Permissions Maze [...]

Part of the problem with copyright is not just things are not permissible, but that to obtain permissions for simple uses requires navigating a complex bureaucracy.

Whatever the scope of the educational use and fair use exceptions to copyright liability, at least some types of educational uses of content require rightsholders’ permission. Consider, for example, a teacher who reproduces an entire copyrighted book, film, or song, in either analog or digital format, and without a license distributes it to all students in a class for their unrestricted use. If such activity were permitted, and thus repeated in classrooms everywhere, it would cause significant harm to the market for the copied works and might reduce incentives for their creation. Presumably, such distribution would and should constitute copyright infringement.

Because of the so-called �permissions maze,� however, securing licenses can be extraordinarily difficult, particularly for individuals and noncommercial institutions lacking time and resources to engage in the sophisticated �rights clearance� now common within some content industries. The experiences documented in our case studies involving New World Records and WGBH illustrate these problems � and those entities have comparatively more resources and legal knowhow than most other educational users. Navigating the permissions maze requires users to determine if a license is required; locate the appropriate rightsholder; agree to a license; pay for the license; and carry out other terms and restrictions of the license. Trouble can arise at any of these points. The overall result is an onerous clearance process, especially for individual educators or small nonprofit enterprises. (Source)

Piracy Paradox in the Fashion Industry [...]

Cheap knock-off spur innovation in the fashion industry, but for specific reasons.

The paradox stems from the basic dilemma that underpins the economics of fashion: for the industry to keep growing, customers must like this year’s designs, but they must also become dissatisfied with them, so that they’ll buy next year’s. Many other consumer businesses face a similar problem, but fashion—unlike, say, the technology industry—can’t rely on improvements in power and performance to make old products obsolete. Raustiala and Sprigman argue persuasively that, in fashion, it’s copying that serves this function, bringing about what they call “induced obsolescence.” Copying enables designs and styles to move quickly from early adopters to the masses. And since no one cool wants to keep wearing something after everybody else is wearing it, the copying of designs helps fuel the incessant demand for something new.

The situation is not necessarily easy on designers, who have to keep coming up with new ideas rather than being able to milk a trend for years. But it means that in the industry as a whole there is more innovation, more competition, and probably more sales than there otherwise would be. And the absence of copyrights and patents also creates a more fertile ground for that innovation, since designers are able to take other people’s ideas in new directions. Had the designers who came up with the pinstripe or the stiletto heel been able to bar others from using their creations, there would have been less innovation in fashion, not more. (Source)

R2-KT [...]

On August 9th, Katie passed away, to a massive outpouring of grief from the Star Wars community. Through her ordeal, she became a focal point and inspiration for the 501st Legion’s charitable efforts.

In 2006, the R2 Builder’s club completed their own droid, and presented it to Johnson, who’s brought the droid out to charitable events over the years. Hasbro even made a limited edition action figure.

It might have ended with that, but soon, the director of The Clone Wars, David Filoni, learned about the droid and incorporated her appearance into the television show as QT-KT, a droid owned by Aayla Secura. R2-KT also seems to have made her own appearances in the show. (Source)

Literature and History and the Flynn Effect [...]

James Flynn of Flynn Effect fame thinks gains in IQ are going to waste.

In other words, our IQs may have risen, but this hasn’t made us any wiser. “Reading literature and reading history is the only thing that’s going to capitalise on the IQ gains of the 20th Century and make them politically relevant.” You may or may not agree, but Flynn is not the only person with this concern: as William Poundstone shows in his latest book Head In The Clouds, everyday ignorance is influencing the way we make decisions in many areas of our lives.

Whether or not Flynn will persuade young people to pick up a book, there’s no doubting that he has forever changed our views of intelligence. “Today I think I’m leaving a field where you can write genuine cognitive history,” he says – meaning that we can finally track and explain the ways the mind has changed and responded to our environment over time. (Source)

Article also discusses weird fact of IQ Gains Missed because researchers were so convinced intelligence was fixed.

Subway Maps Were Hard [...]

Subway maps may have been as hard for some people read as more complex visualizations are now — the notion of mapping topology onto a 2D plane that abstracts the experience from traditional space is not a native one with humans.

But it’s not just education; some researchers have argued that our whole world is now engineered to make us think in this way, thanks to an increasing reliance on technology. Where our great-grandparents may have grappled with typewriters, our parents struggled to program their video recorder, while children today learn to use a touchscreen from an early age. Even reading the schematic London Underground map may have been tough for someone in the 1900s who was used to seeing the world more literally, Flynn says. This progression has forced us to think in hierarchies and symbols, to learn how to follow rules and draw analogies – and it is now so widespread that we forget the cognitive leaps it requires. (Source)

IQ Advanced Like Height [...]

In fact, the answer is not so puzzling if you compare it to another trait that has slowly grown over the decades: body height. Within one generation you will find that tall parents have taller children, and short parents have shorter children, showing a large genetic component; but if you compare different generations, you will find we are all much taller than our grandparents – and that’s not because our genes have changed. It’s because modern life, with better medicine and diet, has allowed our bodies to grow. (Source)

There is a more general card on the Flynn Effect

The 80% of Your IQ [...]

As you grow up and begin to think for yourself, however, your parents’ influence wears off. You spend most of your time at school anyway, and if you have the potential, your brain will develop in line with the extra stimulation. Your genes may also push you to find new ways to stimulate your mind yourself – you might pursue more intellectually demanding pastimes, join a book club, or you might be selected for a harder maths class, which should in turn raise your score. So you begin to create your own niche that reflects your genetic potential. That’s not to say that your family background doesn’t count at all – it still matters if you attend a better school or if your parents buy you lots of books. And chance factors can add up; if you find yourself unemployed or beset by a personal tragedy, your IQ may take a blow. But overall, as an adult your genes can predict about 80% of the differences between you and the next person. (Source)

Genetics Matter Less at an Early Age [...]

Psychologists had long known that our genes play a role in our intelligence, and that its influence only increases as we get older. At kindergarten, genetics matter relatively little: what’s more important is whether your parents talk to you, read to you and practise things like counting. Sure enough, twin studies suggest that your genes account for about 20% of the variation in IQ at this age. (Source)

IQ Gains Missed [...]

Researchers of IQ missed the most stunning fact about IQ: IQ scores were rising year over year.

How did they miss it? Because it ran against their theory that intelligence was an immutable trait.

At 82, Flynn is now a towering figure in intelligence research, but it was only meant to be a short distraction, he says. “I’m a moral philosopher who dabbles in psychology,” he says. “And by dabbling I mean it’s taken over half my time for the past 30 years.” As part of this philosophical research on the nature of objectivity, he came across dubious claims that certain races are intellectually inferior. Examining the evidence, he saw that the average scores for everyone – black and white alike – had been rising consistently by around three points a decade. Yet few people had noted on the fact.

“I thought, why aren’t psychologists dancing in the street over this? What the hell is going on?” These were no small, incremental, improvements – between 1934 and 1964, the Dutch had gained 20 points – yet it had been ignored by the very people administering the tests. “It was sitting there right in front of their noses and they didn’t see it.”

Yet the Flynn Effect was just too pronounced and too rapid to be explained by changing genes; natural selection happens slowly across thousands of years. So what could it be? Other psychologists were dumbfounded. “They were so wedded to the notion that intelligence only changed slowly that they couldn’t see what was in front of them.” (Source)

For related scientific myopia see Reputation Traps

Prompting the Walking Dead [...]

But this all ties in with Facebook’s efforts to get people posting more personal updates. Last year, Facebook prompted users to post a video to celebrate their friend’s birthday, which is relevant to the company’s broader push into the video realm. And throughout 2015, it also prompted users to post a status update around Memorial Day, the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse, and even the premiere of the new season of The Walking Dead.
Facebook now claims in excess of one billion daily active users, which is great news for the company’s ad business today. But if people stop contributing personal content, the social network will gradually become less appealing — Facebook grew off the back of connecting friends, and if loses that personal edge, people will eventually drift off. (Source)

Gillette’s Vision [...]

It wasn’t meant to be this way. King Camp Gillette introduced his safety razor, with disposable double-­edge blades, around the turn of the 20th century. But before he was an inventor, Gillette was a starry-­eyed utopian socialist. In 1894, he published “The Human Drift,” a book that, among other things, envisioned most of the population of North America living in a huge metropolis powered by Niagara Falls. Production would be fully centralized, making for the greatest efficiency, while all goods would be free to everyone. That’s the only way Gillette saw to ensure that the benefits of technological development would be shared. “No system can ever be a perfect system, and free from incentive for crime,” he wrote, employing a prescient metaphor, “until money and all representative value of material is swept from the face of the earth.” His blade was a model socialist innovation: Gillette replaced toilsome sharpening labor with the smallest, most easily produced part imaginable. The very existence of the Gillette Fusion is an insult to his memory. (Source)

Terrified of Cars [...]

As other people woke up, one thing became quickly apparent — because folks knew we were in the middle of it, they wanted to reach out to us because they were worried, and scared. We kept shrugging everything off, focusing on getting back to normal and reading the news for updates about how we could maneuver our neighborhood. But ever since a suspect was identified, the coverage has gone into hyperventilation mode. And I just want to scream in frustration.
The worst part about having statistical training is that it’s hard to hear people get anxious about fears without putting them into perspective. ~100 people die every day in car crashes in the United States. That’s 33,804 deaths in a year. Thousands of people are injured every day by cars. Cars terrify me. And anyone who says that you have control over a car accident is full of shit; most car deaths and injuries are not the harmed person’s fault.
The worst part about being a parent is having to cope with the uncontrollable, irrational, everyday fears that creep up, unwarranted, just to plague a moment of happiness. Will he choke on that food? What if he runs away and gets hit by a car? What if he topples over that chair? The best that I can do is breathe in, breathe out, and remind myself to find my center, washing away those fears with each breath.
And the worst part about being a social scientist is understanding where others’ fears come from, understanding the power of those fears, and understanding the cost of those fears on the well-being of a society. And this is where I get angry because this is where control and power lies. (Source)

Information Warfare [...]

