Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I’ve heard that the average number of sexual partners that men have is 8 while the average number of sexual partners that women have is 6.  But if you stop and think about these numbers, they don’t make sense.

It’s easier to think of these numbers as frequencies, because humans have a frequentist number sense.  Suppose there is a population of 10 men and 10 women, and, simplifying the case momentarily, men only have sex with women and vice versa.  In that population, the total number of unique sex interactions for the men would be 10 * 8 = 80.  The total number for the women would be 10 * 6 = 60.  If men are only having sex with women, you can see how this is impossible.  With whom did the men have 20 extra sexual encounters?

Well, in a realistic setting, same-sex encounters happen.  But, while I’m willing to grant that men may have more same-sex encounters than women, they don’t have 30% more (an average of 8 is about 30% more than an average of 6).  Maybe 10% of men and 5% of women have same-sex encounters, so at most the discrepancy is 5%.  In truth, I don’t think it’s even that much.  I think men and women probably have similar rates of same-sex encounters, which means those encounters add roughly the same amount to each average.

So again, where does this 30% discrepancy between the reported average of 8 and the reported average of 6 come from?  I think it comes from reporting errors.  One possibility is that men are falsely increasing their sex partner count while women are falsely decreasing it.  Maybe the actual average for men and women is 7 and they are on average reporting one higher and one lower.  I can understand why this would happen in a society where men are encouraged to boast about their sexual encounters while women are encouraged to downplay them.

Another possibility is that the word “sex” is not clearly defined.  Men may count, for example, every oral sex encounter as a sex encounter, while women don’t.  If 15% of sex encounters are oral sex, that accounts for the 30% disparity.  That’s a simplified case again.  I’m sure the actual numbers are more complicated, but you get the point in terms of errors (or at least discrepancies) in reporting.

One way or another, I don’t believe what men and women report when the averages are 8 and 6.  I believe the averages are — in fact must be — almost exactly the same, except perhaps for a few percentage point difference with regard to same-sex encounters.


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“If climate change is a hoax, it’s the greatest hoax ever perpetrated, because everything we do to respond will make us more efficient, more productive, more entrepreneurial, more competitive, [and] more respected [in the world].”

— David Friedman, author of The World is Flat, and Hot, Flat and Crowded.

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Jodie Hudson is a student in the United Kingdom whose family owns an $8 million home in Spain.  Her mother allowed her to have a 16th-birthday party at their Marbella getaway, I suppose in a vainglorious attempt to recreate the elaborate soires of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.  The party itself was not enough, though, and the mischievous teen posted a number of pictures on her Bebo profile, along with a fictional story involving alcohol and drug use, rampant sex, the house getting trashed, and the cops arriving.

The Transparent Society picked up on the scandalous “affair” as no less than six British newspapers published photos and recounted the story.  Of course, it was all a lie, and now her mother, Amanda Hudson, is suing the newspapers.   Unfortunately, there’s plenty of blame to lay on all sides.

For the same reason that I’ve deleted all of my social networking accounts, Jodie Hudson needs to realize that anything you post on the Internet can become a matter of public record, whether you take steps to guard it or not (somebody else who has access to your private profile can post your content publicly).  And with Google cache and the Wayback Machine, it can become a permanent record on the Internet.  That information can be there for all future employers, partners, lovers, whoever, to find.

Amanda Hudson needs to take control of her daughter’s mischievous Internet use.  Technology is value neutral.  There’s a lot of good stuff out there, and a lot of bad, and the Internet is no place for underage kids to be frolicking unattended.  Don’t expect the government to do your work for you.  The Internet transcends all national boundaries and laws.

The newspapers need to get their act together.  First of all, is this story really news?  To my knowledge, Jodie Hudson was not a public figure.  Why were they reporting on the personal travails of a private citizen?  Second, this incident illustrates the utter lack of standards on the part of the meainstream media.  Just recently a doctored photograph of an Iranian missile test was circulated by major news outlets before some members of the blogosphere blew the whistle.  Increasingly, the mainstream media is becoming dependent on the Internet for news and fact checking.  Get your act together!  Do you job!  There’s plenty of real news out there; you shouldn’t be getting it from social networking sites.

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The Catholic League is trying to get PZ Myers fired from his job at UMM.  His blog post on the matter has received almost over 400 comments in the first three hours after being published.  Myers, as always, responds in his witty, acerbic, and articulate style. This is going to be interesting to watch.

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To this day many people believe that consciousness is something special.  It doesn’t fit within the natural world.  It’s mysterious to us, therefore it must have a mysterious source.  It seems that everything is magical to ignorant people.

Our forebears believed that an elan vital, a vital force, distinguished living things from nonliving things.  It infused the corporeal body and animated it.  Then we uncovered the biochemistry that produces life: metabolism, muscle fibers, actin and myosin, ATP, and so on.  The explanation turned out to be completely naturalistic.  The vital force had to die.

There are groups of people in the South Pacific who practice what’s called a cargo cult.  When Americans arrived in the Pacific theater during World War II, they built landing strips and flew in planes with cargo.  The natives were very much impressed with the wonderful goods that the magical steel birds were bringing.  They concluded that their ancestors were sending the planes (the natives practice ancestor worship, a form of religion that predates the three “great” monotheisms).  They started building their own landing strips and effigies of planes made from bamboo.  They performed rituals, and waited, and waited, and waited.  To this day they are waiting for the cargo to come.

Of course, the cargo will never arrive, because the natives are ignorant of the civilization and technology necessary to make airplanes that fly cargo.  There is a completely naturalistic explanation to cargo planes.

The history of knowledge has one ineluctible pattern: every explanation that we have uncovered has been a naturalistic one.  Why do people expect consciousness to be any different?  It’s a difficult problem, but we are making headway.  With better brain scanning technology and data mining / pattern recognition algorithms, we will unravel the problem of consciousness, and it will no longer be mysterious.

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“In every negotiation, in every planning meeting and in every workplace dispute, a perception is slowly forming that the public interest may have a silent advocate in the room.” — Julian Assange, co-founder of Wikileaks, as quoted in Wired.

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Business Newspeak

I’m glad that I’m in science.  I don’t think I could survive corporate culture.  It’s just too nauseating. I/O psychology has eviscerated the landscape.  There are no employees anymore.  Everybody is an “associate” or an “engineer.”  Everything is about “enterprise” and “innovation.”

The list of newspeak terminology in corporate culture is endless: 360-degree thinking, strategic thinking, paradigm shifts, integrated approaches, ROIs, challenges, optimism, sustainability, success, compensation, incentives, solutions, synergies, visionary, actionable, proactive, re-invented, new and improved, data driven, scalable, win-win situations, industry leaders, change agents, team players, core competencies, 80-20 rules, multi-shoring, rightsizing, cascading, leveraging, monetizing, feed forwarding, thinking outside the box, giving 110%, touching base, playing phone tag all day, pursuing new opportunities, and allowing to resign.

If that seems normal rather than nauseating, you’ve already been assimilated.

Also, they say you shouldn’t use cliches on applications, resumes, and cover letters.  I wish employers would take that advice.  Job listings are full of cliches.  Every employer is looking for a goal-oriented, career-motived, independent thinker with good communication skills.  I have yet to find a job opening for a lazy, listless, illiterate dimwit.  Employers can’t even think outside the box enough to post something original.

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