Archives for posts with tag: biology and culture

via everyone on twitter today:

“ISIS fighters complain they are not being chosen to blow themselves up on suicide missions because leaders’ friends and family get put to the top of the waiting list”

“- Chechen militant angry that Saudis are snubbing them for bombing runs
– Jihadi complains that they are ‘letting their relatives go to front of the line’
– Said ISIS leader Bakr al-Baghdadi’s brother had carried out suicide attack

“Islamic State fighters claim they are not getting the chance to blow themselves up because they are being bumped down the suicide-bomber waiting list by nepotistic leaders.

“A Chechen militant has complained that Saudi jihadis are favouring their own friends and family for bombing missions.

“Kamil Abu Sultan ad-Daghestani said fighters were becoming increasingly angry after being left languishing on the waiting list for months.

“Ironically, he said some militants were dying on the battlefield before getting the chance to carry out a bombing.

“Abu Sultan’s complaint, was posted on a new website named Qonah which is said to be linked to a group connected with Akhmed Chatayev (Akhmad al-Shishani), a Chechen militant in charge of the Yarmouk Battalion of ISIS.

“‘Amir [Leader] Akhmed al-Shishani told me about a young lad who went to Iraq for a suicide mission and he went there because in Sham [Syria] there is a veeeeery long queue [of several thousand people],’ he wrote.

“He said the fighter eventually gave up after three months and returned to Syria, it was reported by Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

“The young militant complained that he would only be able to secure a bombing mission through a ‘blat’ with the Saudi leaders – a Russian slang term meaning connections.

“Abu Sultan wrote that the boy said: ‘Those Saudis have got things sewn up, they won’t let anyone in, they are letting their relatives go to the front of the line using blat.’

“He said the only to deal with the ‘corruption’ was to make a direct appeal to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“He recently noted on another site that Baghdadi’s own brother and the son of his second-in-command had carried out suicide bombings.

“The leader’s cousin also reportedly blew himself up at a checkpoint in Iraq in April….”

heh! (~_^)

see also A Boratesque story from ISIS-land: Chechen ISIS fighters being cheated out of paradise by Saudi nepotism from ed west.

btw, buy ed’s latest kindle single!: 1215 and All That: A very, very short history of Magna Carta and King John (and @amazon.co.uk).

(note: comments do not require an email. the people’s front.)

william hamilton, considered to be one of the — if not the — greatest evolutionary theorists since darwin, had this to say:

“The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).”

so hamilton clearly thought that biology and human biodiversity strongly influence culture and history, including the broad movements of history like renaissances or maybe even reformations or enlightenments, etc. and he thought that outbreeding, specifically too much outbreeding (i.e. panmictic populations), and presumably inbreeding too, relate to the selection for altruistic behaviors…and, therefore, certain aspects of cultures and history, etc. (remember that there’s more to hbd than just iq. (~_^) ) i dunno, maybe i and other hbd-ers are crazy (if so, we’re in GOOD company!), but this just makes intuitive sense to me. as john derbyshire said [15:00]:

“…if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”

i like the big, probably impossible to answer fully questions: where does culture come from? where do institutions come from? where do renaissances come from? i don’t have the answers to those questions. nor am i under any illusions that i’ll ever be able to answer them. but am i very certain that they cannot be answered without taking into consideration human biology and biodiversity along with more conventional explanations drawn from history, economics, etc., and so i like to periodically bring them up.

so, if you happen to be new here, if you don’t like questioning — on every level — or biological explanations applied to The Big Questions, i’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. sorry. for my fellow hbd-ers — see you back here later in the week! (^_^)

previously: renaissances
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p.s. – btw, my vacation has been extended by a week (long story), so i’ll be back properly next week. sorry for the delay! (*^_^*)

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speaking of the bell-beaker people(s), this (or this shape anyway)…

beaker

…just looks like a d*mn fine milking vessel! if it’s big enough (i didn’t actually bother to check how big this particular beaker is — some of them were drinking vessels, but plenty of them were bucket-sized), you could just position that under your cow’s udder, get a good grip on it (the vessel, not the udder) just under the rim with your knees on either side (you may have to have milked a cow once or twice to appreciate this feature), and that nice big rim will even catch any off-piste spray during your milking session.

it also looks like a great thing to put on your head when you’ve had too much to drink. the bell-beaker culture version of a lampshade. (~_^)

(all credit/blame goes to the d.h. for these thoughts. not the lampshade one, although he’d prolly approve of that. (~_^) )

btw:

(note: comments do not require an email. beaker.)

