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AN: Economic Exploitation

AN: Economic Exploitation

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that democracy was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair. Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

AN: Major Social Transformation Close

AN: Major Social Transformation Close

Moyer’s work is heartening for social justice activists because it shows how movements grow, recede and change their functions at different stages. By understanding the current stage of development we can better define the work that must be done to achieve success and predict how the power structure and public will react to our actions.

TG: Book Banning in the US

TG: Book Banning in the US

An anti-censorship group in America has reported a flurry of attempted book bannings in the last quarter of the year and has said there are increasing numbers of books being taken off school shelves that deal with race or sexuality or are written by “minority” authors.

NYT: Pope’s Popular Voice

NYT: Pope’s Popular Voice

From 4,500 miles away at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has captivated the world with a message of economic justice and tolerance, has become a presence in Washington’s policy debate. Francis’ denunciation of an “economy of exclusion” goes to the heart of the debate between the two parties over the role of government.

BBC: Perils of Belief

BBC: Perils of Belief

While human beings are willing to kill others for the sake of belief, they are ready to die for the same reason. No other species shows any sign of killing or dying for the sake of a mere idea. Some will say that’s because other species can’t formulate ideas or beliefs, but I think the answer lies elsewhere. The ability to form complex beliefs about the world has given us humans great power – at least over material things. But these more highly developed intellectual capacities also give us a clearer awareness of the fact that we are going to die. This can fill us with dread, and there are many who find relief in clinging to a belief for which they are ready to sacrifice their lives. Curiously, it may be fear of mortality that has led so many believers to embrace death.

MIT: Decline of Wikipedia

MIT: Decline of Wikipedia

The sixth most widely used website in the world is not run anything like the others in the top 10. It is not operated by a sophisticated corporation but by a leaderless collection of volunteers who generally work under pseudonyms and habitually bicker with each other. It rarely tries new things in the hope of luring visitors; in fact, it has changed little in a decade. And yet every month 10 billion pages are viewed on the English version of Wikipedia alone.

MIT: 2013 Top Tech Reads

MIT: 2013 Top Tech Reads

MIT Technology Review looks back at leading stories from 2013 including stories related to the pricing of drugs by pharmaceutical and biotech companies, the danger of increased information gathering by governments and companies, the internet and free speech, the effect on jobs of automation, artificial intelligence, and advanced software, the creation of treatments for erasing traumatic memories, the future of driverless cars, the reinvention of the computer chip, saving Wikipedia, and the necessity for genetic engineering in crops.

NYT: Inequality for Dummies

NYT: Inequality for Dummies

Economic inequality is manifestly real, growing and dangerous. The alarming thing is not inequality per se, but immobility. A stratified society in which the bottom and top are mostly locked in place is not just morally offensive, it is unstable. When the ruling elites have pulled up the ladder and kept newcomers from getting a foothold, their economies have suffocated and died.

WH: András Schiff Explores Beethoven Piano Sonatas

WH: András Schiff Explores Beethoven Piano Sonatas

András Schiff last performed the complete Beethoven piano sonatas at Wigmore Hall from 2004–6 to overwhelming critical acclaim, with the Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger describing one particular performance as ‘a riveting mixture of erudition, analysis, passion, wit and memory’.
On the day before each of the eight recitals in the series, the world-renowned pianist, pedagogue and lecturer gave a lecture-recital in which he explored the works to be performed. Deeply engaging and insightful, these thought-provoking lecture-recitals, recorded live at the Hall, are now available below to hear as eight lecture-recitals.

NYT: Surveillance Cosy or Chilling

NYT: Surveillance Cosy or Chilling

Last year, two literal-minded Supreme Court justices were considering whether police officers needed a warrant before placing a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s S.U.V. when they ended up having a rather fanciful argument: What would the founding fathers make of a GPS device, anyway?

AN: Walking is a Wonder Drug

AN: Walking is a Wonder Drug

Researchers have discovered a “wonder drug” for many of today’s most common medical problems. It’s been proven to help treat or prevent diabetes, depression, breast and colon cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety and osteoporosis. The drug is called walking, Its generic name is physical activity.

NYT: Gifted Students

NYT: Gifted Students

In a post-smokestack age, there is only one way for the United States to avoid a declining standard of living, and that is through innovation. The nation has to enlarge its pool of the best and brightest science and math students and encourage them to pursue careers that will keep the country competitive. But that isn’t happening.

