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Trapped by history

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A little bit of me feels sorry for Toby Young. I say so because of something Dan Davies tweeted:

Find a brand and stick to it. Don't try to be jack the lad when poundshop Clarksons are in fashion, then pull on the leather elbow patches as soon as you think there's more of a market for Serious.

The point here is that we can be trapped by our brands: Young’s reputation as cheap controversialist disqualifies him from a serious job even if he might be otherwise equipped to do it.

His is not an isolated case. Sam Allardyce has earned a reputation for playing effective but ugly route one football. He objects that he’s had to do this because of the limited ability of the players he’s managed and that he could get a team to play attractive football if he had the chance. But except for a brief period at Bolton, he’s never had that chance.

Similarly, my reputation means I’m unemployable elsewhere: who wants to hire someone who seems to mix dull technocracy with class hatred?

Much more seriously, ex-prisoners and the long-term unemployed find it hard to get work because employers don’t believe they can change.

Our histories, then, limit our options.

This isn’t wholly unreasonable. What we have done in the past is at least some guide to our abilities and character. Mr Young has forgotten that if a man acts like a cunt, a good Bayesian will increase the probability he attaches to the prior belief that he really is a cunt. Many of us are one-trick ponies: for example, I really am unemployable elsewhere. Just as societies are created by their past, and companies cannot easily change their core competences, so too do individuals struggle to change. This is why the decline of old industries is so traumatic: unemployed steel-workers or miners don’t become coders.

But, but but. It’s also possible that employers overstate the extent to which abilities and aptitudes are fixed, and exaggerate the correlation between what somebody has done and what they can do. People are often terrible at judging correlations: why shouldn’t they be so in this case?

I can’t prove this, simply because we don’t see what doesn’t happen: if you don’t hire a guy, you never find out how good he is. One factoid, however, lends it credence – that Timpsons, which does try to employ ex-cons, does OK by doing so.

What seems clearer, though, is the obverse of this. As Marko Tervio has shown, hirers place a premium upon revealed talent – those with the right CV. This is one reason why I advise youngsters to work in finance: an investment bank looks good on your CV.

Revealed talent, however, is scarcer than actual talent. It’s for this reason that Premier League teams tend to hire the same old faces as bosses; why some folk hoover up lots of non-executive directorships; why talking heads current affairs shows have a limited roster of guests; and why there’s a management merry-go-round with a few people jumping from job to job.

And because revealed talent is so scarce, those who have it earn fortunes even if they are only just above a threshold of basic competence.

Which raises a nice paradox. Those people who think that Young’s past disqualifies him from a serious job are doing the same thing that companies do when they refuse to hire the ex-con or when they pay gazillions to mediocre bosses. They are using the same mindset that gives us gross inequalities.

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philipstorry
9 days ago
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An interesting point of view. I don't think that Toby Young's previous behaviour should have allowed him to be considered, but that doesn't mean he can't change. He should, however, demonstrate that change before he's considered for such roles.
London, United Kingdom
zippy72
7 days ago
I think recent revelations since this article came out have rendered that a moot point.
philipstorry
7 days ago
Yeah, as ever Future Politics mocks what Present Me writes...
zippy72
5 days ago
That's always the way, unfortunately. But I do agree with you that people can change, and that if they demonstrate that change they should be given a second chance.
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expatpaul
9 days ago
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Interesting point regarding revealed talent versus actual talent.
Belgium

Why we don't commute with helicopters

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Choppers are now associated mostly with militaries, hospitals, news reporting and other institutional uses. But they were once seriously touted as mass transit vehicles, the original flying car. It all came to an end in 1977, when four passengers were killed in the spectacularly nasty Panam rooftop disaster. Efforts to revive scheduled passenger helicopter service is periodically revived, but everyone's failed at it -- including future president Donald Trump.

