13197
Currid-Halkett, E.: The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class. (eBook and Hardcover)
"How the leisure class has been replaced by a new elite, and how their consumer habits affect us all
"In today’s world, the leisure class has been replaced by a new elite. Highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breast-feed their babies. They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption—like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth, and to practice yoga and Pilates. In The Sum of Small Things, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett dubs this segment of society “the aspirational class” and discusses how, through deft decisions about education, health, parenting, and retirement, the aspirational class reproduces wealth and upward mobility, deepening the ever-wider class divide.
"Exploring the rise of the aspirational class, Currid-Halkett considers how much has changed since the 1899 publication of Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. In that inflammatory classic, which coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” Veblen described upper-class frivolities: men who used walking sticks for show, and women who bought silver flatware despite the effectiveness of cheaper aluminum utensils. Now, Currid-Halkett argues, the power of material goods as symbols of social position has diminished due to their accessibility. As a result, the aspirational class has altered its consumer habits away from overt materialism to more subtle expenditures that reveal status and knowledge. And these transformations influence how we all make choices."
to:NB  books:noted  economics  class_struggles_in_america 
yesterday
Rural Economies and College Towns - The Atlantic
This really misses issues of endogeneity (towns don't attract colleges randomly) and limited demand for higher education.
economics  education  class_struggles_in_america  rural_decay  have_read  academia  cities 
yesterday
Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, Weil, Nelson
"This book focuses on six brilliant women who are often seen as particularly tough-minded: Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus, and Joan Didion. Aligned with no single tradition, they escape straightforward categories. Yet their work evinces an affinity of style and philosophical viewpoint that derives from a shared attitude toward suffering. What Mary McCarthy called a “cold eye” was not merely a personal aversion to displays of emotion: it was an unsentimental mode of attention that dictated both ethical positions and aesthetic approaches.
"Tough Enough traces the careers of these women and their challenges to the pre-eminence of empathy as the ethical posture from which to examine pain. Their writing and art reveal an adamant belief that the hurts of the world must be treated concretely, directly, and realistically, without recourse to either melodrama or callousness. As Deborah Nelson shows, this stance offers an important counter-tradition to the familiar postwar poles of emotional expressivity on the one hand and cool irony on the other. Ultimately, in its insistence on facing reality without consolation or compensation, this austere “school of the unsentimental” offers new ways to approach suffering in both its spectacular forms and all of its ordinariness."
to:NB  books:noted  moral_psychology  moral_philosophy  literary_criticism  lives_of_the_artists 
yesterday
Science in the Archives: Pasts, Presents, Futures, Daston
"Archives bring to mind rooms filled with old papers and dusty artifacts. But for scientists, the detritus of the past can be a treasure trove of material vital to present and future research: fossils collected by geologists; data banks assembled by geneticists; weather diaries trawled by climate scientists; libraries visited by historians. These are the vital collections, assembled and maintained over decades, centuries, and even millennia, which define the sciences of the archives.
"With Science in the Archives, Lorraine Daston and her co-authors offer the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Reaching across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more—as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data mining. Chapters cover topics ranging from doxology in Greco-Roman Antiquity to NSA surveillance techniques of the twenty-first century. Thoroughly exploring the practices, politics, economics, and potential of the sciences of the archives, this volume reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences, while also adding a much-needed long­-term perspective to contemporary debates over the uses of Big Data in science. "
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_science 
yesterday
Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious, Hayles
"N. Katherine Hayles is known for breaking new ground at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities. In Unthought, she once again bridges disciplines by revealing how we think without thinking—how we use cognitive processes that are inaccessible to consciousness yet necessary for it to function.
"Marshalling fresh insights from neuroscience, cognitive science, cognitive biology, and literature, Hayles expands our understanding of cognition and demonstrates that it involves more than consciousness alone. Cognition, as Hayles defines it, is applicable not only to nonconscious processes in humans but to all forms of life, including unicellular organisms and plants. Startlingly, she also shows that cognition operates in the sophisticated information-processing abilities of technical systems: when humans and cognitive technical systems interact, they form “cognitive assemblages”—as found in urban traffic control, drones, and the trading algorithms of finance capital, for instance—and these assemblages are transforming life on earth. The result is what Hayles calls a “planetary cognitive ecology,” which includes both human and technical actors and which poses urgent questions to humanists and social scientists alike.
"At a time when scientific and technological advances are bringing far-reaching aspects of cognition into the public eye, Unthought reflects deeply on our contemporary situation and moves us toward a more sustainable and flourishing environment for all beings"
to:NB  books:noted  cognitive_science  literary_criticism  to_be_shot_after_a_fair_trial 
yesterday
[1706.01350] On the Emergence of Invariance and Disentangling in Deep Representations
"Using classical notions of statistical decision and information theory, we show that invariance in a deep neural network is equivalent to minimality of the representation it computes, and can be achieved by stacking layers and injecting noise in the computation, under realistic and empirically validated assumptions. We use an Information Decomposition of the empirical loss to show that overfitting can be reduced by limiting the information content stored in the weights. We then present a sharp inequality that relates the information content in the weights -- which are a representation of the training set and inferred by generic optimization agnostic of invariance and disentanglement -- and the minimality and total correlation of the activation functions, which are a representation of the test datum. This allows us to tackle recent puzzles concerning the generalization properties of deep networks and their relation to the geometry of the optimization residual."
to:NB  neural_networks  statistics  learning_theory  sufficiency  information_theory 
10 days ago
Socialism with trolly characteristics | FT Alphaville
I will be very disappointed, but unsurprised, if they do _not_ reference Piccione and Rubinstein's "Equilibrium in the Jungle" (http://bactra.org/weblog/942.html).
political_economy  economics  utter_stupidity  track_down_references  via:xmarquez 
11 days ago
[1706.08224] Do GANs actually learn the distribution? An empirical study
"Do GANS (Generative Adversarial Nets) actually learn the target distribution? The foundational paper of (Goodfellow et al 2014) suggested they do, if they were given sufficiently large deep nets, sample size, and computation time. A recent theoretical analysis in Arora et al (to appear at ICML 2017) raised doubts whether the same holds when discriminator has finite size. It showed that the training objective can approach its optimum value even if the generated distribution has very low support ---in other words, the training objective is unable to prevent mode collapse. The current note reports experiments suggesting that such problems are not merely theoretical. It presents empirical evidence that well-known GANs approaches do learn distributions of fairly low support, and thus presumably are not learning the target distribution. The main technical contribution is a new proposed test, based upon the famous birthday paradox, for estimating the support size of the generated distribution."
