• Xtrix
    2.8k
    Trust is ubiquitous and necessary in a functioning society. We have to trust in others whenever we're driving on the road, for example.

    It's true that trust in authority, especially institutional authority, is at an all time low. That's across the board, and well documented: media, government, business, academia. We're skeptical of politicians, religious leaders, corporate leaders, advertisements, salesmen, teachers, scientists, doctors, pollsters -- and even our neighbors.

    People's lives are so crappy, despite having followed all the rules and done all the "right" things, that they're rightfully distrustful and looking for something or someone to blame.

    And yet we're also as polarized and tribal as ever before.

    We're as dug-in about our beliefs as I can recall. So we're still clearly listening to someone. We're clearly "throwing in" with some group or religion or dogma or system of beliefs -- and so we're trusting something, even in the political or academic or medical realm.

    A good example of this is polling. If a poll reflects what we want to believe, we "trust" it -- it's accurate. If someone says something we already want to believe, they're on our side. We see this manifest now in election claims: we don't like the result, so there must be fraud. Doesn't matter if there's no evidence of it and 3 audits find nothing -- there's still fraud.

    So then the issue isn't really about trust, because we're all trusting someone or something. Whether it's Donald Trump or Sean Hannity or Thomas Sowell. The question is really about why we happen to trust this particular person or institution over others? Why do we refuse a vaccine? Why do we believe the election was stolen? Who are we listening to, exactly?

    Do we not have an epistemic responsibility in life? If our actions have ripple effects, and our actions are largely an outgrowth of our beliefs, then isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions? Shouldn't we be more careful about what we believe in?

    [* Adapted from a previous post - I though it would be a good starting point for a broader conversation.]
  • baker
    3.3k
    And yet we're also as polarized and tribal as ever before.Xtrix

    Not everyone is like that; and not everyone who isn't in one or the other camp is a "fence sitter".
    But those who think in polarized, dichotomous terms don't see that; to such polarized thinkers, a person is either in one camp or another, or a deplorable fence sitter, and that's it.

    Do we not have an epistemic responsibility in life? If our actions have ripple effects, and our actions are largely an outgrowth of our beliefs, then isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions? Shouldn't we be more careful about what we believe in?Xtrix

    It's not possible to meaningfully and without hostility address this while thinking in the above-mentioned polarized terms.
  • Isaac
    5.6k
    isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions? Shouldn't we be more careful about what we believe in?Xtrix

    Of course. So who do we trust to tell us whether the thing we're believing in is going to lead to harmful actions?

    As I said in the other thread, you can't use the evidence from an institution someone doesn't trust to prove that their not trusting them is harmful. They don't trust them. So they're not going to believe that evidence either are they?

    We obviously have a responsibility to ensure our actions are not causing an unreasonable risk of harm to others. When we're not sufficiently expert ourselves, that responsibility is executed by deciding who to trust. But no real-time data can inform that decision because the decision about which data sources to trust obviously has to precede the use of any data from them.

    This is the covid issue in a nutshell. The fanatics say "you must believe X because look at what's at stake", but the evidence for what's at stake invariably comes from aforementioned X, so it's a nonsense argument. Just begging the question of their trustworthiness.

    ...oh and also what said...

    It's not possible to meaningfully and without hostility address this while thinking in the above-mentioned polarized terms.baker

    ...but then you never intended to meaningfully address this did you? Just another crowd-pleaser of a thread.
  • T Clark
    7.2k
    Do we not have an epistemic responsibility in life? If our actions have ripple effects, and our actions are largely an outgrowth of our beliefs, then isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions? Shouldn't we be more careful about what we believe in?Xtrix

    We are not responsible for what's in our minds, only for what we let out. And that's a good thing, for me at least. Being aware of what is going on inside us is another good thing. That includes what we know and believe, how we know know it, how certain we are of it, and what the consequences are if we are wrong. But, again, we are only responsible for our behavior.
  • T Clark
    7.2k
    It's not possible to meaningfully and without hostility address this while thinking in the above-mentioned polarized terms.baker

    Well put.
  • Manuel
    1.9k
    This is in practice, not terribly difficult. But when you think of what it involves, it becomes overwhelmingly complex. Putting aside the crucial factor that our sources may be wrong or our views flat out mistaken, which is probable on many issues, the actual practice of "epistemic responsibility" is hard to spell out, a sketch looks like this:

    We are interested in topic Y, we go to certain sources dealing with Y, we read several opinions of professionals on the subject matter, we look at (some) data, we assume the data is not too distorted, we take our data to be better than other people's data due to what we take to be the reliability of the relevant source, yet unless we are experts in Y, we are at the mercy of always revisable information.

