Weekly Roundup 138: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoons:

*Sociological Images-

Important Videos:

Michael Shermer: The Believing Brain Via Value Investing World –

Richard Dawkins’ Uncut Interviews with Peter Singer & Big Thinkers – via Big Think – In 2008, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins presented The Genius of Charles Darwin, a three-part documentary that was later named “Best TV Documentary Series” at the British Broadcast Awards. During the filming of the program, Dawkins interviewed various experts – biologists, philosophers, clergyman, evolutionary psychologists, etc. — and wound up with 18 hours of raw footage. Some of the uncut interviews have now made their way online (as well as DVD), and we’re highlighting a few today.

Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations – via Ted– Physicist Geoffrey West has found that simple, mathematical laws govern the properties of cities — that wealth, crime rate, walking speed and many other aspects of a city can be deduced from a single number: the city’s population. In this mind-bending talk from TEDGlobal he shows how it works and how similar laws hold for organisms and corporations.

Most Important Reads:

A Mega report on US Finances (Recommended By Bill Gates)
USA Inc. – A Basic Summary of America’s Financial Statements

A private wealth manager reflects on the top 1 percent and top .1 percent in net worth
via Information Processing- A private wealth manager reflects on the top 1 percent and top .1 percent in net worth. His data would be a bit more informative if he broke it out by age group (note the numbers at the link are not entirely consistent with those given below, probably because of the use of means vs medians or threshold values). A 30 year old with a million dollars and someone about to retire with the same net worth are in two very different situations.

A New Book For Smart People: Blind to Our Own Blindness: Wisdom from Danny Kahneman via Freakonomics– I recently had the chance to read an advance copy of an outstanding book by Daniel Kahneman entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow. The book will be published this fall. Among the hundreds of interesting ideas in the book, there is one that I simply can’t get out of my head. Referring to how our minds work, Kahneman writes that not only are we sometimes “blind to the obvious,” but also we are “blind to our blindness.” For me, that one sentence summarizes a fundamental insight of his life’s work.

Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas via Science Blogs- Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

To Err Is Primate – via Edge.org– People are fascinated by research into the mental lives of monkeys and apes—but not always for the right reasons. What they usually want to know is whether these animals share certain important traits with humans, such as syntax, social reasoning, or altruism. Just how special are we? This question is irresistible, and isn’t going to go away. But the best work in this area is a lot more subtle than this. This brings me to my colleague Laurie Santos, one of best young scientists in the field of psychology. She does experiments with non-human primates—including capuchins in her laboratory at Yale and rhesus macaques at a field site in Cayo Santiago—as a way to develop and test subtle theories of the nature and evolution of certain central human capacities. Much of her recent research focuses on biases in reasoning and decision-making; she is one of the founders of the exciting new field of comparative behavioral economics.

Jeffrey Sachs: Our Plutocrats Versus Their Plutocrats
– via Reality Base – The idea that the Republicans are for the billionaires and the Democrats are for the common man is quaint but outdated. It’s more accurate to say that the Republicans are for Big Oil while the Democrats are for Big Banks. That has been the case since the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin.

A new status anxiety is infecting affluent hipdom – via Atlantic- Some 25 years have passed since the publication of Paul Fussell’s naughty treat Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, and I think this quarter-century mark merits the raising of either a yachting pennant, an American flag, or a wind sock with the Budweiser logo (corresponding to Fussell’s demarcations of Upper Class, Middle Class, and Prole). For readers who somehow missed this snide, martini-dry American classic, do have your assistant Tessa run out and get it immediately (Upper), or at least be sure to worriedly skim this magazine summary over a low-fat bagel (Middle), because Fussell’s bibelot-rich tropes still resonate.

Ends and Means – via Ochams End- For we chase outcomes on an ad hoc basis at the risk of employing processes that undermine our very intentions to produce better outcomes. In short: we focus myopically on each good or bad outcome at the danger of forgetting that it’s good processes that are of primary importance.And even a good process – nay, the optimal process – can result in bad outcomes from time to time.

