Friday 22nd February 2019
  • Trickle-down workaholism in startups


    There's an ingrained mythology around startups that not only celebrates burn-out efforts, but damn well requires it. It's the logical outcome of trying to compress a lifetime's worth of work into the abbreviated timeline of a venture fund.
    It's not hard to understand why such a mythology serves the interest of money men who spread their bets wide and only succeed when unicorns emerge. Of course they're going to desire fairytale sacrifices. There's little to no consequence to them if the many fall by the wayside, spent to completion trying to hit that home run. Make me rich or die tryin'.
    The entrepreneurs who sign up for such pressures may have asked for it. If you, knowing their sentiments, ask Rabois or Suster for millions to fund your venture, then you probably should expect to have your vacations, weekends, hobbies, family time, or outings with the kids questioned.
    But the pressures don't stop with the person who signs the term sheet. That shit trickles down. In fact, it's likely to amplify as it rolls down the hill, like a snowball gathering mass. Because once the millions have cleared, and the headcount has been boosted, it's usually other people who actually have to make good on those exponential expectations.
    The sly entrepreneur seeks to cajole their employees with carrots. Organic, locally-sourced ones, delightfully prepared by a master chef, of course. In the office. Along with all the other pampering and indulgent spoils AT THE OFFICE. The game is to make it appear as though employees choose this life for themselves, that they just love spending all their waking (and in some cases, even sleeping) hours at that damn office.

    More here

  • The 4 research areas that will see the most applications in the next 5 years


    Joe Davis (chief economist at Vanguard) has an interesting research metric to predict which areas will see the most innovation in the future. His team's "Ideas Multiplier" metric tracks over 2 million records of research (academic, medical, etc) and finds the ratio of good ideas spawned from an original idea, over time. During the 1990s (just before the internet really took off), it was at 200:1 in the area of computer technology. At other times, it has averaged 40:1 in most areas.
    Today, it is at over 400:1 in 4 different areas - Material Sciences, Oncology (Cancer Research), Agriculture and Genome Research. Interestingly, AI is not on the list because AI is a general purpose technology that cuts across all areas and has even helped the above areas peak. The excitement in research in these four areas indicates some breakthrough applications coming up in probably a 4-5 year timeframe. In Material Sciences, think ultra-thin skyscrapers possible because of new materials used in columns. In Agriculture, think special-purpose seeds that can help crops withstand floods. Cancer and Genome Research are progressing a lot faster today than before, with possible applications in 5 years.

    More here

  • The secret history of women in coding


    Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today. What went wrong?

    When the number of coding jobs exploded in the 1950s and '60s as companies began relying on software to process payrolls and crunch data, men had no special advantage in being hired. Employers simply looked for candidates who were logical, good at math and meticulous. And in this respect, gender stereotypes worked in women's favor: Some executives argued that women's traditional expertise at painstaking activities like knitting and weaving manifested precisely this mind-set. (The 1968 book "Your Career in Computers" stated that people who like "cooking from a cookbook" make good programmers.)
    The field rewarded aptitude: Applicants were often given a test (typically one involving pattern recognition), hired if they passed it and trained on the job, a process that made the field especially receptive to neophytes. "Know Nothing About Computers? Then We’ll Teach You (and Pay You While Doing So)," one British ad promised in 1965. In a 1957 recruiting pitch in the United States, IBM's brochure titled "My Fair Ladies" specifically encouraged women to apply for coding jobs.

    Continued here

  • Elon Musk-backed AI Company Claims It Made a Text Generator That's Too Dangerous to Release


    Researchers at the non-profit AI research group OpenAI just wanted to train their new text generation software to predict the next word in a sentence. It blew away all of their expectations and was so good at mimicking writing by humans they’ve decided to pump the brakes on the research while they explore the damage it could do.
    Elon Musk has been clear that he believes artificial intelligence is the “biggest existential threat” to humanity. Musk is one of the primary funders of OpenAI and though he has taken a backseat role at the organization, its researchers appear to share his concerns about opening a Pandora’s box of trouble. This week, OpenAI shared a paper covering their latest work on text generation technology but they’re deviating from their standard practice of releasing the full research to the public out of fear that it could be abused by bad actors. Rather than releasing the fully trained model, it’s releasing a smaller model for researchers to experiment with.

    Continued here

  • Our Digital Lives Don’t Need to Make Us Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unwise - HBR


    Fifty five years ago this month, America reached a hazardous milestone: “peak tobacco.” Men and women that year smoked more cigarettes than ever before recorded - 523 billion of them. Only after four decades of slow decline - and millions of smoking-related deaths - did American culture reluctantly jettison tobacco as a symbol of social status.
    Today we see another precipice on the horizon, with potentially catastrophic effects on human health. Historians and clinicians may someday call this moment “peak content.” American adults now spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media - sometimes longer. That’s more time than we spend eating and sleeping. From YouTube videos to viral tweets, we are ingesting a huge volume of media, and it has consequences.
    Out of this cloud of mood-altering material emerges a new set of health challenges. One in five Americans is clinically depressed. Tens of millions more suffer from mild to moderate anxiety and other mood disorders. But current research doesn’t yet support a clear and causal link. More work is required to understand the complex relationship between media diets and depression-mood disorders are not a new phenomenon, even if suicide rates appear to be increasing. The technologies fueling our media consumption are outpacing the rate of scientific inquiry, making real or verifiable effects hard to understand and perhaps harder study appropriately.

