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Physiognomy’s New Clothes – Blaise Aguera y Arcas – Medium
"In 1844, a laborer from a small town in southern Italy was put on trial for stealing “five ricottas, a hard cheese, two loaves of bread […] and two kid goats”. The laborer, Giuseppe Villella, was reportedly convicted of being a brigante (bandit), at a time when brigandage — banditry and state insurrection — was seen as endemic. Villella died in prison in Pavia, northern Italy, in 1864.

Villella’s death led to the birth of modern criminology. Nearby lived a scientist and surgeon named Cesare Lombroso, who believed that brigantes were a primitive type of people, prone to crime. Examining Villella’s remains, Lombroso found “evidence” confirming his belief: a depression on the occiput of the skull reminiscent of the skulls of “savages and apes”.

Using precise measurements, Lombroso recorded further physical traits he found indicative of derangement, including an “asymmetric face”. Criminals, Lombroso wrote, were “born criminals”. He held that criminality is inherited, and carries with it inherited physical characteristics that can be measured with instruments like calipers and craniographs [1]. This belief conveniently justified his a priori assumption that southern Italians were racially inferior to northern Italians.

The practice of using people’s outer appearance to infer inner character is called physiognomy. While today it is understood to be pseudoscience, the folk belief that there are inferior “types” of people, identifiable by their facial features and body measurements, has at various times been codified into country-wide law, providing a basis to acquire land, block immigration, justify slavery, and permit genocide. When put into practice, the pseudoscience of physiognomy becomes the pseudoscience of scientific racism.

Rapid developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled scientific racism to enter a new era, in which machine-learned models embed biases present in the human behavior used for model development. Whether intentional or not, this “laundering” of human prejudice through computer algorithms can make those biases appear to be justified objectively.

A recent case in point is Xiaolin Wu and Xi Zhang’s paper, “Automated Inference on Criminality Using Face Images”, submitted to arXiv (a popular online repository for physics and machine learning researchers) in November 2016. Wu and Zhang’s claim is that machine learning techniques can predict the likelihood that a person is a convicted criminal with nearly 90% accuracy using nothing but a driver’s license-style face photo. Although the paper was not peer-reviewed, its provocative findings generated a range of press coverage. [2]
Many of us in the research community found Wu and Zhang’s analysis deeply problematic, both ethically and scientifically. In one sense, it’s nothing new. However, the use of modern machine learning (which is both powerful and, to many, mysterious) can lend these old claims new credibility.

In an era of pervasive cameras and big data, machine-learned physiognomy can also be applied at unprecedented scale. Given society’s increasing reliance on machine learning for the automation of routine cognitive tasks, it is urgent that developers, critics, and users of artificial intelligence understand both the limits of the technology and the history of physiognomy, a set of practices and beliefs now being dressed in modern clothes. Hence, we are writing both in depth and for a wide audience: not only for researchers, engineers, journalists, and policymakers, but for anyone concerned about making sure AI technologies are a force for good.

We will begin by reviewing how the underlying machine learning technology works, then turn to a discussion of how machine learning can perpetuate human biases."



"Research shows that the photographer’s preconceptions and the context in which the photo is taken are as important as the faces themselves; different images of the same person can lead to widely different impressions. It is relatively easy to find a pair of images of two individuals matched with respect to age, race, and gender, such that one of them looks more trustworthy or more attractive, while in a different pair of images of the same people the other looks more trustworthy or more attractive."



"On a scientific level, machine learning can give us an unprecedented window into nature and human behavior, allowing us to introspect and systematically analyze patterns that used to be in the domain of intuition or folk wisdom. Seen through this lens, Wu and Zhang’s result is consistent with and extends a body of research that reveals some uncomfortable truths about how we tend to judge people.

On a practical level, machine learning technologies will increasingly become a part of all of our lives, and like many powerful tools they can and often will be used for good — including to make judgments based on data faster and fairer.

Machine learning can also be misused, often unintentionally. Such misuse tends to arise from an overly narrow focus on the technical problem, hence:

• Lack of insight into sources of bias in the training data;
• Lack of a careful review of existing research in the area, especially outside the field of machine learning;
• Not considering the various causal relationships that can produce a measured correlation;
• Not thinking through how the machine learning system might actually be used, and what societal effects that might have in practice.

