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A year of Tech Solidarity, as told by Civic Hall’s Jessica McKenzie, who captures my trademark sense of optimism: civichall.org/civicist/a-yea…

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A year of Tech Solidarity, as told by Civic Hall’s Jessica McKenzie, who captures my trademark sense of optimism: civichall.org/civicist/a-yea…


Posted by Pinboard on Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 1:00am


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codersquid
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Contrary to stereotypes, study of hedge fund managers finds psychopaths make poor investors

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GettyImages-457803795.jpgBy Emma Young

If you’re a psychopath who’s good with numbers, you could make the perfect hedge fund manager. Your lack of empathy will allow you to capitalise blithely on the financial losses of others, while your ability to stomach high-risk, but potentially high-return, options will send your fund value soaring…. Well, that’s the story that’s been painted by popular media, folk wisdom and Wall Street insiders alike. The problem, according to a new paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, is that hedge fund managers with psychopathic tendencies actually make less money for their clients.

Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues analysed videos of semi-structured interviews with 101 hedge fund managers, whose firms each managed between US$40 million and US$1 trillion in assets. This money generally came from institutional investors, such as insurance companies and public and private pension funds.

The videos had been recorded between 2005 and 2015 by an investment advisory firm, to act as a marketing tool, and to give existing clients market updates. They followed a set format with the interviewer asking questions like, “What is your outlook on opportunities in the current market?” and “What is your philosophy on risk management?”

The researchers were looking for non-verbal evidence in the hedge fund managers’ replies of the so-called Dark Triad personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Erratic emotional expression, for example, was taken as a signal of psychopathy. A dominant positioning of the jaw and posture were among the signals of Machiavellianism. Flashy clothes, coy looks, and excessive use of “I” rather than “We”, were among the indicators of narcissism.

Keltner and his colleagues also analysed the financial performance of each manager’s so-called “flagship fund” – usually the largest fund offered by the company, and the one considered to most reflect the individual manager’s investment process – during the ten-year period that the videos were recorded.

Machiavellianism had no bearing on performance. Narcissistic hedge fund managers had to make riskier decisions to make the same returns over a given period compared with a less narcissistic manager; as far as an investor is concerned, this would manifest as greater volatility in the value of their investments.

When it came to psychopathic tendencies, however, the results were more clear cut. For managers who displayed psychopathic tendencies at a level of one standard deviation above the mean, an investment of US$1 million earned US$1,161,694 (15 per cent) less over the course of ten years, on average, compared with a manager who ranked average for psychopathy. More extreme psychopathy led to even weaker returns. For example, the same US$1 million investment by a manager who rated two standard deviations above the mean for psychopathy earned 30 per cent less, on average.

This is the first time that the Dark Triad traits have been investigated in the context of hedge fund performance, and unfortunately the study doesn’t reveal the reasons for the counterintuitive results. It may be that, while the individual managers led the hedge funds, innovative ideas from team members are important for effective financial investing – and the more bullying style of managers with more psychopathic traits could have stifled this kind of creative, collaborative thinking.

While the findings suggest that investors would be wise to avoid managers with psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies, there are some limitations to be mindful of. The financial data were from a period that included the Global Financial Crisis and the researchers can’t rule out the possibility that Dark Triad traits may be advantageous in other, less financially disastrous, contexts. Also the non-verbal coding procedure – although it’s a valid measure according to earlier research – provides only a rather coarse indication of personality traits.

It’s worth noting that the results tally with another recent study (on which Dacher Keltner was also a co-author), that found US senators with psychopathic tendencies received less support for bills they had proposed. “These two studies, clear examples of real-world performance, cast doubts upon the efficacy of a Dark Triad-based approach to wielding power,” Keltner and his team concluded.

Hedge Fund Managers With Psychopathic Tendencies Make for Worse Investors

(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest






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codersquid
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Burn The Programmer!

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This is a guest post by Virtual Reality developer Hugh Hancock, creator of VR horror RPG Left-Hand Path.

I've always had a problem with Arthur C Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.".

This may have something to do with my career for a long time involving both magic and technology. Magic's a perennial fiction obsession of mine, and my media of choice have always been highly technological.

Most recently, I just released Left-Hand Path. It's a Virtual Reality game for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive - obviously fairly technological - whose central conceit is that in it, you learn the skills to cast spells. And I don't just mean you select spells from a spellbook and then press a button: I mean you have to learn the gestures necessary to create the magic, and on occasion go through a complex system of ritual magic to create the effects you desire, flipping through your grimoire to remember exactly how you summon your ancient powers.


