Category: fear

Whether You Fear or Embrace New Tech Depends on Where You’re From:

East Asian technological innovations have long outpaced those in the West. Products that sound like recent or even future innovations to most Westerners have been available for decades in Asia, particularly in Japan. These include:

· A handheld device that enables customers to order food and drinks from their karaoke room.

· A button attached to the table that customers push to alert a waitress.

· A slew of vending machines that sell everything you can imagine: alcohol, ramen, underwear, umbrellas, rice, newspapers, cell phones.

· Love hotels where guests can check in discreetly without interacting with other human beings.

Tourists visiting Japan for the first time often feel compelled to take a photo of the ubiquitous high-tech washlet toilets. These fixtures are hardly new; they have been on the market since 1980 and have more than 80 percent market penetration. Years before the Internet of Things became a phenomenon in the West, Japanese people were using their mobile phones to run their baths remotely while in a cab. They were also using a single card on their phones to buy groceries from a store, get green tea from a vending machine, and pay the fare for trains and buses.

Evidence from cross-national academic research suggests that the speed of innovation adoption has historically been significantly faster in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan than in the U.S. Aside from various market conditions and economic factors, why have Japanese people historically been more comfortable than Westerners with the new and the strange?

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Scared of superintelligent AI? You should be, says neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris – and not just in some theoretical way. We’re going to build superhuman machines, says Harris, but we haven’t yet grappled with the problems associated with creating something that may treat us the way we treat ants.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Americans Are More Afraid of Robots Than Death:

When the personal computer first became ubiquitous in the 1980s, as Adrienne LaFrance wrote in The Atlantic earlier this year, some people found it so terrifying that the term “computerphobia” was coined.

“In the early days of the telephone, people wondered if the machines might be used to communicate with the dead. Today, it is the smartphone that has people jittery,” she wrote. “Humans often converge around massive technological shifts—around any change, really—with a flurry of anxieties.”

To see those anxieties quantified, take a look at the top five scariest items in the Survey of American Fears, released earlier this week by researchers at Chapman University. Three of them—cyberterrorism, corporate tracking of personal information, and government tracking of personal information—were technology-related.

For the survey, a random sample of around 1,500 adults ranked their fears of 88 different items on a scale of one (not afraid) to four (very afraid). The fears were divided into 10 different categories: crime, personal anxieties (like clowns or public speaking), judgment of others, environment, daily life (like romantic rejection or talking to strangers), technology, natural disasters, personal future, man-made disasters, and government—and when the study authors averaged out the fear scores across all the different categories, technology came in second place, right behind natural disasters.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Between Living and Nonliving · Journal of Design and Science:

Ionat Zurr: I’d like to think about the differences in distinctions between life and nonlife from your Japanese perspective, and my own, the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is based on the Western dualistic idea of, “This is alive, this is not alive.’’ I would love to hear more from your view, because our tradition is very much about life being carbon-based. But what is life? It is a mystery. And I know that in Shinto it’s a bit different.

Maholo Uchida: The basic idea of Shinto is that we have something like eight million gods.

Ionat: Eight million?

Maholo: Eight million gods, which really means countless gods. In Christianity or other Western religions, you have one very important God, who creates a human. That’s the rule. I’ll focus on Shinto, because it has many similarities to other animisms, like the traditions found in Mexico or Iceland or Bali. In Japan, Shinto has been continued by the royal family and the shrine system. In Shinto, we say that we have eight million gods, and those gods each represent a certain nature element. So, we have a god of the wind, a god of the land, a god of the sun, etc.

Ionat: Okay. So eight million is not a specific number. It’s just to say there are many, many gods.

Maholo: Many gods everywhere. And in that sense, we think that the human is just a part of nature, a part of matter, a part of the universe. The human is not the center, whereas the Western idea is that the human is the center, and the world revolves around it. But in Shinto, the human is just a part of the world. It’s melting with everybody—but not just everybody, but everything. That’s the very basic idea. I think you know some of the Japanese robot animations? We have so many varieties of humanoid robots, and animal-like robots. And funny animations that have characters that are nonliving things. For example, the bread hero “Anpanman”. I understand this as part of our culture, which strongly relates to Shinto.

Ionat: So, robots—do they also have soul?

Maholo: Yes.

Ionat: Does that mean that each entity has its own soul, i.e. a robot has a soul, the wind has its own soul and so on?

Maholo: Actually, it doesn’t matter, because there is no definition. It’s not religious. It’s more like a philosophy, or a daily belief. And once you start to think about, “Well this thing has some soul,’’ then your morning café au lait cup has a soul. In the traditional Japanese family, we have the rice cup for me, and the rice cup for father, and it has a different color or whatever, and everybody takes care of their cup. It’s the same even for the chopsticks.

Ionat: So it’s more fluid or entangled? You look after them like they’re alive? You have to look after them.

Maholo: Yes. And it’s the same for a robot; they will take care of that robot as a living robot.

Ionat: In “Western” culture there is the fear of robots taking over humans. But I guess in Shinto there’s no fear like that since humans and robots are all part of an animated continuum.