Less than 18 months later, the Kremlin released its updated military doctrine, which cemented “the intensification of the role of information warfare” in Russian foreign policy. One feature of modern military conflict, it said, is:

[T]he prior implementation of measures of information warfare in order to achieve political objectives without the utilization of military force and, subsequently, in the interest of shaping a favourable response from the world community to the utilization of military force.

A key task for modernizing the Russian military to be more effective in modern conflict, the doctrine concluded, is “to develop forces and resources for information warfare.”

This use of information warfare as a primary tool of warfare was put into play during the Euromaidan crisis in Ukraine, and later during the ongoing conflict in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine. Russia’s information operations about Ukraine have been so sophisticated and so extensive that it has become its own genre of research. (Source)

Students Don’t Know [...]

In fact, decades of research reveal that students:

are poor judges of the efficacy of their learning efforts
prefer instructional formats that produce inferior learning outcomes
make suboptimal decisions about when/where/how often to study
overestimate how much they will remember or how well they will perform
believe that things like learning styles and brain hemispheres influence learning (Source)

Marginal Propensity to Consume [...]

Non-rich people tend to spend 100 percent of their income, or close to it. Rich people don’t. They spend, say, 50 percent of their income and save the rest. This difference is called the “marginal propensity to consume,” and it seems like it might be a problem if income inequality is rising. The problem is that as rich people get a larger share of total income, total consumption goes down. Here’s an example:

The question, of course, is how big the MPC effect is. Several years ago I investigated this and concluded that it really wasn’t very big. It seems like it should be, but it just wasn’t.

Today, however, Larry Summers directs our attention to a new IMF paper that suggests MPC actually does have a big impact. The authors look at two effects. First, as middle-income families fall into lower income groups, they spend less. Second, as a larger share of income goes to the rich, average MPC goes down. Both of these effects reduce total consumption, which in turn acts as a drag on the economy. Here’s the relevant chart: (Source)

Dihydrogen Monoxide Hoax [...]

The dihydrogen monoxide hoax involves calling water by the unfamiliar chemical name “dihydrogen monoxide” (DHMO), and listing some of water’s effects in an alarming manner, such as the fact that it accelerates corrosion and can cause severe burns. The hoax often calls for dihydrogen monoxide to be regulated, labeled as hazardous, or banned. It illustrates how the lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears.[1]

The hoax gained renewed popularity in the late 1990s when a 14-year-old student collected anti-DHMO petitions for a science project about gullibility.[2] The story has since been used in science education to encourage critical thinking and avoid the appeal to nature. (Source)

Immigration Mostly Positive [...]

While national politicians continue to speak about immigration in negative terms, the academic evidence is overwhelmingly positive. Migrants tend to be highly-skilled on average, contribute substantially to the economy, and do not compete with natives for social housing. Moreover, there is no evidence that crime rates have been on the rise as a result of new immigration waves. Neli Demireva writes that there is a real danger the immigration debate will turn sour and have spill-over effects in unexpected places. (Source)

Do-acracy [...]

“Wikipedia is a do-ocracy,” said Dr. James Heilman, an emergency room doctor from British Columbia, Canada, who leads the Wikiproject Medicine that keeps close watch on the most important public health articles, like Ebola Virus Disease. “Those who do the most, do have a greater influence.” (Source)

Mir mine [...]

The Mir mine (Russian: Кимберлитовая алмазная трубка «Мир» Kimberlitovaya Almaznaya Trubka “Mir”; English: kimberlite diamond pipe “Peace”), also called the Mirny mine, is a former open pit diamond mine, now inactive, located in Mirny, Eastern Siberia, Russia. The mine is 525 meters (1,722 ft) deep (4th in the world) and has a diameter of 1,200 m (3,900 ft),[1] and is one of the largest excavated holes in the world. (Source)

The Dog That Barked Too Specifically [...]

When I see things like this, I first notice how specific the parameters are, and wonder what sort of p-hacking might be going on.

While acknowledging the validity of these criticisms, researcher, professor, and licensed psychologist Per Carlbring of Stockholm University says that we should not abandon attention training altogether, pointing out that a meta-analysis found that attention bias modification was shown to be highly effective for patients under 37, especially when it occurs in a clinic or lab rather than remotely. (Source)

Attention Bias Modification Training (ABMT) [...]

At its worst, anxiety can be a debilitating condition, but new research is showing that we can reverse these biases directly using various types of attention training. Furthermore, this training is now offered through easy-to-use software and even smartphone apps.
The most popular type of training is known as Attention Bias Modification Training (ABMT), also known more generally as Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM). Although the type of specific task used varies, the general idea is roughly the same. In a typical training session, every few seconds a display featuring both positive and negative images appears on the screen — usually happy and angry faces — which is repeated hundreds of times. Since anxiety is associated with a tendency to focus on negative stimuli, the goal of the task is to locate or respond to the positive images with a button response or a tap on the screen. By doing this over and over, and ideally, over the course of days or weeks, the brain is trained to habitually focus attention away from threat and negative information towards positive information. (Source)

Anxiety Warp Drive [...]

We all know that anxiety affects our emotional state and makes interacting with the world difficult, but what may be less obvious is how it changes what we focus our attention on throughout the day. By biasing attention, anxiety alters what we are conscious of, and in turn, the way we experience reality. This can have profound consequences. Anxiety’s effects on attention may shape worldviews and belief systems in specific and predictable ways. It can even affect our politics without us knowing.
To protect against the reality-distorting effects of anxiety, we must first understand how attention works and the ways in which it can be influenced. (Source)

Generative Text Space Probe [...]

The idea of robots creating our entertainment might sound dystopian, but to Brew, Goodwin and Sharp, it’s not about outsourcing creativity to machines but rather using machines to help people express their creativity in new ways. Computer-generated text can already make us laugh with its Mad Libs absurdity or move us emotionally through serendipitous connections; perhaps someday it will be capable of entertaining us in even more nuanced ways. Regardless, it seems like there will always be a human hand and heart in the mix, whether it’s creating the algorithm, writing the source material or guiding the choices of the machine more directly.
The way Goodwin sees it, an AI or an algorithmic text generator isn’t an author so much as a tool, and one that could allow human creators to input source text that inspires them — perhaps even from their own work — and prompt or inspire them to “produce something that is more closely aligned with their internal thoughts and notions.”
“One of my mentors, Allison Parrish, likes to point out that a generative text machine is like a space probe,” Goodwin said. “But rather than exploring what we understand spatially, they’re exploring the boundary between sense and nonsense. I think there’s a lot of interesting transmissions that you can receive from that boundary.” (Source)

Brew AI [...]

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly how it’s different until you learn how it works. Most algorithmic text generation you see on social media is automated. Twitter bots, for example, use Markov chains, algorithmic tools that analyze what words are most likely to follow others in the source material. The tool then automatically generates new text where words are sorted based on those linguistic probabilities. The user doesn’t have much say in the matter. Brew prefers a more hands-on approach.
“With my program, instead of making a random choice that you don’t get to see, it gives you the top 10 options [for the next word] and lets you choose at each step, in the same way that a predictive-text phone feature does,” Brew said. “It’s not entirely algorithmic.”
In practice, this means that while you have no control over the words that spring forth, your choices can shape how the garden path unfolds. Rather than fully automating the process of assembly of the text by turning it over to a program or bot, Brew’s work is more of a collaboration between a human being and an algorithm.
“It’s not letting the algorithm do all of the work,” said Brew. “It makes it more fun for me to use, I don’t just feel like a programmer making a proof of concept. I still feel like a writer.” (Source)

Minecraft Open Data [...]

For the last 17 years the Environment Agency has used lasers to map and scan the English landscape from above to support flood modelling and efforts to track changing coastal habitats. As part of its commitment to go open, and release all of its commercial datasets by 2018, in September last year the agency made its LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) dataset open.

Since opening this data, some interesting uses have emerged, from vineyard planning to plotting archaeological sites. But perhaps the most unusual use is by players of Minecraft, a game in which users dig and build different kinds of 3D blocks within a large world of varying terrains and habitats. Players of this game have requested the LIDAR data to help them build realistic virtual worlds.

The national mapping authority Ordnance Survey has also used its own open data products to build a virtual version of Great Britain for Minecraft. (Source)

China’s Accelerating Edtech [...]

Statistics say that 37 percent of edtech funding deals have been created in edtech companies based in China in 2015. That percentage is translated to US$1.07 billion. If this growth remains consistent, China will surpass the United States in 2016. Aside from this, China is pursuing the area aggressively and the government has announced that it will invest US$30 billion VC in startups by the year 2020. This can also mean that the Chinese government is planning to make educational technology a mandatory requirement for employment.

Once China speeds up the training of its 806 million strong workforce, that will be the game changer because when it happens, China will have an army of tech-equipped workers and talent companies which companies need. There are still a lot of doubters and naysayers about China’s capability to make this ambitious venture into a reality. But just how committed is China in taking on this venture? (Source)

Novelty and Acceleration [...]

The x-axis represents 10-minute time intervals, where the first was taken at 6am Eastern time. The hashtag reaches the Worldwide trending topics list by 7am Eastern time. From studying Twitter’s trending topics algorithm in the past, it was understood that both novelty and acceleration were important factors in attaining a high trend score. Additionally, Twitter takes into account one’s IP address when calculating trends. The Worldwide category is a form of aggregate, looking at novel and rapidly accelerating terms and phrases being used across users across all regions. (Source)

Lack of Bias [...]

