The game underwent numerous updates over the years. The early emphasis on money to determine the winner had been “indicative of what sold in that era,” George Burtch, the former vice president of marketing for Hasbro, which acquired Milton Bradley in 1984, said in a phone interview.
As times changed, so did the game, with players encountering midlife crises and being rewarded for good deeds, like recycling the trash and helping homeless people.
“Reuben was very receptive to the changes — in fact he was often the impetus for them — because he was a businessman,” Mr. Burtch said.
“He understood that the Game of Life was not just the game that he invented; it was a brand,” he added. “And for a brand to remain viable, it has to evolve. It has to reflect the market conditions of the time.”
But as Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker in 2007, the redesign teams always had a hard time addressing the fundamental criticism of the game — that the only way to reward a player for virtuous acts was with money: “Save an Endangered Species: Collect $200,000. Solution to Pollution: $250,000. Open Health-Food Chain: $100,000.”
And so the company’s 2007 overhaul, the Game of Life: Twists & Turns, was almost existential. Instead of putting players on a fixed path, it provided multiple ways to start out in life — but nowhere to finish. “This is actually the game’s selling point; it has no goal,” Ms. Lepore wrote. “Life is … aimless.”
That is from an excellent NYT obituary of Reuben Klamer, who invented the game of Life, in addition to numerous other achievements.
2. I wanted to send this article to someone, yet no one is really an appropriate recipient, so I am putting it here (NYT).
4. Memorial to a Swedish life. Very good (and sad).
5. The rise of the biohacker (FT, the framing is excessively negative, but an interesting piece nonetheless).
6. Yes taxes really do matter (Mankiw).
7. New (free Kindle) book: The Essential UCLA School of Economics.
I am pleased to have had the chance to do this, as in my view she is one of the thinkers today who has a) super smarts, b) breadth and depth of reading, and c) breadth and depth of thinking. That combination is rare! That said, I don’t quite agree with her on everything, so this exchange had more disagreements than perhaps what you are used to sampling from CWT.
Here is the transcript and audio. Here is part of the CWT summary:
Amia joined Tyler to discuss the importance of context in her vision of feminism, what social conservatives are right about, why she’s skeptical about extrapolating from the experience of women in Nordic countries, the feminist critique of the role of consent in sex, whether disabled individuals should be given sex vouchers, how to address falling fertility rates, what women learned about egalitarianism during the pandemic, why progress requires regress, her thoughts on Susan Sontag, the stroke of fate that stopped her from pursuing a law degree, the “profound dialectic” in Walt Whitman’s poetry, how Hinduism has shaped her metaphysics, how Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit influenced her, the anarchic strain in her philosophy, why she calls herself a socialist, her next book on genealogy, and more.
Here is one excerpt:
SRINIVASAN: No, it really wouldn’t. Part of why I find this whole discourse problematic is because I think we should be suspicious when we find ourselves attracted to data — very, very thin and weak data — that seem to justify beliefs that have held great currency in lots of societies throughout history, in a way that is conducive to the oppression of large segments of the population, in this particular case women.
I also think one error that is consistently made in this discourse, in this kind of conversation about what’s innate or what’s natural, is to think about what’s natural in terms of what’s necessary. This is a point that Shulamith Firestone made a very long time ago, but that very few people register, which is that — and it was actually made again to me recently by a philosopher of biology, which is, “Look what’s natural isn’t what’s necessary.”
It’s extraordinary. It’s not even like what’s natural offers a good equilibrium point. Think about how much time you and I spend sitting around. Completely unnatural for humans to sit around, yet we’re in this equilibrium point where vast majority of humans just sit around all day.
So, I think there’s a separate question about what humans — as essentially social, cultured, acculturating creatures — what our world should look like. And that’s distinct from the question of what natural predispositions we might have. It’s not unrelated, but I don’t think any of us think we should just be forming societies that simply allow us to express our most “natural orientations.”
COWEN: Should women’s chess, as a segregated activity, continue to exist? We don’t segregate chess tournaments by race or by anything — sometimes by age — but anything other than gender. Yet women’s chess is a whole separate thing. Should that be offensive to us? Or is that great?
