‘These drones can plant 100,000 trees a day’

Charlotte Edmond, writing for the World Economic Forum:

First a drone scans the topography to create a 3D map. Then the most efficient planting pattern for that area is calculated using algorithms.

Wait, how exactly are they finding the most efficient planting pattern?

Oh, right, with algorithms. Obviously.

Snark aside, though, this is a cool project!

‘Mistakes in Time’

Aaron Harris, writing on Y Combinator’s Blog:

This lesson is something I should have been able to absorb much more easily. I had 4 different jobs, and 4 different career paths, in the 10 years after college. I was an investment banker, an analyst at a hedge fund, a founder, and then a partner at YC. Each time I started something new, I expected myself to be immediately great, and was hugely disappointed when it became clear that I was nothing of the sort. Each time I switched jobs and discovered this, I also realized that I’d gotten older, and started to fear that I did not have the time to get great. Maybe I did not even have the time to get good.


‘The Untreatable: The Spanish Flu’

In New York City the public health commissioner, Royal S. Copeland, eliminated rush hour by staggering shop, school and factory opening times. He was under pressure to close schools, but after infancy children were relatively unaffected by the virus, and Copeland argued that schools could help disseminate health advice to their communities. He opened 150 health centres to deal with the sick, and insisted that all flu patients who lived in shared accommodation be hospitalised. Public health information was distributed by an obliging press: the Italian-language Progresso Italo-Americano sold close to a hundred thousand copies a day in New York alone, and raised funds for an Italian hospital in Brooklyn. Copeland allowed children to go to school, but he banned them from theatres. When Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms came to New York in October, Harold Edel, the manager of the Strand Theatre, wrote: ‘We think it a most wonderful appreciation of Shoulder Arms that people should veritably take their lives in their hands to see it.’ Edel was dead within a week, of flu.


(via news.yc)

‘Bottle Jumping’

Sometimes you just need a little perspective.

(via reddit)

Daniel Jackson (MIT) gives a UMass Amherst CICS Distinguished Lecture

Every software engineer should listen to this talk — it contains many brilliant insights into how to structure and create sane interfaces.

Easily one of the most enlightening talks I’ve ever watched.

(via news.yc)

‘Co-Parenting With Alexa’

Rachel Botsman, writing for the New York Times:

It’s these kinds of intersections – like this small collision between robot “helpfulness” and a latent commercial agenda — that can make parents like me start to wonder about the ethical niceties of this brave new bot world. Alexa, after all, is not “Alexa.” She’s a corporate algorithm in a black box.

Grace doesn’t like it when I tell her what to wear. How would she feel about Alexa judging her? Would she see it as helpful or crushing? This could well be one of our parenting tasks in the near future — preparing our children for the psychological repercussions of such personal interactions with computer “people.”


‘Things More Heavily Regulated Than Buying a Gun in the United States’

Sarah Hutto, writing for McSweeney’s:

Having a fucking bake sale

Building a fucking shed in your own backyard

Pumping fucking gas


‘Parents Who Pay to Be Watched’

Kim Brooks, writing at thecut.com:

I’d talked to mothers who’d given up their own careers and made a career out of getting their children into the “right” charter school. I’d been to parties where adult socializing screeched to a halt for a good 20 minutes to negotiate a disagreement between two 6-year-olds over a disputed toy. I’d spoken to parents who’d sold homes and cars to pay for violin lessons and high-end SAT tutoring, and to parents who spent much of their time tracking their teenage children’s whereabouts through a GPS app on their phone. I’d come to believe there was simply no way to escalate or intensify our communal quest for parental control without the development of exo-uterine technology and retrofitting mothers as marsupials. But Cognition Builders proved me wrong.

Its existence seemed to highlight how for families like Jason and Elizabeth’s, and for other families, too — families across the country in the affluent middle and upper-middle classes — parenthood is not what it used to be. Specifically, it is more than it used to be. More money, more time, more organization, more engagement, more supervision. Just … more. Of everything.

In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, social scientist Robert D. Putnam describes how, beginning in the 1980s, “the dominant ideas and social norms about good parenting have shifted from Spock’s ‘permissive parenting’ to a new model of ‘intensive parenting.’ ” “Between 1983 and 2007,” he notes, “spending per child by families in the top tenth of the income distribution increased by 75 percent in real dollars.” Many of these dollars are devoted to the increasing costs of child care and education, but a significant portion is spent on enrichment and a wide array of educational and therapeutic interventions for children who struggle to meet parental expectations. Indeed, the cost of raising children in America, teaching them, and keeping them stimulated and safe has been privatized by design and default, as families take on burdens once shouldered by extended families, neighborhoods, and public schools. The leap from a Kaplan SAT course to Cognition Builders might not be as big as it seems.


(via news.yc)

‘Identity Theft, Credit Reports, and You’

Patrick McKenzie:

Mean words cannot hurt a bank. Threats cannot hurt a bank. Paper trails, though, are terrifying to regulated institutions. Your bank’s customer support representatives are taught to evaluate whether someone looks like they’re competent and collecting a paper trail. If they are, the CS rep is supposed to stop touching the case immediately and instead escalate them to a supervisor or to the legal department.

The legal department (or an analogous group – it is different at every bank) is not scored on cases resolved per week. They are scored on regulatory incidents per quarter, and their target for success is likely zero. Shockingly senior people will be involved to avert regulatory incidents.

Great stuff, and great advice.

‘New Study Favors Fat Over Carbs’

Nicholas Bakalar, writing for the New York Times:

Compared with people who ate the lowest 20 percent of carbohydrates, those who ate the highest 20 percent had a 28 percent increased risk of death. But high carbohydrate intake was not associated with cardiovascular death.

People with the highest 20 percent in total fat intake — an average of 35.3 percent of calories from fat — had about a 23 percent reduced risk of death compared with the lowest 20 percent (an average of 10.6 percent of calories from fat).

The surprising part of this for me is the independence of cardiovascular death.

‘The Walls We Won’t Tear Down’

Richard D. Kahlenberg, writing for the New York Times:

Wealthy property owners usually win in American politics, but not always, as an important 2010 vote in Massachusetts suggests. Back in 1969, the state passed an “anti-snob” zoning law that empowered state officials to alter local zoning laws in communities where less than 10 percent of housing stock was deemed affordable. In 2010, an effort to overturn the law through a statewide referendum was opposed by 58 percent of voters.

Hah. I wonder what kinds of “alterations” they made?