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Notes

Facebook’s emotion experiment: too far or just a social network norm?
Facebook’s recently disclosed experiment that altered the tone of what its users saw in their newsfeed has brought it plenty of negative publicity.
The social networks methodology raises serious ethical questions and the team may have bent research standards too far, possibly overstepping criteria enshrined in law and human rights declarations.

"If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation.
"This is the kind of thing that would require informed consent."
- James Grimmelmann, professor of technology and the law at the University of Maryland

But given that Facebook has over half a billion users, is it not a foregone conclusion that every change that they make to the news feed - or any other part of its websites - induces a change in millions of people’s emotions? Yet nobody seems to complain about this reality, presumably because, when you put it this way, it seems kind of silly to suggest that a company whose business model is predicated on getting its users to use its product more would do anything other than try to manipulate its users into, you know, using its product more.
Haranguing Facebook and other companies for publicly disclosing scientifically interesting results of experiments that it is already constantly conducting – and that are directly responsible for many of the positive aspects of the user experience – is not likely to accomplish anything useful. If anything, it will only ensure that all of Facebook’s experimental research is done in the dark, where nobody outside the company can ever find out about it.

Facebook’s emotion experiment: too far or just a social network norm?

Facebook’s recently disclosed experiment that altered the tone of what its users saw in their newsfeed has brought it plenty of negative publicity.

The social networks methodology raises serious ethical questions and the team may have bent research standards too far, possibly overstepping criteria enshrined in law and human rights declarations.

"If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation.

"This is the kind of thing that would require informed consent."

- James Grimmelmann, professor of technology and the law at the University of Maryland

But given that Facebook has over half a billion users, is it not a foregone conclusion that every change that they make to the news feed - or any other part of its websites - induces a change in millions of people’s emotions? Yet nobody seems to complain about this reality, presumably because, when you put it this way, it seems kind of silly to suggest that a company whose business model is predicated on getting its users to use its product more would do anything other than try to manipulate its users into, you know, using its product more.

Haranguing Facebook and other companies for publicly disclosing scientifically interesting results of experiments that it is already constantly conducting – and that are directly responsible for many of the positive aspects of the user experience – is not likely to accomplish anything useful. If anything, it will only ensure that all of Facebook’s experimental research is done in the dark, where nobody outside the company can ever find out about it.

Notes

The reality show
Schizophrenics used to see demons and spirits. Now they talk about actors and hidden cameras – and make a lot of sense.
How technology and modern entertainment has paralleled paranoia.
One to read.

The reality show

Schizophrenics used to see demons and spirits. Now they talk about actors and hidden cameras – and make a lot of sense.

How technology and modern entertainment has paralleled paranoia.

One to read.

Notes

Google has received over 40,000 requests to “forget” personal information
In the three and bit weeks since a key ruling by the European Court of Justice about the right to be forgotten, Google has received over 40,000 requests to delete links to personal information from its search results (within 24 hours of putting the form online, Google had reportedly received 12,000+ deletion requests).
It should be noted that there is no absolute right to have information deleted, and Google will have to weigh a number of criteria in responding to the requests to delete links, including relevance of the information, and the time passed since the facts related.

Google has received over 40,000 requests to “forget” personal information

In the three and bit weeks since a key ruling by the European Court of Justice about the right to be forgotten, Google has received over 40,000 requests to delete links to personal information from its search results (within 24 hours of putting the form online, Google had reportedly received 12,000+ deletion requests).

It should be noted that there is no absolute right to have information deleted, and Google will have to weigh a number of criteria in responding to the requests to delete links, including relevance of the information, and the time passed since the facts related.

1 Notes

The era of Facebook is an anomaly
Speaking to The Verge, author and Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd put into words a feeling that many of us have had about social networking for a while: “The era of Facebook is an anomaly”.

"The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space.
"Fragmentation is a more natural state of being. Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there’s this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you’re going because it’s where your pals from school are hanging out?
"That first [question] is a driving function."

With luck this idea will continue to propagate. It’s odd that our social  identities are locked into certain domains. Imagine not being able call users on other mobile networks. Why do we allow this in social?

The era of Facebook is an anomaly

Speaking to The Verge, author and Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd put into words a feeling that many of us have had about social networking for a while: “The era of Facebook is an anomaly”.

