Friday Links

I’m worried about losing a feature of virtual learning: our ability to turn off our Zoom cameras, our power to shut down the gaze. In 2020, I was anxious about teaching a special topics course on makerspaces virtually -- a class that is centered on shared tools, hands-on building and in-person collaborations. Fast-forward to 2021, and I am trying to imagine what it would look like to turn video off in a face-to-face classroom.

Having a virtual classroom with the ability to turn off our cameras offered a generative, unusual sweet spot for learning. It’s an environment where students were not only together but also alone. It’s an environment where students were supported but also weren’t being observed by their instructor or peers -- one where we could take a collective exhale from the performative demands of the classroom with a simple click of the “stop video” button.

Since the pandemic began, about 1 in 434 rural Americans have died of covid, compared with roughly 1 in 513 urban Americans, the institute’s data shows. And though vaccines have reduced overall covid death rates since the winter peak, rural mortality rates are now more than double urban rates — and accelerating quickly.

But the truth is that Venus Cloacina was probably not the patroness of privies that Swift and his contemporaries imagined. In fact, the famous Roman sewers she patronized were probably not really sewers, at least not in the sense in which we use the term today. The Cloaca Maxima was more of a massive storm drain, used to direct rainwater out of the streets and into the Tiber, and most Roman toilets were probably cesspits, unconnected from the sewer.

In fact, the famous Roman sewers she patronized were probably not really sewers, at least not in the sense in which we use the term today. The Cloaca Maxima was more of a massive storm drain, used to direct rainwater out of the streets and into the Tiber, and most Roman toilets were probably cesspits, unconnected from the sewer.

By withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the administration of President Joe Biden sought to create a sense that the United States’ string of exhausting and counterproductive interventions in the Middle East and South Asia was coming to an end. But the truth is more sobering. For all its commitments to end “forever wars,” the administration has given no sign that it is preparing to pivot away from the use of military force to manage perceived terrorist threats. Its ongoing counterterrorism policy review appears to be focused more on refining the bureaucratic architecture around drone strikes and other forms of what the military refers to as “direct action” than on a hard look at the costs and benefits of continuing to place military force at the center of U.S. counterterrorism policy.

The problem, according to his provocative argument, is not the war’s brutality but its relative humanity. Moyn does not at all advocate a return to brutal methods or so-called total war, but he does suggest that in vilifying torture, reducing casualty counts, and otherwise focusing on how the United States conducts hostilities, lawyers and advocates have stunted public criticism and diverted energy from the peace movements that might otherwise bring it to an end.

Moyn sees precisely this dynamic at work in the war on terror, especially the years that immediately followed the 9/11 attacks. Humane’s account of this period is in many ways the emotional core of the book. There is some irony in this line of argument, in that Bush’s response to the attacks is remembered more for its brutality than for respecting humanitarian protections: the era’s totemic images remain those of shackled detainees in orange jumpsuits at the makeshift U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and of prisoners suffering vicious torture at the hands of U.S. service members at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Nevertheless, Moyn argues, the administration’s abuses need to be viewed alongside the reaction they provoked. Scholars, lawyers, and advocates rallied in protest. They flooded the courts with filings, took their cases to international bodies, and worked passionately to close legal loopholes to make sure such things never happened again.

In so doing, Moyn intimates, they may have missed the forest for the trees. Yes, they secured a combination of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, executive orders, and new statutes that reined in torture. But they did little or nothing to address the underlying conflicts in which the torture took place. Why didn’t the same lawyers who shook with fury in the face of custodial abuse harness the same energy to oppose the wars that created a pretext for it?

Herein lies my problem. If we take only the economic perspective we are guilty of capitalist realism, of failing to imagine an alternative to inequalities. But if we take only the latter perspective, we are guilty of at best wishful thinking and at worst recklessly endangering the livelihoods of the worst off.

In the same way that electricity went from a luxury enjoyed by the American élite to something just about everyone had, so, too, has fame, or at least being known by strangers, gone from a novelty to a core human experience. The Western intellectual tradition spent millennia maintaining a conceptual boundary between public and private — embedding it in law and politics, norms and etiquette, theorizing and reinscribing it.

Even with identical credentials, first-generation graduates have more trouble getting jobs than their better-coached and -connected classmates, according to new research by scholars at Michigan State University and the universities of Iowa and Minnesota.

Throughout his adventures, William Dampier jotted down meticulous observations of the natural world while his shipmates pillaged, plundered, and raided just a few miles away. Caribbean scholar John Ramsaran quotes one scholar, who imagines Dampier “writing up his journal, describing a bunch of flowers, or a rare fish, in the intervals between looting a wine-shop or sacking a village.”

In the pages of his notebook, Dampier expressed a great curiosity about the world—and a great keenness for eating basically any animal he came across. This included shark (which his men ate “very savorily”), wallaby (a “very good Meat,” similar to raccoon), flamingo, and many, many sea turtles.

Overall, about 63 percent of virtual for-profit schools were rated unacceptable by their states in the latest year for which data was available, according to a May report by the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

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The exact format of these sessions is not revealed, but it does sound like 368 people had to sit down at a desk on their own and have a list of rude words read out to them over the course of five days by someone with a clipboard. While a case could certainly be made for the importance of conducting such research, pity the poor statistician questioning their life choices as they ask their fourth person of the day "What about 'knob'? What do you think about 'knob'?"*

The "Non-English words" section contains a handy translation table for those who do not speak the relevant languages. Some of these are very offensive indeed and should probably not be wielded by anyone who lacks the suitable linguistic and cultural context, or possibly anyone at all. But the "mild" South Asian pan-linguistic term Uloo Ka Patha – which literally translates as "son of an owl" and reportedly means "idiot", "imbecile" or "moron" – definitely deserves wider use.

