“Free will” versus “free won’t”

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“I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde One of the best-known series of studies on human volition, or “free will,” was the “marshmallow test,” conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. In one variant of this study, children would be placed alone in a room with one marshmallow and told that if they waited and chose not to eat… Read more »

Corporate governance reform – By what right?

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This past week Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, clearly the most persistent and articulate advocate in this generation for the reform of corporate governance and social responsibility, has outlined in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion (behind a paywall) a series of proposals that both need to be taken seriously and will undoubtedly raise fierce opposition from the business community. Matthew Yglesias… Read more »

Rain events, the sand pile effect and climate change

I spent a lot of grandmother-visiting time in my youth, and went to university for a time, in the far-northern Michigan town of Houghton, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula protruding like a thumb into Lake Superior. This place regularly gets over 200 inches of “lake effect” snowfall each winter, but it has rarely been hit with up to seven inches… Read more »

Humpty Dumpty words: socialism and capitalism – part 2

In Part One of this series, I dissected the “socialism” versus “capitalism” labels to demonstrate that four major governmental programs with long-standing conservative support are “community” endeavors, and lean more toward a classically-socialist approach than a classically-capitalist one, even though conservatives detest the “S” word. In this second part of the series, I will do a deeper dive into a… Read more »

Humpty Dumpty words: socialism and capitalism – part 1

I wrote in a post back in March about the concept of “Humpty Dumpty words,” a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where Humpty Dumpty engages Alice (of Wonderland fame) in a “war of words” in which he gets to define the meanings. [1] This is what I see in the voluminous writing happening as we speak on… Read more »

Money is choice

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Several recent posts in this blog have been focused on the idea of human volition (or “choice,” or “free will”). [1] While there is more ground to cover on the biological foundations of this perception, we can say at this point that we all (including the most strict of “determinists” who philosophically deny that free will exists) live our lives… Read more »

The advertising funnel, probability, and you

Why do I keep getting these “Nigerian millionaire” emails? And why do I keep getting “phishing” emails purportedly from my bank? How did millions of Britons fall for categorically false messages on Brexit, and how did millions more Americans abandon their lifelong principles to vote for Trump? This is a story about a very old marketing concept, called the advertising… Read more »

Playing Yahtzee® with God

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the award-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers, about identical triplets who had been raised separately, only to meet for the first time when they were teenagers. The film first explores the question of why these three men were so similar but ends on asking why their lives turned out so differently. The classic “nature versus… Read more »

Believe because it is absurd?

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“Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” … “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” – George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four In a series of recent posts, I looked at the process of how a large percentage of… Read more »