A smattering of links
I have a bunch of things that I've been meaning to link to when I got around to writing up an accompanying blurb. I'm not sure that will ever happen. So rather than lose the links, I'm going to post them with minimal commentary because I've found it incredibly handy for me to be able to access links to cool things that I've seen easily from any web-enabled location. There's no real order or organization here; just things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.
Research groups made of scientists from the same discipline and background have very efficient meetings but donít make as much progress as more diverse groups, who have more contentious meetings and spend more time explaining the obvious to each other and discovering that itís not quite as obvious as they thought it was.As part of a twelve-person team at work, composed of four biologists, two marketing folks, three engineers and three physicists, I've seen this effect firsthand. When we were all at Signature and ensconced in our own groups, we all proceeded in our own directions with our own set of assumptions. One of the first things we did when this team was formed was spend an entire week locked into a conference room "explaining the obvious to each other." It was incredibly useful, and something that continues to be necessary, because our perspectives are so different. But it's contributed to genuine progress as we figure out things that are relevant to each others' research.
My favorite by far were the laws by George Lakoff, especially his First Law, that frames trump facts. The framing of the question is more important in determining the answer given than almost anything else, a fact well known to pollsters. His example of framing tax cuts as "tax relief" is brilliant in showing how the use of that phrase immediately calls in the connotations of taxes as an affliction that must be relieved. As he suggests, if taxes were treated as a membership fee, "used to maintain and expand services and the infrastructure", they would have an entirely different connotation. The implications are endless, and I really want to write about them at some point (especially the inevitable consequence that he mentions that it is a myth that people make rational decisions based on the facts, which is insanely relevant to how politics is handled), but for now I'll just link to it. I need more time to develop my thoughts on the subject.
An obvious extension in my eyes is whether countries are going to continue to be a relevant social entity. It seems likely to me that nation-states are at an awkward size - too big to earn the personal loyalty of its citizens, but too small to deal with issues of global significance like the environment, or even terrorism. I can see the powers of the nation-state devolving in both directions, where the personal loyalty will move down the chain to a tribal level, and the global problems move upwards to some sort of global association of tribes, like the United Nations except more effective.I just want to note that I wrote that before reading the Economist article; unfortunately, unlike their referenced economists, I had no evidence to support my assertion other than my gut feeling. Alas. This thread also ties into my recent post about community, musing about how we are steadily segregating ourselves into smaller like-minded communities in both a physical and virtual sense. It all ties together. I just haven't figured out how yet.