Cricket was at the forefront of the sporting boycott of apartheid, albeit accidentally so. The MCC initially did not select the South African born “cape coloured” player Basil d’Oliviera for the 1969 tour of South Africa, probably for political reasons. The consequent pressure on them, and the ‘injury’ to selected player Tom Cartwright (who, it is rumoured, withdrew in order to increase the pressure to select d’Oliviera), resulted, eventually, in the cancellation of the tour which, in turn, resulted in the widespread boycott. I supported the boycott almost without reservations and certainly without regret.

As things stand it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Afghanistan will face a cricketing boycott which, I suspect, is the only sporting boycott that matters in this case. In the past decade or so cricket as conquered Afghanistan, and Afghanistan, frankly, has conquered cricket, rising from an unknown participant in the third or fourth rank of cricketing nations, to becoming one of only 11 Test playing countries, with some of the best and most sought-after short from players in the world; no other sport comes close to it.

I am far more regretful about this one than about the South African boycott. Here are some thoughts.

About 5,600 people gave birth outside a hospital in California in 2020, up from about 4,600 in 2019 and 3,500 in 2010. The shift took place during a widespread “baby bust,” so the proportion of births outside hospitals rose from 0.68% in 2010 to 1.34% in 2020, according to a KHN analysis of provisional data from the California Department of Public Health. The proportion of births outside hospitals stayed relatively high — 1.28% — from January through July 2021.

Tuskegee was no secret; many researchers just didn’t see the problem with it. Holding up universities as “the guardians of voluntary participation” since 1947 is an absurd fantasy. Rules have been developed around medical research exactly because of egregious harms, particularly against vulnerable minority populations. We have to keep talking about informed consent because of the looming specter of research misconduct in this arena.

What’s more, the fact is that mandatory vaccination policies are not medical experiments at all, so seeing this through the lens of IRB and Nuremberg is wrongheaded; such policies are not the sort of human-subjects research governed by the infrastructure Walsh discusses. Our home university, Virginia Tech, requires students, faculty and staff to submit their vaccine documentation or file for a medical or religious exemption (for which weekly testing is then required). The FDA has now approved the Pfizer vaccine in full, so students should have no reason to refuse vaccination based on how "new" or "untested" it is.

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“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%.”

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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." 

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To complicate matters further, about half of the roughly forty-five known examples were discovered before the emergence of rigorous archaeological standards for documenting objects’ findspots and contexts. This means that we simply have no idea where—or even when—some of the most famous slave collars were originally found, such as the so-called Zoninus collar now in the collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano.

On the other hand, the specimens that were excavated more recently show a range of archaeological contexts so wide that it is almost impossible to make generalizations: some have been found still attached around a skeleton’s neck, indicating that “for some slaves at least, a metal neck collar was permanent,” while others have been found in trash heaps and gutters, perhaps discarded by successful fugitives.j

For all that, it is hard not to think that he would have been a more appealing character, at least aesthetically speaking, if he had lived 200 years earlier. In the 19th century McAfee might have composed "The Revolt of Islam" or a biography of William Tell in between keeping a pet bear in his Oxford rooms or fighting for Greek independence. Instead he both consumed and sold an enormous amount of drugs, wrote computer software, and ran unsuccessfully for the presidential nomination of a minor political party....

That evening's debate was memorable not least of all for McAfee's candor. In response to a question about what works of political philosophy had inspired the candidates, he flatly declared: "I come to you untutored in the great thinkers of libertarianism. The first book I ever read cover to cover was Darwin's Origin of Species at the age of 30. I read that book because I was dealing drugs in Mexico at the time and it was the only English-language book I could find."

In a case of l’esprit de l’escalier, I just worked out the perfect parenthetical addition to this piece that was published in Inside Story, responding to a string of pro-natalist pieces in the New York Times and elsewhere. The central point is that the economic model in which strong young workers support elderly retirees is outdated and will only become more so.

The model underlying the desire for a population pyramid is one in which physical work predominates. Young and strong, needing only on-the-job training, workers leave school at 14 and immediately start contributing to the economy. By 65, they are worn out and ready for retirement. In this model, the more young people, the better.

One of the most entertaining of these rumors was what historian John McMillan has called “the Great Banana Hoax of 1967.” In the spring of that year, publishers of underground papers printed a recipe for smoking banana peels. It involved freezing the peels, blending them into a pulp, baking the residue at 200 degrees, and then smoking it in a cigarette or pipe (The Berkeley Barb, March 17, 1967). This supposedly produced an experience similar to that of smoking marijuana.

It involved freezing the peels, blending them into a pulp, baking the residue at 200 degrees, and then smoking it in a cigarette or pipe (The Berkeley Barb, March 17, 1967). This supposedly produced an experience similar to that of smoking marijuana.

As fun, if not necessarily effective, as banana smoking might have been, it was not without risks. According to The Rag, two people were taken into custody for possession of what turned out to be a banana peel: according to the Los Angeles Free Press, Donald Arthur Snell of Santa Fe Springs, California, was charged with driving while under the influence of drugs—the drug being banana peel (Berkeley Barb, May 26, 1967).

But small gatherings like Doug’s party are a potential important source of transmission, though this has been really hard to measure. At least, unless you get clever, which is what a team led by Anupam Jena did in this article, appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine.

With coronavirus infections falling in the U.S., many people are eager to put the pandemic behind them. But it has inflicted wounds that won’t easily heal. In addition to killing 600,000 in the United States and afflicting an estimated 3.4 million or more with persistent symptoms, the pandemic threatens the health of vulnerable people devastated by the loss of jobs, homes and opportunities for the future. It will, almost certainly, cast a long shadow on American health, leading millions of people to live sicker and die younger due to increasing rates of poverty, hunger and housing insecurity.

