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Top 10 Musings of a Mad Scientist from 2021

2021 was not a good year on many levels, but I did have a few moments worth revisiting, from research articles to new episodes. As the world comes (slowly) back to life in 2022, here are 10 items from last year that caught my attention.

10. Aging Increases Prosocial Motivation for Effort

Now that I’m getting older myself, it’s good to know that science proves that older people are simply better. Compared with younger adults, older adults exert more effort to help others. And teenagers? Fuckin’ teenagers… Aging Increases Prosocial Motivation for Effort

9. Forced Entrepreneurs

“The best entrepreneurs are those risk-hungry Harvard dropouts with a dream...right? It turns out people "forced" into entrepreneurship through job loss in recessions (or just being an outsider) are both more innovative and successful.

Knowing how to do something is more important to innovation and impact than having an elite degree and wealthy parents. But that unexpected kick in the ass occasionally helps reset your horizon.” Forced Entrepreneurs by Isaac Hacamo, Kristoph Kleiner

8. That time I shared my Superpower with the President

In 2013, I wore a bright blue computer on my face to a White House party and single-handedly changed Secret Service protocol. Why such lack of taste and grace? Because I built myself a superpower.

Read the whole story at: https://www.socos.org/superpowers/

7. & 6. Remote Work Series

An unexpected benefit from #RemoteWork: Employees working remotely engage in fewer downward comparisons. In other words, they spend less time bitching about their lazy goddamn coworkers.

You know that one colleague with the choppy video? Your brain is slowly telling you that they’re bad at their job.

#RemoteWork increases our tendency to attribute problems to individuals rather than to chance or circumstance, and yet internet #bandwidth and the videos they’re carrying say more about Comcast than individual competence.

Of course, differences in neighborhood bandwidth aren’t random. Historical #inequality is encoded in things as basic as clean water and internet access. (Don’t think bandwidth merits a co-listing with clean water? Try doing a modern well-paying job without it.)

Leaders of large companies, you are in position to both remedy this harm and serve your company’s long-term interest. Invest in your community’s infrastructure as though it was your own. In remote work, it is.

2021 was not a good year on many levels, but I did have a few moments worth revisiting, from research articles to new episodes. As the world comes (slowly) back to life in 2022, here are 10 items from last year that caught my attention.

5. This is NOT the Industrial Revolution

Thor Benson and I talked about why in a recent interview, and how AI can only be a force for good if we confront our own ethical shortcomings…Women with Byte: Vivienne Ming’s plan to solve ‘messy human problems’ with A.I.

4. GHC Closing Keynote

Your employees are idle amidst a global pandemic, but you’ve received a grant to support them. Should you pay them to take classes from home (“righteous”) or fire them all and war-chest the money (“right now”)? If you thought you’d choose the “righteous” path then I’ve got some tears for you.

I moderated high-level wargames on “courageous decision-making” with execs from F500 companies. When confronted with challenging choices in the abstract, they choose the “righteous” path. Most couldn’t even imagine what kind of villain chooses “right now”. That villain is them.

When participants had stakes in the game, whether financial pressure or risking reputation, “right now” dominated over “righteous”. Elite exec or everyday shmoe, courage fails us all.

When confronted with terrible, frightening choices, most think they will make the “righteous” choice, but our research demonstrates that everyone will sacrifice “righteous” for what works “right now”…unless…you practice.

Courage isn’t something you are, it’s something you practice.

Practice being the person you wish you were: GHC Closing Keynote

3. Is smart sexy?

When women see potential partners as smart and funny, they also see them as more appealing. (Yay!) Unfortunately, perceptions of intelligence don't predict actual intelligence. (Shit!) In the game of love, is humor just a defector strategy?

Is sexy bullshit? Well... "individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent." (Yes, scientists literally study figurative bullshit.)

Read the whole story at: Intelligence can be detected but is not found attractive in videos and live interactions

2. Linkedin’s Job-Matching AI was Biased

I call bullshit on almost every statement in this Tech Review article on AI and recruiting. I don't know what the quoted actually believe in their hearts, but the words...

“You typically hear the anecdote that a recruiter spends six seconds looking at your résumé, right? ...When we look at the recommendation engine we’ve built, you can reduce that time down to milliseconds.” They say that like it's a good thing. And...

That company "which lists 5-6 million jobs at any given time...incorporates behavioral data into its recommendations but doesn’t correct for bias... Instead, the marketing team focuses on getting users from diverse backgrounds signed up... the company then relies on employers to report back" on bias.

To me this says, "We're too fucking lazy to solve our problem, and so now our willful ignorance is your problem."

We don't need more correlational band-aids. These systems should be recommending candidates because they explicitly, causally predict better performance, not because of reweighed click-through correlational mirrors of long-known biases.

LinkedIn’s job-matching AI was biased. The company’s solution? More AI.

1. The Chasm

Google has more contractors than employees.

Facebook sells “democracy” but practices plutocracy.

Netflix won’t hire the “merely adequate”.

Amazon wants happy warehouse workers to happily leave after 2 years.

And they’re right…if you believe people can’t change.

This Is Not the Industrial Revolution 5

But they can.

And hard as it is to catalyze that growth, we all benefit from increasing human capacity.