Neuroscience has convincingly demonstrated what many psychologists have always known: Bias is inevitable and ever-present. Now big business is coming to be aware of its high cost to productivity.
They are inevitable, normal, even, at time, useful – but does that make them good? Can we justify taking pleasure in the misfortune of another, or, as the German’s put it, “Schadenfreude?” Or can we keep ourselves from being envious of other’s good fortune? (See, “Our Pleasure in Others’ Misfortune.”) Read More
While we most of us were busy unwrapping presents on Christmas, The Wall Street Journal published an article on the NSA’s data collection. The point was not that it violated privacy – which is true – but that they were gathering far more than they could use. In short, it was also stupid. Read More
Reading about Nelson Mandela’s career, as we mourn his death, we might never know that he had been branded a “terrorist” by our government, joined the Communist party at one point, or had been vehemently opposed by American conservatives such as Dick Chaney, George Will and William Buckley who fought efforts to support his anti-Apartheid campaign. Read More
Analysis of the genome of a young boy buried in eastern Siberia 24,000 years ago shows overlap with European but also American Indian DNA. That’s a new piece of the puzzle about the origins of native Americans, but it also supports the idea that mankind is inherently nomadic—and adaptable, and something of a mongrel species. Read More
Society has many strictures about money: we shouldn’t use it to bribe judges; we shouldn’t pay for sex or traffic in slaves. Those things are often actually done. But then there are the issues that really feel wrong, that are sacrilegious or taboo.
As portrayed in the media, the economy is a kind of uncontrollable beast. Pundits watch it expand and contract. They scrutinize its stirrings, take its pulse, check its circulation, and try to assess its health. So they note the lack of jobs, the growing disparity between the rich and poor. But they confirm our sense of helplessness… Read More
Piloting drones in Afghanistan while sitting in a dark room in Arizona can seem a lot like playing a video game. Looking at a screen, the operator focuses in on a target, stalks him, presses a button, and a missile hones in – and the “target” disappears in a cloud of smoke. Read More
At one time there was a reliable supply of undemanding, simple jobs — but that was before computers. As The New York Times noted recently: “The multi-trillionfold decline in the cost of computing since the 1970s has created enormous incentives for employers to substitute increasingly cheap and capable computers for expensive labor.”.... Read More
Common sense tells us that during periods of economic hardship there will be more victims of child abuse. People will take out their pain and frustration on those more helpless than themselves. But, surprisingly, during the Great Recession, the number of reported incidents dropped. Can that be? Read More
When the government fines banks hundreds of millions of dollars, it looks like it is getting really tough with them. But as Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out recently in The New York Times, it’s a bark with no bite... Read More
Economics may no longer be the “dismal science,” the English historian Thomas Carlyle once said it was. So many students are drawn to it today and go on to enjoy lively and lucrative careers. Some can even become celebrities and earn Nobel Prizes along with considerable stature and respect. But how much of a science is it? Read More
The campaign for Mayor of New York City pits a Republican defender of the retiring billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, against a severe critic who is calling for higher taxes on the rich. The media is calling it “class war,” while a new analysis of the income gap suggests that may be plausible. Read More
There has been a lot of excitement about neuro-scientists at M.I.T managing to plant a false memory in the brain of a mouse. The New York Times suggested that this provided “detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.” Read More
The financial analysts who rank public offerings for the ratings agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, like to think they can be objective. Their reliability is what they sell, really, along with expertise in puzzling out balance sheets. Read More
In an article on how financial derivatives have helped banks deceive the public, Floyd Norris in The New York Times indirectly made a good case for why we need leaks – and, of course, leakers....
Capitalism’s insatiable drive for returns remains a wild card at the center of our economic system, a source of economic instability. A case in point: the current recovery in the housing market may have less to do with the optimism of prospective home-owners about the slowly improving economy as with Wall Street’s demand for new investments. Read More
Many of us are inclined to view the whistle blower as a kind of hero, the person who sacrifices his own career to warn others of the danger he alone knows, a danger that could eventually ensnare others in suffering or moral corruption. But it hardly ever works out that he is rewarded for his daring. Read More
The public was not alarmed after Edward Snowden blew the cover on the government’s vast data mining operation. Without thinking too much about it, it looked like most of us had assumed it was going on all the time. Read More
When capitalism took over the world roughly 200 years ago, it vastly increased society’s productivity but at the cost of immense human suffering.... Over time, the imbalances have been modified and corrected. Read More