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Why Isn’t the Whole World Rich?

Dietrich Vollrath wrote . . . . . . . . .

The question of why some countries join the developed world while others remain in poverty has vexed economists for decades. What makes it so hard to answer?

In 2019 there were about 648 million people living in extreme poverty, subsisting on the equivalent of $2.15 per day or less. Those 648 million people made up 8.4% of world population — representing an improvement over 1990, when 35.9% of people lived on that little. Yet even though extreme poverty has fallen, in 2018 about 80% of the world population still had material living standards less than one-third of that in the United States.

One of the most frustrating things about the persistence of global poverty is that it is possible to eliminate it — at least within a country — in the space of a generation. In 1953, South Korea emerged from the Korean War desperately poor. It was almost entirely agrarian, and whatever infrastructure the Japanese had built during their occupation between 1910 and 1945 had been destroyed. In 1960 GDP per capita in South Korea was only around $1,200, lower than in Bangladesh, Nigeria or Bolivia, and about 6% of the GDP per capita in the United States.

Shortly thereafter, everything started to change. In 1968 the growth rate of GDP per capita in South Korea topped 10%. Throughout the 1970s, per capita GDP grew nearly 9% each year on average, slowing only slightly through the 1980s and 1990s. By 1995, South Korean GDP per capita had eclipsed Portugal’s. By 2008, it was ahead of New Zealand’s and just behind Spain’s. In 2020, GDP per capita in South Korea was nearly equal to that in the U.K. Not only is South Korea no longer developing; in many areas, it leads among developed nations.

What happened in South Korea offers proof that fundamental transformations of living standards are possible in a few decades. South Korea’s experience, and similar growth trajectories in Taiwan and Singapore, have often been referred to as “economic miracles.” But what if South Korea’s economic growth wasn’t something mysterious or unpredictable, but rather something that we could comprehend and, most importantly, replicate? At current rates of growth, living standards in the poorest countries in the world will eventually catch up to the United States — in about 700 years. If we could identify what caused South Korea’s takeoff, we might be able to make the miraculous seem routine, and see more countries catch up over decades and not centuries.

Economists have been engaged in research for decades to understand what happened in South Korea and other countries that left extreme poverty behind. It turns out to be one of the trickiest questions in economics. On the surface, it seems like the answer should be obvious: “Do whatever South Korea did.” Or, more broadly, “Do whatever countries that grew rapidly did.” But what, exactly, did South Korea do? And if we know, is it plausible to replicate it?

Scratching the Surface

Some of the first attempts to explain what happened in places like South Korea examined the role of “factors of production,” as economists like to call them. Those factors include physical capital — tangible products like buildings, infrastructure and manufacturing equipment — and human capital — skills and education embodied in workers. In a famous and widely cited study, Greg Mankiw, David Romer and David Weil looked at how the accumulation of both factors was associated with economic growth. Countries that allocated a large share of GDP toward producing new physical capital or had high levels of secondary school enrollment tended to grow faster than others. In addition, countries with lower population growth rates tended to grow faster, as they were able to equip each worker with more physical capital, raising their productivity.

Mankiw, Romer and Weil studied a broad set of nearly 100 countries from a very high level. Alwyn Young took a similar approach but narrowed his focus to four East Asian economies — Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore — that had all experienced rapid economic growth.5 What he found corroborated Mankiw, Romer and Weil’s findings on physical capital to some extent. Young, however, attributed even more power to the changes in human capital. In each of the four countries, he found that families were having fewer children and investing more in their education. Increases in educational attainment created a more skilled workforce — an impact which Young was able to track in more detail than Mankiw, Romer and Weil. Their slower population growth was associated with increased labor force participation by women and an increase in the share of the population that was of working age.

Research like this established how economic growth was able to accelerate in some countries, but it does not tell us why those changes took place in the first place. Why did capital formation speed up in South Korea or Taiwan (and not in Bangladesh or Nigeria)? Why did families start to have fewer, better-educated children in those same places?

What we are after is a deeper set of fundamental characteristics, policies and events that created the circumstances under which rapid economic growth occurred.

Institutions as Fundamentals

The hunt for the fundamental whys of rapid economic growth arguably defines the study of economics. Adam Smith was concerned with exactly this question in The Wealth of Nations. While that hunt has always been near the core of the discipline, there was an eruption of research on the subject in the decades following the studies by Young and Mankiw, Romer and Weil.

Within that literature, economists have tended to group those fundamentals of economic growth into three broad categories: culture (e.g., the willingness to trust and engage in trade with strangers), geography (e.g., ease of transportation) and institutions (e.g., security of property rights). Of the three categories, institutions have received the most attention. This is in part because they tend to be more legible to economists than issues of geography or culture, and in part because they would appear to be more amenable to change.6

But what exactly is an institution? Douglass North, the Nobel Prize winner credited with originating the study of institutions as a driver of long-run growth, has defined them as “humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic, and social interactions.” That is so broad it offers little chance of identifying real policies or changes that countries could pursue. Researchers who took North’s ideas and ran with them contributed in part by being more specific. In early work, Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James Robinson, responsible for initiating detailed empirical research into institutions, focused on the security of private property rights, measured by either the risk of expropriation (based on assessments by investors) or the legal constraints on government executives (based on assessments by political scientists).

Work by Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, and those that followed, looked across a wide set of countries, searching for common institutional elements that existed in all the countries that experienced rapid economic growth (or that were absent in those that did not). These studies focused at first on measurements of institutions and growth during the 20th century, but soon incorporated data from even earlier. The same three authors (along with Davide Cantoni) studied the importance of an institution we could call “equality before the law” by examining the effect of Napoleonic reforms made in Germany at the turn of the 19th century on subsequent development. In other work, they estimated that European countries with more representative institutions, like Britain and the Netherlands, were able to grow more quickly in response to the opening of trans-Atlantic trade routes than absolute monarchies like Spain and Portugal.

These authors and the literature that followed them tended to find that things like robust property rights for individuals and governments with clear restraints on executive power, democratic political processes and a lack of government corruption were all associated with economic growth.

Those institutions certainly sound “right.” They are things we’d associate with almost any major developed country like the U.S., France or Germany. But, at heart, most of these studies share the same fundamental issue as those that looked at capital accumulation: Just because certain institutions are present in places that had rapid economic growth, that doesn’t mean they were necessary for the miracle to occur. Perhaps things like property rights and a lack of corruption are “luxury goods” that rich countries can afford to indulge in but are not, in fact, the reason those countries became rich?

The problem gets even thornier when researchers try to pin down how to even measure an “institution” in the first place.

A concrete example: The World Bank has a set of “Governance Indicators” it collects from each country. Those indicators include a measure of the “control of corruption” that a country has. For example, in 2020 Eritrea had a “control of corruption” indicator of −1.33, quite low. Mauritius had a 0.47, which is around the middle of the pack, and Denmark had a 2.27, among the highest. In terms of absolute ranking, it is probably correct that Eritrea is more corrupt than Mauritius and that both are more corrupt than Denmark.

But do the numbers themselves mean something? Is Denmark exactly 4.8 times less corrupt than Mauritius? If Eritrea managed to raise their index to −1, would that imply the same change in corruption as Mauritius moving to 0.80? The answer to both questions is obviously no. At best the numbers let us rank countries on these dimensions of governance, but there is no sense that 2.27 means anything in practice.

The statistical analysis that establishes the link between control of corruption and economic growth assumes, however, that the corruption index has a precise numerical meaning. It’s not that the statistical analysis is wrong — it’s that it has no practical interpretation. The control-of-corruption index, like other World Bank governance indicators, is based on survey data. But people in rich countries are more likely to give their institutions high ratings. In one striking case, Edward Glaeser et al. pointed out that Singapore has historically scored highly on measures like constraint on executive power — even when it was ruled by Lee Kuan Yew, a dictator who had no constraints on his power but did happen to respect property rights. Ideally, economists would try to control for confounding variables like wealth or education, but the fact that there are only about 50 to 70 countries with available data makes that impossible. As a result, the measures are circular: They tell us that Denmark is better governed than Mauritius or Eritrea, but not much else.

This isn’t a problem unique to measuring the degree of corruption. Every index of institutional quality is subject to this critique, because every index is attempting to assign numbers to something that is not inherently quantifiable: the degree of democracy, the rule of law, government effectiveness, respect for property rights, etc. In each case, the research might indicate that “being like Denmark” is a good thing, without any practical way of expressing what that means.

Experimenting With History

The picture I painted of cross-country research on economic growth is bleak, but those issues are not lost on researchers. Knowing these issues, scholars have tried to establish better evidence for which institutions matter for economic growth.

Much of this research is based on an examination of historical or natural experiments. Once again, South Korea is a useful example. After World War II, the Korean peninsula was, of course, partitioned between South and North Korea. The two countries share similar geography, so the miracle in South Korea and the utter lack of one in North Korea cannot be attributed to their endowment of minerals or physical access to foreign markets. They have a shared language and culture, so it is hard to say that there was something unique about the South Korean culture or history that prompted the miracle there (or halted it in North Korea). They both were left devastated and poor by the Korean War.

What’s left as an explanation is that the set of institutions governing economic activity in the two countries were distinct after 1953. The North adopted a communist ideology and built a set of economic institutions around it. We can see the results of that today. North Korea has failed, by any plausible metric, to advance economically. In addition to the lack of individual freedom, living standards are among the worst in the world, and North Korea continues to suffer from recurring issues such as famine that advanced economies like South Korea left behind years ago.

