Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

TED: Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we’re wrong about that? “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.


No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong

Jef Rouner: Before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.

1. Is this actually an opinion?
2. If it is an opinion, how informed is it and why do I hold it?

I’ll help you with the first part. An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something. My favorite color is black. I think mint tastes awful. Doctor Who is the best television show. These are all opinions. They may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general population but they all have one thing in common; they cannot be verified outside the fact that I believe them.

There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion. The fact that you may still believe that vaccines cause autism does not move your misconception into the realm of valid opinion. Nor does the fact that many other share this opinion give it any more validity.

Houston Press: No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong

See also:

Beam me up Scotty
Use your words

Churchillian drift: Great quotations find their way to famous names

Aaron Hutchins, Great quote! But who really said it?: William Shatner’s character in Star Trek never said, “Beam me up, Scotty.” The closest he came was: “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.” Quotes often get condensed in people’s memories. “Memory may be a terrible librarian, but it’s a great editor,” writes Ralph Keyes in his book The Quote Verifier.

Great quotations seem to find their way to famous names.
(not) Mark Twain

Nigel Rees, Policing Word Abuse: Long ago, I coined the term “Churchillian Drift” to describe the process whereby the actual originator of a quotation is often elbowed to one side and replaced by someone more famous. So to Churchill or Napoleon would be ascribed what, actually, a lesser-known political figure had said. The process occurs in all fields.

Why are people so culpable when it comes to using quotations? In the run-up to the war in Iraq, Barbra Streisand, the well-known Shakespearean scholar, quoted this and said it came from Julius Caesar: “Beware the leader who bangs the drum for war.” Sheer invention. Why did she do it? Ignorance, laziness or what? It’s impossible to know for sure, but she wanted–as we all do–to use the supposed words of someone better than ourselves to lend weight to her argument.

See also

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Percentage of Slaves by U.S. County, 1860

I find the numbers incredible. South Carolina and Mississippi had more slaves than free citizens!

Census of 1860

In September of 1861, the U.S. Coast Survey published a large map, approximately two feet by three feet, titled a “Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States.” Based on the population statistics gathered in the 1860 Census, and certified by the superintendent of the Census Office, the map depicted the percentage of the population enslaved in each county. At a glance, the viewer could see the large-scale patterns of the economic system that kept nearly 4 million people in bondage: slavery was concentrated along the Chesapeake Bay and in eastern Virginia; along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts; in a crescent of lands in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi; and most of all, in the Mississippi River Valley. With each county labeled with the exact percentage of people enslaved, the map demanded some closer examination.

Smithsonian: These Maps Reveal How Slavery Expanded Across the United States

(via reddit)

Humans and other animals

Distribution of the slave population of the southern United States, 1860

In 1861, in an attempt to raise money for sick and wounded soldiers, the Census Office produced and sold a map that showed the population distribution of slaves in the southern United States. Based on data from the 1860 census, this map was the Census Office’s first attempt to map population density. — census.gov

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Shape of things to come

Essential reading on the subject of our future

Four essential reads on the future of the web, business and our planet:

The end of capitalism has begun

The end of capitalism has begun

Paul Mason: New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.

I believe it offers an escape route – but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a fundamental change in what governments do. And this must be driven by a change in our thinking – about technology, ownership and work. So that, when we create the elements of the new system, we can say to ourselves, and to others: “This is no longer simply my survival mechanism, my bolt hole from the neoliberal world; this is a new way of living in the process of formation.”


The Web We Have to Save

Hossein Derakhshan: Six years was a long time to be in jail, but it’s an entire era online. Writing on the internet itself had not changed, but reading — or, at least, getting things read — had altered dramatically. I’d been told how essential social networks had become while I’d been gone, and so I knew one thing: If I wanted to lure people to see my writing, I had to use social media now.

So I tried to post a link to one of my stories on Facebook. Turns out Facebook didn’t care much. It ended up looking like a boring classified ad. No description. No image. Nothing. It got three likes. Three! That was it.

Illustration by Tim McDonagh

The Stream now dominates the way people receive information on the web. Fewer users are directly checking dedicated webpages, instead getting fed by a never-ending flow of information that’s picked for them by complex –and secretive — algorithms.


Is Advertising Morally Justifiable?

Thomas Wells: Advertising is a natural resource extraction industry, like a fishery. Its business is the harvest and sale of human attention. We are the fish and we are not consulted.

Our right to preserve our own attention and to make our own decisions about how we spend it and with whom our personal information is shared must become part of the political agenda. We need a legal and policy response to the market failures of the advertising industry, and we need it soon.


The Freakish Year in Broken Climate Records

Tom Randall: The annual State of the Climate report is out, and it’s ugly. Record heat, record sea levels, more hot days and fewer cool nights, surging cyclones, unprecedented pollution, and rapidly diminishing glaciers.

The Freakish Year in Broken Climate Records

Last year was the hottest in 135 years of modern record keeping

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Angry Jack
Life on the Internet

Why Are You So Angry?

Ian Danskin (aka Innuendo Studios) has just posted the final part in his six-part series on the male gamer’s relationship to feminism.

Part 1: A Short History of Anita Sarkeesian

The internet is full of Angry Jacks, and Jack is not exclusively, but is typically, male. He’s also commonly white, and/or straight, and/or cis, and/or raised middle class. Which is to say, he usually looks like me.

To people who look like me, Jack is often a nuisance. To people who don’t look like me, Jack is frequently dangerous.

Part 2: Angry Jack

[…] And you’re thinking, or maybe even starting to say, “I shouldn’t have to have this debate right now. I just wanted to go to a fucking party. I’m normal! This is a normal thing to do!” And all she said was “no thanks, I don’t drink,” but that doesn’t matter, what you heard was “you’re a bad person.”

Watch parts 3, 4, 5 & 6 →

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Every Frame a Painting: Chuck Jones

Tony Zhou: If you grew up watching Looney Tunes, then you know Chuck Jones, one of all-time masters of visual comedy. Normally I would talk about his ingenious framing and timing, but not today. Instead, I’d like to explore the evolution of his sensibilities as an artist.


Chuck Jones’ rules for writing Road Runner cartoons

In his book Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones claimed that he and the artists behind the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:

  1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep!”
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (“A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” — George Santayana).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.
  5. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
  11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

However, in an interview years after the series was made writer Michael Maltese said he had never heard of these ‘rules’.

(via kottke.org, though it’s interesting to note that the wording varies quite a bit depending on where you find this list, like Mental Floss, Open Culture and Wikipedia.)

The Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level.

The Big Mac index - 2015

Burgernomics was never intended as a precise gauge of currency misalignment, merely a tool to make exchange-rate theory more digestible.

This adjusted index addresses the criticism that you would expect average burger prices to be cheaper in poor countries than in rich ones because labour costs are lower.

Shape of things to come

The Big Mac index

The Big Mac index is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. — The Economist

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