(<< see what i did there? PIE? geddit? (~_^) )

historical linguists have worked out what they think (there are debates within the discipline, of course) were the likely kinship terms in proto-indo-european (PIE). i’m not going to get into the terms here, but you can read all about them in Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical of a Proto-language and a Proto-culture, in chapter seven — “The social organization, economy, and kinship system of the ancient Indo-Europeans” — starting on page 643 (for something of an opposing viewpoint, see chapter five — “Proto-Indo-European Kinship” — here).

to get straight to the point, it seems that pretty much all of the historical linguistics working on PIE agree that the proto-indo-europeans probably had an omaha kinship system (where they disagree is on how to interpret the signficance of that, for example, did the proto-indo-europeans marry their…wait for it…cousins?). they haven’t actually worked out what the proto-indo-europeans called their cousins — whether they had just one word (like us) or several words (like the chinese or the arabs) — but they have figured out via the naming of other relatives (like uncles and grandfathers) that the system was an omaha one.

the omaha kinship system looks like this (real world kinship systems often vary a bit from these schematic outlines, so you should keep in mind that while the PIE system was probably close to this scheme, it may not have necessarily matched it perfectly — click on image for LARGER view):

omaha kinship

the notable points about this system are that: 1) ego’s paternal uncle (his father’s brother) is called the same term as his father, and his mother’s sister is called the same as his mother; 2) therefore, the children of these uncles and aunts (ego’s cousins) are called the same as his siblings; 3) for some whacky reason that i don’t fully grok yet, ego’s mother’s brother is called the same thing as ego’s PATernal grandfather, therefore those cousins are actually called “(grand)father” and “mother” (i.e. there’s a generational shift in the terminology — on the right of the diagram); and 4) at the other end of the family (diagram), ego’s father’s sister is called “sister” and his cousins there are called “nephew” and “niece.”

don’t worry, you don’t have to learn all that! this material will not be included in the final exam. the important point here is that the naming of the cousins might give us some indications of which cousins (if any) were considered marriage material and which were off-limits. my thinking on first looking at this omaha system was that 1) the cousins called the same thing as siblings (fbd and mzd) must be off-limits — who marries their siblings? and 2) the cousins called the same thing as “mom” (mbd) DEFINITELY must be off-limits — who marries their MOM?! =/

in my view, the only available cousins to marry in this scheme appear to be the father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) who is called “niece.” plenty of peoples have uncle-niece marriage, so that concept isn’t (that) strange at all. (to be fair, a few populations with omaha kinship systems do manage to marry their mbds — the cousins called “mom” — but they typically have all sorts of purification rituals surrounding those marriages — ’cause, ewwww!)

however, the general consensus of the PIE researchers seems to be that both cross-cousins — the fzd AND the mbd — were probably marriage material as far as the proto-indo-europeans were concerned. the only question is, to what extent did they marry these cousins? who knows. that is simply impossible to say. (again, there are some dissenting voices out there wrt cousin marriage among the PIE speakers).

gamkrelidze and ivanov are some of the historical linguists who think that mbd marriage was probably possible, too, despite the ewwww-factor of marrying someone you call mom. mbd is the most common form of cousin marriage there is, so maybe proto-into-europeans did, indeed, marry them, too [pg. 671]:

“The fact that individuals bearing different kinship relations are called by the same term — father’s father and mother’s brother, grandson and sister’s son — can be explained if we assume that they were functionally identical from ego’s viewpoint. This reconstructed system points to a close consanguineal relation between the father’s father and mother’s brother, as is possible in a dual-exogamous cross-cousin marriage system, where a man can marry his mother’s brother’s daughter or father’s sister’s daughter, both of whom belng to the other lineal group.”

proto-indo-europeans are thought to have had a patrilineal family system — descent was reckoned primarly through the father’s line — and patrilocal residence — a woman would leave her family upon marriage and go live with her husband and his family. finally, they had clans [pg. 652 — i’m missing the PIE script formatting here]:

“7.4.1. The Indo-European word for ‘kin, clan’

“One of the basic structural units of ancient Indo-European society was the kin grouping *k’en-(th-) ‘clan, tribe, kin collectivity’. The stem is etymologically related to *k’en- ‘give birth’ (Skt. janati ‘gives birth’, OLat. geno ‘(I) give birth’, Gk. gignomai ‘(I) issue from, come from’, etc. The word for ‘clan’, etc. is a derivative in *-th- from this root, a formation well preserved in a number of early Indo-European dialects….