Maholo: There’s no fear like that.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

A slashed tire, a pointed gun, bullies on the road: Why do Waymo self-driving vans get so much hate?:

A Waymo self-driving van cruised through a Chandler neighborhood Aug. 1 when test driver Michael Palos saw something startling as he sat behind the wheel — a bearded man in shorts aiming a handgun at him as he passed the man’s driveway.

The incident is one of at least 21 interactions documented by Chandler police during the past two years where people have harassed the autonomous vehicles and their human test drivers.

People have thrown rocks at Waymos. The tire on one was slashed while it was stopped in traffic. The vehicles have been yelled at, chased and one Jeep was responsible for forcing the vans off roads six times.

Many of the people harassing the van drivers appear to hold a grudge against the company, a division of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc., which has tested self-driving technology in the Chandler area since 2016.


Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Claire wrote this poem specifically for Digital Human, a human reaction to a future world that is built for the convenience of smart technology, rather than the people who use it.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Ryan Randazzo wanted to see how Waymo cars drive in real-world conditions, so he and his team followed the cars for more than 170 miles over a few days.

Do they change lanes like human drivers? What happens if they approach an accident? Would you be annoyed by a self-driving car in traffic?

Watch to find out. 

 For more information on Waymo’s latest self-driving tests, check out this link: https://bit.ly/2RytSTG


Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Going viral in the online anti-vaccine wars:

The Wellcome is one of the best places to go for a geek in London (if you’re a Digihuman listener I just assume you’ve the geek is strong within you), and they always have brilliant, well researched and vibrant collections on display.

The digital age may be amplifying anti-vaccination sentiment more than ever before, but fear has turned people away from medical progression for a long, long time.

Contemporary anti-vaccination campaigning started in earnest after the publication of Andrew Wakefield’s now infamous study suggesting that the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. The MMR scare snowballed to become the biggest science story of 2002, leading to demands in the British press for Tony Blair to disclose whether his son Leo had been given the vaccine.

In 2010 the study was retracted by its publisher, the Lancet, after an investigation discovered multiple conflicts of interest and manipulation of research data. Wakefield lost the right to practise medicine in the UK, but that didn’t stop him continuing his campaign against vaccines. In 2016 Wakefield released the documentary Vaxxed, which followed other anti-vaccination documentaries such as Trace Amounts and Calling the Shots. Vaxxed was pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival before its screening, following a public outcry about its message.

It’s pretty unlikely you’ll be seeing anti-vaccination documentaries at your local cinema. But anti-vaxxers are adept at using digital technology to sidestep what they see as official censorship, reaching new converts through ‘news’ articles, self-produced documentaries and memes. Despite this, anti-vaxxers aren’t a new digital phenomenon, but rather the latest incarnation of a social and political movement with a long history of resistance to large-scale vaccination programmes.

Digital Human: Series 16, Episode 2, Snake Oil

‘Vast Majority’ of Online Anti-Vaxxers Are Women:

We didn’t get into the fine detail of Dr Naomi Smith’s research into the dynamics of Anti-vax communities online, but the research is fascinating, and vital to understand. I hope there’s more to come in the future.

To get a better idea of how anti-vaxxer Facebook communities function, Smith and co-researcher Tim Graham, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University, who has a joint appointment in the Research School of Social Science and the Research School of Computer Science, dug into the groups’ posts, likes, shares and comments. They found the following:

  • Anti-vaxxer posts are highly shared, meaning that people frequently “shared” posts on their own Facebook pages or on their friends’ pages, Smith said. In all, there were more than 2 million shares across the six groups during the two-year period, she said. “This means that the page’s reach is much greater than the number of people who ‘like’ it,” Smith said.
  • Participants were moderately active across several anti-vaccination Facebook pages, “suggesting that users’ activity on anti-vaccination is more than just a product of Facebook’s recommender system” — a system that recommends like-minded groups to people, Smith said.
  • Despite their large size and high levels of activity, anti-vaccination groups are relatively loose-knit. “That is, they do not necessarily function as close-knit communities of support with participants interacting with each other in a sustained way over time,” Smith said. [Top 10 Golden Rules of Facebook]
  • Even though they are “loose,” these groups show features of “small-world” networks. “In small- world networks, information diffuses quickly and easily through the network, in this instance through user-generated comments,” Smith said. However, it’s difficult to say whether these small-world effects are due to the nature of the anti-vaxxer movement itself, or are an artifact of Facebook, a platform that can help spread information quickly, Smith said.
  • The sentiments expressed in these Facebook pages were “quite negative in tone, suggesting that users of the anti-vaccination pages feel not only morally outraged about the practice of vaccination, but structurally oppressed by seemingly tyrannical and conspiratorial government and media,” Smith said. Moreover, many posts had conspiracy-style beliefs placing blame on the government and media, Smith said. A 2011 survey found that conspiracy-style thinking is common among the general public and more pronounced in anti-vaxxers, a 2014 study in the American Journal of Political Sciencefound.
  • Anti-vaxxers had concerns about state-sanctioned harm and interference with their autonomy. “In particular, anti-vaccination Facebook pages commonly compare vaccination to the Holocaust, illustrating a strong sense of persecution,” Smith said.

Digital Human: Series 16, Episode 2, Snake Oil