Listened to Two Schools in Marin County by Kai Wright and Marianne McCune from The United States of Anxiety | WNYC Studios

Cover art for The United States of Anxiety Podcast

Last year, the California Attorney General held a tense press conference at a tiny elementary school in the one working class, black neighborhood of the mostly wealthy and white Marin County. His office had concluded that the local district "knowingly and intentionally" maintained a segregated school, violating the 14th amendment. He ordered them to fix it, but for local officials and families, the path forward remains unclear, as is the question: what does "equal protection" mean?

- Eric Foner is author of The Second Founding

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Marianne McCune.

Thank you Kai and Marianne. Hearing stories like this really makes me furious that we haven’t figured out how to do these things better. Having some common stories and history to help bring out our commonness certainly helps in getting us past the uncomfortableness we all must feel. Perhaps once we’re past that we might all be able to come up with solutions?

I’m reminded of endothermic chemical reactions that take a reasonably high activation energy (an input cost), but one that is worth it in the end because it raises the level of all the participants to a better and higher level in the end. When are we going to realize that doing a little bit of hard work today will help us all out in the longer run? I’m hopeful that shows like this can act as a catalyst to lower the amount of energy that gets us all to a better place.

Example of an endothermic reaction. / CC BY-SA

This Marin county example is interesting because it is so small and involves two schools. The real trouble comes in larger communities like Pasadena, where I live, which have much larger populations where the public schools are suffering while the dozens and dozens of private schools do far better. Most people probably don’t realize it, but we’re still suffering from the heavy effects of racism and busing from the early 1970’s.

All this makes me wonder if we could apply some math (topology and statistical mechanics perhaps) to these situations to calculate a measure of equity and equality for individual areas to find a maximum of some sort that would satisfy John Rawls’ veil of ignorance in better designing and planning our communities. Perhaps the difficulty may be in doing so for more broad and dense areas that have been financially gerrymandered for generations by redlining and other problems.

I can only think about how we’re killing ourselves as individuals and as a nation. The problem seems like individual choices for smoking and our long term health care outcomes or for individual consumption and its broader effects on global warming. We’re ignoring the global maximums we could be achieving (where everyone everywhere has improved lives) in the search for personal local maximums. Most of these things are not zero sum games, but sadly we feel like they must be and actively work against both our own and our collective best interests.

Bookmarked The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion by John R. Zaller (Cambridge University Press)
In this book John Zaller develops a comprehensive theory to explain how people acquire political information from the mass media and convert it into political preferences. Using numerous specific examples, Zaller applies this theory in order to explain the dynamics of public opinion on a broad range of subjects, including both domestic and foreign policy, trust in government, racial equality, and presidential approval, as well as voting behavior in U.S. House, Senate and Presidential elections. Particularly perplexing characteristics of public opinion are also examined, such as the high degree of random fluctuations in political attitudes observed in opinion surveys and the changes in attitudes due to minor changes in the wording of survey questions.
Hat tip: Strong recommendation by Vicki Boykis (#)

👓 Taking Sidwell Friends to the Supreme Court is about more than rich people problems | CNN

Read Taking Sidwell Friends to the Supreme Court is about more than rich people problems by David Perry (CNN)
A student can get a spectacular education at a wide variety of institutions, not just elite institutions. We are poorer as a nation when we spread myths that say otherwise, writes David Perry
Watched Generous Thinking: Sustainability, Solidarity, and the Common Good by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities Professor of English Michigan State UniversityKathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities Professor of English Michigan State University from Coalition for Networked Information | Vimeo

Generous Thinking: Sustainability, Solidarity, and the Common Good from CNI Vimeo Video Channel on Vimeo.

See for more information.

Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
Spring 2019 Membership Meeting
April 8-9, 2019
St. Louis, MO

Joseph explores the extent to which discourses about community suggest an antidote to or escape from capitalism’s depredations, while distracting us from the supplementary role that community actually serves with respect to capital, filling its gaps and smoothing over its rifts in ways that permit it to function untrammeled. The alternative presented by community allows the specter of socialism, or genuine state support for the needs of the public, to be dismissed. This relationship becomes particularly clear in Joseph’s discussion of the role of non-profit organizations — entities highly likely to participate in and benefit from the idealized discourse of community — which often fill needs left behind by a retreating state, allowing that retreat to go unchallenged.