to:NB  learning_theory  statistics  to_read  neural_networks  via:vaguery 
11 days ago
The importance of the normality assumption in large public health data sets. - PubMed - NCBI
"It is widely but incorrectly believed that the t-test and linear regression are valid only for Normally distributed outcomes. The t-test and linear regression compare the mean of an outcome variable for different subjects. While these are valid even in very small samples if the outcome variable is Normally distributed, their major usefulness comes from the fact that in large samples they are valid for any distribution. We demonstrate this validity by simulation in extremely non-Normal data. We discuss situations in which in other methods such as the Wilcoxon rank sum test and ordinal logistic regression (proportional odds model) have been recommended, and conclude that the t-test and linear regression often provide a convenient and practical alternative. The major limitation on the t-test and linear regression for inference about associations is not a distributional one, but whether detecting and estimating a difference in the mean of the outcome answers the scientific question at hand."
to:NB  linear_regression  statistics  to_teach:linear_models  lumley.thomas 
12 days ago
A re-evaluation of fixed effect(s) meta-analysis - Rice - 2017 - Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) - Wiley Online Library
"Meta-analysis is a common tool for synthesizing results of multiple studies. Among methods for performing meta-analysis, the approach known as ‘fixed effects’ or ‘inverse variance weighting’ is popular and widely used. A common interpretation of this method is that it assumes that the underlying effects in contributing studies are identical, and for this reason it is sometimes dismissed by practitioners. However, other interpretations of fixed effects analyses do not make this assumption, yet appear to be little known in the literature. We review these alternative interpretations, describing both their strengths and their limitations. We also describe how heterogeneity of the underlying effects can be addressed, with the same minimal assumptions, through either testing or meta-regression. Recommendations for the practice of meta-analysis are given; it is hoped that these will foster more direct connection of the questions that meta-analysts wish to answer with the statistical methods they choose."
to:NB  statistics  meta-analysis  tumley.thomas 
19 days ago
Elliott , Valliant : Inference for Nonprobability Samples
"Although selecting a probability sample has been the standard for decades when making inferences from a sample to a finite population, incentives are increasing to use nonprobability samples. In a world of “big data”, large amounts of data are available that are faster and easier to collect than are probability samples. Design-based inference, in which the distribution for inference is generated by the random mechanism used by the sampler, cannot be used for nonprobability samples. One alternative is quasi-randomization in which pseudo-inclusion probabilities are estimated based on covariates available for samples and nonsample units. Another is superpopulation modeling for the analytic variables collected on the sample units in which the model is used to predict values for the nonsample units. We discuss the pros and cons of each approach."
to:NB  statistics  foundations_of_statistics  surveys  inference_to_latent_objects 
19 days ago
Parameter Identifiability in Statistical Machine Learning: A Review | Neural Computation | MIT Press Journals
"This review examines the relevance of parameter identifiability for statistical models used in machine learning. In addition to defining main concepts, we address several issues of identifiability closely related to machine learning, showing the advantages and disadvantages of state-of-the-art research and demonstrating recent progress. First, we review criteria for determining the parameter structure of models from the literature. This has three related issues: parameter identifiability, parameter redundancy, and reparameterization. Second, we review the deep influence of identifiability on various aspects of machine learning from theoretical and application viewpoints. In addition to illustrating the utility and influence of identifiability, we emphasize the interplay among identifiability theory, machine learning, mathematical statistics, information theory, optimization theory, information geometry, Riemann geometry, symbolic computation, Bayesian inference, algebraic geometry, and others. Finally, we present a new perspective together with the associated challenges."
to:NB  statistics  identifiability 
april 2017
Oracle M-Estimation for Time Series Models - Giurcanu - 2016 - Journal of Time Series Analysis - Wiley Online Library
"We propose a thresholding M-estimator for multivariate time series. Our proposed estimator has the oracle property that its large-sample properties are the same as of the classical M-estimator obtained under the a priori information that the zero parameters were known. We study the consistency of the standard block bootstrap, the centred block bootstrap and the empirical likelihood block bootstrap distributions of the proposed M-estimator. We develop automatic selection procedures for the thresholding parameter and for the block length of the bootstrap methods. We present the results of a simulation study of the proposed methods for a sparse vector autoregressive VAR(2) time series model. The analysis of two real-world data sets illustrate applications of the methods in practice."
to:NB  bootstrap  time_series  statistics  estimation 
april 2017
Theoretical Risks and Tabular Asterisks: Sir Karl, Sir Ronald, and the Slow Progress of Soft Psychology | Paul E. Meehl
"Theories in “soft” areas of psychology lack the cumulative character of scientific
knowledge. They tend neither to be refuted nor corroborated, but instead merely fade
away as people lose interest. Even though intrinsic subject matter difficulties (20 listed)
contribute to this, the excessive reliance on significance testing is partly responsible,
being a poor way of doing science. Karl Popper’s approach, with modifications, would be
prophylactic. Since the null hypothesis is quasi-always false, tables summarizing research
in terms of patterns of “significant differences” are little more than complex, causally
uninterpretable outcomes of statistical power functions. Multiple paths to estimating
numerical point values (“consistency tests”) are better, even if approximate with rough
tolerances; and lacking this, ranges, orderings, second-order differences, curve peaks and
valleys, and function forms should be used. Such methods are usual in developed
sciences that seldom report statistical significance. Consistency tests of a conjectural
taxometric model yielded 94% success with zero false negatives. "

--- Note that his "consistency tests" are goodness of fit tests, i.e., significance tests. (And _experimental_ physicists run hypothesis tests all the time, just not usually tests of "no difference between conditions".) . So he's right about the pointlessness of most of what is being done with hypothesis testing, and even about why it's pointless, but not right about the utility of significance tests.
to:NB  have_read  social_science_methodology  psychology  psychometrics  meehl.paul  statistics  hypothesis_testing 
march 2017
Data Firm Says ‘Secret Sauce’ Aided Trump; Many Scoff - The New York Times
What's notable about this piece is that it provides almost no information about whether their much-touted product _works_. Everything is about whether sources liked it, or used it, or thought it was effective; not who's right.
