Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

April 9, 2021

How do stereotypes form and how you can avoid them?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

Stereotypes are basically over generalized beliefs about a particular group or class of people. By stereotyping we infer that a person belonging to a particular group has all the characteristics all members of that group are supposed to have. Evolutionally stereotypes help us respond to situations faster because we have encountered a similar situation before.

These stereotypes in turn lead to social categorization because we have a tendency to group things together. This creates the us-vs-them mentality and creates in-groups and out-groups which in turn lead to prejudice. Basically that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image and bond within the group because then the group members will be less likely to leave the group as they are prejudiced against the other groups. Prejudiced views can and do result in racism which in its extreme forms may result in genocide. This happened in Germany with the Jews and in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis. There are countless more such examples.

Stereotypes are created when we listen to the people around us. Our friends, relatives co-workers etc would talk about people in a certain way or we see movies, read stories that depict people in a particular way and slowly we internalize that outlook without realizing it. For example, Chinese and Indians are supposed to be really good at math and during my freshman year in college, my advisor put me in Honors math course on his own because as per him “You are Indian so you should be good at math.” Personally I really dislike math so I hated that course. This is a minor example, but there are extreme cases where these stereotypes cause real harm, for example the stereotypical African American is supposed to be lazy, rude and in a gang, so people from these communities don’t get the opportunities that other communities get because it is expected that a majority of the folks in that community would join a gang. Over time this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy as kids join gangs because they don’t have other options.

There are so many examples of stereo types and how they harm the communities that entire books have been written on the subject. All I want to say is that people should be judged on their own merits and not on how they look like.

The best way to reduce stereotypes is to expose folks to other cultures and people without diluting them. Travel is a great way of achieving this and I can personally vouch for it as I have met folks from across the world during my trips and nothing beats meeting someone from another part of the world and realizing that they are just like you and have similar wants and needs.

– Suramya

April 8, 2021

Moving a Windows install to another drive on the same computer shouldn’t be this hard

Filed under: Computer Software,Linux/Unix Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:27 PM

I recently bought a new SSD drive for my Laptop because even after upgrading everything else (except the CPU) the system was still slow and looking at the process use I could see that it was waiting for disk read/write for the most part and that was causing the slowness. Once I got the new drive, I had to move the existing OS installs from the old disk to the new one. I have three operating systems (OS) on the disk: Windows, Debian and Kali. I need the windows OS for my classes (my proctored exams have to be taken on a windows machine) and others are for my tinkering and general use computing. The disk layout on the old drive was as follows:

root@Wyrm:~# fdisk -l
Disk /dev/sda: 931.51 GiB, 1000204886016 bytes, 1953525168 sectors
Disk model: ST1000LM024 HN-M
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 4096 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 4096 bytes / 4096 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x0f04ad34

Device     Boot     Start       End   Sectors   Size Id Type
/dev/sda1  *         2048   1126399   1124352   549M  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sda2         1126400 102402047 101275648  48.3G  7 HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sda3       102402048 135956479  33554432    16G 82 Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/sda4       135956480 468862127 332905648 158.7G  5 Extended
/dev/sda5       135958528 175017985  39059458  18.6G 83 Linux
/dev/sda6       175022080 237936641  62914562    30G 83 Linux
/dev/sda7       237940736 468862127 230921392   675G 83 Linux

I partitioned the new disk as a copy of the old drive, except for the data partition which was smaller as the disk was smaller. I used dd to clone each partition on to the corresponding new partition using the following command: (where sdb was the new drive).

dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/sdb1 bs=2k

Once I copied the partitions over, all I had to do was refresh the GRUB boot loader config using the following command:

update-grub

After the config was updated, I was able to boot into Linux from both my Debian and Kali partitions on the new drive. However, that didn’t work for Windows. It gave be a screen-full of random characters like what you see when you try to open a binary file in a text editor and refused to boot. Thankfully I had not deleted the old windows partition so I was able to try a few more things, but *nothing* worked. Windows would just refuse to boot from the new drive. The only solution I found that could have potentially worked was a Paid software that supposedly allows you to clone your windows install on new disks/computers. Since I didn’t want to spend money on something I should have been able to do for free, I didn’t try it.

In the end after wasting a lot of time on this, I was tired of trying various things so just decided to reinstall windows on the new drive. It wasn’t a major loss because I didn’t have much data on Windows but I still dislike the fact that I had to do so just to put in a new drive. Imagine the hoops I would have had to jump if I wanted to move to a new computer. Actually I don’t have to imagine, I did jump thorough them when I moved my install from my old laptop to this one.

