Shall we vote for our phone companies’ profit margins or for Internet access for all, resulting in true growth? The answer should be obvious to anyone who is not a phone company. The Washington Post reports:
The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor. . . . . “We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.
My relationship with the Boy Scouts of America was not the most pleasant. I was an oddity, to be sure. I think I was at one time the only—only—second class scout to be a patrol leader. Second class. For those who may not have been through the quasi-military organization, the way it was structured in […]
I know many thinking Catholics, and 98% of these people what I would term “conflicted Catholics.” When I’m together with more than one of them, they often spontaneously express their frustration, embarrassment and even rage regarding the Church. What drives this frustration? Many things, including more than a few of these questions raises by Adam Lee at Alternet in “50 Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church.”
Despite these immense intractable problems with the Roman Catholic Church, most Catholics I know continue to associate themselves with the church. They are not willing to give up their religious community, in spite of these hurdles. This willingness to stick with the church is hard to understand for an outsider like me. I would think that 1/10 of this misconduct would have me running from any organization.
At Edge.org, Thomas W. Malone explains that in order to have a smart group of people you need more than a bunch of smart individuals.
We thought that there might be such a factor, but that it would really just be essentially the intelligence of the individual people in the group. What we found was that the average and the maximum intelligence of the individual group members was correlated, but only moderately correlated, with the collective intelligence of the group as a whole.
If it’s not just putting a bunch of smart people in a group that makes the group smart, what is it? . . . . [T]hree factors . . . were significantly correlated with the collective intelligence of the group.
The first was the average social perceptiveness of the group members. We measured social perceptiveness in this case using a test developed essentially to measure autism. It’s called the “Reading the Mind and the Eyes Test”. It works by letting people look at pictures of other people’s eyes and try to guess what emotions those people are feeling. People who are good at that work well in groups. When you have a group with a bunch of people like that, the group as a whole is more intelligent.
The second factor we found was the evenness of conversational turn taking. In other words, groups where one person dominated the conversation were, on average, less intelligent than groups where the speaking was more evenly distributed among the different group members.
Finally, and most surprisingly to us, we found that the collective intelligence of the group was significantly correlated with the percentage of women in the group. More women were correlated with a more intelligent group. Interestingly, this last result is not just a diversity result. It’s not just saying that you need groups with some men and some women. It looks like that it’s a more or less linear trend. That is, more women are better all the way up to all women. It is also important to realize that this gender effect is largely statistically mediated by the social perceptiveness effect. In other words, it was known before we did our work that women on average scored higher on this measure of social perceptiveness than men.
. . . The most intelligent person is not the one who’s best at doing any specific task, but it’s the one who’s best at picking up new things quickly. That’s essentially the definition we used for defining intelligence at the level of groups as well. We said that a group is intelligent if it’s able to perform well on a wide range of different tasks. It was actually performance that we were looking at.
When I read Malone’s comment about the importance of social perceptiveness, I thought about many of the unproductive groups of which I’ve been a part. Quite often there are a couple people who dominate the talking, people who lack this perceptiveness. The result is that a lot of the quieter folks, many of them with heads full of ideas, never get a chance to talk.
Why is Malone focused on group intelligence?
[W]e want to understand how the world works, and in particular, how the world of groups of people and computers work together. How human societies and human networks work. Second, we want to help businesses, governments and other kinds of organizations know how to work better themselves. How can we create more intelligent organizations, more intelligent businesses, more intelligent governments, more intelligent societies? . . . [W]e are trying to understand how our whole world and society is evolving in a way that I think is making us more collectively intelligent.
Now I suspect that I’m about to over-extend Malone’s findings, but I do suspect that the national conversations we have are subject to these principles too. Two things that we sorely lack when “discussing” national issues as a nation are social perceptiveness and turn taking. What we actually have are a few loud-mouthed players, enabled by big money. They run roughshod over most of us, and they use their wealth to hog the national media. When this happens, it doesn’t matter that there are lots of smart people in this country, because they aren’t getting an opportunity to function as part of a group. As Amy Goodman often says, national conversations should occur at the equivalent of a big table, with all of us having a seat at the table. Throw in the relative lack of women’s voices in that conversation, and we are far from that ideal, for the reasons pointed out by Malone.
Okay, I confess, I did not watch the debate between Obama and Romney. In my opinion, it doesn’t count for much. I’ve been listening to both sides now since last spring and I’ve made my decision, so exactly what good would listening to the debate do me? Or for a committed Romney supporter, for that matter? None to speak of.
So, observation number one: I’ve never known anyone who changed their vote because of something in the debates. [More . . . ]
Fascinating story about parties crowded with somebodies thrown by an utterly dysfunctional couple, Albrecht Muth and Viola Drath. You’ll love this in the New York Times story if you are a forensic psychologist.
Muth, in other words, perfected the methodology for his social Ponzi scheme. For parties, he would start with bait. He theorized that Drath’s ties to Nebraska’s representatives in Washington — Senator Chuck Hagel, in particular — would bring in other politicians. Muth would also approach military officials attached to the embassies, who he knew were often lonely figures in town; he understood that their attendance would help him attract foreign-policy columnists. “The whole Western alliance was represented,” according to Roland Flamini, a former Time correspondent. In a 2010 e-mail to Drath, Muth explicitly detailed his approach: “You meet someone of import, check him out, determine [if] he can be of use, you make him yours. At some point you must decide whether to run him as a useful idiot, he not catching on as to who you are and what you do.”