Friday Links

Using two different free protein-predicting AI algorithms, computer scientists were almost able to model Omicron before the coronavirus variant had been physically mapped.

Deceptive review practices cheat consumers, undercut honest businesses, and pollute online commerce," Samuel Levine, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement this week. "Fashion Nova is being held accountable for these practices, and other firms should take note."

[when children "at heightened risk of severe injury or death from COVID-19" are present, holds the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.]

The persistence of the gender wage gap suggests it may have roots extending back into childhood. Using data from a US longitudinal survey, this column examines how gender differences in adult earnings correspond to various childhood behaviours. Results indicate that women (but not men) who exhibited headstrong behaviour as children incurred significant earnings penalties as adults, while men (but not women) who exhibited more dependent behaviour as children were penalised.

"The core fundamental principle of clinical ethics tells us that once a person enters the hospital as a patient, whatever got them there is no longer part of the equation," said Vardit Ravitsky, who teaches bioethics at the Université de Montreal and Harvard Medical School. "The most extreme example I have ever seen was when I lived in Israel and a suicide bomber detonated on a bus, killing and injuring civilians around him. Somehow he was not killed by the explosion and he arrived at the hospital with his victims.

Friday Links

Jared Moffat, a campaign manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, said a state’s market usually takes six to 12 months to stabilize after recreational cannabis becomes legal. One reason marijuana markets are unstable is that possessing and distributing the drug remain illegal under federal law, so moving products across state lines is not an option for dealing with a shortage. Everything that is sold in a state must be grown in that state.

More than four-in-10 U.S. residents live in a county that was struck by climate-related extreme weather last year, while more than 80% experienced a heat wave, according to a new report.

A few days ago, Mozilla Foundation invited netizens on Twitter to send in cryptocurrency donations via a new payment service provider.This move by the Firefox browser maker rapidly drew criticism, including that from Jamie Zawinski – who named the Mozilla project and was one of the original Netscape developers.

Mozilla has accepted crypto-coin donations for years, perhaps as part of its long-ongoing efforts to alienate its own users: it's only the payment provider that changed lately, it seems.

There really is research showing that there is no significant difference between various outcomes of online learning and on campus learning.

“We’ll gift each of you $10,000 in cash,” he said, looking at the camera. “You heard me right.”

They were told to expect a direct deposit the next day or pick up a check in person. Hildreth, an expert in infectious diseases who helped lead Nashville’s pandemic response, explained that this gift with no strings attached was money from the CARES Act, a major covid-19 relief law passed by Congress in 2020. He asked only that they be “good stewards” of the windfall.

Andreas Nelson fell silent, he recalled later. He went to his banking app and stared in disbelief. “$10,000 was sitting just in my bank account. It was astonishing,” he said. “I was literally lost for words.”

The Chicago native is finishing a master’s degree in health and science at Meharry with hopes of entering its dental school. The average student loan debt in the program totals more than $280,000. So, undoubtedly, 10 grand won’t make much of a dent in the debt.

But the money in his pocket eases his top concern of making rent each month. Nelson said it feels as though he’s being treated like an adult, allowing him to decide what his greatest needs are in getting through school.

Since you left me, Ondine, all the things my body once did by itself, it does now only by special order. […] I have to supervise five senses, two hundred bones, a thousand muscles. A single moment of inattention, and I forget to breathe. He died, they will say, because it was a nuisance to breathe.

Almost 80% of people in the lowest income category,  report having gotten at least one shot—51% have gotten two and 22% have gotten three. This is the lowest of any income category, and the share rises as you go up the income ladder. It tops off at 95% who’ve gotten at least one shot among the $200,000+ set.

By the way, racial gaps have largely disappeared; 82% of blacks and 84% of whites have been vaccinated.

Saturday Links

The fact that Bodley could raise the status of Oxford’s library so rapidly is also indicative of the poor conditions of university libraries throughout Europe. Most universities were founded without a library. Some, like Louvain and St Andrews, had several college libraries, but lacked a central university library for almost two centuries after their foundation. The Sorbonne at Paris had no central library until 1762, 500 years after it was first established. Others, like Oxford, assembled a library in the medieval period, but saw their libraries damaged, confiscated or destroyed in the early upheavals of the Reformation.

Vocational education advocate Eugene Davenport argued in 1914 that separate vocational schools would represent a “most powerful step toward the segregation of people according to vocational lines, and from that time it is inevitable that the stratification of society will proceed by leaps and bounds.” Instead, he argued, the goal should be the “cosmopolitan high school,” in which students would spend a quarter of their time specializing in a trade and the rest learning general subjects with a diverse group of peers.

To coordinate the colossal cortex contest, the researchers turned to the Great British Intelligence Test – an online battery of tests of various cognitive domains from memory, to planning, to object manipulation. I tried it myself. It’s pretty hard, but it’s not contract law.

In this sense, “woke snowflakes” and opponents of migrants have more in common that either would like to admit. Both are trying to screen out dissonant elements in an attempt to preserve a static purified identity.

“A form of punitiveness tends to take shape in those who have not been sanctioned or who have forgotten their own crimes.”

Friday Links

The politicization of COVID is one of the main reasons for the pandemic's horrific death toll in America. Public health professionals usually blame it on former President Donald Trump and his allies. Trump deserves a good deal of the blame. But so does public health, I think.

