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  • Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category

    Have we been played?

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd September 2020 (All posts by )

    Somebody phoned Rush Limbaugh: the listener posited that Democrats were in league with the Chinese, sharing a desire to take Trump down. He gently moved on, noting he’d never seen proof. But the last months have reminded us that just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you. I do feel played – about Covid, about Russiagate, about police brutality, about, well, a lot at this point. I suspect it is simple: the media is dominated by those wearing blinders, whose reality is a narrow sliver of the world. Of course, it would be nice if such heavyweights as Dianne Feinstein and Biden didn’t owe so much to the Chinese. But then there’s a lot of Chinese money and a lot of Congressional graft – a corrupt swamp isn’t necessarily a treasonous one. (Was Hillary’s sale of the nation’s plutonium a conspiracy or just the usual Clinton graft? Was Brennan someone who plotted or just closed his eyes?)

    This summer’s incidents are enlarged versions of Ferguson’s riots and the smearing of Zimmerman. For three months Portland has been ablaze; literally hundreds of police have been attacked and will bear the scars of this summer’s work. Dozens have died amidst the riots and many more indirectly as these affected the morale and morals, the aggression of mobs and hesitancy of police. Minneapolis was torn apart, but so were many cities; his funeral was a multi-day spectacle moving through three towns. I shared with most Americans revulsion at the face of the officer whose knee seemed pushed into Floyd’s neck, calmly staring out as he kept Floyd down.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, Politics, Trump | 24 Comments »

    Parallels?

    Posted by Ginny on 31st August 2020 (All posts by )

    Lately we’ve become interested in Richard Pipes, the Russian scholar. In an old You Tube Firing Line, we found him discussing his 1990 The Russian Revolution.

    The intro by Kinsley concisely sums up Lenin’s “innovations”: to Pipes, the Russian revolution was “arguably the most important event of the 20th century,” because its acts would be copied by later dictators – Hitler, Mao, etc. First, clear the stage for a one party state, then give omnipotent power within the state to the political police, and finally enforce that power with deadly terror and “re-education” camps.

    Pipes is not confident about the 90s: a “free” Russia would be difficult; he notes that only 20% of Russians thought the October Revolution was a good thing and only 14% had full trust in government. Purpose, energy, trust are necessary to navigate huge change and certainly found a democracy; razing the past is not a good way to move into the future, but the Russian past is poisonous. Instead of energy and purpose, he saw apathy and immorality (my impression was that a deeply rooted cynicism expressed in humor but felt bitterly characterized communist states). He argues Russia lacked human spirit, morale, and morality. (Perhaps the Gramscian effect on Russia of 70 years of Soviet culture.)

    The leap.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Predictions, Society | 3 Comments »

    Reopening — II (Theory)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th August 2020 (All posts by )

    That’s all very well in practice, but how does it work in theory?

    — old University of Chicago joke

    I expect this blog’s readership to demand the theoretical considerations, so here’s a (non-exhaustive) compilation, beginning with a setup anecdote:

    In December of 2007 I was briefly—very briefly, as the work was interrupted by a blizzard—involved in rebuilding in Greensburg, Kansas, which had been practically erased from the map seven months earlier by an immense tornado. I had driven through a couple of months after the event and stumbled into a photo-op for Sen. Pat Roberts, who was doing a ribbon-cutting of sorts in a brand new convenience store. The devastation was more impressive than his speech; indeed, people who worked both New Orleans after Katrina and Greensburg after the tornado typically remarked that, allowing for scale, Greensburg was worse.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Civil Society, COVID-19, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis, Personal Narrative, Systems Analysis, USA | 2 Comments »

    So, we drive on the right and our homes are our castles – or not

    Posted by Ginny on 16th August 2020 (All posts by )

    Freedom is greatest within restraints and boundaries. Sure, on some slippery slope with no constraining adverbs, this seems contradictory, but we recognize daily that minimal, enforceable and enforced, laws provide predictability, enable true freedom. Would my freedom be enlarged without the first limit society imposes as I leave my house: driving on the right? Seinfeld’s Kramer attempted to “free” the lanes but caused chaos. I cheerfully accept it because it simplifies more than limits; I go over my grocery list or laugh with Limbaugh; someone more productive might create a poem or solve a physics problem. Without limits, we would be on guard, slow to a crawl, choose a tank, hoping, as my brothers put it, to be the shearer and not the shearee in an inevitable collision. I remember a homesick Iranian engineer telling us still he didn’t want to return – here drivers stop at red lights, even alone at night; there, every intersection was a free for all. Too much order suffocates but with too little concentration is difficult.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Politics, Urban Issues | 31 Comments »

    Conformity and Intimidation

    Posted by David Foster on 28th July 2020 (All posts by )

    (I mentioned these links before, in comments to this post, but I believe they are important enough to merit inclusion in a top-level post)

    According to a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Cato Institute, almost 2/3 of Americans are afraid of sharing their political views. And with some reason, it seems: among strong ‘liberals’, 50% would support firing a business executive who had privately donated to the Trump campaign. Among strong conservatives, 36% would support firing an executive who donated to Biden. Even among those who identify as just ‘liberal’ rather than ‘very liberal’, 43% would be in favor of firing a Trump donator…22% of conservatives would be in favor of firing a Biden donor.

    See also this very interesting piece by the entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham: The Four Pillars of Conformism. Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, USA | 39 Comments »

    Observations on Federal Law Enforcement Actions in Portland

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Federal Lawmen arresting Portland protesters shown in recent social media video had the word “Police” on the uniforms as well as black and green “Homeland Security” shoulder patches. That the Leftist voice over says they were “not identified” is not supported by the visuals under the voice overs.

    It is clear these Federal lawmen were looking for someone specific and that they were doing so in an unmarked vehicle.

    Federal law men do this regularly. This tactic is seen most in drug cases and when they are hunting cop killers. A later Federal statement about this action after the person being detained was released made clear the Feds were looking for an individual who attacked federal officers at the court house, and the person picked up may have been a “known associate.”

    As for the rest of the Leftist voice overs, Federal law men are required to give Miranda rights in an arrest.