“In Italic the Proto-Indo-European word for ‘clan’, etc. is represented by Lat. gens, gen. gentis ‘clan; kinship grouping; tribe’. In Germanic the root is attested in a derivative, Goth. kindins ‘clan leader’ (from *k’enthi-nos)….”

so, the PIE speakers were: a patrilineal, patrilocal, clannish people who probably married their cross-cousins to some extent.

that is all!

previously: more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

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i offered up this little pop quiz back in 2013, and i’m resurrecting it ’cause i want to talk about this some more. first, the quiz:

in which group does the flower at the bottom belong: group a or group b?

east west flowers

feel free to leave your answer in the comments and — only if you like — the reason(s) for your choice and/or your ethnic background. (^_^) (you don’t have to be specific — you can say “eastern” or “southern” european, etc., if you prefer.)

a lot of you responded to this last time ’round — no need to do so again! (^_^)

the correct answer (i.e. if you think like a westerner) is here. see also here. no cheating!

this is (obviously) in nisbett’s The Geography of Thought territory.

that is all. for now!

previously: do you think like a westerner?

(note: comments do not require an email. jackass [penguin].)

this is just me cutting-and-pasting a couple of comments from jayman…’cause they’re AWEsome comments! (^_^)

they’re from the discussion to my outbreeding and individualism post, and they’re a response to a question from our resident skeptic (skepticism is good!) jtgw:

“…just a couple of centuries or so. Is that really enough time to effect that much genetic change according to your theory?”

jayman responded here [bolding by me]…

Yes:

“One of the simplest models of directional selection, truncation selection, where the bottom (or top) x% for a trait fail to reproduce is easy to model and produces something that closely fits observed situations.

“Say those 1 standard deviation below average for a trait fail to reproduce – roughly the bottom 16%. (In terms of numbers, this isn’t far off from the fraction of people that fail to reproduce in modern America.)

“The breeder’s equation gives us the selective effect:

“[R = h^2 * S]

“R = response to selection (mean of trait in following generation. S = selection differential (mean of trait of parental population). h^2 = additive heritability of trait.

“If we assume those 1 s.d. below average fail to reproduce, then the mean of the parental population (assuming trait in question is normally distributed) is the mean of truncated bell curve cut at -1 s.d. which you can find (with some…fancy math) to be +0.29 sd.

“Since the additive heritability of most traits is 0.5, the response to selection in that case is 0.29 * 0.5 = 0.145 sd/generation. If this were IQ, that would correspond to a ~2.2 point gain per generation. Assuming sustained selection, the population mean would move one whole standard deviation in just 7 generations (or about 200 years)! I mentioned IQ, but this will work just as well for any quantitative trait with a similar additive heritability, including the personality traits associated with a fine manorial serf – which you [could] model collectively as a ‘manorial quotient’ (MQ).

…and here

The World Values Survey gives us a neat way to quantify overall mean clannishness around the world:

“It’s even mapped in standard deviations.

“Outbreeding has produced an evolutionary shift to the right (maybe to the upper right) for NW Euros on this map. If we assume they started about where the Slavs are now, that means they moved +2 or +3 s.d. over the course of the relevant evolutionary time. Such a change (given the case of strong, sustained directional selection) could take as little as 400-600 years, given the formula above.

and that, dear readers, is how you make hbd chick smile. (^_^)

edit: oh! jayman promises that there’s gonna be more like this in an upcoming mega-post on his blog, so stay tuned!

(note: comments do not require an email. break open the bubbly!)

northern europeans began to think of — or at least write about — themselves as individuals beginning in the eleventh century a.d. [pgs. 158, 160, and 64-67 – bolding and links inserted by me]:

The discovery of the individual was one of the most important cultural [*ahem*] developments in the years between 1050 and 1200. It was not confined to any one group of thinkers. Its central features may be found in different circles: a concern with self-discovery; an interest in the relations between people, and in the role of the individual within society; an assessment of people by their inner intentions rather than by their external acts. These concerns were, moreover, conscious and deliberate. ‘Know yourself’ was one of the most frequently quoted injunctions. The phenomenon which we have been studying was found in some measure in every part of urbane and intelligent society.

“It remains to ask how much this movement contributed to the emergence of the distinctively Western view of the individual…. The continuous history of several art-forms and fields of study, which are particularly concerned with the individual, began at this time: auto-biography, psychology, the personal portrait, and satire were among them….

“The years between 1050 and 1200 must be seen…as a turning-point in the history of Christian devotion. There developed a new pattern of interior piety, with a growing sensitivity, marked by personal love for the crucified Lord and an easy and free-flowing meditation on the life and passion of Christ….

“The word ‘individual’ did not, in the twelfth century, have the same meaning as it does today. The nearest equivalents were *individuum*, *individualis*, and *singularis*, but these terms belonged to logic rather than to human relations….

