👓 The microscopic structure of a cat’s tongue helps keep its fur clean | The Economist

Read The microscopic structure of a cat’s tongue helps keep its fur clean (The Economist)
The secret is in the grooves
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👓 The Problem With Feedback | The Atlantic

Read The Problem With Feedback (The Atlantic)
Companies and apps constantly ask for ratings, but all that data may just be noise in the system.

A great framing of a lot of crazy digital exhaust that online services and apps are collecting that don’t do much. I’ve also thought for a while about the idea of signal to noise ratio of these types of data as well as their quantization levels which often don’t make much sense to me. I don’t think that there are any IndieWeb realizations of these sorts of (mostly business) systems in the wild yet, but this is an important area to begin to consider when they do.

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👓 Start with the spark, not the fire | Ben Werdmüller

Read Start with the spark, not the fire by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
Your vision can be a raging fire that might change the world. But you can't have a fire without a spark that takes hold. So, I learned not to let go of that vision, but to take my head out of the clouds and bring myself down to earth. It's easy to have a big, romantic notion; it's much harder to put the actual nuts and bolts together to get a real venture off the ground. To do that effectively, you have to find: the real people you want to serve, get to know them personally and gain really unique insights about their needs, and then build the smallest possible thing that will meet those needs.
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🎧 Should We Break Up Amazon? | Crazy/Genius | The Atlantic

Listened to Should We Break Up Amazon? from Crazy/Genius | The Atlantic

Has the Everything Store become a dangerous monopoly threatening the U.S. economy?

Some time later this year, Amazon could become the first trillion-dollar company in American history. Its valuation has already doubled in the last 14 months to about $800 billion, and Jeff Bezos, its founder and CEO, is officially the richest man on the planet.

There are ways in which Amazon seems to be the greatest company in American history. It’s revolutionized the global shopping experience and expanded into media and hardware, while operating on razor-thin margins that have astonished critics. But some now consider it the modern incarnation of a railroad monopoly, a logistics behemoth using its scale to destroy competition.

So what is Amazon: brilliant, dangerous, or both? That’s the subject of the latest episode of Crazy/Genius, our new podcast on technology and culture.

To build the case for breaking up the Everything Store, I talk to Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at NYU and an outspoken critic of big tech, and Lina Khan, a researcher at the Open Markets Institute and a leading expert on antitrust policy. Both of them encourage me to see how a company famous for low prices can still behave in an anticompetitive manner. Making the case against heavy regulation for Amazon are Rob Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank, and Michael Mandel, an economist with the Progressive Policy Institute who researches technology and e-commerce. Both encourage me to focus not only on the hidden costs of Amazon’s largeness, but also on the hidden benefits.

hat tip: Atlantic Interview podcast feed

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👓 ‘It’s Like Amazon, But for Preschool’ | Hack Education

Read 'It's Like Amazon, But for Preschool' by Audrey Watters (Hack Education)
A year ago, the richest man in the world asked Twitter for suggestions on how he should most efficiently and charitably spend his wealth. And today, Jeff Bezos unveiled a few details about his plan...
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👓 No, Half Of All Colleges Will Not Go Bankrupt | Forbes

Read No, Half Of All Colleges Will Not Go Bankrupt by Derek Newton (Forbes)
Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen has said that half of all colleges will go bankrupt. The problem is, there's no evidence that's true. Only the supposedly innovative, disruptive for-profit ones are going under.
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👓 The End of History? | Francis Fukuyama

Read The End of History? by Francis FukuyamaFrancis Fukuyama (The National Interest | No. 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-18)

IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.

And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.

In general, while I’ve been reading Stuart Kauffmann’s At Home in the Universe, I can’t help but thinking about the cascading extinctions he describes and wonder if political extinctions of ideas like Communism or other forms of government or even economies might follow the same types of outcomes described there?   
August 29, 2018 at 09:37AM

Building on this, could we create a list of governments and empires and rank them in order of the length of their spans? There may be subtleties in changes of regimes in some eras, but generally things are probably reasonably well laid out. I wonder if the length of life of particular governments follows a power law? One would suspect it might.   
August 29, 2018 at 09:43AM

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.  

