Weekly Roundup 171: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
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The Activist(s) Corner (Issues to Get Your Blood Boiling):
The Latest on Wall St Greed – via www.atimes.com – The “toxic culture of greed” on Wall Street was highlighted again last week, when Greg Smith went public with his resignation from Goldman Sachs in a scathing oped published in the New York Times. In other recent eyebrow-raisers, London Interbank Offered Rates (or LIBOR) – the benchmark interest rates involved in interest rate swaps – were shown to be manipulated by the banks that would have to pay up; and the objectivity of the International
The Situational Effects of Wealth and Status – via thesituationist.wordpress.com -The upper class has a higher propensity for unethical behavior, being more likely to believe – as did Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street” – that “greed is good,” according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
At Ailing Wyckoff Hospital, Insider Deals and Lavish Perks – via NYTimes.com – In recent years, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn has often gone hat in hand to the city and state, lamenting cuts in government assistance and questioning whether officials truly understood the burden of running a nonprofit hospital in Bushwick, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. For much of that time, Wyckoff’s chief executive was driving to work in a Bentley Continental GT, a $160,000 automobile, and at one point, the hospital paid thousands of dollars to insure the vehicle, according to hospital records and interviews. When the chief executive lost his license after an accident, hospital security guards chauffeured him and his wife around the clock in a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Town Car.
Africa’s super-rich put their foot down – via The Guardian – Welcome to the charmed lives of a tiny elite that make up the super-rich across Africa. While millions live in crushing poverty, breakneck growth across the continent has expanded wealth beyond the traditional circle of government workers – for a lucky minority. This is the market the makers of Porsche hope to tap into, choosing to open its latest showroom on the continent – the first was in South Africa – in Nigeria. In an ultra-modern glass and steel building, the auto maker unveiled its latest Carrera and 911 models. “It’s the sports car that can still be used everyday,” Africa Porsche director George Willis said.
Best Reads of The Week:
Video: Mistakes Were Made: Self Justification and Self Deception Keep People from Changing Their Minds – via For Good Reason – Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike.
When Dan Ariely found the key to human nature – via Israel News – In his Duke University residence, the Ramat Hasharon-raised Prof. Dan Ariely pauses to talk about behavioral economics, the serious accident he suffered as a teenager and what it’s like to know what we’re all thinking.
Why Creativity Necessitates Eclecticism: via Brain Pickings – As a firm believer in combinatorial creativity, I’m always interested in the ecosystem of influences and how we honor those who inspire us. Reader Will Shaw points me to this handwritten note by music icon Nick Cave entitled “More Things to Remember…,” courtesy of Melbourne’s Arts Centre, in which Cave lists some of his influences.
Video: Ted Talk -Regina Dugan: From mach-20 glider to humming bird drone – via Video on TED.com – “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” asks Regina Dugan, then director of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In this breathtaking talk she describes some of the extraordinary projects — a robotic hummingbird, a prosthetic arm controlled by thought, and, well, the internet — that her agency has created by not worrying that they might fail. (Followed by a Q&A with TED’s Chris Anderson)
Thinking Smarter About People Who Think Differently – via Wired.com – One of the forthcoming books I’m most excited about is Steve Silberman’s NeuroTribes: A smarter way of thinking about people who think differently. Like Oliver Sacks (and Steve has written the definitive profile of the neurologist), Steve is an incredibly sensitive observer of others. (He’s also a gifted writer and absurdly nice guy.) Steve isn’t interested in mere description of a condition – he wants to understand how his subjects see the world, immersing himself in their pleasures, passions and struggles
Awesome Movie: We Live In Public – Official Trailer – via YouTube – On the 40th anniversary of the Internet, WE LIVE IN PUBLIC tells the story of the effect it is having on our society as seen through the eyes of the greatest Internet pioneer youve never heard of, visionary Josh Harris. Award-winning director, Ondi Timoner (DIG!), documented his tumultuous life for more than a decade, to create a riveting, cautionary tale of what to expect as the virtual world inevitably takes control of our lives.
Documentary Series: Inside The Ailing Brain– via mindhacks.com – The Ailing Brain is a fantastic documentary series on the brain and its disorders that’s freely available online. It has been produced in Spanish but the first part is now on YouTube with English subtitles.
TEDxVancouver – Nolan Watson – Compassion Kills – via YouTube – After becoming the youngest CFO (age 26) of Silver Wheaton, a multi-billion dollar public company, Watson went on to build Silver Wheaton into the largest metal streaming company in the world. Today, as Chief Executive Officer and President of Sandstorm Gold Ltd. (a $280-million dollar company) and one of Canada’s top 40 under 40, Nolan Watson has balanced his time by pursuing both business and humanitarian efforts. In 2004, he founded Nations Cry, an international organization building schools in Sierra Leone, Africa.
Being Human: Mental + Representations & Decision – via Making – As we use the tools of science to explore the nature of humanity, we are learning more and more about how our brains function and what motivates our behavior, built-in biases and blind spots.These fresh insights are interesting scientifically, but they also evoke significant questions about our lived experience. These perspectives challenge our basic assumptions of who we are, both as individuals and as a society.