How young students think – via Harvard- Educator Karen Daniels was “Lost,” but she was not alone. “Scared” soon found her, as did “Helpless.” And “Alone” was nearby. Actually, Daniels, the executive director of StepUP, an initiative between the Boston Public Schools and five university partners including Harvard, knew exactly where she was on Wednesday (July 27) — at the DoubleTree Suites Hotel in Boston, participating in a hands-on exercise designed to provide educators with new tools and perspectives on how children think, perceive, and learn.

Why Sociologists Should Study the Internet – via A sociologist- I don’t study the internet. Almost all of my work is historical – early 20th century economics and statistics, 1990s financial regulatory debates, and so on – and so I feel like ignoring the internet is a relatively defensible position for me. Unfortunately, ignoring the internet is not something that usually needs to be defended in Sociology. Right now, the prior runs in the opposite direction: researchers interested in conducting primarily or purely online research must defend that choice against a skeptical discipline. Survey responses collected online are considered less representative, ‘interviews’ conducted via Skype or in text-based media aren’t as valuable as face-to-face conversations, and ethnography of online communities or practices doesn’t give you the same kind of credibility and legitimacy as offline observations.

Complexity is the perfect moat –
via Value Investing World– The most obvious features of recent political and financial “solutions” are their staggering complexity and their failure to fix what’s broken. The first leads to the second. Consider the healthcare “reform,” thousands of pages of mind-numbing complexity which slathers on thick layers of bureaucratic control on a system which already costs twice as much per capita as competing developed-world systems.

Overcoming Our Aversion to Acknowledging Our Ignorance – via Cato- Each December, The Economist forecasts the coming year in a special issue called The World in Whatever-The-Next-Year-Is. It’s avidly read around the world. But then, like most forecasts, it’s forgotten. The editors may regret that short shelf-life some years, but surely not this one. Even now, only halfway through the year, The World in 2011 bears little resemblance to the world in 2011. Of the political turmoil in the Middle East—the revolutionary movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria—we find no hint in The Economist‘s forecast. Nor do we find a word about the earthquake/tsunami and consequent disasters in Japan or the spillover effects on the viability of nuclear power around the world. Or the killing of Osama bin Laden and the spillover effects for al Qaeda and Pakistani and Afghan politics. So each of the top three global events of the first half of 2011 were as unforeseen by The Economist as the next great asteroid strike.

Generalists vs. Specialists (And the Specialist’s Dilemma) – via FutureBlind- Animal species reside on a scale with “generalist” on one end and “specialist” on the other. Specialists can live only in a narrow range of conditions: diet, climate, camouflage, etc. Generalists are able to survive a wide variety of conditions and changes in the environment: food, climate, predators, etc.

Decision Making/ Behavioral Economics/Psychology/ Risk/ Sciences:

Risky investment decisions: How are individuals influenced by their groups?
– via Springerlink – We investigate the effect of group versus individual decision-making in the context of risky investment decisions in which all subjects are fully informed of the probabilities and payoffs. Although there is full information, the lottery choices pose cognitive challenges so that people may not be sure of their expected utility-maximizing choice. Making such decisions in a group context provides real-time information in which group members can observe others’ choices and revise their own decisions. Our experimental results show that simply observing what others in the group do has a significant impact on behavior. Coupling real-time information with group decisions based on the median value, i.e., majority rule, makes the median investment choice focal, leading people with low values to increase investments and those with high values to decrease investments. Group decisions based on the minimum investment amount produce more asymmetric effects.

Perpetual Novelty, Santa Fe Style
– via Psy-Fi- By the late 1980’s there was a growing recognition that the existing understanding of financial systems was flawed. Not only did markets not behave as the economic theories predicted but they often exhibited behaviour that didn’t seem to have any pattern or cause at all. In response to this a number of economists began looking at some of the research emerging from physics, biology and computer science in the area of complex adaptive systems and this led, in 1987, to a group of economists and scientists getting together at the Santa Fe Institute. The program of work that came out of this seminal event is still unfolding today, but suggests why academics and traders have had such different views on markets: one set lives in the real world, and the other doesn’t. Wanna hazard a guess as to which is which?


World we see is make-believe, top British scientist says – via APS– Professor Bruce Hood will explore the limits of the human mind in a series of prestigious lectures for the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the oldest independent research body in the world, it was announced yesterday. The psychologist plans to induce false memories in audience members and use pickpockets to demonstrate how easily people are distracted, in a bid to prove how we have less control over our own decisions and perceptions than we like to imagine.

