In the News 10.02.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Friday 10th February, 2017
Digital Star Chamber
In a recent podcast series called Instaserfs, a former Uber driver named Mansour gave a chilling description of the new, computer-mediated workplace. First, the company tried to persuade him to take a predatory loan to buy a new car. Apparently a number cruncher deemed him at high risk of defaulting. Second, Uber would never respond in person to him – it just sent text messages and emails. This style of supervision was a series of take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums – a digital boss coded in advance.
Then the company suddenly took a larger cut of revenues from him and other drivers. And finally, what seemed most outrageous to Mansour: his job could be terminated without notice if a few passengers gave him one-star reviews, since that could drag his average below 4.7. According to him, Uber has no real appeal recourse or other due process in play for a rating system that can instantly put a driver out of work – it simply crunches the numbers.
Read the rest of this article at aeon
Does Depression Have an Evolutionary Purpose?
One in six Americans will suffer a major depressive disorder at some point in life.1 That word—disorder—characterizes how most of us see depression. It’s a breakdown, a flaw in the system, something to be remedied and moved past.
Some psychologists, however, have argued that depression is not a dysfunction at all, but an evolved mechanism designed to achieve a particular set of benefits. I’ve certainly considered whether it’s done that for me, both in high school and later in life. If they’re right, it means that our thinking about depression needs an intervention too.
Theories about the evolutionary function of depression are numerous.2 One of the most popular current ideas is the analytical rumination hypothesis. This idea was described most thoroughly in a long 2009 article by Paul Andrews, an evolutionary psychologist now at McMaster University, and J. Anderson Thomson, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia Student Health Services.3 Andrews had noted that the physical and mental symptoms of depression appeared to form an organized system. There is anhedonia, the lack of pleasure or interest in most activities. There’s an increase in rumination, the obsessing over the source of one’s pain. There’s an increase in certain types of analytical ability. And there’s an uptick in REM sleep, a time when the brain consolidates memories.
Andrews sees these symptoms as a nonrandom assortment betraying evolutionary design. After all, why would a breakdown produce so synchronized a set of responses? And that design’s function, he argues, is to pull us away from the normal pursuits of life and focus us on understanding or solving the one underlying problem that triggered the depressive episode—say, a failed relationship. If something is broken in your life, you need to bear down and mend it. In this view, the disordered and extreme thinking that accompanies depression, which can leave you feeling worthless and make you catastrophize your circumstances, is needed to punch through everyday positive illusions and focus you on your problems. In a study of 61 depressed subjects, 4 out of 5 reported at least one upside to their rumination, including self-insight, problem solving, and the prevention of future mistakes.4
Read the rest of this article at Nautilus
Who Killed the Great British Curry House?
Before anyone told me different, I thought curry house food was the most exotic and delicious in the world. As a child growing up in early 1980s Oxford, a trip to Uddin’s Manzil Tandoori restaurant on Walton Street, established 1971, was one of our great family treats.
Read the rest of this article at The Guardian
Inside the Making of Mulholland Drive, David Lynch’s Dark, Freudian Masterpiece
These days it’s Twin Peaks this, Twin Peaks that. A new season is coming, courtesy of Showtime, after the last ended 26 years ago, and everybody is once again talking about rooms that are red and lodges that are black, ladies who log and dwarfs who dance. Well, I don’t want to talk about any of these things, don’t want to talk about Twin Peaks at all, in fact. I want to talk about David Lynch’s other TV show, his 2001 movie, Mulholland Drive. Only Mulholland Drive is Twin Peaks, or started out that way.
Ir was supposed to be a spin-off. The basic idea was this: Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), God’s gift to saddle shoes and tight sweaters, the sweetest piece of cherry pie in the Pacific Northwest, especially after the death of her classmate and the homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, goes to Hollywood to seek fortune and, of course, fame. Mulholland would premiere at the same time Twin Peaks’ third season premiered. There was no Twin Peaks third season, so there was no Mulholland. It hadn’t even been born yet and Mulholland Drive was already dead.
Read the rest of this article at Vanity Fair
The Darkest Town In America
GERLACH, Nev. — Here in the desert, the Earth boils and stars fill the sky. By day, you can see plumes of geothermal steam rising in every direction, pouring from vents in the ground and disappearing into the crisp, dry air. At night, you can see distant galaxies with the naked eye, their light much older than our species.
Five years ago, NASA launched a satellite that’s roughly the size of a minivan and that circles our planet 14 times a day. Its largest instrument collects information from across the electromagnetic spectrum over land, ice and ocean. Scientists analyzed its data and combined that with measurements taken on the ground to map our planet’s light pollution. Only a few small areas in the U.S. remain mostly untouched.
“As you see, the largest dark area is in northwest Nevada. Maybe at the center of this area we can have the darkest places,” said Fabio Falchi, a researcher at the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute and author of “The World Atlas of Light Pollution.” Over 100 miles from Reno, 240 miles from Sacramento, and hundreds of miles from anywhere else I’d ever been lies one of the darkest places in the country, tucked away from the bleeding glow of civilization.
So that’s where I went. I wanted to feel what it was like in the dark. The human population is somewhere north of 7 billion, and light tends to follow our species wherever it goes. I wanted, in a way, to go back in time.
I was swimming in a desert hot spring, the water warmed by radioactive decay deep in the Earth’s crust, when the storm rolled in. It barreled down on me as fast as a truck, over the mountains and into the flat where the hot spring lay. And then there was nothing but the storm — the cold rain and the hot pool and the dark-gray clouds. The steam melted into the fog as the gale kicked up miniature waves that raced across the water. I wondered if I would ever see the stars.
Read the rest of this article at FiveThirtyEight