The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.
The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.
As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, “very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.
Recently, while on vacation in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and visiting family, we stayed at my sister’s house. She was kind enough to let us have her place while she found accommodations elsewhere. She moved in to this place herself not too long ago and was proud to point out to us the brand new,…
Wikipedia doesn’t have a stellar reputation for scholarly accuracy, but its staggering collection of 20 million articles in 283 languages has nonetheless made it the go-to reference for the world’s students—it’s even the most plagiarized source on college campuses. Now, a growing number of professors are bucking the anti-Wikipedia trend and assigning a new kind of homework: editing the site’s articles.
According to the Wikimedia Foundation blog, professors from nine nations are participating in the two-year-old Wikipedia Education Program, which allows them to assign articles to their students. In the United States, about 50 classes are participating in the editing effort. Student contributors “are expected to put in as much work into the Wikipedia assignments as they would put into a term paper or other large assignment,” the program’s founders say. The students are guided through the editing process by their professor, trained in-person “campus ambassadors,” and virtual mentors.
“I have often, both publicly and privately, advocated the wider use of birth control methods in order to reduce the illegitimacy rates and the consequences. It is my hope that state governments will begin to appropriate large sums to educate people to the need for such devices.”—Martin Luther King (via azspot)
Do not underestimate Rick Santorum. He has a powerful wind at his back. His journey from homophobic Internet-joke to the top of the Republican field is being propelled, in part, by his tapping into a deep longing for a simpler, less technological time. [If you are not in on the Internet-joke, please click the link]. Whether by design or by accident, Santorum is capitalizing on our collective exhaustion from living in an ever-changing technologically-mediated future. The future has become our now and, well, lots of people are not so impressed. Truth be told, some are pretty tired of the whole thing. By being the anti-science, anti-progress candidate, by showing he too suffers from our collective “future shock,” Santorum has made “santorum” work for him.
The contrast with recent Democratic presidents could not be more striking. Clinton, like the Fleetwood Mac song that animated the first campaign, never wanted to stop thinking about tomorrow. And today Obama is all about tomorrow: “hope and change,” “winning the future,” an American economy “built to last.”
But Santorum’s campaign is in the past tense. The poetry of his campaign is to fight for an America that used to be. He’s a self-described “champion of traditional American values” with “The Courage to Fight for America.” And if that’s not enough, as stated on his campaign web-page, all you have to do is “donate $100 or more using the form below, and we will send you an official Rick Santorum For President sweater vest. Perfect for demonstrating solidarity with true conservatives.” No fashion-forward thinking here, let’s dress like it’s the 50s! And in doing so change the tense of American politics from the future to the past.
Of course, a campaign built on the appeal of “sweater vest culture” would not work at all were it not for one thing: The future is not turning out to be as amazing as we were told it was going to be, despite having all the next great things. Everything is faster, just not better.
Mainly due to backwards thinking Luddites who want it to be worse, so you’ll give them more power.
First and foremost, I love your content. You’ve produced several of my favorite shows over the years, and the hits keep on coming. I’d love to watch Game of Thrones now, but I can’t. You see, the only way to get your service is to be a cable…
Huge win for Netflix. The Weinstein Company is one of the few production houses where quality absolutely trumps quantity. If I wasn’t already a member, I’d consider signing up for Netflix just for this alone.
An online television company has come up with a way to stream local television stations to paying subscribers on the Internet, potentially forming a new cord-cutting threat for cable and satellite distributors.
The new company, called Aereo, held a news conference on Tuesday in Manhattan to demonstrate its service, which will go on sale on March 14. The service will cost subscribers $12 a month and will only work in the New York City.
Aereo will stream all of the programming of the major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) and will include an Internet-powered digital video recorder. What it lacks completely is cable TV. But for some people, particularly those who don’t watch sports cable channels like ESPN or premium channels like HBO, a combination of Aereo and an on-demand streaming service like Netflix or Hulu could be an appealing alternative to a cable subscription.
For casual television viewers, “if you have this and you have Netflix, you absolutely have the ability to not have a standard cable subscription,” said Chet Kanojia, the founder and chief executive of Aereo, which was initially named Bamboom Labs.
This is exactly how cable tv started. In the early days of television, people would setup an antenna in one town and then run a cable to a town without a TV station and sell access.
It’s a compelling service. I’ll certainly try it, although it’s not doing much that can’t be done with a $20 antenna.
It is, indeed, how the cable industry started.
