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MIT: Algorithm Ranks Notable Authors

MIT: Algorithm Ranks Notable Authors

While the works of thousands of authors enter the public domain each year, only a small percentage of these end up being widely available. So how to choose the ones to focus on? Today, Allen Riddell at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, says he has the answer. Riddell has developed an algorithm that automatically generates an independent ranking of notable authors for a given year. It is then a simple task to pick the works to focus on or to spot notable omissions from the past.

NYT: Elite Campus Arts Race

NYT: Elite Campus Arts Race

Elite campuses across the country have emerged from the recession riding a multibillion-dollar wave of architecturally ambitious arts facilities, even as community arts programs struggle against public indifference. The current tide of building developed over years, as universities reassert the essential value of the arts to a well-rounded education, aided by deep-pocket alumni willing to underwrite elaborate new facilities.

HP: Scientists Create Telepathy

HP: Scientists Create Telepathy

Telepathy is the stuff of science fiction. But what if the dystopian futurists were on to something? What if our brains could directly interact with each other, bypassing the need for language? The idea isn’t quite so far fetched, according to a recent University of Washington study in which researchers successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain communication between two people.

RE: US Military Good But Not That Good

RE: US Military Good But Not That Good

We live within a myth of efficiency. That the world actually operates with a cool precision — the way it does in the movies. Seen through this prism, you could say that voter frustration is not so much the result of reputed Oval Office incompetence as of our having been spoiled by the movies and television. Americans cannot accept the fact that our abilities are seldom as good as movies make them out to be.

FA: Operation Sigmund Freud

FA: Operation Sigmund Freud

The cessation of major combat operations is often followed by a long period of asymmetric war, in which success can not be achieved through traditional combat. In this new phase of warfare, psychology’s core competencies of understanding individual and group behavior—of both the enemy and one’s own forces—then become the key to success.

PS: Years of Living Tactically

PS: Years of Living Tactically

We have been living in an illusion. For years, the world has believed that the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order would be peaceful, orderly, and steady, with new players like China, Brazil, and Turkey adapting to the existing multilateral framework in a natural, harmonious way. How wrong we were. The reason for this failure is simple: the West has allowed short-term tactical concerns to impede the development of a long-term strategic vision.

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

Richard Reeves provides an introduction to the Center on Children and Families’ Essay Series on Character and Opportunity: I defy you to find a richer set of writings on the philosophical, empirical and practical issues raised by a focus on character, and in particular its relationship to questions of opportunity. There are enthusiasts for the public endeavor of character cultivation as well as thoughtful skeptics. There are calls, from differing political perspectives, to give at least equal weight to the moral dimensions of character, as well as strong demands to honor individual free will and individual development. Two scholars draw attention to the gendered nature of character formation; others stress the importance of culture, social norms, and the impact of chronic stress in the early years. Construction of a policy agenda for the cultivation of character poses a stark challenge to the partisan culture of contemporary politics, but may also alleviate it, by reinvigorating community life.

NYT: Defying An All-Seeing Eye

NYT: Defying An All-Seeing Eye

“Citizenfour” stands alone in evoking the modern state as an unseen, ubiquitous presence, an abstraction with enormous coercive resources at its disposal. It is everywhere and nowhere, the leviathan whose belly is our native atmosphere. What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? These questions are terrifying, and so is “Citizenfour.”

AJA: ISIL’s New Recruits

AJA: ISIL’s New Recruits

United States-led airstrikes in Syria have killed nearly 500 ISIL fighters since attacks were launched last month. While coalition forces continue to shell ISIL targets, it appears that the armed group is quickly replenishing its ranks. In August – during the lead-up to U.S.-led strikes – the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 6,000 new recruits had joined ISIL in July alone.

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power.

TG: The Truth About Evil

TG: The Truth About Evil

Liberal meliorists like to think that human life contains many things that are bad, some of which may never be entirely eliminated; but there is nothing that is intrinsically destructive or malevolent in human beings themselves – nothing, in other words, that corresponds to a traditional idea of evil. But another view is possible, and one that need make no call on theology. What has been described as evil in the past can be understood as a natural tendency to animosity and destruction, co-existing in human beings alongside tendencies to sympathy and cooperation.

MIT: Conflict Free Stability Possible?

MIT: Conflict Free Stability Possible?

The study of modern history is currently undergoing a revolution. There was a time when historians focused largely on events as the be all and end all of history. But in recent years, there has been a growing understanding that a complex network of links, alliances, trade agreements and so on play a hugely important role in creating an environment in which conflict (or peace) can spread. An interesting open question is whether certain kinds of networks exist that are stable against the outbreak of war.

NYT: Loss of Eden in London?

NYT: Loss of Eden in London?

