Monthly Archives: September 2010

Exclusive: Zizek on Iran

A collaborative translation of BBC Persian’s recent exclusive interview with Zizek. Cross-posted on the new site, transliminal.org:

http://www.overstream.net/swf/player/oplx?oid=awswrnnzipa3&noplay=1

Many thanks to Kam, Mani and Sheyda for their help on this one.

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Filed under global issues, history, middle east, persian, philosophy and metaphysics, politics, religion, translation

Online dating sites reveal latent racism?

via How Your Race Affects The Messages You Get « OkTrends

How Your Race Affects The Messages You Get

October 5th, 2009 by Christian Rudder

Welcome back, dorks. We’ve processed the messaging habits of over a million people and are about to basically prove that, despite what you might’ve heard from the Obama campaign and organic cereal commercials, racism is alive and well. It would be awesome if the other major online dating players would go out on a limb and release their own race data, too. I can’t imagine they will: multi-million dollar enterprises rarely like to admit that the people paying them those millions act like turds. But being poor gives us a certain freedom. To alienate all our users. So there.

When I first started looking at first-contact attempts and who was writing who back, it was immediately obvious that the sender’s race was a huge factor. Here are just a handful of the numbers that illustrate that:

The takeaway here is that although race shouldn’t matter in messaging, it does. A lot.

. . .

First of all, how do we know that race shouldn’t matter? Are we just making some after-school-special assumption that “true love is colorblind?” more compatibility usually
means more replies
No, we’re not: we know race shouldn’t matter to replies because the races all match each other more or less evenly, and reply rate correlates to matching. That is, more compatibility generally means more replies.

On OkCupid you create your own unique matching system, and that means your better matches are people you actually want talk to. Below is a graph showing match percentages vs. reply rates for a random sample of 500,000 people.As you can see, in general, the better you match someone, the more likely you are to reply to a first message from them.

We can see this principle in action when we look at our trusty control, the Zodiac. Here are the match and reply rates side-by-side, with similar rates colored yellow. There’s no real need to inspect the numbers; just observe the similar colors.

  • Throughout this post, yellowish colors are short-hand for “neutral” and red and green indicate “strong preference.”

People of the various Zodiac signs match each other all at roughly the average rate, and, as we would expect, they reply to messages similarly. In general, the correlation between match percentage and reply rate means that whenever we compare the match/reply charts for a given breakdown of the population, they should look about the same. However, this, like so many other fine assumptions, totally breaks down when race gets involved:

Again, don’t bother squinting, just check out the colors. We’ll soon look very closely at these tables.

. . .

So here’s last week’s compatibility by race table (I explained how we can confidently measure “compatibility” in that post). This is a blow-up of the leftmost table above:

As you can see, the races all match each other roughly evenly: good news. It means all other things being equal, two people, of whatever race, should have the same chance to have a successful relationshp. But now let’s look at the table of how individuals actually reply to each other’s messages. First we’ll examine messages sent by men to women (I know our gay readers are interested in same-sex versions of these tables, there’s a link to them here and at the end of this post):

The numbers on the perimeter of the table are the weighted average rates for each column/row. Here’s what we can know:

  • Black women write back the most. Whether it’s due to talkativeness, loneliness, or a sense of plain decency, black women are by far the most likely to respond to a first contact attempt. In many cases, their response rate is one and a half times the average, and, overall, black women reply about a quarter more often that other women.
  • White men get more responses. Whatever it is, white males just get more replies from almost every group. We were careful to preselect our data pool so that physical attractiveness (as measured by our site picture-rating utility) was roughly even across all the race/gender slices. For guys, we did likewise with height.
  • White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else—and Asian and Hispanic women prefer them even more exclusively. These three types of women only respond well to white men. More significantly, these groups’ reply rates to non-whites is terrible. Asian women write back non-white males at 21.9%, Hispanic women at 22.9%, and white women at 23.0%. It’s here where things get interesting, for white women in particular. If you look at the match-by-race table before this one, the “should-look-like” one, you see that white women have an above-average compatibility with almost every group. Yet they only reply well to guys who look like them. There’s more data on this towards the end of the post.

Let’s see what happens when it’s the women writing the messages to men.

  • Men don’t write black women back. Or rather, they write them back far less often than they should. Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies. Essentially every race—including other blacks—singles them out for the cold shoulder.
  • White guys are shitty, but fairly even-handed about it. The average reply rate of non-white males is 48.1%, while white guys’ is only 40.5%. Basically, they write back about 20% less often. It’s ironic that white guys are worst responders, because as we saw above they get the most replies. That has apparently made them very self-absorbed. It’s interesting that white males do manage to reply to Middle Eastern women. Is there some kind of emergent fetish there? As Middle Easterners are becoming America’s next racial bogeyman, maybe there’s some kind of forbidden fruit thing going on. (Perhaps a reader more up-to-date on his or her Post-Colonial Theory can step in here? Just kidding. Don’t.)
. . .

Finally, here are a couple tables that shed further light on our discussion. These are site-wide answers to a couple user-written match questions. They barely need any explanation: one comments on the other, really. Together they shed more light on the theory/practice schizophrenia of people’s racial attitudes.


. . .

It’s surely not just OkCupid users that are like this. In fact, it’s any dating site (and indeed any collection of people) would likely exhibit messaging biases similar to what I’ve written up. Any dating site probably
has these biases
According to our internal metrics, at least, OkCupid’s users are better-educated, younger, and far more progressive than the norm, so I can imagine that many sites would actually have worse race stats. But like I said at the beginning, we’ll probably never know. See you next week.