Wu and Zhang’s paper illustrates all of the above traps. This is especially unfortunate given that the correlation they measure — assuming that it remains significant under more rigorous treatment — may actually be an important addition to the already significant body of research revealing pervasive bias in criminal judgment. Deep learning based on superficial features is decidedly not a tool that should be deployed to “accelerate” criminal justice; attempts to do so, like Faception’s, will instead perpetuate injustice."
blaiseaguerayarcas  physiognomy  2017  facerecognition  ai  artificialintelligence  machinelearning  racism  bias  xiaolinwu  xi  zhang  race  profiling  racialprofiling  giuseppevillella  cesarelombroso  pseudoscience  photography  chrononet  deeplearning  alexkrizhevsky  ilyasutskever  geoffreyhinton  gillevi  talhassner  alexnet  mugshots  objectivity  giambattistadellaporta  francisgalton  samuelnorton  josiahnott  georgegiddon  charlesdarwin  johnhoward  thomasclarkson  williamshakespeare  iscnewton  ernsthaeckel  scientificracism  jamesweidmann  faception  criminality  lawenforcement  faces  doothelange  mikeburton  trust  trustworthiness  stephenjaygould  philippafawcett  roberthughes  testosterone  gender  criminalclass  aggression  risk  riskassessment  judgement  brianholtz  shermanalexie  feedbackloops  identity  disability  ableism  disabilities 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Cyborgology: What is The History of The Quantified Self a History of?
[from Part 1: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/13/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-1/]

"In the past few months, I’ve posted about two works of long-form scholarship on the Quantified Self: Debora Lupton’s The Quantified Self and Gina Neff and Dawn Nufus’s Self-Tracking. Neff recently edited a volume of essays on QS (Quantified: Biosensing Technologies in Everyday Life, MIT 2016), but I’d like to take a not-so-brief break from reviewing books to address an issue that has been on my mind recently. Most texts that I read about the Quantified Self (be they traditional scholarship or more informal) refer to a meeting in 2007 at the house of Kevin Kelly for the official start to the QS movement. And while, yes, the name “Quantified Self” was coined by Kelly and his colleague Gary Wolf (the former founded Wired, the latter was an editor for the magazine), the practice of self-tracking obviously goes back much further than 10 years. Still, most historical references to the practice often point to Sanctorius of Padua, who, per an oft-cited study by consultant Melanie Swan, “studied energy expenditure in living systems by tracking his weight versus food intake and elimination for 30 years in the 16th century.” Neff and Nufus cite Benjamin Franklin’s practice of keeping a daily record of his time use. These anecdotal histories, however, don’t give us much in terms of understanding what a history of the Quantified Self is actually a history of.

Briefly, what I would like to prove over the course of a few posts is that at the heart of QS are statistics, anthropometrics, and psychometrics. I recognize that it’s not terribly controversial to suggest that these three technologies (I hesitate to call them “fields” here because of how widely they can be applied), all developed over the course of the nineteenth century, are critical to the way that QS works. Good thing, then, that there is a second half to my argument: as I touched upon briefly in my [shameless plug alert] Theorizing the Web talk last week, these three technologies were also critical to the proliferation of eugenics, that pseudoscientific attempt at strengthening the whole of the human race by breeding out or killing off those deemed deficient.

I don’t think it’s very hard to see an analogous relationship between QS and eugenics: both movements are predicated on anthropometrics and psychometrics, comparisons against norms, and the categorization and classification of human bodies as a result of the use of statistical technologies. But an analogy only gets us so far in seeking to build a history. I don’t think we can just jump from Francis Galton’s ramblings at the turn of one century to Kevin Kelly’s at the turn of the next. So what I’m going to attempt here is a sort of Foucauldian genealogy—from what was left of eugenics after its [rightful, though perhaps not as complete as one would hope] marginalization in the 1940s through to QS and the multi-billion dollar industry the movement has inspired.

I hope you’ll stick around for the full ride—it’s going to take a a number of weeks. For now, let’s start with a brief introduction to that bastion of Western exceptionalism: the eugenics movement."