The Warburg Institute here has trained generations of scholars, who liken its world-renowned library of Renaissance and post-Classical material to an intellectual paradise. Now many scholars fear for the Warburg’s future over a funding dispute with the University of London. In recent years the Warburg has had to pay the university, which is state-run, an increasingly large percentage of its annual budget to maintain the Bloomsbury mansion that it calls home. Warburg defenders fear this will push the institute into financial ruin.

RE: Unconstitutional Living Wage Law?

RE: Unconstitutional Living Wage Law?

Industry trade groups are now challenging Seattle’s new minimum wage law as unconstitutional. They claim the city’s $15 an hour rate violates the 14th Amendment. Passed just after the Civil War to ensure equal rights for the newly freed slaves, that amendment says no state may “deny to any person . . . the equal protection of the laws.” According to the industry lawsuit, the minimum wage law violates this Equal Protection Clause because it phases in the higher wage at a different schedule for franchised companies than for small local businesses.

RE: Is Civil Society Imperialistic?

RE: Is Civil Society Imperialistic?

The word “imperialism” is still bandied about a good deal. Sometimes its meaning is traditional, Sometimes the meaning is flakier. There’s an entrant in the imperialism lexicon that has picked up a lot of resonance in the past decade and is even becoming a staple in foreign policy discussions. Call it “civil society imperialism.” And the idea behind the term’s rising popularity has spawned lots of big enemies.

HP: John Oliver On Drone Strikes

HP: John Oliver On Drone Strikes

If Barack Obama is concerned about the legacy of his presidency, he might want to take a look at Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight.” Not thinking about drones is a luxury many people don’t have, a point made overwhelmingly clear by a clip of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy whose grandmother had been killed by a drone strike. In the clip, Zubair Rehman testifies that he no longer loves blue skies, he prefers grey skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.” That was enough for John Oliver. “When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.”

TN: Student Debt Sentence

TN: Student Debt Sentence

Public funds in the form of federal student loans has been called the “lifeblood” of the for-profit system, providing on average 86 percent of revenues. Such schools now enroll around 10 percent of America’s college students, but take in more than a quarter of all federal financial aid—as much as $33 billion in a single year. By some estimates it would cost less than half that amount to directly fund free higher education at all currently existing two- and four-year public colleges.

DS: Botched Execution

DS: Botched Execution

The horrific execution of Clayton Lockett by lethal injection this spring in Oklahoma took an astonishing 43 minutes to complete. Together with other botched killings, the incident has focused attention on the inexperience and incompetence that now accompanies many executions in America.

TG: Google Wants To Control Our Lives

TG: Google Wants To Control Our Lives

Page and Brin were clear from the outset: their mission was “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The crucial thing about that sentence is that there’s no reference to the internet. In some sense, every person, every object, every thought in every brain, everything anyone ever does, is information. Page and Brin told us what Google was up to. We just didn’t take them literally enough.

Pew: Wide Differences Over Issues That Matter

Pew: Wide Differences Over Issues That Matter

Republican and Democratic voters are split not only over their candidate preferences, but also about the importance of key issues in the election. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that terrorism and the economy are top issues for both Republican and Democratic voters, though in both cases they rate as more important for Republicans than Democrats.

MIT: Tech Fix For Medicine?

MIT: Tech Fix For Medicine?

After decades as a technological laggard, medicine has entered its data age. Mobile technologies, sensors, genome sequencing, and advances in analytic software now make it possible to capture vast amounts of information about our individual makeup and the environment around us. The sum of this information could transform medicine.

SI: Xbox Controller Controls Giant Laser Cannon

SI: Xbox Controller Controls Giant Laser Cannon

Meet one of the U.S. Army’s newest toys: the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. It’s “basically a high-energy laser mounted on top of a big truck,” says Wired. It has an unusual feature, though: the laser cannon is controlled with an Xbox video game controller. There’s increasingly little distance between war games and actual war, in which drone pilots describe their jobs as “a lot like playing a video game.” ​

NYT: The New History Wars

NYT: The New History Wars

“College-level work” now requires attention to context, and change over time; includes greater use of primary sources; and reassesses traditional narratives. This is work that requires and builds empathy, an essential aspect of historical thinking. The critics are unhappy, perhaps, that a once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling.

NYT: ISIS Antiquities Sideline

NYT: ISIS Antiquities Sideline

The territorial gains made by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have provoked fears that archaeological sites in those countries are being attacked and looted. In extensive conversations with those working and living in areas currently under ISIS control, we learned that ISIS is indeed involved in the illicit antiquities trade, but in a way that is more complex and insidious than we expected.

TT: Science Behind Savagery

TT: Science Behind Savagery

As Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria butcher thousands of “infidels” and carry off their women and children into slavery, many in the West are inclined to see this as an unique outcrop of Islamic fundamentalism. Yet Bosnian Serb – ostensibly Christian – forces, massacred 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica. Hutu genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, Khmer Rouge mass-murder of Cambodian city-dwellers, Nazi genocide of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled…. What, then are the origins of savagery, if they cannot be ascribed to a single religion or ideology?