deceiving_us_has_become_an_industrial_process  data_mining  networked_life  psychometrics  factor_analysis  to_teach:data-mining 
march 2017
Stochastic Analysis of Scaling Time Series | Earth Science General Interest | Cambridge University Press
"Multi-scale systems, involving complex interacting processes that occur over a range of temporal and spatial scales, are present in a broad range of disciplines. Several methodologies exist to retrieve this multi-scale information from a given time series; however, each method has its own limitations. This book presents the mathematical theory behind the stochastic analysis of scaling time series, including a general historical introduction to the problem of intermittency in turbulence, as well as how to implement this analysis for a range of different applications. Covering a variety of statistical methods, such as Fourier analysis and wavelet transforms, it provides readers with a thorough understanding of the techniques and when to apply them. New techniques to analyse stochastic processes, including empirical mode decomposition, are also explored. Case studies, in turbulence and ocean sciences, are used to demonstrate how these statistical methods can be applied in practice, for students and researchers."
to:NB  books:noted  turbulence  hydrodynamics  time_series  stochastic_processes  long-range_dependence  statistics  re:stacs 
january 2017
The Humans Working Behind the AI Curtain
This is _not_ what we mean when we talk about using computers to expand human capacities.
artificial_intelligence  machine_learning  networked_life  to_teach:data-mining 
january 2017
Estimating uncertainty in respondent-driven sampling using a tree bootstrap method
"Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) is a network-based form of chain-referral sampling used to estimate attributes of populations that are difficult to access using standard survey tools. Although it has grown quickly in popularity since its introduction, the statistical properties of RDS estimates remain elusive. In particular, the sampling variability of these estimates has been shown to be much higher than previously acknowledged, and even methods designed to account for RDS result in misleadingly narrow confidence intervals. In this paper, we introduce a tree bootstrap method for estimating uncertainty in RDS estimates based on resampling recruitment trees. We use simulations from known social networks to show that the tree bootstrap method not only outperforms existing methods but also captures the high variability of RDS, even in extreme cases with high design effects. We also apply the method to data from injecting drug users in Ukraine. Unlike other methods, the tree bootstrap depends only on the structure of the sampled recruitment trees, not on the attributes being measured on the respondents, so correlations between attributes can be estimated as well as variability. Our results suggest that it is possible to accurately assess the high level of uncertainty inherent in RDS."
to:NB  network_data_analysis  bootstrap  statistics  respondent-driven_sampling  mccormick.tyler_h.  to_read  to_teach:baby-nets 
december 2016
[1511.01844] A note on the evaluation of generative models
"Probabilistic generative models can be used for compression, denoising, inpainting, texture synthesis, semi-supervised learning, unsupervised feature learning, and other tasks. Given this wide range of applications, it is not surprising that a lot of heterogeneity exists in the way these models are formulated, trained, and evaluated. As a consequence, direct comparison between models is often difficult. This article reviews mostly known but often underappreciated properties relating to the evaluation and interpretation of generative models with a focus on image models. In particular, we show that three of the currently most commonly used criteria---average log-likelihood, Parzen window estimates, and visual fidelity of samples---are largely independent of each other when the data is high-dimensional. Good performance with respect to one criterion therefore need not imply good performance with respect to the other criteria. Our results show that extrapolation from one criterion to another is not warranted and generative models need to be evaluated directly with respect to the application(s) they were intended for. In addition, we provide examples demonstrating that Parzen window estimates should generally be avoided."
to:NB  simulation  stochastic_models  model_checking  statistics  via:vaguery  to_read  re:ADAfaEPoV  re:phil-of-bayes_paper 
december 2016
Stony Brook philosophy Ph.D. says his department plans review amid claims he's a neo-Nazi
From my perspective, it's a bigger disgrace for SUNY that a philosophy department passed a thesis on "those latent human capacities hitherto marginalized as ‘paranormal'".
psychoceramica  philosophy  why_oh_why_cant_we_have_a_better_intelligentsia  utter_stupidity  running_dogs_of_reaction  racism  via:?  have_read 
december 2016
‘Moneyball’ for Professors?
The key paragraph:

"Using a hand-curated data set of 54 scholars who obtained doctorates after 1995 and held assistant professorships at top-10 operations research programs in 2003 or earlier, these statistical models made different decisions than the tenure committees for 16 (30%) of the candidates. Specifically, these new criteria yielded a set of scholars who, in the future, produced more papers published in the top journals and research that was cited more often than the scholars who were actually selected by tenure committees"

--- In other words, "success" here is defined entirely through the worst sort of abuse of citation metrics, i.e., through doing the things which everyone who has seriously studied citation metrics says you should _not_ use them for. (Cf. https://arxiv.org/abs/0910.3529 .) If the objective was to making academic hiring decisions _even less_ sensitive to actually intellectual quality, one could hardly do better.
I am sure that this idea will, however, be widely adopted and go from strength to strength.
bad_data_analysis  academia  bibliometry  social_networks  network_data_analysis  prediction  utter_stupidity  have_read  via:jbdelong 
december 2016
Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere – Medium
I suspect this attributes much too much foresight to those involved.
climate_change  us_politics 
december 2016
The Defense of Liberty Can’t Do Without Identity Politics - Niskanen Center
"Political fights aren’t won with universal principled arguments alone, and pretending that they are is often a mask for the identity politics of the staatsvolk. As citizens of a liberal state trying to preserve it, we need to be able to hear each other talking about particularized injustices, and to cheer each other on when we seek to overturn them. Members of disadvantaged minorities standing up for themselves aren’t to blame for the turn to populist authoritarianism; and their energy and commitment is a resource that free societies can’t do without in resisting it."
us_politics  political_philosophy  defenses_of_liberalism  progressive_forces  levy.j.t.  have_read  via:? 
december 2016
Popular Democracy: The Paradox of Participation | Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Ernesto Ganuza
"Local participation is the new democratic imperative. In the United States, three-fourths of all cities have developed opportunities for citizen involvement in strategic planning. The World Bank has invested $85 billion over the last decade to support community participation worldwide. But even as these opportunities have become more popular, many contend that they have also become less connected to actual centers of power and the jurisdictions where issues relevant to communities are decided.
"With this book, Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Ernesto Ganuza consider the opportunities and challenges of democratic participation. Examining how one mechanism of participation has traveled the world—with its inception in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and spread to Europe and North America—they show how participatory instruments have become more focused on the formation of public opinion and are far less attentive to, or able to influence, actual reform. Though the current impact and benefit of participatory forms of government is far more ambiguous than its advocates would suggest, Popular Democracy concludes with suggestions of how participation could better achieve its political ideals."
to:NB  books:noted  democracy  institutions  re:democratic_cognition 
december 2016
Big Data: Does Size Matter?: Timandra Harkness: Bloomsbury Sigma
"What is Big Data, and why should you care?
