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What We’re Reading

Working from home:

Beyond lost creativity and companionship, the gravest threat to many companies from remote work is that it breaks the social bonds that are necessary to productive teamwork. Several years ago, Google conducted a research project on its most productive groups. The company found that the most important quality was“psychological safety”—a confidence that team members wouldn’t embarrass or punish individuals for speaking up.

Ingenuity:

Children were presumably glad to be off school – until, that is, an app called DingTalk was introduced. Students are meant to sign in and join their class for online lessons; teachers use the app to set homework. Somehow the little brats worked out that if enough users gave the app a one-star review it would get booted off the App Store. Tens of thousands of reviews flooded in, and DingTalk’s rating plummeted overnight from 4.9 to 1.4. The app has had to beg for mercy on social media: ‘I’m only five years old myself, please don’t killme.’

Psychology of the 1918 flu pandemic:

It is our duty,” he said, “to keep the people from fear. Worry kills more people than the epidemic. For my part, let them wear a rabbit’s foot on a gold watch chain if they want it, and if it will help them to get rid of the physiological action of fear.”

The face mask might have offered as much protection as a rabbit’s foot. But it allowed people to feel as if they were doing something proactive, which, even a century ago, was understood to be of great psychological importance.

Growth:

What happens when Moore’s Law inevitably ends? Or what if, as some suspect, it has already died, and we are already running on the fumes of the greatest technology engine of our time?

The newest Intel fabrication plant, meant to build chips with minimum feature sizes of 10 nanometers, was much delayed, delivering chips in 2019, five years after the previous generation of chips with 14-nanometer features. Moore’s Law, Leiserson says, was always about the rate of progress, and “we’re no longer on that rate.”

Wealth:

Growing up in a family where your father’s pretty wealthy is much more complicated than growing up in a family where your father is not wealthy. When your family is not wealthy, you’ve got to really achieve something or you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re on your own.

Whereas my own children, and the children of families like mine, I think have a bit of a disadvantage. As a general rule of thumb, the people running the world are people from blue-collar families who are lower middle class. It’s rarely the case that somebody whose father was a billionaire turns out to be better than his father, becoming a multibillionaire or running the world.

Have a good weekend. Wash your hands.


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