NYT: Selling ADHD

NYT: Selling ADHD

The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.

AN: American Inhumanity

AN: American Inhumanity

What would it be like if people in the United States knew they had rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and demanded to have them realized? We believe it would be a very different world – the economy would be a more equitable with full employment, healthcare for all, no people without housing and more humane on every front. Instead, this week an annual report of Credit Suisse ranked the US as the most unequal of all advanced countries.

LL: Technology and Human Behaviour

LL: Technology and Human Behaviour

Since technology is created by humans, and built on, for example, economic or financial principles which have been derived by humans, we have the potential to over-estimate fatally the perfection of technology. Technology is only ever as good as the insight, experience and knowledge embedded in it. Wilful blindness can be embedded inside algorithms as algorithms contain assumptions. As they become more complex, being able to see what they assume and what they ignore becomes increasingly difficult.

Center for Int’l Governance Innovation

Center for Int’l Governance Innovation

The Centre for International Governance Innovation is an independent, non-partisan think tank focused on international governance. CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world and its research programs focus on five key themes: global economy; global security; international law; environment and energy; and global development.

NYT: Europe v Amazon

NYT: Europe v Amazon

On its home territory, Amazon.com is routinely hailed as a jobs machine. The recession might have cut deeper in Europe, making the question of new jobs even more crucial, but the attitude there is much cooler toward Amazon and its high-tech ways. In Britain, the warehouses that so impressed President Obama have been compared, in a February story in The Financial Times, with a “slave camp.”

NYT: Malta’s Tangled History

NYT: Malta’s Tangled History

Settlement on Malta dates back to prehistory; it has been ruled over the centuries by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs, among others. After briefly being conquered by Napoleon around the turn of the 19th century, it spent many decades under British rule before achieving independence in 1964. The history of Malta — actually an archipelago that includes three inhabited islands, just 50 miles south of Sicily — is peppered with violence and disorder. Today, though, it is hard to find a corner of the country that doesn’t feel peaceful and safe.

FA: Policing Synthetic Biology

FA: Policing Synthetic Biology

Ongoing research and discoveries in the life sciences — the latest and most promising involving synthetic biology — have led to extraordinary advances that will benefit society. But criminals and terrorists could manipulate such advances to disrupt public safety and national security.

BBC: Genetic Memory

BBC: Genetic Memory

Behaviour can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory, animal studies suggest. Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behaviour of subsequent generations.

NYT: Caught in Unemployment

NYT: Caught in Unemployment

Joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists are concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans and for the country, too: lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth.

BI: National Suspicions

BI: National Suspicions

The terrible global financial crisis of 2007-9, and the ensuing “Great Recession,” concentrated the minds of national leaders on the need for cooperation. But more recently mistrust and narrow conceptions of short-term national interests have undermined the global cooperation necessary to repair the damage of the financial crisis and build the safe and efficient financial sector that we need going forward. In Europe, and in the wider world, it is critical that leaders recognize that the gains from cross-border cooperation in finance are large and the risks from playing games to protect narrow national interests are also big. Complacency is dangerous with the job of reform still so far from finished.

AN: Market for Everything

AN: Market for Everything

The market is our liberation, say the advocates, unshackling us from arbitrary restraints and some other guy’s moral hangups. But hang on a second. Where exactly are we headed with this? It’s been quite a while since we’ve had much serious public discussion about what a market-based mentality costs us.

TE: Omidyar Way of Giving

TE: Omidyar Way of Giving

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, is bankrolling the new journalism venture of Glenn Greenwald, best known for his reporting on the National Security Agency. In his first few years as a big giver, Mr Omidyar went from embracing conventional wisdom to challenging it. The moneymaking counterpart to venture philanthropy is “impact investing”: aiming to turn a profit while doing some social or environmental good. But Mr Omidyar thinks most so-called impact investors are being too risk-averse. Focused it on five main themes, financial inclusion, consumer internet and mobile telecoms, education, property rights and open government, the Omidyar Network is seeking ways to co-ordinate its investments in for-profits and non-profits so as to accelerate the growth of entire sectors.

AN: Dickensian Nightmare

AN: Dickensian Nightmare

Can art do anything for the 99%? The case of Charles Dickens argues that yes—when genius, perseverance, activism, and admittedly, luck, combine, artistic creations can spark fires that burn through encrusted layers of human wrongs. It doesn’t happen overnight, and not as often as we wish. But it happens.

SA: Smartphones Killing Us

SA: Smartphones Killing Us

What permanent connectivity does to our minds is the subject of great debate. What it does to public space is less often acknowledged. Some restaurants, bars and coffee shops have banned smartphones and computers for their corrosive social effects. Anti-technology zoning for cognitive health to protect us from our own worst instincts is a more complex challenge.

NOC: What Marx Knew

NOC: What Marx Knew

Marx put too much faith in the masses and failed to see how easily they (we) can be bought off. If corporate elites have no incentive to curb capitalism and every incentive to grab a bigger and bigger share of the world’s wealth, and if the “working class” of the world, now numbering over 7 billion, can be placated with credit cards and Walmarts, what chance do we have?

NYT: Textbooks Reassess JFK

NYT: Textbooks Reassess JFK

The first — and for many the last — in-depth lesson that American students learn about the 35th president comes from high school textbooks. And on the eve of the anniversary of his assassination 50 years ago, a review of more than two dozen written since then shows that the portrayal of him has fallen sharply over the years.

TE: The Recorded World

TE: The Recorded World

A huge, looming issue is the growing sophistication of face-recognition technologies. We may not be far from a world in which your movements could be tracked all the time, where a stranger walking down the street can immediately identify exactly who you are. The fight should start now. Otherwise, in the blink of an eye, privacy could be gone.

NYT: Childhood Obesity

NYT: Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity, at long last, may have peaked — even among the poor, where the problem is most prevalent. So how has this small bit of success been achieved? One factor is an extensive behavior-change campaign; another is the provision of healthier food to poor neighborhoods. But there may be a more direct reason for the progress against child obesity.

FA: Privacy Pretense

FA: Privacy Pretense

For years, U.S. information technology firms have actively backed weak privacy rules that let them collect massive amounts of personal data. The strategy enabled the companies to work their way into every corner of consumers’ lives and gave them a competitive edge internationally. Those same policies, however, have come back to haunt them.

NYT: Marijuana and Alcohol

NYT: Marijuana and Alcohol

Some researchers believe they have identified a side benefit to increasing availability of marijuana: legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has been associated with reductions in heavy drinking, especially among 18- to 29-year-olds, and with an almost 5 percent decrease in beer sales.

NYT: Plutocrats vs Populists

NYT: Plutocrats vs Populists

Voters on both the right and the left are suspicious of whether the plutocrats and the technocrats they employ understand their real needs, and whether they truly have their best interests at heart. Where does that leave smart centrists with their clever, fact-based policies designed to fine-tune 21st century capitalism and make it work better for everyone?

NG: Wise Old Whooping Cranes

NG: Wise Old Whooping Cranes

People have pondered the question for centuries: How do migrating birds find their way between far-flung breeding and wintering grounds? Do they have some genetic GPS to steer them along time-honored routes? Or do they learn the way from parents or elders in the flocks? New research shows that, at least in the case of whooping cranes, the birds do learn the route from their older and more experienced companions—and all of them get better at navigating with age and experience. Detailed whooper migration data is a silver lining to a near-tragedy. America’s whooping cranes were within a whisper of extinction during the mid-20th century, when as few as 16 individuals survived. Only a large-scale, international captive breeding and conservation effort enabled the species to survive—and ultimately made this discovery possible.

TE: Unreliable Research

TE: Unreliable Research

The idea that there are a lot of uncorrected flaws in published studies may seem hard to square with the fact that almost all of them will have been through peer-review. This sort of scrutiny by disinterested experts is often said to make the scientific literature particularly reliable. In practice it is poor at detecting many types of error.

TG: Universities Watching You

TG: Universities Watching You

It monitors email and social media accounts, uses thousands of surveillance cameras to track behavior and movement, is funded by billions of dollars from the federal government, and has been called “the most authoritarian institution in America”. The National Security Agency? Nope. It’s your average college or university.

TE: The Next Frontier

TE: The Next Frontier

Mainstream economics divorces the short term from the long term. There may be big problems ahead but macroeconomists prefer to improvise today and worry about the future later. That approach also suits politicians, aligning the policy cycle with the electoral cycle. But it is not a recipe for producing robust, inclusive growth.

NYT: White House on Spying

NYT: White House on Spying

The White House response on Monday to the expanding disclosures of American spying on foreign leaders, their governments and millions of their citizens was a pathetic mix of unsatisfying assurances about reviews under way, platitudes about the need for security in an insecure age, and the odd defense that the president didn’t know that American spies had tapped the German chancellor’s cellphone for 10 years. There has long been an understanding that international spying was done in pursuit of a concrete threat to national security. That Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations could fall under that umbrella is an outgrowth of the post-9/11 decision by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that everyone is the enemy, and that anyone’s rights may be degraded in the name of national security.

TE: Inequality

TE: Inequality

A barrage of new statistics on American living standards offers some grounds for optimism. A typical American household’s income has stopped falling for the first time in five years, and the poverty rate has stopped rising. But the main message is a grim one. Most of the growth is going to an extraordinarily small share of the population. The most unequal country in the rich world is thus becoming even more so.

HP: Denmark Happiest on Earth

HP: Denmark Happiest on Earth

Last month, Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control over: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.

TNY: Freedom of Information

TNY: Freedom of Information

Since June 5th, the Guardian had been publishing top-secret digital files provided by Edward Snowden, a former contract employee of the National Security Agency. Such articles have become a trademark of the Guardian – its coverage of Murdoch, WikiLeaks, and Snowden’s files has brought acclaim and an international audience. Despite this success, the Guardian, supported by the Scott Trust which was established nearly eighty years ago to subsidize an “independent” and “liberal” newspaper, has lost money for nine straight years.

NYT: Experience As It Once Was

NYT: Experience As It Once Was

I was going 115 miles per hour on a German autobahn when it occurred to me that one reason the German economy is doing so well is that people can get from one place to another so fast. The question of genuine, undiluted experience has been on my mind. Germans have a good word for something authentic: “echt.” We have an echt deficit these days. Everything seems filtered, monitored, marshaled, ameliorated, graded and app-ready — made into a kind of branded facsimile of experience for easier absorption. The thrill of the unexpected is lost. The modern world’s tech-giddy control and facilitation makes us stupid. We demand shortcuts, as if there are shortcuts to genuine experience. The state’s cameras are trained on streets where people’s gazes are trained on hand-held screens that map their movements — offering facsimiles of the experience they might have if they ever looked up.

NYT: California Health Act

NYT: California Health Act

With enthusiastic backing from state officials and an estimated seven million uninsured, California is a crucial testing ground for the success of President Obama’s health care law. It is building the country’s largest state-run health insurance exchange and has already expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor. Officials hope that the efforts here will eventually attract more than two million people who are currently uninsured.

WP: Troubling Test for 11yr Olds

WP: Troubling Test for 11yr Olds

We’re just a month into school and already the testing madness has begun. Many Pittsburgh Public School students have just taken their first round of standardized tests, and it’s time to ask some serious questions about their purpose, the ever-increasing number of tests, and the impact on our children.

NoC: Hope for Future of Food

NoC: Hope for Future of Food

When it comes to the future of the food system, it’s hard not to be discouraged. Nearly one billion people are hungry, and another 1.5 billion are obese or overweight. All over the world, people waste 1.3 billion tons of food each year. But Food Tank has compiled a list of 14 reasons to be hopeful about the future of the food system.

AN: Inequality and Dumbness

AN: Inequality and Dumbness

Tthe Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of a two-year study in which thousands of adults in 23 countries were tested for their skills in literacy, basic math and technology. The US fared badly in all three fields, ranking somewhere in the middle for literacy but way down at the bottom for technology and math. The question is, do the study’s results imply that “US adults are dumber than your average human”?

PS: Best Brightest Least Productive

PS: Best Brightest Least Productive

Are too many of our most talented people choosing careers in finance – and, more specifically, in trading, speculating, and other allegedly “unproductive” activities? We surely need some people in trading and speculation. But how do we know whether we have too many? As economists like to point out, traders and speculators provide a useful service, but these people’s activities also impose costs on the rest of us.