Total exhaustion?
August 29, 2018 at 08:53AM

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.  

What if, in fact, we’ve only just found a local maximum? What if in the changing landscape there are other places we could potentially get to competitively that supply greater maxima? And possibly worse, what if we need to lose value to get from here to unlock even more value there?
August 29, 2018 at 08:56AM

Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.  

and probably not a bad outcome in an earlier era that thought of things in terms of clockwork and lacked the ideas of quantum theory and its attendant uncertainties.
August 29, 2018 at 08:59AM

Believing that there was no more work for philosophers as well, since Hegel (correctly understood) had already achieved absolute knowledge, Kojève left teaching after the war and spent the remainder of his life working as a bureaucrat in the European Economic Community, until his death in 1968.  

This is depressing on so many levels.
August 29, 2018 at 09:05AM

Paul Kennedy’s hugely successful “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”, which ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension.  

Curious how this may relate to the more recent “The End of Power” by Moisés Naím. It doesn’t escape one that the title of the book somewhat echoes the title of this particular essay.
August 29, 2018 at 09:18AM

But whether a highly productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society’s political priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness.  

It’s not so much the percentage on produced defense goods, but how quickly could a society ramp up production of goods, services, and people to defend itself compared to the militaries of its potential aggressors.

In particular, most of the effort should go to the innovation side of war materiel. The innovation of the atomic bomb is a particularly nice example in that as a result of conceptualizing and then executing on it it allowed the US to win the war in the Pacific and hasten the end of war in Europe. Even if we otherwise had massive stockpiles of people or other weapons, our enemies could potentially have equaled them and dragged the war on interminably. It was the unknown unknown via innovation that unseated Japan and could potentially do the same to us based on innovation coming out of almost any country in the modern age.
August 29, 2018 at 09:24AM

Weber notes that according to any economic theory that posited man as a rational profit-maximizer, raising the piece-work rate should increase labor productivity. But in fact, in many traditional peasant communities, raising the piece-work rate actually had the opposite effect of lowering labor productivity: at the higher rate, a peasant accustomed to earning two and one-half marks per day found he could earn the same amount by working less, and did so because he valued leisure more than income. The choices of leisure over income, or of the militaristic life of the Spartan hoplite over the wealth of the Athenian trader, or even the ascetic life of the early capitalist entrepreneur over that of a traditional leisured aristocrat, cannot possibly be explained by the impersonal working of material forces,  

Science could learn something from this. Science is too far focused on the idealized positive outcomes that it isn’t paying attention to the negative outcomes and using that to better define its outline or overall shape. We need to define a scientific opportunity cost and apply it to the negative side of research to better understand and define what we’re searching for.

Of course, how can we define a new scientific method (or amend/extend it) to better take into account negative results–particularly in an age when so many results aren’t even reproducible?
August 29, 2018 at 09:32AM

FAILURE to understand that the roots of economic behavior lie in the realm of consciousness and culture leads to the common mistake of attributing material causes to phenomena that are essentially ideal in nature.  

August 29, 2018 at 09:44AM

“Protestant” life of wealth and risk over the “Catholic” path of poverty and security.[8]   

Is this simply a restatement of the idea that most of “the interesting things” happen at the border or edge of chaos? The Catholic ethic is firmly inside the stable arena while that of the Protestant ethic is pushing the boundaries.
August 29, 2018 at 09:47AM

Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.  

This presupposes that homeostasis could ever be achieved.

One thinks of phrases like “The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” But everything we know about systems and evolving systems often indicates that homeostasis isn’t necessarily a good thing. In many cases, it means eventual “death” instead of evolving towards a longer term lifespan. Again, here Kauffmann’s ideas about co-evolving systems and evolving landscapes may provide some guidance. What if we’re just at a temporary local maximum, but changes in the landscape modify that fact? What then? Shouldn’t we be looking for other potential distant maxima as well?
August 29, 2018 at 09:52AM

But that state of consciousness that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern free market economy.  

