Weekly Roundup 160: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
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The Patriots Corner ( Inequality & Other Issues to Get Your Blood Boiling):
Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs – via NYTimes.com – But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.
Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology & Low Inter group Contact - via pss.sagepub.com – Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.
Marco Rubio, Univision, and the War on Immigration : The New Yorker – via www.newyorker.com – ANNALS OF COMMUNICATIONS about Republican senator Marco Rubio and immigration. Just forty years old, Marco Rubio, a Republican who is the junior senator from Florida, has the youthful glamour of a Kennedy, with an attractive wife and four children. Tea Party activists love him, and he is surely the most prominent Hispanic Republican in America. National Republicans say openly that Rubio is a top contender to be the Party’s 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee. He could, they suggest, secure victory for the Party in Florida and win over Hispanic voters in other states, many of whom have been angered by the G.O.P. Presidential candidates’ harsh positions on immigration. But Rubio’s positions on immigration are to the right of those held by most Hispanic Americans. And these views have helped lead him into a war with Univision, which is the dominant Spanish-language media outlet in the country, and which champions immigration reform. Rubio’s fight with Univision began in early July, when Geraldo Reyes, the chief of the network’s investigative unit, called Rubio’s older sister, Barbara Cicilia, and asked about her husband, Orlando, who, two decades earlier, had been convicted as part of a drug-trafficking ring that paid off cops and sold cocaine by the kilo.
30 Statistics That Show That The Middle Class Is Dying Right In Front Of Our Eyes As We Enter 2012 – via ZeroHedge – Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class that the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, that is rapidly changing. The statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a doubt that the U.S. middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012.
New study shows architecture, arts degrees yield highest unemployment – via The Washington Post – Recent college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in the arts, humanities and architecture experienced significantly higher rates of joblessness, according to a study being released Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Dissent Magazine – Winter 2012 Issue – via The “I” in Union – At a time when unions are floundering and popular sentiment toward organized labor is at an all-time low of 45 percent, one workers’ organization is thriving. The Freelancers’ Union, a nonprofit organization based in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood, has more than 80,000 members in New York and 150,000 members in other states. In the seven years it has existed, the Freelancers’ Union has opened its own fully owned, for-profit insurance company, The Freelancers’ Insurance Company, and has put in place a retirement plan for independent workers. The organization hosts networking events and political canvassing; raises money for politicians who advocate for freelancers’ rights; lobbies at the state government level for legislative change; and even offers its members “corporate discounts” on gyms, Zipcars, and hotels. It is now the seventh largest union in New York State.
Doc Searls Weblog · Leveraging Hal – via blogs.law.harvard.edu – I say God bless them, and God will if he still has any investment in the United States of America. The Goliath they challenge has crushed a thousand Davids. The good news is that “the kids” are right on target. Their diagnosis is bull’s-eye correct, and the patient is critical. For this country to survive, it must find saner ways to pursue and multiply wealth, and find them quickly. The cannibal capitalism that produced a Goldman Sachs and a Bernie Madoff is subhuman and obscene. There’s no form of government more inherently offensive than plutocracy—only theocracy comes close. When a citizen comes of age in a plutocracy, he has no moral choice but to slay Pluto or die trying. The history of American plutocracy is shockingly simple. The Industrial Revolution fueled the metamorphosis of capitalism into a ravenous monster that devoured resources, landscapes and human beings on a scale no wars or natural disasters had ever approached. The wealth generated by this devastation created colossal corporations and financial operations far more powerful than elected governments; long ago the individuals who controlled these giants learned that it was cost-effective to buy up the politicians and turn governments into virtual subsidiaries. Along with the unprecedented wealth of the new ruling class came two protective myths, transparently false but widely accepted: one, that the feeble, compliant federal government was somehow the enemy of free enterprise; two, the outrageous trickle-down theory, which urged us to choke the rich with riches in the hope that they would disgorge a few crumbs for the peasants.
The Real Story On That “Antidepressant Surge” – via neuroskeptic.blogspot.com – The truth, sadly, has an inherent disadvantage in the battle for news coverage. If we find the truth boring, it’s easy for someone to come along and make up something attention grabbing. But the only easy way to make the truth more interesting is to make it, well, less true.
Trouble in Paradise: Ocean Acidification This Way Comes – via US National Science Foundation (NSF) – “The loss of biodiversity,” says Carpenter, “would be devastating to the world’s oceans–and to all of us. Tourism and fishing, in fact, entire economies, depend on coral reefs.”
