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Complexity

Complexity of human life is increasing, perhaps more rapidly than any increase in human ability to cope with complexity. For instance, the simple act of buttering one's bread, once a mindless matter of spreading butter, now involves a complicated choice: Is it better to use butter, or to select one of several ersatz alternatives?

Butter is high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which are linked to heart disease. Margarine contains unsaturated fat, but some varieties contain trans fats, which are also dangerous. Nutritionists suggest closely inspecting the label of your brand.

“Your goal is to limit intake of saturated fats and to avoid trans fats altogether,” according to Harvard Medical School.

“Look for a spread that doesn’t have trans fats and has the least amount of saturated fat,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
- DANIEL VICTOR, Butter or Margarine? In Dunkin’ Donuts Lawsuit, Man Accepts No Substitutes, NYT, APRIL 4, 2017



I believe the accelerations set loose by Silicon Valley in technology and digital globalization have created a world where every decent job demands more skill and, now, lifelong learning. More people can’t keep up.... ...
When you get that much processing power, putting out that much data exhaust with ever-improving software, you create a world where we can analyze, prophesize and optimize with a precision unknown in human history. We can see trends we never saw, predict when engine parts will break and replace them before they do, with great savings, and we can optimize everything.... ...
The notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge for the next 30 is over. If you want to be a lifelong employee anywhere today, you have to be a lifelong learner.
And that means: More is now on you. And that means self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill. ...
So the tough news is that more will be on you. The good news is that systems — like Khan-College Board — are emerging everywhere to enable anyone to accelerate learning for the age of acceleration.
- Thomas L. Friedman, Owning Your Own Future, NYT, MAY 10, 2017


The cyberattack was able to spread so quickly in part because of its high level of sophistication. The malware, experts said, was based on a method that the N.S.A. is believed to have developed as part of its arsenal of cyberweapons. Last summer, a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers” posted online digital tools that it had stolen from the United States government’s stockpile of hacking weapons. ...

Industry officials said law enforcement officials would find it difficult to catch the ringleaders, mostly because such cyberattacks are borderless crimes in which the attackers hide behind complex technologies that mask their identities. And national legal systems were not created to handle such global crimes.
- MARK SCOTT and NICK WINGFIELD, Hacking Attack Has Security Experts Scrambling to Contain Fallout, NYT, MAY 13, 2017


The rejection of the complexity of modern politics — as well as modern business and modern life in general — lies at the core of populism’s appeal. The first American president with no record of political or military service, Donald Trump ran on a platform of denigrating expertise. His message was that anyone with experience in politics was a corrupt insider and, indeed, that a lack of experience was the best qualification.
- Masha Gessen, Trump’s Incompetence Won’t Save Our Democracy, NYT, JUNE 2, 2017


In the long months since the election, I have been doing some deep thinking about America, trump-supporters, and the future. I have come to believe that it is not low income and education which are the defining characteristics of the trump-supporter, rather it is fear of / inability to handle complexity. The modern world frightens them; the future frightens them. They fear the adaptability, the flexibility needed to survive and thrive. They don't have it and they don't want it. They want a stable, secure, predictable world to live in and Trump promised them that world. He can't deliver, anymore than he can bring back all the manufacturing jobs lost to technology.
- sjs from bridgeport, ct, comment on America in Retreat by THE EDITORIAL BOARD, NYT, JUNE 3, 2017


For a car owner — and certainly renters who might not know what they are getting into — the best way to prevent an unpleasant middle-of-the-night surprise is to check for a spare and be sure that it holds air. If there’s a sealant kit instead, read the owner’s manual (which may be on a DVD or available on the car’s display screen) and learn how to use it.
- NORMAN MAYERSOHN, Cars Lose the Spare Tire for a Leaner Ride, but It Could Cost You Wheels, NYT, NOV. 9, 2017


In May, Mr. Swanljung handed his Medicare prescription card to the pharmacist at his local Walgreens and was told that he owed $83.94 for a three-month supply.

