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Interesting stuffs 10

Exciting things I learned and read during the week (15 Jan – 21 Jan) beside my current hard workload of PhD:

1/ The economics of walking dogs and making $100k

The walking dogs business is blooming. They say about ~40% of dog owners don’t walk their dogs on a regular basic because of bad weather, laziness, work, difficulties with dog, family responsibilities. Dog ownership business is blooming, due to 1) more people are having dogs 2) pet owners are spending more. But it’s not an easy business, Steward – a dog walking person said “dogs people talk”. And a survey conducted by Kelton research, say “81% of dog owners feel their pets are “on par with children in the family”, “78% consider themselves to be pet “parents” (not “owners”)”, “58% refer to themselves as their dog’s “mommy” or “daddy””.

Also interesting to see how a dog walking person can get devoted to his job. Steward has some policies – He doesn’t wear gloves, even when it’s freezing out, because his “fingertips need to feel the leashes.” – He doesn’t wear sunglasses so dogs (and customers) can see his eyes. – He has a strict no-phone policy while walking, which keeps him focused on any possible issues on the road, like chicken bones or squirrels.

Because for one time like this, he can take like 6-8 dogs in different breeds, so he said “You have to play quarterback and really think about it,” says Stewart. “I might keep dogs A, B, C, and D away from E — but F and G might be more agreeable to be paired with E.”

And of course, people like Stewart also has some doubts for himself:

“Sometimes it’s brutally cold, I’m tired, and I think, ‘I was supposed to be a famous dancerWhy am I out here picking up poop?’” says Stewart.

But he’s largely come to embrace the nature of his work.

He’s walked in 10°F weather, and in 110°F weather. He’s clocked 50k steps — more than 20 milesin a shift. And for 15 years, he’s spent nearly every day outside, with animals he loves and nobody to answer to.

“My friend who works in construction once told me, ‘You might be picking up poop, but you’re not eating it,’” says Stewart. “I’m grateful for that.”

Lesson: In any job, there are some moments that you want to give up, but if think again, and you find most of the moments you are enjoying it, then it’s not the time for you give it up yet.

2/ Van Gogh painting’s “The Bedroom”

If you wake up in the morning and you’re not alone and you see in the twilight a fellow human being, it makes the world so much more agreeable’, wrote Vincent to Theo. Van Gogh was unlucky in love, but he was certainly loved by his brother. Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom (1888)”

3/ How the Refrigerator Became an Agent of Climate Catastrophe

“According to a report published in 2018 by the International Energy Agency, refrigeration in 2016 accounted for about six per cent of the world’s energy consumption, and space cooling accounted for about eight per cent. In the same report, the I.E.A. predicted that worldwide energy use by air-conditioners would triple by 2050, “requiring new electricity capacity the equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, the E.U. and Japan today.” Energy use by refrigerators is on a similar upward path.”

The history of civilization is, in many ways, the history of accelerating improvements in energy efficiency. Extracting greater value from smaller inputs is how we’ve made ourselves rich; it’s also how we’ve created the problem that we’re now trying to address with more of the same. Making useful technologies more efficient makes them cheaper, and as they become cheaper we use them more and find more uses for them, just as adding lanes to congested highways makes driving more attractive, not less”.

4/ The Rise of A.I. Fighter Pilots

“A fighter plane equipped with artificial intelligence could eventually execute tighter turns, take greater risks, and get off better shots than human pilots. But the objective of the ACE program is to transform a pilot’s role, not to remove it entirely. As DARPA envisions it, the A.I. will fly the plane in partnership with the pilot, who will remain “in the loop,” monitoring what the A.I. is doing and intervening when necessary.”

“The ACE program is part of a wider effort to “decompose our forces” into smaller, less expensive units. In other words, fewer humans and more expendable machines.”

“PhysicsAI, in Pacifica, California, fielded a four-man squad who knew next to nothing about aerial combat. They used a neural-network approach, enabling the system to learn the patterns of a successful dogfight and mathematically arrive at the maximum probability of a good outcome. “The problem we have to solve is like playing chess while playing basketball,” John Pierre, PhysicsAI’s principal investigator, said. “You’re taking shots while making split-second decisions, and it needs to be done in a way that human pilots can interpret what’s going on.”

“I think technology has proven over the past few years that it’s able to think faster than humans and react faster in a precise pristine environment.” Banger also suggested that artificial intelligence might execute tactical maneuvers that pilots had been trained to avoid, such as flying too close to enemy aircraft and moving at speeds that would tax a human body. “I may not be comfortable putting my aircraft in a position where I might run into something else,” he said. “The A.I. would exploit that.”

The human mind processes more slowly than a computer, but it has the cognitive flexibility to adapt to unimagined circumstances; artificial intelligence, so far, does not. Anna Skinner, a human-factors psychologist, and another science adviser to the ACE program, told me, “Humans are able to draw on their experience and take reasonable actions in the face of uncertainty. And, especially in a combat situation, uncertainty is always going to be present.”

“Peter Hancock, a psychology professor at the University of Central Florida who studies the effect of trust on technology adoption, told me. “Trust is gained in teaspoons and lost in buckets.” It’s not just an issue in warfare. In the most recent surveys conducted by the American Automobile Association, about eighty per cent of respondents said that they were not comfortable with the idea of autonomous vehicles. “Most of the drivers say that they want the current systems to work better before they can trust a fully self-driving system,”

5/ Gamification: can video games change our money habits?

“Gamification is the process of incorporating elements of video games into a business, organization, or system, with the goal of boosting engagement or performance.”

“Research suggests that about 40 percent of our daily activities are performed out of habit, a term the American Journal of Psychology defines as a “more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.” We spend much of our lives on autopilot.

Saving is painful. But can’t people simply choose to be more financially responsible? In short: Yes, but it takes a lot of effort. After all, when it comes to changing behavior, willpower is only part of the equation.”

Games can motivate us by satisfying our psychological needs and giving us a sense of reward. From a neurological perspective, this occurs through the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters, namely dopamine and oxytocin.”

“Banks and financial companies have been using gamification for years. Blast is a savings app aimed at traditional gamers. The platform lets user connect a savings account to their video game accounts. Users then set performance goals in the video games, such as killing a certain number of enemies. Accomplishing these goals triggers a pre-selected investment into their savings accounts. In addition to earning interest, users can also win prize money by accomplishing certain missions or placing high on public leaderboards.”

“Gamifying your finances might help you save money, but it doesn’t come without risks. After all, receiving extrinsic rewards when we perform a behavior can affect our intrinsic motivation to repeat that behavior both positively and negatively. It’s a phenomenon called the overjustification effect. Gamified finance apps can also be addictive and encourage risky financial behavior. Gamification doesn’t seem to work for everyone.

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