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Words from the WWW #2

In this here second post on IMAGINEER's Words from the WWW, I bring you an update on the Myanmar coup, as well as an essay on echo chambers, Japan's creation of a "Minister of Loneliness", and the first high-probability discovery of technologically-capable alien life.

PS: Click the header images to go through to the story source.


Escape the Echo Chamber

C Thi Nguyen wrote this particularly impressive essay for Aeon, discussing and differentiating two phenomenons: Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles.

An Epistemic Bubble is an informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission. Think about the people you follow on Instagram: it's likely there is a pattern there whereby you are not aware to the plights or way of thinking of a particular group of people, simply because they aren't a big part of the community you're in. Example: I've noticed the photographers I follow are 90% Western, and skewed toward male photographers. So my photographic eco chamber excludes the voices of all other photography practices. And if variety is the spice of life, as they say, that's not good.

An Echo Chamber is more pernicious, as it isn't created by simply ommiting the voices of those who have different worldviwes, techniques, etcetera. An Echo Chamber is a social structure from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited. The easiest parallel here is the way people interact with politics: they usually only read articles or newspapers associated with their political ideologies, only share posts that reafirm their worldviews, and everyone pounces on someone who enters the picture waving a different flag, easily discrediting their views as "radical leftist" or "fascist". Talk about being able to have a constructive conversation.


Japan Appoints Minister of Loneliness

On Insider, Katie Warren wrote a piece on Japan's newly-created ministry: The Ministry of Loneliness. The reasoning for the creation of this Ministry stands by the fact that suicide is a pervasive issue in Japan; so much so that October of 2020 saw more deaths from suicide across the country (2,153) than the total deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (1,765) from the first Japanese patient unti the end of that same month of October.

There are many social factors for Japan's suicide rates. Some of them relate to Japanese's issues with sexuality and intimacy (there's a business for girlfriend and boyfriend-like experiences that focus on physical and emotional proximity, and people who pay just to have another human actually listen to them). Other factors relate with the deeply rigid hierarchical nature of the japanese workplace and society in general, where there is barely any agency for the average employee; and other factors yet too complex to distill here.

That a Ministry of Loneliness was created is a strong response from the government regarding what can be considered a public health crisis - and suicides, if nothing else, are symptomatic of deeper social issues that also need to be addressed. Perhaps this is a first step towards it, but it does give hope regarding the importance given to mental health in Japan. If only that importance had come sooner.


Update on Myanmar's Military Coup: Protests Carry On

Protests are still ongoing, with Burmese rallying on the streets and claiming the liberation of their lawfully-elected president, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the country's prime-minister (I've written a piece specifically on Myanmar's coup). While violence hasn't been as pervasive as one would expect from a military coup, Burmese have organized powerful demonstrations of support for their democratically elected officials whilst repudiating the miltary's move to take power. At least two people have been killed by the military up to this point, and tensions seem to be escalating in the country.


Scientists Find First Sign that a Technologycally-capable Alien Civilization May Exist

No, this one isn't about a conspiracy theory that aliens do exist. The gist of this is that scientists have detected microwave emissions coming from Proxima Centauri, and that those microwave emissions have never been associated with natural occurences - they've only been recorded as a result of operational technology. So, scientists are now trying to figure out if there is actually a way for these microwaves to be generated by nature, or if they only manifest through artifical (man or alien-made) means.

Proxima Centauri is only four light-years away, and is thus one of the systems that has been most explored by science fiction and scientists as an eventual stepping stone for humanity's colonization of the stars. But if the signals coming from there are technological in origin, well - we might find that it's not a desolate place, but one teeming with intelligent life.

Jeez. I can't really put into words how exciting this is.


And that's all for this week. If you enjoyed any of the articles and want to comment on anything related to them, feel free. Have a great weekend!

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