Writers spend an awful lot of time focused too carefully on the free market economy, but don’t acknowledge a lot of the major benefits of the non-free market parts which are undertaken and executed often by governments and regulatory environments. (Hacker & Pierson, 2016)
\August 29, 2018 at 10:02AM

Are there, in other words, any fundamental “contradictions” in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure?  

Churchill famously said “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”

Even within this quote it is implicit that there are many others. In some sense he’s admitting that we might possibly be at a local maximum but we’ve just not explored the spaces beyond the adjacent possible.
August 29, 2018 at 10:08AM

For our purposes, it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso, for we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind.  

While this seems solid on it’s face, we don’t know what the future landscape will look like. What if climate change brings about massive destruction of homo sapiens? We need to be careful about how and why we explore both the adjacent possible as well as the distant possible. One day we may need them and our current local maximum may not serve us well.
August 29, 2018 at 10:10AM

anomie  

I feel like this word captures very well the exact era of Trumpian Republicanism in which we find ourselves living.
August 29, 2018 at 10:37AM

After the war, it seemed to most people that German fascism as well as its other European and Asian variants were bound to self-destruct. There was no material reason why new fascist movements could not have sprung up again after the war in other locales, but for the fact that expansionist ultranationalism, with its promise of unending conflict leading to disastrous military defeat, had completely lost its appeal. The ruins of the Reich chancellery as well as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed this ideology on the level of consciousness as well as materially, and all of the pro-fascist movements spawned by the German and Japanese examples like the Peronist movement in Argentina or Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army withered after the war.  

And yet somehow we see these movements anew in America and around the world. What is the difference between then and now?
August 29, 2018 at 11:46AM

This is not to say that there are not rich people and poor people in the United States, or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years. But the root causes of economic inequality do not have to do with the underlying legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist, so much as with the cultural and social characteristics of the groups that make it up, which are in turn the historical legacy of premodern conditions.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:47AM

But those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.  

and then there are the millennials…
August 29, 2018 at 11:51AM

Beginning with the famous third plenum of the Tenth Central Committee in 1978, the Chinese Communist party set about decollectivizing agriculture for the 800 million Chinese who still lived in the countryside. The role of the state in agriculture was reduced to that of a tax collector, while production of consumer goods was sharply increased in order to give peasants a taste of the universal homogenous state and thereby an incentive to work. The reform doubled Chinese grain output in only five years, and in the process created for Deng Xiaoping a solid political base from which he was able to extend the reform to other parts of the economy. Economic Statistics do not begin to describe the dynamism, initiative, and openness evident in China since the reform began.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:58AM

At present, no more than 20 percent of its economy has been marketized, and most importantly it continues to be ruled by a self-appointed Communist party which has given no hint of wanting to devolve power.  

If Facebook were to continue to evolve at it’s current rate and with it’s potential power as well as political influence, I could see it attempting to work the way China does in a new political regime.
August 29, 2018 at 12:04PM

IF WE ADMIT for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable? Two possibilities suggest themselves, those of religion and nationalism.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:19PM

This school in effect applies a Hobbesian view of politics to international relations, and assumes that aggression and insecurity are universal characteristics of human societies rather than the product of specific historical circumstances.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:30PM

But whatever the particular ideological basis, every “developed” country believed in the acceptability of higher civilizations ruling lower ones  

August 29, 2018 at 12:37PM

Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.  

Has it started again with nationalism, racism, and Trump?
August 29, 2018 at 12:48PM

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👓 How regulators can prevent excessive concentration online – A new school in Chicago | The Economist

Read How regulators can prevent excessive concentration online (The Economist)
Conventional antitrust thinking is being disrupted from within

It is not the data that are valuable, he says, but the services powered by them. Some firms are just better at developing new offerings than others.  

So big piles of data can become a barrier to competitors entering the market, says Maurice Stucke of the University of Tennessee.  

“When feedback data from large players is available to smaller competitors, then innovation…is not concentrated at the top,” he argues in “Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data”, a new book co-written with Thomas Ramge, a journalist.  

This sounds like something which could be worth reading.

