Category Archives: ideas

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Do Authoritarian or Democratic Countries Handle Pandemics Better?

There’s already been some pundits claiming autocratic countries have been handling the pandemic better than democratic countries.  This piece on the website for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues differently. It’s worth reading, but a key part of the piece is this:

Despite attempts by politicians to use the crisis to tout their favored political model, the record so far does not show a strong correlation between efficacy and regime type. While some autocracies have performed well, like Singapore, others have done very poorly, like Iran. Similarly, some democracies have stumbled, like Italy and the United States, while others have performed admirably, like South Korea and Taiwan. The disease has not yet ravaged developing countries, making it impossible to include poorer autocracies and democracies in the comparison.

Keep this in mind, especially afterwards, when writers and authorities argue that we need more controls on people to fight future pandemics.

In Defense of Self-Help Books

A strong defense of self help books can be found here: On Self-Help Books | The Book of Life.

Essentially the argument is that the genre has been overtaken and is associated with people like this:

And not associated with this:

We need a list of good self help books, classic and current. Unfortunately, even lists with the so called best self-help books of all time  are lacking in literary qualities. That’s a shame.

I think we need a new list of self-help books then, a list stretching  from the classics such as the Dhammapada and the Bible and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, all the way to present day books like In Search of Meaning. A new list of books that help us live better lives but that are good as books themselves. It’s time for such a list, and time for the current list of self-help books to take a backseat to this new list.

 

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On two risks regarding taking an “abundance of caution” approach to danger

With regards to the coronavirus and what to do about it, I see many cases of  overreaction. Specifically I see people and organization saying they are taking an abundance of caution when it comes to deciding how to act.  And to me, an abundance of caution is equivalent to overreacting. With this overreaction, I see two longer term risks:

Risk one: people get desensitized to future risks because the current models of danger let them down.  An example of this, via Conundrum: Why People Do Not Listen to Evacuation Orders – Scientific American:

The fact that we failed to catch this intensification has had a counterproductive effect,” said Berrien Moore, director of the University of Oklahoma’s National Weather Center. “People tend to say, well, it’s uncertain, or it wasn’t predicted. And that leads to inaction. … Our models have let us down.”

Desensitization makes it harder to react the next time an outbreak occurs.

Risk two: it’s not a sustainable approach. We take risks all the time: when we drive to work, when we cross the street, the food we eat, the places we visit, all of these have risks associated with them. We assess the risk (sometimes poorly) and try to make rational decisions. We don’t tend to decide with an abundance of caution, because to do so is to severely limit what we can do. The tradeoffs we make when we decide that way end up harming us overall.

Desensitization and sustainability may not be big concerns if this outbreak is a rare event. If it is not rare but something we start seeing regularly, then this abundance of caution response may harm future efforts to control such contagions.

If you believe this is a rare event, then the benefit of overreaction makes sense. If you do not believe it is, then overreaction will cause problems in the future.

 

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Congratulations! You get an extra day this year and it lands on a Saturday!

If someone said you get an extra hour in a day or an extra day in a week or month, you’d likely have ideas on what to do with it, yes? Well today is one of those days! You only get this day once every four years, though, which makes it extra special. Given that, consider doing something special for even part of the day. You deserve it! So start that project you always wanted to start, go visit that place you always wanted to visit, reach out to that person you haven’t reached out to in some time. Today is the perfect day for it.

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The Free-Time Paradox in America

Here’s something to ponder on a Sunday:

The rich were meant to have the most leisure time. The working poor were meant to have the least. The opposite is happening.

That is extracted from this: The Free-Time Paradox in America – The Atlantic

It’s a fascinating study of work and leisure and why it is not what many expected.

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The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar

Anyone wanting to tell a story, be it a novel or a business proposal, could do well to read  The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar.

At my work we are a fan of #4. But they are all good.

Stuck telling a story? Check out the list.

 

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On retirement in the 21st century: three good pieces

The notion of retirement in the Western world has been changing since the mid 20th century, and it will continue to change as the population increasingly gets older. To get an appreciation for what that means and what can be done, these three articles are worth reading:

  1. It’s Time to Say It: Retirement Is Dead. This Is What Will Take Its Place | Inc.com
  2. Baby boomers delaying retirement: It’s a myth, because retirement is inevitable, and bleaker than ever.
  3. This Is What Life Without Retirement Savings Looks Like

Not fun reading, but essential.