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robertogreco : aggression   9

HEWN, No. 250
"I wrote a book review this week of Brian Dear’s The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold History of of PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture. My review’s a rumination on how powerful the mythologizing is around tech, around a certain version of the history of technology – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” as I’ve called this elsewhere – so much so that we can hardly imagine that there are other stories to tell, other technologies to build, other practices to adopt, other ways of being, and so on.

I was working on the book review when I heard the news Tuesday evening that the great author Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away, I immediately thought of her essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” – her thoughts on storytelling about spears and storytelling about bags and what we might glean from a culture (and a genre) that praises the former and denigrates the latter.
If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. “Technology,” or “modern science” (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the “hard” sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time’s-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.


The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.

(Something like this, I wonder: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.)

Elsewhere in the history of the future of technology: “Sorry, Alexa Is Not a Feminist,” says Ian Bogost. “The People Who Would Survive Nuclear War” by Alexis Madrigal.

There are many reasons to adore Ursula K. Le Guin. And there are many pieces of her writing, of course, one could point to and insist “you must read this. You must.” For me, the attraction was her grounding in cultural anthropology – I met Le Guin at a California Folklore Society almost 20 years ago when I was a graduate student in Folklore Studies – alongside her willingness to challenge the racism and imperialism and expropriation that the field engendered. It was her fierce criticism of capitalism and her commitment to freedom. I’m willing to fight anyone who tries to insist that Sometimes a Great Notion is the great novel of the Pacific Northwest. Really, you should pick almost any Le Guin novel in its stead – Always Coming Home, perhaps. Or The Word for the World is Forest. She was the most important anarchist of our era, I posted on Facebook when I shared the NYT obituary. It was a jab at another Oregon writer who I bet thinks that’s him. But like Kesey, his notion is all wrong.

Fewer Heroes. Better stories about people. Better worlds for people.

Yours in struggle,
~Audrey"
audreywatters  ursulaleguin  2018  anarchism  sciencefiction  scifi  technology  edtech  progress  storytelling  care  community  caring  folklore  anarchy  computing  siliconvalley  war  aggression  humanism  briandear  myth  heroes  science  modernscience  hardsciences  economics  growth  fiction  tragedy  apocalypse  holocaust  future  conquest  domination  weapons  destruction  disruption 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Kolakowski on conservatism
"A Conservative Believes:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.

A Liberal Believes:

1. That the ancient idea that the purpose of the State is security still remains valid. It remains valid even if the notion of "security" is expanded to include not only the protection of persons and property by means of the law, but also various provisions of insurance: that people should not starve if they are jobless; that the poor should not be condemned to die through lack of medical help; that children should have free access to education--all these are also part of security. Yet security should never be confused with liberty. The State does not guarantee freedom by action and by regulating various areas of life, but by doing nothing. In fact security can be expanded only at the expense of liberty. In any event, to make people happy is not the function of the State.

2. That human communities are threatened not only by stagnation but also by degradation when they are so organized that there is no longer room for individual initiative and inventiveness. The collective suicide of mankind is conceivable, but a permanent human ant-heap is not, for the simple reason that we are not ants.

3. That it is highly improbable that a society in which all forms of competitiveness have been done away with would continue to have the necessary stimuli for creativity and progress. More equaliity is not an end in itself, but only a means. In other words, there is no point to the struggle for more equality if it results only in the leveling down off those who are better off, and not in the raising up of the underprivileged. Perfect equality is a self-defeating ideal.

A Socialist Believes:

1. That societies in which the pursuit of profit is the sole regulator of the productive system are threatened with as grievous--perhaps more grievous--catastrophes as are societies in which the profit motive has been entirely eliminated from the production-regulating forces. There are good reasons why freedom of economic activity should be limited for the sake of security, and why money should not automatically produce more money. But the limitation of freedom should be called precisely that, and should not be called a higher form of freedom.

2. That it is absurd and hypocritical to conclude that, simply because a perfect, conflictless society is impossible, every existing form of inequality is inevitable and all ways of profit-making justified. The kind of conservative anthropological pessimism which led to the astonishing belief that a progressive income tax was an inhuman abomination is just as suspect as the kind of historical optimism on which the Gulag Archipelago was based.

3. That the tendency to subject the economy to important social controls should be encouraged, even though the price to be paid is an increase in bureaucracy. Such controls, however, must be exercised within representative democracy. Thus it is essential to plan institutions that counteract the menace to freedom which is produced by the growth of these very controls.