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column. Here is one bit:
An appreciation of GDP helps keep things in perspective. Say there is some social or economic trend you dislike or think dangerous. One inclination would be to try to visualize that trend as a share of GDP. Most things are a pretty small fraction of GDP, reflecting the scope and the robustness of the U.S. economy. In one sense America is a vast and sprawling system of shopping malls, restaurants, factories, coffee shops, construction sites, art galleries, and much, much more.
So even if the social or economic trend you find disturbing is in fact a bad thing, America — as defined by its GDP — will proceed unperturbed. People who get annoyed at small changes in America tend not to appreciate the true magnitude of America’s GDP. This also works the other way: The latest positive trend may also take a long time to truly affect GDP.
And more concretely:
The GDP comparison is especially apt for large changes which will cost a noticeable percentage of GDP. Consider climate change. The instinct of the economist is to try to pin down exactly what these costs are as a percentage of global and national GDP.
One recent estimate suggests that climate change is likely to destroy about 10% of global welfare (a GDP effect plus an amenities effect) by the year 2200. To the economist, that is a truly significant quantity of resources. Furthermore, the distribution of those losses may be unfair — and just how unfair is more easily judged if one has a sense of the magnitudes involved.
The upshot is that, all of a sudden, it is pretty easy to see that a system of carbon pricing and R&D subsidies is very likely to more than pay for itself, at least if the policies are executed with reasonable competence.
Climate change is a difficult topic to study and predict, and I am far from sure that percentage estimate is the right number. Nonetheless, it is an important step in mapping some structure onto the problem. As an economist, I am skeptical of analysis that doesn’t try to produce any number at all. Once you understand the size and scope of GDP, you understand that any list of climate disasters that destroyed 10% of GDP would be a very long list of disasters.
I was struck by a recent 10-country study showing the fears of young people about climate change. Four in 10 are afraid to have children. Almost half said that fears about climate change caused them stress and anxiety in their daily lives.
Economics also helps to put these worries in perspective. If the costs of climate change are 10% of global welfare, that is roughly equal to a few years of (non-pandemic) global economic growth. The world economy plausibly can be expected to grow about 3% a year. These kinds of simple points are missing from most climate change debates, again noting the need for better estimates of the actual forthcoming costs.
Overall thinking in terms of gdp I consider to be relatively scarce.
Like I said, I never wanted to be a columnist, but no one did when I started back in 2000. Sure, there were columnists around then, some of whom still write for the Guardian (Jonathan Freedland, Martin Kettle, Polly Toynbee), some of whom sadly don’t (Martin Wollacott, Hugo Young). But column-writing was seen as something of a private members’ club: elitist, dusty and distant. Back then, young journalists wanted the fun, scrappy jobs: investigative reporter, music reviewer, features writer. But ever since the rise of blogging culture in the 2000s, when anyone with an Apple PowerBook (RIP) could knock out a column, pretty much every aspiring journalist I’ve met has told me they want to be a columnist. Stating your opinion online has become the definitive way of saying who you are, so of course more people want columns. Yet, here’s a funny thing: I can’t recall a single day – and there were thousands – that I spent sitting at my desk writing a column. I can, however, recall going to the Oscars to cover them, or the weekend I spent with Judy Blume to interview her. Columns pump up the ego, but going out and finding stories is a lot more fun.
That is from Hadley Freeman at The Guardian, who it seems is quitting…as a columnist but not as a writer. I also would stress the role of social media in this. Everyone can have an opinion about a column, so this makes the Opinion section far more central to a newspaper, and not necessarily for the better.
2. “Our results indicate that higher education liberalizes moral concerns for most students, but it also departs from the standard liberal profile by promoting moral absolutism rather than relativism. These effects are strongest for individuals majoring in the humanities, arts, or social sciences, and for students pursuing graduate studies.” Link here.
A large body of evidence finds that relative mobility in the US has declined over the past 150 years. However, long-run mobility estimates are usually based on white samples and therefore do not account for the limited opportunities available for non-white families. Moreover, historical data measure the father’s status with error, which biases estimates toward greater mobility. Using linked census data from 1850-1940, I show that accounting for race and measurement error can double estimates of intergenerational persistence. Updated estimates imply that there is greater equality of opportunity today than in the past, mostly because opportunity was never that equal.