Preferences for Consistency – IZA– This paper studies how a preference for consistency can affect economic decision-making. We propose a two-period model where people have a preference for consistency because consistent behavior allows them to signal personal and intellectual strength. We then present three experiments that study main predictions and implications of the model. The first is a simple principal-agent experiment that shows that consistency is valued by others and that this value is anticipated. The second experiment underlines the crucial role of early commitment for consistency preferences. Finally we show how preferences for consistency can be used to manipulate choices.

On when it feels good to be under-estimated – via BPS Research– Imagine that you’re a media mogul and you over-hear people estimating how much of the newspaper market you control. Would it be preferable, do you think, to hear an under-estimate or an over-estimate? Xianchi Dai at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his colleagues have addressed this very question, producing some findings that they say have practical social lessons for us all.

Social Psychology: Special Issue on Spatial Constraints on Social Cognition – via PsychNet

Why Do Viral Videos Go Viral? – via Wired – It’s one of the most popular online videos ever produced, having been viewed 355 million times on YouTube. At first glance, it’s hard to understand why the clip is so famous, since nothing much happens. Two little boys, Charlie and Harry, are sitting in a chair when Charlie, the younger brother, mischievously bites Harry’s finger. There’s a shriek and then a laugh. The clip is called “Charlie Bit My Finger—Again!”

Recognition-based judgments and decisions: What we have learned (so far) – via JDM- This special issue on recognition processes in inferential decision making represents an adversarial collaboration among the three guest editors. This introductory article to the special issue’s third and final part comes in three sections. In Section 1, we summarize the six papers that appear in this part. In Section 2, we give a wrap-up of the lessons learned. Specifically, we discuss (i) why studying the recognition heuristic has led to so much controversy, making it difficult to settle on mutually accepted empirically grounded assumptions, (ii) whether the development of the recognition heuristic and its theoretical descriptions could explain some of the past controversies and misconceptions, (iii) how additional cue knowledge about unrecognized objects could enter the decision process, (iv) why recognition heuristic theory should be complemented by a probabilistic model of strategy selection, and (v) how recognition information might be related to other information, especially when considering real-world applications. In Section 3, we present an outlook on the thorny but fruitful road to cumulative theory integration. Future research on recognition-based inferences should (i) converge on overcoming past controversies, taking an integrative approach to theory building, and considering theories and findings from neighboring fields (such as marketing science and artificial intelligence), (ii) build detailed computational process models of decision strategies, grounded in cognitive architectures, (iii) test existing models of such strategies competitively, (iv) design computational models of the mechanisms of strategy selection, and (v) effectively extend its scope to decision making in the wild, outside controlled laboratory situations.

Optimal Philanthropy for Human Beings
– via Less Wrong – The psychology of charitable giving offers three pieces of advice to those who want to give charity and those who want to receive it: Enjoy the happiness that giving brings, commit future income, and realize that requesting time increases the odds of getting money.

Lame Ducks and Divided Government: How Voters Control the Unaccountable – via UniSG– The ability of voters to use the available electoral instruments is crucial for the functioning of democracies. The paper shows that voters consider the institutional environment when making electoral decisions. Voters recognize that executives who face binding term limits (i.e., “lame ducks”) have incentives to deviate from the preferences of voters because these politicians are not subject to reelection restrictions. This weakened accountability can be counterbalanced by an alternative mechanism known as divided government. By dividing government control between the executive and legislative branches, voters can force a lame duck to compromise on policies with an opposing legislature. Using a panel data analysis of the US states from 1975 to 2000, it is shown that the probability of divided government is 10-15 percent higher when governors are lame ducks. This effect remains robust and significant even after controlling for many relevant covariates. This result provides evidence of the considerable capacity of voters to process information and use alternative electoral instruments to control an otherwise unaccountable executive.

Men and women perceive risks differently – via APS– Though it is well known that women take fewer risks than men, now, according to a new research, the reality of who takes risks when is actually a bit more complicated. A lot of what psychologists know about risk-taking comes from lab studies where people are asked to choose between a guaranteed amount of money or a gamble for a larger amount.