“The age had, however, other words to express its interest in personality. We hear a great deal of ‘the self’, not expressed indeed in that abstract way, but in such terms as ‘knowing oneself’, ‘descending into oneself’, or ‘considering oneself’. Another common term was *anima*, which was used, ambiguously in our eyes, for both the spiritual identity (‘soul’) of a man and his directing intelligence (‘mind’). Yet another was ‘the inner man’, a phrase found in Otloh of Saint Emmeram and Guibert of Nogent, who spoke also of the ‘inner mystery’. Their vocabulary, while it was not the same as ours, was therefore rich in terms suited to express the ideas of self-discovery and self-exploration.

“Know Yourself

“Self-knowledge was one of the dominant themes of the age…. These writers all insisted on self-knowledge as fundamental. Thus Bernard wrote to Pope Eugenius, a fellow-Cistercian, about 1150: ‘Begin by considering yourself — no, rather, end by that….For you, you are the first; you are also the last.’ So did Aelred of Rievaulx: ‘How much does a man know, if he does not know himself?’ The Cistercian school was not the only one to attach such a value to self-knowledge. About 1108 Guibert of Nogent began his history of the Crusade with a modern-sounding reflection about the difficulty of determining motive:

“‘It is hardly surprising if we make mistakes in narrating the actions of other people, when we cannot express in words even our own thoughts and deeds; in fact, we can hardly sort them out in our own minds. It is useless to talk about intentions, which, as we know, are often so concealed as scarcely to be discernible to the understanding of the inner man.’

“Self-knowledge, then, was a generally popular ideal.”
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there seem to be two broad sociobiological/genocultural packages when it comes to average nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic altruistic behaviors in human populations — these are not binary opposites, but rather the ends of some sort of continuum of behavioral traits [click on table for LARGER view]:

nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic

the common thread running through the not-so-nepotistic groups of today (primarily northwest europeans) is a long history of outbreeding (i.e. avoiding close matings, like cousin marriage). (and a long history of manorialism. yes, i WILL start my series on medieval manorialism soon!) while individualism and guilt cultures may have been present in northern europe in paleolithic or even mesolithic populations, these behavioral traits and mindsets were definitely not present in the pre-christian germanic, british, or irish populations of late antiquity. those populations were very much all about clans and kindreds, feuding and honor, shame, and group consensus. guilt/individualistic cultures (i.e. not-so-nepostic societies) can come and go depending at least partly on long-term mating patterns. human evolution can be recent as well as aeons old.

the individualistic guilt-culture of northwest (“core”) europeans today came into existence thanks to their extensive outbreeding during the medieval period (…and the manorialism). the outbreeding started in earnest in the 800s (at least in northern france) and, as we saw above, by 1050-1100 thoughts on individualis began to stir. around the same time, communes appeared in northern italy and parts of france — civic societies. violence rates begin to fall in the 1200s, especially in more outbred populations, i would argue (guess!) because the impulsive violence related to clan feuding was no longer being selected for.

by the 1300-1400s, after an additional couple hundred years of outbreeding, the renaissance was in full swing due to the “wikification” of northern european society — i.e. that nw europeans now possessed a set of behavioral traits that drove them to work cooperatively with non-relatives — to share openly knowledge and ideas and labor in reciprocally altruistic ways. the enlightenment? well, that was just the full flowering of The Outbreeding Project — an explosion of these not-so-nepotistic behavioral traits that had been selected for over the preceding 800 to 900 years. individualism? universalism? liberal democracy? tolerance? reason? skepticism? coffeehouses? the age of enlightenment IS what core europeans are all about! hurray! (^_^) the Project and its effects are ongoing today.

it could be argued that the fact that certain mating patterns seem to go together with certain societal types is just a coincidence — or that it’s the societal type that affects or dictates the mating patterns. for example, i said in my recent post on shame and guilt in ancient greece that:

“shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

“if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example).”

perhaps, you say, the causal direction is that nepotistic, clannish shame-cultures somehow promote close matings (cousin marriage or whatever). well, undoubtedly there are reinforcing feedback loops here, but the upshot is that both ancient greece and medieval-modern europe clearly illustrate that the mating patterns come first. (possibly ancient rome, too, but i’ll come back to that another day.) the pre-christian northern european societies were clannish shame-cultures until after the populations switched to outbreeding (avoiding cousin marriage) in the early medieval period. late archaic-early classical greek society was rather (a bit borderline) universalistic, individualistic [pg. 160+] and guilt-based until after they began to marry their cousins with greater frequency (at least in classical athens). the not-so-nepotistic guilt-culture we see now in northwest european populations is particularly resilient, i think, because the outbreeding has been carried out for a particularly long time (since at least the 800s) and thanks to the complementary selection pressures of the medieval manor system (which ancient greece lacked), but it did not exist before the early medieval period.