“massive over-payment of academic publishers has enabled them to buy surveillance technology covering the entire workflow that can be used not only to be combined with our private data and sold, but also o make algorithmic (aka ‘evidence led’) employment decisions.”

Scientists assume the additional shots will offer significant protection from the new variant, though they do not know for certain how much.

Friday Links

A surcharge is added on top of a ride fare if a passenger takes longer than two minutes to enter a vehicle after it arrives. Uber added wait time fees in some US cities in 2016 before expanding the policy across the country.

These fees, however, discriminate against people with mobility or visibility issues, federal prosecutors argue.

To David Graeber, it was a matter of plain fact that things did not have to be the way they were. Graeber was an anthropologist, which meant it was his job to study other ways of living. “I’m interested in anthropology because I’m interested in human possibilities,” he once explained. Graeber was also an anarchist, “and in a way,” he went on, “there’s always been an affinity between anthropology and anarchism, simply because anthropologists know that a society without a state is possible. There’s been plenty of them.” A better world was not assured, but it was possible — and anyway, as Graeber put it in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, “since one cannot know a radically better world is not possible, are we not betraying everyone by insisting on continuing to justify and reproduce the mess we have today?”

Eastern Gateway Community College spent the past few years riding a tidal wave of enrollment growth, but its rapid rise has now put the college’s accreditation at risk.

Richard Kronick, a former federal health policy researcher and a professor at the University of California-San Diego, said his analysis of newly released Medicare Advantage billing data estimates that Medicare overpaid the private health plans by more than $106 billion from 2010 through 2019 because of the way the private plans charge for sicker patients.

Kronick called the growth in Medicare Advantage costs a “systemic problem across the industry,” which CMS has failed to rein in. He said some plans saw “eye-popping” revenue gains, while others had more modest increases. Giant insurer UnitedHealthcare, which in 2019 had about 6 million Medicare Advantage members, received excess payments of some $6 billion, according to Kronick. The company had no comment.

In other words, does long-COVID occur because people survived a really bad illness? After all, studies from the before times show that 2/3rds of people who survive an ICU stay have persistent symptoms. But is COVID uniquely bad – uniquely harmful to a variety of organ systems, out of proportion to severity of illness?

In the early 20th century, millions of chickens wore rose-coloured eyeglasses so they wouldn’t turn into cannibals.

Several strategies WHO endorsed — educating people about ageism, fostering intergenerational contacts, and changing policies and laws to promote age equity — are being tried in the United States. But a greater sense of urgency is needed in light of the coronavirus pandemic’s shocking death toll, including more than 500,000 older Americans, experts suggest.

In October, a group of experts from the U.S., Canada, India, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom called for old age to be removed as one of the causes and symptoms of disease in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, a global resource used to standardize health data worldwide.

Aging is a normal process, and equating old age with disease “is potentially detrimental,” the experts wrote in The Lancet. Doing so could result in inadequate clinical evaluation and care and an increase in “societal marginalisation and discrimination” against older adults, they warn.

Rules such as 'cause no harm to humans' can't be set if we don't understand the kind of scenarios that an AI is going to come up with, suggest the authors of the 2021 paper. Once a computer system is working on a level above the scope of our programmers, we can no longer set limits.

Friday Links

The inexpensive antidepressant fluvoxamine reduced the need for a long emergency department (ED) observation or a hospital stay among high-risk, symptomatic COVID-19 outpatients treated within 7 days of symptom onset as much as 30% to 65%, finds a Brazilian platform clinical trial yesterday in The Lancet Global Health.

Here are a few reasons why emailing during the weekend might be bad. First, the sender might think they are not imposing any expectations on the receiver, but that might not be how the receiver experiences it. In that case, they are infringing on the private time of their co-worker. Second, if the sender has some sort of power over the receiver (being their boss, supervisor, etc.), then this might even be more so. Third, if people regularly email during the weekend, they are effectively signaling/telling that one can’t do this job without working at least part of the weekend, and it might be problematic to convey that message to those who aspire having such a job in the future (e.g. PhDs or postdocs receiving messages from professors during the weekend), since it might put off those who want to have healthy/balanced lives to stay in that sector. Finally, perhaps an argument could be made that it is a collective protection/self-binding strategy to not send emails during the weekend in an attempt to contain the working week to Monday to Friday. But I am not sure that argument works, give that there are so many other work related things we can do and do do during the weekend.

It is terrible that four-year institutions are advocating against the passage of an inititiative that would benefit so many low-income students. 

Is it worse that our current system of higher education makes lobbying against free community college an entirely rational, perhaps even necessary act for the sake of those individual institutions.

One of the reasons I advocate for free public higher ed period – two and four-year institutions – is because of this exact scenario. It is difficult to get people to do the “right” thing when it may not be in their immediate interests.

Disability is the largest minority group in the U.S. and is a community that anyone can join at any time. Its civil rights movement coincided and collaborated with the Black Panthers, The United Farm Workers of America, and the Butterfly Brigade. Disability and diversity, experts say, go hand in hand.

“We have so many students passionate about social justice, yet when I mention disability as social justice work, it seems like a surprise sometimes,” she said. “We have to get people engaged to make sure disability is a part of their daily diversity conversations.”