My linux install on the laptop is an exact clone of my desktop install. I used dd to create an image of my Linux install on the desktop and then wrote the image on the laptop. It worked perfectly fine at the first try. All I had to change was the hostname so that my DHCP server didn’t have a nervous breakdown but other than that everything worked without a single problem. Even the graphics drivers auto adjusted on the new machine. Imagine if we could do the same thing for a Windows install.

– Suramya

April 7, 2021

Creating movies using AI designed storylines with the best chance of box-office success

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:21 PM

There are times when I feel that the latest hits in movies or TV shows are just trying to recycle the same ‘formula’ for success. You take what worked before in another movie and try to do the same thing again, either in another setting or just a do another remake of a hit movie. However, till date at least there was some element of human ‘innovation’ involved. If it is up to the Researchers from the Spanish universities of Granada and Cádiz this will no longer be the case. They have created an AI which will use machine learning and AI to ‘assist film scriptwriters produce storylines with the best chance of box-office success‘.

Be prepared to get the 400th reimagining of a pirate story, or a space opera or love story because the AI will predict success and because it will use existing tropes to figure out what is successful there will be a lot fewer movies/shows that push the boundaries. So, movies like the Matrix, ‘Inception’, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or The Blair Witch Project etc will become more and more rare because the studios would be unwilling to risk putting in money into movies that are not a sure hit.

There are a lot of things that Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence can do, but artistry and innovation is not one of them.

The full Paper is available here: The Simpsons did it: Exploring the film trope space and its large scale structure

– Suramya

April 6, 2021

What are the Long-term effects on aggression of exposure to violence in media?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:55 AM

Violence in media is something that has become a cornerstone of the belief amongst some people as to how the society nowadays is more decadent and violent than what it was a few decades ago. One of the reasoning people give is that the amount of violence on TV and in media is increasing because people are getting desensitized to it and want more. Most of the research into this phenomenon agrees that there are both short-term and long term impacts of watching violence in Media. For example, we have a study that uni-vocally claims that there are significant short-term effects of violent media in adults and long-term effects in children after exposure to violent media. (Bushman & Huesmann, 2006)

Media violence scholars have identified several basic psychological processes involved. Short-term effects are those that occur immediately after exposure. The main ways that media violence exposure increases aggression in the short term are:

  • Direct imitation of the observed behavior
  • Observational learning of attitudes, beliefs and expected benefits of aggression
  • Increased excitation
  • Priming of aggression-related ways of thinking and feeling

Basically, the more normalized a particular behavior becomes the more people will think and act in that way. For example, in a lot on Indian movies there is a theme of the boy falling in love with a girl who does not love them back. The hero then proceeds to stalk, harass the girl who then falls in love with him and they live happily ever after. There have been a few instances where college kids tried the same approach in real life not realizing that this is not appropriate behavior. In essence, for at least a brief period after viewing or playing violent media, the exposed person thinks in more aggressive ways, feels more aggressive, perceives that others are hostile towards him or her and sees aggressive solutions as being more acceptable and beneficial.

The short-term effects typically dissipate quickly. However, with repeated exposure to violent media, these short-term lessons are learned in a more permanent way and the person comes to lean towards more aggressive solutions to conflict. There also is growing evidence that repeated exposure to blood, gore and other aspects of extremely violent media can lead to emotional desensitization to the pain and suffering of others. If a person is already mentally leaning towards violent behavior or socially maladjusted, they will get more influenced by the violent depictions on screen and be tempted to try it out in real life. However, in other people it has been found that watching violence on screen or in video games acts as a sort of pressure release and allows them to channel the anger and hurt in a way that does not harm actual people.

Habituation is a form of non-associative learning in which response to a stimulus decreases after repeated or prolonged presentations of that stimulus. Basically, it means that if someone is exposed to a stimulus (like violence in media) repeatedly there is a decrease in their response to the stimulus. For example, if a new sound like a loud is happening next to you it will draw your attention initially and be very distracting but if it keeps happening then a person becomes accustomed to the sound and pay less attention to the noise reducing their response to it. I have seen it happen with people living next to airports, over a period of time they do not even notice the sounds of the planes landing even though visitors to their house comment on it.

Cultivation theory on the other hand suggests that people who are exposed to media regularly over a prolonged period of time will start to perceive the world as presented in the media they consume. For example, if someone is constantly consuming far-right videos and talking points about how the immigrants in the US are the cause of most of the country’s problems and how they are violent and lazy they will start thinking this is real and behave accordingly in the real world as well. There have been documented cases of people attacking immigrants in the US because they believed that their way of life is under threat from them. The fact that this may or may not be true does not come into the picture as they are conditioned to believe in this ‘fact’.