A few more points:
1. Since both Germany and Britain maintained embassies in Dublin, Ireland became renowned during the war as “one of the whispering-galleries of Europe and a natural centre of for intrigue and spying of every kind.”
2. Fuel was so scarce that private motoring virtually ceased by 1943, and even public transport was problematic.
3. The War threw Ireland back into a state of almost complete cultural isolation.
4. In some odd ways the existence of Northern Ireland as ruled by Britain increased the autonomy of the rest of Ireland, which otherwise might have been commandeered for naval bases and the like, and might have been drawn into the conflict as well.
5. Ireland did receive Marshall Plan aid after the War, and this began what turned into a long-running process of integrating the Irish economy with the other economies of Western Europe.
That is all from E.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine. This book is difficult to read for two reasons. First, the print is too small. Second, the author wastes no time regurgitating “the usual” from all the others book on Irish history. On a given page, most of what is on that page one learns, and thus the book is slow to read. Which is a sign of a very good book, though do note it is quite the time commitment. One of the more essential books on Irish history.
Here is my earlier post on Ireland and WWII.
My first reaction upon hearing that boosters were rejected was to ask the same thing: would these same “experts” say that, because the vaccines are still effective without boosters, vaccinated persons don’t need to wear masks and can resume normal life? Of course not. They use the criterion “prevents hospitalization” for evaluating boosters (2a) but switch back to “prevents infection” when the question is masks and other restrictions. What about those that are willing to accept the tiny risk of side effects to prevent infection so that they can get back to fully normal life? The Science (TM) tells us that one can’t transmit the virus if one is never infected to begin with.
Also, one of the No votes on boosters said that he feared approval would effectively turn boosters into a mandate and change the definition of fully vaccinated. So, it appears that the overzealousness to demand vaccine mandates has actually contributed to fewer people getting access to (booster) vaccines, thus paradoxically contributing to spread. A vivid illustration of the problem with, “That which is not mandatory should be prohibited.”
The biggest problem with public health professionals continues to be (1) elevation of their own normative value judgements — namely that NPIs are no big deal no matter how long they last — which have nothing to do with scientific expertise, (2) leading them to “shade” their interpretation of data to promote their preferred behavioral outcome rather than answering positive (non-normative) questions with positive scientific statements, (3) thus undermining the credibility of public health institutions (FDA, CDC) and leading to things like vaccine hesitancy.
That is from BC.
4. Ezra Klein on the supply side (NYT).
Note that it is not necessary to approve of all U.S. cultural exports to view the spread of wokeism as a net positive for the world. I do not like either Big Macs or Marvel movies, for instance. But at the end of the day I think American culture is a healthy, democratizing, liberating influence, so I want to extend it.
As the motivational speakers like to say, Winners win! And woke is right now one of America’s global winners. Part of what makes America great, and could help to make the rest of the world greater yet, is accepting a certain amount of semi-stupid, least-common-denominator culture.
It drives conservatives and libertarians crazy that woke ideas often have more purchase in the private sector than in the public sector. Private universities, for example, seem “more woke” than public universities.
Still, you read it here first (or maybe not): The halls of power in Washington just aren’t that woke! They are nothing like Twitter or Google or Yale University.
Yes, many woke opponents cite the role of government and the fear of lawsuits as forces driving woke behavior and corporate attachment to wokeism. And surely they have a point. Yet in much of the corporate and nonprofit world, wokeism is not merely a reflexive defense against lawsuits. It is embraced with enthusiasm.
Wokeism has passed a market test that has been going on for decades.
And in sum:
The arguments have been so fully joined because they are about how to define success, which is the fundamental American ideology. I believe such debates are not only healthy but also necessary. I also believe that the ideology of success will endure, though it may take less familiar forms over time. In some ways wokeism is what a feminized, globalized version of 21st century U.S. triumphalism looks like.
You don’t have to like that. But you may have to get used to it.