This example is useful in that it tells us institutions matter for economic growth, and unlike other research can more clearly eliminate other options like geography or culture. It also doesn’t require us to assign an artificial index to the institutions of South Korea or North Korea. We know they’re different, and that’s enough.

What that case study lacks, of course, is a clear answer to which institutions were the relevant ones making South Korea an economic miracle. Was it the subsidization of the “chaebol” — conglomerates like Samsung, Hyundai or LG — with cheap credit? Was it, uncomfortably, the lack of real democracy until 1988? Was it the promotion of exports versus domestic consumption? We can’t know from this simple comparison.

Research has thus continued to search for more historical natural experiments where the nature of a particular institution is much more apparent. The experiments the authors rely on are often quite clever. Melissa Dell compared areas of Peru subject to a Spanish forced-labor requirement called the “mita” to areas that were not and found that they have lower living standards centuries later. Lakshmi Iyer found that areas of India subject to direct British rule (as opposed to those ruled through proxies) have lower investments in schooling and health today. Stelios Michalapoulos and Elias Papaioannou compared areas of sub-Saharan Africa that had historically more sophisticated political structures prior to colonization continue to be richer today than areas that were less organized. In each case, a very specific institution — a forced labor regime, direct British rule, precolonial political structure — was found to have a significant effect on contemporary economic outcomes.

The empirical work here is on more solid ground, and the authors avoid the measurement issues mentioned above. But these studies, by narrowing their focus to specific historical experiments and individual institutions, have their own limitations. These studies don’t tell us about the immediate effect of any of these institutions. The British Raj ended decades ago, the Spanish forced-labor system in Peru ended over two centuries ago, and the historical political organization of sub-Saharan Africa are just that — historical. What we learn from these studies is that institutions can have persistent effects well after the institution disappears, implying that countries or regions can get stuck in a poverty trap. Once the region is impoverished, it’s more likely to stay poor.

These papers work as cautionary tales; they tell us what won’t work, but not what will work. And while they don’t provide any silver bullets for generating economic growth, they remain valuable contributions to the study of development. This work is eliminating bad options from the menu of institutional choices that countries could make.

Negotiating for Growth

Alongside the literature on what not to do, there is recent work that attempts to be more constructive. Acemoglu and Robinson, who helped initiate the empirical study of institutions, are among the leaders in this new line of inquiry as well.16 The key here is a change in the question. Rather than asking what the right institutions are to promote growth, they ask why failed institutions persist. For them, countries stagnate at low levels of development because there is a stalemate among interest groups; despite the aggregate benefit, no group is willing to implement an improved set of institutions.

What their research suggests is that breaking out of that stalemate requires a fundamental expansion of the distribution of economic and political power within a country. By incorporating more people in economic and political decision-making, they argue, a country is better able to negotiate a set of economic institutions that promote economic development.

This sounds promising, but can we see it in the data? These authors and others have made progress and are beginning to provide supportive empirical work. What sets them apart from earlier work is that they have the benefit of knowing that mistakes were made in the past. A good example is from Acemoglu and Robinson along with coauthors Suresh Naidu and Pascual Restrepo. They show that the transition to democracy leads to higher economic growth in the future, finding GDP per capita is around 20% higher in a democracy compared to an otherwise identical nondemocracy. What they see is that countries that democratize invest significantly more in public health and education, consistent with the initial work that Mankiw, Romer and Weil and Alwyn Young did on economic growth.

They explicitly take on all of the empirical issues I complained about above. They do not try to quantify “democracy” along some arbitrary scale (e.g., North Korea is a one, the U.S. is a seven, etc.). They instead focus on a simple comparison of places that clearly democratized versus those that did not. They use several methods to try to assure themselves, and us, that their results are coming from the causal effect of democracy on growth, and not the other way around. This includes a sort of natural experiment where democratization is more likely to occur when more neighboring countries are democracies.

Some counterexamples may immediately come to mind. South Korea, whose economy took off in the ’60s, did not democratize until 1988, and China has undergone impressive economic growth without democratizing at all. But once Acemoglu, Naidu, Restrepo and Robinson make the comparison across all countries, it turns out that their experiences are something of an outlier, not the norm. And in both, there were events that led to a widespread expansion of the distribution of economic power, even though it was not accompanied by political power: the massive redistribution of land in South Korea following World War II and the market reforms in the 1970s and ’80s in China that gave more people rights over their land and assets.

This result is exciting, in part because it suggests that something inherently positive — wider representation and democracy — is also conducive to economic growth. But it doesn’t mean we’ve cracked the code and are capable of generating economic miracles at will. Countries that do expand the distribution of political and economic power still have to negotiate the institutions supporting growth. This is where our expanding knowledge of which institutions don’t work becomes valuable, helping eliminate dead ends.

Making Modest Conclusions

At this point the situation may seem rather grim. Can we say, with any confidence, that we know the set of policies or institutions that can create the rapid economic growth seen in South Korea and others? The frank answer is no.

But this does not mean we are at a complete loss. Do not dismiss the power of the cautionary tales I mentioned. While the Korean “experiment” didn’t tell us what exactly South Korea did right, it continues to provide a vivid lesson that the North Korean centrally-planned authoritarian regime was not a viable economic path to take. Documenting which institutions don’t work is slow, but it is progress nonetheless. Furthermore, recent results regarding the importance of the distribution of economic and political power mean we understand more about the conditions that can cause good institutions to arise.

Can we make an economic miracle? No. Do we understand what might make economic miracles more likely? To some extent, yes. That wishy-washy answer doesn’t sound very inspiring, but it represents a tremendous amount of progress. The series of critiques and incremental improvements I’ve described is an example of the research process at work. Given the stakes, the slow pace is frustrating, but we are headed in the right direction.

Source : Asterisk

Video: People in Shanghai Protest Against COVID-19 Lockdown on November 26, 2022

Chart: Not Everyone Is Looking Forward to Christmas

Source : Statista

After Falling Births, China’s Marriage Rate Sees New Low — Again

Ye Zhanhang wrote . . . . . . . . .

Young Chinese are just not in the mood to marry.

China’s marriage rate slumped again in 2021, with the country recording the lowest number of nuptials since 1985, financial outlet Yicai reported Thursday, citing data from the National Statistics Bureau. Only 11.58 million people tied the knot for the first time last year, down by 0.71 million from 2020.

The figures, which aren’t yet available on official websites, add to growing concerns over the country’s ability to avert the population crisis plagued by low birth rates and aging. Demographers worry that China will be unable to reverse the falling birth rate, which also plunged to its lowest level since the early 1960s last year, with several provinces recording negative population growth for the first time in the country’s modern history.

“It’s also expected that the aging ratio will continue to rise due to the decline in marriages,” Dong Yuzheng, dean at the Guangdong Academy of Population Development, told Yicai.

As of 2021, people aged over 65 accounted for 14.7% of China’s total population, well above the level of 7%, which the United Nations defines as an aging society. Next year, neighboring India is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country, indicating the country’s demographic quandary.

In the wake of the looming crisis, Chinese authorities at all levels have introduced a raft of policies, encouraging people to marry and have children. Such provisions usually aim to reduce the burden of childbirth and parenting by offering an extension of parental leave, tax rebates, and other financial benefits.

Meanwhile, to save marriages from breaking down, authorities instituted a 30-day “cool-off” period for divorcing couples into the country’s first-ever Civil Code in 2020, which they claim is working. In recent years, some experts have also proposed lowering the minimum age for marriage — it’s currently 22 for men and 20 for women — to better sync with the change in family planning policy.

However, such incentives are often met with lukewarm responses, especially among the urban younger demographic, who prefer to delay marriage due to commitment issues or costs associated with starting a family. In 2020, the average age for those marrying for the first time was 28.7 years old, an increase from 24.9 years old in 2010, according to the latest national population census.

“At this stage, I just want to focus on my career and gain more financial freedom for myself,” a 24-year-old woman surnamed Li told Sixth Tone, adding she wouldn’t consider marriage for the next five years. “If I can’t even take care of myself, how can I take care of another person and a family?”

And the reluctance toward marriage is likely to continue this year, too. Official data showed that only 5.45 million couples tied the knot in the first three quarters of this year, down 7.5% from last year and its lowest number since 2007.

Source : Sixth Tone

The Unbelievable Hidden Meaning Of Popular Emojis

You probably use emojis all the time without thinking about their hidden meanings. But did you know that each emoji has a secret message? Some Emojis are pretty straightforward, but others have hidden meanings that you might not expect.

In a simple explanation, emojis are pictographs that are used to add emotional context to digital messages. But over the years, these emojis have taken on a life of their own, becoming symbols in their own right. Here are some popular Emojis and the hidden messages they could be sending.

1. 💅 Nail Polish

This nail polish emoji is often used to respond between conversations. But depending on the situation, it can have different hidden meanings.

It can mean that you or the person you’re talking to isn’t interested in what’s being discussed. If someone sends you a message with this emoji, they might be trying to end the conversation or change the topic.

Alternatively, it can also be used as a form of sass or sarcasm. For instance, it can be a response indicating that you’re unbothered about something that someone said about you.

