Posts Tagged ‘human behavior’

By Rich Cholodofsky

A Monessen man convicted of the robbery and assault of a 91-year-old Rostraver woman was sentenced Thursday to serve up to 40 years in prison. About an hour later, Greg Howard appeared in another Westmoreland County courtroom to marry his girlfriend.

Howard, 47, had nothing to say standing before Judge Rita Hathaway as she ordered that he spend at least 20 years behind bars for the October 2014 home invasion that left Frances Tekavec severely injured and her savings stolen. He was given credit for the time he has served in jail since early November.

“Thank God she is here today and didn’t die in the incident,” Hathaway said.

Howard’s silence was in sharp contrast to his demeanor during the three-day trial in July in which he served as his own lawyer. Howard gave a rambling closing argument during the trial, referencing Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and other cultural icons. It took jurors 43 minutes to convict Howard of robbery, aggravated assault and conspiracy.

During the trial, prosecutors said Howard and two other men broke into Tekavec’s home. The men used a Levin’s furniture truck as a ruse to get into the home by asking her to sign a fake delivery receipt, according to trial testimony. Witnesses said they took $13,000 and jewelry and left Tekavec lying on her bed with her ankles and wrists bound.

Tekavec identified Howard as one of her attackers. She made no comment in court on Thursday, but Hathaway read a letter she wrote about the impact of the crime.

In the letter, Tekavec said she is now confined to a wheelchair, and because of the injuries she suffered in the attack, she is in constant pain and is restricted from performing basic personal chores, such as brushing her hair.

“Certainly there are very serious effects she has suffered because of the crime committed against her,” Hathaway said.

Defense attorney Tim Dawson asked that Howard receive concurrent sentences because two other men were more responsible for the violence.

Charges are pending against co-defendants Lamont Dixon, 35, and Branddon Danilchak, 28.

Howard was allowed to wear civilian clothing in court instead of a prison jumpsuit. Deputies said Howard remained shackled during a brief wedding ceremony later in the afternoon presided over by Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.

The ceremony was attended by five deputies and the bride’s baby, who was born last month.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/9191589-74/howard-gets-prison#ixzz3nbzLDYFm

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by Peter Mellgard

Back in the 80s there was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who confessed to a professor that he hadn’t quite figured out “this sex thing,” and preferred to spend time on his computer rather than with girls. For “Anthony,” computers were safer and made more sense; romantic relationships, he said, usually led to him “getting burned in some way.”

Years later, Anthony’s story made a big impression on David Levy, an expert in artificial intelligence, who was amazed that someone as educated as Anthony was developing an emotional attachment to his computer so long ago. Levy decided he wanted to give guys like Anthony a social and sexual alternative to real girls. The answer, he thinks, is sexbots. And he’s not talking about some blow-up doll that doesn’t talk.

Levy predicts that a lot of us, mostly but not exclusively shy guys like Anthony, will be having sex with robots sometime around the 2040s. By then, he says, robots will be so hot, human-like and mind-blowing under the sheets that a lot of people will find them sexually enjoyable. What’s more, Levy believes they will be able to engage and communicate with people in a meaningful, emotional way, so that guys like Anthony won’t need to worry about real girls if they don’t want to.

To give a robot the ability to communicate and provide the kind of emotional satisfaction someone would normally get from a human partner, Levy is improving an award-winning chat program called Do-Much-More that he built a few years ago. His aim is for it to become “a girlfriend or boyfriend chatbot that will be able to conduct amorous conversations with a user,” he told The WorldPost. “I’m trying to simulate the kind of conversation that two lovers might have.”

Levy admits that “this won’t come about instantly.” Eventually he wants his advanced conversation software embedded in a sexbot so that it becomes more than just a sexual plaything — a companion, perhaps. But it won’t be for everyone. “I don’t believe that human-robot relationships are going to replace human-human relationships,” he said.

There will be people, however, Levy said, people like Anthony maybe, for whom a sexbot holds a strong appeal. “I’m hoping to help people,” he said, then elaborated:

People ask me the question, ‘Why is a relationship with a robot better than a relationship with a human?’ And I don’t think that’s the point at all. For millions of people in the world, they can’t make a good relationship with other humans. For them the question is not, ‘Why is a relationship with a robot better?’ For them the question is, would it be better to have a relationship with a robot or no relationship at all?

The future looks bright if you’re into relationships with robots and computers.

Neil McArthur, a professor of philosophy and ethics at the University of Manitoba in Canada, imagines that in 10 to 15 years, “we will have something for which there is great consumer demand and that people are willing to say is a very good and enjoyable sexbot.”