[from Part 2: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/20/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-2/

"Here we begin to see an awkward situation in our quest to draw a line from Galton and hard-line eugenics (we will differentiate between hardline and “reform” eugenics further on) to the quantified self movement. Behaviorism sits diametrically opposed to eugenics for a number of reasons. Firstly, it does not distinguish between human and animal beings—certainly a tenet to which Galton and his like would object, understanding that humans are the superior species and a hierarchy of greatness existing within that species as well. Secondly, behaviorism accepts that outside, environmental influences will change the psychology of a subject. In 1971, Skinner argued that “An experimental analysis shifts the determination of behavior from autonomous man to the environment—an environment responsible both for the evolution of the species and for the repertoire acquired by each member” (214). This stands in direct conflict with the eugenical ideal that physical and psychological makeup is determined by heredity. Indeed, the eugenicist Robert Yerkes, otherwise close with Watson, wholly rejected the behaviorist’s views (Hergenhahn 400). Tracing the quantified-self’s behaviorist and self-experimental roots, then, leaves us without a very strong connection to the ideologies driving eugenics. Still, using Pearson as a hint, there may be a better path to follow."]

[from Part 3: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/27/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-3/

"The history of Galton and eugenics, then, can be traced into the history of personality tests. Once again, we come up against an awkward transition—this time from personality tests into the Quantified Self. Certainly, shades of Galtonian psychometrics show themselves to be present in QS technologies—that is, the treatment of statistical datasets for the purpose of correlation and prediction. Galton’s word association tests strongly influenced the MBTI, a test that, much like Quantified Self projects, seeks to help a subject make the right decisions in their life, though not through traditional Galtonian statistical tools. The MMPI and 16PFQ are for psychological evaluative purposes. And while some work has been done to suggest that “mental wellness” can be improved through self-tracking (see Kelley et al., Wolf 2009), much of the self-tracking ethos is based on factors that can be adjusted in order to see a correlative change in the subject (Wolf 2009). That is, by tracking my happiness on a daily basis against the amount of coffee I drink or the places I go, then I am acknowledging an environmental approach and declaring that my current psychological state is not set by my genealogy. A gap, then, between Galtonian personality tests and QS."]

[from Part 4 (Finale): https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/05/08/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-the-finale/

"What is the history of the quantified self a history of? One could point to technological advances in circuitry miniaturization or in big data collection and processing. The proprietary and patented nature of the majority of QS devices precludes certain types of inquiry into their invention and proliferation. But it is not difficult to identify one of QS’s most critical underlying tenets: self-tracking for the purpose of self-improvement through the identification of behavioral and environmental variables critical to one’s physical and psychological makeup. Recognizing the importance of this premise to QS allows us to trace back through the scientific fields which have strongly influenced the QS movement—from both a consumer and product standpoint. Doing so, however, reveals a seeming incommensurability between an otherwise analogous pair: QS and eugenics. A eugenical emphasis on heredity sits in direct conflict to a self-tracker’s belief that a focus on environmental factors could change one’s life for the better—even while both are predicated on statistical analysis, both purport to improve the human stock, and both, as argued by Dale Carrico, make assertions towards what is a “normal” human.

