Archives for posts with tag: personal

The Atlantic By Sara M. Watson
July 1, 2014 11:39 AM

Facebook has always “manipulated” the results shown in its users’ News Feeds by filtering and personalizing for relevance. But this weekend, the social giant seemed to cross a line, when it announced that it engineered emotional responses two years ago in an “emotional contagion” experiment, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

As a society, we haven’t fully established how we ought to think about data science in practice. It’s time to start hashing that out.

Before the Data Was Big…

Data by definition is something that is taken as “given,” but somehow we’ve taken for granted the terms under which we came to agree that fact. Once, the professional practice of “data science” was called business analytics. The field has now rebranded as a science in the context of buzzwordy “Big Data,” but unlike other scientific disciplines, most data scientists don’t work in academia. Instead, they’re employed in commercial or governmental settings.

The Facebook Data Science team is a prototypical data science operation. In the company’s own words, it collects, manages, and analyzes data to “drive informed decisions in areas critical to the success of the company, and conduct social science research of both internal and external interest.” Last year, for example, it studied self-censorship—when users input but do not post status updates. Facebook’s involvement with data research goes beyond its in-house team. The company is actively recruiting social scientists with the promise of conducting research on “recording social interaction in real time as it occurs completely naturally.” So what does it mean for Facebook to have a Core Data Science Team, describing their work—on their own product—as data science?

Contention about just what constitutes science has been around since the start of scientific practice. By claiming that what it does is data science, Facebook benefits from the imprimatur of an established body of knowledge. It looks objective, authoritative, and legitimate, built on the backs of the scientific method and peer review. Publishing in a prestigious journal, Facebook legitimizes its data collection and analysis activities by demonstrating their contribution to scientific discourse as if to say, “this is for the good of society.”

So it may be true that Facebook offers one of the largest samples of social and behavioral data ever compiled, but all of its studies—and this one, on social contagion—only describe things that happen on Facebook. The data is structured by Facebook, entered in a status update field created by Facebook, produced by users of Facebook, analyzed by Facebook researchers, with outputs that will affect Facebook’s future News Feed filters, all to build the business of Facebook. As research, it is an over-determined and completely constructed object of study, and its outputs are not generalizable.

Ultimately, Facebook has only learned something about Facebook.

The Wide World of Corporate Applied Science

For-profit companies have long conducted applied science research. But the reaction to this study seems to suggest there is something materially different in the way we perceive commercial data science research’s impacts. Why is that?

At GE or Boeing, two long-time applied science leaders, the incentives for research scientists are the same as they are for those at Facebook. Employee-scientists at all three companies hope to produce research that directly informs product development and leads to revenue. However, the outcomes of their research are very different. When Boeing does research, it contributes to humanity’s ability to fly. When Facebook does research, it serves its own ideological agenda and perpetuates Facebooky-ness.

Facebook is now more forthright about this. In a response to the recent controversy, Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer wrote, “The goal of all of our research at Facebook is to learn how to provide a better service…We were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook. We didn’t clearly state our motivations in the paper.”

Facebook’s former head of data science Cameron Marlow offers, “Our goal is not to change the pattern of communication in society. Our goal is to understand it so we can adapt our platform to give people the experience that they want.”

But data scientists don’t just produce knowledge about observable, naturally occurring phenomena; they shape outcomes. A/B testing and routinized experimentation in real time are done on just about every major website in order to optimize for certain desired behaviors and interactions. Google designers infamously tested up to 40 shades of blue. Facebook has already experimented with the effects of social pressure in getting-out-the-vote, raising concerns about selective digital gerrymandering. What might Facebook do with its version of this research? Perhaps it could design the News Feed to show us positive posts from our friends in order to make us happier and encourage us to spend more time on the site? Or might Facebook show us more sad posts, encouraging us to spend more time on the site because we have more to complain about?

Should we think of commercial data science as science? When we conflate the two, we assume companies are accountable for producing generalizable knowledge and we risk according their findings undue weight and authority. Yet when we don’t, we risk absolving practitioners from the rigor and ethical review that grants authority and power to scientific knowledge.

Facebook has published a paper in an attempt to contribute to the larger body of social science knowledge. But researchers today cannot possibly replicate Facebook’s experiment without Facebook’s cooperation. The worst outcome of this debacle would be for Facebook to retreat and avoid further public relations fiascos by keeping all its data science research findings internal. Instead, if companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are to support an open stance toward contributing knowledge, we need researchers with non-commercial interests who can run and replicate this research outside of the platform’s influence.

