1. International Index of Ignorance
Polling firm Ipsos MORI surveyed people about the demographics of their countries and published the results its “Perils of Perception” report. For example, they asked people’s perceptions on average age in the country, the percentage of immigrants and the percentage of people overweight.
The results are sobering. The British think 43% of 25-34 year-olds live with their parents. The actual number is 14%. Brazilians were particularly bad at judging age, saying that the average age of people in their country is 56 when it is actually 31. Obesity tends to be underestimated. Saudis, for example, think that just over a quarter of their country is overweight, when in reality the figure is around 70%.
We overestimate things that bother us, like the number of immigrants. Across 32 countries the average guess was 23% whereas the actual figure is 10%.
Mexico was the most ignorant country, followed by India, Brazil, Peru and New Zealand. Then came Columbia, Belgium, South Africa, Argentina and Italy. Australia comes in 15th.
The most interesting observation is that when issues are widely discussed in the media we become more ignorant.
The ABC, of course, seeks to inform. It’s a bit of a worry, therefore, that ABC’s new chief Michelle Guthrie thinks Q&A is terrific. She described it as “pivotal” and reckons the “participatory democracy” the program provided is a vital service to the country.
- The program is definitely at its best when it either ditches politicians entirely and builds a discussion around experts in a particular field, like science or the arts, or focuses on one politician and creates the space required for a genuine interrogation of the people who run the country.
Mostly, however, it is just beating up controversy and chasing eyeballs. Why else would it put One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts up against award-winning physicist Professor Brian Cox?
Guthrie praised many of the ABC’s programs and services. The worry comes when she tries to improve them, which no doubt she will because it’s her job. Being a successful Google executive is not, on the face of it, particularly relevant.
InsideGov ranked the 27 smartest presidents in US history, using data from their biographies and writings.
Here are the results of the better-known ones.
#27 George H W Bush @ 130.1
#23 Richard Nixon @ 131
#22 Dwight D Eisenhower @ 132.5
#20 George Washington @ 132.5
#13 Franklin D Roosevelt @ 139.6
#12 Abraham Lincoln @ 140
#8 Theodore Roosevelt @ 142.3
#6 Jimmy Carter @ 145.1
#5 Woodrow Wilson @ 145.1
#4 Bill Clinton @ 148.8
#3 John F Kennedy @ 150.7
#2 Thomas Jefferson @ 153.8
#1 John Quincy Adams @ 168.8
Jimmy Carter, who apparently studied nuclear physics after leaving the job, is perhaps an example of why being smart is not enough to be a good president.
- was an esteemed lawyer and a formidable presence in court (he earned a law degree from Harvard). He was also a brilliant statesman, negotiating several key international treaties. Remarkably, Adams was fluent in at least four languages and regularly translated Latin and ancient Greek as well.
Missing are George Dubya Bush, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman. They didn’t look at Barack Obama.
The thing to remember about IQ is that it is only what IQ tests measure, and that it is not a fixed capacity in any individual. James Flynn’s latest book Does your Family Make You Smarter?: Nature, Nurture, and Human Autonomy emphasises that we are moving to a society where diversity of thinking is prized and networking skills are essential. That’s according to a New Scientist review. One might argue that networking is what made our brains big in the first place.
4. Melbourne ranked the most liveable city in the world
I can’t imagine why, but it must have something, because Melbourne has got the gong six years in a row.
Adelaide is fifth, and Perth seventh. Sydney, ranked seventh last year, dropped out of the top 10 due to a “heightened perceived threat of terrorism”.
Not sure where Brissie comes, but I’m happy here, 7km from the GPO and backing onto bushland.
Generally speaking smaller is better, they say. Or rather medium size, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, who do the survey:
- “There does appear to be a correlation between the types of cities that sit right at the very top of the ranking,” the report said.
“Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density.
“These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.
Introduction to Saturday salon
Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.
An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.
For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.
The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.
Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.
The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:
The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.