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Monthly Archives: February 2014

In the Philosophy of Science-class, students had to write papers answering the question: Are the social sciences science? Ha ha, hopelessly naive! The more appropriate question is: Is science real?

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Not exactly true, it seems. Computer-generated fake papers have been accepted at conferences in the engineering sciences.

 

These papers are so funny…

Thanks, Philip, for drawing my attention to this article in a newspaper curiously called The Guardian about fake-papers churned out by computer programs, then eagerly accepted at conferences and in journals (as long as you pay the conference fee). And we’re not talking about cultural studies as in Alan Sokal’s days. Quote by one of the guys who authored the program:

“I’m psyched, it’s so great. These papers are so funny, you read them and can’t help but laugh. They are total bullshit. And I don’t see this going away.”

 

Meet Ike Antkare

Let’s keep the numbers in perspective, right? Given the tens of thousands of papers produced every year, a couple of rotten apples, some accepted as unreviewed papers, shouldn’t be surprising. Yep, but let me introduce you to Ike Antkare. Ike’s mentor and friend, Cyril Labbé, proudly tells us the following:

Since the 8th of April 2010, these tools have allowed Ike Antkare to become one of the most highly cited scientists of the modern world (see figure 3,2,4, 5,6). According to Scholarometer, Ike Antkare has 102 publications (almost all in 2009) and has an h-index of 94, putting him in the 21st position of the most highly cited scientists. This score is less than Freud, in 1st position with a h-index of 183, but better than Einstein in 36th position with a h-index of 84. Best of all, in regards to the hm-index Ike Antkare is in sixth position outclassing all scientists in his field (computer science) (Labbé 2010)

 

You’ve guessed it already. Ike Antkare is fake (although he has a FB-page). Labbé generated Ike’s papers using computer programs and tricked GoogleScholar. Check out this article in nature.

 

Automated Essay

One thing left to do. Tried the essay generator on last term’s topic ‘Are the Social Sciences Sciences?’ Here’s the result. Not sure whether I would have been convinced.

 

An Essay on Are the Social Sciences Sciences?

Are you sitting comfortably? I really, really like Are the Social Sciences Sciences? Though Are the Social Sciences Sciences? is a favourite topic of discussion amongst monarchs, presidents and dictators, Are the Social Sciences Sciences? is featuring more and more in the ideals of the young and upwardly mobile. The juxtapositioning of Are the Social Sciences Sciences? with fundamental economic, social and political strategic conflict draws criticism from the over 50, whom I can say no more about due to legal restrictions. Though I would rather be in bed I will now examine the primary causes of Are the Social Sciences Sciences?

Social Factors

Society is a human product. When Lance Bandaner said ‘twelve times I’ve traversed the ocean of youthful ambition but society still collects my foot prints’ [1] he globalised an issue which had remained buried in the hearts of our ancestors for centuries. While the western world use a knife and fork, the Chinese use chopsticks. Of course Are the Social Sciences Sciences? bravely illustrates what we are most afraid of, what we all know deep down in our hearts.

(…)

If someone handed in a fake paper, please don’t tell. Thank you. Gonna try the grant proposal generator next: http://www.nadovich.com/chris/randprop/

P.S.: Not so sure that Higgs Bosons don’t lie.

Some insights into how Greenpeace activists conducted the “Volkswagen Dark Side”-Campaign. Interesting for rebels as well as stormtroopers.

May the force be with you.

P.S. Still under shock. This video actually contains a passage where James Sadri – the guy in the clip; the one with the cute elephant-t-shirt – refers to VW’s CEO, Professor Martin Winterkorn, as ‘Volkswagen’s head honcho’. Oi oi. Naughty.

 

”Meet Generation Y, the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world”

“They keep telling me, “Here is what you get in five years, ten years, twenty years..” But they expect me to come back tomorrow. What do I get tomorrow?”

-Gen Y:er

With that quote  Bruce Tulgan starts the first chapter of his book “Not everyone gets a trophy – how to manage Generation Y”, which is supposed to serve as a guide for business managers on how to manage employees from this particular generation.

I happened to stumble upon this book while searching for literature for my master thesis covering online self-promotion and employability. Having read about self-promotion, and having discussed it with a few PR practitioners I noted that the conversation almost every time led to a discussion about “the young” and Generation Y. I realized that this book would probably give me some insight to why Gen Y:ers are seen as the typical self-promoters.

genycartoon1

While reading the book there were many “aha’s” and “oh’s” going through my mind, while at the same time I had to stop reading to tell myself, “hey, you are part of this generation too, don’t act so surprised”. The picture that Bruce Tulgan paints is not the prettiest, however he does shed some light on “my generation” as well. Firstly he defines Generation Y as those individuals born between 1978 and 1990, individuals born between 1991 and 2000 he categorizes as Millenials.

