experimental subject

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pages: 349 words: 95,972

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

affirmative action, Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, assortative mating, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Basel III, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Broken windows theory, call centre, Cass Sunstein, Chris Urmson, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, crowdsourcing, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, Erdős number, experimental subject, Ferguson, Missouri, Filter Bubble, Frank Gehry, game design, global supply chain, Googley, Guggenheim Bilbao, high net worth, Inbox Zero, income inequality, industrial cluster, Internet of things, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Merlin Mann, microbiome, out of africa, Paul Erdős, Richard Thaler, Rosa Parks, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, telemarketer, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Turing test, urban decay, William Langewiesche

As long as people had been appropriately briefed (“mistakes are human, try incorporating them into your work”) they did better work and reported that they had more fun.16 A third experiment was conducted by a team including Paul Howard-Jones, a neuroscientist at the University of Bristol. Researchers showed their experimental subjects a set of three words, and then asked them to tell a brief story involving the three words. Sometimes the words had obvious connections, such as “teeth, brush, dentist” or “car, driver, road.” Sometimes the words were unconnected, such as “cow, zip, star” or “melon, book, thunder.” The more random, obscure, challenging combinations spurred the subjects into spinning far more creative tales.17 These are, admittedly, artificial one-off situations with nothing at stake for the experimental subjects. When someone relies on creativity for a living, mucking them around becomes much more fraught: think of poor Carlos Alomar, too talented and too professional to be comfortable playing “crap”; or Phil Collins, so frustrated with Eno’s unpredictable requests that he started throwing beer cans around the studio.

In one, Charlan Nemeth and Julianne Kwan showed pairs of people bluish/greenish slides, asking them to shout out whether they were blue or green. The experimenters had a trick to play, however: one member of each pair was actually a confederate of the researchers, who would sometimes call out baffling responses—“green” when the slide was clearly blue. Having been thoroughly baffled, the experimental subjects were then asked to free-associate words connected with “green” and “blue”—sky, sea, eyes. Those who had been subjected to a confusing mess of signals produced more original word associations: jazz, flame, pornography, sad, Picasso. There was something about the sheer disruptiveness of the setup that unlocked creative responses.15 In another study, led by psychologist Ellen Langer, researchers assigned creative tasks to their subjects, then started messing with them.

Each one abdicates his own responsibility to think critically, assuming that others are doing the hard thinking for him.15 Back in 1951, two decades before Janis published his ideas on groupthink, another psychologist, Solomon Asch, had carried out a famous set of experiments exploring conformity and dissent. Asch found that people would sometimes suppress their own judgments in order to agree with a unanimous group, even though the group was clearly in the wrong. (The group was made up of actors working for Solomon Asch, surrounding a single, rather confused participant, unaware that he was being set up.) The cure for this groupthink? Even a single dissenting voice broke the spell, and the experimental subjects felt much more able to express their own dissent.16 More recently, complexity scientist Scott Page published The Difference,17 a book that uses a mathematical rather than a psychological framework to explore similar questions. Page showed that in many problem-solving contexts, “diversity trumps ability.” For example, if you already have four brilliant statisticians working on a policy problem, even a mediocre sociologist or economist may add more to your team than another brilliant statistician.


pages: 459 words: 103,153

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure by Tim Harford

Andrew Wiles, banking crisis, Basel III, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, car-free, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, charter city, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dava Sobel, Deep Water Horizon, Deng Xiaoping, disruptive innovation, double entry bookkeeping, Edmond Halley, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fermat's Last Theorem, Firefox, food miles, Gerolamo Cardano, global supply chain, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge worker, loose coupling, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Netflix Prize, New Urbanism, Nick Leeson, PageRank, Piper Alpha, profit motive, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, rolodex, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, special economic zone, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, the market place, The Wisdom of Crowds, too big to fail, trade route, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, web application, X Prize, zero-sum game

This was a trivially easy task, but there was a twist: all but one of the people sitting around the table were actors recruited by Asch. As they went round the table, each one called out the same answer – a wrong answer. By the time Asch turned to the real experimental subject, the poor man would be baffled. Frequently, he would fall in with the group, and later interviews revealed that this was often because he genuinely believed his eyes were deceiving him. As few as three actors were enough to create this effect. Less famous but just as important is Asch’s follow-up experiment, in which one of the actors gave a different answer from the rest. Immediately, the pressure to conform was released. Experimental subjects who gave the wrong answer when outnumbered ten to one happily dissented and gave the right answer when outnumbered nine to two. Remarkably, it didn’t even matter if the fellow dissenter gave the right answer himself.

Cognitive dissonance describes the mind’s difficulty in holding two apparently contradictory thoughts simultaneously: in Tharp’s case, ‘I am a capable, experienced and respected choreographer’ and ‘My latest creation is stupefyingly clichéd.’ This odd phenomenon was first pinned down in an ingenious laboratory experiment half a century ago. Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith asked their experimental subjects to perform a tedious task – emptying and refilling a tray with spools, using one hand – for half an hour. On some plausible-sounding pretext they then offered a third of their subjects $1 – a small sum even in 1959, about an hour’s wage – to tell the next experimental subject (actually an actress) what a great time they’d had stacking spools onto trays for half an hour. They offered another third of their subjects a much more substantial sum, $20, half a week’s typical wages, to do the same thing. The remaining third went straight to the questionnaire which all the subjects finally filled in, asking if they had enjoyed themselves.

Twyla Tharp could have decided that what she’d actually set out to achieve was something artistically radical rather than commercially mass-market, so the incomprehension of the critics was, in a way, validation; she could have found a few audience members who liked it, and convinced herself that the views of this discerning clientele should be given greater weight. How profoundly this tendency runs in the human brain was demonstrated by a team of researchers including the psychologist Daniel Gilbert. The researchers showed their experimental subjects an array of six prints of paintings by Claude Monet – the lilies, the Houses of Parliament at sunset, the haystacks, and others – and asked them to rank the images in order from the one they liked most to the one they liked the least. The researchers then offered the experimental subjects a choice of two spare prints they ‘just happened’ to have, and the spares were always the pair ranked in the middle – number three and number four. Naturally the subject usually chose number three, having just declared it to be preferable to number four.


Propaganda and the Public Mind by Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Bretton Woods, business cycle, capital controls, deindustrialization, European colonialism, experimental subject, Howard Zinn, Hyman Minsky, interchangeable parts, liberation theology, Martin Wolf, one-state solution, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, school vouchers, Silicon Valley, structural adjustment programs, Thomas L Friedman, Tobin tax, Washington Consensus

In the negotiations at Montreal, the United States, which is the center of the big biotech industries and genetic engineering, was demanding that the issue be determined under WTO rules. According to those rules, the experimental subjects have to provide scientific evidence that it’s going to harm them, or else the transcendent value of corporate rights prevails and they can do what they want. That’s what Ed Herman calls “producer sovereignty.”13 Europe and most of the rest of the world insisted on the precautionary principle, that is, the right of people to say, I don’t want to be an experimental subject. I don’t have scientific proof that it’s going to harm me, but I don’t want to be subjected to that. I want to wait until it’s understood. That’s a very clear indication of what’s at stake, an attack on the rights of people to make their own decisions over things even as simple as whether you’re going to be an experimental subject, let alone controlling your own resources or setting conditions on foreign investment or transferring your economy into the hands of foreign investment firms and banks.

For example, French farmers, who are fairly conservative, are up in arms around these issues. It’s been interesting to watch this. In the U.S., there’s been relatively little discussion and concern about it. In Europe, India, Latin America and elsewhere, there’s been great concern and a lot of very activist popular protest. The French farmers are one case. The same is true in England and elsewhere, quite extensively. There’s a lot of concern about being forced to become experimental subjects for interventions in the food system, both in production and consumption, that have unknown consequences. That did cross the Atlantic in a way that I don’t entirely understand. At some point last fall the concerns became manifested over here as well, to the extent that something quite unusual happened. Monsanto, the major corporation that’s pushing biotechnology and genetically engineered crops, their stock started to fall notably.

That’s quite unusual, for a corporation to be forced into that position. It reflected in part the enormous protests overseas, primarily Europe, which is what mattered because of their clout, but also a growing protest here. On the other hand, we should also take account of the fact that it’s essentially a class issue in the United States. Among richer, more educated sectors, there are tendencies which amount to protecting themselves from being experimental subjects, by buying high-priced organic food, for example. Do you think the food safety issue might be one around which the left can reach a broader constituency? I don’t see it as a particularly left issue. In fact, left issues are just popular issues. If the left means anything, it means it’s concerned for the needs, welfare, and rights of the general population. So the left ought to be the overwhelming majority of the population, and in some respects I think it is.


pages: 211 words: 69,380

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

experimental subject, fear of failure, hedonic treadmill, Kibera, Lao Tzu, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, science of happiness, selection bias, Steve Jobs, Supply of New York City Cabdrivers, traveling salesman, World Values Survey

Could it be that ironic process theory also sheds light on what is wrong with our efforts to achieve happiness, and on the way that our efforts to feel positive seem so frequently to bring about the opposite result? In the years since his earliest white bear experiments, Wegner’s research, and that of others, has turned up more and more evidence to support that notion. One example: when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content.

These are particularly acute in the case of positive visualisation. Over the last few years, the German-born psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues have constructed a series of experiments designed to unearth the truth about ‘positive fantasies about the future’. The results are striking: spending time and energy thinking about how well things could go, it has emerged, actually reduces most people’s motivation to achieve them. Experimental subjects who were encouraged to think about how they were going to have a particularly high-achieving week at work, for example, ended up achieving less than those who were invited to reflect on the coming week, but given no further guidelines on how to do so. In one ingenious experiment, Oettingen had some of the participants rendered mildly dehydrated. They were then taken through an exercise that involved visualising drinking a refreshing, icy glass of water, while others took part in a different exercise.

‘It is [fear] that makes people so willing to follow brash, strong-looking demagogues with tight jaws and loud voices,’ wrote Becker – leaders ‘who seem most capable of cleansing the world of the vague, the weak, the uncertain, the evil. Ah, to give oneself over to their direction – what calm, what relief.’ Mortality salience makes itself felt in numerous other, sometimes unexpected ways. Experimental subjects who have been prompted to think about death demonstrate more intense reactions of disgust to discussions of human bodily waste. They agree more strongly with statements such as ‘If I see someone vomit, it makes me sick to my stomach.’ They are more likely to rank certain hypothetical scenarios as ‘very disgusting’, for example seeing maggots on a piece of meat. This response, researchers argue, shows that participants are struggling to buffer themselves against confronting reminders of their ‘creatureliness’ – of the fact that, like other animals, they are physically mortal.


pages: 519 words: 104,396

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (And How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone

availability heuristic, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, equal pay for equal work, experimental economics, experimental subject, feminist movement, game design, German hyperinflation, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, index card, invisible hand, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, laissez-faire capitalism, Landlord’s Game, loss aversion, market bubble, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nash equilibrium, new economy, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, Philip Mirowski, Potemkin village, price anchoring, price discrimination, psychological pricing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, RFID, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, rolodex, social intelligence, starchitect, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, ultimatum game, working poor

His subsequent academic career took him from the University of Utah to Stanford to Harvard. Stevens’s psychology Ph.D. was awarded, per Harvard custom of the time, by the Department of Philosophy. War made Stevens’s reputation. At the behest of the U.S. Air Force, he founded the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory in 1940. Its location, the basement of Harvard’s neogothic Memorial Hall, belied its somewhat incredible mission: to study the effects of extremely loud noises on pilots. Experimental subjects listened to deafening 115-decibel blasts for seven hours a day. Stevens found that the noise did not impair mental performance too much. The main problem was that nobody could hear what anyone else was saying. Stevens’s lab took on the task of designing intercoms for noisy cockpits. Stevens retained a gruff military manner throughout his career. As one colleague recalled, I was directed to Dr.

What is odd is that the same subjects regularly assign higher prices to $ bets, like the one on the right above. The prices contradict the preferences. In the actual experiments, a dozen distinct bets were used. They were somewhat more complicated than the examples above, in that the player stood a chance of losing money as well as winning it. (This is more like familiar sports or casino bets: you have to put up some money to play and risk losing it.) The experimental subjects were first shown bets two at a time and asked to choose which they preferred. Then they were shown the same set of bets one at a time and asked to price them. In this part, they were told that they “owned” the bet in question and could sell it back to the house for sure cash. What was the minimum price they would accept? Out of 173 subjects, 127 always chose the P bet, yet always assigned a higher price to the $ bet.

Their goal was to see whether anchoring could affect the perceived value of actual houses on the market in Tucson. To do that, they needed a real estate agent to lend them a house to use in the experiment. Neale asked her mother, a real estate broker, for advice. She advised playing up the networking possibilities. Agents would welcome the chance to make some connections with the faculty, she said. Agent Katherine Martin of Tucson Realty and Trust agreed to let them use one of her listings. The experimental subjects were 54 junior and senior undergraduate business students and 47 local real estate agents. For those real estate professionals, the Tucson market was their bread and butter. On average, they bought or sold 16 properties a year and had been selling real estate in Tucson for more than eight years. Northcraft drove the participants to the home, and all were free to inspect it, to “kick the tires,” just like a buyer.


pages: 471 words: 147,210

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

experimental subject, gravity well, Kickstarter, longitudinal study, microbiome, pattern recognition, post scarcity, remote working, side project, telepresence, theory of mind

She had been watching Paul, and now she had used her own newly implanted connection to break into the game system. She had moved as much as she could but now needed him to take his own turn before she could continue playing. Senkovi suspected he should probably get away from the tanks and go have human contact or something healthy like that. On the other hand, he’d just had an actual conversation, which was quite wearying, and he could hardly disappoint such a keen experimental subject. He sat down again, dropping a tile into the virtual space and waiting to see what Salome would do. 5. Siri Skai would be in charge of the orbiting module in Baltiel’s absence. She and four others would have relatively little to do except continue to round off the rough edges of the database the computer was assembling on the Nod biosphere (Senkovi’s joke name having gradually infiltrated the collective consciousness).

On the screens in front of him, the Nodan seascape was lost in the shuttle’s rushing progress, and now there was red desert below. According to his diagnostics there were half a dozen net presences in the Aegean’s system, weird undirected processes lurching around trying to access ship systems. He’d thought his demand must have come too late, but Senkovi obviously caught it before flipping the switch. ‘All right, boss, here’s the lowdown,’ came the reply. ‘I may have failed to contain my experimental subjects properly.’ ‘Explain.’ ‘I’ve been training them up, teaching them basic communications so they could interact with the equipment on Damascus. They’ll be useful. We’ll need them. Only they’re curious, right? It’s inbuilt with them, and I’ve been using the Rus-Califi viral catalyst to select for that, only I didn’t realize how quickly they’d catch on.’ In the midst of all the man’s justifications, Baltiel suddenly understood what Senkovi meant.

The readouts from his HUD told him that the temperature here was dropping, but he had evacuated the space around the tanks so that their heat would take longer to diffuse outwards. This, of course, was the main reason he had stayed behind, out of contact with the human race. He was going to try and save his pets, and he didn’t want Han and the others to laugh at him, to recast him from eccentric to pathetic. But, just like the dog lover who goes back into the burning building to save little Floofums, he was going to try and keep some of his experimental subjects alive until the ship came back online. Baltiel will want them all dead, he knew, but he could handle Baltiel. He would go against Baltiel if he had to, a full-on war in heaven of angry messages cast across the void. The nearest tank had shattered, as had the next two. The denizens had, like Senkovi, been too clever for their own good and found some physical egress, and now he’d killed them by evacuating the chamber.


pages: 314 words: 91,652

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn, Ian Hacking

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, business cycle, cuban missile crisis, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, The Design of Experiments, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Those characteristics include: the previous awareness of anomaly, the gradual and simultaneous emergence of both observational and conceptual recognition, and the consequent change of paradigm categories and procedures often accompanied by resistance. There is even evidence that these same characteristics are built into the nature of the perceptual process itself. In a psychological experiment that deserves to be far better known outside the trade, Bruner and Postman asked experimental subjects to identify on short and controlled exposure a series of playing cards. Many of the cards were normal, but some were made anomalous, e.g., a red six of spades and a black four of hearts. Each experimental run was constituted by the display of a single card to a single subject in a series of gradually increased exposures. After each exposure the subject was asked what he had seen, and the run was terminated by two successive correct identifications.12 Even on the shortest exposures many subjects identified most of the cards, and after a small increase all the subjects identified them all.

That is another reason why schools guided by different paradigms are always slightly at cross-purposes. In their most usual form, of course, gestalt experiments illustrate only the nature of perceptual transformations. They tell us nothing about the role of paradigms or of previously assimilated experience in the process of perception. But on that point there is a rich body of psychological literature, much of it stemming from the pioneering work of the Hanover Institute. An experimental subject who puts on goggles fitted with inverting lenses initially sees the entire world upside down. At the start his perceptual apparatus functions as it had been trained to function in the absence of the goggles, and the result is extreme disorientation, an acute personal crisis. But after the subject has begun to learn to deal with his new world, his entire visual field flips over, usually after an intervening period in which vision is simply confused.

With scientific observation, however, the situation is exactly reversed. The scientist can have no recourse above or beyond what he sees with his eyes and instruments. If there were some higher authority by recourse to which his vision might be shown to have shifted, then that authority would itself become the source of his data, and the behavior of his vision would become a source of problems (as that of the experimental subject is for the psychologist). The same sorts of problems would arise if the scientist could switch back and forth like the subject of the gestalt experiments. The period during which light was “sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle” was a period of crisis—a period when something was wrong—and it ended only with the development of wave mechanics and the realization that light was a self-consistent entity different from both waves and particles.


pages: 786 words: 195,810

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman

Albert Einstein, animal electricity, Asperger Syndrome, assortative mating, crowdsourcing, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, experimental subject, Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury, hypertext link, IBM and the Holocaust, index card, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, Kickstarter, Larry Wall, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mother of all demos, neurotypical, New Journalism, pattern recognition, placebo effect, scientific mainstream, side project, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Skype, slashdot, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, twin studies, union organizing, Whole Earth Catalog, women in the workforce, Yom Kippur War

In 1908, he was invited to oversee the newly endowed Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins, which was expressly built on the Viennese model of combining teaching and practice in a single institution. As a walking embodiment of the European tradition, he became enormously influential. At one point, one in ten of the academic psychiatrists in the United States trained directly under him, launching a school of psychiatry that was dubbed Meyerian. He also introduced the field to its standard experimental subject, the albino rat. Coining the word psychobiology, he constantly exhorted his students to set theories aside and seek the facts. Visiting Meyer’s office for the first time on an October afternoon in 1928, Kanner was awestruck. An impeccably polite secretary invited him to wait in an adjacent library that seemed to extend for miles, with a convenient array of stepladders for retrieving volumes on the upper shelves.

But their repetition of this stilted phrase only made her flail her limbs more violently. The possibility that Beth was responding in a comprehensible way to the bizarre behavior of the people around her didn’t enter Lovaas’s mind. Extinguishing Beth’s self-injurious behavior by ignoring her would have been “a slow procedure requiring several sessions or days,” Lovaas predicted. He had good reason to fear that his sole experimental subject—on whom his National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funding depended—might hurt herself so badly that his experiments could no longer go on. So Lovaas sought a more expeditious solution, which came to him in a flash one day in the lab. He was talking with a colleague, when Beth began striking her head against the sharp edge of a metal cabinet. Like any good behaviorist, Lovaas rarely ventured to speculate about his subjects’ mental states, but in this case he made an exception.

So I let her know that there was no question in my mind that I was going to kill her if she hit herself once more, and that was pretty much it. She hit herself a few times more, but we had the problem licked. Under the laws of the University of California, Lovaas was required to have his research proposals approved by the Human Subjects Board, so explaining that he wanted to “really lay it on” his experimental subjects wouldn’t do. But there was an alternate way of saying basically the same thing that was acceptable in the lexicon of behaviorism. He began exploring the use of aversive stimuli—otherwise known in the trade as “punishment”—as a less time-consuming way of extinguishing self-injury. — THE USE OF PUNISHMENT on human subjects was controversial among Lovaas’s colleagues. In his classic textbook Science and Human Behavior, Skinner explained that while aversives may seem to promptly extinguish undesirable behavior, the behavior often returns with a vengeance after the punishment ceases, because the subject has not been taught more adaptive ways to behave.


Rogue States by Noam Chomsky

anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, business cycle, capital controls, collective bargaining, colonial rule, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, declining real wages, deskilling, Edward Snowden, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, floating exchange rates, land reform, liberation theology, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, new economy, oil shock, RAND corporation, Silicon Valley, strikebreaker, structural adjustment programs, Tobin tax, union organizing, Washington Consensus

Those rules are that an import can be banned only on the basis of scientific evidence.16 Notice what’s at stake here. The question that’s at stake is whether people have the right to refuse to be experimental subjects. So, to personalize it, suppose the biology department at the university were to walk in and tell you, “You folks have to be experimental subjects in an experiment we’re carrying out, where we’re going to stick electrodes in your brain and see what happens. You can refuse, but only if you provide scientific evidence that it’s going to harm you.” Usually you can’t provide scientific evidence. The question is, do you have a right to refuse? Under World Trade Organization rules, you don’t. You have to be experimental subjects. It’s a form of what Edward Herman has called “producer sovereignty.”17 The producer reigns; consumers have to somehow defend themselves.

For similar reasons, the European Union favors high tariffs on agricultural products, just as the United States did 40 years ago, but no longer—and not because the principles have changed; just because power has changed. There is an overriding principle. The principle is that the powerful and the privileged have to be able to do what they want (of course, pleading high motives). The corollary is that sovereignty and democratic rights of people must go, in this case—and that’s what makes it so dramatic—their reluctance to be experimental subjects when US-based corporations can profit by the experiment. The US appeal to the World Trade Organization rules is very natural, since they codified that principle; that’s the point. These issues, although they’re very real and are affecting a huge number of people in the world, are actually secondary to other modalities to reduce sovereignty in favor of private power. Most important, I think, was the dismantling of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s by the United States, Britain, and others.


pages: 236 words: 66,081

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Andrew Keen, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, citizen journalism, corporate social responsibility, Dean Kamen, experimental economics, experimental subject, fundamental attribution error, invention of movable type, invention of the telegraph, Kevin Kelly, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nelson Mandela, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, social software, Steve Ballmer, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, ultimatum game

This framework made little distinction among different kinds of motivation, and the most general-purpose motivator available has always been cash. Deci’s conclusion that payment can crowd out other kinds of motivation flew in the face of both existing theory and practice. His experiment and the subsequent research on the crowding-out effect kicked off an academic disagreement that continues today. In 1994, Judy Cameron and David Pierce of the University of Alberta analyzed the results of dozens of studies that had paid experimental subjects to perform various tasks. Their meta-analysis (as such studies of multiple experiments are called) denied the existence of any such crowding-out effect. Deci and research partner Richard Ryan responded in 1999, pointing out that Cameron and Pierce had included a large number of studies noting that people were more motivated to do uninteresting tasks if you paid them, a result no one disputed.

This result—fairly intuitive, if you imagine yourself on the short end of that particular stick—was a shock to neoclassical theory (what rational actor would give up a free dollar for the sake of mere emotional satisfaction?). As the results of the Ultimatum Game became more widespread, so did the challenges to its conclusions. Versions were run with hundreds of dollars at stake, with ever-tighter controls on the anonymity between the participants so they wouldn’t worry about retribution, with experimental subjects of different ages, different classes, and different cultures. In one version called the Dictator Game, the proposer is able to declare the terms of the split without the recipient’s having any say at all. Even here, the proposed split was more generous than expected. The experiment was performed in countless variations, but the attempt to uncover the secretly rational core of humanity simply failed.

(Zuerichbergstrasse, Zurich: Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, 1999), http://ideas.repec.org/s/zur/iewwpx.html. 73 this sort of crowding out can appear in children as young as fourteen months: Tomasello’s research on children and their view of how things should be, by some ethical compass (a trait called “normativity,” or the understanding and abiding by norms), was published as “The Sources of Normativity: Young Children’s Awareness of the Normative Structure of Games,” with his coauthors, H. Rakoczy and F. Wameken, in Developmental Psychology 44.3 (2008): 875-81. 74 dozens of studies that had paid experimental subjects: Judy Cameron and David Pierce, “Reinforcement, Reward, and Intrinsic Motivation: A Meta-Analysis,” Review of Educational Research 64.3 (1994): 363-423. 74 people were more motivated to do uninteresting tasks if you paid them: Edward L., Deci, Richard Koestner, and Richard Ryan, “A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation,” Psychological Bulletin 125.6 (1999): 627-68. 74 crowding out of free choice can occur with the introduction of extrinsic motivations: J.


pages: 277 words: 79,360

The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 by Jonathan Rauch

endowment effect, experimental subject, Google bus, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, income per capita, job satisfaction, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Richard Thaler, science of happiness, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, upwardly mobile, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

“At the time I was single and I was dating,” he recalled. “I would make some big mistake in my dating life, and I would see myself making a mistake, and I saw that I was going to go ahead and make it, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do. I knew what the right thing was and I knew all the psychology about the wrong thing, but I couldn’t stop myself.” Apparently, if he and his experimental subjects were riding something, it was no obedient horse. “Elephants are really smart, and they’re really, really big, and I felt like a small boy perched atop a giant elephant. If the elephant didn’t have any plans of its own, the boy can kind of prick it and turn it this way and that.” But if the elephant has its own ideas, it goes whichever way it pleases. The rider is left to rationalize the elephant’s direction or look on in frustration, or both.

