Links

Links for September 4, 2022

What to Read

🎨 An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy. – NY Times

Jason M. Allen recently became obsessed with creating AI-generated images using a program called Midjourney. What he did next caused a controversy:

Eventually, Mr. Allen got the idea to submit one of his Midjourney creations to the Colorado State Fair, which had a division for “digital art/digitally manipulated photography.” He had a local shop print the image on canvas and submitted it to the judges

“The fair was coming up,” he said, “and I thought: How wonderful would it be to demonstrate to people how great this art is?"

Several weeks later, while walking the fairground in Pueblo, Mr. Allen saw a blue ribbon hanging next to his piece. He had won the division, along with a $300 prize.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I felt like: this is exactly what I set out to accomplish.”

✈️ Standing Alert with the UPS Hot Spares – Gear Patrol

If you've ever wondered how UPS ensures your package gets delivered on time, here's your answer: They build slack into the system. Jan Tegler talks to the crewmembers who are on call for when things go wrong:

They’re part of the UPS “hot-spares” program, a contingency operation with roots extending back to the late 1980s, a handful of years after the shipping giant entered the global air freight business. How and by whom the program was created has faded from corporate memory but there’s little doubt it was modeled after the US Air Force’s alert force, exemplified by the fighter-interceptors of Air Defense Command during the Cold War and today’s NORAD structure.

The basic idea is simple. Hot-spare aircraft and crews are on alert to “protect” inbound and outbound “Next Day Air” volume, which amounts to nearly 1.6 million packages coming to Worldport (primarily) from collocated UPS air hubs and sort-hub facilities domestically and internationally every night.
Standing Alert with the UPS Hot Spares
When a UPS plane breaks down or the crew encounters problems, packages still need to be delivered.

🖼 Chicago’s Famous Paintings Are Becoming Pothole Mosaics Thanks To Artist Jim Bachor – Block Club Chicago

If art is whatever you can get away with, Jim Bachor is getting away with it:

You don’t have to visit a museum to see some of the world’s most renowned paintings — you can spot them in Chicago’s potholes.

Local mosaic artist Jim Bachor is known for filling potholes with small, colorful mosaics. His latest street art series is called “Master pieces,” and it recreates famous artworks people ordinarily would see at the Art Institute of Chicago

“There’s kind of an interesting juxtaposition there, of bringing masterpieces from a museum into the reviled pothole,” Bachor said. “That was kind of funny.”

See also: Guerrila Public Service

Chicago’s Famous Paintings Are Becoming Pothole Mosaics Thanks To Artist Jim Bachor
Jim Bachor loved mixing highbrow art pieces with his mosaics-in-a-pothole style: “It’s just a little bit of joy that you didn’t expect in a ridiculous space.”

Tweets of the Week

A reminder that effective communication speaks to others' benefits:

Links for August 14, 2022

What to Read

🤔 Making the Impossible Possible – The Prepared (title mine)

Long time readers know that changing the stories we tell ourselves is a primary topic around here. The first step to doing something you think is impossible: Decide that it might be possible.

But what happens if you never buy in to the impossible story to begin with? The Prepared shares a couple amazing examples of people who solved problems while unaware of the fact that no one had ever found solutions before:

In the early days of electric lighting, robust frosted light bulbs were considered impossible and were occasionally assigned to new General Electric engineers as a fool’s errand. Marvin Pipkin didn’t realize this and created the first commercially viable frosted light bulb in 1925. Similarly, in his first year of grad school George Dantzig solved two unsolved statistics problems after arriving late to class and assuming they were homework.
2022-07-25 — The Prepared
Kane Hsieh on fish, frosted light bulbs, and the urban explorer’s code of conduct.