NoC: Plot Against Pensions

NoC: Plot Against Pensions

As state legislatures prepare for their upcoming sessions, you will no doubt hear a lot about public pensions. More specifically, you will hear allegations that states are going bankrupt because of their pension obligations to public employees and that states must renege on their pension promises to retirees. A plot that uses pension money to enrich the already rich should be called what it is: not just tragic or unacceptable, but downright immoral and inhumane.

MIT: Data Discrimination

MIT: Data Discrimination

Data analytics are being used to implement a subtle form of discrimination, while anonymous data sets can be mined to reveal health data and other private information. Principle Microsoft researcher, Kate Crawford, and a colleague propose a system of “due process” that would give people more legal rights to understand how data analytics are used in determinations made against them, such as denial of health insurance or a job.

NYT: Rich People Care Less

NYT: Rich People Care Less

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

NYT: Improving Social Skills

NYT: Improving Social Skills

A study published Thursday in the journal Science finds that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.

Brookings: Ending Starvation by 2015

Brookings: Ending Starvation by 2015

December 31, 2015 is the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the global anti-poverty targets for tackling extreme poverty around the world. We are now facing the final moment to bend the relevant curves of progress. For decision makers, 2013 is the real 2015.

NYT: NSA Mapping Social Connections

NYT: NSA Mapping Social Connections

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials. The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

HP: Exceptionalism and California

HP: Exceptionalism and California

Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid — very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about.

WP: Myths About Jesus

WP: Myths About Jesus

Outside of the Gospels — which are not so much factual accounts of Jesus but arguments about His religious significance — there is almost no trace of this simple Galilean peasant who inspired the world’s largest religion. But there’s enough biblical scholarship about the historical Jesus to raise questions about some of the myths that have formed around Him over the past 2,000 years.

HP: Tech is Killing Eye Contact

HP: Tech is Killing Eye Contact

As we spend more and more of our time staring at screens, there’s less time left over to look into people’s eyes. The growth of multitasking on mobile devices and remote working have normalized the experience of having conversations with little or no eye contact. These interactions aren’t just what previous generations would have considered rude, they’re also undermining our ability to connect with the people in our lives.

Brookings: Social Mobility

Brookings: Social Mobility

Achievement gaps open up in early childhood, damaging chances of upward mobility—especially for those from poor backgrounds. The question is: what can we do about it? High-quality pre-k and high-quality home visiting programs can both help to close early childhood gaps in parenting and in the development of cognitive skills.

AN – RIP Middle Class

AN – RIP Middle Class

For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction.

WP: Americans and Retirement Funds

WP: Americans and Retirement Funds

When lawmakers added a subsection to the tax code called the 401(k) more than three decades ago, they could not have imagined that this string of three numbers and a letter would become a fixture in the financial lexicon. But the rise of the 401(k) has steadily shifted more financial responsibility onto the shoulders of many Americans who are – let’s face it – clueless.

Marketplace: 401(k)s Fail Americans

Marketplace: 401(k)s Fail Americans

By the mid ’90s, 30 million Americans had 401(k) plans. Do-it-yourself retirement seemed easy in the decade’s bull market, but in 2000 the dotcom bubble burst, and then in the financial crisis the average 401(k) plan lost 27 percent. Today, the typical middle-class household nearing retirement has saved $120,000 — one-tenth what many say it needs.

WP: 401(k)s Making Inequality Worse

WP: 401(k)s Making Inequality Worse

The once-dominant defined benefit pension plan–which pays out a fixed amount after an employee retires–is on its way to becoming an historical artifact. According to a new analysis from the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute, the effect has been a stratification of retirement savings by education, income, and race–which could deepen inequality among the elderly as the population ages.

AN: Abandoning Religion

AN: Abandoning Religion

Americans are abandoning organized religion in droves. Data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that while only 7 percent of Americans were raised outside a religious tradition, nearly 19 percent are religiously unaffiliated today. One-third of Americans under age 30, meanwhile, say they have no religion.

MIT: Cryptographers and Ethics

MIT: Cryptographers and Ethics

It looks as if the code-breakers at the National Security Agency—and possibly the academics that often assist them—are in clear, dramatic breach of their own profession’s code of conduct that requires honesty and trustworthiness and respect of others’ privacy. Snowden, the NSA whistleblower made his own “moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects us all.”

