Crime, Refugees, Psychology, Sputnik, Personhood

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What Was Gary Becker’s Biggest Mistake?

Alex Tabarrok | Marginal Revolution | 16th September 2015

Alex Tabarrok on crime. If criminals were rational then harsher punishments would reduce crime. But "crime is often not in a person’s interest but instead is a spur of the moment mistake." Comparison with raising children: harsh punishments can backfire terribly, and what really matters is that "consequences for inappropriate behavior should be be quick, clear, and consistent." Perhaps cognitive behavioural therapy can help, too (1,460 words)

Empathy And The New Refugee Crisis

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson | Granta | 7th September 2015

"If anything, I have had to keep empathy at bay. It is such a saturation of suffering that somehow as a journalist you have to harden yourself ... but there was one image I could not shake from my mind. It was of the mothers who gave birth in the sinking smuggling boats, their stories told by survivors who had witnessed the deliveries and by rescue divers who found the bodies of babies still attached to their mothers by their umbilical cord" (860 words)

Lack Of Political Diversity In Social Psychology

Jonathan Haidt | Heterodox Academy | 14th September 2015

Addressing the political monoculture within social psychology. This lack of diversity can "embed...liberal values into research questions and methods," and "produc[e] conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike." Fortunately, many of the "policy steps that the American Psychological Association recommended for itself to improve diversity" in other areas would work well for increasing political diversity as well (4,410 words)

The Thing That Goes Beep

Helénē Schouten | Escaping the 20th Century By Any Means | 29th August 2015

A meandering, pro-Communist history of space exploration, the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. Argues that the true achievement of the space age was the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and that NASA's moon trip was simply derivative: "all that was left to do was mash the technology and knowledge they had together in just the right way to get there and back" (3,150 words)

Personhood: A Game For Two Or More Players

Kevin Simler | Melting Asphalt | 7th July 2014

Personhood "is a social fiction: an abstraction specifying the contract for an idealized interaction partner. Most of our institutions, even whole civilizations, are built to this interface," but underneath we are "mere creatures." "Some of us implement the person interface, but many of us (such as infants or the profoundly psychotic) don't." And all of us fail at it sometimes; personhood is ultimately a very "leaky abstraction" (5,120 words)

Video of the day: Blue

What to expect: Abstract, somewhat discomfiting narrative animation (2'41")

Thought for the day

Anything that elicits an immediate nod of recognition has only reconfirmed a prejudice
Don Paterson

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