Links to Consider
Fergus McCullough on Alcohol; Erik Hoel on Culture; Connie Morgan on education
Alcohol is bad, too much alcohol is really bad, and we could go a significant distance toward solving this problem if we could work out the political economy a bit better. But we can’t work out the political economy, at least for now. Unless there is a sudden national temperance movement, a combination of inertia and the drinks industry’s lobbying efforts means that change is unlikely.
This is his conclusion from reading Drink? by David Nutt. Pointer from Tyler Cowen.
Erik Hoel won Scott Alexander’s book review contest with this essay.
A “gossip trap” is when your whole world doesn’t exceed Dunbar’s number and to organize your society you are forced to discuss mostly people. …Being in the gossip trap means reputational management imposes such a steep slope you can’t climb out of it, and essentially prevents the development of anything interesting, like art or culture or new ideas or new developments or anything at all. Everyone just lives like crabs in a bucket, pulling each other down. All cognitive resources go to reputation management in the group, to being popular, leaving nothing left in the tank for invention or creativity or art or engineering. Again, much like high school.
And this explains why violating the Dunbar number forces you to invent civilization—at a certain size (possibly a lot larger than the actual Dunbar number) you simply can’t organize society using the non-ordinal natural social hierarchy of humans.
…what would it be, mentally, to atavistically return to that gossip trap?
Well, it sure would look a lot like Twitter.
I’m serious. It would look a lot like Twitter. For it’s on social media that gossip and social manipulation are unbounded, infinitely transmittable.
I keep saying that the smart phone and social media smash together the intimate world and the remote world. In the intimate world, gossip is the strong social force. In the remote world, institutions with their formal roles are supposed to be the strong social force. But modern technology has weakened formal roles, and we are falling back on gossip.
Human capital management is probably the most obvious tenet of improving education. In other words, get rid of teachers who won’t embrace the mission and hire ones that will. This tenet is likely the most difficult to execute. Politics and scarcity of resources are the challenges. A whopping 19 out of 20 principals were replaced in the Houston experiment. It took over 300 interviews to find 19 principals to replace them. Of the teachers, 46% were replaced. The district spent more than $5 million buying out teacher contracts. Additionally, feedback to teachers was constant. In the treatment schools, teachers received ten times more observations and feedback than those in the control group. Principals regularly lead staff development and training sessions.
She is describing Roland Fryer’s apparently successful attempt to implement educational interventions based on his research. Morgan writes,
Math achievement rose significantly in the schools that implemented Fryer’s tenets. Assessment scores increased by 0.15 to 0.18 standard deviations in a year. In layman’s terms, under this program, there is potential to close the math achievement gap between black and white students in less than three years
This assumes that with more years of intervention, gains would cumulate. The Null Hypothesis says that the gains would fade out.
Alcohol is bad, too much alcohol is really bad, and we could go a significant distance toward solving this problem if we could work out…’
Who ‘we’ Paleface? People who think alcohol is a ‘problem’ that needs fixing are censorious busybodies who don’t like the idea of others being free to do as they wish or have fun.
Regarding Fergus McCullough's post on alcohol. We've already run the experiment on alcohol prohibition. It didn't work. Anyone wanting to read a good book on the subject should read Daniel Okrent's "Last Call." One thing Okrent points out is that during Prohibition alcohol was available 7X24. After repeal, there was much tighter control. Much better to tax & regulate.