So far as I can see, this set of regulative ideas is not self-contradictory. And therefore it is possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist. This is equivalent to saying that those three particular designations are no longer mutually exclusive options."

[via: http://blog.ayjay.org/against-consequentialism/ ]
politics  via:ayjay  conservatism  liberalism  security  socialism  society  philosophy  enlightenment  envy  vanity  greed  aggression  brotherhood  love  altruism  despotism  happiness  peace  freedom  humans  economics  bureaucracy  democracy  pessimism  conflict  leszekkolakowski 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Physiognomy’s New Clothes – Blaise Aguera y Arcas – Medium
"In 1844, a laborer from a small town in southern Italy was put on trial for stealing “five ricottas, a hard cheese, two loaves of bread […] and two kid goats”. The laborer, Giuseppe Villella, was reportedly convicted of being a brigante (bandit), at a time when brigandage — banditry and state insurrection — was seen as endemic. Villella died in prison in Pavia, northern Italy, in 1864.

Villella’s death led to the birth of modern criminology. Nearby lived a scientist and surgeon named Cesare Lombroso, who believed that brigantes were a primitive type of people, prone to crime. Examining Villella’s remains, Lombroso found “evidence” confirming his belief: a depression on the occiput of the skull reminiscent of the skulls of “savages and apes”.

Using precise measurements, Lombroso recorded further physical traits he found indicative of derangement, including an “asymmetric face”. Criminals, Lombroso wrote, were “born criminals”. He held that criminality is inherited, and carries with it inherited physical characteristics that can be measured with instruments like calipers and craniographs [1]. This belief conveniently justified his a priori assumption that southern Italians were racially inferior to northern Italians.

The practice of using people’s outer appearance to infer inner character is called physiognomy. While today it is understood to be pseudoscience, the folk belief that there are inferior “types” of people, identifiable by their facial features and body measurements, has at various times been codified into country-wide law, providing a basis to acquire land, block immigration, justify slavery, and permit genocide. When put into practice, the pseudoscience of physiognomy becomes the pseudoscience of scientific racism.

Rapid developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled scientific racism to enter a new era, in which machine-learned models embed biases present in the human behavior used for model development. Whether intentional or not, this “laundering” of human prejudice through computer algorithms can make those biases appear to be justified objectively.

A recent case in point is Xiaolin Wu and Xi Zhang’s paper, “Automated Inference on Criminality Using Face Images”, submitted to arXiv (a popular online repository for physics and machine learning researchers) in November 2016. Wu and Zhang’s claim is that machine learning techniques can predict the likelihood that a person is a convicted criminal with nearly 90% accuracy using nothing but a driver’s license-style face photo. Although the paper was not peer-reviewed, its provocative findings generated a range of press coverage. [2]
Many of us in the research community found Wu and Zhang’s analysis deeply problematic, both ethically and scientifically. In one sense, it’s nothing new. However, the use of modern machine learning (which is both powerful and, to many, mysterious) can lend these old claims new credibility.

In an era of pervasive cameras and big data, machine-learned physiognomy can also be applied at unprecedented scale. Given society’s increasing reliance on machine learning for the automation of routine cognitive tasks, it is urgent that developers, critics, and users of artificial intelligence understand both the limits of the technology and the history of physiognomy, a set of practices and beliefs now being dressed in modern clothes. Hence, we are writing both in depth and for a wide audience: not only for researchers, engineers, journalists, and policymakers, but for anyone concerned about making sure AI technologies are a force for good.

We will begin by reviewing how the underlying machine learning technology works, then turn to a discussion of how machine learning can perpetuate human biases."



"Research shows that the photographer’s preconceptions and the context in which the photo is taken are as important as the faces themselves; different images of the same person can lead to widely different impressions. It is relatively easy to find a pair of images of two individuals matched with respect to age, race, and gender, such that one of them looks more trustworthy or more attractive, while in a different pair of images of the same people the other looks more trustworthy or more attractive."



"On a scientific level, machine learning can give us an unprecedented window into nature and human behavior, allowing us to introspect and systematically analyze patterns that used to be in the domain of intuition or folk wisdom. Seen through this lens, Wu and Zhang’s result is consistent with and extends a body of research that reveals some uncomfortable truths about how we tend to judge people.

On a practical level, machine learning technologies will increasingly become a part of all of our lives, and like many powerful tools they can and often will be used for good — including to make judgments based on data faster and fairer.