2. 🐍 Snake

This snake emoji is often used to signify that someone is being deceitful or dangerous. It can also be used as a warning about someone who seems friendly but may have ulterior motives. If someone speaks ill of you behind your back and then feigns concern when in your presence, you might refer to them as a “snake” in real life. This emoji conveys the same message.

3. 🍆 Eggplant

One of the most popular and controversial emojis on the list is the eggplant emoji. It is often used for topics on posts, chats, and/or messages that have sexual content. Due to its shape, it is often used as a stand-in for a penis or male genitalia. Someone might be trying to send you a dirty message if they send you this emoji.

4. 🍌 Banana

This emoji is another one with hidden sexual meanings. It’s often used as a stand-in for a penis, due to its shape and size. So if someone sends you this Emoji, they could be trying to send you a dirty message.

Alternatively, it can also be used in a non-sexual way to represent something ‘crazy,’ or ‘wacky.’ For example, if you see a funny meme online, you might reply with the banana emoji to show that you found it amusing.

5. 🎣 Fishing Pole And Fish

The fishing emoji is a popular choice among texters when they’re trying to extract information from the person they are messaging. For example, you’re trying on getting a scoop from a gossip. However, it can also be used with less pure intentions; like if someone is asking around for personal info that they could use against you in some capacity.

If you receive this emoji from someone, be careful about what information you share. It’s best to err on the side of caution and only share information that you’re comfortable with sharing.

Meanwhile, this emoji can also be used as a way to describe being addicted or obsessed with someone or something. For example, you might be hooked on a TV show, meaning you can’t stop watching it.

6. 🥑 Avocado

In the early days of emoji, avocado emoji would mean ‘basic,’ which is someone who likes mainstream things and trends.

But now it got a new meaning, especially on TikTok, as users on social media use the avocado for couples who want to flex or introduce the person they’re in a relationship with. It directly translates to ‘my better half.’

7. 💀 Skull

The skull emoji is most commonly used to describe something that is funny. For example, you might see it on social media with the caption “I’m dead from laughing.”

Another popular use for the skull emoji is to describe someone who is good-looking. In this case, you might see it with the caption such as, “his beauty could kill me.”

8. 🚩 Triangle Flag

The triangle flag emoji is generally used to symbolize a warning or danger. It might be representative of an oncoming hazard, or it could be employed to point out someone’s hazardous behavior.

For instance, when posting on social media to give a heads-up about something that could be triggering for people or to simply give a warning about scams or advice about being careful online.

This emoji can also be used in a more general sense to describe something that is unexpected or surprising.

9. 🍑 Peach

The most popular meaning of this emoji is that it’s a code for butt. In other words, it can be used to compliment someone’s butt or send a flirtatious message. Because of the shape of the fruit which technically resembles the body part of a human from behind. Thus, the color also indicates the smoothness of someone’s butt.

10. 🐐 Goat

This emoji is slang for which the initials stand for ‘Greatest Of All Time.’ It’s used to describe someone who is really good at something or considered the best in their field. For example, this emoji can be used when someone is talented indicating that they’re the ‘GOAT.’

Alternatively, it can also be used as a way to call someone a ‘goat’ for doing something stupid. For example, if your friend does something embarrassing, you might say “you’re such a goat!” But keep in mind that this would always depend on the context and your relationship with this person.

11. 🥴 Woozy Face

This emoji has a hidden meaning which indicates you’ve had too much of something. In general, it is commonly used when talking about drinks, but this could also indicate other things such as something related to sexual activities.

For instance, this emoji could be used by a female who had intense lovemaking last night. However, this topic is not openly discussed and could deter as secret codes between two individuals talking about sexual experiences in private (Direct/Private Message). It’s like saying, “I had rough sex last night and I feel tired.”

12. 🖕 Middle Finger

This emoji is used to give someone the ‘middle finger.’ It’s a way of flipping someone off or telling them to ‘fuck off.’ Obviously, this is a very offensive gesture, so use it wisely.

On the other hand, this emoji can also be used in other circumstances pertaining to sexual activities. This is commonly used for that topic together with other emojis that are also sexual-related to emphasize something. Such as a middle finger and peach emoji which implies ‘fucking from behind.’

13. 🧢 Baseball Cap

The baseball cap emoji, also known as the billed cap or blue hat emoji is a way of indicating that someone is lying or not telling the truth. It’s also used to call out lies. For example, if you think your friend is being dishonest about something, you might say “stop lying!”

If you disagree with what someone is saying or doing, another way to phrase it would be “you’re full of shit.”

Another example of it, and probably the most common, is when people say online “no 🧢!” which can translate to any of the following like “no lie,” “no shit,” or “tell the truth.” If someone posted “I’m not going to drink again! No 🧢.” It means that he or she is not lying about it.

14. 😵 Dizzy Face

This could sexually mean that you’ve reached the climax. For instance, the topic is about a sexual experience and this emoji, depending on the context of the conversation, could imply that you’ve reached cloud nine.

The ‘x’ refers to the eyes which are at a loss of thought, while the mouth that is wide open implies of something was released.

15. 🎪 Circus Tent

This circus tent emoji is used to describe something that’s crazy or out of control. It can be a situation, such as a party, or it can be used to describe someone’s behavior. For example, if you see someone acting wild or doing something outrageous, you might say “this is a circus!”

On the side, this emoji can also be used to indicate when a guy gets a boner and his pants or shorts stands out like a tent. Additionally, it can be intensified when used with other emoji such as the milk emoji, ice cream, and/or lollipop emoji to imply a sexual desire.

16. 🍭 Lollipop

This emoji, just like the eggplant and banana, could make a flirtatious message as it also refers to a man’s dick. The only difference is that it also implies that it could be already licked and/or someone is interested in sex.

In most cases, this emoji is used on many dating sites or apps when the conversation is getting intense. Nonetheless, using it on a public post should usually not sound flirtatious. Unless it is used as a caption on thirst-trap posts like a photo of a man half-naked.

17. 🥨 Pretzel

The pretzel emoji can be used in two ways: to describe when someone is stressed (e.g., “I’m all tied up in knots!”), or to describe when someone is twistedly crazy (e.g., you’re pretzel crazy!). The context and relationship with this person would dictate whether the latter is a compliment or an insult. Once again, the context and relationship with this person would dictate whether this is a compliment or an insult.

It’s also a substitute to describe a hot sex position, the pretzel emoji is the perfect way to show your partner how you want them to twist and position your body. It can also be a way to describe and remember how flexible they are during kinky bedroom activities.

18. 🦋 Butterfly

The butterfly emoji is often used as a code for drugs. This is because the butterflies are related to happiness and peace, and so can describe the feeling someone gets when under the influence of illegal substances. But sometimes, using this emoji alone is not enough to pinpoint getting high which is why it is accompanied by other emojis like a syringe or pill.

On a positive note, this emoji can also be used when describing something or someone beautiful.

19. 🌮 Taco

This emoji has multiple meanings as well. The most popular one is that it’s used as a code for vaginas. This is because the shape of a taco resembles the shape of a woman’s genital part.

But keep in mind that this would all depend on the situation since this emoji can either have a literal or metaphorical meaning based on the context to be used.

20. 💦 Sweat Droplets

This emoji has a secret meaning which is often used by people pertaining to something mature. It’s used as a code for ‘release.’ For example, if you see this emoji on social media, it might be used to refer to ‘ejaculation’ in a subtle way.

Alternatively, it can also be used as a way of calling out someone for being ‘thirsty.’ For example, if you think someone is being a little too eager or desperate, you might say “you’re so thirsty!”

21. 🎤 Microphone

This emoji is often used to describe male orgasm. It’s like you know when a person reached the climax, someone’s voice or panting is getting loud. On the other hand, using this emoji alone would not directly imply something sexual unless the topic is already about it.

In most situations, if you want to use it that relates to sexual content, it is accompanied by other emojis. For example, you might use the microphone emoji along with the eggplant emoji directly refer to male orgasm.

22. 👌 Ok Hand

This emoji is often used as a way to describe when something is ‘cool,’ ‘good,’ or ‘acceptable.’ On the other hand, it can also depict to represent sex.

Depending on the context or situation when posting or messaging, this emoji could gesture getting fucked or it can also describe when someone’s referring to the size of a male’s genitalia. Either way, determining its meaning is not that hard when it is used along with a context, but if it is used as a standalone post or reply, it will all depend on the situation.

23. 🐕 Dog

The dog emoji also has two secret meanings. The most popular one is that it’s used as a code for cocaine. This is because dogs are often known for being hyperactive which has the same characteristics as someone who is high on an illegal substance.

On the other hand, this emoji can also describe someone as a loser. This is synonymous with when a bully calls someone an underdog.

24. 💉 Syringe

This emoji has a few different meanings as well. First, it could mean drugs since there is an illegal substance that uses syringes to inject into someone.

The second meaning is that it could describe when someone is hooked on something. For example, a syringe used with coffee would imply someone who is addicted to coffee.

25. 💊 Pill

There are a number of different meanings for the pill emoji. It’s used as a code for drugs or when someone is sick.

However, it may also mean differently if used with other emojis like a smiley face emoji which translates to a happy pill. A happy pill simply means something or someone that gives your good vibes.

Meanwhile, when the pill emoji is used with the face with medical mask emoji, it would mean that you’re sick like having flu.

