Some more interesting stuff I read

An intro to the philosophy of identity from Wait but Why.

Friend networks alone can be used to generate accurate predictions of individual behaviour. We currently give people ownership of their private data. What do we do when public data can be just as revealing?

SSC on the struggle between evolution and meaning.

MRU’s video on why financial intermediaries sometimes fail.

Popehat on Tyranny:“Tyranny is not an abstraction. Tyranny is not faceless government. Tyranny is not some anonymous end boss to be defeated once and then confidently forgotten. Tyranny is us. Tyranny is our inclination to punish and oppress the other. Tyranny is our willingness to abuse our neighbor for not being on “our team.” Tyranny is mouthing platitudes about liberty while cheering its suppression. Tyranny is our capacity to rationalize exceptions to rights for our enemies. Tyranny is our willingness to dismiss violation of rights as unimportant or minimal. Tyranny sold you your morning coffee, greeted you warmly as you walked into the office, made lunch plans with you, and will wave goodbye to you at the end of the day. Tyranny can be you.”

On Peer Review:“When we apply for a grant or want to publish our science, we secretly get the work reviewed by our peers, some of which are competing with us for precious funding, or a bizarre version of fame. Under the veil of anonymity, a reviewer can write anything, included false statements, or incorrect statements to justify a decision. The decision is most often, “do not fund” or “reject”, even if the review is based off of inaccuracies, lack of expertise, or even blatant slander. There are no rules, there are no repercussions. There are few integrity guidelines, or oversight, nor rules of ethics in the review process for the most part. It can lead to internet trolling at a level of high art. In funding decisions, these mistakes can be missed by inattentive panels, but were definitely missed in the CIHR reform scheme before panels were re-introduced. We still have a problem of reviewers self-identifying expertise they simply do not have.

Scientists have to follow strict rules of ethics when submitting data, including conflicts of interest, research ethics, etc.  No such rules are often formally stated in the review process and can vary widely between journals.

This system is historic, back to an era when biomedical research was a fraction of the size it is today, and journal Editors were typically active scientists. The community was small. But as science rapidly expanded in the 90s, so did scientific publishing, and soon editors became professional editors, with some never running a lab or research program. Then, came the digital revolution, and journals were no longer being read on paper and the pipeline to publish increased exponentially.”

A secular Egypt

Kenya moves towards dictatorship.“In the space of just one week, a Kenyan government that proclaims itself a rule-of-law government has repeatedly defied nearly a dozen court orders in an alarming descent toward authoritarianism. When the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta’s reelection in a landmark ruling last year, he promised to “revisit” the judiciary and called the chief justice and his judges “crooks.” “There is a problem, and we must fix it. Going forward we must fix it,” he said shortly after the court’s judgment that a new election would have to be held within 60 days. A few days later, the vice chair of the president’s party, who is widely believed to be a close ally of Kenyatta, openly advocated for a benevolent dictatorship on national television. “What this country needs now is a benevolent dictator. People have been too soft so that things have gone rogue,” David Murathe told KTN News. “You find places like Rwanda are very stable, Uganda is very stable,” he said, quoting two East African nations with notoriously limited space for dissent.

The shameless disregard for the court process, switching off private media outlets, and intimidation of opposition politicians and journalists all build on the intolerance for criticism that characterized Kenyatta’s first term. It began with the vilification of civil society as an “evil society” by senior aides to the president and surrogates on broadcast talk shows until “activist”’ all but became a slur in Kenya. Even as the government borrowed more and more from the West and took in billions of dollars in aid, it accused human rights groups and opposition leaders of being agents of imperialism hellbent on reestablishing colonialism. This is the same administration that is now using colonial laws that Kenyatta’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of a newly independent Kenya, conveniently left in place to cement his own rule. It feels like we’re back to the dark era of Daniel arap Moi, who ruled Kenya with an iron fist for 24 years and is also the political mentor of the current president.”

We should be less concerned about school shootings.

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