Book Review: Social Physics : How Social Networks can make us Smarter

Duncan Green - January 6, 2017

My Christmas reading included a book called Social Physics – yep, a party animal (my others were Lord of the Flies and Knausgard Vol 3, both wonderful). Here’s the review: Airport bookstores are bewildering places – shelf after shelf of management gurus offering distilled lessons on leadership, change and everything else. How to distinguish snake oil from substance? My Christmas reading, based on a recommendation …

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How bad is my filter bubble problem? Please help me find out

Duncan Green - January 5, 2017

In an idle moment over the Christmas break, I decided to run a twitter poll to assess the extent of my filter bubble. For any of you who’ve been on a different planet for the last few months, that’s the social media phenomenon whereby you like/follow/read only those sources that broadly agree with you, creating an echo chamber that can lead to you mistakenly thinking …

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Links I Liked

Duncan Green - January 4, 2017

A few links from either side of the Christmas break, to provide some initial distractions in 2017 How much does $10m in large banknotes weigh? Carrying bags of cash is (luckily) easier on the back in Davos than Caracas (h/t The Economist) Great (long read) interview with inequality guru Branko Milanovic The focus on better communicating certain ‘truths’ is misplaced: academics must improve their emotional literacy …

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How many readers? Where from? What were their favourite posts? Stats for 2016 on FP2P

Duncan Green - January 3, 2017

Hi everyone, Happy New Year and all that. Thought I’d kick off with the usual feedback post on last year’s blog stats: The blog passed a couple of milestones last year – since it started in 2008, it’s clocked up 2000 posts, 1.4 million words, and 10,000 comments (big thanks to everyone who takes the time to add theirs). Only a matter of time before …

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RIP Tony Atkinson: Here he is on our personal responsibility for reducing inequality

Duncan Green - January 2, 2017

Tony Atkinson, one of the world’s great thought leaders on poverty and inequality, died on New Year’s Day. Combining intellectual rigour and a profound commitment to social justice, his life’s work epitomised the economics profession at its best. Here he is in the final chapter of his 2015 book ‘Inequality: What can be done?’ ‘I do not accept that rising inequality is inevitable: it is …

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Is this time really different? Will Automation kill off development?

Duncan Green - December 21, 2016

Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before. Which brings us to technology. Lots of musings are …

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‘Odd but Interesting’: Clare Short reviews How Change Happens

Duncan Green - December 20, 2016

Clare Short was DFID’s first minister (1997-2003) and a force of nature (for example she was one of the originators of what became the Millennium Development Goals). Great when she agreed with you, pretty brutal when she didn’t. Which in the case of NGOs, was quite a lot of the time – she had the traditional Labour Left dislike of middle class, self-appointed, self-righteous dogoodery …

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Links I Liked

Duncan Green - December 19, 2016

When scientists protest, their placards have footnotes [h/t Bill McKibben] Are economists partly responsible for the rise of populism? Dani Rodrik argues that by abandoning evidence to become cheer leaders for globalization, they helped contribute to the backlash The Digital Divide is serious: Fewer than half of all Africans have phones; 3/4 don’t use the internet. Here’s one reason why that matters. From 2008-14, 2% …

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On webinars, prayer and ‘transformational development': an hour with World Vision

Duncan Green - December 16, 2016

I’m becoming a big fan of webinars. I can slump in front of the computer at home, slurping a coffee, give a presentation on the book (Open Access helps – no need to try and get people to buy copies, just download the pdf after the session), then sit back and listen to the ensuing conversation. On Wednesday it was 50 or so World Vision …

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Why is Africa’s Civil Society under Siege?

Duncan Green - December 15, 2016

Oxfam’s Ross Clarke (Governance and Legal Adviser ) and Desire Assogbavi (Resident Representative & Head of Office, Oxfam International Liaison Office to the African Union) introduce a new analysis of the threats to African civil society After years on the margins of the mainstream development agenda, addressing civic space is finally getting the attention it deserves. If the number of policy initiatives, conferences and campaigns …

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