Random links

Effective of changes in urban density from the London Blitz and the building/destruction of the Berlin Wall
To quote from the latter: "Theory and empirical evidence confirm the positive relationship between urban density and productivity in a virtuous circle of ‘cumulative causation’."
Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict
"In the 1950s-1960s, the vote for left-wing (socialist-labour-democratic) parties was associated with lower education and lower income voters. It has gradually become associated with higher education voters, giving rise to a “multiple-elite” party system in the 2000s-2010s: high-education elites now vote for the “left”, while high-income/high-wealth elites still vote for the “right” (though less and less so). I argue that this can contribute to explain rising inequality and the lack of democratic response to it, as well as the rise of “populism”."
Male and female bosses share the same “classically masculine” personality traits
"Men and women in non-leadership roles differed in their personality traits in ways consistent with the existing literature – for instance, women scored higher than men on characteristics associated with being more agreeable, such as being cooperative and people-oriented, while scoring lower on emotional stability and aspects of extraversion. In contrast, the personalities of male and female bosses were far more similar, with many sex-linked differences absent altogether or greatly attenuated (although the women still scored higher on aspects of agreeableness)." See also Women who adopt 'male traits' often see business success, study says

"So you think you’re open-minded…"

Towards the end in a discussion of biases is the bit that I particularly want to point out:

... the last one I’m going to mention is probably the most important. The sophistication effect, in which the most knowledgeable and politically engaged people, “because they possess greater ammunition with which to counterargue incongruent facts, figures, and arguments, will be more susceptible to motivated bias than will unsophisticates”.

Let’s go over that again: the better-informed and cleverer you are, the more vulnerable you are to certain biases, such as motivated scepticism, because you are more able to destroy the arguments that you don’t like, but still feel no particular desire to examine the ones that you do. If you’re a politically well-informed and intelligent Corbynite, it will be amazingly simple to find the examples of Tories using it as a smear, and vice versa.

So it becomes easy to tear down silly arguments by your opponents, and so you become ever more convinced of your own brilliance and their idiocy or malignity.

I don't think in the case of journalism that something like Breitbart is a great alternative, but it seems to me that groupthink exists amongst journalists as, e.g., Nate Silver has argued. I also think that the same applies amongst academics when it comes to a number of politically sensitive subject areas.

Random links

Review of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now
Review of a book arguing that the world is gettin better; "As I read Pinker, I sometimes imagined a book published in 1923 about the astonishing improvements in the condition of Europe’s Jews following their emancipation."
GDPR is centralizing the market
Why big online companies might welcome privacy legislation.
Math, Girls and Socialism
"the gender gap in math is smaller in European countries that used to be part of the Soviet bloc, as opposed to the rest of Europe. The lesson is twofold: (1) a large part of the pervasive gender gap in math is due to social stereotypes; (2) institutions can durably modify these stereotypes."
Goodhart's law
"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure"

On history and politics

A quote from a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

to acknowledge that history is political is not to say that it necessarily favors any particular politics, nor that historians are propagandists. To the contrary, while many historians are politically active and committed, they are less frequently strident. Historians usually see historical outcomes as contingent and often unexpected. People intend one thing and produce another. America’s so-called founding fathers hated political parties yet created a country that soon produced a rigid party system. People with righteous goals can become oppressors in the name of those values. The French Jacobins cried "liberty, equality, fraternity" and created a bloody dictatorship. Those who seek to end injustice are themselves flawed people. And many whom our society now chooses to honor suffered in their own time. Martin Luther King Jr., the closest thing to a secular saint that the United States has, was profoundly unpopular at the time of his death, and the FBI apparently tried to goad him to commit suicide.

To think historically is also to see things from multiple perspectives; it is a necessary skill to think through the actions of others. When we look into the past, we see that people held views that were compatible with the way they lived. We see that their outlook on the world was a product of their time, their position within society, and their character. What seemed right and what seemed wrong to them had a great deal to do with their time in history, the society in which they lived, and the kind of power they had, or did not have. Historical thinking demands that we recognize that the same is surely true of us. Our present will soon become someone else’s past, and nothing puts us outside the influence of the social forces of our own time. We too will one day be judged as flawed, and as products of our own time, just as we now see those who lived in past decades, centuries, and millennia.


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