Machine learning can also be misused, often unintentionally. Such misuse tends to arise from an overly narrow focus on the technical problem, hence:

• Lack of insight into sources of bias in the training data;
• Lack of a careful review of existing research in the area, especially outside the field of machine learning;
• Not considering the various causal relationships that can produce a measured correlation;
• Not thinking through how the machine learning system might actually be used, and what societal effects that might have in practice.

Wu and Zhang’s paper illustrates all of the above traps. This is especially unfortunate given that the correlation they measure — assuming that it remains significant under more rigorous treatment — may actually be an important addition to the already significant body of research revealing pervasive bias in criminal judgment. Deep learning based on superficial features is decidedly not a tool that should be deployed to “accelerate” criminal justice; attempts to do so, like Faception’s, will instead perpetuate injustice."
blaiseaguerayarcas  physiognomy  2017  facerecognition  ai  artificialintelligence  machinelearning  racism  bias  xiaolinwu  xi  zhang  race  profiling  racialprofiling  giuseppevillella  cesarelombroso  pseudoscience  photography  chrononet  deeplearning  alexkrizhevsky  ilyasutskever  geoffreyhinton  gillevi  talhassner  alexnet  mugshots  objectivity  giambattistadellaporta  francisgalton  samuelnorton  josiahnott  georgegiddon  charlesdarwin  johnhoward  thomasclarkson  williamshakespeare  iscnewton  ernsthaeckel  scientificracism  jamesweidmann  faception  criminality  lawenforcement  faces  doothelange  mikeburton  trust  trustworthiness  stephenjaygould  philippafawcett  roberthughes  testosterone  gender  criminalclass  aggression  risk  riskassessment  judgement  brianholtz  shermanalexie  feedbackloops  identity  disability  ableism  disabilities 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Leopold Kohr - Breakdown of Nations
"As the physicists of our time have tried to elaborate an integrated single theory, capable of explaining not only some but all phenomena of the physical universe, so I have tried on a different plane to develop a single theory through which not only some but all phenomena of the social universe can be reduced to a common denominator. The result is a new and unified political philosophy centering on the theory of size. It suggests that there seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness...

There seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Oversimplified as this may seem, we shall find the idea more easily acceptable if we consider that bigness, or oversize, is really much more than just a social problem. It appears to be the one and only problem permeating all creation. Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.  And if the body of a people becomes diseased with the fever of aggression, brutality, collectivism, or massive idiocy, it is not because it has fallen victim to bad leadership or mental derangement. It is because human beings, so charming as individuals or in small aggregations have been welded onto overconcentrated social units. That is when they begin to slide into uncontrollable catastrophe. For social problems, to paraphrase the population doctrine of Thomas Malthus, have the unfortunate tendency to grow at a geometric ratio with the growth of the organism of which they are part, while the ability of man to cope with them, if it can be extended at all, grows only at an arithmetic ratio. Which means that, if a society grows beyond its optimum size, its problems must eventually outrun the growth of those human faculties which are necessary for dealing with them.

Hence it is always bigness, and only bigness, which is the problem of existence. The problem is not to grow but to stop growing; the answer: not union but division. 

"A small-state world would not only solve the problems of social brutality and war; it would solve the problems of oppression and tyranny. It would solve all problems arising from power.""
small  smallness  growth  bigness  leopoldkohr  division  union  breakdonofnations  thomsmalthus  society  leadership  power  aggression  brutality  collectivism  humanism  humanity  economics  bioregionalism 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Winning makes people more aggressive toward the defeated -- ScienceDaily
"In this world, there are winners and losers -- and, for your own safety, it is best to fear the winners. A new study found that winners -- those who outperformed others on a competitive task -- acted more aggressively against the people they beat than the losers did against the victors.

"It seems that people have a tendency to stomp down on those they have defeated, to really rub it in," said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

"Losers, on the other hand, don't really act any more aggressively than normal against those who defeated them."

Bushman said this is the first study to examine whether winners or losers were more likely to act aggressively.

There were reasons to believe either side could have been more in a fighting mood, Bushman said. Losers might be the bigger aggressors, because they would be angry against those who prevented them from feeling competent. However, other research suggests that people are more aggressive when they feel powerful, as they may when they win a competition.

These results, though, suggest "losers are the ones who get the brunt of the aggression," he said.

Bushman conducted the study with three French scholars: Dominique Muller and Emmanuelle Ceaux of Pierre Mendès-France University in Grenoble and Baptise Subra of University Paris Descartes. Their results appear online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and will appear in a future print edition.