Some nine schools in North Ayrshire, which is a Scottish authority that includes the Isle of Arran, were scheduled to start processing payments for school meals via facial scanning technology.

This was intended to speed up the delivery of lunches from an average of 25 seconds to five, and potentially reduce COVID-19 infections compared to card payments and fingerprint scanners.

However, campaigners told The Reg last week that using facial recognition in canteens was the wrong solution given the highly sensitive and personal nature of the data, which was to be stored on school servers.

A new article, appearing in PLOS One shows us what is, I think, an equally plausible reason some people choose not to get vaccinated. It’s not that they overestimate the risk of vaccination, they underestimate the risk of COVID. Or, as the authors put it, they feel invincible.

Friday Links

Nicknamed LANtenna, Guri's technique is an academic proof of concept and not a fully fledged attack that could be deployed today. Nonetheless, the research shows that poorly shielded cables have the potential to leak information which sysadmins may have believed were secure or otherwise air-gapped from the outside world.

Sometimes, it makes sense to move first and wait for laws and policies to catch up. Facial recognition is not one of those times. And, to make matters worse, policymakers have barely gotten started in many jurisdictions. We are accelerating toward catastrophe and Clearview is leading the way.

Users will be prompted with a dialog inviting them to "allow suggestions" before the feature is enabled. The dialog is an example of a dark pattern, with three options, one highlighted to encourage a reflex click, one in discouraging grey for customising settings, and sneaked in at top right, a small "Not now" link.

Firefox and the work of Mozilla is important to the web community since it is an independent browser with its own engine, unlike most others which use the Google-sponsored Chromium engine. These sponsored links sit uncomfortably with Mozilla's claim to be privacy advocates – yet like many other open-source companies, Mozilla is in the position where it cannot charge directly for its products so looks for other means of monetising them. Much of its income comes from Google, which pays to be the default search engine in Firefox.

But the truth is more complicated than that. In reality, herd immunity is really a local phenomenon. If the level of immunity in your local social group is very high, transmission rates within that group are very low. It’s not perfect, of course – we live in an interconnected world, but embracing the idea of local herd immunity may help us more appropriately figure out where life can return to normal most quickly.

Now, there is a fairly glaring limitation in this analysis – one that I was shocked to see was not addressed in the paper, which is otherwise really nicely analyzed. How do we know the non-immunized family member is really non-immunized? The authors define immunization based on vaccination or a positive PCR test for COVID, but I have to imagine that some family members may have been infected but not tested – either because they were asymptomatic or because it was obvious what they had. That prior infection could certainly protect them from future infection – so maybe what we’re seeing here is just misclassification of susceptibles.

Millions of unfilled job openings, workers quitting en masse, soaring wages (at least in some sectors)—wild time in the job market. Here are some graphs to make the point.

Facebook’s products are more than just a social network for hundreds of millions of people globally. Beyond being communication tools, the company’s platforms are e-commerce resources, storefronts, and health and emergency aids. In some regions, Facebook is the internet. Seven users from around the world described the impact of the seven-hour shortage to Rest of World, and a user from Nigeria said, “It’s painful.” 

Facebook’s reach and dominance in much of the world is largely by design. As part of its strategy for exponential growth, the company has made internet access in the Global South — through the use of Facebook products — a priority.

In 2015, the company launched Free Basics, which gave users access to Facebook products for free or reduced their cost through partnerships with telecommunications companies. The program expanded and, in 2020, went on to include Discover, which allows users to access a text-only version of Facebook.

One problem with figuring out what symptoms are seen in COVID, is that most studies look at people who test positive for COVID, and most people get tested when they have symptoms. This means certain symptoms might become an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way around this is to do random, population-based screening for COVID, and that is exactly what this paper, appearing in PLOS Medicine does.

Sounds like they're really pushing for it to stay a restaurant. Encouraging.

The bidding process will score proposals based on eight categories worth 15 points each, with points awarded based on how "advantageous" the proposal is in that area. For example, under the opening "Use of Diner" category, four points or less will go toward proposals with "any private use." Publicly accessible uses not tied to a diner would be worth five to nine points, and only those proposing an actual diner or other restaurant use would land between 10 and 15 points. Another category awards five to nine points for anything within 10 miles of Salem and the highest allotment of points if the diner is "located within Salem, MA city limits.""Ideally, we'd like to have the diner remain in Salem. Ideally, we'd like it to be an operating eatery," Collucci said. "We know people really have an affinity for the diner and so many great memories."

In the 1940s, Ikeler writes, many sales clerks received extensive training to provide personalized service, sometimes in formal schools such as the New York University School of Retailing. While employees were closely monitored, they could choose how to engage customers and try to make a sale.

Friday Links

“The key is the data that I have in my possession. Data is not clean of the sins of the past.”

Earlier in the pandemic, fully virtual students were paired with teachers at their home schools who guided them through a full day of classes — from math to gym — often alongside their pre-pandemic classmates.

But this year, after the state prohibited that kind of remote learning, San Diego launched a standalone virtual academy with its own virtual teachers. Students get some live instruction and teacher check-ins, then spend the rest of the time doing work on their own.

Another change? The level of interest. Last year, 44% of students ended the year online. But so far, less than 1% have chosen the virtual academy, though the district is still working through applications.

