilities are linked.

The study’s results provide a foundation for future research that could test the impact of socially engaged music listening on social cognitive ability, and whether listening to music can be added to therapeutic techniques used in social skills training for individuals with autism spectrum disorders or schizophrenia.

The findings were published recently in Emotion, a scientific journal of the American Psychological Association.

The study was led by Benjamin A. Tabak, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Social and Clinical Neuroscience Lab (SCN) at SMU (Southern Methodist University) and Zachary Wallmark, assistant professor of musicology and affiliated faculty at the Center for Translational Neuroscience at the University of Oregon.

“Empathy is most often thought of in the context of social interactions, but there are many other forms of social communication, including music,” Tabak said. “Music can convey meaning and emotion and also elicit emotional responses, but the mechanisms responsible for its emotional power are poorly understood.”

Tabak and his colleagues wanted to test their theory about empathy and music. For the purposes of this study, they measured the ability to correctly understand others’ thoughts and feelings (empathic accuracy) and the extent to which one feels the emotions that another feels (affect sharing).

“We thought it would be interesting to study whether people who more accurately understand others’ thoughts and feelings might also be more accurate in understanding what musicians are intending to convey through music,” Tabak said. “Similarly, we wanted to know whether people who tend to feel the emotions that others are experiencing also tend to feel the emotions conveyed through music.”

The initial set of findings found support for both hypotheses. In particular, the results suggest that empathic accuracy as a skill extends beyond interpersonal interactions into music. Researchers hope these results will provide a foundation for future studies regarding the impact active, engaged music listening may have on improving social cognition.

Tabak and Wallmark believe that the study provides tentative support for the theory that music is first and foremost a social behavior that evolved to help individuals connect with others and better understand and manage their social environment.

“This matters on several levels, including the potential to develop new music-based interventions that may assist individuals with difficulties in understanding how others think and feel,” Tabak added.

Tabak pointed to the interdisciplinary approach he and his colleagues used during their study as a template for future research projects in this area. In addition to Tabak and Wallmark, whose scholarly work falls in psychology and musicology, respectively, the research team also included two statisticians and another psychologist with expertise in social cognition in schizophrenia.

“When we came up with this idea several years ago at a coffee shop in Dallas, researchers had only conducted studies that indirectly addressed these research questions, few of the previous studies had included large samples, and none had included a replication study,” Tabak said.

“We also hope that our work will highlight the value of conducting interdisciplinary research that spans the sciences and humanities,” he added. “Work like this, that takes a well-known psychological construct like empathy and examines it in an unconventional way by asking what people think a musical composer is trying to convey through a piece of music, might propel others to ‘think outside of the box’ and ultimately gain a greater understanding of a process though interdisciplinary collaboration,” he said.


Source: Southern Methodist University

Interview: Why This Computer Scientist Says All Cryptocurrency Should “Die in a Fire”

Nathan J. Robinson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Despite being hyped in expensive Super Bowl ads, cryptocurrency is now having a difficult moment. As the New York Times reports, “the crypto world went into a full meltdown this week in a sell-off that graphically illustrated the risks of the experimental and unregulated digital currencies.” One of cryptocurrency’s most vocal skeptics is Nicholas Weaver, senior staff researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and lecturer in the computer science department at UC Berkeley. Weaver has studied cryptocurrencies for years. Speaking with Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson, Prof. Weaver explains why he views the much-hyped technology with such antipathy. He argues that cryptocurrency is useless and destructive, and should “die in a fire.”

The interview transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.


NATHAN J. ROBINSON:

Here’s a quote by you from 2018:

Cryptocurrencies, although a seemingly interesting idea, are simply not fit for purpose. They do not work as currencies, they are grossly inefficient, and they are not meaningfully distributed in terms of trust. Risks involving cryptocurrencies occur in four major areas: technical risks to participants, economic risks to participants, systemic risks to the cryptocurrency ecosystem, and societal risks.

In a 2022 lecture about cryptocurrency on YouTube, you are even more blunt and harsh:

This is a virus. Its harms are substantial. It has enabled billion dollar criminal enterprises. It has enabled venture capitalists to do securities fraud as their business. It has sucked people in. So either avoid it or help me make it die in a fire.

But perhaps before we get to your justifications for these verdicts, you could start by telling us what you think is the best way for the average person to begin to think about what a cryptocurrency is.

NICHOLAS WEAVER:

Well, I’d start with what it’s supposed to be in theory. So in theory, it’s supposed to be a way of doing payments with no intermediary. So the idea is that if Alice wants to pay Bob a bet for 200 quatloos…

ROBINSON:

Hang on, you’ve dropped a word that isn’t a real word. Quatloos is a fictional currency?

