Weekly Roundup 167: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!

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Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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The Activist(s) Corner ( Issues to Get Your Blood Boiling):

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slavevia Mother Jones – “Don’t take anything that happens to you there personally,” the woman at the local chamber of commerce says when I tell her that tomorrow I start working at Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc. She winks at me. I stare at her for a second. “What?” I ask. “Why, is somebody going to be mean to me or something?” She smiles. “Oh, yeah.” This town somewhere west of the Mississippi is not big; everyone knows someone or is someone who’s worked for Amalgamated. “But look at it from their perspective. They need you to work as fast as possible to push out as much as they can as fast as they can. So they’re gonna give you goals, and then you know what? If you make those goals, they’re gonna increase the goals. But they’ll be yelling at you all the time. It’s like the military. They have to break you down so they can turn you into what they want you to be. So they’re going to tell you, ‘You’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough,’ to make you work harder. Don’t say, ‘This is the best I can do.’ Say, ‘I’ll try,’ even if you know you can’t do it. Because if you say, ‘This is the best I can do,’ they’ll let you go. They hire and fire constantly, every day. You’ll see people dropping all around you. But don’t take it personally and break down or start crying when they yell at you.”

To Pay New York Pension Fund, Cities Borrow From It Firstvia NYTimes.com – When New York State officials agreed to allow local governments to use an unusual borrowing plan to put off a portion of their pension obligations, fiscal watchdogs scoffed at the arrangement, calling it irresponsible and unwise. And now, their fears are being realized: cities throughout the state, wealthy towns such as Southampton and East Hampton, counties like Nassau and Suffolk, and other public employers like the Westchester Medical Center and the New York Public Library are all managing their rising pension bills by borrowing from the very same $140 billion pension fund to which they owe money.

I’m Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Webvia Longform – On the ever-expanding world of targeted online advertising.

Daniel Pauly: The ocean’s shifting baselinevia Video on TED.com – The ocean has degraded within our lifetimes, as shown in the decreasing average size of fish. And yet, as Daniel Pauly shows us onstage at Mission Blue, each time the baseline drops, we call it the new “normal.” At what point do we stop readjusting downward?

Deric Bownds’ MindBlog: How to get the rich to share their marbles.via mindblog.dericbownds.net – Haidt argues that Obama’s prescription for curing the economy fails to press the “share-the-spoils”, which might happen if he could frame his statements to make Americans perceive the economy as a giant collaborative project, as happened for the generations that went through the great depression and the second world war (share-the-sacrifice).

Housing Crisis Hits Poor Renters Hard – Millervia McCune – As the middle class sidles out of the houses it can no longer pay for, the migration is making it harder for the poorest renters to find a place.

Video: Paul Gilding: The Earth is fullvia Video on TED.com – Have we used up all our resources? Have we filled up all the livable space on Earth? Paul Gilding suggests we have, and the possibility of devastating consequences, in a talk that’s equal parts terrifying and, oddly, hopeful.

Best Reads of The Week:

Video: Daniel Kahneman on Charlie Rosevia www.valueinvestingworld.com – Daniel Kahneman on Charlie Rose

A Free Classics Class: The epic of the epicvia The Do It Yourself Scholar – The grand tale known as the epic is an ancient genre that goes back to the dawn of literature. Think of the heroes battling for glory in the Aeneid, or the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost. To get an overview of these grand tales in western literature and see how they reflected their cultures, check out The Epic (iTunes), a UC Berkeley course co-taught by Maura Bridget Nolan and Charles Altieri.

A fitting tribute to Alan Turingvia mindhacks.com – Nature has just published a fantastic Alan Turing special issue commemorating 100 years since the birth of the artificial intelligence pioneer, code-breaker and mathematician.

How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Lovevia Brain Pickings – “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” But how, exactly, do we find that? Surely, it isn’t by luck. I myself am a firm believer in the power of curiosity and choice as the engine of fulfillment, but precisely how you arrives at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. Still, there are certain factors — certain choices — that make it easier. Gathered here are insights from seven thinkers who have contemplated the art-science of making your life’s calling a living

100 Best Blogs for Econ Studentsvia Online Universities Weblog – As an economics student, you have access to a great wealth of information online. One of the best places to find information online is in blogs, such as economics blogs written by educators, experts, and self-proclaimed know it alls. Here, you’ll find the 100 best blogs for economics students to read.

