miércoles, 20 de enero de 2016

Could Google sway an election? If so, how?

Could Google sway an election? If so, how?

Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist.  - See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/connecting/view/could-google-sway-an-election-if-so-how/17476#sthash.E19wBawT.dpuf


Could Google sway an election? If so, how?
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American psychologist Robert Epstein explains how search engine rankings can be manipulated. From Wired:

Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.
One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than 48 percent. The team calls that number the “vote manipulation power,” or VMP. The effect held—strengthened, even—when the researchers swapped in a single negative story into the number-four and number-three spots. Apparently it made the results seem even more neutral and therefore more trustworthy.
The researchers verified the result in an actual election in India in 2014. The effect is called “recency,” meaning that people tend to be affected by the information they heard most recently.

Search engine algorithms are not neutral:

“It’s not really possible to have a completely neutral algorithm,” says Jonathan Bright, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute who studies elections. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Google or Facebook or anywhere else who’s trying to tweak an election. But it’s something these organizations have always struggled with.” Algorithms reflect the values and worldview of the programmers. That’s what an algorithm is, fundamentally. “Do they want to make a good effort to make sure they influence evenly across Democrats and Republicans? Or do they just let the algorithm take its course?” Bright asks.
Epstein offers a historical precedent at Politico:

There is precedent in the United States for this kind of backroom king-making. RutherfordB. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States [1877–1881)], was put into office in part because of strong support by Western Union. In the late 1800s, Western Union had a monopoly on communications in America, and just before the election of 1876, the company did its best to assure that only positive news stories about Hayes appeared in newspapers nationwide. It also shared all the telegrams sent by his opponent’s campaign staff with Hayes’s staff. Perhaps the most effective way to wield political influence in today’s high-tech world is to donate money to a candidate and then to use technology to make sure he or she wins. The technology guarantees the win, and the donation guarantees allegiance, which Google has certainly tapped in recent years with the Obama administration. More.
Some pundits think Epstein is overreacting. For example, media analyst David Karpf notes,

Undecided voters are overwhelmingly low-information voters. They aren’t watching political news. They’re mostly avoiding political advertising, when they can. They aren’t sitting at home Googling candidates. If they were, they wouldn’t be low-information voters.
True, but even if they are not interested in the election, the election may be interested in them.

Ultimately, if the stakes are high enough, and we do not watch out for the ways in which online life can mess with our minds, we are at risk. In addition to fake friends, fake product reviews, fake science journals, fake news, and fake political consensus (astroturf), we could have fake political opinions. Opinions we might not have if we sought to be independently better informed.

See also: Facepalm: Facebook experiments on its users, Part I and Part II.

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/connecting/view/could-google-sway-an-election-if-so-how/17476#sthash.E19wBawT.dpuf

MercatorNet: Are there people who feel no remorse?

Are there people who feel no remorse?

Perhaps, but they still have a conscience.
J. Budziszewski | Jan 20 2016 | comment 2 

Javier Barden plays the psychopathic hit man Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men 
Everyone has a conscience.

But most psychologists think that people with “antisocial personality disorder” don’t.

For example, Robert D. Hare, a Canadian expert on psychopaths and the author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, says they are “completely lacking in conscience and feelings for others,” so that they “selfishly take what they want and do as they please,” violating norms “without the slightest sense of guilt or regret”; their hallmark is “a stunning lack of conscience.”

David T. Lykken, one of the pioneers in the psychology of psychopaths, holds that they have “failed to develop conscience and empathic feelings.”

The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists one of the diagnostic criteria for the disorder as “lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.” The fifth edition says more simply, “lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another.”

The difficulty with such statements is that they treat conscience, guilt, a “sense” of guilt, regret, remorse, and the lack of normal moral feelings as the same thing. The classical natural law tradition distinguishes them.

Conscience is not about what we feel, but about what we know. Remorse and regret are not about what we know, but about how we feel about what we know. Guilt is the condition of having done wrong; awareness of guilt is the knowledge of being in this state; and the sense of guilt is a feeling resulting from such knowledge.

