The Adorable Robot That’s Helping Deaf Children Communicate

A new robot-avatar combo is helping deaf children learn to communicate during a crucial time in their development.
WIRED Videos

The Adorable Robot That’s Helping Deaf Children Communicate

A new robot-avatar combo is helping deaf children learn to communicate during a crucial time in their development.
WIRED Videos

The Shocking Way A Mother And Daughter Communicate

Beth, 22, claims she grew up in a “house of horrors” filled with unbelievable acts of abuse and neglect, allegedly at the hands of her mother, Cecilia, who denies the accusations. Watch the two women reunite for the first time in two years here. 

In the video above, after Dr. Phil brings the women together, he reads some of their accusatory, vicious texts. Can Beth and Cecilia stop the finger-pointing and start healing? 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Dr. Phil – The Huffington Post

Newsroom: Scientists Teach Father To Communicate Emotions Using Rudimentary Hand Gestures

A team of researchers successfully teach a father how to express his own emotions.

The Onion

Science Fails Again (to communicate) on Gender Issues

As a clarification, I have little interest in the politics of gender discrimination in the workplace. But the psychology of it fascinates me like few things have. 

I doubt I have seen worse arguments on both sides of an issue. Most people identify as either a man or a woman, so the “my team” problem overwhelms our rational capacity. No one, including me, can come anywhere near objectivity on this issue. So how do you make rational decisions on a topic in which no human has even the slightest potential to be rational?

I like the challenge. And few people would be reckless enough to go where I plan to go on this. 

Every time I see an article on the Internet about gender issues in the workplace, I see these two opposing comments:

1. There are many studies that show gender bias. For example, teachers give better grades on math tests to male students, but the difference vanishes when the tests have no name on them. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, has lots of references to similar study results, or so I hear. And Vivian Giang got some of you riled up with examples here

2. Another set of folks (all men) invariably point me to studies that suggest there is no pay difference between men and women once you adjust for experience and time on the job. And I hear there are studies saying there is no difference for younger women just entering the workplace.

How can both views be true?

So I declare a link war. 

I appoint myself the judge in this contest. Give me links to studies that support your point of view. I will assess those studies and pick a winner. Or I might declare that the studies are not clear when viewed in total. I will ask any interested parties (including Vivian Giang) to comment on the reliability and usefulness of the studies.

I have no idea how this will turn out. But I think you need to know my starting bias to assess my judging skills.

Keep in mind that the POINT of this is my ignorance. And my bias. I put it on full display for you because I think that is helpful on this issue. If you don’t know what others are thinking, you can not hope to communicate effectively. So as a public service, I present my biased, ignorant, male perspective. But I am open to revising my opinion based on data. Would you ask any more of me?

Here is my starting bias:

1. Gender discrimination in the workplace is a big problem, according to some types of studies and countless first-hand accounts. With so much smoke, I assume there is fire. 

2. The problem of gender discrimination is curiously invisible to men, and that includes me. All I see is a confused ball of incomplete thinking on all sides. But that tells us nothing about how big the problem is. Cognitive dissonance is a reasonable hypothesis for why lots of folks fail to see the obvious. I see no reason to exclude myself from the ranks of the deluded. 

3. My working hypothesis is that studies showing gender bias in controlled tests don’t translate into the workplace as pay differentials — at least in this country — because educated adults are on the alert for gender bias. So we use our reason to compensate for the bias, if for no other reason than to avoid lawsuits. Any time I am involved in hiring, the risk of unintentional bias is always top of mind. And since men have a biological impulse to be successful and powerful to attract quality mates, hiring the right employees (and avoiding lawsuits) is in our best interest. 

4. Some men are bullies and assholes. And most men are assholes at least some of the time. When men are bullies and assholes to each other, we interpret it as exactly that. But if I observe those same bullies and assholes mistreating a woman, I interpret it as sexism. I assume others see it the same way.

5. I have also blogged that I think women should have a few superior rights to men because they handle the vital function of reproduction. In general, society grants extra rights to folks who take on extra responsibility. That’s why cops can speed, soldiers can kill, and so on. One example of extra rights in this context is that I think only women should have a vote on abortion laws. 

Things get thornier when you are talking about a workplace with pregnant women, potentially pregnant women, and moms. Big companies can absorb some extra friction for the larger benefit of society, but small ones do not have that option. If you own a small business, you don’t want to have two of your three employees out on maternity leave at the same time, to pick a worst-case scenario. A rational small business owner will discriminate in that case and hope to get away with it. And a rational victim of discrimination in that case will sue. That part of the story seems clear to everyone. And I have not heard a proposed solution. But if a proposed solution provided superior rights for women without hurting small businesses, I can imagine that working for me.

