Archive for June 2011
Positive articles about introversion are very popular in my corner of the internet. I submit this one, from Susan Cain. It’s loaded with talk of interesting scientific studies about the value of introversion, but this paragraph had the most novel stuff for me:
We even find “introverts” in the animal kingdom, where 15 percent to 20 percent of many species are watchful, slow-to-warm-up types who stick to the sidelines (sometimes called “sitters”) while the other 80 percent are “rovers” who sally forth without paying much attention to their surroundings. Sitters and rovers favor different survival strategies, which could be summed up as the sitter’s “Look before you leap” versus the rover’s inclination to “Just do it!” Each strategy reaps different rewards.
None of this properly surprised me, but I’d never put it together in quite the way Anne Applebaum has here:
Here was the man who had launched glasnost and perestroika, who had presided over the dismantling of the Soviet empire and then the Soviet Union itself, one of the founding statesmen of modern Russia — and yet his birthday gala was held in the Royal Albert Hall, in London, among people who hardly knew him.
This was not an accident: Twenty years after the dissolution of the USSR, Russia is ambivalent, at best, about Gorbachev. Far from being hailed as a hero, he is mostly remembered as a disastrous leader, if he is remembered at all.
(via The Browser)
Kurt Vonnegut’s intriguing idea:
Our lives drifts along with normal things happening. Some ups, some downs, but nothing to go down in history about. Nothing so fantastic or terrible that it’ll be told for a thousand years.
“But because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs! So people pretend there is drama where there is none.”
(via Lone Gunman, who gives a little more context — he’s great at that)
Not since this piece on scurvy (LB) have I been so thoroughly bowled over by something researched and published independently on the internet. Venkatesh Rao offers a stunningly detailed and complete perspective on the origins and future of the corporation. His hook is fantastic:
On 8 June, a Scottish banker named Alexander Fordyce shorted the collapsing Company’s shares in the London markets. But a momentary bounce-back in the stock ruined his plans, and he skipped town leaving £550,000 in debt. Much of this was owed to the Ayr Bank, which imploded. In less than three weeks, another 30 banks collapsed across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill. On July 15, the directors of the Company applied to the Bank of England for a £400,000 loan. Two weeks later, they wanted another £300,000. By August, the directors wanted a £1 million bailout. The news began leaking out and seemingly contrite executives, running from angry shareholders, faced furious Parliament members. By January, the terms of a comprehensive bailout were worked out, and the British government inserted its czars into the Company’s management to ensure compliance with its terms.
If this sounds eerily familiar, it shouldn’t. The year was 1772, exactly 239 years ago today, the apogee of power for the corporation as a business construct.
(via The Browser)
This is an interesting list, especially if you haven’t been following all the science since your dinosaur days.
But the main thing I took away from it was, “Holy shit, these things used to exist on this planet. ” (I’m referring here to the ‘intellectual idea viscerally understood’ phenomenon. And if you’ve never experienced that, I’m sorry, because it’s an awesome thing.)
(via Justin Blanton)
I’d never really considered the fickleness of the advice of “to thine own self be true.” After pointing that out, Joshua Knobe found that the answer hinges on your values.
(via Justin Wehr’s Tumblr)
Sam Harris’s argument entails a reasonably straight-forward refutation of free will, but that question doesn’t much interest me. This does:
The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas, and bad luck—which of these quantities, exactly, were they responsible for? No human being stands as author to his own genes or his upbringing, and yet we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character throughout life. Our system of justice should reflect our understanding that each of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life. In fact, it seems immoral not to recognize just how much luck is involved in morality itself.
(via The Browser)
I’ve thought that thought before, but having no experience with either depression or the drugs that treat it, never offered it to anyone. But I’m not the only one to think it and this first half Marcia Engall’s review for the NYRB offers more support for the idea than I’ve ever heard. For example, from studies submitted to the FDA of the six most-prescribed antidepressants:
Altogether, there were forty-two trials of the six drugs. Most of them were negative. Overall, placebos were 82 percent as effective as the drugs, as measured by the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D), a widely used score of symptoms of depression. The average difference between drug and placebo was only 1.8 points on the HAM-D, a difference that, while statistically significant, was clinically meaningless. The results were much the same for all six drugs: they were all equally unimpressive.
UPDATE (20 June 2011): NYRB is offering the second half of this piece for free as well. (Pleasantly surprised by that.) It has a slightly different focus — the way pharmacologically armed psychiatrist have largely taken over mental healthcare — but a very worthy complement.