It will, almost certainly, cast a long shadow on American health, leading millions of people to live sicker and die younger due to increasing rates of poverty, hunger and housing insecurity.

In particular, it will exacerbate the discrepancies already seen in the country between the wealth and health of Black and Hispanic Americans and those of white Americans. Indeed, new research published Wednesday in the BMJ shows just how wide that gap has grown. Life expectancy across the country plummeted by nearly two years from 2018 to 2020, the largest decline since 1943, when American troops were dying in World War II, according to the study. But while white Americans lost 1.36 years, Black Americans lost 3.25 years and Hispanic Americans lost 3.88 years. Given that life expectancy typically varies only by a month or two from year to year, losses of this magnitude are “pretty catastrophic,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and lead author of the study.

Western powers have reacted with alarm to the ICC’s recent attempts to open investigations outside Africa, heaping pressure on the court and leveling sanctions against it. In so doing, they have revealed the tacit understanding that international criminal law applies to some more than others.

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But many students detest survey classes in general, and introductory U.S. history courses in particular.  They consider these sweeping introductions a colossal waste of time and money, a diversion from their real interests, and little more than a box checking exercise taken only to fulfill a requirement.  Typically large and impersonal, and, in the case of history, repetitive of classes that students took in high school, these are courses to ”get out of the way.”

But the value of an introductory class lies, I think, in instilling a particular way of thinking.  In history, that means recognizing:That everything – every concept, activity, institution, and social role -- has a history.

That “we can’t escape history”  -- that our lives are caught up in long-term historical processes and that many of society’s most pressing problems are rooted in the past decisions and actions.

That judging the past fairly is hard, since it requires us to recognize that the past is another country, with its own culture, circumstances, and moral frameworks.

That “nothing is inevitable until it happens,” that history is contingent and key events are the consequence of chance, personality, mindsets, individual and collective choices, and circumstances.

That “History is problem solving”; understanding the confluence of factors and conjuncture of forces that contribute to historical change, whether this involves the role of racism or fear of the Soviet Union play in the decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan or the influence of geography on the outcome of the Civil War.

The disappointing April jobs report released last week inspired many commentators to echo this analysis: The post-pandemic recovery is slowing down because government benefits are too generous.The business class is right to be scared. But it's not because the recovery is slowing.

The coming months are set to turn into a time of reckoning for bad employers. The unique dynamic of the pandemic recovery could prove quickly unsurvivable for companies that are inefficient, as well as those that offer low pay, toxic work environments, or abusive bosses.

Most people are inherently reluctant to change things, even when it could be to their benefit. We see this dynamic everywhere. People rarely switch jobs, even though job switchers often end up making more money as a result. Studies have found millions don't refinance their mortgage, even though it would save them significant money with no downside. Similarly, people rarely switch health insurance even if it would be to their financial benefit. People often go with whatever treatment center their doctor refers them to, even if shopping around could save them hundreds.

The pandemic though has forced people to rethink their plans. Pew Research found two thirds of unemployed people are seriously considering changing the field they work in.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of art are all the rage right at the moment. For the right price (sometimes millions of dollars!) you can acquire a record of ownership of a digital asset like an image or video. Your ownership is recorded in a blockchain. You’re not even buying the copyright to this image, you’re just buying the concept of owning it. Does that explanation make sense to you? Because it barely makes sense to me.

Right now there’s a statement you can sign on the mathematical community’s ties with the NSA — the US National Security Agency, one of the world’s largest employers of mathematicians.

Most discussions of fatigue at the turn of the twentieth century begin with neurasthenia (from a Greek term meaning nervous exhaustion), the diagnosis popularized by neurologist George M. Beard in 1869. Like other physicians at the time, Beard viewed the body as a machine powered by energy produced by the nerves. The depletion of that energy resulted in the condition he called neurasthenia.

Josephine Clara Goldmark’s landmark book Fatigue and Efficiency appeared in 1912. Chair of the Committee on the Legal Defense of Labor Laws of the National Consumers League, Goldmark had begun her study of fatigue several years earlier at the request of her brother-in-law Louis Brandeis (later the first Jewish justice on the U.S. Supreme Court), who was preparing his brief for Muller v. Oregon, the Supreme Court case that established the constitutionality of limiting women’s working hours. Although Goldmark noted that many factors contributed to industrial fatigue, including noise, speed, and monotony, she placed the greatest emphasis on the length of the working day.

The book also reflected contemporary beliefs about women’s bodies. Women “are less resistant to fatigue than men,” Goldmark wrote, “and their organisms suffer more gravely than men’s from the strains and stresses of industrial fatigue.”

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“Together, these findings illustrate that the most common approach to diversity in higher education ironically reflects the preferences, and privileges the outcomes, of White Americans,” the study notes.

What must one believe in to be willing to borrow tens of thousands of dollars in order to pursue a certification of completion — a B.A.? What would a college have to promise in order to compel someone to do that? What would a bank have to believe to extend this person credit? Or the U.S. government, to guarantee such loans en masse — now roughly $2 trillion? And what would a society have to believe to sustain the system that keeps it all going?

"On 'snow days' or days when school buildings are closed due to an emergency, all students and families should plan on participating in remote learning," the NYC Department of Education said.

Two 19th century Belgian bibliographers heard about the Dewey Decimal System and asked to translate it into French. But rather than slavishly follow Dewey, they added some significant twists. Their system, first published in 1905 and still used today, is known as the Universal Decimal Classification.