6. The other day a good friend who works as a massage therapist was describing a time in her past she was a victim of gender discrimination. The story sounded convincing to me. Then I asked if she knew I would not have considered her as my massage therapist if she were a man. 

Cricket noises.

Personally, I have willfully discriminated by gender in my business dealings at least … oh, a hundred times. And every time it was in favor of women, simply because I prefer the energy. I spend way too much time with men because of shared interests. I need balance in my life, so I bend the rules to get it. I have never considered using a male real estate broker, for example. I get the same service from a woman and it is a great break from the dude-centric rest of my life.

My larger point today is that any discussion of gender in the workplace is like two blind people standing on an elephant and arguing whether the elephant is a sandwich or a bar of soap. Both are 100% wrong. That includes me. 

Evolution did not give us brains that can comprehend our reality. All we have is the type of brains that did not get our ancestors killed. So our brains create delusions of reality and we try to force reason onto them. That’s why men and women are looking at the same elephant but one sees a bar of soap and the other sees a sandwich. 

Is it possible to get to a clearer view of this topic? THAT is the interesting part to me. This is in the category of things that cannot be communicated, which is a big interest of mine.

Part of the problem is that anyone dumb enough to engage in this topic becomes a target for the angry villagers with pitchforks. The only reason I can be this reckless is that I already made all the money I will ever need and I feel as if getting some clarity on this topic would be a public good. And seriously, who else would even try to be objective on this topic in public? This is a suicide mission. 

And if you think any of this is good for traffic to my site, you would be wrong. There will be a two-day traffic bump followed by 5% of regular readers swearing off this site for good. That is the usual pattern for a hot topic here.

Ladies and gentlemen, please provide your links and your insights on gender bias and discrimination in the workplace. I will compile them in summary form and give my verdict. 

Long-winded comments will be ignored unless the first sentence or two are awesome.

Let’s do this.



In other news, a start-up called EnChroma figured out how to make glasses that correct color blindness. As a bonus, the glasses also make colors pop for everyone else too. Will spectacles start replacing contacts and laser eye surgery because the color you see with these glasses is so much better? Could happen.

And what about a finger-attached device for the blind that reads aloud what they point to on a page? This is a good year for people with vision problems. 

Scott Adams Blog

Skeptics Say Science Has No Obligation to Communicate Clearly

I was just alerted to an odd podcast called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe in which a panel of unpleasant people take things out of context and get angry about them. Apparently I was in their cross-hairs on Episode 502, about 16 minutes in. I can’t link to it directly but the main page is here.

Keep in mind that this is a panel of rational, science-loving skeptics. That’s what makes observing the irrationality extra fun. The psychology of it is fascinating. I’ll walk you through it.

[Updated 3/2/15 at end]

If you feel bored enough to listen to the podcast, you’ll first hear a bunch of angry skeptics AGREEING with what I wrote in this post while pretending they are DISAGREEING with it by adding an angry and dismissive tone to it. As a hobbyist hypnotist, I recognize that as a “tell” for cognitive dissonance that will likely worsen. 

And it does.

At one point in the podcast they start imagining that I wrote about a conspiracy theory in which science and the media intentionally mislead the public. (Remember, these are rational, scientific, skeptical people. And they were ready to believe I wrote of a grand conspiracy between science and the media to mislead the public for…fun? Money? The motive was left off the conspiracy theory.)

How do super-rational people turn into chimps in under a minute? The fields of hypnosis and psychology explain it. This is quite normal. You need the following set-up, which they had:

Bias: The Internet has a persistent rumor that I don’t believe in science because I don’t understand how it works. The rumor started the usual way, with some acts of outragism in which stuff I wrote was taken out of context so I could be held up as an example of a dumb Creationists and (ironically) crucified for the benefit of science. Since I haven’t believed in God since I was eleven, the claim that I am a creationist supporter feels odd to me. But hey, this is the Internet. 

Violation of the Bias: To generate cognitive dissonance you need a violation of bias. I provided that trigger when I wrote a critique of how science has communicated to the public, and how the media makes things worse. The skeptical panelists agreed with every point I made, and clearly said so.

Now the skeptics had a dilemma. How could their opinions be identical to the opinions of the guy who famously (they think) holds exactly the OPPOSITE opinion? Opposites can’t be the same.

