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Links June 2009

KickStarter.com is an interesting new service that allows creative people to solicit funding to start new enterprises [1]. Note that it is not for investing in projects, sponsors give the money and the result is that the work gets done. Unfortunately it only allows people with US bank accounts to receive money at this time.

Corey Doctorow and Charles Stross gave an interesting public discussion about privacy on the net titled “Open Rights – the All Seeing Eye” [2].

Ray Kurzweil announced the Singularity University at TED [3]. It will be run from a NASA research facility and teach all the core areas of technology related to the Singularity.

Stewart Brand gave a short but interesting TED talk about squatter cities [4]. He predicts that the population movement from rural areas to squatter cities will defuse the population problems as the rate of reproduction in cities is much closer to the rate needed to sustain the population (2.1 children per family) than that in the country. He didn’t mention the fact that disease spreads rapidly in squatter cities which culls the population. A related TED talk by Paul Collier describes how a Marshall Plan could be used to help the poorest billion people in the world [5]. He focuses on good governance as a required part of such a plan because that is the least immediately obvious requirement.

Here is a link for a famous TV clip of a man dancing in Sydney to celebrate the end of WW2 [6].

Zeke M. Vanderhoek is starting a school in the US where each teacher will get a salary of $US125,000 plus bonuses [7]. The school will primarily accept local students from the Washington Heights area, primarily students who do not perform well academically and who are from low income households. The class size will be 30 and the aim is to show that great teachers are the key to good education not small classes. The article notes that some teachers seem great on paper but perform badly in the class – like most jobs it’s easy to say that you are good. I hope this experiment works.

As a counter-point to Zeke’s work Caulfield Grammar School has introduced a “Learning Mentor” program for years 7 and 8 [8] which involves having a second teacher in the class. It’s an interesting concept, but I think that it’s unlikely to do much good given the other things that they are doing. Caulfield is also implementing some awful ideas such as having lots of specialised sports coaches and spreading the VCE over three years instead of two. The two-year VCE is itself quite awful, if it had been introduced one year earlier I would have had to do year 12 in another state to avoid it.

The Atlantic has an interesting article about the Harvard Study of Adult Development and it’s long-time director George Vaillant [9]. The conclusion seems to be that the secret to happyness is to employ mature adaptations to adverse situations, be well educated, have a stable marriage, don’t smoking, abuse alcohol (and presumably don’t abuse any other drugs), get some exercise, and have a healthy weight.

Adam Harvey has a good post summarising the current Microsoft actions in advertising it’s new web browser [10]. I doubt that this will go well for MS.

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