"The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space.

"Fragmentation is a more natural state of being. Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there’s this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you’re going because it’s where your pals from school are hanging out?

"That first [question] is a driving function."

With luck this idea will continue to propagate. It’s odd that our social  identities are locked into certain domains. Imagine not being able call users on other mobile networks. Why do we allow this in social?

Notes

Young people are angry and leaving TV in droves
Vice chief executive Shane Smith on video journalism, North Korea – and why he won’t be taken over by a big rival.
One to read.

Young people are angry and leaving TV in droves

Vice chief executive Shane Smith on video journalism, North Korea – and why he won’t be taken over by a big rival.

One to read.

2 Notes

When you are popular on Facebook, strangers think you’re attractive
From psychology, we’ve known for a while that people create near-instant impressions of people based upon all sorts of cues. Visual cues (like unkempt hair or clothing), auditory cues (like a high- or low-pitched voice), and even olfactory cues (what’s that smell!?!) all combine rapidly to create our initial impressions of a person.
Where things get interesting is when one set of these cues is eliminated. For example, if we’ve never met a person in a real life, do we form impressions of people when all we know about them is their Facebook profile? And if so, what do we learn from those profiles?
As it turns out, it can be quite a lot.
Graham G Scott has experimentally examined the impact of viewer gender, Facebook profile gender and number of Facebook friends on impression formation, finding that people with lots of friends appear more socially attractive, more physically attractive, more approachable, and more extroverted.
When viewing modified Facebook profiles (all with the same profile picture and an experimentally controlled number of friends), people rated profiles with lots of Facebook friends as more physically attractive, more socially attractive, more approachable, and more extroverted.
Since potential employers look at Facebook profiles these days, perhaps it’s time to hire some Facebook friends.
Full article in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (PDF).

When you are popular on Facebook, strangers think you’re attractive

From psychology, we’ve known for a while that people create near-instant impressions of people based upon all sorts of cues. Visual cues (like unkempt hair or clothing), auditory cues (like a high- or low-pitched voice), and even olfactory cues (what’s that smell!?!) all combine rapidly to create our initial impressions of a person.

Where things get interesting is when one set of these cues is eliminated. For example, if we’ve never met a person in a real life, do we form impressions of people when all we know about them is their Facebook profile? And if so, what do we learn from those profiles?

As it turns out, it can be quite a lot.

Graham G Scott has experimentally examined the impact of viewer gender, Facebook profile gender and number of Facebook friends on impression formation, finding that people with lots of friends appear more socially attractive, more physically attractive, more approachable, and more extroverted.

When viewing modified Facebook profiles (all with the same profile picture and an experimentally controlled number of friends), people rated profiles with lots of Facebook friends as more physically attractive, more socially attractive, more approachable, and more extroverted.

Since potential employers look at Facebook profiles these days, perhaps it’s time to hire some Facebook friends.

Full article in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (PDF).

1 Notes

Your ancestors didn’t sleep like you: the myth of the eight-hour sleep
Following on from our article on the incredible importance of sleep for habits & motivation a few weeks ago, here’s some fascinating insight into sleeping habits pre-1800, from Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech -
Ekirch’s has found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk; we used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.

"It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge."

An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep”. Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.
Ekirch’s book “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past” is replete with such examples.
But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.
Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.
Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.
As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.
No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished from common knowledge.
Full article on the BBC.
@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

Your ancestors didn’t sleep like you: the myth of the eight-hour sleep

Following on from our article on the incredible importance of sleep for habits & motivation a few weeks ago, here’s some fascinating insight into sleeping habits pre-1800, from Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech -

Ekirch’s has found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk; we used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.

References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.

"It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge."

An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep”. Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.

Ekirch’s book “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past” is replete with such examples.

But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.

Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.

Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.

As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.

No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished from common knowledge.

Full article on the BBC.

