Category Archives: How to

Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again

By Emily Dreyfuss – The facts don’t actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth.

Marketers and politicians are masters of manipulating this particular cognitive bias—which perhaps you have become more familiar with lately.

President Trump is a “great businessman,” he says over and over again. Some evidence suggests that might not be true.

So what’s going on here? “Repetition makes things seem more plausible,” says Lynn Hasher, a psychologist at the University of Toronto whose research team first noticed the effect in the 1970s. “And the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.” So … 2017, basically. more>

Updates from Adobe

How to Create a Surreal Photo Collage
By Terri Stone – When you composite photos, you usually don’t want the result to look like a composite. Even if the final scene is fantastical, your aim is to transport viewers into another world. Filip Hodas, a 24-year-old freelance artist from Prague, has been creating convincing digital realities for years. Now he’’ agreed to share his process.

To make the otherworldly landscape featured here, Hodas relied heavily on Adobe Photoshop CC layer masks. He placed each source image on its own layer and then used layer masks to hide and reveal parts of each. He also used layer masks to adjust color and add highlights and shadows.

Next came a Color Balance adjustment layer, which he added to the background images so their colors would be a better match. Trees on the right side of the horizon image were distracting, so he removed them with the Clone Stamp tool.

Hodas knows that small details can have a big impact on a composite’s overall look, so his next step was to refine the foreground image’s mask. That softened jagged edges a little and removed a slight yellow outline. more>


Economics is fundamentally flawed

By David Spencer – Economics should be in crisis. But in reality it is not. Rather, economics remains largely the same as it was before the financial crisis – in effect, it remains just as problematic now as in the past. This is an issue not just for economics but for society as a whole, given the enduring power and influence of the discipline on policy and public life.

To think of economics in terms of forecasting is to limit its nature and scope. Economics ought to be about explanation. It should be able to make sense of the world beyond forecasts of the future. It is not clear that as it exists now, economics is able to understand the world in its present form. To this extent, it cannot help understand the frequency and depth of crises.

As things stand, there is little chance that economics will open up to the ideas and methods of other disciplines. Instead, the discipline has embraced a project of “economic imperialism” seeking to colonize other social sciences. Genuine interdisciplinary debate has lost out in this process. more>

Updates from GE

By Kristin Kloberdanz – Virtual reality became domesticated last year — at least in America — when the VR viewer Google Cardboard arrived for the first time with the Sunday New York Times. Today, you could use it to explore Pluto’s frigid heart or climb to the top of 1 World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan.

As thrilling and immersive as these experiences are, they are just a playful precursor of what’s coming. Companies such as GE have started using VR to optimize the electric grid, service nuclear power plants and plan complex supply chains.

For example, for the past two years, GE engineers in Rugby in the U.K. have been using VR to optimize and even design factories, a task typically done with computers in two dimensions. As good as that approach is — virtually all modern factories have been designed this way — the method can make it difficult to anticipate problems that crop up once the building is in actual use in the three-dimensional world. But by then, it’s too late to fix the design without expensive retrofitting. more>

Developing the APTitude to Design New Materials, Atom-by-Atom

By Paul Blanchard – Up to now, our technological progress has largely been a matter of trial and error. We make something new, evaluate its performance, then alter some part of the fabrication process and see whether it performs better or worse, all without direct knowledge of what is changing at the atomic level.

But if we could see what’s going on at that scale—if we could map out each individual atom and understand the role that it plays—we could create new and better materials not through blind experimentation, but through design.

For all that we’ve been able to accomplish while ignoring them, the fact is that individual atoms matter. The speed of a transistor, the efficiency of a solar cell, and the strength of an I-beam are ultimately determined by the configuration of the atoms inside. Today, new and improved microscopy techniques are getting us closer and closer to the goal of being able to see each and every atom within the materials we make—a very exciting prospect.

Over the past three years, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a team working with one such new and improved microscopy technique, a method called 3-D atom probe tomography, or APT for short. APT is very different from conventional microscopy—at least, the sort of microscopy that I’m accustomed to. In conventional microscopy, we shine a beam of light particles or electrons on our specimen, whatever it is we want to look at, and create a magnified image using lenses or by mapping how our beam bounces off it.

In atom probe tomography, on the other hand, we don’t just look at our specimen—we literally take it apart, atom-by-atom. more>

Creating a Sense of Purpose at Work

By Art Petty – Too many people I encounter have given up striving to move beyond what they characterize as the daily grind. Instead of creating and building, they are surviving. And while some cultures seem adept at sucking the souls out of their employees, I believe you choose your attitude, and you can frame your work in terms that give it meaning or words that make it mundane.

Most of us have encountered the story of the two stone masons busy cutting stones. One described himself as simply a stonecutter The other described himself as a mason and announced triumphantly, “And I am building a great cathedral.”

Which one are you? more>

The California Challenge

How (not) to regulate disruptive business models
By Steven Hill – The latest trend from Silicon Valley is known as the “sharing economy,” sometimes referred to as the “gig economy,” “on-demand,” “peer-to-peer” or “collaborative-consumption” economy. Dozens of »disruptive« companies like Uber, Airbnb, Up-work, TaskRabbit, Lyft, Instacart and Postmates have proven to be attractive to consumers and those who would like to “monetize” their personal property (real estate, car) or find flexible, part-time work.

