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Thursday 13 May 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

1. Smaller, faster, better
IBM introduced what it says is the world's first 2-nanometer chipmaking technology. The technology could be as much as 45% faster than the mainstream 7-nanometer chips in many of today's laptops and phones and up to 75% more power efficient, the company said. To put that in perspective: Dario Gil, IBM's SVP and director of IBM Research, told us it’s like using a state-of-the-art iPhone for four days straight on a single charge.

Making the switches very tiny makes them faster and more power efficient, but it also creates problems with electrons leaking when the switches are supposed to be off. DarĂ­o Gil, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, told Reuters in an interview that scientists were able to drape sheets of insulating material just a few nanometers thick to stop leaks.

The two-nanometer node will allow engineers to build 50 billion transistors into a chip the size of a fingernail. Each transistor is thinner than a single strand of human DNA.

2. Make work meaningful
Money is important, but it’s not the most important factor in leading a fulfilling life. In his book Outliers, Gladwell posits: “If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take?” Probably the former. There are three things he says we need for our work to be satisfying: 1) autonomy, 2) complexity, and 3) a connection between effort and reward. Remember, he says, “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.”

3. Why People Who Have It Easy Claim They Had It Rough
People who benefit from their skin color, family wealth, or connections face a dilemma because their privilege clashes with the hallowed American notion that success is — or should be — achieved exclusively through a combination of talent and hard work.

“If we lived in a society with an aristocracy, we’d justify it on bloodlines,” Lowery says. “You wouldn’t have to say, ‘I earned it.’ ” Instead, Americans who’ve benefited from their complexion or networks are under psychological pressure to prove their personal merit. If someone accepts that achievement and virtue are intertwined, Lowery notes, “It feels bad to believe that is not how you achieved your outcomes.”

How do those at the top deal with that potentially guilt-inducing dissonance? One way is by making exaggerated claims about hardships that they overcame on the way to achieving their success. If they’re not given the opportunity to portray themselves as having overcome adversity, they’ll switch to claiming that they’ve worked really hard to get ahead.

4. Cut yourself some slack
If you ever find yourself stressed, overwhelmed, sinking into stasis despite wanting to change, or frustrated when you can’t respond to new opportunities, you need more slack in your life.

As individuals, many of us are also obsessed with the mirage of total efficiency. We schedule every minute of our day, pride ourselves on forgoing breaks, and berate ourselves for the slightest moment of distraction. We view sleep, sickness, and burnout as unwelcome weaknesses and idolize those who never seem to succumb to them. This view, however, fails to recognize that efficiency and effectiveness are not the same thing.

Many of us have come to expect work to involve no slack time because of the negative way we perceive it. In a world of manic efficiency, slack often comes across as laziness or a lack of initiative. Without slack time, however, we know we won’t be able to get through new tasks straight away, and if someone insists we should, we have to drop whatever we were previously doing. One way or another, something gets delayed. The increase in busyness may well be futile

5. How the Personal Computer Broke the Human Body
Decades before “Zoom fatigue” broke our spirits, the so-called computer revolution brought with it a world of pain previously unknown to humankind. There was really no precedent in our history of media interaction for what the combination of sitting and looking at a computer monitor did to the human body. Unlike television viewing, which is done at greater distance and lacks interaction, monitor use requires a short depth of field and repetitive eye motions. And whereas television has long accommodated a variety of postures, seating types, and distances from the screen, personal computing typically requires less than 2-3 feet of proximity from monitor, with arms extended for using a keyboard or mouse.

Forty years later, what started with simple complaints about tired eyes has become common place experience for anyone whose work or school life revolves around a screen. The aches and pains of computer use now play an outsized role in our physical (and increasingly, our mental) health, as the demands of remote work force us into constant accommodation. We stretch our wrists and adjust our screens, pour money into monitor arms and ergonomic chairs, even outfit our offices with motorized desks that can follow us from sitting to standing to sitting again. Entire industries have built their profits on our slowly curving backs, while physical therapists and chiropractors do their best to stem a tide of bodily dysfunction that none of us opted into. Our bodies, quite literally, were never meant to work this way.

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