    They are _not_ required to do so immediately. Removing a detained individual from the scene and reading Miranda rights later has been accepted by the Federal courts for decades.

    Given the tendency of Antifa/BLM groups to mob lawmen removing their members. The Feds here were simply applying the least violent tactics.

    PERSONAL SPECULATION BASED ON OBSERVATIONS

    If the Feds are following their organized crime template. The organizations and the people wiring money to post these individual’s bail money are now under Federal electronic surveillance. This has been how the Feds deal with large organizations of people bailing out the people the Feds arrest since the “Drug King Pin,” “asset forfeiture” and RICO additions to the racketeering laws were passed in the 1980’s.

    Given the “Big Data” tools available to the Feds, every Antifa/BLM person detained in Portland is having all relevant bio-metric identification taken from them and the information is being fed into various law enforcement data bases, to include those of the Secret Service. The latter has a higher level of access to the NSA data banks than the FBI to evaluate people as threats to the President or other politicians they protect.

    In so many words, if any of the Antifa/BLM people being picked up in Portland were anywhere near a Secret Service presidential detail protected Trump campaign ot Administration event, Trump family event or Presidential /V.P. visit to any city outside Portland since the summer of 2015. Any metadata in cell phones, bank, hotel, credit card, airline, or bus line records somewhere that matches these people has been pulled. If this data compared with those Secret Service “security bubble” hits has a match.  It will cause an automated threat profile to be generated. A threat profile that will show all the electronic records of their travels and electronic money transfers for the period(s) of interest.

    The latter — electronic money transfers — will be used to map the money flows at lower levels of Antifa/BLM to reach up to the higher levels of money flowing from the big corporations and Soros backed front groups.

    Please note, Federal standard operating procedure with organized crime means some number of those Antifa/BLM being arrested & released in Portland are now Federal informants.

    One more thing,  the Feds — and the Secret Service especially — have made very extensive use of both facial recognition and visual pattern recognition technology. I guarantee that these unmarked Federal law enforcement vans cruising in Portland Oregon have cameras with both technologies.

    That Federal law men are getting out and walking a couple of blocks to their target from such vans and slow walking them back is a “poker tell” [AKA  tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP)] of facial recognition technology’s use.  As everyone who turns to see the uniformed law men coming and watching them going with the detainee gives the watching camera’s enough eye-nose area data to match them up with their driver’s licence photos.

    Please see:

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/07…

    “A 2016 study by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology found that one in four US state or local police departments had access to facial recognition technology, and that nearly half of all American adults are in a police facial recognition database, in part because of agreements that provide access to repositories of drivers’ license photos.”

    One of the many things that came back from Iraq  US Army surplus to American law enforcement was a visual surveillance technology called “Constant Hawk.”  The US Military pioneered artificial intelligence (A.I.) visual pattern recognition technology to beat the Iraqi road side bomb campaign, starting in 2006, with the “Constant Hawk”  camera system in MC-12 twin engine turbo props.  (A MC-12 is the Cessna King Air in olive drab and white paint job).

    Strategy page -dot- com reports in 2020 that a “Constant Hawk-lite” technology has been shrunk to the point an 11 kg (22-lb) drone can carry it.  See:

    Information Warfare: Son Of Hawk Sees More
    https://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20200707.aspx

    “Constant Hawk uses a special video camera system to observe a locality and find useful patterns of behavior. Some of the Constant Hawk systems are mounted on light (MC-12s, mainly) aircraft, others are mounted on ground structures. Special software compares photos from different times. When changes are noted, they are checked more closely, which has resulted in the early detection of thousands of roadside bombs and terrorist ambushes. This largely eliminated roadside bomb attacks on supply convoys in Iraq.”

    Short Form:

    There are Federal law enforcement light planes and unmarked Federal law enforcement vans cruising above and around Portland “mapping the Antifa human terrain” the way that Google Earth does for roads and houses in your neighborhood.

    My gut says we are going to see rounds of mass arrests based on the data these systems are gathering.

    A fact to remember related to this effort is that the criminal conviction rates in Federal courts run to 98%.

    -End-

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Urban Issues, USA | 49 Comments »

    Another Possible Explanation for the Absence of Space Aliens

    Posted by David Foster on 26th June 2020 (All posts by )

    The physicist Enrico Fermi wondered why we haven’t seen any evidence of visitors from another planet, given that he believed intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy was highly probable.  (Maybe we have seen such evidence, given some recent UFO incidents, but for the sake of argument…)  This question is known as Fermi’s Paradox.

    Standard answers to the Paradox involve emphasizing the vast distances involved, and the fact that “as far as our galaxy is concerned, we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metropolitan area of the galactic center,” as Edward Teller put it.  Another theory is that species which are sufficiently intelligent to achieve interstellar travel have a tendency to blow themselves up long before they reach anywhere in our vicinity.

    Don Sensing cited another possible explanation, suggested by Geoffrey Miller:

    I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

    See my post here for thoughts related to the above explanation and the psychology of decadence.

    But I have a new theory, suggested by recent events: The aliens invent something like Twitter, their whole planet becomes the equivalent of a particularly nasty middle school on earth, and they melt down under waves of mutual accusations and denunciations.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Science, Space | 14 Comments »

    Lamar Alexander on Statues

    Posted by Ginny on 24th June 2020 (All posts by )

    A few years ago I started considering fiction, non-fiction, speeches, movies in subjective terms: some made me simply “happy”; some didn’t. This is probably a function of sentimental aging; maybe I let my guard down to accept the hokey. But cynicism tops everything when we are rebels without a cause and perhaps I finally left that behind. Certainly, it is more difficult for me to appreciate a Bergman movie than in the sixties.