PS: Trouble with Universal Education

PS: Trouble with Universal Education

The world is gearing up to establish a new set of goals for the next 15 years. Given limited resources, policymakers and international organizations must ask themselves: Where can we do the most good? Maximizing the impact of scarce resources on the lives of the world’s poorest people demands tough choices. In an ideal world, universal, high-quality education at all levels would be worth pursuing. But, amid competing demands for basic necessities like health care and potable water, narrower, more cost-effective education targets are essential.

AJA: Death of Our Clown

AJA: Death of Our Clown

Comedy, no less than tragedy, is cathartic, and catharsis requires us to delve deep into the barest and bloodiest facts of our existence. Humor is an antidote to — or at least an analgesic for — a condition we’re all suffering from. I would call this condition clarity, not depression; humor and depression are two different, but not mutually exclusive, responses to it. Depression condemns the world, and us, as hateful; laughter is a way of forgiving it, and ourselves, for being so.

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. Liking is an economic act. I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages…

NYT: A New Life for Refugees

NYT: A New Life for Refugees

Harsh winters have been one of the challenges of living in Utica, an old manufacturing city in upstate New York, for Sadia and her family, members of the Somali Bantu tribe. They arrived here from a Kenyan refugee camp almost a decade ago after a stint in St. Louis. Sadia’s family belongs to the Mudey clan and over 100 extended family members live within blocks of one another. Family ties are everything, yet Sadia and her sisters have stitched together American and Somali Bantu identities. This might seem like an unexpected corner of America to plant roots for Somali Bantus who have fled persecution, but in fact they are part of a remarkable story: the evolution of Utica into a city of refugees. A large concentration of immigrants who have come here seeking sanctuary, including Vietnamese, Bosnians and Burmese, have transformed this once-fading industrial town.

DS: Gaza Youth Radicalization

DS: Gaza Youth Radicalization

Above all else, the recent Gaza conflict has demonstrated that there is no military solution to the problem. Every confrontation in recent years, each new round of reciprocal killings, has pushed more people to the radical fringes. There is no way around the need to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and it is in Israel’s interest to recognize that imperative.

DS: Danger to Israel Comes from Within

DS: Danger to Israel Comes from Within

Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but left behind death and destruction. Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz tells SPIEGEL that her country is gripped by fear and is becoming increasingly suspicious of democracy. Eva Illouz was born in Morocco and grew up in Sarcelles, near Paris. She is a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She researches the relationship between emotions, economy and communication and has written several books including “Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation,” which was published in English last year.

TA: Secrets of the Creative Brain

TA: Secrets of the Creative Brain

What differences in nature and nurture can explain why some people suffer from mental illness and some do not? And why are so many of the world’s most creative minds among the most afflicted? Although many people continue to equate intelligence with genius, having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative. Rather, creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see. So why do these highly gifted people experience mental illness at a higher-than-average rate? One interesting paradox that has emerged during conversations with subjects about their creative processes is that, though many of them suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, they associate their gifts with strong feelings of joy and excitement.

DS: The Children of War

DS: The Children of War

Ahmed is hungry. Eyes closed, he clutches his mother’s breast and drinks, oblivious to everything around him. He ignores the rattling of the ceiling fan, dangling precariously. And he doesn’t notice the dull thuds that cause the walls to shake and his mother, Marwat al-Asasma, to cringe. Sometimes his body trembles, and he balls his tiny hands into fists. Her son now weighs a little over three kilograms (6.6 lbs.), says al-Asasma, 18, and he is healthy and gaining weight. She sounds as if she can hardly believe what she is saying. Ahmed is just over two weeks old — born in the night when the Israelis sent their first tanks to the Gaza Strip border. Ahmed is both a child of the war and one of its victims. Ten days after he was born, he lost his father, his grandparents and his home. His mother doesn’t know how much is left of the family house. She remembers only dust and smoke, but is trying to forget even that.

TG: Internet a Big Human Experiment

TG: Internet a Big Human Experiment

If you thought the internet industry was chastened by the public firestorm after Facebook revealed it had manipulated the news feeds of its own users to affect their emotions, think again: OKCupid.com, the dating site, is now bragging that it deliberately arranged matches between people whom its algorithms determined were not compatible – just to get data on how well the site was working.

ALA: Facebook’s Data Mining

ALA: Facebook’s Data Mining

The reason Facebook would want data on manipulating users’ emotions should be obvious. It’s the reason the company has been moving in on social location apps, health tracking and the “quantified self” trend of turning one’s lifestyle into a report card of easily digestible numbers. To Facebook, any and all domains of human experience should be accessible for capture and monetization. By buying virtual reality start-up Oculus VR, Facebook is likely setting itself up to harvest and experiment with intimate data from that domain as well.