The truth is the question of whether student debt should be canceled is largely irrelevant. Most student debt will be canceled sooner or later, because an ever-growing share of borrowers cannot possibly repay their loans. Ever. The only question that matters is whether President Biden and Democrats in Congress can grapple with reality and fix America's colossally stupid system of funding higher education.

Effectively, the IDR program (whose enrollment has grown steadily to about a fifth of borrowers) is a tacit admission that most student loans are never going to be paid off in full. Those who have not enrolled have seen far higher rates of default; on current trends most borrowers will be in IDR eventually, which is rapidly becoming a kind of ad hoc bankruptcy program for student borrowers. In a sense, the U.S. is starting to fund its higher education system with a payroll tax on people who go to college but are too poor to pay for it out of pocket — except we then force them to sit under an enormous load of basically imaginary debt for decades while doing it. This damages their credit, making it harder to get a job, a house, a car, and so on.

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Yet, in district after district, Black families are largely choosing to continue learning from home, despite efforts to reopen their schools. Rather than using equity as a buzzword to gain moral high ground in the reopening debate, we believe that advocates and school officials should listen to and engage with Black families and trust their decision-making.

So how can I make such a brash counter-claim that tests, quizzes, and exams are not essential? McFarland mentions how proctoring is not optional if “the goal of an exam or test or assignment is to measure learning or skill mastery.”

This is where the big reveal comes: quizzes, tests, exams, assignments – none of those can measure learning or skill mastery. Not directly at least.

All forms of tests and assignments are designed to serve as this evidence in the form of a proxy for direct observation. The idea is that if you really learned something, you can take that knowledge and answer questions about it, or describe it, or do a project with it, or something along those lines. There are a wide range of assignment options that work well as a proxy, but exams and tests are usually questionable at best. This is especially true when they rely on one of the most popular forms: the multiple choice question.

The research is usually aimed at seeing how many students cheated, not finding out the likelihood that they will cheat on your specific test this Friday.

The reason for this is because those numbers probably wouldn’t be as scary as “5000% of students cheat!” This is important because the real concerns most critics have with proctoring technology are about the problems with racism, ableism, and privacy violations that students have reported. If you think that most of the students in your course would probably cheat, you kind of shrug at the possible problems and say “well, I have to do something.” But if someone were to say that there was a less-than-5% chance any given student would cheat on your specific exam, then suddenly, the problems you subject students to do not seem worth it.

But it is also not surprising that a younger generation of left intellectuals has turned against higher education, given that it has turned against them. Following years of austerity budgets and the systematic deprofessionalization of academic labor, millennials and their generational successors have found it harder and harder to get faculty positions. As for students, a college degree of some sort has become a near-universal standard for younger cohorts entering an increasingly credentialized labor market. For them, the university has meant neither an enriching intellectual experience that sets them on a path of humanistic, lifelong inquiry nor a path to middle-class economic stability, but rather escalating tuition for degrees of questionable value that sets them on a path of crushing, lifelong debt. Once popular on the right, the Bennett hypothesis is likely to find more and more of its adherents on the left.

But brains need not and should not be confined to our bodies. They can, and should, and sometimes do, reside elsewhere.

One place is in our habits. I invest into tracker funds by direct debit each month. Most of my investment is done without thinking. 

Strictly speaking, this isn’t optimal: stock markets aren’t fully efficient and tracker funds can be beaten by momentum and defensive stocks (pdf) (but, I suspect, not by any other strategy). Implementing such strategies, however, would require me to think. And if I did that I’d fall prey to the gazillion cognitive biases that I warn IC readers against.

But there is another more cynical case for universal voting. Democracy, which has come to be based on an ever-greater franchise, provides legitimacy to government and an orderly mechanism for resolving political conflict. Undermine those things, and violence and instability could spill out of control.

Sesame Street introduced Roosevelt Franklin in February 1970. He was created and originally voiced by Sesame Street actor Matt Robinson, who felt the show lacked content that would draw in Black kids. He told Ebony magazine in a 1970 interview that kids needed “more realism in black-oriented problems,” a concern echoed by others....

The Muppet was a hot topic behind the scenes. Other Black Sesame Street staffers felt he was too stereotypical, with one of the show’s advisers noting, “I like the idea of black muppets, [but not] this one-dimensional use of black muppets.” Robinson pushed back, advocating for the use of Black English as a way to meet kids where they were. Still, a 1973 article in Black World Magazine called the attempt “a gross misrepresentation of Black Language.” Later, a 1975 Freedomways article called out Roosevelt and his segments as “a chaos of ‘darky’ accents and racist stereotypes.”

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For a few decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors from across ideologies and genres published stories that today would be called “cli-fi,” or climate fiction. French author Jules Verne, best known for popular adventure stories like Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, penned a novel in 1889 called Sans Dessus Dessous about capitalists intentionally heating the Arctic to extract coal reserves. Mark Twain included a subplot of selling warm climates in his 1892 novel The American Claimant. Recently, literary scholar Steve Asselin reexamined these and dozens of other early cli-fi stories, finding several disquieting themes relevant to how we think about modern-day climate change.

Judged by the standard of Arrow’s ideal of complete state-contingent markets, we’ve seen astoundingly little useful financial innovation during my long lifetime.

Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends – are famously nonviolent. One wartime tactic bears their name, not because they created it but because it bears the same hallmarks of nonviolence: the quaker guns.

This is how it typically worked: find a log that was roughly the shape and size of an artillery gun barrel, paint it black, and maybe carve the end a bit so it looks like a muzzle. Prop it up, point it at your enemy, and trust them to come to the wrong conclusion.

Despite the theory’s intuitive appeal, standards-based reform does not work very well in reality. One key reason is that coordinating key aspects of education at the top of the system hamstrings discretion at the bottom. The illusion of a coherent, well-coordinated system is gained at the expense of teachers’ flexibility in tailoring instruction to serve their students. Classrooms are teeming with variation.

