Exciting things I learned and read during the week (11 Dec – 18 Dec):
1.Danger and Routine: An Inside Look at Alaska’s Fishing and Crabbing Industry
2. All the Ways to Make Bubble Tea, Taiwan’s Pearl-fect Drink
Very interesting data visualization!
3. Is Market Concentration Actually Rising?
“Concentration is rising by most measures. However, there are lots of caveats. In a sector like manufacturing, the relevant global market is not more concentrated. The Rossi-Hansberg, Sarte, and Trachter paper suggests, despite data issues, local concentration could be falling. Again, we need to be careful.”
4. Morocco’s World Cup success sparks a debate about Arab identity
“Morocco’s Africanness is obvious if you look at a map. But it comes with subtle tensions. Some sub-Saharans sniffed that north Africans look down on them.
As for Morocco’s Arabness, that has been the subject of debate in cafés, fan zones and on social media. For the affirmative: Morocco is a member of the Arab League, Arabic is an official language, and its rich culture has contributed much to that of the broader Arab world. Many Moroccans identify as Arabs, and their victory was celebrated across the region.”
“Yet some Moroccans are uncomfortable with the label”
“Yet enthusiasm for Morocco’s unlikely success shows that a cultural affinity still binds people in the region. Equally, though, the arguments over Morocco’s place in that region show how identity is still used to divide rather than unite.”
5. Can Fusion Solve the Climate Crisis?
“lasers are used to fuse two forms of hydrogen into helium, reported that, for the first time, it had released more energy than the lasers put in”
” even if fusion power plants become a reality, it likely would not happen in time to help stave off the near-term worsening effects of climate change. It’s far better, many climate scientists and policymakers say, to focus on currently available renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power to help reach these emissions targets.”
“So if fusion isn’t a quick climate fix, could it be a more long-term solution to the world’s energy needs? Perhaps, but cost may be an issue. “
6. See the relentless beauty of Bhutan—a kingdom that takes happiness seriously
“Such spectacles, commonplace in Bhutan, seem all the more bewitching when you approach them on foot, more still when you have done so without encountering another soul. Whether this remarkable nation can sustain such magic in the face of encroaching modernity remains to be seen. This trail, at least, is one for the ages.”
8. Japanese Manga are being eclipsed by Korean webtoons
“Manga are gravitating to digital slowly, in part because they are still designed for print, so awkward to read on smartphones. The letters tend to be too small and the way the panels are laid out requires constant zooming in and out. “
“Though webtoons such as “Itaewon Class” and “Solo Levelling” have become popular among Japanese consumers, most Japanese publishers have stuck doggedly to manga. “The Japanese industry is very conservative,” sighs Mr Lee. “There’s a strong belief that it’s better to stick with precedent.” The manga industry’s business model, in which stories are first published in weekly magazines and then in books, has hardly changed since the 1960s.”
“With their strong stories and craftsmanship, manga maintain a loyal domestic audience, which gives publishers little motivation to innovate or change. Growth in their core business may be flagging; yet they can still find opportunities to boost revenues through anime adaptations, or by collaborating with businesses that create manga-themed merchandise.”
“Japan’s manga fans are, like all its population, ageing. “
9. Degrowth can work — here’s how science can help
“Researchers in ecological economics call for a different approach — degrowth3. Wealthy economies should abandon growth of gross domestic product (GDP) as a goal, scale down destructive and unnecessary forms of production to reduce energy and material use, and focus economic activity around securing human needs and well-being. “
10. What Our Hunter-Gatherer Ancestors Can Teach Us About Designing a Workday That Won’t Burn You Out
“Is today’s burnout epidemic, much like today’s obesity epidemic, driven in part by a mismatch between how our brains are wired and how our current environment is designed?”
“When we compare the work experience of hunter-gathers with that of… contemporary Apple employees we find a wedge of insight. Modern knowledge workers adopt the factory model, in which you work for set hours each day at a continually high level of intensity, without significant breaks,” observes Newport. “In the hunter-gatherer context, work intensity fluctuated based on the circumstances of the moment. Today, we’ve replaced this rhythm with a more exhausting culture of always being on.”
“People are prone to following authority figures. Because a lot of text on the internet is written in an authoritative style — hopefully because the authors know what they’re talking about— LLMs have learned to mimic this style. Unfortunately, LLMs can speak in this style even when they get the facts completely wrong.
We don’t expect people to be right all the time, but we don’t like it when they’re simultaneously confident and wrong. Real experts speak in a range of styles: confident when we know what we’re talking about, but also explaining the boundaries of our knowledge when we run up against them and helping the audience understand the range of possibilities. For example, when asked how to build an AI application, I might propose one approach but also describe the range of algorithms one might consider. Knowing what you know and don’t know is a useful trait of expertise.