BBC: Learning in Your Sleep

BBC: Learning in Your Sleep

The idea of learning as you sleep was once thought very unlikely, but there are several ways to try to help you acquire new skills as you doze. During the night, our brain busily processes and consolidates our recollections from the day before, and there could be ways to enhance that process. In the near future, technology may offer further ways of upgrading the brain’s sleep cycles. Memory consolidation is thought to occur during specific, slow, oscillations of electrical activity, so the idea here is to subtly encourage those brain waves without waking the subject. But we shouldn’t shy away from the problems highlighted by fiction like Brave New World and The Simpsons. Although new methods might not be able to brainwash people against their will, we still need to question whether it would be right to start manipulating their children’s memories, for instance.

TA: Why Young Chinese Know More About Money

TA: Why Young Chinese Know More About Money

In a new report comparing financial literacy skills among 15-year-olds in 18 countries, U.S. students scored in the middle of the pack on basic questions about savings, bank accounts and credit/debit cards, and weighing risks and rewards in deciding how to spend their dollars. The ranking of U.S. students in the new assessment is consistent with the nation’s stagnant performance on the most recent PISA for math and reading—two skills that track closely with financial literacy.

MIT: Forget the Wisdom of Crowds

MIT: Forget the Wisdom of Crowds

In recent years, researchers have spent a significant amount of time and effort teasing apart the factors that make crowds stupid. It turns out that if a crowd offers a wide range of independent estimates, then it is more likely to be wise. But if members of the crowd are influenced in the same way, for example by each other or by some external factor, then they tend to converge on a biased estimate. In this case, the crowd is likely to be stupid. Separating the more strongly influenced people from the independent thinkers creates two different groups and the group of independent thinkers is more likely to give a wise estimate. The research highlights the way bias can destroy the wisdom of a crowd, how that problem can be solved, but the possibilities for its application in the real world can be a little frightening.

PD: Google’s Monopoly Over What We Know

PD: Google’s Monopoly Over What We Know

Google’s monopoly power to discriminate information, to decide what we know and what we won’t know, and how accessible or inaccessible that information is, is the real relevant story to the EU controversy over the right to be forgotten. This sort of power goes well beyond abstract principles about freedom of speech, and into the mundane, existential power over businesses, industries, jobs, and the political economy.

PD: Smart Homes Are Creepy

PD: Smart Homes Are Creepy

“The dwellings of the future will make you calmer, safer, richer and healthier,” Time’s cover assured me, soothingly. But taking my head out of the tech press and reading such a broad, consumer level cover-all of the smarter home, I was nagged by the thought that a modern surveillance state isn’t so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit. Today, where we live, work and shop, who we know and communicate with and what we watch is already in play. With the smart home and its inevitable link into whatever wearable technology eventually becomes popular, we’ll be giving over data on what time we get home, what the climate is inside and outside our home, our diet, weight and hygiene habits, where we are in the house at any given moment, the actual time we go to bed, what lights we like to have turned on and what resources we consume. Calmer, safer, richer and healthier? Try, quantified, coddled, surveilled, and monetized.

PM: Pitchforks Coming for Plutocrats

PM: Pitchforks Coming for Plutocrats

Zillionaire Plutocrat Nick Hanauer calls for higher minimum wage: Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now? I see pitchforks. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

WW: A Hachette Job

WW: A Hachette Job

It is true that the big publishers buckling under Amazon’s thumb today are themselves tightly consolidated and have used their power in the past in ways that didn’t promote the best interest of writers and readers. But to champion as the antidote to their power an even bigger and consolidated power like Amazon ignores the lessons of the past – and sets up writers, publishers, and readers for fewer avenues and hence greater risks ahead.

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. Large numbers of refugees and IDPs fleeing to new areas inevitably put a strain on resources, and can even destabilise a host country and the burden of caring for refugees is increasingly falling on the countries with the least resources.

WP: Actually, Miss USA Is Right

WP: Actually, Miss USA Is Right

Nia Sanchez, a black belt in taekwondo, waded into fraught waters when she told Miss USA judge Rumer Willis that teaching women self-defense could help reduce sexual assaults on college campuses. Within hours, some anti-rape activists were blasting Sanchez as victim-blaming and anti-feminist. In the face of what the American Medical Association has called an “epidemic” of sexual violence there are things all people can do to increase safety for ourselves and for one another. The White House was wrong to omit self-defense from its prevention recommendations to college campuses and Miss USA was right to endorse it.