So the brain punts. It cooks up a delusion to patch the break in mental cohesion. It makes the discomfort of misunderstanding go away. 

My rational readers will be quick to point out that I might be the one experiencing cognitive dissonance, and I accept that possibility. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it turned out to be the case. 

Shall we test it?

And by we I mean you. If I’m in the grips of my own delusions, new data probably won’t change things for me. But you are relatively uninterested in this situation so your biases are probably less hardened than mine. See what you think.

I offer this unscientific test of who is experiencing the bigger delusions — the angry skeptics or me. 

If you were one of the skeptics on the panel, please paraphrase in your own words (in the comments below) what you think I said that is different from what you believe. And I will confirm whether your summary of my words is accurate or not. To keep things simple, please put my alleged point of contention in one sentence, as in:

“You said the moon is made of cheese!”

I predict there will be zero points of disagreement, at least about science. And I hope you find it interesting that an entire panel of skeptics thought I said a number of disagreeable things.

Also, please let me know if my title to this post seems fair based on the podcast. It sounded to me as if they are saying science doesn’t have an obligation to communicate to the public. I agree with that, as there is technically no legal or professional obligation to do so. But if letting the media do the talking for science is leading to the end of the civilization (climate change, the Singularity, etc.) I think I would try to step up my game in communicating. But that’s just me.

I wonder if they realize I’m trying to help.

An interesting update:

Here’s an example of how science’s lack of credibility with the general public has a big impact on the issue of gender discrimination in the workplace. 

Business Insider has two different articles here and here that reference various studies showing substantial gender bias. The writers do a good job of clearly explaining the studies and their implications. But does the public believe the studies? Should they?

Can it be said with any sort of statistical comfort that studies “like this” generally get confirmed over time by more studies? Or will we be laughing at these studies a generation from now? Personally, I put the odds between 10-90%. In other words, I have no idea. And I don’t think it is because I didn’t pay attention in science class. When did my science teacher tell me that initial study results in physics or medicine have X chance of confirmation over time whereas social science studies are Y?

If I were a woman, and I experienced gender bias first-hand, the studies would be a confirmation of my experience. A two-point confirmation passes most people’s B.S. filter. It certainly would for me.

But men often don’t recognize gender bias even while committing it. As the Business Insider article suggests, much of the bias is subconscious. So it is no surprise that men probably dismiss the studies on gender bias as not matching their experience.

Consider the study in which a man or woman’s first name determined how the applicant was treated. Does that study result translate into the real world as the reporting implies? If I work in HR for a Fortune 500 company, I am probably actively looking for more diversity, because my pay depends on it. So the laws and practices already in place give applicants with sub-optimal first names a winning strategy if they pick their targets. And the targets are easy to identify.

Omitting that strategy from stories about bias seems like a political statement and not news. So the communication method in this case worked against credibility. A basic strategy for credibility is that you acknowledge the weakness in your own point.

So how do you convince men that gender bias is an important issue worthy of their time when they can not see it with their own eyes (usually) and science has a credibility problem? Here’s an idea:

Try this thought experiment

If you are a man, imagine yourself at a business meeting with about eight women at the table and no other males. Can you imagine your opinions being fully valued? It is actually hard to imagine, in the literal sense. Now replace the women with Elbonians or anyone else. Same problem. Common sense and experience says the like-minded majority will usually dominate any group dynamics. And they won’t necessarily know they are steamrolling anyone. 

Gender bias in the workplace looks like a big problem to me. There is way too much smoke for there to be no fires. But I don’t think we have a clue how to properly measure it. And without proper measurement it is far harder to know the best solutions. You would approach the first-name bias problem differently than you would approach a solution to other bias problems. So measuring matters.

The credibility of science is critically important to gender bias issues. But as many skeptics and scientists have told me in the past few days, science has no obligation to do a good job informing the general public. And evidently the media is incapable.


[Update: So far, as predicted, nothing but cricket noises from my challenge to present even one sentence, in your own words, that is something I said that is disagreeable to science. And yes, I do have the skeptics’ attention.]


Check out the latest news on holograms and teleportation on Paul Worthington’s Top Tech Blog.

See Tamra Teig’s Berkeley Start-up Review blog for the most interesting start-ups coming out of the Berkeley start-up ecosystem (second only to Stanford in number.)

And don’t miss Vivian Giang’s post on the dangers of smiling 🙂


My book on success: “…the best business book I have read in the last decade.” (Amazon 5-star review Feb 26, 2015)

Scott Adams Blog