The beauty of simple models: Themes in recognition heuristic research – via SJDM- The advantage of models that do not use flexible parameters is that one can precisely show to what degree they predict behavior, and in what situations. In three issues of this journal, the recognition heuristic has been examined carefully from many points of view. We comment here on four themes, the use of optimization models to understand the rationality of heuristics, the generalization of the recognition input beyond a binary judgment, new conditions for less-is-more effects, and the importance of specifying boundary conditions for cognitive heuristics.

Dissecting the empathic brain: An interview with Christian Keysers – via Outrospection– Why do we shudder when we watch a tarantula crawling across James Bond’s chest in a 007 movie? And what can looking into a monkey’s brain tell us about our capacity to share in the emotional experiences of other people? Answers to these questions appear in The Empathic Brain: How the Discovery of Mirror Neurons Changes our Understanding of Human Nature, the fascinating and entertaining new book by Christian Keysers, Professor for the Social Brain at the University Groningen in the Netherlands. Keysers, one of the world’s most distinguished and innovative neuroscientists, was part of the famous team at the University of Parma, Italy, that discovered auditory mirror neurons in the macaque monkey, which has revolutionised thinking about how empathy works in human beings. In this exclusive interview for Outrospection, I talk to him about his book, and how far neuroscience has really taken us in our understanding of empathy.

The Downside of Deadlines – via Infectious Greed- Deadlines are ubiquitous institutions in government decision making, constraining both agencies andcourts. Yet these institutions are almost entirely ignored in formal models in institutional political science. We analyze deadlines as exogenously imposed institutions upon a government decision maker, asa means of elected officials exercising control over the the duration of administrative decision processes. Our formal model demonstrates how deadlines are successful at lowering the time to administrative decision. Yet our analysis also illuminates the unappreciated pitfalls of deadlines, or their “downside.” The effect of deadlines on regulatory behavior is highly non-linear, making imposition of deadlines a difficult task for even highly rational agents. Further, our model predicts that deadlines will increase the variance in the review time distribution under a large set of conditions and predicts that deadlines will increase the error rate in regulatory behavior, often in an exponential fashion. Our formal analysis helps to explainan expanding set of empirical findings about the effects of deadlines and suggests some of the limits ofdeadlines as an effective tool of control over policymaking and bureaucratic decisions.

The human paradox that is common sense – via Newscientist– In January 1998 about halfway through my first year out of graduate school, where I’d just completed a PhD in engineering, my housemate handed me a copy of New Scientist containing a book review by the physicist and science writer, John Gribbin. The book was Tricks of the Trade by Chicago sociologist, Howard Becker, mostly a collection of Becker’s musings on how to do productive social science research.

In which I suffer a minor setback due to hyperbolic discounting
– Citation Needed– I wrote a paper with some collaborators that was officially published today in Nature Methods (though it’s been available online for a few weeks). I spent a year of my life on this (a YEAR! That’s like 30 years in opossum years!), so go read the abstract, just to humor me. It’s about large-scale automated synthesis of human functional neuroimaging data. In fact, it’s so about that that that’s the title of the paper. There’s also a companion website over here, which you might enjoy playing with if you like brains.

Last-place Aversion: Evidence and Redistributive Implications
– via Paul Kedrosky
– Why do low-income individuals often oppose redistribution? We hypothesize that an aversion to being in “last place” undercuts support for redistribution, with low-income individuals punishing those slightly below themselves to keep someone “beneath” them. In laboratory experiments, we find support for “last-place aversion” in the contexts of risk aversion and redistributive preferences. Participants choose gambles with the potential to move them out of last place that they reject when randomly placed in other parts of the distribution. Similarly, in money- transfer games, those randomly placed in second-to-last place are the least likely to costlessly give money to the player one rank below. Last-place aversion predicts that those earning just above the minimum wage will be most likely to oppose minimum-wage increases as they would no longer have a lower-wage group beneath them, a prediction we confirm using survey data.