26. 🐝 Bee

This emoji has a few different meanings as well. The most popular one is that it’s used to describe someone who is ‘busy.’ For example, if you’re messaging your friend and they’re taking a while to respond, you might say “where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you for hours!” In this case, the bee emoji would be used to describe how ‘busy’ your friend has been.

Alternatively, it can also be used as a way of calling someone ‘stingy.’ For example, if you think your friend is being too tight with their money, you might say “stop being so stingy!” As you can see, the bee emoji can have both positive and negative connotations.

Lastly, it can also be used to describe Beyoncé. Fans of the celebrity often use this emoji when tweeting or posting relating to her. For example, if a fan is listening to Beyoncé’s music, they might say “I’m jamming to some Bee right now!”

27. ✊ Raised Fist

This emoji could represent something sexual, especially when used by other sexual-related emojis such as the sweat droplets emoji. When used, it could mean masturbation.

But using this alone should not always depict sexual-related posts or messages. Others use this to imply power, fight, or standing up for a belief or a cause. However, keep in mind that this emoji can also be sensitive as in other cultures, it could imply a protest.

28. 🔌 Electric Plug

This electric plug emoji could represent something sexual, especially when used by other sexual-related emojis such as the sweat droplets emoji. When used, it could mean masturbation.

But using this alone should not always depict sexual-related posts or messages. Others use this to imply power, fight, or standing up for a belief or a cause. However, keep in mind that this emoji can also be sensitive as in other cultures, it could imply a protest.

29. 🔩 Nut And Bolt

This nut and bolt emoji is another emoji that vary its meaning depending on how it is used. For example, it can be used as a way of calling someone ‘crazy.’ For example, if you think your friend is acting a little strange, you might say “you’re nuts!” or “you’re crazy!”

Alternatively, it can also be used to describe when two people are ‘tight’ or ‘close.’ For example, if you’re good friends with someone, you might say “we’re like two nuts and bolts!” As you can see, this emoji can have both positive and negative connotations.

Lastly, it could mean screwing someone—to bully or assault (sexually).

30. 🥜 Peanut

A peanut emoji has a few different meanings. The most popular one is that it’s used to describe when two people are ‘compatible.’ For example, if you think you and your friend are a perfect match, you might say “we’re compatible as peanuts!”

Next, it can also be used as an innuendo for ejaculation/orgasm. Lastly, it could mean testicles or a man’s balls.

31. 🔨 Hammer

Using this hammer emoji would vary as it can mean different things. First, it can be used wholesomely when you’re congratulating or approving someone’s deed. For example, “you nailed it!” is a way of saying “you did a great job.” In this sense, the hammer emoji would be used positively.

Alternatively, it can also be used in a flirtatious way which means to nail someone or to fuck someone. Thus, using this emoji to convey this message is usually on direct messaging and not on the post.

32. 👅 Tongue

The most popular use of a tongue emoji is when someone is being flirty. When used with other emojis like the eggplant, peach, or sweat droplets emojis, it is contacting something sexual. For example, someone is trying to lure a person to have sex.

33. 🌽 Corn

This emoji is used nowadays to depict something x-rated like porn. This is because corn sounds like porn. Oftentimes, this emoji would be seen between two people exchanging messages on a public or semi-public social media platform but don’t want to directly be vulgar.

Additionally, this emoji would be most likely accompanied by the pasta emoji which refers to as ‘noods’ or nudes as because of the noodles in the pasta.

34. 🦴 Bone

This emoji also has secret meanings depending on how it is used. For one, it can imply when someone’s having a boner since it sounds like a ‘bone-er.’ For example, if you think someone’s attractive, you might say “he/she is giving me boners!”

Alternatively, it can be used to describe a sexual act that is often called ‘boning’ (bone-ing) or ‘fucking.’ Lastly, it may also mean a man’s penis just like the eggplant and banana emojis.

35. 🥤 Cup With Straw

This emoji is used as a way of indicating that someone is thirsty. For example, if you see someone you’re attracted to, you might say “I’m so thirsty!” In this case, the cup with straw emoji would be used to describe how thirsty you are.

At the same time, indicating thirst could mean different things as it may refer to the literal meaning or metaphorical but sexual. In this case, the emoji would be used to describe how horny you are.

36. 🍝 Pasta

As mentioned earlier, the pasta emoji would secretly depict nudes—like photos or videos. This is because in pasta there is a noodle, and its first syllable sounds like the word nude. Additionally, the fork in the emoji indicates ‘fucking’ which could mean to ‘fucking someone.’

On the other hand, using this emoji alone is not always depicting something sexual-related context.

37. 🤙 Call Me Hand (Shaka) Emoji

While, in general, this emoji implies that someone wants to communicate with you via phone call, it can also have other meanings.

Nowadays, this hand sign emoji is used, instead, when wanting to seal a promise, or when someone wants to approve of something informally. This is because it somewhat looks like making a pinky promise.

38. 🤡 Clown

Clowns are generally associated with being happy and funny, but they can also be seen as creepy or scary. This is why this emoji can have two different meanings.

The first meaning is that it can be used as a way of calling someone creepy or scary. For example, if you think your friend is being cryptic, you may use this emoji to describe him or her.

Alternatively, it can also be used to refer to someone who talks shit. For example, you got stood up by someone after planning something with him or her. It’s like saying that you got fooled—which clowns do on their skits.

39. 🐙 Octopus

An octopus emoji may refer to cuddling or snuggling. For example, if you’re feeling cold or lonely, you may use this emoji to post which translates that you need someone to cuddle.

Alternatively, it can also be used as a way of describing someone who is clingy. For example, if you think your friend is being too clingy, this emoji would be the perfect way to describe how you’re feeling.

40. 👻 Ghost

This emoji is used on social media when conveying a message that indicates being ghosted or dumped without explanation. For example, if you’ve been messaging someone and they suddenly stop responding, you might say “I think I’m being ghosted.”

Alternatively, it can also be used to describe when something is ‘haunting’ you. For example, if you can’t get over a past relationship, you might use this emoji.

Lastly, it can also be used to describe when someone is acting ‘strange.’ For example, if you think your friend is being a little weird, you use this emoji to say “what’s up with you? You’re being ghost-like!”


The trophy emoji is used when someone has accomplished something or achieved a goal. But it can also convey a secret message when praising someone the person spent the night with after a date.

For example, if you had a great time on a date and you want to praise the other person without being too obvious, you can use this emoji. In this case, the trophy emoji would be used to describe how ‘awesome’ the other person is.

42. 💨 Dashing Away

A dashing away emoji is used when someone is smoking a pot. It can also describe when someone is high. For example, if your friend is acting really strange and you think it’s because they’re high, you might use this emoji.

On a different note, this emoji may also be used when describing someone who is moving fast to dash away. For example, someone wants to avoid getting caught.

43. 🧚Fairy

This fairy emoji is used to describe when someone is being an attention seeker. For example, this emoji would be fitting to use as a comment on an issue.

Another meaning of this emoji could imply when someone is really girly whether through action or through looks. For example, a friend posted a photo in a beautiful dress. This emoji could be used to comment on social media posts.

44. 🙃 Upside-Down Smiley Face

When you see an upside-down smiley face emoji, it could mean the person is being sarcastic. However, this could also be a joke or an insult. For example, if you’re not interested in the topic in the chat conversation and see this emoji, it may convey to you that the other person is uninterested as well.

In short, this emoji typically means “yeah, sure” or “I don’t believe you”.

45. 💩 Poo

The poo emoji has a few different meanings, but it is most popularly used to describe when something is really disgusting. For example, you might see something that makes you want to vomit and say “that’s so disgusting, it looks like poo!” In this case, the poo emoji would be used to express how gross the thing is.

Alternatively, it can also be employed to describe someone as dumb. So if your friend does something idiotic, you use this emoji along with the words “what are you? Poo?”

46. 🤏 Pinching Hand

The pinching hand emoji is typically used to describe someone who’s being cheap. For example, if you see somebody haggling over a price, you could use this emoji to show your disapproval.

This emoji can also be seen as a way of indirectly calling someone stupid. So, if you want to say that someone is really dumb without directly saying it, this would be the perfect opportunity to drop this little guy into your conversation.

47. 🔒 Locked

The most popular hidden meaning of this locked emoji is that it’s used to describe when something is incredibly private. So, if you want to say that something is confidential, you might use this emoji.

This emoji can also be used to show that something or someone is off-limits. For example, let’s say you see a toy that another child is playing with and you’re not allowed to have it; in this case, you would use the ‘no entry’ sign emoji next to the object. Another way this meaning manifests itself in relationships: somebody could be taken and therefore unavailable.

48. 🍁 Maple Leaf

This emoji is secretively used to symbolize cannabis or drugs in general. For example, if you want to talk about smoking weed, you might use this emoji instead of an actual cannabis leaf.

This can be accompanied by other emojis like the pill, syringe, and/or rocket to intensify the meaning.

It can also be used to describe when someone is high. For example, if your friend is acting really strange and you think it’s because they’re high, you might use this emoji.

50. 🔪 Kitchen Knife

A kitchen emoji secretly means a mood swing when someone wants to cause destruction.

However, use this emoji with extreme caution as it could be interpreted as a threat. If used carelessly, you might get into trouble. For example, only use this emoji to describe how someone is feeling if they are about to fight someone else and not in a public post where others can misinterpret it.

51. 🙏🏼Two Folded Hands

This emoji has a few different meanings. The most popular one is that it’s used as a way of saying “thank you”. For example, if someone does something nice for you, you might use this emoji to say “thank you so much!”

