Reading List: Placebos For All, Not-Great-For-Humanity Tech, Embattled CEOs
Darlings! Happy American Thanksgiving Eve! This year, as every year, I’m thankful for the privilege of sliding into your inboxes every morning. Thank you for letting me rant, for listening, and for putting up with my puns. And for my Canadian friends, that sentiment stands, though I’ll just be dark for no reason tomorrow and Friday :)
Here’s some reading to sneak in between courses:
Priya Satia, What Happened Beyond the Western Front (Slate) - As we just passed the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, it’s never too late to discuss how technology and “progress” contributed to the devastation of WWI, and how the continued development of war technologies in the Middle East in the inter-war period set the stage for the devastation of WWII.
Gary Greenberg, What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick? (The New York Times) I’ve been meaning to send this for a couple of weeks: it’s a look at the medical science of suggestion throughout the ages (did you know that “placebo” means “I shall please” in Latin? I sure didn't!). But really, it’s more of a deep dive in how holistic medicine, and how caring, thoughtful practitioners, can lead to surprising results. It discusses just how important empathy, care and listening is in patient care. And, I hope, shows how “soft skills” can make the most excellent doctors, and healers.
Margaret Sullivan, Embattled and in over his head, Mark Zuckerberg should — at least — step down as Facebook chairman (The Washington Post) - I’ve had a couple of folks send this my way, and there’s a reason why: Margaret Sullivan often feels like the conscience, nay, moral center of media and tech observation, and her thoughts on how Zuckerberg handled the cluster that was the last few weeks is a must-read. A choice quote: “Facebook is a rudderless ship sailing toward the apocalypse — and we’re all along for the ride.” But in particular, I draw your attention to how Sullivan describes his response after the last few weeks of scandal: to blame others. When I think about the best boss I ever had, I think about the moment he called me because I'd dropped the ball on something at work. When he called me, he outlined the concern, and asked for my take on the situation. To which he said, “I’m taking this one, and I will defend you no matter what. Just make sure I know everything I need to know so that I know how to jump in front of it, and we’ll deal with what we’ve learned afterwards.” There was no anger, only understanding and empathy. And while we had a very direct discussion at a later time about how to prevent the situation from occurring again, I knew he 100% had my back and took responsibility for his team. And I knew I was never operating without a net. Which meant I worked 200x harder to never screw up again. Throwing one's team under the buss does not a great leader make.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Opinion | Bad News, Misogynists: Sex Robots Will Not Liberate You From Women (BuzzFeed News) Read this, if only to get to the delightful kicker: “…sex robots who will also do laundry, bake a cherry pie, and give decent foot massages aren’t on the horizon, despite the dreams of many a misogynist.” But seriously, this sick idea that some have we can separate women into parts and replace them with technology so that no one has to deal with us shrill harpies is both laughable and depressing.
And finally, go watch a thirteen minute comedy set on spreadsheets. No, seriously. Do it. It's awesome. Come on, don't pretend you're not nerds. I know y'all.
Speaking of which, I love you all. Be kind to each other.