Considering these distinctions, it should be entirely possible for a person to have a conscience yet have no remorse. The very fact that people with antisocial personality disorder make excuses for their bad behaviour shows that they know that right and wrong are different things. A being who didn’t understand the difference wouldn’t even grasp the concept of an excuse.

Lykken almost gets my point: “It is an interesting and important fact that most of the diverse criminal types suggested here do tend to justify their conduct in one way or another, at least to themselves. One 15-year old, now residing in a local juvenile facility, took a bus to a suburban neighborhood, hoping to locate a party he had heard about. Unsuccessful, he found that the next bus home would entail an hour’s wait. Having brought his pistol along, he lurked near some cars parked by a store and, when a woman came out with her infant and opened her car door, the boy demanded her keys at gunpoint and drove off. Explaining his offense to the corrections officers, he expressed exasperation: ‘How else was I s’posed to get home, man?’”

Why was the boy exasperated? Because he thought he was in the right. Strange as it may seem, he was morally indignant.

J. Budziszewski, a Professor in the Departments of Government and Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin. This article is reproduced with permission from his blog, The Underground Thomist


Robert D. Hare, Without Conscience (1993)

David T. Lykken, The Antisocial Personalities (1995)

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -IV-TR (2000)

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -5 (2013)
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MercatorNet: Making mercy real

Making mercy real

The Church exists not to condemn but to introduce us to “the visceral love of God’s mercy", says the Pope in his new book
Austen Ivereigh | Jan 20 2016 | comment 

Pope Francis greeting inmates at a Bolivian prison last year  
"I have asked friends for their definition of this word," writes an English parishioner to a British Catholic weekly. "We have consulted dictionaries and trawled the internet. So far not one of us has found a meaningful contemporary understanding of the word 'mercy'."
He has a point. The word on which the Jubilee of Mercy hangs -- a rich theological term that is the keynote of the Francis papacy -- is obscure to the modern mind. It conjures up a pleading man with a gun to his head, a quivering criminal awaiting sentence, maybe a peasant on Lesbos wrapping a blanket around a refugee family washed ashore. But beyond? In his letter in last week's Tablet Mr Wilson from Worcester suspects it may also have to do with sin and forgiveness, and recoils. "I think this should be a year of 'love and compassion' or of 'showing loving kindness'," he suggests, "not a year of receiving God's forgiveness for sins with which some in the Church seem to think we are all obsessed."
 Oh dear. When he reads The Name of God is Mercy, released last week, Mr Wilson will be dismayed to find Francis obsessed with human sin and God's forgiveness -- although much more with the second. "Mercy is divine and has to do with the judgment of sin," the Pope declares.
He is convinced that this is an age of mercy, a Kairos, in which the world is wakening to this quality of the divine and that the Church is being called to manifest that mercy far more explicitly and recognisably that it often has. The Church exists not to "condemn" people but to bring them to an encounter with “the visceral love of God’s mercy", Francis says, in a pithy mission statement.
But not to condemn doesn't mean abolishing the idea of sin, or diluting the truth. Mercy can no more be separated from sin than compassion can exist without suffering. What disturbs Pope Francis about the modern age is its corruption, which he defines as a mental habit, a way of living, in which "we no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviours. "The world is sick because "either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it's not possible to cure them," as he puts it elsewhere.
That's why it needs to know God. Humanity ails because it lacks the concrete experience of mercy. Hence "the fragility of the time we live in -- believing that there is no chance of redemption, a hand to raise you up, an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet."
Lines like that make you realise that Francis has direct experience of which he speaks. He knows God because he has been "mercy'd" -- Francis likes the idea of mercy as a verb, like the Latin gerund miserando -- and can name the experience articulately but without betraying his privacy.
Only once does he really get personal, when he describes the loss from cancer of his first spiritual director, Fr Carlos Duarte Ibarra. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was just 17. “I cried a lot that night, really a lot, and hid in my room,” he recalls. “I had lost a person who helped me feel the mercy of God.” But mostly he speaks objectively, yet from a heart that has been moulded in the classic human-divine meeting place: where human wretchedness allows itself to be touched by God's mercy. "Only he who has been touched and caressed by the tenderness of his mercy really knows the Lord," Francis says at one point. "For this reason I have often said that the place where my encounter with the mercy of Jesus takes place is my sin."