Recommended, do read the whole thing.
From Alex Griffiths:
In a recent article you wrote about the historic difference between British and American panel shows and I wanted to share my theory.
I think that there are two factors at play in the difference between British and American panel shows. 1. Market size, 2. Culture. 3. What is funny in US vs. UK.
1. Historically the small number of domestic television stations that the British television market could make profitable (until very recently 5 at most) meant that unlike in America there was limited choice and further the talent pool of people working on the programmes was also small and so the people making the programmes had both the ability due to being smaller to be relatively nimble to changes in culture and also had little choice but to watch the selection they were picking and so had an incentive to make the programming interesting to watch.
By contrast in America with its comparable size it was easier to fund lots of movies for different audiences but when it comes to television it was more difficult for major networks to necessarily change direction (a TV schedule is zero sum whereas you can simply add new films to a cinema selection) and additionally in American TV you could easily hate what you do and still watch something else on a different channel.
2. Combined with this is a different attitude towards comedy and television culture. In America TV seems to be more “working class” as a medium and aimed more at making people feel good- e.g Friends, Rosanne, Cheers, and even Frasier that most British of American TV is aimed at laughs as Frasier has already made it, whereas in the UK television has been more middle class orientated and about betterment and self improvement even if done with a comic twist. Almost every top British show ever made is about people trying to go upwards economically, politically or socially, e.g. Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, Fawley Towers, Yes Minister, Porridge.
3. An example of the difference between British and American comedy which I found quite a good summary (I can’t remember who said it), imagines a comedy sketch where a musician is playing a guitar badly and a man comes up and smashes it over the musician’s head. The contention is that an American comic would want to be the one smashing the guitar whereas a British comic would want to be the one getting hit with the guitar. America, the ultimate immigrant nation goes for obvious and broad comedy so everyone can understand whereas the British, comparably more dominated by class distinctions and still a lot more culturally homogeneous, goes for the joke about subverting the norm which of necessity requires an understanding about norms in a society.
I just want to finally add that whilst historically I would say that British panel shows have been better than American ones I think the Internet and its rise in a wider selection of shows, as well as a shift towards just raw viewership numbers as the dominant motivator for television programmes, has meant that there has been a decline in the quality of British television programming and that with every passing year it seems more and more like the US market which is sad but I’m not sure reversible without a UK television subscription service which can afford to raise its ambitions.
1. Vassily Ivanchuk annotating a game of his blindfold. Sometimes considered the greatest chess interview of all time.
Utah’s population grew faster than that of any other state between 2010 and 2020. Salt Lake City has the lowest jobless rate among all big cities, at 2.8%, compared with a national rate of 5.2%. That the state has rebounded so well from the downturn caused by the covid-19 pandemic is thanks to the Wasatch Front, an urban corridor that includes Salt Lake and Provo, home to Brigham Young University. The four counties that make up the Wasatch Front account for at least 80% of Utah’s economic activity, reckons Juliette Tennert, an economist at the University of Utah.
Here is more from The Economist, they also note that Utah ranks at or near the very bottom for metrics of gender equality.
Angad Daryani / Praan
Angad Daryani is 22-year-old social entrepreneur and inventor from Mumbai, and his goal is to find solutions for clean air at a low cost, accessible to all. He received his EV grant to build ultra-low cost, filter-less outdoor air purification systems for deployment in open areas through his startup Praan. Angad’s work was recently covered by the BBC here.
Swasthik Padma is a 19-year-old inventor and researcher. He received his EV grant to develop PLASCRETE, a high-strength composite material made from non-recyclable plastic (post-consumer plastic waste which consists of Multilayer, Film Grade Plastics and Sand) in a device called PLASCREATOR, also developed by Swasthik. The final product serves as a stronger, cost-effective, non-corrosive, and sustainable alternative to concrete and wood as a building material. He is also working on agritech solutions, desalination devices, and low cost solutions to combat climate change.
Ajay Shah is an economist, the founder of the LEAP blog, and the coauthor (with Vijay Kelkar) of In Service of the Republic: The Art and Science of Economic Policy, an excellent book, covered by Alex here. He received his EV grant for creating a community of scholars and policymakers to work on vaccine production, distribution, and pricing, and the role of the government and private sector given India’s state capacity.
