Toronto350.org visited the Toronto Zoo to raise public awareness about the threat climate change poses to pandas and other endangered species. We also circulated a petition to the Chinese Ambassador to Canada and Canada’s Prime Minister, calling on both countries to do more to combat climate change and protect endangered species.
“The process of relaying intelligence can distort its meaning. Content can be altered unconsciously in transmission. Garbled data are made to appear more coherent when relayed in conversation, allowing actual disjunctions between facts to be replaced by false connections; lengthy information can be made shorter; details are suppressed subconsciously if they are not consistent with the rest of the relayer’s message; and transmission errors tend to make the message sound like what the person transmitting it had been expecting to hear. Subordinates also tend to bias messages so as to minimize distress to their superiors; transmitting individuals tend toward ‘closure’ of incomplete images and ‘confabulating detail where gaps are conspicuous’; long periods of time are reported as shorter; and short ones as longer. Early on the morning the Yom Kippur War began, a trusted source warned Israel that the Arabs would attack that day. Somewhere in the communication chain the time of six o’clock was added erroneously to the warning. The Arabs struck over four hours sooner.”
Betts, R.K. “Surprise despite warning: Why sudden attacks succeed” in Andrew, Christopher et al eds. Secret Intelligence: A Reader. London; Routledge. 2009. p. 94 (paperback)
[Update: 13 May 2013] More on the same topic:
“When a consumer is faced with data he prefers not to believe, he can fall back on four psychological mechanisms.
First, he can be more attentive to reassuring data. The threshold at which evidence confirming the individual’s assumptions is recognized comes well before the threshold for contradictory evidence. Information that challenges reigning expectations or wishes ‘is often required, in effect, to meet higher standards of evidence and to pass stricter tests to gain acceptance than new information that supports existing expectations and hypotheses.’ The consumer can also challenge the credibility of the source. An analyst or agency that has been chronically wrong in the past can be dismissed. Some political leaders also tend to be skeptical of advice from military sources and suspicious that professional soldiers manipulate information in order to gain authorization for desired changes in posture. A consumer’s belief that the person giving him information has an ideological axe to grind, or a vested interest in changing policy, will tend to discredit the information. Third, the decision maker can appreciate the warnings, but suspend judgment and order stepped-up intelligence collection to confirm the threat, hoping to find contradictory evidence that reduces the probability the enemy will strike. Finally, the consumer can rationalize. He may focus on the remaining ambiguity of the evidence rather than on the balance between threatening and reassuring data, letting his wish become father to his thought. He can explain away mounting but inconclusive threats by considering other elements of the context, or believing that enemy mobilization is precautionary and defensive. In many cases such reasoning is quite correct. The likelihood a responsible policymaker will let himself think this way varies directly with the severity of the specific costs involved in response to the warning and with the availability of reassuring evidence. There are always some data to dampen alarm. Such data can also be fabricated.” p.99 (paperback) emphasis in original
A lot of this seems quite applicable in the case of policy-makers deciding whether or not to take serious action in response to climate change.
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“The [Central Intelligence] Agency’s position is that it evaluates and trains its senior offices in management ability, but there is a substantial difference between the two concepts: leadership requires inspiring people, while management involves stewardship of resources. The U.S. military observes this distinction: their doctrine is that one leads people and manages non-human resources. Managing, instead of leading, is to treat them as commodities.”
Jones, Garrett. “It’s a cultural thing: thoughts on a troubled CIA” in Andrew, Christopher et al eds. Secret Intelligence: A Reader. London; Routledge. 2009. p. 33 (paperback)
I picked up a library copy of John le Carré’s The Looking Glass War because all my own books were in moving boxes, and to begin re-habituating myself to intensive reading in the lead-up to my comprehensive exam in August.
The novel is what you would expect from le Carré: not sensationalized, conveying a sense of awareness about realistic tradecraft. The characters aren’t much differentiated, but the writing is very good and the book seems like a nice counterweight to the sensationalism of the general espionage genre. For instance, there are a number of detailed passages about the inconveniences of operating a WWII-era radio using Morse code. The bureaucratic turf war that forms the primary motivation for the action in the novel seems depressingly realistic.
To sum up: it’s a reasonably interesting quick read which provides the sense of a brush with realism that distinguishes le Carré from other writers in the genre.
The Harvard Crimson has a piece on the school’s tenure program and what is necessary to succeed in it. It probably gives a flavour of what tenure committees throughout academia are looking for:
“It is necessary to become a world expert in your field, publish great
papers in good journals, develop a healthy funding pipeline, and do
responsible service for the College and the University.
‘Being a faculty member here is like having three full time jobs on top of each other,’ Cox says. ‘There are only so many hours in the day. An hour spent on teaching is an hour not spent in the lab doing research or an hour not spent writing a grant proposal.’”
I suppose it demonstrates how multi-talented a person needs to be in order to secure tenure at a first-rate institution; not only must you be a capable and accomplished researcher, but you also need to be able to bring money in and serve your school’s teaching and administrative needs.
Yesterday, I got back from a quick trip to say goodbye to my brother Sasha who is leaving Montreal and to see a piano recital of his there.
Tonight, I am moving my things out of Massey College. On May 9th, I will be moving into Morrison Hall for the summer – just a block away from here.
I am finally done with nearly all my coursework and TA work. I just need to write one more term paper, prepare for my comprehensive exam, and find a source of income for the summer.
I am frantically packing to move out of Massey College tomorrow (having just returned from Montreal a few hours ago), but I am also uploading some photos from the recent Staff Appreciation BBQ at Massey College.