Is Your Language Making You Broke and Fat? How Language Can Shape Thinking and Behavior (and How It Can’t) via Discover Magazine – Chen’s finding is that if you divide up a large number of the world’s languages into those that require a grammatical marker for future time and those that don’t, you see an interesting correlation: speakers of languages that force grammatical marking of the future have amassed a smaller retirement nest egg, smoke more, exercise less, and are more likely to be obese. Why would this be? The claim is that a sharp grammatical division between the present and future encourages people to conceive of the future as somehow dramatically different from the present, making it easier to put off behaviors that benefit your future self rather than your present self.


The Patient of the Futurevia Technology Review – Internet pioneer Larry Smarr’s quest to quantify everything about his health led him to a startling discovery, an unusual partnership with his doctor, and more control over his life.

What High-I.Q. Investors Do Differently – Economic Viewvia NYTimes.com – The results are that people with high I.Q.’s build portfolios with better risk-return profiles than their lower-scoring peers. The real problem may not be that many people lack investing savvy or smarts. Perhaps what they lack is trust, or confidence in whom to trust. Knowing whom to trust, and relying on those who are trustworthy, is itself an aspect of intelligence. Mr. Guiso and his co-authors cited research that suggested that investment decisions relied significantly on a part of the brain called the Brodmann area 10. This region of the frontal cortex is believed to be associated with our ability to make inferences about others’ preferences and beliefs based on their actions. Such social intelligence seems to reward some people more than others with an ability to put standard investment advice into practice. Successful investing requires that we judge other people, and it relies on an ability to develop a good model of others’ minds. It requires that we put into perspective recent angry rhetoric against Wall Street and understand that, while some criticisms are surely justified, others are just as surely exaggerated.

Just Add Watervia www.ribbonfarm.com – “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

Stress Changes How People Make Decisionsvia Association for Psychological Science – It’s a bit surprising that stress makes people focus on the way things could go right, says Mara Mather of the University of Southern California, who cowrote the new review paper with Nichole R. Lighthall. “This is sort of not what people would think right off the bat,” Mather says. “Stress is usually associated with negative experiences, so you’d think, maybe I’m going to be more focused on the negative outcomes.”Stress also increases the differences in how men and women think about risk. When men are under stress, they become even more willing to take risks; when women are stressed, they get more conservative about risk. Mather links this to other research that finds, at difficult times, men are inclined toward fight-or-flight responses, while women try to bond more and improve their relationships.

A Mega List Of The Warren Buffetts of the World….via www.santangelsreview.com – Our article on Paul Desmarais called him “The Warren Buffett of Canada,” which made us start wondering how many “Warren Buffett ofs” there are. We decided to do a deep Google search to try and put together a comprehensive list. We had to toss out a huge number of non-investors like the Warren Buffetts “of groceries”, “of business communication”, “of real estate” and, bizarrely, even a Warren Buffett “of cuddling.” We wanted to learn who was considered such a good investor in their home country or geography that the “Warren Buffett of” moniker was used. In total, we found 26 Warren Buffett ofs.” Some of the names we had heard of before, but there were a number of new ones too.

Behavioral Economics, Complexity Research, Decision Making, Psychology, &  Risk:

The Brain and Choosing Financial Advisorsvia www.slideshare.net – A review of a new fMRI study from the Department of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University

Another Theory on Why Bad Habits Are Hard to Breakvia NYTimes.com – The problem, said Kelly McGonigal, author of the “The Willpower Instinct” (Avery, 2011) and a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, is that there is a disconnect between how we think of ourselves now and how we think of ourselves in the future.