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philipstorry
158 days ago
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Well, yes, accidents.
Oh, and the fact that it's really inefficient and expensive.
Even most of the people who read Bloomberg can't really justify the expensive of a daily commute by helicopter...
London, United Kingdom
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MAC randomization: A massive failure that leaves iPhone, Android mobes open to tracking

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Security flaws smash worthless privacy protection

Analysis To protect mobile devices from being tracked as they move through Wi-Fi-rich environments, there's a technique known as MAC address randomization. This replaces the number that uniquely identifies a device's wireless hardware with randomly generated values.…

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philipstorry
315 days ago
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This is interesting, because nobody gets it right. Samsung just forgets to turn the feature on. Apple did it correctly, then broke it, and are trampling on other's property when they do it anyway.
And it's all moot, because a chipset issue (which isn't specified) means that MAC address randomisation doesn't work.
Basically, evading tracking is hard. And this is just at one level of the stack...
London, United Kingdom
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This photo of some strawberries with no red pixels is the new 'the dress'

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UCLA neuroscientist Matt Lieberman posted the 'no red pixels' image on the left. It's developed from an original by Experimental Psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka (right) that, despite appearances, does have some very slightly red-tinged pixels in it.

Remember internet kerfuffle that was 'the dress' ? Well, there's another optical illusion that's puzzling the internet right now. Behold: the red strawberries that aren't really red. Or more specifically, the image of the strawberries contains no 'red pixels.'

The important distinction to make here is that there is red information in the image but, despite what your eyes might be telling you, red is not the highest value for any individual pixel in the image. Hence, no 'red pixel' in the image.

As was the case with 'the dress,' it all relates to a concept called color constancy, which relates to the human brain's ability to perceive objects as the same color under different lighting. Which should immediately bring to mind a familiar photographic concept: white balance. Although there's a significant cyan cast to the whole image, your brain is able to correct for it without you having to consciously identify a neutral part of the image (as you'd need to in processing software).

As a photographer, this should make it clear just how clever auto white balance algorithms have become and also why, when color accuracy is critical, you're still better off telling the camera or leaving yourself a target to confirm what grey looks like in the available lighting.

We have Experimental Psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka to thank for turning this puzzle loose on the world, and neuroscientist Matt Lieberman for turning it viral. Curiously, the first image contains a few red-dominated pixels (which Lieberman's edited version doesn't), yet appears more grey than Lieberman's version.

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philipstorry
323 days ago
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I remember early digital cameras and their white balance. Got snow? The world turns cyan.
My smartphone does better white balance than a 2002 digital camera. Which is amazing. Especially when these images show how fickle human vision is...
London, United Kingdom
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America is confused about healthcare coverage

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According to a recent poll, over a third of those polled did not know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were the same thing.

In the survey, 35 percent of respondents said either they thought Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were different policies (17 percent) or didn’t know if they were the same or different (18 percent). This confusion was more pronounced among people 18 to 29 and those who earn less than $50,000 — two groups that could be significantly affected by repeal.

And that’s perhaps not even the worse part:

For instance, only 61 percent of adults knew that many people would lose coverage through Medicaid or subsidies for private health insurance if the A.C.A. were repealed and no replacement enacted. In contrast, approximately one in six Americans, or 16 percent, said that “coverage through Medicaid and subsidies that help people buy private health insurance would not be affected” by repeal, and 23 percent did not know.

I’ve never liked the Obamacare moniker, but clearly that’s only part of the problem.

Tags: healthcare   politics
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philipstorry
344 days ago
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It's easy to blame news outlets for this kind of misunderstanding.
It's not the news outlets. If you only want news that agrees with you and/or is entertaining, then it's your damned fault your news outlets are never going to educate you.
London, United Kingdom
digdoug
343 days ago
If news outlet's only responsibility is to their shareholders, they're going to maximize profit. That means not wasting potential ad space on pesky things like background and context. So, I guess I don't blame the outlets, I blame the shareholders?
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A new NewsBlur Android release for the new year

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Version 5.0 has a bunch of new features. It’s got new gestures, better looking icons and thumbnail previews, and little UI design details to better match the rest of NewsBlur.

Take a look:

The full feature list:

  • New gesture to mark a story as read and unread by swiping on the story title
  • UI updates to story titles
  • New preferences for the font size of feed titles and story titles
  • Fleuron on the bottom of story lists better help you keep tracking of where you are in a feed.
  • Thumbnails in story lists
  • Recover a forgotten password
  • Higher resolution icons
  • Mute feeds
  • Option to enable confirmation for destructive mark-reads
  • Custom server support

What a good way to close out January.

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philipstorry
357 days ago
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Just tried the update, and it looks and feels great! Nice work. :-)
London, United Kingdom
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