Meghraj Suthar, is an entrepreneur, software engineer, and author from Jodhpur. He founded Localites, a global community (6,000 members from more than 130 countries) of travelers and those who like to show around their cities to travelers for free or on an hourly charge. He also writes inspirational fiction. He has published two books: The Dreamers and The Believers and is working on his next book. He received his EV grant to develop his new project Growcify– helping small & medium-sized businesses in smaller Indian cities to go online with their own end-to-end integrated e-commerce app at very affordable pricing.
Jamie Martin/ The Queen’s English
Jamie Martin and Sandeep Mallareddy founded The Queen’s English to develop a tool to help speak English. Indians who speak English earn 5x more than those who don’t. The Queen’s English provides 300 hours of totally scripted lesson plans on a simple Android app for high quality teaching by allowing anyone who can speak English to teach high quality spoken English lessons using just a mobile phone.
Rubén Poblete-Cazenave is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His work has focused on studying topics on political economy, development economics and economics of crime, with a particular interest in India. Rubén received his EV grant to study the dynamic effects of lockdowns on criminal activity and police performance in Bihar, and on violence against women in India.
Chandra Bhan Prasad
Chandra Bhan Prasad is an Indian scholar, political commentator, and author of the Bhopal Document, Dalit Phobia: Why Do They Hate Us?, What is Ambedkarism?, Dalit Diary, 1999-2003: Reflections on Apartheid in India, and co-author author (with D Shyam Babu and Devesh Kapur) of Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of the ByDalits.com e-commerce platform and the editor of Dalit Enterprise magazine. He received his EV grant to pursue his research on Dalit capitalism as a movement for self-respect.
Praveen Tiwari is a rural education entrepreneur in India. At 17, he started Power of Youth to increase education and awareness among rural students in his district. To cope with the Covid lockdown he started the Study Garh with a YouTube channel to provide better quality educational content to rural students in their regional language (Hindi).
Preetham R and Vinayak Vineeth
Preetham R. and Vinayak Vineeth are 17-year-old high-schoolers from Bangalore. Preetham is interested in computing, futurism and space; and Vinayak is thinking about projects ranging from automation to web development. They received their EV grant for a semantic text analysis system based on graph similarity scores. The system (currently called the Knowledge Engine) will be used for perfectly private contextual advertising and will soon be expanded for other uses like better search engines, research tools and improved video streaming experiences. They hope to launch it commercially by the end of 2022.
Shriya Shankar is a 20-year-old social entrepreneur and computer science engineer from Bangalore and the founder of Project Sitara Foundation, which provides accessible STEM education to children from underserved communities. She received her EV grant to develop an accessible ed-tech series focused on contextualizing mathematics in Kannada to make learning more relatable and inclusive for children.
Baishali Bomjan and Bhuvana Anand
Baishali and Bhuvana are the co-founders of Trayas Foundation, an independent research and policy advisory organization that champions constitutional, social, and market liberalism in India through data-informed public discourse. Their particular focus is on dismantling regulatory bottlenecks to individual opportunity, dignity and freedom. The EV grant will support Trayas’s work for reforms in state labor regulations that ease doing business and further prosperity, and help end legal restrictions placed on women’s employment under India’s labor protection framework to engender economic agency for millions of Indians.
Akash Bhatia and Puru Botla / Infinite Analytics
Infinite Analytics received their first grant for developing the Sherlock platform to help Indian state governments with mobility analysis to combat Covid spread. Their second EV grant is to scale their platform and analyze patterns to understand the spread of the Delta variant in the 2021 Covid wave in India. They will analyze religious congregations, election rallies, crematoria footfalls and regular daily/weekly bazaars, and create capabilities to understand the spread of the virus in every city/town in India.
Vishnuprasad is a 21-year-old BS-MS student at IISER Tirupati. He is interested in the intersection of political polarization and network science and focused on the emergence and spread of disinformation and fake news. He is working on the spread of disinformation and propaganda in spaces Indians use to access information on the internet. He received his EV grant to build a tool that tracks cross-platform spread of disinformation and propaganda on social media. He is also interested in the science of cooking and is a stand-up comedian and writer.