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📺 Open science: Michael Nielsen at TEDxWaterloo | YouTube

Watched Open science: Michael Nielsen at TEDxWaterloo by Michael NielsenMichael Nielsen from YouTube

Michael Nielsen is one of the pioneers of quantum computation. Together with Ike Chuang of MIT, he wrote the standard text in the field, a text which is now one of the twenty most highly cited physics books of all time. He is the author of more than fifty scientific papers, including invited contributions to Nature and Scientific American. His research contributions include involvement in one of the first quantum teleportation experiments, named as one of Science Magazine's Top Ten Breakthroughs of the Year for 1998. Michael was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of New Mexico, and has worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as the Richard Chace Tolman Prize Fellow at Caltech, as Foundation Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Queensland, and as a Senior Faculty Member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Michael left academia to write a book about open science, and the radical change that online tools are causing in the way scientific discoveries are made.

Sadly this area of science hasn’t opened up as much as it likely should have in the intervening years. More scientists need to be a growing part of the IndieWeb movement and owning their own data, their content, and, yes, even their own publishing platforms. With even simple content management systems like WordPress researchers can actively practice academic samizdat to a much greater extent and take a lot of the centralized power away from the major journal and textbook publishing enterprises.

I can easily see open web technology like the Webmention spec opening up online scientific communication and citations drastically even to the point of quickly replacing tools like Altmetric. If major publishing wants something to do perhaps they could work on the archiving and aggregation portions?

What if one could publish a research paper or journal article on one’s own (or one’s lab’s) website? It could receive data via webmention about others who are bookmarking it, reading it, highlighting and annotating it. It could also accept webmention replies as part of a greater peer-review process–the equivalent of the researcher hosting their own pre-print server as well as their own personal journal and open lab notebook.

We need to help empower scientists to be the center of their own writing and publishing. For those interested, this might be a useful starting point: https://indieweb.org/Indieweb_for_Education

 

 

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👓 How Michael Jackson's tilt defied gravity | CNN

Read How Michael Jackson's tilt defied gravity (CNN)
One of Michael Jackson's most spectacular dance moves is not biomechanically feasible without the special prop he invented, say neurosurgeons.

As interesting as this would seem, I’ve seen the general concept before in magic tricks, clown performances and even vaudeville performances before. I’m not sure how well such a patent would have really held up, though we’re well outside the 19 year time limit by now anyway.

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👓 Want To Upend An Entire Industry? Change Its Revenue Stream | Co.Design

Read Want To Upend An Entire Industry? Change Its Revenue Stream by Ryan Baum (Jump Associates) (Co.Design)

By looking at the eight possible revenue models you can reinvent a business.

There may be an infinite number of variations a company can use to make money, but they really all boil down into eight types:

  1. Unit sales: Sell a product or service to customers. GE uses this method when they sell microwaves.
  2. Advertising fees: Sell others the opportunities to distribute their message on your space. Google uses this method with its search product.
  3. Franchise fees: Sell the right for someone else to invest in, grow, and manage a version of your business. McDonald’s uses this method with its stores that are independently owned and operated as franchises.
  4. Utility fees: Sell goods and services on a per-use or as-consumed basis. Most electric companies use this model when they charge customers only for the electricity they use.
  5. Subscription fees: Charge a fixed price for access to services for a set period of time. Gold’s Gym charges a monthly or yearly subscription fee for people to access their gym.
  6. Transaction fees: Charge a fee for referring, enabling, or executing a transaction between parties. Visa charges a transaction fee to retailers each time a customer purchases a product in their store.
  7. Professional fees: Provide professional services on a time-and-materials contract. H&R Block makes money by charging customers for the time it takes to prepare their taxes.
  8. License fees: Sell the rights to use intellectual property. Every time a customer buys a T-shirt or a hat with the logo of their favorite sports team on it, that team makes money from license fees.

Hat tip: Ben Werdmuller

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🔖 What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America by Ted Dintersmith

Bookmarked What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America by Ted Dintersmith (Princeton University Press)

What School Could Be offers an inspiring vision of what our teachers and students can accomplish if trusted with the challenge of developing the skills and ways of thinking needed to thrive in a world of dizzying technological change.