Media has a tremendous power to change the public perception and that is why people are worried about the amount of violence being depected in it. Movies like the Joker and similar movies normalize the violent behavior and that is what scares most physiologists.

– Suramya

PS: This essay was originally written for my Social Psychology class. Hence the really more formal writing style.

April 5, 2021

What reason would anyone have to convince people that the earth is not flat?

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:34 PM

A few days ago a Flat Earther, or to be less polite: a stupid idiot was arrested for burning down 3 masonic lodges as he posted a note on Social media claiming to “I just cleaned 3 satanic club houses and nobody could do anything.”. This news made me think about the whole Flat Earth conspiracy again and actually find the whole flat earth conspiracy quite interesting since there is absolutely no proof that earth is flat but still people keep insisting that it is. When asked for proof we are pointed towards Youtube videos as if they are actual science research.

The most interesting thing about it for me is that people always claim that the establishment, or the government and the media or whatever are part of a giant conspiracy to fool people into thinking the earth is flat. But no one has given an explanation as to why they would do something like that. I mean what is the government achieving by making people think the earth is not flat. Everything needs a reason to exist and as far as I can tell there is no reason for the government to fool people into thinking the earth is a sphere. In the middle ages there was a movement that said that the earth was flat because the bible said so but now unless I am mistaken even the church agrees that this is not the case.

According to the conspiracy theorists people have been spending trillions of dollars to make people believe in something that is not true. However whenever we spend money (especially that amount of money) the goal is to achieve something or get something. I have so far been unable to figure out what that is. Looking that the flip side, most of these conspiracy theorists have a financial motive for pushing the theory. From selling merchandise to speaking gigs to book deals etc they have a lot of interest in pushing this theory to the unenlightened masses.

Personally I would rather believe the scientists, researchers, religious figures and scripture. In Hinduism for example, the Surya Siddhanta published from between 350 and 400 CE states that the earth is a sphere and calculates the earth’s diameter to be 8,000 miles (modern: 7,928 miles), the diameter of the moon as 2,400 miles (actual ~2,160) and the distance between the moon and the earth to be 258,000 miles (now known to vary: 221,500–252,700 miles (356,500–406,700 kilometres). I would rather believe these experts than the so called ‘experts’ on youtube who are only there to make money.


How the world looks according to a flat earther

– Suramya

April 3, 2021

Thoughts on the function of ethics in social psychological research

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:30 AM

In research, specifically psychological research there is no unambiguous, right or wrong answer. A study that could psychological or physical discomfort to participants might lead to discoveries that benefit the participants and increase the sum of human participants. Rosenthal and Rosnow (1984) talk about the potential costs of failing to carry out certain research. Historically, many experiments have been conducted with major violations of the ethical considerations. For example, in the famous obedience experiment by Milgram the subjects were convinced that they were delivering painful and possibly life-threatening electrical shocks to another person (Milgram, 1963). Another experiment where ethics were ignored is the Stanford Prison Experiment (Haney et al., 1972). These controversial psychology experiments played a major role in the development of the ethical guidelines and regulations that psychologists must abide by today. These codes are designed to protect the safety, privacy and interests of the participants as well as protecting the psychologists.

When conducting research, the overall benefit should be weighed against the cost of conducting the experiment. There is a lot of debate about the ethical guidelines that should be followed but most researchers and institutions agree that the following key components should be followed during the experiment.

Voluntary Participation

The researchers should ensure that none of the participants in the study/experiment are forced to participate and are willing participants. In the past we have seen prisoners and poor people used in experiments without getting proper approvals.

Informed Consent:

All participants should be told about the procedures and any potential risks of the study. According to the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code psychologists conducting research should inform the participants about:

  • The purpose of the research
  • Expected duration and procedures.
  • Potential Risks or adverse effects.
  • Participants’ rights to decline to participate and to withdraw from the research
  • Incentives (if any) for participation.

There is certain research where giving the participants details about the experiment can influence their responses and in these cases the use of deception is allowed. However, this is only in cases where it would be impossible to conduct the research without the deception. It is expected that the participants are debriefed about the purpose of the experiment after it is completed.

Participant Confidentiality

Confidentiality is an essential part of any ethical psychology research. None of the identifying information and individual responses should be shared with anyone outside the study.
The above listed guidelines give some generic standards for research but as each study has unique challenges most colleges and universities have an Institutional Review Board that oversees the research conducted by their faculty members and students. This ensures that the research being done is ethical and does not pose unnecessary risk to the participants.

– Suramya

PS: This was originally written as an essay for my Social Psychology class. Hence the really more formal writing style.

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