I’m always looking out for good email newsletters, so I thought it might be fun to do a quick series where I share some of the ones that I subscribe to and enjoy.

First up: Well-Tempered!

“Well-Tempered” is a new effort from tech writer and all-around busy person, Jean MacDonald. Jean, who you may know as @macgenie on Twitter or from her work with App Camp For Girls, puts together 4 or 5 of her top links and stories for the week. There are only a couple of issues out at this point but, so far, the subject matter has been representative of all the things Jean knows and loves: technology, culture, gender, marketing, and (naturally) rock ‘n’ roll.

I like it already – and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops in the weeks ahead!

This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).

Deadline for Public Comments is September 15th

If you’re an American, I’ve got a fun little Sunday activity for you…

The Federal Communications Commission is making new rules affecting something called ‘Net Neutrality’. Before we get to what that actually means, here’s the important part: The FCC’s deadline to receive public opinions about these new rules is September 15th and I think that you ought to take a few moments today to do some reading about the issue.

Once you get into the details, I suspect you’ll laugh out loud at the absurdity of the current situation (that’s where the “Fun Sunday Activity” part comes in). [Read more...]

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.
William James
The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1

Few writers receive the strong emotional reactions to their work that Alain de Botton gets: Many readers enjoy his efforts which connect philosophy with the practices of everyday life; Other readers, well… not so much.

You can put me in the camp that generally likes his work. Just as I have never expected a TED talk to replace deep study, I’ve never mistaken de Botton’s essays for the philosophical works that they reference. Generalists shouldn’t be mistaken for specialists or academics. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer a valuable perspective or provide a good introduction to the ideas that they discuss. Not everything he’s done has resonated with me, but I’ve enjoyed books like ‘The Art of Travel’ and ‘Status Anxiety’ for what they are – One writer’s reflections on aspects of the human experience.

To that end, another de Botton venture called The School of Life just announced a YouTube channel. The London-based school is, like de Botton, devoted to encouraging a ‘philosophy of everyday life’. Though their collection looks a little bare at the moment, I think it’s worth keeping an eye on the page and checking back occasionally to see what gets published there. Given the school’s existing portfolio of courses, I think it may end up being a good resource of stimulating clips on topics like careers, relationships, politics, travels, and families.

You probably could have guessed that I’m a fan of integrating automation into daily routine. Call me old fashioned, but I feel like computers are supposed to work for human beings: Reduce the number of routine tasks in our lives, watch over things for us, and generally help us accomplish more stuff with less effort and with fewer errors.

But what if I’m wrong about all of that?

The latest New Yorker features an article called ‘The Hazards of Going on Autopilot’. In it, Maria Konnikova looks at the societal effects of automation by focusing on a sector which is on its leading edge – Aviation. While the dramatic perils of “getting it wrong” at altitude have driven the introduction of automation into the cockpit, the overall effect might actually be more dangerous than the risks these systems are intended to reduce.

Why? Simply put: Bored pilots. “I know I’m not in the loop“, said one quoted in the piece, “but I’m not exactly out of the loop. It’s more like I’m flying alongside the loop.” Stephen Casner, one of the researchers that Konnikova cites, has studied the effects of automation over many years and has come to the conclusion that it diminishes one’s ability to make complex cognitive decisions:

What we’re doing is using human beings as safety nets or backups to computers, and that’s completely backward,” Casner said. “It would be much better if the computing system watched us and chimed in when we do something wrong.” Ideally, he said, automation would adopt a human-centered approach—one that takes seriously our inability to sit and stare by alerting us when we need to be alerted rather than by outright replacing our routines with computerized ones. This kind of shift from passive observation to active monitoring would help to ensure that our minds remain stimulated. Casner likened the desired approach to one taken by good lifeguards. In the absence of a safety net, they must remain aware. “They don’t just sit and wait to see if someone’s screaming,” he said. “They scan the pool, look for certain signs.”

The whole article is a fascinating look at the hazards of automation and well-worth checking out.1.

  1. Don’t have your computer read this one to you, m’kay? []
This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).