Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/molecular biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater
Four Intractable Flaws in Vocal's Censorship Policies
They are subjective and thus impossible to enforce fairly and thus unjust Subjectivity if fine when judging a piece of writing on its artistic merits. Beyond spelling, grammar, and a few other basic components judging the quality of any given written work is always going to be a highly subjective process. After all, people have very different tastes in what they like to read and two people can have diametrically opposed ideas on what they believe qualifies as "good" or "bad" writing. We all have our own unique likes and dislikes and inherent biases. There is nothing wrong with this and it is in fact part of what makes each individual person unique. Subjectivity in judging quality is a fact of life and any publication which wants to exclude works it feels does not meet a certain quality standard (as determined subjectively by whomever it feels qualified to judge such a thing) is entirely free to do so. I might think this is stupid and I might rail against the unfairness of it, but in the end I must accept it, and in fact I would accept it, no matter how much I might grumble about the unfairness of it. When it comes to quality, fairness is in the eye of the beholder. However, if said publication seeks to exclude works not because of a quality standard but rather for reasons of objectionable content the situation changes considerably. Unlike quality, content is an objective standard, or at least it should be. It must be in fact for the content standard to be considered fair in any sense of the word. And, because it is an objective standard it must be fair or the publication implementing the standard is behaving in an unjust fashion. Consider Vocal's prohibition on the publishing of works containing "religious" or "graphic" content. What is religious content and what is graphic content? Who defines these terms? Who determines if any given content meets the definition? Vocal defines them and the moderators/reviewers determine this. However, it is simply not possible for any person or group of persons to define either of those terms in a way that will account for any possible situation. And no single or group of moderators will ever be able to agree in every case as to the correct application of their own "rules" with respect to writings that may or may not have such content. They will always in the end be judgement calls, human made judgement calls, and they will be disputed. They will be subjective, and thus they will be unfair, they will be unjust. This makes Vocal, as currently configured, an unjust organization and an unjust publication. Congratulations.
The Deceptiveness of Percent Effectiveness
If you asked most people if a given consumer product advertised as 99.9% effective at reducing microbial contamination (“kills 99.9% of germs” would be a more common wording) does a good job of killing “germs” they would almost certainly say yes. They might even think it does a fantastic job, after all 99.9% is a huge proportion of the germs that might be present. I don’t blame most people for thinking this, and it is true that 99.9% of something is a big chunk of that thing. However, in terms of antimicrobial effectiveness a 99.9% reduction may actually be translated as not effective at all or only barely effective. The same can be said of 99.99% and even 99.999% in some cases. How is this possible?
What About Consciousness?
Much greater minds than mine have spent entire careers, entire lives wrestling with the so called “hard” problem, and failing to make much progress. Perhaps it is the hardest problem of all. Because of that I spend little time commenting on or thinking about it directly. Mostly I attack the problem from angles, often using the lens of AI/machine learning to try and shed some light on the question, if not even beginning to approach an answer. Through examples like the mereological fallacy and the compulogical fallacy I have tried to point out the logical flaws inherent in the majority of current thinking about the brain, AI/machine learning, neural networks, etc. These days the consciousness camps are fractured into many, many tiny subgenres each with their own pet ideas. However, in general at one extreme you have the reductionists led by Patricia Churchland Smith who believe if we could learn everything about the brain (biochemistry, physics, etc.) we could recreate particular states of consciousness in a machine. Essentially that consciousness can be reduced to physico-chemico processes. As a scientist you might think I would find common cause with the reductionists but I do not for various reasons, but again mostly related to the logical fallacies I talk about so often. On the other end of the spectrum you have the various emergence theorists who think consciousness somehow emerges from some mysterious interaction of mind and body. I have little sympathy for their arguments as well and find them unpersuasive but for one aspect which I very much believe to be true and that is the importance of a body for consciousness. Specifically a body with external sensory organs capable of receiving sensory input from the external world. Additionally the body must be capable of kinesthesis, or the ability to physically and directly sense movement through the physical universe/world and through time as we do. In this my thinking was very much influenced by the obscure French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology is by and large a load of crap but MMP has some brilliant ideas that he couched in the philosophical tradition of phenomenology because that was the fashion of the time and place in which he lived.