For now, the closest thing we have to a genuine sexbot is the RealDoll. A RealDoll is the most advanced sex doll in the world — a sculpted “work of art,” in the words of Matt McMullen, the founder of the company, Abyss Creations, that makes them. For a few thousand dollars a pop, customers can customize the doll’s hair color, skin tone, eyes, clothing and genitalia (removable, exchangeable, flaccid, hard) — and then wait patiently for a coffin-sized box to arrive in the mail. For some people, that box contains a sexual plaything and an emotional companion that is preferable to a human partner.

“The goal, the fantasy, is to bring her to life,” McMullen told Vanity Fair.

Others already prefer virtual “people” to living humans as emotional partners. Love Plus is a hugely popular game in Japan that is played on a smartphone or Nintendo. Players take imaginary girls on dates, “kiss” them, buy them birthday cakes.

“Well, you know, all I want is someone to say good morning to in the morning and someone to say goodnight to at night,” said one gamer who has been dating one of the imaginary girls for years, according to TIME Magazine.

And there’s Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend, apps that connects you with a real, paid human who will text you so that you can prove you have a girlfriend or boyfriend to nosy relatives or disbelieving buddies. At least one user, a culture critic for the Washington Post, confessed she might actually being in love with the person on the other side who, remember, is being paid to satisfy customers’ desires. They’d never even met.

McArthur and others suspect that there might be people for whom a sexbot is no mere toy but a way to access something — sex — that for one reason or another was previously unattainable.

When it comes to the disabled, McArthur explained, there are two barriers to sexual activity: an external — “they’re not seen as valuable sexual partners” — and an internal anxiety. “Sexbots can give them access to partners. And they are sort of a gateway as well: disabled people could use a sexbot to build confidence and to build a sense of sexuality.”

“When it comes to sex,” he concluded, “more is better.”

It’s a new and emerging technology, but let’s nip in the bud,” Kathleen Richardson, a senior research fellow in the ethics of robotics at De Montfort University in England, told the Washington Post. Richardson released a paper this month titled “The Asymmetrical ‘Relationship’: Parallels Between Prostitution and the Development of Sex Robots.”

“I propose that extending relations of prostitution into machines is neither ethical, nor is it safe,” the paper reads.

And the ethical questions extend beyond machine “prostitution.” RealDoll, the sex doll company, refuses to make child-like dolls or animals. But what if another company does?

“It’s really a legal, moral, societal debate that we need to have about these systems,” said Matthias Scheutz, the director of the human-robot interaction laboratory at Tufts University. “We as a society need to discuss these questions before these products are out there. Because right now, we aren’t.”

If, in the privacy of your own home, you want to have sex with a doll or robot that looks like a 10-year-old boy or virtual children in porn apps, is that wrong? In most though not all countries in the world, it’s illegal to possess child pornography, including when it portrays a virtual person that is “indistinguishable” from a real minor. But some artistic representations of naked children are legal even in the U.S. Is a sexbot art? Is what a person does to a sexbot, no matter what it looks like, a legal question?

Furthermore, the link between viewing child pornography and child abuse crimes is unclear. Studies have been done on people incarcerated for those crimes that found that child pornography fueled the desire to abuse a real child. But another study on self-identified “boy-attracted pedosexual males” found that viewing child pornography acted as a substitute for sexual molestation.

“I think the jury is out on that,” said McArthur. “It depends on an empirical question: Do you think that giving people access to satisfaction of that kind is going to stimulate them to move on to actual contact crimes, or do you think it will provide a release valve?”

Scheutz explained: “People will build all sorts of things. Some people have made arguments that for people who otherwise would be sex offenders, maybe a child-like robot would be a therapeutic thing. Or it could have exactly the opposite effect.”
McArthur is most worried about how sexbots will impact perceptions about gender, body image and human sexual behavior. Sexbots will “promote unattainable body ideals,” he said. Furthermore, “you just aren’t going to make a robot that has a complicated personality and isn’t always in the mood. That’s going to promote a sense that, well, women should be more like an idealized robot personality that is a pliant, sexualized being.”

As sexbots become more popular and better at what they’re built to do, these questions will become more and more important. We, as a society and a species, are opening a door to a new world of sex. Social taboos will be challenged; legal questions will be raised.

And there might be more people — maybe people like Anthony — who realize they don’t need to suffer through a relationship with a human if they don’t want to because a robot provides for their emotional and sexual needs without thinking, contradicting, saying no or asking for much in return.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/robot-sex_55f979f2e4b0b48f670164e9

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

By SETH BORENSTEIN

The banking industry seems to bring out dishonesty in people, a new study suggests.

