Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
Picture of The Week:
Picture Taken by Nadine Sebai
The Weekly Roundup
Paul Graham: How to Get Startup Ideas – via www.paulgraham.com – The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing.
Collective Intelligence – via Edge – As all the people and computers on our planet get more and more closely connected, it’s becoming increasingly useful to think of all the people and computers on the planet as a kind of global brain.
Thanksgiving as “System Justification” – via thesituationist.wordpress.com – Thanksgiving has many associations — struggling Pilgrims, crowded airports, autumn leaves, heaping plates, drunken uncles, blowout sales, and so on. At its best, though, Thanksgiving is associated with, well, thanks giving. The holiday provides a moment when many otherwise harried individuals leading hectic lives decelerate just long enough to muster some gratitude for their harvest. Giving thanks — acknowledging that we, as individuals, are not the sole determinants of our own fortunes seems an admirable, humble, and even situationist practice, worthy of its own holiday.
Lectures: If You’re So Free Why Do You Follow Others – via Floating University – Sociology explores two big ideas: Supra-individual factors, like race, geography, and genetics; and collective phenomena, qualities displayed by groups of people that aren’t present in the individual. So how can these concepts tell us how a radically individual act like suicide relates to social functions? The constancy of the phenomena will surprise you. Just as surprising is the notion that obesity spreads like a disease across social networks; Professor Christakis shows us how when you gain weight those around you are more likely to gain weight, and those around them, etc., all the way through the vast social network of which you are a part, whether you know it or not. This is the science of understanding social capital. What flows between people, and how do changes in social connections create new collective qualities in a group? By the end of the lecture Christakis has revealed a startling new way to understand the world that ranks sociology as one of the most vitally important social sciences.
An Overview of the American Care Act – via www.scribd.com – As you know, health care has been a highly politicized topic in recent years and become a focal point of the upcoming elections. Solving our health care crisis is crucial to the survival, productivity and well being of both the U.S. economy and all its citizens. Fortunately, there exists a growing body of evidence from across the world offering solutions for fixing our health system – evidence that bridges and blends the best of both political parties for those open minded enough to see it. This paper offers a summary of the existing U.S. health system, the contents of the Affordable Care Act, its pros and cons, along with future health reform measures America must take.
Carbs and self control. – via mindblog.dericbownds.net – From Molden et al. suggest the increase in self control that some studies have correlated with carbohydrate consumption is caused not by a metabolic energy boost, but rather by an increase in motivation:
When What You Hear Influences When You See – via pss.sagepub.com – The three experiments reported here demonstrated a cross-modal influence of an auditory rhythm on the temporal allocation of visual attention. In Experiment 1, participants moved their eyes to a test dot with a temporal onset that was either synchronous or asynchronous with a preceding auditory rhythm. Saccadic latencies were faster for the synchronous condition than for the asynchronous conditions. In Experiment 2, the effect was replicated in a condition in which the auditory context stopped prior to the onset of the test dot, and the effect did not occur in a condition in which auditory tones were presented at irregular intervals. Experiment 3 replicated the effect using an accuracy measure within a nontimed visual task. Together, the experiments’ findings support a general entrainment perspective on attention to events over time.
Trust and Cheating – via www.nber.org – When we take a cab we may feel cheated if the driver takes an unnecessarily long route despite the lack of a contract or promise to take the shortest possible path. Is our decision to take the cab affected by our belief that we may end up feeling cheated? Is the behavior of the driver affected by his beliefs about what we consider cheating? We address these questions in the context of a trust game by asking participants directly about their notions of cheating. We find that: i) both parties to a trust exchange have implicit notions of what constitutes cheating even in a context without promises or messages; ii) these notions are not unique – the vast majority of senders would feel cheated by a negative return on their trust/investment, whereas a sizable minority defines cheating according to an equal split rule; iii) these implicit notions affect the behavior of both sides to the exchange in terms of whether to trust or cheat and to what extent. Finally, we show that individual’s notions of what constitutes cheating can be traced back to two classes of values instilled by parents: cooperative and competitive. The first class of values tends to soften the notion while the other tightens it.
Video: Self Taught Teen Prodigy from Sierra Leon Wows MIT Engineers - via Uveal Blues – The 15-year-old is a self-taught engineer, who has never taken an engineering or electronics class. Combining scrap metal, baking soda and acid, he created a battery to power his family’s home. He also broadcasts news and music as DJ Focus on the radio, using an RF transmitter he created.
How An Agenda Setter Induces Legislators to Adopt Policies They Oppose – via ideas.repec.org – This paper addresses the puzzle of why redistributive legislation, which benefits a small minority, may pass with overwhelming majorities. It models a legislature in which the same agenda setter serves for two periods, showing how he can exploit a legislature (completely) in the first period by promising future benefits to legislators who support him. In equilibrium, a large majority of legislators vote for the first-period proposal because they thereby maintain the chance of belonging to the minimum winning coalition in the future. Legislators may therefore approve policies by large majorities, or even unanimously, that benefit few, or even none, of them. The results are robust: some institutional arrangements, such as super-majority rules or sequential voting, limit but do not eliminate the agenda setter’s power to exploit the legislature; other institutions such as secret voting do not limit his power.
We’re Probably Not Getting Dumber – via neuroskeptic.blogspot.com – Crabtree’s arguments are interesting, but they’re entirely speculative. There’s just no hard evidence for the decline of intelligence over recent millennia. Since we can’t go back in time and do IQ tests, there never will be, although he does suggest an experiment, using genetics, that might be able to check whether there’s been a build-up of harmful mutations.
A New Book: Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa – via newbooksinhistory.com – With elegant and accessible prose, Catherine Higgs takes us on a journey in Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa (Ohio University Press, 2012). It is a fascinating voyage fueled by the correspondence of Joseph Burtt, a man who had helped found a utopian commune before being sent by the chocolate magnate William Cadbury in the early 1900s to investigate labor conditions on cocoa plantations in Africa.
Trust and Reciprocity, Empowerment and Transparency – via ideas.repec.org – In a laboratory-controlled environment characterized by uncertainty and incomplete information we provide experimental evidence on the effects of transparency and empowerment on trust (investment by a principal) and trustworthiness (reciprocal behavior of an agent) in a simple two-person investment game. We find that when principals are empowered by being able to punish agents who may not act in a way the principal believes is in the principal’s best interest, trust and investment increases over that which is realized in the absence of empowerment. We also find that when asymmetric or incomplete information characterizes the investment game the levels of trust (investment) are lower than when information is complete (the environment is transparent). In transparent environments the effect of empowerment is about the same regardless of whether empowerment is introduced or removed. However, in opaque environments, the loss of empowerment has a substantially greater negative effect on trust that the positive effect associated with the introduction of empowerment. While this environment is substantially abstracted from the naturally occurring environment, these results suggest that practical public policies designed to increase transparency in financial transactions are likely to have positive effects on investment. Furthermore, public policies designed to empower principals, such as the Say on Pay practices, are likely to increase investment while the limitation of the empowerment of principals with respect to their agents (consistent with deregulation) will have a much more dramatic negative impact on trust (and investment).
Visualizing Corruption- via Global Sociology Blog – I have mentioned and blogged about the Corruption Perceptions Index before, published by Transparency International every year. This year, I compared the interactive infographics that TI published for the 2010 and 2011 versions, as well as their usual Pdf map. This is the result (also another attempt at screencasting using different tabs and screens)
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