Now, all that makes for a great game. There's a sense of accomplishment as you learn to use the powers of magic to your advantage and remember how to cast the "Vis" spell as something nasty is closing on you. There's a sense of discovery as you learn more about the world, the way magic works, and find powerful new spells. And there's a sense of pant-crapping terror as you realise that the things your new ritual summons to eat your foes will cheerfully eat you as well.

(Fun fact: horror games are more intense in VR, by some margin. So terrifying, in fact, that I added a "Low Terror Mode" recently, after reading a significant number of people saying "I'd love to play your game, but I absolutely won't, because it sounds way too scary.")

Now, none of that description of magic sounds very much like the technology I use in 2017.

I don't have to imprecate dark and terrible forces in order to use my PS4, unless you count Sony's latest privacy policy. My lovely new iPad is famously intuitive, not a quality one would ascribe to The Lesser Key Of Solomon.

But.

And this is a big but. (I cannot lie.)

None of what I describe sounds like the consumer tech that I use. That's not so much the case for the other technology I interact with.

And I think that distinction - and the points where Clarke's Third Law does still apply - may explain a lot about why technologists are increasingly becoming hated in many circles.

Speak friend().init and enter

Magic is arcane - in the original meaning of the world. It's occult - again, in the original meaning of the world. It's difficult, dangerous, and often quite impractical despite its theoretical incredible power.

...Ever tried to set up a Sendmail server?

The technology that we deal with as technologists absolutely obeys Clarke's Third Law. Indeed, I've often wondered quite how much Charlie's Laundry Files magic was inspired by the fact he had a career before "Novelist" writing PERL. I've occasionally wondered if inscribing a pentagram and blood sacrifice would be more effective in ranking a site on Google than the traditional approaches. I've made myself physically ill whilst creating other worlds in the first generation of VR.

Sounds like magic to me. Indeed, I've read multiple books where the wizard protagonist suffers a severe "magic hangover" after overextending his powers, and it sounds a lot like what I experienced after finally getting Minecraft to work on my Oculus DK1.

(Side note: on quality VR platforms, those being Oculus and Vive, the vomiting thing is mostly solved by now. Don't fear the Great God Huey if you're thinking of trying those.)

I mean, does this look like some magical incantation stuff to you?

(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])(?:(?:(?:[^()<>@,;:\".[] \000-\031]+(?:(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t] )+|\Z|(?=[["()<>@,;:\".[]]))|"(?:[^\"\r\]|\.|(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t]))"(?:(?: \r\n)?[ \t]))(?:.(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])(?:[^()<>@,;:\".[] \000-\031]+(?:(?:( ?:\r\n)?[ \t])+|\Z|(?=[["()<>@,;:\".[]]))|"(?:[^\"\r\]|\.|(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t]))"(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])))@(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])(?:[^()<>@,;:\".[] \000-\0 31]+(?:(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])+|\Z|(?=[["()<>@,;:\".[]]))|[([^[]\r\]|\.)*\ ](?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t]))(?:.(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])(?:[^()<>@,;:\".[] \000-\031]+ (?:(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])+|\Z|(?=[["()<>@,;:\".[]]))|[([^[]\r\]|\.)](?: (?:\r\n)?[ \t])))|(?:[^()<>@,;:\".[] \000-\031]+(?:(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t])+|\Z |(?=[["()<>@,;:\".[]]))|"(?:[^\"\r\]|\.|(?:(?:\r\n)?[ \t]))"(?:(?:\r\n)

Ask the non-technologist in your life. Or just carve it on a stone tablet and leave it somewhere around Skara Brae for archaeologists to get excited about.

Klaatu barada MongoDB

So there's this class of people in the world who can do incredible things - like, say, teaching a car to drive itself. Or indeed crafting a literal Magician's Broom to clean their towers - I mean, apartments.

And they do this by immersing themselves in obscure, difficult learning that on the face of it makes no sense to the average person.

They don't need large teams of people or masses of wealth to do these things. In fact, if one of them locks themselves up in their tower, they're likely to come out in 10 years having created an entire world for themselves as a plaything.

They can cause harm to people tens of thousands of miles away using weirdly-named incantations - like "WannaCry".

They summon and control alien entities called "AIs". They don't always perfectly control those entities.