A team of Swiss economists tested the honesty of bank employees in a lab game that would pay off in cash if they cheated. When workers at an unnamed bank were asked about their home life, they were about as honest as the general public. But employees who had just been asked about work at the bank cheated 16 percent more.

Bank employees are not more dishonest than others,” said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, author of the study published Wednesday by the journal Nature. But he said when reminded of their job they become more dishonest, so something about the culture of banking “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The American Bankers Association dismissed the study: “While this study looks at one bank, America’s 6,000 banks set a very high bar when it comes to the honesty and integrity of their employees. Banks take the fiduciary responsibility they have for their customers very seriously.”

Researchers studied 128 employees at a single bank (even the country where it is located was not revealed).

They gave them what is a fairly standard honesty test. They were told to flip a coin 10 times; each time they flipped they could earn $20 if it matched what researchers had requested — sometimes heads, sometimes tails. An honest person would report matching the requested flip result about 50 percent of the time. But when workers were asked questions about their work at the bank, placing their work at the forefront in their minds, they self-reported the result that paid off 58 percent of the time.

When researchers repeated the test with more than 350 people not in banking industry, job questions didn’t change honesty levels. Researchers tested 80 employees of other banks and they came up with about the same results as those from the main bank.

Six outside experts in business ethics and psychology praised the study to various degrees. Duke University behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely, author of the book “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty,” said he agreed with the study authors that one possible solution is an honesty oath for bankers, like doctors’ Hippocratic oath.

University of Louisville psychologist Michael Cunningham said while the study is intriguing, it is too broad in its conclusions.

Fehr said recent multi-billion dollar international banking scandals convinced him that he had to test scientifically public perceptions about bankers not being honest.

The study’s findings ring true to Walt Pavlo, though he is not a banker — he was in finance at telecom giant MCI and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in a multi-million dollar scheme. Pavlo said before joining his company he had worked in the defense industry where ethics were stressed and wasn’t tempted to cheat. That changed in his new job where he was “paid for performance” and was told to be aggressive.

That culture “influenced me in a way that initially I thought was positive,” but led to prison, said Pavlo, who now teaches business ethics and writes about white-collar crime.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/19/bankers-cheat-study-job_n_6186494.html


World Cup soccer players with higher facial-width-to-height ratios are more likely to commit fouls, score goals and make assists, according to a study by a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The structure of a soccer player’s face can predict his performance on the field—including his likelihood of scoring goals, making assists and committing fouls—according to a study led by a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The scientists studied the facial-width-to-height ratio (FHWR) of about 1,000 players from 32 countries who competed in the 2010 World Cup. The results, published in the journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, showed that midfielders, who play both offense and defense, and forwards, who lead the offense, with higher FWHRs were more likely to commit fouls. Forwards with higher FWHRs also were more likely to score goals or make assists.

“Previous research into facial structure of athletes has been primarily in the United States and Canada,” said Keith Welker, a postdoctoral researcher in CU-Boulder Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the lead author of the paper. “No one had really looked at how facial-width-to-height ratio is associated with athletic performance by comparing people from across the world.”

FWHR is the distance between the cheekbones divided by the distance between the mid-brow and the upper lip. Past studies have shown that a high FWHR is associated with more aggressive behavior, with both positive and negative results. For example, high FWHR correlates with greater antisocial and unethical behavior, but it also correlates with greater success among CEOs and achievement drive among U.S. presidents. However, some previous research has failed to find a correlation between FWHR and aggressive behavior in certain populations.

The new study adds weight to the argument that FWHR does correlate with aggression. Welker and his colleagues chose to look at the 2010 World Cup because of the quality and quantity of the data available. “There are a lot of athletic data out there,” Welker said. “We were exploring contexts to look at aggressive behavior and found that the World Cup, which quantifies goals, fouls and assists, provides a multinational way of addressing whether facial structure produces this aggressive behavior and performance.”

Scientists have several ideas about how FWHR might be associated with aggression. One possibility is that it’s related to testosterone exposure earlier in life. Testosterone during puberty can affect a variety of physical traits, including bone density, muscle growth and cranial shape, Welker said.

Co-authors of the study were Stefan Goetz, Shyneth Galicia and Jordan Liphardt of Wayne State University in Michigan and Justin Carré of Nipissing University in Ontario, Canada. –

See more at: http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2014/11/11/facial-structure-predicts-goals-fouls-among-world-cup-soccer-players#sthash.mAvOP9oO.dpuf