Existential Angst Factory

A widespread excuse for avoiding rationality is the widespread belief that it is “rational” to believe life is meaningless, and thus suffer existential angst. This is one of the secondary reasons why it is worth discussing the nature of morality. But it’s also worth attacking existential angst directly. I suspect that most existential angst is not really existential. I think that most of what is labeled “existential angst” comes from trying to solve the wrong problem.

Read the article: Existential Angst Factory – Less Wrong

Friends Don’t Let Geek Friends Work In Finance

While the practice of poaching engineering talent slowed after the economy tanked in 2008, Wadhwa is dismayed to report that thanks to hundred-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts, investment banks have recovered and gone back to their old, greedy ways, snagging engineering grads who might otherwise solve the world’s problems, making them financial offers they can’t refuse, and morphing them into quants, investment bankers and management consultants. ‘Not only are the investment banks siphoning off hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy with financial gimmicks like CDOs,’ writes Wadhwa, ‘they are using our best engineering graduates [25% of MIT grads in ’06] to help them do it. This is the talent that our country has invested so much resource in producing.’ He concludes: ‘Let’s save the world by keeping our engineers out of finance. We need them to, instead, develop new types of medical devices, renewable energy sources, and ways for sustaining the environment and purifying water, and to start companies that help America keep its innovative edge.’

Read the article: Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Into Finance

Life skills

[Our economy] demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns […] We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.

Read the article: How to Make Trillions of Dollars

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working

For most of my adult life, I’ve accepted the incredibly durable myth that some people are born with special talents and gifts, and that the potential to truly excel in any given pursuit is largely determined by our genetic inheritance.

During the past year, I’ve read no fewer than five books — and a raft of scientific research — which powerfully challenge that assumption (see below for a list). I’ve also written one, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, which lays out a guide, grounded in the science of high performance, to systematically building your capacity physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Read the article: Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything

Bilingual brain affects research

“The very act of being able to speak, listen, and think in two languages and of using two languages on a daily basis appears to sharpen people’s abilities to pay close attention to a aspects of tasks relevant to good performance,” she added. Research carried out already had also shown having two languages helped protect against the decline in the brain’s abilities when ageing,” she added. “We already know that language processing is one of the most complex activities that our brains carry out.

Read the article: Research to find effects on brain of bilingualism

Memristors > Transistors

The fundamental building blocks of all computing devices could be about to undergo a dramatic change that would allow faster, more efficient machines. Researchers at computer firm Hewlett Packard have shown off working devices built using memristors – often described as electronics’ missing link. These tiny devices were proposed 40 years ago but only fabricated in 2008. HP says it has now shown that they can be used to crunch data, meaning they could be used to build advanced chips. That means they could begin to replace transistors – the tiny switches used to build today’s chips. And, crucially, the unique properties of memristors would allow future chips to both store and process data in the same device.

Read the article: Hewlett Packard outlines computer memory of the future

Is the Bloom Box energy nirvana?

A Silicon Valley inventor claims that a new technology called the Bloom Box will revolutionize how households use the electrical grid. The Bloom Box is a fuel cell that converts oxygen and an energy source – natural gas, biofuels, or even solar – into electricity. K.R. Sridhar, former NASA scientist and founder of Bloom Energy, revealed the technology Sunday night on “60 Minutes,” and plans to hold a news conference Wednesday in San Jose. He envisions every house having a Bloom Box power plant installed in the back yard.

Google, eBay, and FedEx are currently testing the Bloom Box. The prototype devices are the size of refrigerators and cost around $700,000. eBay claims the Bloom Box saved the company $100,000 in annual energy costs. Details on operating and maintenance costs, however, are sketchy. Fuel cell technology has been around for a long time. It normally requires precious metals such as platinum, making it too expensive for widespread applications. Bloom Box fuel cells are constructed instead with ceramic wafers coated with a special ink.

If Sridhar has truly discovered a way to make fuel cells affordable, it will transform the electrical grid. If not, the Bloom Box could be a bust.

Read the article: Bloom Box: Segway or savior?

The Gervais Principle

The Sociopaths enter and exit organizations at will, at any stage, and do whatever it takes to come out on top. They contribute creativity in early stages of a organization’s life, neurotic leadership in the middle stages, and cold-bloodedness in the later stages, where they drive decisions like mergers, acquisitions and layoffs that others are too scared or too compassionate to drive. The Losers like to feel good about their lives. They are the happiness seekers, rather than will-to-power players, and enter and exit reactively, in response to the meta-Darwinian trends in the economy. But they have no more loyalty to the firm than the sociopaths. They do have a loyalty to individual people, and a commitment to finding fulfillment through work when they can, and coasting when they cannot. The Clueless are the ones who lack the competence to circulate freely through the economy (unlike sociopaths and losers), and build up a perverse sense of loyalty to the firm, even when events make it abundantly clear that the firm is not loyal to them. To sustain themselves, they must be capable of fashioning elaborate delusions based on idealized notions of the firm — the perfectly pathological entities we mentioned. Unless squeezed out by forces they cannot resist, they hang on as long as possible, long after both sociopaths and losers have left.

The Gervais Principle is this: Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

Read the article: The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office”

The Economics Of Fear

Scientific studies have shown that you can destroy a child by calling them “smart.” Even when they’re very young, little kids know that being “smart” is what makes them special – and so, the first time they encounter something they don’t understand immediately, it’s a threat. Their specialness is in danger of being stripped away. And if they lose that smartness, then what are they? Kids who are called smart take fewer chances. Why risk all that glorious social acclaim for a stupid test? And if you don’t really try, then you can still be smart – you may have potential, but even a six-year-old knows that having the potential to be smart gives you more benefits than finding out that no, you’re not really smart at all. Far better to tell a kid that they’re hard working. Hard work is something you can’t take away. Hard work is something that can always be improved. Smart can just… vanish.

Read the article: The Economics Of Fear