A more complicated relationship between the two is revealed upon attempting this genealogical connection. What I have outlined over the past few weeks is, I hope, only the beginning of such a project. I chose not to produce a rhetorical analysis of the visual and textual language of efficiency in both movements—from that utilized by the likes of Frederick Taylor and his eugenicist protégés, the Gilbreths, to what Christina Cogdell calls “Biological Efficiency and Streamline Design” in her work, Eugenic Design, and into a deep trove of rhetoric around efficiency utilized by market-available QS device marketers. Nor did I aim to produce an exhaustive bibliographic lineage. I did, however, seek to use the strong sense of self-experimentation in QS to work backwards towards the presence of behaviorism in early-twentieth century eugenical rhetoric. Then, moving in the opposite direction, I tracked the proliferation of Galtonian psychometrics into mid-century personality test development and eventually into the risk-management goals of the neoliberal surveillance state. I hope that what I have argued will lead to a more in-depth investigation into each step along this homological relationship. In the grander scheme, I see this project as part of a critical interrogation into the Quantified Self. By throwing into sharp relief the linkages between eugenics and QS, I seek to encourage resistance to fetishizing the latter’s technologies and their output, as well as the potential for meaningful change via those technologies."]
gabischaffzin  quantifiedself  2017  kevinkelly  garywolf  eugenics  anthropometrics  psychometrics  measurement  statistics  heredity  francisgalton  charlesdarwin  adolphequetelet  normal  psychology  pernilsroll-hansen  michelfoucault  majianadesan  self-regulation  marginalization  anthropology  technology  data  personality  henryfairfieldosborn  moralbehaviorism  behaviorism  williamepstein  mitchelldean  neoliberalism  containment  risk  riskassessment  freedom  rehabilitation  responsibility  obligation  dalecarrico  fredericktaylor  christinacogdell  surveillance  nikolasrose  myers-briggs  mbti  katherinebriggs  isabelbriggsmeyers  bellcurve  emilkraepelin  charlesspearman  rymondcattell  personalitytests  allenneuringer  microsoft  self-experimentation  gamification  deborahlupton  johnwatson  robertyerkes  ginaneff  dawnnufus  self-tracking  melanieswan  benjaminfranklin  recordkeeping  foucault 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting - Bloomberg View
"Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Maryland want to raise their children as "free-range kids," which is to say giving them the kind of range of movement that those of us over 30 recall as a normal part of childhood. One of my cherished childhood memories is the long walks my best friend and I would take home from church through New York's Riverside Park, which Google Maps records as a distance of a mile and a half, stopping at every playground along the way. This is slightly longer than the walk home from the playground that caused Montgomery County's Child Protective Services to investigate the Meitivs last year, after someone called the police to report the alarming sight of ... children walking down the street alone. On Sunday, after another "good Samaritan" called the cops, CPS seized the children, leaving the parents frantic with worry for hours.

One could argue that this is a good lesson for the parents. One could also argue that it would be bracing to have the police periodically break into our homes to educate us about weak points in our security systems. In fact, the sort of abduction that CPS apparently wants the Meitivs to obsess over is incredibly rare and always has been.

Why has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children? Parents hover over their kids as if every step might be their last. If they don't hover, strangers do, calling the police to report any parent who leaves their child to run into the store for a few minutes. What's truly strange is that the parents who are doing this were themselves left to their own devices in cars, allowed to ride their bikes and walk to the store unsupervised, and otherwise given the (limited) freedom that they are now determined to deny their own kids. The police are making arrests that would have branded their own parents as criminals. To hear people my age talk about the dangers of unsupervised children, you would think that the attrition rate in our generation had been at least 30 percent.

Even people who haven't gone crazy are afraid of the Pediatric Patrol. A mom of my acquaintance whose house backs up to a school playground, with a gate that lets her children walk straight into the schoolyard, is afraid to let them go through the gate without an adult, for fear that someone would call the same nutty CPS that has taken to impounding the Meitiv children. She compromises by letting them play alone in the playground only when she is in the backyard, so that she can intervene if the police arrive.

Think about that: Kids have the priceless boon of a playground right in their backyard, but they can't use it unless Mom drops everything to accompany them. I am running out of synonyms for "insane" to describe the state we have worked ourselves into. What on earth has happened to us?

As it happened, I looked into that for my book, and the disappointing news is that I didn't find much good research to explain this mass shift in American parenting. I did, however, develop some theories from watching parents, law enforcement officials and others discuss the pros and cons of free-range parenting.

I should add a caveat: I don't have kids, so I lack an important perspective. And I should say that if I did have kids, I'm sure I too would be a safety paranoiac, making my own baby food from organic ingredients just in case pesticides in their unsweetened applesauce turn out to cause cancer. So I'm not blaming individual parents; this is a collective insanity, not a personal foible.

So how can we explain it?

1. Cable news. When you listen to parents talk about why they hover, you'll frequently hear that the world is more dangerous than it used to be. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The New York City where I walked to school, past housing projects with major crime problems and across busy streets, was much more dangerous than the New York of today. And that is true of virtually everywhere. The world is not more dangerous. But it feels more dangerous to a lot of people because the media landscape has shifted.

Think of it this way: There were always stranger abductions, but they were always extremely rare, perhaps 2 or 3 per 1 million children under 12 in the U.S. each year. However, in the 1970s, you most likely only heard about local cases, and because these were rare, you would hear about one every few years in a moderately large metropolitan area. This made it sound like what it is: an unimaginably terrible thing that thankfully almost never happens. Very occasionally, a case would catch the imagination and make national news, like the Lindbergh baby. But these almost always happened in big cities like New York, or to rich people, so people didn't imagine that this was a risk that faced them.