“Our projections consistently foresee a positive future for wild cacao in Peru as the current suitable area is expected to largely remain suitable and to further expand in the future,” explain Ceccarelli and her colleagues.

The research team cautions that despite the positive findings, chocolate lovers shouldn’t celebrate too soon. Even if wild cacao does fare well in the forests of a warmer world, that does not mean that it would grow well enough under cultivation to replace domestic cocoa as a cash crop. And their model didn’t try to incorporate other possible knock-on effects of a changing climate, such as increasing pests and disease.

These concerns about credibility are overblown. Credibility is whether others think you mean what you say in a given situation. It is context-specific; because circumstances can vary widely, credibility is judged on a case-by-case basis. How a state has behaved in the past is an important component of its credibility, but it is not the only one. The Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will affect these calculations the next time the United States commits to an extraordinarily costly venture in a place not vital to the country’s core security interests, but it is unlikely to sabotage U.S. credibility writ large.

Credibility is different from reputation, however. If credibility is whether others think your deeds will match your words, reputation is what others think of you in the first place. On this count, the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal will likely be considerably greater. The pullout has been messy and chaotic: the Taliban took control of Afghanistan more quickly than the Biden administration had publicly predicted, and members of a regional branch of the Islamic State (or ISIS) launched a deadly bomb attack at the Kabul airport as Afghan and foreign citizens attempted to evacuate the country.

Reputations are, in essence, beliefs—they exist only in the minds of others. The formation and maintenance of reputations therefore has an important psychological component, and the psychological evidence is relatively clear that observers pay attention to past actions when predicting future behavior. Experimental studies I conducted with Jonathan Renshon and Keren Yarhi-Milo on both members of the public and elite decision-makers found that when asked to assess a country’s resolve in a foreign policy crisis, observers consistently focus on behavior in previous disputes, even when presented with countervailing information about capabilities and interests. The question is not simply whether allies and adversaries will doubt U.S. resolve because Washington backed down from a 20-year stabilization effort in Afghanistan. It is whether their existing doubts will grow stronger than they would have had the United States continued fighting.

Americans are exhausted by educational disruption. That's the message of a new survey by the journal Education Next. According to their poll, support for virtually every proposed innovation has dropped since 2019 (a few items were flat). That includes both highly popular measures, such as annual testing, and more controversial policies, including charter schools. 

Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, writes Ensmenger, computer programming was thought of as a “routine and mechanical” activity, which resulted in the field becoming largely feminized. The work wasn’t particularly glamorous; “coders” were “low-status, largely invisible.” They were only supposed to implement the plans sketched out by male “planners.” Ensmenger quotes one female programmer, who recalled, “It never occurred to any of us that computer programming would eventually become something that was thought of as a men’s field.”

Google readily (and ironically) admits that such ubiquitous web tracking is out of hand and has resulted in “an erosion of trust... [where] 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or others, and 81% say the potential risks from data collection outweigh the benefits.”

“Research has shown that up to 52 companies can theoretically observe up to 91% of the average user’s web browsing history,” a senior Chrome engineer told a recent Internet Engineering Task Force call, “and 600 companies can observe at least 50%.”

Friday Links

The results are generally consistent with past research: Online coursework generally yields worse student performance than in-person coursework. The negative effects of online course-taking are particularly pronounced for less-academically prepared students and for students pursuing bachelor’s degrees. New evidence from 2020 also suggests that the switch to online course-taking in the pandemic led to declines in course completion. However, a few new studies point to some positive effects of online learning, too.

Reversing course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that all students and staff should wear masks inside schools, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated — an acknowledgment that slowing vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant are complicating plans for a more normal start to the school year.

And those not vaccinated are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID.

A new report titled, “Stranded Credits: A Matter of Equity,” from Ithaka S+R, explores the lived experiences of students and staff familiar with institutional debt, also known as stranded credits. This phenomenon particularly impacts students of color, first-generation and low-income students. The report defines stranded credits as academic credits achieved by students that they cannot access due to an unpaid balance.Stranded credits not only impact students’ academic progress, they can also thwart career trajectories because they are unable to access their transcripts due to unpaid debt. Researchers also found this phenomenon also has a detrimental impact on mental health and wellbeing.

In a longitudinal study of almost 400,000 employees from nearly 400 Japanese firms over 12 years, the gender gap in bonus pay was found to be greater in workplaces with a merit-based system than in workplaces without it, said Eunmi Mun, a professor of labor and employment relations at Illinois.

As U.S. President Joe Biden seeks to resurrect American leadership on the world stage, the perennial question of how the United States should respond to international crises looms large. In his latest book, the political scientist John Mueller offers a refreshingly straightforward answer: Washington should aim not for transformation but for “complacency,” which Mueller characterizes as “minimally effortful national strategy in the security realm.”

Education researchers have a particular kind of tutoring in mind, what they call “high-dosage” tutoring. Studies show it has produced big achievement gains for students when the tutoring occurs every day or almost every day. Less frequent tutoring, by contrast, was not as helpful as many other types of educational interventions. In the research literature, the tutors are specially trained and coached and adhere to a detailed curriculum with clear steps on how to work with one or two students at a time. The best results occur when tutoring takes place at school during the regular day.

