Friday Links

  • Live in the future, then build what’s missing” is a fantastic way to think about innovation/entrepreneurship, as Paul Graham notes. It’s also a pretty cool way to think about the life one wants to lead (like in the Avvett Brothers song, “Decide what to be, and go be it.”) If you click on just one of these links, make it this one
  • Do you want to learn about zombie-making organisms? Of course you do! If you aren’t kept awake at night by the knowledge that a wasp can cause a spider to build a “radically-different [nest], a home not for the spider but for a parasitic wasp that has been living inside it,” you don’t have an expansive-enough imagination (as an aside, Carl Zimmer – the author of this article – is a fantastic raconteur: listen to a heart-wrenching story of his – from Radiolab, naturally – here)
  • A sort-of silly article on computer-aided diagnosis (partially through the lens of Watson, the program that famously kicked Ken Jennings’s ass in Jeopardy) and a real-life Doctor House from UCSF Medical Center (Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal). Look: Watson is neat, and however society can use technology to aid diagnosis and allow physicians to focus on other items (like patient care) is wonderful… but physician diagnosis isn’t likely to completely disappear. There will always be a Dr. Dhaliwal – he or she will probably just consult Watson the same way he/she uses Epocrates (an app encyclopedia of pharmaceuticals) or Shots (similar to Epocrates but for injections) today: as an assistant
  • Connecting back to my post on Chapter Seven of The White Man’s Burden, the new PEPFAR plan explicitly disallows funding for family planning.   This is… unfortunate – family planning has been shown to be integral to reducing the fertility rate of a country (see: Bangladesh), which leads to higher economic growth, which is a good thing (something which – ostensibly – is part of the purpose of aid). Frustrating
  • Interesting emerging theory on dopamine’s role in the brain: it has more to do with motivation than pleasure. Whenever I hear about dopamine I think back to a great Radiolab segment on “Seeking Pleasure” and the micro-level workings of dopamine as an “expectations engine.” Fascinating stuff
  • One of the coolest – and most important – innovations I’ve seen this year. The device itself – called Twine – isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it brings the “Internet of Things” to the masses in a way that is visually appealing and simple to use. This is only the start though – when my age group is in our 30s, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that all of our major appliances will be connected to the cloud, ranging from the relatively mundane but cool (“control your coffee maker from your iPhone!”) to the just-plain-cool (syncing your refrigerator to an online grocery store and automate your basic purchases whenever something is running out/spoiling)
  • Speaking of cool technology: how will driverless cars respond to ethical dilemmas such as: “Your car is speeding along a bridge at fifty miles per hour when errant school bus carrying forty innocent children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, possibly risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going, putting all forty kids at risk?” I’ve actually read a (uncomfortable-to-admit) fair amount about driverless cars, but this is one question I hadn’t considered or read much about previously
  • Another excellent (but simplified) overview of the Democratic Republic of Congo, M23, and the shadow players of Rwanda and Uganda. It seems like this situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better
  • Interesting article on calculating GDP and why it’s hard to take GDP numbers in data-poor locales (like Ghana). These figures have a huge effect on aid, bond markets, etc., so there can be a huge effect if the data is off
  • If you’re up for a long article on C-sections, this is the article for you – it’s a pretty decent encapsulation of the way “technology” (be it basic surgery or the latest, greatest MRI machine) is extremely enticing in healthcare, even if it isn’t (strictly-speaking) “necessary.” For whatever reason, I’ve read a good amount lately on bacteria and the way our bodies pick it up – and co-exist – with it, so it was interesting to read (not for the first time) about how researchers are beginning to link C-sections with an increased risk of obesity and asthma. One possible root cause may be related to the way our bodies pick up microbes in a natural birth vs. the relative paucity of what’s picked up through a C-section
  • It seems like the eight-day Gaza fight is now being used as justification for continuing Israeli settlements in now-Palestinian land. Bad news for the prospect of a two-state solution, which seems to be less and less likely. Incidentally, when I was in Israel I took a wrong turn and almost ended up in Maale Adumim on the way back to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea…
  • Speaking of Israel: Foreign Policy is pretty bullish on Netanyahu winning in the January elections. It kind of sounds like Ehud Olmert’s only chance (if he decides to take it and run) would be to unite centrist parties with a few far-right ones, which seems both difficult to control and remarkably unlikely, but we’ll see

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