Innovation expert Ted Dintersmith took an unprecedented trip across America, visiting all fifty states in a single school year. He originally set out to raise awareness about the urgent need to reimagine education to prepare students for a world marked by innovation--but America's teachers one-upped him. All across the country, he met teachers in ordinary settings doing extraordinary things, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously as they gain purpose, agency, essential skillsets and mindsets, and real knowledge. Together, these new ways of teaching and learning offer a vision of what school could be―and a model for transforming schools throughout the United States and beyond. Better yet, teachers and parents don't have to wait for the revolution to come from above. They can readily implement small changes that can make a big difference.

America's clock is ticking. Our archaic model of education trains our kids for a world that no longer exists, and accelerating advances in technology are eliminating millions of jobs. But the trailblazing of many American educators gives us reasons for hope.

Capturing bold ideas from teachers and classrooms across America, What School Could Be provides a realistic and profoundly optimistic roadmap for creating cultures of innovation and real learning in all our schools.

Marked to read after seeing reference in Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’ by Valerie Strauss.

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🔖 Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

Bookmarked Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner, Ted Dintersmith (Scribner)

From two leading experts in education and entrepreneurship, an urgent call for the radical re-imagining of American education so that we better equip students for the realities of the twenty-first century economy.

Today more than ever, we prize academic achievement, pressuring our children to get into the “right” colleges, have the highest GPAs, and pursue advanced degrees. But while students may graduate with credentials, by and large they lack the competencies needed to be thoughtful, engaged citizens and to get good jobs in our rapidly evolving economy. Our school system was engineered a century ago to produce a work force for a world that no longer exists. Alarmingly, our methods of schooling crush the creativity and initiative young people need to thrive in the twenty-first century.

In Most Likely to Succeed, bestselling author and education expert Tony Wagner and venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith call for a complete overhaul of the function and focus of American schools, sharing insights and stories from the front lines, including profiles of successful students, teachers, parents, and business leaders.

Most Likely to Succeed presents a new vision of American education, one that puts wonder, creativity, and initiative at the very heart of the learning process and prepares students for today’s economy. This book offers parents and educators a crucial guide to getting the best for their children and a roadmap for policymakers and opinion leaders.

Marked to read after seeing reference in Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’ by Valerie Strauss.

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👓 Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’ | The Washington Post

Read Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’ by Valerie StraussValerie Strauss (Washington Post)

Ted Dintersmith is a successful venture capitalist and father of two who has spent years devoting most of his time, energy and millions of dollars of his personal fortune to learning about — and advocating for — public education and how it can be made better for all children.

Dintersmith has taken a dramatically different path from other wealthy Americans who have become involved in education issues, departing from the approach of people such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who was a prime mover behind the Common Core State Standards and initiatives to assess teachers by student standardized test scores.

Dintersmith traveled to every state to visit schools and see what works and what doesn’t — and his prescription for the future of American education has very little to do with what Gates and others with that same data-driven mind-set have advocated.

He thinks the U.S. education system needs to be reimagined into cross-disciplinary programs that allow kids the freedom to develop core competencies through project-based learning.

He discussed his vision in a book he co-authored, “Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Age,” and he funded and produced a compelling documentary called “Most Likely to Succeed,” which goes into High Tech High school in San Diego, where the project-based educational future he wants is already there.

He has a new book being published in April, “What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration From Teachers Across America,” about what he learned during his travels and school visits.

How can choice and competition improve schools? From a capitalistic perspective one needs to be much more mobile or have a tremendous number of nearby schools for this to happen. Much like the lack of true competition in local hospitals, most American families don’t have any real choice in schools as their local school may be the only option. To have the greatest opportunity, one must be willing to move significant distances, and this causes issues with job availability for the parents as well as other potential social issues.

When it’s the case that there is some amount of local selection, it’s typically not much and then the disparity of people attending one school over another typically leads to much larger disparities in socio-economic attendance and thus leading to the worsening of the have and the have-nots.

Even schools in large cities like the Los Angeles area hare limited in capacity and often rely on either lottery systems or hefty tuition to cut down on demand. In the latter case, again, the haves and have-nots become a bigger problem than a solution.

I’ll have to circle back around on these to add some statistics and expand the ideas…

h/t Eric Mazur

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