Facebook sees its users not as a population of human subjects, but as a consumer public. Therefore, we—that public and those subjects—must ask the bigger questions. What are the claims that data science makes both in industry and academia? What do they say about the kinds of knowledge that our society values?

We need to be more critical of the production of data science, especially in commercial settings. The firms that use our data have asymmetric power over us. We do them a favor unquestioningly accepting their claims to the prestige, expertise, and authority of science as well.

Ultimately, society’s greatest concerns with science and technology are ethical: Do we accept or reject the means by which knowledge is produced and the ends to which it is applied? It’s a question we ask of nuclear physics, genetic modification—and one we should ask of data science.

By Adam Frank

June 11, 2013 2:41 PM ET
Big Data may not be much to look at, but it can be powerful stuff. For instance, this is what the new National Security Agency (NSA) data center in Bluffdale, Utah, looks like.

Big Data may not be much to look at, but it can be powerful stuff. For instance, this is what the new National Security Agency (NSA) data center in Bluffdale, Utah, looks like.

George Frey/Getty Images

New technologies are not all equal. Some do nothing more than add a thin extra layer to the top-soil of human behavior (i.e., Teflon and the invention of non-stick frying pans). Some technologies, however, dig deeper, uprooting the norms of human behavior and replacing them with wholly new possibilities. For the last few months I have been arguing that Big Data — the machine-based collection and analysis of astronomical quantities of information — represents such a turn. And, for the most part, I have painted this transformation in a positive light. But last week’s revelations about the NSA’s PRISM program have put the potential dangers of Big Data front and center. So, let’s take a peek at Big Data’s dark side.

The central premise of Big Data is that all the digital breadcrumbs we leave behind as we go about our everyday lives create a trail of behavior that can be followed, captured, stored and “mined” en-mass, providing the miners with fundamental insights into both our personal and collective behavior.

The initial “ick” factor from Big Data is the loss of privacy, as pretty much every aspect of your life (location records via mobile phones, purchases via credit cards, interests via web-surfing behavior) has been recorded — and, possibly, shared — by some entity somewhere. Big Data moves from “ick” to potentially harmful when all of those breadcrumbs are thrown in a machine for processing.

This is the “data-mining” part of Big Data and it happens when algorithms are used to search for statistical correlations between one kind of behavior and another. This is where things can get really tricky and really scary.

Consider, for example, the age-old activity of securing a loan. Back in the day you went to a bank and they looked at your application, the market and your credit history. Then they said “yes” or “no.” End of story. In the world of Big Data, banks now have more ways to assess your credit worthiness.

“We feel like all data is credit data,” former Google CIO Douglas Merrill said last year in The New York Times. “We just don’t know how to use it yet.” Merrill is CEO of ZestCash, one of a host of start-up companies using information from sources such as social networks to determine the probability that an applicant will repay their loan.

Your contacts on LinkedIn can be used to assess your “character and capacity” when it comes to loans. Facebook friends can also be useful. Have rich friends? That’s good. Know some deadbeats, not so much. Companies will argue they are only trying to sort out the good applicants from the bad. But there is also a real risk that you will be unfairly swept into an algorithm’s dead zone and disqualified from a loan, with devastating consequences for your life.

Jay Stanley of the ACLU says being judged based on the actions of others is not limited to your social networks:

Credit card companies sometimes lower a customer’s credit limitbased on the repayment history of the other customers of stores where a person shops. Such “behavioral scoring” is a form of economic guilt-by-association based on making statistical inferences about a person that go far beyond anything that person can control or be aware of.

The link between behavior, health and health insurance is another gray (or dark) area for Big Data. Consider the case of Walter and Paula Shelton of Gilbert, Louisiana. Back in 2008, Business Weekreported how the Sheltons were denied health insurance when records of their prescription drug purchases were pulled. Even though their blood pressure and anti-depression medications were for relatively minor conditions, the Sheltons had fallen into another algorithmic dead zone in which certain kinds of purchases trigger red flags that lead to denial of coverage.

Since 2008 the use of Big Data by the insurance industry has only become more entrenched. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

Companies also have started scrutinizing employees’ other behavior more discreetly. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently began buying spending data on more than 3 million people in its employer group plans. If someone, say, purchases plus-size clothing, the health plan could flag him for potential obesity—and then call or send mailings offering weight-loss solutions.

Of course no one will argue with helping folks get healthier. But with insurance costs dominating company spreadsheets, it’s not hard to imagine how that data about plus-size purchases might someday factor into employment decisions.

