Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Four personality types

Via the BBC we have a claim that humans may be grouped into four personality types.

The team, from Northwestern University, say there are five main traits "commonly accepted by psychologists around the world, known as 'Ocean'."
  • Openness - your natural curiosity, whether you're open to new experiences and learning new things.
  • Conscientiousness - how thoughtful or dependable you are.
  • Extraversion - how outgoing, assertive and sociable you are.
  • Agreeableness - your concern for other people, how sympathetic and considerate you are.
  • Neuroticism - the likeliness of emotional instability, mood swings, feeling depressed, lonely, angry or sad.
The researchers then looked at the data of more than 1.5 million people who'd taken part in personality tests and started plotting where they scored on the five traits given above.

The four "types" of personality they've identified feature different combinations of the five main traits. 

"These are people that are nice, they are agreeable," says lead author Professor Luis Amaral. "They are not neurotic and they are open-minded."

They score highly on the other four traits.


This is almost the mirror-image of the role-model, according to Prof Amaral.

"These are people that are not hard working, they are kind of disagreeable, they are not open minded. They are extroverts."


"They have low neuroticism and low openness," according to Prof Amaral.

However, they are likely to be conscientious and agreeable.


The one description we probably all fear, but according to the study, one which fits the "typical" person. They score slightly above average on neuroticism and extroversion but lower on openness.

To my mind, conclusions of this general type owe too much to their procedures. This does not make them useless, but sooner or later someone will do it differently and reach different conclusions.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Did Theresa hope to lose?

The question has been asked here and there but it seems unlikely that Theresa May hoped to lose the 2017 snap general election. Did she though? Initial opinion polls said she would win easily in 2017 but she made a remarkable hash of things and nearly lost it. Maybe losing narrowly was the idea, but if so Mrs May made a hash of that too.

The obvious advantage of such a devious scheme would be to force the poisoned Brexit chalice into the hands of a supremely incompetent Labour Prime Minister. In such a case it certainly seems plausible that post-Brexit Labour would be in such disarray that the Tories would take the following general election by a landslide.

Presumably Mrs May would be instantly dumped from the Tory leadership after a Corbyn victory, but she may have been promised a consolation prize and not having to handle Brexit may have had some additional attractions.

The advantage for Tory Remainers would be to scuttle both Brexit and Corbyn at the same time. Seems highly implausible with more than a whiff of conspiracy theory but perhaps not totally out of court.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Forging Islamic Science

Historian Nir Shafir has an interesting Aeon essay on fake Islamic images and artifacts.

As I prepared to teach my class ‘Science and Islam’ last spring, I noticed something peculiar about the book I was about to assign to my students. It wasn’t the text – a wonderful translation of a medieval Arabic encyclopaedia – but the cover. Its illustration showed scholars in turbans and medieval Middle Eastern dress, examining the starry sky through telescopes. The miniature purported to be from the premodern Middle East, but something was off.

Besides the colours being a bit too vivid, and the brushstrokes a little too clean, what perturbed me were the telescopes. The telescope was known in the Middle East after Galileo developed it in the 17th century, but almost no illustrations or miniatures ever depicted such an object. When I tracked down the full image, two more figures emerged: one also looking through a telescope, while the other jotted down notes while his hand spun a globe – another instrument that was rarely drawn. The starkest contradiction, however, was the quill in the fourth figure’s hand. Middle Eastern scholars had always used reed pens to write. By now there was no denying it: the cover illustration was a modern-day forgery, masquerading as a medieval illustration.

The whole essay is worth reading as it gives an interesting and somewhat chilling insight into efforts being made to mould perceptions of Islam and its relevance to the modern world. 

It also highlights a Western tendency to prefer easy historical fictions to more problematic and incomplete realities, Hollywood being an obvious example.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Juncker on a power trip

The Guardian has exciting news about Jean-Claude Juncker's vision for the EU as a global power.

Juncker calls on EU to seize chance to become major sovereign power

European commission president sets out vision of how to expand EU’s ‘clout’ on world stage

Fair enough I’d say, it's his job to do the vision thing but how about a plan to get there? 

Firstly he needs a substantial high-level Commission body to sort out what needs to be done and the size, structure and funding of the group must reflect EU ambitions in the global power arena. A series of seminars, discussion papers and conferences should kick the thing off nicely.

A few suggestions though, beginning with global powerhouse universities. The Times has a handy list of the top twenty five universities in the world and of course the EU is represented by Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, UCL and the LSE. That's a grand start -

- oh hang on - none of those will be EU universities after Brexit will they? In which case Mr Juncker you should probably forget universities for now – as you probably have already.

Here’s another suggestion though. Why not invite Amazon, Google, Alibaba, Apple and Facebook to become EU businesses? The attraction could be a tight and secure regulatory environment with intermediate access to the EU Commission and mostly unfettered access to the very best EU universities global powerhouse experts.

Now for technology. Obviously the EU buys in quite a bit of that from the Far East but how about building some EU powerhouse technology centres to focus on cutting-edge research. Another series of seminars, discussion papers and conferences should kick the thing off nicely - 

- although I must admit here that this global EU powerhouse malarkey is turning out to be more difficult than I thought. Maybe Mrs May should think about leaving.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The beautiful veil

Conrad Veidt

He lit a cigarette and, gracefully leaning his elbows on the table, gazed at her through the beautiful grey smoke-veil, which was like the clouds of Paradise.

Arnold Bennett - The Price of Love (1914)

Although smoking can be cool, it is not as easy to carry it off as it was in Bennett's day. Now the veil is different, woven from decades of disapproval. Not something to be regretted perhaps, but an interesting example of how perceptions not only change, but are changed for us. As the original perception was woven by big tobacco.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Bogus Buxton Beggar

From Derbyshire Constabulary -

A woman has been fined by the courts for bogus begging in Buxton.

Police were called to the Spring Gardens on Thursday, July 26 to reports of begging.

Kristina Sliskova, 28, of Fairfield Road, Buxton, was arrested for begging in a public place and enquiries revealed she was not homeless.

She was reported to court and appeared at Chesterfield Justice Centre on Wednesday, August 22.

Magistrates fined Ms. Sliskova £40 and ordered her to pay £85 costs.

PC Julie Shaw of the Buxton Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We are aware of a number of individuals in Buxton who sit on the street, alleging to be homeless, to beg for money when we have information and intelligence that suggests they do have homes.

It's official - "homeless" beggars are not necessarily homeless. 

As if we didn't know.

A four day week - but why stop at four?

The Daily Mail informs us that The TUC is pressing for a move towards a four day week. Not pushing for it on a full time basis presumably.

Britain should use new technology to move to a four-day working week while keeping wages stable, the TUC union has said.

Frances O'Grady, the union's general secretary, says companies will make more money from machines so should allow employees an extra day off each week.

She said the change should be brought in over the next 80 years after a survey found four out of five wanted to cut their working hours without loss of pay.

Ah - over the next 80 years - so not an immediate call to the picket lines. 

I’m reminded of a chap I knew decades ago who did no work at all. An old colleague and I sometimes reminisce about him while we are out on one of our regular walks. This chap used to  turn up for five days a week and he had an official position and job title, but didn’t actually do any work. It was a feat he managed by drifting from science into middle management followed by acquiring a cosy niche after yet another reorganisation.

As for the four day week, it suggests we already have too many people with too little to do and even the TUC has noticed. It won’t improve.