Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good article about a journalist I've never heard of.

With a kicking paragraph about maths and compassion. In a psychology experiment ...

Worse still, when the authors asked one set of subjects to perform mathematical calculations and the other set of subjects to describe their feelings when they heard the word "baby," the subjects who'd done math gave only about half as much to Rokia as the ones who'd thought about babies. Apparently, just thinking analytically makes us stingier. The authors of the study concluded that "calculative thought lessens the appeal of an identifiable victim.


John Powers said...

You turned me on to Bruce Sterling's notion of "dark euphoria" and man these days I'm dizzy and rather horrified. And I'm not feeling at all sympathetic to billionaires.

I left a comment at a blog I'd only just visited today. That's always a dicey thing to do, it's much better to follow someone over several posts to get a sense.

This was the thesis: " the wrong messenger can make people who were neutral on an issue into hostile critics." True enough, but the suggestion that Warren Buffet might be a better messenger about peak oil than a petroleum geologist made me gnash my teeth. What if that's right?

Anyhow I was thinking of messengers when I read a column by Bob Herbert Hiding From Reality. Trouble is Herbert is a boring messenger and it's not just him, sensible talk seems entirely too boring.

I looked to see if Herbert was on Twitter, he is, but doesn't tweet. Nicholas Kristof on the other hand has over 900,000 followers. What the piece you've linked to suggests is for Herbert to "try to attract and coopt" elite opinion. The way to do that is not to adjust the message, but to embrace, as Kristof has, that the way we message has changed.

Composing said...


Wasn't there a psychology experiment on chimpanzees, who were found to be willing to give up food in order to watch videos of high-status chimps doing their thing?

So maybe we instinctively listen to what the powerful and successful say and do. That's why people who want to be listened to either present themselves as successful or present themselves as the lackeys of the successful.


BTW : good comment and a good blog you found.

John Powers said...

@phil I didn't come back to see your reply until now.

During WWII all sorts of academics were involved in the war effort in part because they had the view that Fascism would destroy science.

In Anthropology National Character studies were part of the war effort, but general the idea of them rather discredited after the war. Similar studies emerged with more global commerce, but detached from theory.

I studied for teaching credentials so got interested in this war-era research because it addressed the topic of learning to learn. As well as pointing to the dilemma that social engineering for some particular purpose was fundamentally in conflict with the ideals of democracy.

You introduced me to Netocracy and that theory raises the discrepancy between purpose and the dignity of individuals; a new order with predictably intolerable results.

Aaron Bady has a terrific post carefully parsing Assange's netocratic reasoning for what he does.