Is it fair to say that most social programmes don’t work?


Facts! Today’s needull looks rigorously on the claim that most social programmes do not work.

So is it fair to say “most social programmes don’t work?”

I think this is a little ambiguous and potentially misleading. Individual projects mostly don’t work, but whole areas often do have a positive impact. So, if you pick an intervention at random, then on average your impact will be positive, because there’s a small but important chance of you picking one of the good ones.

However, if you can focus on the best interventions in an area according to the evidence, then you can have significantly more impact than the average. For instance, if two thirds of interventions don’t work, then if you can avoid these, you’ll have about three times as much impact as if you work on whatever you first stumble into, and pick randomly.

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80,000 Hours

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10 Extremely Precise Words for Emotions You Didn’t Even Know You Had


Normally, I would not recommend lists. But, then one-off exceptions are okay if the content is so good.

Torschlusspanik: Life is passing you by. The deadline’s approaching. The train’s a-comin’. Literally translated from German, torschlusspanik means “gate-closing panic,” a word to summarize that fretful sensation of time running out. It may serve you well, when experiencing this panicky emotion, to hesitate before allowing it to spur you toward impulsivity, and call to mind the German idiom Torschlusspanik ist ein schlechter Ratgeber— that is, “Torschlusspanik is a bad adviser.”

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Melissa Dahl — Science of Us

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Tagore and His India


Today’s needull is rare, very rare. A Noble laureate writing about another laureate. Amartya Sen writes about Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel laureate.

The profoundly original writer, whose elegant prose and magical poetry Bengali readers know well, is not the sermonizing spiritual guru admired – and then rejected – in London. Tagore was not only an immensely versatile poet; he was also a great short story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist, and composer of songs, as well as a talented painter whose pictures, with their mixture of representation and abstraction, are only now beginning to receive the acclaim that they have long deserved. His essays, moreover, ranged over literature, politics, culture, social change, religious beliefs, philosophical analysis, international relations, and much else. The coincidence of the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence with the publication of a selection of Tagore’s letters by Cambridge University Press 3, brought Tagore’s ideas and reflections to the fore, which makes it important to examine what kind of leadership in thought and understanding he provided in the Indian subcontinent in the first half of this century.

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Amartya Sen

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The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind


The world order is changing fast. We are seeing the emergence of many countries on the world stage who are powerful in their own right and want to assert themselves at the global stage. The US is not the centre of the earth anymore.

Every hegemon has a sell-by date, and the U.S. is no exception. Even during the halcyon days of the 1990s — remember when the U.S. was being called a “hyperpower”? — President Bill Clinton’s administration was focused on creating institutions and a rules-based international order that it hoped would constrain China’s economic and strategic rise and extend the half-life of U.S. supremacy. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t work out so well (see: “deplorables”).

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James Gibney — Bloomberg

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Calling your husband by name for the first time


This needull is very close to home. My mother and many other women in India have never called their husband by name. But, things are changing.


When speaking to us children, she always referred to him as “babuji” – the Hindi word for “father” that we used. When addressing him directly, she always said “Hey ho”, which means roughly “Hey you”.

As teenagers when we became aware of the fact, we made fun of her. We tried to trick her into saying his name just once. But she never did.

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Geeta Pandey — BBC Magazine

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Not by Taste Alone – The flavor of food is produced by all of the senses


Today’s needull is a book review. Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence; Viking

Chapter after chapter, Spence runs through our primary senses, providing food for thought all along the way. Have you ever wondered why some fine-dining chefs serve an entrée with a side dish of pure aroma, such as the pheasant at Alinea in Chicago, which comes atop a bowl that wafts scents of hay, apples, and cinnamon? It’s not because we mostly “taste” through our nose. It’s because our sense of smell is closely tied to memory and emotion. With his pheasant, Alinea chef Grant Achatz is feeding our nostalgia as much as our hunger, hoping our associations with fall are warm enough to intensify our feelings toward his dish.

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Tim Carman  — The American Scholar

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India’s Opposition Heads for the Hills


As the opposition gets weaker and weaker what does it entail for the Indian democracy?

But, if Indian history serves as any guide, this concentration of power in the hands of a single party also has a downside. During the heyday of the Congress Party in the 1970s under the leadership of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, national politics devolved into an orgy of political excess and institutional decay. The Congress Party, fabled for its pan-Indian appeal, developed an autocratic culture made famous by the sycophantic quip, “India is Indira. And Indira is India.” The remaking of the party in Indira’s mold ultimately damaged it, too, but it also proved disastrous for governance. The BJP, which has rapidly centralized authority under Modi and party president Amit Shah, would do well to heed the lessons of the past.

The complete article

Milan Vaishnav — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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