John Dilulio, so treat these facts with caution:

It is often asserted that the 1980s war on drugs resulted in a more racially “disproportionate” prison population. The data tell a different story. In 1980, 46.6 percent of state prisoners and 34.4 percent of federal prisoners were black; by 1990, 48.9 percent of state prisoners and 31.4 percent of federal prisoners were black. In 1988, the median time served in confinement by black violent offenders was 25 months, versus 24 months for their white counterparts. The mean sentence lengths were 116 months for blacks and 110 for whites, while the mean times actually served in confinement were 37 months for blacks, 33 months for whites. These small differences are explained by the fact that black violent crimes are generally more serious than white ones (aggravated rather than simple assaults, weapon-related crimes rather than weaponless ones). (Source)

Failure to Deal With Partisan Politics [...]

Other countries have figured out how to administer elections in a nonpartisan way, but not the United States. And for that, we can blame the electoral system set up at this country’s birth, when the Founding Fathers made two crucial—and mistaken—assumptions. First, they thought they could prevent political “factions” from coalescing into two stable and antagonistic political parties that might find themselves directly at odds over an election and its results. Second, the Founders were unfamiliar with chief executive elections; the British king had appointed most colonial governors, so the Founders only had experience with disputes over elections to the British parliament or their own colonial legislatures. Because a fight over a single legislative seat was relatively inconsequential, the Founders decided to leave claims of fraud in congressional and state legislative elections up to those respective chambers to resolve. They also, regrettably, assumed that Congress could handle disputes in presidential elections, and state legislatures in gubernatorial elections.

Were they ever caught by surprise! As early as 1792, two opposing political parties already had formed: the Federalists and the Jeffersonians (sometimes called Democrats or Republicans or Democratic-Republicans). The competition between these two teams played out in both national and state politics that year. The first major allegations of vote rigging after the adoption of the Constitution were in New York, where the Federalists had convinced John Jay to run for governor in an effort to unseat the Jeffersonian incumbent, George Clinton. Jay, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, at the time was serving as the first chief justice of the United States. (His willingness to give up that position in order to be governor of New York illustrates the relative importance of the two jobs at the time.) (Source)

Seven Percent Dissolution [...]

Sixty-five percent said the jarring language in politics is unjustified, while 3-in-10 believe it is, indeed, justified given the current state of the nation. There’s a deep divide among supporters of whether the language is justified, though: 47 percent of Trump’s supporters said it is; just 17 percent of Clinton’s supporters agreed.

“Half of Trump supporters seem to be saying let the expletives fly, but many voters blame both sides equally for the negative tone of this year’s campaign,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Half of those surveyed laid the blame equally at the foot of both Clinton and Trump supporters. Thirty-seven percent contended that the harsh rhetoric comes more from Trump supporters, though, while just 11 percent said it comes more from people backing Clinton.

While an overwhelming 93 percent said this election hasn’t cost them any friendships, 7 percent said it has. Those numbers, however, mirror the results when registered voters were asked whether any friendships have been lost or ended because of a political campaign in past years. Seven percent said yes, while the remaining 93 percent said the opposite. (Source)

Shy Tories [...]

natesilver: The original “shy” term comes from “shy Tories,” and the idea was that British voters didn’t want to admit to voting for a party that was plodding and un-hip, or at least they were less enthusiastic about responding to pollsters.

So that sounds more like Clinton’s voters than Trump’s, if anything.

The social desirability idea is a separate one that’s sort of gotten lumped together with it. It’s a plausible idea, but “shy Trump” probably isn’t a good name for it. Instead, it’s more like the Bradley Effect.

harry: You know I heard of this one before. I heard it back in 1991, when David Duke was running for governor of Louisiana. Pollsters were all concerned that white voters were afraid to admit they were voting for the former KKK member. Did the polls underestimate Duke? Actually, they overestimated him. The polls underestimated the opposition to Duke from black voters who turned out in large numbers to vote against him. (Source)

Many Words for Snow [...]

Yet Igor Krupnik, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Washington, believes that Boas was careful to include only words representing meaningful distinctions. Taking the same care with their own work, Krupnik and others charted the vocabulary of about 10 Inuit and Yupik dialects and concluded that they indeed have many more words for snow than English does.

Central Siberian Yupik has 40 such terms, while the Inuit dialect spoken in Canada’s Nunavik region has at least 53, including “matsaaruti,” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, and “pukak,” for the crystalline powder snow that looks like salt.

For many of these dialects, the vocabulary associated with sea ice is even richer. In the Inupiaq dialect of Wales, Alaska, Krupnik documented about 70 terms for ice that mark such distinctions as: “utuqaq,” ice that lasts year after year; “siguliaksraq,” the patchwork layer of crystals that forms as the sea begins to freeze; and “auniq,” ice that is filled with holes, like Swiss cheese. (Source)

License Now [...]

However, it may also be that most people simply haven’t yet realized that they’ve given anything up. Such confusion is at least in part explainable by businesses continued use of words that imply ownership, such as “buy.” When Perzanowski and Hoofnagle’s tested a version of the Media Shop that replaced the “Buy now” button with a “License now” button study participants more accurately understood their rights. Additionally, about half of all shoppers were willing to pay more to acquire a digital copy that explicitly came with traditional ownership rights, such as the right to resell. (Source)

Fordlandia [...]

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.

Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford’s early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia’s eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.

More than a parable of one man’s arrogant attempt to force his will on the natural world, Fordlandia depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch. As Greg Grandin shows in this gripping and mordantly observed history, Ford’s great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained. (Source)

Deere DRM [...]

Owners of John Deere tractors discovered that they can’t legally fix their own equipment, because according to the company, the buyer only acquires “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.” Those terms prevent third-party mechanics from using diagnostic software to determine why the tractor is broken, effectively making it impossible to repair. As a result, no matter how capable a farmer’s local mechanic might be, he has no choice but to take his tractor to John Deere’s own, often much more expensive, certified mechanics. (Source)

Failed To Be Thin [...]

That’s the same dislike and distrust that makes fat people less likely to be hired for jobs, take home equal pay or receive adequate medical care under their insurance. It’s that dislike and distrust that make it socially acceptable (a public service, even!) to harass and verbally abuse fat people. It’s the reason why most clothing labels refuse to make garments in larger sizes – because we fat people are so worthless that they do not even want our money.

“Four hundred pounds” (181kg; 28st 8lb) is not a punchline; it is not an absurd, shameful, astronomical number; it accurately describes a body that many, many Americans are living in right now – Americans with fulfilling jobs and vibrant families, who pay their taxes (it’s this thing regular people do every year – ask your gardener) and treat the people around them with humanity and respect. Americans who vote.

Now, my dear fellow fat people. I know that you have been taught not to think of yourselves as a group, because the diet industry makes billions of dollars from the notion that each of you is just an individual who has temporarily failed to be thin. But, believe me, the rest of the country – employers, jurors, neighbours, voters – thinks of you collectively and treats you accordingly. And, well, if we’re going to be oppressed as a class, we might as well start using our clout as a class. (Source)

Hitler the Dunderhead [...]

Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. Early on, revulsion at Hitler’s style and appearance, Mr. Ullrich writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating “evening’s entertainment.” Politicians, for their part, suffered from the delusion that the dominance of traditional conservatives in the cabinet would neutralize the threat of Nazi abuse of power and “fence Hitler in.” “As far as Hitler’s long-term wishes were concerned,” Mr. Ullrich observes, “his conservative coalition partners believed either that he was not serious or that they could exert a moderating influence on him. In any case, they were severely mistaken.” (Source)

Abacus school [...]

Abacus or abaco refers to calculations, especially the subject of direct calculations, using Hindu numerals without the help of the abacus (an instrument for calculating).[1] Abacus school is a term applied to any Italian school or tutorial after the 13th century, whose commerce-directed curriculum placed special emphasis on mathematics, such as algebra, among other subjects.[2] These schools sprang after the publication of Fibonacci’s Book of the Abacus and his introduction of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. In Fibonacci’s viewpoint, this system, originating in India around 400 BCE. and later adopted by the Arabs, was simpler and more practical than using the existing Roman numeric tradition. Italian merchants and traders quickly adopted the structure as a means of producing accountants, clerks, and so on, and subsequently abacus schools for students were established.[3] These were done in many ways: communes could appeal to patrons to support the institution and find masters; religious institutions could finance and oversee the curriculum; independent masters could teach pupils. Unless they were selected for teaching occupations that were salaried, most masters taught students who could pay as this was their main source of income.[4] (Source)

The Manner and Form (1553) [...]

The maner and fourme (1553)
[7] The starting point for this reading of Peele’s books is the impressive title page of  The maner and fourme (see figure 1, below). The rebus of its printer, Richard Grafton, appears prominently at the bottom of the page, depicting a ‘tun’ or barrel, from which issues a grafted tree, probably the tree of knowledge, the whole being a pun on his surname.