Which is what confuses me - originally the cable industry had one giant antenna up on a hill or tall building, and piped things down via coax to their customers. How is streaming via the internet different than that? Goes to show how weird internet-centric copyright laws are..
Being a gaming father I try to raise my kids with a healthy balance of analog and digital fun. To the surprise of me and Mrs Kool they don’t seem to care about digital games that much, and prefer paper, glue and scissors and playing outside over anything else.
“Anyone in New York City… can have sex any night of the week if they just follow two rules…stay at the bar until 4 in the morning and dramatically lower your standards.”—
Kurt Braunohler, who after dating his college girlfriend for 13 years decided to do a sort of rumspringa, and discovered a new 4am world in NYC (from this week’s Valentine’s edition of This American Life)
Do you remember when candidate George W. Bush berated Al Gore during the 2000 presidential debates for alleged funny business in his fund-raising? Bush said, “You know, going to a Buddhist temple and then claiming it wasn’t a fund-raiser isn’t my view of responsibility.” It was a direct attack on the honor of a fellow Southerner, and Gore wasn’t taking it. “You have attacked my honor and integrity,” the vice president shot back. “I think it’s time to teach you a few old-fashioned lessons about character. When I enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War, you were talkin’ real tough about Vietnam. But when you got the call, you called your daddy and begged him to pull some strings so you wouldn’t have to go to war. So instead of defending your country with honor, you put some poor Texas millworker’s kid on the front line in your place to get shot at. Where I come from, we call that a coward.
“When I was working hard, raising my family, you were busy drinking yourself and your family into the ground. Why don’t you tell us how many times you got behind the wheel of a car with a few drinks under your belt? Where I come from, we call that a drunk.
“When I was serving in the U.S. Senate, your own father’s government had to investigate you on the charge that you’d swindled a bunch of old people out of their life savings by using insider knowledge to sell off stocks you knew were about to drop. Where I come from, we call that crooked. So governor, don’t you ever lecture me about character. And don’t you ever talk to me that way again in front of my family or my fellow citizens.”
Don’t remember that reply? There’s a reason: Gore never said anything like it. Challenged by Bush on the temple fundraiser, he instead sidestepped the attack with a lofty but wimpy declaration about wanting “to spend my time making this country even better than it is, not trying to make you out to be a bad person.” The response-that-wasn’t-but-should-have-been is the work of psychology researcher Drew Westen of Emory University, one of many “what ifs” in his new book, “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.” After reading them you won’t be surprised that Westen has been approached by the campaigns of “several” Democratic hopefuls (he is too discrete to say which) for advice on how to make use of findings about how the brain operates in the political arena. Why aren’t Republicans beating a path to his door? Because the GOP has already mastered the dark art of psych-ops-of pushing the right buttons in people’s brains to win their vote.
Westen’s thesis is simple. “A dispassionate mind that makes decisions by weighing the evidence and reasoning to the most valid conclusions bears no relation to how the mind and brain actually work.” That’s true when it comes to choosing a significant other, buying a car, and choosing a president. Madison Avenue has known this for decades. Democrats haven’t. Instead, their strategists start from an 18th-century vision of the mind as dispassionate, making decisions by rationally weighing evidence and balancing pros and cons. That assumption is a recipe for high-minded campaigning-and, often, electoral failure. But by recognizing the strides that neuroscience, psychology and, in particular, the science of decision making have made in recent years, Westen argues, politicians can tap into “the emotional brain” that guides most political decisions.
The enigmatic Internet-driven collective Anonymous, thank goodness, has an anthropologist in its midst. For a few years now, Gabriella Coleman has been arduously participant-observing in IRC chat rooms, watching Anonymous turn from a prankster moniker to a herd of vigilantes for global justice. In an extraordinary new essay at Triple Canopy, “Our Weirdness Is Free,” she summarizes what Anonymous is all about this way:
Beyond a foundational commitment to anonymity and the free flow of information, Anonymous has no consistent philosophy or political program. Though Anonymous has increasingly devoted its energies to (and become known for) digital dissent and direct action around various “ops,” it has no definite trajectory. Sometimes coy and playful, sometimes macabre and sinister, often all at once, Anonymous is still animated by a collective will toward mischief—toward “lulz,” a plural bastardization of the portmanteau LOL (laugh out loud). Lulz represent an ethos as much as an objective.
The more I learn about Anonymous, especially in light of the offline, on-the-ground praxis of the Occupy movement, the more I’ve been wondering whether we’re seeing a glimpse of the future for all of us.