    Of course happiness is part identification – in being an American (or Texan or Nebraskan or woman). But it also comes from a telling religious narrative. Warmth came from narratives or axioms or theories or gestures that seemed quintessentially human. We are aware of our broken nature – all of our broken natures – but we see an action prompted by our better angels – heroism, love, loyalty, generosity, nobility, strength. We are moved by the sailor at the gate at Corpus Christi, the generosity of music sung to the elderly during covid quarantines. Plenty of works seem inspired by our worse angels – cynical, bitter, moving into nihilism: paintings from the the thirties in Germany, harsh preachy modern art simmering with “Gramscian” arguments. In short, the ugly: graffiti on a statue, violent destruction of the great Shaw statue, the ignorance of the mob. But yesterday, I turned on the tv and paused at Lamar Alexander in mid-argument on the removing of statues.

    I felt, well, happy & filled by the richness of human nature he described. I wonder about his effect. The objective, thoughtful rational comments, which make this blog so attractive, might be a bit subjective here. What does this and other moments in the last few weeks make you feel? Does he disgust you or do you feel warmth from it? What do our feelings mean? Some of the best lit crit begins with the feeling of the reader and then bores down on it, trying to analyze what prompted the feeling, what the feeling meant in a broader and deeper way than just one person’s response.

    Thanks to Grurray, a link comes in below. I had found the transcrit and it lies below the fold; a border state statesman’s statement.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Culture, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Society, USA | 10 Comments »

    Iconoclast

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I had in mind the deliberate destruction of religious icons, and a vague memory of it having happened at least once in the Russian or Eastern Orthodox church in the medieval period; such things being, in the judgment of the sternly orthodox, ungodly and unsuitable, and therefore to be expunged … but it seems that spasms of righteous destruction are almost a human constant, across culture and time. The current passion for defacing and destroying public monuments – and not just those memorializing Confederate heroes – turns out to be not all that new and revolutionary. (channeling Private Gomer Pyle: Surprise, surprise, surprise.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Holidays, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, North America, Politics, Tea Party, Terrorism, Texas | 27 Comments »

    Consent of the Governed

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st May 2020 (All posts by )

    “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
    “The consent of the governed” – and what a concept, hey? And outlined in our very own Declaration of Independence. That the government has authority only as far as those it governs permits, allows or tolerates; a notion which seems to have escaped the more stubbornly authoritarian among us, such as the governors of certain states: among them Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom, of California, the Unspeakable Kate Brown of Oregon, Gretchen Witmer, the Grand Karenator of Michigan, J.B. “Jabba the Hutt” Pritzker of Illinois, Ralph Northam, the Baby-Killer of Virginia and the weaselly and nipple-pierced autocrat of New York, Andrew “Missed It By That Much!” Cuomo. All the above-listed, and a good few others of lesser notoriety and office went on an authoritarian kick: “Close all the things!” seemed to be their rallying cry, after first ignoring the first warning signs of the Wuhan Coronavirus, aka the Chinese Commie Crud, and then losing their damned minds when the National Establishment Media lost theirs. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 13 Comments »

    Risk Register

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th April 2020 (All posts by )

    There are, of course, many items that could be placed in a risk register for our ongoing management of COVID-19. I find myself drawn to those categorizable as, or perhaps triggered by, human perception and behavior. By way of limiting the scope of this post to reasonable attention spans, here are my current top 3: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Law Enforcement, Markets and Trading, Predictions, Religion, Society, Statistics, USA | 21 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update, Easter 2020 edition

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th April 2020 (All posts by )

    There are lots of hopeful reports — despite the USA COVID-19 infections being over 1/2 million and the total deaths of over 20,000 people — that the pandemic will soon be “Over.”

    This is fantasy thinking at best.  SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 won’t be over, until it is over, for YEARS.

    “Over” being defined as world wide mass vaccinations to the tune of 70% of humanity or human herd immunity.  Assuming such a thing is possible, which it may not be, given this recent report from the UK Daily Mail on post SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 infection immunity —

    Blow to Britain’s hopes for coronavirus antibody testing as study finds a THIRD of recovered patients have barely-detectable evidence they have had the virus already

    .

    – Nearly third of patients have very low levels of antibodies, Chinese study found
    – Antibodies not detected at all in 10 people, raising fears they could be reinfected
    – Explains why UK Government repeatedly delayed rolling them out to the public

    .

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8203725/Antibodies-prove-difficult-detect-Chinese-coronavirus-survivors.html

    .

    Related studies:
    Wu F et al. Neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a COVID-19 recovered patient cohort and their implications. medRxiv 2020.03.30.20047365; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047365

    .

    and

    .

    Zhao J et al. Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in patients of novel coronavirus disease 2019, Clinical Infectious Diseases, , ciaa344, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa344
    total by July 1st 51,197

    Or this South Korean story on coronavirus “reactivation” —

    South Korea reports recovered coronavirus patients testing positive again
    APRIL 10, 2020
    Josh Smith, Sangmi Cha

    .

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-southkorea-idUSKCN21S15X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook

    The issue with most COVID-19 tests, like the ones mentioned in South Korea, is they detect SARS-CoV2 RNA. They do not detect whether the viral particles are active or not. The issue here is whether these people are shedding active viral particles that can re-infect people.  We don’t know if that is the case here from the story text.  Given how infectious it is.  This coronavirus will tell us in due course.

    There are some viral diseases like Herpes that hide inside your body and reactivate to make you infectious. We do not know enough about the SARs-CoV2 virus to say whether that is the case here.

    If the SARS-CoV2 virus is like Herpes in that once contracted, it never goes away and flares infectious several times a year.

    And there is no herd immunity for some people no matter how often they are infected.

    Then we will need multiple, cheap,  out-patient style “cure-treatments” as well as multiple vaccines, based on co-morbidities, and possibly to account for racial differences like sickle cell blood mutations, as SARS-CoV2 may well be more a blood disease than a respiratory infection in terms of it’s killing mechanism.

    See:

    COVID-19: Attacks the 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin and Captures the Porphyrin to Inhibit Human Heme Metabolism

    https://chemrxiv.org/articles/COVID-19_Disease_ORF8_and_Surface_Glycoprotein_Inhibit_Heme_Metabolism_by_Binding_to_Porphyrin/11938173

    There is not enough reliable data, d*mn it!

    Until we get to “Over,” our old economic world of Just-In-Time, Sole Source anywhere, but especially in China, is dead without replacement.