The cranky codger figures prominently in the standard caricature of age, and no one would deny that older people, like younger people, complain. But the stereotype about bitterness is, if anything, the opposite of the truth. A few years ago, a group of German psychologists decided to look at how people at the two ends of adult life process regret. Led by Stefanie Brassen of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, they gathered three groups of experimental subjects: emotionally healthy young men whose average age was twenty-five, emotionally healthy older men whose average age was sixty-six, and depressed older men, also averaging sixty-six years old. All were given a task much like the games which contestants play on the TV program Let’s Make a Deal: They were shown an array of eight mysterious squares (“boxes”) and told to “open” them sequentially.

In 2012, as president of the American Psychiatric Association (he was the first Asian American to attain that position), he supervised the first major revision of psychiatry’s diagnostic manual since the mid-1990s. His field, primarily, is geriatric psychiatry and the study of successful aging. In the previous chapter, I mentioned his finding that people report higher subjective wellbeing as they move through the late decades of life, even while they grow more infirm. He is also a brain researcher, someone who spends a lot of time (and money) putting experimental subjects inside deafening magnetic-resonance imaging machines to observe their mental circuits firing. The day I visited him, he was conducting an experiment to learn more about how older brains process compassion. I dwell on Jeste’s scientific credentials because he has another side which is quite different, one which challenges mainstream psychiatry in fundamental ways. For one thing, he is an evangelist for something he calls positive psychiatry, an extension into medicine of positive psychology.


pages: 252 words: 73,131

The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them—And They Shape Us by Tim Sullivan

"Robert Solow", Airbnb, airport security, Al Roth, Alvin Roth, Andrei Shleifer, attribution theory, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Brownian motion, business cycle, buy and hold, centralized clearinghouse, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, clean water, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, continuous double auction, creative destruction, deferred acceptance, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, experimental subject, first-price auction, framing effect, frictionless, fundamental attribution error, George Akerlof, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gunnar Myrdal, helicopter parent, information asymmetry, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, late fees, linear programming, Lyft, market clearing, market design, market friction, medical residency, multi-sided market, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Occupy movement, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, price stability, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, proxy bid, RAND corporation, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, school choice, school vouchers, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, technoutopianism, telemarketer, The Market for Lemons, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, two-sided market, uber lyft, uranium enrichment, Vickrey auction, Vilfredo Pareto, winner-take-all economy

Guided by the insights and intuitions gleaned from the recent revolution in economic thought, policy makers and companies have been conducting what amounts to a grand experiment with new kinds of markets that, as we’ll see, sometimes have unforeseen or unintended consequences. Practically speaking, we’re living in the middle of this experiment, the principles of which were created in the pages of esoteric journals by economists, in the labs of high-tech companies, often (but not always) overlaid by a particular political orientation that comes with being starstruck by the efficiency of the market. Although the experimental subjects (that’s us) are nearly always blind to the consequences of this experimentation, don’t suffer under the delusion that market planners have all the answers. Science doesn’t provide clear guidance on any of this stuff. People (including at least some economists) have a delusional sense about what economic science is capable of forecasting. We need more than a superficial consideration of what new market mechanisms mean for the vast majority of people and whether the type of world that market revolutionaries aspire to is one we’d want to live in.

We need more than a superficial consideration of what new market mechanisms mean for the vast majority of people and whether the type of world that market revolutionaries aspire to is one we’d want to live in. We’re all complicit. Every time you book a room on Airbnb, order a car through Uber, browse on Amazon, or click on an ad—so convenient! so easy!—you help the process of reshaping our social institutions, possibly into something that none of us would recognize. You may not mean to, but you do. The question for someone in the midst of an experiment is, Do you want to be an experimental subject? Maybe. But to really know the answer, you have to have a better sense of the possible consequences, both personally and socially. And because the scientists have some hypotheses but don’t—can’t, really—know the outcome, we’re left with competing visions of the world. At one end of the spectrum are the back-to-the-earthers who want us all to stay local and barter for what we need. At the other end are market fundamentalists who want to shred the very fabric of society and resew it according to the specifications of unfettered free markets.

These allocation problems all now have centralized clearinghouses, many designed with the basic deferred acceptance algorithm as their foundations. But that’s really all that Gale and Shapley provided: a conceptual framework that market designers have, for several decades now, been applying, evaluating, and refining. They’ve learned from its successes and, unfortunately, learned even more from its inevitable failures: modeling real-life exchanges is an imprecise, iterative process in which many of us find ourselves as experimental subjects. The Complicated Job of Engineering Matches Market designer Al Roth likes to use a bridge-building metaphor to explain the contrast between his own work and that of design pioneers like Shapley. Suppose you want to build a suspension bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan. In confronting decisions like where to place the suspension cables and how thick each should be, you’d better have paid attention in physics class.


pages: 412 words: 115,266

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris

Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Bayesian statistics, cognitive bias, end world poverty, endowment effect, energy security, experimental subject, framing effect, hindsight bias, impulse control, John Nash: game theory, longitudinal study, loss aversion, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, pattern recognition, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, scientific worldview, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, ultimatum game, World Values Survey

In our search for the neural correlates of subjective states like belief and disbelief, we are bound to rely on behavioral reports. Therefore, having presented an experimental subject with a written statement—e.g., the United States is larger than Guatemala—and watched him mark it as “true,” it may occur to us to wonder whether we can take him at his word. Does he really believe that the United States is larger than Guatemala? Does this statement, in other words, really seem true to him? This is rather like worrying, with reference to a subject who has just performed a lexical decision task, whether a given stimulus really seems like a word to him. While it may seem reasonable to worry that experimental subjects might be poor judges of what they believe, or that they might attempt to deceive experimenters, such concerns seem misplaced—or if appropriate here, they should haunt all studies of human perception and cognition.

Haidt is pessimistic about our ever making realistic claims about right and wrong, or good and evil, because he has observed that human beings tend to make moral decisions on the basis of emotion, justify these decisions with post hoc reasoning, and stick to their guns even when their reasoning demonstrably fails. He notes that when asked to justify their responses to specific moral (and pseudo-moral) dilemmas, people are often “morally dumbfounded.” His experimental subjects would “stutter, laugh, and express surprise at their inability to find supporting reasons, yet they would not change their initial judgments …” The same can be said, however, about our failures to reason effectively. Consider the Monty Hall Problem (based on the television game show Let’s Make a Deal). Imagine that you are a contestant on a game show and presented with three closed doors: behind one sits a new car; the other two conceal goats.

For instance, if asked to recall the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and then asked to estimate the number of doctors practicing in San Francisco, the resulting numbers will show a statistically significant relationship. Needless to say, when the order of questions is reversed, this effect disappears.36 There have been a few efforts to put a brave face on such departures from rationality, construing them as random performance errors or as a sign that experimental subjects have misunderstood the tasks presented to them—or even as proof that research psychologists themselves have been beguiled by false norms of reasoning. But efforts to exonerate our mental limitations have generally failed. There are some things that we are just naturally bad at. And the mistakes people tend to make across a wide range of reasoning tasks are not mere errors; they are systematic errors that are strongly associated both within and across tasks.


pages: 471 words: 97,152

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism by George A. Akerlof, Robert J. Shiller

"Robert Solow", affirmative action, Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, business cycle, buy and hold, collateralized debt obligation, conceptual framework, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, financial innovation, full employment, George Akerlof, George Santayana, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, income per capita, inflation targeting, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jean Tirole, job satisfaction, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, market bubble, market clearing, mental accounting, Mikhail Gorbachev, money market fund, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Myron Scholes, new economy, New Urbanism, Paul Samuelson, plutocrats, Plutocrats, price stability, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, random walk, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, working-age population, Y2K, Yom Kippur War

In the plain vanilla version of this game subjects have the opportunity to put some money into a “pot,” which will be augmented and then shared with the rest of the group. If everyone acts cooperatively the returns for the whole group are the greatest. But at the same time there is an incentive to act selfishly: I achieve the best outcome for myself if everyone else puts his money into the pot—to be augmented and shared—but I act selfishly. There is a standard wisdom about the outcomes of such games: experimental subjects initially play such games with some degree of cooperation, but if the games are repeated they first learn that some other players are defectors and then they themselves increasingly defect. After many repetitions of the game all players are playing selfishly. The behavior pattern is very basic: it has been documented in monkeys as well as in humans.8 But Fehr and Gächter had an idea. They made a slight modification to the game to determine what would happen if players could punish those who played noncooperatively.

One of us (Akerlof ) has written extensively on this subject with Rachel Kranton.13 We have shown that a great deal of what makes people happy is living up to what they think they should be doing. In this sense most of the time people want to be fair. They consider it an insult if others do not think they are fair. At the same time, people also want others to live up to what they think those others should be doing. People get upset (think of Fehr’s experimental subjects and their desire to punish) when they think others are not being fair. Fairness then involves bringing into economics these concepts of how people think they and others should or should not behave. Fairness and the Economy Considerations of fairness are a major motivator in many economic decisions and are related to our sense of confidence and our ability to work effectively together.

It is this deer-in-the-headlights aspect to people’s approach to the saving decision, coupled with their susceptibility to cues, that causes the variability in saving. Small wonder that many policy recommendations —which are based on the standard theory of saving, which is in turn based on the economic fundamentals, and therefore has nothing to say about these cues—are very often simply wrong. An experiment by economists Hersh Shefrin and Richard Thaler demonstrates just such a tendency to grasp at straws. They asked experimental subjects how much they would likely spend out of an unexpected, one-time-only windfall of $2,400 in each of three possible situational framings. In the first framing the additional income is a new bonus at work that will be paid out at a rate of $200 a month over the next year. The median subject said that $100 a month would be consumed, for a total of $1,200. The second framing was additional income received as a single lump sum of $2,400 this month.


pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, different worldview, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

Among the axioms used to prove that “consistent” decisionmakers can be viewed as maximizing expected utility is the Axiom of Independence: If X is strictly preferred to Y, then a probability P of X and (1 - P) of Z should be strictly preferred to P chance of Y and (1 - P) chance of Z. All the axioms are consequences, as well as antecedents, of a consistent utility function. So it must be possible to prove that the experimental subjects above can’t have a consistent utility function over outcomes. And indeed, you can’t simultaneously have: U($24,000) > (33/34) × U($27,000) + (1/34) × U($0) 0.34 × U($24,000) + 0.66 × U($0) < 0.33 × U($27,000) + 0.67 × U($0). These two equations are algebraically inconsistent, regardless of U, so the Allais Paradox has nothing to do with the diminishing marginal utility of money. Maurice Allais initially defended the revealed preferences of the experimental subjects—he saw the experiment as exposing a flaw in the conventional ideas of utility, rather than exposing a flaw in human psychology. This was 1953, after all, and the heuristics-and-biases movement wouldn’t really get started for another two decades.

The experimental result is not a long wait before helping, but simply failure to help: if it’s a genetic benefit to help when you’re the only person who can do it (as does happen in the experiments) then the group equilibrium should not be no one helping (as happens in the experiments). So I don’t think an arms race of delay is a plausible evolutionary explanation. More likely, I think, is that we’re looking at a nonancestral problem. If the experimental subjects actually know the apparent victim, the chances of helping go way up (i.e., we’re not looking at the correlate of helping an actual fellow band member). If I recall correctly, if the experimental subjects know each other, the chances of action also go up. Nervousness about public action may also play a role. If Robin Hanson is right about the evolutionary role of “choking,” then being first to act in an emergency might also be taken as a dangerous bid for high status. (Come to think, I can’t actually recall seeing shyness discussed in analyses of the bystander effect, but that’s probably just my poor memory.)

A rational person, no matter how terrible a situation they’re stuck in, makes the best choices they can to improve their odds of success. Real-world rationality isn’t about ignoring your emotions and intuitions. For a human, rationality often means becoming more self-aware about your feelings, so you can factor them into your decisions. Rationality can even be about knowing when not to overthink things. When selecting a poster to put on their wall, or predicting the outcome of a basketball game, experimental subjects have been found to perform worse if they carefully analyzed their reasons.3,4 There are some problems where conscious deliberation serves us better, and others where snap judgments serve us better. Psychologists who work on dual process theories distinguish the brain’s “System 1” processes (fast, implicit, associative, automatic cognition) from its “System 2” processes (slow, explicit, intellectual, controlled cognition).5 The stereotype is for rationalists to rely entirely on System 2, disregarding their feelings and impulses.


pages: 202 words: 58,823

Willful: How We Choose What We Do by Richard Robb

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Alvin Roth, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, Bernie Madoff, capital asset pricing model, cognitive bias, collapse of Lehman Brothers, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, diversification, diversified portfolio, effective altruism, endowment effect, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, family office, George Akerlof, index fund, information asymmetry, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, lake wobegon effect, loss aversion, market bubble, market clearing, money market fund, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Peter Singer: altruism, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, profit motive, Richard Thaler, Silicon Valley, sovereign wealth fund, survivorship bias, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, ultimatum game

An experiment reported in the journal Econometrica documented a more mundane example of players who sacrifice winnings to stay in the game. Experimental subjects playing computer games in a lab chose a strategy and watched their winnings increase or decrease over time. If their winnings dropped below a threshold, they became bankrupt, and their payoff would be zero. The subjects ended up selecting strategies that kept them alive in the game but lowered their expected payout. The author interprets this as evidence that a “deeply ingrained (and usually reliable) heuristic towards survival leads subjects to associate survival with optimality.” On this basis, he speculates that real-world managers conduct business too conservatively if they suffer from “survival bias.”15 Maybe. But I can imagine myself behaving like the experimental subjects, particularly since they couldn’t leave the lab early and the amount of money at stake was only a few dollars.


pages: 272 words: 71,487

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More by Charles Kenny

"Robert Solow", agricultural Revolution, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, germ theory of disease, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, inventory management, Kickstarter, Milgram experiment, off grid, open borders, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, structural adjustment programs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, Toyota Production System, trade liberalization, transaction costs, very high income, Washington Consensus, X Prize

Researchers encouraged wavering teachers to continue the experiment regardless of the complaints of the learner. At 120 volts, the learners exclaimed they were in real pain. At 150 volts, they begged to end the experiment and be released. By 165 volts, they were screaming to stop. At 300 volts, the learners shouted that they would no longer answer questions. As the voltage increased, they ceased to respond at all, stunned into near-paralysis. In fact, the learners were actors—the real experimental subjects were the “teachers.” And not one teacher in the experiment ceased administering shocks before the 300-volt level. Two-thirds continued administering shocks until they had reached the last switch on their electrocution machine—450 volts. Teachers would continue despite showing obvious signs of distress themselves—sweating, stuttering, requests to the researcher to allow the experiment to stop.

But results changed dramatically if “learner” and researcher swapped roles. Whatever the protestations of the learners regarding the need to complete the experiment, no “teacher” would continue zapping a man in a white coat if he told them to stop. And if there were two researchers who argued over continuing the shocks, “teachers” universally stopped the experiment. Absent clear cues from authority to do the wrong thing, the experimental subjects behaved humanely. Milgram’s study was prompted by the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in an attempt to understand how so many people could have committed such obscene acts under his command. At least in part, the answer appears to be that people respond to authority and social cues even when those cues are morally repellent. As well as suggesting something about how widely the responsibility for acts of torture should be allocated, the Milgram experiment suggests the importance of institutional settings, and of social norms, to levels of violence and personal attitudes regarding acceptable behavior toward others.


pages: 443 words: 123,526

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

cognitive dissonance, experimental subject, gravity well, lateral thinking, loose coupling, peer-to-peer, phenotype, prisoner's dilemma, sensible shoes, theory of mind, white picket fence

Your cohort—all ten of you, one of the twenty groups we're introducing to this section of the polity over the next five megs—will meet once a week, on Sundays, in a parish center called the Church of the Nazarene, where you can discuss whatever you've learned. To make the simulation work better, there are a lot of nonplayer characters, zombies run by the Gamesmaster, and for much of the time you'll be interacting with these rather than with other experimental subjects. Everything's laid out in a collection of hab segments linked by gates so they feel like a single geographical continuum, just like a traditional planetary surface." He calms down a little. "Questions?" "What are the society's ground rules?" asks a male with dark skin in a light suit from the back row. He sounds puzzled. "You'll find out. They're largely imposed through environmental constraints.

"Bullshit!" I punch him lightly on the arm. "Look, if I promise I won't tell?" He looks at me thoughtfully. "Promise." "Okay, I promise." I pause. "So what's wrong?" His shoulders are hunched. "I've just come out of memory surgery," he says slowly. "I think that's where Fiore and Yourdon and their crowd found most of us, by the way. A redaction clinic must be a great place to find experimental subjects who're healthy but who've forgotten everything they knew. People who've come adrift from the patterns of life, and who have minimal social connections. People with active close ties don't go in for memory surgery, do they?" "Not often, I don't think," I say, vaguely disturbed by a recollection of military officers briefing me: trouble in another life, urgent plotting against an evil contingency.

If Curious Yellow really did create sleeper cells, secondary pockets of infection designed to break out long after the initial wave was suppressed, then our collective failure to pursue them is disastrously shortsighted. And I am particularly worried because some aspects of the YFH-Polity experimental protocol, as published, sound alarmingly amenable to redirection along these lines. My biggest reason for wanting you to have undergone major memory erasure prior to injection into YFH-Polity is this: I suspect that when the incoming experimental subjects are issued with new bodies, they are filtered through an A-gate infected with a live, patched copy of Curious Yellow. Therefore preemptive memory redaction is the only sure way of preventing such a verminiferous gate from identifying you as a threat for its owners to eliminate. I watch myself writing this letter to myself. I can read it as clearly as if it's engraved in my own flesh.


pages: 733 words: 179,391

Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought by Andrew W. Lo

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, algorithmic trading, Andrei Shleifer, Arthur Eddington, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, break the buck, Brownian motion, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Carmen Reinhart, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computerized trading, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Diane Coyle, diversification, diversified portfolio, double helix, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Ernest Rutherford, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, framing effect, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, housing crisis, incomplete markets, index fund, interest rate derivative, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Meriwether, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, martingale, merger arbitrage, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, money market fund, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, old-boy network, out of africa, p-value, paper trading, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, predatory finance, prediction markets, price discovery process, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sam Peltzman, Shai Danziger, short selling, sovereign wealth fund, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical arbitrage, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, Thales and the olive presses, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, US Airways Flight 1549, Walter Mischel, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

Lieberman at the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at UCLA, and Kip Williams, a social psychologist now at Purdue University, deliberately induced 86 • Chapter 3 feelings of social rejection among a group of subjects, and then identified the regions of the brain that were most activated during the stimulus using fMRI techniques.16 How do you deliberately induce social rejection in a laboratory setting? The experimental subjects—UCLA students—were placed in MRI machines and told they were playing a cooperative computer game called Cyberball with two other players, also in MRI machines, to monitor how their neural activity synchronized as they played. This was a lie. In fact, Cyberball was a psychological test devised by Williams to measure the reactions of people being ostracized. The other two players were, in reality, computer simulations—virtual players that were programmed to exclude the third person from fully participating in the game.

We can actually trace which parts of the brain are activated by pleasurable behaviors as they happen. And what about the simple pleasures of making money? In 2001, a team led by Hans Breiter at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital—a team that included Daniel Kahneman—used fMRI scans to determine what happened in the human brain when a person experienced financial gains and losses in real time.22 Breiter’s experimental subjects were given a $50 stake to play a simple gambling game. If You’re So Rich, Why Aren’t You Smart? • 89 The screen displayed one of three computer-animated spinners, similar to the kind found in children’s board games, divided equally into three possible outcomes: the “good” spinner with $10, $2.50, and $0; the “intermediate” spinner with $2.50, $0, and −$1.50; and the “bad” spinner with $0, −$1.50, and −$6.23 Unknown to the test subjects, the outcomes of the spinners only appeared to be random.

However, as we learned, our reaction to gains isn’t a simple mirror image of our reaction to losses. Does risk-seeking behavior have an explanation in the neurology of pleasure? To answer this question, Camelia M. Kuhnen and Brian Knutson at Stanford University followed up Breiter’s experiments with another fMRI study.24 Kuhnen and Knutson designed a financial computer game—more formally, the Behavioral Investment Allocation Strategy (BIAS) task—that their experimental subjects played while being scanned in an MRI machine. The players were presented with three investment options: a “safe” bond or one of two risky stocks with prices that fluctuated randomly. Unknown to the players, one of the two stocks was a “good” stock that always increased in value over time, and the other was a “bad” stock that always declined in value. Additionally, the “good” stock gave a larger reward than the “safe” bond, on average $2.50 per turn versus a consistent $1.


pages: 285 words: 78,180

Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life by J. Craig Venter

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asilomar, Barry Marshall: ulcers, bioinformatics, borderless world, Brownian motion, clean water, discovery of DNA, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, global pandemic, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, Mars Rover, Mikhail Gorbachev, phenotype, Richard Feynman, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Turing machine

The team therefore began a search for other species that might be able to stably accommodate these large synthetic DNA molecules. We looked at B. subtilis, which had been used by a Japanese team to grow large segments of a bacterial algae genome.14 But while B. subtilis could indeed accommodate the large 290kb segments, there was no way to recover the DNA intact from these cells, so we looked elsewhere. The solution came from the more complex cellular world of the eukaryote and a favorite experimental subject of scientists around the world studying eukaryotic biology: brewer’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. For centuries S. cerevisiae has been used for alcohol fermentation as well as for making bread, but in the laboratory it has been routinely exploited because it has a relatively small genome and an array of genetic tools that make genetic manipulation easy. For example, S. cerevisiae uses what is called homologous recombination, in which segments of DNA with sequences on its ends similar or identical to those in the S. cerevisiae genome can be spliced into its genome, replacing the intervening sequence.

The achievement of the Roslin Institute rested on many factors, from a technical understanding of the cell cycle to practical considerations, such as protecting reconstructing embryos in a shell of protective agar.4 But Dolly was far from being the first clone and was not the first cloned sheep, either, as many believe.5 The history of nuclear transfer actually dates back to 1938 and the highly creative and influential German embryologist Hans Spemann (1869–1941), who published the first nuclear-transplantation experiments.6 Spemann was the pioneer of what he called Entwicklungsmechanik, or “developmental mechanics,” and was awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts in 1935. With Hilde Mangold (1898–1924) he conducted the first nuclear-transfer experiments on the newt, which was an ideal experimental subject because of its large, easily manipulated eggs. In 1938 Spemann published the milestone text Embryonic Development and Induction, which described how his experiment rested on the dexterous use of microscopy, tweezers, and a delicate hair, probably plucked from his daughter Margrette. Spemann used the hair as a noose to divide the cytoplasm of a newly fertilized salamander egg under the gaze of a binocular microscope, creating a dumbbell-shaped embryo.


pages: 294 words: 86,601

Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life by Steven Johnson

Columbine, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, Gödel, Escher, Bach, James Watt: steam engine, l'esprit de l'escalier, lateral thinking, pattern recognition, phenotype, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, zero-sum game

So Joy agrees to make a last-minute addition: a final stage during which I’m shown a single sentence from my book and given the entire forty seconds to ruminate. Then Joy walks me through the risks. “We’re looking at your brain here. So there’s a very small chance that we might see something in these scans, some abnormality.” I nod. “You mean a brain tumor.” “Sometimes when we do work with experimental subjects-people who come in to help with our research, and who don’t have any symptoms-they say, ‘If you see something in there, don’t tell me.’ ” “Hey, if you see something in there that you don’t like,” I smile ruefully, “by all means let me know.” Then she moves on to the dangers associated with the scanner itself. “It is a fundamentally safe procedure, noninvasive.” I think of a news story from a few years back in which hospital staff had left a metal trash can in the room with an fMRI.

And the cameras are rolling. The results arrive in two stages. The first stage comes almost immediately: Joy gives a quick glance at the conventional MRI images of my brain, and announces that I have a healthy specimen. “Everything looks great,” she says as she slaps the X-ray-like film onto a light board. “A textbook brain.” I glow with pride for a second, and then think, She probably tells this to all her experimental subjects. Still, I find myself more pleased than I had expected to find out that I have no visible brain tumors. I think, At least I’ve got that going for me. The second stage is where it gets interesting. A few days pass, and Joy sends an email to let me know that the results are in. “You’re going to like this,” she writes temptingly. The next afternoon I take the A train up to 168th Street, and Joy and I sit down at a conference table to spend some quality time with my brain.


pages: 317 words: 87,566

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being by William Davies

1960s counterculture, Airbnb, business intelligence, corporate governance, dematerialisation, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Gini coefficient, income inequality, intangible asset, invisible hand, joint-stock company, lifelogging, market bubble, mental accounting, nudge unit, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Philip Mirowski, profit maximization, randomized controlled trial, Richard Thaler, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, science of happiness, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), sentiment analysis, sharing economy, Slavoj Žižek, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, social intelligence, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Spirit Level, theory of mind, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto

How could these apparently intangible, conceptual entities become an object of scientific investigation? Wundt was keen to avoid resorting to introspection of the sort that many English psychologists had used during the 1850s and 1860s. The purpose of the laboratory was to study mental processes in a more objective fashion than that. He and his assistants built various tools to test the response of experimental subjects to different stimuli. They also borrowed various instruments from physiology and physics labs to time neural reflexes. And they built their own version of a tachistoscope, which was used to time how long it took to get a person’s attention. The eyes were a crucial area of study for the pioneering psychologists, but not merely in a physiological sense. Now they provided a glimpse of thinking itself.

