Facebook, Scurvy & Female Brains

7 Things Netflix’s ‘The Great Hack’ Gets Wrong About the Facebook, by Alec Stapp

Suggested by Philip Salter, Founder, The Entrepreneurs Network

Cambridge Analytica's overblown marketing claims have been co-opted by its critics to overstate the company's influence. Although Netflix's The Great Hack tells a compelling story, it's not a true story. The film wildly overstates the significance of the scandal in both the 2016 US presidential election and the 2016 UK referendum on leaving the EU.

Targeted campaigns based on personality type don't seem to work (Cambridge Analytica didn't even have the data to do this properly) – if they did Ted Cruz would be President – and as yet there is no evidence that Facebook data were used in the Brexit referendum. "The truth is much more mundane: the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal was neither a 'hack' nor was it 'great' in historical importance," explains Alec Stapp. If we want to understand Trump and Brexit, we'll need to dig a little deeper than Netflix.

Scott and Scurvy, IdleWords.com

Suggested by Sam Dumitriu, Research Director, The Entrepreneurs Network

Scurvy is a deeply unpleasant and potentially fatal disease. The good news is that it’s cure is simple: restore Vitamin C to the diet. In 1749, Scottish Physician James Lind proved in medical experiments that eating citrus fruits could halt and reverse the condition. By the 19th Century it gave the British navy a massive strategic advantage. Yet by the second half of the 19th Century the cure was lost. As blogger Maciej Cegłowski puts it: “The story of how this happened is a striking demonstration of the problem of induction, and how progress in one field of study can lead to unintended steps backward in another.”

There’s a positive message too: “One of the simplest of diseases managed to utterly confound us for so long, at the cost of millions of lives, even after we had stumbled across an unequivocal cure. It makes you wonder how many incurable ailments of the modern world—depression, autism, hypertension, obesity—will turn out to have equally simple solutions, once we are able to see them in the correct light.”

The Truth About the Female Brain, by Saloni Dattani, UnHerd

Suggested by Annabel Denham, Associate Director and Head of the Female Founders Forum, The Entrepreneurs Network

If it's the truth we want, intellectual debates must take place in public and conducted in good faith. Just consider the tortured nature/nurture debate. Psychiatric geneticist Saloni Dattani has written a sharp critique of Gina Rippon’s book The Gendered Brain, arguing Rippon cherrypicks evidence to bolster her argument.

Rippon’s conclusions are borderline contradictory: she concurs that the brain "may start out on a fairly standard trajectory but can then be diverted by quite small shifts” due to “different events or experiences”. But Rippon also makes “wild leaps in reasoning and frequent insinuations that when sex differences are not apparent at birth, they cannot be innate”. This includes a difference in the behaviours of 13-18 week old babies vs newborns. Saloni expands on these thoughts in a podcast for Rationally Speaking.

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