— Kathleen Fitzpatrick in Community, Privatization, Efficiency

Also cross reference: Strategy and Solidarity

From the video at timecode [22:05]:

…raises the key question of what it is we mean when we talk about community?
As Miranda Joseph argues in Against the Romance of Community, the concept is often invoked as a place holder for something that exists outside the dominant economic and institutional structures of contemporary life. A set of estensibly organic felt relationships that harken back to a mythical pre-modern moment in which people lived and worked in direct connection with one another  without the mediating forces of capitalism.
Now community is in this sense, in Benedict Anderson’s sense, an imagined relationship, and even an imaginary one. As its invocation is designed to yoke together bodies whose existence as a group is largely constructed. It’s a concept often used both idealistically and as a form of discipline. 
A claim of unity that smoothes over and thus suppresses  internal difference and disagreement. And as Joseph points out, the notion of community is often deployed  as if the relationships that it describes could provide an antidote to or an escape from the problems created by contemporary political and economic life. 
But this suggestion,  serves to distract us, she says, from the supplementary role that community, in fact, actually serves with respect to capitalism. Sort of filling its gaps and smoothing over its flaws in ways that permit it to function without real opposition. So we call upon the community to support projects  that the dominant institutions of the mainstream economy will not. And this is how we end up with social network-based fundraising campaigns to support people facing major health crises rather than demanding universal health care, and elementary school bake sales rather than full funding for education.
So community becomes, in this sense, an alibi for the creeping privatization of what should be social responsibilities.

Some interesting thought here with respect to economics, community, the commons, and education. While a large piece of the talk is about higher education, there are definitely some things that can be learned and used with respect to social media, and particularly the IndieWeb movement. I’d recommend everyone take a peek at it and think about how we can better deploy and give credit to some of our shared resources.

👓 The cheater in the Oval Office should be banished from the tribe | LA Times

Read The cheater in the Oval Office should be banished from the tribe by Virginia Heffernan (LA Times)
Think Trump didn't know he was getting a shady assist at the ballot box. Read the Mueller report.

👓 The Man Who Broke Politics | The Atlantic

Read The Man Who Broke Politics (The Atlantic)
Newt Gingrich turned partisan battles into bloodsport, wrecked Congress, and paved the way for Trump's rise. Now he's reveling in his achievements.
An interesting look back at the history, and it seems a bit surprising to me because Gingrich has always seemed so calm, reasonable and staid in his television appearances. Apparently he wasn’t quite so behind the scenes.

What I find false in some of his assumptions however is that while his idea about killing or being killed from an evolutionary standpoint is broadly true, humans have been able to do so much more by possessing logic and civility than the base “animals” he apparently idolizes. His premise has brought down our democratic structures and is causing us to devolve backwards instead of forwards–both within the larger animalistic structure he proposes as well as among our fellow people of the world. While Americans are infighting among ourselves, we’re losing ground to other countries who are rapidly catching up to us.

Somehow I feel like Gingrich is missing a chunk of modern history and the value of a Western liberal democracy, by which I’m talking about the philosophical version of liberal, and not his version of liberal meaning Democrat or “enemy.”

While he may think the Republicans are “winning” presently, what is generally happening is that a larger rift is opening up within the democracy and the two sides which really aren’t very apart are moving even further apart, particularly in their fighting. As a result, we’re spending far more time and energy fighting each other rather than competing against countries externally. From a game theoretic perspective each side fights harder in opposite directions, but the equilibrium point doesn’t really move very much for all the extra effort. Meanwhile, we’re exhausting our resources (and general happiness) which we could be employing to better ourselves, and particularly with respect to all the external factors (foreign powers, climate change, etc.) we should be working against.

He can continue to look at things from the Nixonian “man in the arena” perspective of his youth, but I would submit he should be looking at it from the wider “person in the world” perspective we’re all operating in in this millennia.

🔖 A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory by Matthew O. Jackson | SSRN

Bookmarked A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory by Matthew O. Jackson (SSRN)
I provide a (very) brief introduction to game theory. I have developed these notes to provide quick access to some of the basics of game theory; mainly as an aid for students in courses in which I assumed familiarity with game theory but did not require it as a prerequisite.

🔖 Equilibrium points in n-person games by John Nash | PNAS

Bookmarked Equilibrium points in n-person games by John F. Nash Jr. (PNAS 36 (1) 48-49;

One may define a concept of an n-person game in which each player has a finite set of pure strategies and in which a definite set of payments to the n players corresponds to each n-tuple of pure strategies, one strategy being taken for each player. For mixed strategies, which are probability distributions over the pure strategies, the pay-off functions are the expectations of the players, thus becoming polylinear forms in the probabilities with which the various players play their various pure strategies.

