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How Friendly are the Skies?

Six Ideas That Made Us Think


How Friendly are the Skies?

If you are a nervous flyer, skip this article in Harvard Business Review. It argues that automation of the cockpit has introduced new risks:
Automation provides massive data-processing capacity and consistency of response. However, it can also interfere with pilots’ basic cycle of planning, doing, checking, and acting, which is fundamental to control and learning. If it results in less active monitoring and hands-on engagement, pilots’ situational awareness and capacity to improvise when faced with unexpected, unfamiliar events may decrease. This erosion may lie hidden until human intervention is required


The Fossil of Whoopee

Don’t waste your time with the outpouring of encomiums to Hef and the Playboy “philosophy.” Nearly 20 years ago, Rick Marin wrote the definitive portrait of the Playboy mansion and its founder during a brief moment in the 1990s when both were hip again:
The mansion is once again a major night-life destination for young Hollywood in search of raw, retro fun. Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Courtney Love, the Foo Fighters, Korn and Joaquin Phoenix have all made the scene…They mingled with habitués from the old days – Tony Curtis, James Caan, Jack Nicholson – and frolicked among the Bunnies and other fauna that populate Mr. Hefner’s five lush acres high in the Holmby Hills. This hipster elite could, let’s face it, be anywhere. And yet, they’re there, hanging out with this fossil from the Stone Age of whoopee-making.


The Old Economy of American Universities

In his interview with Tyler Cowen, former Treasury Secretary and Harvard President gets to the heart of what is wrong with American universities:
Not enough people are innovating enough in higher education. The place to start is, General Electric looks nothing like it looked in 1975. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford look a lot like they looked in 1975. They’re about the same size to within a factor of two, they’re about the same number of buildings, they operate on about the same calendar, they have many of the same people or some number of the same people in significant positions. The main thing to say is that, for something that’s all about ideas and for something that’s all about young people, the pace of innovation in higher education is stunningly slow. We’re still on a system where the break is in the summer.


John Cleese: “Jesus was rarely surprised”

David Marchese describes Monty Python as “arguably humanity’s greatest comedic endeavor” and Fawlty Towers as contender for “best sitcom ever.” His interview with John Cleese, co-creator of both, does nothing to diminish those claims. A few gems from the now-77-year-old Cleese:
“In America when men go wrong they become psychos, whereas in England they become wimps.”

“Jesus is said to have never laughed in the Bible, and I think it’s because laughter contains an element of surprise — something about the human condition that you haven’t spotted yet — and Jesus was rarely surprised.”

“The thing about political correctness is that it starts as a good idea and then gets taken ad absurdum. And one of the reasons it gets taken ad absurdum is that a lot of the politically correct people have no sense of humor.”

“Every year at the U.N. they should vote one particular nation to be the butt of the joke.”

“People find it hard to believe this, but unless we’re talking about puns and wordplay, all humor is essentially critical. So to eliminate jokes that are at the expense of other people is to eliminate most jokes.”


Already Lost? The Screen Generation

Jean M. Twenge’s blockbuster piece in The Atlantic collects every bit of evidence to make an irrefutable case that screen time make teens depressed. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, teens get less sleep, go on fewer dates, get their driver’s license later, have less sex, hang out with friends less often, and face an increased risk of suicide. Twenge:
The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.
Safe bet: Twenge’s piece will be cited in nearly every high school and college commencement speech in 2018.


Uber vs. LondonM

Reconnections, an insider publication on the London transport system, offers a detailed, if bureaucratic, account of how Uber lost its license to operate in Britain’s capital. Key point: Uber’s messaging about the importance of technology disruption isn’t working with city regulators:
The ability – often correct – to claim that Uber offers a better service at a cheaper price is powerful selling point, one that Uber have never shied away from pushing. It’s a simple argument. It is also one that Uber have used to drown out more complex objections from incumbent operators, regulators or politicians in areas into which they’ve expanded. It is also one of the reasons why Uber have continued to push the narrative that they are a technical disruptor when skirting (or sometimes ignoring) existing regulations – because being an innovative startup is ‘sexy’.