AN: School is a Prison

AN: School is a Prison

Peter Gray discusses the repercussions of our approach to schooling, specifically how the school system we maintain is a holdover from another time that we should reform so as to better take into account the need to develop self-motivation in students. The current system is based on a top-down, teach and test, rewards and punishments method derived from the time of the Protestant Reformation and the authority-based scriptural lessons that schools then provided. What is needed now is something different – a system that nurtures critical thought, creativity, self-initiative, and the ability of students to learn on their own. This type of school is not unknown – longstanding examples exist that focus on employing the children’s inherent curiosity, creativity, and zest for learning.

NoC: Beyond Homo Economicus

NoC: Beyond Homo Economicus

Humanity currently faces numerous global challenges, including climate change, resource depletion, financial crisis, deficient education, widespread poverty, and food insecurity. But, despite the devastating consequences implied by a failure to address these issues, we have not risen to the occasion.

AEA: Democracy and Inequality

AEA: Democracy and Inequality

During the past two generations, new inequalities have primarily benefited the top 1 percent and even the top .01 percent. These groups seem sufficiently small that economic inequality could be held in check by political equality in the form of “one person, one vote.” In this paper, we explore five possible reasons why the US political system has failed to counterbalance rising inequality.

New Yorker: Neuro-Skeptics

New Yorker: Neuro-Skeptics

Writers on the brain and the mind tend to divide into Spocks and Kirks. For the past decade, at least, the Spocks have been running the Enterprise. Myths depend on balance and so we have on our hands a sudden and severe Kirkist backlash. A series of new books all present watch-and-ward arguments designed to show that brain science promises much and delivers little.

Reuters: Facebook Facial Recognition

Reuters: Facebook Facial Recognition

Facebook Inc is considering incorporating most of its 1 billion-plus members’ profile photos into its growing facial recognition database, expanding the scope of the social network’s controversial technology. Facial recognition technology has been a sensitive issue for technology companies, raising concerns among some privacy advocates and government officials.

Economist: Neuromorphic Computing

Economist: Neuromorphic Computing

Computing technology is being designed to mimic the human brain. Developers hope that they will achieve both better functioning computers and a better understanding of how the brain works. They wish to instill in computers three traits of the brain in particular – the ability to run on low amounts of power, the ability to withstand and overcome faults, and the ability to learn and change spontaneously. Efforts are being made on both sides of the Atlantic, and while the most advanced programs are in Europe the US is not far behind. One potential repercussion of these computing developments is particularly noteworthy – if the scientists succeed, there is the possibility that machines will develop to have higher thinking capacities than human beings, to the extent that they may be able, eventually, to keep human beings as pets – just as a human might keep a monkey.

Brookings: Globally Fluent Metropolises

Brookings: Globally Fluent Metropolises

Swift global integration, the expansion of a global consumer class, and the rise of urban areas as the engines of global economic growth have ushered in a new era. This paper presents 10 traits of globally fluent metro areas and their critical relationship to the competitiveness, productivity, and prosperity of cities and regions in the 21st century.

AlterNet: Brink of Catastrophe

AlterNet: Brink of Catastrophe

The later twentieth and early twenty-first century may be noteworthy for two intertwined phenomena: computers and digital technology, which have decentralized power in some ways, while concentrating it in others, and the next phase in the development of nonviolent, direct-action, people-powered movements, the recent leaderless rebellions.

Alternet: Schools Failing Imagination

Alternet: Schools Failing Imagination

Critical pedagogy becomes dangerous in the current historical moment because it emphasizes critical reflection, bridging the gap between learning and everyday life, understanding the connection between power and difficult knowledge, and extending democratic rights and identities by using the resources of history.

NatGeo: Sugar

NatGeo: Sugar

Five million years ago, a cold wind blew. A bridge emerged and a few adventurous apes moved out of Africa to settle in the rain forests of Eurasia. But the cooling continued, replacing tropical groves of fruit with deciduous forests – a famine struck the apes. A mutation occurred in one making it a wildly efficient processor of fructose. Even small amounts were stored as fat, a huge survival advantage when food was scarce. Then one day that ape returned to its home in Africa and begot the apes we see today, including the one that spread its sugar-loving progeny across the globe. Only animals with the mutation survived, today all apes have it, including humans. It got our ancestors through the lean years. Our world is now flooded with fructose, but our bodies have evolved to get by on very, very little of it – the very thing that saved us could kill us in the end.