    The world is in the same position as Germany was from August 1944 – April 1945 or  Japan from August 1944 until August 1945 versus the Allied strategic bombing campaign.  We have entered the world of  End Run Production as world wide supply chains grind to a halt from various fiddly bits of intermediate parts running out without replacement.  The on-and-off hotspots world wide of COVID-19 at different times and places in the world economy is no different than WW2 strategic bombing in terms of causing random damage to the economic life support.

    See also  “End Run Production” here from this one volume WW2 history book The Great Crusade:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=5L-bwPZK7PQC&pg=PA420&lpg=PA420&dq=%22End+Run+Production%22&source=bl&ots=kc30FQflCj&sig=ACfU3U2kmF-kTPo0Tgr2A9_ESPKpEQAEOg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjfpurOnOPoAhUKA6wKHemwBMcQ6AEwAHoECC4QKQ#v=onepage&q=%22End%20Run%20Production%22&f=false

    Be it automobiles, self propelled construction equipment, jets, power plants or the latest electronic gadget, anything that has thousands of parts sourced world wide with lots of Chinese cheap/disposable sub-component content anywhere in the supply chain simply won’t be produced for the next 18 months to three years.

    This “random damage to the economic life support” effect is amplified by the unwillingness of Western private industry to invest in building the capitol equipment to produced those intermediate parts.  Because of the threat of China coming back with predatory pricing — using bought politicians to cover for them — means those parts won’t be built without massive cost plus contract government buy out of the investment risk like happened in the USA in the 1942 WW2 mobilization.

    The story of  one American n95 mask manufacturer’s experience with the Obama Administration in 2009 with the Swine flu is a case in point.  The n95 mask is a 50 cent item where China pays 2 cents a mask for labor versus 10 cents a mask for American labor.  When the American manufacturer geared up to replace Chinese mask production.  China came back on-line and the Obama Administration refused to keep buying the American mask producer’s 8 cents more expensive mask when the Chinese masks were available.

    Unlike almost 80 years ago, current Western and particularly American politicians are too corrupt to go too massive cost plus contract government buy out this private investment risk.  Mainly because these political elites  can’t be bothered to figure out their 10% cut.  Instead we are getting more “fiscal stimulus” AKA boondoggles that the elites will saddle the rest of us with high interest payments on huge public debts.

    It will take local small to mid-sized business to get the American economy going during the COVID-19 pandemic via making products and services that don’t use the intermediate products China threatens with when the pandemic ends.

    My read on what comes next economically is local/distributed production with limited capitol investment that is multi-product capable.  The name for that is additive manufacturing, AKA 3D Printing. Here are a couple of examples:

    1. The idea of 3D Printed Sand Casting Molds For Automobile Production

    voxeljet enters alliance to industrialize core tooling production using 3D printing

    2. And the replacement of physical inventory with 3D printers, print media and electronic drawings:
    Such “Make or buy” decisions have always been the key decision of any business.  The issue here is that middle men wholesalers and in-house warehousing holding cheap Chinese-sourced  intermediate parts are both set to go the way of the Doe-Doe Bird in a 3D/AM manufacturing dominated world.
    .
    Distributed production in multiple localities with 3D/AM vendors for limited runs of existing intermediate products to keep production lines going.  Or the re-engineering intermediate products so one 3D/AM print replaces multiple intermediate products for the same reason, will be the stuff of future Masters of Business Administration (MBA) papers describing this imminent change over.

    .

    But, like developing SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 vaccines, this new locally distributed manufacturing economy will take time.  The possible opening of the American economy in May 2020 will not bring the old economy of December 2019 back.

    .

    That economy is dead.  It cannot, will not, come back.

    .

    We will have to dance with both the sickness from SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 and the widening End Run Production product shortages that the death of the globalist  just-in-time, sole source in China economic model causes for years.

    .

    And this is a hard reality, not a fantasy, we must all face.

    Posted in America 3.0, Business, Capitalism, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Culture, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurship, Germany, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Politics, Public Finance, Science, Systems Analysis, Taxes, Tradeoffs, Uncategorized, USA | 64 Comments »

    In Medias Res

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 4th April 2020 (All posts by )

    What I’ve got so far:

