Why You Won’t Quit Your Job — Premature optimization

When I began writing Passion & Purpose in 2009, I met Susan, a young woman on the brink of quitting her investment banking job to pursue her lifelong passion of starting a nonprofit. A year later, when I asked how her new venture was going, I was surprised to hear that she “couldn’t bring herself to quit” in the first place. And when we bumped into each other last week, I found her toiling away in exactly the same role, still dreaming of her nonprofit venture, but now more depressed than ever.

Why can’t Susan just leave the job she despises? More generally, what powerful forces are pulling us back toward the “devil we know”?

Read the article: Why You Won’t Quit Your Job

Human survival depends on space exploration – Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking says the colonization of outer space is key to the survival of humankind, predicting it will be difficult for the world’s inhabitants “to avoid disaster in the next hundred years”… Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.

Read the article: Human survival depends on space exploration, says Stephen Hawking

Women are rejecting marriage in Asia. The social implications are serious.

A lot of Asians are not marrying later. They are not marrying at all. Almost a third of Japanese women in their early 30s are unmarried; probably half of those will always be. Over one-fifth of Taiwanese women in their late 30s are single; most will never marry. In some places, rates of non-marriage are especially striking: in Bangkok, 20% of 40-44-year old women are not married; in Tokyo, 21%; among university graduates of that age in Singapore, 27%. So far, the trend has not affected Asia’s two giants, China and India. But it is likely to, as the economic factors that have driven it elsewhere in Asia sweep through those two countries as well; and its consequences will be exacerbated by the sex-selective abortion practised for a generation there. By 2050, there will be 60m more men of marriageable age than women in China and India.

Read the article: The decline of Asian marriage: Asia’s lonely hearts

Russia plans $65bn tunnel to America

Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska. The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of the ultimate rail trip across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France. The $65 billion (£33 billion) mega-project aims to transform trade links between Russia and its former Cold War enemies across some of the world’s most desolate terrain. It would create a high-speed railway line, energy links and a fibreoptic cable network.

Read the article: Russia plans $65bn tunnel to America

India’s Singh on the Wrong Side of History

India has an unmatched capacity to look opportunity firmly in the face, turn around, and walk off resolutely in the opposite direction.

The latest manifestation of the national pastime comes in relation to public corruption. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have appropriated the cause and channelled the people’s movement to enact tough new laws to rid India of corrupt practices and cement its economic future. Instead he has responded with vacillation and, by using the powers of the state to intimidate activists, planted his flag on the wrong side of history.

Read the article: India’s Singh on the Wrong Side of History

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

The two paths to success

Of course this leads to the question, “What is success?” Someone who spent his life working 80 hour weeks, living in hotels, and fighting his way up the corporate ladder to become VP of toilet paper marketing would probably consider himself more successful than a sandwich shop owner who spends his nights and weekends playing with his kids and working on hobby projects, but maybe the sandwich shop owner would be happier and healthier. Ultimately, it is up to each person to decide what success means to them, but I think it’s important that everyone be mindful of the decision they are making.

Read the article: Paul Buchheit: The two paths to success