@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

5 Notes

On growing up
Realising that you’ve become a grown-up without noticing is somewhat unnerving.
When I look in the mirror, I still see the teenage me; admittedly, this reflection has become somewhat squidgier and crinklier in recent years, but I don’t see a sensible person. This is perhaps misguided, given the whole being married/having a baby/doing two jobs scenario, but hey, that’s real life for you.
You know that scene in Peep Show where Jeremy is panicking about having the plumber round because ‘he might realise I’m not proper’? That’s pretty much my outlook on life – it’s one long stream of charlatan acts, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over me, waiting to strike down when somebody spots that I’m just pretending to be a grown-up.
I actually have no idea what being an adult entails, and it seems like everybody else knows what they’re doing, so I just keep my head down. Shhh. It’s our secret.
Still, there are signs of adulthood here. Little things that creep into reality that, when you step back and take a broader view, you realise that you’ve been doing for some time. Things that your parents did when you were a kid, and you were convinced that you’d never have any interest in.
For example -
1. Gin & tonic
I remember the first time I tasted a gin & tonic. We were on holiday in France, and I took a sip of my mum’s drink thinking it was my glass of lemonade. I was wrong. It was not. It was, in fact, an evil beverage of unfathomable bitterness. Why on earth would anybody choose to drink such a repulsive thing?
I was flabbergasted. I questioned the validity of a number of my mother’s decisions at that point. I mean, come on – if she’s unhinged enough to drink something as godawful as that for pleasure, what else could she have been wrong about?
No, obviously it was me who was wrong. Never question your mother, she’s almost certainly right.
My teen years saw a dawning realisation of the merits of gin, largely born of that teenage necessity to get drunk on whatever’s nearby, regardless of provenance. The more you drink gin, the more you grow to like it. I’m a big fan now. It was worth persevering with it.
2. Coffee
Much like with gin, I found it hard to understand why grown-ups should wish to drink something so tongue-curlingly bitter. Sure, coffee smells delicious, but it tastes awful and makes your breath stink. What’s the point?
They were my initial thoughts, at least. I drink coffee every day now. The increasing prevalence of high street coffee chains suggests I’m not alone in this. And the fact that my bus to work in the mornings is generally full of schoolkids who’ve picked up a McCoffee on the way tells me that today’’s youth have leapfrogged the “urgh, it’s so bitter!” step entirely, bless ‘em.
3. Watching the evening news
Oh, boring. Who cares about that, when there’s a repeat of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Channel 4? Why are we watching this, dad? I’m eleven, I don’t care about the AIDS crisis or an embassy siege, I want to watch Greg Proops improvising with a suggestively-shaped piece of foam.
Actually, the ten o’clock news is pretty well-timed for me these days. I watch it before I go to bed, it neatly rounds off the evening. Yes, I’m 31 and I go to bed at 10:30 on weekdays. Shut up, I’ve got a toddler.
4. Grocery shopping
When you’re at school, you spend the whole week counting down the hours until it’s the weekend – a time of no obligations or commitments, when you can just do what the hell you want and enjoy being young and carefree. So when a parent informs you that you’re going to spend a whole hour of your weekend at the local supermarket, your heart sinks. No, not sinks, plummets.
How incredibly, mind-numbingly tedious. There is literally no joy whatsoever to be derived from tramping around a slightly cold shop when you could be climbing trees, building model kits or watching cartoons. Even the momentary amusement of putting random grocery items in the trolley is quashed by the inevitability of said items being spotted and discarded. Yawn. Grump.
…but of course, as a grown-up, you have to buy food or you’ll die.
Thankfully it’s the twenty-first century, so you don’t actually have to go out into the real world and interact with the public, you can just get Ocado to bring it to your door. So that actually doesn’t feel particularly grown up at all.
5. Buying things with no discernible element of fun
Light bulbs. Toothpaste. Fuses. Cling film.
Being an adult means you have to spend your money on things that will bring you no tangible pleasure whatsoever. Sticky plasters? Smoke alarms? Contents insurance? Growing up sucks. You can’t play with any of those things.
6. Buying cheap clothes, even though you don’t have to
Clothes seem pretty important when you’re a child. Part of this is down to our school uniform culture. When you have a non-uniform day, it’s like a fashion parade.
As an aside, here’s a story. Until the age of eight, I attended a tiny little primary school in Greatham, Hampshire where my dad was the headmaster. It was a fun place with a strong community spirit, and a couple of times a year we’d have something called ‘silly clothes day’, where instead of wearing your uniform (which was pretty cool in itself – the jumpers said ‘Greatham is Great’ in big red letters) you’d come to school in as silly an outfit as possible.
We moved to Herne Bay in 1990, and my new primary school was rather grittier. The first non-uniform day they had, I turned up in the silliest outfit I could cobble together. Everyone else was flaunting their Air Max and their Adidas shellsuits. I was a laughing stock. But hey, I’m largely over it now.
The point is, I grew into a bit of a trainer geek in my teenage years and, being a basketball fan, always coveted the latest Air Jordans. I knew that I’d be able to buy them one day; I kept pointlessly asking for a pair, always expecting the answer to be “no”, in the knowledge that when I was an adult I’d be able to buy all the Air Jordans I wanted.
I’ve still never owned any. What’s the point of paying £130 for a pair of trainers? That can pay the Sky bill for two months and still leave enough for a takeaway.
7. Choosing cheese over dessert
This, to a child, seems utterly barmy. You’re in a restaurant, poring over the dessert menu, torn between the banoffee pie and the chocolate fudge sundae, trying to figure out some kind of bargaining tactic so that you can get both. Your saliva glands are going into overdrive at the prospect of that sweet, sugary mass of goop that will soon be gumming your lips together and filling your belly like a sucrose football.
…and then your dad opts for the cheeseboard. Er, what the fuck?
You want to eat cheese instead of having a pudding? What’s wrong with you? I’m starting to question your choices too now, dad.
Kids are dumb, aren’t they? Cheese is amazing.
-
Christ, it seems I really am a grown-up. That enchanted portrait in the attic is doing fuck all.
JuicyPips, direct from the mind of @denialvibes, is published weekly.