How Exuberance for Novelty Predicts Well Being via Deric Bownds – a trait long associated with trouble.. problems like attention deficit disorder, compulsive spending and gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse and criminal behavior…After extensively tracking novelty-seekers, researchers are seeing the upside. In the right combination with other traits, it’s a crucial predictor of well-being. Winifred Gallagher’s new book “New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change” …argues that neophilia has always been the quintessential human survival skill, whether adapting to climate change on the ancestral African savanna or coping with the latest digital toy from Silicon Valley….she classifies people as neophobes, neophiles and, at the most extreme, neophiliacs…

Why Do Individuals Exhibit Investment Biases? by Henrik Cronqvist, Stephan Siegel :: SSRNvia financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com – “We find that a long list of investment biases, e.g., the reluctance to realize losses, performance chasing, and the home bias, are “human,” in the sense that we are born with them. Genetic factors explain up to 50% of the variation in these biases across individuals. We find no evidence that education is a significant moderator of genetic investment behavior. Genetic effects on investment behavior are correlated with genetic effects on behaviors in other domains (e.g., those with a genetic preference for familiar stocks also exhibit a preference for familiarity in other domains), suggesting that investment biases is only one facet of much broader genetic behaviors. Our evidence provides a biological basis for non-standard preferences that have been used in asset pricing models, and has implications for the design of public policy in the domain of investments.”

How not knowing game theory can cost you millionsvia Mind Your Decisions – This is a great example of the law of unintended consequences. The government offered an incentive for people to bid higher, but it resulted in everyone competing for the second-prize and low-balling their bids.

Ideology, Psychology, and Lawvia thesituationist.wordpress.com – Formally, the law is based solely on reasoned analysis, devoid of ideological biases or unconscious influences. Judges claim to act as umpires applying the rules, not making them. They frame their decisions as straightforward applications of an established set of legal doctrines, principles, and mandates to a given set of facts. As most legal scholars understand, however, the impression that the legal system projects is largely an illusion. As far back as 1881, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. made a similar claim, writing that “the felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men, have a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed.”

Anxiety and Taking Advice via Psyc Net Across 8 experiments, the influence of anxiety on advice seeking and advice taking is described. Anxious individuals are found to be more likely to seek and rely on advice than are those in a neutral emotional state (Experiment 1), but this pattern of results does not generalize to other negatively valenced emotions (Experiment 2). The relationships between anxiety and advice seeking and anxiety and advice taking are mediated by self-confidence; anxiety lowers self-confidence, which increases advice seeking and reliance upon advice (Experiment 3). Although anxiety also impairs information processing, impaired information processing does not mediate the relationship between anxiety and advice taking (Experiment 4). Finally, anxious individuals are found to fail to discriminate between good and bad advice (Experiments 5a–5c), and between advice from advisors with and without a conflict of interest (Experiment 6).

Free course by Jay Uhdinger: Success does not equal happiness : Generally Thinkingvia generallythinking.com – The course is called Success != Happiness and covers techniques to help you gain greater control over your emotions and ultimately more happiness. Everything in Jay’s course is fully supported by research. CBT is widely used in psychotherapy these days and focuses on the idea that your emotions are closely linked to your thoughts, and by changing your thoughts, you change how you feel. Mindfulness has more recently caught the interest of researchers and has been linked with all kinds of positive things, including more happiness and increased cognitive function.


Video: how to buy a car using game theoryvia Mind Your Decisions – The video is short and offers great practical advice for buying a car in America. Give it a watch:

How Feelings of Belonging Influence Motivation via PsycNet– Four experiments examined the effect on achievement motivation of mere belonging, a minimal social connection to another person or group in a performance domain. Mere belonging was expected to increase motivation by creating socially shared goals around a performance task. Participants were led to believe that an endeavor provided opportunities for positive social interactions (Experiment 1), that they shared a birthday with a student majoring in an academic field (Experiment 2), that they belonged to a minimal group arbitrarily identified with a performance domain (Experiment 3), or that they had task-irrelevant preferences similar to a peer who pursued a series of goals (Experiment 4). Relative to control conditions that held constant other sources of motivation, each social-link manipulation raised motivation, including persistence on domain-relevant tasks (Experiments 1–3) and the accessibility of relevant goals (Experiment 4). The results suggest that even minimal cues of social connectedness affect important aspects of self.

