About this site

This is a site where I post articles, videos, and various resources relevant to a Theory of Knowledge teacher or student. You can find handouts, activities, and day to day plans on the resources for the TOK class page.

You can follow my day to day lessons with my Year 1s here.

The folder linked above lists the daily lessons chronologically. For the individual articles and resources linked below, there is no particular order but you can search by relevant Area of Knowledge or Way of Knowing by navigating the tabs above.

This site is currently configured for the “old” TOK course whose last assessment is 2021. Here is what I have gathered about the new course.

Please contact me by email if you have any questions.

TOKTopics[at]gmail.com

 

AI is wrestling with a replication crisis

Science is built on a bedrock of trust, which typically involves sharing enough details about how research is carried out to enable others to replicate it, verifying results for themselves. This is how science self-corrects and weeds out results that don’t stand up. Replication also allows others to build on those results, helping to advance the field. Science that can’t be replicated falls by the wayside.

At least, that’s the idea. In practice, few studies are fully replicated because most researchers are more interested in producing new results than reproducing old ones. But in fields like biology and physics—and computer science overall—researchers are typically expected to provide the information needed to rerun experiments, even if those reruns are rare.

 

Masks Work. Really. We’ll Show You How.

The public health debate on masks is settled, said Joseph G. Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard. When you wear a mask, “You protect yourself, you protect others, you prevent yourself from touching your face,” he said. And you signal that wearing a mask is the right thing to do.

With coronavirus cases still rising, wearing a mask is more important than ever. In this animation, you will see just how effective a swath of fabric can be at fighting the pandemic.

Data Analytics and Sports. Game 6 of the 2020 World Series

The conflict over the proper role of data analytics has been an ongoing story in modern sports for many years now. The controversy only intensified with the way the final game of the baseball World Series played out. Lots of angry sports talking heads sounded off about how much they hated the decision for the Rays to pull their starting pitcher and hate the role analytics play in sports. Interesting contrast between what the “data says” and what your gut says. 
 
This first link summarizes the situation and the videos at the top of the linked page are a few of the angry talk show hosts sounding off on their anger.
 
World Series 2020: Why the Tampa Bay Rays took Blake Snell out while he was mowing down the Los Angeles Dodgers
 
 
 
 
“Championships are not won by guidebooks”
 
Host Colin Cowherd makes some interesting points here about what he thinks are the appropriate times to approach the sport analytically.
 

 
 
Kevin Cash’s decision to pull Blake Snell, explained: How analytics overruled World Series context clues and cost the Rays
 
The long view of analytics points to reasons why pulling Snell was the right move, but it also ignores the individual context clues that Snell’s Game 6 domination provided.
 
 

Here are a few more resources on the topic. Depending on your students and their interests, 

Sports closer to art than science

CHANGING THE GAME- The Rise of Sports Analytics

Are super-nerds really ruining US sports? | Sport | The Guardian

 

Freakonomics Podcast: Is New York City Over? (Ep. 434)

Great episode with some solid TOK connections. At around 30:55, the host talks to economist Ed Glaeser about the value and importance of cities. The arguments he present connect well to concepts of personal and shared knowledge. Cities allow for innovation and progress because of the ease of sharing knowledge.



DUBNER: You call the city “our greatest invention,” which means you’re putting it ahead of mathematics, the computer, antibiotics, rum-raisin ice cream. How so? How is the city the greatest human invention?
GLAESER: It is the machine that makes all the other inventions possible, right? And the reason for that is that almost every one of the inventions that you raise, whether it’s mathematics and its development, whether in classical Greece 2,500 years ago or in the House of Wisdom in Abbasid, Baghdad, 1,200 years ago, it is human connections that make that creativity possible. Almost nothing that we have done as a species is a solo creation. We collaborate. We learn from each other. We steal each other’s ideas with some degree of regularity.

Further on, around 39 minutes, the host talks to economist Jennifer Doleac about crime statistics. What I love here is the way in which she talks about data and possible explanations for observed phenomena. All of this is a great representation of the methods of the human sciences and of economics in particular.

Homicide, it’s a bit of a mystery. And I think the mystery is compounded by the fact that we’re seeing different effects in different cities. So, it’s hard to come up with a really clear story. It’s possible that some of this is gang violence. And so, if people aren’t out and about, then there aren’t witnesses and bystanders who might deter violent crime or violent confrontations among people that perhaps don’t care about stay-at-home orders. Something else that has been written about quite a bit now is what happens to domestic-violence rates. We see domestic violence rates increase quite a bit. Some of those surely are turning into homicides. But that probably is not explaining all of the potential effect on homicides in these cities.