And then there’s the government’s use, or misuse, of Big Data. For years critics have pointed to no-fly lists as an example of where Big Data can go wrong.

No-fly lists are meant to keep people who might be terrorists off of planes. It has long been assumed that data harvesting and mining are part of the process for determining who is on a no-fly list. So far, so good.

But the stories of folks unfairly listed are manifold: everything from disabled Marine Corps veterans to (at one point) the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Because the methods used in placing people on the list are secret, getting off the list can, according to Connor Freidersdorf of The Atlantic, be a Kafka-esque exercise in frustration.

A 2008 National Academy of Sciences report exploring the use of Big Data techniques for national security made the dangers explicit:

The rich digital record that is made of people’s lives today provides many benefits to most people in the course of everyday life. Such data may also have utility for counterterrorist and law enforcement efforts. However, the use of such data for these purposes also raises concerns about the protection of privacy and civil liberties. Improperly used, programs that do not explicitly protect the rights of innocent individuals are likely to create second-class citizens whose freedoms to travel, engage in commercial transactions, communicate, and practice certain trades will be curtailed—and under some circumstances, they could even be improperly jailed.

So where do we go from here?

From credit to health insurance to national security, the technologies of Big Data raise real concerns about far more than just privacy (though those privacy concerns are real, legitimate and pretty scary). The debate opening up before us is an essential one for a culture dominated by science and technology.

Who decides how we go forward? Who determines if a technology is adopted? Who determines when and how it will be deployed? Who has the rights to your data? Who speaks for us? How do we speak for ourselves?

These are the Big Questions that Big Data is forcing us to confront.

1. The world is trying to keep you stupid. From bank fees to interest rates to miracle diets, people who are not educated are easier to get money from and easier to lead. Educate yourself as much as possible for wealth, independence, and happiness.

2. Do not have faith in institutions to educate you. By the time they build the curriculum, it’s likely that the system is outdated– sometimes utterly broken. You both learn and get respect from people worth getting it from by leading and doing, not by following.

3. Read as much as you can. Learn to speed read with high retention.Emerson Spartz taught me this while I was at a Summit Series event. If he reads 2-3 books a week, you can read one.

4. Connect with everyone, all the time. Be genuine about it. Learn to find something you like in each person, and then speak to that thing.

5. Don’t waste time being shy. Shyness is the belief that your emotions should be the arbitrators of your decision making process when the opposite is actually true.

6. If you feel weird about something during a relationship, that’s usually what you end up breaking up over.

7. Have as much contact as possible with older people. Personally, I met people at Podcamps. My friend Greg, at the age of 13, met his first future employer sitting next to him on a plane. The reason this is so valuable is because people your age don’t usually have the decision-making ability to help you very much. Also they know almost everything you will learn later, so ask them.

8. Find people that are cooler than you and hang out with them too. This and the corollary are both important: “don’t attempt to be average inside your group. Continuously attempt to be cooler than them (by doing cooler things, being more laid back, accepting, ambitious, etc.).”

9. You will become more conservative over time. This is just a fact. Those you surround yourself with create a kind of “bubble” that pushes you to support the status quo. For this reason, you need to do your craziest stuff NOW. Later on, you’ll become too afraid. Trust me.

10. Reduce all expenses as much as possible. I mean it. This creates a safety net that will allow you to do the crazier shit I mentioned above.

11. Instead of getting status through objects (which provide only temporary boosts), do it through experiences. In other words, a trip to Paris is a better choice than a new wardrobe. Studies show this also boosts happiness.

12. While you are living on the cheap, solve the money problem. Use the internet, because it’s like a cool little machine that helps you do your bidding. If you are currently living paycheck to paycheck, extend that to three weeks instead of two. Then, as you get better, you can think a month ahead, then three months, then six, and finally a year ahead. (The goal is to get to a point where you are thinking 5 years ahead.)

13. Learn to program.

14. Get a six-pack (or get thin, whatever your goal is) while you are young. Your hormones are in a better place to help you do this at a younger age. Don’t waste this opportunity, trust me.

15. Learn to cook. This will make everything much easier and it turns food from a chore + expensive habit into a pleasant + frugal one. I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan, but whatever you like is fine.

16. Sleep well. This and cooking will help with the six pack. If you think “I can sleep when I’m dead” or “I have too much to do to sleep,” I have news for you: you are INEFFICIENT, and sleep deprivation isn’t helping.

