Big Data: Are We Making A Big Mistake?

Big-data enthusiasts make four main claims: That data analysis produces uncannily accurate results; that every data point can be captured, making sampling techniques obsolete; that observable correlation supersedes theories of causation; and that scientific or statistical models aren’t needed because “the numbers speak for themselves”. At best these are simplifications, at worst they are “absolute nonsense” (3,260 words)

The Seductive Appeal Of Cultural Stereotypes

Critical review of The Triple Package, by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, which claims that the “secret to success” in America is to be raised by Jewish, Chinese, Indian or Nigerian parents. The authors avoid “the grossest racism”. But they need be held to a higher standard of evidence. Too much of their argument relies on anecdotes. “We always find stereotyping plausible. That is why it is treacherous” (740 words)

A Universal Income Is Not Such A Silly Idea

Switzerland will vote on a providing a “basic income” of about $30,000 a year for all adult citizens. Which sounds on the generous side, but the principle of basic income has a surprising amount of support on the right as well as the left. Milton Friedman saw basic income as “an alternative to the current welfare state”. It may also gain plausibility if the advance of robots makes large numbers of people completely unemployable (785 words)

Ten Commandments For Mastering Email

One: Switch off the alerts. “Someone has always just sent me an email. I’ll answer when I am ready.” Two: Don’t bother sorting your incoming email into folders — just search the archive when you need to find something, it’s four times faster. And a pro tip: “If you’d like to really aggravate a busy person, send them an email with an attachment saying ‘please see the attached letter’, and add no elaboration” (3,330 words)

Lunch With Cory Doctorow

Conversation with sci-fi writer, Boing-Boing blogger. Self-recommending, as Tyler Cowen might say. “I arrive at Hawksmoor 10 minutes early, he’s there already, sipping sparkling water at the bar and reading a book. He’s wearing thick-rimmed spectacles worthy of Eric Morecambe, a Disney ‘Haunted Mansion’ T-shirt, and a jacket; he’s 41 but looks younger. Did I mention that I have a tiny crush on Cory Doctorow?” (Metered paywall) (2,400 words)

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