Pulse rate and blood pressure were among the measurable indicators of inner emotional states. One of the key differences – which also distinguishes this early psychological research from what would come later – was that the subjects being experimented on were scholarly associates and students of Wundt. They were fully aware of what the experiments were seeking to test and contributed their own subjective insights to the findings. The perspective of the experimental subject was important here, and there was no sense in which they were being manipulated. Conscious thought processes needed to be respected in their own right and not reduced to naturalistic questions of cause and effect. For instance, the speed of conscious reaction (when the subject became aware of something) could be compared to the speed of unconscious reaction (when the physical reflex occurred).


pages: 284 words: 84,169

Talk on the Wild Side by Lane Greene

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, ending welfare as we know it, experimental subject, facts on the ground, framing effect, Google Chrome, illegal immigration, invisible hand, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, natural language processing, obamacare, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Snapchat, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Turing test, Wall-E

Then he could test them against a control group of speakers of those same languages who had not learned Loglan, and see if there was any difference in logical thinking. The “language governs thought” idea has always been an intellectually attractive one. Brown’s article was a minor sensation. He initially got hundreds of letters, and donors supported his development of Loglan. A group of followers agreed to learn and propagate the language.2 But he never got his improbable plan – to expose experimental subjects to eight months of intensive Loglan – off the ground. Funding for his project began drying up. A group of Loglan enthusiasts, led by Bob Le Chevalier, who thought they had his tacit blessing, had continued adding words and ideas to Loglan. When he found out, Brown was furious: Loglan was his. Like many language inventers, he was prone to proprietary thinking about his creation, and to feuding over exactly what it needed and what it didn’t.

There is some good evidence for the power of framing effects in politics – and not only from the polls of Frank Luntz. Lera Boroditsky, a psychologist who specialises in language and thought at the University of California San Diego, has researched how simple differences in metaphor make a big difference in the kind of policy solutions people support. For example, she and Paul Thibodeau gave one group of experimental subjects a news paragraph about a fictional town, Addison, beginning “Crime is a beast ravaging the city of Addison” (emphasis mine), and went on to describe the crime problem in detailed statistics. When questioned afterwards, 71% of the subjects recommended some form of tougher law-and-order policies for Addison. But when Boroditsky gave a different group the exact same paragraph, with one word swapped, “Crime is a virus ravaging the city of Addison,” the results were very different.


How to Be a Liberal by Ian Dunt

4chan, Alfred Russel Wallace, bank run, battle of ideas, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Boris Johnson, bounce rate, British Empire, Brixton riot, Carmen Reinhart, centre right, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dominic Cummings, Donald Trump, eurozone crisis, experimental subject, feminist movement, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, Growth in a Time of Debt, illegal immigration, invisible hand, John Bercow, Kenneth Rogoff, liberal world order, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, means of production, Mohammed Bouazizi, Northern Rock, old-boy network, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, price mechanism, profit motive, quantitative easing, recommendation engine, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Scientific racism, Silicon Valley, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, upwardly mobile, Winter of Discontent, working poor, zero-sum game

His father, Juste Constant was a wealthy and eccentric Swiss colonel who was obsessed with the idea that you could take a child and fashion them into an ideal version of your values if you had complete control of their upbringing. So Constant was intended to be his father’s prodigy. He would be instructed in lofty academic subjects from an early age and sent to the best tutors in Europe to create a true Renaissance man for modernity. Not all of Juste’s experimental subjects were so lucky. In 1761, he stumbled across an intelligent young girl called Marianne Magnin in a village and proceeded to kidnap her, pay off the parents, and have her tutored in isolation so that she could be turned into the perfect mistress. By 1772 – when Constant was four, Marianne 20 and Juste 46 – she was made the child’s carer. Later on, after Constant’s mother died, she became Juste’s wife.

A file on each boy was composed with their IQ, school grades, social attitudes, popularity and ‘membership in school cliques.’ Then they visited their parents. Sherif told them he wanted to give the boys ‘a wholesome cooperative living experience which will prepare the youngsters for better citizenship and to be leaders in their communities.’ No mention was made of the real purpose of the experiment. After 300 hours of selection Sherif whittled down the list to 22 ‘experimental subjects,’ who would be split into two groups of 11 each. His plan was split into three phases, each lasting a week. In the first, the two groups would be kept apart and watched for how they developed a group identity. Towards the end of the week they would slowly be given evidence of the existence of the other group. In the second week a series of competitive games would be held, in which the groups challenged each other to baseball, a tug-of-war and speed trials for erecting tents.

They were then asked which of the lines on the first card was the same length as on the second. This process was to run for 18 rounds. It was very basic. The lines were not remotely similar. Anyone could see what the right answer was. In a control test ahead of the experiment, the error rate was below one per cent. The eight students went into the room. But in reality, only one was a college student – the other seven were actors. They were lined up ahead of the experimental subject so that he would see all but one of them give their answers before he gave his. These seven actors were given detailed instructions about how they should behave. For the first two rounds they would all say the same obviously right answer. Then, in the third round, they would all give the same wrong answer. They would do this again for 11 of the remaining 15 rounds. The aim of the study was to see how this kind of social pressure would affect the one genuine student in the room.


pages: 302 words: 90,215

Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do by Jeremy Bailenson

Apple II, augmented reality, computer vision, deliberate practice, experimental subject, game design, Google Glasses, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), iterative process, Jaron Lanier, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, nuclear winter, Oculus Rift, randomized controlled trial, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, telepresence, too big to fail

It was a powerful simulation of an event that exists far outside of the lived experience of most people, reinforced by audio, visual, and even physical touch feedback. If information about the environmental consequences of our paper consumption were tied to such an experience, we wondered, would it have a stronger effect than if the consequences were described in print? In this first study, 50 experimental subjects were given statistics Sun Joo had computed based on the amount of toilet paper an American consumes, about 24 rolls per year. They were told that using nonrecycled toilet paper for the duration of their lives would cause the felling of two full-sized, standing trees. Then, half of the subjects read a carefully crafted written account describing what it would be like to cut down a tree, while the other half experienced the virtual tree-cutting.

He has spent so much time working in this area, in fact, that he was inspired to name his youngest son Midas. In the first study to look at the Midas Touch in virtual space, Wijnand had two people chat online using instant messaging. One was the subject, while the other was a “confederate,” a person who is part of the experiment but pretends to be another participant in the study. During the interaction, experimental subjects wore a sleeve on their arm that used six points of vibration contact to simulate being tapped on the arm. Some subjects received the virtual touch from the confederate, who could activate the vibrating sleeve on a networked computer, and others did not. After the experiment was over, the confederate got up from the computer station in front of the subject and dropped eighteen coins on the ground.


pages: 322 words: 107,576

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Asperger Syndrome, correlation does not imply causation, experimental subject, hygiene hypothesis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, p-value, placebo effect, publication bias, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the scientific method, urban planning

I would suggest that the same beliefs were held by the subjects of Asch’s experiments into social conformity. These subjects were placed near one end of a line of actors who presented themselves as fellow experimental subjects, but were actually in cahoots with the experimenters. Cards were held up with one line marked on them, and then another card was held up with three lines of different lengths: six inches, eight inches, ten inches. Everyone called out in turn which line on the second card was the same length as the line on the first. For six of the eighteen pairs of cards the accomplices gave the correct answer; but for the other twelve they called out the wrong answer. In all but a quarter of the cases, the experimental subjects went along with the incorrect answer from the crowd of accomplices on one or more occasions, defying the clear evidence of their own senses.


Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

A Pattern Language, augmented reality, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, business climate, citizen journalism, computer vision, conceptual framework, creative destruction, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, experimental economics, experimental subject, Extropian, Hacker Ethic, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, Howard Rheingold, invention of the telephone, inventory management, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Joi Ito, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Metcalfe's law, Metcalfe’s law, more computing power than Apollo, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, pez dispenser, planetary scale, pre–internet, prisoner's dilemma, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, Renaissance Technologies, RFID, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Coase, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, slashdot, social intelligence, spectrum auction, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, transaction costs, ultimatum game, urban planning, web of trust, Whole Earth Review, zero-sum game

Decades after Hobbes, John Locke, philosophical mentor to Thomas Jefferson, asserted that humans could govern through social contracts rather than coercive authority.8 Since the time of Hobbes and Locke, political philosophers, sociologists, economists, and candidates for public office have argued over the role of central authority in governance, markets, and human affairs. The argument became scientific as well as philosophical when researchers began to systematically observe the way people really do work together. Laboratory investigators began to formulate experiments to probe cooperative behavior. The experiments were based on simple games in which experimental subjects can win or lose money (more about game theory shortly). In the 1950s, economist Mancur L. Olson found that small groups are more likely to exhibit voluntary cooperation in these experimental games than larger groups and that cooperative behaviors increase when the games are repeated over and over with the same groups and when communication is permitted among the participants.9 In 1982, Olson wrote, “Unless the number of individuals in a group is quite small, or unless there is coercion or some other special device to make individuals act in their common interest, rational, self-interested individuals will not act to achieve their common or group interests.”10 One unavoidable question remained.

A coin flip gives one player the option of determining how much of the total to keep and how much to offer the other player. The other player, the “responder,” can accept the deal and the money is split as proposed, or the second player can refuse the deal and neither player gets any money. The result that is not surprising to people who value fairness but puzzles those who see humans as rational creatures who act in their self-interest is that two-thirds of the experimental subjects offer between $40 and $50 out of $100 total. Only four in one hundred people offer less than 20 percent, and more than half of the responders reject offers smaller than 20 percent of the total. Why would anyone turn down 20 percent of something in exchange for nothing? Martin A. Nowak, Karl Sigmund, and Karen M. Page of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton propose an evolutionary model.


pages: 352 words: 120,202

Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology by Howard Rheingold

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, card file, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer age, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, experimental subject, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pattern recognition, popular electronics, post-industrial society, RAND corporation, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture

It had been a challenging and exhilarating to build this new system for augmenting thought -- but it wasn't as much fun having one's work habits augmented at a forced-march pace. When both the old-timers and newcomers to the growing project faced the task of learning new roles, changing old attitudes, adopting different methods, on regular basis, just because the system enabled them to do so, the great adventure became more arduous than any of the ARC pioneers/experimental subjects had anticipated. So a psychologist was brought in to consult about those parts of the system that weren't found in the circuitry or software, but in the thoughts and relationships of the people who were building and using the system. Dr. James Fadiman joined ARC as an observer-catalyst-therapist. Fadiman was particularly interested in the ways human consciousness and behavior change in new situations, and it didn't take him long to realize that the process of "being augmented" was in fact a new, nonchemical form of altered consciousness.

By July, 1978, seven trial projects were under way, each one a part of an established research community of ten to fifty members. The system was set up to collect data on its own operations, in order to test the hypothesis that a teleconference-like system could enhance the effectiveness of research communities. The Electronic Information Exchange System, known as EIES (pronounced "eyes"), was one of those experiments that never shut itself down because the experimental subjects just wouldn't let go of it. It seemed to happen with every new development of interactive computing -- people would simply refuse to stop experimenting with the system, and wouldn't give up the experimental tools when the experiment was over. As Jim Fadiman noted of ARC, people seem to be as reluctant to be deaugmented as they are resistant to augmentation in the first place. EIES was first set up to enable members to send private communications to individuals or groups, maintain permanent transcripts of comments on discussion topics, and provide text processing and file management services that participants could use to construct jointly authored papers.


pages: 397 words: 110,130

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

4chan, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Benjamin Mako Hill, butterfly effect, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, disruptive innovation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Edward Thorp, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Gunnar Myrdal, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, iterative process, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, lifelogging, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, patent troll, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Socratic dialogue, spaced repetition, superconnector, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, Vannevar Bush, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, X Prize, éminence grise

In one, subjects gave Gosling permission to bring strangers into their houses while they were away. After only a few minutes examining their bedrooms, the strangers could produce eerily accurate descriptions of the subjects’ personalities. Gosling wondered whether Facebook pages would be equally revealing, so he repeated the experiment online, arranging to have strangers inspect the Facebook pages of experimental subjects. Sure enough, they were able to accurately describe those personalities, too. The ambient signals given off by status updates and streams of photos can be as powerful as those from real-life objects. Indeed, they’re sometimes more revelatory. One of the hilarities of ambient life is discovering how much weirder people are than you thought, even those you believed you knew well. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, once told me that when his parents began using the service, their updates revealed sides he’d never known.

Resnick, Roger Säljö, Clotilde Pontecorvo, and Barbara Burge (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1997), 41–62, accessed March 26, 2013, www.ida.liu.se/~729G12/mtrl/Suchman_Centres_of_coordination.pdf; and a personal interview with Heath. a form of proprioception: Portions of my writing here appeared in “Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense,” Wired, June 2007, accessed March 26, 2013, www.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/15-07/st_thompson. have strangers inspect the Facebook pages of experimental subjects: My description of Gosling’s work comes from Samuel D. Gosling, Sei Jin Ko, Thomas Mannarelli, and Margaret E. Morris, “A Room with a Cue: Personality Judgments Based on Offices and Bedrooms,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82, no. 3 (2002): 379–98, accessed March 26, 2013, homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/faculty/Gosling/reprints/JPSP02-Roomwithacue.pdf; Sam Gosling, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You (New York: Basic Books, 2009), Kindle edition; Samuel D.


pages: 481 words: 120,693

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, assortative mating, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Basel III, battle of ideas, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black Swan, Boris Johnson, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, BRICs, business climate, call centre, carried interest, Cass Sunstein, Clayton Christensen, collapse of Lehman Brothers, commoditize, conceptual framework, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, disruptive innovation, don't be evil, double helix, energy security, estate planning, experimental subject, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Gini coefficient, global village, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gordon Gekko, Guggenheim Bilbao, haute couture, high net worth, income inequality, invention of the steam engine, job automation, John Markoff, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, liberation theology, light touch regulation, linear programming, London Whale, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, Mikhail Gorbachev, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, NetJets, new economy, Occupy movement, open economy, Peter Thiel, place-making, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, postindustrial economy, Potemkin village, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, rent-seeking, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, short selling, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Simon Kuznets, Solar eclipse in 1919, sovereign wealth fund, starchitect, stem cell, Steve Jobs, the new new thing, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Tony Hsieh, too big to fail, trade route, trickle-down economics, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, wage slave, Washington Consensus, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game

Their explanation for the behavior of these ignoble nobles was an echo of the Silicon Valley executive’s Heathrow observation: “We reason that increased resources and independence from others cause people to prioritize self-interest over others’ welfare and perceive greed as positive and beneficial, which in turn gives rise to increased unethical behavior.” One of the experiments studied San Francisco intersections. The team found that the drivers of new, expensive cars were twice as likely to cut off other vehicles or pedestrians as the drivers of old, cheap cars. In another test, experimental subjects with higher real-world incomes were more likely to deceive a hypothetical job applicant in order to persuade him or her to accept a lower salary—an accomplishment that earned the manager in the experiment a bonus. Even imagining you were rich changed the way experimental subjects behaved. In another study, participants were prompted to think of themselves as either very rich or very poor, and were then invited to take candy from a jar that afterward would be given to children in a nearby lab. The subjects who had imagined they were very rich took more candy.


pages: 432 words: 124,635

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, agricultural Revolution, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, car-free, carbon footprint, centre right, City Beautiful movement, clean water, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, East Village, edge city, energy security, Enrique Peñalosa, experimental subject, Frank Gehry, Google Earth, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, Home mortgage interest deduction, housing crisis, income inequality, income per capita, Induced demand, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, license plate recognition, McMansion, means of production, megacity, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mortgage tax deduction, New Urbanism, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, peak oil, Ponzi scheme, rent control, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, science of happiness, Seaside, Florida, Silicon Valley, starchitect, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the High Line, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transit-oriented development, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban sprawl, wage slave, white flight, World Values Survey, zero-sum game, Zipcar

.: Hall, James, “Men in Their Late 40s Living in London Are the Unhappiest in the UK,” The Telegraph, February 28, 2012, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9110941/Men-in-their-late-40s-living-in-London-are-the-unhappiest-in-the-UK.html (accessed March 3, 2012); Office for National Statistics, “Analysis of Experimental Subjective Well-Being Data from the Annual Population Survey, April to September 2011,” February 28, 2012, www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/measuring-subjective-wellbeing-in-the-uk/analysis-of-experimental-subjective-well-being-data-from-the-annual-population-survey–april—september-2011/report-april-to-september-2011.html (accessed March 3, 2012). Architects’ brains: Kirk, U., M. Skov, M. S. Christensen, and N. Nygaard, “Brain Correlates of Aesthetic Expertise: A Parametric fMRI Study,” Brain and Cognition, 2008: 306–15.


pages: 578 words: 131,346

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Airbnb, Anton Chekhov, basic income, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Broken windows theory, call centre, David Graeber, Donald Trump, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Hans Rosling, invention of writing, invisible hand, knowledge economy, late fees, Mahatma Gandhi, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, placebo effect, sharing economy, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Stanford prison experiment, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, universal basic income, World Values Survey

The man in the grey lab coat – a biology teacher Milgram had hired named John Williams – would make as many as eight or nine attempts to get people to continue pressing higher switches. He even came to blows with one forty-six-year-old woman who turned the shock machine off. Williams turned it back on and demanded she continue.12 ‘The slavish obedience to authority,’ writes Gina Perry, ‘comes to sound much more like bullying and coercion when you listen to these recordings.’13 The key question is whether the experimental subjects believed they were administering real shocks at all. Shortly after the experiment, Milgram wrote that ‘with few exceptions subjects were convinced of the reality of the experimental situation’.14 Yet his archives are filled with statements from participants expressing doubt. Perhaps that’s not very surprising when you consider how bizarre this situation must have seemed. Were people seriously expected to believe that someone was being tortured and killed under the watchful eye of scientists from a prestigious institution like Yale?

Eichmann assured him.31 Or as he’d already declared in 1945: ‘I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.’32 Reading through the thirteen hundred pages of interviews, teeming with warped ideas and fantasies, it’s patently obvious that Eichmann was no brainless bureaucrat. He was a fanatic. He acted not out of indifference, but out of conviction. Like Milgram’s experimental subjects, he did evil because he believed he was doing good. Although transcripts of the Sassen interviews were available at the time of the trial, Eichmann managed to cast doubt on their authenticity. And so he put the whole world on the wrong track. All that time, the interview tapes lay mouldering in the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, where the philosopher Bettina Stangneth found them fifty years later.


Year 501 by Noam Chomsky

"Robert Solow", anti-communist, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, Bolshevik threat, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, capital controls, colonial rule, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, declining real wages, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, European colonialism, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Howard Zinn, invisible hand, land reform, land tenure, long peace, mass incarceration, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, non-tariff barriers, offshore financial centre, plutocrats, Plutocrats, price stability, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, strikebreaker, structural adjustment programs, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trickle-down economics, union organizing, War on Poverty, working poor

The rapid growth of wealth and power set the stage for outright conquest and imperial rule. British officials, merchants, and investors “amassed vast fortunes,” gaining “wealth beyond the dreams of avarice” (Parker). That was particularly true in Bengal, which, Keay continues, “was destabilized and impoverished by a disastrous experiment in sponsored government”—one of the many “experiments” in the Third World that have not exactly redounded to the benefit of the experimental subjects. Two English historians of India, Edward Thompson and G.T. Garrett, described the early history of British India as “perhaps the world’s high-water mark of graft”: “a gold-lust unequalled since the hysteria that took hold of the Spaniards of Cortes’ and Pizzaro’s age filled the English mind. Bengal in particular was not to know peace again until she has been bled white.” It is significant, they remark, that one of the Hindustani words that has become part of the English language is “loot.”12 The fate of Bengal brings out essential elements of the global conquest.

In earlier days, Vietnam was described as “a going laboratory where we see subversive insurgency...being applied in all its forms” (Maxwell Taylor), providing opportunities for “experiments with population and resource control methods” and “nation building.” The Marine occupation of Haiti was described in similar terms, as we have seen. The technical posturing appears to sustain the self-image, at least.7 One finds no intimation that the experimental subjects might have the right to sign consent forms, or even to know what is happening to them. On the contrary, they scarcely have the rights of laboratory animals. We will determine what is best for them, as we always have; another hallmark of the 500 years. The wise among us just know, for example, that maximizing consumption is a core human value: “If we weren’t influencing the world” in this direction, “it would be someone else because what we are seeing everywhere is an expression of the basic human desire to consume,” Boston University professor of management Lawrence Wortzel explains.


Howard Rheingold by The Virtual Community Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier-Perseus Books (1993)

Apple II, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, commoditize, conceptual framework, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, experimental subject, George Gilder, global village, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, license plate recognition, loose coupling, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mitch Kapor, packet switching, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, profit motive, RAND corporation, Ray Oldenburg, rent control, RFC: Request For Comment, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, telepresence, The Great Good Place, The Hackers Conference, urban decay, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, young professional

Human communication is the most complex system we know about. As Engelbart often said about NLS: "If ease of use was the only 26-04-2012 21:44 howard rheingold's | the virtual community 6 de 35 http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/4.html valid criterion, people would stick to tricycles and never try bicycles." EIES, like ARPANET, was another one of those experiments that never shut themselves down because the experimental subjects just wouldn't let go of them. EIES quickly expanded from pure scientific research communities to legislative and medical researchers. Some of the EIES users concentrated on designing new generations of conferencing systems, based on what they had learned from their EIES participation. In this way EIES was the protocommunity that seeded the Net with CMC designers. Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz, for example, worked with Harry Stevens, another early EIES enthusiast, and others to develop a system for the Massachusetts state office of technology called legitec, created with the scripting language built into EIES.

Atsuya Yoshida and Jun Kakuta from the Kyoto Institute of Technology, supported by Fujitsu, formally investigated Habitat "users' social and behavioral characteristics in an on-line virtual world." They chose to investigate the social structure of the system by selecting a novice user of e-mail and chat in Japanese University NETwork (JUNET), a male graduate student of information technology, twenty-four years old, and introducing him to Fujitsu Habitat. For the eighty-one days they observed their experimental subject, "Mr. T.," Yoshida and Kakuta reported that Mr. T. showed magnificent social adaptation to the visual network society of Populopolis. From March 16, 1993, when the experimental observation was started, the daily access time increased rapidly. We would call this phenomenon `addiction.' Mr. T. smoothly got into the network group and became active to join an on-line election of a president of the town-block association and an on-line discussion about Osaka dialect, and also joined an off-line meeting at an early stage.


pages: 473 words: 130,141

The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution by Richard Wrangham

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Defenestration of Prague, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, impulse control, income inequality, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, phenotype, Ronald Reagan, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Steven Pinker, twin studies, ultimatum game

We need other ways to explain how the moral emotions underlying self-sacrificial behavior have evolved.23 * * * — The second major problem is how we come to classify some actions as “right” and others as “wrong.” Scholars looking for the consistent application of moral rules have traditionally considered two main ideas. They are the “utilitarian” and the “deontological” principles. Both work sometimes, but neither is followed all the time, which means they fail as general explanations.24 The utilitarian principle states that people should act to maximize the general good. Sometimes experimental subjects presented with moral problems conform to this idea. A popular dilemma for philosophers imagines a train hurtling down a track. An observer sees that, if she does nothing, five people are going to be killed. But she can pull a lever that diverts the train onto a side track, where it will kill only one person. Should she pull the lever? Ninety percent of those asked say yes. Pulling the lever saves more lives than not pulling the lever, so it maximizes the general good.

This led him to make a series of studies using an online game that he invented, called cyberball.47 Experiments by Williams and others showed that a mere two or three minutes of play with strangers, followed by being excluded, led predictably to sadness, anger, and a series of negative effects including feelings of alienation, depression, helplessness, and even a reduced sense of meaning in life. The effects did not depend on the subject’s personality or whether he or she felt similar to the ostracizers. Experimental subjects experienced elevated activation of a part of the brain, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, that is also activated by physical pain. To be ostracized, in short, engages a swift and strong series of neurally encoded responses that are very unpleasant. In the Pleistocene, the ostracism presumably involved familiars more than strangers. Once again, selection favored a strong emotional reaction because of the potential dangers of becoming socially isolated.48 Just as our emotions today are adapted to an earlier world in which people were perpetually walking a social tightrope, the way we currently think is adapted to saving us from ancient mortally dangerous faux pas.


pages: 495 words: 136,714

Money for Nothing by Thomas Levenson

Albert Einstein, asset-backed security, bank run, British Empire, carried interest, clockwork universe, credit crunch, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, experimental subject, failed state, Fellow of the Royal Society, fiat currency, financial innovation, Fractional reserve banking, income inequality, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, market bubble, open economy, price mechanism, quantitative easing, Republic of Letters, risk/return, side project, South Sea Bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

One of the reasons Newton is remembered as perhaps the greatest genius in history is that from the beginning he did just that, plunging deeply not just into mathematics but into measurement of the world—at times to his own peril. * * * — Newton’s drawing of his bodkin experiment For example, in the early 1660s he wanted to know how the shape of the human eye might affect the perception of color. To find out, he turned to the nearest experimental subject, himself, and stuck a bodkin—a blunt needle—into the bottom of his eye socket and levered up. He meticulously recorded his results, including defining the curve he induced in his eyeball (“ye curvature a b c d e f”) and noting that the colored circles grew brighter “when I continued to rub my eye with ye point of ye bodkin.” His sketch of what he did to himself is at once meticulous and stomach roiling, a measure of both the urgency of his hunger for data and his utter recklessness.