17. Get a reminder app for everything. Do not trust your own brain for your memory. Do not trust it for what you “feel like” you should be doing. Trust only the reminder app. I use RE.minder and Action Method.

18. Choose something huge to do, as well as allowing the waves of opportunity to help you along. If you don’t set goals, some stuff may happen, but if you do choose, lots more will.

19. Get known for one thing. Spend like 5 years doing it instead of flopping around all over the place. If you want to shift afterwards, go ahead. Like I said, choose something.

20. Don’t try to “fix” anyone. Instead, look for someone who isn’t broken.

I can’t even begin to explain how important this topic is to the millennials. Our phones have taken our lives hostage and people can see that by the looks of your awkwardness. I’m not saying ‘awkwardness’ is a bad trait, but it can definitely leave you at a disadvantage.

I recently stumbled upon an article I found to be really good. Here I was able to find some good tips on how to build my charisma. If you think you got it, you’re doing it wrong.

Check it out–

by BRETT & KATE MCKAY on NOVEMBER 6, 2013

in A MAN’S LIFEPERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Charisma Header 2

Are you a senior in high school running for Student Council President?

Are you an entrepreneur looking to make a successful pitch and attract investors?

Are you a military officer working to win your men’s loyalty?

Are you a salesman trying to land some new clients?

Are you a college professor wanting to get through to your students?

Are you a single guy looking for love?

No matter your situation in life and your individual aims, one of the most important tools for success is your personal charisma. Charisma is what allows you to command a room, draw others to you, and convince people of your ideas. It’s an essential part of being the kind of leader who wins devoted followers who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for you. Charismatic men are perceived as both likeable and powerful, a dynamic, irresistible combination that opens endless doors to them.

Charisma may seem like a mysterious quality — something that some men are born with and some are not. But this is happily not the case. You don’t need to have hit the genetic charisma lottery in order to develop yourself into a man with powerful magnetism.

Far from being a magical and inexplicable trait, charisma can be broken down into a set of concrete, largely nonverbal behaviors that can be learned, practiced, and made natural. Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, places these behaviors into three categories: Presence, Power, and Warmth. When deftly combined, these three components produce strong personal magnetism.

We will be devoting an entire post to each of these three components of charisma. Each will provide an overview of the component, as well as practical tips for developing and implementing it. Later on, we will cover charismatic body language, and, because not every “style” of charisma is appropriate for every situation, we’ll discuss what behaviors to use or de-emphasize in different situations.

For today, we’ll start off by talking about the first component of charisma: Presence.

Charisma Component #1: Presence

presence

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you could tell you didn’t have their complete attention?

How did it make you feel?

Probably a bit annoyed.

Sadly, it seems fewer and fewer people are fully present and engaged with the individuals they’re interacting with. Being completely engaged in a conversation has likely always been a challenge, as we all have a bit of the conversational narcissist in us.

Now that smartphones have saturated modern life, being fully present is even harder. People today try to (unsuccessfully) switch their attention between two worlds — the real world populated by the people they are physically present with and the cyber world which sends them dispatches through their phone. Go to any restaurant in America and you’re bound to see tables of people staring blankly at their smartphones and hardly engaging with each other. This video that circulated the intertubes a few weeks ago perfectly captures the way in which technology has created a society of non-present screen gawkers. Pretty poignant.

The good news about all this is that it’s now incredibly easy to set yourself apart from the pack simply by being fully present with people and giving them your complete attention.

When you think of charisma, you might think of trying to make yourself seem super awesome to others. But the paradoxical secret of charisma is that it’s not about trumpeting your good qualities, but making the other person feel good about himself. Real charisma makes the other person feel important; when they finish an interaction with you, they feel better about themselves than they did before.

Focusing your mental and emotional energy on someone as you interact is how you create that feeling of importance. People fundamentally want attention – they want to be recognized and acknowledged.

And you don’t have to be an outgoing, uber-social extrovert in order to have and display charisma. In The Charisma Myth, Cabane cites tech-entrepreneur Elon Musk as an example of someone who has mastered the art of charismatic presence. He’s incredibly intelligent and a pretty quiet guy by nature; however, he counterbalances his introverted inclinations with intense focus and presence. He doesn’t need to be the extroverted life of the party to seem magnetic; instead of chatting everybody up and offering a little of himself to a lot of people, he concentrates on giving his full, intense attention to a few; in so doing, he makes them feel incredibly special. Charisma isn’t necessarily about quantity, but quality.