Any n-tuple of strategies, one for each player, may be regarded as a point in the product space obtained by multiplying the n strategy spaces of the players. One such n-tuple counters another if the strategy of each player in the countering n-tuple yields the highest obtainable expectation for its player against the n − 1 strategies of the other players in the countered n-tuple. A self-countering n-tuple is called an equilibrium point.

The correspondence of each n-tuple with its set of countering n-tuples gives a one-to-many mapping of the product space into itself. From the definition of countering we see that the set of countering points of a point is convex. By using the continuity of the pay-off functions we see that the graph of the mapping is closed. The closedness is equivalent to saying: if P1, P2, … and Q1, Q2, …, Qn, … are sequences of points in the product space where Qn → Q, Pn → P and Qn counters Pn then Q counters P.

Since the graph is closed and since the image of each point under the mapping is convex, we infer from Kakutani’s theorem1 that the mapping has a fixed point (i.e., point contained in its image). Hence there is an equilibrium point.

In the two-person zero-sum case the “main theorem”2 and the existence of an equilibrium point are equivalent. In this case any two equilibrium points lead to the same expectations for the players, but this need not occur in general.

Communicated by S. Lefschetz, November 16, 1949

👓 Disconnected, fragmented, or united? a trans-disciplinary review of network science | Applied Network Science | César A. Hidalgo

Read Disconnected, fragmented, or united? a trans-disciplinary review of network science by César A. HidalgoCésar A. Hidalgo (Applied Network Science | SpringerLink)
During decades the study of networks has been divided between the efforts of social scientists and natural scientists, two groups of scholars who often do not see eye to eye. In this review I present an effort to mutually translate the work conducted by scholars from both of these academic fronts hoping to continue to unify what has become a diverging body of literature. I argue that social and natural scientists fail to see eye to eye because they have diverging academic goals. Social scientists focus on explaining how context specific social and economic mechanisms drive the structure of networks and on how networks shape social and economic outcomes. By contrast, natural scientists focus primarily on modeling network characteristics that are independent of context, since their focus is to identify universal characteristics of systems instead of context specific mechanisms. In the following pages I discuss the differences between both of these literatures by summarizing the parallel theories advanced to explain link formation and the applications used by scholars in each field to justify their approach to network science. I conclude by providing an outlook on how these literatures can be further unified.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Social scientists focus on explaining how context specific social and economic mechanisms drive the structure of networks and on how networks shape social and economic outcomes. By contrast, natural scientists focus primarily on modeling network characteristics that are independent of context, since their focus is to identify universal characteristics of systems instead of context specific mechanisms.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:18PM

Science and Complexity (Weaver 1948); explained the three eras that according to him defined the history of science. These were the era of simplicity, disorganized complexity, and organized complexity. In the eyes of Weaver what separated these three eras was the development of mathematical tools allowing scholars to describe systems of increasing complexity.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:19PM

Problems of disorganized complexity are problems that can be described using averages and distributions, and that do not depend on the identity of the elements involved in a system, or their precise patterns of interactions. A classic example of a problem of disorganized complexity is the statistical mechanics of Ludwig Boltzmann, James-Clerk Maxwell, and Willard Gibbs, which focuses on the properties of gases.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:20PM

Soon after Weaver’s paper, biologists like Francois Jacob (Jacob and Monod 1961), (Jacob et al. 1963) and Stuart Kaufmann (Kauffman 1969), developed the idea of regulatory networks. Mathematicians like Paul Erdos and Alfred Renyi, advanced graph theory (Erdős and Rényi 1960) while Benoit Mandelbrot worked on Fractals (Mandelbrot and Van Ness 1968), (Mandelbrot 1982). Economists like Thomas Schelling (Schelling 1960) and Wasily Leontief (Leontief 1936), (Leontief 1936), respectively explored self-organization and input-output networks. Sociologists, like Harrison White (Lorrain and White 1971) and Mark Granovetter (Granovetter 1985), explored social networks, while psychologists like Stanley Milgram (Travers and Milgram 1969) explored the now famous small world problem.   

Some excellent references
August 25, 2018 at 10:24PM

First, I will focus in these larger groups because reviews that transcend the boundary between the social and natural sciences are rare, but I believe them to be valuable. One such review is Borgatti et al. (2009), which compares the network science of natural and social sciences arriving at a similar conclusion to the one I arrived.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:27PM

Links are the essence of networks. So I will start this review by comparing the mechanisms used by natural and social scientists to explain link formation.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:32PM

When connecting the people that acted in the same movie, natural scientists do not differentiate between people in leading or supporting roles.  

