Weekly Roundup 172: 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):
Coming Apart – via The Point Magazine – American conservatives have rarely dwelt on the idea of class. It comes up only twice in Patrick Allitt’s The Conservatives (2009), for example. Conservatives held that slavery could eliminate the possibility of class conflict by “linking masters and slaves together in extended families”; later on, they thought that fascism might get us “complete centralization and rational economic planning… without the communist resort to class warfare.” If, for the Left, class-consciousness was central to the battle for the various rights and privileges that we take for granted today, the Right thought that class consciousness disrupted an otherwise peaceful society (if it thought about it at all). So you know something odd is going on when the popular public policy book of the moment is by a conservative and concerns the emergence of class conflict. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 builds on his previous bestseller, The Bell Curve (1994). That book caused a stir because it claimed that black people were, on average, less intelligent than white people. Murray used IQ tests as evidence, leading even conservatives like Brigette Berger to accuse him and his co-author of “methodological fetishism.” A less well-known argument of Bell Curve is that a permanent white underclass would develop just like the urban black underclass. Coming Apart, among other things, shows that Murray was right about that.
Robert Shiller: Democratize Wall Street, for Social Good – via NYTimes.com – Finance is substantially about controlling risk. If risk management is suitably democratized, and if its sophisticated tools are better dispersed throughout society, it could help reduce social inequality. Future financial innovation, for example, could deal with the problem of rigid entitlements — like Social Security or health benefits — that are making our national debt problems so difficult.
Resisting Materialism – via thesituationist.wordpress.com – Psychologist Tim Kasser discusses how America’s culture of consumerism undermines our well-being. When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that “the good life” is “the goods life,” they not only use up Earth’s limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others. The animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.
Trayvon Martin and America’s Gun Laws – via www.newyorker.com – Just after seven-thirty on the morning of February 27th, a seventeen-year-old boy named T. J. Lane walked into the cafeteria at Chardon High School, about thirty miles outside Cleveland. It was a Monday, and the cafeteria was filled with kids, some eating breakfast, some waiting for buses to drive them to programs at other schools, some packing up for gym class. Lane sat down at an empty table, reached into a bag, and pulled out a .22-calibre pistol. He stood up, raised the gun, and fired. He said not a word.
The Costs of Living in a Material World– via thesituationist.wordpress.com – Correlational evidence indicates that materialistic individuals experience relatively low levels of well-being. Across four experiments, we found that situational cuing can also trigger materialistic mind-sets, with similarly negative personal and social consequences. Merely viewing desirable consumer goods resulted in increases in materialistic concerns and led to heightened negative affect and reduced social involvement (Experiment 1). Framing a computer task as a “Consumer Reaction Study” led to a stronger automatic bias toward values reflecting self-enhancement, compared with framing the same task as a “Citizen Reaction Study” (Experiment 2). Consumer cues also increased competitiveness (Experiment 3) and selfishness in a water-conservation dilemma (Experiment 4). Thus, the costs of materialism are not localized only in particularly materialistic people, but can also be found in individuals who happen to be exposed to environmental cues that activate consumerism-cues that are commonplace in contemporary society.
How Wealth Reduces Compassion – via www.scientificamerican.com – Who is more likely to lie, cheat, and steal—the poor person or the rich one? It’s temping to think that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to act fairly. After all, if you already have enough for yourself, it’s easier to think about what others may need. But research suggests the opposite is true: as people climb the social ladder, their compassionate feelings towards other people decline.
Would you cheat for charity? – via bps-research-digest.blogspot.com – Financial dishonesty was one of the contributing factors that caused the recent global economic crisis. Against this backdrop, a new study led by Alan Lewis at the University of Bath has provided an elegant lab demonstration of the way that for most people, right and wrong aren’t clear cut. Instead, the research shows people look for ways to justify their financial cheating, probably to maintain their perception of themselves as essentially good. Oh, and the research also suggested that economics students are more dishonest than psychology students – not great news for the future of the financial world!
Best of The Week:
Melinda Gates: Let’s put birth control back on the agenda – via Video on TED.com – Contraception. The topic has become controversial in recent years. But should it be? Melinda Gates believes that many of the world’s social change issues depend on ensuring that women are able to control their rate of having kids. In this significant talk, she makes the case for the world to re-examine an issue she intends to lend her voice to for the next decade.
Learn Faster with The Feynman Technique – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – Found via Expert Enough.
