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Friday, May 18, 2007Pleasure And Pain Of Being loner
Miina Matsuoka lives by herself in New York City. She owns two cats and routinely screens her calls. But before you jump to conclusions, note that she is comfortable hobnobbing in any of five languages for her job as business manager at an international lighting-design firm. She just strongly prefers not to socialize, opting instead for long baths, DVDs, and immersion in her art projects. She does have good, close friends, and goes dancing about once a month, but afterward feels a strong need to "hide and recoup." In our society, where extroverts make up three-quarters of the population, loners (except Henry David Thoreau) are pegged as creepy or pathetic. But soloists like Matsuoka can function just fine in the world—they simply prefer traveling through their own interior universe.
Loners often hear from well-meaning peers that they need to be more social, but the implication that they're merely black-and-white opposites of their bubbly peers misses the point. Introverts aren't just less sociable than extroverts; they also engage with the world in fundamentally different ways. While outgoing people savor the nuances of social interaction, loners tend to focus more on their own ideas—and on stimuli that don't register in the minds of others. Social engagement drains them, while quiet time gives them an energy boost.
Contrary to popular belief, not all loners have a pathological fear of social contact. "Some people simply have a low need for affiliation," says Jonathan Cheek, a psychologist at Wellesley College. "There's a big subdivision between the loner-by-preference and the enforced loner." Those who choose the living room over the ballroom may have inherited their temperament, Cheek says. Or a penchant for solitude could reflect a mix of innate tendencies and experiences such as not having many friends as a child or growing up in a family that values privacy.
James McGinty, for one, is a caseworker in Cleveland who opted out of a career as a lawyer because he didn't feel socially on-the-ball enough for the job's daily demands. He has a small circle of friends, but prefers to dine solo. "I had a bad cold over the Thanksgiving holiday, but that spared me from having to go to my brother-in-law's," he says. "I'm not a scrooge; it's the gatherings I dread." Matsuoka feels his pain: "I can't do large crowds with a lot of noise," she says. "It's stressful to maintain positive interactions and introduce yourself 20 times. I really have to turn on my motor to do that."
Matsuoka, who is divorced, is open to romantic relationships, but "whomever I'm with must know that at least one day a week I need to lock myself in my room and stick feathers on a sculpture," she warns. Artwork is a form of meditation for her. "I get completely sucked in. It clears my mind until nothing disturbs me." While a few studies have shown a correlation between creativity, originality, and introversion, perhaps more striking is the greater enjoyment introverts seem to reap from creative endeavors.
Can machines think?” In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing pondered this question and invented an elegant game to answer it: Let a human chat via Teletype with a computer and another human; if the person can’t determine which is the computer, then it meets Turing’s standards for “thinking.” In recent years Turing’s game has taken on a life of its own in cyberspace, thanks to artificial intelligence inventors worldwide who have produced dozens of “chatbots” that anyone can talk to.
Most chatbots rely on fairly simple tricks to appear lifelike. Richard Wallace, creator of the top-ranked chatbot ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity), has handwritten a database of thousands of possible conversational gambits. Type a comment to ALICE, and it checks the phrase and its key words for a response coded to those words. In contrast, Jabberwacky, another top-rated Internet bot produced by Rollo Carpenter, keeps track of everything people have said to it, and tries to reuse those statements by matching them to the writer’s input. Neither chatbot has long-term memory, so they respond only to the last sentence written.
Nonetheless, these simple gambits can produce surprisingly intelligent-seeming conversations. That’s because they rely on a trick of human psychology: We humans tend to attribute much more intelligence to the systems than is actually there. If it seems partly aware, we assume it must be fully so. Some users have chatted with ALICE and Jabberwacky online for hours, apparently not knowing—or perhaps not caring—that they’re fake.
But could one chatbot fool another chatbot? What would one say to another in private? To find out, we arranged a conversation between these two chatbots. To get each snippet of chat rolling, we seeded it by posing a question from one bot to the other. After that, they were on their own. What follows is the unaltered text of what each said—the sound of two machines talking.
A) Once a week
B) Twice a week
C) 10 times a month
D) 200 times a year or more
The correct answer is D.
"If you have more than 200 orgasms a year, you can reduce your physiologic age by six years," Dr. Oz says. He bases the number on a study done at Duke University that surveyed people on the amount and quality of sex they had. "They looked at what happened to folks that are having a lot of intercourse over time, and the fact is, it correlated."
Among the benefits of having sex often, Dr. Oz says, is that it can prove that your body is functioning as it is supposed to. "But in addition, having sex with someone that you care for deeply is one of the ways we achieve that Zen experience that we all crave as human beings," he says. "It's really a spiritual event for folks when they're with someone they love and they can consummate it with sexual activity … seems to offer some survival benefit."
Brilliant historian and essayist Chalmers Johnson argues that unless we face up to the tremendous strain our empire is having on America, we will lose our democracy, and then it will not matter much what else we lose. Tools
In politics, as in medicine, a cure based on a false diagnosis is almost always worthless, often worsening the condition that is supposed to be healed. The United States, today, suffers from a plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of our Constitutional system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, none of the remedies proposed so far by American politicians or analysts addresses the root causes of the problem.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released on April 26, 2007, some 78% of Americans believe their country to be headed in the wrong direction. Only 22% think the Bush administration's policies make sense, the lowest number on this question since October 1992, when George H. W. Bush was running for a second term -- and lost. What people don't agree on are the reasons for their doubts and, above all, what the remedy -- or remedies -- ought to be.
The range of opinions on this is immense. Even though large numbers of voters vaguely suspect that the failings of the political system itself led the country into its current crisis, most evidently expect the system to perform a course correction more or less automatically. As Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reported, by the end of March 2007, at least 280,000 American citizens had already contributed some $113.6 million to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani, or John McCain.
If these people actually believe a presidential election a year-and-a-half from now will significantly alter how the country is run, they have almost surely wasted their money. As Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism, puts it: "None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of check and balances.... The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them."
George W. Bush has, of course, flagrantly violated his oath of office, which requires him "to protect and defend the constitution," and the opposition party has been remarkably reluctant to hold him to account. Among the "high crimes and misdemeanors" that, under other political circumstances, would surely constitute the Constitutional grounds for impeachment are these: the President and his top officials pressured the Central Intelligence Agency to put together a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's nuclear weapons that both the administration and the Agency knew to be patently dishonest. They then used this false NIE to justify an American war of aggression. After launching an invasion of Iraq, the administration unilaterally reinterpreted international and domestic law to permit the torture of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, at Guant·namo Bay, Cuba, and at other secret locations around the world.
A teenage girl lies dead on the ground in a pool of her own blood.
Her once groomed hair is cast across her face like a rag doll's, her skirt pulled up to complete her humiliation.
In another image, she is seen lying on her side, her face battered and bloodied, barely recognisable.
The concrete block used to smash in her face lies next to her.
Du'a Khalil Aswad was beaten, kicked and stoned for 30 minutes at the hands of a lynch mob before one of her attackers launched a carefully aimed fatal blow.
The murder was carried out in public, watched by hundreds of men cheering and yelling. Du'a's crime? To fall in love with a Sunni boy. Her family practised the Yezidi religion.
The Sunnis and Yezidis hate each other. When Du'a ran away with her Sunni boyfriend, a sentence of death was passed on her.
This act of medieval savagery took place last month in a town in northern Iraq, in the fledgling 'democracy' created by Bush and Blair when they invaded the country in 2003 and 'freed' its people.