In silico veritas.

A slice of the ‘net, vol. 1

Posted: December 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Education, Politics, Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Here are a few things that have piqued my interest of late.

How Perception of Time Relates to Decision-Making

This lecture by Professor Philip Zimbardo, he of the infamous Stanford prison experiment, is absolutely fascinating. The video is well worth the ten minutes of your time it’ll take. I couldn’t help but think of my own time-perception leanings — I’m past-positive and present-hedonistic, primarily — as well as nod in agreement/self-recognition in the segment about how education must change in the face of an increasingly digitalized generation. What’s your perception of time, and how has it affected the way you live your life?

Saudi Arabia’s Creeping Liberalization

Or so we can hope. It’s actually kind of exciting to see this move forward, as I wrote briefly about the unveiling three years ago of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (mentioned in the article). The article does an excellent job of portraying Saudi Arabia as on a precipice of sorts — either this newest liberalization initiative will succeed and open the door for future efforts, or it could backfire horrifically and give broad political cover for the religious hardliners in the political establishment.

Want a Job? Give Yourself One

The New York Times examines a growing trend, and one I might very well be joining myself: recent college grads starting up their own businesses rather than shopping their résumés around hundreds of times to no avail.

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Latter-day learning

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Education, Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Responding to this New York Times feature, MG Siegler reflects on learning in an age of constant connectivity:

I’m tempted to be cautious in the way I say this, but I can’t come up with a real reason to be, so I’ll just say it: I have definitely learned a lot more on the Internet than I ever did in high school.

High school, at least when I attended it, was much more about learning social skills than educational information. The education side of things was more like one big game. You had to figure out how to play the game so you could get into a good college. It was about memorizing things for tests that you’d forget a week later, and figuring out how you could do your homework in the free period before the class in which it was due. I more or less remember nothing from high school beyond the times I spent with friends. And I know I’m not alone there.

One major problem with high school learning is that you are forced to take certain classes which you couldn’t care less about. I understand that the rationale behind this is that it makes you a more “full” person, and you might learn you love something that you didn’t realize you would. But that mentality is from a pre-connected world. I would guess that a lot of students these days know what they’re really passionate about at a much earlier age, thanks to the Internet.

Certain people will need to go to places of higher education for the access those institutions have to tools that a person would otherwise not be able to get access to. And there’s no denying the value of a good teacher/professor. And certain people will definitely always benefit from the combination of social environment mixed with structured learning. But not everyone learns the same way.

If you’re a self-starter, why shouldn’t you be able to get your education on the web? Because there are too many distractions?

I personally find it remarkable that it’s 2010 and we haven’t yet had a serious discussion along these lines. MG’s summary hit the nail on the head in my case.

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What would you cut?

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

This interactive budget deficit feature from the New York Times has been making the rounds in conjunction with multiple élite perspectives on the recently-announced Simpson-Bowles plan. Reuters’ Felix Salmon criticized the tool for what he saw as artificially limiting various budget and tax options. My own deficit-busting plan is here:

While I’m no budgetary expert — and as such am in little position to pass judgment on the validity of Salmon’s criticisms of the NYT’s budget tool — I found it an informative experience. And I think this is where Salmon’s criticisms miss their mark. While Atlantic readers, or avid NYT or Reuters readers, might have identified some of the same deficiencies as Salmon brings up and indeed might even sympathize with them, the NYT’s tool is still factually correct in its summarization of the major details and probable effects of various budgetary and taxation options. That’s good enough for 98% of people using this tool.

I suspect that that was the entire point: to move the deficit debate from the realm of the abstract, even for the reasonably well-informed, into a concrete and manipulable entity in order to move the public discourse onwards and upwards. The built-in Twitter integration is key in spreading the deficit-busting fun from one predisposed policy wonk to his friends and family, and on and on from there until suddenly average Americans are talking seriously about previously arcane concepts like capping Medicare growth to 1% above GDP growth starting in 2013. That can only be a good thing.