MIT: Neuroscience’s New Toolbox

MIT: Neuroscience’s New Toolbox

Optogenetics has provided a much more detailed view of the hypothalamus, and thus a much more complex and nuanced picture of aggression. Activating specific neurons in that little town can tip an organism to make war, but activating the neurons next door can nudge it to make love. The new techniques will give scientists the first glimpses of how thoughts, feelings, forebodings, and dysfunctional mental activity arise from the neural circuitry and from the activity of particular types of cells.

FPIF: Participatory Totalitarianism

FPIF: Participatory Totalitarianism

If surveillance was monaural during the Cold War and became stereophonic in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it is now quadrophonic. It can’t be reduced to the activity of a single state or even a particular government-industrial complex. We are all now embedded in a veritable matrix of surveillance. It has become surround sound. In the Communist era, Hungarian writer Miklos Haraszti wrote about what he called the “velvet prison.” We are at home in the new surveillance state, for we barely register all the cameras, all the targeted advertising, all the intrusions into what had previously been considered sacred private space. We are not passive objects of observation. We are active subjects of our own YouTube channels.

NYT: War Gear for US Police

NYT: War Gear for US Police

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter? Not very much, according to many educators. But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters but how – printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns and each results in a distinct end product. Researchers have found that when children compose text by hand, they not only consistently produce more words more quickly than they on a keyboard, but express more ideas. There may even be a difference between printing and cursive writing – a distinction of particular importance as the teaching of cursive disappears in curriculum after curriculum.

MIT: Robots Running This Way

MIT: Robots Running This Way

If their mobility can be improved, then these robots, and others like them, might stride out of research laboratories and populate the world with smart mobile machines. That helps explain why a few days before the DARPA Challenge, Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google.

AN: Social Death Penalty

AN: Social Death Penalty

  The Social Death Penalty: Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying In the wake of Elliot Rodger, questions about social rejection take on new urgency. By Lynn Stuart Parramore, June 2 2014. In recent years, bullying and harassment at work and in school have been grabbing headlines, creating greater awareness. But there’s a […]

NYT: Judging Spinoza

NYT: Judging Spinoza

No less an eminence than David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, publicly argued for “amending the injustice” done to the philosopher, insisting that the 17th-century rabbis had no authority “to exclude the immortal Spinoza from the community of Israel for all time.” The ban on Spinoza was never rescinded. One pressing question concerns the wisdom and efficacy of enforcing orthodoxy, or conformity in the matter of ideas in religious communities. Spinoza believed that he had, through metaphysical inquiry, discovered important truths about God, nature and human beings, truths that led to principles of great consequence for our happiness and our emotional and physical flourishing. By enforcing conformity of belief and punishing deviations from dogma, religious authorities risk depriving the devoted of the possibility of achieving in religion that which they most urgently seek.

TN: Making Students Pay

TN: Making Students Pay

With tuition costs more than doubling over the past generation, and student debt now exceeding $1 trillion, everyone knows the cost of college is too damn high. About 40 million people nationwide are weighed down by education debts that often reach into the tens of thousands. But those numbers are just a sliver of the bleak shadow that Wall Street casts over higher education.

NYT: Faking Cultural Literacy

NYT: Faking Cultural Literacy

It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and regurgitate them. What matters to us is not necessarily having actually consumed content but having a position on it. We come perilously close to knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness.

TN: US Race Segregation Getting Worse

TN: US Race Segregation Getting Worse

Progress is an essential tenet of America’s civic religion. But as with any religion, when faith is pitted against experience, faith generally wins. And at that point, optimism begins to look suspiciously like delusion. If the civil rights movement had been about getting black faces in new and high places, its work would now be done. But it wasn’t. It was about equality. And the problem is not that we still have a great deal of progress to be made or that progress is too slow—it’s that we are regressing. In many areas, America is becoming more separate and less equal.

AN: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Smarter

AN: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Smarter

The original kindergarten —the children’s garden—conceived by German educator Friedrich Froebel in the 19th century, was a place where children learned through play, often in nature. That idea is fast eroding. Instead children are focusing on a narrowing range of literacy and math. In the face of this indoor-ification of early childhood, a cultural and educational movement is emerging—focused on new approaches to nature-based education. The many skills children develop through play, particularly the self-control practiced and refined in imaginary play, are related to long-term academic achievement. Outdoor play can also remedy behavioral problems leading to lower arrest rates. Teachers and parents of children in nature preschools and forest kindergartens are finding that mastering puddles is just as important as learning letters in preparing children to find their way through the smartboard jungle.

TG: Children Mental Health Crisis

TG: Children Mental Health Crisis

In 2004, the first academic studies of trends in child and adolescent mental health began to report a worrying deterioration. The origins of this crisis – and it is a crisis – do not lie in massive overuse of the web, but elsewhere. But if things looked worrying in 2004, they look a darn sight worse today, 10 years later.