Individuality, Conformity, and Your Homevia www.everydaysociologyblog.com – A home is typically the largest purchase consumers will ever make, so it can be instructive to learn the ins and outs of buying real estate by watching others. HGTV’s house-hunting shows are also an interesting study of the contrast between individuality and conformity.

Capitalism, Business, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance:


Peter Bevelin – A Few Lessons for Investors and Managersvia Value Investing World – Peter Bevelin begins A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers with Warren Buffett’s wisdom, “I am a better investor because I am a businessman and a better businessman because I am an investor.” This book is about how managers and investors can increase their chance of success and reduce the chance of harm if managers think more like investors and investors more like businessmen.

The Forgotten Founder: YouSendIt’s Khalid Shaikhvia www.inc.com – Ranjith Kumaran didn’t found YouSendIt on his own, though. Another man, one whom YouSendIt doesn’t like to talk about, wrote the original code, built the first servers by hand, and served as the first president. His name is Khalid Shaikh, and he’s 34. He was a computer-engineering student at McGill University and a former intern at Microsoft, and he once worked at Hewlett-Packard and Intel. More recently, he has been living in a Motel 6 outside Denver, awaiting sentencing for launching a cyberattack three years ago that crippled YouSendIt’s servers.

How to Be a Bad Fund Manager viaPsyFi Blog – As we saw with both the Clever Hans Effect and the Titanic Effect there is a class of behavioural biases which are self-fulfilling: they appear to come true because people believe in them. It’s clear that there’s something quite profound going on with these behaviours, somehow information is leaking between participants even though there are no overt channels.

Bill Miller & Bruce Greenwald-2012 Columbia Investment Management Conferencevia Investing In Knowledge – Bill Miller & Bruce Greenwald-2012 Columbia Investment Management Conference

Online Poker Kings Get Cashed Outvia Longform – How the Justice Department killed a $2.5 billion industry.

Electronic Value Exchange: Origins of the VISA Electronic Payment Systemvia Economic History Services – For a growing number of people, the use of credit and debit cards has replaced cash as the primary way of purchasing goods, and swiping a card with the Visa logo is something that happens nearly two thousand times a second. What makes this all possible, however, is an efficient and reliable electronic payments system, the creation of which David Stearns tells in Electronic Value Exchange. In this well-written, concise volume Stearns, an instructor at Seattle Pacific University, details both the technological and organizational challenges that Visa had to overcome in order to link merchants and financial institutions into a seamless worldwide electronic network. In doing so, he has made a valuable contribution to not only the history of technology, but the broader fields of financial, consumer, and business history

Big Data + Machine Learning = Scared banks.via PandoDaily – The WSJ notes how tech start-ups are taking on banks. Some companies are even targeting niches like lending money for in vitro fertilization.

The Eclectic Mix:

What is a data scientist? via guardian.co.uk – This week, in California, over 2,000 people grappled with this issue at the Strata data conference. Data is big business, with companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn – and possibly every other corporate body you’ve heard of – creating huge profits out of the way they use data. This is the ‘big data’ everyone’s talking about – the 2.5 quintillion bytes of information created every day from our internet searches, purchases, mobile phone calls and social networking. (If you’re interested, a quintillion is 1,000 times a quadrillion, which is 1,000 times a trillion, which is 1,000 times a billion).

Personal Informatics In Practice: A Cross-Platform Smartphone Brain Scannervia Quantified Self – Better understanding of the intricate relations between our brains and behaviors is key to future improvements in well-being and productivity. Conventional tools for measuring these relations such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) typically rely on complex, heavy hardware that offer limited comfort and mobility for the user. This means that measuring brain activity has been confined to expensive laboratories and that it has been a challenge to perform longer term continuous monitoring of brain signals in real life conditions.