But they should because it’s not often the case that these are relevant unless they are represented by the same agent or agency.
August 25, 2018 at 10:51PM

For instance, in the study of mobile phone networks, the frequency and length of interactions has often been used as measures of link weight (Onnela et al. 2007), (Hidalgo and Rodriguez-Sickert 1008), (Miritello et al. 2011).  

And they probably shouldn’t because typically different levels of people are making these decisions. Studio brass and producers typically have more to say about the lead roles and don’t care as much about the smaller ones which are overseen by casting directors or sometimes the producers. The only person who has oversight of all of them is the director, and even then they may quit caring at some point.
August 25, 2018 at 10:52PM

Social scientists explain link formation through two families of mechanisms; one that finds it roots in sociology and the other one in economics. The sociological approach assumes that link formation is connected to the characteristics of individuals and their context. Chief examples of the sociological approach include what I will call the big three sociological link-formation hypotheses. These are: shared social foci, triadic closure, and homophily.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:55PM

The social foci hypothesis predicts that links are more likely to form among individuals who, for example, are classmates, co-workers, or go to the same gym (they share a social foci). The triadic closure hypothesis predicts that links are more likely to form among individuals that share “friends” or acquaintances. Finally, the homophily hypothesis predicts that links are more likely to form among individuals who share social characteristics, such as tastes, cultural background, or physical appearance (Lazarsfeld and Merton 1954), (McPherson et al. 2001).  

definitions of social foci, triadic closure, and homophily within network science.
August 26, 2018 at 11:39AM

Yet, strategic games look for equilibrium in the formation and dissolution of ties in the context of the game theory advanced first by (Von Neumann et al. 2007), and later by (Nash 1950).  

August 25, 2018 at 10:58PM

Preferential attachment is the idea that connectivity begets connectivity.  

August 25, 2018 at 10:59PM

Preferential attachment is an idea advanced originally by the statisticians John Willis and Udny Yule in (Willis and Yule 1922), but has been rediscovered numerous times during the twentieth century.  

August 25, 2018 at 11:00PM

Rediscoveries of this idea in the twentieth century include the work of (Simon 1955) (who did cite Yule), (Merton 1968), (Price 1976) (who studied citation networks), and (Barabási and Albert 1999), who published the modern reference for this model, which is now widely known as the Barabasi-Albert model.  

August 25, 2018 at 11:01PM

preferential attachment. In the eyes of the social sciences, however, understanding which of all of these hypotheses drives the formation of the network is what one needs to explore.  

For example what drives attachment of political candidates?
August 26, 2018 at 08:15AM

Finally it is worth noting that trust, through the theory of social capital, has been connected with long-term economic growth—even though these results are based on regressions using extremely sparse datasets.  

And this is an example of how Trump is hurting the economy.
August 26, 2018 at 08:33AM

Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that social capital and social institutions are significant predictors of economic growth, after controlling for the effects of human capital and initial levels of income (Knack and Keefer 1997), (Knack 2002).4 So trust is a relevant dimension of social interactions that has been connected to individual dyads, network formation, labor markets, and even economic growth.  

August 26, 2018 at 08:35AM

Social scientist, on the other hand, have focused on what ties are more likely to bring in new information, which are primarily weak ties (Granovetter 1973), and on why weak ties bring new information (because they bridge structural holes (Burt 2001), (Burt 2005)).  

August 26, 2018 at 09:45AM

heterogeneous networks have been found to be effective promoters of the evolution of cooperation, since there are advantages to being a cooperator when you are a hub, and hubs tend to stabilize networks in equilibriums where levels of cooperation are high (Ohtsuki et al. 2006), (Pacheco et al. 2006), (Lieberman et al. 2005), (Santos and Pacheco 2005).  

August 26, 2018 at 09:49AM

These results, however, have also been challenged by human experiments finding no such effect (Gracia-Lázaro et al. 2012). The study of cooperation in networks has also been performed in dynamic settings, where individuals are allowed to cut ties (Wang et al. 2012), promoting cooperation, and are faced with different levels of knowledge about the reputation of peers in their network (Gallo and Yan 2015). Moreover, cooperating behavior has seen to spread when people change the networks where they participate in (Fowler and Christakis 2010).  