    1. Everything’s on the table. The likelihood that your preexisting ideology or priorities are an entirely adequate match to what this situation truly requires of us is close to nil. “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” ― Eric Hoffer
    2. That said, your life experience will give you insights. Privilege your experience over your ideology and nominal priorities.
    3. All disasters are local. Concentrate on your meaningfully immediate environment, which in this case will be the local market for medical resources. For most of the US, that will be our MSA. For those outside an MSA (metropolitan or micropolitan) that will be their county; and for some it will be the group of counties that feed into the one hospital in the region.
    4. Deprioritize pandemic news from outside your local area. There are people in the massive NY/NJ/MA outbreak that I worry about, but what happens there will only modestly resemble what happens in the KC MSA, not least because of the difference in population density, which can approach 20x.
    5. Mitigate or avoid your own risk (including the risk you pose to others) by both following the hygiene advice we’ve all heard and minimizing your physical interaction with anyone outside your immediate household. Internalize R₀ = b × k × d, where R₀ is the reproduction number of the virus, b is the probability of infection given contact with an infectious person, k is the contact rate, and d is the infectious duration. While the nominal R₀ of COVID-19 is ~3, your personal R₀ can be driven to < 1 by your own behavior.
    6. The general form of the challenge confronting us is abrupt wide variation in formerly relatively constant phenomena. In Talebian terms, we have migrated from “mediocristan” to “extremistan.” The multiplicative nature of a novel viral pandemic, especially by comparison to the relatively predictable seasonality of influenza viruses, has a thick-tailed (power law) probability structure and complex payoffs (notoriously ranging from large numbers of nearly asymptomatic cases to abruptly life-threatening “cytokine storm” reactions). For detail, see The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics.
    7. So we find ourselves at serious risk of running out of ventilators, ICU beds, and even hospital beds generally, to say nothing of supplies (but see “all disasters are local,” above), raising the prospect of significant second-order mortality among those unable to obtain adequate care for entirely unrelated illnesses and injuries.
    8. In this connection, many prior customs, techniques, tools, and materials are being revealed as highly dysfunctional and, if all goes sufficiently well, will be swept into the dustbin of history. The bad news for me is that my earlier fears about easily-bottlenecked processes have been realized. But we may look forward to significant adaptation, including deregulation of medical services.
    9. Similarly, a large number of purported fixes and remedies will fail. Folk remedies, in particular, seem likely to be disastrous, and this blog’s audience needs no persuasion that attempts at central planning will fail thanks to the Hayekian local knowledge problem. In that connection, and to quote something I wrote a few years back: “John Gilmore famously said that ‘the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.’ The future adaptation of representative democracies will depend on our capability, as individuals, to interpret endemic institutional dysfunctionality as damage and route around it.”
    10. The relatively vulnerable are closer to the center of the network: affluent, living in high-density major cities, well-traveled, extroverted, socially active, with large numbers of regular contacts (even if mostly in a “bubble” as per Murray’s notorious quiz). But some are the alienated and defiant who reject risk avoidance or even risk mitigation tactics (or attempt folk remedies instead), ordinarily associated with …
    11. The relatively invulnerable, who are at or near the edge of the network: impoverished, living in rural or low-density metro areas, untraveled, introverted, socially isolated, rarely in face-to-face contact with others. Many of these people have mental health issues and associated substance abuse problems. But the relatively invulnerable are also the intelligent and conscientious who promptly adopt appropriate risk management strategies.
    12. The post-pandemic preferences of the relatively invulnerable will have massive economic and cultural effects. I expect a reasonably quick partial recovery from the economic shutdown, but full recovery may take several years. Many of the “third places” which have done well over the last few decades will not regain their patronage, and as of early April 2020, we can only guess which ones. Fond hopes of some of my co-religionists aside for a sudden revival, I believe church attendance and involvement will be well down in the aftermath, and will not significantly grow until the next “Awakening,” which per Strauss and Howe should occur at mid-century. Until then, believers will be culturally marginalized and congregations will be smaller—but comprised of relatively fervent, active members.
    13. Geopolitical risks are heightened, especially US-China tensions, and if Xenakis’ “58-year hypothesis” holds, this very year will see an echo of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    14. The most important output of this process—and it is a process, with inputs, providers, outputs, recipients, etc—will be a collective lessons-learned database, comprised of both tacit and explicit knowledge, and somehow transmitted to future generations.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Business, China, Christianity, Civil Society, COVID-19, Culture, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Libertarianism, Military Affairs, Organizational Analysis, Predictions, Religion, Society, Systems Analysis, USA | 34 Comments »

    Positive Stores about Covid-19

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Amid all of the doom and gloom that the press is all too eager to peddle upon you for eyeballs and clicks, I present a few promising stories about the latest Chinese virus to infect our shores.

    Approximate timelines on medications/vaccines to combat the virus.
    Canadian scientists have successfully isolated the virus, an essential step in getting a vaccine ready for testing.
    A welcome side effect of the virus is that as people have sheltered, pollution has plummeted.
    A University of Minnesota doctor has gone MacGyver in creating a ventilator.
    The total number of people recovered has recently surpassed one hundred thousand.
    Projections of death totals could be orders of magnitude too high.
    Apple may start re-opening stores in China soon.

    There are many, many more good stories about the event if you care to test out your Google-fu.

    Also, some anecdotal items. It appears that people in general are helping one another, remaining calm for the most part, and doing the right things. If there were hospitals with people stranded in hallways or on floors we would have seen those photos/video by now so I am assuming that **at this point** they are handling the influx of patients just fine. My stores locally are fully stocked with all items, save some canned foods like tomato sauce, and of course paper products. I assume those will be available sooner rather than later.

    Discuss as you wish.

    Posted in China, COVID-19, Health Care, Human Behavior | 12 Comments »

    Ruin and Recovery

    Posted by David Foster on 21st March 2020 (All posts by )

    A brokerage note I received recently included the following quote:

    What has so often excited wonder, is the great rapidity with which countries recover from a state of devastation, the disappearance in a short time, of all traces of mischief done by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and the ravages of war. An enemy lays waste a country by fire and sword, and destroys or carries away nearly all the moveable wealth existing in it: all the inhabitants are ruined, and yet in a few years after, everything is much as it was before.

    John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

    Questions for discussion:

    –How well has Mill’s assertion held up over the 170 years since he wrote the above?

    –Will American recovery from the Coronavirus follow Mill’s pattern, or is there reason to think that it will be different this time, and not in a good way?

    Posted in COVID-19, Current Events, Economics & Finance, History, Human Behavior | 7 Comments »

    The Media-Focus Problem

    Posted by David Foster on 18th March 2020 (All posts by )

    It’s well understood that media entities like to focus on the negative–‘if it bleeds, it leads.’  But there’s also another media behavior problem worth noticing…

    Cable TV networks, especially, tend to focus obsessively on whatever the hottest issue is at the moment, and absolutely beat it to death to the exclusion of any attention to *other* important things going on…until one of those other things get so important and so bad that it displaces the previous obsession and the cycle repeats.  To borrow a term from the field of computer operating systems, you could think of it is a single-thread way to approach the world. And in the field of combat aviation, there is a phrase, Target Fixation, to describe the situation where a pilot is so focused on his target that he flies into a mountain or does something equally disastrous.

    Posted in COVID-19, Current Events, Human Behavior, Media, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    Schumer’s Threats, in Context

    Posted by David Foster on 10th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Democrat Charles Schumer, speaking to “protestors” outside the Supreme Court: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

    This statement was clearly a threat, but what kind of threat? Perhaps a direct physical threat, but more likely, I think, a threat to subject the two justices to the kind of orchestrated slander campaign that was already unleashed against Justice Kavanaugh; a slander campaign the would result in great emotional pain to the Justices and their families and great disruption to the operations of the Court.