    But experts can be, and often are wrong about subjects (more common in the social sciences), so we have to keep an open mind while not leaving it so open that garbage gets in "woo", or otheriwse.

    This all pushes the main issue at hand back for me, which is, what reason do we have to think our intuitions are correct about any topic? At this point, we begin handwaving something about "this is just a fact" or "you're insane", "read a book", etc.

    So, difficult. But we do it somehow. Though it's gotten worse in political discourse the last few years.
  • Isaac
    5.6k
    At this point, we begin handwaving something about "this is just a fact" or "your insane", "read a book", etc.

    So, difficult.
    Manuel

    And yet...

    One is at a loss for words. Like what can you even say when it gets to these levels? It's way beyond insane when it gets to these levels.Manuel

    So easy, no?
  • Manuel
    1.9k


    These comments are from different threads.

    Having said that, for me and you on this topic, yes.

    To them, no, assuming you are referring here to people who died while denying they had Covid. They can "obviously" say that the evidence is "propaganda" or caused by Bill Gates or whatever. So, what to do?

    I don't know.
  • Xtrix
    2.8k
    And yet we're also as polarized and tribal as ever before.
    — Xtrix

    Not everyone is like that
    baker

    Nor did I say that, notice.

    It's not possible to meaningfully and without hostility address this while thinking in the above-mentioned polarized terms.baker

    Stating the fact that we're more polarized now -- which has been well studied -- is not the same as thinking in "dichotomous terms." Nor am I "hostile." Your projections are about as accurate as your reading comprehension.

    isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions? Shouldn't we be more careful about what we believe in?
    — Xtrix

    Of course. So who do we trust to tell us whether the thing we're believing in is going to lead to harmful actions?
    Isaac

    I'm not sure anyone tells you that. Even if they knew they were spreading dangerous ideas, they'll insist that they aren't. The responsibility is on us, ultimately. Do we have good reasons to believe something or not? Is there good evidence to support the belief? If not, we should withhold judgment one way or another.

    As I said in the other thread, you can't use the evidence from an institution someone doesn't trust to prove that their not trusting them is harmful. They don't trust them. So they're not going to believe that evidence either are they?Isaac

    That doesn't matter much, because the judgment has already taken place. In other words, this hypothetical person has already taken a position by trusting someone else, or a group of people, and the corresponding evidence offered there. Creationists are a good example -- they don't trust evolutionary biologists or any evidence they will present. Or, maybe a better example, is the media. It won't matter if we were to present an article from the New York Times to someone who believes they're "fake news."

    In this case, the issue is simply "Why did this person take this position to begin with?"

    But no real-time data can inform that decision because the decision about which data sources to trust obviously has to precede the use of any data from them.Isaac

    It's not always a matter of trusting sources. Sometimes the data is one's own life and experiences. Simply looking around would do it. If one closes oneself off to any person or argument that challenges their beliefs, this is simply dogmatism. This seems to be what you're talking about, exclusively.

    We are not responsible for what's in our minds, only for what we let out.T Clark

    Right, but what's in our minds almost always gets "let out" in what we say or in how we behave -- i.e., in our actions. Which has an impact on the world around us, including others.
  • Tom Storm
    2.5k
    It's true that trust in authority, especially institutional authority, is at an all time low. That's across the board, and well documented: media, government, business, academia. We're skeptical of politicians, religious leaders, corporate leaders, advertisements, salesmen, teachers, scientists, doctors, pollsters -- and even our neighbors.