Then along came cable news, which needed to fill 24 hours a day with content. These sorts of cases started to make national news, and because our brains are terrible at statistics, we did not register this as "Aha, the overall rate is still low, but I am now hearing cases drawn from a much larger population, so I hear about more of them." Instead, it felt like stranger abductions must have gone up a lot.

The Internet also enables parents to share stories of every bad thing that happens to their children. We used to be limited to collecting these stories from people we actually met, which meant that we didn't hear a lot of truly terrible stories. Now we have thousands at the tips of our fingers, and the same failures of statistical intuition make it feel like wow, terrible things are happening all the time these days.

2. Economic insecurity. As college degrees, and particularly elite degrees, have become more valuable, parents have come to feel that they must micromanage their children's lives in order to make a good showing on college applications. The result is vastly more supervised activities. This has shrunk the pool of kids who are around to play with, making free-range childhood less rewarding.

3. Mothers working. In suburbs and small towns, stay-at-home moms formed "eyes on the street," so that even if your kid was roaming the neighborhood, there was a gentle adult eye periodically sweeping across their activity. But I don't think we can lean on this too much, because kids in cities also had a lot more independence back then, and the Broadway of my youth was not exactly a sweet, sheltered world where nothing much could go wrong.

There's another reason I think this matters, however. More mothers are paying others to take care of their children. It's easy to impose severe limits on the mobility of your children when you are not personally expected to provide 24-hour supervision. When I was a kid, there were a lot of mothers at home who believed that being home with kids was important but did not actually personally enjoy playing with 4-year-olds. Those parents would have rebelled at being told that they should never let their kids out of hearing range. Those mothers are now at work, paying someone else to enjoy playing with their 4-year-old or at least convincingly fake it.

4. Collective-action problems. When it comes to safety, overprotective parents are in effect taking out a sort of regret insurance. Every community has what you might call "generally accepted child-rearing practices," the parenting equivalent of "generally accepted accounting principles." These principles define what is good parenting and provide a sort of mental safe harbor in the event of an accident. If you do those things and your kid gets hurt -- well, you'll still wish that you'd asked them to stay home and help bake cookies, or lingered a little longer at the drugstore, or something so that they weren't around when the Bad Thing happened. But if you break them and your kid gets hurt, you -- and a lot of other people -- will feel that it happened because you were a bad parent. So you follow the GACP.

Over time, these rules get set by the most risk-averse parent in your social group, because if anything happens, you'll wish you had acted like them. This does not mean that the kids are actually safer: Parents in most places "shelter" their kids from risk by strapping them into cars and driving them to supervised activities, which is more dangerous than almost anything those kids could have gotten up to at home.

5. Lawsuits. In the U.S., the liability revolution of the 1970s has made every institution, from parks departments to schools, much more sensitive about even tiny risks, because when you go before the jury in a case about a hurt child, arguing that what happened was less likely than getting hit by a bolt of lightning is going to have much less impact than the evidence of a hurt child.

6. Mobile phones. All these strangers calling 911 to report a 6-year-old who has been left in a car outside a store for a few minutes are probably doing so because it's easy. If that person had to dig for a piece of paper and a pen to write the license plate down, then take time out of their day to find a pay phone, dial the police and stand around talking to the 911 operator, most would probably think "You know, I bet his mom is going to come out of the store in a minute, and I really need to get home to start dinner." Now you can just take a picture of the license plate and call from the comfort of your car. It would be surprising if we lowered the price of being an officious busybody and didn't get a lot more of it.

7. We're richer. Richer countries can afford more safety. That's a good thing, but there can be too much safety. There are major downsides to this form of parenting, as many authors have laid out: It's hard on the parents, may result in the kids developing more phobias, and stunts the creativity and self-reliance that we theoretically want to develop in children so that they can become happy and productive adults.