The media narratives Americans consume may shape their opinions about whether the events of January 6 constitute terrorism, to a startling degree.

It is estimated that only 10% of academic titles are available for university libraries to purchase as digital copies for their students, and the books which are available, are frequently placed under restrictive licensing, made available only in bundles, and sold to libraries at incredibly high costs for single user or one-year access. As a result, academic librarians have been left with no choice but to tell staff and students that it is not possible to acquire key texts, and lecturers have had to re-design their reading lists around what is available.

I think what he's saying is digital art is the Platonic ideal of a Veblen good.

But “ownership” of crypto art confers no actual rights, other than being able to say that you own the work. You don’t own the copyright, you don’t get a physical print, and anyone can look at the image on the web. There is merely a record in a public database saying that you own the work – really, it says you own the work at a specific URL.

“We the people” have gotten a bad reputation in the annals of democratic theory. Thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Alexis de Tocqueville have identified an excess of democracy as the greatest threat to U.S. democracy. As recently as 2019, the Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt fretted about “an overreliance on the ‘will of the people’”—a Hamilton phrase—in their bestseller, How Democracies Die.

“It’s quite simple, really: Daylight Saving Time is a hoax perpetrated by the liberal elite as a form of mind control and time manipulation in order to make us all complacent and ready to be sold into the sex trade,” Perkins explained. “It didn’t exist until 1992, when it was instituted by perverted infidel Bill Clinton so that he and his satanic cabal could have a masked satanic ceremony on the White House lawn — they use TV commercials with subliminal messaging to lull the populace into a deep sleep for 60 minutes while they douse each other in pig’s blood and engage in extramarital sex. Like I said, pretty obvious.”

(End note: the only honest way I’ve heard to increase your winnings in the lottery is this: pick numbers higher than 31. This won’t increase your chances of winning, but it may just increase the amount you win if you do. Many people use their birthdays when choosing numbers, so when the numbers 1 to 31 come up there may be more winners. More winners means a smaller share of the prize to each one. If you win with numbers above 31, you may just be sharing the prize with fewer people – and so winning more money. I have no idea if this technique actually works in practice because I don’t buy lottery tickets, but it’s a neat idea, and you probably won’t go to jail for trying it.)

This afternoon, I was updating the streaming apps on my 2020 LG CX OLED TV, something I do from time to time, but today was different. Out of nowhere, I saw (and heard) an ad for Ace Hardware start playing in the lower-left corner. It autoplayed with sound without any action on my part.

“It is difficult to envision an investment in K-12 education with a higher ceiling on its potential return than improving school leadership,” the report’s authors say.

Friday Links

There are 365 days in a year, 366 in a leap year. But if you put 70 people into a room it’s almost certain that two of them will have the same birthday. In fact, if you put just 23 people into a room there’s at least a 50% chance that two of them will have the same birthday.

This is known as the birthday problem, or the birthday paradox. (It’s not an actual paradox, just a surprising and counterintuitive result, like the kidney stone paradox or the false positive paradox.) The math behind it is a little opaque, but one intuitive way of explaining it is that the number of potential combinations of people in these groups is large – 70 people equals 2415 different pairings – and any one of those pairings could be a matching birthday.

In fact, other studies have confirmed that people who are suspicious of climate change often remain stubbornly unmoved by firsthand experience with extreme weather. That may be for two overlapping reasons. First, there’s the myth that any kind of cold weather is incompatible with the overwhelming scientific consensus that current global warming is real and caused by people. The frigid snowstorms gripped Texas and the eastern U.S. about six years to the day after a U.S. senator brought a snowball onto the Senate floor as proof against the reality of global climate change. (Each year since then, the U.S. has suffered at least ten billion-dollar or more climate catastrophes, with a record-setting twenty-two such events in 2020.)

One of the really rampant myths that I deal with on a regular basis is about life expectancy in the medieval period. What gets trotted out, over and over, is the idea that “the average life expectancy in the medieval period was 35, so when you were 32 you were considered an old”. Friends, this is extremely not true, and this myth is also damaging to us now....

To write anyone’s life off as excess or frivolous is, quite frankly, monstrous. Medieval people would not have accepted the death of everyone over a certain age as inevitable or excusable. To say that we should now because of their average life expectancy make no sense, and is nothing short of thinly veiled eugenics. If you feel like relating to life and pandemics this way, then I am afraid you are actually treating people more brutally than they were treated half a millennium ago. Reflect on that and do better.

In 1968, a small group of Black Chicago officers—all relatively new to the department—founded the Afro-American Patrolman’s League. Unlike Black police organizations in other cities, the AAPL wasn’t primarily concerned with the officers’ own working conditions. They saw their mission as fighting racist policing from inside the department....

Not surprisingly, the police department did not take AAPL’s actions well. Its leaders were falsely accused of crimes, suspended, and given humiliating assignments. Fellow cops targeted the family of one league leader, Renault Robinson. They called the elementary school where his six- and seven-year-old boys were enrolled, threatening to murder them. The FBI also surveilled the AAPL, building a dossier of more than 500 pages by the end of 1968.

It was in this climate that Child struggled to get back into mainstream publishing. Her next major work was a collection of her columns from the National Anti-Slavery Standard, written between 1841 and 1843. The original abolitionist columns, however, were “too radical for the uncommitted public.”...

As Karcher notes, government censorship, while not unknown, has been fairly rare in America. But there has long been what she calls “censorship American style.” This is a varying mix of market forces—what the public will buy, or what gatekeepers think the public will buy—and conformist opinion about legitimate topics for discussion. Ostracized by “respectable” opinion and threatened by violent anti-abolitionists, Lydia Maria Child felt she had to censor herself to get her message out to a wider audience.