[12] It is possible that few copies of The maner and fourme survive because few were printed to start with. Some comparison might be made with Pacioli’s Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalità (1494) of which Alan Sangster has estimated that between one and two thousand copies of the first edition were printed (2007). The comparison is not very helpful, however, because the Summa, which was produced at a much earlier stage of the development of print technology, was a complete anthology of mathematics of which the accountancy element formed only a part, and it was made for the Italian market; each of these is sufficient reason to frustrate direct comparisons between the two books. Franklin B. Williams, Jr. estimated that some four thousand entries in the STC are known only by a single copy; he also noted that it is rare for valuable books cared for in libraries to entirely disappear (1978). Information about the price of mid-sixteenth century books is scarce and there is no indication of how much either of Peele’s books would have sold for, but both are folios and are printed on high quality paper, and in comparison to, say, A Briefe Instruction, which is a quarto volume, and of lower quality paper, they are expensive books. Although the rate of attrition for early books is high, the scarcity of surviving copies of The maner and fourme, a large and relatively expensive book, suggests that its initial print run was small, perhaps because Grafton’s successors were not as interested in it as he was. The maner and fourme is dedicated to the ‘the right worshipfull Sir William Densell, knight’ and the company of Merchant Adventurers of which he was Governor. Usually referred to as ‘Damsell’, Sir William was knighted at Queen Mary’s coronation, despite signing the devise altering the succession in favour of Lady Jane Grey, and this dedication to him as ‘knight’ is further evidence that printing of the book was completed after Grafton lost his business (Bisson 1993: 6). Pacioli’s Summa was probably produced for the instruction of wealthy merchants and their sons educated through the Italian abbaco system (Sangster, Stoner & McCarthy 2008). Although, as noted above, comparisons between the two books are far from conclusive, it seems likely that Peele’s The maner and fourme was similarly intended for a market of wealthy merchants in London, including the Merchant Adventurers.

Figure 1: James Peele, The maner and fourme (1553), Title Page.
[8] As is not unusual in a mid-sixteenth century book, the printer’s rebus is large and striking, while Peele’s name does not appear anywhere on the title page; this book is intended to be seen as the work of its printer, rather than that of its author. (Source)

Funding Pressures [...]

Debbie Sills, national managing director of public sector practice at Deloitte Consulting, said US states have “primarily” cut funding to public higher education because they have “funding pressures”, not because their “philosophical belief” in the value of universities has changed.
She said that healthcare is taking an “enormous part of their budgets these days”, while there has been increased investment in school education recently, an area she said has previously been “neglected”.
“There is an enormous amount of pressure on state governments, and their ability to drive the funding they’d like to drive in higher education is very constrained,” she said. “It is much more about funding than a philosophical belief that universities should be funded in different ways.” (Source)

Obama Effect (Education) [...]

While access might be a part of that, without a narrative shift access is meaningless. We have examples such as the Obama effect, where it is speculated that black students closed the achievement gap on standardized test because of the positive reinforcement that came from all directions in culture during the campaign of Barack Obama. The blip in the test scores did not create a cultural shift in the larger narrative. The larger cultural myth continues to believe that students need saving rather than empowerment to believe in themselves. This is something that cannot be fixed by education or small attempts alone. Instead, it is important to create experiences with edtech that provide meaningful, culturally aware foundations and scaffolding. (Source)

Rush City Transformed [...]

Richard Neutra’s Rush City Transformed, from 1928. Ninety percent Non-Space, combined with some sterile megabuildings. You don’t even have to build it to know that the result is going to be 90% suckitude, and the remaining 10% mega-sterile. It’s inevitable.


An additional issue here is Defensible Space

Green Space Not Sustainable [...]

I don’t think many people realize how much this poisonous Green Space concept has infected our ideas of how to build cities. For example:

Clackamas County, Oregon.
Title 12: Zoning and Development Ordinance.
Section 1000: Development Standards.

1009 Landscaping, 1009.02 Minimum Area Standard

The minimum area requirements may include landscaping around buildings and in parking and loading areas, outdoor recreational
use areas, and buffering as required under this section (1009).

A. Medium and High Density Residential: A minimum of twentyfive (25) percent of the gross land areas shall be used for landscaping in medium and high density districts. This requirement may be reduced to a minimum of twenty (20) percent when the development qualifies for bonus density under subsection 1012.040 for Site Planning and Design Excellence. Redevelopment or additions to multifamily developments shall meet the minimum area requirements of this section.

So, right off the bat, a minimum of 25% of our “medium and high density residential” area becomes a Non-Place — this before the parking and the roadways. Instant disaster. Instant automobile dependence.

The funny thing is, a whole legion of urban planning troglodytes think this Green Space is “sustainable,” that word which is magic fairy dust meaning almost nothing. If Non-Space leads to automobile dependence, and automobiles are not “sustainable” (arguably), then obviously, Green Space is the exact opposite of what you would want to do if you were really aiming at “sustainability” (whatever that means this week). Look at this paper to see what I mean: (Source)

Garden City Movement [...]

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning that was initiated in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. Garden cities were intended to be planned, self-contained communities surrounded by “greenbelts”, containing proportionate areas of residences, industry, and agriculture.

Inspired by the utopian novel Looking Backward and Henry George’s work Progress and Poverty, Howard published his book To-morrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898 (which was reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow). His idealised garden city would house 32,000 people on a site of 6,000 acres (2,400 ha), planned on a concentric pattern with open spaces, public parks and six radial boulevards, 120 ft (37 m) wide, extending from the centre. The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, another garden city would be developed nearby. Howard envisaged a cluster of several garden cities as satellites of a central city of 58,000 people, linked by road and rail.[1] (Source)

Garden Cities may exacerbate the There’s No There There problem.

There’s No There There [...]

“There’s no there there,” said Gertrude Stein famously about Oakland, California. She was speaking on a vague, aesthetic level, but it is also true on a physical, square-feet kind of level too. I say that there are two kinds of sqare-footage in a city: Places and Non-Places.

Places are areas where things happen. This includes:

Sports fields
Train stations
Plazas/central squares

In short, if you “do something,” like work or sleep or go shopping or have a picnic or a party, it’s the place where you do it. A destination. The location where people interact. Places are universally pedestrian places. Nothing happens while people are in their cars. Cars are just the means to get from one Place to another Place.

Non-Places are areas of the city where nothing happens. This includes:

Parking lots
Useless greenery (not a park, but landscaping where nobody goes)
Roadways and other transportation infrastructure
Areas around buildings which are not “destinations,” and often have no real purpose

I think you understand exactly what I’m talking about. Notice that almost every area is easily categorized as one or the other. There aren’t many exceptions.

When more and more of a city consists of Places, then there’s “more there there,” as Gertrude Stein might say. When most of a city consists of Non-Places, then there’s “less there there,” until finally there is “no there there.”

That’s it! It’s as simple as that.

So, obviously, we want to maximize our Places and minimize our Non-Places, if we want to have a successful outcome. (Source)

The Structure and Components for the Open Education Ecosystem [...]

The Structure and Components for the Open Education Ecosystem (Source)

Goutte – Web Scraping Library [...]

Goutte – Web Scraping Library

Goutte is a library for scraping websites and extracting data. It provides a nice API that makes it easy to select specific elements from the remote pages. (Source)

Palantir Discrimination [...]

Palantir accused of racism.

Privately held Palantir helps government agencies track down terrorists and uncover financial fraud. It raised $880 million in funding late last year, for a $20 billion valuation, and is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most secretive companies.

Palantir was co-founded by Peter Thiel and Joe Lonsdale, two of Silicon Valley’s more influential investors and entrepreneurs. A representative for Thiel could not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

In one example cited by the Labor Department, Palantir reviewed a pool of more than 130 qualified applicants for the role of engineering intern. About 73 percent of applicants were Asian. The lawsuit, which covers Palantir’s conduct between January 2010 and the present, said the company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians.

“The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion,” said the lawsuit, which was filed with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

However, Palantir said the Labor Department relied on a “narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011.”

Employment and civil rights attorney Cliff Palefsky said it was unusual to see hiring discrimination involving Asians.

But Tracy Chou, of Silicon Valley-based diversity and inclusion organization Project Include, said discrimination against Asians for senior positions has been widely publicized.

In 2015, Asians represented 27.2 percent of the professional workforce at Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn and Yahoo but were 13.9 percent of the companies’ executive workforces, according to a study by pan-Asian professionals organization Ascend. (Source)

Air Loom [...]

Matthews believed that a gang of criminals and spies skilled in pneumatic chemistry had taken up residence at London Wall in Moorfields (close to Bethlem) and were tormenting him by means of rays emitted by a machine called the “Air Loom”. The torments induced by the rays included “Lobster-cracking”, during which the circulation of the blood was prevented by a magnetic field; “Stomach-skinning”; and “Apoplexy-working with the nutmeg grater” which involved the introduction of fluids into the skull. His persecutors bore such names as “the Middleman” (who operated the Air Loom), “the Glove Woman” and “Sir Archy” (who acted as “repeaters” or “active worriers” to enhance Matthews’ torment or record the machine’s activities) and their leader, a man called “Bill, or the King”.

Matthews’ delusions had a definite political slant: he claimed that the purpose of this gang was espionage, and that there were many other such gangs armed with Air Looms all over London, using “pneumatic practitioners” to “premagnetize” potential victims with “volatile magnetic fluid”. According to Matthews, their chief targets (apart from himself) were leading government figures. By means of their “rays” they could influence ministers’ thoughts and read their minds. Matthews declared that William Pitt was “not half” susceptible to these attacks[3] and held that these gangs were responsible for the British military disasters at Buenos Aires in 1807 and Walcheren in 1809 and also for the Nore Mutiny of 1797. (Source)

A Mirror of Chavez [...]

Cosmopolitan talks to Machado and gets the comparison that no one saw:

Trump’s sudden and unexpected rise as a political figure has jolted Machado into action. After the New York Times called her for a story that ran in May detailing dozens of women’s allegations of sexual harassment, she realized she needed to speak up more about her experience with him and warn Latinos about a man she fears will bring on “the third world war.” “It’s not revenge for me. It’s just, I feel that I need to share my experience with this guy, because the Latin community, they listen to me a lot,” she said. “I know who he is, this guy, and what he can do and how he can think.”

