Listened to The three C's of historical economic growth by Candace Manriquez Wrenn and David Brancaccio from Marketplace

The economic boom of the 19th century cannot be attributed to capitalism alone, according to Professor Homa Zarghamee.

This interview is part of our “Econ Extra Credit” project, where we read an introductory economics textbook provided by the nonprofit Core Econ together with our listeners.

For most of human history, the standard of living remained flat, not changing much from year to year, even century to century. Until the Industrial Revolution, that is, when the world population and standards of living skyrocketed.

Listened to What Econ 101 leaves out by David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon from Marketplace

The world is probably more complicated than your textbook told you. Feb 6, 2020

This interview is part of our “Econ Extra Credit” project, where we read an introductory economics textbook provided by the nonprofit Core-Econ together with our listeners.

A traditional introductory economics course might teach you that low unemployment drives up wages. And yet, even though unemployment in the United States is at a 50-year low, we’re not seeing historic wage growth to match. Many economists were surprised to find that the growth of average hourly earnings slowed in 2019, a time when it “should have” sped up.

It’s what University of Connecticut law professor James Kwak has been saying for years: those ubiquitous supply and demand curves aren’t as simple as Econ 101 lets on. Kwak has written about the issue for The Atlantic and in his book “Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality.”

“The problem is not so much classical economics as an academic discipline, but I think the way first-year economics is taught, it focuses very heavily on the simple models, when in fact, the world is a lot more complicated,” Kwak told Marketplace’s David Brancaccio.

And if it’s the only economics class you take, Kwak thinks those simple models can be misleading. Take, for instance, the issue of raising the minimum wage, something a lot of 18-year-olds might walk into class supporting.

“When you learn about supply and demand curves, it gives you a very powerful picture that essentially argues that increasing the minimum wage will effectively just increase unemployment,” said Kwak, noting that economists remain split on whether this is true.

Part of the problem for Kwak is how compelling the economic models seem when they’re taught in Economics 101 under unrealistic assumptions, like pretending that people always act rationally or imagining two people trading on a deserted island. Professors can warn students about the limits of the models, but the models might be more memorable than the disclaimers.

“What I worry about is that after the final exam, or even worse, 20 or 30 years later when you’re a member of the House of Representatives, this is all you may remember about Economics 101,” Kwak said.

Since the Great Recession, there have been efforts among professors to improve introductory classes. There were several projects to write new introductory textbooks that ground economic models in real-world examples, one of which Marketplace is reading for our “Econ Extra Credit” project. Kwak said it’s an improvement.

“I think reading introductory economics is a great project. I think that it’s important to try to bring in context when possible,” he said.

“I think it’s important, and it’s more interesting to think about broader questions about how economic institutions work; about how technology increases living standards but also increases inequality,” Kwak said. “If you think about these kinds of questions at the same time that you’re learning the mathematical models, I think you’ll have a better experience and a better understanding.”

The next segment of Marketplace’s Econ Extra Credit is out today.
Listened to Fake news is # Solvable from The Rockefeller Foundation

Anne Applebaum talks to Renée DiResta about building a more trustworthy Internet.

Renée DiResta is the Director of Research at New Knowledge and a Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation, and Trust. She investigates the spread of malign narratives across social networks, and assists policymakers in understanding and responding to the problem. She has advised the United States Congress, the State Department, and other academic, civic, and business organizations, and has studied disinformation and computational propaganda in the context of pseudoscience conspiracies, terrorism, and state-sponsored information warfare.

Many talk about the right to freedom of speech online, but rarely do discussions delve a layer deeper into the idea of the “right to reach”. I’ve lately taken to analogizing the artificial reach of bots and partisan disinformation and labeled the idea social media machine guns to emphasize this reach problem. It’s also related to Cathy O’Neill’s concept of Weapons of Math Destruction. We definitely need some new verbiage to begin describing these sorts of social ills so that we have a better grasp of what they are and how they can effect us.

I appreciate Renee’s ideas and suspect they’re related to those in Ezra Klein’s new books, which I hope to start reading shortly.

 

Listened to Episode 40: Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology from Sean Carroll's Mindscape

The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales.

Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award.

I’d never considered it before, but I’m curious if the idea of the bolt on Talos’ leg bears any influence on the bolts frequently seen on Frankenstein’s monster? Naturally they would seem to be there as a means of charging or animating him, but did they have an powers beyond that? Or was he, once jump-started, to run indefinitely? Bryan Alexander recently called out his diet (of apples and nuts), so presumably once he was brought to life, he was able to live the same way as a human.
Listened to Mindscape Episode 28: Roger Penrose on Spacetime, Consciousness, and the Universe by Sean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Sir Roger Penrose has had a remarkable life. He has contributed an enormous amount to our understanding of general relativity, perhaps more than anyone since Einstein himself — Penrose diagrams, singularity theorems, the Penrose process, cosmic censorship, and the list goes on. He has made important contributions to mathematics, including such fun ideas as the Penrose triangle and aperiodic tilings. He has also made bold conjectures in the notoriously contentious areas of quantum mechanics and the study of consciousness. In his spare time he’s managed to become an extremely successful author, writing such books as The Emperor’s New Mind and The Road to Reality. With far too much that we could have talked about, we decided to concentrate in this discussion on spacetime, black holes, and cosmology, but we made sure to reserve some time to dig into quantum mechanics and the brain by the end.

Listened to The (High School) Mascot Wars (Contested, Part 3 of 6) by John Biewen from Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Two small towns, one in Idaho, the other in Upstate New York, try to decide whether to change the nickname of their high school sports teams: The Redskins. Photo: Emblem in the main foyer at Teton High school in Driggs, Idaho. Photo by John Biewen.