Especially suspect, in Pliny’s opinion, were professional magicians, or “magi,” a term that originally referred to Persian fire priests but came to mean any practitioner of magic for hire. “The most blatant example of the shamelessness of the magi,” he writes, is a ritual to produce an amulet that makes its wearer invisible.

Shields might prove helpful in specific instances — like halting the big droplets emitted during coughs and sneezes — but not particularly in trapping the "unseen aerosol particles" by which COVID-19 spreads. "The smaller aerosols travel over the screen and become mixed in the room air within about five minutes," said Catherine Noakes, a professor at the University of Leeds in England. "This means if people are interacting for more than a few minutes, they would likely be exposed to the virus regardless of the screen." 

Friday Links

Nobody likes paying taxes (well, maybe some oddballs do, but to each their own), but over the last few years, Corporate America has been enjoying the lightest tax burden in history. That needs to change.

Foresters used to remove dead wood because it was once thought of as unsightly. Today, keeping dead wood on the ground has become a priority in forests around the world.

The lockdown in South Africa made it possible to investigate the changes in second‐year students' performance in the Economics department at the University of Pretoria. In particular, we are interested in assessing what factors predict changes in students' performance after transitioning from face‐to‐face (F2F) to online learning. Our main objectives in answering this study question are to establish what study materials the students were able to access (i.e. slides, recordings, or live sessions) and how students got access to these materials (i.e. the infrastructure they used).

The First Amendment of the US Constitution limits the government—not private entities—from restricting free expression. This is why companies like Facebook and Twitter can moderate content—and also why they could suspend then-President Trump’s accounts during his last weeks in office. While many Americans applauded this move as an appropriate response to the violent Capitol insurrection, unexpected critics emerged in corners of the globe where the American version of free speech is considered, well, weird.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the move as “problematic,” saying that lawmakers, rather than social media CEOs, should regulate speech—the exact opposite of what the First Amendment allows....

France’s Finance Minister also said he was “shocked” by the decision, which he framed as “social media oligarchy” regulating speech. Leaders outside of Europe criticized the move as well.

Children are human beings, not economic commodities. Our response to the pandemic should not be guided by the gloomy speculations of misguided economists, but young people and those who know them. 

Of course, money matters; it is what gets workers through the door.  But whilst it is usually necessary to get a job done, it is not sufficient to get it done well, at least where contracts and worker supervision are incomplete.

In several other countries, filing your taxes is a lot easier. The government uses data it already has on your income to fill out your taxes. But in the United States, Intuit has spent millions each year lobbying against these simpler systems which would eliminate the need for their services. Tax industry lobbying was how the IRS’s Free File was initially created, with the IRS agreeing to leave it up to those companies.

“People who are actually ranked toward the bottom of the income distribution tend to think they’re ranked higher than they truly are. And those who are ranked toward the top believe they’re ranked lower than they actually are.”

Friday Links

I can’t put my finger on it, but maybe I’m just really tired of the coronavirus pandemic, which wasn’t mishandled as some people say but in fact shown to be rationally handled by a group of insulated wealthy individuals who can pursue their greedy desires with the full knowledge that a vast percentage of Americans are economically superfluous and thus willing to fight among themselves for scraps?

Public colleges and universities have long served as engines of social mobility for low-income students in the United States, yet the rising cost of higher education in the past few decades has diminished that role.

"Each speech act takes place in the context of a given social understanding."

Horrocks saw a bird and wanted to shoot it. His shotgun was loaded with the wrong kind of shot for birds, so he got his pack camel to sit down and began to change out the ammunition. As he was doing so, Harry the Camel pushed to one side. The camel’s pack snagged on the shotgun trigger. Horrocks, in the firing line, lost a finger, part of his cheek, and several teeth to the shot.

A charlatan espousing popular beliefs can lead laypeople to choose to follow her advice rather than the advice of a genuine expert. This is true even in the face of increasing negative evidence regarding the accuracy of the charlatan.

Sometimes, you learn about an idea that really sticks with you. This happened to me recently when I learnt about “legibility” — a concept which James C Scott introduces in his book Seeing like a State.

Scott uses modern forestry practices as an example of the practice of legibility. Hundreds of years ago, forests acted as many things — they were places people harvested wood, but also places where locals went foraging and hunting, as well as an ecosystem for animals and plants. According to the logic of scientific forestry practices, forests would be much more valuable if they just produced timber. To achieve this, they had to be made legible....

Peter Prater’s family wasn’t thinking about covid-19 when the call came that he had been taken to the hospital with a fever.

It was April, and the Tallahassee Developmental Center, where Prater lives, hadn’t yet had any covid diagnoses. Prater, 55, who has Down syndrome and diabetes, became the Florida center’s first known case, his family said. Within two weeks, more than half of the roughly 60 residents and a third of the staff had tested positive for the virus, according to local news reports.

Mathematics is a continuum; what used to be called pure mathematics and applied mathematics are these days so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. One cannot engage in cutting edge applications of mathematics in isolation from people working on foundational problems, and vice versa.

[Mathematics] has been considered essential in higher education for over 2000 years and is widely viewed as a pinnacle of human thought. It has never been more prominent in popular intellectual culture, especially among young people. For a university to cut itself off from this tradition would seem to us to be a significant step away from what it means to be a seat of academic learning and scholarship, and so to risk severe reputational damage.