And they can amass unimaginable wealth and power by using these arcane skills.

What happens next?

Well, it's fairly clear from a cursory read over fantasy literature - and it's fresh in my mind as humans' reactions to magic users are also a key plot-point of Left-Hand Path.

They're either going to get worshipped as gods - or they get burned as a witch.

Thou Shalt Not Suffer A Programmer To Live

Obviously there are plenty of other reasons why society at large might be getting a bit skeptical of the tech giants, Silicon Valley, and so on. There's the wealth disparity. The diversity culture. The threat of strong AI. And more.

But I can't help but feel, looking at a lot of the media pushback at the moment, that a lot of it is straight-up fantasy novel 101 "Reactions To Wizardry".

And it's particularly ironic because most of the people reacting are surrounded by the same wizardry. They've got daemons in their phones. They're organising using services that have been carefully massaged to not require "magic" to use. Their cars and their TVs and their fridges all contain little bits of complex, arcane magic that can only be understood by the "wizards".

Don't get confused with the real-world "witch hunts" here. Those witches didn't (probably) actually have magical powers. This is something else.

And as I watch 2017 unfold in all its craziness, I do start wondering whether the conversation should be less about robots, and more about straight-up magic. About a world which is increasingly splitting into those who can wield magic, those who can pay the magicians, and those who just use the things magic enables.

Because that's the interesting part: whilst Arthur C Clarke's maxim was true, and all advanced technology was arcane and difficult, these problems didn't occur. It's only now, as technology finally surpasses magic enough to eat society as a whole, rather than just the beardy guys in the towers studying eldrich tomes, that society as a whole notices the wizards in its midst.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just released an army of scuttling, gliding, limbless, bodiless eldrich horrors on the general population, and I've got to go see how they're reacting.

What do you think? Are programmers in danger of burning?

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I need your help or Corvid Research is toast

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About three years into my graduate program the emails, letters and blog comments started. A trickle at first, maybe only one or two things every couple of months. Now, five years into my program, the questions, calls for help, requests for opinions, and desire to share stories of corvid joy, sadness or sheer mystery are relentless.

And I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of my work. Few graduate students get to engage with the public in the way that I do or will ever experience the public appreciating the research they do or the expertise they’ve acquired through the often tremendous personal sacrifice of being a grad student. Hardly any will ever get an email saying “your research is so cool” or “keep up the good work” or “your work changed my heart and mine about something” or “thank you.” They won’t ever hear those words despite the fact their research may have far more reaching and positive effects on the health and wellness of their non-human and human communities than mine does. But I do get to hear those things because the nature of my research means it makes for a cool blog and gets written about in publications like National Geographic and The Week.  And I am truly grateful for that. But on behalf of all those students who aren’t so well known I want to use my platform to ask something of you now.  Because our existence as graduate students is under attack.

If you’ve been keeping up with current events you’ll know that our GOP leaders are working on a tax reform bill. What many people do not yet know, however, is that the current bill will do away with key features intended to help make higher education affordable. Including:

–Section 117(d), which exempts tuition waivers from being counted as taxable income

–Section 127, which exempts employer education assistance from being taxed

–The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit

–The Student Loan Interest Deduction

–Consolidation of the American Education Opportunity Credit to only be used for 4 + 1 years

I could write whole blog posts on every one of those points but for the sake of brevity let’s focus just on the first one, the tax exemption for tuition waivers.

Most grad students working in STEM fields (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fund their degree with teaching assistantships or research assistantships. In my case, I started with an RA because I had an NSF Fellowship and when that ended after three years, I transitioned to a quarter by quarter struggle to find a TA position. For my TA work, the university pays me at 50%, meaning I receive a salary based on 20 hours of work (despite the fact most TA’s work considerably more.) My annual stipend is $23,000, but it can vary anywhere from $15,000-35,000 depending on your source of funding and state. This money is intended to provide basic cost of living and for many students, especially those with dependents, it barely covers that. But we make due because there’s few other options, we love science, and we know that our work has a meaningful impact on our communities.

This stipend money, regardless of the source, is taxed. As it should be. But in addition to a small stipend these TA and RA positions include tuition waivers which are valued at anywhere from 12-50k a year. This waiver is basically the University paying itself for our tuition and under the current system it’s not considered income. The waiver is designed to offset the considerable costs of pursuing higher education in this country. And, because grad students aren’t just professionals in training, but are currently contributing to our universities (and communities at large) through our labor, research and publications, it seems reasonable that we shouldn’t be paying for work we do in their name.