Alternatively, it can also be used as a way to express desperation in naughty times such as when a person is horny. When used during sexting, it can be translated to, “I need you right now (for sex)” or “can we have sex?”

52. 🎠 Carousel

The carousel emoji may look innocent but it has a hidden meaning. This emoji is popularly used to talk about oral sex. For example, if you want to ask someone if they want to perform oral sex on you, you might use this emoji.

This emoji can also be accompanied by other emojis to intensify the meaning. For example, it can be accompanied by the nut and bolt (screw) emoji which translates to a sex position where you or your partner is riding you while reaching the climax.

53. 🚗 Car

The car emoji is mostly seen on posts or comments relating to traveling or vacation. But did you know that this emoji can also be used in a kinky way? This emoji can be a substitute for the carousel emoji which expresses sexual activity.

For instance, it can translate to, “take you on a ride,” or “let me / I will ride you.”

54. 🧈 Butter

This butter emoji is not just used for food-related purposes. It can also be used as a way of throwing shade at someone. For example, if you think your friend is really fake, you might use this emoji to describe how you feel about them.

In short, using this emoji could imply that someone is “smooth” or “slippery”. So, be careful how you use it as it could be interpreted in different ways.

Thus, it can also be used as a mature meaning that describes how a sex experience has been. For example, if the topic is about having sex and someone asked your experience, this emoji would translate to “smooth like butter,” which translates to “great!”

55. 🥁 Drum

The drum emoji is another one that has a hidden meaning more than its literal meaning as an instrument. This emoji is used to describe sex. How do you use the drum? You bang it, right? And as we all know, bang or banging is slang for sex.

56. 😭 Loudly Crying

In a sexual context, the loudly crying face emoji could translate two different meanings. First, it could mean that the sex was not good and you don’t like it. It’s more like an exaggeration expression but bad sex is bad sex, you know.

Second, it could mean the feeling of overly missing getting laid or having one. In this case, this expression emphasizes that you had no action in bed for quite a while and you miss the feeling.

57. 🧿 Nazar Amulet

A Nazar amulet emoji is a slang emoji for next-level eye emoji. It is used as a way of throwing shade or giving the silent treatment. For example, if you see someone you don’t like, you might use this emoji to describe how you feel about them.

The Nazar amulet emoji can also be used as a way of warding off evil spirits. For example, if you feel like you’re being watched or someone is out to get you, you might use this emoji for protection.

58. 😏 Smirking Face

A smirking face emoji is used to describe when someone is being really cocky or smug. For example, if you see someone who is being really arrogant, you might use this emoji to describe how they’re feeling.

Alternatively, it can also be used as a way of flirting. For example, if you want to flirt with someone, you might use this emoji to let them know you’re interested.

59. 😈 Smiling Face With Horns

A smiling face with horns emoji is used to describe when someone is being really mischievous. For example, if you see someone who is up to no good, you might use this emoji to describe how they’re feeling.

It can also be used as a way of throwing shade at someone. For example, if you think someone is really annoying, you might use this emoji to describe how you feel about them.

Lastly, this emoji can be used to flirt with someone. The horns express the feeling of naughtiness which can suggest doing something adventurous.

60. 🤠 Cowboy Hat Face

A cowboy hat face emoji is used to describe when someone is really tough. For example, if you see someone who is acting like they’re not afraid of anything, you might use this emoji to describe how they’re feeling.

It can also be used as a way of describing when someone is being really feeling horny. When this emoji is used, it is like sending the message that ‘it’s on’ and you’re ready for some action (in bed).

61. 🥅 Goal Net

The goal net emoji indicates the desire to score or succeed. And its hidden meaning is likewise. It is used to describe when someone is really determined to achieve something. For example, if you see someone who is working really hard to achieve their goals, you might use this emoji to describe how they are.

It can also be used as a way of describing to score with someone whether it is a date or hookup.

62. 🧎‍♀️Kneeling Person

This emoji is used to describe when someone is begging or pleading. For example, if you see someone who is begging for money, you might use this emoji.

It can also be used as a way of describing when someone is begging for forgiveness. For example, if you see someone who is apologizing for their mistakes, you might use this emoji to describe how they are feeling.

Lastly, it can be used when you are or you have a submissive partner. In sexting, this indicates that someone is ready to go under the dominant partner in bed.

64. 🥺 Pleading Face

This emoji is used to describe when someone is begging or pleading. For example, if you see someone who is begging for money, you might use this emoji.

It can also be used as a way of describing someone pleading to score or to get laid. In short, it can be a substitute for two folded hands emoji.

65. 💋 Kiss Mark

The kiss mark emoji has a hidden meaning which describes a hickey. A hickey is a mark left on the skin after someone has been kissed forcefully.

The hidden meaning of this emoji can be used as a way of bragging about getting laid or scoring with someone. For example, if you see someone who has a hickey, you might use this emoji to describe what they did.

Alternatively, it can also be used as an invitation to make out with someone.

66. 🤤 Drooling Face

The drooling face emoji is used to describe when someone is really hungry. It can also be used as a way of describing when someone is really horny and they’re thinking about sex.

67. 🍃 Leaf Fluttering In Wind

While one person would think of its literal meaning which is the fall season, others would think of its hidden meaning. The hidden meaning is associated with cannabis or marijuana. This emoji is used in place of an actual cannabis leaf.

It is often accompanied by other emojis like the pill, syringe, and/or rocket to intensify the meaning. It can also be used as a way of asking if someone wants to smoke weed.

68. 🍒 Cherries

The cherries emoji can have a few different meanings. The most popular one is that it is used to describe when someone is a virgin. For example, if you see someone who you think is a virgin, you might use this emoji to describe how they are.

Lastly, it can be used in a sexual way. When someone uses this emoji with the peach, it can describe a woman you want to hit or get laid in bed with.

69. Cat Face 🐱

The cat face emoji can have different interpretations. It may mean the actual animal, a description of someone playful or clingy, it can be slang for a vagina or slang for being a coward. For example, someone may use this emoji to describe a vagina in sexting.

Its meaning varies depending on the context and situation of how it is used.

70. Pineapple 🍍

The pineapple emoji is a yellow fruit with brown spikes on top. It is most commonly used to represent tropical places and vacations. However, it can also mean other things depending on the context.

This emoji can describe the relationship status of lovers who are rough on the outside but sweet inside.

Alternatively, this emoji can be suggestive to sexual connotation which is the practice of swinging or regularly sharing partners.

71. Steaming Bowl 🍜

When you see the steaming bowl emoji, it typically means one of two things. It can be used as a visual representation of actual noodles, or a sexual innuendo for nudes.

This can have the same interpretation as the pasta emoji that both have noodles.

72. Pancakes 🥞

The pancakes emoji is often thought of as a representation of a staple breakfast or food. However, this emoji has a hidden meaning or slang. It is said that the emoji depicts a flat butt which is the opposite of the peach emoji which represents a rounded shape butt.

The emoji can also be slang for a sexual position where a group of people is on top of each other while having sex.

73. Chair 🪑

The chair emoji typically just represent just a chair. On the other hand, it can be a code for something spicy that not everyone knows.

It can be slang for a body part or can be used to say “sit on my face” during sex.

74. Screwdriver 🪛

The screwdriver emoji is used to represent repairing something. But depending on the context, it can have another meaning such as “crazy,” “messed up (situation),” and/or “to have sex.” And because of its shape, it can also represent a man’s genitalia.

75. Biting Lip

The biting lip emoji is a somewhat pretty straightforward emoji because of how it looks. It is often related to flirting or seduction. Depending on the context, its meaning varies.

However, when used as a caption to a very sexy post, its meaning is suggestive of something sexual. It could convey the message of feeling horny or arousal.

76. Chestnut 🌰

The chestnut emoji may look innocent but it has hidden meanings that represent different private parts such as testicles, breasts, and nipples. This is because of its color and shape.

And when used with other suggestive emojis, its sexual connotation becomes more evident which is why using this emoji should come with discretion. This is if you’re sending this to someone that you’re not close with.

77. Cut Of Meat 🥩

The cut of meat emoji can also be used as a sexual innuendo. This emoji when sent is slang for sex.

When used in this context, it is often paired with other emojis, such as the eggplant emoji or the peach emoji, or its sexual meaning is easier to understand depending on the situation or context.

78. Rooster 🐓

The rooster emoji depicts a rooster that is standing, but aside from its literal meaning, it has other meanings. This emoji can be a code for cockiness or arrogance which of course describes a person’s attitude.

The other hidden meaning of this emoji is it can be used as slang for a man’s penis. This is due to the fact that the other name for a rooster is a cock.

79. Japanese Goblin 👺

The Japanese goblin 👺 emoji, or simply goblin emoji depicts trouble, trolling, violence, mischief, and aggressiveness. It primarily depicts something or someone that is negative or disliked.

It can also be used for sexual contexts such as wanting to have rough sex.

80. Watermelon 🍉

The watermelon emoji is often seen as a straightforward emoji depicting the fruit itself. But it has two hidden meanings. First, it can be used as slang for a period or cramp because of its red color.

The other hidden meaning of this emoji is it can be used as slang for breasts because of its shape.

