The Reconn Reader: 12 July, 2019

Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles I’ve come across in the past seven days. Here is this week’s selection. Inclusion does not mean endorsement. -CA


World & Politics


You will never stop us poaching, never, ever, ever, see. In our minds, f— their concerns, ’cause this is our place, that is our bread and butter. Talk about extinct and shit, f— that. Still lot of abalone there. Taste like the sea. I eat it, but I’m not actually fond of it. I still wondering, why is this species so expensive, why, why, what’s making it so? I don’t know, maybe the Chinese make medicine, make penis enlargement. I don’t go deep, as long as the money’s right, I don’t worry what you do with the abalone. (Bloomberg)

India is declaring millions of its citizens to be foreigners

Rather than find and prosecute illegal immigrants, Assam has instead tasked its 33m people, many of them poor and illiterate, with proving to bureaucrats that they deserve citizenship. Those who fail risk being locked up. Some 1,000 people currently moulder in Assam’s six existing detention centres for “foreigners”. The Indian public has lately been shocked by stories of people, such as a decorated war hero and a 59-year-old widow, who have found themselves jailed for failing to prove their Indian-ness. But the state of Assam is clearly expecting a lot more to come. Ten purpose-built camps are planned. (The Economist)

What Led Peru’s Former President to Take His Own Life?

Though he’d been under intense scrutiny, García died before any formal charges were filed against him. In the unintentionally poetic language of the Peruvian legal system, upon his death all pending investigations were “extinguished.” The current President, Martín Vizcarra, offered a state funeral, but García’s family declined. Instead, García’s body was moved to the Casa del Pueblo, where many in a large crowd of sympathizers, militants, and mourners chanted “Vizcarra Asesino,” accusing Vizcarra of having orchestrated the legal crisis that had doomed García.  (New Yorker)

Why Most Syrian Refugees Want to Stay in Germany

Some of the rulings currently being issued by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) seem almost cynical. One letter to a Syrian asylum-seeker who came to Germany in 2019, for example, stated that although “isolated attacks are still taking place that can also lead to civilian deaths,” it no longer rises to the level of “a blanket threat to all civilians living there.” The agency ruled the applicant could not be deported, but it did not grant refugee status. The lesser status translates to fewer rights and does not permit the person receiving it to bring family members to Germany. (Der Spiegel)


Business & Economics

Women give up competing more easily than men

Our results suggest that bad luck early on could be especially costly for women who aim to pursue such careers. One possible way to encourage workplace diversity at the top would be to soften the focus on competition. For example, achievements could be evaluated on absolute levels rather than framed as contests with winners and losers.  (LSE)

The Story McKinsey Didn’t Want Written

Despite the concerns about the protocol, when the Westmoreland disclosures were filed on July 3 in accordance with it, McKinsey disclosed hundreds of MIO connections. They included 56 investments — in funds run by Whitebox, UBS, BlackRock, Oaktree Capital Management, PIMCO, and Bank of America, among others. It also disclosed numerous hedge funds that had been McKinsey clients when they were lenders to other companies that filed for bankruptcy. (Institutional Investor)

Skills, not job titles, are the new metric for the labour market

Skills are the new currency on the labour market. Skills indicate demand and supply at a more nuanced level than occupations, whose required expertise and skills are changing increasingly quickly, and degrees, which are often already outdated by the time they are obtained. The current pace of change requires following the direction of a skills-based, rather than degree-based labor market, which is a much more dynamic variable. Using skills as a variable of analysis provides a powerful tool in helping policymakers prepare for the future while building resilience in the present day. (WEF)

Financing Advanced Manufacturing: Why VCs Aren’t the Answer

Though many U.S. social scientists think they were the first to identify a financing gap for scale-ups, sometimes referred to as “the valley of death,” the English realized they had this problem a long time ago.13 The Macmillan Committee, set up in 1929 to examine the causes of the depression in Britain, “unearthed structural fault lines in the provision of small to medium enterprise finance—the so-called ‘Macmillan gap.’”14 The context for the committee’s 1931 report about this gap was that the United Kingdom, in some ways like America today, had an extremely well-developed financial sector and a history of technological innovation, but problems connecting the two. The Macmillan gap has never really been closed. This can be seen in the fact that Britain invented the jet engine, radar, and, according to the English, the television, only to have other countries dominate these technologies. (American Affairs)


