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Steve Leckie

Steve Leckie's Public Library

  • recent report in the journal Nature is proposing the year 1610 as the beginning of what has become known as the Anthropocene
  • Disease brought by those Europeans killed roughly 50 million native Americans, who were mostly farmers. Their abandoned farmland was taken over by forest and jungle in such a growth spurt, it sucked carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, a dip that can be seen today in ice cores. So, it was global trade that marks the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch.
Nov 22, 14

Comment: Google the "Hawthorne Effect."

Efficiencies studies were done at a factory in 1924-1932 to see if brighter lights increased productivity. They did. So the researchers kept making the lights brighter, and productivity went up even more. Finally, they tried making the lights dimmer, and productivity went up.

Industrial psychologists eventually suspected that people liked being paid attention to, and thus tended to respond positively to whatever stimulus the folks in labcoats with clipboards dreamed up.

  • By the 1970s, Langer had become convinced that not only are most people led astray by their biases, but they are also spectacularly inattentive to what’s going on around them. “They’re just not there,” as she puts it. When you’re not there, Langer reasoned, you’re very likely to end up where you’re led. She set up a number of studies to show how people’s thinking and behavior can easily be manipulated with subtle primes.
  • In one, she and her colleagues found that office workers were far more likely to comply with a ridiculous interdepartmental memo if it looked like other official memos.
  • Langer’s technique of achieving a state of mindfulness is different from the one often utilized in Eastern “mindfulness meditation” — nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts and feelings drifting through your mind — that is everywhere today. Her emphasis is on noticing moment-to-moment changes around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms. When we are “actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual” categorizations, we’re alive; and when we’re alive, we can improve. Indeed, “well-being and enhanced performance”

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  • 45 per cent of American jobs could be taken by computers within two decades. 
  • the current robotic revolution is that change is actually happening at an exponential rate.
  • the agricultural revolution that drove people off the land and into the cities, where they found a new kind of work. They say the same thing will happen this time.

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Sep 24, 14

Martin Ford, author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, worries that we are on the way to a world where robots do most of the work, driving up unemployment to levels never seen before.

"How do we get an income into people's hands so that they can survive, so that they are not on the street?" Ford asks.

He says an economy needs more than the invention and manufacture of products. Someone has to buy them. And those buyers perform the important function of selecting which technologies are most workable and effective. 

"The market, where people go out and make purchasing decisions, [is] very important to driving our economy," says Ford.

  • my job was to live as if I had only 6 months left to live. I was in perfect health and in the middle of a ten-year round the world trip, so this interruption was unexpected and strange. I've told the full story of that curious mission on the very first episode of This American Life, the public radio storytelling hit, 10 years ago, so I won't go into further detail because you can hear my account  on this streaming audio file from the NPR site.
  • My friend Stewart Brand, who is now 69, has been arranging his life in blocks of 5 years. Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. From moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a start-up will take 5 years to play through. So, he asks himself, how many 5 years do I have left? He can count them on one hand even if he is lucky. So this clarifies his choices. If he has less than 5 big things he can do, what will they be?

  • When I struggle to get work done, it’s usually because I don’t have a routine. When I work freely, I often feel rushed, or distracted, or not really free at all. I’m looking for routine.
  • Routine takes away the small but incremental cost of making decisions. This leaves us with more brainpower for creative exercises. I know it helps me with my writing — writing music, writing lyrics, writing prose. I enjoy creating. I enjoy sharing ideas. But when I’m scatterbrained, or when I have to figure out when to do it, writing — or any creative activity — becomes work. And it’s difficult to get into flow when a task feels like work.


    Creative tasks can just exist in the moment. That’s my goal. Be in the moment, and stop thinking about what I need to do next, or what I should have done earlier.

Jun 11, 14

The cranberries took about 20-24 hours. You really need to watch this fruit closely, because if they get too dried out, they’re completely hard and have zero taste. If they get slightly overdone, they’re chewy – like eating waxed paper – and have almost no taste.

  • A few years ago scientists at Amgen, an American drug company, tried to replicate 53 studies that they considered landmarks in the basic science of cancer, often co-operating closely with the original researchers to ensure that their experimental technique matched the one used first time round. According to a piece they wrote last year in Nature, a leading scientific journal, they were able to reproduce the original results in just six. Months earlier Florian Prinz and his colleagues at Bayer HealthCare, a German pharmaceutical giant, reported in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, a sister journal, that they had successfully reproduced the published results in just a quarter of 67 seminal studies.
  • Academic scientists readily acknowledge that they often get things wrong. But they also hold fast to the idea that these errors get corrected over time as other scientists try to take the work further. Evidence that many more dodgy results are published than are subsequently corrected or withdrawn calls that much-vaunted capacity for self-correction into question.
  • “There is no cost to getting things wrong,” says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who has taken an interest in his discipline’s persistent errors. “The cost is not getting them published.”
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