81. Face Savoring Food 😋

The face savoring food emoji has a hidden meaning which is often used when flirting online or in text. Its hidden meaning can be suggestive which is to convey appreciation while others use it with a more sexual connotation. For example, when someone posted their hot photos, this emoji in the comment can mean that the person is delicious (in a sexual way).

82. Vulcan Salute 🖖

The Vulcan salute emoji is generally a positive emoji that convey emotions of success, joy, and admiration. However, this is also used secretly by others with sexual meaning which is ‘to fuck someone’s hole using two fingers.”

Source : EmojiSprout

Calling Out of the Blue: Why Would You Do This to Someone You Love?

Ellen McCarthy wrote . . . . . . . . .

Adria Barich is a haunted woman. Her tormentor tracks her everywhere, threatening to ambush her in a dimly lit parking garage, as she drives down a desolate road or when she’s let her guard down to wash dishes or collapse on the couch.

“I’ve actually changed my ringtone a few times, because I start to associate it with terror,” says Barich, a 24-year-old California woman who works in marketing. “But every time that I do, after, like, a week or so, it just becomes terrifying again.”

There is nothing that makes Barich seize up with fear like an incoming call.

“I feel anxiety. I stiffen up. I also kind of make myself pretend that I didn’t see it,” she says. “And nine times out of 10, I’m not going to answer it. If someone really needs to reach me, they can text me, leave a voice mail or continue to call me again and again and again. I wait for their next move before I decide what I’m going to do.”

She also hates that she can’t read the facial cues and body language of the person on the other end of the line. She recently chose a massage therapist based solely on the fact that the therapist has an online appointment booking system in place. (“When I have to book an appointment over the phone, there have been so many times I just agree to the first time they throw out just to get off the call.”) It got so bad that Barich recorded a new voice mail greeting to ward off repeat offenders. “Hi, it’s Adria,” she began. “I really do not like answering my phone, so if this could be a text, that would be wonderful. Otherwise, please be aware it’s probably going to take me quite some time to get back to you. Don’t take it personally. It’s just who I am as a person.”

She posted her new greeting on TikTok with the caption, “phone calls are literally the worst thing invented.” The sentiment resonated. Barich got comments from hundreds of people with similar phone phobias. One tortured soul from across the pond asked whether she could rerecord the message in a British accent, so they could use it as their own.

If these levels of live-caller dread sound ludicrous to you, congratulations. Maybe your friends and family call just to chat, and you welcome these telephonic drop-bys even when they are not invited or forewarned. Maybe those conversations seldom veer into awkwardness or tedium.

For the rest of us, impromptu calls have become roughly equivalent to turning up unannounced at someone’s home and smushing your face up against their window. Our comfort and patience with person-to-person calls have eroded as text messaging became the preferred way of communicating all but the gravest of news. The ringtone grows ominous. For whom does it toll?

“My mom will call me at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and my first assumption is, ‘Oh, my grandma died,’ or something happened. There’s always a moment of panic,” says Eric Wheeler, 35. “And she’s always like: ‘Hey! What’s up?’ And I’m like: ‘Well, I’m at work. What’s up with you? Can you just text me?’ ”

When Wheeler and his buddy Sean Fau decided to start a podcast, inspiration struck for the perfect show title: “Text Before Calling.” They talk about all manner of topics on their show, but this bit of modern etiquette is one subject on which they’re in lockstep.

“Hearing the phone ringing at all is bothersome to my soul,” says Fau, 42. “I despise phone calls in general.”

When he does hear that miserable noise, it sets off a cascade of split-second deliberations: “Do I really want to deal with this person right now? Do I have an excuse?”

When Wheeler and Fau agreed to hop on the line for this story, it was only the second time in a decade of friendship that they’d spoken by phone. (They communicate mostly via Twitter direct messages, and they vastly prefer it that way.)

Texts are also good. “Texts are like missiles. ‘Where is this thing?’ ‘What time are you meeting me?’ I like how succinct they are,” Wheeler says.

If texts are precision missiles, phone calls can feel like hot-air balloons drifting without a destination.

“It can be so discursive,” Fau says. “You’re like, ‘Okay, how are you?’ ‘Good.’ ‘I’m fine.’ ‘What’s up?’ Can we get to the point here?” Plus, he adds: “I have a distinct feeling that calling is just rude in general. It’s the idea that people only call because they need your attention right now.”

The fact that they require immediate and total attention is part of what people find unnerving about unexpected phone calls, says Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab. Also, there’s no real time to prepare. Hancock recently learned how unsettling it is for his PhD students to receive an unplanned call from him. “It always freaks them out. They think: ‘Why would he be calling? I must’ve done something bad. What have I done?’ ”

Melissa Kristin Munds, a 34-year-old Louisiana video producer, remembers the excitement of the ringing landline during her childhood. Perhaps it was a relative or a salesperson, but it also could have been a classmate (maybe even a boy!) calling to talk to her. “There was always an element of hope and surprise and excitement,” she says.

That happy buzz is a sharp contrast to the anxiety Munds feels now, a discrepancy she captured in a recent TikTok. “It’s a disturbance. I’m being taken out of my moment, my safe space,” she says. “Back in the day, we didn’t have the resources to be prepared for everything. We went with the flow. Now we’re so used to planning out everything. We don’t like surprises.”

Munds’s phone is usually set to silent or vibrate, but she recently changed her ringtone to “Moonlight Sonata.”

“It’s calming,” she says. “So when I hear it, I don’t panic.”

To Geri Moran, 74, it’s text messages that are agitating. She’s a bookkeeper, but she also designs humorous products that she sells on Etsy — funny mugs, coasters and the like — and when she gets into her creative mode, she doesn’t want to stop to use the bathroom, never mind respond to a friend. And when a call comes to her landline she doesn’t feel a bit bad about letting the machine pick up. That’s why she tries not to give out her cell number.

“When people call your cell or text you, they expect an immediate response. That annoys the hell out of me,” Moran says. “I’ve never had anybody call me out because I responded a day or two later to an email or voice mail. But I’ve had people call me out if I don’t respond to a text in an hour or two. I have an actual life. I’m not going to interrupt myself all the time.”

Moran has no qualms about calling people out of the blue. And she’s delighted when her own phone rings. “I love talking on the phone,” she says. She thinks it offers a type of intimacy that texting can’t touch.

But there is one instance when an incoming call will make her blood pressure rise. Moran has a friend who likes to call without warning. And it’s never just a voice call; it’s always via FaceTime.

“That drives me crazy,” Moran says. “That’s next level to me.”

Source : Washington Post

Young Chinese Are Still Seeking Serenity — Now Through Digital Fish

Zhang Liting wrote . . . . . . . . .

This is not the easiest time to be a university student. Sure, some of us are making do — meeting our needs for social interaction through cloud clubbing, cardboard pets, or coordinated crawling parties — but between the ongoing pandemic controls and the struggling economy, it can be hard to stay positive.

That goes double when you’re a second-year master’s student. The internships we land this year are crucial to a successful job search, but even if you can get off campus, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to enter your company’s office.

That’s how I found myself at Wang Bin’s house on a recent Wednesday afternoon. A friend of mine, she invited me over for company while we each interned from home as best we could.

We chatted as we worked. I told her about a married couple I’d interviewed, and she complained to me about the unreasonable demands of her clients. The more she talked, the angrier she grew. A frown crept over her face, her back tensed, and she swore with an almost religious devotion.

Then, just as suddenly, she stopped, took out her iPad, and began intently tapping the screen with her stylus. Stealing a peek, all I saw was a wooden fish. Every time she tapped it, the iPad emitted a crisp, almost ethereal sound and the words “Merit +1” popped up on the screen.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Knocking on a wooden fish,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I knock it 500 times a day.”

I couldn’t help but feel amused at her latest preoccupation. Wooden fish have a long history in Buddhism and Taoism. Nuns and monks knock on them to chant or ask for alms. Fish, they say, do not close their eyes; the shape is meant to remind believers never to forget their faith. This was the first time I’d seen one inside an iPad, however, much less an iPad belonging to a 24-year-old.

“It’s not just me, it’s on the phones of thousands of young people,” Wang explained, somewhat defensively. A quick online search suggested she had a point. Maybe I was the weird one. The app, Muyu, or “Wooden Fish,” had briefly surged to second place on the Apple App Store’s free app download list in China. To date, it’s been downloaded almost 5 million times.

Not everyone is tapping their own fish: Douyin, the version of TikTok accessible on the Chinese mainland, has over 150 million videos related to virtual wooden fish. If you search for “virtual wooden fish” on the popular video streaming site Bilibili, some of the top results have hundreds of thousands or even millions of views.

This all may feel overly wholesome, but the initial reason for the popularity of virtual wooden fish is anything but. If you’ve never heard of “hell jokes” before, the concept is self-explanatory: A kind of mean-spirited meme, they’re jokes made at the expense of other people’s misfortune. If you laugh, then you’re “going to hell.”

Wooden fish apps first caught on as a kind of tongue-in-cheek way to wipe your spiritual slate clean. Whatever cosmic debt you accrued in the process of laughing at a hell joke — to say nothing of the guilt — could be worked off by tapping a virtual wooden fish to acquire merit and get back in the Buddha’s good graces.

“Hell jokes can be wicked, and while everyone knows that knocking on wooden fish and listening to the Great Compassion Mantra to acquire merit is a joke, it does serve as a simple, convenient, and comforting ritual,” explained Hu Wan, a classmate of mine and another ardent virtual wooden fish knocker.