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

When an intellectual dies, there are no heaps of flowers or public mournings. The odd wistful editorial will be written in upmarket newspapers; colloquia organized in ivy-clad colleges. Few Americans will know, for instance, that Ronald Dworkin, a formidable figure in American liberal philosophy, died last year.

NYT: Medicated Kids

NYT: Medicated Kids

More than 10,000 American toddlers 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outside established pediatric guidelines, according to data presented on Friday by an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NYT: Peril of Knowledge

NYT: Peril of Knowledge

Thanks to advances in technology, we may soon revisit a question raised four centuries ago: Are there things we should try not to know? That’s because the collection of data is increasing, in both scale and type, at a phenomenal rate.

PS: Mismeasure of Technology

PS: Mismeasure of Technology

When something upsets a beneficent natural order, humans crave for stories featuring some malign force. But often governments embrace the goal of shared growth and yet fail to achieve it. If technology is just devices and ideas, what is holding them back? The problem is that a key component of technology is knowhow,

TN: US Death Row Innocents

TN: US Death Row Innocents

Deliberately conservative figure lays bare extent of possible miscarriages of justice suggesting that the innocence of more than 200 prisoners still in the system may never be recognized. At least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the US in the modern era are innocent, according to the first major study to attempt to calculate how often states get it wrong in their wielding of the ultimate punishment.The single largest group of innocent death row inmates are neither exonerated and released nor executed. Gross and his co-authors estimate that 36% of all those sentenced to death between 1973 and 2004 were taken off death row after doubts about their convictions were raised. Though innocent, they were then put on new sentences, usually life without parole, but no longer under the threat of execution, they are no longer treated as priorities within the criminal justice system and will most likely die in prison.

AJA: 21st Century Capitalism Can’t Last

AJA: 21st Century Capitalism Can’t Last

Pitketty’s book presents a simple thesis: Unchecked, capitalism’s natural dynamics lead to an unequal concentration of wealth. This trend is increasing at a rapid rate; absent a wealth-destroying catastrophe such as war or depression or powerful new egalitarian political movements, we can expect that to continue. We’ve stumbled into another Gilded Age. Which leads to the obvious question: What can be done?

TN: Economic and Climate Justice

TN: Economic and Climate Justice

Anyone who is committed to the hard work of bringing deep structural change to our economic, social and political systems is now faced with scientific facts so immediate and so dire as to render a life’s work seemingly futile. The question, then, becomes how to escape that paralyzing sense of futility, and how to accelerate the sort of grassroots democratic mobilization we need if we’re to salvage any hope of a just and stable society.

NYT: Game of Drones

NYT: Game of Drones

Given the privacy breaches of Google and Facebook, and their collusion with N.S.A. spying, we can be forgiven for some skepticism about what happens when the omnivorous and omniscient tech behemoths acquire the extra-judicial killing machines. Can we really trust Google, who stole millions of the world’s books and whose Street View vehicles secretly scooped up data around the world, with drones?

NYT: DNA and Insurance

NYT: DNA and Insurance

As costs for DNA sequencing drop, hundreds of thousands of Americans are undergoing the procedure to see if they are at risk for inherited diseases. Should insurance companies be barred from seeing genetic information when considering those policies so people can get the tests without fear that the results would be used against them?

NYT: Cuba Social Media Project

NYT: Cuba Social Media Project

A Twitter-like social media site created and financed by the United States Agency for International Development for use in Cuba was not a covert attempt to overthrow the government, the agency’s top official told members of Congress during a hearing on Tuesday.

AN: US Warp Speed Decline

AN: US Warp Speed Decline

If America needed a reminder that it is fast becoming a second-rate nation, and that every economic policy of the Republican Party is wrongheaded, it got one this week with the release of the Social Progress Index (SPI). America’s rapid descent into impoverished nation status is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. By every measure, we look like a broken banana republic. In The World As It Is, Chris Hedges writes, “Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.”

TG: Children’s Hyperactivity

TG: Children’s Hyperactivity

One of the world’s leading neuroscientists has suggested that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a real disease. Clinicians are too readily prescribing psychostimulants to children. Animal studies have raised concerns over the potential for damage to be done.

AN: UN Says US Cruel and Inhuman

AN: UN Says US Cruel and Inhuman

The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday condemned the United States for criminalizing homelessness, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations. It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992.

AFP: When Bare Breasts Are a Problem But Violence Against Women is Not

AFP: When Bare Breasts Are a Problem But Violence Against Women is Not

The Femen group’s signature style of direct action is to show up at rallies or places in the news and bare their breasts, which typically are adorned with very direct slogans. The images generated from a Femen protest are often compelling and have real news value. Frequently, the photos capture male heavy-handedness as security forces or angry protesters confront the topless women. In early March AFP posted a picture of a Femen activist on its Facebook page but decided to censor the nipple to make sure not to violate Facebook’s nudity standards. But as several people commented under the picture, it is a strange paradox that it seems OK to show a photograph of violence against a woman, but not to let people see her chosen means of protest (toplessness.)