Behavioral Economics, Complexity Research, Decision Making, Psychology, & Risk:
The Righteous Mind – via mindblog.dericbownds.net – Haidt argues that people are fundamentally intuitive, not rational. If you want to persuade others, you have to appeal to their sentiments…We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided…The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others…Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others. Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people’s minds, Haidt concludes, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason’s boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends.
A Fun DIY Science Goodie: Proof Yourself against Sensationalized Stats – via Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network – For my book Brain Trust, I interviewed Keith Devlin, NPR’s “Math Guy,” a World Economic Forum fellow, and math professor at Stanford. And being a mathematician, Devlin thinks about things differently than the world at large. For example, in his very good monthly column Devlin’s Angle, he quotes the following problem, originally designed by puzzle master Gary Foshee: “I tell you that I have two children, and that (at least) one of them is a boy born on Tuesday. What probability should you assign to the event that I have two boys?”
Why People Remember Negative Events More Than Positive Ones – via NYTimes.com – MY sisters and I have often marveled that the stories we tell over and over about our childhood tend to focus on what went wrong. We talk about the time my older sister got her finger crushed by a train door on a trip in Scandinavia. We recount the time we almost missed the plane to Israel because my younger sister lost her stuffed animal in the airport terminal.
Buy Bigger, Feel More Powerful – via Compensating for powerlessness through purchases – It is Monday morning. You are exhausted from the weekend, slept through two snooze sessions on your alarm, and are now running late for work, when your boss warned you that you had better not be late again. You stop at the corner coffee shop, and survey the choices in front of you. Small? Medium? Or über venti mega latte? You choose the last, and start to feel slightly more in control of your day.
Planned giving and the brain – via www.slideshare.net – Report of recent fMRI findings on brain activations associated with charitable estate planning decision making and potential implications for fundraisers
The Oprah Effect – via Celebrity endorsement of political candidates can make a difference at the polls – It is not an uncommon sight: a political candidate, standing on a stage with some rock star. They smile, wave, and clap each other on the back. Many people running for office go out of their way to secure these celebrity endorsements. In the 2012 Republican primary race, for example, Mitt Romney has racked up the support of Donald Trump, Kid Rock, and Cindy Crawford. But whether or not these endorsements have an effect has always been an open question. So Craig Garthwaite, an assistant professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, and Timothy Moore, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, decided to take a look.
Capitalism, Business, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance:
The Tyranny of Numeracy – via PsyFi Blog – It seems that numeracy is the next big idea because important people, whoever they are, have suddenly woken up to the fact that having a workforce that needs to understand linear regression, but which actually can’t count the number of shoes it needs to find in the morning, is probably going to be a drawback in a world where math is increasingly going to differentiate the haves from the have-nots. Although the have-nots won’t be able to figure this out, other than they’ll notice that other people aren’t stacking shelves and flipping burgers for a living.
Future TechStars, Step Forward – via www.inc.com – The same is true for start-up pitches, which are, almost by definition, long shots. A good pitch can be intensely emotional. “You almost want to see the founder cry,” says David Tisch, a 30-year-old angel investor and the managing director of the New York program of TechStars, a business incubator that is now in five cities. “You want to feel that for the past 10 years, they’ve only been thinking about this one thing. That’s how you know they’re legit.”
The Eclectic Mix:
A Cultural History Of Physics – via Edge – A Cultural History of Physics is a grand monument to the life of its author. Karoly Simonyi was teacher first, scholar second, and scientist third. His book likewise has three components. First a text, describing the history of science over the last four thousand years in a rich context of philosophy, art and literature. Second, a collection of illustrations, many of them taken from Hungarian archives and museums unknown to Western readers, giving concrete reality to historical events.Third an anthology of quotations from writers in many languages, beginning with Aeschylus in “Prometheus Bound”, describing how his hero brought knowledge and technical skills to mankind, and ending with Blaise Pascal in “Pensées”, describing how our awareness of our bodies and minds remains an eternal mystery. Different readers will have different preferences. For me, the quotations are the most precious part of the book. Dip anywhere among these pages, and you will find a quotation that is surprising and illuminating.
Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth’s Hazing Abuses – via Rolling Stone – Long before Andrew Lohse became a pariah at Dartmouth College, he was just another scarily accomplished teenager with lofty ambitions. Five feet 10 with large blue eyes and the kind of sweet-faced demeanor that always earned him a pass, he grew up in the not-quite-rural, not-quite-suburban, decidedly middle-class town of Branchburg, New Jersey, and attended a public school where he made mostly A’s, scored 2190 on his SATs and compiled an exhaustive list of extracurricular activities that included varsity lacrosse, model U.N. (he was president), National Honor Society, band, orchestra, Spanish club, debate and – on weekends – a special pre-college program at the Manhattan School of Music, where he received a degree in jazz bass. He also wrote songs; gigged semiprofessionally at restaurants throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut; played drums for a rock band; chased, and conquered, numerous girls; and by his high school graduation, in 2008, had reached the pinnacle of adolescent cool by dating “this really hot skanky cheerleader,” as he puts it.