I don't think there's one easy answer to why we've become insane; rather, there are a lot of forces that are pushing in this direction. But that doesn't mean we can't push back. And a good start would be for … [more]
parenting  children  safety  meganmcardle  freedom  free-rangeparenting  2015  media  news  statistics  liability  litigiousness  law  legal  helicoperparents  helicopterparenting  labor  work  economics  insecurity  micromanagment  lawenforcement  childcare  overprotection  risk  riskassessment  risktaking  lawsuits  mobile  phones  wealth  cps  via:ayjay  helicopterparents 
april 2015 by robertogreco
How risk factors drive medical overtreatment – Jeff Wheelwright – Aeon
"Misunderstanding risk factors has led to massive overtreatment of diseases people don’t have and probably never will"



"Hypnotised by the swings in relative risk factors, we might miss the more hopeful numbers surrounding absolute risk

If there is one lesson the medical consumer ought to master, it is the difference between absolute risk and relative risk. Health journalists are constantly reporting relative risks – how medication X lowered the risk of health outcome Z in a group of patients, compared with a similar group that didn’t take X and had a higher rate of Z.

Let’s assume that the drug X achieved a relative risk reduction of 50 per cent. That sounds impressive until you read, probably not in the article but in the fine print of a medical journal, that the prevalence of Z, the absolute risk to everyone in the study, is only two per cent. Thus the pill has cut the actual risk from two per cent to one per cent. In light of that slender benefit, X’s side effects and price tag loom large. Risk factors for disease are also relative entities, having been derived from a comparison of patients, one group healthier than another. Hypnotised by the swings in relative risk factors, we might miss the more hopeful numbers surrounding absolute risk.

Ultimately, what we really want to know is our risk of death. Just as risk factors are painless proxies for the threat of disease, so worries about disease substitute for fears about dying. I know that my death creeps closer with each passing decade, but I manage my mortality by fractionating the absolute risks of death’s vehicles. As noted, my risk of a heart attack or stroke is 15 per cent, though the odds that either would be fatal are far lower. My lifetime risk of dying of prostate cancer is just one in 38. Because of family history, I’m going to bump it up to one in 30, still a low probability, nothing to lose sleep over.

According to the statistics, no other cancer out there is more likely to kill me than prostate cancer. You see how it works? Someone might inconveniently point out that invasive cancer as a whole has a one-in-four chance of getting me, but I’m not listening to that someone. As Schwartz says: ‘Bad things don’t happen that often. To go from an eight per cent to a seven per cent death reduction is important to doctors, but it may not be to individuals. Do you want to take a pill every day to reduce a small risk?’

I don’t."
risk  riskassessment  2014  jeffwheelwright  health  healthcare  medicine  disease 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Webstock '12: danah boyd - Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?! on Vimeo
"We live in a culture of fear. Fear feeds on attention and attention is captured by fear. Social media has complicated our relationship with attention and the rise of the attention economy highlights the challenges of dealing with this scarce resource. But what does this mean for the culture of fear? How are the technologies that we design to bring the world together being used to create new divisions? In this talk, danah will explore what happens at the intersection of the culture of fear and the attention economy."

[See also: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2012/SXSW2012.html ]
networkculture  control  arabspring  politics  policy  power  jaronlanier  stewartbrand  johnperrybarlow  legal  law  internetbubbles  regulation  webstock  webstock12  data  safety  onlinesafety  children  facebook  society  socialnorms  networks  fearmongering  visibility  behavior  sharing  transparency  cyberbullying  bullying  information  advertising  infooverload  panic  moralpanics  unknown  perceptionofrisk  perception  neurosis  internet  online  parenting  riskassessment  risk  cultureoffear  2012  attentioneconomy  attention  technology  responsibility  culture  fear  socialmedia  danahboyd 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Week 315 – Blog – BERG
"Your sensitivity & tolerance improve only with practice. I wish I’d been given toy businesses to play w/ at school, just as playing w/ crayons taught my body how to let me draw.

I’ve written in these weeknotes before how I manage three budgets: cash, attention, risk. This is my attempt to explain how I feel about risk, and to trace the pathways between risk and cash. Attention, & how it connects, can wait until another day…

