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Empathy in development, critiquing ‘kids today’, banning Billionaires

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How Microsoft’s cultural shift is leading to new product development. It’s a slightly old article (Feb ’19) but still, well worth a read.

Starting off with Swetha Machanavajhala’s story which led to MS Teams & Skype implementing background blurring on video calls (which is btw, a fantastic curb-cut effect), and including bits about Soundscape and Seeing AI, it’s a really good piece to get you thinking more about empathy and innovation.

“People with disabilities are the ultimate early adopters and in many ways are ahead of the curve in terms of tech,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineer in London who leads Microsoft’s Seeing AI research project. “They have a lot more to gain so are willing to try things out a lot earlier on, when things aren’t quite ready yet, and then they help that technology mature into something for mainstream use.”


This explanation of why saying ‘kids these days’ is a thing: Why the youth of today seem lacking.

We assess people’s tendency to believe “kids these days” are deficient relative to those of previous generations. … American adults believe today’s youth are in decline; however, these perceptions are associated with people’s standing on those traits.

When observing current children, we compare our biased memory to the present and a decline appears. This may explain why the kids these days effect has been happening for millennia.

I’m a big advocate that ‘kids today’ being much better than some people give them credit for (I even did a talk on it) so it’s nice to have this article which gives actual science and stuff to back it up. (I must confess, I have not ready the whole thing yet – it’s long – but it’s bookmarked and I’ll definitely be coming back to it!)


The worship of billionaires has become our shittiest religion. There’s been a lot of talk about billionaires lately, serving to re-emphasise how absolutely ludicrous the idea of being a billionaire actually is.

Indeed: One billion dollars is such a huge amount of money, that there has recently emerged a whole sub-genre of images specifically designed to help us get our heads around how huge it is. If you, for instance, had earned a million a year, every year since the Battle of Hastings (that’s 1066, for non-Brits), and not spent any of it, you still wouldn’t (interest notwithstanding) be a billionaire. If you earned an annual salary of $43,000, you might eventually become a billionaire (again, not accounting for expenses or accumulated interest) — if you waited over 23,000 years.

It’s baffling to me that ‘normal’ people (i.e. those of us who don’t ‘earn’ millions a year) see hoarding cash in unfathomable quantities as a viable option, something that we can all aspire to. It’s not about not letting people be rich; being a billionaire is not being rich.

One billion dollars is far, far more money than anyone could realistically spend, on their needs, within the span of a human lifetime. If you have one billion dollars, you are completely shielded from all ordinary human concerns.

Ban them all.

Vote Labour.

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