The Name of God is Mercy
 is not, pace the publishers, the Pope's first book: papal content -- his homilies, interviews, addresses, pensées -- has been lining bookshop windows virtually since his election. And at 150 pages, this four-hour interview by veteran vaticanista Andrea Tornielli with the Pope last summer is only a bit longer than Francis's famous interview with Father Antonio Spadaro in September 2013, which also came out as a book.
But let's not quibble: this is the first interview with the Pope conceived as a book, one that chases a single, all-embracing topic  -- God's mercy: the Pope's experience of it; our need of it; the world's need of it; the Church's call to embody it, and why all these matter so much we need a Jubilee -- between two hard covers. Most of it we have heard before, scattered in homilies and interviews and papal audiences. But nowhere is the Pope's take on mercy so vividly brought together on single canvas.
Mr Wilson's difficulty with finding a coherent definition isn't wholly solved here, but then, what words can capture such a rich concept? In English the word mercy derives from merces, meaning reward. But much better is misericordia -- that's Latin, Italian or Spanish -- which means, says Francis, "opening one's heart to wretchedness". (It helps to cut the word up: cor = heart, miseri = the poor, i.e. those who suffer, those who long -- the beati of the Beatitudes).
Human wretchedness might be material or spiritual, deprivation or sin, but whatever form it takes, it elicits from God the kind of compassion a parent typically feels for his or her child. The New Testament Greek word for mercy, eleos, captures the Old Testament Hebrew idea of hesed, meaning covenant love, as well as raham, which roughly means "wombiness". God loves us, says Francis, "with a visceral love"; hence Jesus, who "does not look at reality from the outside ... as if he were taking a picture" but "lets himself get involved".
So mercy is both attitude -- parental, visceral -- and the action that flows from it, specifically the 14 'works', culled from Matthew 25, that the Church has always understood to embody God's womby love for his creatures: feeding, clothing, sheltering, visiting them in prison, instructing, and so on. (One of them is admonishing sinners, which is an act of mercy to those stuck in sin who don't know it.) Hence the Church should be out there ("she does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the street") offering through its works, its sacraments and its teaching the medicine that is way stronger than all sickness.
"What should we do for the homeless man camped in front of our home, for the poor man who has nothing to eat, for the neighbouring family who cannot make it to the end of the month due to the recession, because the husband lost his job?" he asks -- and then answers: "We have received freely, we give freely ... We touch the flesh of Christ in he who is outcast, hungry, naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted, in search of refuge."
James Keenan, the Jesuit moral theologian, has a neat way of putting this. Mercy, he says in hisbook on the corporal and spiritual works, is "the willingness to enter into the chaos of another". Whenever you respond mercifully to a person who is poor -- addicted, ill, needy, old, or lost in confusion and sin -- you choose not to turn away from their scary chaotic lives, but to go in there with them.
That's how God is: with us, with the world. It's what the Incarnation is about. God enters our chaos, but in order to call us out of it. Mercy is about saving people. Mercy goes out to meet them where they are -- Francis deplores a stay-at-home, keep-Jesus-in-the-sacristy Church -- but doesn't leave them where they are. Mercy begins where our excuses end.
"We need to enter the darkness, the night in which so many of our brothers and sisters live," the Pope tells Tornielli. "We need to be able to make contact with them and let them feel our closeness, without letting ourselves be wrapped up in that darkness and influenced by it." He adds: "Caring for the outcasts and sinners does not mean letting the wolves attack the flock."
There is a lot of paradox here. Those best able to enter into another's chaos -- their darkness -- without being overwhelmed by it are those most conscious of their own "wretchedness", as Francis puts it. "The more conscious we are of our wretchedness and our sins," -- the Pope lumps them together, as Jesus did sickness and sin -- "the more we experience the love and infinite mercy of God among us, and the more capable we are of looking upon the many 'wounded' we meet along the way with acceptance and mercy."
It's circular: the one who is forgiven much forgives much. Or as the Beatitudes puts it: "Happy are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy."
