Category Archives: Uncategorized

The problem of doing rigorous social science research

At the start of our meeting today I mentioned an interesting article about the difficulty of doing good social science research. It’s relevant to next week’s topic.

This article, written by Scott Alexander, currently my favorite  blogger/writer, reviews some of the social science research literature addressing this question:

Does the criminal justice system treat African-Americans fairly?

There’s plenty of evidence to support the argument that there’s unequal treatment. There’s also a lot of well-documented research that shows that when you adjust for confounding variables that the differences–or many of them–go away.

This response to the original article, and this follow-up  author of the first-reference post show that when you take confounding variables into account you may remove the data that you are trying to study.

So what’s a citizen to do? We can’t all do the kind of research that Scott Alexander does, and we’re all subject to the loud shouting coming from the liberal or conservative echo chambers of our choice–the ones that select the studies we’re likely to read–the ones carried out by the researchers who start with a point of view and then organize the data so that shows what they believed in the first place.

Confirmation bias anyone?

Net Neutrality And Community Internet

I’ve got a large inventory of information on Net Neutrality that I’ll be pushing out over the next few days for those who are interested.

This post complains that ATT can’t understand why a town would decide to put in 1GB fiber with no data caps when ATT already provides them with 6MB DSL with a 150GB data cap. I mean really? 1GB? 6MB? What’s the difference? Apparently some people in town see a difference.

The Internet produces all kinds of economic externalities that can’t be captured by a for-profit broadband provider but can be captured by government, or that are a form of effective altruism for generous people who live within a particular polity.

If professionals who live and work on the Internet and who love what Maine has to offer came to the peninsula rather than a place with better Internet service, the government and the local economy would benefit from their additional spending–not to mention the additional intellectual and social energy they would bring.

If wealthy retirees who love Maine took Internet access into their decision-making process (as I am sure some do) then having GigE on the peninsula would bring their economic, intellectual and social energy to us.

The bandwidth in town is right now adequate to support the information needs of the people in this area–and here I am talking about both kids in school and adults looking at YouTube videos to learn how to do a job better. That might become inadequate as the number of bandwidth hungry educational services grow. Again the economic benefit of better access to knowledge can’t be captured by a for-profit provider but could be captured by government, or supported by motivated community contributors.

Google funded the study that produced this. It’s a fairly comprehensive explanation of the hows, whys, ins and outs of either private or public funding of GigE within a community by public or private entities.