Income Inequality: What’s the Right Amount? — HBS Working Knowledge – via hbswk.hbs.edu – The questions this raises include: Does inequality promote or stunt growth, and at what stage of development? Does the paper raise a red flag, say, for the U.S. where inequality of income has grown at an unprecedented pace in the past thirty years and now resembles that of some lesser-developed economies? Has the U.S. passed over the peak of the parabola of our hypothetical graph? What’s the right amount of inequality? What do you think?
Charting The Extinction Of American Disposable Income – via ZeroHedge – For four decades, US real per capita disposable income has risen at ~20% a decade. For the average working man, that is a doubling of disposable income in a typical working life. The last 5 1/2 years, however, have seen no change whatsoever – the worst performance in at least half a century.
Best Reads of The Week:
The Power of Choice – via Fora.Tv – Why do humans make decisions the way they do? And what does that mean in the context of the current threats to our species’ survival? Daniel McFadden, the 2000 Laureate in Economics Studies, whose work focuses on how people make choices and sort themselves into groups, will discuss questions of human choice and their repercussions with Nat Geo Explorer-in-Residence Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestseller Collapse, which analyzed the phenomenon of societal failure. The conversation will be moderated by National Geographic Weekend host Boyd Matson.
The Richard Feynman Trilogy: The Physicist Captured in Three Films – via Open Culture – We start above with The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a film directed by Sykes in 1981. It features Feynman talking in a very personal way about the joys of scientific discovery, and about how he developed his enthusiasm for science. About the program, Harry Kroto (winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry) apparently once said: “The 1981 Feynman [production] is the best science program I have ever seen. This is not just my opinion – it is also the opinion of many of the best scientists that I know who have seen the program. It should be mandatory viewing for all students whether they be science or arts students.”
Infinite Stupidity- via Edge – A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we’ve seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What’s happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we’re being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We’re being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard. My worry is that we could be moving in that direction, towards becoming more and more sort of docile copiers.
Christmas brain lectures available worldwide – via mindhacks.com – This year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures were a fantastic trip through neuroscience and the brain – and you can now watch them online from anywhere in the world.
How to Increase Productivity and Enjoy Life More – via The Big Picture – In the renowned 1993 study of young violinists, performance researcher Anders Ericsson found that the best ones all practiced the same way: in the morning, in three increments of no more than 90 minutes each, with a break between each one. Ericcson found the same pattern among other musicians, athletes, chess players and writers.
What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits : Shots – via Health Blog : NPR – To battle bad behaviors then, one answer, Neal and Wood say, is to disrupt the environment in some way. Even small changes can help — like eating the ice cream with your non-dominant hand. What this does is alter the action sequence and disrupts the learned body sequence that’s driving the behavior, which allows your conscious mind to come back online and reassert control.
Status, Race, and Money – via pss.sagepub.com – A deeply entrenched status hierarchy in the United States classifies African Americans as lower status than Caucasians. Concurrently, African Americans face marketplace discrimination; they are treated as inferior and poor. Because having money and spending money signify status, we explored whether African Americans might elevate their willingness to pay for products in order to fulfill status needs. In Studies 1 and 2, explicit activation of the race concept led some African Americans to pay more than they would otherwise pay and also more than Caucasians. Individual differences in perceived status disadvantage and racial identification moderated this result. In Study 3, when race was salient, an overt status threat (inferior treatment in a purchasing context) similarly led African Americans, but not Caucasians, to pay more than they would otherwise pay. This research illustrates how African Americans whose status is threatened use spending as a way to assert status.
Behavioral Economics, Complexity Research, Decision Making, Psychology, & Risk
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think - via www.farnamstreetblog.com – The research summaries are entertaining. Take the study of the how much people ate when their plates were literally “bottomless.” “It seems,” Wansink writes, “that when estimating almost anything—such as weight, height, brightness, loudness, sweetness, and so on—we consistently under-estimate thing as they get larger.”
Time Discounting Predicts Creditworthiness – via pss.sagepub.com – In this report, we document that the degree of time discounting predicts repayment as measured using the standard U.S. metric of creditworthiness, an individual’s Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) credit score. The component of time discounting previously found to be associated with deliberate decision making (Figner et al., 2010; McClure, Laibson, Loewenstein, & Cohen, 2004) is more predictive of creditworthiness than is the immediacy-bias component associated with affective or impulsive decision making. The findings indicate that time discounting predicts creditworthiness and that repayment decisions may be associated with deliberative, rather than affective, processes.
Investment strategist: ‘Big banks make their money from optimism’ – via guardian.co.uk – “In big banks and asset management companies it’s very difficult to be negative about the future. The reason is simple: they make their money from optimism. If you are going to tell investors that the economy is going down, they will move their money somewhere safe and reliable such as cash. It is tricky to charge fees for trading or managing cash. It also becomes more difficult to convince investors to purchase riskier products.