When It’s An Error To Mirror – via APS– In human relationships, mimicry can act as a kind of ‘social glue’ and foster rapport in subtle ways. If, for example, Amy and Ted are engaged in a conversation, Amy might mirror some of Ted’s mannerisms, leading Ted to like Amy more, trust her, and think of Amy as more similar, even though both are unaware that any mimicry took place. All this has been confirmed by much of psychological research, leading to a popular perception (and advice) that imitating is “good for you”. But new research suggests that mimicry may not always lead to positive social outcomes. In fact, sometimes not mimicking is the smarter thing to do.

Business/ Entrepreneurship/Finance/ Investing:

How Google Dominates Us – via NYBooks- Google is where we go for answers. People used to go elsewhere or, more likely, stagger along not knowing. Nowadays you can’t have a long dinner-table argument about who won the Oscar for that Neil Simon movie where she plays an actress who doesn’t win an Oscar; at any moment someone will pull out a pocket device and Google it. If you need the art-history meaning of “picturesque,” you could find it in The Book of Answers, compiled two decades ago by the New York Public Library’s reference desk, but you won’t. Part of Google’s mission is to make the books of answers redundant (and the reference librarians, too). “A hamadryad is a wood-nymph, also a poisonous snake in India, and an Abyssinian baboon,” says the narrator of John Banville’s 2009 novel, The Infinities. “It takes a god to know a thing like that.” Not anymore.

VC Long Nightmare– Foundersfond- To understand why VC has done so poorly, it helps to approach the future through the lens of VC portfolios during the industry’s heyday, comparing past portfolios to portfolios as they exist today. In the 1960s, venture closely associated with the emerging semiconductor industry (Intel, e.g., was one of the first – and is still one of the greatest – VC investments). In the 1970s, computer hardware and software companies received funding; the 1980s brought the first waves of biotech, mobility, and networking companies; and the 1990s added the Internet in its various guises. Although success now makes these investments seem blandly sensible, even obvious, the industries and companies backed by venture were actually extraordinarily ambitious for their eras. Although all seemed at least possible, there was no guarantee that any of these technologies could be developed successfully or turned into highly profitable businesses. When H-P developed the pocket calculator in 1967, even H-P itself had serious doubts about the product’s commercial viability and only intervention by the founders saved the calculator. Later, when the heads of major computing corporations (IBM, DEC) openly questioned whether any individual would ever want or need a computer – or even that computers themselves would be smaller than a VW – investment in companies like Microsoft and Apple in the mid-1970s seemed fairly bold. In 1976, when Genentech launched, the field of recombinant DNA technology was less than five years old and no established player expected that insulin or human growth hormone could be cloned or commercially manufactured, much less by a start-up. But VCs backed all these enterprises, in the hope of profiting from a wildly more advanced future. And in exchange for that hope of profit, VC took genuine risks on technological development.

Forbes: Cash Vs Reported Net Income– Via Seths Posterous- Here’s a vexing question for investors: Is Under Armour swimming in profits or struggling to get by? Different sections of its financial statements provide very different answers. The fast-growing athletic-apparel maker reported net income of $68.5 million last year and another $12 million in the first quarter of 2011. Its net profit margin doubled to 3.9%.Under Armour’s cash flow statement tells a different story, however. Cash from operations was –$85 million in the first quarter as it piled on $33 million in inventory and increased accounts receivable by another $57 million.

An accounting perspective on financial globalisation
– via Vox– Transparency in accounting standards is essential for global financial integration. Yet when the concepts are so complicated and the financial stakes so high, the debate is ripe for capture by special interests. This column suggests ways to stop this, drawing lessons from the debate over International Financial Reporting Standards.

The Role of Decision-Making Biases in Ireland’s Banking Crisis – via ERSI- This paper considers Ireland’s banking crisis from the perspective of behavioural economics. It assesses whether known biases in judgement and decision-making were instrumental in the development and severity of the crisis. It investigates evidence that key decision-makers, including consumers, businesspeople, bankers and regulators, as well as parties such as civil servants, politicians, academics and journalists, were influenced by seven specific phenomena which have been identified previously via experiments and field studies. It concludes that evidence is consistent with the influence of these established phenomena. Ireland’s long boom, rapid financial integration and lack of relevant past experience may have increased the vulnerability of decision-makers to economic and financial reasoning that proved disadvantageous. The analysis has potential implications for attempts to prevent future crises.