"Big data knows where you've been and who your friends are. It knows what you like and what makes you angry. It can predict what you'll buy, where you'll be the victim of crime and when you'll have a heart attack. Big data knows you better than you know yourself, or so it claims.
"But how well do you know big data?
"You've probably seen the phrase in newspaper headlines, at work in a marketing meeting, or on a fitness-tracking gadget. But can you understand it without being a Silicon Valley nerd who writes computer programs for fun?
"Yes. Yes, you can.
"Timandra Harkness writes comedy, not computer code. The only programmes she makes are on the radio. If you can read a newspaper you can read this book.
"Starting with the basics – what IS data? And what makes it big? – Timandra takes you on a whirlwind tour of how people are using big data today: from science to smart cities, business to politics, self-quantification to the Internet of Things.
"Finally, she asks the big questions about where it's taking us; is it too big for its boots, or does it think too small? Are you a data point or a human being? Will this book be full of rhetorical questions?
"No. It also contains puns, asides, unlikely stories and engaging people, inspiring feats and thought-provoking dilemmas. Leaving you armed and ready to decide what you think about one of the decade's big ideas: big data."

--- As usual, the last tag is tentative.
to:NB  books:noted  data_mining  popular_social_science  via:?  to_teach:data-mining 
december 2016
Ontology, Methodological Individualism, and the Foundations of the Social Sciences
"This is a review essay based on a critical assessment of The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences by Brian Epstein. Epstein argues that models in the social sciences are inadequate because they are based on a false ontology of methodological individualism, and proposes a new model of social ontology. I examine this model and point to flaws in it. More generally, I argue against Epstein's methodological approach, which treats social ontology as prior to social scientific modeling and as certifying the "building blocks" that modelers then use. I argue that modelers can legitimately shape the building blocks for their own models."
to_read  book_reviews  social_science_methodology  emergence 
december 2016
The Crisis in Economic Theory: A Review Essay
"The Great Recession and the financial crisis of 2007-09 prompted calls for fundamental reforms of economic theory. The role of theory in economics and in recent economic events is considered in light of two recent books: the sociologist Richard Swedberg's The Art of Social Theory and the economist André Orléan's The Empire of Value: A New Foundation for Economics."
to_read  book_reviews  economics  social_science_methodology  hoover.kevin_d.  financial_crisis_of_2007-- 
december 2016
Higher-order organization of complex networks | Science
"Networks are a fundamental tool for understanding and modeling complex systems in physics, biology, neuroscience, engineering, and social science. Many networks are known to exhibit rich, lower-order connectivity patterns that can be captured at the level of individual nodes and edges. However, higher-order organization of complex networks—at the level of small network subgraphs—remains largely unknown. Here, we develop a generalized framework for clustering networks on the basis of higher-order connectivity patterns. This framework provides mathematical guarantees on the optimality of obtained clusters and scales to networks with billions of edges. The framework reveals higher-order organization in a number of networks, including information propagation units in neuronal networks and hub structure in transportation networks. Results show that networks exhibit rich higher-order organizational structures that are exposed by clustering based on higher-order connectivity patterns."

--- It sounds like this is just clustering based on vectors of motif counts, which would be very disappointing. Last tag applies.
to:NB  to_read  network_data_analysis  clustering  statistics  to_be_shot_after_a_fair_trial 
december 2016
Active Learning with Misspecified Beliefs by Drew Fudenberg , Gleb Romanyuk, Philipp Strack :: SSRN
"We study learning and information acquisition by a Bayesian agent who is misspecified in the sense that his prior belief assigns probability zero to the true state of the world. In our model, at each instant the agent takes an action and observes the corresponding payoff, which is the sum of the payoff generated by a fixed but unknown function and an additive error term. We provide a complete characterization of asymptotic actions and beliefs when the agent's subjective state space is a doubleton. A simple example with three actions shows that in a misspecified environment a myopic agent's beliefs converge while a sufficiently patient agent's beliefs do not. This shows that examples of myopic agents with non-converging beliefs in the prior literature require all myopically optimal actions to be informative, and illustrates a novel interaction between misspecification and the agent's subjective interest rate."
to:NB  statistics  bayesian_consistency  misspecification  decision_theory 
december 2016
Randomisation, Causality and the Role of Reasoned Intuition: Oxford Development Studies: Vol 42, No 4
"The method of randomisation has been a major driver in the recent rise to prominence of empirical development economics. It has helped uncover patterns and facts that had earlier escaped attention. But it has also given rise to debate and controversy. This paper evaluates the method of randomisation and concludes that while the method of randomisation is the gold standard for description, and does uncover what is here called “circumstantial causality”, it is not able to demonstrate generalised causality. Nor does it, in itself, lead to policy conclusions, as is often claimed by its advocates. To get to policy conclusions requires combining the findings of randomised experiments with human intuition, which, being founded in evolution, has innate strengths. Moreover, even non-randomised empirical methods combined with reasoned intuition can help in crafting a development policy."

--- On first skimming, my reaction is that if "reasoned intuition" could do this, we would not need systematic empirical data of any kind, in any science.
to:NB  to_read  experimental_economics  development_economics  economics  social_science_methodology  causal_inference  to_be_shot_after_a_fair_trial  via:jbdelong 
december 2016
Comments on Economic Models, Economics and Economists: Remarks on _Economics Rules_ by Dani Rodrik
This is a very interesting review, which manages both to be generous and to expound on the reviewer's own notions. (And it speaks well of Rodrik to host it!) But it seems to me that if one accepts Rubinstein's views, one is left with no real reason to value economic theory, or even economic models in applications. That might be the correct conclusion, but it's clearly not the one Rubinstein has drawn himself, so... (Cf. http://bactra.org/reviews/modeling-bounded-rationality/)
social_science_methodology  economics  modeling  philosophy_of_science  rubinstein.ariel  rodrik.dani  via:henry_farrell  book_reviews  have_read 
december 2016
Spontaneous default network activity reflects behavioral variability independent of mind-wandering
"The brain’s default mode network (DMN) is highly active during wakeful rest when people are not overtly engaged with a sensory stimulus or externally oriented task. In multiple contexts, increased spontaneous DMN activity has been associated with self-reported episodes of mind-wandering, or thoughts that are unrelated to the present sensory environment. Mind-wandering characterizes much of waking life and is often associated with error-prone, variable behavior. However, increased spontaneous DMN activity has also been reliably associated with stable, rather than variable, behavior. We aimed to address this seeming contradiction and to test the hypothesis that single measures of attentional states, either based on self-report or on behavior, are alone insufficient to account for DMN activity fluctuations. Thus, we simultaneously measured varying levels of self-reported mind-wandering, behavioral variability, and brain activity with fMRI during a unique continuous performance task optimized for detecting attentional fluctuations. We found that even though mind-wandering co-occurred with increased behavioral variability, highest DMN signal levels were best explained by intense mind-wandering combined with stable behavior simultaneously, compared with considering either single factor alone. These brain–behavior–experience relationships were highly consistent within known DMN subsystems and across DMN subregions. In contrast, such relationships were absent or in the opposite direction for other attention-relevant networks (salience, dorsal attention, and frontoparietal control networks). Our results suggest that the cognitive processes that spontaneous DMN activity specifically reflects are only partially related to mind-wandering and include also attentional state fluctuations that are not captured by self-report."