    The crowd to which Schumer was speaking is typically referred to as “protestors” in news reports, but what are they protesting? No decision has been made in this case. Evidently they are protesting the willingness of the Court to even consider the arguments made by the two sides in this case.

    I’d call them a mob. Judge Andrew Napolitano, who does not believe Schumer’s statement violated any laws, nevertheless called the statement an “effort to politicize the court, to make them look like they can be intimidated by a mob outside of the courthouse.”

    The present-day Democratic Party together with its media/academic/activist archipelago has become quite friendly toward mob action and mob intimidation. One especially appalling event was the attempt to shut down law professor Josh Blackman’s talk at the City University of New York law school. When Blackman said the way to deal with a law you don’t like is to change the law…

    A student shouted out “[expletive] the law.” This comment stunned me. I replied, “[expletive] the law? That’s a very odd thing. You are all in law school. And it is a bizarre thing to say [expletive] the law when you are in law school.” They all started to yell and shout over me.

    There has been an awful lot of this sort of thing, and it seems to have been increasing exponentially over the last several years.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Law, Leftism, USA | 13 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update 3 March 2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd March 2020 (All posts by )

    This will be a short update. Issues covered will be on COVID-19 spread, World Headlines, COVID-19 medical developments regards PPE & the role of building contamination in spreading disease in Japan, and the social media and videos COVID-19 tracking source section.
     
    Top line, There are currently 92,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 3,134 fatalities as of the 3 March 2020 at 5:51 a.m. ET time hack on the BNO News corona virus traking site (https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/02/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/) There are 70(+) and growing nations including China plus three “Chinese special administrative regions” (Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan) that have reported COVID-19 infections. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Iran, Germany, R.O.K. and the USA all appear to have local, or endemic, spread of the disease.
    The reality of personal protective equipment shortages in the USA because we outsourced most such production to China.

    The reality of personal protective equipment shortages in the USA because we outsourced most such production to China and many regional medical systems sent a lot of our existing medical PPE to China in January 2020 per the request of the CDC.

     
    World Headline Summary (As of late evening 3/2/2020):
     
    o US death toll climbs to 6; all in WA, which has 18 cases
    o 2 new cases confirmed in Tampa Bay
    o 1st case reported in New Hampshire
    o Hubei reports 114 new cases, 31 new deaths
    o Santa Clara County confirms 2 more cases, bringing county total to 9
    o Gottlieb warns US cases likely in ‘low thousands’
    o Illinois announces 4th case
    o Boris Johnson: “A very significant expansion” of the virus is “clearly in the cards”
    o Italian death toll climbs 18 to 52 while total cases surpasses 2,000
    o BMW tells 150 to quarantine after Munich employee infected
    o Algeria total hits 5
    o Senegal becomes 2nd sub-Saharan country to confirm virus
    o WHO’s Tedros: Virus is “common enemy” of humanity so don’t focus on blame
    o Jordan reports first two cases
    o French death toll revised to 3, total cases climb to 191
    o Tunisia reports first case
    o UK total climbs to 40
    o OECD warns global growth could fall by half
    o Indonesia reports first cases
    o “Progress is being made” toward a vaccine
    o Cuomo says NY expects more cases
    o India confirms 2 more cases
    o ‘Official’ Iran death toll hits 66
    o EU confirms 38 deaths across 18 members
    o First cases confirmed in Fla.
    o 2 Amazon employees test positive in Milan
    o Virus now in 8 US states: Washington, California, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, Florida, Oregon and New Hampshire
    o San Antonio virus patient re-hospitalized after testing positive
    o China warns it could face ‘locust invasion’
     
    COVID-19 MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS
     
    This article is very much worth reading in full, printing out a copy, highlighting and carrying around. I’ll excerpt a couple of sections from it below the title and link:
     
    Unmasked: Experts explain necessary respiratory protection for COVID-19
    by Stephanie Soucheray
    CIDRAP News, Feb 13, 2020
     
     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, USA | 41 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update 2-17-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th February 2020 (All posts by )

    As of this morning’s time hack, world wide there are now 1,770 dead and 71,223 infected by COVID-19. Community spread is underway in Singapore (see chart), Taiwan and Japan. The USA thinks it might be on-going in the USA. Both Japan and the USA refuse to state this, but actions being taken argue otherwise.  Two horrid COVID-19 infection reports from Chinese news sources — the Taiwan News is reporting re-infection with COVID-19 is causing heart failure and South China Morning Post is reporting 34 and 94 day from exposure to infection super spreaders.  Recovered from COVID-19 infection Ontario couple are still testing positive for coronavirus. Finally,  COVID-19 fomit** contamination of Chinese money and survival of corona-virus in high heat & humidity are also in the update.

    31 Dec 2019 to 16 Feb 2020 COVID-19 Bar chart

    31 Dec 2019 to 16 Feb 2020 COVID-19 Infection Level Bar Chart

    Number of COVID-19 Infections outside China as of Feb 16, 2020

    Number of COVID-19 Infections outside China as of Feb 16, 2020

    Singapore COVID-19 Infection Status 15 Feb 2020

    Singapore COVID-19 Infection Status 15 Feb 2020

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Culture, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, USA | 23 Comments »

    The Goad

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th February 2020 (All posts by )

    “…Wake again, Bagheera. For what use was this thorn-pointed thing made?”
    Bagheera half opened his eyes—he was very sleepy—with a malicious twinkle. “It was made by men to thrust into the head of the sons of Hathi, so that the blood should pour out. I have seen the like in the street of Oodeypore, before our cages. That thing has tasted the blood of many such as Hathi.”
    “But why do they thrust into the heads of elephants?”
    “To teach them Man’s Law. Having neither claws nor teeth, men make these things—and worse.” – From The Kings’ Ankus by Rudyard Kipling

    The jeweled elephant goad, the ‘ankus’ of Kipling’s story – was indeed a thing made by men, intended to control elephants; a thing used to threaten and inflict pain, to make the elephant do what the man wielding the ankus do what was commanded. I have begun to think of late that the threat of being called a racist is much the same kind of instrument. It’s a means of control, wielded to enforce silence and obedience. Consider the various local police in English towns and cities, who were so bludgeoned by the threat of being viewed as racists that they turned a blind eye, over and over, and over again, to deliberate and organized grooming and sexual exploitation of white English girls by Pakistani gangsters. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Culture, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 4 Comments »