People belonging to Generation Y grew up in what he calls The Decade of the Child.Being children to people belonging to Generation X, which he calls the unsupervised generation, Generation Y can be seen as the oversupervised generation. As children, Gen Y:ers were patted on the shoulder by their parents, telling them that they can do anything they want and helping them build up their self-esteem. This is one way to explain why Gen Y:ers are perceived as self-possessed and confident.To quote Bruce Tulgan:

“Gen Y:ers don’t look at a large, established organization and think, I wonder where I’ll fit in your complex picture. Rather they look at an employer and think, I wonder where you will fit in my life story”.

If I think about it, it does sound a bit like me and my friends. We have a picture in our minds of where we want to work and sometimes even a list of attractive employers but seldom do we reflect over how we could contribute to their businesses, it is more a view on how that company fits in, in our future plans and how we want to be perceived by others. In this sense, yes Bruce, we are quite confident about ourselves.

Further Bruce argues in his book that Gen Y:ers often push harder for more significant roles in earlier stages in their careers than other generations and are often in a hurry to take on the next task. I also see this among my group of friends. I have one friend that after her first day on a new job said “I think I would definitely be able to manage that company too”. Okay, I realize that it might seem a bit over the top to say that after your first day, but in a world where unemployment among young people is so high, that confidence might help us stay motivated and believe in ourselves when nobody else does, right?

Bringing out the best of Gen Y

Without being to philosophical, what Bruce Tulgan wishes to say in his book is that Gen Y is often criticized for being the selfish generation, but people tend to forget the great things about this generation.

People from this generation grew up with the Internet and are used to working in changing environments and in a fast pace. Neither are Gen Y:ers reluctant to chnoteveryonetrophy_trailerange, rather they embrace it with open arms. According to Bruce people get it wrong;  to manage Gen Y:ers is not to praise them with trophies just for showing up. Gen Y:ers may need help to form bonds with an organization, their roles and the manager, and sometimes they may need “parenting advice”, but there is a fine line, they do not wish to be treated like children.

Further on the book gives concrete advice to business leaders on how to manage Gen Y and Bruce concludes by saying:

“If managed right, this generation will be the most high-performing workforce in history”.

Reading the book and other literature about self-promotion I don’t believe that self-promotion is simply a phenomenon that has become more apparent today because of younger generations. I believe that it is more about technology development and the rise of social media platforms where people are given the space to promote themselves. Isn’t that what social media is about? Bragging? Sticking out? Portraying yourself as unique? It is modestly said technology making humankind more self-obsessed.

Oh well. I’m going to finish off as “the typical Gen Y:er” that I am and go upload a link to this blog post on my LinkedIn, or maybe not. It’s better if you go visit my LinkedIn and endorse my writing skills. Now that would be the pat on the shoulder that I need.

And read the book. It’s great.

Another good one by Copenhagen-based professor of philosophy Vincent F Hendricks – recently labelled ‘the voodoo child of social media criticism’ (by me, a couple of secs ago, but let’s cut the details). Railing against social proof again. This time: Democracy in danger.

Check out this great piece on ‘likes’ and ‘upvotes’, infostorms and post-factual democracy. Or read my absurdly abbreviated version.

Here’s how it goes. Hendricks’s article in five steps, a) to e).

a) Humans are easily influenced by others. We’re a bit dumb sometimes. It’s called herding effect. Some people even imitate prominent suicides (ha, can you explain that, Darwin?) Hendricks:

Honestly, how many of us don’t just rely on what the internet says about some government ruling rather than looking at the original document?

b) In our brave new new media world, you and your PR-agency can give opinion X a kickstart by upvoting it right from the start. And then popularity generates more popularity. No matter how silly or unbalanced or opportunistic opinion X is. Herding 2.0, in other words. The tendency, at least, was recently demonstrated in an experiment related in the world’s most prestigious scientific journal SCIENCE. Honestly.

50 million Elvis fans

50 million not lonesome tonite. They’re RIIIIIGHT (shriiiiieek!) This is what I found checking around for social proof. Quite interesting examples from bunnyfoot.

c) This is a problem. 1) Because kickstart-upvoting is, er, not not done by political campaigners, spin-doctors etc. 2) because there are fewer and fewer correctives the more we rely on crowd-based opinion generation. Hendricks:

Relying more and more on social media, crowd-based opinion generators and other online “democratic” rating, comment or information acquisition systems not only makes such side-tracking possible and more likely to occur; it also increases the numerical reach of the spreading of false beliefs, be that intentional or not. This is known as an infostorm.

d) We might just get a new brand of politician, as a consequence. In fact, we might have it already: Post-factual democracy. Hendricks:

Infostorms may be generating a new type of politics: the post-factual democracy. Facts are replaced by opportune narratives and the definition of a good story is one that has gone viral. Politics is simply about maximising voter support.

e) This is, once again, er, slightly problematic. Because, and despite postmodernist claims to the contrary, …

… what is viral is not necessarily true, and what is true is not necessarily viral. Maximising votes does not require facts, but then again voter maximisation does not add up to robust democracy. If democracy doesn’t have access to reliable sources of information and instead relies on narratives and social influence then there is no way of distinguishing between junk evidence and facts. Without the ability to make this distinction we may be welcoming the post-factual democracy. Not a pretty picture. (Hendricks)

Moral I: Elections coming up in Sweden. Check your politicians for post-factuality-factor. It’s fun! One-issue-politicians are easiest.

