from the world's big
A High-Speed Rail Pessimist
Michael Schrage examines the various roles of models, prototypes, and simulations as collaborative media for innovation risk management. He has served as an advisor on innovation issues and investments to major firms, including Mars, Procter & Gamble, Google, Intel, BT, Siemens, NASDAQ, IBM, and Alcoa. In addition, Schrage has advised segments of the national security community on cyber conflict and cybersecurity issues. He has presented workshops on design experimentation and innovation risk for businesses, organizations, and executive education programs worldwide. Along with running summer workshops on future technologies for the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, he has served on the technical advisory committee of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. In collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Schrage helped launch a series of workshops sponsored by the Department of Defense on federal complex systems procurement. In 2007, he served as a judge for the Industrial Designers Society of America's global International Design Excellence Awards.
Question: How viable are high-speed trains?
Michael Schrage: Speaking as somebody who will probably be taking the Acela some time this week, it would be nice if we had higher speed trains, let alone high-speed trains. I think that when you do back of the envelope, capital internal rate of return calculations and the number of people moved and the value of these things, it really doesn't work out very well. I am not an optimist on light rail or high-speed rail. I think I would rather invest in a counterpart of Ryanair, than in fixed track locations. I think it may work for Asia and Europe, but people are closer together, the city densities are different, the lifestyles are different, the cultures are different. And I'm one of these old fashioned people who take culture and lifestyle differences very seriously.
I believe that regions and states and cities should be doing experimentation. But it's been my unfortunate observation that a lot of what people call experiments are really ways of throwing money at a problem. One would think that California would have all manner of dedicated, faster rail. But you look at the economic success that Bart is not in the Bay area, despite the fact that there are good population densities, despite the fact that there's a variety of different ways to create complements between the rail and the car, and they haven't managed to pull it off. And I don't think people in California are stupid, so there must be other reasons.
Question: How viable is shared mobility?
Michael Schrage: Yeah, people are doing the Zip car thing, they're doing the bike thing. I know that they've tried this in Paris and have discovered that sometimes people aren't as well behaved or as altruistic or as nice as they should be.
Let me say something politically incorrect and I'm going to argue that some communities will do the shared thing very, very well. If you held a gun to my head, I think that many of these things will go over well in Denmark and parts of Sweden, rather than in parts of Paris.
I think shared mobility is a perfect example of something that technologically we could do with a snap of our fingers. The problem ain't the technology, it's--altogether now--the value and the politics, it's the differences in lifestyles. Do I think shared mobility will do gangbusters in Tokyo and Kyoto and large parts of Shanghai and Beijing? You betcha!
By the way, the reason why it's going to do really well in Beijing and Shanghai? Is if you don't share nicely, they're going to put you in jail. That's just not going to happen in America. No matter how much certain people want it.
Recorded on January 22, 2010
Michael Schrage would rather invest in a counterpart of Ryanair, than in fixed track locations: "It may work for Asia and Europe, but people are closer together, the city densities are different, the lifestyles are different, the cultures are different."
Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.
- If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
- Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
- In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.
- White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
- Carbon is an essential component of life.
- White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
What Are White Dwarf Stars?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b046e546ce994682b2553a8c978eb32"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/77a1KSxfaR0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The renowned magician recently joined Big Think CEO and cofounder Victoria Brown for a wide-ranging discussion.
- Penn Jillette is an American magician best known for his work as part of the magic duo Penn and Teller.
- Jillette has also written eight books, co-hosted the Showtime show "Bullshit," and produced the film "Tim's Vermeer."
- In the interview, Jillette talks about how libertarianism has been distorted in the U.S., and why the democratization of media hasn't produced a utopia.
