Monthly Archives: November 2008

Two Perspectives on Climate Change

Edinburgh University Business School is running a series of seminars covering different aspects of climate change: so far, they have had a politician and a campaigner give talks; coming up in the new year will be a business perspective – and then a seminar featuring each of the speakers debating together. The focus of the talks is the background to climate change, the Kyoto protocol of 1997 and the forthcoming discussions at Poznan in December 2008 and Copenhagen in December 2009.
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Net Impact in Edinburgh

I have joined the newly-formed Edinburgh chapter of Net Impact.

The inaugural meeting took place in Edinburgh during the autumn. I hadn’t heard of Net Impact before, but the blurb sounded interesting – using business to make a positive impact on society.

Jim Schorr, one of the co-founders of Net Impact, was in Edinburgh for a conference, and he told us a bit about the organisation – where it came from, why it was formed, what it does.
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“Cheeky Monkey”

Last night, I watched by chance a programme in the BBC’s Natural World series called Cheeky Monkey.

Photo: Alice Wiegand on Wikimedia Commons.

This was a fascinating programme which explored intelligence, learning, culture and communication within monkey populations and between monkey species.

The ability of some monkeys to lie tied in with Robin Dunbar’s thoughts on man’s “theory of mind” – the ability to think through how others might react to something one says. The film showed monkeys exhibiting both second order and third order concepts of mind.

The learnt use of tools by monkeys in a variety of settings was also really interesting – it shows that (some) monkeys were thinking about things they couldn’t see – visualising the outcome of using the tools, including weapons.

All in all, I couldn’t help thinking that anthropomorphising about monkeys might not be anthropomorphising at all – maybe they really are thinking what we think they might be thinking!

“Why does failure inspire some and demoralize others?”

BoingBoing posts on Why does failure inspire some and demoralize others?, which links to this 2007 article on the work of Carol Dweck.

Dweck is looking at why some people – schoolchildren, students, sports stars (bizarrely, Blackburn Rovers, who probably need all the help they can get) – persevere and others don’t, and attributes some of the difference to study skills and learning skills. Culture and the mindset – the expectations of learners – play a large role: essential, how we deal with failure, and whether we label it as failure at all.

…capable students thought they lacked ability just because they’d hit a setback. Common sense suggests that ability inspires self-confidence. And it does for a while—so long as the going is easy. But setbacks change everything. Dweck realized—and, with colleague Elaine Elliott soon demonstrated—that the difference lay in the kids’ goals. “The mastery-oriented children are really hell-bent on learning something,” Dweck says, and “learning goals” inspire a different chain of thoughts and behaviors than “performance goals.”

I am reminded of a quotation by Thomas Edison, when he was trying to develop batteries: “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work“.