AN: Police Kill More Than Terrorists Do

AN: Police Kill More Than Terrorists Do

Public indifference to “civilian” casualties in police actions highlights a disconnect: The public perceives rampant crime while the actual crime report suggests nothing of the sort. While the militarization of law enforcement has little or no relation to the falling crime rate, there is reason to fear that it is eroding our constitutionally protected rights

MIT: Sharing Cascades

MIT: Sharing Cascades

There is much interest in finding out how to predict something that is likely to be popular compared to something that is not. It’s easy to think that predicting the popularity of content is almost impossible because it depends on so many factors that are difficult to measure, but various characteristics of a cascade can be predicted with remarkable accuracy and that this can be used to make successful judgments about the future.

PS: Innovation Enigma

PS: Innovation Enigma

Around the world, there is enormous enthusiasm for the type of technological innovation symbolized by Silicon Valley. In this view, America’s ingenuity represents its true comparative advantage, which others strive to imitate. But there is a puzzle: it is difficult to detect the benefits of this innovation in GDP statistics.

NC: Power Inequality

NC: Power Inequality

Inequality is endemic to the core structure of an America that operates more as a plutocracy than a democracy. It is an inherent result of the consolidation of a substantial amount of both financial power and political influence in the hands of a few families.

PS: A New Progressive Political Economy

PS: A New Progressive Political Economy

The 2008 financial crash revealed major flaws in the neoliberal view of capitalism, and an objective view of the last 35 years shows that the neoliberal model has not performed well relative to the previous 30 years in terms of economic growth, financial stability, and social justice. But a credible progressive alternative has yet to take shape. First, a progressive political economy must be based on a firm belief in capitalism. Second, institutions do not evolve spontaneously, as neoliberals believe. Third the neoliberal view that a country’s economic performance should be assessed solely in terms of GDP growth and freedom must be rejected. Western countries that do not adopt this framework, and instead cling to a neoliberal political economy, will find it increasingly difficult to innovate and grow.

TG: Swearing Responsibly

TG: Swearing Responsibly

In Britain, fear of vulgarity is considered the preserve of the terminally vulgar. Britain leads the world in precious little these days, but it does, undoubtedly, set the standard for swearing, the very definition perhaps of being all mouth and no trousers. For this reason, squeamishness about swearing in the US is perceived by some as a collective expression of social unease.

CP: On Academic Labor

CP: On Academic Labor

Noam Chomsky discusses issues related to the breakdown of our educational system, specifically he discusses hiring faculty off the tenure track, how higher education ought to be, “shared governance” and worker control, the alleged need for labor “flexibility”, the purpose of education, and the love of teaching.

NAEP: US 2013 Maths and Reading Results

NAEP: US 2013 Maths and Reading Results

Nationally representative samples of more than 376,000 fourth-graders and 341,000 eighth-graders were assessed in either mathematics or reading in 2013. Average mathematics scores for fourth- and eighth-graders in 2013 were 1 point higher than in 2011, and 28 and 22 points higher respectively in comparison to the first assessment year in 1990.

NC: Creating the World We Want

NC: Creating the World We Want

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants. Occupy Wall Street issued its Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what will take the place of the current economy?

BBC: Maths as Beauty

BBC: Maths as Beauty

Mathematicians were shown “ugly” and “beautiful” equations while in a brain scanner at University College London. The same emotional brain centres used to appreciate art were being activated by “beautiful” maths. The researchers suggest there may be a neurobiological basis to beauty.

TG: US Common Core

TG: US Common Core

I am concerned that the Common Core, successful or not, will normalize the idea of simply outsourcing education and bring to a whimpering end one of the final refuges Americans have against the modern era’s non-stop assault of marketing and commercial persuasion.

TM: Shadows of Liberty

TM: Shadows of Liberty

Ninety percent of American media is controlled by five big, for-profit-conglomerates, creating a media monopoly of informational and social control never before possible. Shadows of Liberty reveals the hidden machinations of the news media, drawing into focus the vast mechanisms of censorship, cover-ups, and corporate control that have been built up over many decades.

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

The idea of being fined for crossing the road at the wrong place can bemuse foreign visitors to the US, where the origins of so-called jaywalking lie in a propaganda campaign by the motor industry in the 1920s. The UK is among those countries where jaywalking is not an offence. But the rate of pedestrian deaths is half that of the US.

PS: Realism of Global Optimism

PS: Realism of Global Optimism

Only occasionally do we get uplifting, things-are-getting-better stories. When we do, they feel like a guilty pleasure. As a result, we often think that the world is in worse shape than it is. There are still plenty of problems in the world, but we need to remember that the world is a better place overall than we think, many indicators point to a world that is improving.