Vocal I Tip My Hat to You Even as I Burn in Rage at You
I have to give credit where credit is due. After three of my first six submissions were rejected for content related reasons, two for "religious content" and one for "graphic material content" at least the crew at Vocal media have the stones to publish my reworked pieces in which I was more than a bit critical of these ridiculous, arbitrary, and totally not possible to enforce fairly policies. I guess these "rules" are supposed to be in place to prevent the publication of "controversial" content which might offend the fair and tender youth who frequent this very popular (lol!) new media website. They are well known to wither and faint at the very thought of a graphic description of oral sex or the dropping of a non redacted F-bomb. And heaven forbid (oops, religious content) any discussion of religion might be forced upon their agnostic and atheistic impressionable minds. What would their friends and family think if they knew their own pals and sons and daughters were accidentally exposing themselves to religious content. The horror! The fact that I, possibly one of the least religious people on the planet, had not one but two stories rejected for religious content, is irony of the highest order. So ironic in fact that the very definition of irony itself might have to be adjusted and expanded to account for it. Perhaps even a new word is in order. How about ultrirony (short for ultra-irony). I like it, I like it a lot. It certainly was an ultrirony in addition to being ultrididuclous, ulttridumb and ultratarded. I cannot believe that in this day an age a corporation with any sense, and any sort of competent legal team, would believe they could actually get away with something like this. We are talking about old school, old fashioned, classical censorship right out of George Orwell. If it wasn't so sinister I would laugh at how unbelievably insane it is. Crazy indeed. And don't even get me started on the 600+ word count minimum. What the frack is that all about? Gheesh. Right now I am really wishing Medium would not have suspended my account. For the second time. Buttfaces. lol!
Nothing Good Can Come From Fear (The Religious Content Free Edition!)
Author's note: It is kind of neat knowing that human moderators will be reading all this. I feel like I have a new family. Hello, moderators. My new Moderator family. Hope your moderating is going at least moderately well today. Guess I need to let you know that the first time I submitted this you rejected it for having "religious content" Sorry about that. Guess I should have read the rules when I plopped down my $99. No worries. Happy to oblige and have prepared this brand new, just as impactful and interesting, religious content free edition.
Suffering Is Not a Requirement of Morality (The Religious Content Free Edition!)
Note: Hello Vocal. Another reminder to my moderator friends that I goofed the first time I submitted this and included religious content. What a doofus right? Definitely should have read the rules before pulling out the old wallet and shelling out 99 smackaroons for a membership. Oh well, lesson learned. No worries though as I have removed any and all reference to any of that silly religion stuff and present to you now a fully religious content version free edition! Enjoy!
SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Researcher Beginning to Get Kind of Tired of Constantly Having to Save the World
Author's note: Dearest Moderators, I am writing this author's not to apologize for my previous submission of this story which came in at <600 words thus not meeting the requirements of at least 600 words for any story to be published in the pages of this long admired and well established icon of the new media business, Vocal.media. I should have read the rules of this legendary enterprise before shelling out the $99 required for a one year membership. Had I done so I would not have made the grave error of submitting a story that did not meet the word count minimum. In retrospect it was ridiculously stupid and short sighted of me to think that anything meaningful or interesting or humorous could be said in <600 words. I mean, what was I thinking? Particularly in this day and age people are known to have very long attention spans and they hate reading things which are short and to the point. They much prefer to slog through dense, long form, serious content that they can spend hours of their plentiful free time perusing at their leisure and reading over and over again. I am just about the dumbest person alive now aren't I? Duh? Oh well, I won't make that mistake again and am proud to present to you the new and improved 600 word + edition of my original humorous satirical article written in the classical fake news format pioneered by the truly legendary humor magazine, The Onion. Of course The Onion has nothing on Vocal.media when it comes to gravitas or reputation but they are still pretty OK, for a bunch of hacks. I am pretty sure the word count of this now exceeds 600 but I am too lazy to plop it into Microsoft Word to check so I will rely on you, the fine moderators at Vocal.media to do that tedious task for me. If only the website itself included a word count function or feature of some sort. I guess that is probably asking for too much for a $99/year subscription to this religious and graphic content free new media publication with stories all of at least 600 words. How's that for expanding upon my ideas and resubmitting? Pretty darn good I'd say.
Reflecting On My Failure
Author's note: This article was rejected in its first submission for "graphic content" This new and improved version is certified graphic content free and fully suitable for Vocal's audience of impressionable youths who would certainly have been horrified and offended at the original version. I have also cleaned up the language. Who needs all those nasty swear words anyway? Not me. No sir. Not me.