News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Your social life has a biological limit: 150. That’s the number—Dunbar’s number, proposed by the British psychologist Robin Dunbar three decades ago—of people with whom you can have meaningful relationships.

What makes a relationship meaningful? Dunbar gave The New York Times a shorthand answer: “those people you know well enough to greet without feeling awkward if you ran into them in an airport lounge”—a take that may accidentally reveal the substantial spoils of having produced a predominant psychological theory. The construct encompasses multiple “layers” of intimacy in relationships. We can reasonably expect to develop up to 150 productive bonds, but we have our most intimate, and therefore most connected, relationships with only about five to 15 closest friends. We can maintain much larger networks, but only by compromising the quality or sincerity of those connections; most people operate in much smaller social circles.

Some critics have questioned Dunbar’s conclusion, calling it deterministic and even magical. Still, the general idea is intuitive, and it has stuck. And yet, the dominant container for modern social life—the social network—does anything but respect Dunbar’s premise. Online life is all about maximizing the quantity of connections without much concern for their quality. On the internet, a meaningful relationship is one that might offer diversion or utility, not one in which you divulge secrets and offer support.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

WHEN FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER Frances Haugen appeared before Congress last week, it felt like it might finally be a turning point. Haugen’s testimony created a major crisis for a company that until recently seemed unable to be regulated, and unlikely to be broken up. Scandals before this have made splashes yet somehow haven’t resulted in meaningful change. But if history is any indication, the tide is about to turn.

Haugen, who revealed internal documents showing that the company was aware of its products’ harms, said that she wishes to fix rather than destroy Facebook, but these are not the only two options. The third, regulation, is at its heart not about patching up broken, dangerous companies and their products but is about changing the social, political, and business landscape that allowed them to grow unchecked, operating as rapacious, destructive entities. It ensures not only that the present companies’ harms are stopped but also that new companies cannot take their place and continue the same destructive business models. As we approach peak Facebook news fatigue, it’s worth remembering that regulation of new technologies in this way has a strong historical precedent in the US. And this long lead up has almost always been part of it.

To understand how Facebook will likely land after its fall from grace we need to look at the striking similarities between earlier regulatory battles and what is going on now. Before there was Big Tech, there were the Big Three: Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors—and an infamous memo that cemented in the collective consciousness of the American public that strong regulation was a necessity, not a nicety. Though it may be difficult to see through the haze of history, there are important parallels between Big Tech today and the US auto industry in the mid-20th century, which also once seemed to be an unstoppable juggernaut.

THE US GOVERNMENT has a long history of regulating new technological infrastructures for consumer safety—from communications technologies like phones to energy technologies like oil to transportation technologies like cars. In each case, the difficulty of regulating these industries—due to how enmeshed they are in the functioning of the nation—was seen, initially, as a rationale for forgoing regulation. The idea that coal burning could be subject to laws, or that a meaningful attempt could be made to keep corporations from dumping all of their industrial pollutants into rivers until those rivers regularly caught on fire, seemed at first impossible. Ruled over by enormously powerful and profitable companies, destructive industries have often been given a free pass on the grounds that restraining them would be too hard.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a sweltering Thursday evening in Manhattan last month, people across New York City were preparing for what meteorologists predicted would be the hottest weekend of the year. Over the past two decades, every record for peak electricity use in the city has occurred during a heatwave, as millions of people turn on their air conditioning units at the same time. And so, at the midtown headquarters of Con Edison, the company that supplies more than 10 million people in the New York area with electricity, employees were busy turning a conference room on the 19th floor into an emergency command centre.

Inside the conference room, close to 80 engineers and company executives, joined by representatives of the city’s emergency management department, monitored the status of the city power grid, directed ground crews and watched a set of dials displaying each borough’s electricity use tick upward. “It’s like the bridge in Star Trek in there,” Anthony Suozzo, a former senior system operator with the company, told me. “You’ve got all hands on deck, they’re telling Scotty to fix things, the system is running at max capacity.”

Power grids are measured by the amount of electricity that can pass through them at any one time. Con Edison’s grid, with 62 power substations and more than 130,000 miles of power lines and cables across New York City and Westchester County, can deliver 13,400MW every second. This is roughly equivalent to 18m horsepower.

On a regular day, New York City demands around 10,000MW every second; during a heatwave, that figure can exceed 13,000MW. “Do the math, whatever that gap is, is the AC,” Michael Clendenin, a company spokesman, told me. The combination of high demand and extreme temperature can cause parts of the system to overheat and fail, leading to blackouts. In 2006, equipment failure left 175,000 people in Queens without power for a week, during a heatwave that killed 40 people.

This year, by the evening of Sunday 21 July, with temperatures above 36C (97F) and demand at more than 12,000MW every second, Con Edison cut power to 50,000 customers in Brooklyn and Queens for 24 hours, afraid that parts of the nearby grid were close to collapse, which could have left hundreds of thousands of people without power for days. The state had to send in police to help residents, and Con Edison crews dispensed dry ice for people to cool their homes.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 25.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Ever since I entered what can generously be called my “mid-30s,” doctors have asked about my pregnancy plans at every appointment. Because I’m career-minded and generally indecisive, I’ve always had a way of punting on this question, both in the doctor’s office and elsewhere. Well, we can always adopt, I’ll think, or say out loud to my similarly childless and wishy-washy friends. Adoption, after all, doesn’t depend on your oocyte quality. And, as we’ve heard a million times, there are so many babies out there who need a good home.

But that is not actually true. Adopting a baby or toddler is much more difficult than it was a few decades ago. Of the nearly 4 million American children who are born each year, only about 18,000 are voluntarily relinquished for adoption. Though the statistics are unreliable, some estimates suggest that dozens of couples are now waiting to adopt each available baby. Since the mid-1970s—the end of the so-called baby-scoop era, when large numbers of unmarried women placed their children for adoption—the percentage of never-married women who relinquish their infants has declined from nearly 9 percent to less than 1 percent.

In 2010, Bethany Christian Services, the largest Protestant adoption agency in the U.S., placed more than 700 infants in private adoptions. Last year, it placed fewer than 300. International adoptions have not closed the gap. The number of children American parents adopt each year from abroad has declined rapidly too, from 23,000 in 2004 (an all-time high) to about 3,000 in 2019.

Plenty of children who aren’t babies need families, of course. More than 100,000 children are available for adoption from foster care. But adoptive parents tend to prefer children who are what some in the adoption world call “AYAP”—as young as possible. When I recently searched AdoptUSKids, the nationwide, government-funded website for foster-care adoptions, only about 40 kids under age 5, out of the 4,000 registered, appeared in my search. Many of those 40 had extensive medical needs or were part of a sibling group—a sign that the child is in even greater need of a stable family, but also a more challenging experience for their adoptive parents.

At a glance, this shortage of adoptable babies may seem like a problem, and certainly for people who desperately want to adopt a baby, it feels like one. But this trend reflects a number of changing social and geopolitical attitudes that have combined to shrink the number of babies or very young children available for adoption. Over the past few decades, many people—including those with strong commitments to the idea of infant adoption—have reconsidered its value to children. Though in the short term this may be painful for parents who wish to adopt infants, in the long term, it might be better for some children and their birth families. Many babies in the developing world who once would have been brought to America will now be raised in their home country instead. And Americans who were planning to adopt may have to refocus their energies on older, vulnerable foster children—or change their plans entirely. Infant adoption was once seen as a heartwarming win-win for children and their adoptive parents. It’s not that simple.

Read the rest of this article at:The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.