In some ways, these new platforms have the potential to provide new opportunities. But they also display a number of troubling aspects.

With this latest wave of Silicon Valley startup companies, the business model of US corporations is in the process of being redesigned.

The post-Second World War era was dominated by vertical, industrial powerhouses, such as auto companies, in which end-to-end production, design, research, marketing and sales were all performed under a single company roof. Many of these companies – such as GM, Volkswagen, Ford, IBM, Siemens, BMW and Daimler – created a huge number of jobs, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Today that company model is yielding yet again, to a new one typified by companies such as taxi service Uber, hospitality company Airbnb and labor brokerages Upwork and Task Rabbit. Their precursor was Amazon, which blazed the way for how to market and sell online. These corporations are little more than websites and an app, who utilize technology to oversee an army of freelancers, contractors and part-timers.

The quality of jobs created by many of the Silicon Valley disruptors is also troubling. The business-friendly “happy talk” of Silicon Valley tells us that these new companies are creating new opportunities by allegedly “liberating workers” to become “independent entrepreneurs” and “the CEOs of their own businesses.” In reality, these workers have ever-smaller part-time jobs (called “gigs” and “micro-gigs”), with low wages and no job guarantee or safety net benefits, while the companies profit handsomely.

In short, workers’ labor value is reduced to only those exact minutes they are producing a report, designing a logo or cleaning someone’s house. It’s as if a football star only got paid when kicking a goal or a chef were paid by the meal. In the name of hyper-efficiency, suddenly the “extraneous” parts of a worker’s day, such as rest and bathroom breaks, staff meetings, training, even time at the water cooler are being eliminated. more>

How Trump Could Shock a Divided Nation Back to Life as Collaborator-in-chief

By Frank V. Zerunyan – Could the next four years of Trump presidency be just what the doctor ordered for the GOP and a divided country?

From my experience as a mayor and council member, and a professor at the Bedrosian Center on Governance, I have learned successful governance is all about the quest for the win-win.

This strategy focuses on the integration of needs, desires, concerns and fears that are important to each side. Take for example, the governance model of the Lakewood Plan in Lakewood, California – a city of just over 81,000 people outside of Los Angeles. The motive behind the plan, which was put forth in 1954, was to retain local control over local services. Residents wanted to eliminate duplication and rely on more efficient and cost-effective government service providers.

Public and private organizations collaborated to solve public policy and administration problems based on interests. This manifested in a number of ways: for example, a trash hauler in the private sector collecting municipal waste; a county fire department providing fire service to smaller cities; private lawyers acting as city attorneys; private arborists trimming city trees; citizens using a smartphone application to report a dangerous condition on the road.

This innovative plan became the model for hundreds of communities in California to deliver municipal services through collaboration. more>


ARPA-Ed: What would it take?

By Saro Mohammed – In short, DARPA is a very well-funded, highly flexible, research and development agency that was created to minimize the red tape that usually slowed defense R&D, while simultaneously maximizing innovation and results. Beyond its funding, which is approximately 377 times greater than the national educational research budget in 2016, DARPA operates under the following unique design principles, outlined in detail at a 2012 national education R&D meeting:

  • Risk: DARPA can take bigger risks than more traditional federally funded R&D projects.
  • Flexible projects: DARPA can choose to fund partial proposals, or projects solely focused on brainstorming or “mindstorming” a problem. In addition, it can fund possible solutions to problems across proposals.
  • Flexible partnerships: DARPA can work with or fund whichever entities it chooses, including private, for-profit, entities, and it can put partners together for projects (including across multiple sectors) that may or may not have applied for funding as partners to begin with.
  • Flexible solutions: DARPA can also fund purchase orders for solutions or products that do not yet exist, and can fund “performance-based” contracts that allow their grantees to retain intellectual property and other proprietary rights to profit after their contractual obligations with DARPA are complete.
  • Flexible timelines: Finally, DARPA can defund, increase funding, or extend project funding at almost any time, and for almost any reason. This allows funding to be quickly ramped up when successes are discovered, and ramped down when projects don’t pan out, taking some of the risk out of very risky bets.

One of the ideas is the possibility of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-Ed).

One of the ideas that was discussed was the possibility of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-Ed). more>

Sustainable Sources of Competitive Advantage

By Morgan Housel – Finding something others can’t do is nearly impossible. Intelligence is not a sustainable source of competitive advantage because the world is full of smart people, and a lot of what used to count as intelligence is now automated.

That leaves doing something others aren’t willing to do as the top source of sustainable competitive advantage.

Here are five big ones.

Having no appetite for being wrong means you’ll only attempt things with high odds of working. And those things tend to be only slight variations on what you’re already doing, which themselves are things that, in a changing world, may soon be obsolete.

Here’s Jeff Bezos again: “If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.”

The key is creating a culture that allows you to fail often without ruin. more>