NYT: Is Atheism Irrational?

NYT: Is Atheism Irrational?

To believe in both materialism and evolution requires acceptance that your belief-producing faculties are not reliable, but that is to fall into a total skepticism, which leaves you with no reason to accept any of your beliefs. The only sensible course is to give up the claim leading to this conclusion: that both materialism and evolution are true.

WSJ: Coming Revolution

WSJ: Coming Revolution

As inequality continues to grow, it will trigger more and more rage, war and violence until, as Pope Francis says, capitalism is rejected, because until then “no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

NC: More Inequality Shock

NC: More Inequality Shock

Inequality is a cancer on society, here in the U.S. and across the globe. It keeps growing. But humanity seems helpless against it, as if it’s an alien force that no one understands, even as the life is being gradually drained from its victims. The recent Oxfam report on global wealth inequality reveals some of the ugly extremes that have divided our world.

MIT: Quantum Teleportation

MIT: Quantum Teleportation

Quantum teleportation is the ability to transmit from one location to another without traveling through the space in between. Matter itself doesn’t make this journey, only the information that describes it. This is transmitted to a new body that takes on the identity of the original.

BP: Cosmic Accident

BP: Cosmic Accident

If the multiverse idea is correct, then the historic mission of physics to explain all the properties of our universe in terms of fundamental principles — to explain why the properties of our universe must necessarily be what they are — is futile, a beautiful philosophical dream that simply isn’t true.

WP: Guilt of the Gilded

WP: Guilt of the Gilded

The president may describe inequality as the result of impersonal forces — globalization, technology. But some senators — Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders — are starting to name names, to show how the rules have been rigged and who did the rigging.

BI: Development Revisited

BI: Development Revisited

The true measure of aid’s impact lies in the difference it makes to the lives of people living in poverty. Sweeping generalizations asserting how small the contribution is of aid to development are not only likely to be wrong, but can have real, adverse and unnecessary consequences for the lives of the least fortunate on our planet.

DN: Bill Moyers on Dark Money

DN: Bill Moyers on Dark Money

Legendary broadcaster Bill Moyers discusses his latest investigation, which explores how the influence of large, untraceable political donations known as “dark money” have become the greatest threat to democracy in the United States.

TD: Myth of Human Progress

TD: Myth of Human Progress

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. We bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite—are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence.

RE: Google Buys DeepMind

RE: Google Buys DeepMind

Google Inc has agreed to acquire artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies Ltd. which uses general-purpose learning algorithms for applications such as simulations, e-commerce and games. Google has become increasingly focused on artificial intelligence in recent years.

NYT: NSA Targets Children

NYT: NSA Targets Children

The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really “kewl,” is pushing the benefits of the National Security Agency.

NC: Surveillance and Scandal

NC: Surveillance and Scandal

Washington has made a $1.2 trillion investment in a new apparatus of world power. To update Henry Stimson: in the age of the Internet, gentlemen don’t just read each other’s mail, they watch each other’s porn. Even if we think we have nothing to hide, all of us, whether world leaders or ordinary citizens, have good reason to be concerned.

BBC: American Apathy

BBC: American Apathy

American citizens have bought into the notion that the “war on terror” and “Islamic extremism” justify all means. Their acquiescence, if not active tolerance, is what allows Washington to operate above the law, from drones to routinely spying on the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Spanish people, to name but a few of the targets.

NYT: Why We Talk About the 1%

NYT: Why We Talk About the 1%

If you look at the bottom 4 percent of the top 5, you see good but not spectacular income gains. These are the kinds of gains that you might be able to explain in terms of skills, assortative mating, and so on. But the top 1 percent is in a different universe altogether.

BP: When Einstein Met Tagore

BP: When Einstein Met Tagore

On July 14, 1930, Albert Einstein welcomed into his home on the outskirts of Berlin the Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. The two proceeded to have one of the most stimulating, intellectually riveting conversations in history. The book, Science and the Indian Tradition: When Einstein Met Tagore, recounts the historic encounter, amidst a broader discussion of the intellectual renaissance that swept India in the early twentieth century, germinating a curious osmosis of Indian traditions and secular Western scientific doctrine. This excerpt from one of Einstein and Tagore’s conversations dances between previously examined definitions of science, beauty, consciousness, and philosophy in a masterful meditation on the most fundamental questions of human existence.

HI: Prepper Philosophy

HI: Prepper Philosophy

The “defend what’s mine” mentality states that the moment “shit goes down,” every other human in the world instantly becomes either a resource to be used or a threat to be eliminated. Never have I encountered someone who is prepping for the purpose of building a post-apocalyptic community or offering a haven of help and support for other less-prepared people in the event that something terrible does happen.

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