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Showing posts from February, 2018


Today, we eat a rich and decadent buffet of brainjunk, of useless tweets, of photos of people we don't know, of articles that were written in ten minutes to stoke the content boiler. The dopamine cycle ensures that we keep on craving more content, the exact same dopamine cycle that makes a Happy Meal a happy meal. And nothing is enough in a world in which readers crave brainjunk at the expense of all other quality content. People want free content and they want a lot of it, and media companies have been more than happy to oblige. More articles, more videos, all cheaply made and distributed through the purveyors of brainjunk like Facebook and Twitter. Lewis D'Vorkin was chief product officer at Forbes, where he pioneered the open platform model that has juiced Forbes traffic while tarnishing that publication's brand equity. He understood brainjunk and just how lucrative it could potentially be. It is the deep irony of our times that readers, often deeply educated, will shel

Diversity: An Ideology

While the rapid spread of affirmative action policies met a backlash in the late 1970s, this resistance was largely a white middle class revolt. Support never flagged among elites. In fact, most of the country's largest corporations opposed the Reagan administration's efforts to dismantle affirmative action practices in the early 1980s. Despite regulatory relief, nearly all Fortune 500 firms continued to pursue or even expand efforts to recruit and employ more racial minorities and women. Elite universities remained strongly committed as well. In 1978, the Supreme Court issued its famously scattered ruling. In a victory for affirmative action supporters, the Court agreed that some alternative system of racial preferences could pass constitutional muster. It is precisely here that the ideology of diversity entered mainstream American thought and practice. Justice Powell argued that "a diverse student body" was a worthy goal of any university which allowed th

E Pluribus Unum

In the theoretical toolkit of social science we find two diametrically opposed perspectives on the effects of diversity on social connections. The first, usually labelled the "contact hypothesis", argues that diversity fosters interethnic tolerance and social solidarity. As we have more contact with people who are unlike us, we overcome our initial hesitation and ignorance and come to trust them more. More formally, according to this theory, diversity reduces ethnocentric attitudes and fosters out-group trust and solidarity. For progressives, the contact theory is alluring, but I think it is fair to say that most (though not all) empirical studies have tended instead to support the so-called "conflict theory", which suggests that, for various reasons (above all, contention over limited resources) diversity fosters out-group distrust and in-group solidarity. On this theory, the more we are brought into physical proximity with people of another race or ethnic bac


Michael Young’s “The Rise of the Meritocracy” argued that the most significant fact of modern society is not the rise of democracy, or indeed capitalism, but the rise of the meritocracy. In a knowledge society the most important influence on your life-chances is not your relationship with the means of production but your relationship with the machinery of educational and occupational selection. -