Debt and Delusion – By Robert J. Shiller – via Value Investing World-Economists like to talk about thresholds that, if crossed, spell trouble. Usually there is an element of truth in what they say. But the public often overreacts to such talk. Consider, for example, the debt-to-GDP ratio, much in the news nowadays in Europe and the United States. It is sometimes said, almost in the same breath, that Greece’s debt equals 153% of its annual GDP, and that Greece is insolvent. Couple these statements with recent television footage of Greeks rioting in the street. Now, what does that look like?

Predicting Financial Distress and the Performance of Distressed Stocks – via EmpiricalFinance– “In this paper we consider the measurement and pricing of distress risk. We present a model of corporate failure in which accounting and market-based measures forecast the likelihood of future financial distress. Our best model is more accurate than leading alternative measures of corporate failure risk. We then use our measure of financial distress to examine the performance of distressed stocks from 1981 to 2008.We find that distressed stocks have highly variable returns and high market betas and that they tend to underperform safe stocks by more at times of high market volatility and risk aversion. However, investors in distressed stocks have not been rewarded for bearing these risks. Instead, distressed stocks have had very low returns, both relative to the market and after adjusting for their high risk. The underperformance of distressed stocks is present in all size and value quintiles. It is lower for stocks with low analyst coverage and institutional holdings, which suggests that information or arbitrage-related frictions may be partly responsible for the underperformance of distressed stocks.”

Why Failure Drives Innovationvia Stanford– Silicon Valley is populated with people who fear sitting on the bench while someone else scores with a great idea, says Professor Baba Shiv. How people approach failure is a key to success, he argues.

Austrian Economics: Is the Market a Test of Truth and Beauty? via Valuation in Germany – In the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics of Spring 2000, Robert Tollison joins David Laband in reiterating a stretched conception of market test. Laband and Tollison recommend grading academic performance by the sorts of statistics that Laband compiles, which involve article and page counts, impressions of journal quality, and citations. As I said in the 1997 article that Laband and Tollison attack (the preceding chapter here), not even the actual commercial market is a test of truth and beauty or excellence. Granted, if the quantity produced of some good or service finds willing buyers at a price at least covering all costs, that fact implies that resources have not been diverted from alternative outputs that consumers would have valued more highly. Losses are a retrospective sign of waste (apart from a quasi exception for business owners who derive satisfaction from using their own wealth even in money-losing ways). Such a market test exerts healthy discipline.

Opening Pandora’s box: A new look at the industrial revolution – via Voxeu– Before the industrial revolution, economists considered output to be fundamentally constrained by the limited supply of land. This column explores how the industrial revolution managed to break free from these shackles. It describes the important innovations that made the industrial revolution an energy revolution.

Patent Peddlers, on This American Life via Infectious Greed – Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

Banking fragility and money – via Knowing & Making– This one features David Miles from the Bank of England and is chaired by Charles Goodhart. It’s on monetary policy and banking fragility. There are two aspects of this problem that are particularly important. The first is transmission mechanisms – an important aspect of monetary macroeconomics. Simple monetary models highlight that there is a relationship between the amount of money in the economy and the amount of economic output (consumption, investment or both). From this we can infer that printing money may increase GDP.

Stay Private vs Going Public: Changing landscape
– via Musing on Markets-
For much of the last century, as public equity markets have grown, the choice for owners of private businesses that had growth potential was a simple one. Stay private, with limited access to equity capital or go public? In making the decision, the owner weighed the pluses and minuses of a public offering. On the plus side, liquidity increases and you have access to far more capital, generally at a lower cost, since the investors buying your equity tend to be more diversified (and thus willing to overlook a portion of the risk in your company). On the minus side, you risk loss of control (if not right away, but at some point in time in the future; remember the cautionary tale of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak being forced out of Apple in the 1980s) and you also have far more stringent corporate governance rules (think Sarbanes-Oxley) and information disclosure requirements. The venture capital market eased the transition, by allowing small firms that were not ready to go public to raise equity from private investors, albeit at a higher cost than they would pay in public markets.