Indeed, on the subway back from my friend’s house, I began to wonder if I was the only person at my school not knocking fish. Scrolling through my social media feeds, I came across one of Hu’s videos in which she filmed herself simultaneously tapping a virtual wooden fish and fingering prayer beads on her wrist. She’d even superimposed a Buddhist saying calling on her followers to attain enlightenment.

“At first, I just thought it was funny, but later I found the rhythmic sound to be quite soothing,” she told me. “Some of the sound effects seemed to purify my soul. Especially when I have to get a paper done quickly, I can be really anxious. I need some calming sounds.”

Hu’s video is typical of a new class of wooden fish power user. The once-simple gag now centers on increasingly elaborate setups, as bored young Chinese think of ever-more complex ways to accumulate virtual merit. Why be satisfied with tapping a wooden fish on your iPad when you can also burn digital incense, play mantras through your phone speakers, and count off prayer beads on your smart watch?

App developers have responded to the shifting market by rolling out a whole school of virtual wooden fish to knock, from simple programs like Wang’s favorite to more deluxe offerings that let you engage in the not very Buddhist-seeming activity of competing against your friends for the highest merit score.

Many of these offerings operate in a legal gray area. China strictly controls online religious content, especially where money is concerned. While some developers seem to have taken a devil-may-care approach to regulation, others prefer to downplay the religious themes. In the app Wang uses, you can buy sound effects, and knocking the fish increases your “merit” counter, but there’s no overt religious messaging.

That stripped-down symbology suits her just fine. Young Chinese may not believe in Buddhism — one study found that less than 7% of Chinese under the age of 30 consider themselves Buddhist — but we associate its iconography with feelings of peace and calm, two things that are in increasingly short supply these days.

In the weeks since, I’ve found myself repeatedly thinking back to that day at Wang’s house. We wrapped up our work around six, just as her mother called us for dinner. The home-cooked meal was delicious — it’s been a long time since I’ve been back to see my own family — but the table talk quickly turned to the ice-cold job market.

I’d submitted three résumés that day, and Wang two. Neither one of us has any idea if we’ll be able to land a job after graduation. Her mom tried to be helpful. She knows a recruiter. Maybe he can help find us a job.

Maybe. And maybe accumulating a bit of extra merit wouldn’t be such a bad idea, after all.

Source : Sixth Tone

Techno-Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay: China and the Deep State Have Joined Forces

John & Nisha Whitehead wrote . . . . . . . . .

“If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.” — Senator Frank Church

The votes are in.

No matter who runs for office, no matter who controls the White House, Senate or the House of Representatives now or in the future, “we the people” have already lost.

We have lost because the future of this nation is being forged beyond the reach of our laws, elections and borders by techno-authoritarian powers with no regard for individuality, privacy or freedom.

The fate of America is being made in China, our role model for all things dystopian.

An economic and political powerhouse that owns more of America’s debt than any other country and is buying up American businesses across the spectrum, China is a vicious totalitarian regime that routinely employs censorship, surveillance, and brutal police state tactics to intimidate its populace, maintain its power, and expand the largesse of its corporate elite.

Where China goes, the United States eventually follows. This way lies outright tyranny.

Censorship. China’s censorship machine is straight out of Orwell’s 1984 with government agencies and corporations working together to limit the populace’s freedom of expression. Just a few years ago, in fact, China banned the use of the word “disagree,” as well as references to George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984. Government agencies routinely harass and intimidate anyone seen as non-compliant. Activists are frequently penalized for gathering in public places and charged criminally with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” China has also gone to great lengths to muzzle journalists reporting on corruption or human rights abuses.

Surveillance. COVID-19 brought China’s Orwellian surveillance out of the shadows and gave China the perfect excuse for unleashing the full force of its expansive and sophisticated surveillance and data collection powers on its citizenry and the rest of the world. Thermal scanners using artificial intelligence (AI) were installed at train stations in major cities to assess body temperatures and identify anyone with a fever. Facial recognition cameras and cell phone carriers tracked people’s movements constantly, reporting in real time to data centers that could be accessed by government agents and employers alike. And coded color alerts (red, yellow and green) sorted people into health categories that corresponded to the amount of freedom of movement they’re allowed: “Green code, travel freely. Red or yellow, report immediately.”

Social media credit scores. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese surveillance state had already been hard at work tracking its citizens through the use of some 200 million security cameras installed nationwide. Equipped with facial recognition technology, the cameras allow authorities to track so-called criminal acts, such as jaywalking, which factor into a person’s social credit score. Social media credit scores assigned to Chinese individuals and businesses categorize them on whether or not they are “good” citizens. A “citizen score” determines one’s place in society based on one’s loyalty to the government. A real-name system—which requires people to use government-issued ID cards to buy mobile sims, obtain social media accounts, take a train, board a plane, or even buy groceries—coupled with social media credit scores ensures that those blacklisted as “unworthy” are banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train. Among the activities that can get you labeled unworthy are taking reserved seats on trains or allegedly causing trouble in hospitals.

Safe, smart cities. Having pioneered the development of so-called “safe” smart cities, China is exporting worldwide the high-tech communities in which residents are monitored round the clock, their every action under constant surveillance, and every device is connected to a central brain operated by artificial intelligence. As privacy expert Vincent Mosco concludes, “The benefit from smart cities clearly goes to the authorities who are able to use the promise of the modern, high-tech city to extend and deepen surveillance. It also goes to the big tech companies who profit first from building the smart city infrastructure and secondly by commodifying the entire smart city space. Citizens gain some operational efficiency but at great cost to their liberty.”

Digital currency. China has already adopted a government-issued digital currency, which not only allows it to surveil and seize people’s financial transactions, but can also work in tandem with its social credit score system to punish individuals for moral lapses and social transgressions (and reward them for adhering to government-sanctioned behavior). As China expert Akram Keram wrote for The Washington Post, “With digital yuan, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] will have direct control over and access to the financial lives of individuals, without the need to strong-arm intermediary financial entities. In a digital-yuan-consumed society, the government easily could suspend the digital wallets of dissidents and human rights activists.”

Digital authoritarianism will redefine what it means to be free in almost every aspect of our lives. Again, we must look to China to understand what awaits us. As Human Rights Watch analyst Maya Wang explains: “Chinese authorities use technology to control the population all over the country in subtler but still powerful ways. The central bank is adopting digital currency, which will allow Beijing to surveil—and control—people’s financial transactions. China is building so-called safe cities, which integrate data from intrusive surveillance systems to predict and prevent everything from fires to natural disasters and political dissent. The government believes that these intrusions, together with administrative actions, such as denying blacklisted people access to services, will nudge people toward ‘positive behaviors,’ including greater compliance with government policies and healthy habits such as exercising.”

AI surveillance. In much the same way that Chinese products have infiltrated almost every market worldwide and altered consumer dynamics, China is now exporting its “authoritarian tech” to governments worldwide ostensibly in an effort to spread its brand of totalitarianism worldwide. In fact, both China and the United States have led the way in supplying the rest of the world with AI surveillance, sometimes at a subsidized rate. In the hands of tyrants and benevolent dictators alike, AI surveillance is the ultimate means of repression and control, especially through the use of smart city/safe city platforms, facial recognition systems, and predictive policing. These technologies are also being used by violent extremist groups, as well as sex, child, drug, and arms traffickers for their own nefarious purposes.

While countries with authoritarian regimes have been eager to adopt AI surveillance, as the Carnegie Endowment’s research makes clear, liberal democracies are also “aggressively using AI tools to police borders, apprehend potential criminals, monitor citizens for bad behavior, and pull out suspected terrorists from crowds.” Moreover, it’s easy to see how the China model for internet control has been integrated into the American police state’s efforts to flush out so-called anti-government, domestic extremists. This is how totalitarianism conquers the world.

Secret police. According to recent reports, China has planted more than 54 secret police forces in 25 cities around the world, including the United States, as part of their efforts to track and threaten dissidents and deport them back to China for prosecution. The campaign to surveil, intimidate and punish ex-patriates living abroad engaging in dissent has been dubbed Operation Fox Hunt. As one human rights agency noted, “The message from the [Chinese] ministry of foreign affairs – that you are not safe anywhere, that we can find you and that we can get to you – is very effective.”

Police brutality. Not much has changed about China’s brutal crackdown on protesters in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese policing remains brutal, excessive and inflexible, now with the added power of the surveillance state behind it.

Intimidation tactics. China has mastered the art of intimidation tactics, threatening activists, their families and their livelihood should they fail to comply with the government’s dictates. As one activist explained, “There have been telephone calls in the middle of the night that family members won’t find work if you don’t cooperate with the government, or that your parents’ phone number will be posted online and they’ll be harassed. Or with Uyghurs, that the rest of your family will be put in camps.”

Disappearance, brainwashing and torture. Those who fail to fall in line with China’s dictates are often made to disappear, arrested in the dead of night and imprisoned in Orwellian re-education camps. China has built more than 400 of these internment camps in recent years to detain people for offenses that run the gamut from challenging the government to so-called religious crimes such as owning a Qur’an or abstaining from eating pork. As the Guardian reports, “abuses include detailed arbitrary detentions, torture and medical neglect in the detention camps and coercive birth control.”

China’s global influence, its technological reach, its quest for world domination, and its rigid demand for compliance are pushing us towards a world in chains.