On growing up

Realising that you’ve become a grown-up without noticing is somewhat unnerving.

When I look in the mirror, I still see the teenage me; admittedly, this reflection has become somewhat squidgier and crinklier in recent years, but I don’t see a sensible person. This is perhaps misguided, given the whole being married/having a baby/doing two jobs scenario, but hey, that’s real life for you.

You know that scene in Peep Show where Jeremy is panicking about having the plumber round because ‘he might realise I’m not proper’? That’s pretty much my outlook on life – it’s one long stream of charlatan acts, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over me, waiting to strike down when somebody spots that I’m just pretending to be a grown-up.

I actually have no idea what being an adult entails, and it seems like everybody else knows what they’re doing, so I just keep my head down. Shhh. It’s our secret.

Still, there are signs of adulthood here. Little things that creep into reality that, when you step back and take a broader view, you realise that you’ve been doing for some time. Things that your parents did when you were a kid, and you were convinced that you’d never have any interest in.

For example -

1. Gin & tonic

I remember the first time I tasted a gin & tonic. We were on holiday in France, and I took a sip of my mum’s drink thinking it was my glass of lemonade. I was wrong. It was not. It was, in fact, an evil beverage of unfathomable bitterness. Why on earth would anybody choose to drink such a repulsive thing?

I was flabbergasted. I questioned the validity of a number of my mother’s decisions at that point. I mean, come on – if she’s unhinged enough to drink something as godawful as that for pleasure, what else could she have been wrong about?

No, obviously it was me who was wrong. Never question your mother, she’s almost certainly right.

My teen years saw a dawning realisation of the merits of gin, largely born of that teenage necessity to get drunk on whatever’s nearby, regardless of provenance. The more you drink gin, the more you grow to like it. I’m a big fan now. It was worth persevering with it.

2. Coffee

Much like with gin, I found it hard to understand why grown-ups should wish to drink something so tongue-curlingly bitter. Sure, coffee smells delicious, but it tastes awful and makes your breath stink. What’s the point?

They were my initial thoughts, at least. I drink coffee every day now. The increasing prevalence of high street coffee chains suggests I’m not alone in this. And the fact that my bus to work in the mornings is generally full of schoolkids who’ve picked up a McCoffee on the way tells me that today’’s youth have leapfrogged the “urgh, it’s so bitter!” step entirely, bless ‘em.

3. Watching the evening news

Oh, boring. Who cares about that, when there’s a repeat of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Channel 4? Why are we watching this, dad? I’m eleven, I don’t care about the AIDS crisis or an embassy siege, I want to watch Greg Proops improvising with a suggestively-shaped piece of foam.

