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News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Before MDMA was a party drug, there was a brief moment when it seemed it might become a part of the psychotherapist’s standard tool kit. The drug’s ability to lower inhibitions and foster communication seemed especially promising for couples therapy. That possibility ended in 1985, when the federal government officially classified the drug as a Schedule 1 substance, claiming it had no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. MDMA joined all the other Schedule 1 drugs — widely used recreationally but generally off-limits to researchers — but activists continued to advocate for its therapeutic benefits.

As part of our investigation into psychedelic therapies for our podcast Cover Story: Power Trip, we’ve been studying one of the leaders of the movement, a man named Rick Doblin. If the medical use of MDMA ever becomes mainstream, it will be mostly due to Doblin. The organization he leads as executive director, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is currently running the world’s most advanced clinical trials on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. Companies like Google and political megadonors like Rebekah Mercer and the Rockefellers donate to support MAPS, which had more than $19 million in revenue in 2020. In May 2021, Doblin’s work earned him a flattering profile in the New York Times, complete with a photo of him leaning against a tree and staring blissfully skyward. Michael Pollan even tweeted to promote Doblin’s TED Talk.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On an August morning in 1945, 600 metres over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, a small sun came briefly into existence. Few remember a sound, but the flash printed shadows on the pavements and sent buildings thrashing. The explosion – 2,000 times greater than that of any bomb yet used – announced not only a new weapon but a new era.

It was a stunning military victory for the United States. Yet jubilation there was undercut by “uncertainty and fear”, the newsman Edward R Murrow observed. It took only a moment’s reflection on the bomb’s existence to see the harrowing implication: what had happened in Hiroshima, and three days later in Nagasaki, could happen anywhere.

The thought proved impossible to shake, especially as, within the year, on-the-ground accounts emerged. Reports came of flesh bubbling, of melted eyes, of a terrifying sickness afflicting even those who’d avoided the blast. “All the scientists are frightened – frightened for their lives,” a Nobel-winning chemist confessed in 1946. Despite scientists’ hopes that the weapons would be retired, in the coming decades they proliferated, with nuclear states testing ever-more-powerful devices on Pacific atolls, the Algerian desert and the Kazakh steppe.

The fear – the pervasive, enduring fear – that characterised the cold war is hard to appreciate today. It wasn’t only powerless city-dwellers who were terrified (“select and fortify a room in which to shelter”, the UK government grimly advised). Leaders themselves were shaken. It was “insane”, US president John F Kennedy felt, that “two men, sitting on the opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilisation”. Yet everyone knowingly lived with that insanity for decades. It was as if, wrote the historian Paul Boyer, “the Bomb” were “one of those categories of Being, like Space and Time, that, according to Kant, are built into of the very structure of our minds, giving shape and meaning to all our perceptions”.

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Affairs

Whom should you marry?

This may be the most consequential decision of a person’s life. The billionaire investor Warren Buffett certainly thinks so. He calls whom you marry “the most important decision that you make.”

And yet people have rarely turned to science for help with this all-important decision. Truth be told, science has had little help to offer. Scholars of relationship science have been trying to find answers. But it has proven difficult and expensive to recruit large samples of couples. The studies in this field tended to rely on tiny samples, and different studies often showed conflicting results. In 2007, the distinguished scholar Harry Reis of the University of Rochester compared the field of relationship science to an adolescent: “sprawling, at times unruly, and perhaps more mysterious than we might wish.”

But a few years ago, a young, energetic, uber-curious, and brilliant scientist, Samantha Joel, aimed to change that. Joel, like so many in her field, was interested in what predicts successful relationships. But she had a noticeably different approach from others. Joel did not merely recruit a new, tiny sample of couples. Instead, she joined together data from other, already-existing studies. Joel reasoned that, if she could merge data from the existing small studies, she could have a large dataset—and have enough data to reliably find what predicts relationship success and what does not.

Joel’s plan worked. She recruited a large number of scientists who had collected data on relationships—her team ended up including 85 other scientists—and was able to build a dataset of 11,196 heterosexual couples.

The size of the dataset was impressive. So was the information contained in it. For each couple, Joel and her team of researchers had measures of how happy each partner reported being in their relationship. And they had data on just about anything you could think to measure about the two people in that relationship.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The earliest media coverage of Instagram tended to emphasize the platform’s technical attributes—its ease of use, its many filters, the pleasantness of its neat grid layout—as much as the social aspects. By the time that Facebook acquired the app, in April of 2012, however, it had developed a distinct culture, one firmly rooted in the aspirational. Instagram, as a New Yorker contributor remarked the day after the acquisition, “makes everything in our lives, including and especially ourselves, look better.” With assistance from the app’s glossy filters, even the most mundane of still-lifes—a poppy-seed bagel on a desk, a curtained window, a traffic cone lying on its side in the road—could be imbued with an indelible hipness. Ten years later, Instagram is a veritable dinosaur, culturally ubiquitous but quietly flailing as its appeal among teen-agers shrivels. Meanwhile, the current fixation among young people is a platform marked as the “anti-Instagram.”

