Thursday, September 20, 2007

Talking about TimesSelect, Paul Krugman, Olivia Judson, Evolution of Altruism

NYTimes has got rid of the stupid TimesSelect (TS) program which hid some of its interesting content behind a paywall. This move was widely expected ever since it was implemented two years ago; frankly, I am surprised that TS survived as long as it did. From yesterday, everything in the NYTimes site is free -- and you can thank Google for it!

Talking about TS, I don't have to rely on the Hindu (print version) for reading Paul Krugman. Now, I can not only read his columns, I can also link to them.

Talking about Krugman, he has chosen this opportunity to start his blog -- The Conscience of a Liberal -- on the NYTimes site. He has two posts up already on the poor job by news magazines and pundits of covering important political events in the US.

Talking about its blog section, NYTimes also had this curious policy of putting some of its blogs behind the TS paywall, and it bugged the hell out of me! One of the blogs (which had a short life) that I wanted to read is that of Olivia Judson -- the author of Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex.

Talking about Judson, in an interview with The Atlantic, she talks about the evolution of kindness, generosity and atruism:

You mentioned that monogamy actually helps the spread of altruism. How does that work?

If you have small groups living together in communities and they are fighting each other and one community can exterminate the other, then you might expect that over time the more cohesive, cooperative groups are more likely to be the winners because they are more likely to cooperate with each other during fighting.

However, the problem is that if you spend all your time helping others and not reproducing yourself, then your nice, helpful genes don’t get a chance to spread. Sam Bowles’s argument is that one way to increase the chance of spreading altruistic genes is if you have some kind of reproductive equality, so that very few people are outreproducing others. So you don’t have one guy with fourteen wives and everybody else with none. Instead, everybody has more or less the same number and therefore more or less the same number of children.

Talking about evolution of altruism, the Atlantic has published an article by Judson on this topic. But, it is behind a paywall!