Open questions
August 26, 2018 at 09:50AM


Hidalgo CA. Disconnected, fragmented, or united? a trans-disciplinary review of network science. ANS. 2016;1(1). doi:10.1007/s41109-016-0010-3

🎧 I Don’t Think I Can Do Anything to Fix It | The Daily – New York Times

Listened to Listen to ‘The Daily’: ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do Anything to Fix It’ by Michael Barbaro from
Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican, talks about the Russia investigation, gun control and his decision not to run for re-election.

This gives me some interesting ideas about how things might be fixed via game theory. In some sense it may also help if we all (both parties) had a common enemy to fight against. During the Cold War it was Communism we fought against which helped us be on the same side, and as a result we were more united. Now with nothing to “fight against” we’re fighting each other.

This is one of the most interesting episodes of this podcast I’ve come across yet.

👓 Journalists Boycott Disney Films After L.A. Times Snub | Hollywood Reporter

Read Journalists Boycott Disney Films After L.A. Times Snub (The Hollywood Reporter)
The L.A. Times is currently barred from attending advance screenings of Disney movies.
I’m betting this doesn’t end well for Disney’s corporate image. How shortsighted can they be?

👓 Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction? | Nautilus

Read Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction? by Simon DeDeo (Nautilus)
What computers teach us about getting along. From an office at Carnegie Mellon, my colleague John Miller and I had evolved a computer program with a taste for genocide.
Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction?

This article reminds me that I need to go back to reading Fukuyama’s two volume series (Origins of Political Order) and apply more math to it as a model. I can see some interesting evolution of political structures spread throughout the modern world and still want a more concrete answer for the jumps between them. I suspect that some of our world problems are between more advanced political economies and less advanced (more tribalistic ones — read Middle Eastern as well as some third world nations) which are working on different life-ways. Are there punctuated equilibrium between the political structures of economies like the graph in this paper? What becomes the tipping point that pushes one from one region to the next?

I also feel a bit like our current political climate has changed so significantly in the past 20 years that it’s possible we (America) may be regressing.

Check out this referenced paper:
🔖 Barasz, M., et al. Robust cooperation in the Prisoner’s Dilemma: Program equilibrium via provability logic. arXiv 1401.5577 (2014).

SFI and ASU to offer online M.S. in Complexity | Complexity Explorer

Bookmarked SFI and ASU to offer online M.S. in Complexity (Complexity Explorer)
SFI and Arizona State University soon will offer the world’s first comprehensive online master’s degree in complexity science. It will be the Institute’s first graduate degree program, a vision that dates to SFI’s founding. “With technology, a growing recognition of the value of online education, widespread acceptance of complexity science, and in partnership with ASU, we are now able to offer the world a degree in the field we helped invent,” says SFI President David Krakauer, “and it will be taught by the very people who built it into a legitimate domain of scholarship.”

🔖 A Course in Game Theory by Martin J. Osborne, Ariel Rubinstein | MIT Press

Bookmarked A Course in Game Theory (MIT Press)
A Course in Game Theory presents the main ideas of game theory at a level suitable for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, emphasizing the theory's foundations and interpretations of its basic concepts. The authors provide precise definitions and full proofs of results, sacrificing generalities and limiting the scope of the material in order to do so. The text is organized in four parts: strategic games, extensive games with perfect information, extensive games with imperfect information, and coalitional games. It includes over 100 exercises.
Tangentially suggested after reading In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium by Erica Klarreich (Quanta Magazine)

Free, personal copy is downloadable in .pdf format with registration here.

A Course in Game Theory

🔖 Subjectivity and Correlation in Randomized Strategies by Robert J. Aumann | Journal of Mathematical Economics

Bookmarked Subjectivity and Correlation in Randomized Strategies (Journal of Mathematical Economics 1 (1974) 67-96. North-Holland Publishing Company)
(.pdf download) Subjectivity and correlation, though formally related, are conceptually distinct and independent issues. We start by discussing subjectivity. A mixed strategy in a game involves the selection of a pure strategy by means of a random device. It has usually been assumed that the random device is a coin flip, the spin of a roulette wheel, or something similar; in brief, an ‘objective’ device, one for which everybody agrees on the numerical values of the probabilities involved. Rather oddly, in spite of the long history of the theory of subjective probability, nobody seems to have examined the consequences of basing mixed strategies on ‘subjective’ random devices, i.e. devices on the probabilities of whose outcomes people may disagree (such as horse races, elections, etc.).
Suggested by In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium by Erica Klarreich (Quanta Magazine)