Nonetheless, Chandrasekhar, a Nobel laureate physicist, does offer a good introductory summary of the basic concepts in the first section of his book, and it is worth a look.) Another good account of the development of Newton’s thoughts on gravity through this period comes in A. Rupert Hall’s highly readable biography Isaac Newton: Adventurer in Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 58–63. TO FIND OUT, HE TURNED TO THE NEAREST EXPERIMENTAL SUBJECT Newton’s notebook, reproduced in Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 95. WHAT HE CALLED THE EXPERIMENTUM CRUCIS For a detailed reconstruction of the steps Newton took to arrive at his theory of color, see Westfall, Never at Rest, pp. 156–72. As Westfall documents, Newton’s journey to the crucial experiment was more involved than the legend has it (and Blake’s famous painting depicts)—and the demonstration that a spectrum can be recombined into white light passed through several different tests at Newton’s hand.


pages: 190 words: 53,409

Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, attribution theory, availability heuristic, Branko Milanovic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carried interest, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, experimental subject, framing effect, full employment, hindsight bias, If something cannot go on forever, it will stop - Herbert Stein's Law, income inequality, invisible hand, labor-force participation, lake wobegon effect, loss aversion, minimum wage unemployment, Network effects, Paul Samuelson, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Richard Thaler, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, selection bias, side project, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Tim Cook: Apple, ultimatum game, Vincenzo Peruggia: Mona Lisa, winner-take-all economy

In another study, the psychologist Martin Seligman and his coauthors asked people to engage in five exercises that had been shown in earlier work to boost feelings of well-being.15 One was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for an earlier kindness. This step, they found, was associated with a larger and more persistent increase in happiness scores than any other of the four other exercises. Numerous other studies by psychologists report similar findings. Nancy Digdon and Amy Koble found that experimental subjects who were induced to feel gratitude toward others experienced subsequent reductions in anxiety and sounder sleep patterns.16 Nathan DeWall and his collaborators showed that people in whom feelings of gratitude had been induced were also more likely to experience empathy toward others and less likely to respond aggressively when provoked by others.17 Failure to appreciate luck’s importance is of course not the only reason the wealthy have been lobbying for additional tax cuts.


pages: 528 words: 157,969

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

cloud computing, experimental subject, friendly fire, gravity well, hive mind, pattern recognition, prisoner's dilemma

Now, though, the pheromones that Fabian has released instil new behaviours in these individuals, bringing them to the silk side of his chamber, where they cut a neat exit wound for him to depart through. After they are done, he resets them, and they go about their duties with no sign that they were ever subverted. Fabian has been busy these last months in testing his discovery, with the whole of Great Nest as his experimental subject. He has listened to the news constantly recycled by the peer group. He knows who is causing Portia distress, who has tried to challenge the order of the world – other than himself. He is a male, vulnerable from the moment he slips from the peer house. He knows where he needs to go, but he fears journeying alone. He needs a guardian. He needs a female, in fact, however much he might regret that.

Still gouting out its contents into the hungry emptiness of space, the shattered satellite slipped free from its tangle of moorings, burning a hole in the great web, and was propelled away from the drones by the outrush of material from its jagged wounds. The drones themselves had given their all, the discharge of their weapons leaving their reactors cold and draining them dry. They tumbled off across the face of the web, to fall or to drift away. The satellite, though, had a more definite fate. It fell. Like Kern’s experimental subjects so very very long before, it was jolted out of its orbit, to be gathered up by the arms of the planet’s gravity, spiralling helplessly into the atmosphere, where it streaked across the sky, just an old barrel with a single ancient monkey in withered residence, delivering a final message to the anxious eyes below. 7.4 END TIMES They watched it burn its way across the sky. Although active Messenger-worship was almost nonexistent in these more enlightened times – what need of faith when there was ample proof of the precise nature of God?


pages: 589 words: 147,053

The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth by Robin Hanson

8-hour work day, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, brain emulation, business cycle, business process, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, demographic transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, experimental subject, fault tolerance, financial intermediation, Flynn Effect, hindsight bias, information asymmetry, job automation, job satisfaction, John Markoff, Just-in-time delivery, lone genius, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, market design, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nash equilibrium, new economy, prediction markets, rent control, rent-seeking, reversible computing, risk tolerance, Silicon Valley, smart contracts, statistical model, stem cell, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing test, Vernor Vinge

In such a simulation, almost everything else about the situation could be held constant. Spurs could also be used to test for biases. Today, psychologists show common biases by randomly splitting experimental subjects into subgroups that are given different prompts. For example, a question might be worded two different ways, resulting in different answers on average. Or an “I knew it all along” hindsight bias might be shown via telling different subgroups different outcomes, and asking subjects what chance they would have assigned before to seeing their chosen outcome. Because of random fluctuations that influence individual decisions, however, such experiments today usually require large groups of experimental subjects to see subtle effects. In contrast, em spurs could directly demonstrate such biases in individuals, and not just in large groups. An individual could be split into different copies that are given different prompts, and then their answers could be directly compared.


pages: 636 words: 140,406

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, assortative mating, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, deliberate practice, deskilling, disruptive innovation, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, experimental subject, fear of failure, Flynn Effect, future of work, George Akerlof, ghettoisation, hive mind, job satisfaction, Kenneth Arrow, Khan Academy, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, market bubble, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Peter Thiel, price discrimination, profit maximization, publication bias, risk tolerance, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, school choice, selection bias, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, trickle-down economics, twin studies, unpaid internship, upwardly mobile, women in the workforce, yield curve, zero-sum game

In one sense, the experiment worked. In a deeper sense, it failed. “Flowers for Algernon” is science fiction, but life mirrors art. Making IQ higher is easy. Keeping IQ higher is hard. Researchers call this “fadeout.” Fadeout for early childhood education is especially well documented. After six years in the famous Milwaukee Project, experimental subjects’ IQs were 32 points higher than controls’. By age fourteen, this advantage had declined to 10 points.83 In the Perry Preschool program, experimental subjects gained 13 points of IQ, but all this vanished by age 8.84 Head Start raises preschoolers’ IQs by a few points, but gains disappear by the end of kindergarten.85 You could object that preschoolers are unusually prone to forget what they learn, but the pattern extends all through high school. Extensive research on “summer learning loss” compares students’ scores at the end of one school year to their scores at the beginning of the next school year.


pages: 470 words: 148,730

Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems by Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, basic income, Bernie Sanders, business cycle, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, charter city, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental economics, experimental subject, facts on the ground, fear of failure, financial innovation, George Akerlof, high net worth, immigration reform, income inequality, Indoor air pollution, industrial cluster, industrial robot, information asymmetry, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jane Jacobs, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, land reform, loss aversion, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, non-tariff barriers, obamacare, offshore financial centre, open economy, Paul Samuelson, place-making, price stability, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, smart meter, social graph, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Future of Employment, The Market for Lemons, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, universal basic income, urban sprawl, very high income, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working-age population, Y2K

In the Becker-Stigler world, since the norms are norms only because people have submitted to them, there is no reason why Hispanic students would not sometimes turn out to be hard working and the Asians the slackers. It is history and the social context that seem to be guiding us toward one norm rather than the other. LET’S TRY TO ACCOUNT FOR TASTES45 To investigate the way the social context influences us, researchers at the University of Zurich recruited a group of bankers as experimental subjects and asked them to flip a coin ten times and report online the outcomes they got.46 They were told that if they had more than a threshold number of heads (or tails) they would get twenty Swiss francs (about $20) for each extra head (or tail) they reported. Nobody checked whether or not they reported accurately, which created a very strong incentive to cheat. The key comparison was between those who, before the experiment began, were asked about their favorite leisure activity, highlighting their role as a “regular” person, and those questions about their role as a banker, effectively highlighting their banker identity.

Consistent with this, the estimate of how much they would need to be paid to give up Facebook for a second month was substantially lower at the end of the first month (after experiencing life without Facebook) than before. All of this seems very consistent with the view that Facebook is addictive in the sense that it is hard to imagine life without it, but when you do give it up, things are not obviously worse. However, it is interesting that after the month of abstinence, the experimental subjects still wanted to be paid to give up Facebook; they did not simply feel grateful to be rid of it. The researchers assumed this was because they actually missed it, if less than they had expected, and therefore concluded Facebook generates over $2,000 of well-being per user. How does this square with the fact that getting cut off made people happier on average? In part of course, like all averages, it hides the fact that some people really enjoy Facebook.


The Matter of the Heart: A History of the Heart in Eleven Operations by Thomas Morris

3D printing, Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, experimental subject, Kickstarter, lateral thinking, meta analysis, meta-analysis, New Journalism, placebo effect, popular electronics, randomized controlled trial, stem cell

Bright red blood was produced but the bubbles produced large amounts of foam, which rendered it unusable – a problem that would remain unsolved until the 1950s.18 Another device constructed in 1885 by the Austrian researchers Max von Frey and Max Gruber has a good claim to be described as the world’s first fully functional heart-lung machine – although it was never used on a living animal. Their apparatus pumped blood into a tilted glass cylinder filled with oxygen, which constantly rotated so that the blood spread out into a thin film covering the inner surface, maximising its surface area.19 By the time the blood emerged from the bottom of the cylinder it had been oxygenated, and was then pumped into the experimental subject. Von Frey and Gruber never planned to use the device to keep an animal alive, but instead successfully employed it to perfuse the kidneys and hind legs of dogs that had already been killed. The apparatus was simple – and strikingly similar in conception to the machine John Gibbon would invent more than half a century later.20 Several other artificial oxygenators were constructed around the turn of the twentieth century; most used either the bubble or film techniques, but one invented by the American physiologist Donald Hooker (the uncle of the Hollywood star Katharine Hepburn) employed a rotating flat disc to increase the surface area of the blood, a scheme which would be imitated by later investigators.21 When Gibbon began to design his own heart-lung machine in 1933 he had no idea that a Russian scientist had already been working on the problem for a decade.

Written when Ross was twenty-five but unpublished until long after his death, ‘The Vivisector Vivisected’ is a chilling tale about a physiologist who seeks to bring the dead back to life. He creates a mechanical heart, a pump which is filled with donkey blood, and successfully uses it to revive a cadaver. In true Gothic tradition the action reaches its macabre climax as a thunderstorm rages outside the dilapidated laboratory: the hapless scientist and his colleague realise that having started to pump they cannot stop without killing their experimental subject, who in a cruel twist turns out to be the physiologist’s brother. After hours of frantic pumping they become exhausted and are forced to abandon their hopeless task, as the briefly resuscitated corpse breathes his last for the second time.1 Ross’s story may not be great literature, but it shows remarkable vision. As a physiologist he understood the inherent difficulties of creating a device to replace the heart, and the contraption he imagined anticipated the work of researchers many decades later.


Affluenza: When Too Much Is Never Enough by Clive Hamilton, Richard Denniss

call centre, delayed gratification, experimental subject, full employment, hedonic treadmill, impulse control, Mahatma Gandhi, McMansion, mega-rich, Naomi Klein, Own Your Own Home, post-materialism, post-work, purchasing power parity, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, wage slave

One recent approach relies on the creation of fake memories of childhood. We are helped to invent an association between our childhood selves and the product in question and then, so as to relive our carefree childhood years, we are encouraged to consume the product all over again. Testing whether it is possible for marketers to create childhood ‘memories’, a team of psychologists in the United States found that experimental subjects who were shown advertisements suggesting they had shaken hands with Mickey Mouse as children were more likely than a control group to believe that they had actually done so.10 To ensure that the advertisements were not acting simply as a prompt that helped people recall legitimate memories, a number of other experiments were conducted. Each had surprising results. In one, subjects were exposed to an advertisement that showed them shaking hands with an impossible character, such as Bugs Bunny at a Disney resort.


pages: 257 words: 68,203

The Talent Code: Greatest Isn't Born, It's Grown, Here's How by Daniel Coyle

Albert Einstein, Bob Geldof, deliberate practice, experimental subject, impulse control, longitudinal study, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Accordingly, ignition is determined by simple if/then propositions, with the then part always the same—better get busy. See someone you want to become? Better get busy. Want to catch up with a desirable group? Better get busy. Bargh and his colleagues have performed a number of similarly magical-seeming experiments, where they use tiny environmental cues (such as inspirational words hidden in a crossword puzzle) to manipulate motivation and effort among unknowing experimental subjects. They possess piles of supportive data to explain why this is so effective—for instance, the fact that the unconscious mind is able to process 11 million pieces of information per second, while the conscious mind can manage a mere 40. This disproportion points to the efficiency and necessity of relegating mental activities to the unconscious—and helps us to understand why appeals to the unconscious can be so effective.


pages: 187 words: 62,861

The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs Over Self-Interest by Yochai Benkler

business process, California gold rush, citizen journalism, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, East Village, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental economics, experimental subject, framing effect, informal economy, invisible hand, jimmy wales, job satisfaction, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, laissez-faire capitalism, loss aversion, Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Carr, peer-to-peer, prediction markets, Richard Stallman, Scientific racism, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, Toyota Production System, twin studies, ultimatum game, Washington Consensus, zero-sum game, Zipcar

If the responder accepts the amount, each goes home with what they agreed upon. But if the responder rejects the offer, then both go home with nothing. Imagine you were playing this game and the proposer offered you some pittance, say, $1 of his $100. How would you respond? On one hand, a dollar is better than nothing. On the other hand, you think, “What the hell? This guy is being selfish! We’re both here as experimental subjects, he got lucky, why can’t he share more fairly! Screw him!” Sure, a dollar is technically better than nothing. Standard game theory would predict that respondents will always accept whatever is offered to them, because going home with something is better than going home with nothing. But knowing that the proposer had $100, most people would be tempted to punish him for his stinginess and reject the offer, leaving him with nothing.


Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes by Richard C. Francis

agricultural Revolution, cellular automata, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, experimental subject, longitudinal study, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, meta analysis, meta-analysis, phenotype, stem cell, twin studies

A number of genes related to olfaction, especially the detection of pheromones, also display putative epigenetic inheritance.18 In humans, there may be epigenetic inheritance at a locus that promotes a particular form of colon cancer.19 Since it is only recently that cases of anomalous (by Mendelian standards) inheritance have been viewed through an epigenetic lens, we might expect more cases of epigenetic inheritance in humans and other mammals will be discovered in the near future. But there are reasons to suspect that epigenetic inheritance is less common in mammals than in other life-forms.20 Good examples of epigenetic inheritance have been identified in creatures as diverse as fruit flies and yeast.21 But some of the most dramatic examples of epigenetic inheritance occur in plants.22 As an experimental subject, the plant equivalent of a mouse is an unprepossessing member of the mustard family known only by its scientific name, Arabidopsis thalinia. In the wild, Arabidopsis thrives in diverse habitats throughout Eurasia; it also thrives in laboratory environments. It is a highly variable plant with respect to its size and flowering time, among other traits. Both the size of the plant and its flowering time are inherited epigenetically.


pages: 288 words: 64,771

The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality by Brink Lindsey

"Robert Solow", Airbnb, Asian financial crisis, bank run, barriers to entry, Bernie Sanders, Build a better mousetrap, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, experimental economics, experimental subject, facts on the ground, financial innovation, financial intermediation, financial repression, hiring and firing, Home mortgage interest deduction, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, information asymmetry, intangible asset, inventory management, invisible hand, Jones Act, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, mass immigration, mass incarceration, medical malpractice, Menlo Park, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Network effects, patent troll, plutocrats, Plutocrats, principal–agent problem, regulatory arbitrage, rent control, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, smart cities, software patent, too big to fail, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, tulip mania, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, Washington Consensus, white picket fence, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce

Eventually, something happens to pierce the collective delusion, the bubble pops, and prices come crashing down again. Alas, since rapid price increases based on fundamentals happen all the time, it’s never clear that a bubble has occurred until after it’s over—which is why people are fooled by them, again and again. Asset bubbles are a glitch inherent in markets. Vernon Smith, the Nobel Prize–winning pioneer in experimental economics, has demonstrated this in a lab setting where groups of experimental subjects tasked with trading an asset will regularly inflate bubbles.16 However, bubbles are more than a market failure; they are a human failure. The very same herd mentality that sweeps market participants into a speculative mania can extend to government regulators as well. This is what happened during the housing bubble. Regulators, by and large, were not sounding alarms during the boom; they shared financial firms’ confidence in their risk management techniques and believed that the contingencies that could bring about a crisis were far too remote to worry about.


AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War by Tom McNichol

computer age, experimental subject, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Menlo Park, popular electronics, Thales of Miletus

If the rest of Tesla’s career didn’t quite measure up, it didn’t matter: once, he had caught lightning in a bottle. Of all the combatants in the AC/DC struggle, it would be the loser who would fare best. For Thomas Edison, the defeat of his cherished DC standard was a bitter blow, but hardly fatal. The inventor was involved in far too many other projects for any one setback to derail him financially. However, Edison never again took up electricity as a serious experimental subject. He had tasted defeat in the field once, and that was quite enough. “People will forget my name ever was connected to anything electrical,” Edison said late in his life. It was less a prediction than a wish. Edison continued to refine his storage battery even after it was clear that batteries would never become a primary source of power for automobiles or industry. Some of Edison’s associates drifted away to form new companies.


pages: 612 words: 181,985

Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobsen

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, experimental subject, operation paperclip, Ronald Reagan, éminence grise

In the debris, I am surprised to find a few specimen jars and bottles intact, filled with preserved human and insect tissues.” Smith asked questions around the concentration camp to try to learn more. Prisoners told him that the laboratory had served Nazi doctors as an experimental medical ward, and that everyone was afraid of it because it was a place “where selected prisoners [were] used as experimental subjects without their consent.” Although it was not yet known by American or British intelligence at the time, what Dr. Marcus Smith had come upon at Dachau was the place where a group of Luftwaffe doctors had been conducting medical research experiments on humans. This work took place in a freestanding barracks, isolated from the others, and was called Experimental Cell Block Five. Many of the Reich’s elite medical doctors passed through the laboratory here.

Alexander learned that the experiments had been conducted on Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and Catholic priests in the secret, freestanding barracks called Experimental Cell Block Five. “In general, the death of prisoners transferred to Block 5 was expected within 2–3 days,” testified John Bauduin. The second witness, Dr. Hussarek, a Czech scholar sent to Dachau for committing “literary crimes,” told Dr. Alexander that “only a few experimental subjects survived the low pressure experiments. Most were killed.” All three men agreed that only one individual was known to have survived the experiments, a Polish priest named Leo Michalowski. Father Michalowski’s testimony provided a critical missing link in the medical murder experiments and how they were so skillfully concealed. Luftwaffe reports used the words “guinea pigs,” “large pigs,” and “adult pigs” as code words for their human subjects.


pages: 631 words: 177,227

The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter by Joseph Henrich

agricultural Revolution, capital asset pricing model, Climategate, cognitive bias, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, demographic transition, endowment effect, experimental economics, experimental subject, Flynn Effect, impulse control, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, Nash equilibrium, out of africa, phenotype, placebo effect, profit maximization, randomized controlled trial, risk tolerance, side project, social intelligence, social web, Steven Pinker, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, ultimatum game

This experiment illustrates some of the essential features that distinguish human social life in all societies from that of other species: • We live in a world governed by social rules, even if not everyone knows the rules. • Many of these rules are arbitrary, or seem arbitrary (e.g., fish taboos in Fiji). • Others care whether we follow these rules, and react negatively to violations. • We infer that others care about whether we follow these rules. Figure 11.1. An experimental subject wagging his finger at Max the puppet, who is violating the rules for this context. As in the small-scale societies seen in earlier chapters, the social world faced by our Paleolithic ancestors would have been increasingly shaped by the emergence of an immense variety of norms, and by the selective spread of specific norms packaged in institutions, that fostered success in intergroup competition.

For example, if three people contribute $4 and one free rider contributes nothing to the common project, then the three contributors go home with $6 each, and the free rider goes home with $10—his initial $4 plus the $6 he got from the common project. If three people free ride and only one person contributes his entire $4, then the free riders go home with $6 each while the contributor gets only $2. Thus, those aiming to maximize their payoff should contribute zero. However, most educated Westerners agree that—if asked—players should contribute all the money to the common project. Among the typical experimental subjects (undergraduates), the average contributions are commonly between 40% and 60%, with many people contributing either 100% (cooperators) or 0% (free riders).13 To examine whether high contributions in the Public Goods Game, and prosocial choices in other such games, result from automatic norm following, David Rand and his colleagues examined the relationship between the time people spent making their contribution decisions and the size of their contributions.


pages: 301 words: 74,571

Idoru by William Gibson

experimental subject, Kowloon Walled City, means of production, pattern recognition, place-making, telepresence

"Here we are," Pursley said. He drew out a sheaf of blue paper. "Don't let your eggs get cold." "Have a seat," Laney said to Daniels. Daniels winced behind his glasses. "Now," Pursley said, "you were in a Federal Orphanage, in Gainesville, it says here, from age twelve to age seventeen." Laney looked at his eggs. "That's right." "During that time, you participated in a number of drug trials? You were an experimental subject?" 132 William Gibson S. "Yes," Laney said, his eggs looking somehow farther away, or like a picture in a magazine. "This was voluntary on your part?" "There were rewards." "Voluntary," Pursley said. "You get on any of that 5-SB?" "They didn't tell us what they were giving us," Laney said. "Sometimes we'd get a placebo instead." "You don't mistake 5-SB for any placebo, son, but I think you know that."


pages: 293 words: 76,294

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham

Alfred Russel Wallace, experimental subject, means of production, out of africa, sexual politics, social intelligence

The implications of Oka’s experiment are clear. If cooking softens food and softer food leads to greater energy gain, then humans should get more energy from cooked food than raw food not only because of processes such as gelatinization and denaturation, but also because it reduces the costs of digestion. This prediction has been studied in the Burmese python. Physiological ecologist Stephen Secor finds pythons to be superb experimental subjects because after swallowing a meal, the snakes lie in a cage doing little but digesting and breathing. By measuring how much oxygen the pythons consume before and after a meal, Secor measures precisely how much energy the snakes use, and can attribute it to the cost of digestion. He typically monitors the snakes for at least two weeks at a time. Secor and his team have shown repeatedly that the physical structure of a python’s diet influences its cost of digestion.


pages: 294 words: 77,356

Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks

autonomous vehicles, basic income, business process, call centre, cognitive dissonance, collective bargaining, correlation does not imply causation, deindustrialization, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, ending welfare as we know it, experimental subject, housing crisis, IBM and the Holocaust, income inequality, job automation, mandatory minimum, Mark Zuckerberg, mass incarceration, minimum wage unemployment, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, New Urbanism, payday loans, performance metric, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, statistical model, strikebreaker, underbanked, universal basic income, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration, young professional, zero-sum game

* * * A dangerous form of magical thinking often accompanies new technological developments, a curious assurance that a revolution in our tools inevitably wipes the slate of the past clean. The metaphor of the digital poorhouse is meant to resist the erasure of history and context when we talk about technology and inequality. The parallels between the county poorhouse and the digital poorhouse are striking. Both divert the poor from public benefits, contain their mobility, enforce work, split up families, lead to a loss of political rights, use the poor as experimental subjects, criminalize survival, construct suspect moral classifications, create ethical distance for the middle class, and reproduce racist and classist hierarchies of human value and worth. However, there are ways that the analogy between high-tech tools in public services and the brick-and-mortar poorhouse falls short. Just as the county poorhouse was suited to the Industrial Revolution, and scientific charity was uniquely appropriate for the Progressive Era, the digital poorhouse is adapted to the particular circumstances of our time.


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, business climate, Cal Newport, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, David Brooks, David Heinemeier Hansson, deliberate practice, disruptive innovation, Donald Knuth, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, follow your passion, Frank Gehry, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Jaron Lanier, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Merlin Mann, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, popular electronics, remote working, Richard Feynman, Ruby on Rails, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Snapchat, statistical model, the medium is the message, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game

If you brought someone into a laboratory and asked her to remember how she felt at a specific point many hours ago, she was unlikely to recall. If you instead gave her a diary and asked her to record how she felt throughout the day, she wouldn’t be likely to keep up the entries with diligence—it’s simply too much work. Csikszentmihalyi and Larson’s breakthrough was to leverage new technology (for the time) to bring the question to the subject right when it mattered. In more detail, they outfitted experimental subjects with pagers. These pagers would beep at randomly selected intervals (in modern incarnations of this method, smartphone apps play the same role). When the beeper went off, the subjects would record what they were doing at the exact moment and how they felt. In some cases, they would be provided with a journal in which to record this information while in others they would be given a phone number to call to answer questions posed by a field-worker.