Why we’re better at predicting other people’s behaviour than our own – via bps-research-digest.blogspot.com -
Another trend across all the studies was for people to overestimate their own altruism (judged against the average of how people actually behaved), but to estimate other people’s altruism more reliably. This is consonant with a mountain of past research showing that we tend to assess ourselves in an unrealistically favourable light.
The Eclectic Mix:
THE TRANSISTOR RADIO IS THE GREATEST INVENTION – via More Intelligent Life – The greatest invention of all is the transistor radio (and radio wave signals), first developed by Bell Laboratories in the 1940s. I admire straightforward technology that solves complex, human problems. Where there are still holes in the web, radio waves travel powerfully around the world. And one of the wonderful things about the transistor is that it is portable.
Do We Need New Traits to Live Within Limits? Revkin Asks. Lopez Responds, from 1986 – via Wired.com – To start the new year, Andy Revkin, over at Dot Earth at the New York Times, wondered what traits we humans might be able to develop so that we “fall forward rather than down” as we try to deal with resource limits:
Will YouTube Revolutionize Television? : The New Yorker – via www.newyorker.com – YouTube was created by three former employees of PayPal, in a Silicon Valley garage, in early 2005. According to two of the founders, Chad Hurley and Steven Chen, a graphic designer and a software engineer, respectively, the idea grew out of a dinner party at Chen’s home in San Francisco, in the winter of 2004-05. Guests had made videos of one another, but they couldn’t share them easily. The founders envisioned a video version of Flickr, a popular photo-sharing site. All the content on the site would be user-generated: “Real personal clips that are taken by everyday people,” as Hurley described his vision.
GMO: Capturing Domestic Demand in Emerging Markets: Neither Small Caps nor Multinationals Are a Good Proxy – via By Arjun Divecha – We believe one of the most compelling investment opportunities over the next few years is likely to be in companies that serve domestic demand within emerging markets. Our case rests on two underlying and interconnected forces – one economic and the other demographic. As poor countries get richer, they save as much as they can. Savings rates usually rise until countries reach a range of $3,000 to $10,000 per capita GDP. Once in that range, savings rates begin to decline and consumption becomes a larger part of GDP growth as society starts to provide a social safety net. At this level of wealth, per capita consumption of all goods and services rises in a highly non-linear fashion. For example, while Chinese per capita GDP quadrupled from $1,000 to $4,000 during the past decade, auto sales rose from one million vehicles per year to over 17 million. Markets rarely anticipate this kind of non-linear growth.
In Gold We Trust – via Longform.org – On switching to the gold standard and a trip to the Yukon to witness the modern gold rush.
How Banks Are Using Your Money to Create the Next Crash – via Money Morning – Hypothecation is what it’s called when a borrower pledges collateral as a means of securing a debt. The borrower retains ownership of the collateral but it is hypothetically under the control of the creditor who can seize possession of the collateral if the borrower defaults.
The Sounding of the Whale – via NYTimes.com – This coolness is critical in no small part because it allows Burnett to use the word “holocaust” to describe the slaughter of the great Southern Ocean whales that serves as his inciting event. At the end of the 19th century, having largely done away with the smaller, oil-producing Northern whales, humanity turned to a huge supply of Antarctic “rorquals” — blues, fins and humpbacks. These giant creatures would fuel industries far beyond the almost-quaint-by-comparison lamp oil trade of the Moby-Dick days: soap, fertilizer, glycerin for blowing up soldiers, margarine for spreading on toast.
What Happens To Old And Expired Supermarket Foods – via Forbes – As darkness falls, your local supermarket becomes a hive of activity. From canned vegetables and salad dressings to fresh vegetables and deli meats, countless items are removed from shelves by night staff. Approaching their expiration dates or because they are no longer at their peak quality, most stores consider them unfit for sale. With 15,000 different products in an average supermarket and 25,000 in a superstore according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), retailers in the US are lumbered with endless pounds of past-their-prime items every year.
Reversal of Fortune – via Longform.org – Steven Donziger, an American lawyer, headed up a successful lawsuit against Chevron on behalf of Ecuadorans. Then the legal tables turned on him.
Big Data, On Demand – via Visual.ly – Everywhere you look, the quantity of information in the world is soaring. Mankind created approximately 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005. In 2010 it created 1,200 exabytes. Merely keeping up with this flood, and storing the bits tåhat might be useful, is difficult enough. Analysing it, to spot patterns and extract useful information, is harder still. Even so, the data deluge is already starting to transform business, government, science and everyday life. It has great potential for good—as long as consumers, companies and governments make the right choices about when to restrict the flow of data, and when to encourage it.