For several decades in the middle of the 20th century, nuts and its facetious cousin nerts were deemed so inappropriate that they were forbidden—along with, but not limited to, whore, SOB, damn, hell,  fanny, and slut—in the scripts of Hollywood movies.

“In popular mythology, the American West stands as a kind of ultimate free labor landscape,” continues Smith, but the reality of indentured servitude, contract labor, and debt peonage, as well as the persistence of chattel slavery, “fits uneasily within familiar narratives of western history.”

If I were asked to give a succinct description of my work (for that, believe it or not, is what writing four or five days a week is) I would say that I am an entertainer and that journalism is simply a form of mass entertainment, like Hollywood or Major League Baseball, albeit one with somewhat lower average earnings potential....

To repeat a suggestion I made on Twitter, I contend that text-based websites should not exceed in size the major works of Russian literature.

This is a generous yardstick. I could have picked French literature, full of slim little books, but I intentionally went with Russian novels and their reputation for ponderousness.

“Today’s interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet. It shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”, Secretary-General António Guterres said on the report’s findings. 

My home computer in 1998 had a 56K modem connected to our telephone line; we were allowed a maximum of thirty minutes of computer usage a day, because my parents — quite reasonably — did not want to have their telephone shut off for an evening at a time. I remember webpages loading slowly: ten to twenty seconds for a basic news article....

So, with an internet connection faster than I could have thought possible in the late 1990s, what’s the score now? A story at the Hill took over nine seconds to load; at Politico, seventeen seconds; at CNN, over thirty seconds. This is the bullshit web....

An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.

Friday Links

Public incompetence is a moral issue, and it is a moral issue precisely in the way we see them now, defined as being instances of structural prejudice or privilege. The bias is towards those people who can get their problem solved though personal connections, through bribery, or by going private and opting out of the system entirely.

If you are rich in connections you can use them to avoid the consequences of government incompetence, at least up to a point. But this is only the beginning. There is a dynamic analysis as well as a static one. The value of this privilege increases with the haplessness of the institutions, so you have an incentive to choose less effective institutions over more effective ones, and in the extreme case, to actively sabotage the institutions. Similarly, improvement in the basic functioning of the state amounts to a confiscation of this privilege and its redistribution to the wider society. There is a reason why more egalitarian societies have good institutions and vice versa.

Educators might play a central role in in-school transmission networks. Preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections through multifaceted school mitigation measures and COVID-19 vaccination of educators is a critical component of preventing in-school transmission.

It’s surprising that Sweden was so unequal a century ago because in recent decades it’s been the standard bearer for a relatively egalitarian social democracy.  Piketty’s point is that Sweden’s equality is not some “essential cultural predisposition”, it’s a function of political choices and the economic regime.

Extreme insulation is a remarkably effective way to make things hot, as long as there’s at least a little heat coming from the inside.  That’s why big compost piles are hot inside; decomposition releases a tiny amount of heat, but when it’s well-insulated by a foot or two of material, that heat (mostly) stays where it is and adds up.  For a greenhouse, heat deposited by the visible light is basically being created inside and with enough glass it can be kept inside (or at least, it will escape as slowly as we’d like).

Friday Links

“Yeah, they may be effective 95 percent of the time, but what about the experience of being inoculated against the century’s first pandemic?” he continued. “We’re people, not zombie consumers. Each dose should be personalized and special.”

But as John Warner points out in his new polemic Sustainable. Resilient. Free. The Future of Public Higher Education, no-cost public college is neither utopian nor new. Rather, narratives that say college should be expensive, that you should take out debt to pay for it if you don’t have family funding, that it is a private investment in your future, are the historically recent developments.

Harvard researchers estimate it would take about $79 billion per year to make all public colleges and universities free; by contrast, our present debt-leveraged, tuition-dependent Rube Goldberg machine that “subsidizes college attendance” costs the federal government $91 billion every year.

The study team analyzed the effect of education and birth year on differences in memory and verbal fluency among nearly 16,000 participants born between 1930 and 1955. Women had better memory scores overall, which became more significant in the groups born more recently. But in the older birth cohort, women had poorer fluency scores than men. That difference progressively reversed in the groups born later, reported Mikaela Bloomberg, a Ph.D. candidate from University College London. 

The religious basis of the act was explicit: the act stated its intention was to thwart “ye old deluder, Satan” in his goal “to keepe men from the knowledge of ye Scriptures.” To this end, the law required every town with 50 or more families to hire and maintain a teacher to instruct all children in reading and writing.

The first paper, which garnered widespread media coverage, found little evidence that COVID had spread in 17 schools in rural Wisconsin that opened buildings with strict safety procedures.

The other study, which has drawn less attention, found that across Wisconsin as a whole, 5,700 COVID cases were linked to outbreaks in K-12 schools and childcare facilities last fall.

Epidemiologist Theresa Chapple worries that studies that rely on contact tracing all have the same flaw — the lack of systematic “surveillance” testing that would provide a complete picture of virus cases in a school.

In the mid-nineteenth century, cities often had the power to lock kids up in reform schools, against their own and their parents’ objections, without convicting them of any crime. This fell under the general legal precept that “the welfare of the people is the supreme law.”

Secondary market trading is societally unproductive (more on that shortly) and should be discouraged by increasing transaction costs (this is one of the big reasons to push for a financial transactions tax, not for revenue purposes, although that’s a nice side bennie, but to shrink the financial casinos).

Friday Links

In New York, Texas, and a slice of the rest of the country where data is available, teachers and other staff where school buildings are open have higher COVID infection rates than their surrounding communities.