🫠 Economists must get more in touch with our feelings – Financial Times

In recent decades, economic inequality has risen sharply. Perhaps, then, we shouldn't be surprised that a similar bifurcation shows up at the extremes of people's self-reported wellbeing:

Jon Clifton, the head of Gallup, which has been tracking wellbeing around the world for many years, notes a polarisation in people’s life-evaluations. Compared with 15 years ago (before the financial crisis, smartphones and Covid-19) twice as many people now say they have the best possible life they could imagine (10 out of 10); however, four times as many people now say they are living the worst life they can conceive (0 out of 10). About 7.5 per cent of people are now in psychological heaven, and about the same proportion are in psychological hell.

Non-paywalled link

Subscribe to read | Financial Times
News, analysis and comment from the Financial Times, the worldʼs leading global business publication

Tweets of the Week

A brief, must-read story about creative problem solving:

Via @JamesClear

Links for July 31, 2022

What to Read

Escaping the Trap of Efficiency: The Counterintuitive Antidote to the Time-Anxiety That Haunts and Hampers Our Search for Meaning — The Marginalian

Maria Popova shares her experience with a mindfulness teacher who tasked her with imagining she had only a year to live, then only a day and only an hour. How would you spend that time?

As you scale down these nested finitudes, the question becomes a powerful sieve for priorities — because undergirding it is really the question of what, from among the myriad doable things, you would choose not to do in order to fill the scant allotment of time, be it the 8,760 hours of a year or a single hour, with the experiences that confer upon it maximum aliveness, that radiant vitality filling the basic biological struggle for survival with something more numinous.
Escaping the Trap of Efficiency: The Counterintuitive Antidote to the Time-Anxiety That Haunts and Hampers Our Search for Meaning
“Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster… Since finitude defines our lives… livi…

🏋️‍♂️ We're Always Training Something — Zen Habits

Leo Babauta shares a reminder that our daily practices quickly slip into long-term habits. And by examining how we spend our days, we can retrain ourselves to spend our lives with greater intention.

I’m pointing this out because it gives us an opportunity — we can put awareness and intentionality into what we’re training, every day. This can change how we do everything, which can create a different way we’re showing up for our lives, and a different set of results.
We’re Always Training Something - zen habits
By Leo Babauta Every day, we go through a set of actions that is training our minds in the long term. Sometimes we’re training intentionally: we meditate, practice focus, get ourselves to start a workout, resist temptations, etc. Mostly, though, we’re training unintentionally: when you press snooze…

What to Watch

📦 The Riddle That Seems Impossible Even If You Know The Answer – Veritasium

Derek Muller breaks down the 100 Prisoners Riddle's mind-bending answer in this animated video.

Imagine, for a moment, that there are 100 prisoners numbered 1-100. One a time, they must each enter a room with 100 boxes (numbered 1-100) with slips of paper inside. Those slips of paper have the numbers 1-100 on them and are randomly distributed.

Each prisoner can open up to 50 boxes looking for their number, then must leave the room exactly as they found it.

If every single person locates their number, they all are freed. But if just one of them fails, the group remains inprisoned.

They must leave the room exactly as they found it and cannot communicate, except for strategizing ahead of time.

On the surface, each of them has 50/50 chance of finding their number, which means the group has a (½)^100 chance (that's a decimal with 30 zeroes after it, followed by an eight).

What can they do to improve their odds of success to over 30%?

The answer reminds me of this quote from mathematican Hannah Fry:

Mathematics is about abstracting away from reality, not replicating it. And it offers real value in the process. By allowing yourself to view the world from an abstract perspective, you create a language that is uniquely able to capture and describe the patterns and mechanisms that would otherwise remain hidden.

Via Farnam Street

Tweets of the Week

Art ❤️ science:

Have a great week,‌‌‌‌‌‌
John

Links for July 17, 2022

What to Read

💩 Giving a Shit as a Service – Allen Pike

In a globalized society, there's an abundance of services from massive companies that lack the extra level of care you might expect from a smaller operation. Allen Pike shares a mental model for the value you can get from smaller service providers:

In some ways, that’s the fundamental value proposition of a small boutique, whether it be a furniture shop or a software studio. Giving a shit as a service. Sure, you can always get a commodity good from off the shelf – when you’re selling soybean oil by the 100 ton lot, nobody wants to have a conversation with you about the subtle flavour profiles of different bean oils. But sometimes, you want to buy from someone that’s obsessed about the final product.
Giving a Shit as a Service
A mental model for service businesses.