They conducted three related studies.

The first study involved 103 American college students who were told they would be paired with a partner who they would be competing against on two tasks. (In actuality, there was no partner).

In the first task, participants were shown patterns of simple shapes on a computer screen for just a fraction of a second (70 milliseconds) and they had to decide whether a dollar sign was present or absent.

After 80 trials, all students were told their scores. Half of them were told they did better than their supposed partner, and half were told they did worse. In other words, half were winners and half were losers.

The second task was a competitive reaction time task which is used to measure aggression. Participants were told that they and their partner (supposedly the same person they competed against in the first task) would have to press a button as fast as possible on each of the 25 trials and that whoever was slower would receive a blast of noise through headphones.

The winner of the task would decide how loud the blast would be and how long it would last.

Results showed that participants who won in the first competition blasted their partners longer and louder than did those who lost the competition.

"People were more aggressive when they were better off than when they were worse off than others," Bushman said.

One possible limitation of this study, Bushman said, was that participants might have thought that someone who was good at the first task would also be good at the second task. If that was true, the losers in the first task may have been afraid to act aggressively because they were afraid their partner would again win a lot of trials and punish them with loud blasts.

So in a second study, conducted with 34 French college students, the researchers repeated the same experiment, except that the researchers told participants that the two tasks tested different capacities, and that those who did well on the first task do not necessarily perform well on the second.

The results were the same as those in the first experiment, providing further evidence that winners are more aggressive than losers, Bushman said.

Another question, though, is whether winners really were more aggressive against losers, or whether losers were actually just less aggressive than normal against winners.

A third study, involving 72 French college students, answered that question by adding a control group to the study. As in the previous experiments, one group was told their partner did better than they did on the first competitive task, and one group was told their partner did worse. However, there was also a third group that told there was a computer error during the first task and they couldn't tell who was the winner.

This study also used a different measure of aggression. In an earlier part of the study, the participants filled out a "Food Preference Form" which was shared with their supposed partner, reportedly as part of a study on how people form impressions of others.

Participants were then told they were randomly assigned to drink a sweet beverage and their partner was assigned to drink a tomato juice beverage. Participants were told they could add Tabasco sauce and salt to their partner's beverage -- which they knew their partner strongly disliked from the food preference form.

Results showed that participants who were winners in the first task added more Tabasco sauce and salt to their partner's drink than losers did.

In addition, the losers acted about as aggressively as did those in the control group, who didn't know if they were winners or losers. That suggests winners do indeed act particularly aggressively, while losers aren't particularly nonaggressive.

Bushman said the fact that the findings were repeated in three different studies, in two different countries, suggest that there really is something about winning that makes people more aggressive.

"Losers need to watch out," he said.

The next step, he said, is to find out if winners act more aggressively toward everyone, or just toward people they defeat. That's the subject of an upcoming study."
competition  psychology  aggression  2016  winning 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Social Animal | The Evergreen State College
""Because we as human beings spend a good deal of our time interacting with other people--being influenced by them, influencing them, being delighted, amused, saddened, and angered by them--it is natural that we develop hypotheses about social behavior. In that sense, we are all amateur social psychologists." —Eliot Aronson, The Social Animal , 2012

In this full-time program, we will explore the fundamentals of social psychology, the field that bridges psychology and sociology, to examine how people think, feel, and behave because of the real (or imagined) presence of social others. This program starts with the premise that human beings are inherently social beings informed, influenced, and constituted by the social world. Using this perspective as a launching off point, we will investigate everyday life--from the mundane to the extraordinary--as it is lived and experienced by individuals involved in an intricate web of social relationships. This social psychological view of the self explores the ways that individuals are enmeshed and embodied within the social context both in the moment and the long-term, ever constructing who we are, how we present ourselves to the world, and how we are perceived by others.

Through lecture, workshop, twice-weekly seminar, film, reading, writing and research assignments, we will cover most of the fundamental topics within the field including: conformity, emotions and sentiments, persuasion and propaganda, obedience to authority, social cognition, attitudes, aggression, attraction, and desire. We will also learn about and practice social psychological research methods. A final project will be to conduct primary and secondary research on a social psychological phenomenon of students’ own interest, and to use one’s findings to create a segment for a podcast in a style similar to NPR’s “This American Life.""
evergreenstatecollege  coursedescriptions  programdescriptions  2014  psychology  sociology  eliotaronson  lauracitrin  behavior  socialbehavior  humans  presentationofself  conformity  emotions  persuasion  propaganda  obedience  authority  socialcognition  attitudes  aggression  desire  atraction  socialpsychology  thesocialanimal 
september 2014 by robertogreco
BBC News - How much science is there in new Planet of the Apes film?
"So what did this top primatologist think of the new instalment in the Planet of the Apes franchise?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which goes on release in the US on Friday, is a bold sequel to the 2011 re-boot. That movie - Rise of the Planet of the Apes - saw a group of genetically modified primates revolt against their human masters.

