Prediction Markets, Plane-spotting, Addictive Apps, O.J. Simpson, Ballet, Syria

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The Power Of Prediction Markets

Adam Mann | Nature | 18th October 2016

There is a structural risk of overshoot with prediction markets. Commentators assume that prediction markets incorporate extra information, and so treat the markets as sources of information, when most of the time the markets are reacting to the commentators. Which can lead to wild mispricing, as with Brexit. Even so, prediction markets have advantages over opinion polls. Participants work harder. “Markets have a way of incentivising you to come back at 2am and update your answer” (2,400 words)

Eyes Aloft

Rose Lichter-Marck | VQR | 17th October 2016

In praise of plane-spotters. “They care about nodes rather than vectors, gather units of information without scrutinising their implications. They wait for hours to get the perfect photographs of special planes in ideal conditions Their interests are so basic that they seem abstract: to appreciate planes, to record them, to appreciate them by recording them, and to record their own passion for recording. They are curators and taxonomists, archivists of their own wonder” (5,300 words)

The Scientists Who Make Apps Addictive

Ian Leslie | 1843 | 17th October 2016

“For somebody to do something – whether it’s buying a car, checking an email, or doing 20 press-ups – three things must happen at once. The person must want to do it, they must be able to do it, and they must be prompted to do it.” In short: “Put hot triggers in the path of motivated people.” The science of which is now pretty exact: “Menus used by billions of people are designed by a small group of men, aged between 25 and 35, who studied computer science and live in San Francisco” (4,600 words)

The Case Of O.J. Simpson

Lorrie Moore | New York Review of Books | 17th October 2016

The O.J. Simpson affair was, if not the trial of the century, then “certainly the trial of the Nineties”. For Black America it was a referendum on American justice, asking the question: “Could an African-American man with money get the same breaks that white men with money did?” Because the system was clearly partial. “If a man with Simpson’s celebrity and money could not stand up successfully against the judicial system with that system’s habit of casual fudgings, then no black man could” (4,800 words)

Afterlife Of A Ballerina

Alice Robb | Elle | 17th October 2016

Alexandra Ansanelli was a principal with the New York City Ballet at 22 and with the Royal Ballet at 26. Two years later she walked away from dance to do something else — an unheard-of move for a prima ballerina. Dancers usually continue until age or injury forces them from the stage. They are “notoriously bad at planning for their second acts. They underestimate the age at which they’ll retire, overestimate the amount of money they’ll earn, and misjudge the forces that will end their careers” (4,500 words)

The Assad Quandary

Robert Kaplan | National Interest | 17th October 2016

Painful but persuasive realist take on the Syrian civil war, arguing that America should accept Assad’s regime, on the grounds that without it things could get still worse — and Assad shows no signs of ceding. He is a “mere stripling” at 51, he has survived long after the world expected him to fall. “Russia’s entry into the war can only have improved his morale. His father would be proud of him, he must now think. This is not a man about to resign, in an age of the International Criminal Court” (2,900 words)

Video of the day: Bjarke Pedersen: Becoming The Story

What to expect:

Animated explainer. The psychology of live-action role-playing games (3’26”)

Thought for the day

The truth is never told during working hours
Hunter S. Thompson

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