🎞 What Are Quota Quickies? – The Cinema History Blog

Post-WWI Britain had a problem: Its film industry, which was previously a global leader of the emerging art form, was struggling and faced stiff competition from American studios.

So parliament signed a bill called the Cinematograph Films Act, which mandated that by 1936, 20% of all films shown in cinemas had to be British.

These were films that raced through production in order to hit the quota.
Films were churned out in a matter of days. Budgets were tiny.
And… most of them weren’t that great. Surprisingly. [...]

Did It Work?
To everyone’s surprise, it did. Sort of.

See also: Strathern's insight – "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

What Are Quota Quickies? – The Cinema History Blog

(Thanks to my friend Jim for sharing this bit of history with me.)

Tweets of the Week

Second-order effects are everywhere.

Head into this week with the kind of confidence that lets you name COVID variants:

Links for July 10, 2022

What to Read

🏢 The Office Tower Has a New Job to Do – Bloomberg

When we shape the spaces we inhabit, they shape us in return. And office building designers are at the forefront of what a future of remote work means for the commercial heart of so many of our cities:

Transitioning office towers to branded consumer lifestyle experiences is one of several approaches that have been advanced for reinvigorating moribund downtowns, such as commercial-to-residential conversions that turn office space into living space. Ramon Marrades, an urban economist who’s the director of the nonprofit Placemaking Europe, sees the rapid acceleration of this trend as “an attempt from real estate linked to global capital to reinvent itself as quick as possible.”

If it succeeds, the add-more-amenities approach could enliven business districts with new derivations of privately owned public space — a zoning tool introduced by New York City in 1961 that encourages developers to make indoor or outdoor parts of their properties open to the general public in exchange for additional floor area. But the proliferation of these hybrid semi-public urban features has also raised concerns about exclusion and privacy.

Link

📉 Where Did the Long Tail Go? – Ted Gioia

I've written previously about the long tail – the idea that businesses and creators can increasingly thrive by leveraging the internet to reach niche audiences.

Ted Gioia argues that we are trending in the opposite direction:

[T]he Long Tail is a cruel joke. It’s a fairy tale we’re told to make us feel good about all those marginalized creative endeavors. Their happily-ever-after day will come—or so we are promised—because the Long Tail will rescue them.

But it won’t. We live in a Short Tail society. And it’s getting shorter all the time.

Link

🙈 Most Afraid to Fail – Infinite Play

Nat Eliason asks and reflects on a thought-provoking question in this short piece:

If you are fortunate or unfortunate enough to wonder:

“What should I spend my time working on?

Then perhaps a better question is:

“Where am I most afraid to fail?”

For more on embracing failure, see "Set Out to Be Wrecked."

Link

Tweet of the Week

Links for July 3, 2022

What to Read

🚕 Cruise robotaxis blocked traffic for hours on this San Francisco street – TechCrunch

Anyone who's gotten stuck in a company's automated phone menu that couldn't route them to a relevant employee knows that automation is great until it's not.

When whole fleets of aircraft are grounded because of a computer error, that's inconvenient for passengers, but it doesn't otherwise interrupt urban life.

But what happens when an entire fleet of driverless cars stop operating? Robotaxi company Cruise provided us with a window into the future this week when its vehicles – which don't require an operator to sit behind the wheel – ceased operating.