Conveying presence is a simple concept, but oftentimes difficult to actually achieve. You can’t just fake it. People are surprisingly adept at deciphering your feigned interest. To truly convey presence, you must actually be present. It takes a significant amount of willpower to focus all your attention on the person you’re with at the moment. But like all things, with practice, it becomes significantly easier.

Below are some tips on developing your charismatic presence:

Bring yourself to the here and now. Presence begins in your mind. If you feel like your mind is off somewhere else while engaging with someone, try this little exercise to bring you back to the here and now. Focus on physical sensations in your body that you often ignore. It could be your breath or it could be the sensation of your feet touching the ground. You don’t have to spend very long meditating on these sensations. Just a second or two will bring you back into the moment you’re sharing with this person.

Make sure you’re physically comfortable. It’s hard to be fully present with someone when all you’re thinking about is how uncomfortably tight your pants are or how hot it is. To that end, do what you can to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible. As Antonio has emphasized numerous times — wear properly fitting clothes! Besides helping you look better, clothes that fit well make you feel better. Other things you can do to increase your physical comfort include getting enough sleep, laying off the caffeine (be calm instead of jittery), and adjusting the thermostat (when you can) to a more agreeable temperature.

Set your devices on silent and put them out of sight. This serves two purposes. First, it reduces the temptation for you to check them while you’re engaging with someone. Second, it sends a strong message to the person you’re with that they have your complete attention and they’re not sharing it with the smartphone placed on the table.

Look the person in the eye when they’re talking. Numerous studies have shown that people who make higher levels of eye contact with others are perceived as possessing a load of desirable traits, including warmth, honesty, sincerity, competency, confidence, and emotional stability. And not only does increased eye contact make you seem more appealing in pretty much every way to those you interact with, it also improves the quality of that interaction. Eye contact imparts a sense of intimacy to your exchanges, and leaves the receiver of your gaze feeling more positive about your interaction and also more connected to you.

It’s important to note that while eye contact works well in building intimacy in friendly situations,recent research suggests it may backfire when you’re trying to persuade someone who’s skeptical of your point of view.

To learn more about the importance of eye contact, click here. To learn how to make eye contact the right way, click here.

Nod to show that you’re listening. Besides eye contact, an easy way to convey presence is through body language, and more specifically, nodding your head. But be judicious with the noggin nods. An over abundance can indicate you’re trying too hard to please and agree with the person, which decreases their perception of your power. Also, only nod at appropriate times; you’ll need to be truly listening to know when a nod makes sense.

Ask clarifying questions. An easy way to show someone that you’re completely there with them is to ask clarifying questions after he or she has spoken. For example, you could ask, “When you say ________, what exactly do you mean?”

Another great clarifying question comes to us from Dr. Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Basically, you paraphrase what the person just said and add, “Am I understanding you correctly?”

In more casual conversations, ask people questions like, “What was your favorite part of that?” or “What was the hardest part of that for you?” People really enjoy reflecting on and answering such questions.

For more info on how to ask questions that show you’re really listening, click here.

Avoid fidgeting. Fidgeting signals to the other person that you’re not comfortable or content and that there’s somewhere else you’d rather be. So don’t twiddle your thumbs or your phone. And avoid looking around for what else is going on, which signals to the other person that you’re searching for a better opportunity than your current one.

Don’t think about how you’re going to respond while the person is still talking. We all have a tendency to do this. Our inner conversational narcissist wants to be ready to jump in and start talking as soon as there’s an opening. But if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say, you’re obviously not fully listening to what the other person is saying. It’s natural to want to have an idea of what you’re going to say before you say it, but it’s okay to work through your response as you’re giving it; embrace the pause. As we’ll discuss in the article on Power, it’s low-status individuals that talk the most and feel the need to fill every silence.

Wait two seconds before responding. Breaking in the very instant a person pauses or stops talking signals to them that you were doing the above; thinking about what you were going to say instead of fully listening to them. Nonverbal behaviors are more powerful than verbal ones, so use this trick from Cabane to show you’re really tuned in:

When someone has spoken, see if you can let your facial expression react first, showing that you’re absorbing what they’ve just said and giving their brilliant statement the consideration it deserves. Only then, after about two seconds, do you answer.

The sequence goes like this:

  • They finish their sentence
  • Your face absorbs
  • Your face reacts
  • Then, and only then, you answer

Bone up on your other listening skills. Make sure to check out our post on active listening for more tips on improving this vital skill. Follow them and you’ll make vast improvements in your charismatic presence.

___________

Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

story from http://www.artofmanliness.com/

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