UK Academic Results (GCSEs) are More Nature than Nurture

Source: The Spectator/UK, Jul 2013

In a representative twin sample of 11,117 16-year-olds, heritability was substantial for GCSE performance for compulsory core subjects (58%) as well as for each of them individually: English (52%), Mathematics (55%) and Science (58%). In contrast, the overall effects of shared environment, which includes all family and school influences shared by members of twin pairs growing up in the same family and attending the same school, accounts for about 36% of the variance of mean GCSE scores.

much more of the variance of GCSE scores can be attributed to genetics than to school or family environment.

Rather than a passive model of schooling as instruction (instruere, ‘to build in’), we propose an active model of education (educare, ‘to bring out’) in which children create their own educational experiences in part on the basis of their genetic propensities, which supports the trend towards personalised learning.

Asians Get the “Jewish” Treatment from the Ivy League

Source: USA Today, Nov 2014

the Ivy League now, by all accounts, has quotas for Asian students. They are seen as people who study too hard, boring grinds who aren’t much fun — and, of course, their parents aren’t as rich and connected. And though the numbers of highly qualified Asian applicants have grown dramatically, the number of Asians admitted stays pretty much the same every year.

Now the Asian students are suing. In a lawsuit against Harvard, they are claiming that Harvard demands higher qualifications from Asian students than from others, and that it uses “racial classifications to engage in the same brand of invidious discrimination against Asian Americans that it formerly used to limit the number of Jewish students in its student body.”

The Most Important Thing(s) Learned at MIT – Resilience, Resourcefulness & Initiative

Source: MIT Admissions Blog, Nov 2014

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Google Moonshot – Zero Million Research Problem

Source: Fortune, Nov 2014

 To succeed at a moonshot, you need curiosity, impulse, and a problem that no one seems to be investing in.

a crazy enough idea that no one was working on it. To Page, that was a classic “zero million dollar” research problem. “You find no one working on it,” he said. “And you know that zero million dollars are going into that problem.”

Imagination Precedes Ambition

Source: Fortune, Nov 2014

The Google CEO is the kind of guy who thinks the improbable is a given and the seemingly impossible is likely. He’s not one or two steps ahead of his engineers and research scientists; he often seems to inhabit an alternate universe, where the future has already happened. … “He wanted to make sure there was a moon shot after the moon shot,” says Astro Teller, who heads Google X. “Reminding us that his ambitions are this high,” Teller says, raising his hand well above his head, “helps people aspire to more.”

Page says his vision for Google is different: “We’d like to have a bigger impact on the world by doing more things.”

Page wants Google to keep attracting the world’s best talent so that he can build an entirely new kind of company—one that can stay at the top of its game not for a decade or two, but perhaps for generations. “It’s what’s continuing to drive me,” he says.

In an hourlong conversation he volunteers that he is “super-excited” about this and “really excited” about that and “very excited” about something else nearly two dozen times.

Page says it’s also part of how he manages the company’s armies of alpha scientists. “Deep knowledge from your manager goes a long way toward motivating you,” Page says. “And I have a pretty good capability for that.”

Page looks at Google’s projects as a portfolio, a “bucket of investments.” Some are short-term, others are medium or long-term bets. He says he is fairly certain some will pay off. And while the investments are sizable, they are also gradual. “By the time you know you want to put a significant amount of money into something, you’re pretty sure you’re going to make money from it,” says Page. “It’s not that the risk is so high.” To the most ambitious CEO on the planet, clearly the bigger risk is in not trying to conjure the future.

Bureaucrats and Doers/Innovators

Source: Donald Cummings blog, Oct 2014

… students leave university for politics and the civil service with degrees that reward verbal fluency, some fragments of philosophy, little knowledge of maths or science, and confidence in a sort of arrogant bluffing combined with ignorance about how to get anything done. They think they are prepared to ‘run the country’ but many cannot run their own diaries.

It is the startups who, generally, make breakthroughs and solve hard problems – not bureaucrats – but it is the bureaucrats who dominate the upper echelons of large public companies, politics, and public service HR systems. Civil service bureaucracies at senior levels generally select for the worst aspects of chimp politics and against those skills seen in rare successful organisations (e.g the ability to simplify, focus, and admit errors).

They recruit ‘people who won’t rock the boat’ but of course the world advances exactly because of the efforts of people who do ‘rock the boat’. They recruit a lot of lawyers, who are trained to focus on process rather than outcome, reinforcing one of the worst aspects of bureaucracies.

When struggling with General Relativity, Einstein caught a big break – his friend Grossman introduced him to ideas in non-Euclidean geometry that were needed for Relativity. The restructuring of expert attention – ‘a scientific social web that directs scientists’ attention where it is most valuable’ (Nielsen) plus data-driven intelligence – will enable a transition from the haphazard serendipity of ‘Grossman moments’ to ‘designed serendipity’.

when someone with a startup mentality strays into the bureaucratic world, the bureaucracy reacts like an immune system to expel the intruder. This is one of the reasons why young talented people who want to get things done more than they want to get ahead – they want ‘to do’ rather than ‘to be’ – soon leave the civil service.

This in turn explains why bureaucracies are the way they are – they filter out people with a startup approach so the dominant culture at senior levels is so distasteful for someone with a startup mentality that they leave and the institution becomes even harder to change. If your entire institutional structure selects against the skills of entrepreneurs or scientists, do not be surprised when the people in charge cannot solve problems like entrepreneurs or scientists.

Comparing Stanford With Harvard

Source: Harvard Crimson, Oct 2014

Stanford’s objective to “qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life,” as stated in its founding grant, differs greatly than that of Harvard, which according to University literature, focuses primarily on the advancement of knowledge.

… an inscription above Harvard’s Dexter Gate, which reads “Enter to grow in wisdom” on the outside, while the inside reads “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.”