Davos Newbies Home

Science in education 

Steven Pinker has an important op-ed in today’s New York Times. “An important place to start might be in working to apply a scientific mindset to education itself – that is, to determine as best we can whether various beliefs about educational effectiveness are true. Classroom practice is often guided by romantic theories, slick packages and political crusades. Few practices have been evaluated using the paraphernalia of social science, such as data collection and control groups.”

Sign me up  

My respect for Texas Tech, or at least for one of its faculty, has just soared. Biology professor Michael Dini refuses to recommend students for graduate programmes in biomedical sciences unless they confirm their belief in evolutionary theory. According to the Houston Chronicle, Dini “doesn’t believe anyone should practice in a biology-related field without accepting ‘the most important theory in biology’. He argues that physicians who ‘ignore or neglect’ the Darwinian aspects of medicine or the evolutionary origin of humans can make bad clinical decisions. A scientist who denies the ‘fact’ of human evolution, Dini writes, is in effect committing ‘malpractice regarding the method of science’.” Absolutely.

The only puzzle for me is why the Houston Chronicle feels it needs to put fact in quote marks.

On the money  

Doc Searls is absolutely spot on in his analysis of AOL Time Warner. “The real kicker here, the the eleven-zero irony, is that this merged company was counting on AOL, of all things, to provide understanding of the very platform on which all this inter-divisional ‘synergy’ was going to take place. They actually thought AOL understood the Net. Amazing.”

Interestingly, Dave Winer had different impressions of AOL, although he reaches the same conclusion.

Hail Caesar  

Bloggus Caesari seems eerily relevant: “Some of you have questioned why we intervene in Gaul at all.”

3 thoughts on “Davos Newbies Home

  1. Dave Winer

    Interesting perspective.

    Back in 1995, when I just started writing for Wired while I wasn’t actively writing software, AOL tried to hire me, and I almost went. I made several trips to Virginia, one was notable — it was an onsite meeting for all of AOL’s CTOs, which even at that early date was an impressive gathering. They had just bought a backbone company (I forget the name) — one of the big ones, and had bought a company that made a Web browser, and a few others, and then there were the core people who managed the AOL servers and their incredible network of dialups.

    The reason I mention all this is that I had the opposite impression. I learned a lot from all those people. In many ways each of them understood the Internet very well. Steve Case and the people he hired, in turn, hired well. That AOL works at all is testimony to that. What they do is hard. Really hard.

  2. Dave Winer

    Lance, further thoughts — if the Club des Refuses happens, there were a couple of people at that 1995 meeting we should invite. Bill Hawkins who eventually became CTO at AOL is one. Ultra-smart, and easy and fun to work with. I think he’s retired now. Ted Leonsis is one of the smartest people I know in the business, and a genuinely good guy. Ted is still at AOL. Probably a few others.

  3. Dave Winer

    Now, that said, I agree fully with Doc.

    AOL was the finger in the dyke of the Internet.

    I have a story about this too.

    At a party last week I met the former CEO of The Well, Maria Alioto. Very smart and high energy. We talked about her experience. A total parallel to AOL. Good start, probably was necessary for the Web to get going. The core of the West Coast Web. The meeting place for the future staff of Wired. All good things. But in the mid-90s when she came on, it had no future. As AOL had no future when Time-Warner was snookered into taking their stock.

    Moral of the story: Never underestimate Steve Case.

    Second moral: He’s like Columbo, he makes it easy for you to underestimate him.


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