In Trump, she sees a mirror of Hugo Chávez, the populist leftist (and onetime beauty pageant organizer) who charmed his way into a calamitous and violent dictatorship that led to Venezuela’s economic collapse in the early 2000s. “Maybe [Trump] can be an owner of casinos and hotels and beauty pageants, but this is not a reality show. This is a country. This is a nation. A lot of people depend on his decisions,” she said. (Source)

Where Did You Find This? [...]

You can easily see why Clinton’s campaign decided this was the perfect anecdote to display his grotesque personal qualities. It contains several elements all at once. There is Trump’s lecherous habit of creeping around beauty contestants, which is its own deep vein of gross behavior. There is the cruel reduction of women to their appearance. And there is the anti-Latina racism.

But what truly made the set piece work was Trump’s response, which Clinton could not have scripted better if she tried. Unlike the previous allegations, he did not deny them, but instead burst out — three times! — “Where did you find this?” I have seen villains in Disney movies presented with damning evidence react this way, but I have never seen an actual human being do it, until now. (Source)

Watergate and Access [...]

“Woodward and Bernstein of 1972-74 didn’t have such access, and this probably influenced–for the better–their view of what Nixon and his men were capable of. Watergate wasn’t broken by reporters who had entree to the inner corridors of power. It was two guys on the Metro Desk.” (Source)

Novelty Demands Novelty [...]

I agree with the Atlantic’s James Fallows about Trump. “No one like him has gotten this close to the presidency in modern times.” Which is not to say he came out of nowhere, or that there is no precedent for his political style. A long series of developments left the presidential nominating system and the Republican party vulnerable to Trump. A long series of developments, which I tried to summarize here and here, also left political journalism unprepared for the challenge of covering this campaign. #
But now we’re here and novelty demands novelty. If journalists are to rise to the occasion in the final six weeks of this campaign, they will have to find a style of coverage as irregular as Trump’s political style. There are powerful forces working against this. But if they don’t try, they are likely to regret it for the rest of their careers. (Source)

Technical Debt of the 2016 Race [...]

Josh thought this had happened with the Republican Party. For example, “a large portion of the GOP is not satisfied with what can realistically be achieved by conventional political means.” It should have found a way to put this to its most demanding supporters, but there was always a reason to avoid that massive reckoning. This left it vulnerable to a huckster and fantasist like Trump. Or: “Can Marco ‘Establishment’ Rubio really get traction attacking Trump for having no specific plan to replace Obamacare when Republicans have spent the last five years repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare without ever specifying a plan to replace it with?” Again: they never got around to it. This left them vulnerable to Trump. #
I read Marshall’s analysis and thought: the same thing happened in a different way to political journalists. They should have found a way to deal with “a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality,” but they kept putting it off, even though they knew that something was happening to the Republican Party that wasn’t happening to the Democrats. They should have built asymmetric polarization into their mental model but it was a lot of work and “both sides do it” was too comforting, too attractive. #
More debt: They should have done something about the uniformity of approach from cycle to cycle (Source)

Asymmetric Polarization [...]

Four years later, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, probably the most respected figure in the political press, admitted that Mann and Ornstein were onto something. “They were ahead of others in describing the underlying causes of polarization as asymmetrical,” he wrote. Why did it take four years? (In 2012 and 2014 Balz was noncommittal about the thesis.) Two answers: asymmetry fries the circuits of the mainstream press… and Trump. #
Because journalists rely so heavily on that mental picture I described, they stick with it as the anomalies build up. Mann and Ornstein had tried to warn Balz and his colleagues about this: #
We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.
This advice was ignored at the time. But now it cannot be. For Trump is that “insurgent outlier” described by Mann and Ornstein. In his nativism, xenophobia, “identity politics for white people,” and loose talk about nuclear weapons he is the ideologically extreme. Like the deformed party Mann and Ornstein wrote about, he is “scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence (Source)

Scoured Everything [...]

A teacher living outside Chicago, she added that she had “scoured everything” about why vaccines might be harmful and had become “pretty convinced.” She chose not to vaccinate based on the results of her research but had read only material that cast doubt.

“I put my kids at risk,” she said. “I wish that I had taken more time to research from both sides before my children were born.”

Her three children — all under the age of 7 — are now fully vaccinated, after an aggressive regimen to bring them up to date on recommended shots. (Source)

Digital Hustle [...]

I found these workers relied on their smartphones — and sometimes free Wi-Fi at restaurants and libraries — as essential tools in their digital hustle. They used their phones to find and coordinate work and care, and to alleviate stress in emotionally draining jobs. For many, making ends meet means constantly checking and participating in online networks and message boards to find work, as well as phone calls and text messages to coordinate their gigs. So why do some people still see smartphones as a luxury for the poor? (Source)

First Computer Generated Music [...]

The machine, which filled much of the lab’s ground floor, was used to generate three melodies; God Save the King, Baa, Baa Black Sheep, and Glenn Miller’s swing classic In the Mood.

But when UC professor Jack Copeland and composer Jason Long examined the 12-inch (30.5cm) acetate disc containing the music, they found the audio was distorted.

“The frequencies in the recording were not accurate. The recording gave at best only a rough impression of how the computer sounded,” they said. They fixed it with electronic detective work, tweaking the speed of the audio, compensating for a “wobble” in the recording and filtering out extraneous noise.

“It was a beautiful moment when we first heard the true sound of Turing’s computer,” Copeland and Long said in a blogpost on the British Library website.

It features short snippets of the tunes rendered in a slightly grating drone, like electronic bagpipes. There are also a number of glitches and when the music halts during the Glenn Miller number, a presenter comments: “The machine’s obviously not in the mood.” (Source)

Changes in Privilege Drive Racist Violence [...]

In order to fully understand why ethnic violence happens, he argued, we need to appreciate the role of resentment: the feeling of injustice on the part of a privileged portion of society when it sees power slipping into the hands of a group that hadn’t previously held it. Drawing on social psychology, he theorized that one of the underappreciated causes of ethnic violence was a change in the legal and political status of majority and minority ethnic groups.

According to Petersen, that change in status comes from a sense of injustice. Members of dominant groups simply believe they deserve to be the dominant force in their societies, and resent those challenging their positions at the top of the pyramid.

“Any group that’s been dominant — well, it’s not that easy for them not to be dominant anymore,” Petersen tells me.

This helped explain the puzzle of Kaunas and Vilnius. In Kaunas, the Soviet invasion in 1940 had politically empowered local Jews, who had occupied leadership positions in the Communist Party prior to the invasion and ended up with plum Soviet jobs as a result. This sparked intense feelings of resentment on the part of Kaunas residents, resulting in the vicious pogrom. In Vilnius, by contrast, non-Jewish ethnic Poles held most leadership positions. The Soviet invasion didn’t empower Jews on a large scale, and thus failed to create any resentment toward them. (Source)

Not Economic Anxiety [...]

This anger plays some small part, but it doesn’t tell most of the story. A vast universe of academic research suggests the real drivers are something very different: anger over immigration and a toxic mix of racial and religious intolerance. That conclusion is supported by an extraordinary amount of social science, from statistical analyses that examine data on how hundreds of thousands of Europeans look at immigrants to ground-level looks at how Muslim immigration affects municipal voting, and on to books on how, when, and why ethnic conflicts erupt.

This research finds that, contrary to what you’d expect, the “losers of globalization” aren’t the ones voting for these parties. What unites far-right politicians and their supporters, on both sides of the Atlantic, is a set of regressive attitudes toward difference. Racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia — and not economic anxiety — are their calling cards. (Source)

Tim Slater [...]

In January, Speier gave a speech on the floor of the US House of Representatives recounting the allegations against Timothy Slater, who taught astronomy at the University of Arizona and is now a professor at the University of Wyoming. Speier had obtained the results of a confidential 2005 investigation conducted by the University of Arizona. “Dr. Slater himself admitted that he gave an employee a vegetable-shaped vibrator and that he frequently commented to his employees and students about the appearance of women,” said Speier on the House floor. “My staff spoke with one female grad student who was required to attend a strip club in order to discuss her academic work with Dr. Slater. The woman has since left the field of astronomy.” After reading the report, “I was physically sickened,” Speier says on Inquiring Minds. (Source)

College Is Not Home [...]

What feels like a “safe space” to one person can feel stifling or even “unsafe” to another. A sex-positive feminist may want to decorate her dorm door with a poster from a provocative art exhibition. An evangelical Christian across the hall might not feel “at home” seeing graphic images each morning upon leaving her dorm room. Yet forbid the feminist artist from decorating her door as she sees fit and she will find the space she inhabits seems less like home. The whole standard is untenable.

And I worry that some progressive college students are missing this inherent untenability by unconsciously proceeding as if there is a right to feel at home in college, but only for those with a “correct” or “enlightened” view of what home should be.

I do think residential colleges owe something to students who live on campus; that many residential colleges fall short of meeting their obligations to certain kinds of students; and that careful attention is owed when grievances about a hostile climate are expressed, whether by black students at Yale or women at the University of Montana or any subset of students who are treated unfairly, from historically marginalized groups to the fraternity brothers falsely accused of rape at UVA.

But clarity about what those obligations are and how best to meet them requires rejecting home as a lodestar. My correspondent has the best of intentions. But I fear that the best that could come of his framework is a place where students who share his ideology and temperament are very comfortable… and everyone else is not. Insofar as some aspects of home, like an environment free of racism, ought to be lodestars, it is because of their independent value, not because they are home-like. (Source)

A 53 Year Old Computer Runs Our Nuclear Defense [...]