How being businesslike — not affectionate — can build strong friendships<p>Jillette has been collaborating with the magician and filmmaker Teller for 44 years on their magic act, currently stationed out of Las Vegas. In all that time, Jillette says their friendship has been more businesslike than affectionate.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There's just some people you just want to be with and there's that cuddly feeling," Jillette said. "And there's other people who your relationship would be identical if it were over email, totally intellectual." </p><p>The pair's relationship is decidedly the latter. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Teller and I have never had any affection for one another," Jillette said. "No desire to hug. We only shake hands when it's part of a script. We don't seek out each other's company, but there's no one that I respect more and I believe at a core level that I do better stuff with Teller than I do alone."</p><p>But that's not to say that relationships like these are entirely about business.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It turns out respect is more enduring than love," he said. "Now, I have to add here that my daughter whenever I say this gets very, very bothered because she says that Teller is my BFF and there's no way around that and that's absolutely true. I'm saying that in a kind of skeletal way. The truth is that Teller's my best friend over all those years."</p><p>Jillette's description of this type of relationship sounds a bit like Aristotle's idea of the "friendship of the good." </p><p>The Greek philosopher outlined three types of friendship, each based on a different feeling or value: pleasure, utility, and "good." Aristotle thought the "friendship of the good" was the best kind of relationship, because it's built on the respect and admiration for the virtues each friend sees in the other. Aristotle believed these friendships might not form quickly, but <a href="https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/ethics/section8/" target="_blank">they tend to be longer lasting than the other types</a>.</p>
Why refusing to wear a mask is not a libertarian idea<p>Libertarianism is "the belief that peace, prosperity and social harmony are fostered by as much liberty as possible and as little government as necessary" according to the <a href="https://theihs.org/who-we-are/what-is-libertarian/" target="_blank">Institute for Human Studies</a> at George Mason University. But when this impulse toward individual freedom becomes too rigid, it can pose problems for a society that needs to work together to navigate a nationwide problem, like a pandemic.<br></p><p>Since COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S., there's been a portion of <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-masks-america/2020/04/18/bdb16bf2-7a85-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html" target="_blank">Americans who say it's un-American</a> for the government to try to force (or, more accurately in most cases, <em>ask</em>) citizens to wear masks in public. Here, Jillette distinguishes between <a href="https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/mod/oucontent/view.php?printable=1&id=1747" target="_blank">positive and negative freedoms</a>, most commonly defined as <em>freedom to </em>and <em>freedom from.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Libertarianism has been so distorted," Jillette said. "I mean I don't know if I have to pull my name out of that ring. It's been adopted by people who don't seem to hold the responsibility side of it and don't seem to hold the compassion side of it."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I can see arguments for not wearing seatbelts and I can see arguments for not wearing motorcycle helmets but I cannot see any argument for driving drunk. And that is what not wearing a mask is. It's not risking yourself. It's risking the people around you which I don't see a way that that's your right."</p>
How removing media gatekeepers didn't lead to utopia<p><span style="background-color: initial;">How did the democratization and decentralization of the media change the world? In the 1990s, Jillette might have said that removing media gatekeepers would produce a sort of open, meritocratic utopia: you have an interesting idea, you throw it online, and it spreads all over the world.</span><br></p><p>But that's not quite what happened.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I thought getting rid of the gatekeepers could be nothing but good," Jillette said. "And now it seems like getting rid of the gatekeepers gave us Trump as president and in the same breath, in the same wind, gave us not wearing masks and maybe gave us a huge unpleasant amount of overt racism."</p><p>It also gave us cancel culture. But Jillette said he "can't even rant against cancel culture," because there's no obvious way to fix it without obstructing free speech rights. After all, it's a good thing that victimized people are now able to go online, post grievances, and (sometimes) see justice delivered, whereas in the past they had to file their complaints with a series of gatekeepers. But simultaneously, this unmanaged system leaves it vulnerable for abuse.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Now you could be obviously lying and still have a million-and-a-half people believe you and do real damage to the person that you said wrong to," Jillette said.</p>
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.
- Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
- The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
- What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
3 Tips on Negotiations, with FBI Negotiator Chris Voss | Best of '16 | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b86d518e9f0c9f9d7a7c686e07798152"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-FLlBchonwM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This question forces a response, but—and this is key—the other person has to consider your side of the argument. They have to look at the situation from your perspective if they hope to offer a solution.</p><p>Offering a real-world example, Voss mentions coaching a high-end real estate agent. They were leasing an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills. The first time the negotiators asked the "how" question, the leasing agent relented on a number of terms. A little while later, they asked again. This time, the agent said, "If you want the house you're going to have to do it," signaling that the end of negotiations had been reached. </p><p>Voss says that "how" is not the only word that works. "What" is also a powerful entry into negotiations, such as "What am I supposed to do?" Again, you're forcing the other person to empathize. </p><p>This is a particularly tricky skill during a time when most conversations are online. Nuance is impossible without the immediacy of pantomimes and vocal fluctuations. Whataboutism is too easy an escape. </p>
Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (1883 - 1969, standing, centre left), founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, demonstrating his art with a follower, at the opening ceremony of the newly-opened aikido headquarters, Hombu Dojo, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1967.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)<p>Online debates often amount to little more than frustrated individuals pulling out their hair. In his book, "Against Empathy," Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes that effective altruists are able to focus on what really matters in everyday life.</p><p>For example, he compares politics to sports. Rooting for your favorite team isn't based in rationality. If you're a Red Sox fan, Yankees stats don't matter. You just want to destroy them. This, he believes, is how most people treat politics. "They don't care about truth because, for them, it's not really about truth."</p><p>Bloom writes that if his son believed our ancestors rode dinosaurs, it would horrify him, but "I can't think of a view that matters less for everyday life." We have to strive for rationality when the stakes are high. When involved in real decision-making processes that will affect their life, people are better able to express ideas and make arguments, and are more receptive to opposing ideas. </p><p>Because we "become inured to problems that seem unrelenting," it's imperative to make the problem seem immediate. As Voss says, giving the other side "the illusion of control" is one way of accomplishing this, as it forces them to take action. When people feel out of control, negotiations are impossible. People dig their heels in and refuse to budge. </p><p>What seems to be weakness is actually a strength. To borrow another martial arts metaphor, negotiations are like aikido: using your opponent's force against them while also protecting them from injury. Forcing empathy is one way to accomplish this task. You may get more than you ask for without the other side ever realizing they surrendered anything.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>