Friday 7th August 2020
  • This innovative solution is helping Indian children get an education during the pandemic

    One overcast morning in a farming village in hilly western India, a group of schoolchildren sat on the mud floor of a wooden shed for their first class in months.

    There was no teacher, just a voice from a loudspeaker.

    The recorded lessons form part of an initiative by an Indian non-profit spread over six villages that aims to reach 1,000 students denied formal classes since the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close four months ago.

    The children sang rhymes and answered questions, with some of them speaking of the loudspeaker as 'Speaker Brother' or 'Speaker Sister'.

    "I love studying with Speaker Brother," said Jyoti, a gleeful 11-year-old girl who attended one session.

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  • Data Science and the Art of Persuasion

    Data science is growing up fast. Over the past five years companies have invested billions to get the most-talented data scientists to set up shop, amass zettabytes of material, and run it through their deduction machines to find signals in the unfathomable volume of noise. It's working - to a point. Data has begun to change our relationship to fields as varied as language translation, retail, health care, and basketball.

    But despite the success stories, many companies aren't getting the value they could from data science. Even well-run operations that generate strong analysis fail to capitalize on their insights. Efforts fall short in the last mile, when it comes time to explain the stuff to decision makers.

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  • Wim Hof Says He Holds the Key to a Healthy Life- But Will Anyone Listen?

    Wim Hof's position on big-big-name celebrities like Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise is that they are going to help take him and his far-out, revolutionary, health-restoring way of deep breathing, known as the Wim Hof Method (WHM), to the next level. The level it's at now is disappointing. Here he is, claiming to hold the secret to curing MS, arthritis, diabetes, fear, depression, anxiety, pain, PTSD, bipolar disorder, cancer, you name it, and nobody seems to care. It doesn't matter to him that over the past few years he's become some kind of global cultural phenomenon, making media appearances all over (Discovery Channel, ABC, NBC, National Geographic Channel) to provide the lowdown on not only his breathing technique but also his nearly superhuman ability to withstand cold, which is another part of his method and always a crowdpleaser. In all, he has claimed 26 world records for his various feats, including the Guinness World Record for longest ice bath (1 hour, 52 minutes and 42 seconds), enabling him to rightfully be called "the Iceman." But that's not enough for him. He wants more. He wants to change the world.

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  • What's wrong with WhatsApp

    For all the benefits that WhatsApp offers in helping people feel close to others, its rapid ascendency is one further sign of how a common public world - based upon verified facts and recognised procedures - is disintegrating. WhatsApp is well equipped to support communications on the margins of institutions and public discussion: backbenchers plotting coups, parents gossipping about teachers, friends sharing edgy memes, journalists circulating rumours, family members forwarding on unofficial medical advice. A society that only speaks honestly on the margins like this will find it harder to sustain the legitimacy of experts, officials and representatives who, by definition, operate in the spotlight. Meanwhile, distrust, alienation and conspiracy theories become the norm, chipping away at the institutions that might hold us together.

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  • GPT-3, Beyond the Hype: with Frank Chen and Sonal Chokshi

    In this special "2x" explainer episode of the a16z podcast, we cover all the buzz around GPT-3, the pre-trained machine learning model that's optimized to do a variety of natural-language processing tasks. The paper about GPT-3 was released in late May, but OpenAI (the AI "research and deployment" company behind it) only recently released private access to its API or application programming interface, which includes some of the technical achievements behind GPT-3 as well as other models.

    It's a commercial product, built on research; so what does this mean for both startups AND incumbents... and the future of "AI as a service"? And given that we're seeing all kinds of examples of output from OpenAI's beta API being shared - from articles and press releases and screenplays and Shakespearean poetry to business advice to "ask me anything" search and even designs of webpages and plug-ins that turn words into code - how do we know how good it really is or isn't? And like founding principles for a new religion or other experiments that are being shared virally ("TikTok videos for nerds"), how do we know the difference between "looks like" a toy and "is" a toy (especially given that many innovations may start out so)?

