Migrated to a new server (basically as I wanted to get the Wiki back up and running). Eventually that means that there'll probably be another few posts here - more concentrating

As one positive, the site should be accessible via SSL now.

Tyler Cowen and the downsides of too much technology

Tyler Cowen is an economics professor who, despite coauthoring one of my favourite blogs and consuming prodigious amounts of information seems to share some of the skepticism I feel about how technology has changed the world. To quote a conversation Product Hunt hosted with him:

I am glad I was forced to live in "book culture" and "meat space' for my first forty years. Or maybe thirty-five years would have been enough. People these days have lost the sense of information being scarce, and counterintuitively that makes it harder for them to develop profound thoughts. It's like practicing chess by asking the computer right away, all the time, what the right move it. If I were starting today, probably I would not be an academic. The seductions of the on-line world would be too great, I am pretty sure.

Related to this, the OECD recently released a report looking at the role computers play in education. To quote a portion of of the report cited in Nicholas Carr's well-titled summary Tech in schools: less is more:

Students who use computers moderately at school tend to have somewhat better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely. But students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics. The results also show no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT [information and communication technology] for education.

Overall I still like technology, but I think that it's also been oversold and the drawbacks of it often ignored. On a related note, I'd also recommend Kentaro Toyama's Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.

What does creativity look like?

I've been enjoying Scott Barry Kaufman's Psychology Podcast of late as well as his blogging on creativity (his research area). This post had perhaps one of the most interesting lists of character attributes of creative people that I've seen, revealing the complexity and contradictions involved. Here are the eight attributes listed:

  1. Mindful Daydreamers
  2. Imaginatively Gritty
  3. Passionately Introverted
  4. Openly Sensitive
  5. Playfully Serious
  6. Logically Intuitive
  7. Vulnerably Resilient
  8. Rebellious Experts

I'd encourage you to read the post for details. Overall the list made me think back to that famous quote from Aristotle:

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

To be creative seems to require often considering an idea and evaluating how well it meshes with others. This seems to me to be both part of a case for the liberal arts as well as a time to mourn the rush to judgment of ideas that seems to have become more common in recent times in the academic realm. At least with The Atlantic's September cover story The Coddling of the American Mind there seems to be pushback against this.

To reduce food waste define more as food

That's one lesson I drew from Is This Weird Vegetable Part Going To Be The Next Kale?. This proposed "next kale" is actually a byproduct of current brocolli production:

the answer might lie in selling a part of the broccoli plant that would normally be composted, not eaten. They’re calling it BroccoLeaf: The leaves around a broccoli crown that most people have never seen. “Before that crown has even formed, we go in and we harvest some of the younger, less mature leaves,” says Matt Seeley, VP of marketing at The Nunes Company, which sells the new vegetable in its Foxy Organic brand. “And that’s really what the BroccoLeaf is.”

Beyond being reported as less bitter than kale, it may actually be more nutritious:

Like kale, a single serving of broccoli leaves has a full day’s dose of Vitamin A or C. Broccoli leaves also have more calcium, more iron, and more potassium than kale. And arguably it’s also better for the environment—the plant is already growing broccoli crowns, so no more water or other resources are needed to harvest the extra leaves.

I'm a fan of promoting new things as a way of improving eating - e.g. The rise of Africa’s super vegetables and its promotion of not-widely-produced vegetables of African origin - but sometimes new food may already be hidden in plain sight. (It might also be worth noting that cabbage, kale, collards, cauliflower, romanesco broccoli, kohlrabi, and brussels sprouts all seem to originate from the same wild plant.


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