Weekly Roundup 07: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web
1. The Moral Stage Of Wall St – Via The New Yorker- Swiss bankers are not known as paragons of transparency and moral accountability, so it’s a nice surprise to read that the top officials of UBS, the foundering financial institution recently bailed out by the Swiss government, will forgo twenty-seven million dollars in compensation and bonuses. It appears that these Swiss bankers have a faint pulse of shame.
2. What is Experimental Philosophy – Via What Sorts Of People – In this short video, Eugene Mirman gives an answer to this question that takes you through one of the best-known “experiments” in the newly developing field of experimental philosophy–one developed by Josh Knobe, whom you can see at Bloggingheads.TV at length in conversation with John Horgan about experimental philosophy back in February
3. How Google Censors The Internet: Google’s Gatekeepers – Via NYT – In 2006, Thailand announced it was blocking access to YouTube for anyone with a Thai I.P address, and then identified 20 offensive videos for Google to remove as a condition of unblocking the site.‘If your whole game is to increase market share,’ says Lawrence Lessig, speaking of Google, ‘it’s hard to . . . gather data in ways that don’t raise privacy concerns or in ways that might help repressive governments to block controversial content.’
4. Delayed Gratification – Via NYT Magainze – Kmart has offered its customers the option of buying products on layaway for much of its 46-year history. What it has not done during that time, however, was make the layaway plan a central focus of an advertising campaign — until this year. Maybe you associate the layaway with low-income consumers who have few other options. But in October, Kmart television spots and direct-mail ads positioned it as a savvy and exciting way to shop “Kmart smart.” Indeed, the TV spot depicts a distinctly middle-class couple; she piles goods in a shopping basket while he stays home to rake the lush yard. The chain is evidently pleased with the results; in November, the Sears Holdings Corporation, which owns Kmart, announced that Sears itself would follow suit.
5. What Will We Buy To Help Us Through The Rough Times – Via FT – Anyone wondering how consumers behave in a recession need simply trawl the tabloids for inspiration. According to The Sun, sales of aphrodisiacs are up and so are sales of maternity dresses: not everything turns down in tough times, it seems. Elle Macpherson’s underwear is said to be doing well; so too is the budget store Poundland. Some stories seem contradictory: one newspaper claims that Ryanair is set to make a profit, while another reports that weekend breaks to European cities are no longer in demand. Other stories are frankly bizarre: the crunch is alleged to have given a fillip to sales of cake, wooden “gravestones”, West End musicals and tickets to see the film Mamma Mia!
6. Should Monetary Policy Target Asset Prices – Via Mostly Economics – In sum, I am not convinced that the events of the past few years and the current crisis demonstrate that central banks should switch to trying to check speculative activity through tighter monetary policy whenever they perceive a bubble forming. The recent experience may have made us a bit more confident about detecting bubbles, but it has not resolved the problem of doing so in a timely manner. Nor has it shown that small-to-modest policy actions will reliably and materially damp speculation. For these reasons, the case for extra action still remains questionable, despite our having learned that the aftermath of a bubble can be far more painful than we imagined.
7. Reading Keynes & Fisher – Via Mostly Economics – It is back to basics. There are 2 problems which are taking us back to the Great Depression times- Slumping economy and possibility of deflation. I came across original pieces by economists who researched on these 2 problems- Keynes and Irving Fisher.
8. Neuropsychology Of Paranormal Experiences – Via Mind Hacks – The cognitive science journal Cortex has just released a special issue on the neuropsychology of paranormal experiences and belief, and contains a fantastic article on hallucinations induced by the Ganzfeld procedure. The Ganzfeld procedure exposes the participant to ‘unstructured’ sensations usually by placing half ping-pong balls over the eyes so they can only see diffuse white light and by playing white noise through headphones.
9. Irving Fisher’s Debt Deflation Theory Of Great Depressions (PDF) – Via St Louis Fed