And the converse? It's when the Pope gets onto mercy's opponents that the scale of the Gospel's challenge becomes clear, for the enemy of mercifulness is righteousness -- at least, self-righteousness -- which is a disease not just of the secular narcissist with no need of God, but of religious folk who use Truth as a stone to hurl. Jesus sends forth his disciples "not as holders of power or as masters of a law", says Francis, but shepherds.
Reprising a homily to the new cardinals in February last year, the Pope says the approach of the “scholars of the law”  -- who criticize Jesus in the name of doctrine, as some conservative Catholics do with Francis -- is “repeated throughout the long history of the Church.” The Pharisees are always with us. They are "men who live attached to the letter of the law but who neglect love; men who only know how to close doors and draw boundaries".
Whereas the “logic of the law” is driven by a fear of losing the just and the saved, “the logic of God” is in Jesus’ desire to save the lost and sinners. The logic of the law leads to the expulsion of the leper in order to protect the healthy from contamination; God’s logic is Jesus seeking out the leper, touching him and seeking his integration. “In so doing, he teaches us what to do, which logic to follow, when faced with people who suffer physically and spiritually.”
Who are these "scholars of the law", these people who "feel pure", in whom prevails "a formal adherence to rules and to mental schemes"? The Pope clearly has in mind a certain kind of religious person -- the kind happy to lecture wrongheaded sinners, but unwilling to enter their chaos; or who believe that to defend the truth of the Church from contamination people must be treated according to the letter of the law, when the law is a means; and the supreme law of the Church-- as Pope Francis often reminds us (it's in the Code of Canon Law) -- is the salus animarum, the health of souls.
But in this age of the technocratic paradigm -- a term Francis borrows in Laudato Si' from the theologian Romano Guardini -- "the logic of the law" is a pretty good description too of our contemporary bureaucracies and corporations, of our contemporary Western ethic of autonomy, of a mindset that sees the planet and other people as instruments, objects to be manipulated rather than creatures deserving of our veneration.
The New Yorker was right to describe The Name of God is Mercy as "a tough-minded reflection on an urgently needed public virtue". In the new, Darwinian, sink-or-swim dispensation of our time, when people wish to choose their gender and who is fit to be born and when it makes sense to die, when God is either a pointless, ineffectual idea or a rabid, cruel, vengeful projection of our darkness, mercy starts, scandalously, from the given-ness of the world, and the goodness of our Creator, whose only Son entered our chaos to show us that eleos.
And what he showed was that God's mercy is God: his supreme attribute, his identity card, his very essence. As Pope Francis puts it, mercy is “the divine attitude which embraces, it is God giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive.” It means not just that God is good, and just, and true; it means he is on the lookout for the slightest little opening, the merest crack, the smallest turn of our head, in order to embrace us with his misericordia.
We are free not to turn, but when we do, it's all waiting for us. Is that a coherent definition of mercy? Probably not. But it's what the Pope wants us to know.
Austen Ivereigh is author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope(Allen & Unwin, 2015)

Austen Ivereigh has written a splendid review of the new book by Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy. (See below.) In it the Pope says, "We need to enter the darkness, the night in which so many of our brothers and sisters live.”  That is a huge challenge, but undoubtedly true. In today’s society, living a normal life is a very special grace.
I was surprised to see that the New York Times may have been the first newspaper to review the book. The writer was impressed with its style and sincerity: “The ease with which the pope speaks to the concerns of ordinary people, as well as his humble lifestyle … is rooted in a heartfelt sense of humility.”
Perhaps the Pope’s message is getting through. 

Michael Cook 

Making mercy real
Austen Ivereigh | ABOVE | 20 January 2016
The Church exists not to condemn but to introduce us to “the visceral love of God’s mercy", says the Pope in his new book
Are there people who feel no remorse?
J. Budziszewski | FEATURES | 20 January 2016
Perhaps, but they still have a conscience.
True love waits
Jennifer Minicus | READING MATTERS | 20 January 2016
Not your average modern fairy tale
Could Google sway an election? If so, how?
Denyse O'Leary | CONNECTING | 20 January 2016
American psychologist Robert Epstein explains how search engine rankings can be manipulated.

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