Month: February 2021

Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do about It, by Sunstein, Cass R.

How we became so burdened by red tape and unnecessary paperwork, and why we must do better.

We’ve all had to fight our way through administrative sludge–filling out complicated online forms, mailing in paperwork, standing in line at the motor vehicle registry. This kind of red tape is a nuisance, but, as Cass Sunstein shows in Sludge, it can also also impair health, reduce growth, entrench poverty, and exacerbate inequality. Confronted by sludge, people just give up–and lose a promised outcome: a visa, a job, a permit, an educational opportunity, necessary medical help. In this lively and entertaining look at the terribleness of sludge, Sunstein explains what we can do to reduce it.
Because of sludge, Sunstein, explains, too many people don’t receive benefits to which they are entitled. Sludge even prevents many people from exercising their constitutional rights–when, for example, barriers to voting in an election are too high. (A Sludge Reduction Act would be a Voting Rights Act.) Sunstein takes readers on a tour of the not-so-wonderful world of sludge, describes justifications for certain kinds of sludge, and proposes “Sludge Audits” as a way to measure effects of sludge. On balance, Sunstein argues, sludge infringes on human dignity, making people feel that their time and even their lives don’t matter. We must do better.

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Decentralization and regional convergence: Evidence from night‐time lights data

Decentralization and regional convergence: Evidence from night‐time lights data
Bibek Adhikari Saroj Dhital

The proponents of decentralization argue that it improves economic growth, while critics say it increases regional inequality. The empirical evidence is mixed and based mostly on developed countries due to a lack of income data for lower administrative regions. We combine night‐lights data captured by satellites with a new database on decentralization derived from actual laws that are institutionalized and circumscribed from a global sample of countries. We then analyze the impact of decentralization on regional convergence using income data from the first and second administrative regions. We find that decentralization hinders within‐country regional convergence, especially in the developing countries.

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César Hidalgo | How Humans Judge Machines | Talks at Google

César Hidalgo discusses his new book “How Humans Judge Machines”, in which he compares people’s reactions to actions performed by humans and machines. Using data collected in dozens of experiments, this book reveals the biases that permeate human-machine interactions.

Are there conditions in which we judge machines unfairly? Is our judgment of machines affected by the moral dimensions of a scenario? Is our judgment of machines correlated with demographic factors such as education or gender? César Hidalgo and colleagues use hard science to take on these pressing technological questions. Using randomized experiments, they create revealing counterfactuals and build statistical models to explain how people judge artificial intelligence and whether they do it fairly.

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Entropy | Special Issue : What is Self-Organization?

Many of us have used the notion of “self-organization” in our studies. What is it precisely, though? A constituent element could be, e.g., the emergence of non-trivial properties from comparatively simple rules. What would simple, non-trivial or complex emergence mean in this context?

In this Special Issue, we invite viewpoints, perspectives, and applied considerations on questions regarding the notions of self-organization and complexity. Examples include:

Routes: In how many different ways can self-organization manifest itself? Would it be meaningful, or even possible, to attempt a classification?

Detection: Can we detect it automatically—either the process or the outcome? Or do we need a human observer to classify a system as “self-organizing”? This issue may be related to the construction of quantifiers, e.g., in terms of functions on phase space, such as entropy measures.

Complexity: Is a system self-organizing only when the resulting dynamical state is “complex”? What does “complex” mean exact;ly? Are there many types of complexity, or just a single one? E.g., it has never been settled whether complexity should be intensive or extensive, if any.

Domains: Where do we find self-organizing processes? Are the properties of self-organizing systems domain-specific or universal? In which class of systems does self-organization show up most clearly?

Prof. Dr. Claudius Gros
Dr. Damián H. Zanette
Guest Editors

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