Actually, the ten o’clock news is pretty well-timed for me these days. I watch it before I go to bed, it neatly rounds off the evening. Yes, I’m 31 and I go to bed at 10:30 on weekdays. Shut up, I’ve got a toddler.

4. Grocery shopping

When you’re at school, you spend the whole week counting down the hours until it’s the weekend – a time of no obligations or commitments, when you can just do what the hell you want and enjoy being young and carefree. So when a parent informs you that you’re going to spend a whole hour of your weekend at the local supermarket, your heart sinks. No, not sinks, plummets.

How incredibly, mind-numbingly tedious. There is literally no joy whatsoever to be derived from tramping around a slightly cold shop when you could be climbing trees, building model kits or watching cartoons. Even the momentary amusement of putting random grocery items in the trolley is quashed by the inevitability of said items being spotted and discarded. Yawn. Grump.

…but of course, as a grown-up, you have to buy food or you’ll die.

Thankfully it’s the twenty-first century, so you don’t actually have to go out into the real world and interact with the public, you can just get Ocado to bring it to your door. So that actually doesn’t feel particularly grown up at all.

5. Buying things with no discernible element of fun

Light bulbs. Toothpaste. Fuses. Cling film.

Being an adult means you have to spend your money on things that will bring you no tangible pleasure whatsoever. Sticky plasters? Smoke alarms? Contents insurance? Growing up sucks. You can’t play with any of those things.

6. Buying cheap clothes, even though you don’t have to

Clothes seem pretty important when you’re a child. Part of this is down to our school uniform culture. When you have a non-uniform day, it’s like a fashion parade.

As an aside, here’s a story. Until the age of eight, I attended a tiny little primary school in Greatham, Hampshire where my dad was the headmaster. It was a fun place with a strong community spirit, and a couple of times a year we’d have something called ‘silly clothes day’, where instead of wearing your uniform (which was pretty cool in itself – the jumpers said ‘Greatham is Great’ in big red letters) you’d come to school in as silly an outfit as possible.

We moved to Herne Bay in 1990, and my new primary school was rather grittier. The first non-uniform day they had, I turned up in the silliest outfit I could cobble together. Everyone else was flaunting their Air Max and their Adidas shellsuits. I was a laughing stock. But hey, I’m largely over it now.

The point is, I grew into a bit of a trainer geek in my teenage years and, being a basketball fan, always coveted the latest Air Jordans. I knew that I’d be able to buy them one day; I kept pointlessly asking for a pair, always expecting the answer to be “no”, in the knowledge that when I was an adult I’d be able to buy all the Air Jordans I wanted.

I’ve still never owned any. What’s the point of paying £130 for a pair of trainers? That can pay the Sky bill for two months and still leave enough for a takeaway.

7. Choosing cheese over dessert

This, to a child, seems utterly barmy. You’re in a restaurant, poring over the dessert menu, torn between the banoffee pie and the chocolate fudge sundae, trying to figure out some kind of bargaining tactic so that you can get both. Your saliva glands are going into overdrive at the prospect of that sweet, sugary mass of goop that will soon be gumming your lips together and filling your belly like a sucrose football.

…and then your dad opts for the cheeseboard. Er, what the fuck?

You want to eat cheese instead of having a pudding? What’s wrong with you? I’m starting to question your choices too now, dad.

Kids are dumb, aren’t they? Cheese is amazing.

-

Christ, it seems I really am a grown-up. That enchanted portrait in the attic is doing fuck all.

JuicyPips, direct from the mind of @denialvibes, is published weekly.

Notes

Are bankers paid too Much? And if so, what about technology CEOs?
Big pay days on Wall Street often come under laserlike scrutiny, while Silicon Valley gets a pass on its own compensation excesses.
Why the double standard?
The typical director at a Standard & Poor’s 500 company was paid $251,000 in 2012, and according to Bloomberg News. Eric Schmidt - Google’s CEO - is above that range by over $100 million.
Take the example of Jamie Dimon’s pay for 2013, given the many regulatory travails of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. The bank’s board awarded Mr. Dimon $20 million in pay for 2013, $18.5 million of which was in restricted stock that vests over three years. For one, the outsize pay for Schmidt doesn’t square with Google’s performance. Putting aside the fact that he is not even the chief executive, Google had net income of $12.9 billion last year. JPMorgan was higher at $17.9 billion.
Maybe the bigger question is why is CEO pay so entirely disconnected from company performance?
Full article on the New York Times.