Friday Links

I’ve been reading Michael Sandel’s powerful new book The Tyranny of Merit, and it occurred to me that, in over 25 years of being involved in higher education, I have never heard of anyone unpacking the knapsack of college privilege. The more I reflect on this, the more stunning I find it, given just how many advantages our society bestows on college graduates.

The Tyranny of Merit is a searing account of the way that our system of meritocracy has perverted our democracy, and the central responsibility that higher education bears for this disaster. Meritocracy can be defined as the idea that people with the highest merit should rise to the top, and that those who have achieved high places have earned their comfort, status and authority.

Merit is, of course, contextual. In a warrior society, merit would be determined by prowess with a gun or a sword. In our knowledge-based economy, graduating from college is the single most powerful symbol of making it. But, as Sandel highlights, there is a problem with this. He writes, “Elites have so valorized a college degree -- both as an avenue for advancement and as the basis for social esteem -- that they have difficulty understanding the hubris a meritocracy can generate.”

But clearly having a college degree is a form of identity that confers massive privileges, which also impact lived experience and perspective. So why do other forms of identity get movements with profound cultural power (Me Too and Black Lives Matter), while the scant attention paid to educational privilege is wrapped in the boring language of economics with phrases like "the returns to education"?

The hard truth is that, even as colleges critique other forms of privilege, they do everything in their power to advertise the massive advantages graduates of their institution enjoy. College equals privilege. It’s part of the brand, a feature, not a bug.

I’m trying to find a kinder word for this than hypocrisy, but if we look at this situation from the perspective of those who do not have college degrees, how would we characterize it? So many people learn in college that privilege is nefarious, and yet they are part of a system whose goal is to confer advantage.

Early learning programs are collapsing under the financial and logistical strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a July survey, 40% of child care providers, and half of providers of color, reported that they were certain they would close permanently without public assistance. Now, about half of providers report having to take on debt and raise their tuition by 11% to 14% to stay open due to pandemic-related expenses. If families who are already struggling financially during the pandemic cannot afford increased tuition, early learning programs will continue to permanently close. Black and Latino families already had inadequate access to high-quality early learning programs before the pandemic, and these new child care challenges will reduce this access even more.

Among the reasons people aren’t enrolling, particularly at community colleges, is that they’re too busy navigating economic uncertainty to make college a priority. But Strada’s data suggest that when workers eventually do set out to learn new skills, they’re most likely to enroll in a nondegree program or seek skills training.

The full spectrum of high- to low-quality instructional techniques implemented in traditional, face-to-face classrooms across the country can be implemented in some form or another (with similar rates of success) virtually. The prerequisites for quality education—whether it be online or face-to-face—are more similar than they are different. If you want to know whether crisis schooling (regardless of whether it's online or face-to-face) can ever compare with non-crisis schooling, then of course not. That speaks more to the pandemic and the state of this country than it provides any true test of the promise or limitations of online learning.

I’ll state at the outset here that “firsts” are always a tricky thing to write about, especially when it comes to an artistic technique as widespread and important as vanishing point perspective. There are other candidates and other artists for this record, but the Florentine fresco Holy Trinity by early Renaissance artist Masaccio is a widely recognised contender for the first ever use of a single vanishing point in a work of art.

A growing body of scientific evidence also shows that the joy delivered by birds isn’t just anecdotal. Research increasingly links exposure to nature—and specifically, exposure to birds—with improved wellbeing.

The number of rural students expected to enroll in college in the near future has plummeted due to COVID-19. A major indicator of this trend is that the number of rural students completing federal application forms for financial aid has dropped by 16 percent compared to last year. This is higher than the 14.2 percent drop amongst urban students.

In some rural states, the drop was even bigger. For example, West Virginia experienced a 26.1 percent decrease, while Louisiana fell by 26.4 percent.

Back in the first heyday of artificial intelligence, there was a lot of optimism about the rate of progress. In a fairly short time, computers could already do complicated math and play chess faster and better than people. AI researchers had already solved many of the problems that were a marker of intelligence in people – the hard stuff – so surely a truly intelligent machine was not far behind?

Well, it turns out that it’s actually really difficult to teach a robot to walk on two legs, or train an algorithm that can simulate a convincing conversation. It’s not impossible, as the last few years of AI have demonstrated, but it’s several orders of magnitude more complicated than something like chess. To put it another way, for a machine hard is easy and easy is hard.

For instance, at a national level, caesarean section rates are over 50 per cent in the Dominican Republic Brazil, Egypt and Turkey, compared to around 30 per cent in Australia and the USA, and less than three per cent in South Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. The World Health Organization has advised that caesarean section rates higher than 15 per cent at a population level may not improve women’s or babies’ health; while caesarean section rates below 10 per cent may be a sign of inadequate access to quality maternity care.

Saturday Links

A line of discussion began in the group after Linda L. posted a screenshot of some caribou crossing the road in Finland - In all these miles of driving and recording by the Street View car, had it ever hit anything? Street View Roadkill? In theory you'd be able to see the entire story: a poor creature running into the road in front of the car and then left on the road out the other side. I had never seen anything, had others?