so, the direction of causation seems to be: (long-term) mating patterns –> societal type (nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic).

i think.

previously: there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece and big summary post on the hajnal line and individualism-collectivism

(note: comments do not require an email. earliest formal self-portrait, jean fouquet, 1450.)

via ben southwood, here’s an interesting looking paper from the journal Personality and Individual Differences: “Genetic polymorphisms predict national differences in life history strategy and time orientation” [pdf]. (the paper’s even from the future! April 2015. (~_^) )

the “highlights”:

• Polymorphisms in three genes have been linked to aspects of life-history strategy.
• National frequencies of these polymorphisms form a strong single genetic factor.
• The genetic factor is strongly associated with national differences in life-history strategy.
• This association remains after controlling for national socioeconomic differences.

the three genes in question are some of the usual suspects: the androgen receptor gene (AR), DRD4, and the 5-HTTLPR in the SLC6A4 gene. the authors, minkov and bond, worked up a national genetic index based on the variations of these three genes as they relate to life history strategies (LHS) and time orientation (TO). they describe LHS and TO thusly:

“Life history strategy (LHS) theory explains differences in the allocation of an individual’s total bioenergetic and material resources between somatic effort (devoted to the survival of the individual) and reproductive effort (devoted to the production of offspring), as well as parenting effort (devoted to the survival of offspring) and mating effort (devoted to obtaining and retaining sexual partners) (Figueredo et al., 2005). Fast LHS (a focus on reproductive and mating effort) is positively associated with risktaking in animals (Ackerman, Eadie, & Moore, 2006) and humans (Figueredo et al., 2005). In addition to the individual-level studies, a number of nation-level measures associated with LHS have been proposed, relying mostly on national statistics about reproduction, violent crime, and cognitive ability or educational attainment (Meisenberg & Woodley, 2013; Minkov, 2013; Rushton & Templer, 2009; Templer, 2008).

“Some different studies (Hofstede, 2001; Minkov & Hofstede, 2012a) discuss a nation-level short-term versus long-term orientation dimension (STO versus LTO or simply TO for ‘time orientation’), derived from measures of values originally proposed by the Chinese Culture Connection (1987). According to these studies, TO reflects national differences in the endorsement of a wide range of values, some of which are especially prominent and seem to form the backbone of this dimension: future-related values (such as thrift and strong effort in modern education) versus a lack of emphasis on such values. The former set of values is known as long-term orientation, whereas the latter is called short-term orientation (Hofstede, 2001).”

what they found was that:

Nations that score lower on the LHSGF [Life History Strategy Genetic Factor] are characterized by faster LHS and shorter TO. The reason for this association is that these nations have relatively high percentages of people who carry AR, DRD4, and 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms that seem to stimulate risk-taking, impulsivity, and short-term-oriented mating competition (expressed as a tendency for earlier sexual initiation, sexual networking, and violence, in specific circumstances). The effect of the LHSGF on hypometropia-LHS seems stronger across societies with high socioeconomic inequality.”

minkov and bond - life history strategy - genetic factor index

minkov and bond - time orientation - genetic factor index

mr. billare objects to the paper on the grounds that, in some cases where data were lacking, the authors estimated the frequencies of the alleles based on the rates found in neighboring populations — neighboring populations that, perhaps, aren’t all that related to those for which there were no available data. that is not ideal, i agree — for example, estimating the national frequency of the DRD4 7-repeat for venezuela based on mexico’s frequency is…questionable. but i don’t think that their reference populations (i.e. the neighboring populations) which they used are that far off in most of the cases — at least not from a first glance at the paper. still, not ideal. definitely a weakness of the study.

my biggest objection to the paper is that’s we’re just talking about three genes here — there must be waaaay more genes related to behavioral traits involved here, as there are with height or intelligence. the authors acknowledge this, though: “[N]ational/ethnic LHS-TO may be driven by a large package of genes, each of which produces a very small effect at the individual level (and, in some cases, no effect at all); however they produce a large cumulative effect at the national level. It is therefore quite possible that our LHSGF index is actually a proxy for a much larger package of genes….

it’s early days, of course, and teh scientists simply just don’t know even half of the genes involved in our behavioral traits at this point in time. Further Research is RequiredTM! it’ll certainly be exciting when more data arrives! (^_^) this is an intriguing first step, though.

(note: comments do not require an email. boobies!)

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