Freakonomics Podcast: Is New York City Over? (Ep. 434)

How maps confirm anti-migrant bias

‘Battlefield maps’ show continent under attack from hostile invaders.

See, maps have a problem. They appear neutral, objective, authoritative. But that’s exactly all that they’re not. Each map reflects the many choices the cartographer has made, consciously or not, both in terms of content and form.

And so, without us even noticing it, maps can confirm bias, entrench prejudice and perpetuate injustice.

https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/migrant-maps-confirm-bias

Freakonomics Podcast: Should We Separate the Art From the Artist?

Question #1: Is it wrong to enjoy the art of “canceled” artists?

One of the first “canceled” artists Stephen and Angela discuss is, of course, Michael Jackson. To learn more about the allegations against the pop star, read this New York Times article by Ben Sisario, or watch the 2019 Emmy-winning documentary, HBO’s Leaving Neverland.

Angela wonders if it’s okay to enjoy Annie Hall, one of her all-time favorite movies. This 2018 New York Times piece offers a detailed timeline of Woody Allen’s controversial history.

You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science

The reason is simple: most of us, even those of us who are scientists ourselves, lack the relevant scientific expertise needed to adequately evaluate that research on our own. In our own fields, we are aware of the full suite of data, of how those puzzle pieces fit together, and what the frontiers of our knowledge is…

There’s an old saying that I’ve grown quite fond of recently: you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into. When most of us “research” an issue, what we are actually doing is:

  • formulating an initial opinion the first time we hear about something,
  • evaluating everything we encounter after that through that lens of our gut instinct,
  • finding reasons to think positively about the portions of the narrative that support or justify our initial opinion,
  • and finding reasons to discount or otherwise dismiss the portions that detract from it.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2020/07/30/you-must-not-do-your-own-research-when-it-comes-to-science/#62cce43b535e

QAnon: The alternative religion that’s coming to your church

For years in the 1980s and ’90s, U.S. evangelicals, above nearly any other group, warned what will happen when people abandon absolute truth (which they located in the Bible), saying the idea of relative truth would lead to people believing whatever confirms their own inward hunches. But suspicion of big government, questioning of scientific consensus (on evolution, for example) and a rejection of the morals of Hollywood and liberal elites took hold among millennial Christians, many of whom feel politically alienated and beat up by mainstream media. They are natural targets for QAnon…

“Why would we listen to my friend Joe … who’s telling me about Jesus who also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant? … Why would we be believed?”

QAnon: The alternative religion that’s coming to your church

Netflix Documentary: The Social Dilemma…and related articles

Here are a couple of posts around the theme of Knowledge and Technology. Netflix has recently put out a documentary called “The Social Dilemma” (trailer linked below). It touches upon some commonly discussed themes around the dangers of communications technologies and social media. 

What’s interesting is that despite what people agree are problematic outcomes, there are disagreements among root causes. 

This is just a great line from a NYTimes Article

The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them. 

from: ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It

 

From the “Social Dilemma Fails to Tackle the Real Issues in Tech”, which takes a critical view of the argument put forward in The Social Dilemma:

Focusing instead on how existing inequalities intersect with technology would have opened up space for a different and more productive conversation. These inequalities actually influence the design choices that the film so heavily focuses on—more specifically, who gets to make these choices.

https://slate.com/technology/2020/09/social-dilemma-netflix-technology.html

From “The Risk Makers: Viral hate, election interference, and hacked accounts: inside the tech industry’s decades-long failure to reckon with risk”

The internet’s “condition of harm” and its direct relation to risk is structural. The tech industry — from venture capitalists to engineers to creative visionaries — is known for its strike-it-rich Wild West individualistic ethos, swaggering risk-taking, and persistent homogeneity. Some of this may be a direct result of the industry’s whiteness and maleness. For more than two decades, studies have found that a specific subset of men, in the U.S. mostly white, with higher status and a strong belief in individual efficacy, are prone to accept new technologies with greater alacrity while minimizing their potential threats — a phenomenon researchers have called the “white-male effect,” a form of cognition that protects status. In the words of one study, the findings expose “a host of new practical and moral challenges for reconciling the rational regulation of risk with democratic decision making.”

https://onezero.medium.com/the-risk-makers-720093d41f01