The new film continues the story of that rebellion's instigator, an intelligent chimpanzee by the name of Caesar, but picks up his story after a manmade virus has devastated the human population. Amid the rubble of our civilisation, the apes are pitted against surviving pockets of Homo sapiens in a battle for mastery of the planet.

Prof de Waal calls the storyline "impressive", adding: "I'm not usually into action films like this one, but this held my attention.

"The apes are very humanised: They walk on two legs, they talk - somewhat - they shed tears. In real life, apes do a lot of crying and screaming, but they don't produce tears like we do."

However, other aspects of ape behaviour in the film, he says, are true to life.

"We know chimpanzees are aggressive and territorial - they wage war. The use of tools and weapons is also a possibility," he explains.

To quote a colleague in his field, he said: "If you gave guns to chimps, they would use them."

The primatologist says the reconciliation following a fight between Caesar and Koba - a bonobo character in the film - rang true in terms of ape interactions. He says he also recognised real-life behaviour in a scene where the apes are seen bowing before their appointed leader.

In real groups, Prof de Waal says, "when an alpha male makes an appearance, the other apes grovel and make themselves appear small".



"If the studio were to make another instalment, Prof de Waal says he would advise the filmmakers to include more female and juvenile ape characters, to give a sense of real group dynamics among the animals. In the wild, gorilla and orang males rarely co-operate, as they do in the film, though this is more likely for chimps.

But he praises the film's "astonishing" visual effects, which leads us on to an issue that exercises the professor - the welfare of primates in entertainment.

Prof de Waal strongly opposes the use of real primate actors in advertising, film and television, and comments that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' realistic depictions of apes using computer technology alone proves that the industry has no need for the genuine article.

"I hope the practice disappears completely," he tells me.

"The first Planet of the Apes movie raised some philosophical issues: What are the ethics of keeping humans in a cage? Which is a reversal of the issue we are faced with now: What are the ethics of keeping an ape in a cage?"

So if apes really did usurp humans as the dominant group on the planet, what does de Waal think it would be like with chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangs at the top of the pecking order?

"Hmmm," he replies, pausing for a moment. "I'm not an optimist in that regard. The male chimpanzee is very aggressive. I'm not sure they would be angels of peace, as Caesar is in this movie.

"The bonobo would be a more peaceful character - they do not wage war on other groups as chimpanzees do. These groups have even been shown to mingle in the wild on occasion."

"It would be more like Woodstock - and a completely different movie.""
apes  chimpanzees  primates  planetoftheapes  paulrincon  via:alexismadrigal  2014  fransdewaal  bonobos  orangutans  ethics  fiction  filmmaking  behavior  tools  aggression 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Microaggression and Management — about work — Medium
"Much of the pivotal early work on microaggression focused on its role in racism, and has been applied to other systems and their interrelations. These microaggressions have sexist, racist, and classist impact — it is useful to understand their common role across intersecting systems. I am purposefully adopting a broad definition “microaggression,” which has been examined in varying degrees of focus and granularity.

Here are five categories of microaggression in management and examples of how they play out.

Body Language and Touching…

Unequal Visibility and Accountability…

Derailing and Gaslighting…

Performances of Excessive Confidence…

Preferential Treatment as a Reward and Division System…

"In order to break the self-perpetuating cycle of microaggression in the workplace, we need to re-imagine and re-implement the concept of management. Management should be a job description that pertains to a particular type of work done on a team related to facilitating the team and enabling it to be as successful as possible. Management should NOT be an honorific, based in an unequal power dynamic, and associated with superiority, entitlement and hypermasculinity. When managers locate their value and contribution to the company in the latter system, microaggression against the very team they are supposed to be part of becomes the default mode."
culture  feminism  management  work  power  control  business  administration  leadership  abuse  superiority  2013  shanley  politics  aggression  microaggression  gender  patriarchy  paternalism  psychopathy  psychology  manipulation  authority  behavior  gaslighting  visibility  hierarchy  accountability  tcsnmy 
november 2013 by robertogreco

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