3-2-1 For 11-27-16

Three readings worth your time this week.

The death of Fidel Castro this week produced a lot of comment and, having recently visited Cuba, it was a story that caught my interest. One of the best pieces I read came from The Atlantic’s interview with “one of the leading historians of U.S.-Cuban relations” who actually interviewed Castro several times. Excellent historical context missing from so much US coverage. (about 12 minutes)

A new study finds that students in middle school through college have poor skills when it comes to evaluating the validity of material they read online. I know, not surprising. And it probably applies to many of their parents as well. I blame a school curriculum that emphasizes memorizing trivia and getting “right” answers over learning to analyze information. (about 5 minutes)

Over the past decade, much has been written about how digital devices are disrupting our ability to concentrate and messing with our memories. Nicholas Carr has created an entire career around that topic. One writer, however, says the idea is a myth and that every change in communications tools throughout human history was met by many of the same fears. (about 9 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

Technological breakthroughs and “moonshot” programs generate a lot of noise, but real, lasting progress usually comes in relatively small steps over long periods of time. Freakonomics has an interesting discussion in praise of that incrementalism. It’s a followup to the previous segment championing the value of maintaining what we already have, over innovation and the drive to produce something new. Both are worth a listen, in either order. (48:29 and 41:41) 1

One video to watch when you have a few minutes.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that nothing you find on a shelf in your supermarket lands there by accident. Manufacturers pay “slotting fees” to not only make their products available but also get them placed in a prime location. It’s a little geeky, but Vox does a good job of explaining the system, and why it could be both good and bad for the consumer. Nothing is ever simple. (6:58)

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