We did indeed find the oldest computer in government, but it’s not really a computer at all; it’s computer software. In some ways that’s satisfying: old software needs just as much maintenance, expertise, and money to keep it running the machines correctly. It’s also what’s most exploitable, even if exploits written against custom assembly are unlikely. Anyway, the hardware can’t run without the software. If this is the oldest hardware, then the machines running the nuclear defense system are the clear winners of the “oldest computer prize.” (Source)

75% of Federal IT Is In O&M [...]

In other words: follow the money. One of this report’s key findings was that of all the money the Federal Government spends on their information systems, about 75% of that is spent on operations and maintenance (O&M) alone, with “5,233 of the government’s approximately 7,000 IT investments […] spending all of their funds on O&M activities.” This means that there’s less funding available for new investments or upgrades to existing ones. Instead, we’re just spending all of our time making sure that what we already have works. (Source)

Altman Twitter Break [...]

Earlier this summer, Sam Altman, President of the Y Combinator Group, left citing community issues on the Twitter platform. He argued that the social network “rewards negativity and snark,” and that he felt “worse after using Twitter.”

Unlike Altman, Andreessen didn’t leave a Tweetstorm explaining his exit, but it is possible that many of the same reasons could have temporarily driven him off the platform. Right now the only Tweets visible on his profile are a four word post about taking a break and a retweet about neoliberalism but when Andreessen was Tweeting on all four burners, he regularly contributed to contentious political debates with other users.

Of course, even Altman couldn’t resist the urge to come back to Twitter after a brief absence. Given Andreessen described his actions as a “break,” it will likely end much in the same way with an eventual return. Twitter as a platform has increasingly come under fire for its dismissive approach to the toxic culture permitting from some of the site’s insensitive and trolling users, though Andreessen isn’t usually one to back away from divisive conversations. (Source)

Ego Depletion Fails to Replicate [...]

The 1998 study, led by Roy Baumestier from Case Western University, provided evidence for something called ego depletion, which is the idea that our willpower can be worn down over time.

The latter assumption has been the basis of a huge amount of follow-on psychological studies, but now Martin Hagger from Curtin University in Australia has led researchers from 24 labs in an attempt to recreate the seminal paper, and found no evidence that the effect exists. (Source)

Surveillance Capitalism [...]

Over the past 30 years, shifts in our communication infrastructures have enabled large-scale attempts to reshape the very possibilities of social order in the interests of market functioning and commercial exploitation.

Some see this as a new “surveillance capitalism”. This is focused on data extraction rather than the production of new goods, thus generating intense concentrations of power over extraction and threatening core values such as freedom.

I agree, but how does this threat work exactly? And what might be the “price” of this transformation along dimensions that economists cannot count? (Source)

All Scientific Work is Incomplete [...]

One of Ronald Fisher’s most important contributions to modern statistics is the concept of the “null hypothesis.” This is the philosophical starting point in any statistical test, the presumption that, in the absence of better evidence, you should not change your mind. When in doubt, assume that the fertilizer hasn’t worked, that the antibiotic has had no effect, and that smoking does not cause cancer. This reluctance to “reject the null” imbues in science an inherent conservatism which keeps established knowledge from gyrating wildly with each new study about cranberries. 

But it can also come at a steep cost.

In 1965, three years after Fisher’s death, Austin Bradford Hill, by then a knight and a professor emeritus, gave a speech to the Royal Society of Medicine. In it he outlined a list of criteria that should be considered before establishing that one thing is the cause of another. 

But more importantly, he wrote, none of these criteria should be considered sacrosanct. “Hard-and-fast” statistical rules do not clear away all uncertainty. They just help informed, well intentioned people make the best decisions that they can.

“All scientific work is incomplete,” he said. “All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.”

Ronald Fisher had devised an ingenious way to separate correlation from cause. But waiting for absolute proof always comes at a price. (Source)

Fisher Eugenics [...]

Throughout his life, Fisher was an unflinching reactionary. In 1911, while studying at Cambridge, he helped found the university’s Eugenics Society. Though many well-educated English men of the day embraced this ideology, Fisher took to the issue with an unusual fervency. Throughout his career, he intermittently wrote papers on the subject. A particular concern of Fisher’s was that upper class families were having fewer children than their poorer and less educated counterparts. At one point, he suggested that the government pay “intelligent” couples to procreate. Fisher and his wife had eight children.

These political leanings may have colored his views on smoking.

“Fisher was a political conservative and an elitist,” writes Paul Stolley. “Fisher was upset by the public health response to the dangers of smoking not only because he felt that the supporting data were weak, but also due to his holding certain ideological objections to mass public health campaigns.”

If he were alive today, Ronald Fisher would have one hell of a Twitter account. (Source)

Fisher’s Retirement [...]

Be careful of work done from retirement.

In some ways, the timing was perfect. In 1957, Fisher had just retired and was looking for a place to direct his considerable intellect and condescension.

Neither the first nor the last retiree to start a flame war, Fisher launched his opening salvo by questioning the certainty with which the British Medical Journal had declared the argument over.

“A good prima facie case had been made for further investigation,” he wrote. “The further investigation seems, however, to have degenerated into the making of more confident exclamations.”

The first letter was followed by a second and then a third. In 1959, Fisher amassed these missives into a book. He denounced his colleagues for manufacturing anti-smoking “propaganda.” He accused Hill and Doll of suppressing contrary evidence. He hit the lecture circuit, relishing the opportunity to once again hold forth before the statistical establishment and to be, in the words of his daughter, “deliberately provocative.” (Source)

Tarring the Roads [...]

Hill and Doll tried to find that evidence in the hospitals of London. They tracked down over 1,400 patients, half of whom were suffering from lung cancer, the other half of whom had been hospitalized for other reasons. Then, as Doll later told the BBC, “we asked them every question we could think of.”

These questions covered their medical and family histories, their jobs, their hobbies, where they lived, what they ate, and any other factor that might possibly be related to lung cancer. The two epidemiologists were shooting in the dark. The hope was that one of the many questions would touch on a trait or behavior that was common among the lung cancer patients and rare among those in the control group. 

At the beginning of the study, Doll had his own theory.  

“I personally thought it was tarring of the roads,” Doll said. But as the results began to come in, a different pattern emerged. “I gave up smoking two-thirds of the way though the study.” (Source)

Super ANOVA [...]

After his falling out with the older Pearson, Fisher took a position at the Rothamsted Agricultural Experiment Station north of London in 1919. It was here that he helped introduce the concept of randomization as one of the most important tools in scientific experiments.

Up until then, the research station had been studying the effectiveness of different fertilizers by applying various chemical agents to separate tracts of land on a field-by-field basis. Field A would receive Fertilizer 1, Field B would receive Fertilizer 2, and so on.

But as Fisher pointed out, this type of experimentation was doomed to produce meaningless results. If the crops in Field A grew better than those in Field B, was that because Fertilizer 1 was better than Fertilizer 2? Or did Field A just happen to have richer soil?

As Fisher put it, the effect of the fertilizer was “confounded” by the effect of the field itself. Confoundedness made it impossible to say precisely what caused what.

The way around the problem, Fisher concluded, was to apply different fertilizers to different small plots at random. While Fertilizer 1 will sometimes be applied to a better plot than Fertilizer 2, if both are applied to enough plots in an arbitrary fashion, the opposite should happen just as often. On the whole, one would expect these differences to cancel out. On average, the soil under Fertilizer 1 ought to look exactly like the soil under Fertilizer 2. 

This was big news. By randomizing the experimental treatment, the researcher could more confidently conclude that it really was Fertilizer 1, and not some confounding variable like soil quality, that caused the crops to grow taller.

But even if the researcher randomized and found that the various fertilizers seemed to produce different yields, how could she know that those differences were not just the product of random variation? Fisher devised a statistical answer to this question. He called the method “analysis of variance,” which has since been shorthanded ANOVA. According to Salsburg, it is “probably the single most important tool of biological science.” (Source)

Analogies and Wittgenstein [...]

The virtue of analogies for Wittgenstein consists in “changing our way of seeing.” Experience is diffuse, fragmented, and isolated — modern experience increasingly so. A good analogy leaps across a wide terrain of experience to reveal connections between domains that we wouldn’t have thought had anything to do with one another. In so doing, the analogy produces the feeling of renewal to which Wittgenstein refers. It brings us up for air, elevating us into a broader expressive context that allows us to see a given phenomenon in the light of another.

Analogy, in this sense, is not just a useful technique that colors some component of an explanation or a topping for an argument. It is often the explanation itself. Analogical reasoning is, furthermore, fundamental to the way we get around in the world. When we’re confronted with something new, we resort to analogy to try to come to terms with it. (Source)

Obesity and Gut Bacteria [...]

Dr Michelle Beaumont, lead study author from the department of twin research and genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said although the study showed a clear link, it was not yet possible to explain why it existed.
One theory is that a lack of variety in faecal bacteria could lead to the domination of high levels of gut microbes which are good at turning carbohydrates into fat.
Dr Beaumont said: “As this was an observational study we cannot say precisely how communities of bacteria in the gut might influence the storage of fat in the body, or whether a different mechanism is involved in weight gain.”
And she indicated more research was needed to investigate how microbes in our guts and in our faeces can influence our health.
But there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that gut bacteria may play a role in obesity. (Source)

StackOverflow and Newbies [...]

I stopped contributing because it wasn’t that challenging anymore and there are too many similar, easy questions.
Stackoverflow is not declining, it is serving its purpose quite well.
Mods are not evil jerks that just hate you for not knowing something
Stackoverflow is a little more boring for contributors now than it was before (which is why I gradually stopped answering), simply because most of the general questions have already been answered. The niche ones and the ones about new technologies remain, though. (Source)

Death of the Power Pose [...]