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  • Keep it clean: The surprising 130-year history of handwashing

    "If there had to be a father of handwashing it would be Ignaz Semmelweis," says Miryam Wahrman, a professor of biology at William Paterson University in New Jersey and author of The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World. While working at Vienna General hospital, the Hungarian doctor was at the forefront of a more scientific approach to medicine. Faced with a doctor-led maternity ward in which maternal deaths from the dreaded childbed fever were significantly higher than in the midwife-run clinic there, he racked his brain for clues as to why.

    Germs were yet to be discovered, and it was still believed in the 1840s that disease was spread by miasma - bad smells in the air - emanating from rotting corpses, sewage or vegetation. Victorians kept their windows firmly shut against such malevolent forces. So it didn't seem a problem that trainee doctors at Vienna General would hang out in the morgue dissecting corpses to figure out what had rendered them dead and then pop up to the maternity ward to deliver a baby without washing their hands.

    One of them then accidentally got cut by a scalpel during a dissection and died, seemingly of the same childbed fever the mothers had been getting. Semmelweis hypothesised that cadaverous particles from the morgue were to blame, and that such particles on the hands of doctors were making their way into women's bodies during childbirth.

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  • The story of Vita Coco: Michael Kirban

    So - no joke: two guys really do walk into a bar. While sharing a few drinks on a winter night in New York City, best friends Michael Kirban and Ira Liran met two young women from Brazil.

    That chance encounter eventually led to a business idea: to sell Brazilian coconut water in the US, as an alternative to Gatorade. In 2004, Michael and Ira launched Vita Coco, only to discover that another startup - Zico - was selling a nearly identical product.

    The two companies went to war, using the time-honored tools of corporate sabotage, but eventually Vita Coco emerged as the top selling coconut-water in the U.S.

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  • The hackers getting paid to keep the internet safe

    It had taken a month of work, but Jesse Kinser had finally hit the jackpot. The security researcher had managed to pull off quite a feat - stealing the source code for more than 10,000 different websites, including a big four consulting company - and the ramifications of her find were staggering.

    But contrary to many people's perceptions of shadowy hackers, her next move wasn't trading the data on the dark web, or crafting exploits to sell to the highest bidder. Rather, she was faced with a different sort of daunting task: developing a responsible disclosure process to notify the thousands of vulnerable companies she'd just owned. That's right, after accessing all that code, her next job was to let the victims know exactly how she'd done it - and how they could stop someone with a different set of moral guideposts from doing the same.

    It's all in a day's work for the researchers who, driven by curiosity, a common sense of purpose, and the real possibility of financial reward, spend their time hunting bugs online. Welcome to the world of bug bounties, where the hackers are the good guys - or, just as often, the good gals.

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  • 8 Powerful Evening Habits That Will Prepare You For a Better Tomorrow

    I am a big fan of routines, systems, and principles.

    There's something about order and structure that make everything better.

    It's comforting, and calming knowing how your day will begin and end.

    When your day is structured to get your best work done, you begin every workday with a sense of clarity, purpose, and satisfaction.

    Darren Hardy, editor-in-chief of Success Magazine and author of The Compound Effect argues that a person's morning and evening routines are the "bookends" of a successful life.

    When you build better morning and evening routines, you prepare your brain to be better equipped to face the varying challenges each day brings.

    If you swear by morning routines, you could get even more out of your day by creating an evening routine.

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  • Why your 'weak-tie' friendships may mean more than you think?

    In 1973, Mark Granovetter, a sociology professor at Stanford University, published a paper entitled The Strength of Weak Ties. It went on to become one of the most influential sociology papers of all time. Until then scholars had assumed that an individual's well-being depended mainly on the quality of relationships with close friends and family. Granovetter showed that quantity matters, too.

    One way to think about any person's social world is that you have an inner circle of people whom you often talk to and feel close with, and an outer circle of acquaintances whom you see infrequently or fleetingly. Granovetter named these categories "strong ties" and "weak ties". His central insight was that for new information and ideas, weak ties are more important to us than strong ones.

    Granovetter surveyed 282 Boston-based workers and found that most of them got their jobs through someone they knew. But only a minority got the job through a close friend; 84% got their job through those weak-tie relationships - casual contacts whom they saw only occasionally. As Granovetter pointed out, the people whom you spend a lot of time with swim in the same pool of information as you do. We depend on friendly outsiders to bring us news of opportunities from beyond our immediate circles - and so the more of those acquaintances we have, the better.

    Continued here