Through its growing stranglehold on surveillance technology, China has erected the world’s first digital totalitarian state, and in the process, has made itself a model for aspiring dictators everywhere.

What too many fail to recognize, however, is that China and the American Deep State have joined forces.

As I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is fascism hiding behind a thin veneer of open government and populist elections.

For all intents and purposes, we have become the embodiment of what Philip K. Dick feared when he wrote The Man in the High Castle, a vision of an alternate universe in which the Axis powers defeat the Allies in World War II, and “fascism has not simply conquered America. It has insinuated itself, with disturbing ease, into America’s DNA.”

Yet while Dick’s vision of a world in which totalitarianism has been normalized is chilling, our growing reality of a world in which the Deep State is not merely entrenched but has gone global is downright terrifying.

Our national flag may not boast the red and white stripes with a swastika on a field of blue as depicted in The Man in the High Castle, but be warned: we are no less occupied.

Source : The Rutherford Institute

Policies for Adapting to the ‘New Normal’ of the Anthropocene

Andrew J. Hoffman, P. Devereaux Jennings, and Nicholas A. Poggioli wrote . . . . . . . . .

In 2022, a four-year assessment convened by the United Nations came to a straightforward conclusion: society’s market-based focus on short-term profits and economic growth has contributed greatly to the crises we are facing within the natural environment, notably climate change, species extinction, ocean plastic waste, and other systemic problems.

On the face of it, this conclusion might come as little surprise. Of course valuing profit over environmental preservation is contributing to a series of ecological challenges that mark what scientists are calling the Anthropocene, an era in which of Earth’s systems are profoundly influenced by humans. But the U.N.’s conclusion is more profound than it seems. Even if we understand why we are facing these environmental crises, changing this reality is not a small affair.

To help us understand why this insight is so important, we turned, in a recent paper published in Behavioral Science and Policy, to institutional theory, a branch of research that studies the rules, norms, and ultimately beliefs and values of our culture, all of which guide our behavior and actions. It is at this deepest level—what we value and what we believe—that must be at the root of any effort to address the challenge that the U.N. report calls out.

Two sets of value systems that underlie Western society trigger environmental problems. The first is a faith in market capitalism. The second is a faith in technological optimism.

In particular, two sets of value systems that underlie Western society trigger environmental problems. The first is a faith in market capitalism. This faith embraces a free market, property ownership, shareholder rights, limited regulation, and unlimited economic growth to produce socially optimal outcomes such as economic prosperity or a clean environment. This value set leads us to believe in the “win-win” solution to all our problems; that we can, for example, correct climate change by pursuing solutions that also make us money.

The second is a faith in technological optimism. This optimism embraces human ingenuity and industrial innovation. This leads us to seek a new gadget that will make our problems go away; windmills, solar cells, or electric cars.

Both value systems trivialize our present environmental challenges, leading us to believe that we can find solutions that will allow us to continue our lifestyles unchanged. In short, we look for Band-Aid solutions that do not address the root problems within our culture. While important in the short term, the power of the market and technology alone will not save us in the long term. In the long term, we will have to change the way we think.

This value set leads us to believe in the “win-win” solution to all our problems; that we can, for example, correct climate change by pursuing solutions that also make us money.

Unfortunately, these institutions are enduring and stable, and often impede change—even positive and necessary change. But by applying research on social change in institutions, we can identify policies that could shift the disastrous trajectory we are currently on.

How societies get unstuck

So we turn again to institutional theory. Researchers have identified three approaches for catalyzing societal change. The first does not challenge existing institutions but instead offers new solutions that fit within the dominant value systems. For example, electric cars or vegetable-based meats, which do not change values of driving freedom or eating pleasure but offer ways to reduce the impact of the way those values are enacted.

The second approach is to challenge individual institutions that support the existing value systems and undermine one or more of the mechanisms that are leading to our environmental challenges. For example, new forms of urban design and policy—such as reduced parking, congestion pricing, and bike lanes—shift how people think about urban life and mobility.
The third approach is more dramatic and involves seizing the day following major crises and disruptions that make systems amenable to rapid social change. In this mode, completely new institutions and value systems can be developed. As Winston Churchill is reported to have said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Consider the rapid social change that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. With the passage of the Patriot Act and new travel restrictions set by the Transportation Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security (two agencies that did not exist before 9/11), social norms and values around privacy, freedom, and government control changed in ways that people would never have considered possible on September 10. Social scientists call this process of rapid social change “punctuated equilibrium,” and we have seen similar such jumps after the Love Canal, Chernobyl, Bhopal, or Exxon Valdez disasters.

By applying research on social change in institutions, we can identify policies that could shift the disastrous trajectory we are currently on.

The first two approaches allow for careful policy prescriptions that don’t rock the boat too much. Leveraging crises, in contrast, is potentially transformational, but it relies on unpredictable events and is less controllable. Crucially, all three are valuable routes to address our environmental challenges.

New policies for Anthropocene society

We offer a typology of five categories of public and private policy mechanisms that can shift institutions and the values around the market and technology.

1. Policies for eco-sensitive governance

Institutional structures must move away from a single-minded focus on monetary measures of value and purpose. In private policies, the World Economic Forum, Business Roundtable, and others have begun to redefine corporate purpose as less about simply maximizing shareholder profits and more about considering other social and environmental objectives. There is also growing interest in “steady-state growth” or “degrowth,” to recognize limits to perpetual economic growth.

Within the public sector, policies are beginning to grant nature legally enforceable rights, as Ecuador did in 2008 by amending its constitution, or granting specific ecosystems the legal status of personhood, as has been done in New Zealand, Canada, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Going further, an effort is underway to draft laws for the legally enforceable crime of “ecocide” and criminalizing the destruction of the world’s ecosystems. Each of these policies help us to think of value in terms other than strictly economic; terms that allow us to recognize that nature has value that goes beyond narrow human self-interest and we must, at times, restrain our interests to protect it.

2. Policies that reduce consumption

Efforts are underway to reduce consumption of goods and resources and strive towards new models of “sustainable consumption.” This is visible with policies that promote circular economy, decoupling and the right to repair. Urban design is slashing the use of materials by shifting from “car habitats,” to planning, zoning, and development policies that prioritize livability and new urbanism. Meanwhile, corporations (notably Patagonia) have begun striving to eliminate planned obsolescence and place less emphasis on the satisfaction of immediate desires. These kinds of policies compel us to rethink our needs versus our wants, and decrease the desire for more material and energy use to satisfy them.

3. Policies to elevate the role of science in business and society

Public trust in academic institutions, scientific agencies, and other sources of scientific information is both critically important and rapidly eroding. To reverse this erosion, companies are speaking out publicly in support of scientific conclusions on issues such as climate change and COVID, and changing how they use science to pursuing social and environmental goals. Within research communities, scientists and scholars are being trained and incentivized to become more engaged in public and political discourse, bringing their work to the communities that most need it. These policies re-elevate the role of and our trust in science and the scientific method for informing our worldviews, policy outcomes, and public debate.

4. Policies that extend corporate time horizons

Business leaders tend to focus on quarterly or annual time frames. Policymakers think in terms of business and election cycles. Everyday citizens struggle to sacrifice now for the sake of future generations. But such short-term thinking leads us to delay responding to critical issues, allowing tipping points to be passed that limit future responses to these problems. To shift time scales, questions are arising over metrics like discounted cash flows that “favor short term gains at the expense of future generations” and Gross Domestic Product that neglects many measures of social value. Within public policies, energy policies (i.e., in Europe) are shifting to make long term planning easier, with 40- to 60-year time horizons. These policies help us to see that solutions to the challenges we face must be considered in the long arc of time and for future generations—where planetary heating, sea level rise, and carbon cycles occur over decades, centuries, and millennia—and that our incessant focus on the short-term blinds us to addressing them.

5. Policies that make society more adaptable and resilient

The environment has entered the “new normal,” which is less stable and prone to more sudden shifts; a reality that is at odds with the dominant view of the world as relatively continuous and on an upward path of progress. But insurance companies are monetizing that uncertainty by changing underwriting policies to reflect climate and weather instability. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is revising flood coverage and response away from rebuilding to relocation. And planning, zoning, and building standards are being redeveloped to plan for more frequent storm disasters. These policies force is to recognize the “new normal,” that the past is not always prologue for the future and that the environment that our children and grandchildren will grow up in is far different that the environment we grew up in. And it is the product of our actions, guided by our values and beliefs, that changed it.

Overcoming the resistance ahead

By changing values systems, these policies will threaten closely held cultural, ideological, and religious beliefs that many people hold or benefit from. These policies will challenge the belief that market forces or technological innovation inevitably lead to positive ends. They will stir fears of centrally planned economies that challenges a free market economy. They will raise fears that people will lose freedom and stop taking personal responsibility. And they will compel resistance from those that simply distrust the scientists promoting them.

But by building on research into mechanisms that alter our cultural institutions, incremental and transitional change can help keep the Earth within safe planetary boundaries. And given the new normal caused by the Anthropocene, COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and more, policymakers will have opportunities to push for more rapid and profound change when sudden, disruptive events compel a reexamination of the institutional structures of society. Only by shifting the dominant values around market capitalism and technological optimism will society be able to keep the planet within its livable boundaries and avoid the environmental calamities that we now face.

Source : Behavioral Scientist

Chart: Children Survey – What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Source : Statista