to:NB  fmri  neural_data_analysis  functional_connectivity  neuroscience  attention 
december 2016
A Novel Algorithm for Coarse-Graining of Cellular Automata - Springer
"The coarse-graining is an approximation procedure widely used for simplification of mathematical and numerical models of multiscale systems. It reduces superfluous – microscopic – degrees of freedom. Israeli and Goldenfeld demonstrated in [1,2] that the coarse-graining can be employed for elementary cellular automata (CA), producing interesting interdependences between them. However, extending their investigation on more complex CA rules appeared to be impossible due to the high computational complexity of the coarse-graining algorithm. We demonstrate here that this complexity can be substantially decreased. It allows for scrutinizing much broader class of cellular automata in terms of their coarse graining. By using our algorithm we found out that the ratio of the numbers of elementary CAs having coarse grained representation to “degenerate” – irreducible – cellular automata, strongly increases with increasing the “grain” size of the approximation procedure. This rises principal questions about the formal limits in modeling of realistic multiscale systems."
to:NB  macro_from_micro  approximation  cellular_automata  via:? 
december 2016
Despair and Hope in Trump’s America - The Atlantic
"And now we have Donald Trump. We have small-town inland America—the culture I think of myself as being from—being credited or blamed for making a man like this the 45th in a sequence that includes Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. I view Trump’s election as the most grievous blow that the American idea has suffered in my lifetime. The Kennedy and King assassinations and the 9/11 attacks were crimes and tragedies. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq were disastrous mistakes. But the country recovered. For a democratic process to elevate a man expressing total disregard for democratic norms and institutions is worse. The American republic is based on rules but has always depended for its survival on norms—standards of behavior, conduct toward fellow citizens and especially critics and opponents that is decent beyond what the letter of the law dictates. Trump disdains them all. The American leaders I revere are sure enough of themselves to be modest, strong enough to entertain self-doubt. When I think of Republican Party civic virtues, I think of Eisenhower. But voters, or enough of them, have chosen Trump."
us_politics  trump.donald  have_read  fallows.james  whats_gone_wrong_with_america 
december 2016
Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 230601 (2016) - Interevent Correlations from Avalanches Hiding Below the Detection Threshold
"Numerous systems ranging from deformation of materials to earthquakes exhibit bursty dynamics, which consist of a sequence of events with a broad event size distribution. Very often these events are observed to be temporally correlated or clustered, evidenced by power-law-distributed waiting times separating two consecutive activity bursts. We show how such interevent correlations arise simply because of a finite detection threshold, created by the limited sensitivity of the measurement apparatus, or used to subtract background activity or noise from the activity signal. Data from crack-propagation experiments and numerical simulations of a nonequilibrium crack-line model demonstrate how thresholding leads to correlated bursts of activity by separating the avalanche events into subavalanches. The resulting temporal subavalanche correlations are well described by our general scaling description of thresholding-induced correlations in crackling noise."
to:NB  heavy_tails  point_processes  time_series 
december 2016
On computational explanations | SpringerLink
"Computational explanations focus on information processing required in specific cognitive capacities, such as perception, reasoning or decision-making. These explanations specify the nature of the information processing task, what information needs to be represented, and why it should be operated on in a particular manner. In this article, the focus is on three questions concerning the nature of computational explanations: (1) What type of explanations they are, (2) in what sense computational explanations are explanatory and (3) to what extent they involve a special, “independent” or “autonomous” level of explanation. In this paper, we defend the view computational explanations are genuine explanations, which track non-causal/formal dependencies. Specifically, we argue that they do not provide mere sketches for explanation, in contrast to what for example Piccinini and Craver ... suggest. This view of computational explanations implies some degree of “autonomy” for the computational level. However, as we will demonstrate that does not make this view “computationally chauvinistic” in a way that Piccinini ... or Kaplan ... have charged it to be."
to:NB  explanation  computation  cognitive_science 
december 2016
Assemblage Theory - Edinburgh University Press
"Manuel DeLanda provides the first detailed overview of the assemblage theory found in germ in Deleuze and Guattari’s writings. Through a series of case studies DeLanda shows how the concept can be applied to economic, linguistic and military history as well as to metaphysics, science and mathematics.
"DeLanda then presents the real power of assemblage theory by advancing it beyond its original formulation – allowing for the integration of communities, institutional organisations, cities and urban regions. And he challenges Marxist orthodoxy with a Leftist politics of assemblages."
to:NB  books:noted  barely-comprehensible_metaphysics  philosophy_of_science  emergence  delanda.manuel 
december 2016
The Comet Ping Pong Pizzagate scandal is a child sex ring myth for the age of Trump.
Query: is the spread of the Satanic ritual abuse myth in the 1980s a counter-example to worries about "fake news"? It was clearly _possible_ for just this sort of conspiracy theory to form, spread, and influence policy at a time when computer networks were a minute niche interest...
have_read  us_politics  conspiracy_theories  networked_life  moral_panics 
december 2016
Man Behind the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: The Life and Letters of Edward Fitzgerald
"Its lines and verses have become part of the western literary canon and his translation of this most famous of poems has been continuously in print in for almost a century and a half. But just who was Edward FitzGerald? Was he the eccentric recluse that most scholars would have us believe? Is there more to the man than just his famous translation? In The Man Behind the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam William Martin and Sandra Martin go beyond the standard view. Drawing on their unique analysis of the more than 2,000 surviving letters of FitzGerald, together with evidence from his scrapbooks, commonplace books and materials from his personal library, they reveal a more convivial yet complex personality than we have been led to suppose.""
to:NB  lives_of_the_artists  poetry  cultural_exchange  books:noted 
december 2016
Center for Philosophy of Science ::: other conferences ::: Hermes and the Telescope: Author Meets Critics
"A workshop on Paolo Palmieri’s just published book, Hermes and the Telescope: In the Crucible of Galileo's Life-World.