How Tax Credits Can Solve the Obesity Crisis (via Washington Post) – via therearefreelunches.blogspot.com – Adopting a new system with Calorie Credits and measuring Calorie Footprints will speed the growth of better-for-you food and drink brands.
Alan Watts On Why Our Minds And Technology Can’t Grasp Reality – via Open Culture -“The world is a marvelous system of wiggles,” says Alan Watts in a series of lectures I keep on my iPod at all times. He means that the world, as it really exists, does not comprise all the lines, angles, and hard edges that our various systems of words, symbols, and numbers do. Were I to distill a single overarching argument from all I’ve read and heard of the body of work Watts produced on Zen Buddhist thought, I would do so as follows: humanity has made astounding progress by creating and reading “maps” of reality out of language, numbers, and images, but we run an ever more dangerous risk of mistaking these maps for the land. In this 1971 National Educational Television program, A Conversation With Myself, Watts claims that our comparatively simple minds and the simple technologies they’ve produced have proven desperately inadequate to handle reality’s actual complexity. But what to do about it?
Behavioral Economics, Complexity Research, Decision Making, Psychology, & Risk:
Do Economic Equality and Generalized Trust Inhibit Academic Dishonesty? Evidence From State-Level Search – via Engine Queries – What effect does economic inequality have on academic integrity? Using data from search-engine queries made between 2003 and 2011 on Google and state-level measures of income inequality and generalized trust, I found that academically dishonest searches (queries seeking term-paper mills and help with cheating) were more likely to come from states with higher income inequality and lower levels of generalized trust. These relations persisted even when controlling for contextual variables, such as average income and the number of colleges per capita. The relation between income inequality and academic dishonesty was fully mediated by generalized trust. When there is higher economic inequality, people are less likely to view one another as trustworthy. This lower generalized trust, in turn, is associated with a greater prevalence of academic dishonesty. These results might explain previous findings on the effectiveness of honor code
John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative – via Brain Pickings – Much has been said about how creativity works, its secrets, its origins, and what we can do to optimize ourselves for it. In this excerpt from his fantastic 1991 lecture, John Cleese offers a recipe for creativity, delivered with his signature blend of cultural insight and comedic genius. Specifically, Cleese outlines “the 5 factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative”:
Capitalism, Business, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance:
Value Investing World: Robert Shiller on ‘Finance and the Good Society’ (video) – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – Robert Shiller, an economics professor at Yale University, talks about the U.S. financial system and his book “Finance and the Good Society.” He speaks with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday.”
Want to work at Google? Answer these questions (Wired UK) – via www.wired.co.uk – It’s famously tough getting through the Google interview process. But now we can reveal just how strenuous are the mental acrobatics demanded from prospective employees. Job-seekers can expect to face open-ended riddles, seemingly impossible mathematical challenges and mind-boggling estimation puzzles. William Poundstone, who deconstructed The Wolseley’s menu for us, has collected examples in his latest book, Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
The Eclectic Mix:
Vial of Youth? Hollywood’s Burgeoning Addiction to Human Growth Hormone | Hollywood – via Vanity Fair – Hollywood has gone crazy for human growth hormone, with top stars, filmmakers, and studio executives touting its benefits: ripped abs, fewer wrinkles, increased sex drive, more energy (and aggression), etc. With anti-aging clinics prescribing it freely, is H.G.H. a career-saving miracle or a pricey, silly, even hazardous placebo?
The Neapolitan Mob’s Most Dangerous Family | Culture – via Vanity Fair – For years before they caught him, the Italian police had no idea that Paolo Di Lauro was one of Naples’s most powerful crime bosses, running a drug and counterfeit-goods empire—and responsible for a peace his turf had rarely known. Now authorities may long for the days when he was in charge.
Why Are So Many Americans Single? : The New Yorker – via www.newyorker.com – And yet the reputation of modern solitude is puzzling, because the traits enabling a solitary life—financial stability, spiritual autonomy, the wherewithal to buy more dishwashing detergent when the box runs out—are those our culture prizes. Plus, recent demographic shifts suggest that aloneness, far from fading out in our connected age, is on its way in. In 1950, four million people in this country lived alone. These days, there are almost eight times as many, thirty-one million. Americans are getting married later than ever (the average age of first marriage for men is twenty-eight), and bailing on domestic life with alacrity (half of modern unions are expected to end in divorce). Today, more than fifty per cent of U.S. residents are single, nearly a third of all households have just one resident, and five million adults younger than thirty-five live alone. This may or may not prove a useful thing to know on certain Saturday nights
What America Buys – via Chart Porn – I think the change over time is the most interesting.