Are bankers paid too Much? And if so, what about technology CEOs?

Big pay days on Wall Street often come under laserlike scrutiny, while Silicon Valley gets a pass on its own compensation excesses.

Why the double standard?

The typical director at a Standard & Poor’s 500 company was paid $251,000 in 2012, and according to Bloomberg News. Eric Schmidt - Google’s CEO - is above that range by over $100 million.

Take the example of Jamie Dimon’s pay for 2013, given the many regulatory travails of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. The bank’s board awarded Mr. Dimon $20 million in pay for 2013, $18.5 million of which was in restricted stock that vests over three years. For one, the outsize pay for Schmidt doesn’t square with Google’s performance. Putting aside the fact that he is not even the chief executive, Google had net income of $12.9 billion last year. JPMorgan was higher at $17.9 billion.

Maybe the bigger question is why is CEO pay so entirely disconnected from company performance?

Full article on the New York Times.

Notes

Is the Universe made of maths?
In his new book, Our Mathematical Universe, M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe -

"The Higgs Boson was predicted with the same tool as the planet Neptune and the radio wave: with mathematics.
"Galileo famously stated that our Universe is a "grand book" written in the language of mathematics. So why does our universe seem so mathematical, and what does it mean?
"…it means that our universe isn’t just described by math, but that it is math in the sense that we’re all parts of a giant mathematical object, which in turn is part of a multiverse so huge that it makes the other multiverses debated in recent years seem puny in comparison."

As if my grip on reality wasn’t already exploded enough.
An extended excerpt from the book can be read on Scientific American.
@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

Is the Universe made of maths?

In his new book, Our Mathematical Universe, M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe -

"The Higgs Boson was predicted with the same tool as the planet Neptune and the radio wave: with mathematics.

"Galileo famously stated that our Universe is a "grand book" written in the language of mathematics. So why does our universe seem so mathematical, and what does it mean?

"…it means that our universe isn’t just described by math, but that it is math in the sense that we’re all parts of a giant mathematical object, which in turn is part of a multiverse so huge that it makes the other multiverses debated in recent years seem puny in comparison."

As if my grip on reality wasn’t already exploded enough.

An extended excerpt from the book can be read on Scientific American.

@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

Notes

Twilight of the brands
It’s a truism of business-book thinking that a company’s brand is its “most important asset”, more valuable than technology or patents or manufacturing prowess.
But brands have never been more fragile.
Twelve months ago, Lululemon Athletica was one of the hottest brands in the world. Sales of its high-priced yoga gear were exploding; the company was expanding into new markets; experts were in awe of its “cultlike following”.
As one observer put it, “They’re more than apparel. They’re a life style”.
But then customers started complaining about pilling fabrics, bleeding dyes, and, most memorably, yoga pants so thin that they effectively became transparent when you bent over. Lululemon’s founder made things worse by suggesting that some women were too fat to wear the company’s clothes. And that was the end of Lululemon’s charmed existence: the founder stepped down from his management role, and, a few weeks ago, the company said that it had seen sales “decelerate meaningfully”.
We are living in charmed times. The Internet has exploded consumer choice and the world is opening up and coming together as a single, huge market. Has there ever been a better time to start a new business?
Full article on The New Yorker.

Twilight of the brands

It’s a truism of business-book thinking that a company’s brand is its “most important asset”, more valuable than technology or patents or manufacturing prowess.

But brands have never been more fragile.

Twelve months ago, Lululemon Athletica was one of the hottest brands in the world. Sales of its high-priced yoga gear were exploding; the company was expanding into new markets; experts were in awe of its “cultlike following”.

As one observer put it, “They’re more than apparel. They’re a life style”.

But then customers started complaining about pilling fabrics, bleeding dyes, and, most memorably, yoga pants so thin that they effectively became transparent when you bent over. Lululemon’s founder made things worse by suggesting that some women were too fat to wear the company’s clothes. And that was the end of Lululemon’s charmed existence: the founder stepped down from his management role, and, a few weeks ago, the company said that it had seen sales “decelerate meaningfully”.