    People's lives are so crappy, despite having followed all the rules and done all the "right" things, that they're rightfully distrustful and looking for something or someone to blame.
    Xtrix

    I think this matter is extremely complicated. Personally my trust in institutions is not at an all time low and my life doesn't feel crappy.

    Many people seem to be constantly bubbling with hatred and bitterness, regardless of their position. It is simply the emotion that characterises our time. We live in the age of resentment.

    I'm sure having a media that thrives on sensationalism and fermentation of hatred doesn't help. I'm also sure that being reared on endless TV shows and movies that take as a starting principle that the state is rotten and all institutions have been bought hasn't helped. People have felt this way for decades, social media has helped them organise. In 1988 Leonard Cohen evocatively encapsulated this weltschmerz in the song Everybody Knows.

    Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
    Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
    Everybody knows the war is over
    Everybody knows the good guys lost
    Everybody knows the fight was fixed
    The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.

    A lot of accuracy to this but it is not the whole story. Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have determined that all is lost and all that is left to you is declarative complaint, things won't get better. The idea of truth in such a time may also be repellant.
  • Xtrix
    2.8k
    Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
    Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
    Everybody knows the war is over
    Everybody knows the good guys lost
    Everybody knows the fight was fixed
    The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
    Tom Storm

    :up:

    We live in the age of resentment.Tom Storm

    I don't know if it's resentment so much as hopelessness and anger. But perhaps I'm splitting hairs.
  • theRiddler
    127
    As far as politics are concerned, we've kind of collectively agreed to the lie that it's supposed to be duplicitous.

    I think it's the concept that one has to be duplicitous to deal with duplicitous people. For a sum total of ubiquitous dishonor.

    Or, the "common sense" of the media that more is more, the acceptance that these guys can't stick to the facts because the facts are dull and they HAVE to make money.

    People can be conniving and totally self-centered, and such people are often pompous, self-important, and gravitate towards the spotlight of politics.

    They poison the well. And people trust them, often, because they have no real world experience of just how truly insipid a person can be. All they can do is fall victim to being exposed to one of these people pointing the blame at others.

    Capitalism and honesty don't exactly go hand-in-hand. There are people who are only concerned with their own benefit, and they climb the ladder of social influence and poison the well.
  • NOS4A2
    5.2k
    Human action shows that one can generally trust that his community members will not kill him, but it doesn’t show and it doesn’t follow that one should trust their rhetoric. Humans are too fallible and each one exhibits myriad biases, loyalties, conflicting interests. This is especially true when it comes to power and politics. De omnibus dubitandum. It would be epistemically irresponsible to do otherwise.

    If people suffer from their beliefs, so much the better. It’s how we learn. But if we make them suffer for their beliefs, whether through censorship or campaigns of hatred, no credential or expertise will make our rhetoric palpable.
  • Xtrix
    2.8k
    "If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it—the life of that man is one long sin against mankind." — WK Clifford

    Figured this was worth sharing.
  • I like sushi
    3k
    It's true that trust in authority, especially institutional authority, is at an all time low. That's across the board, and well documented: media, government, business, academia. We're skeptical of politicians, religious leaders, corporate leaders, advertisements, salesmen, teachers, scientists, doctors, pollsters -- and even our neighbors.Xtrix

    That doesn't sound like anything other than the status quo. I would say there is far more hype due to mass media and more access to poor/pseudo reports though.

    People's lives are so crappy, despite having followed all the rules and done all the "right" things, that they're rightfully distrustful and looking for something or someone to blame.Xtrix

    Again, compared to when? I think people generally look to blame others as it helps to ignore personal faults that we wish not to face.

    A good example of this is polling. If a poll reflects what we want to believe, we "trust" it -- it's accurate.Xtrix

    No, I don't think so. I think a comedian put this across well regarding surveys and such. Normal people usually don't waste time answering surveys. They are poor reflections of society as a whole.

    Do we not have an epistemic responsibility in life? If our actions have ripple effects, and our actions are largely an outgrowth of our beliefs, then isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions? Shouldn't we be more careful about what we believe in?Xtrix

    Some people don't care (or simply cannot afford to care) about political nuances. Others are apathetic, and others overly enthused.