    Going, Going. Gone

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st January 2020 (All posts by )

    The credibility of the mainstream press establishment is shimmering into nothingness, like the last bit of winter snow after a week of warm spring days; just as our respect and trust for such federal bureaucracies and establishments like the FBI are similarly evaporating. While acknowledging and accepting that such establishments are operated by mere mortals, with all the weaknesses and moral failings that ordinary human beings are heir to, and grudgingly accepting the understanding that the establishment news media trends strongly to the left in political sympathies … look, we can accept all that and a certain degree of human bias, but what’s getting hard to swallow of late is the sheer, mind-numbing, flaming incompetence of them all. Which might be a blessing, for terrifying competence on the part of our current Ruling Class and their minions would make protesting or opposing them that much more difficult. Instead, as Kirk so memorably put it last week,

    “What we have is, instead, an aristocracy of dunces, men and women who tell the rest of us how smart they are, and then screw up the entirety of civilization based on fantasies they’ve come up with. The rest of us need to start recognizing that the emperor not only isn’t wearing any clothes, he’s drunk off his ass and waving his wing-wang in our faces. The people who’ve flim-flammed their way into power are all dangerously inept and terminally deluded. If you doubt me, open your eyes and look around yourself: Is there anything, anything at all that these soi-disant “elites” have gotten right in the last century? Anything at all?”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media | 48 Comments »

    Book Review: The Good Jobs Strategy, by Zeynep Ton

    Posted by David Foster on 19th January 2020 (All posts by )

    Retail businesses are associated with low pay and high employee turnover–especially in the case of those retailers who offer low prices–and the same is largely true of customer-service call centers.  It has been generally assumed that low wages in these operations are a necessary concomitant of low prices for consumers, and that only businesses serving a premium-price customer base can afford to pay high wages.

    Comes now Zeynep Ton, arguing that the low-wage strategy is not the only one available to retailers and other customer-service businesses that need to offer low prices, and that indeed often–usually–it is not the best strategy.  She draws connections between the pay and hiring strategy of a business and the operational basis on which it is managed.  To wit:

    Low pay and high turnover implies minimal employee training, because you can’t afford extensive training for employees who are going to leave in a matter of months.  Minimal training implies less operational flexibility, because employees will not be cross-trained for other functions.  An environment of high turnover and not-well-trained employees implies that employee functions must be strictly proceduralized, often to the point of excessive rigidity.  And the lack of flexibility driven by minimal training and experience makes it harder to build in appropriate staffing “slack” to handle peak demand situations.  The lack of slack and flexibility leads to endless emergency rescheduling of personnel, reducing morale and further increasing turnover.  (She provides some vivid examples of what this endless and short-notice rescheduling can mean to the personal lives of employees.)

    On the opposite site, higher pay can contribute to lower turnover, making more-extensive training economically viable.  Better-trained employees can more easily perform multiple functions, so that absences or staffing imbalances have a less-harmful effect.  Better-trained and more highly-motivated employees don’t need micromanagement, either by human managers or by systems and procedures.

    Ho, hum, you say, what’s new?…people, especially consultants and professors, have been writing for years about why employees should be treated well and how it pays off to do so.  How is this book different from a million of others?

    The Good Jobs Strategy is, in my view, something quite different from the typical “just treat ’em right” sort of soft, warm, and cuddly advice often found in books and LinkedIn posts.  The author ties the feasibility of the high-pay / high-expectations strategy to effective operational management, with the right systems, procedures, and incentives to enable such operational excellence.

    An interesting example the author mentions is that of Home Depot. She credits much of the chain’s early success to its high-quality associates–“knowledgeable and helpful and willing to do whatever it took to help you, even if that meant explaining to you that you didn’t actually need what you came to buy.”  The associates tended to be former plumbers, electricians, etc–and they were employed full-time.  HD grew very rapidly–“customers were driving two hours to go to its stores and, once they experienced the service and great prices, they kept coming back”

    But, with the growth came problems.  There was a lack of discipline in the stores, in how the stores communicated with headquarters, how the company selected its products, and how it communicated with suppliers.  “In 2000, bills and invoices were still processed by hand, and headquarters communicated to 1134 stores via fax because there was no companywide email.”  In 2008, two senior IT executives (newly hired from Walmart) concluded that Home Depot’s IT systems were about where Walmart’s had been in 1991.  In summary, HD had become “a classic example of a service company that did not fully appreciate the role of operations in making customers and investors happy…Operations are all those factory-like activities that a business has to carry out in order to provide whatever it is that it sells. ..In a retail store, for example, operations involves things like having the right product in the right place, having a fast checkout, and having a clean store.” Zeynep Ton says that internal measurement systems often don’t focus on such matters–at one retailer she worked with, “Twenty percent of the (store manager’s) score had to do with the store’s customer interactions.” In this chain, “mystery shoppers” would score the store on things like how the employees greeted customers and made eye contact.  But, she notes, “kindness or friendliness won’t make up for operational incompetence. ..It is hard for your dry cleaner to make you happy if you can’t wear your favorite suit to an important interview because they didn’t get it cleaned on time.”

    When Robert Nardelli became HD’s CEO in 2000, the systems and procedures problems were rapidly addressed.  Gross margins and net profit margins increased substantially.

    BUT, “the culture of cost-cutting was soon felt at the local level, where store employees, who were once at the center of Home Depot’s success and at the top of Home Depot’s inverted pyramid, became a cost to be minimized.”  The company started hiring part-timers, in the name of both staffing flexibility and cost…the knowledge level of the typical employee encountered by a customer fell noticeably.  By 2005, HD was ranked lower in customer satisfaction than was K-mart.  Same-store sales growth fell and even became negative.  Nardelli left the company in 2007.

    Zeynep Ton summarizes:  Operational designs don’t execute themselves.  They depend on having the right people, and having those people motivated to do the right things.

