A Level Playing field and the attitudes of the Educational Elite

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This is the mindset of the ambitious educational elite: You go to Harvard (or Stanford), maybe to Oxford (or Cambridge) for a Rhodes (or Marshall), then to Goldman (or McKinsey, or TFA), then to Harvard Business School (or Yale Law School), then back to Goldman (or Google), and on and on. You keep doing the thing that is more prestigious, opens more doors, has more (supposed) impact on the world, and eventually will make you more and more famous and powerful. Money is something that happens along the way, but it’s not your primary motivation. Then you get to Peter Orszag’s position, where you can do anything, and you want to go work for Citigroup? Why do our society and culture shape high-achieving people so they want to be executives at big, big companies that are decades past their prime? Why is that the thing people aspire to? Orszag wanting to work at a megabank — instead of starting a new company, or joining a foundation, or joining an NGO, or becoming an executive at a struggling manufacturing company that makes things, or even being a consultant to countries with sovereign debt problems — is the same as an engineer from a top school going to Goldman instead of a real company. It’s not his fault, but it’s a symptom of something that’s bad for our country’

– The mindset of the Academic Elite from Ben Casnochas’ Blog. Ben Casnocha This article got me thinking about the chances many of us have now thanks to the Internet and
The excellent economist Tyler Cowen speaking about ‘inequality’.
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The reality of American Diplomacy

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I’m certainly not an American citizen, The Charity work of Diplomats at Ben Casnocha’s blog looks somewhat into what the foreign service actually does. Certainly they are extremely clever people, and the headline grabbing Wikileaks is definitely bringing up certain important questions however not all the foreign diplomatic work is evil. This applies to all countries and not just the USA. Continue reading

Ideas and the people who hold them.

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I came across the following quote by Salman Rushdie:
“At Cambridge University I was taught a laudable method of argument: you never personalize, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction: people must be protected from discrimination by virtue of their race, but you cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”

This I think is very important. I don’t believe in making Ad Hominem attacks, I believe in making attacks on peoples ideas. Its a very powerful method of argument. And its one that should be brought up again, and again.

Singularity in our past

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In the Singularity in our past light cone Cosma Shalizi has an excellent discussion of the fact that the ‘singularity’ already happened. I’m referring to the now fashionable discussion of a technological singularity – see ‘the Singularity University’ . If you look at Physics and Mathematics in the very early 20th century, you’ll see a huge explosion in work. For Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity to be created in roughly a 25 year period, is rather extraordinary – not to mention the creations of things such as the ‘American Management System’.
I’ll probably get around to thinking about this more sometime in the future. Perhaps the Singularity has happened.

Singularity in our past

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http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/699.html Cosma Shalizi has an excellent discussion of the fact that the ‘singularity’ already happened. I’m referring to the now fashionable discussion of a technological singularity. If you look at Physics and Mathematics in the very early 20th century, you’ll see a huge explosion in work. For Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity to be created in roughly a 25 year period, is rather extraordinary – not to mention the creations of things such as the ‘American Management System’.
I’ll probably get around to thinking about this more sometime in the future. Perhaps the Singularity has happened.

What does a Rapist look like?

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So what does a rapist look like? Thats the question for this essay to discuss.
I’ve been following the Assange and Wikileaks cases very carefully. The superb Feminist columnist Laurie Penny wrote a blog poston Julian Assange’s Rape case. I think there are two disturbing factors in the ‘Julian Assange is a good man and good people don’t rape Narrative’. Firstly we assume that implicitly all those that do good acts (assuming that wikileaks and freedom of information is a good thing) are ‘good’ people. I severely doubt everyone behaves in a morally upstanding way all of the time.
The other related factor is that instantly when one assumes that, we are led to believe that women cry rape all the time. Unfortunately some women do lie about such things, and that sort of experience really changes how we statistically think about these issues.
The specifics of this case are involving a ‘condom malfunction’ and it should be noted that Julian Assange is accused of the lowest form of rape allegations – and some of this case does relate to the ‘dirty tricks’ by a certain imperial power.
The second key assumption is that ‘good guys don’t rape’. But there is as Pennie observes ‘a rape culture’, and most rape (sex without consent) is perpetuated by men who are Doctors, Lawyers, Academics, Teachers and otherwise seen as excellent upstanding members of society. These things are not ‘bad bedroom etiquette’ this is a real crime that affects thousands of women every day. It may be the most under reported crime – not to mention male rape victims who face a host of societal stigmas. Please remember that women are not a priori the holders of moral authority on any matters.
In Summary what is perhaps the most disturbing thing is as Johann Hari observed ‘Its scary how many people won’t accept that a women is raped, unless she is taken away kicking and screaming’. No is a word that doesn’t mean consent, and we should all remember that Rape is a very common and ultimately banal crime.

Wikileaks and Power

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I’ve recently being following the recent Wikileaks story in a variety of Newspapers and the Website itself.
Inconvenient truths have already been revealed in the past, examples include the Pentagon papers and the 1917 Bolshevik release of confidential Russian Documents. These are all seen by some as attacks on imperialism, and it doesn’t seem to much of a stretch to call USA Foreign Policy imperialism. Some of the leaks have been irresponsible – I don’t believe that it is ethically justified or in the public interest to know where the most important Gas Pipelines in the world are. And this doesn’t strike me as journalism.
However this is the web, and this is a technological phenomenon that could only happen in this century – and the underlying infrastructure is the Web.
Increasingly with the web we are facing a specialization and decentralization of knowledge. And a challenge to governments around the world is to engage with the fact that their citizens generally want to be well informed.
As someone who believes in the freedom of information as a fundamental human right, I think this is a sign of the wonders of the web. Whilst
Politically elected officials have a duty to the people, as some say their job is to serve the people.
Wikileaks, and this may be the first of many examples of such ‘whistleblowing’ sites. They position themselves as transparency advocates and Julian Assange stated in an interview that ‘Transparent goverment tends to lead to a more just government’.
What is a just government? Well I’m sure the answer involves a long book – however one that is held accountable for its actions. A lot of these diplomatic cables and Hilliary Clinton’s response – indicate a bias from the governments of the world towards the status quo. Continue reading