The water we swim in: Robert Pondiscio on culture and school performance

This extract is from is a great Econtalk discussion of How the Other Half Learns. Recommend. Robert Pondiscio: They [Success Academy Charter Schools] require an extraordinary level of parent commitment both in time and responsiveness. And it just seems pointless to deny that for some number of parents, this is simply too much. I want to be clear here that…

David Epstein on kind and wicked learning environments

These are terms used by psychologist Robin Hogarth, and what a “kind” learning environment is, is one where patterns recur, ideally a situation is constrained – so a chessboard with very rigid rules and a literal board is very constrained – and importantly, every time you do something you get feedback that is totally obvious, all the information is available,…

Podcast recommendation: Econtalk – Andy Matuschak on Why Books Don’t Work

This is a fantastic interview that takes Andy Matuschak‘s controversially titled essay as a springboard for a not-really-controversial but fascinating discussion of teaching, learning and tech informed by Matuschak’s work at Kahn Academy. Highly recommend. Highlights to follow.

Podcast Recommendation: Econtalk with Alain Bertaud on Cities, Planning, and Order Without Design

This is a great episode of Econtalk. Bertaud uses labour markets as a lens for thinking about cities. Helpful examples of emergent order and the challenges (impossibility?) of planning in complex adaptive systems. Highlights (coming up) include: Discussion of the importance of culture and context in how cities develop; Bertaud’s explanation of his broader-than-usual understanding of labour markets; When planning…

Podcasts: starting points for learning about AI

Stuart Russell on After On with Rob Reid A thought provoking interview and excellent introduction that sounds a note of caution about AI and gives good reasons for doing so. Highlights include: some interesting stuff about how people and robots process goals and the huge number of actions and priorities that make up a single ‘simple’ action (around 32 minutes);…

Resource: Tim Harford on 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy

If you haven’t thought much about economics, this series from the BBC is a first-rate introduction to a lot of key ideas about how markets work. Each episode is about ten minutes long and features at least one interesting, often entertaining and sometimes surprising ‘thing’ to illustrate fundamental principles of economics. There are lessons galore about how technologies take off…

Econtalk: Mauricio Miller on Poverty, Social Work, and the Alternative

This is a really interesting episode of Econtalk, and worth a listen. Highlight 1: Accurate description of poor communities A couple of things here really resonated with my experience of living and working in low-income communities in Jakarta: Miller’s descriptions of the resourcefulness of people in poor communities – that many people in poor communities are hard working and resourceful…

Scrapbook: Clay Shirky, Niall Ferguson – a spot of network theory

Speaking of networks, here’s a way into network theory – a few videos from Clay Shirky that make a good introduction: Ten Truths About Social Media And a couple of TED talks… Shirky on Econtalk And finally, go here interview on Econtalk from 2008. The blurb says… Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, talks about…

Conservatism and the status quo

Edmund Burke and Friedrich Hayek make good arguments for leaning towards conservatism (small c). For all its problems, the relatively stable equilibrium we live in is a blessing. It depends on a lot of intertwingled factors. It wasn’t planned or made: it evolved and accrued. The faster the world changes, the more valuable stable touchstones of culture, family, relationship become.…