The mishap comes less than a week after Cruise launched its first fully driverless, commercial robotaxi service in the city. Cruise’s vehicles are initially operating between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on designated streets and without a human safety operator behind the wheel.
Cruise robotaxis stop operating, block traffic on San Francisco street – TechCrunch
More than a half dozen Cruise robotaxis stopped operating and sat in a street in San Francisco late Tuesday night, blocking traffic for a couple of hours until employees arrived and manually moved the autonomous vehicles. Photos and a description of the Cruise robotaxi blockade were shared to a Red…

🍂 Is life lived in seasons? – RadReads

Khe Hy presents a cogent argument that life can be divided up into distinct phases, or seasons. A useful way to think about which season you're in and how to make the most of it:

The seasons analogy is a compelling one. After all, it makes sense to divide your life up into discrete buckets. Each season punctuated by its unique characteristics, such as your health, the status of your dependents, your finances and your relationships.

At 42 years old, here are some of my life seasons:
Is life lived in seasons?
You go to college, get job, get married, have a kid and then retire. Should you base your decisions on seasons? Or is it a trap?

What to Watch

📸 Will This New Invention be the Death of Photography? – Micael Widell

I'm continuing to link to DALL-E 2 content, because I don't think we fully appreciate the massive cultural shift that's coming. We just can't know the implications of artificial intelligence that can generate realistic photos, illustrations in any style, or even entire app interfaces out of just a single text prompt.

Micael Widell takes a stab at what this technological breakthrough means for photography specifically. Don't be put off by the clickbaity title – jump to the 5:38 mark to see how DALL-E can manipulate real images just as effectively as it can generate novel ones.

vhttps://youtu.be/ZoIMFijWhlY?t=338

Tweets of the Week

Have a great week,‌‌‌‌‌‌
John

Links for June 19, 2022

💗 A Jazz Drummer’s Fight to Keep His Own Heart Beating — NY Times

Milford Graves was a groundbreaking percussionist who combined his craft with the study of how music impacts the heart. In a tragic twist of fate, he was diagnosed with amyloid cardiomyopathy ("stiff heart syndrome") in 2018. So in addition to traditional treatment for it, he began applying his alternative techniques to himself.

Graves has passed away since Corey Kilgannon's article was published in 2020, but    far surpassed his doctor's initial estimate of having 6 months to live.

Since the 1970s, Mr. Graves has studied the heartbeat as a source of rhythm and has maintained that recording musicians’ most prevalent heart rhythms and pitches, and then incorporating those sounds into their playing, would help them produce more personal music.

He also believes that heart problems can be helped by recording a patient’s unhealthy heart and musically tweaking it into a healthier rhythm to use as biofeedback.

In recent months, Mr. Graves has been listening constantly to his own heart with a stethoscope and monitoring it with an ultrasound device he bought on eBay.

“It turns out, I was studying the heart to prepare for treating myself,” he said.
A Jazz Drummer’s Fight to Keep His Own Heart Beating (Published 2020)
Milford Graves devoted himself to studying the rhythms of the heart. It turns out he was creating a technique to treat himself.

See also: Theatre Synchronizes Audiences Heartbeats

☢️ Disney World Could Have Gone Nuclear — Forbes

James Conca shares the wild story of the era when Disney had ambitions to build a nuclear power plant and explains how it retains the authority to do so to this day:

Disney could not realize his vision unless he had permission from the Florida government to be autonomous. He really needed his own private municipality. So Florida created Disney’s private government and gave it the power to build roads and drains, levy taxes, issue bonds and have emergency services, powers usually reserved for a county government. […]

The nuclear angle was key to the futuristic plan for Epcot. Disney wanted this city to be self-reliant, and nuclear is the best way to do that. It was during an era more supportive of nuclear, more in need of big power and big dreams, and it wasn’t that long after Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace initiative.
Disney World Could Have Gone Nuclear
In 1967, the State of Florida passed a law allowing Disney World to build a nuclear power plant. As bizarre as that sounds, it is more of a testament to the political power of the Mouse than anything nuclear. But they should explore an SMR to really go green in the vision of Walt himself.

