Failure of Indian Middle Class in Politics and Social Reform

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Published on: August 31, 2007

An interesting article about the growth and the challenges faced in India:
“India’s 200m-strong middle class is the most economically dynamic group on the planet, but is largely uninterested in politics or social reform. Until it begins to engage politically, India will suffer from a lop-sided modernisation”

More of this here: [The Link]

Resistance and Acceptance of Scientific Ideas

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Published on: August 10, 2007

The bad news for science supporters boils down to a single sentence from a recent report by Yale Psychology professor Paul Bloom: “Some resistance to scientific ideas is a human universal.” This resistance, Bloom reports in the May issue of Science, comes from the tendency for the young human mind to see the world as “designed” and to see the brain as separate from the physical body, both of which are traditional tenets of religion. Science has tried to refute both ideas with the concept of evolution and the argument that the “mind” is a chemical process in the brain.

….

Meanwhile, most adults accept scientific beliefs more because of authority figures than understanding. Take electricity. Most people don’t know how electrons, circuits, and alternating currents work, but they “believe” in electricity nevertheless. Electricity turns on the lights. “You can’t know everything, life’s too short,” Bloom said. “There’s nothing wrong with an educated deference [to authority].”

More about this here: [The Link]

Another example (Travellers Dilemma) which shows that our models for human decision making is insufficient…

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Published on: August 9, 2007

Lucy and Pete, returning from a remote Pacific island, find that the airline has damaged the identical antiques that each had purchased. An airline manager says that he is happy to compensate them but is handicapped by being clueless about the value of these strange objects. Simply asking the travelers for the price is hopeless, he figures, for they will inflate it.

Instead he devises a more complicated scheme. He asks each of them to write down the price of the antique as any dollar integer between 2 and 100 without conferring together. If both write the same number, he will take that to be the true price, and he will pay each of them that amount. But if they write different numbers, he will assume that the lower one is the actual price and that the person writing the higher number is cheating. In that case, he will pay both of them the lower number along with a bonus and a penalty–the person who wrote the lower number will get $2 more as a reward for honesty and the one who wrote the higher number will get $2 less as a punishment. For instance, if Lucy writes 46 and Pete writes 100, Lucy will get $48 and Pete will get $44.

What numbers will Lucy and Pete write? What number would you write?

Traveler’s Dilemma (TD) achieves those goals because the game’s logic dictates that 2 is the best option, yet most people pick 100 or a number close to 100–both those who have not thought through the logic and those who fully understand that they are deviating markedly from the “rational choice. Furthermore, players reap a greater reward by not adhering to reason in this way. Thus, there is something rational about choosing not to be rational when playing Traveler’s Dilemma.

For complete article follow the link: [The Link]

In summary the article says: “Forget game-theoretic logic. I will play a large number (perhaps 95), and I know my opponent will play something similar and both of us will ignore the rational argument that the next smaller number would be better than whatever number we choose. What is interesting is that this rejection of formal rationality and logic has a kind of meta-rationality attached to it. If both players follow this meta-rational course, both will do well. The idea of behavior generated by rationally rejecting rational behavior is a hard one to formalize. But in it lies the step that will have to be taken in the future to solve the paradoxes of rationality that plague game theory and are codified in Traveler’s Dilemma.”

In a controversial study about diversity

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Published on: August 9, 2007

IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam — famous for “Bowling Alone,” his 2000 book on declining civic engagement — has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

More of this from here: [The Link]

However on a more positive note the article indicates “….It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.”

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