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7/29 - What's Next

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The Tail End


In high school, I sat around playing hearts with the same four guys about five days a week. In four years, we probably racked up 700 group hangouts. Now, scattered around the country with totally different lives and schedules, the five of us are in the same room at the same time probably 10 days each decade. The group is in its final 7%.

It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.

Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

They Tried to Start a Church Without God. For a While, It Worked.

Secular congregations such as Sunday Assembly and Oasis—a similar group started in 2012—seek to offer a solution. Both were founded by faithless seekers hoping to carry on certain aspects of religious life: the community, the moral deliberation, and the rich sense of wonder.

If the sudden emergence of secular communities speaks to a desire for human connection and a deeper sense of meaning, their subsequent decline shows the difficulty of making people feel part of something bigger than themselves. One thing has become clear: The yearning for belonging is not enough, in itself, to create a sense of home.

Mckinsey & Company: Capital’s Willing Executioners

To those convinced that a secretive cabal controls the world, the usual suspects are Illuminati, Lizard People, or “globalists.” They are wrong, naturally. There is no secret society shaping every major decision and determining the direction of human history. There is, however, McKinsey & Company.

I came into my job as a McKinsey consultant hoping to change the world from the inside, believing that the best way to make progress is through influencing those who control the levers of power. Instead of being a force for good, I found myself party to the most damaging forces affecting the world: the resurgence of authoritarianism and the continued creep of markets into all parts of life.

Working for all sides, McKinsey’s only allegiance is to capital. As capital’s most effective messenger, McKinsey has done direct harm to the world in ways that, thanks to its lack of final decision-making power, are hard to measure and, thanks to its intense secrecy, are hard to know. The firm’s willingness to work with despotic governments and corrupt business empires is the logical conclusion of seeking profit at all costs. Its advocacy of the primacy of the market has made governments more like businesses and businesses more like vampires. By claiming that they solve the world’s hardest problems, McKinsey shrinks the solution space to only those that preserve the status quo. And it is through this claim that the firm attracts thousands of “the best and the brightest” away from careers that actually serve the public.

Lean Cuisine doesn’t want to be part of diet culture anymore. Does it have a choice?

Lean Cuisines, obviously, are bad. Lean Cuisines are diet culture, insisting that 250 calories is enough for a dinner, and the name “Lean Cuisine” is understood by the Food and Drug Administration as a “nutrient content claim,” so Lean Cuisines are required by the government to be “lean” (less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat). But that leanness doesn’t even translate to health, especially in the way we think of it now; as nutritionist Laura Silver explains, Lean Cuisines are mostly white pasta or meat, with potatoes and without nearly enough vegetables. At the very least, Lean Cuisine’s parent company Nestlé is bad — known for looking for loopholes in water laws in economically depressed cities, an idea most of us probably could not even have come up with in a Mad Libs of scams.

Are we happier when we spend more time with others?

In 1938, a group of Harvard researchers decided to start a research program to track the lives of a group of young men, in what eventually became one of the longest and most famous longitudinal studies of its kind. The idea was to track the development of a group of teenage boys through periodic interviews and medical checkups, with the aim of understanding how their health and well-being evolved as they grew up.

Today, more than 80 years later, it is one of the longest running research programmes in social science. It is called the Harvard Study of Adult Development and it is still running.

The data shows that income and happiness are clearly related; but we also know from surveys that people often overestimate the impact of income on happiness. Social relations might be the missing link: In rich countries, where minimum material living conditions are often satisfied, people may struggle to become happier because they are targeting material rather than social goals.

From decades of research we know that social relations predict mental well-being over time; and from a recent study we also know that people who actively decide to improve their social relations often report becoming happier. So yes, people are happier when they spend more time with friends.

What are click farms? A shadowy internet industry is booming in China

In China, the world’s largest smartphone market with over 800 million users, a unique type of farm springs up in urban areas.

The only crops there are smartphones.

The operations, known as click farms, can house hundreds or thousands of iPhones and Android phones on the shelves. They are plugged in and programmed to search, click, and download a certain app over and over again. The goal is to manipulate the system of app store rankings and search results.

The Hidden Costs of Automated Thinking

Could we create a balance sheet for intellectual debt—a system for tracking where and how theoryless knowledge is used? Our accounting could reflect the fact that not all intellectual debt is equally problematic. If an A.I. produces new pizza recipes, it may make sense to shut up and enjoy the pizza; by contrast, when we begin using A.I. to make health predictions and recommendations, we’ll want to be fully informed.

Perhaps all this technology will work—and that, in turn, will be a problem. Much of the timely criticism of artificial intelligence has rightly focussed on the ways in which it can go wrong: it can create or replicate bias; it can make mistakes; it can be put to evil ends. We should also worry, though, about what will happen when A.I. gets it right.

More to Check Out: 
- The Most Weather-Delayed Major Airports in the U.S.
Microsoft invests $1b in OpenAI
- Ultimate Team made up 28% of EA revenue last year
Chinese billionaire buys $75M mansion after browsing Zillow
How Old Were the Leaders of the American Revolution on July 4, 1776?

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