You might have come across this fascinating experiment to test awareness at one time or the other. In case you haven’t, take a moment to watch the video.
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, who designed the experiment, went on to write a book called The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us. One of the chapters demands us to play an inquisitive annoying child—or Socrates, if you will—and discover how deep our understanding goes.
Chabris and Simons refer to a series of ingenious experiments designed by a doctoral student at Yale, Leon Rozenblit. They write: “For his first study, Rozenblit approached students in the hallways of the psychology building and asked them if they knew why the sky is blue or how a cylinder lock works. If they answered yes, he then played what he calls the ‘why boy’ game, which he describes as follows: ‘I ask you a question and you give me an answer, and I say ‘why is that?’ Channeling the spirit of a curious five-year-old, I then just keep following each explanation with another ‘why is that?’ until the other person gets really annoyed.’ The unexpected result of this informal experiment was that people gave up really quickly—they answered no more than one or two ‘why’ questions before they reached a gap in their understanding. Even more striking were their reactions when they discovered that they really had no understanding. ‘It was clearly counterintuitive to them. People were surprised and chagrined and a little embarrassed.’ After all, they had just claimed to know the answer.
“Rozenblit pursued this illusion of knowledge in more than a dozen experiments over the next few years, testing people from all walks of life (from undergraduates at Yale to members of the New Haven community), and the results were remarkably consistent. No matter whom you talk to, you will eventually reach a point where they can no longer answer the why question. For most of us, our depth of understanding is sufficiently shallow that we may exhaust our knowledge after just the first question. We know that there is an answer, and we feel that we know it, but until asked to produce it we seem blissfully unaware of the shortcomings in our own knowledge.”
In this issue
- How the nature of job losses changed during the second wave
- A case for unshackling scientific knowledge
- Songs: Then and now
Have a great day!
How the nature of job losses changed during the second wave
When the first wave hit the country, this newsletter pointed to columns by CMIE CEO Mahesh Vyas which documented how the resulting job losses hit women disproportionately. The second wave seems to be different, and it also has serious implications for society and the economy.
Vyas writes that in the second wave, “urban women suffered the least loss of jobs. The burden of job losses has shifted to men. During the April-June 2021 quarter, urban males faced a disproportionately higher loss of jobs. Urban males account for about 28% of the total employment in India. They accounted for a lower 26% of the loss of jobs till March 2021. But, in the quarter ended June 2021, their share in total job losses was higher at 30%.
“Arguably, urban male jobs are the better quality jobs and their disproportionate loss could imply a greater fall in income than witnessed so far. It is also likely that women are often the second earning member of a household. The loss of jobs among women more often than not implies a fall in income but not a complete loss of income. But, a loss of job among men often implies complete loss of livelihood. This greater loss of urban male jobs is worrisome. The impact of this on income will be known when the income data for the quarter are released in November 2021.”
A case for unshackling scientific knowledge
The pandemic would have had a worse impact on the world if it were not for science and technology, which figured out ways to identify the virus with better testing, treat those impacted with increasingly more effective medical interventions and prevent the spread with a choice of vaccines. Scientific knowledge, for most part, flowed freely.
This also kicked up debates on the hold scientific publishers have on research and how they are throttling the distribution. In a post, TR Shankar Raman, a senior scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, and the author of The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild, shared a mail he wrote to the editors of a reputed scientific journal published by Elsevier who had asked him to peer review a paper. The entire post is worth reading to understand the key arguments from both sides of the table.
Here’s an extract.
“Recently, Elsevier along with others (including Wiley) filed a lawsuit in an Indian court against Sci-Hub and Libgen. Leading Indian scientists and researchers (and a group of over 2,000 signatories) have protested this highlighting how Sci-Hub has greatly enabled access to scientific research in India and other countries. Sci-hub struck at the heart of the oligopoly of purely commercial publishers, which includes Elsevier and Wiley, who run scientific publishing like a fiefdom, charging exorbitant subscriptions or publishing fees, making exponential profits, and treating the intellectual output of scientists and institutions as if it was all their personal property. This is the case although the research published in these journals is funded by public agencies or other funders, and the papers are written, reviewed, and edited by scientists who seek no compensation for their intellectual inputs and time. With exorbitant subscriptions, steep open access publication fees or paywalls for each article, companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer Nature are profiteering from an enterprise that generates knowledge which really belongs to all and which should be truly open and free for anyone in the world to access. To me, this is also a form of predatory publishing: unbridled corporate predation on captive academic prey.
“To the argument that shunning such journals will compromise science, I can only point out to many journals of repute published by scientific societies and academies worldwide (such as the Indian Academy of Sciences) that make all their published papers free (diamond/platinum open access) and are able to run their journals with modest subscriptions and advertisements. There have also been initiatives like Amelica and Coalition-S. The alternatives are there for us to adopt as scientists and scholars if we wish.”
Songs: Then and now
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