Science & Technology

Conspiracy theories about feminists wanting to destroy gamer culture being spread in 4chan and other forums had an actual negative impact in the physical world, much like the virulent spread of fake news in social media. For Milburn, therefore, ‘many different ideological positions and competing forces now situate themselves in relation to the discourse of high-tech superpowers—and they draw promiscuously from the same toolkits, employing all the same tactics and strategies’ (171). (LSE)

Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room

 But if neural networks are to have license to do a double take, they’ll need a sophisticated understanding of when to draw on this new capacity (when to look twice) and when to plow ahead in a feed-forward way. Human brains switch between these different processes seamlessly; neural networks will need a new theoretical framework before they can do the same. (Quanta)

The day I tasted climate change

I’ve smelled or spotted four major blazes in the last two years. This July, a close friend and her pregnant sister sped down Interstate 580, through the Altamont Pass, as flames raged on both sides. Another friend raced into Paradise to evacuate her father on the morning that the Camp Fire tore through the town. Still another sifted ashes in the remnants of homes a few days later, looking for bone fragments and other human remains as part of a local search and rescue team. (MIT Tech Review)

Has humanity reached ‘peak intelligence’?

Whatever the cause of the Flynn effect, there is evidence that we may have already reached the end of this era – with the rise in IQs stalling and even reversing. If you look at Finland, Norway and Denmark, for instance, the turning point appears to have occurred in the mid-90s, after which average IQs dropped by around 0.2 points a year. That would amount to a seven-point difference between generations. (BBC)

Culture & History

The Messy Reality of Personalized Learning

The prospect of children surfing the Web and clicking through their lessons while teachers, or non-teacher chaperones, pace the room is an emerging reality, especially in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi, where personalized “ed tech” is offered as a balm for budget austerity. “There’s been hyperbolic claims about the ability of these new technologies to radically transform schools,” Matthew Kraft, an associate professor of education at Brown University, told me. (New Yorker)


Perusing the clearance racks at GameStop, Anderson passed over a Stranger Things card game involving Eggo waffles (“There was a year that these were like 50 bucks on Amazon,” he reminisces), a rubber skillet somehow related to the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (“I love that game, and even I have no idea who would buy that”), and a Monopoly-branded toy gun that shoots hundred-dollar bills. There were rubber robot-monkey dolls called Fingerlings, which were so popular in 2017 that arbitrageurs made bots to buy them and incurred the wrath of Sen. Chuck Schumer. Here, they were half off by the rack. Anderson picked up a Red Dead Redemption 2-scented candle in the shape of a barrel, originally $100. “Consumerism, man,” he says, putting it back after his scanner told him it wasn’t worth it, even at half off. (The Verge)

In Spain, coverage of a sex crime opens debate about revealing identifying details in the press

oon after the verdict was handed down, Forocoches, Spain’s version of 4Chan, and other male-centric forums that rallied behind the accused men, posted the identity of the victim and shared pictures of her culled from her social media profiles. (She had previously been anonymous.) They were able to do so because of an error in the public version of the sentencing document. But this was simply the final step in a long endeavor: for months already, they had been cross-referencing bits of information published piecemeal across various media, connecting the dots.  (Columbia Journalism Review)

“I heard we had an old-time parent who gave a lot of money to the school — it’s not fair, but that’s what happens — who applied for their grandchild,” one former teacher confided. “Apparently they put in their application a day late, and Amy rejected them.” Morgano was by-the-book, but meanwhile, the daughter of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s stylist was able to “roll in midyear,” according to a parent at the school. While there may have been other factors at work — someone had moved, opening up a spot — the optics rankled. “People were like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ ” (The Cut)

Carlos Alvarenga

Founder and CEO at KatalystNet and Adjunct Professor in the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert E. Smith School of Business.

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