reliable source


… while other platforms are mired in debate over the borders between free speech, propaganda and trolling, Wikipedia has taken a different route from the onset: community-driven fact checking. One of the platform’s three core policies is “verifiability, not truth”, and it requires every claim on Wikipedia be attributed to a reliable source. Any question on the meaning of “truth” is deemed moot: either you have a source for your claims, or you don’t. (Wikipedia editors have even debated whether the claim that the sky is blue needs a citation or not.) The resulting debate is much less politicised than the one taking place on social media. Wikipedia’s community standards have created the conditions for a shared reality.

civic responsibility

From Roger McNamee’s book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe:

The internet platforms have harvested fifty years of trust and goodwill built up by their predecessors. They have taken advantage of that trust to surveil our every action online, to monetize personal data. In the process they have fostered hate speech, conspiracy theories, and disinformation, and enabled interference in elections. They have artificially inflated their profits by shirking civic responsibility. The platforms have damaged public health, undermined democracy, violated user privacy, and, in the case of Facebook and Google, gained monopoly power, all in the name of profits.

anne boyer’s rules for teachers

Yesterday the artist/choreographer Paul Hughes sent me a link to a list of rules for teachers written by the American poet Anne Boyer. They are inspiring, and I see that she wrote them “after John Cage” whose rules for students are all over the internet.

Rules for Teachers (Anne Boyer, 2015)

  1. only ask the questions to which you really need answers
  2. demonstrate uncertainty
  3. reconstruct for your students your own previous errors of thought and elucidate to your students what factors lead to a changed mind
  4. do not let the terms with which you understand the world get in the way of understanding it
  5. give up any desire to be the smartest person in the room
  6. remember that students have bodies and that bodies require movement, sustenance, rest, and relief
  7. leave an inheritance of dialectic
  8. preserve and sustain whatever delusions you’ve found necessary to behave in good faith
  9. every student is a genius
  10. do not be afraid to state the obvious
  11. a socratic bully is still a bully
  12. thoroughly prepare class, including making preparations to abandon your preparations entirely
  13. listen with your body
  14. suspect charisma
  15. conduct yourself in such a way that your students can eventually forget that you exist

curing affluenza

Richard Denniss is an Australian economist and his book “Curing affluenza: how to buy less stuff and save the world” is well researched, clear and compelling. Here’s a taste of his thoughts on the absurdity of using GDP as a measure of nation-state success:

Collecting data on production, consumption and investment is a great idea, but determining the success of a country by reference to GDP is like judging the success of your kid’s birthday party by measuring how much you spent on the catering.

And a few other bits that caught my eye …

On culture vs policy:

those who want to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, reduce deforestation or increase the ability of people to spend quality time with their friends, families and communities will need to spend as much time thinking about the cultural drivers of the problems they seek to solve as developing ‘policy solutions’ to them.

Income inequality:

But redistribution relates to tasks as well as time. When a company sacks administrative staff and pays its middle managers a bit more money to work longer hours, it increases income inequality in a society in which it is often claimed that no low-skilled jobs are available. The fact is there are low-skilled jobs that need to be done, but increasingly we expect more highly skilled workers to perform them, along with the high-skilled aspects of their jobs. (A side effect: this makes high-skilled workers less productive.)

Culture vs economics:

Most of us could work shorter hours, and it would benefit all of us to do so. Our decision not to do so is as much cultural as personal. It has nothing to do with economics.

Negative externalities:

But in the whole history of economic debate the idea that a good way to create jobs is to allow, or to even subsidise, activities that do harm to people and the planet (sometimes called ‘goods with negative externalities’) is an entirely new one. I am even going to go as far as to say that the argument that harming the environment is a necessary or effective way to help the unemployed isn’t even an economic argument, it’s just complete bullshit.

Economic growth:

Voters are increasingly hostile to claims that the economy is growing strongly when their own experience is one of stagnating wages or rising local unemployment. They are right to be sceptical. Talking to people about the average rate of economic growth across their country is no more meaningful than telling them what the average rainfall across that country will be tomorrow. Even if the prediction is accurate, it won’t be very useful: knowing the average national rainfall won’t help anyone decide what to wear or whether to cancel their picnic.

Choices made by people:

Do you want your economy to have a big education sector or a big shopping mall sector? Do you want it to have a booming arts sector or a booming finance sector? These are choices that, over time and around the world, citizens have shaped. They are not choices made by ‘the market’ or ‘globalisation’. They are choices made by people.

Change is possible:

As long as people doubt that change is really possible, they will leave the shape of the future in the hands of those who have so ruthlessly cut away those parts of the economy which many people say they want more of. As Bertrand Russell said, ‘The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.’

Here’s an extract from the book:

And here’s another: