Weekend Briefing No. 276
Welcome to the Memorial Day weekend!
It’s a long weekend, and I wanted to make sure you have some good stuff to read while you’re sipping a beverage by the pool. So, this weekend I’m doing something I’ve never done before - sending you two emails. Be on the lookout for a special treat in your inbox tomorrow morning. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
72 – The share of women who report being “very happy” in marriage are on either the extreme ends of the ideological spectrum - 69% for extremely liberal women and 72% for extremely conservative women.
11 – This week I celebrated 11 years on Twitter. Upon reflection, it’s actually been a really valuable platform. If you dig the Weekend Briefing follow me on Twitter to keep the conversation going.
2.05 – In the five years after Spain introduced paid paternity leave for men, the desired number of children dropped for men from 2.12 to 2.05, and it raised for women from 2.07 to 2.11.
Generation Alpha, as they are being called, will be the first generation living in an AI world, how will that shape them? 1) Health. AI is already transforming healthcare and longevity research. Machines are helping to design drugs faster and detect disease earlier. Additionally, AI may soon influence not only how we diagnose and treat illness in children, but perhaps how we choose which children will be born in the first place. 2) School. AI literacy will become a part of the core curriculum and also assist the learning of every other subject. 3) AI will learn from kids. It also turns out that AI has as much to learn from kids. More and more researchers are interested in understanding how children grasp basic concepts that still elude the most advanced machine minds. For example, while DeepMind’s AlphaZero was trained to be a chess master, it struggles with even the simplest of changes in the rules, such as allowing the bishop to move horizontally instead of vertically. Singularity Hub (9 minutes)
If a robot could build your house, what would it look like? Construction has been slow to adopt new technology. That’s changing fast as robots, drones and 3D printing are making construction more efficient… but could it make construction more creative? Architects have always been limited by what their builders can actually make. But if robots were doing the building, all sorts of new possibilities open up. Straight walls partly exist for the convenience of builders and architects - but for a robot, a curved wall is almost as easy. So at the DFAB House, a small test building in the suburbs of Zurich, Switzerland, the main wall follows an elegant, irregular curve. It’s built around a steel frame, welded by robots, which humans would have found almost impossible to construct unaided. Even stranger, the roof consists of a series of flowing, organic ridges, which look as if they were secreted by a giant insect. Awkward to dust, perhaps, but designed by computer and made with 3D printing to achieve the same strength as a conventional, straight roof, yet with half the weight. The house, built by Switzerland’s National Centre of Competence in Research in Digital Fabrication, demonstrates what a computer-designed, robot-built house could look like. BBC (9 minutes)
Tech & the Middle Class
The idea that tech jobs are going to create a substantial middle class anytime in the foreseeable future is probably unrealistic. There was a 70% growth in information technology jobs over 15 years, to 4.7 million in 2018. But that total is far fewer than half the 12.8 million in manufacturing, a sector that shed 1.5 million jobs over that span. About ¼ of the tech jobs are held by workers without four-year degrees. However, some tech training programs such as Year Up, have shown some progress. More than 70% of Year Up graduates land jobs within four months, employed with starting salaries of $34,000 to $50,000, depending on the job and local market. New York Times (9 minutes)
Middle School Dance
A recent survey found that 60% of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring and socializing one-on-one with women at work. This 32% spike from last year highlights the paradoxical path of progress from the #MeToo movement. Men—particularly those in senior roles—are 12x more reluctant to interact with women at work, depriving them of the formal and informal mentorship that can aid in networking, securing new opportunities, and promotions. As Sheryl Sandberg put it, “No one has ever gotten a promotion without getting a one-on-one meeting.” Men need to support their female colleagues not avoid them if we are to fix this broken system. Survey Monkey (7 minutes)
In 1905, Albert Einstein had his “annus mirabilis,” publishing four papers in four months (yes… you read that right) that redefined how we understand the world (and the universe) around us. After a decade of difficult intellectual work, the physicist took his conclusion to its profound end with his theory of general relativity, which demonstrated how time and space are one, and how matter changes its flow. This truth allowed us to comprehend the universe from big to small: the big bang, black holes, and the directions our phones give us. However, the theory of relativity breaks down when it meets the impossibly small, very strange world of quantum physics, which Einstein couldn’t explain. Science is waiting on another annus mirabilis, but even a new understanding that determines how they do—or don’t—relate won’t fully supplant the great mind’s universe-shaking decade. Quartz (11 minutes)
Game of Thrones & Story
It seems nobody is happy with the last season of Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones did indeed take a turn for the worse, but the reasons for that downturn go way deeper than the usual suspects that have been identified (new and inferior writers, shortened season, too many plot holes). It’s not that these are incorrect, but they’re just superficial shifts. In fact, the souring of Game of Thrones exposes a fundamental shortcoming of our storytelling culture in general: we don’t really know how to tell sociological stories. The hallmark of sociological storytelling is to encourage us to put ourselves in the place of any character, not just the main hero/heroine, and imagine ourselves making similar choices. The overly personal mode of storytelling prevalent in Hollywood leaves us bereft of deeper comprehension of events and history. Well-run societies neither need heroes nor a way to keep terrible impulses in check by dethroning antiheroes and replacing them with good people. Unfortunately, most of our storytelling—in fiction and also in mass media nonfiction—remains stuck in the hero/antihero narrative. Scientific American (18 minutes)
The Domino Effect states that when you make a change to one behavior, it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well. There are three keys to making this work in real life. 1) Start with the thing you are most motivated to do. Start with a small behavior and do it consistently. This will not only feel satisfying, but also open your eyes to the type of person you can become. It does not matter which domino falls first, as long as one falls. 2) Maintain momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish. Let the momentum of finishing one task carry you directly into the next behavior. With each repetition, you will become more committed to your new self-image. 3) When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks. As you try new habits, focus on keeping them small and manageable. The Domino Effect is about progress, not results. Simply maintain the momentum. Let the process repeat as one domino automatically knocks down the next. James Clear (6 minutes)
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave a passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature. Though it’s powerful, it’s also short – easily readable in one sitting. Amazon
Hey Kyle - I am becoming a regular reader of your Weekend Briefing. I particularly like the addition of the Bookshelf section. Thanks for all your work on this. It's something I look forward to every Saturday morning. As an avid reader, I participate in a pretty serious, men's-only book club here in Nashville. We are composed of Vanderbilt professors, doctors at the Vanderbilt hospital, a couple of lawyers, a middle school teacher, and a smattering of others who come from time to time. We meet monthly and average a dozen or so per meeting. We discussed There There last month. We enjoyed comparing it to another title written by a Native American - The Round House. We thought There There was better. It was not a perfect novel, but it was a very strong first effort. -Mark Morell
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