    I'm not convinced that people 'act out' their beliefs either. I think it was Schopenhauer (maybe Rousseau?) that made a comical statement about people saying one thing and doing another.

    I think this is one to keep at the forefront of our minds:

    “The fundamental cause of the trouble in the modern world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”—Bertrand Russell.

    When it comes to 'following'/agreeing with someone or something I just ask myself if I can find fault in something they say. If I cannot find any fault I assume I am wrong because I've missed something. I seek out points that oppose me rather than ignore them (or so I like to believe!). This is basically along the lines of what Russell states. If I cannot find a flaw then I must be missing something. Any idea that I cannot oppose I am EXTREMELY wary of.

    Do we not have an epistemic responsibility in life?Xtrix

    I would prefer to ask 'Do we have an epistemic responsibility in life?' simply because it is clearer. That is how I attempt 'responsibility' - through attempts at clarity where it seems to prevent misinterpretation.

    I think this is an intriguing question. I have said I few times in my life that I care about what people think but I don't much care what they think about me.

    When a physicist discovers something that throws out mainstream thinking people are excited. I try to foster this attitude towards life in general as what most refer to as 'seeking happiness' is just this I feel. the elation I gain from struggling over a certain problem is a very strange kind of elation. It is as if it has 'pain' in it yet when there is a crack of a breakthrough all that 'pain' turns out not to be 'painful' at all and I was just fooling myself into thinking I was 'frustrated,' 'angry' or 'upset'.

    I prefer to express this thought more with another quote:

    “The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but sacred, the ganz andere or 'wholly other.”

    - Mircea Eliade

    This 'wholly other' is very much a part of human experience - or rather our conflict with, or avoidance of, it. 'Trust' - in respect it your item of driving - is not at the forefront of our minds in the moment. We don't expect drivers to make up their own rules. Our world is made up of 'driving rules' and if one was to travel to another country where things are a little different we will feel that 'they are wrong' and 'we are right' simply because our world view (in terms of driving) opposes theirs. They are 'stupid' and we are 'right'. This a perfectly natural reaction to an alien system because what is effectively being brought into question is our core founding of how the world around operates and is formed (I prefer the term/s Weltanschauung or Axis Mundi here). Some things we simply don't question like a balls rolling down hills instead of up hills or not sinking into the pavement. There are different levels of extremity as I see it that we parcel up as 'wrong' instead of taking the opportunity to broaden our horizons and learn more about the world we're about.

    Judgement is great. Being judgmental is usually self deceit. We're all prone to erring but that isn't an excuse for mistakes it is something should be willing to bring to the table when in a discussion with people we don't agree with or understand.
  • Isaac
    5.6k
    To them, no, assuming you are referring here to people who died while denying they had Covid. They can "obviously" say that the evidence is "propaganda" or caused by Bill Gates or whatever. So, what to do?Manuel

    If they can 'obviously' say that, then dismissing them as 'insane' is exactly the hand-waiving you complained of. That's the point I'm making. Very few people are actually insane, if they believe something to be the case, even at the risk of their own health (and that of their loved ones) there's usually a very good reason why they do.

    We live in a world which is on a path to mutually assured destruction (via climate change) and yet the vested interests of the super rich mean we do nothing about that. We live in a world where children are starving to death by the million and yet the vested interests of the super rich have us do nothing about that either. And yet you want to claim that a theory that the world's richest man can (and would) influence the current state of affairs, is so utterly inconceivable that the only possible explanation for anyone believing it is insanity? Look around you. Do the world's super rich appear to have a disproportionate amount of influence over the state of affairs or not?

    What to do is exactly what's not being done here. Acknowledge that our institutions are flawed, that these people have perfectly normal (if not particularly good) reasons to disbelieve what they're being told, that we do in fact live in a world where the super rich have so much influence that their shaping affairs like like this is actually conceivable (again, although unlikely)... The more doubling down we do the more we make our 'side' seem completely ridiculous.