The key takeaway, which she underlines and bolds for emphasis: “I do not believe that “power pose” effects are real.” But Carney goes into some really interesting detail about how she came to that conclusion. She notes that while some of her skepticism stems from the recent replication attempts, there were also decisions she, Cuddy, and Yap made as researchers that she regrets in retrospect. For example, she writes that in the original study, one of the outcomes “of interest was risk-taking. We ran subjects in [chunks] and checked the effect along the way. It was something like 25 subjects run, then 10, then 7, then 5. Back then this did not seem like p-hacking. It seemed like saving money (assuming your effect size was big enough and p-value was the only issue).” Elsewhere, she notes that “The self-report [dependent variable about feelings of power] was p-hacked in that many different power questions and chosen were the ones that ‘worked.’”

Let’s translate: “P-hacking” is a prevalent but increasingly frowned-upon method of making one’s results appear sturdier than they are. To oversimplify, it involves taking a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to data analysis, running all sorts of different tests and then only or primarily reporting the ones which come back as significant. Carney is admitting that the original power-posing experiments were conducted in a manner that allowed the researchers to, in effect, overclaim the significance of what they had found (Gelman and others had long suspected as such). (Source)

Free College and Attainment [...]

This matters because the quality of a college matters more than the price of tuition for student success. Most low-income students already pay no net tuition to attend community college, yet only about a third graduate within six years.
More than half of the countries in the OECD offer free college. They have higher levels of enrollment than the United States but lower levels of postsecondary educational attainment. Overall, the average attainment rate in the OECD countries with free college is 38 percent.
In countries that charge tuition, the rate is 43 percent. Among the most developed nations, the G-7, those where students are charged tuition (Japan, 59 percent; Canada, 58 percent; United Kingdom, 48 percent; United States, 46 percent) all have higher levels of postsecondary educational attainment than those where tuition is free (France, 44 percent; Germany, 28 percent; Italy, 24 percent).
International comparisons dispel the assumption that free college necessarily leads to higher postsecondary attainment. But this analysis can’t take us much further than that. However, if within the same country, one region made college free and another increased the price of tuition, the results could tell us much more. (Source)

Primacy Effect [...]

Debate pros, much like courtroom lawyers, have a name for this: “the primacy effect.” It’s the idea that whatever is heard first is likely to be what is best remembered.

“In debates and in trial work, there’s the doctrine of primacy,” said Judd Gregg, who played Gore in Bush’s mock debate preparations in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. “If you do a good job — or a really bad job — it will stay with the viewer.”

How long, exactly, Clinton and Trump have to form that first impression is the subject of, well, some debate.

Todd Graham, a presidential debate junkie and director of debate at Southern Illinois University where his teams have won five national championships, estimated that candidates have about 45 minutes. “The first half of the debate is absolutely the most important,” Graham said.

Examples are plentiful. Reagan’s classic 1984 line, “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” came just before the halfway point. (Source)

When Doctors Don’t Look Past the Weight [...]

When doctors don’t look past the weight, they become worse doctors.

Part of the problem, both patients and doctors say, is a reluctance to look beyond a fat person’s weight. Patty Nece, 58, of Alexandria, Va., went to an orthopedist because her hip was aching. She had lost nearly 70 pounds and, although she still had a way to go, was feeling good about herself. Until she saw the doctor.

“He came to the door of the exam room, and I started to tell him my symptoms,” Ms. Nece said. “He said: ‘Let me cut to the chase. You need to lose weight.’”

The doctor, she said, never examined her. But he made a diagnosis, “obesity pain,” and relayed it to her internist. In fact, she later learned, she had progressive scoliosis , a condition not caused by obesity. (Source)

Similar point made at Doctors and Weight Stigma

Doctors and Weight Stigma [...]

Doctors are prey to weight stigma, and cannot do their jobs effectively because of it.

When Anna Guest-Jelley—26 years old at the time—badly twisted her ankle, the Nashville native went to see her doctor. “Your ankle’s probably swollen,” she said, “because you’re carrying extra weight.”

Guest-Jelley, a yoga teacher, went along with her diagnosis. When the doctor reported that Guest-Jelley’s x-ray didn’t show any fractures, she returned home with instructions to ice her foot—and an all-too-familiar feeling of humiliation at the physician’s focus on her size. “Almost every time I’ve ever gone to a doctor’s appointment, I’ve experienced some level of shaming because of my weight,” she says.

Her experience is shockingly common. Weight stigma is on the rise in America, according to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, and, ironically, nowhere is it more deeply rooted than among health care providers. Multiple studies have found that doctors, med students, nurses, dietitians, and other health care professionals routinely stereotype their heavy patients. In landmark 2003 research from the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, more than half of the 620 primary-care doctors surveyed characterized their obese patients as “awkward,” “unattractive,” “ugly,” and “noncompliant”—the latter meaning that they wouldn’t follow recommendations. More than one-third of the physicians regarded obese individuals as “weak willed,” “sloppy,” and “lazy.” (Source)

Weight loss is more complicated than it looks. See Counterproductive Loser

The medical profession’s focus of “willpower” led it to adopt the wrong model of weight gain for over 50 years. See The Farce of Excess Calories

Literature Does Not Mean Liking [...]

Always respecting the exceptions among them, one notes that too many of these consumer reviewers misunderstand the inmost nature of what literature means. It does not mean “liking.” Novels are routinely denigrated when characters are not found to be likable. Is Raskolnikov likable? Is King Lear? The plethora of such naive readers testifies to a failure of imagination—the capacity to see into unfamiliar lives, motives, feelings—and this failure must, at least in part, be the failure of the teaching of literature in the schools. Writers who witness these lame “reviews” may sigh, but no seriously aspiring writer will be discouraged. Somewhere there lives the ideal reader. (Source)

Donald Trump’s First War [...]

There are people out there who think that a Trump presidency will be a sort of national colonic — an unpleasant experience that will foster such backlash that that in four years we will get Real Change™. This, of course, is the “bust” in the “Bernie or Bust” proposition, and is likely the secret hope of a number of Republicans as well. And it’s completely wrong.

It’s wrong, because in the hands of a sociopath, the Presidency can give one the tools they need to make their vision permanent, even while destroying America. It’s not even particularly hard.

As a simple example of this, it’s exceedingly obvious to me, but to surprisingly few others, that Donald Trump’s first order of business will be to invent a war he can win and win it. I imagine he will even ask his advisors about this in an unsubtle way. “Where should we invade next?” will not be such a joke.

We haven’t seen a sociopath of Donald Trump’s ilk in the Presidency, at least in recent history. But we know the lessons of history that would guide a sociopath’s actions. If you look at how leaders with fragile sub-majority coalitions achieve success, the answer is clear. George W. Bush and Margaret Thatcher were not sociopaths, but the lessons of their terms in office are not lost on anyone. Both suffered quite a bit in their first years. Both were initially thought to be heading towards a small tenure of limited impact.

In fact, if you had asked folks from the opposition party in 1981 (Thatcher) or 2001 (Bush), they would have told you that having these people in office was a net good. Their stay would be brief and trigger a backlash. With the house burning down, people would be ready to accept more radical opposition policies.

Of course, this was not the case.

For Bush, 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq War bought him a second term. For Thatcher, the Falkland War shored up her rickety support and gave her the power to steamroll Conservative Party initiatives into place.

I don’t mean to argue here whether the war was prosecuted to specifically gain electoral advantage. In Thatcher’s case it was thrust on her, and she decided gamble it all. Arguments can be made that it was the same for Bush after 9/11, or that the plan had always been to invade Iraq, and 9/11 was a convenient launchpad for that effort.

You don’t need to come down on a specific side of those questions to understand in both cases what was considered to be a short term leader of a fragile coalition was transformed into a potent cultural and political force. Thatcher used success in the war to remake Great Britain permanently. Bush was on a trajectory to do the same in the U.S., and might have succeeded (remember Social Security privatization was the “mandate” of 2004?) had Hurricane Katrina not disturbed the narrative.

Trump is not an idiot. A reality TV president knows that winnable wars bump up ratings. If Trump becomes President, he will find a war he can win, he will start it and win it, and he will ride that success to a permanent remaking of American politics and culture. He will win a second term by a larger percentage than his first. Your liberal dream or New Conservativism will be more unobtainable at the end of his Presidency than at its beginning. Even the most cursory reading of history will show you this is the path, once Trump has the power of the government to execute his vision.

Origin of the UK Social Democratic Party [...]

The origin of the party can be traced back to the ideological divisions in the Labour Party in the 1950s (with its forerunner being the Campaign for Democratic Socialism established to support the Gaitskellites), but publicly lies in the 1979 Dimbleby Lecture given by Roy Jenkins as he neared the end of his presidency of the European Commission. Jenkins argued the necessity for a realignment in British politics, and discussed whether this could be brought about from within the existing Liberal Party, or from a new group driven by European principles of social democracy.[citation needed]


How the Falklands Made Thatcher [...]

The Falklands War turned a faltering Prime Minister into an unstoppable force.

The nation drank deep of an experience it had not enjoyed since 1945: a clear military triumph. The victory dragged Thatcher’s leadership from the brink of collapse. She won global celebrity, in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and 10 points were added to her poll rating. She was at last in the lead over Labour. The emergent Social Democrats never recovered. Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag, denouncing all sceptics and crudely boasting the renaissance of the British people as a world power against dictatorship. She received a further boost when the Argentinian dictator, General Galtieri, was replaced by a rudimentary democracy.


If war had brought out Thatcher’s best features, victory brought out many of her worst, in particular intolerance of those who talked back. But it gave her the confidence and political strength to press ahead with a programme that was otherwise inert. Her 1979 manifesto had been “wet” in content and tone. She had begun to balance the budget, but spending was still rising. The unions had not been confronted. There had been almost no privatisation. The IRA was still on the march. Thatcherism was, as yet, unknown.