    Continued here

  • Sweden gives all employees time off to be entrepreneurs - WEF


    For the last 20 or so years, workers in Sweden have enjoyed an unusual perk – a statutory right to take six months off and start their own business.
    The Right to Leave to Conduct a Business Operation Act is one of a series of rights afforded to Swedish employees, allowing them to take time off to study or care for a family member. It’s also one of the reasons the country’s capital, Stockholm, has become Europe’s start-up capital, second only to California’s Silicon Valley for the number of unicorns (billion-dollar tech companies) that it produces per capita.
    One such Swedish start-up success is Spotify. Set up in 2006, the company floated on the New York Stock Exchange last year and has a market capitalization of $24.5 billion. Others include Skype, which was acquired in 2011 by Microsoft for $8.5 billion, and Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, which was also acquired by Microsoft, in 2014 for $2.5 billion.

    Continued here

  • How to Manage Your Fear of Public Speaking


    Public speaking often has personal and professional benefits, and it's required in many jobs. What do you do if the very thought of it sparks dread? The bad news here is that the fear is not just in your head; it’s a real physical experience. The good news is that you can learn to tackle it, and the steps to doing so are not hard to follow.
    There are a number of theories about why people get nervous before speaking in front of others. One that makes a lot of sense hypothesizes that standing apart from a group of people and being watched by them (or the idea of doing that) triggers an instinctive sense of potential threat. You’ve probably heard this referred to as the fight-or-flight response, in which adrenaline floods your body. The physical results are distinctly unpleasant:
    Your digestive system slows down, so your mouth gets dry, you get butterflies in your stomach, and hunger evaporates.
    Your breathing and your heart rate speed up, and your breathing gets more shallow. In extreme cases, you may lose hearing or get tunnel vision.
    The queasiness generally comes in 30-second waves - and you have to live through this unpleasant feeling.
    You may not be aware of these specific physical responses, but when you get up in front of an audience, you can tell you’re unhappy. Moreover, you may find yourself deeply concerned about being judged for your ideas or your delivery.
    The good news is that you can take 12 simple steps to make the adrenaline effects of public speaking less severe and to combat your own internal monologue about how people will receive your talk.

    Continued here

  • The 6 Principles of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini


    Researchers have been studying the factors that influence us to say “yes” to the requests of others for over 60 years. There can be no doubt that there’s a science to how we are persuaded, and a lot of the science is surprising.
    When making a decision, it would be nice to think that people consider all the available information in order to guide their thinking. But the reality is very often different. In the increasingly overloaded lives we lead, more than ever we need shortcuts or rules of thumb to guide our decision-making.
    My own research has identified just six of these shortcuts as universals that guide human behavior, they are:

    Continued here

  • A Deep Dive into What Has Really Changed in Venture Capital - Mark Suster


    If you look at some high-profile tech companies funded in the last big VC cycle you had eBay, Amazon, Salesforce & Google each go public having raised < $100 million in VC TOTAL prior to IPO and their last private-market valuation were all sub $400 million.
    If you fast forward one generation of tech companies it’s a completely different story. Companies are raising billions of dollars in the private markets and the valuations are enormous PRIOR to the IPO. Yes, distributions to LPs have been pushed out a few years but the value capture in privates by the best VC firms (and best LPs) has been enormous.
    In fact, if just Google, Salesforce and Amazon had stayed private for 12 years (today's IPO benchmark) an addition $200 billion would have been captured in the private markets! This is cutting it as just 12 years after inception, which is even before Amazon and Google's big stock-market runs in which these three companies have created $1.64 trillion in value.

    Continued here

  • Abolish Billionaires


    Last fall, Tom Scocca, editor of the essential blog Hmm Daily, wrote a tiny, searing post that has been rattling around my head ever since.
    "Some ideas about how to make the world better require careful, nuanced thinking about how best to balance competing interests," he began. "Others don't: Billionaires are bad. We should presumptively get rid of billionaires. All of them."
    Mr. Scocca - a longtime writer at Gawker until that site was muffled by a billionaire - offered a straightforward argument for kneecapping the wealthiest among us. A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes. It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society.
    At some level of extreme wealth, money inevitably corrupts. On the left and the right, it buys political power, it silences dissent, it serves primarily to perpetuate ever-greater wealth, often unrelated to any reciprocal social good. For Mr. Scocca, that level is self-evidently somewhere around one billion dollars; beyond that, you're irredeemable.

    Continued here