    Of course we can't trust the pharmaceuticals - they're organisations with criminal convictions for lying. Of course we can't trust the FDA - they have a well known revolving door with the companies they're supposed to check, their former head is now at Pfizer, for God's sake. Of course we can't trust our governments - that politicians lie is such a truism it's a standing joke. And of course we can't trust our academic institutions - most are funded if not directly employed by industry and the replication rate in the medical sciences is less than half.

    So to say to the Bill Gatesian conspiracy theorist that he's mad because the evidence from the pharmaceuticals, FDA, governments and academia is contradicts him is just as ridiculously dogmatic in the face of evidence to the contrary as he's being.

    It is perfectly possible to make a case against the idea that vaccines contain 5G transmitters, or that Bill Gates manufactured it, without having to do so by falling back on the equally ludicrous idea that our institutions are simply so noble and incorruptible that such a set of events need not even be considered and everything they say can be treated as gospel truth.
  • Isaac
    5.6k
    If one closes oneself off to any person or argument that challenges their beliefs, this is simply dogmatism. This seems to be what you're talking about, exclusively.Xtrix

    The 'closing off' is irrelevant. I could refuse to read anything from the New York Times, or I could read everything from the New York Times and declare it all to be biased 'fake news'. What makes a difference to any kind of epistemic responsibility is having good reasons to select or dismiss evidence before weighing what is left in the 'accepted' pile, those reasons being other than that it's saying something you disagree with.
  • Bylaw
    128
    This is the covid issue in a nutshell. The fanatics say "you must believe X because look at what's at stake", but the evidence for what's at stake invariably comes from aforementioned X, so it's a nonsense argument.Isaac
    I appreciate the points you are making here and elsewhere similar to this one.
  • TheMadFool
    13.7k
    I guess responsibility comes when beliefs have moral consequences.

    However, what's usually recommended is logic (rationality) and that's always been bothersome. Doesn't logic literally force beliefs down your throat? Whence responsibility when I had no choice but to accept the diktats of cold, impersonal, logic?

    I could easily say, if I'm called out on my beliefs, "It's not my fault! I was simply following the rules of logic!" I'm not accountable for beliefs that I didn't choose freely.

    Then there's irrationalism and the all the different kinds of logic that have spawned since Aristotle and Chrysippus first, 2500 years ago, worked out valid argument forms for classical logic.
  • Manuel
    1.9k


    Hand-waving wasn't a complaint actually. The "good reason" part can be debated, but I can see how people come around into believing these things. It's been developing particularly in the Republican party for some time. Democrats aren't exempt either.

    And yet you want to claim that a theory that the world's richest man can (and would) influence the current state of affairs, is so utterly inconceivable that the only possible explanation for anyone believing it is insanity?Isaac

    When did I say it was the only explanation? I think it's pretty wild that given that the whole world is going through the same problem with the pandemic and people next to you are dying and doctors are telling you that you have Covid, but you don't believe so is quite something. Me saying "insane" is not a clinical diagnosis, but if you prefer I don't have problems saying that this kind of behavior is "reckless" or "irrational".

    Yes Bill Gates has some power. But to think he could influence the world to this degree is several steps too far.

    Of course we can't trust the pharmaceuticals - they're organisations with criminal convictions for lying. Of course we can't trust the FDA - they have a well known revolving door with the companies they're supposed to check, their former head is now at Pfizer, for God's sake. Of course we can't trust our governments - that politicians lie is such a truism it's a standing joke. And of course we can't trust our academic institutions - most are funded if not directly employed by industry and the replication rate in the medical sciences is less than half.Isaac

    Sure. I can see that.

    On the other hand: Of course we can trust Trump he's anti establishment (even though he is not), of course let's trust alternative medicine (because these people aren't making a killing), of course let's trust Tucker Carlson (because he isn't an elite who hasn't gotten vaccinated), of course we can trust the internet (because that did not come from the Pentagon).