    The book discusses the actual complexity that exists in many seemingly-simple businesses, and the fact that individual employee decisions do make a difference. “If you are a supermarket employee shelving a case of toothpaste and all but two of the tubes fit on the shelf, should you take the two extras back to storage or would it be better to squeeze them onto the the shelf, even if it doesn’t look so good?  If a tomato looks just a little soft, should you take it to the back room now or wait until it looks worse?  Maybe it will be just fine for a customer who wants to make tomato sauce…it is hard, if not impossible, to make such work so simple and simple and standardized that anyone can do it without exercising judgment.  Things happen in real time at retail stores, and employees have to learn to react.”

    (It is incredibly refreshing to see a B-school professor thinking and writing at this level of detail and specificity)

    One interesting company discussed in the book is QuikTrip, a large chain of convenience stores combined with gas stations.  The company is very selective in its hiring….the author compares getting hired there with the difficulty of getting into an Ivy League college.  In the Atlanta area, 90% of applicants don’t even quality for an interview, and of those who do, only one out of five is selected.  Turnover rate among QuikTrip employees is only 13%, far lower than the industry as a whole.  The chain emphasizes speed and flexibility…”QuikTrip’s fast checkout is a site to behold.  One thing that makes it so fast is that any employee can use any register at any time without making the customer wait.  If you regularly shop at a supermarket, you know it’s no fun waiting for the cashier do a changeover.  The other thing that makes QuikTrip so fast is that employees have been trained to ring up three customer per minute.”  She says that the employees can even calculate change in their heads!

    Other examples discussed include Costco, Trader Joe’s, In-N-Out Burger, and the Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Management, Tech | 31 Comments »

    Life Without Smartphones

    Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2020 (All posts by )

    A college instructor, concerned about how poorly his students were doing in the philosophy class he was teaching, tried an experiment:  for extra credit, students could give up their phones for nine days and write about living without them. Twelve students, about a third of the class, took him up on the offer.

    Without their phones, most of my students initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. That seemed to support the industry narrative: look how disconnected and lonely you’ll be without our technology. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the “real” world. 

    See some of the student comments at the link.  Note that ten of the 12 students said their phones had been compromising their ability to have real-world relationships.  And in response to a student’s comment about safety concerns when phone-less, the instructor said:

    What’s revealing is that this student and others perceived the world to be a very dangerous place. Cell phones were seen as necessary to combat that danger. The city in which these students lived has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and almost no violent crime of any kind, yet they experienced a pervasive, undefined fear.

    For perspective, though, we should consider:  How would students in say, the 1950s through the 1980s have responded if they had been temporarily denied access to dorm or apartment phones and also to pay phones?  Because since smartphones became common, pay phones have largely disappeared, and I’d imagine that dorm and apartment phones are pretty rare as well.

    I’d hazard a guess that 1950s-1980s students who were denied access to conventional telephony would have felt somewhat disconnected, but not nearly so much as present-day students without their smartphones.

    When the telegraph was first invented, a journalist marveled that “This extraordinary discovery leaves…no elsewhere…it is all here.”

    As I’ve noted before, it seems that if the wired communications reduced the sense of elsewhere, it seems that wireless communications reduces the sense of the here and now.

    Posted in Academia, Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Internet, Tech | 5 Comments »

    Community Size and True Diversity

    Posted by David Foster on 29th December 2019 (All posts by )

    Interesting remarks from Tim Harford, summarizing a study of friendships among college students:

    They found that students in a large, diverse campus sought out and befriended other students very much like themselves. In smaller universities with fewer friendship options, young people had more varied groups of friends because the alternative was to have no friends at all. 

    (link)

    This reminded me of something Chesterton said:

    The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing that is really narrow is the clique….The men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment like that which exists in hell.

    I think that Chesterton’s words represent an important truth, but by no means the whole truth. It is true that much is lost in modern society to the extent that people only associate with others like them. But it is also true that much is lost in traditional societies to the extent that people are denied the opportunity to seek out others of similar interests. And also, in traditional societies, the “fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences” of which Chesterton writes are often to a large extent mediated by standardized and ritualistic behavior.

    Posted in Academia, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis | 13 Comments »

    Media and Young Children

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2019 (All posts by )

    An MRI-based study looked at the effects of:

    –simply reading a story to a child

    –telling the story with the kind of animation that might be presented on a tablet or a TV screen

    –telling the story with the aid of a traditional picture book

    For the 4-year-old kids who were studied, the MRI data was said to suggest better patterns of mental development for the third type of storytelling than for either of the other two.  Note that it was a very small study: only 27 kids, probably too few to draw any kind of definitive conclusions…but interesting.

    From the WSJ article:

    The sound of the storytelling voice on its own seemed to be “too cold” to get the children’s brain networks to fully engage. Like the second bowl that Goldilocks samples, animation of the sort that children might see on a TV screen or tablet was “too hot.” There is just too much going on, too quickly, for the children to be able to participate in what they were seeing. Small children’s brains have no difficulty registering bright, fast-moving images, as experience teaches and MRI scanning confirms, but the giddy shock and awe of animation doesn’t give them time to exercise their deeper cognitive faculties.

    There is a bit of pleasurable challenge in making sense of what he’s seeing and hearing. There is time to reflect on the story and to see its reverberations in his own life—a transaction that may be as simple as the flash of making a connection between a real donkey he once saw with the “honky tonky, winky wonky donkey” of Craig Smith’s picture book. The collaborative engagement that a child brings to the experience is so vital and productive that reading aloud “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” as a 2014 paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics put it, strengthening the neural connections that will enable him to process more difficult and complex stories as he gets older.

    This ties in with some comments I made on my post Metaphors, Interfaces, Memes, and Thinking, which expands on some of Neal Stephenson’s ideas:

    I’d observe that as a general matter, the sensorial interface is less open to challenge than the textual interface. It doesn’t argue–doesn’t present you with a chain of facts and logic that let you sit back and say, “Hey, wait a minute–I’m not so sure about that.” It just sucks you into its own point of view.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Media | 5 Comments »