Critically, the data does not show whether teachers caught the virus in schools, or offer definitive answers about the risks of school reopening. It’s possible the results reflect more widespread testing among teachers, and the evidence that remote teachers have lower infection rates is mixed. But the latest data complicates our understanding of the risks of school reopening.

A couple of years ago I gave a statistics course for the Swedish National Research School in History, and at the exam I asked the students to explain how one should correctly interpret p-values. Although the correct definition is p(data|null hypothesis), a majority of the students either misinterpreted the p-value as being the likelihood of a sampling error (which of course is wrong, since the very computation of the p-value is based on the assumption that sampling errors are what causes the sample statistics not coinciding with the null hypothesis) or that the p-value is the probability of the null hypothesis being true, given the data (which of course also is wrong, since it is p(null hypothesis|data) rather than the correct p(data|null hypothesis)).

This is not to blame on students’ ignorance, but rather on significance testing not being particularly transparent (conditional probability inference is difficult even to those of us who teach and practice it).

For a typical citizen, political knowledge is just as often a liability as a source of power. Ignorance protects us from painful truths, insulates us from responsibility for our actions, and sustains the relationships that we depend upon for meaning and belonging. To understand and address societal ignorance, we must come to terms with such benefits.

The link between the Great War and the influenza pandemic was more than a mere coincidence of timing. Massive movements of troops around the world — unprecedented at the time, but foreshadowing our own world of extensive tourist and business travel — were a major factor in spreading the 1918–19 pandemic. And, as with current pandemics, the close proximity of humans and food-producing animals played a major role. But recent research has also pointed to more direct links to the war, including the role of poison gas and the local climate change created by the conflict.

The gases used in the Great War included chlorine, phosgene and (perhaps the most horrible of all) mustard gas, which not only caused disabling blistering but is also highly carcinogenic and mutagenic. The outbreak of flu, particularly deadly to the young men among whom it spread, probably arose from the mutagenic effects of one or more of these gases, combined with repeated transmission from humans to animals and vice versa.

Even more striking is the possibility that soil particles, explosives and other chemicals generated by the continuous bombardment on the Western Front played a role in generating a six-year European climate anomaly characterised by unusually cold and rainy weather — weather that contributed both to the infamous mud of the trenches and to the severity of the pandemic. As well as the obvious effects of cold weather, which weakened immunity and encouraged crowding indoors, the climate anomaly disrupted the migratory patterns of mallard ducks and other birds that were important vectors for the disease.

“Making progress in this effort will help us reach our full economic potential as a nation,” Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said at a conference Tuesday addressing the topic of race and the economy.

A December study by consultant McKinsey & Co. found that students of color in U.S. schools had fallen behind in math by three to five months because of the pandemic; White students trailed by only one to three months.

It’s rare for economists to highlight how little is known about which policies and institutions fuel economic growth and prosperity. But in their latest book, Good Economics for Hard Times, Nobel Prize-winning economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit V. Banerjee do exactly that. And it’s this quality of humility and courage, espoused throughout their writing, that inspires confidence and curiosity in what they hae to say about other, potentially more important, issues.

The chapter on trade more or less debunks a foundational economic model — Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage, which describes how countries are better off under free trade.

Our crowds are “the people” in action; their crowds are oppressed automatons.

Friday Links

See, the fact that ghosts are showing up in the hagiography of a medieval saint at all is actually a really interesting phenomenon, what with all the Christianity in Europe at the time. From a Christian perspective in the late antique period, no one was supposed to believe in stuff like ghosts. According to theologians such as St Augustine, “The dead by their nature are not able to involve themselves in the affairs of the living”.

After being tipped off that students had cheated, he looked at their activity in the learning-management system and was able to see that close to 20 percent of them had opened course materials during the closed-book test. And that, he realized, didn’t account for anyone who broke the rules some other way.

My project is to build a stand-alone printer that prints random poems from a dataset of out-of-copyright texts. A little portable Bot-ish (sic!) Library to showcase the British Library collections and fill the world with more poetry.

Apollo 12 was the second manned mission to the Moon, and it holds a rare distinction in the annals of space exploration. It was the first (and, so far, only) time that people have gone to the Moon and picked up something left behind by someone else.

In the US, as elsewhere, universities are increasingly reliant on income from tuition and housing as a source of revenue, especially in the case where institutions are unable to raise tuition even as federal and state funding continues to plummet.

“For as long as humans have travelled for leisure, they have travelled to watch death, to view cadavers and relics,” writes geographer Tony Johnston. “Roman Gladiatorial games attracted crowds from around the Empire; medieval European pilgrimages to Christian relics of death sites were common; nineteenth-century tourists and locals visited Parisian morgues which could see 40,000 visitors per day.”

“Considering the diversity of sites, consumption of death by tourists is essentially a continuum, with educational, authentic and history-centric at one end, and synthetic, entertainment-focused and inauthentic at the other,” Johnston writes. The London Dungeon, for example, markets self-styled “gory and gruesome” theatrical performances, while the Auschwitz site means to educate. Yet Johnston quotes a Polish tourist company that promotes a program for stag parties that take place in the concentration camp: “Quad biking in the morning then visit one of the world’s most haunting museums.”

The long boom of the post-war period gave us trades union militancy, “women’s lib”, the Black Panthers, the gay rights movement and the legalization of abortion and homosexuality. Our recent stagnation has given us Trump and Brexit – and of course the economic crisis of the 1930s yielded much worse.

Which is another way of saying what Ben Friedman wrote in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth – that economic growth gives us liberalism and demands for equality whilst stagnation and regress give us political reaction.