This is BeReal, a social-media app founded in 2020 by the French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau. In the past few months, the platform has seen a surge in users, accompanied (or perhaps catalyzed) by a rash of glowing media coverage, including in the Wall Street JournalTeen Vogue, and Business Insider. To summarize the BeReal user experience: once a day, at a random time, the app sends a push notification to its users, granting them two minutes to snap a two-way photo using their phones’ front- and rear-facing cameras. Only after posting the daily photo can users see what their friends have posted; photos taken after the two-minute window are marked as late, and metadata reveal how many times a photo has been retaken before the final image is posted—an element supposedly designed for the sake of transparency, but which reads more like a badge of shame. There are no filters and no videos, just a stream of candid-seeming photo diptychs, all of which disappear once the next alert is sent. The strict limitations and sense of urgency inherent to BeReal’s design, the app’s team and fans argue, serve its goal of cultivating “authenticity,” a word that can be found in virtually every article written about the app. On the marketing front, the company doesn’t shy away from throwing a gauntlet at the feet of the platforms against whose image BeReal was made. “BeReal won’t make you famous,” the App Store description states. If you want to become an influencer, it continues, “you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

Perusing BeReal is, in some ways, markedly different from using Instagram. Although the platforms share the central endless-scroll structure, several common genres of Instagram post—engagements, parties, concerts, graduations, vacations—are, if not entirely absent, far rarer on BeReal. Instead, the permascroll reveals people walking their dogs, studying for finals, eating dinner, watching movies, reading, and brushing their teeth. Instagram was initially marketed as a sort of online photo diary, but using BeReal is perhaps an even more voyeuristic venture, one which drops the user not into major life events or chosen moments but, rather, pinprick views into the everyday in all its banality. Unaided by filters, appearance-tweaking tools such as FaceApp, and opportunities to craft a perfect moment, BeReal posts do at least come across as more authentic in aggregate; where the sky in the background of an Instagram post is so often an uncannily vibrant, piercing blue, on BeReal it is just a regular sky. I can’t describe scrolling through BeReal as “fun” so much as “anthropologically fascinating,” but its appeal to teen-agers, in particular, makes intuitive sense to me. The daily two-minute countdown gives the app a gamified edge, much like maintaining a Snapchat streak or sharing Wordle results.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 16.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I was standing in front of an imposing townhouse in the swish 16th arrondissement of Paris. Its classical lines, marble staircases and delicately wrought iron balustrades belied the fierce sense of purpose inside. The Musée de la Contrefaçon is an unusual kind of museum – it specialises in counterfeits. I hoped that my visit would help me understand a problem that luxury brands have been battling for decades: that of mass-market knock-offs and blatant counterfeits.

According to some estimates, the trade in fake products is worth $600bn per year. As many as 10% of all branded goods sold may be counterfeit. It is estimated that 80% of us have handled fake or falsified goods (whether wittingly or not). Sales of luxury goods have soared in recent decades, but fakes have grown even faster: one estimate suggests that counterfeits have increased by 10,000% in two decades.

It’s not just the overall figures that boggle the mind. One French customs raid confiscated enough fake Louis Vuitton fabric to cover 54 tennis courts. A swoop on a seller on the online Chinese shopping platform Taobao netted 18,500 counterfeit bags, aprons and footwear. A bust in Madrid impounded 85,000 counterfeits ready for the Black Friday and Christmas markets. In Istanbul, in 2020, almost 700,000 counterfeit haircare products were seized.

Usually, when there are many more counterfeits than the real thing, you see a correction of some kind. But despite the growth of an authentication industry with an ever-expanding list of anti-counterfeiting tools – thermally activated tamper-proof seals, security numbers, RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, colour-shifting inks, holograms – that doesn’t seem to be happening. I wanted to make sense of this discrepancy. Why can’t the designers and the big brands stop, or at least slow down the counterfeiters? And how do you tell the difference between the real thing and the fake anyway?

In the Musée de la Contrefaçon there is a typically French answer to that question: glass vitrines displaying products and their counterfeits side by side, helpfully labelled vrai and faux. I looked at what seemed to be the famous quilted 2.55 Chanel handbag. In fact, the tour guide told me, it was a Turkish-made knockoff. Where the original boasts regular and robust stitching, the fake was glued together. The signature quilting was made of cardboard and cotton wool. At first sight, a Korean bag looked just like a Louis Vuitton; on closer examination, I noticed that the distinctive trefoils had been replaced by a circle and a bar, the LV logo by some superficially similar characters in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Not a single element of the design matched the original, yet the overall effect was unmistakably “Vuitton”. The guide explained that this illustrates the difference between fakery by imitation and fakery by “passing off”. Another cabinet held a 2,000-year-old Gaulish fake of a Roman amphora; what should be a Roman name on the stopper was replaced by random symbols. I got the feeling that the museum staff were quite proud that their oldest fake was made on French territory.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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