What I Have Been Reading – June 2020

Invisible insulation

I didn’t spend any time yesterday worrying about being eaten by a grizzly bear. Or that I would get cholera from the water in my house.

Over time, we’ve built layers of insulation between ourselves and the world.

Shoes make it easier to walk around. We can put one foot in front of the other without constantly scanning for rocks or rusty nails.

This invisible insulation is a form of civilization.

Seths blog


Finance Is Dead 

“Finance is, like, done. Everybody’s bought everybody else with low-cost debt. Everybody’s maximized their margin. They’ve bought all their shares back … There’s nothing there.”



Office Space

Facebook has joined companies including Twitter and Square in saying it will begin allowing select employees to work remotely full time, expecting 50% of its workforce to be remote within five to 10 years. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said about 75% of his employees expressed some interest in moving to a different city if they could work remotely.



Work From Home

According to a recent Federal Reserve survey, 62% of workers with a college degree said they worked from home in March, whereas just 20% of those with only a high-school diploma did.



Quarantines Psychological Effects

A study of the 2003 SARS epidemic — localized though it was — found that “quarantined persons … exhibited a high prevalence of psychological distress,” with PTSD observed in almost 30 percent of cases. The longer someone was isolated, the greater their chance of developing PTSD grew.




A single oil rig works in Venezuela, where the world’s biggest oil reserves sit, according to May data from Baker Hughes. One active crude rig takes the country back to the beginning of its oil industry.



Future Of Universities

Do students think their pricey degrees are worth the cost when delivered remotely?

The Wall Street Journal asked that question in April, and one student responded with this zinger: “Would you pay $75,000 for front-row seats to a Beyoncé concert and be satisfied with a livestream instead?” Another compared higher education to premium cable—an annoyingly expensive bundle with more options than most people need. “Give me the basic package,” he said.

The Atlantic


Quiet Time – Creative Time

Paul Davies, a respected physicist who teaches at Arizona State University, spent years bouncing around to science conferences and lectures. But when the pandemic hit, he was in Sydney, Australia, where he used to live — and that is where he was quite happy to remain.

He noted that during World War II, when travel was severely constricted, great discoveries occurred as the world’s sharpest minds stayed home and mulled the universe.

“Many of us have been saying for years that we have too many committees, far too many meetings and not nearly enough quiet thinking time,” Professor Davies said.

NY Times



Here’s the thing: You go back to the Spanish flu, you go back to all these things that were as devastating as this is, you go back and look at history where things were much more impactful from a mortality point of view, and you study it. And people went back sooner than you [expected] to their prior patterns, once they felt that they were in a healthy space.

Not that it’s the same by any means, but I remember 9/11. I lived through it. I was running another hotel company, and I remember sitting around talking with our board: “Nobody’s ever gonna get on a plane again. Why would they get on a plane?” Within a year, they did.



Economic Growth

There are two ways here: you get paid more or everything you buy is cheaper. And people always really underestimate, I think, the benefits of everything getting cheaper. And so the stuff that we actually build is getting cheaper all the time. And that’s fantastic. The stuff we don’t build, and very specifically, we don’t have housing, we’re not building schools, and we’re not building anything close to the health care system that we should have – for those things the prices just are skyrocketing. That’s where you get this zero sum politics.I think people have a very keen level of awareness. They can’t put it into formal economic terms but they have a keen awareness of the markers of a modern western lifestyle. It’s things like – I want to be able to own a house, I want to live in a nice neighborhood and I want to be able to send my kids to a really good school and I want to have really good health care.


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