Listened to Friends and Basketball (Contested, Part 2 of 6) by John Biewen from Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

More from suburban St. Louis, post-Ferguson, on the popular notion that sports unites communities. Can the camaraderie of a team sport make race and class status “disappear” for the kids involved or their parents? Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen hangs with a girls’ high school basketball team to test the idea. Photo: Pattonville High School basketball players

Listened to Sports, the Great Uniter? (Contested, Part 1 of 6) by John Biewen from Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Can a winning baseball team bring St. Louis together post-Ferguson? John Biewen investigates in the inaugural episode of Scene On Radio, a new podcast of audio stories from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Not the sports series I sort of expected this to be after the Men series and the Seeing White series. But now that I’ve started it, it’s exactly the sort of story I should have expected from John Biewen.
Listened to The Daily: ‘We Followed the President’s Orders’ from New York Times

In highly anticipated testimony, a top envoy said the operation to extract a political favor from Ukraine was done at the direction of the president, vice president and secretary of state.

Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, has evolved from a loyal Trump campaign donor to a witness central to the impeachment inquiry. But his testimony has been contradicted on multiple occasions.

Today, we look at how both Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee handled their most complicated witness to date.

Listened to The Latest: The Irregular Channel from New York Times

Testimony from Fiona Hill, a former top White House adviser, showed that even the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry may only now be learning the full picture of the part they played in the Ukraine story.

Throughout the impeachment inquiry, an image has surfaced of the Trump administration’s two policymaking channels on Ukraine — one regular, one not. Today’s testimony from Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, raised the question: Which was which?

Listened to The Latest: ‘Everyone Was in the Loop’ from New York Times

Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that President Trump ordered a pressure campaign on Ukraine and that senior-most administration officials knew about it.

In explosive testimony, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, directly implicated President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top administration officials in what he said was a push for a “clear quid pro quo” with the president of Ukraine. But during questioning, things got complicated.

Why is it that Sondland testified but others in the administration did not?
Listened to OTM presents: Here's the Thing with Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor by Alec Baldwin from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Our colleagues at "Here's the Thing" produced a great episode this week that we think you'll enjoy:
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are the New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story. For five months -- perpetually in danger of losing the scoop -- they cultivated and cajoled sources ranging from the Weinsteins’ accountant to Ashley Judd. The article that emerged on October 5th, 2017, was a level-headed and impeccably sourced exposé, whose effects continue to be felt around the world. Their conversation with Alec Baldwin covers their reporting process, and moves on to a joint wrestling with Alec’s own early knowledge of one of the Weinstein allegations, and his ongoing friendship with accused harasser James Toback. The guests ask Alec questions about the movie industry’s ethics about sex and “the casting couch.” Over a respectful and surprising half-hour, host and guests together talk through the many dilemmas posed by the movement that Kantor and Twohey did so much to unleash.

Listened to Episode 9: Make 'Em Laugh by Dr Laurie SantosDr Laurie Santos from The Happiness Lab

The world's greatest expert on canned TV laugh tracks helps Dr Laurie Santos demonstrate how the emotions of those around us can make us feel happier or more sad. If happiness is so contagious... can we use them to bring joy to ourselves and our loved ones?

Jeff’s research showed that participants pick up other people’s emotions through text— in say, a quick email note or an online comment— just as easily as they do in face-to-face real world interaction.”

Hancock, J. T., Landrigan, C., & Silver, C. (2007, April). Expressing emotion in text-based communication. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 929-932). ACM.

The social media giant allowed Jeff to run an experiment to figure out the emotional impact of Facebook posts.

Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790.

This is particularly an interesting listen for web developers and designers who could be thinking about the emotional contagion that their products may have on others.

The original link has some additional references and research, but I’ve excerpted some small portions of the ethically questionable research Facebook allowed on emotional contagion several years back. 

This research reminds me of things like Tantek Çelik‘s 100 Days of Positive Posts.

Listened to Optical Delusion from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Impeachment ennui, Virginia's Lobby Day, and accountability in Puerto Rico.

A gathering of thousands of armed protesters in Virginia last weekend prompted fears of mass violence. On this episode of On the Media, how some militia groups are spinning the lack of bloodshed as victory. Plus, fresh demands for accountability in Puerto Rico, and why the senate impeachment trial feels so predictable. 

1. Bob Garfield [@Bobosphere] on the present moment in the impeachment trial. Listen.

2. Lois Beckett [@loisbeckett], reporter at the Guardian, and OTM producer Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] on the efforts to shape the media narrative among gun rights activists at Virginia's Lobby Day. Listen.

3. OTM producer Alana Casanova-Burgess [@AlanaLlama] on the "double-bind" Puerto Rico faces as earthquakes shake the state. Listen here. 

Listened to The Alleged Crimes of Greenwald by Bob Garfield from On the Media | WNYC Studios

The charges against Greenwald are only the latest result of the unholy, incidental alliance of out-of-date computer laws and political leaders with a grudge.

The Brazilian federal government on Tuesday revealed charges of cybercrimes against Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his alleged role in the leaking of explosive messages written by high-ranking law enforcement officials. Press freedom advocates immediately decried the charges as a dangerous blow to basic press freedoms; Greenwald himself told Washington Post cybersecurity reporter Joseph Marks, "Governments [are] figuring out how they can criminalize journalism based on large-scale leaks." In this podcast extra, Marks breaks down the charges and draws comparisons (and contrasts) with the American government's prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.