💬 Internet ‘algospeak’ is changing our language in real time, from ‘nip nops’ to ‘le dollar bean’ – Washington Post

Like our environment, we shape our technology, and it shapes us in return. And since language is malleable, our vocabulary changes too:

“Algospeak” is becoming increasingly common across the Internet as people seek to bypass content moderation filters on social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch.

Algospeak refers to code words or turns of phrase users have adopted in an effort to create a brand-safe lexicon that will avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by content moderation systems. For instance, in many online videos, it’s common to say “unalive” rather than “dead,” “SA” instead of “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”
Internet ‘algospeak’ is changing our language in real time, from ‘nip nops’ to ‘le dollar bean’
To avoid angering the almighty algorithm, creators on TikTok and other platforms are creating a new vocabulary.

Tweets of the Week

And speaking of our technology shaping us in return:

Links for June 5, 2022

🎨 AI Art Isn't Art – The Intrinsic Perspective

The question of "what is art?" will only get harder to answer as computers take over increasingly sophisticated creative work. Erik Hoel has a thought-provoking piece on whether the coming tsunami of AI-generated "art" can even be called that:

[T]he worst-case scenario, wherein AI-art replaces a significant portion of human-art, will herald the arrival of a world in which much of the “art” that you see, especially online (where most eyeballs are) is generated by non-conscious machines with minimal human input. Behind the entire aesthetic of our civilization there will be a vast emptiness, a void communicating nothing. In such a world the art isn’t art, in the same way that a photograph of a hurricane doesn’t get anything wet.
AI-art isn’t art
DALL-E and other AI artists offer only the imitation of art

😌 Effortless Effort: Relaxing While Trying Hard – Zen Habits

Leo Babauta shares an experiment for changing the way you approach tasks. (Hint: Watching your breath is involved.)

If you talk to someone about “relaxing,” they will usually think of that as the opposite of “trying hard.” They think of lying on the couch, muscles relaxed, not doing anything. “Relaxing” is equated with “laziness” for a lot of people.

So “trying hard” and “relaxing” are seen as two opposite things.

What would it be like to try hard while relaxing?
Effortless Effort: Relaxing While Trying Hard - zen habits
By Leo Babauta I’ve noticed that a lot of us will be pretty wiped out at the end of a long day of work or social activity, to the point where we need time to recuperate from exhaustion. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s talk about the possibility of doing hard things without exhausting […]

Tweet of the Week

Speaking of equal and opposite:

via marketingexamples.com

Links for May 29, 2022

🇺🇸 A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems – The Atlantic

Derek Thompson recently launched a new project called "Progress" at The Atlantic. It's "a special series focused on two big questions: How do you solve the world’s most important problems? And how do you inspire more people to believe that the most important problems can actually be solved?"

In a recent post, he lays out the framework for his answers to these questions:

In the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity. This agenda would try to take the best from several ideologies. It would harness the left’s emphasis on human welfare, but it would encourage the progressive movement to “take innovation as seriously as it takes affordability,” as Ezra Klein wrote. It would tap into libertarians’ obsession with regulation to identify places where bad rules are getting in the way of the common good. It would channel the right’s fixation with national greatness to grow the things that actually make a nation great—such as clean and safe spaces, excellent government services, fantastic living conditions, and broadly shared wealth.

This is the abundance agenda.

Thompson's arguments are thought provoking, and I appreciate his willingness to engage with these issues from the perspective of multiple ideologies.

And a note for readers outside the US: Although he's writing through an American lens, the issues in question – climate change, healthcare, etc. – are ones that every country has to grapple with.

A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems
The U.S. doesn’t have enough COVID tests—or houses, immigrants, physicians, or solar panels. We need an abundance agenda.

💊 Can Virtual Reality Help Ease Chronic Pain? – NY Times

The short answer to the headline's question, of course, is yes. We can create a world without chronic pain with VR, and with practice, that psychosomatic experience continues into the "real world" as well.