I had a friend once who claimed it was his special ability to be able to tell exactly when it would start raining. Like he’d look up at the sky and say “in 90 minutes, it will be raining”.  This is not the most useful of talents in the age of meteorology but nevertheless I thought of him as I read this study, appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine, which found that ED visits for respiratory complaints spiked before a thunderstorm.

“Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”

Pearson, the world’s learning company, today released the results of its second Global Learner Survey, an annual study capturing the voice of learners worldwide. The findings show learners believe there is little likelihood of ever returning to the pre-COVID world of fully in-person work and learning, with more than 75% saying the pandemic has fundamentally changed education as we know it. While learners come to terms with this new reality, they also are pushing for schools and government to address inequity and rushing to gather the digital skills that will help them adapt to the new economy.

Theirtube is a YouTube filter bubble simulator that provides a look into how videos are recommended on other people’s YouTube. Users can experience how the YouTube home page would look for six different personas. Each persona simulates the viewing environment of real YouTube users who experienced being inside a recommendation bubble through recreating a YouTube account with a similar viewing history. TheirTube shows how YouTube’s recommendations can drastically shape someone’s experience on the platform and, as a result, shape their worldview.

It seems that, with a representative sample, when you throw grit into a regression along with measures of intelligence, grit just explains very little on its own. Grit just doesn’t contribute much at all to educational outcomes and has limited application in job-market success. In fact intelligence “contributes 48–90 times more than grit to educational success.” 1 More study is needed etc etc and I’ll wait for a good metastudy but still, it really isn’t looking good.

But I have been a teacher for 20 years, despite not yet turning 40, and every day it became clearer and clearer that not all students had the same gifts. Yes, of course, some of this variation is environmental. Of course it’s complicated. Of course I’ll never be able to understand all the science. But the realities of teaching and of having grown up in a school system where some students were so similar in so many ways but had such vastly different outcomes just wore me down every day. And then I discovered the behavioral genetics research and its description of how, for example, adopted siblings growing up in the same house and family would go on to totally different academic outcomes. I did not celebrate. I did give in. Because life’s not fair, and neither is school. And pretending like everyone has an equal shot at succeeding in either is the greatest cruelty I know.

Many ingredients combine to give U.S. soft power its strength and reach, but entertainment and culture have always been central to the mix. Film and television have shaped how the world sees the United States—and how it perceives the country’s adversaries. Yet that unique advantage seems to be slipping away. When it comes to some of the great questions of global power politics today, Hollywood has become remarkably timid. On some issues, it has gone silent altogether.

The most glaring example is the growing wariness of U.S. studios to do anything that might imperil their standing with the Chinese government. China’s box office is as large as the American one, and entertainment is above all a business. So Hollywood sanitizes or censors topics that Beijing doesn’t like. But the phenomenon is not limited to China, nor is it all about revenue. Studios, writers, and producers increasingly fear they will be hacked or harmed if they portray any foreign autocrats in a negative light, be it Russian President Vladimir Putin or North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Today, audiences can take their pick: there is no shortage of jingoistic U.S. films or televisions series, nor of material that challenges pro-American foreign policy orthodoxies. When it comes to how other great powers are portrayed, however, some hot-button topics are now off limits. American films dealing with the history and people of Tibet, a popular theme in the 1990s, have become a rare sight. There has never been a Hollywood feature film about the dramatic—and horrific—massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn initially centered on a Chinese invasion in the United States but was later rewritten to make North Korea the aggressor instead of China. And Variety called the 2014 blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction “a splendidly patriotic film, if you happen to be Chinese.”

Nothing has happened to change the fact that after ten years, riders have always been fundamentally unwilling to pay prices that would cover Uber’s actual costs, that Uber was always less efficient than the traditional taxis it drove out of business, that its only “efficiency improvement” was to push driver compensation to minimum wage levels, and that its growth depended entirely on unsustainable predatory subsidies.

There needs to be discussion about how to best restructure airlines, tourist and entertainment industries because they have contributed to overall economic welfare in the past, and clearly can in the future. Uber has only served to reduce overall economic welfare. Society has nothing to gain from “saving” Uber.

When James Baldwin visited San Francisco in 1963 to film a documentary  about U.S. racism, he encountered neighborhoods in turmoil: the city was seizing properties through eminent domain, razing them, and turning them over to private developers. Part of a massive, federal urban renewal program, nearly 5,000 families—no fewer than 20,000 residents, the majority of them people of color—were being displaced from rental homes, private property, and businesses in the Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin spoke to a Black teenager who had just lost his home and watched as his neighborhood was destroyed. He told Baldwin: “I’ve got no country. I’ve got no flag.” Soon after, Baldwin would say:  “I couldn’t say you do. I don’t have any evidence to prove that he does.”

Friday Links

With a background in indexing, I like to compare the index of a book with the taxonomy-enhanced search capabilities of a website, whereas the table of contents of a book is like the navigation scheme. A table of contents or navigation scheme is a higher-level, pre-defined structure of content, that guides users to the general organization of content and tasks. It helps users understand the scope of the content available, provides guidance on where and what content to find, and aids in exploration. An index or search feature, including faceted search, on the other hand, enables to user to find specific information or content items of interest. A taxonomy, regardless of its display type, serves the function of an index, not the table of contents.

The people we see are, by definition, those who are outdoors and thus who are disproportionately likely to be breaching the lockdown. What Mr Hannan isn’t seeing are the countless thousands of us staying indoors and observing the lockdown.