AlterNet: US and Democracy

AlterNet: US and Democracy

American power is diminishing, as it has been in fact since its peak in 1945, but it’s still incomparable. And it’s dangerous. Obama’s remarkable global terror campaign and the limited, pathetic reaction to it in the West is one shocking example. And it is a campaign of international terrorism – by far the most extreme in the world.

NYT: School Standards

NYT: School Standards

The Common Core, a set of standards for kindergarten through high school that has been ardently supported by the Obama administration and many business leaders and state legislatures, is facing growing opposition from both the right and the left even before it has been properly introduced into classrooms.

Richard Wilkinson: Social Epidemiology

Richard Wilkinson: Social Epidemiology

Richard Wilkinson, Emeritus Professor of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, trained in economic and social history and then in epidemiology. Over more than 30 years Richard has played a formative role in research and public awareness of health inequalities and the social determinants of health.

Dean Ornish: Physician

Dean Ornish: Physician

Dean Ornish, M.D., is the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF. For over 35 years, Dr. Ornish has directed clinical research demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery.

Mark Bittman: Food

Mark Bittman: Food

Although Mark Bittman never formally trained as a chef, his pursuits as a curious and tenacious foodie have made him a casual culinary master. After a decade as the “Minimalist,” Bittman has emerged a respected spokesperson on all things edible: He’s concerned about the ecological and health impacts of our modern diet, which he characterizes as overwhelmingly meat-centered and hooked on fast food.

Sean Carroll: Physicist

Sean Carroll: Physicist

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Caltech. He researches theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, gravitation, and quantum mechanics, with a particular interest in learning about fundamental physics by studying the structure and evolution of the universe. He is especially interested in inflation, the arrow of time, and how quantum mechanics intersects with cosmology.

Ken Robinson: Educationalist

Ken Robinson: Educationalist

Why don’t we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says.

Brookings: Health & Education

Brookings: Health & Education

It is time for both voters and their elected representatives to recognize that without the kind of innovation that has made other sectors strong, the United States is doomed to become a second class nation. Health care and education are vital not only to the well-being of individuals but also to the strength of the nation. A little creative destruction in these two sectors might serve us well.

Guardian: Climate and Violence

Guardian: Climate and Violence

As much of Europe and America swelter under the effects of unusually warm temperatures this summer, it may be cold comfort to learn that climate change affects more than the weather; it also influences our behaviour. A hot-off-the-presses study finds that as global temperatures increase, so does violent human behaviour. Further, thanks to climate change and extremes in rainfall, this study predicts that conflicts may increase between now and 2050.

AlterNet: Apocalypse

AlterNet: Apocalypse

To think apocalyptically is not to give up on ourselves, but only to give up on the arrogant stories we modern humans have been telling about ourselves. Our hope for a decent future — indeed, any hope for even the idea of a future — depends on our ability to tell stories not of how humans have ruled the world but how we can live in the world.

NYT: IP and Inequality

NYT: IP and Inequality

At first glance, the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, might seem like scientific arcana: the court ruled, unanimously, that human genes cannot be patented, though synthetic DNA, created in the laboratory, can be. But the real stakes were much higher, and the issues much more fundamental, than is commonly understood.

NYT: Mozart vs Beatles

NYT: Mozart vs Beatles

Our democratic society is uneasy with the idea that traditional “high culture” is superior to popular culture. Sophisticated academic critics apply the same methods of analysis and appreciation to Proust and to comic books. At all levels, claims of objective artistic superiority are met with smug assertions that all such claims are merely relative to subjective individual preferences.

AlterNet: Rewiring the Brain

AlterNet: Rewiring the Brain

While most neuroscientists once believed that implicit memories, avoidance reactions, and rigid schemas were locked permanently in the brain’s synaptic pathways, recent brain research shows that, under certain conditions and within a brief timeframe, we can not only unlock these neural pathways, but actually erase them and substitute new learning.

Berggruen Institute on Governance

Berggruen Institute on Governance

The Berggruen Institute is dedicated to the design and implementation of new ideas of good governance — drawing from practices in both East and West — that can be brought to bear on the common challenges of globalization in the 21st century. We believe that accountable institutions must be created that can competently manage the global links of interdependence.

