Daily Archives: February 14, 2018

The Two-Degree Delusion

By Ted Nordhaus – Forty years after it was first proposed, the two-degree target continues to maintain a talismanic hold over global efforts to address climate change, despite the fact that virtually all sober analyses conclude that the target is now unobtainable.

But it is worth considering the consequences of continuing to pursue a goal that is no longer obtainable. Some significant level of future climate impact is probably unavoidable. Sustaining the fiction that the two-degree target remains viable risks leaving the world ill prepared to mitigate or manage the consequences.

In reality, most of the climate risks that we understand reasonably well are linear, meaning that lower emissions bring a lower global temperature increase, which in turn brings lower risk.

There are a range of potential nonlinear tipping points that could also bring catastrophic climate impacts. Many climate scientists and advocates argue that the risks associated with triggering these impacts are so great that it is better to take a strict precautionary approach to dramatically cut emissions. But there are enormous uncertainties about where those tipping points actually are.

The precautionary principle holds equally well at one degree of warming, a threshold that we have already surpassed; one and a half degrees, which we will soon surpass; or, for that matter, three degrees. more>

The tech bias: why Silicon Valley needs social theory


Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine, Author: Jess Bier.
Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, Author: Charles Perrow.
Living a Feminist Life, Author: Sara Ahmed.

By Jess Bier – Social theorists in fields such as sociology, geography, and science and technology studies have shown how race, gender and class biases inform technical design. So there’s irony in the fact that employees hold sexist and racist attitudes, yet ‘we are supposed to believe that these same employees are developing “neutral” or “objective” decision-making tools’, as the communications scholar Safiya Umoja Noble at the University of Southern California argues in her book Algorithms of Oppression (2018).

In many cases, what’s eroding the value of social knowledge is unintentional bias – on display when prominent advocates for equality in science and tech undervalue research in the social sciences.

Science and tech are viewed as revenue-generating down the line, but the cost-saving benefits of improved social understanding, and the benefits that go beyond costs, tend to go underappreciated.

Ironically, the same discriminatory systems targeted by social theory end up blocking underrepresented groups from getting a toehold in academia, the very seedbed of these ideas. Sexual harassment and racism are much more than individual incidents; they’re institutionalized mechanisms for maintaining systemic barriers. more>

Updates from Adobe

Maya Patterson and the Craft of UX
By Jordan Kushins, Maya Patterson – I’m a product designer at Facebook. If I could rename this kind of job, I would call it “digital product designer” because we’re not building tangible things—we’re focusing on web experiences; it all started with desktop, then laptop, then mobile devices, and then on to AR and VR and all of these developing spaces.

But essentially my job is to take care of users, to dig into their needs and behaviors, and build a digital system that helps them accomplish their goals. Depending on who I’m working for, that could be anything from intense data infographic systems to designing a way to get a trunk of clothes sent to your house (which was my last job). Now it’s designing different pieces of the Facebook experience.

I actually think that soft skills are more important than technical ones for UX designers. The biggest two assets in my opinion are the ability to communicate and a sense of empathy.

So I watched people who could communicate very well. Writing is important because it helps you to think in a structured manner and articulate yourself and your ideas. Speaking, presenting, storytelling: these are all essential. People who can tune in, listen, read body language, and get down to the core of how people are responding and reacting to something they’ve created—and who are able to receive feedback—are going to excel. more>


Development, self-interest, and the countries left behind

By Sarah Bermeo – The self-interest of developed countries affected policy on foreign aid, trade agreements, and even climate finance, as I argue in my new book, Targeted Development.

Targeting foreign aid to areas where potential spillovers to the donor are high is not only the practice of great powers.

Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have all favored more proximate countries in the post-2001 period—when you control for measures of need such as income, disasters, and civil war.

For Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden, aid is also associated with bilateral migrant flows.

The more a donor imports from a developing country, the higher aid flows are to that country; this is especially true for Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

For states not targeted, however, the picture is bleak.

Where migration—and hence remittances—is low, foreign aid will also be low. When foreign aid is low, the chances of being granted preferential access to wealthy country markets is lower too.

Where geographic distance is great, economic engagement will lag behind. more>