"The life and work of Galileo have stirred debates and controversies in history and philosophy of science concerning the origin and motivation of the emergence of modern science. Paolo Palmieri’s new book calls into question the positivist myth of Galileo, the founder of modern science, and interrogates the historiography that has shaped the myth since the historic publication of the monumental edition of Galileo’s works at the turn of the twentieth century.
"The book highlights the entanglement of Galileo’s natural philosophy with his private unorthodox convictions about Christian theology, Biblical hermeneutic, sexuality, and the hidden traditions of Italian heretics and libertines. Furthermore, the book articulates the philosophical, pedagogical and political implications of this new reading of one of the founding fathers of modernity for both the sciences and the humanities."
in_NB  conferences  books:noted  history_of_science  scientific_revolution  lives_of_the_scientists  galilei.galileo 
december 2016
Origins of the current seventh cholera pandemic
"Vibrio cholerae has caused seven cholera pandemics since 1817, imposing terror on much of the world, but bacterial strains are currently only available for the sixth and seventh pandemics. The El Tor biotype seventh pandemic began in 1961 in Indonesia, but did not originate directly from the classical biotype sixth-pandemic strain. Previous studies focused mainly on the spread of the seventh pandemic after 1970. Here, we analyze in unprecedented detail the origin, evolution, and transition to pandemicity of the seventh-pandemic strain. We used high-resolution comparative genomic analysis of strains collected from 1930 to 1964, covering the evolution from the first available El Tor biotype strain to the start of the seventh pandemic. We define six stages leading to the pandemic strain and reveal all key events. The seventh pandemic originated from a nonpathogenic strain in the Middle East, first observed in 1897. It subsequently underwent explosive diversification, including the spawning of the pandemic lineage. This rapid diversification suggests that, when first observed, the strain had only recently arrived in the Middle East, possibly from the Asian homeland of cholera. The lineage migrated to Makassar, Indonesia, where it gained the important virulence-associated elements Vibrio seventh pandemic island I (VSP-I), VSP-II, and El Tor type cholera toxin prophage by 1954, and it then became pandemic in 1961 after only 12 additional mutations. Our data indicate that specific niches in the Middle East and Makassar were important in generating the pandemic strain by providing gene sources and the driving forces for genetic events."
to:NB  to_read  plagues_and_peoples  epidemiology  historical_genetics 
december 2016
Multiplex social ecological network analysis reveals how social changes affect community robustness more than resource depletion
"Network analysis provides a powerful tool to analyze complex influences of social and ecological structures on community and household dynamics. Most network studies of social–ecological systems use simple, undirected, unweighted networks. We analyze multiplex, directed, and weighted networks of subsistence food flows collected in three small indigenous communities in Arctic Alaska potentially facing substantial economic and ecological changes. Our analysis of plausible future scenarios suggests that changes to social relations and key households have greater effects on community robustness than changes to specific wild food resources."

--- See if analysis is interesting enough, and data sets are available, for use in a future version of the networks class?
to:NB  network_data_analysis  social_networks  anthropology  ecology  to_teach:baby-nets 
december 2016
Effect of holding office on the behavior of politicians
"Reciprocity is central to our understanding of politics. Most political exchanges—whether they involve legislative vote trading, interbranch bargaining, constituent service, or even the corrupt exchange of public resources for private wealth—require reciprocity. But how does reciprocity arise? Do government officials learn reciprocity while holding office, or do recruitment and selection practices favor those who already adhere to a norm of reciprocity? We recruit Zambian politicians who narrowly won or lost a previous election to play behavioral games that provide a measure of reciprocity. This combination of regression discontinuity and experimental designs allows us to estimate the effect of holding office on behavior. We find that holding office increases adherence to the norm of reciprocity. This study identifies causal effects of holding office on politicians’ behavior."

--- I very much want to see a follow-up study, where Zambian economists recruit American politicians who just went through narrow elections as their experimental subjects.
to:NB  economics  experimental_economics  evolution_of_cooperation 
december 2016
Universal screening increases the representation of low-income and minority students in gifted education
"Low-income and minority students are substantially underrepresented in gifted education programs. The disparities persist despite efforts by many states and school districts to broaden participation through changes in their eligibility criteria. One explanation for the persistent gap is that standard processes for identifying gifted students, which are based largely on the referrals of parents and teachers, tend to miss qualified students from underrepresented groups. We study this hypothesis using the experiences of a large urban school district following the introduction of a universal screening program for second graders. Without any changes in the standards for gifted eligibility, the screening program led to large increases in the fractions of economically disadvantaged and minority students placed in gifted programs. Comparisons of the newly identified gifted students with those who would have been placed in the absence of screening show that Blacks and Hispanics, free/reduced price lunch participants, English language learners, and girls were all systematically “underreferred” in the traditional parent/teacher referral system. Our findings suggest that parents and teachers often fail to recognize the potential of poor and minority students and those with limited English proficiency."
to:NB  education  inequality  mental_testing  class_struggles_in_america 
december 2016
Phylogenetic approach to the evolution of color term systems
"The naming of colors has long been a topic of interest in the study of human culture and cognition. Color term research has asked diverse questions about thought and communication, but no previous research has used an evolutionary framework. We show that there is broad support for the most influential theory of color term development (that most strongly represented by Berlin and Kay [Berlin B, Kay P (1969) (Univ of California Press, Berkeley, CA)]); however, we find extensive evidence for the loss (as well as gain) of color terms. We find alternative trajectories of color term evolution beyond those considered in the standard theories. These results not only refine our knowledge of how humans lexicalize the color space and how the systems change over time; they illustrate the promise of phylogenetic methods within the domain of cognitive science, and they show how language change interacts with human perception."
to:NB  cultural_evolution  phylogenetics  linguistics 
december 2016
Unreasonable effectiveness of learning neural networks: From accessible states and robust ensembles to basic algorithmic schemes
"In artificial neural networks, learning from data is a computationally demanding task in which a large number of connection weights are iteratively tuned through stochastic-gradient-based heuristic processes over a cost function. It is not well understood how learning occurs in these systems, in particular how they avoid getting trapped in configurations with poor computational performance. Here, we study the difficult case of networks with discrete weights, where the optimization landscape is very rough even for simple architectures, and provide theoretical and numerical evidence of the existence of rare—but extremely dense and accessible—regions of configurations in the network weight space. We define a measure, the robust ensemble (RE), which suppresses trapping by isolated configurations and amplifies the role of these dense regions. We analytically compute the RE in some exactly solvable models and also provide a general algorithmic scheme that is straightforward to implement: define a cost function given by a sum of a finite number of replicas of the original cost function, with a constraint centering the replicas around a driving assignment. To illustrate this, we derive several powerful algorithms, ranging from Markov Chains to message passing to gradient descent processes, where the algorithms target the robust dense states, resulting in substantial improvements in performance. The weak dependence on the number of precision bits of the weights leads us to conjecture that very similar reasoning applies to more conventional neural networks. Analogous algorithmic schemes can also be applied to other optimization problems."