Thought Maybe

Thought Maybe

There’s already a lot of information on the Internet, so our goal is to cut through the noise and garbage, to present valuable information in a clear way, so it’s accessible, useful and easily digested. This is a website that aims to provoke your thoughts not only about these important issues, but many other pertinent topics relevant to modern society, industrial civilisation and globalised dominant culture.

Economist: Animal Behaviour

Economist: Animal Behaviour

Human personalities, it is widely agreed by psychologists, can be measured along five dimensions: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Chimps’ personas, seem to have six: extroversion, agreeableness and openness, which match human dimensions, and reactivity, dominance and methodicalness, which do not.

NoC: Tales of Redistribution

NoC: Tales of Redistribution

It is widely recognized that economists are not very good at economics. That is why we are looking at a decade of economic stagnation with tens of millions of people being unemployed or underemployed in Europe and the United States. We recently had the opportunity to see that economists are no better at moral philosophy than economics.

PressThink: The Snowden Effect

PressThink: The Snowden Effect

The Snowden Effect: Congress and other governments begin talking in public about things they had previously kept hidden. Companies have to explain some of their dealings with the state. Journalists who were not a party to the transaction with Snowden start digging and adding background. Debates spring to life that had been necessary but missing before the leaks.

AlterNet

AlterNet

AlterNet is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of hundreds of other independent media sources. AlterNet’s aim is to inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, health care issues, and more.

BBC: Mapping Children’s Chances

BBC: Mapping Children’s Chances

The biggest ever global picture of children’s well-being, education and family life has been assembled into a series of maps by the University of California, Los Angeles. “When you look at a map, everyone’s eyes go straight to where they live,” says Dr Jody Heymann, director of the university’s World Policy Analysis Centre. In the US, they might be surprised to see how unusual it is not to have a statutory right to maternity pay. Source: The maps are produced by UCLA’s World Policy Analysis Centre, Adult Labour Database www.childrenschances.org

Brookings: Social Mobility – 13 Facts

Brookings: Social Mobility – 13 Facts

Long-term prosperity is best achieved by fostering economic growth and broad participation in that growth. In the context of social mobility, broad participation in growth contributes to further growth by providing families the ability to invest in their children and communities, optimism that hard work and efforts will lead to success, and openness to innovation that lead to new economic growth.

Foreign Affairs: Why US Education Fails

Foreign Affairs: Why US Education Fails

Recent international research suggests that the countries that top international education rankings choose their teachers from among their most talented graduates, train them extensively, create opportunities for them to collaborate with their peers within and across schools, provide them with external supports, and underwrite all these efforts with a strong welfare state.

Brookings: Internet Balloons

Brookings: Internet Balloons

Google is developing a ring of balloons to fly around the globe on stratospheric winds, to provide Internet access to the earth below. But when the only thing you can control is altitude, steering options can be pretty limited, and many countries would object to regular overflights of communications balloons operated by an American company.

NYT: Surveillance State

NYT: Surveillance State

The danger of the absence of rigorous, independent regulation and vigilant oversight to keep potential abuses of power from becoming a real menace to our freedom is that if we are too complacent about our civil liberties we could wake up one day and find them gone – not in a flash of nuclear terror but in a gradual, incremental surrender.

Foreign Affairs: Big Data

Foreign Affairs: Big Data

Big data is a resource and a tool. It is meant to inform, rather than explain; it points toward understanding, but it can still lead to misunderstanding, depending on how well it is wielded. And however dazzling the power of big data appears, its seductive glimmer must never blind us to its inherent imperfections. Rather, we must adopt this technology with an appreciation not just of its power but also of its limitations.

FP: Mad at the NSA?

FP: Mad at the NSA?

“What’s really going on here?” The surprise and shock provoked by the NSA surveillance revelation is matched only by one little-appreciated irony: The United States is by far the world’s most transparent nation on intelligence matters, and its spy services are without question the most closely and thoroughly overseen.

Brookings: Obama Preschool

Brookings: Obama Preschool

The Obama administration has proposed a $75 billion 10-year federal investment in state pre-K programs for four-year-olds and has been marketing its plan by citing James Heckman’s analysis of $7 of public savings for every $1 invested in the Perry Preschool Project, but this supporting analysis has been placed in question.

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