Statistics in a Nutshell by Sarah Boslaugh

Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Bayesian statistics, business climate, computer age, correlation coefficient, experimental subject, Florence Nightingale: pie chart, income per capita, iterative process, job satisfaction, labor-force participation, linear programming, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, p-value, pattern recognition, placebo effect, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, publication bias, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, six sigma, statistical model, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Vilfredo Pareto

Practical and ethical considerations also come into play—some research designs can simply be impossible to execute, prohibitively expensive, or considered unethical—and the researcher must be aware of community as well as scientific standards concerning the ethical conduct of research. Basic Vocabulary Research designs can be divided into three types: experimental, quasi-experimental, and observational. For a design to be experimental, subjects must be randomly assigned to groups or categories. The classic experimental design is the randomized controlled trial used in medicine, in which subjects are randomly assigned to experimental and control groups, administered some treatment, and the outcomes collected for both groups. The controlled experiment is considered the strongest type of research design as far as drawing conclusions from the results of research (in fact, some refer to the results from experimental controlled trials as the gold standard of evidence), but it is not always possible or practical to conduct this type of research.

In human experiments, units are generally referred to as participants, given their active engagement in the experimental process. Treatments The interventions applied to each unit in the experimental setting. Responses The data collected after the treatment has been delivered that form the basis for evaluating the effects of the treatment. Besides the treatments that are the focus of the study, other variables might be believed to affect the responses. Some of these are characteristics of the experimental subjects; in the case of human subjects, they might include qualities such as age and gender. These characteristics can be of interest to the researchers (it might be hypothesized that a treatment is more successful with males than with females), or they might simply be nuisance variables or control variables that might obscure the relationship between treatment and response. For nuisance or control variables, you want to neutralize their effects on the response variables, and normally this is done by having approximately equal representation on the important nuisance or control variables in the experimental and control groups.


pages: 278 words: 83,468

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

3D printing, barriers to entry, call centre, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, commoditize, Computer Numeric Control, continuous integration, corporate governance, disruptive innovation, experimental subject, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Lean Startup, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Metcalfe’s law, minimum viable product, Mitch Kapor, Network effects, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, pull request, risk tolerance, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, skunkworks, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, Toyota Production System, transaction costs

We could begin with problems with clear right answers, perhaps drawn from the many international programming competitions that have developed databases of well-defined problems with clear solutions. These competitions also provide a clear baseline of how long it should take for various problems to be solved so that we could establish clearly the individual problem-solving prowess of the experimental subjects. Using this kind of setup for calibration, we could begin to vary the conditions of the experiments. The challenge will be to increase the level of uncertainty about what the right answer is while still being able to measure the quality of the outcome objectively. Perhaps we could use real-world customer problems and then have real consumers test the output of the teams’ work. Or perhaps we could go so far as to build minimum viable products for solving the same set of problems over and over again to quantify which produces the best customer conversion rates.


pages: 309 words: 86,909

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett

basic income, Berlin Wall, clean water, Diane Coyle, epigenetics, experimental economics, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, full employment, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, God and Mammon, impulse control, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land reform, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, moral panic, offshore financial centre, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit maximization, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, statistical model, The Chicago School, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, ultimatum game, upwardly mobile, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

The researchers suggested that the neural reward networks serve to encourage reciprocity and mutuality while resisting the temptation to act selfishly.341 In contrast to the rewards of co-operation, experiments using brain scans have shown that the pain of social exclusion involves the same areas of the brain as are stimulated when someone experiences physical pain. Naomi Eisenberger, a psychologist at UCLA, got volunteers to play a computer bat-and-ball game with, as it seemed on the screen, two other participants.342 The program was arranged so that after a while the other two virtual participants would start to pass the ball just between each other, so excluding the experimental subject. Brain scans showed that the areas of the brain activated by this experience of exclusion were the same areas as are activated by physical pain. In various species of monkeys these same brain areas have been found to play a role in offspring calling for, and mothers providing, maternal protection. These connections have always been understood intuitively. When we talk about ‘hurt feelings’ or a ‘broken heart’ we recognize the connection between physical pain and the social pain caused by the breaking of close social bonds, by exclusion and ostracism.


pages: 277 words: 87,082

Beyond Weird by Philip Ball

Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, dematerialisation, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes

They guess correctly more often than can be ascribed to sheer chance. Because the eye as a whole is not a perfectly efficient photon detector, at least 90% of the photons in these flashes will be absorbed before they reach the retina. This means that on average, only three photons hit the rod cells each time. What might happen, then, if the photons in the flashes are placed in a superposition of states? How will that affect what the experimental subjects ‘see’? Would it set up some kind of superposition in the nerve impulse from the rod cell to the brain? Might it even create a superposition of perceptions? It seems rather likely that, if the experiment is ever performed (that hasn’t happened yet), the result will be not some strange, novel state of mind but just more of the same, since the rod cell will act like any other macroscopic measurement device to transform a quantum state to a classical one, decohering it in (literally) a flash.


pages: 352 words: 87,930

Space 2.0 by Rod Pyle

additive manufacturing, air freight, barriers to entry, Colonization of Mars, commoditize, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, experimental subject, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mouse model, risk-adjusted returns, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, telerobotics, trade route, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Y Combinator

Image credit: NASA The most recent and comprehensive study of the long-term effects of zero-g occurred in 2015, when US astronaut Scott Kelly spent almost a year aboard the space station. While Russian cosmonauts had flown slightly longer durations in the past, Kelly’s mission was unique in that he had an identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, who had also been an astronaut and agreed to be monitored by medical specialists while his brother was in space. This opportunity to have a control subject on Earth—right down to identical DNA—while the experimental subject was in space, along with extensive medical history on both men, was a first in space physiology studies. As it turned out, a number of surprises were in store for the NASA doctors. Scott Kelly experienced changes to his eyesight, which in his case appear to be permanent (women appear to experience this less than men, for reasons that are not yet clear). He now wears reading glasses due to his eyeballs having changed shape while in extended weightlessness.


pages: 290 words: 82,871

The Hidden Half: How the World Conceals Its Secrets by Michael Blastland

air freight, Alfred Russel Wallace, banking crisis, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, central bank independence, cognitive bias, complexity theory, Deng Xiaoping, Diane Coyle, Donald Trump, epigenetics, experimental subject, full employment, George Santayana, hindsight bias, income inequality, manufacturing employment, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, minimum wage unemployment, nudge unit, oil shock, p-value, personalized medicine, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, randomized controlled trial, replication crisis, Richard Thaler, selection bias, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, twin studies

‘You put them into your aquarium and a year later you have hundreds,’ said Frank Lyko in 2018, after Eve’s offspring became briefly famous for scuttling free and over-running Madagascar.5 It was a headline writer’s dream: ‘Invasion of the mutant crayfish’. But the greater interest of these cloned creatures to science lay in an altogether different direction: in the marmorkrebs’ potential to help with that old and thorny question of the balance of forces between nature and nurture, as researchers realized they had stumbled on an ideal experimental subject. Ordinarily, it’s hard to tease apart why things turn out the way they do. If you fall ill with heart disease, there is a tangle of potential causes, genetic and environmental; the fault could be inherited, dietary, linked to exercise (too little/too much), stress, some combination, and so on. By holding constant the role of genes, clones make it easier to tease out other influences. Whatever happens to them, one compared with another, pure difference of genes will not be the explanation.6 These cloned crayfish were a research godsend.


pages: 293 words: 81,183

Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference by William MacAskill

barriers to entry, basic income, Black Swan, Branko Milanovic, Cal Newport, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, effective altruism, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, experimental subject, follow your passion, food miles, immigration reform, income inequality, index fund, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, job automation, job satisfaction, Lean Startup, M-Pesa, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, Nate Silver, Peter Singer: altruism, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, randomized controlled trial, self-driving car, Skype, Stanislav Petrov, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, universal basic income, women in the workforce

Second, while I just described giving in terms of choosing between a benefit to yourself or others, that’s not a good way of thinking about it because giving benefits the giver as well as the receiver. If anything, my life has become happier since I’ve started donating some of my income. That’s the upside of the “warm glow” effect. Indeed, academic studies suggest I’m not alone. In one case, experimental subjects ended up more satisfied when they were given money and told to use that money to benefit others, than when they were told to use that money to benefit themselves. (See Elizabeth Dunn, Lara Aknin, and Michael Norton, “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness,” Science 319, no. 5,870 [March 21, 2008]: 1,687–8.) So in fact we should expect that, if we focus on the most effective activities, the benefits to others will be greater and the costs to ourselves will be less than the 100x Multiplier would suggest.


pages: 823 words: 220,581

Debunking Economics - Revised, Expanded and Integrated Edition: The Naked Emperor Dethroned? by Steve Keen

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, banking crisis, banks create money, barriers to entry, Benoit Mandelbrot, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, butterfly effect, capital asset pricing model, cellular automata, central bank independence, citizen journalism, clockwork universe, collective bargaining, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, debt deflation, diversification, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental subject, Financial Instability Hypothesis, fixed income, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Henri Poincaré, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, information asymmetry, invisible hand, iterative process, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, laissez-faire capitalism, liquidity trap, Long Term Capital Management, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, market bubble, market clearing, market microstructure, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, money market fund, open economy, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, place-making, Ponzi scheme, profit maximization, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, random walk, risk tolerance, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, seigniorage, six sigma, South Sea Bubble, stochastic process, The Great Moderation, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, time value of money, total factor productivity, tulip mania, wage slave, zero-sum game

A bit of algebraic manipulation shows that this consumer gets 1.67 utils of utility from consuming two bananas, compared to 1 util from one banana. A hypothetical example of using this procedure to provide a numerical measure of utility is shown in Table 15.1. TABLE 15.1 Von Neumann’s procedure for working out a numerical value for utility Consumer: Joan Cheng An essential element of this procedure was that it had to be repeatable, and for obvious reasons. If it were done just once, and the experimental subject was hungry, then he might be unwilling to take the risk of starving that the gamble implied, if the outcome were that he had to forgo the banana he already had. Von Neumann was emphatic about this: to make sense, his procedure had to be applied to repeatable experiments only: Probability has often been visualized as a subjective concept more or less in the nature of an estimation. Since we propose to use it in constructing an individual, numerical estimation of utility, the above view of probability would not serve our purpose.

Therefore the square root of 2 can’t be the ratio of two integers, and it is therefore irrational. 2 This is that for changing all incomes and prices by the same factor to have no effect, ‘all other nominal magnitudes [including] assets and liabilities that are expressed in nominal terms)’ (Friedman 1969: 1) have to be altered by the same factor as well – and even this ignores the fact that debt amortization makes the effect of interest rates nonlinear. 3 One example of this is the paper by Caplan (2000) which attempts to explain findings which show that experimental subjects do not conform to the neoclassical definition of rational. Rather than accepting that the neoclassical definition of rationality may be flawed, Caplan proposes that irrationality may be a ‘good,’ which people ‘consume’ like any other, and then represents a rationality–irrationality trade-off using indifference curves. This one article is not the final word on the neoclassical response to such findings.


pages: 824 words: 218,333

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, Benoit Mandelbrot, butterfly effect, dark matter, discovery of DNA, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, longitudinal study, medical residency, moral hazard, mouse model, New Journalism, out of africa, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ponzi scheme, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Scientific racism, stem cell, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, Thomas Malthus, twin studies

Between 1943 and 1945, more than a thousand twins were subjected to Mengele’s experiments.IV Egged on by his mentor, Otmar von Verschuer from Berlin, Mengele sought out twins for his studies by trawling through the ranks of incoming camp prisoners and shouting a phrase that would become etched into the memories of the camp dwellers: Zwillinge heraus (“Twins out”) or Zwillinge heraustreten (“Twins step out”). Yanked off the ramps, the twins were marked by special tattoos, housed in separate blocks, and systematically victimized by Mengele and his assistants (ironically, as experimental subjects, twins were also more likely to survive the camp than nontwin children, who were more casually exterminated). Mengele obsessively measured their body parts to compare genetic influences on growth. “There isn’t a piece of body that wasn’t measured and compared,” one twin recalled. “We were always sitting together—always nude.” Other twins were murdered by gassing and their bodies dissected to compare the sizes of internal organs.

The notion that gender identity was not innate and was crafted through social performance and cultural mimicry (“you are who you act; nurture can overcome nature”) was in its full prime in that era—and Money was among its most ardent and most vocal proponents. Casting himself as the Henry Higgins of sexual transformation, Money advocated “sexual reassignment,” the reorientation of sexual identity through behavioral and hormonal therapy—a decades-long process invented by him that allowed his experimental subjects to emerge with their identities sanguinely switched. Based on Money’s advice, “Brenda” was dressed and treated as a girl. Her hair was grown long. She was given female dolls and a sewing machine. Her teachers and friends were never informed about the switch. Brenda had an identical twin—a boy named Brian—who was brought up as a male child. As part of the study, Brenda and Brian visited Money’s clinic in Baltimore at frequent intervals throughout their childhood.


pages: 250 words: 88,762

The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World by Tim Harford

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, business cycle, colonial rule, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, European colonialism, experimental economics, experimental subject, George Akerlof, income per capita, invention of the telephone, Jane Jacobs, John von Neumann, law of one price, Martin Wolf, mutually assured destruction, New Economic Geography, new economy, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

There are some more-sophisticated economic models of rational choice in which both higher wages and harder work are rational as a response to turnover or imperfect information. But they are not what was being tested in the laboratory.) List realized that the laboratory experiments were not an especially realistic setting for this demonstration of irrationality. “Wages” were being offered in exchange for “work,” but all that was really happening was that experimental subjects were ticking boxes on a questionnaire and being paid small amounts based on their answers. It was just a laboratory-based game of “let’s pretend.” List and his colleague Uri Gneezy extended this artificial experimental work to real life. They advertised for and hired people to do actual jobs, such as data entry or door-to-door collection for a charity. They paid some employees the advertised wage and gave others an unexpectedly high wage.


pages: 268 words: 89,761

Unhealthy societies: the afflictions of inequality by Richard G. Wilkinson

attribution theory, business cycle, clean water, correlation coefficient, experimental subject, full employment, fundamental attribution error, Gini coefficient, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, invisible hand, land reform, longitudinal study, means of production, purchasing power parity, rising living standards, twin studies, upwardly mobile

Instead of an introspective process by which we reach into an inner source to experience the truth of what we are feeling, it was found that emotions were distinguished from each other largely by 146 Social cohesion and social conflict cognitive processes involving an interpretation of our situation. The emotional experience of a given state of physiological arousal was found to depend on the perception of situational clues. To demonstrate the cognitive and situational contribution to the experience of an emotion depended on manipulating the situation of experimental subjects so as to induce them to ‘misattribute’ their state of arousal from its initial cognitive source. Given some deceptive experimental manipulation of the environment, it was shown that physical arousal caused initially by fear, by humour or annoyance, by adrenaline injections or even by exercise, could be experienced as quite a different emotion and then give rise to behaviour expressive of a different emotion.


Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages by Derek Bickerton

colonial rule, dark matter, European colonialism, experimental subject, illegal immigration, Kickstarter, longitudinal study, rent control

A few weeks before, I wouldn't have known a T-Tower guying kit or a solid-state transceiver from a hole in the ground. Over our campfire in Lanai, our pakalolo-induced visions had not included anything as mundane as hardware. But Tom and 1 were both serious players; once we were committ~d we would take it anywhe~e it had 116 BASTARD TONGUES to be taken. We would be responsible for the lives of thirty~odd people, experimental subjects and grad students. That meant we had to be able to stay in contact with someplace that had emer­ gency services, hospitals, helicopters, search-and-rescue teams. And we had to have a fast boat, nothing fancy, just an overpowered shell that would get us from A to B in a minimum of time. Plus that was said and done on the island had to be recorded, and visually. I spent weeks poring over brochures, struggling with technospeak, finding out what was state-of-the-art then, in the late seventies.


pages: 341 words: 89,986

Bricks & Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made by Tom Wilkinson

Berlin Wall, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, Donald Trump, double helix, experimental subject, false memory syndrome, financial independence, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Google Glasses, housing crisis, Kitchen Debate, Mahatma Gandhi, mass incarceration, megacity, neoliberal agenda, New Urbanism, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, starchitect, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, Upton Sinclair, urban planning

Hence the transparent facade, which was meant to advertise healthy living to the community at large. Although this might seem admirably unpatronising, the reason for the hands-off approach was eugenic: only those whose genes deserved to survive – those who took responsibility for themselves – would benefit. The transparency of the building was also necessary so that the doctors could observe their experimental subjects, ‘looking through the glass walls of the Centre, as the cytologist may under his microscope watch living cells grow’.4 The Finsbury Health Centre was designed with very different aims in mind. Peckham was not a slum, and its residents were mostly tradesmen and skilled labourers, but Finsbury was a much poorer area. The health problems of its residents were correspondingly more acute, as would have been only too apparent to Dr Katial.


pages: 315 words: 92,151

Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test

In 2006, two papers published in the journal Nature gave hope for a much wider use of neuroprosthetics to help those with damage to the nervous system regain the ability to interact with their environment. In the first, John Donoghue and colleagues at Brown University described how they implanted an array of ninety-six electrodes into the precentral gyrus area of the primary motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for movement. The experimental subject, Matt Nagle, was a man whose spinal cord had been entirely severed in an accident leaving him with no control over his limbs. Even though the experiment took place three years after Nagle’s injury, he was able to “think” hand movement and produce signals through the electrodes that were able to move a cursor on a screen, to control simulated e-mail, and to operate connected devices such as a TV.


pages: 327 words: 97,720

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo

Alfred Russel Wallace, biofilm, butterfly effect, Celebration, Florida, corporate governance, delayed gratification, experimental subject, impulse control, income inequality, Jane Jacobs, longitudinal study, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, placebo effect, post-industrial society, Rodney Brooks, Ted Kaczynski, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, theory of mind, urban planning, urban renewal, Walter Mischel

A controlled experiment means studying people in a situation in which you can hold certain variables constant while you manipulate some other variable. Such an experiment also requires that the participants be randomly assigned to different levels of the manipulation taking place. To manipulate levels of perceived loneliness, we enlisted David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, to hypnotize our experimental subjects. Using precisely worded scripts, we guided our hypnotized student volunteers to re-experience moments in their lives that summoned up either profound feelings of loneliness or profound feelings of social connectedness. With some individuals we induced loneliness in their first hypnotic state and social connectedness in their second; with the others the order was reversed. Before and after each hypnosis we administered the revised UCLA Loneliness Scale to ensure that the hypnosis had induced the desired emotional state.18 Earlier, Spiegel had done a classic experiment with Harvard’s Steven Kosslyn to demonstrate that hypnotic suggestion was not merely an extreme case of suggestion, coercion, and compliance.


pages: 362 words: 104,308

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson

bioinformatics, business intelligence, double helix, experimental subject, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), phenotype, prisoner's dilemma, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, stem cell, the scientific method, zero-sum game

Input from the agency of production would be wrong.” “Like the assembly line choosing what to make,” Marta said. “Right. Thus the idiocy of business management theory in our time.” “I’ll send him an e-mail,” Leo decided. So Leo sent Derek an e-mail concerning what Brian and Marta persisted in calling the exploding mice problem. Derek (according to reports they heard later) swelled up like one of their experimental subjects. It appeared he had been IVed with two quarts of genetically engineered righteous indignation. “It’s in the literature!” he was reported to have shouted at Dr. Sam Houston, his vice president in charge of research and development. “It was in The Journal of Immunology, there were two papers that were peer-reviewed, they got a patent for it! I went out there to Maryland and checked it all out myself!


pages: 321 words: 96,349

Among Chimpanzees by Nancy J. Merrick

carbon footprint, clean water, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, experimental subject, Google Earth, impulse control, microcredit, profit motive, the scientific method

Over a hundred vaccines have been tested, many showing great promise in chimpanzees, only to result in far more limited effectiveness in humans. But all this can be of little consequence to a chimp named Tom, who was finally retired from research after more than 360 knock-downs (general anesthesia) and inoculation with the AIDS virus. Hundreds of chimps have been used over the years for cancer research, but here again, other animals—often mice—have proven to be superior experimental subjects, not only because the types of tumors they develop more closely resemble those of humans but also because they are far more plentiful and far less costly to conduct research on. Still, a number of entrenched research scientists claim that chimpanzees are absolutely key to future gains.7 So, what happens when other scientists examine the literature to see whether experimentation on chimps is really essential, especially to emerging new medical therapies?


pages: 340 words: 96,242

Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis

affirmative action, experimental subject, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

She had never worked harder in her life. The launch to the space station, when it came, seemed almost like a vacation. She was so excited that she barely noticed the launch, and only when she saw her notepad floating out of her pocket did she realize, I'm really here; I'm in zero gravity. I made it. Tana's billet was to be the blue-shift medical officer, and in her spare time, a biology research technician and an experimental subject. The bio labs always needed both technicians and subjects. She liked being on space station. Ft was crowded and noisy and confusing. It was remarkably easy to get confused, and even—despite its small size—momentarily lost. The familiar route from one module to another that you've memorized as a left turn would, if you happen to be flipped, mutate into a right turn, or even an up or down turn.


Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower by William Blum

anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, British Empire, collective bargaining, Columbine, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Joseph Schumpeter, land reform, Monroe Doctrine, Nelson Mandela, profit motive, Ronald Reagan, union organizing

A remarkable variety of government programs, either formally, or in effect, using soldiers as guinea pigs—marched to nuclear explosion sites, with pilots then sent through the mushroom clouds; subjected to chemical and biological weapons experiments; radiation experiments; behavior modification experiments that washed their brains with LSD; exposure to the dioxin of Agent Orange in Korea and Vietnam...the list goes on...literally millions of experimental subjects, seldom given a choice or adequate information, often with disastrous effects to their physical and/or mental health, rarely with proper medical care or even monitoring,5 The moral of this little slice of history is simple: If the United States government does not care about the health and welfare of its own soldiers, if our leaders are not moved by the prolonged pain and suffering of the wretched warriors enlisted to fight the empire's wars, how can it be argued, how can it be believed, that they care about foreign peoples?


pages: 350 words: 103,988

Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets by John McMillan

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Alvin Roth, Andrei Shleifer, Anton Chekhov, Asian financial crisis, congestion charging, corporate governance, corporate raider, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, Deng Xiaoping, experimental economics, experimental subject, fear of failure, first-price auction, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, George Gilder, global village, Hernando de Soto, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, income per capita, informal economy, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job-hopping, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, land reform, lone genius, manufacturing employment, market clearing, market design, market friction, market microstructure, means of production, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, ought to be enough for anybody, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, profit maximization, profit motive, proxy bid, purchasing power parity, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Stewart Brand, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, yield management

If there are unfilled jobs for barrel scrapers, the employers raise the offered wage, people change their jobs in response, and the vacancies get filled. With a price system, unlike under central planning, no central authority needs to know when there is an imbalance of supply and demand. Evidence that price movements can guide an economy to a stable outcome comes from experimental economics, in research done by Vernon Smith and others.12 An economy is simulated in the laboratory, with experimental subjects, usually undergraduate students, being put in the role of consumers and firms (and to get them to take their decision-making seriously, they are offered cash payments based on the outcomes of their decisions). Provided the experimental market’s rules are well designed, prices quickly settle down at their theoretical equilibrium levels (that is, where supply equals demand), even though no one in the economy knows enough to be able to figure out what those prices should be.


pages: 347 words: 101,586

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain by António R. Damásio

Albert Einstein, Benoit Mandelbrot, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, discovery of DNA, experimental subject, longitudinal study, mandelbrot fractal, placebo effect, Richard Feynman, social intelligence, theory of mind

Fooling the Brain What evidence is there supporting the claim that body states cause feelings? Some evidence comes from neuropsychological studies correlating loss of feeling with damage to the brain regions necessary to represent body states (see chapter 5), but studies conducted in normal individuals are also telling in this respect as well, specifically those by Paul Ekman.14 When he gave normal experimental subjects instructions on how to move their facial muscles, in effect “composing” a specific emotional expression on the subjects’ faces without their knowing his purpose, the result was that the subjects experienced a feeling appropriate to the expression. For instance, a roughly and incompletely composed happy facial expression led to the subjects’ experiencing “happiness,” an angry facial expression to their experiencing “anger,” and so on.


pages: 331 words: 96,989

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam L. Alter

Alexey Pajitnov wrote Tetris, augmented reality, barriers to entry, call centre, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, easy for humans, difficult for computers, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, game design, Google Glasses, IKEA effect, Inbox Zero, Kickstarter, loss aversion, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Oculus Rift, Richard Thaler, side project, Skype, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, telemarketer

He decided to watch as people mastered a video game, but he didn’t know much about the cutting-edge world of gaming. “In 1991 no one had heard of Tetris,” he said in an interview a few years later. “I went to the computer store to see what they had and the guy said, ‘Here try this. It’s just come in.’ Tetris was the perfect game, it was simple to learn, you had to practice to get good and there was a good learning curve.” So Haier bought some copies of Tetris for his lab and watched as his experimental subjects played the game. He did find neurological changes with experience—parts of the brain thickened and brain activity declined, suggesting experts’ brains worked more efficiently—but more relevant here, he found that his subjects relished playing the game. They signed up to play for forty-five minutes a day, five days a week, for up to eight weeks. They came for the experiment (and the cash payment that came with participating), but stayed for the game.


Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney

Albert Einstein, British Empire, colonial rule, dark matter, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, experimental subject, Francisco Pizarro, global pandemic, Hernando de Soto, invisible hand, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, placebo effect, trade route, urban renewal

But one of them, Graeme Gibson, was preparing a follow-up report when, worn down by long hours in the army lab at Abbeville, near Étaples, he caught the flu. He died before it was published the following March. For all their bravery, the credibility of these scientists’ findings is tainted. The experiments were conducted during the pandemic, at a time when it would have been impossible for them to ensure that their laboratories were free of contamination by the ubiquitous flu virus, so it is hard to know by which route their experimental subjects received the infection. Anyone paying attention will have noticed that Dujarric’s and Nicolle’s and Lebailly’s results contradict each other: Dujarric thought that he had given himself flu via an injection of filtrate into his blood, while the pair in Tunis ruled out the blood as a transmission route. Nicolle and Lebailly were right, in fact: influenza is not transmissible by the blood, so Dujarric cannot have caught it from the injection that Lacassagne gave him.


pages: 936 words: 252,313

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease by Gary Taubes

Albert Einstein, California gold rush, cognitive dissonance, collaborative editing, Drosophila, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental subject, Gary Taubes, invention of agriculture, John Snow's cholera map, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, phenotype, placebo effect, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Robert Gordon, selection bias, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, twin studies, unbiased observer, Upton Sinclair

In 1952, however, Laurance Kinsell, director of the Institute for Metabolic Research at the Highland–Alameda County Hospital in Oakland, California, demonstrated that vegetable oil will decrease the amount of cholesterol circulating in our blood, and animal fats will raise it. That same year, J. J. Groen of the Netherlands reported that cholesterol levels were independent of the total amount of fat consumed: cholesterol levels in his experimental subjects were lowest on a vegetarian diet with a high fat content, he noted, and highest on an animal-fat diet that had less total fat. Keys eventually accepted that animal fats tend to raise cholesterol and vegetable fats to lower it, only after he managed to replicate Groen’s finding with his schizophrenic patients in Minnesota. Kinsell and Edward “Pete” Ahrens of Rockefeller University then demonstrated that the crucial factor in controlling cholesterol was not whether the fat was from an animal or a vegetable, but its degree of “saturation,” as well as what’s known as the chain length of the fats.

In effect, glucose regulates how much vitamin C is taken up by the cells, according to the University of Massachusetts nutritionist John Cunningham. If we increase blood-sugar levels, the cellular uptake of vitamin C will drop accordingly. Glucose also impairs the reabsorption of vitamin C by the kidney, and so, the higher the blood sugar, the more vitamin C will be lost in the urine. Infusing insulin into experimental subjects has been shown to cause a “marked fall” in vitamin-C levels in the circulation. In other words, there is significant reason to believe that the key factor determining the level of vitamin C in our cells and tissues is not how much or little we happen to be consuming in our diet, but whether the starches and refined carbohydrates in our diet serve to flush vitamin C out of our system, while simultaneously inhibiting the use of what vitamin C we do have.


pages: 370 words: 112,602

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo

Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, business process, business process outsourcing, call centre, Cass Sunstein, charter city, clean water, collapse of Lehman Brothers, congestion charging, demographic transition, diversified portfolio, experimental subject, hiring and firing, Kickstarter, land tenure, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, microcredit, moral hazard, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, Richard Thaler, school vouchers, Silicon Valley, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Thomas Malthus, urban planning

This is important, because it turns out that cortisol directly impairs cognitive and decisionmaking ability: The stress-induced release of cortisol affects brain areas such as the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus, which are important in cognitive functioning; in particular, the prefrontal cortex is important in suppression of impulsive responses. It is therefore no surprise that when experimental subjects are artificially put under stressful conditions in the laboratory, they are less likely to make the economically rational decision when faced with choosing among different alternatives.8 THE HEDGE What can the poor do to cope with these risks? A natural reaction when faced with a drop in wages or earnings is to try to work more. But this may sometimes be self-defeating. If all the poor laborers want to work more when times are bad (for example, because there is a drought or input prices have gone up), they compete with each other, which drives wages down.


pages: 460 words: 107,712

A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings by Richard Dawkins

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Desert Island Discs, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, Necker cube, out of africa, phenotype, placebo effect, random walk, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

Let’s take homeopathy as an example, and let us suppose that we have a large enough fraction of the grant to plan the experiment on a moderately large scale. Having given their consent, 1000 patients will be separated into 500 experimentals (who will receive the homeopathic dose) and 500 controls (who will not). Bending over backwards to respect the ‘holistic’ principle that every individual must be treated as an individual, we shall not insist on giving all experimental subjects the same dose. Nothing so crude. Instead, every patient in the trial shall be examined by a certified homeopath, and an individually tailored therapy prescribed. The different patients need not even receive the same homeopathic substance. But now comes the all-important double-blind randomization. After every patient’s prescription has been written, half of the patients, at random, will be designated controls.


pages: 319 words: 106,772

Irrational Exuberance: With a New Preface by the Author by Robert J. Shiller

Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, business cycle, buy and hold, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, demographic transition, diversification, diversified portfolio, equity premium, Everybody Ought to Be Rich, experimental subject, hindsight bias, income per capita, index fund, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, market design, market fundamentalism, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, Milgram experiment, money market fund, moral hazard, new economy, open economy, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Small Order Execution System, spice trade, statistical model, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, the market place, Tobin tax, transaction costs, tulip mania, urban decay, Y2K

Thus the Asch and Milgram experiments give us a different perspective on the overconfidence phenomenon: people are respectful of authorities in formulating the opinions about which they will later be so overconfident, transferring their confidence in authorities to their own judgments based upon them. Given the kind of behavior observed by Asch and Milgram, it is not at all surprising that many people are accepting of the perceived authority of others on such matters as stock market valuation. Most must certainly trust their own judgment in this area even less than the experimental subjects trusted the evidence of their own eyes about the lengths of lines on cards or the pain and suffering that a person sitting next to them was experiencing. Economic Theories of Herd Behavior and Information Cascades Even completely rational people can participate in herd behavior when they take into account the judgments of others, and even if they know that everyone else is behaving in a herdlike manner.


pages: 339 words: 105,938

The Skeptical Economist: Revealing the Ethics Inside Economics by Jonathan Aldred

airport security, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, citizen journalism, clean water, cognitive dissonance, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, Diane Coyle, endogenous growth, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, framing effect, greed is good, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labour market flexibility, laissez-faire capitalism, libertarian paternalism, longitudinal study, new economy, Pareto efficiency, pension reform, positional goods, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, school choice, spectrum auction, Thomas Bayes, trade liberalization, ultimatum game

Turning to the list above, dominant left-siders are also more likely to smile and be assessed as happy by their friends, while right-siders smile less and are regarded as less happy by their friends. Left-siders purposely given the flu virus were less likely to get ill, too. All this evidence seems to correlate brain activity with positive/negative feelings and behaviours, and these in turn are correlated with self-reported happiness, but is there a more direct link? At least one widely discussed experiment suggests there is. All the experimental subjects — victims might be a better term — had a very hot pad applied to one of their legs. The pad was exactly the same temperature for everyone, but people gave very different reports of the level of pain. Nevertheless, the differing reports were highly correlated with brain activity, again suggesting that such reports are meaningful.6 Still, this experiment might seem worrying for the defenders of happiness surveys because it demonstrates so clearly that the same objective stimulus is described differently by different people.


pages: 397 words: 109,631

Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard E. Nisbett

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, big-box store, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cognitive dissonance, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, endowment effect, experimental subject, feminist movement, fixed income, fundamental attribution error, glass ceiling, Henri Poincaré, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, Kickstarter, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, longitudinal study, loss aversion, low skilled workers, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, quantitative easing, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, Shai Danziger, Socratic dialogue, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, William of Occam, Zipcar

One difference between paradigmatic changes in science and those in technology and business practices is that the old paradigm often as not hangs around in science. Cognitive science didn’t replace all learning theory findings, or even the explanations behind the findings. Rather, it just established a body of work that couldn’t have been produced within the learning theory framework. Science and Culture Bertrand Russell once observed that scientists studying the problem-solving behavior of animals saw in their experimental subjects the national characteristics of the scientists themselves. The pragmatic Americans and the theoretically inclined Germans had very different understandings of what was happening. Animals studied by Americans rush about frantically, with an incredible display of hustle and pep, and at last achieve the desired result by chance. Animals observed by Germans sit still and think, and at last evolve the solution out of their inner consciousness.


pages: 403 words: 106,707

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson

airport security, animal electricity, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Frederick Winslow Taylor, glass ceiling, Iridium satellite, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, placebo effect, randomized controlled trial, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Stanford marshmallow experiment, technoutopianism, Walter Mischel

Details in subsequent paragraphs are also from this paper unless otherwise noted. 18. “it may well have been my struggles and failures”: A. V. Hill, Muscular Activity (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1925). 19. an eighty-five-meter grass loop in Hill’s garden: In Hill’s 1923 QMJ paper, he describes the experiments taking place “around a circular grass track 92½ yds. (84½ metres) in circumference.” Hugh Long, a coauthor and experimental subject in Hill’s Manchester studies, recalls “running up and down stairs, or round the professor’s garden while at intervals healthy samples of blood were withdrawn from my arms”; quoted in “Archibald Vivian Hill. 26 September 1886–3 June 1977,” Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 24 (1978): 71–149. 20. “reaches a maximum beyond which no effort can drive it”: Hill, Muscular Activity, p. 98. 21. an analysis of world records: A.


pages: 332 words: 109,213

The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, dark matter, double helix, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, kremlinology, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, undersea cable

Orthodox scientists were outraged because I considered the existence of telepathy to be possible. True believers in telepathy were outraged because I considered its existence to be unproved. This is a question that is of deep concern to many readers. The most interesting response came from Rupert Sheldrake, who sent me papers describing his experiments studying telepathy in dogs. Dogs have several advantages over humans as experimental subjects. They do not get bored, they do not cheat, and they do not have any interest in the outcome of the experiment. Sheldrake’s experiments contradict my statement that telepathy cannot be studied scientifically. Unfortunately, the experiments were conducted by humans, not by dogs, and effects of human bias and selective reporting could not be altogether eliminated. But Sheldrake is right when he says that the experiments are scientific.


pages: 502 words: 107,657

Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die by Eric Siegel

Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, backtesting, Black Swan, book scanning, bounce rate, business intelligence, business process, butter production in bangladesh, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, commoditize, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, dark matter, data is the new oil, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental subject, Google Glasses, happiness index / gross national happiness, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, lifelogging, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, mass immigration, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, personalized medicine, placebo effect, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, risk-adjusted returns, Ronald Coase, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Shai Danziger, software as a service, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Levy, text mining, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Davenport, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

Websites serve the ads that get clicked the most, and run random AB tests to compare which web page design and contents lead to the most buying. Facebook conducts controlled experiments to see how changes to the rules driving which friends’ posts get displayed influence your engagement and usage of the product. I tested titles for this book, following in the footsteps of SuperCrunchers and The 4-Hour Workweek. Placed as ads on Google Adwords, Predictive Analytics, when displayed on tens of thousands of screens of unsuspecting experimental subjects across the country, was clicked almost twice as often as Geek Prophecies, and also beat out I Knew You Were Going to Do That and Clairvoyant Computers, plus the six remaining book titles that I also entered into this contest. It was convenient that the field’s very name came out as the top contender, an unquestionably fitting title for this book. In both medicine and marketing, this scheme to test treatments reveals the impact of selecting one outward action over another—but only as a trend across the group of subjects as a whole.


pages: 385 words: 103,561

Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Our World by Greg Milner

Ayatollah Khomeini, British Empire, creative destruction, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, different worldview, digital map, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, Flash crash, friendly fire, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, land tenure, lone genius, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Mercator projection, place-making, polynesian navigation, precision agriculture, race to the bottom, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, smart grid, the map is not the territory

A historical and technological survey of GPS published in 2002 summarized the relationship between the two technologies/concepts: “GPS receivers without GIS have no knowledge of the real world.” This knowledge runs deep. Street View ultimately taught me nothing definitive about Fallen Man, but Street View images are perhaps thicker with real information than we realize. An MIT Media Lab study of “perceptual inequality” showed experimental subjects pairs of images selected randomly from a set of hundreds of street-level images of New York City, Boston, and two cities in Austria, Salzburg and Linz. For each pair, subjects answered the questions “Which place looks safer?” and “Which place looks more upper-class?” The study found that both positive and negative impressions were more clustered around geographic regions in the American cities, and more widely dispersed in the Austrian cities, suggesting that the cityscapes of Boston and New York City exhibit starker inequality.


The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop

Ada Lovelace, air freight, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Apple II, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, Bill Duvall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Byte Shop, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, Donald Davies, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, experimental subject, fault tolerance, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Rulifson, John von Neumann, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pink-collar, popular electronics, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture, Wiener process, zero-sum game

It turns out that you can understand what's being said much more easily if the words are selected from a very limited vocabulary, so there can be no confusion (this is why fighter jocks go in for that clipped alphafoxtrot-bravo jargon). Shortly after Shannon's paper came out, Miller says, he and two of his students decided to measure this effect in terms of information theory. They found that their experimental subjects could detect the difference between, say, "boy" and "heel" at quite high noise levels: it was just an either-or choice, requiring the perception of only one bit of information. But as they added more words to the list of possibilities-that is, as they demanded the perception of more and more bits of information-it rapidly became impossible for their subjects to detect the differences. They literally could no longer hear "boy" and "heel" in the noise, even though the stimulus was exactly the same.

That introductory article he'd published with Fred Frick in 1949 had made information theory into something of a fad in psychology, espe- cially among the rising generation. And as these young researchers applied the theory to more and more aspects of human perception, they found more and more evidence for the same kind of "channel capacity" that Miller had found in the perception of words. Their experimental subjects could distinguish very well between different musical pitches, say, or different positions of points on a line, or even different levels of saltiness in a taste of water-if there were only two al- ternatives. Salty-not salty and so on were really just yes-no choices, meaning that the subjects had to perceive only one bit of information. But as the num- ber of alternatives increased, the subjects inevitably began to falter and make mistakes at the level of roughly seven choices, or slightly less than three bits of information. :- The clear implication was that perception didn't just happen, as the behavior- ists would have it.


pages: 396 words: 112,748

Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick

Benoit Mandelbrot, business cycle, butterfly effect, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, discrete time, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, experimental subject, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Murray Gell-Mann, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, trade route

Why should a rhythm that has stayed on track for a lifetime, two billion or more uninterrupted cycles, through relaxation and stress, acceleration and deceleration, suddenly break into an uncontrolled, fatally ineffectual frenzy? WINFREE TOLD THE STORY of an early researcher, George Mines, who in 1914 was twenty-eight years old. In his laboratory at McGill University in Montreal, Mines made a small device capable of delivering small, precisely regulated electrical impulses to the heart. “When Mines decided it was time to begin work with human beings, he chose the most readily available experimental subject: himself,” Winfree wrote. “At about six o’clock that evening, a janitor, thinking it was unusually quiet in the laboratory, entered the room. Mines was lying under the laboratory bench surrounded by twisted electrical equipment. A broken mechanism was attached to his chest over the heart and a piece of apparatus nearby was still recording the faltering heartbeat. He died without recovering consciousness.”


pages: 416 words: 118,592

A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton G. Malkiel

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, beat the dealer, Bernie Madoff, BRICs, butter production in bangladesh, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, compound rate of return, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversification, diversified portfolio, dogs of the Dow, Edward Thorp, Elliott wave, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental subject, feminist movement, financial innovation, fixed income, framing effect, hindsight bias, Home mortgage interest deduction, index fund, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, margin call, market bubble, money market fund, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Own Your Own Home, passive investing, Paul Samuelson, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, price stability, profit maximization, publish or perish, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, The Myth of the Rational Market, the rule of 72, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Vanguard fund, zero-coupon bond

Daniel Kahneman has argued that this tendency to overconfidence is particularly strong among investors. More than most other groups, investors tend to exaggerate their own skill and deny the role of chance. They overestimate their own knowledge, underestimate the risks involved, and exaggerate their ability to control events. Kahneman’s tests show how well investors’ probability judgments are calibrated by asking experimental subjects for confidence intervals. He asks a question such as the following: What is your best estimate of the value of the Dow Jones one month from today? Next pick a high value, such that you are 99% sure (but not absolutely sure) that the Dow Jones a month from today will be lower than that value. Now pick a low value, such that you are 99% sure (but no more) that the Dow Jones a month from today will be higher than that value.


pages: 404 words: 113,514

Atrocity Archives by Stross, Charles

airport security, anthropic principle, Berlin Wall, brain emulation, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, defense in depth, disintermediation, experimental subject, glass ceiling, haute cuisine, hypertext link, Khyber Pass, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, MITM: man-in-the-middle, NP-complete, the medium is the message, Y2K, yield curve

(By nuclear structure he is of course referring to the core of the atom, as deduced by our experiments last year.) Then he explained how he was going to seat a gorgon on one side of a very large device he calls a cloud chamber, with big magnetic coils positioned above and below it, to see if there is some other physical phenomenon at work. I can now reveal the effects of our team's experimentation. Subject C is cooperating in a most professional manner, but despite Ernest's greatest efforts the cloud chamber bore no fruit--she can sit with her face pressed up against the glass window on one side, and blow a chicken's egg to flinders of red-hot pumice on the target stand, but no ionization trail appears in the saturated vapour of the chamber. Or rather, I should say no direct trail appears.


pages: 396 words: 117,149

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos

Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, basic income, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data is the new oil, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Markoff, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, off grid, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, scientific worldview, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stanford marshmallow experiment, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, zero-sum game

Newell and Rosenbloom hypothesized that a similar process is at work in all skill acquisition, not just chess. In perception and memory, a chunk is just a symbol that stands for a pattern of other symbols, like AI stands for artificial intelligence. Newell and Rosenbloom adapted this notion to the theory of problem solving that Newell and Simon had developed earlier. Newell and Simon asked experimental subjects to solve problems—for example, derive one mathematical formula from another on the blackboard—while narrating aloud how they were going about it. They found that humans solve problems by decomposing them into subproblems, subsubproblems, and so on and systematically reducing the differences between the initial state (the first formula, say) and the goal state (the second formula). Doing so requires searching for a sequence of actions that will work, however, and that takes time.


Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg, Lauren McCann

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, anti-pattern, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, bank run, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, business process, butterfly effect, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Attenborough, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, discounted cash flows, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Edward Snowden, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, fear of failure, feminist movement, Filter Bubble, framing effect, friendly fire, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, housing crisis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, illegal immigration, income inequality, information asymmetry, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John Nash: game theory, lateral thinking, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, Lyft, mail merge, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Metcalfe’s law, Milgram experiment, minimum viable product, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, nuclear winter, offshore financial centre, p-value, Parkinson's law, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, Potemkin village, prediction markets, premature optimization, price anchoring, principal–agent problem, publication bias, recommendation engine, remote working, replication crisis, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, school choice, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Shai Danziger, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, survivorship bias, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, uber lyft, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wikimedia commons

Think of the 2007/2008 financial crisis or the U.S. 2016 election cycles. Hindsight bias arises in many other situations: judges weighing evidence in court cases, historians analyzing past events, and physicians assessing earlier clinical decisions. For example, in negligence cases, for guilt to be found, it must be shown that the person who committed the negligent act would have known that their actions would endanger others. When experimental subjects are presented with various negligence scenarios, they typically rate an outcome as more foreseeable the worse the outcome is, even when the negligent act is the same. In other words, the worse the outcome, the worse the hindsight bias. In the context of leadership and learning new roles, hindsight bias can keep you from learning from past events. If you believe an event was predictable when it was not, you may take away that you made the wrong choices leading up to the event, when in reality you may have made the right choice given the information available at the time.


pages: 515 words: 117,501

Miracle Cure by William Rosen

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, availability heuristic, biofilm, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, Copley Medal, creative destruction, demographic transition, discovery of penicillin, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, functional fixedness, germ theory of disease, global supply chain, Haber-Bosch Process, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Louis Pasteur, medical malpractice, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, New Journalism, obamacare, out of africa, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, stem cell, transcontinental railway, working poor

Pharmaceutical companies would be obliged to share information about the proposed manufacturing process, and about the chemical mechanism by which they believed the new drug offered a therapeutic benefit. And, before any human tests could begin, applicants would have to guarantee that an independent committee at each institution where the drug was to be studied would certify that the study was likely to have more benefits than risks; that any distress for experimental subjects would be minimized; and that all participants gave what was just starting to be known as “informed consent.”* The truly radical transformation, however, was what the FDA would demand of the studies themselves. Kelsey’s new system specified three sequential investigative stages for any new drug. The first, phase 1 clinical trials, would be used to determine human toxicity by providing escalating doses to a few dozen subjects in order to establish a safe dosage range.


pages: 379 words: 113,656

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan J. Watts

Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, business process, corporate governance, Drosophila, Erdős number, experimental subject, fixed income, Frank Gehry, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, industrial cluster, invisible hand, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, Milgram experiment, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Murray Gell-Mann, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, peer-to-peer, rolodex, Ronald Coase, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, Vilfredo Pareto, Y2K

The dithering, it turned out, had not only allowed us to become friends and given me a chance to finish my courses; it also freed us from the focus of a single, well-defined project for long enough to think about what we really wanted to do, rather than just what we thought we could do. And that, as the poem goes, has made all the difference. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AT THE TIME WE STUMBLED ONTO OUR EVENTUAL PROJECT, WE were studying, of all things, crickets. It sounds silly, but because this particular species of cricket—the snowy tree cricket—chirps in such a regular fashion and because (unlike pacemaker cells or neurons) it is such a well-behaved experimental subject, it is virtually an ideal specimen of biological oscillator. We were trying to test a deep mathematical hypothesis, originally proposed by Winfree, that only certain types of oscillators can synchronize. Since snowy tree crickets are extremely good at synchronizing, it seemed a natural step to determine experimentally what kind of oscillators they were and therefore whether or not the theoretical predictions were true.


pages: 467 words: 116,094

I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre

call centre, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, Desert Island Discs, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Firefox, Flynn Effect, jimmy wales, John Snow's cholera map, Loebner Prize, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, placebo effect, publication bias, selection bias, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Simon Singh, statistical model, stem cell, the scientific method, Turing test, WikiLeaks

The Glorious Mess of Real Scientific Results Guardian, 6 November 2010 Popular science is often triumphalist, presenting research as a set of completed answers, when in reality much of what gets published makes a glorious, necessary mess. Here is an example. Solomon Asch’s legendary studies from the 1950s on conformity are among my favourite experiments of all time. Some people in a room are asked to judge the length of a line; all but one are stooges, and they unanimously assert what is obviously an incorrect answer. The one true, unsuspecting experimental subject conforms to the majority view, despite knowing that it’s incorrect, about a third of the time. This is a chilling result that feels just right, and over the past half-century researchers have replicated the study over a hundred times in seventeen countries, allowing hints of patterns to be spotted in the results. One analysis of US studies found that conformity has declined since the 1950s.


pages: 387 words: 119,409

Work Rules!: Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Atul Gawande, Black Swan, book scanning, Burning Man, call centre, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, citizen journalism, clean water, correlation coefficient, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, helicopter parent, immigration reform, Internet Archive, longitudinal study, Menlo Park, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, nudge unit, PageRank, Paul Buchheit, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rana Plaza, random walk, Richard Thaler, Rubik’s Cube, self-driving car, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, six sigma, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, survivorship bias, TaskRabbit, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tony Hsieh, Turing machine, winner-take-all economy, Y2K

Left unsupervised, would the subject keep working on the puzzles? Members of the control group spent about three and a half minutes (213 and 205 seconds) on the puzzle during the first two unsupervised windows, and four minutes (241 seconds) in the last window. Experimental-group members spent an average of four minutes (248 seconds) on the puzzle in the first window. Before the second hour started, experimental subjects were told they would receive a dollar for every puzzle they solved. With the added incentive, they spent more than five minutes (313 seconds) on the puzzle, 26 percent more time than in their first hour. Before the third hour, they were told that there was only enough money for one round of payment, so they wouldn’t be paid any more. The time spent on the puzzle dropped to less than three and a half minutes (198 seconds), 20 percent less than in the first round and 37 percent less than in the paid round.


pages: 405 words: 121,531

Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini

Albert Einstein, attribution theory, bank run, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, desegregation, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental subject, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, Milgram experiment, Norman Macrae, Ralph Waldo Emerson, telemarketer, The Wisdom of Crowds

The drive to be (and look) consistent constitutes a highly potent weapon of social influence, often causing us to act in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interest. Consider what happened when researchers staged thefts on a New York City beach to see if onlookers would risk personal harm to halt the crime. In the study, an accomplice of the researchers would put a beach blanket down five feet from the blanket of a randomly chosen individual—the experimental subject. After several minutes of relaxing on the blanket and listening to music from a portable radio, the accomplice would stand up and leave the blanket to stroll down the beach. Soon thereafter, a researcher, pretending to be a thief, would approach, grab the radio, and try to hurry away with it. As you might guess, under normal conditions, subjects were very reluctant to put themselves in harm’s way by challenging the thief— only four people did so in the 20 times that the theft was staged.


pages: 420 words: 121,881

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig

Albert Einstein, experimental subject, feminist movement, Norman Mailer, placebo effect, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Rosa Parks, Upton Sinclair, women in the workforce

“I was ready to murder anyone who momentarily got in my way, and to burst into tears on practically no provocation.” Whether this was directly a result of the pills or simply the anger she felt at suffering so many physical symptoms, she wasn’t sure. When she quit the pill after ten days, Blake went to see her doctor to make sure there was nothing wrong with her. “I shall forward you the bill,” she informed Pincus, “since, though I am glad to be an experimental subject for you, I don’t think I should lose money on the deal.” Blake’s letter might have served as a warning, but Pincus was still not terribly worried. Side effects were called side effects for a reason: they were not the main concern. The priority was to make sure no one taking the pill got pregnant. There would be time enough to tinker with the dosages and even the chemical makeup of the pill to see if the side effects could be reduced or eliminated.


pages: 482 words: 121,672

A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing (Eleventh Edition) by Burton G. Malkiel

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, asset allocation, asset-backed security, beat the dealer, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, butter production in bangladesh, buttonwood tree, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, compound rate of return, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Detroit bankruptcy, diversification, diversified portfolio, dogs of the Dow, Edward Thorp, Elliott wave, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental subject, feminist movement, financial innovation, financial repression, fixed income, framing effect, George Santayana, hindsight bias, Home mortgage interest deduction, index fund, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, margin call, market bubble, money market fund, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Own Your Own Home, passive investing, Paul Samuelson, pets.com, Ponzi scheme, price stability, profit maximization, publish or perish, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, the rule of 72, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Vanguard fund, zero-coupon bond, zero-sum game

Daniel Kahneman has argued that this tendency to overconfidence is particularly strong among investors. More than most other groups, investors tend to exaggerate their own skill and deny the role of chance. They overestimate their own knowledge, underestimate the risks involved, and exaggerate their ability to control events. Kahneman’s tests show how well investors’ probability judgments are calibrated by asking experimental subjects for confidence intervals. He asks a question such as the following: What is your best estimate of the value of the Dow Jones one month from today? Next pick a high value, such that you are 99% sure (but not absolutely sure) that the Dow Jones a month from today will be lower than that value. Now pick a low value, such that you are 99% sure (but no more) that the Dow Jones a month from today will be higher than that value.


Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

biofilm, buy low sell high, carbon footprint, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of penicillin, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, late capitalism, low earth orbit, Mason jar, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, moral panic, NP-complete, phenotype, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan, the built environment, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, traveling salesman

One of my colleagues in Panama was a skilled spore wrangler. Some evenings we made snacks from spores, fragments of cracker, and sour cream: tiny crumbs of mycorrhizal caviar that we had to prepare under the microscope and tweezer into our mouths. We didn’t learn much, but that wasn’t the point. It was an exercise that helped us to keep our balance as we careened from the small to the large. These were rare moments of unmediated contact with our experimental subjects, goofs to remind us that mycorrhizal fungi aren’t mechanical schematic entities—one can’t eat a machine or a concept—but living organisms engaged in lives that we still struggle to understand. * * * — PLANTS REMAIN THE easiest way in. It is through plants that the mycorrhizal extravaganza belowground most commonly erupts into everyday human life. The countless microscopic interactions that occur between fungi and roots express themselves in the forms, growth, tastes, and smells of plants.


Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom, Molyn Leszcz

cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, delayed gratification, deskilling, epigenetics, experimental subject, impulse control, meta analysis, meta-analysis, randomized controlled trial, the scientific method, traveling salesman, unbiased observer

Is it possible that an intensive, affect-laden time-extended group may open up a client who is stuck in therapy? My colleagues and I studied thirty-three such clients referred by individual therapists for a weekend encounter group. We assigned them to one of three groups: two affect-evoking gestalt marathons and a control group (a weekend of meditation, silence, and tai chi).22 Six weeks later, the experimental subjects showed slight but significant improvement in their individual therapy compared to the control subjects. By twelve weeks, however, all differences had disappeared, and there were no remaining measurable effects on the process of individual therapy. The marathon group phenomenon makes us mindful of the issue of transfer of learning. There is no question that the time-extended group can evoke powerful affect and can encourage members to experiment with new behavior.

So much for testimony. What of the overall, more objective battery of assessment measures? Each participant’s outcome (judged from all assessment measures) was rated and placed in one of six categories: high learner, moderate changer, unchanged, negative changer, casualty (significant, enduring, psychological decompensation that was due to being in the group), and dropout. The results for all 206 experimental subjects and for the sixty-nine control subjects are summarized in Table 16.1. (“Short post” is at termination of group and “long post” is at six-month follow-up.) TABLE 16.1 Index of Change for All Participant Who Began Strudy TABLE 16.2 Index of Change for Those Who Completed Group (N = 179 Short Post, 133 Long Post) SOURCE: Morton A. Lieberman, Irvin D. Yalom, and Matthew B. Miles, Encounter Groups: First Facts (New York: Basic Books, 1973).


pages: 483 words: 141,836

Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street by Aaron Brown, Eric Kim

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Asian financial crisis, Atul Gawande, backtesting, Basel III, Bayesian statistics, beat the dealer, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, business cycle, capital asset pricing model, central bank independence, Checklist Manifesto, corporate governance, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, disintermediation, distributed generation, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edward Thorp, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental subject, financial innovation, illegal immigration, implied volatility, index fund, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, margin call, market clearing, market fundamentalism, market microstructure, money market fund, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, natural language processing, open economy, Pierre-Simon Laplace, pre–internet, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, special drawing rights, statistical arbitrage, stochastic volatility, stocks for the long run, The Myth of the Rational Market, Thomas Bayes, too big to fail, transaction costs, value at risk, yield curve

At that point you’re going to wildly overshoot on the cold side. Of course, your reaction to that will be an overreaction on the warm side. The only people who can master this extremely simple task are ones who apply explicit quantitative reasoning and have the faith to stick with it even when it seems not to be working. Another simple Dorner experiment is to let people manage a few variables in a simple virtual village. The experimental subjects can devote resources to health care, irrigation, house building, and other projects. Here again, almost everyone creates disasters, however much training they receive and however often they replay the game. The tendency is to correct every short-term problem without considering the long-term consequences. In a few virtual years, everyone in the village is dead and the area is an environmental wasteland.


pages: 478 words: 142,608

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer

Clearly Oscar should have no problem deciding to pull the points and divert the trolley. Except that there happens to be a hiker walking in front of the iron weight. He will certainly be killed if Oscar pulls the switch, just as surely as Ned’s fat man. The difference is that Oscar’s hiker is not being used to stop the trolley: he is collateral damage, as in Denise’s dilemma. Like Hauser, and like most of Hauser’s experimental subjects, I feel that Oscar is permitted to throw the switch but Ned is not. But I also find it quite hard to justify my intuition. Hauser’s point is that such moral intuitions are often not well thought out but that we feel them strongly anyway, because of our evolutionary heritage. In an intriguing venture into anthropology, Hauser and his colleagues adapted their moral experiments to the Kuna, a small Central American tribe with little contact with Westerners and no formal religion.


The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl, Dana Mackenzie

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, Bayesian statistics, computer age, computer vision, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Edmond Halley, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John Snow's cholera map, Loebner Prize, loose coupling, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, personalized medicine, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, prisoner's dilemma, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, randomized controlled trial, selection bias, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Turing test

It disables all the old confounders without introducing any new confounders. That is the source of its power; there is nothing mysterious or mystical about it. It is nothing more or less than, as Joan Fisher Box said, “the skillful interrogation of Nature.” The experiment would, however, fail in its objective of simulating Model 2 if either the experimenter were allowed to use his own judgment to choose a fertilizer or the experimental subjects, in this case the plants, “knew” which card they had drawn. This is why clinical trials with human subjects go to great lengths to conceal this information from both the patients and the experimenters (a procedure known as double blinding). I will add to this a second punch line: there are other ways of simulating Model 2. One way, if you know what all the possible confounders are, is to measure and adjust for them.


Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing (Writing Science) by Thierry Bardini

Apple II, augmented reality, Bill Duvall, conceptual framework, Donald Davies, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, experimental subject, Grace Hopper, hiring and firing, hypertext link, index card, information retrieval, invention of hypertext, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Rulifson, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Leonard Kleinrock, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, packet switching, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, Ted Nelson, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, unbiased observer, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog

These subjects were only The ArrIval of the Real User 179 "half-real" or, in other words, they were model subjects, subjects who could be read as embodiments of the generic eye-hand system. The experiments were able to prove that using the mouse was as efficient as pointing, but people who point usually don't develop repetitive-stress injuries (RSls). The limitations in the definition of the user imposed by the cognitive-science conception of the user as an experimental subject thus laid ample groundwork for subsequent unintended consequences of the technology. To put it another way, the qualities of the" real" test subjects were selected in accord with and limited to the purpose of the testing, as the following state- ment by Larry Tesler shows: I really didn't believe in [the mouse]. . . . I thought cursor keys were much better. We literally took people off the streets who had never seen a computer.


Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project by Karl Fogel

active measures, AGPL, barriers to entry, Benjamin Mako Hill, collaborative editing, continuous integration, corporate governance, Debian, Donald Knuth, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Firefox, GnuPG, Hacker Ethic, Internet Archive, iterative process, Kickstarter, natural language processing, patent troll, peer-to-peer, pull request, revision control, Richard Stallman, selection bias, slashdot, software as a service, software patent, SpamAssassin, web application, zero-sum game

Visitors are more likely to click on a link that says "Watch our 3 minute video" than on one that just says "Watch our video", because in the former case they know what they're getting into before they click — and they'll watch it better, because they've mentally prepared the necessary amount of commitment beforehand, and so won't tire mid-way through. As to where the four-minute limit came from: it's a scientific fact, determined through many attempts by the same experimental subject (who shall remain unnamed) to watch project videos. The limit does not apply to tutorials or other instructional material, of course; it's just for introductory videos. In case you don't already have preferred software for recording desktop interaction videos: I've had good luck with gtk-recordmydesktop on Debian GNU/Linux, and then the OpenShot video editor for post-capture editing. There are many other things you could put on the project web site, if you have the time, or if for one reason or another they are especially appropriate: a news page, a project history page, a related links page, a site-search feature, a donations link, etc.


pages: 475 words: 134,707

The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health--And How We Must Adapt by Sinan Aral

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, augmented reality, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, computer vision, coronavirus, correlation does not imply causation, COVID-19, Covid-19, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, death of newspapers, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Drosophila, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, facts on the ground, Filter Bubble, global pandemic, hive mind, illegal immigration, income inequality, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Metcalfe’s law, mobile money, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, multi-sided market, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Network effects, performance metric, phenotype, recommendation engine, Robert Bork, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Second Machine Age, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, skunkworks, Snapchat, social graph, social intelligence, social software, social web, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Chicago School, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Tim Cook: Apple, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, WikiLeaks, Yogi Berra

If the social brain hypothesis is true, our ability to master social skills, or sociality, should be correlated not just with brain size or the neocortex ratio but also with activation of the specific brain regions linked with mentalizing and sociality. And that’s exactly what the fMRI evidence shows. When subjects are randomly encouraged to mentalize, the mentalizing network is activated, but the networks for intelligence, reasoning, and working memory are not. And when the prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal regions are blocked by transcranial magnetic stimulation, experimental subjects lose their ability to manage false beliefs that are critical in mentalizing and intentionality. In addition to the strong fMRI and species-level evidence supporting the social brain hypothesis, researchers have recently examined the individual-level evidence by measuring the sizes of people’s brain regions devoted to mentalizing and the sizes of their corresponding personal social networks.


pages: 1,079 words: 321,718

Surfaces and Essences by Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, cognitive dissonance, computer age, computer vision, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Flynn Effect, Georg Cantor, Gerolamo Cardano, Golden Gate Park, haute couture, haute cuisine, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, l'esprit de l'escalier, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, place-making, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, theory of mind, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

Another influential view involves stored “mental simulators” of experiences one has undergone, which, in response to a fresh stimulus, reactivate certain regions of the brain that were once stimulated by the closest experiences to the current stimulus. Behind all these efforts lies the appealing idea of non-homogeneous categories — that is, categories having stronger and weaker members — which amounts to distinguishing between more central and less central members. For example, if one times the responses of experimental subjects when they are asked questions of the form “Is an X a Y?”, or if one asks them to write down a list of members of a certain category, or if one gives them a list and asks them to indicate, for each item, its degree of typicality as a member of a specific category, one finds that some very striking trends emerge, and these trends turn out to be stable across all these different ways of testing.

We all depend implicitly on knowledge deeply rooted in our experiences over a lifetime, and this knowledge, which has been confirmed and reconfirmed over and over again, has also been generalized over time, allowing it to be carried over fluidly to all sorts of new situations. It is very rare that, in real life, we rely on an analogy to a situation with which we are barely familiar at all. To put it more colorfully, when it comes to understanding novel situations, we reach out to our family and our friends rather than to the first random passerby. But in the source–target paradigm, experimental subjects are required to reach out to a random passerby — namely, the one that was imposed on them as a source situation by the experimenter. And so, what do the results obtained in the framework of this paradigm really demonstrate? What they show is that when people learn something superficially, they wind up making superficial analogies to it. It would hardly be an earth-shaking revelation that people who have been given a single five-minute juggling lesson turn out to be lousy jugglers.


pages: 586 words: 159,901

Wall Street: How It Works And for Whom by Doug Henwood

accounting loophole / creative accounting, activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, affirmative action, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, borderless world, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, capital asset pricing model, capital controls, central bank independence, computerized trading, corporate governance, corporate raider, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, currency manipulation / currency intervention, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, debt deflation, declining real wages, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, equity premium, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental subject, facts on the ground, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, floating exchange rates, full employment, George Akerlof, George Gilder, hiring and firing, Hyman Minsky, implied volatility, index arbitrage, index fund, information asymmetry, interest rate swap, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Irwin Jacobs, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, kremlinology, labor-force participation, late capitalism, law of one price, liberal capitalism, liquidationism / Banker’s doctrine / the Treasury view, London Interbank Offered Rate, Louis Bachelier, market bubble, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, money market fund, moral hazard, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, Myron Scholes, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, pension reform, plutocrats, Plutocrats, price mechanism, price stability, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, publication bias, Ralph Nader, random walk, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, selection bias, shareholder value, short selling, Slavoj Žižek, South Sea Bubble, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Predators' Ball, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, women in the workforce, yield curve, zero-coupon bond

They seem to think that building a better model will persuade the main-streamers of the errors of their ways. 4. Of course they were asking these questions on behalf of money managers, who need advice on how to handle the trillions of dollars they "run." 5. Besides comfortable self-sufficiency, one shouldn't discount the macho feel of having dominated chaos with a complex model. 6. In a prisoners' dilemma, two experimental subjects, metaphorically partners in crime, are given the choice of betraying each other or hanging tough for monetary reward. If one defects and the other doesn't, the skunk gets 3 units. If both defect, each gets 1. If both cooperate, each gets 2. 7. One doesn't want to get too carried away naturalizing temperament and values, but the model seems particularly to drive away women and nonwhites, at least in America, because of its chilly irreality.


pages: 621 words: 157,263

How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism by Eric Hobsbawm

anti-communist, banking crisis, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, continuation of politics by other means, creative destruction, currency manipulation / currency intervention, deindustrialization, discovery of the americas, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, full employment, Gunnar Myrdal, labour market flexibility, liberal capitalism, market fundamentalism, mass immigration, means of production, new economy, Simon Kuznets, Thorstein Veblen, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, Vilfredo Pareto, zero-sum game

Indeed, its own scientific affiliations had been non-Galilean and non-Newtonian, for Engels himself maintained a lifelong tenderness for the German ‘natural philosophy’ in which German students of his youth had no doubt been brought up. He sympathised with Kepler rather than Galileo. It is possible that this aspect of the Marxist tradition helped to attract scientists whose field (biology) or whose cast of mind made the mechanical-reductionist models of a science whose greatest triumph was physics, and the analytical method of isolating the experimental subject from its context (‘keeping other things equal’), seem particularly inapposite. Such men (Joseph Needham, C.H. Waddington) were interested in wholes rather than parts, in general systems theory – the phrase was not yet familiar – in ensembles which integrate, in a living reality, phenomena which conventional ‘scientific method’ separated; for instance, ‘bombed yet still functioning cities’ (to use an illustration by Needham suitable to the age of anti-fascism). 55 293 How to Change the World Thirdly, dialectical materialism appeared to provide a way out of the inconsistencies of science by embodying the concept of contradiction in its approach.


The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

Alfred Russel Wallace, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, back-to-the-land, Claude Shannon: information theory, correlation does not imply causation, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, Danny Hillis, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, experimental subject, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, invisible hand, Louis Pasteur, out of africa, phenotype, Thomas Malthus

Moreover, ‘actual observation or authentic testimony’ can be horribly fallible, and is over-rated in courts of law. Psychological experiments have given us some stunning demonstrations, which should worry any jurist inclined to give superior weight to ‘eye-witness’ evidence. A famous example was prepared by Professor Daniel J. Simons at the University of Illinois. Half a dozen young people standing in a circle were filmed for 25 seconds tossing a pair of basketballs to each other, and we, the experimental subjects, watch the film. The players weave in and out of the circle and change places as they pass and bounce the balls, so the scene is quite actively complicated. Before being shown the film, we are told that we have a task to perform, to test our powers of observation. We have to count the total number of times balls are passed from person to person. At the end of the test, the counts are duly written down, but – little does the audience know – this is not the real test!


pages: 598 words: 134,339

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier

23andMe, Airbnb, airport security, AltaVista, Anne Wojcicki, augmented reality, Benjamin Mako Hill, Black Swan, Boris Johnson, Brewster Kahle, Brian Krebs, call centre, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, cloud computing, congestion charging, disintermediation, drone strike, Edward Snowden, experimental subject, failed state, fault tolerance, Ferguson, Missouri, Filter Bubble, Firefox, friendly fire, Google Chrome, Google Glasses, hindsight bias, informal economy, Internet Archive, Internet of things, Jacob Appelbaum, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, license plate recognition, lifelogging, linked data, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, moral panic, Nash equilibrium, Nate Silver, national security letter, Network effects, Occupy movement, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, payday loans, pre–internet, price discrimination, profit motive, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, RFID, Ross Ulbricht, self-driving car, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, South China Sea, stealth mode startup, Steven Levy, Stuxnet, TaskRabbit, telemarketer, Tim Cook: Apple, transaction costs, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, undersea cable, urban planning, WikiLeaks, zero day

We don’t want to live in a society where everybody only ever reads things that reinforce their existing opinions, where we never have spontaneous encounters that enliven, confound, confront, and teach us. In 2012, Facebook ran an experiment in control. It selectively manipulated the newsfeeds of 680,000 users, showing them either happier or sadder status updates. Because Facebook constantly monitors its users—that’s how it turns its users into advertising revenue—it could easily monitor the experimental subjects and collect the results. It found that people who saw happier posts tended to write happier posts, and vice versa. I don’t want to make too much of this result. Facebook only did this for a week, and the effect was small. But once sites like Facebook figure out how to do this effectively, they will be able to monetize this. Not only do women feel less attractive on Mondays; they also feel less attractive when they feel depressed.


pages: 573 words: 157,767

From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel C. Dennett

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Andrew Wiles, Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Build a better mousetrap, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, computer vision, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fermat's Last Theorem, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information asymmetry, information retrieval, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, social intelligence, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, trickle-down economics, Turing machine, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

They are countable (think of vocabulary sizes), and their presence or absence in individual human vectors or hosts is detectable by simple test. Their dissemination can be observed, and now, thanks to the Internet, we have a fine laboratory in which more data can be gathered. As always in a lab, there are prices to pay in restricting the phenomena to a circumscribed artificial environment and in the risk of deep bias in the population of our experimental subjects (not all language users are Internet users, obviously). It is no accident that the population of tokens of the “meme” species (the term), founded by Dawkins in 1976, languished somewhat until the Internet provided an ideal niche for their use. If words are the best memes, why didn’t Dawkins feature them prominently in his exposition? In fact, he began his chapter on cultural evolution by citing the accumulation of changes in English from Chaucer to the present.


pages: 577 words: 149,554

The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey by Michael Huemer

Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, cognitive dissonance, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, framing effect, Gini coefficient, illegal immigration, impulse control, Isaac Newton, Julian Assange, laissez-faire capitalism, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, Milgram experiment, moral hazard, Phillip Zimbardo, profit maximization, profit motive, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Stanford prison experiment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, unbiased observer, uranium enrichment, WikiLeaks

Most thought they would refuse to continue beyond the 150-volt shock (when the learner first demands to be released), and no one saw themselves going beyond 300 volts (when the learner refuses to answer). Their predictions of others’ behavior were only slightly less optimistic: respondents expected that only a pathological fringe of 1–2 percent of the population would proceed all the way to 450 volts. The psychiatrists Milgram surveyed thought that only one experimental subject in a thousand would proceed to the end of the shock board. 6.2.3 Results Milgram’s experiment shows something surprising, not only about our dispositions to obey but also about our self-understanding. The predictions of psychiatrists, students, and lay people fell shockingly far from reality. In the actual experiment, 65 percent of subjects complied fully, eventually administering the 450-volt shock three times to a silent and apparently lifeless victim.


pages: 547 words: 148,732

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

1960s counterculture, Albert Einstein, Anton Chekhov, Burning Man, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Douglas Engelbart, East Village, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, Golden Gate Park, Google Earth, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, Internet Archive, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Marshall McLuhan, Mason jar, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, Mother of all demos, placebo effect, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Whole Earth Catalog

The foundation secured a drug research permit from the FDA and a supply of LSD and mescaline from Al Hubbard and began—to use an Al Hubbard term—“processing clients.” Over the next six years, the foundation would process some 350 people. As James Fadiman and Don Allen recall those years at the foundation (both sat for extensive interviews), it was a thrilling and heady time to be working on what they were convinced was the frontier of human possibility. For the most part, their experimental subjects were “healthy normals” or what Fadiman described as “a healthy neurotic outpatient population.” Each client paid five hundred dollars for a package that included before-and-after personality testing, a guided LSD session, and some follow-up. Al Hubbard “would float in and out,” Don Allen recalls. He “was both our inspiration and our resident expert.” James Fadiman says, “He was the hidden force behind the Menlo Park research.”


pages: 479 words: 144,453

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

23andMe, agricultural Revolution, algorithmic trading, Anne Wojcicki, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, call centre, Chris Urmson, cognitive dissonance, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Deng Xiaoping, don't be evil, drone strike, European colonialism, experimental subject, falling living standards, Flash crash, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, glass ceiling, global village, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Minecraft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, mutually assured destruction, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, placebo effect, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, too big to fail, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, ultimatum game, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

In a country with far more sheep than humans (30 million vs 4.5 million), that is a very significant statement. The Canadian province of Quebec has since passed a similar Act, and other countries are likely to follow suit. Many business corporations also recognise animals as sentient beings, though paradoxically, this often exposes the animals to rather unpleasant laboratory tests. For example, pharmaceutical companies routinely use rats as experimental subjects in the development of antidepressants. According to one widely used protocol, you take a hundred rats (for statistical reliability) and place each rat inside a glass tube filled with water. The rats struggle again and again to climb out of the tubes, without success. After fifteen minutes most give up and stop moving. They just float in the tube, apathetic to their surroundings. You now take another hundred rats, throw them in, but fish them out of the tube after fourteen minutes, just before they are about to despair.


pages: 807 words: 154,435

Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making for an Unknowable Future by Mervyn King, John Kay

"Robert Solow", Airbus A320, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, algorithmic trading, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, autonomous vehicles, availability heuristic, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, battle of ideas, Benoit Mandelbrot, bitcoin, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, Brownian motion, business cycle, business process, capital asset pricing model, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, demographic transition, discounted cash flows, disruptive innovation, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Edward Thorp, Elon Musk, Ethereum, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, experimental subject, fear of failure, feminist movement, financial deregulation, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, Hans Rosling, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income per capita, incomplete markets, inflation targeting, information asymmetry, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Nash equilibrium, Nate Silver, new economy, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, Pierre-Simon Laplace, popular electronics, price mechanism, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, railway mania, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, sealed-bid auction, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Socratic dialogue, South Sea Bubble, spectrum auction, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, The Chicago School, the map is not the territory, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Davenport, Thomas Malthus, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, ultimatum game, urban planning, value at risk, World Values Survey, Yom Kippur War, zero-sum game

A very few professional gamblers are successful because they have observed anomalies, or studied the processes of apparent games of chance particularly carefully – Edward Thorp and the Ritz patrons – and the organisers of gambling establishments are anxious to identify them and exclude them from their casinos. But most regular gamblers are sad people, some in the grip of addiction, some suffering from persistent delusions about their own skill. It is true that when experimental subjects are asked to come up with subjective probabilities using these pignistic methods they can sometimes be persuaded to do so, usually with the aid of pressure from their professors and modest financial compensation for their cooperation. However this politeness in the face of silly requests provides no reason to believe that the numbers derived from such experiments bear any relation to an underlying set of consistent subjective probabilities.


pages: 573 words: 163,302

Year's Best SF 15 by David G. Hartwell; Kathryn Cramer

air freight, Black Swan, disruptive innovation, experimental subject, Georg Cantor, gravity well, job automation, Kuiper Belt, phenotype, semantic web

The warm red of her suit went perfectly with the warm brown of her skin. Leslie felt tall and chilly and ridiculous. “I don’t think anyone will be hurt by knowing calculus, do you?” Solada murmured, when Leslie explained why she was there. “You’re a biologist,” said Leslie. “You know how many forms you have to fill out to do human experimentation. If I want to ask a dozen freshmen whether they’d buy a cookie for a dollar, I have to fill out forms.” “Our experimental subjects filled out their forms,” said Solada. “The viruses fell slightly outside our predicted parameters and got transmitted to a few people close to the original test subjects and then a few people close to them. This is a problem we will remedy in future trials, I assure you.” A grad student with wire-rimmed glasses poked her head around the door. “Solada, we’ve got the people from the Empty Moon here.”


pages: 564 words: 163,106

The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine by M. D. James le Fanu M. D.