We are living in charmed times. The Internet has exploded consumer choice and the world is opening up and coming together as a single, huge market. Has there ever been a better time to start a new business?

Full article on The New Yorker.

1 Notes

Is our universe a simulation?
So this is kinda scary. And amazing. And complicated.
Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the New York Times that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics - not in what we commonly take to be the real world.
According to this theses, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised a simulation and we are unknowingly part of it.
Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.
This may strike you as very unlikely, but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years, just on much smaller scale. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens.

"Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not.
"If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them - presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one."

Yikes.
Is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis? Well, surprisingly, yes.
In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation”, the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF).
Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints.
The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies - certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries.
If so, this would indicate that we might - just might - all be in someone else’s computer simulation…

Is our universe a simulation?

So this is kinda scary. And amazing. And complicated.

Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the New York Times that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics - not in what we commonly take to be the real world.

According to this theses, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised a simulation and we are unknowingly part of it.

Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely, but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years, just on much smaller scale. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens.

"Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not.

"If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them - presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one."

Yikes.

Is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis? Well, surprisingly, yes.

In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation”, the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF).

Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints.

The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies - certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries.

If so, this would indicate that we might - just might - all be in someone else’s computer simulation

1 Notes

Majority of young American adults think astrology is a science
Americans have always had a strange fascination with astrology.
First Lady Nancy Reagan famously employed the services of an astrologer after the assassination attempt on her husband. Now UPI reports that according to a survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say astrology is either ‘very’ or ‘sort of’ scientific.
Younger respondents, in particular, were the least likely to regard astrology as unscientific, with 58% of 18 to 24 years olds saying that astrology is scientific (PDF).
What’s most alarming is that American attitudes about science are moving in the wrong direction: skepticism of astrology hit an all-time high in 2004, when 66 percent of Americans said astrology was total nonsense. But each year, fewer and fewer respondents have dismissed the connections between star alignment and personality as bunk.
Among respondents in the 25-44 age group, 49% of respondents in the 2012 survey said astrology is either ‘very scientific’ or ‘sort of scientific’, up from 36% in 2010.
This is either from the dept. of you couldn’t make this stuff up or from the dept. of we’re all doomed.
Either way, WTF?

Majority of young American adults think astrology is a science

Americans have always had a strange fascination with astrology.

First Lady Nancy Reagan famously employed the services of an astrologer after the assassination attempt on her husband. Now UPI reports that according to a survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say astrology is either ‘very’ or ‘sort of’ scientific.

Younger respondents, in particular, were the least likely to regard astrology as unscientific, with 58% of 18 to 24 years olds saying that astrology is scientific (PDF).

What’s most alarming is that American attitudes about science are moving in the wrong direction: skepticism of astrology hit an all-time high in 2004, when 66 percent of Americans said astrology was total nonsense. But each year, fewer and fewer respondents have dismissed the connections between star alignment and personality as bunk.

Among respondents in the 25-44 age group, 49% of respondents in the 2012 survey said astrology is either ‘very scientific’ or ‘sort of scientific’, up from 36% in 2010.

This is either from the dept. of you couldn’t make this stuff up or from the dept. of we’re all doomed.

Either way, WTF?