to:NB  learning_theory  optimization  neural_networks  non-equilibrium  stochastic_processes  borgs.christian  chayes.jennifer  to_read 
december 2016
Wind speed reductions by large-scale wind turbine deployments lower turbine efficiencies and set low generation limits
"Wind turbines generate electricity by removing kinetic energy from the atmosphere. Large numbers of wind turbines are likely to reduce wind speeds, which lowers estimates of electricity generation from what would be presumed from unaffected conditions. Here, we test how well wind power limits that account for this effect can be estimated without explicitly simulating atmospheric dynamics. We first use simulations with an atmospheric general circulation model (GCM) that explicitly simulates the effects of wind turbines to derive wind power limits (GCM estimate), and compare them to a simple approach derived from the climatological conditions without turbines [vertical kinetic energy (VKE) estimate]. On land, we find strong agreement between the VKE and GCM estimates with respect to electricity generation rates (0.32 and 0.37 We m−2) and wind speed reductions by 42 and 44%. Over ocean, the GCM estimate is about twice the VKE estimate (0.59 and 0.29 We m−2) and yet with comparable wind speed reductions (50 and 42%). We then show that this bias can be corrected by modifying the downward momentum flux to the surface. Thus, large-scale limits to wind power use can be derived from climatological conditions without explicitly simulating atmospheric dynamics. Consistent with the GCM simulations, the approach estimates that only comparatively few land areas are suitable to generate more than 1 We m−2 of electricity and that larger deployment scales are likely to reduce the expected electricity generation rate of each turbine. We conclude that these atmospheric effects are relevant for planning the future expansion of wind power."
to:NB  physics  to_read 
december 2016
Globalization and Wage Polarization | Review of Economics and Statistics | MIT Press Journals
"In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. labor market experienced a remarkable polarization along with fast technological catch-up as Europe and Japan improved their global innovation performance. Is foreign technological convergence an important source of wage polarization? To answer this question, we build a multicountry Schumpeterian growth model with heterogeneous workers, endogenous skill formation, and occupational choice. We show that convergence produces polarization through business stealing and increasing competition in global innovation races. Quantitative analysis shows that these channels can be important sources of U.S. polarization. Moreover, the model delivers predictions on the U.S. wealth-income ratio consistent with empirical evidence."
to:NB  economics  inequality  economic_growth  globalization 
december 2016
Credit Standards and Segregation | Review of Economics and Statistics | MIT Press Journals
"This paper explores the effects of changes in lending standards on racial segregation within metropolitan areas. Such changes affect neighborhood choices as well as aggregate prices and quantities in the housing market. Using the credit boom of 2000 to 2006 as a large-scale experiment, we put forward an IV strategy that predicts the relaxation of credit standards as the result of a credit supply shock predominantly affecting liquidity-constrained banks. The relaxed lending standards led to significant outflows of whites from black and racially mixed neighborhoods. Without such a credit supply shock, black households would have had between 2.3 and 5.1 percentage points more white neighbors in 2010."

--- That doesn't sound like a lot...
to:NB  economics  mortgage_crisis  racism 
december 2016
School Accountability, Postsecondary Attainment, and Earnings | Review of Economics and Statistics | MIT Press Journals
"We study the impact of accountability pressure in Texas public high schools in the 1990s on postsecondary attainment and earnings, using administrative data from the Texas Schools Project. Schools respond to the risk of being rated Low Performing by increasing student achievement on high-stakes exams. Years later, these students are more likely to have attended college and completed a four-year degree, and they have higher earnings at age 25. However, we find no overall impact of accountability pressure to achieve a higher rating, and large negative impacts on attainment and earnings for the lowest-scoring students."
to:NB  economics  education  class_struggles_in_america 
december 2016
Preferential interactions promote blind cooperation and informed defection
"It is common sense that costs and benefits should be carefully weighed before deciding on a course of action. However, we often disapprove of people who do so, even when their actual decision benefits us. For example, we prefer people who directly agree to do us a favor over those who agree only after securing enough information to ensure that the favor will not be too costly. Why should we care about how people make their decisions, rather than just focus on the decisions themselves? Current models show that punishment of information gathering can be beneficial because it forces blind decisions, which under some circumstances enhances cooperation. Here we show that aversion to information gathering can be beneficial even in the absence of punishment, due to a different mechanism: preferential interactions with reliable partners. In a diverse population where different people have different—and unknown—preferences, those who seek additional information before agreeing to cooperate reveal that their preferences are close to the point where they would choose not to cooperate. Blind cooperators are therefore more likely to keep cooperating even if conditions change, and aversion to information gathering helps to interact preferentially with them. Conversely, blind defectors are more likely to keep defecting in the future, leading to a preference for informed defectors over blind ones. Both mechanisms—punishment to force blind decisions and preferential interactions—give qualitatively different predictions, which may enable experimental tests to disentangle them in real-world situations."
to:NB  game_theory  evolution_of_cooperation 
december 2016
Emergence of an abstract categorical code enabling the discrimination of temporally structured tactile stimuli
"The problem of neural coding in perceptual decision making revolves around two fundamental questions: (i) How are the neural representations of sensory stimuli related to perception, and (ii) what attributes of these neural responses are relevant for downstream networks, and how do they influence decision making? We studied these two questions by recording neurons in primary somatosensory (S1) and dorsal premotor (DPC) cortex while trained monkeys reported whether the temporal pattern structure of two sequential vibrotactile stimuli (of equal mean frequency) was the same or different. We found that S1 neurons coded the temporal patterns in a literal way and only during the stimulation periods and did not reflect the monkeys’ decisions. In contrast, DPC neurons coded the stimulus patterns as broader categories and signaled them during the working memory, comparison, and decision periods. These results show that the initial sensory representation is transformed into an intermediate, more abstract categorical code that combines past and present information to ultimately generate a perceptually informed choice."