Moral II: Can someone start to grow more socially awkward, bulldog-minded, question-asking-, fact-checking old-school-journalists, please?

Call to Action I: Please go to http://www.theconversation.com, give Vincent a like and comment favourably. So people begin to think he’s right. It’s called social proof, hehehe.

P.S.: Elvis’s hips don’t lie.

bubbles

Scientists sit in the ivory tower. Normal people live in the real world. Well, not anymore. Nowadays, scientists sit in huge underground vaults housing large hadron colliders, author articles with 3,500 authors, calculate their Hirsch-factor. And normal people live in bubbles.

Check out Vincent F. Hendricks on theconversation.com. The guy’s so brilliant I agree with him. And there’s something special about him: Vincent F Hendricks does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this (=his) article, and has no relevant affiliations. Remarkable. Why is he writing, then? He’s promoting this book. But that’s okay.

Back to content. Hendricks speculates that there’s so much content out there that everyone is in danger of becoming trapped in a personal bubble (okay, simplifying a bit here, but not much). Hendricks:

Filter bubbles, for example, happen when the information we receive online becomes so tailored to our existing areas of interest that we are no longer exposed to views that challenge us. If we only follow like-minded people on Twitter, we start to live in a bubble in which counter-opinions don’t feature.

Of course, that’s not the way how it looks like to you in the bubble. In the bubble, you see a lot of counter-opinions. But they either differ only mildly from your opinion. Or clearly are the opinions of complete idiots who… just… didn’t… get… IT.

You’re surrounded by friends united in bashing the idiots.

And so is everyone else.

Nice.

Creating a self-sustaining bubble is the first rule of successful propaganda. Sometimes whole countries are gigantic filter bubbles.

Oh no, here’s a disturbing thought. Vincent Hendricks is the Jimi Hendrix of social media criticism (= Jimi Hendrix was some guitar player back in the 60ies; #badjoke). What if our everyday lives are not necessarily becoming more scientific and rational, more in touch with ‘reality’, more enlightened, due to social media? What if the brave new social media world offers unprecedented opportunity to capture people… in bubbles? Not forever, of course. Only long enough to fleece them. The GFC 2008/2009, just the beginning? Hendricks:

Across spheres, from science to your wardrobe, bubbles share similar structures and dynamics. The term “bubble” is no longer confined to just financial movements. In the information age, it can refer to irrational, collective, aggregated behaviour, beliefs, opinions or preferences based on social proof in all parts of society.

“Social proof” is the word here. Social proof is how you’re fleeced. Millions of flies can be wrong. Shit may not be good for you. Hendricks goes on:

Over in finance, informational cascades have become a major factor in the generation of bubbles, where, as economist Harold Vogel notes, “individuals choose to ignore or downplay their private information and instead jump the bandwagon by mimicking the actions of individuals acting previously”. If you think about your own actions every day, you might uncover some uncomfortable truths about the bubbles you live in.

This behaviour is called “the game of greater fools”, by the way. Tulip Mania, 1637. Look it up and impress people at cocktail parties.

Moral I: The habit to actively seek out alternative explanations for data, even if they contradict your pet theory, jar with your expectations or do not fit smoothly with everyone’s politically correct opinion, GOD BEWARE! is one of the great achievements of human history. It’s one of the pillars of science.

Moral II: Check your bubble.

Moral III: Don’t overdo it. There are idiots out there. People are not necessarily right because they’re alone with their opinion.

P.S.: Higgs Bosons don’t lie.

The editorial board has given me a new task: end, come up with some depressing news. Now that’s a job for me. Yup, I’m on it. Here we go.

Recently I’ve been reviewing research that paints a picture of the Millennials that is, erm, not so nice. Someone cleverly commented that yes, Gen Y is Gen X “with self-esteem on steroids.” (thanks, Emilia). But let’s be fair here: Gen Y needs self-esteem. In spades. Not so much in Northern Europe, but in the South and East.* So if you’re unbearably self-confident right now, take a look at these youth unemployment figures. Data provided by Eurostat, but selected by me.

Youth Unemployment

Go here to check. It’s a somewhat arbitrary selection, but it includes the three largest national economies, plus Sweden, plus some interesting cases.You get the picture: 55.7% in Spain, 59.2% in Greece, 25.2% in France, 23.3% overall. Sweden, erm, not so nice either.

Some de-depressing in order here. You can’t compare countries directly since much depends on the education systems; some are probably downright designed to obscure youth unemployment. And it’s important to understand precisely what the numbers mean. 25% youth unemployment rate (not ratio) in a country does not mean that 1 out of 4 youngsters are out of a job. Many young people are not on the labour market because they are in education, some are in education and employed (that’s you, I guess); but yet again others are in education and unemployed. Here is a pretty good explanation by Eurostat: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Youth_unemployment.

But figures in the fifties…?

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*) Ah, yes, and you gotta save the planet. Since we’re not gonna do it.