Notes

The incredible importance of sleep for habits & motivation
For a long time, I underestimated the importance of sleep.
Sure, I know that sleep is important for health and happiness and all of that… but it wasn’t until I learned two things that sleep took on a new importance for me -
If you don’t get enough sleep, you will fail at changing habits; and
If you have a lack of sleep, your motivation will drop tremendously.
For years I focused on waking early so that I’d be more productive and be able to focus on my morning habits. But those two things were harmed by a lack of sleep.
I could cite a bunch of studies and numbers, but here’s the honest truth: based on my own self-experiments, and working with thousands of people on habits, sleep is one of the most important but least valued factors when it comes to creating habits.
And in my own life, I’ve noticed that when sleep levels drop, my productivity drops. My motivation to work on hard projects drops.
Here’s what happens -
I stay up late but still try to get up early, and so I’m in a bit of a sleep deficit
Unfortunately, I stay up late the next night, but still get up early the following morning, and the sleep deficit grows
This continues until I’m really tired and just not motivated to do anything
This lack of motivation drops my discipline levels, so that my healthy habits get forgotten. All I care about is how crappy I feel, and how to comfort my bad feelings
Whatever project and/or habits I’ve been working on get dropped. I feel worse
This pattern continues until I get enough sleep. It takes a day or two to get back to where I should be.
I still do this from time to time, but I’ve learned this pattern the hard way from so many repetitions that I’m much better at getting sufficient sleep these days. And I’ve gotten better at recognising the signals that I’m not getting enough sleep, soon enough that I can remedy the problem sooner.
How to Get Better Sleep
I’m not an expert on sleep, but here’s what I find to work for me -
Go to bed earlier. I like to wake up fairly early (not the crazy early hours of my past), but if I don’t go to sleep earlier, then waking early is a mistake
Sleep in if I don’t go to bed early enough
Have a bedtime routine. I don’t always follow my routine, but when I do, I sleep much better. Basically, it involves flossing, brushing my teeth, cleaning up, shutting down my computer/phone, and then reading
Meditate. I lie down with my eyes closed, and meditate, focusing on my body and breath. If I’m tired, this never fails to put me to sleep
If for some reason those things don’t work, I use this method (walk myself through my memories of the day in detail) to finally fall into the gentle embrace of sleep.
If you find yourself lacking motivation or having trouble changing any habits, check your sleep levels. It could be the factor that’s holding you back.
Contributed by Leo Babauta.

The incredible importance of sleep for habits & motivation

For a long time, I underestimated the importance of sleep.

Sure, I know that sleep is important for health and happiness and all of that… but it wasn’t until I learned two things that sleep took on a new importance for me -

  1. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will fail at changing habits; and
  2. If you have a lack of sleep, your motivation will drop tremendously.

For years I focused on waking early so that I’d be more productive and be able to focus on my morning habits. But those two things were harmed by a lack of sleep.

I could cite a bunch of studies and numbers, but here’s the honest truth: based on my own self-experiments, and working with thousands of people on habits, sleep is one of the most important but least valued factors when it comes to creating habits.

And in my own life, I’ve noticed that when sleep levels drop, my productivity drops. My motivation to work on hard projects drops.

Here’s what happens -

  • I stay up late but still try to get up early, and so I’m in a bit of a sleep deficit
  • Unfortunately, I stay up late the next night, but still get up early the following morning, and the sleep deficit grows
  • This continues until I’m really tired and just not motivated to do anything
  • This lack of motivation drops my discipline levels, so that my healthy habits get forgotten. All I care about is how crappy I feel, and how to comfort my bad feelings
  • Whatever project and/or habits I’ve been working on get dropped. I feel worse

This pattern continues until I get enough sleep. It takes a day or two to get back to where I should be.

I still do this from time to time, but I’ve learned this pattern the hard way from so many repetitions that I’m much better at getting sufficient sleep these days. And I’ve gotten better at recognising the signals that I’m not getting enough sleep, soon enough that I can remedy the problem sooner.

How to Get Better Sleep

I’m not an expert on sleep, but here’s what I find to work for me -

  • Go to bed earlier. I like to wake up fairly early (not the crazy early hours of my past), but if I don’t go to sleep earlier, then waking early is a mistake
  • Sleep in if I don’t go to bed early enough
  • Have a bedtime routine. I don’t always follow my routine, but when I do, I sleep much better. Basically, it involves flossing, brushing my teeth, cleaning up, shutting down my computer/phone, and then reading
  • Meditate. I lie down with my eyes closed, and meditate, focusing on my body and breath. If I’m tired, this never fails to put me to sleep

If for some reason those things don’t work, I use this method (walk myself through my memories of the day in detail) to finally fall into the gentle embrace of sleep.

If you find yourself lacking motivation or having trouble changing any habits, check your sleep levels. It could be the factor that’s holding you back.

Contributed by Leo Babauta.

1 Notes

42 reflections on the meaning of life, the universe and everything
Simply stunning: if you only read one thing today, make it this.

42 reflections on the meaning of life, the universe and everything

Simply stunning: if you only read one thing today, make it this.