October 2013 Articles

Reacting to the report issued last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

“…My wife and I realized that the ‘substantial and sustained reductions’ called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to start with us. World governments will never agree in time to coordinate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. If anything is to change, it will have to come from individuals taking ownership of the problem themselves.

“And that’s why my wife and I suddenly knew we could never fly again.”

Mr. Evans has some very interesting thoughts on social networks. He postulates that the value of an online social network is based on network effects. If people choose to go to another online social network — for example switching from MySpace to Facebook — their friends will likely follow them; no matter how long they’ve been with the service.

There are many reasons people might switch between services:

  • No more friends on the network
  • A need to “detox” and just get away from the service (like some people do when deactivating their Facebook accounts)
  • A lack of real world relationships being accurately captured by the service (the example being LinkedIn connections with people you met years ago but have not come in contact with again).

All interesting thoughts pertaining to social networks both physical and digital.

“Attention, multitaskers (if you can pay attention, that is): Your brain may be in trouble.

“People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.”

The Times introduces us to four new books about water and our relationship to it. Each text explores a different aspect the dynamic between humans and water:

  • James Salzman’s “Drinking Water” — “Access to water may be viscerally regarded as a ‘right,’ but he points out that the best way to ensure a reliable supply of pure water, especially in poor regions, is often to privatize it.”
  • Steven Mithen in his book “Thirst” comes to a very interesting conclusion: “Though we may think that the rise of complex social and economic networks enabled ancient cultures to manage their water, the reverse may well be true: only when a society had reliable access to water could it turn itself into an economic or cultural power.”
  • In “Empire of Water,” David Soll — a historian at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire — focuses on New York City’s history of water rights and management as well as how water use is measured.
  • Dr Wendy J. Pabich asked herself the question of how much water she and her husband used in “Taking On Water”. — Living in a dry region of Idaho, her results were alarming and she goes on to catalog the varying amounts of water that go into everyday life and comment on water pricing and water reduction strategies.

Water is key to our everyday life. It’s amazing to think about all the ways water plays a part in our daily lives and how fortunate we are to have virtually unlimited access to clean water every day.

“The federal government is considering whether to allow scientists to take a controversial step: make changes in some of the genetic material in a woman’s egg that would be passed down through generations.”

Be sure and listen to the story as well.

The premise of Dave Eggers new book, “The Circle”:

“Set in an ‘undefined future time,’ Mr. Eggers’s novel tells the story of Mae Holland, a young idealist who comes to work at the Circle, an immensely powerful technology company that has conquered all its competitors by creating a single log-in for people to search, shop and socialize online.”

As a follow up, you an read Joe Nocera’s Op-Ed piece A World Without Privacy, an opinion on the new novel.

Brad Stone’s new book, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” was recently released online and in print. His article in Businessweek is a strong summary — albeit not a brief one, at nearly 7,600 words — chronicling Amazon’s humble beginnings to the behemoth it has become. What the Businessweek article does not go into is the ferocity of the world Amazon occupies: low margin retailing.

Stone’s book will cover, briefly, the life of Jeff Bezos including his childhood. The text’s heavy focus is on the company’s growth from a small garage, through its growing pains, to the “Everything Store” it represents today. Stone profiles company executives, employees and competitors telling the story of Amazon’s internal politics, acquisitions, and culture.

More about Jeff Bezos. In 2010 he spoke to the graduating class of Princeton, his alma mater, and included an anecdote about kindness and cleverness at the beginning of his speech that is worth reading.

I hear many different stories and angles on how women are or are not integrated into today’s various organizations.

I first heard Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” message via her TED talk “Why we have too few women leaders” and found it thought provoking. Here, Susan Faludi pokes holes in Lean In and also makes ties to the efforts of women in Lowell, Massachusetts in the early seventeenth century.

I hadn’t thought of Twitter this way before. Benedict Evans argues that Twitter is not one thing (for example a place for you to write status updates like “Loving my #DoubleDouble @innoutburger!”). Twitter is a blank canvas that you can do whatever you like with. The only constraint to your canvas is that it’s limited to 140 characters.

“…We enter into a kind of compact with the people we incarcerate. Much as we might like to put them out of mind–behind 20-foot-tall, quarter-mile-long, immaculate walls erected in the middle of nowhere–we are, by the act of imprisoning them, bound more closely to them than ever. They are entirely dependent on us for food, clothing, shelter. Is it right that we brandish that dependence over them like a threat? Is it ethical for us to treat some legitimate medical conditions but not others? What does society owe to the worst among us? ‘Eighth Amendment protections are not forfeited by one’s prior acts,’ wrote future Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1979. Yet there is a point at which even progressive legal scholars hesitate to champion those protections. Dolovich teaches her law students about a bank robber in California who received a heart transplant in 2008 while serving a 14-year sentence. The cost of the operation, including follow-up care, was more than a million dollars. The fact that the bank robber got the heart meant that someone else, someone law-abiding, didn’t….”