The Falklands changed everything. The miners were confronted, leftwing local government crushed, Europe riled and universities humbled. Most crucial of all, the patrician Tory moderates were diluted and eventually driven from power. The now-familiar Thatcher came into her own and “the Eighties” began. In a speech that July, Thatcher declared that Britain had been at war, “but it is not yet a nation at peace.” She meant it. (Source)

K12 Sexual Assault Guidelines [...]

The White House offered new guidance this week aimed at getting K-12 schools to improve their treatment of students who are sexually assaulted, emphasizing training on dealing with trauma. It noted that girls of color face disproportionately high rates of class suspensions. (Source)

Splitting Labour Led To Thatcher [...]

The creation of a third party (and a liberal exodus to it) preceded and may have contributed to Thatcher’s victory.

While the electoral consequences of a party split are relatively minor under the proportional electoral systems used in much of Europe, Britain’s district plurality (or “first past the post”) electoral system punishes division heavily. In a winner-takes-all system, dividing up the votes does not mean dividing up the seats. Broad church parties that encompass various ideological strands are electorally greater than the sum of their parts.

Labour has been here before. In 1981, in outwardly similar circumstances, a group of moderates broke away to form the Social Democratic Party. The adventure ended in failure, and the 1983 election saw Margaret Thatcher lead the Conservatives to their most decisive postwar victory. (Source)

The Crying Native American That Wasn’t [...]

The Native American we remember from the anti-littering PSAs of the 1970s wasn’t actually Native American.

Espera Oscar de Corti was a Sicilian-American actor that took method acting to the next level. Forget about Marlon Brando, Heath Ledger, Daniel-Day Lewis and those guys, de Corti lived most of his life as a character.

Who is this de Corti, you ask?

You might know him as Iron Eyes Cody.

He displayed his method acting skills as the Indian crying about littering in one of the most famous PSAs in the USA. Beginning his acting career as an Indian impersonator in the 1930s, de Corti claimed Cherokee-Cree ancestry. Not only did he play Indian characters in some 211 film and television titles, but he lived as an indigenous Native American offscreen. He consistently denied his non-Native ancestry.

He married an Indian woman, and adopted two Indian children. He dedicated decades of his life to working for Native American causes. The public was convinced de Corti was a Native American. However, a documentary later revealed that de Corti was in fact a second-generation Italian-American. Naturally he denied those claims.

He was so immersed in the Native American persona that he truly became Iron Eyes Cody. (Source)

Echoes of Dolezal (Source)

PrintWiki [...]

The Free Encyclopedia of Print
Welcome to PrintWiki, the Free Encyclopedia of Print. PrintWiki strives to provide a comprehensive, open-source knowledge base of information on the printing and graphic communication industry.


A special note from PrintWiki

January 2015

As of January 2015 the wiki is in a read-only static archive state. Maintaining the site as a wiki requires a community of volunteers to curate new material and provide general oversight. A community has never formed around the site so we’re looking into other options. The site has over 7,500 articles mainly from the Encyclopedia of Graphic Communications. This content is a reference for thousands of people that visit each month from search engines.

— Adam Dewitz (Source)

OxyContin Donuts [...]

When they learned the doctor had a weakness for sweets, they came up with a new plan: deliver a box of with donuts and other treats carefully arranged to spell out the word “OxyContin.” The surprise gift won over the doctor, who began prescribing OxyContin. “We are pleased that we have such a sweet start in developing a relationship with this ‘no-see’ physician,” the sales reps later wrote, “and we’re looking forward to sweet success with OxyContin!” (Source)

Thirsty Facebook [...]

There was something reassuring, even calming about staring down Facebook’s algorithmic firehose, mouth open. For all its billions of users, its towering piles of cash, its army of brilliant engineers, the company is still no stand-in for a human being — not even close. Sure, Facebook knew more about what I wanted than I’d given it credit for, but very little about who I am. I’d been telling Facebook about myself for over a decade, but in the end it only listened to what it wanted to hear. (Source)

Breaking the Union with the Mold [...]

One poignant illustration can be found in the history of nineteenth century industrial mechanization. At Cyrus McCormick’s reaper manufacturing plant in Chicago in the middle 1880s, pneumatic molding machines, a new and largely untested innovation, were added to the foundry at an estimated cost of $500,000. In the standard economic interpretation of such things, we would expect that this step was taken to modernize the plant and achieve the kind of efficiencies that mechanization brings.

But historian Robert Ozanne has shown why the development must be seen in a broader context. At the time, Cyrus McCormick II was engaged in a battle with the National Union of Iron Mold ers. He saw the addition of the new machines as a way to “weed out the bad element among the men,” namely, the skilled workers who had organized the union local in Chicago.10

The new machines, manned by unskilled labor, ac tually produced inferior castings at a higher cost than the earlier process. After three years of use the machines were, in fact, abandoned, but by that time they had served their purpose?the destruction of the union. Thus, the story of these technical developments at the McCormick factory cannot be understood ade quately outside the record of workers’ attempts to organize, police repression of the labor movement in Chicago during that period, and the events surrounding the bombing at Hay market Square. Technological history and American politi cal history were at that moment deeply intertwined.

In cases like those of Moses’s low bridges and McCormick’s molding ma chines, one sees the importance of technical arrangements that precede the use of the things in question. It is obvious that technologies can be used in ways that enhance the power, authority, and privilege of some over others, for example, the use of television to sell a candidate. To our accustomed way of thinking, technologies are seen as neutral tools that can be used well or poorly, for good, evil, or something in between. But we usually do not stop to inquire whether a given device might have been designed and built in such a way that it produces a set of consequences logically and temporally prior to any of its professed uses. (Source)

See the The Luddite Problem for a similar issue are the Luddites.

Evaluation Bias From Women [...]

The American case was a little bit different. Here, the authors performed a new analysis of a clever experiment published in 2014. Students were taking a single online class with either a male or female instructor. In half the cases, the instructors agreed to dress in virtual drag: The men used the women’s names and vice versa. Here, it was the female students, not the males, who rated the instructors they believed to be male more highly across the board. That’s right: The same instructor, with all the same comments, all the same interactions with the class, received higher ratings if he was called Paul than if she was called Paula. And that higher rating even applied to a seemingly objective question: Did this teacher return assignments on time? (The online system made it possible to ensure that promptness was identical in every case.) The paper is one more depressing entry in the growing scientific literature documenting how racial, gender and other forms of bias play out in and around the classroom. (Source)

See also Preference for Female Voices

French Course Evaluation Test [...]

Both French and American students are biased against female instructors, although the mechanisms are different.

The French students were, in effect, randomly assigned to either male or female section leaders in a wide range of required courses. In this case, the study authors found, male French students rated male instructors more highly across the board. Is it bias? Or were the male instructors, maybe, actually, on average, better teachers? (It’s science; we have to ask the uncomfortable questions.) Well, turns out that, at this university, all students across all sections of a course take the same, anonymously graded final exam, regardless of which instructor they have. This offers the chance to look at one dimension of actual instructor quality: Presumably better section leaders would help students get better grades on the same exam. In fact, they found, the students of male instructors on average did slightly worse on the final. Overall, there was no correlation between students rating their instructors more highly and those students actually learning more. (Source)

Why Companies Hold On To Toxic Data [...]

If data is toxic, why do organizations save it?

There are three reasons. The first is that we’re in the middle of the hype cycle of big data. Companies and governments are still punch-drunk on data, and have believed the wildest of promises on how valuable that data is. The research showing that more data isn’t necessarily better, and that there are serious diminishing returns when adding additional data to processes like personalized advertising, is just starting to come out.

The second is that many organizations are still downplaying the risks. Some simply don’t realize just how damaging a data breach would be. Some believe they can completely protect themselves against a data breach, or at least that their legal and public relations teams can minimize the damage if they fail. And while there’s certainly a lot that companies can do technically to better secure the data they hold about all of us, there’s no better security than deleting the data.

The last reason is that some organizations understand both the first two reasons and are saving the data anyway. The culture of venture-capital-funded start-up companies is one of extreme risk taking. These are companies that are always running out of money, that always know their impending death date.

They are so far from profitability that their only hope for surviving is to get even more money, which means they need to demonstrate rapid growth or increasing value. (Source)

Data As Toxic Asset [...]

All this makes data a toxic asset, and it continues to be toxic as long as it sits in a company’s computers and networks. The data is vulnerable, and the company is vulnerable. It’s vulnerable to hackers and governments. It’s vulnerable to employee error. And when there’s a toxic data spill, millions of people can be affected. The 2015 Anthem Health data breach affected 80 million people. The 2013 Target Corp. breach affected 110 million.
This toxic data can sit in organizational databases for a long time. Some of the stolen Office of Personnel Management data was decades old. Do you have any idea which companies still have your earliest e-mails, or your earliest posts on that now-defunct social network? (Source)

Greenwich Compliments [...]

But for Facebook, anonymity is a big no-no. In May, the behemoth social networking platform locked the original Greenwich Compliments profile, preventing the founder from logging in, reviewing compliments, and tagging complimentees. Citing the company’s identity policies, a Facebook representative explained that in the great majority of cases, anonymous accounts set up with fictional names are used to shame and harass other people.“Sometimes anonymity can lead to ‘de-individuation’ a process by which people often say and do things that they normally wouldn’t,” says Marc Brackett, who runs Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence and also works with Facebook’s “compassion team,” a group of product managers, designers, and engineers exploring ways to make technology more compassionate.But what if that “de-individuation” has a positive outcome? (Source)