Our brains are extremely malleable, and we are only just starting to learn how to rewire them to ease chronic neurological issues.

In one module, patients pick up lotus flowers with their healthy arm and toss them into a serene infinity pond surrounded by mountains; the V.R. mirrors the action but shows the opposite arm doing the motions. Seeing themselves perform this novel action, in an unfamiliar environment that has no associations with pain, seems to create new neural connections that eventually help repair the dysfunctional parts of their brains.

[...]

If the brain predicts that an action will be painful, then “it’s going to send that threat signal out ahead of time,” Nguyen says. But if people experience themselves maneuvering more easily and with greater range in V.R., then their brains may begin to recognize that increased movement as safe — and, Nguyen hopes, eventually pleasurable.

Link

💋 People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science – Wired

Speaking of vulnerability and cultivating meaningful relationships, dating apps often lead us to pursue desirability, rather than compatibility. Even with the help of computers, predicting compatibility between two potential romantic partners is really hard.

Good romantic partners are difficult to predict with data. Desired romantic partners are easy to predict with data. And that suggests that many of us are dating all wrong.

So, what traits make people desirable to others?

[...]

The fascinating, if sometimes disturbing, data from online dating sites tells us that single people predictably are drawn to certain qualities. But should they be drawn to these qualities?

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz goes on to discuss what does predict romantic happiness, and his conclusion is remarkable:

How a person answered questions about themselves was roughly four times more predictive of their relationship happiness than all the traits of their romantic partner combined.
People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science
Large data sets provide intriguing—and dismaying—insights into who we’re drawn to and how much that matters for our romantic happiness.

Tweets of the Week

Sunday Digest

Welcome back to another edition of the Sunday Digest. This week features advice for finding success in an increasingly competitive world, a thought-provoking plan for tackling the biggest issues our society faces, an astonishing solution for chronic pain, and more.

As always, thanks for reading.

This Week's Post

🌟 Be Brilliant

In the summer after my junior year of college, I spent a month studying abroad in Oxford, England. It was an immersive acting program – we'd spend weekdays in classes and have evenings and weekends for rehearsing, seeing shows, exploring the Hogwarts-esque school we were staying in, and of course, partying with our peers.

On the first day, we were each asked to prepare a monologue to present to the program's director and a couple teachers. It felt like an audition, even though the stakes were low: They simply wanted to get a sense of us as performers in order to sort us into class groups.

Though it felt like we had stepped into the world of Harry Potter, there were no magical sorting hats here.

One student raised her hand and asked if the director had any suggestions on how to prepare. His advice was concise:

"Be brilliant."

The response reminded me of the time another teacher of mine, when asked how long our capstone paper needed to be, simply said, "As long as it needs to be."

We live most of our lives without a rubric, but it's tempting to reach for the certainty of one. Often, simply pursuing excellence is good enough. There's no need to complicate it further.

But what does brilliance look like? The answer to that question is analagous to, of all things, a rainforest.

Erik Torenberg summarizes this analogy from the podcast Exponent in his post "The Death of the Middle":

In a rainforest, with its abundantly available water, sunlight, and nutrients, two types of plants thrive: the tiny, highly differentiated plants on the forest floor, and the giant trees that form the canopy. It’s hard to be in the middle.

In an ever more connected world, it becomes harder and harder to be in the middle. This is because finding the best products and services in the world to solve your problem is easier than ever.

People don't seek out things in the middle – they seek out the best in the world.

"Best" and "world" are relative, however. The grocery store down the street from me may not literally be the best in the world when compared to every other grocery provider in the world. But in this case, if the problem I'm trying to solve is "fresh eggs within walking distance," then the local mart is the best in the world for me.

If you're an illustrator, "best in the world" may mean "best painter on the Santa Monica pier creating portraits in less than five minutes for tourists."

Or if you're an accountant, it may mean "best online bookkeeping service for small non-profits looking to automate their payroll."