--- Contributed, so who knows?
to:NB  neural_coding_and_decoding  perception  neuroscience 
december 2016
Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success, McCabe
"We all know that good study habits, supportive parents, and engaged instructors are all keys to getting good grades in college. But as Janice M. McCabe shows in this illuminating study, there is one crucial factor determining a student’s academic success that most of us tend to overlook: who they hang out with. Surveying a range of different kinds of college friendships, Connecting in College details the fascinatingly complex ways students’ social and academic lives intertwine and how students attempt to balance the two in their pursuit of straight As, good times, or both.
"As McCabe and the students she talks to show, the friendships we forge in college are deeply meaningful, more meaningful than we often give them credit for. They can also vary widely. Some students have only one tight-knit group, others move between several, and still others seem to meet someone new every day. Some students separate their social and academic lives, while others rely on friendships to help them do better in their coursework. McCabe explores how these dynamics lead to different outcomes and how they both influence and are influenced by larger factors such as social and racial inequality. She then looks toward the future and how college friendships affect early adulthood, ultimately drawing her findings into a set of concrete solutions to improve student experiences and better guarantee success in college and beyond."
to:NB  books:noted  academia  education  social_networks  re:homophily_and_confounding 
december 2016
Medieval Islamic Maps: An Exploration, Pinto
"Hundreds of exceptional cartographic images are scattered throughout medieval and early modern Arabic, Persian, and Turkish manuscript collections. The plethora of copies created around the Islamic world over the course of eight centuries testifies to the enduring importance of these medieval visions for the Muslim cartographic imagination. With Medieval Islamic Maps, historian Karen C. Pinto brings us the first in-depth exploration of medieval Islamic cartography from the mid-tenth to the nineteenth century.
"Pinto focuses on the distinct tradition of maps known collectively as the Book of Roads and Kingdoms (Kitab al-Masalik wa al-Mamalik, or KMMS), examining them from three distinct angles—iconography, context, and patronage. She untangles the history of the KMMS maps, traces their inception and evolution, and analyzes them to reveal the identities of their creators, painters, and patrons, as well as the vivid realities of the social and physical world they depicted.  In doing so, Pinto develops innovative techniques for approaching the visual record of Islamic history, explores how medieval Muslims perceived themselves and their world, and brings Middle Eastern maps into the forefront of the study of the history of cartography. "
to:NB  medieval_eurasian_history  islamic_civilization  history_of_science  maps  books:noted 
december 2016
Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society, Benveniste, Palmer, Agamben
"Since its publication in 1969, Émile Benveniste’s Vocabulaire—here in a new translation as the Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society—has been the classic reference for tracing the institutional and conceptual genealogy of the sociocultural worlds of gifts, contracts, sacrifice, hospitality, authority, freedom, ancient economy, and kinship. A comprehensive and comparative history of words with analyses of their underlying neglected genealogies and structures of signification—and this via a masterful journey through Germanic, Romance, Indo-Iranian, Latin, and Greek languages—Benveniste’s dictionary is a must-read for anthropologists, linguists, literary theorists, classicists, and philosophers alike."
to:NB  books:noted  ancient_history  anthropology  indo-europeans  linguistics 
december 2016
The Invention of Culture, Wagner, Ingold
"In anthropology, a field that is known for its critical edge and intellectual agility, few books manage to maintain both historical value and contemporary relevance. Roy Wagner's The Invention of Culture, originally published in 1975, is one.
"Wagner breaks new ground by arguing that culture arises from the dialectic between the individual and the social world. Rooting his analysis in the relationships between invention and convention, innovation and control, and meaning and context, he builds a theory that insists on the importance of creativity, placing people-as-inventors at the heart of the process that creates culture. In an elegant twist, he shows that this very process ultimately produces the discipline of anthropology itself.
"Tim Ingold’s foreword to the new edition captures the exhilaration of Wagner’s book while showing how the reader can journey through it and arrive safely—though transformed—on the other side."
to:NB  books:noted  anthropology  cultural_evolution 
december 2016
Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth-Century America, Curry
"In the mid-twentieth century, American plant breeders, frustrated by their dependence on natural variation in creating new crops and flowers, eagerly sought technologies that could extend human control over nature. Their search led them to celebrate a series of strange tools: an x-ray beam directed at dormant seeds, a drop of chromosome-altering colchicine on a flower bud, and a piece of radioactive cobalt in a field of growing crops. According to scientific and popular reports of the time, these mutation-inducing methods would generate variation on demand, in turn allowing breeders to genetically engineer crops and flowers to order. Creating a new crop or flower would soon be as straightforward as innovating any other modern industrial product.
"In Evolution Made to Order, Helen Anne Curry traces the history of America’s pursuit of tools that could speed up evolution. It is an immersive journey through the scientific and social worlds of midcentury genetics and plant breeding and a compelling exploration of American cultures of innovation. As Curry reveals, the creation of genetic technologies was deeply entangled with other areas of technological innovation—from electromechanical to chemical to nuclear. An important study of biological research and innovation in America, Evolution Made to Order provides vital historical context for current worldwide ethical and policy debates over genetic engineering."
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_science  history_of_technology  biology  genetics 
december 2016
The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities, Warikoo
"We’ve heard plenty from politicians and experts on affirmative action and higher education, about how universities should intervene—if at all—to ensure a diverse but deserving student population. But what about those for whom these issues matter the most? In this book, Natasha K. Warikoo deeply explores how students themselves think about merit and race at a uniquely pivotal moment: after they have just won the most competitive game of their lives and gained admittance to one of the world’s top universities.
"What Warikoo uncovers—talking with both white students and students of color at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford—is absolutely illuminating; and some of it is positively shocking. As she shows, many elite white students understand the value of diversity abstractly, but they ignore the real problems that racial inequality causes and that diversity programs are meant to solve. They stand in fear of being labeled a racist, but they are quick to call foul should a diversity program appear at all to hamper their own chances for advancement. The most troubling result of this ambivalence is what she calls the “diversity bargain,” in which white students reluctantly agree with affirmative action as long as it benefits them by providing a diverse learning environment—racial diversity, in this way, is a commodity, a selling point on a brochure. And as Warikoo shows, universities play a big part in creating these situations. The way they talk about race on campus and the kinds of diversity programs they offer have a huge impact on student attitudes, shaping them either toward ambivalence or, in better cases, toward more productive and considerate understandings of racial difference.
"Ultimately, this book demonstrates just how slippery the notions of race, merit, and privilege can be. In doing so, it asks important questions not just about college admissions but what the elite students who have succeeded at it—who will be the world’s future leaders—will do with the social inequalities of the wider world."
to:NB  books:noted  diversity  affirmative_action  racism  academia 
december 2016
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