Losing this tuition waiver would mean students like me would still be getting paid about $23,000 but taxed as if our salary was in the neighborhood of $60,000. In fact some grad students are poised to have the biggest tax hike of any demographic under this new plan. That’s not financially feasible for most people (including myself), especially those who have already accrued debt from their undergraduate education, or who come from low income families, or those supporting dependents. It would be a disaster for STEM. 

Let me be clear: I’m not trying to paint the plight of grad students as the most important casualty of this bill. There are lots of reason to oppose it and we can’t all be fighting the same battle when are are so many different ones underway. But if you are reading this because you know and appreciate my research, popular articles, #CrowOrNo, blog, or even if you just care about STEM…that it continues to exist and attracts people of all financial means, then I need you to call or write to your legislators. They need to know that their non-grad student, tax paying constituents want to keep people like me in school.  If you need any help navigating how to do this please use this resource: Action Alert! – Tax Reform.

I will be here to answer your crow questions from now until well after my run at grad school ends.  But this time I need you to return the favor.  Please contact your legislators.








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codersquid
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Do We Need An Adoption Service for Orphan Data?

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Having recently left an academic post, I've been thinking about what will happen to the data that I collected during my previous role that remains unpublished. Will it, like so much data, end up stuck in the limbo of the proverbial 'file drawer'? The 'file drawer problem' is generally understood to mean "the bias introduced into the scientific literature by selective publication - chiefly by a tendency to publish positive results but not to publish negative or nonconfirmatory results."
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We’re surprisingly unaware of when our own beliefs change

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GettyImages-468909038.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

If you read an article about a controversial issue, do you think you’d realise if it had changed your beliefs? No one knows your own mind like you do – it seems obvious that you would know if your beliefs had shifted. And yet a new paper in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that we actually have very poor “metacognitive awareness” of our own belief change, meaning that we will tend to underestimate how much we’ve been swayed by a convincing article.

The researchers Michael Wolfe and Todd Williams at Grand Valley State University said their findings could have implications for the public communication of science. “People may be less willing to meaningfully consider belief inconsistent material if they feel that their beliefs are unlikely to change as a consequence,” they wrote.

The researchers recruited over two hundred undergrads across two studies and focused on their beliefs about whether the spanking/smacking of kids is an effective form of discipline. The researchers chose this topic deliberately in the hope the students would be mostly unaware of the relevant research literature, and that they would express a varied range of relatively uncommitted initial beliefs.

The students reported their initial beliefs about whether spanking is an effective way to discipline a child on a scale from “1” completely disbelieve to “9” completely believe. Several weeks later they were given one of two research-based texts to read: each was several pages long and either presented the arguments and data in favour of spanking or against spanking. After this, the students answered some questions to test their comprehension and memory of the text (these measures varied across the two studies). Then the students again scored their belief in whether spanking is effective or not (using the same 9-point scale as before). Finally, the researchers asked them to recall what their belief had been at the start of the study.

The students’ belief about spanking changed when they read a text that argued against their own initial position. Crucially, their memory of their initial belief was shifted in the direction of their new belief – in fact, their memory was closer to their current belief than their original belief. The more their belief had changed, the larger this memory bias tended to be, suggesting the students were relying on their current belief to deduce their initial belief. The memory bias was unrelated to the measures of how well they’d understood or recalled the text, suggesting these factors didn’t play a role in memory of initial belief or awareness of belief change.

One big caveat is obviously that this research was about changes to mostly moderate beliefs – it’s likely the findings would be different in the context of changes to extreme or deeply held beliefs (this would be tricky to study because it will be more difficult to change these kind of beliefs). However, our beliefs on most topics are in the moderate range, and as we go about our daily lives reading informative material, these intriguing findings suggest we are mostly ignorant of how what we just read has updated and altered our own position.

Poor Metacognitive Awareness of Belief Change

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest






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codersquid
16 days ago
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"One big caveat is obviously that this research was about changes to mostly moderate beliefs – it’s likely the findings would be different in the context of changes to extreme or deeply held beliefs"
I have two comments about that. 1. In my experience, opinions about spanking are pretty heated. 2. Research from the Choice Blindness lab have shown people that people can be tricked in to thinking they have the opposite belief for highly polarizing issues when immediately surveyed. It's hard to tell how long term the shift in belief is. See http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0045457#
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