The Eclectic Mix:

Cyber Weapons: The New Arms Race – via Longnow– Around the world, governments and corporations are in a race for code that can protect, spy, and destroy—hacks some secretive startups are more than happy to sell.

How the internet created an age of rage – via Guardian – The worldwide web has made critics of us all. But with commenters able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity, the blog and chatroom have become forums for hatred and bile.

Is the Menstrual Cycle Linked to the Timing of Sexual Assaults? – via Psychology Today– The menstrual cycle has a profound effect on women’s behaviors, preferences, and desires. In a book chapter that I recently published with Kristina M. Durante (see chapter 7), we explored how the menstrual cycle might manifest itself in various organizational settings. We hypothesized that sexual harassment within the workplace might differentially occur as a function of women’s menstrual status. Although we did not empirically test our hypothesis, to our knowledge this constituted a rare attempt to link criminal acts committed against women to their menstrual cycles.

One tree stands alone in the forest? – via Herd- One of the ideas that most hinders our attempts to get to grips with human behaviour is that which sees the individual agents and not the ecosystem; the consumer (nuff said on that one) and not the social world which individuals live and which they help create. Much of cognitive psychology (and it’s fair to say, much of the Nudge-gang’s work) remains rooted in understanding the quirks of individuals’ cognitive machinery; much of evolutionary psychology seems to be stuck in explaining the behaviour of individuals devoid of their real context – that is, other people. And in popular culture, we tend to go back to specifics (to excessive nodality as the network theorists would put it): to the specific individual and what causes or might shape that person’s behaviour. This is as true of our political debates as it is of our personal lives.

Why Men Are Bad At “Feelings” – via Overcoming Bias- Mating in mammals has a basic asymmetry – females must invest more in each child than males. This can lead to an equilibrium where males focus on impressing and having sex with as many females as possible, while females do most of the child-rearing and choose impressive males. Since human kids require extra child-rearing, human foragers developed pair-bonding, wherein for a few years a male gave substantial resource support to help raising a kid in trade for credible signs that the kid was his. Farmers strengthened such bonds into “marriage” — while both lived, the man gave resources sufficient to raise kids, and the woman only had sex with him. Such strong pair-bonds were held together not only by threats of social punishment, but also by strong feelings of attachment.

Lasers for the Dead – via Longform– A history of the gravestone laser-etching industry.

Goldman’s New Money Machine: Warehouses– via Longform- In anonymous warehouses in Detroit, Goldman Sachs has hoarded a quarter of the world’s supply of aluminum, placing them firmly in control of trading on the London Metal Exchange.

Irwin Collier – How Economists Used to Be Made – via Ineteconomics- Economists aren’t born, they’re made. Irwin Collier digs into archives to find out how Paul Samuelson and his generation were made. What did they learn, and how did they learn it? While today’s graduate schools focus on quantitative methods, Collier says that a background in philosophy, politics, and history is essential to the posing of interesting questions. Without such background, he says, a researcher may be likened to a greyhound who cannot tell the difference between a fake bunny rabbit and a genuine hare. Irwin Collier uncovers the seeds of old economic thinking.

Long-term thinking needed for climate change strategies – via IHR – Climate change strategy, whether talked about in the media, at a COP meeting, university conference or elsewhere, has mostly focused on mitigation. But there’s always issues with how to address a problem that is beyond the human life-cycle. Indeed, many environmental problems are usually of this sort, from air pollution to industrial contamination or nuclear waste storage — they all tend to last for centuries. The climate problem seems as complicated as the species responsible for it — humans. But it’s not only the Earth’s climate that is in peril, but the oceans as well. If CO2 emissions increase the planet’s oceans lose out on oxygen. Mitigation is a potential solution, but it has been widely known that even if all production of green house gas emissions were to cease, the planet’s temperature would continue to rise, although not as severely. At some point the world itself has to be able to adapt to the foreseeable and unknown consequences of climate change. The uncertainty surrounding climate change is what makes it so difficult to communicate. Is it always inevitable that it will lead to catastrophe?


Time We Spend Each Day To Pay Taxes
– via Chart Porn –

How Big of A Backyard Do You Need to grow your food – Visual-

About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

31. July 2005 by Miguel Barbosa
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