The social sciences are, as Jon Elster said, fundamentally a collection of mechanisms. But many of these are unseen. It is the role of social science to expose these mechanisms, and to show us that what we see is not all there is. As Marx said: "If there were no difference between essence and appearance, there would be no need for science."

On June 20, 1917, Lucy Burns, co-founder of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and Dora Lewis gathered with other suffragists in front of the White House. They held a banner criticizing President Wilson’s opposition to women’s suffrage: “We, the Women of America, tell you that America is not a democracy…. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement.”

Friday Links

With several universities now coming to grips with the fact that they will still be online in the Summer (and most likely the Fall), several are turning to how to quickly train their entire faculty in online teaching in a hurry.

Out of all the different ways to approach learning theory, I like focus on power dynamics first when it comes to designing a course. So think about the overall power dynamic you want to see happening in your course. This can change from week to week, but in general most courses stick to one for the most part. The question is: who determines what learners will learn in your course, and who directs how it is learned?

This is such a strange and necessary time to talk about education technology, to take a class about education technology, to get a degree in education technology because what, in the past, was so often framed as optional or aspirational is now compulsory — and compulsory under some of the worst possible circumstances

One of the reasons that I am less than sanguine about most education technology is because I don't consider it this autonomous, context-free entity. Ed-tech is not a tool that exists only in the service of improving teaching and learning, although that's very much how it gets talked about. There's much more to think about than the pedagogy too, than whether ed-tech makes that better or worse or about the same just more expensive. Pedagogy doesn't occur in a vacuum. It has an institutional history; pedagogies have politics. Tools have politics. They have histories. They're developed and funded and adopted and rejected for a variety of reasons other than "what works." Even the notion of "what works" should prompt us to ask all sorts of questions about "for whom," "in what way," and "why."

Surveillance is not prevalent simply because that's the technology that's being sold to schools. Rather, in many ways, surveillance reflects the values we have prioritized: control, compulsion, efficiency.

Independent learning is a skill, and like most skills, you need to start slowly and carefully. Suddenly being thrown into ten courses online is not the best way to go. Many will sink, although some will certainly swim. However, experience tells us that graduate, older and lifelong learners all do much better in online learning than undergraduates. Blended learning – a mix of face-to-face and online – though is a very good way to ease gently into online learning. Introducing online or digital learning gradually in first year, supported by face-to-face classes, is a much better strategy.

As the author of a book on opportunity cost, I might be expected to be enthusiastic about the idea that trade-offs are always important in economic and policy choices. This idea is summed up in the acryonymic slogan TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). In fact, however, a crucial section of Economics in Two Lessons is devoted to showing that There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch. It is only when all free lunches have been taken off the table that we reach a position described, in the standard jargon, as Pareto-optimal.

To me, this is an example (and there are many right now) of the extent to which the fairness of the legal system may turn less on the words we use in a law than on the discretion of those who have the power to enforce it.

This evolved into an entire subcultural practice, called Grangerization. Hobbyists used printed books as the basis for a multidimensional media project. They pasted prints, as well as pages of text from other books, into the original volume, making connections between related topics.

In some cases, the resulting work smacked of obsessive fandom. One collector expanded a copy of an 1828 biography of Lord Byron from two volumes to five, rebinding the pages to accommodate 184 illustrations and 14 letters and autographs. Another turned a three-volume 1872 biography of Charles Dickens into nine oversized books packed with broadsides for performances, actor portraits, letters, and images taken from illustrated editions of the author’s books.

Grangerization reached its height of popularity in the first half of the nineteenth century. But not everyone saw it as an innovative, creative hobby. The idea of removing pages from one book to create something new infuriated some critics. One called Grangerization a “monstrous practice” of “hungry and rapacious book-collectors.” Another diagnosed its practitioners with “a vehement passion, a furious perturbation to be closely observed and radically treated wherever it appears, for it is a contagious and delirious mania.”

One advantage of today’s digital media is that we can freely copy material without tearing up precious original work. Of course, today’s Grangerizers have their own ethical questions, like plagiarism, to consider.

"The variation being meant as an evident one, accordingly as presenting in pure intuition the possibilities themselves as possibilities, its correlate is an intuitive and apodictic consciousness of something universal. The eidos itself is a beheld or beholdable universal, one that is pure, 'unconditioned,' that is to say according to its own intuition sense, a universal not conditioned by any fact."

A little-known Democratic senator from Missouri rides the public anger, consequently emerging as a national leader. “Their greed knows no limit,” said Harry Truman in February 1942 in talking about military contractors accused of gouging the government at such a critical time.

The public agreed. A Gallup Poll noted that 69 percent of Americans wanted the government to exert controls on the profits earned by contractors during the war.

Private sector partnership in the face of community need is nothing new, and has long been integral in national response and rebuilding. Take, for example, the case of the Waffle House Index.

Waffle Houses are what they sound like: homey diners that dominate the southern part of the United States, serving up staple favorites like pies and iced tea. With that in mind, the index sounds like a whimsical measurement, but it actually refers to a serious, though informal, measurement of a crisis’s severity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses the restaurant chain to gauge how badly an area is affected. As a former FEMA official told NPR, “If the Waffle House is open, everything’s good.”

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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