Alarmed at that price, Mr. Swanljung went online and found Blink Health, a start-up, offering the same drug — generic Crestor — for $45.89.

It had struck a better deal than did his insurer, UnitedHealthcare. “It’s completely ridiculous,” said Mr. Swanljung, 72, who lives in Anacortes, Wash. ...
The system has become so complex that “there’s no chance that a consumer can figure it out without help,” said the expert, Michael Rea, chief executive of Rx Savings Solutions, whose company is paid by employers to help them lower workers’ drug costs. ...
Consumers also may face penalties if they don’t use their insurance and pay cash to save money. In many cases, insurers won’t let them apply those purchases to a deductible or out-of-pocket spending maximum. ...
Several independent pharmacists said there might be safety issues if consumers buy drugs at different pharmacies. If those prescriptions are filled without an insurance card, pharmacy systems may not catch dangerous drug interactions. “That, to me, is a recipe for disaster,” said Craig Seither, who owns Fort Thomas Drug Center in Fort Thomas, Ky.

- CHARLES ORNSTEIN and KATIE THOMAS, Prescription Drugs May Cost More With Insurance Than Without It, NYT, DEC. 9, 2017


In late 2008, at a meeting with academics at the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II asked why no one seemed to have anticipated the world’s worst financial crisis in the postwar period. The so-called Great Recession, which had begun in late 2008 and would run until mid-2009, was set off by the sudden collapse of sky-high prices for housing and other assets — something that is obvious in retrospect but that, nevertheless, no one seemed to see coming.

Are we about to make the same mistake? All too likely, yes. Certainly, the American economy is doing well, and emerging economies are picking up steam. But global asset prices are once again rising rapidly above their underlying value — in other words, they are in a bubble.
- DESMOND LACHMAN, The Global Economy Is Partying Like It’s 2008, NYT, DEC. 13, 2017


Facebook recently announced that it would offer users 50 different possibilities and permutations of gender identification. In the gender category under “Basic Information,” the drop-down box now includes such “custom” choices as non-binary, intersex, neutrois, androgyne, agender, gender questioning, gender fluid, gender variant, genderqueer and neither.
- AIMEE LEE BALL, Who Are You on Facebook Now?: Facebook Customizes Gender With 50 Different Choices, NYT, APRIL 4, 2014


Mr. Rothenberg’s organization has long pushed for stronger standards for online advertising. In a speech last year, he implored the industry to “take civic responsibility for our effect on the world.” But he conceded the business was growing and changing too quickly for many to comprehend its excesses and externalities — let alone to fix them.

“Technology has largely been outpacing the ability of individual companies to understand what is actually going on,” he said.
- Farhad Manjoo, Tackling the Internet’s Central Villain: The Advertising Business, NYT, JAN. 31, 2018



Modern hormonal treatment allows male humans who wish to do so to grow breasts. Soon men may also be able to breast-feed their children. Wouldn't it be fairest for men to do an equal share of infant feeding, along with changing diapers and helping with housework?

Within a month, according to the journal Transgender Health, the woman, 30, who was born male, was producing droplets of milk. Within three months — two weeks before the baby’s due date — she had increased her production to eight ounces of milk a day.

In the end, the study showed, “she was able to achieve sufficient breast milk volume to be the sole source of nourishment for her child for six weeks,” according to the journal. ...
The transgender woman in the experiment... approached the medical professionals for hormonal medications in 2011 as part of transgender treatment. She had been receiving it for several years before she began breast-feeding, according to the study. She had not had gender-reassignment surgery nor breast augmentation.
She took on the responsibility of breast-feeding because her partner, who was five months pregnant when they approached the hospital, did not want to.
- CEYLAN YEGINSU, Transgender Woman Breast-Feeds Baby After Hospital Induces Lactation, NYT, FEB. 15, 2018





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