Prem Panicker is a journalist, cricket writer, and founding editor of peepli.org, a site dedicated to multimedia long form journalism focused on the environment, man/animal conflict, and development. He received an EV grant to explore India’s 7,400 km coastline, with an emphasis on coastal erosion, environmental degradation, and the consequent loss of lives and livelihoods.
Vaidehi Tandel is an urban economist and Lecturer at the Henley Business School in University of Reading. She is interested in understanding the challenges and potential of India’s urban transformation and her EV grant will support her ongoing research on the political economy of urbanization in India. She was part of the team led by Malani that won the EV Covid India prize.
Abhinav recently completed his Masters in the Behavioral and Computational Economics program at Chapman University’s Economic Science Institute. His goal is to make political economy ideas accessible to young Indians, and support those interested in advancing critical thinking over policy questions. He received his EV grant to start Polekon, a platform that will host educational content and organize seminars on key political economy issues and build a community of young thinkers interested in political economy in India.
CONTACT was founded by two engineers Ann Joys and Bevin A. as a low-cost, voluntary, contact tracing solution. They used RFID tags and readers for consenting individuals to log their locations at various points like shops, hotels, educational institutions, etc. These data are anonymized and analyzed to track mobility and develop better Covid policies, while maintaining user anonymity.
Onkar Singh Batra
Onkar Singh is a 16-year-old developer/researcher and high school student in Jammu. He received his first EV grant for his Covid Care Jammu project. His goal is to develop India’s First Open-Source Satellite, and he is founder of Paradox Sonic Space Research Agency, a non-profit aerospace research organization developing inexpensive and open-source technologies. Onkar received his second EV grant to develop a high efficiency, low cost, nano satellite. Along with EV his project is also supported by an Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) grant. Onkar has a working engineering model and is developing the final flight model for launch in 2022.
Storysurf, founded by Omkar Sane and Chirag Anand, is based on the idea that stories are the simplest form of wisdom and that developing an ocean of stories is the antidote to social media polarization. They are developing both a network of writers, and a range of stories between 6-300 words in a user-friendly app to encourage people to read narratives. Through their stories, they hope to help more readers consume information and ideas through stories.
Naman Pushp/ Airbound
Airbound is cofounded by its CEO Naman Pushp, a 16 year old high-schooler from Mumbai passionate about engineering and robotics, and COO Faraaz Baig, a 20 year old self-taught programmer and robotics engineers from Bangalore. Airbound aims to make delivery accessible by developing a VTOL drone design that can use small businesses as takeoff/landing locations. They have also created the first blended wing body tail sitter (along with a whole host of other optimizations) to make this kind of drone delivery possible, safe and accessible.
Anup Malani / CMIE / Prabhat Jha
An joint grant to (1) Anup Malani, Professor at the University of Chicago, (2) The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), and (3) Prabhat Jha, Professor at University of Toronto and the Centre for Global Health Research, to determine the extent to which reported excess deaths in India are due to Covid. Recent studies show that that the pandemic in India may be associated with between 3 million to 4.9 million excess deaths, roughly 8-12 times officially reported number of COVID deaths. To determine how many of these deaths are statistically attributable to Covid, they will conduct verbal autopsies on roughly 20,000 deaths, with the results to be made publicly available.
Aditya Dar/The Violence Archive
A joint grant to Aaditya Dar, an economist at Indian School of Business, Kiran Garimella, a computer scientist at Rutgers University and Vasundhara Sirnate, a political scientist and journalist for creating the India Violence Archive. They will use machine learning and natural language processing to develop an open-source historical record of collective public violence in India over 100 years. The goal is to create accessible and high-quality public data so civil society can pursue justice and governments can make better policy.
Those unfamiliar with Emergent Ventures can learn more here and here. EV India announcement here. More about the winners of EV India second cohort here. To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.
Note that EV India is led and run by Shruti Rajagopalan, I thank her for all of her excellent work on this!