Barry Marshall: ulcers, clean water, cuban missile crisis, discovery of penicillin, double helix, experimental subject, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, lateral thinking, meta analysis, meta-analysis, rising living standards, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), stem cell, telerobotics, The Design of Experiments, the scientific method, V2 rocket

There is, though, another much more important reason why young doctors found research a less attractive option: the revolution of clinical science as initiated by Sir Thomas Lewis and carried on by John McMichael and his contemporaries had become exhausted. There are many forms of medical research – synthesising new drugs, inventing new technologies, experimenting on animal models of disease, and so on – but the distinguishing feature of clinical science is that it is practised by doctors with a unique access to the ‘experimental subjects’ – patients with illnesses. Most clinical science involves observing or measuring in some way the phenomena of disease in a living person, rather than a dead one in the autopsy room, usually with some special technique. Thus, in the post-war years at the Postgraduate Medical School, John McMichael used the cardiac catheter to measure pressures within the heart while Sheila Sherlock used the liver biopsy needle to take specimens of the liver from jaundiced patients to make a more accurate diagnosis.


pages: 742 words: 166,595

The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 by Jonathon Sullivan, Andy Baker

complexity theory, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, experimental subject, Gary Taubes, indoor plumbing, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, phenotype, publication bias, randomized controlled trial, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the scientific method, Y Combinator

This abnormal form of hemoglobin can still carry oxygen, but its accumulation in the blood is a marker for the metabolic syndrome, the onset of Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. I suspect HbA1c may also exert direct pathological effects, although this is not known for certain. An important systematic analysis of the data on progressive resistance exercise (that is, actual training) by Irvine and Taylor,22 encompassing 9 randomized controlled trials and 372 experimental subjects, found that strength training led to reductions in HbA1c in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Data on the beneficial effect of resistance training on insulin sensitivity and metabolic syndrome goes back decades,23 although its implications have been slow to percolate up into the consciousness of the public, or even the modern medical mind. Multiple studies demonstrate that muscular strength is inversely associated with the incidence of the metabolic syndrome.24 In other words, the stronger you are, the less likely you are to display the hellish constellation of visceral obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and systemic inflammation that points the way to the Sick Aging Phenotype.


pages: 654 words: 191,864

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Black Swan, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, cognitive bias, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, demand response, endowment effect, experimental economics, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, feminist movement, framing effect, hedonic treadmill, hindsight bias, index card, information asymmetry, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, libertarian paternalism, loss aversion, medical residency, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, nudge unit, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, pre–internet, price anchoring, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Shai Danziger, Supply of New York City Cabdrivers, The Chicago School, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, union organizing, Walter Mischel, Yom Kippur War

If you have the emotional discipline that this rule requires, Bght l d for e you will never consider a small gamble in isolation or be loss averse for a small gamble until you are actually on your deathbed—and not even then. This advice is not impossible to follow. Experienced traders in financial markets live by it every day, shielding themselves from the pain of losses by broad framing. As was mentioned earlier, we now know that experimental subjects could be almost cured of their loss aversion (in a particular context) by inducing them to “think like a trader,” just as experienced baseball card traders are not as susceptible to the endowment effect as novices are. Students made risky decisions (to accept or reject gambles in which they could lose) under different instructions. In the narrow-framing condition, they were told to “make each decision as if it were the only one” and to accept their emotions.


Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society by Nicholas A. Christakis

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, assortative mating, Cass Sunstein, crowdsourcing, David Attenborough, different worldview, disruptive innovation, double helix, epigenetics, experimental economics, experimental subject, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, invention of writing, iterative process, job satisfaction, Joi Ito, joint-stock company, land tenure, Laplace demon, longitudinal study, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, out of africa, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, replication crisis, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, social web, stem cell, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, twin studies, ultimatum game, zero-sum game

Marriage entails social, economic, sexual, and normative expectations in all societies and some degree of patriarchy in most of them.14 From a global, cross-cultural, and historical (or prehistorical) perspective, there is nothing essential about monogamy. The currently ascendant European-style practice of monogamy is just one marriage system. Things like this are sometimes not easy to see. Many biases have historically underpinned the social sciences, biases that have resulted in the neglect of key features of family life and that have assumed, for instance, that the psychology of American college students (the classic experimental subjects) is applicable everywhere. To acknowledge this, contemporary social scientists have adopted the acronym WEIRD (which stands for “Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic”) to describe societies that, in fact, represent only a minority of human cultures and are composed of people quite distinct from a hypothetical “average” human.15 Indeed, roughly 85 percent of human societies have permitted polygyny at some point, and polygyny remains legal or generally accepted for at least part of the population in forty-one countries worldwide, primarily in Africa and Asia.16 And according to a survey conducted from 2000 to 2010, in twenty-six out of the thirty-five countries with polygamy data available, between 10 percent and 53 percent of women aged fifteen to forty-nine were in polygamous relationships.17 The minority of societies in the anthropological and historical record that have practiced monogamy fall into two broad categories at opposite extremes.


pages: 708 words: 176,708

The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire by Wikileaks

affirmative action, anti-communist, banking crisis, battle of ideas, Boycotts of Israel, Bretton Woods, British Empire, capital controls, central bank independence, Chelsea Manning, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, corporate social responsibility, credit crunch, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, drone strike, Edward Snowden, energy security, energy transition, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, experimental subject, F. W. de Klerk, facts on the ground, failed state, financial innovation, Food sovereignty, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, future of journalism, high net worth, invisible hand, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, liberal world order, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, Mohammed Bouazizi, Monroe Doctrine, Nelson Mandela, Northern Rock, Philip Mirowski, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, statistical model, structural adjustment programs, too big to fail, trade liberalization, trade route, UNCLOS, UNCLOS, uranium enrichment, Washington Consensus, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game, éminence grise

As with previous CIA torture practice, for the program to be effective there had to be a range of professionals willing to assist. These included the two psychologists who helped devise the torture program over a period of seven years and were paid $81 million for their services.106 On one occasion they were escorted to Thailand, where Abu Zubaydah was being held, and given the opportunity to use the detainee as an experimental subject on whom to perfect the techniques they were developing, which directly drew on past CIA expertise in the field. In bidding for the contract, the psychologists recommended such techniques as “The attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, water-board, use of diapers, use of insects, and mock burial.” The CIA had been given time before the release of the report to prepare its defense, whose first component was summarized by George Tenet, director of the CIA while the torture program was being rolled out: “We don’t torture people,” he asserted, insisting that the CIA’s methods “saved lives.”107 Tenet refused to substantiate his claim that the CIA’s methods did not constitute torture, simply stating that he would not discuss specific methods.


What Makes Narcissists Tick by Kathleen Krajco

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, British Empire, experimental subject, Norman Mailer, risk/return

Reaction varies with the conditions of the isolation cell. Some sources have indicated a strong reaction to filth and vermin, although they had negligible reactions to the isolation. Others reacted violently to isolation in relatively clean cells. The predominant cause of breakdown in such situations is a lack of sensory stimulation (i.e., grayness of walls, lack of sound, absence of social contact, etc.). Experimental subjects exposed to this condition have reported vivid hallicinations and overwhelming fears of losing their sanity. 4. Control of Communication. This is one of the most effective methods for creating a sense of helplessness and despair. This measure might well be considered the cornerstone of the communist system of control. It consists of strict regulation of the mail, reading materials, broadcast materials, and social contact available to the individual.


pages: 647 words: 43,757

Types and Programming Languages by Benjamin C. Pierce

Albert Einstein, combinatorial explosion, experimental subject, finite state, Henri Poincaré, Perl 6, Russell's paradox, sorting algorithm, Turing complete, Turing machine, type inference, Y Combinator

Indeed, we will see in Chapter 12 that no expression that can lead to non-terminating computations can be typed using only simple types.[9] So, instead of defining fix as a term in the language, we simply add it as a new primitive, with evaluation rules mimicking the behavior of the untyped fix combinator and a typing rule that captures its intended uses. These rules are written out in Figure 11-12. (The letrec abbreviation will be discussed below.) Figure 11-12: General Recursion The simply typed lambda-calculus with numbers and fix has long been a favorite experimental subject for programming language researchers, since it is the simplest language in which a range of subtle semantic phenomena such as full abstraction (Plotkin, 1977, Hyland and Ong, 2000, Abramsky, Jagadeesan, and Malacaria, 2000) arise. It is often called PCF. 11.11.1 Exercise [⋆⋆] Define equal, plus, times, and factorial using fix. The fix construct is typically used to build functions (as fixed points of functions from functions to functions), but it is worth noticing that the type T in rule T-FIX is not restricted to function types.


pages: 698 words: 198,203

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

airport security, Albert Einstein, Bob Geldof, colonial rule, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, fudge factor, George Santayana, Laplace demon, loss aversion, luminiferous ether, Norman Mailer, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, science of happiness, social intelligence, speech recognition, stem cell, Steven Pinker, Thomas Bayes, Thorstein Veblen, traffic fines, urban renewal, Yogi Berra

But given their prevalence in language, it seems more likely that they are the natural products of the way everyone’s mind works. If so, we should be able to catch people in the act of sensing the deep correspondences between superficially different realms that make for a useful analogy or conceptual metaphor. It’s easy to show that people sense the connection in simple metaphors based on a single dimension of space, such as HAPPY IS UP. When experimental subjects are shown words on a screen and have to evaluate whether they are positive (like agile, gracious, and sincere) or negative (like bitter, fickle, and vulgar), they are quicker when a positive word is flashed at the top of the screen or a negative word at the bottom than vice versa. 57 People are also quicker at moving their hand toward a button near their bodies to verify a sentence like Adam conveyed the message to you than to verify You conveyed the message to Adam, and vice versa when they have to move their hand to a button away from their bodies.


pages: 669 words: 195,743

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

Alfred Russel Wallace, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, conceptual framework, coronavirus, dark matter, digital map, double helix, experimental subject, facts on the ground, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, global pandemic, Google Earth, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, out of africa, Pearl River Delta, South China Sea, urban sprawl

This mystery strain proved devastating to rhesus macaques, causing high fevers and high loads of parasites in the blood, killing the animals quickly. In bonnet macaques, though, it had little effect. Knowles and Gupta also injected it into three human volunteers (that is to say, “volunteers,” their freedom to decline having been a dubious matter), one of whom was a local man who had come to the hospital for treatment of a rat bite on his foot. This poor guy got very sick—not from the rat bite but from the injected malaria. In those experimental subjects (monkey and human) who suffered intermittent fevers, Knowles and Gupta noticed that the period of the fever cycle was one day, as distinct from the two-day or three-day cycles known for human malarias. Knowles and Gupta published a paper on the unusual parasite but didn’t give it a name. Soon afterward another set of scientists did, labeling it Plasmodium knowlesi in honor of its senior discoverer.


pages: 843 words: 223,858

The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells

"Robert Solow", Apple II, Asian financial crisis, barriers to entry, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bob Noyce, borderless world, British Empire, business cycle, capital controls, complexity theory, computer age, computerized trading, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, declining real wages, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, deskilling, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, edge city, experimental subject, financial deregulation, financial independence, floating exchange rates, future of work, global village, Gunnar Myrdal, Hacker Ethic, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, illegal immigration, income inequality, Induced demand, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, intermodal, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, job-hopping, John Markoff, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, laissez-faire capitalism, Leonard Kleinrock, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, Menlo Park, moral panic, new economy, New Urbanism, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open economy, packet switching, Pearl River Delta, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, popular capitalism, popular electronics, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social software, South China Sea, South of Market, San Francisco, special economic zone, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, the medium is the message, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, urban renewal, urban sprawl, zero-sum game

In fact, some insurance companies would rather welcome euthanasia, and would like to send patients home as soon as possible, a cynical view daily fought against by doctors. Without this relentless will to reject the inevitable, valuable lessons would be lost, and our collective ability to survive and overcome suffering would be hampered. Yet the societal impact of such efforts, along with less-noble enterprises of using terminal patients as experimental subjects, is tantamount to the denial of death until its very last act. So strong is the temporal and spatial confinement of death that the overwhelming majority of deaths (80 percent in the US, and a growing proportion in all countries: see figure 7.2 for Japan, a society with a strong family culture) takes place in hospital, very often in special intensive care units, with the bodies already removed from their social and emotional environments.


pages: 1,294 words: 210,361

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Barry Marshall: ulcers, conceptual framework, discovery of penicillin, experimental subject, iterative process, Joan Didion, life extension, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mouse model, New Journalism, phenotype, randomized controlled trial, Robert Mercer, scientific mainstream, Silicon Valley, social web, statistical model, stem cell, women in the workforce, Year of Magical Thinking, éminence grise

Like lymphoblastic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease is a rare illness, but the researchers did not need to look hard to find patients. Advanced Hodgkin’s disease, often accompanied by the spectral B symptoms, was uniformly fatal. Young men and women (the disease typically strikes men and women in their twenties and thirties) were often referred to the NCI as hopeless cases—and therefore ideal experimental subjects. In just three years, DeVita and Canellos thus accumulated cases at a furious clip, forty-three patients in all. Nine had been blasted with increasing fields of radiation, à la Kaplan, and still progressed inexorably to disseminated, widely metastatic disease. Others had been treated with an ad hoc mix of single agents. None had shown any durable response to prior drugs. So, like the younger band of leukemics that had gone before them, a fresh new cohort appeared at the institute every two weeks, occupying the plastic chairs of the Clinical Center, lining up for the government-issued cookies and awaiting the terrifying onslaught of the experimental drugs.


pages: 798 words: 240,182

The Transhumanist Reader by Max More, Natasha Vita-More

23andMe, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, data acquisition, discovery of DNA, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, experimental subject, Extropian, fault tolerance, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, friendly AI, game design, germ theory of disease, hypertext link, impulse control, index fund, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, phenotype, positional goods, prediction markets, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, RFID, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, silicon-based life, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, stem cell, stochastic process, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, the built environment, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

From the date on the forward, probably written before 1937. Swanwick, Michael (1986/7) Vacuum Flowers. Serialized in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (December(?) 1986–February 1987). Thearling, Kurt (1992) “How We Will Build a Machine That Thinks.” A workshop at Thinking Machines Corporation, August 24–26. Vinge, Vernor (1966) “Bookworm, Run!” Analog (March), pp. 8–40. Early intelligence amplification story. The hero is the first experimental subject – a chimpanzee raised to human intelligence. Vinge, Vernor (1981) “True Names.” In Binary Star 5. New York: Dell. Vinge, Vernor (1983) “First Word.” Omni 10 (January). Earlier essay on “the Singularity.” “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era,” by Vernor Vinge, was presented at the VISION-21 Symposium sponsored by NASA Lewis Center and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, March 30–31, 1993.


pages: 778 words: 227,196

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, animal electricity, British Empire, Copley Medal, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Etonian, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Harrison: Longitude, music of the spheres, placebo effect, polynesian navigation, Richard Feynman, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, trade route, unbiased observer, University of East Anglia, éminence grise

Her muscular motions were uncommonly violent.’67 Joseph Cottle recorded a rumour that another young woman was overcome by hysterical excitement, ran out of the laboratory, and rushed screaming down the street towards the Avon, where she was somewhat bizarrely reported to have ‘jumped over a large dog’ before she could be restrained and brought back. This case does not appear in Davy’s notes, but the idea that women could be made to lose their inhibitions, and might even be sexually aroused by nitrous oxide, persisted. With his experimental subjects, Davy monitored pulse rates, and required them to undergo certain standard tests, such as gazing at a candle flame and listening to bells. He wanted to record physiological changes, such as distortions of vision and hearing. But gradually he became more and more interested in subjective responses. He asked his Institution patients to put into words exactly what they were feeling. This proved surprisingly difficult, and early responses ranged from ‘I don’t know how, but very queer’; to ‘I felt like the sound of a harp.’68 Davy now conceived a new and original line of investigation.


pages: 1,034 words: 241,773

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

3D printing, access to a mobile phone, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Ayatollah Khomeini, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, endogenous growth, energy transition, European colonialism, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, frictionless, frictionless market, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, l'esprit de l'escalier, Laplace demon, life extension, long peace, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, Martin Wolf, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, nuclear winter, obamacare, open economy, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, precision agriculture, prediction markets, purchasing power parity, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Saturday Night Live, science of happiness, Scientific racism, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, sovereign wealth fund, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, supervolcano, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, union organizing, universal basic income, University of East Anglia, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey, Y2K

Which policies will in fact bring about things that almost everyone wants, like lasting peace or economic growth? Which will reduce poverty, or violent crime, or illiteracy? A rational society should seek the answers by consulting the world rather than assuming the omniscience of a bloc of opinionators who have coalesced around a creed. Unfortunately, the expressive rationality documented by Kahan in his experimental subjects also applies to editorialists and experts. The payoffs that determine their reputations don’t coincide with the accuracy of the predictions, since no one is keeping score. Instead, their reputations hinge on their ability to entertain, titillate, or shock; on their ability to instill confidence or fear (in the hopes that a prophecy might be self-fulfilling or self-defeating); and on their skill in galvanizing a coalition and celebrating its virtue.


pages: 913 words: 265,787

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, double helix, experimental subject, feminist movement, four colour theorem, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, hedonic treadmill, Henri Poincaré, income per capita, information retrieval, invention of agriculture, invention of the wheel, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lake wobegon effect, lateral thinking, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, Mikhail Gorbachev, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Necker cube, out of africa, pattern recognition, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, random walk, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, sexual politics, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, Turing machine, urban decay, Yogi Berra

A baby could experience the blooming and buzzing all its life unless it was equipped with a mental mechanism that interpreted the blooms and buzzes as the outward signs of persisting objects that follow mechanical laws. We should expect infants to show some appreciation of physics from the start. Only careful laboratory studies can tell us what it is like—rather, what it was like—to be a baby. Unfortunately, infants are difficult experimental subjects, worse than rats and sophomores. They can’t easily be conditioned, and they don’t talk. But an ingenious technique, refined by the psychologists Elizabeth Spelke and Renée Baillargeon, capitalizes on one feat that infants are good at: getting bored. When infants see the same old thing again and again, they signal their boredom by looking away. If a new thing appears, they perk up and stare.


pages: 961 words: 302,613

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H. W. Brands

always be closing, British Empire, business intelligence, colonial rule, complexity theory, Copley Medal, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, music of the spheres, Republic of Letters, scientific mainstream, South Sea Bubble, Thomas Malthus, trade route

Paul’s Cathedral in London on how to preserve Christopher Wren’s masterwork from lightning bolts. A venture by William Franklin into farming prompted his father to delve into the latest thinking on scientific agriculture. The possibility of starting a British silk industry propelled him into the natural history of the silkworm and the mulberry tree. He devised a new phonetic alphabet to regularize English spelling. Polly Stevenson was his experimental subject in this endeavor. “Diir Pali,” he wrote her—in a note that then introduced six invented letters (irreproducible without Franklin’s special fonts) and numerous redefinitions of use and pronunciation. He conceded that convincing anyone else to employ the new alphabet would be difficult. But it was worth trying. English spelling was already so far from pronunciation as to make literacy difficult for native speakers, nearly impossible for foreigners.


pages: 1,535 words: 337,071

Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World by David Easley, Jon Kleinberg

Albert Einstein, AltaVista, clean water, conceptual framework, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Douglas Hofstadter, Erdős number, experimental subject, first-price auction, fudge factor, George Akerlof, Gerard Salton, Gerard Salton, Gödel, Escher, Bach, incomplete markets, information asymmetry, information retrieval, John Nash: game theory, Kenneth Arrow, longitudinal study, market clearing, market microstructure, moral hazard, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, Pareto efficiency, Paul Erdős, planetary scale, prediction markets, price anchoring, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, random walk, recommendation engine, Richard Thaler, Ronald Coase, sealed-bid auction, search engine result page, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, Simon Singh, slashdot, social web, Steve Jobs, stochastic process, Ted Nelson, The Market for Lemons, The Wisdom of Crowds, trade route, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Vannevar Bush, Vickrey auction, Vilfredo Pareto, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

Similar datasets have been constructed from the e-mail logs within a company [6] or a university [255], as well as from records of phone calls: researchers have studied the structure of call 50 CHAPTER 2. GRAPHS graphs in which each node is a phone number, and there is an edge between two if they engaged in a phone call over a given observation period [1, 328]. One can also use the fact that mobile phones with short-range wireless technology can detect other similar devices nearby. By equipping a group of experimental subjects with such devices and studying the traces they record, researchers can thereby build “face-to-face” graphs that record physical proximity: a node in such a graph is a person carrying one of the mobile devices, and there is an edge joining two people if they were detected to be in close physical proximity over a given observation period [140, 141]. In almost all of these kinds of datasets, the nodes represent customers, employees, or students of the organization that maintains the data.


pages: 1,051 words: 334,334

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

centre right, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, ought to be enough for anybody, plutocrats, Plutocrats, random walk

The man will suffer—perhaps, in some clinical way, be destroyed—but how many others tonight are suffering in his name? For pity's sake, every day in Whitehall they're weighing and taking risks that make his, in this, seem almost trivial. Almost. There's something here, too transparent and swift to get a hold on—Psi Section might speak of ectoplasms—but he knows that the time has never been better, and that the exact experimental subject is in his hands. He must seize now, or be doomed to the same stone hallways, whose termination he knows. But he must remain open— even to the possibility that the Psi people are right. "We may all be right," he puts in his journal tonight, "so may be all we have speculated, and more. Whatever we may find, there can be no doubt that he is, physiologically, historically, a monster. We must never lose control.


The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, computer age, Donald Trump, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Georg Cantor, hedonic treadmill, Henri Poincaré, Lao Tzu, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, meta analysis, meta-analysis, music of the spheres, Necker cube, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, pattern recognition, randomized controlled trial, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Schrödinger's Cat, social intelligence, social web, source of truth, stem cell, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind

Another’s perpetual cough tickles my lungs and throat. I’m more reluctant to visit those I love and am bound to care for, when they’re sick, than those I care less about, and mean less to me. I adopt their disease that troubles me, and make it my own.69 Here we find him observing, more than 400 years before the experiments were done, what we know about empathy and mimesis. And he was his own experimental subject. Empathic as he was, he observed himself with detachment. This optimal relation of the self to others, and the optimal distance from oneself to achieve it, is embodied in the writings of many Renaissance writers, but as time wears on, one can feel it coming under strain. Donne has some fasci nating passages, both in his poems and in his Meditations, on the eyes and self-exploration; on seeing oneself reflected in other’s eyes.


pages: 1,351 words: 385,579

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, Broken windows theory, business cycle, California gold rush, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, clean water, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, crack epidemic, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demographic transition, desegregation, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, experimental subject, facts on the ground, failed state, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fudge factor, full employment, George Santayana, ghettoisation, Gini coefficient, global village, Henri Poincaré, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, impulse control, income inequality, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, long peace, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, mass incarceration, McMansion, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Republic of Letters, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, security theater, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, twin studies, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

With the usual spaghetti of variables, it’s impossible to be certain what caused what, but the results are consistent with the idea that the disinterested justice of a decent Leviathan induces citizens to curb their impulse for revenge before it spirals into a destructive cycle. Revenge, for all its tendency to escalate, must come with a dimmer switch. If it didn’t, the Moralization Gap would inflate every affront into an escalating feud, like the experimental subjects who mashed down on each other’s fingers harder and harder with every round. Not only does revenge not always escalate, especially in civil societies with the rule of law, but we shouldn’t expect it to. The models of the evolution of cooperation showed that the most successful agents dial back their tit-for-tatting with contrition and forgiveness, especially when trapped in the same boat with other agents.


Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

affirmative action, Ayatollah Khomeini, card file, defense in depth, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, experimental subject, financial independence, friendly fire, lateral thinking, Monroe Doctrine, one-China policy, out of africa, Own Your Own Home, plutocrats, Plutocrats, rolodex, South China Sea, trade route

He required the same of his people, for such was his devotion that he went beyond the teachings of Islam without even knowing it, bending such rules as stood in his way as though they were made of rubber, and at the same time telling himself that, no, he never violated the Prophet's Holy Word, or Allah's Will. How could he be doing that? He was helping to bring the world back to the Faith. The prisoners, the experimental subjects, were all condemned men in one way or another. Even the thieves, lesser criminals, had four times violated the Holy Koran, and they had probably committed other crimes as well, perhaps-probably, he told himself-those worthy of death. Every day they were informed of the time for prayer, and though they knelt and bowed and mouthed the prayers, you could tell by watching them on the TV monitor that they were merely going through the ritual, not truly praying to Allah in the manner prescribed.