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The Case for Contrarianism - Quillette
Another semester, another academic publishing scandal, complete with calls for penitence and punishment. This time the catalyst is “The Case for Colonialism,” a “Viewpoint” editorial in Third World Quarterly. In this essay, Bruce Gilley argued that “it is high time to question [the anti-colonial] orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts.” Gilley’s article has since been withdrawn due to “serious and credible threats of personal violence” made against the journal’s editor. This obviously troubling development should make us wonder: just what evil would this article have brought about if not withdrawn? The Streisand effect is in full display here. The article – detailed, abstruse, and not always beautifully written – has no doubt been far more widely read than it would have been without the controversy.


What’s worth emulating about a prediction market is that it turns the expression of unpopular beliefs into a low-risk, high-reward enterprise. In the real, social world, it is often very costly to dissent from a dominant view: friendships can be lost and careers ruined. But it is not costly at all to assent to a dominant view; on the contrary, conforming in this way is helpful and often necessary both socially and professionally.

Now, consider the situation of someone who believes, for instance, that the dominant view is just as likely to be false as it is true. Normal incentives push such a person to go along with the dominant view, and they may feel perfectly comfortable about it. But the incentives of a prediction market would push a person in the opposite manner. They would push a person, who believes the dominant view is actually a 50/50 proposition, to invest in the belief which has a higher reward – that is, the less popular viewpoint. The distribution of this market ends up more rational over time simply because the dominant view is not artificially inflated by people playing it safe.

Author of article on “the case for colonialism” withdraws it after death threats and social-media mobbing; academics are mostly silent:
“Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper:
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7 days ago by nhaliday
Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities | The American Conservative
Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities:
A glimpse into the finances of top Chinese universities suggests they share more than we might have imagined with American flagship public universities, but also that claims of imminent “catch up” might be overblown
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14 days ago by nhaliday
New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning | Quanta Magazine
A new idea called the “information bottleneck” is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn.

sounds like he's just talking about autoencoders?
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24 days ago by nhaliday
Scandinavia: the radical right meets the mainstream
‘Before 2012 it was taboo to be in SD,’ he said. ‘If you had a job, you had to be quiet about it. Then I retired, and now I couldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. We’ve destroyed our welfare system. We had such good schools once – world-class schools, and skilful engineers, people like that. Of course society has to change, but back then we had a solid base to change from. And now we don’t have money for anything. They’re eating us out of house and home. All our resources go to the immigrants, and they never actually start work. After fifteen years, only a third of them are in full-time work . . .’ He went on. I did not try to stop or correct him. The collapse of discipline, convention and coherence in society and especially in schools, the collapse of the Swedish manufacturing industry, and then the arrival of refugees all seemed to him part of the same huge process that only the Sweden Democrats could stand against. The murder did not seem to him to have any connection with his own party. It was part of the general process of degeneration and moral disintegration which was destroying his country.
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5 weeks ago by nhaliday
Of mice and men: why animal trial results don’t always translate to humans
It showed that of the most-cited animal studies in prestigious scientific journals, such as Nature and Cell, only 37% were replicated in subsequent human randomised trials and 18% were contradicted in human trials. It is safe to assume that less-cited animal studies in lesser journals would have an even lower strike rate.
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5 weeks ago by nhaliday
Hurricane Harvey: The Devastation and What Comes Next - The New York Times
A chemical stored at a Houston plant that caught fire early Thursday morning presents an airborne danger to more than 1 million people if released in a worst-case scenario, according to a company risk management plan filed to the federal government.
I think this (generally nice) story about the Cajun Navy + groups like it misunderstands civil society in a big way.
How quickly can we adapt to change? An assessment of hurricane damage mitigation efforts using forecast uncertainty:
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
Ideas were not enough | Aeon
- Mark Koyama
some funny art here:
The Difficulty of Ruling over a Diverse Nation (1578):
16th-century Dutch engraving depicting a fantastical animal with the heads of various other animals sprouting from its body: an allegory for the difficulty of ruling over a diverse nation. In the background, watching on, can be seen a small mob or leaders, both secular and religious. This work by Antwerp-based artist Pieter van der Borcht the Elder, with its image of a confused and troubled body politic, is perhaps just as relevant now as it was then.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday

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