Joseph Stiglitz's Academic Solutions

Card: Do you recommend any theoretical solutions to the crisis?

Stiglitz:    Well, the question… the pivotal question right now is what should be done?  What we did, you know, the… they turn to the financial markets to get advice.  The government turned to financial markets to get advice and what to do with the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, didn’t work.  You know, they have a proven track record, not only of getting us into the mess, but of not knowing how to get us out okay?  So, the question is, who do we turn to, to understand the systemic properties, how the whole things fit together and in a way, that was the critical failure of [IB].  They didn’t see how the whole picture fit together.  They didn’t see how it was impossible for house prices to go up and incomes to go down, it didn’t add up, but they didn’t… they didn’t look at that broader picture and so, you have to turn to people who have been studying the economic system as a whole, understanding what happens when households borrow, the government borrows, the nation as a whole borrows, as much as we’ve been doing, what are the consequences for the functioning of the entire system.  It’s complex.  I mean, it’s very easy for a business to understand how to make money for itself, I mean, that’s difficult enough, but to try to understand the interrelations between all of the parts.  That’s what economists are supposed to do [IB] better than others and we all don’t see eye to eye, I mean, that clear.  But we need to have a national debate and recognize that we made some very big mistakes along this road.

Joseph Stiglitz's Academic Solutions

Catacombs of Paris: The city of darkness finds its new raison d'être

Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.

Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain
Strange Maps
  • People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
  • They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
  • Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
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Baby's first poop predicts risk of allergies

Meconium contains a wealth of information.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that the contents of an infants' first stool, known as meconium, can predict if they'll develop allergies with a high degree of accuracy.
  • A metabolically diverse meconium, which indicates the initial food source for the gut microbiota, is associated with fewer allergies.
  • The research hints at possible early interventions to prevent or treat allergies just after birth.
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Asteroid impact: NASA simulation shows we are sitting ducks

Even with six months' notice, we can't stop an incoming asteroid.

Credit: NASA/JPL
Surprising Science
  • At an international space conference, attendees took part in an exercise that imagined an asteroid crashing into Earth.
  • With the object first spotted six months before impact, attendees concluded that there was insufficient time for a meaningful response.
  • There are an estimated 25,000 near-Earth objects potentially threatening our planet.
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Big think: Will AI ever achieve true understanding?

If you ask your maps app to find "restaurants that aren't McDonald's," you won't like the result.

Credit: GABRIEL BOUYS via Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • The Chinese Room thought experiment is designed to show how understanding something cannot be reduced to an "input-process-output" model.
  • Artificial intelligence today is becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to learning algorithms but still fails to demonstrate true understanding.
  • All humans demonstrate computational habits when we first learn a new skill, until this somehow becomes understanding.
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