The hymn Amazing Grace was set to its current tune more than fifty years after it was written. Because it was written in common metre, it can also be sung to Mack the Knife, Sympathy for the Devil, the Pokemon theme, and the Gilligan’s Island theme.

Saturday Links

I am months overdue for my tests because I lost my job and health insurance in July. I am resigned to paying out of pocket for the tests. (I got this healthcare-only credit card when I got my teeth fixed a couple years ago and I’m planning to use that.) However I have been stymied because the labs I’ve contacted simply will not give me straight answers about how much it will cost.

I have always tried to be someone with an expansive moral imagination – that is, to try and understand the other side’s perspective even when I viscerally reject that perspective. But I cannot understand the mindset of people who defend the current system, or those who preserve it by opposing change even if they will not defend the current system explicitly. I cannot occupy that point of view. The system seems indefensible, and the most likely short-term change to the system will be to make it even worse. All here in America, the world’s shining city on a hill.

In 1919, only 31 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds were enrolled in high school. By 1980, enrollment had reached 90 percent. High school graduation rates rose from 16 percent to 71 percent during this same period. As a result, the school became an avenue through which policymakers could reach the vast majority of U.S. citizens, allowing them to enlist public education in the ideological contest with authoritarianism. By building a model of education that emphasized critical thinking and a humanistic view of individual freedom, U.S. policymakers explicitly tried to eschew educational practices they considered to be “indoctrination,” “propaganda,” or “authoritarian.”

But this approach to education began to change once the threat of authoritarianism seemed to diminish in the 1980s. Educators began to place the needs of the market over the imperative of civic-mindedness. That turn has gradually transformed the role of schools in American life from incubators of democratic citizens to engines of economic aspiration.

American educators first began to discuss the perils of authoritarianism during World War I, with the rise of an aggressive, expansionist Germany under the helm of Prussian Kaiser Wilhelm II. When the United States entered the war against Germany in 1917, U.S. scholars cast “Prussianism” as an authoritarian ideology, and they denounced its centralized approach to schooling and governance; the United States, on the other hand, administered schools locally. Studies of German schools published during the war, such as Victor Friedel’s The German School as War Nursery and Thomas Alexander’s The Prussian Elementary Schools, described how the Prussian schoolmasters had distorted German life and steered German culture toward the imperialistic goals of the state.

As Alexander, a professor of education at the George Peabody College for Teachers (Vanderbilt University), explained in 1918 “the Prussian is to a large measure enslaved through the medium of his school . . . his learning instead of making him his own master, forges the chain by which he is held in servitude.” By contrast, he argued, American education ought to take a more student-centered approach in accordance with “the democratic principles for which we are aiming.”

"A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual's encyclopedic function and flip it into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind."

McLuhan was not concerned primarily with the upsides of the internet. He warned that surrendering to private manipulation would narrow down the availability of the information we receive based on what marketers and advertisers choose for consumers and voters to see. And nowhere is that more evident than in our addictions to social media platforms and our need to be connected 24/7. 

In the late fifteenth century, Spanish colonizers in the Caribbean were starving in a land of plenty. They had just established their newest settlement, La Isabela, in what is now the Dominican Republic. The Spaniards planned to survive by exploiting the area’s indigenous people, the Taínos. But the Taínos refused to plant their annual crops, in protest of the Spanish invasion and appropriation of their lands.

From the long-lasting impacts of redlining in the US to the falling proportion of female graduates in computer sciences since 1984, the examination of unequal power forces runs as a central theme in the book.

The authors focus on data justice, as opposed to data ethics. They argue that data ethics and its focus on fairness and biases create structures that protect power. A great example of this is the rampant use of artificial intelligence for a ‘fair’ hiring process. As AI pulls from existing datasets (in which white, rich men are overrepresented), it can hamper the chances of women and minority communities getting past resume screenings. Conversely, datasets in which marginalised communities are overrepresented, such as policing or access to government aid, lead to situations where algorithms will predict them to be more of a threat, making it more difficult for these groups to access credit or producing a higher probability of individuals being incarcerated.

Missing from this commentary is the acknowledgement that young people have been found to have a high rate of compliance with regulations. They are also at a particularly high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to things like their over-representation in jobs dealing with customers face to face, and being more likely to reside in shared living spaces and rely on public transport than older adults.

So the suggestion that spikes are entirely due to reckless rule breaking and that young people are the root cause of a second wave of COVID-19 is problematic and unhelpful, particularly when used to justify the implementation of unique measures for students who are effectively living in isolation across Scotland right now.

The seriousness of COVID-19 and the importance of containing it is not in question. But these restrictions have been uniquely and unhelpfully couched in the rhetoric of blame and punishment. This has contributed to an image of young people as reckless and substantial risks to public health, with media coverage of parties in student halls focusing on a minority of rule breakers.

"Right now, the president might be the victim of a well-described medical phenomenon called the VIP syndrome."

If you looked at this treatment regimen, not knowing the patient, you’d assume this was someone on the brink of death – ventilated. Last ditch effort time. Of course, the president does not seem to be particularly sick. So, let’s face it – if you or I had COVID and were as sick as the president, there is no way we would be getting this kind of treatment. And here’s the thing – we’re probably better off.

Look, I’m not going to go hardcore egalitarian here. If we had a magic pill that cured COVID with no side effects, but cost 10 million dollars – sure give it to the president even though the rest of us can’t get it. The unfairness is not really what the VIP syndrome is about. It’s the risk the VIP faces getting medications – and combinations of medications - that we don’t know enough about. Doctors know that standard care is the best care. That’s why it’s standard. The Hail Mary Pass is for the 4th quarter when your team is about to lose. It’s not your opener. But for VIPs, these essential truths get forgotten.

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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