Entrepreneur Designers : Ira Glass on storytelling and creativey things,…via entrepreneurdesigners.tumblr.com – Ira Glass on storytelling and creativey things, speaking to beginners, and introduced by Tony:

Alain de Botton on Religion for Everyonevia WSJ.com – The decline of religion in the West has brought a decline in community spirit. Could the secular world draw useful lessons from religious life? Alain de Botton offers new ways to find shared meaning.

How to square numbers in your headvia Decision Science News – Even in the age of ubiquitous computing, its usually faster to do a simple operation like squaring a number in your head as opposed to doing it on paper or firing up R. Everyday decision making in science needs to happen in a fast and frugal manner. Assuming you know your multiplication tables up to 10×10, here’s how to compute the squares of numbers up to 100 in your noggin (and beyond if you are willing to bootstrap).

Reward Value, Not Face Time via Harvard Business Review – Over time, I discovered that the more autonomy I gave people, the more confident and expert they became in their domains, the more ownership they took of their results and the happier they were at work. I do weigh in today, and I try to be the voice of the big picture, but I almost never insist on my point of view.

Elites Excel At Hypocrisyvia www.overcomingbias.com – My interpretation: elites excel at hypocrisy. Elites can better distinguish ideals which are mainly given lip service, from ideals that really matter personally. Elites can better see which laws and social norms are actually enforced with strong penalties, and those that can be violated with impunity. This ability comes in part from implicit cultural learning, and also from just raw IQ. Homo hypocritus is alive and well – having good enough brains and social connections to manage hypocrisy well is still a core human capacity, as crucial for success in our world as it was for foragers.

Video: Empire from Conquest to Control via Fora.Tv– From the 1880s through to the First World War, European empires slowly imposed their control on the territories that in many cases existed merely on paper. This lecture asks how and why European powers embarked on this trajectory. Often, occupation became effective through a long series of colonial wars and conflicts. Sometimes, as in the case of the German war against the Herero in South-west Africa in 1905-06, imperial violence reached genocidal proportions. In others, as in the British wars with the Maori in New Zealand, or the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1896, the colonizing power was unable to impose full control or was even repulsed by military defeat. Different varieties of colony emerged, ranging from those where European settlement overwhelmed indigenous societies, as in Australia, to those where a small number of European traders, missionaries and administrators attempted to rule a vastly greater number of indigenous inhabitants, as in India or the colonies of West Africa.

What Is the Best Language To learn?via More Intelligent Life – French ranks only 16th on the list of languages ranked by native speakers. But ranked above it are languages like Telegu and Javanese that no one would call world languages. Hindi does not even unite India. Also in the top 15 are Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese, major languages to be sure, but regionally concentrated. If your interest is the Middle East or Islam, by all means learn Arabic. If your interest is Latin America, Spanish or Portuguese is the way to go. Or both; learning one makes the second quite easy.


100 Infographic Tools and Resourcesvia Chart Porn – Of course, the most remarkable thing about the list of datavis blogs, tools, and resources over at Daily*Tekk is that Chart Porn isn’t on it. Oh well. Can’t win them all.

The Startup Ecosystem via Cool Infographics– The Startup Ecosystem: Predator vs. Prey is a fun but informative infographic from udemy. It looks at the different roles related to tech startup companies in an amusing way by personifying them as fish in the sea.

Cool Infographics – Blogvia Payroll and Tax Deductions – The Payroll and Tax Deductions infographic from Paycor takes an unbelievably dry topic and makes it interesting by visually walking someone through their paycheck. The design allows them to understand all of the different things that may come out prior to the final amount that makes it to their bank account.

Arms sales: who are the world’s 100 top arms producers?via guardian.co.uk – Despite the economic downturn it has been business as usual for the world’s biggest arms companies who have seen sales of weapons and military services rise during 2010 and exceed $400bn (£250bn).The report published by The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) ranks the top 100 arms producers and signficantly shows that the entry point for inclusion on the list has risen – from sales of $280m in 2002 to $640m in 2010. Richard Norton Taylor writes:

Chinese Spendingvia Chart Porn – A sankey diagram illustrating where one particular Shanghai office worker spends his money.

About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

05. March 2006 by Miguel Barbosa
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