As a creator, employee, artist, entrepreneur – however you define your work self – your goal should be to keep redefining "best" and "world" until both things are true.

In other words, be brilliant.

H/t to Naval

From the Archive

If you're still working to define what "best in the world" looks like for you, consider Chris Anderson's concept of the long tail:

👩‍🎨 The Long Tail

If you turned on the radio in 1948, you could listen to anything you wanted, as long as what you wanted was being broadcast by your local station.

It was probably Bing Crosby.

Until recently, most of the media you had access to was created for a mass audience.

The internet turned this on its head. As a creator, your work no longer needs to appeal to the largest possible audience, because sharing is free and discovery is easy.

Instead, you can create for the long tail, which refers to the wide range of smaller niches that are now accessible. Here's a graph of what that distribution looks like:

What to Read

🇺🇸 A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems – The Atlantic

Derek Thompson recently launched a new project called "Progress" at The Atlantic. It's "a special series focused on two big questions: How do you solve the world’s most important problems? And how do you inspire more people to believe that the most important problems can actually be solved?"

In a recent post, he lays out the framework for his answers to these questions:

In the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity. This agenda would try to take the best from several ideologies. It would harness the left’s emphasis on human welfare, but it would encourage the progressive movement to “take innovation as seriously as it takes affordability,” as Ezra Klein wrote. It would tap into libertarians’ obsession with regulation to identify places where bad rules are getting in the way of the common good. It would channel the right’s fixation with national greatness to grow the things that actually make a nation great—such as clean and safe spaces, excellent government services, fantastic living conditions, and broadly shared wealth.

This is the abundance agenda.

Thompson's arguments are thought provoking, and I appreciate his willingness to engage with these issues from the perspective of multiple ideologies.

And a note for readers outside the US: Although he's writing through an American lens, the issues in question – climate change, healthcare, etc. – are ones that every country has to grapple with.

A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems
The U.S. doesn’t have enough COVID tests—or houses, immigrants, physicians, or solar panels. We need an abundance agenda.

💊 Can Virtual Reality Help Ease Chronic Pain? – NY Times

The short answer to the headline's question, of course, is yes. We can create a world without chronic pain with VR, and with practice, that psychosomatic experience continues into the "real world" as well.

Our brains are extremely malleable, and we are only just starting to learn how to rewire them to ease chronic neurological issues.

In one module, patients pick up lotus flowers with their healthy arm and toss them into a serene infinity pond surrounded by mountains; the V.R. mirrors the action but shows the opposite arm doing the motions. Seeing themselves perform this novel action, in an unfamiliar environment that has no associations with pain, seems to create new neural connections that eventually help repair the dysfunctional parts of their brains.

[...]

If the brain predicts that an action will be painful, then “it’s going to send that threat signal out ahead of time,” Nguyen says. But if people experience themselves maneuvering more easily and with greater range in V.R., then their brains may begin to recognize that increased movement as safe — and, Nguyen hopes, eventually pleasurable.

Link

💋 People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science – Wired

Speaking of vulnerability and cultivating meaningful relationships, dating apps often lead us to pursue desirability, rather than compatibility. Even with the help of computers, predicting compatibility between two potential romantic partners is really hard.

Good romantic partners are difficult to predict with data. Desired romantic partners are easy to predict with data. And that suggests that many of us are dating all wrong.

So, what traits make people desirable to others?

[...]

The fascinating, if sometimes disturbing, data from online dating sites tells us that single people predictably are drawn to certain qualities. But should they be drawn to these qualities?

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz goes on to discuss what does predict romantic happiness, and his conclusion is remarkable:

How a person answered questions about themselves was roughly four times more predictive of their relationship happiness than all the traits of their romantic partner combined.
People Are Dating All Wrong, According to Data Science
Large data sets provide intriguing—and dismaying—insights into who we’re drawn to and how much that matters for our romantic happiness.

Tweets of the Week

Have a great week,‌‌‌‌‌‌
John

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