WEAVER:

It’s actually specifically a Star Trek reference. So if you want to gamble with your imaginary currency, there should be no intermediary that is responsible for executing the transfer. It’s just direct peer to peer electronic cash. Or at least that’s the idea.

Now the problem is: how do you know who has what balance? Electronic cash is actually something we’ve had for decades now. If I want to transfer you money, I use PayPal or M-Pesa or Visa or a wire transfer or this or that. Those all have a central intermediary. And there’s a disadvantage of central intermediaries: They don’t like drug dealers. So as a money transmitter, you are under legal obligations to block a lot of known bad activity.

With cryptocurrencies, the idea is, let’s eliminate the notion of the intermediary by making our balances public, but pseudonymous. So you’re no longer you, you are just some long sequence of random-looking numbers. And let’s create a ledger in the town square so that everybody’s bank balance is public in the town square, but only identified by the pseudonyms.

So for Alice to pay off her wager, she writes a check: “I, Alice’s Random Pseudonymity, pay Bob’s Random Pseudonymity 200 quatloos. Signed, Alice’s Random Pseudonymity.” Bob then checks to make sure that Alice indeed has a balance, and if so, posts that check to the public ledger. Now everybody knows that Alice is down 200, Bob is up 200. And that’s how it works.

The problem is: how do you keep somebody from adding to the ledger and faking stuff? Well, that’s where the notion of the “mining” comes in. What the miners are doing is literally wasting tons of electricity to prove that the record is intact, because anybody who would want to attack it has to waste that similar kind of electricity.

This creates a couple of real imbalances. Either they’re insecure or they’re inefficient, meaning that if you don’t waste a lot of energy, someone can rewrite history cheaply. If you don’t want people to rewrite history, you have to be wasting tons and tons of resources 24/7, 365. And that’s why Bitcoin burns as much power as a significant country.

ROBINSON:

So this criticism that you hear about Bitcoin, that it uses the energy of a small to mid-sized country, that is true? You point out in your YouTube lecture that there are a number of ways that the enthusiasts of Bitcoin make excuses for this. They say “Well, it’s actually clean” or “It’s not too much of a problem.” But it’s actually very, very wasteful.

WEAVER:

Yes. The biggest one is “this incentivizes green power.” Which it does in the same way that a whole bunch of random shootings would incentivize bulletproof vests.

But wait, it’s worse! The problem with the Global Public Square is that it is a single, limited entity, and you have only so much you can add to it at any given time. So Bitcoin burns that much of the world’s electricity to be able to process somewhere between three to seven transactions per second across the entire world.

[ . . . . . ]

ROBINSON:
Is that why you see the pile of Super Bowl ads for investing in cryptocurrency? Because the people who are the early investors need to keep finding new suckers and trying to convince people that putting their retirement savings into cryptocurrency is a sound idea?

WEAVER:
Yep. Because it’s a self-created pyramid scheme, you have to keep getting new suckers in. As soon as the number of suckers dries up, it collapses. And because it’s not zero-sum, but deeply negative-sum, there are actually a lot of mechanisms that can cause it to collapse suddenly to zero. We saw this just the other day with the Terra stablecoin and the Luna side token. This was basically another Ponzi scheme implemented in the larger space of Ponzi schemes.

So the idea is, you had these two cryptocurrencies, “Terra” and “Luna.” Terra is supposed to be tied one-to-one with the U.S. dollar. Luna can float around. If Terra costs more than $1, you can turn Luna into Terra and make a profit, while if Terra costs less than $1 you can turn Terra into Luna and make a profit. But this only works as long as the value of Luna is greater than the value of Terra.

Now, why would you use Terra at all? Well, one, this is a stablecoin and these are necessary for the gambling aspects of cryptocurrency. They act basically as casino chips, because almost all of the cryptocurrency exchanges are really cut off from the banking system. But the other reason is, because you could take your Terra stablecoin, put it in a lending protocol that was created by the creators of Luna and Terra and get a 20% rate of return paid for by Luna and Terra, a.k.a. a Ponzi scheme.

And so billions of dollars of notional value went into this Ponzi scheme. And the backing of Luna just slowly crept down, down, down. And then all of a sudden, there was a crisis of faith. People no longer believed that Terra was worth $1. It pegged to 95 cents. The folks behind Terra and Luna go “Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here.” And then it collapsed amazingly quickly over the space of two to three days. And we’re now at the point where the Terra stablecoin that was supposed to be worth $1 is now worth 10 cents, and the Luna token has basically gone down by 99.99%. And people keep finding out that just because something’s gone down 95% doesn’t mean it can’t still go down another 95%.

[ . . . . . ]

Read more at Current Affair . . . . .

Chart: Where the Super Rich Reside

Source : Statista