    The point is that if you are dying of Covid and you tell your doctor that you're not is still pretty mad.

    equally ludicrous idea that our institutions are simply so noble and incorruptible that such a set of events need not even be considered and everything they say can be treated as gospel truth.Isaac

    I haven't said such a thing. If you look at my original post from where you quoted me, I said the whole process is rather complex. Again, I can see the train of thinking that leads one down the rabbit hole. It's a dangerous path to go down.
  • Xtrix
    2.8k
    What makes a difference to any kind of epistemic responsibility is having good reasons to select or dismiss evidence before weighing what is left in the 'accepted' pileIsaac

    And they often aren't "good reasons" at all. They usually come from exactly what I mentioned.
  • T Clark
    7.2k
    Right, but what's in our minds almost always gets "let out" in what we say or in how we behave -- i.e., in our actions. Which has an impact on the world around us, including others.Xtrix

    I try to be aware of how I behave toward other people. I try to treat them with kindness and respect, with some, imperfect, success. At the same time, my mind is full of dark emotions, prejudices, and lust and what's worse... philosophy. By which I mean, no, you're wrong. Even if you were right, it would only be what gets let out I would be responsible for, not what's kept inside.
  • Isaac
    5.6k
    On the other hand: Of course we can trust Trump he's anti establishment (even though he is not), of course let's trust alternative medicine (because these people aren't making a killing), of course let's trust Tucker Carlson (because he isn't an elite who hasn't gotten vaccinated), of course we can trust the internet (because that did not come from the Pentagon).Manuel

    Do you really see those as the only voices opposing vaccines?
  • Manuel
    1.9k


    No. There are various sources and many views on the topic.

    But the ones I mentioned reach a lot of people, so they have broad reach, especially Fox, now that Trump can't use social media anymore. These people are the type of people who should cause most concern, in my view.
  • Isaac
    5.6k
    the ones I mentioned reach a lot of people, so they have broad reach, especially Fox, now that Trump can't use social media anymore. These people are the type of people who should cause most concern, in my view.Manuel

    Why do you think they should cause any particular concern?
  • Manuel
    1.9k


    It has to do with the fact that they shout in public people who wear masks, have pride in not being vaccinated, risk others by not taking them into account (if you don't want to get vaccinated, fine, but keep to you and yours and leave other people alone), harass parents kids for wearing masks or being vaccinated, and on and on.

    Also, these Trump supporters share a similar ideology to the people that stormed the capitol in January 6. So not only are they misinformed (as I think they are), they are dangerous.

    How many of them still support Trump is not clear, but the beliefs now shared by "far right" grew out of this phenomenon.

    This is an interesting article on the topic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/09/breitbart-conservatives-john-nolte-vaccine/620189/

    But, as you imply, there are other reasons and other parts of the population who don't get vaccinated for other reasons. And not every reason given is silly or not rational. It has become an overtly political topic.
  • frank
    9.2k
    If our actions have ripple effects, and our actions are largely an outgrowth of our beliefs, then isn't it irresponsible to believe in things that lead to harmful actions?Xtrix

    No one gets up in the morning and says, "I think I'll just be wrong as hell today."

    Because being wrong is not a choice, it can't be immoral.
  • baker
    3.3k
    "If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it—the life of that man is one long sin against mankind."
    — WK Clifford

    Figured this was worth sharing.
    Xtrix

    Indeed, something you should try every now and then.
  • Janus
    11.3k
    We live in a world which is on a path to mutually assured destruction (via climate change) and yet the vested interests of the super rich mean we do nothing about that.Isaac

    It's not only that; it's the vested interest of the average person in their accustomed prosperity, convenience and lifestyle, which means they won't vote for any government that presents plans to ameliorate global warming, if those plans involve any lessening of personal prosperity and comfort (like extra taxes or rising costs, etc)..
  • baker
    3.3k
    What makes a difference to any kind of epistemic responsibility is having good reasons to select or dismiss evidence before weighing what is left in the 'accepted' pile, those reasons being other than that it's saying something you disagree with.Isaac

    But how can you have such good reasons for selecting or dismissing evidence, if you're not actually an expert in the field?
  • Xtrix
    2.8k
    Because being wrong is not a choice, it can't be immoral.frank

    Believing in something without evidence is a choice, and in some views immoral. I generally agree with this view.
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