For a further discussion of race and replies, the same-sex equivalents of this post’s data are here.

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An Eid gift from a young Afghani friend

Thanks to SK for sharing this with me, early on the last morning of Ramadan. Eid mobarak, to whomever is celebrating, or would like an excuse to.

YouTube – Ahmad Zahir–Rumi: It isn’t wise to separate from companions

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Filed under persian, philosophy and metaphysics, religion, soul food

The Unbearable Simplicity of Value

Thanks to friend MH of ::Dorang:: for passing this one on.

via Information Philosopher – Value

Is the Good something that exists in the world? The Existentialists thought not. Most religions place its origin in a supernatural Being. Humanists felt it a human invention. Modern bioethicists situate value in all life. A variety of ancient religions looked to the sun as the source of all life and thus good. They anthropomorphized the sun or the “bright sky” as God. Dark and night were stigmatized as evil and “fallen.”

Philosophers have ever longed to discover a cosmic good. The ideal source of the good is remote as possible from the Earth in space and in time, for Kant a transcendental God outside space and time, for Plato a timeless Good to be found in Being itself, for his student Aristotle a property of the first principles that set the world in motion.

Can we discover a cosmic good? At least identify the source of anything resembling the Good? Yes, we can. Does it resemble the Good anthropomorphized as a God personally concerned about our individual goods? No, it does not. But it has one outstanding characteristic of such a God, it is Providence. We have discovered that which provides. It provides the light, it provides life, it provides intelligence.

We replace the difficult problem of “Does God exist?” with the more tractable problem “Does Goodness exist?” Humanists situate values in reason or human nature. Bioethicists seek to move the source of goodness to the biosphere. Life becomes the summum bonum. Information philosophers look out to the universe as a whole and find a cosmos that grew from a chaos.

Exactly how that is possible requires a profound understanding of the second law of thermodynamics in an expanding and open universe. A very small number of processes that we call ergodic can reduce the entropy locally to create macroscopic information structures like galaxies, stars, and planets and microscopic ones like atoms, molecules, organisms, and human intelligence.

A battle rages between cosmic ergodic processes and chaotic entropic processes that destroy structure and information. Anthropomorphizing these processes as good and evil gives us a dualist image that nicely solves the monotheistic problem of evil.” If God is the Good, God is not responsible for the Evil. Instead, we can clearly see an Ergod who is Divine Providence – the cosmic source without which we would not exist and so a proper object of reverence. And Entropy is the “devil incarnate.”

Our moral guide to action is then very simple – preserve information structures against the entropy.

Celebrating the first modern philosopher, René Descartes, we call our model for value the Ergo. For those who want to anthropomorphize on the slender thread of discovering the natural Providence, call it Ergod. No God can be God without being Ergodic.

Ergodic processes are those that resist the terrible and universal Second Law of Thermodynamics, which commands the increase of chaos and entropy (disorder). Without violating that inviolable law overall, they reduce the entropy locally, bringing pockets of cosmos and negative entropy (order and information-rich structures). We call all this cosmic order the Ergo. It is the ultimate sine qua non.

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The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’

Great guilty pleasure… check out the link for the cool interactive graphics…

via The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’ « OkTrends

What is it that makes a culture unique? How are whites, blacks, Asians, or whoever different from everybody else? What tastes, interests, and concepts define an ethnic group? And is there any way to make fun of other races in public and get away with it?

These are big questions, and here’s how we answered them.

We selected 526,000 OkCupid users at random and divided them into groups by their (self-stated) race. We then took all these people’s profile essays (280 million words in total!) and isolated the words and phrases that made each racial group’s essays statistically distinct from the others’.

For instance, it turns out that all kinds of people list sushi as one of their favorite foods. But Asians are the only group who also list sashimi; it’s a racial outlier. Similarly, as we shall see, black people are 20 times more likely than everyone else to mention soul food, whereas no foods are distinct for white people, unless you count diet coke.

Using this kind of analysis, we were able find the interests, hobbies, tastes, and self-descriptions that are specially important to each racial group, as determined by the words of the group itself. The information in this article is not our opinion. It’s data, aggregated from the essays of half a million real people.

So here’s the real stuff white people like.


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Slavoj Zizek talks to Ali Alizadeh on BBC Persian

YouTube – Slavoj Zizek talks to Ali Alizadeh on BBC Persian Tamasha

*UPDATE* — Fully subtitled version here:

http://www.transliminal.org/?p=220

BBC Persian discovers the joys of Slavoj Zizek.

Here’s a quick breakdown of their coverage (don’t mind my amateur translation):

0:00-0:27:

The speaker introduces Zizek, saying how he’s one of the sharpest thinkers around today, and that you can find his work in the bookshops of all the world’s major cities. If you’d like to know more about the ideas of this renowned Slovenian philosopher, she says, have a listen to the exclusive interview he gave to [BBC Persian anchor] Ali Alizadeh, where he talks for the first time about his views on Iran, Iranians, and their culture and socialization.

0:28-1:16:

Narrator: In 2005, he defended Iran’s right to a nuclear bomb… in 2008, he regarded the film 300, which offended most Iranians, as Hollywood’s most anti-imperialist movie…  in 2009 he publicized how the Green Movement in Iran was creating space for the repetition of European patterns of struggle… In his 61 years, Slavoj Zizek has written over 54 books which have been translated into over 20 languages… 12 of those works have made him one of today’s most renowned living European philosophers… [BBC host Stephen Sackur talks in English…]

1:17-…

Narrator: …

[to be continued…]

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Filed under global issues, history, middle east, persian, philosophy and metaphysics, politics