I said I wouldn’t speak about attention, but here’s a sneak peak of what I would say. Attention is the time of people in the studio, & how effectively it is applied. It is affected by the arts of project & studio management; it can be tracked by time-sheets & capacity plans; it can be leveraged with infrastructure, internal tools, and carefully grown tacit knowledge; and it magically grows when there’s time to play, when there is flow in the work, and when a team aligns into a “sophisticated work group.”
Attention is connected to cash through work."
design  business  management  berg  berglondon  mattwebb  attention  flow  groups  groupculture  sophisticatedworkgroups  money  risk  riskmanagement  riskassessment  confidence  happiness  anxiety  worry  leadership  tinkering  designthinking  thinking  physical  work  instinct  frustration  lcproject  studio  decisionmaking  systems  systemsthinking  manufacturing  making  doing  newspaperclub  svk  distribution  integratedsystems  infrastructure  supplychain  deleuze  guattari  cyoa  failure  learning  invention  ineptitude  ignorance  deleuze&guattari  gillesdeleuze  interactive  fiction  if  interactivefiction  félixguattari 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Tim Harford's Adapt: Positive Black Swans: How to fund research so that it generates insanely great ideas, not pretty good ones. - By Tim Harford - Slate Magazine
"Still, after a few years, Capecchi had decided that Harvard was not for him. Despite great resources, inspiring colleagues and a supportive mentor in Watson, he found the Harvard environment demanded results in too much of a hurry. That was fine, if you wanted to take predictable steps along well-signposted pathways. But Capecchi felt that if you wanted to do great work, to change the world, you had to give yourself space to breathe. Harvard, he thought, had become "a bastion of short-term gratification." Off he went instead to the University of Utah, where a brand-new department was being set up. He had spotted, in Utah, a Galapagan island on which to develop his ideas."

"It isn't right to expect a Mario Capecchi to risk his career on a life-saving idea because the rest of us don't want to take a chance."

[Just read the whole thing.]
technology  politics  history  science  creativity  mariocapecchi  slow  slowness  shortterm  speed  competition  2011  risk  fuckitmoments  stubborness  unschooling  deschooling  society  nih  failure  risktaking  riskaversion  riskassessment  learning  experimentation 
may 2011 by robertogreco
News is cognitively toxic and systematically misleading: Towards a Healthy News Diet [.pdf]
"We are not rational enough to be exposed to the news-mongering press. It is a very dangerous thing, because the probabilistic mapping we get from consuming news is entirely different from the actual risks that we face. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk regardless of its real probability, no matter your intellectual sophistication. If you think you can compensate for this bias with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news- borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely."
food  news  health  media  medicine  via:mathowie  psychology  cognition  cognitivebias  bias  information  risk  probability  riskassessment  filetype:pdf  media:document 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Scaling startups
"People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year."

"Process is an embedded reaction to prior stupidity."

"If you follow process religiously, you’ll never get anything done!"

"Hire well: This goes without saying, and I didn’t mention it in the panel. It’s a big topic probably best left for another post. Hiring great people makes everything else below easier.

Communication: Everyone in the company uses IRC, not just engineers. Everyone, all the time, from the CEO on down. Sure, sometimes you can miss things if you’re not in IRC at the time, but the benefits far outweigh the costs, and you have a lot fewer meetings about day-to-day mundane issues. …

Encourage experimentation … External transparency … Embracing failure …"
business  culture  startups  startup  entrepreneurship  scalability  risk  failure  strategy  chaddickerson  transparency  experimentation  tcsnmy  communication  process  purpose  riskassessment  riskaversion  risks  risktaking  hiring  via:stamen  scale 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation | No Fear
"No Fear joins the increasingly vigorous debate about the role and nature of childhood in the UK. Over the past 30 years activities that previous generations of children enjoyed without a second thought have been relabelled as troubling or dangerous, and the adults who permit them branded as irresponsible. No Fear argues that childhood is being undermined by the growth of risk aversion and its intrusion into every aspect of children’s lives. This restricts children’s play, limits their freedom of movement, corrodes their relationships with adults and constrains their exploration of physical, social and virtual worlds."
freerangekids  safety  parenting  society  fear  children  playgrounds  online  internet  childhood  books  ebooks  sociology  schooling  schools  deschooling  risk  riskassessment  education  culture  health  well-being 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Robert Shiller, Real-estate Bubble, The Subprime Solution » knackeredhack
"One interesting point he makes is that some people, lacking the means to offset their socio-economic risks, may become far too cautious in their choice of employment, thus depriving society of their more creative endeavour." "there is a strong moral imperative running through Shiller’s advocacy, no doubt reflecting the increasing severity of the social consequences that can compound very quickly if the policy response is half-baked." "Shiller describes Chile as the most inflation-sensitive population in the world."
robertshiller  housingbubble  subprime  markets  society  psychology  books  chile  uf  unidaddefomento  economics  behavior  risktaking  riskassessment  risk 
august 2008 by robertogreco

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