April 26, 2017

1843 Magazine - The data or the hunch 16min

The gift for talent-spotting is mysterious, highly prized and celebrated. We love to hear stories about the baseball coach who can spot the raw ability of an erratic young pitcher, the boss who sees potential in the guy in the post room, the director who picks a soloist out of the chorus line. Talent shows are a staple of the TV schedules. We like to believe that certain people – sometimes ourselves – can just sense when a person has something special. But there is another method of spotting talent which doesn’t rely on hunches. In place of intuition, it offers data and analysis. Rather than relying on the gut, it invites us to use our heads. It tends not to make for such romantic stories, but it is effective – which is why, despite our affection, the hunch is everywhere in retreat. ... The low level of the validity ceiling makes sense when you think about the web of interacting forces – individual ability, organisational culture, social and economic change, pure luck – involved in any success or failure. Weather forecasters using vast databases can say with confidence if it’s going to rain only a few days in advance. Predicting the outcome of human endeavour is even more complex – imagine if clouds had feelings – yet we desperately want to believe our hunches can tell us what will happen in a year or five years’ time.

Fortune - Donald Trump, Palantir, and the crazy battle to clean up a multibillion-dollar Military procurement swamp 45min

While Donald Trump was promising last year to drain the swamp in Washington, a long, quiet battle to drain an especially entrenched, money-wasting corner of that morass was reaching a surprising turning point in a courthouse that sits a few hundred feet from the White House. ... Only days before the presidential election, a judge in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered the Pentagon to reverse course in a major procurement bidding process. The decision marked the dramatic end of a long first round in what was an unusually bitter and consequential fight for this obscure court. As of press time, the ruling was being appealed through the usual legal channels. ... the dispute’s outcome may now be determined not by the courts, but rather by President Trump and some of his administration’s most powerful players. They are all connected to a controversial company that began an unprecedented battle eight years ago to crash a long-running, exclusive party involving the annual dispensing of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. ... The Army chose instead to favor an updated version of a deeply flawed system created by a team of defense contractors that epitomizes the Washington establishment: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others. Over 16 years the system had produced cascading cost overruns, and bills of nearly $6 billion. The result had been a platform that troops in the field and Government Accountability Office auditors agreed was so clunky to use, when it worked at all, that it often sat unplugged and shoved under desks at various outposts. ... Yet the requirements for the new version disqualified what Philippone believed was Palantir’s proven, off-the-shelf platform, which could be supplied to all the troops for about $100 million a year.

Bloomberg - Larry Fink Q&A: “I Don’t Identify as Powerful” 23min

In this interview, Fink relives the decisive moments that shaped his company, sets a limit on his tenure as CEO, explains the reasoning—and risks—in his succession strategy, and shares his plans for a life after BlackRock. ... When you talk about revolutions, it’s always with the benefit of hindsight. When you’re in the moment, you’re working toward an objective. Even back in the infancy of the mortgage business and asset-based finance, it was very clear we were changing finance, but I don’t think we were very clear on where this was going to go and how far this was going to get. When we bought BGI [Barclays Global Investors], iShares had $385 billion in assets; today iShares has $1.3 trillion. If you’d asked me if I had expected that when I acquired BGI in 2009, I would have said no. But if you’d asked if I’d known ETFs would change the investment management business, yes.

Priceonomics - Is Every Speed Limit Too Low? 7min

Over the past 12 years, Lt. Megge has increased the speed limit on nearly 400 of Michigan’s roadways. Each time, he or one of his officers hears from community groups who complain that people already drive too fast. But as Megge and his colleagues explain, their intent is not to reduce congestion, bow to the reality that everyone drives too fast, or even strike a balance between safety concerns and drivers’ desire to arrive at their destinations faster. Quite the opposite, Lt. Megge advocates for raising speed limits because he believes it makes roads safer. ... This “nationally recognized method” of setting the speed limit as the 85th percentile speed is essentially traffic engineering 101. It’s also a bit perplexing to those unfamiliar with the concept. Shouldn’t everyone drive at or below the speed limit? And if a driver’s speed is dictated by the speed limit, how can you decide whether or not to change that limit based on the speed of traffic? ... The answer lies in realizing that the speed limit really is just a number on a sign, and it has very little influence on how fast people drive.

TechRepublic - Inside Amazon's clickworker platform: How half a million people are being paid pennies to train AI 17min

The number of active workers, who live across the globe, is estimated to run between 15,000 and 20,000 per month, according to Panos Ipeirotis, a computer scientist and professor at New York University's business school. Turkers work anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours a day. ... American Turkers are mostly women. In India, they're mostly men. Globally, they're most likely to have been born between 1980-1990. About 75% are Americans, roughly 15-20% are from India, and the remaining 10% are from other countries. ... "Requesters"—the people, businesses, and organizations that outsource the work—set prices for each task, and the tasks vary widely. ... what do Turkers make, on average? It's hard to say. But Adrien Jabbour, in India, said "it's an achievement to make $700 in 2 months of work, working 4-5 hours every day." Milland reported that she recently made $25 for 8 hours of work, and called that "a good day."

New York Magazine - A Portrait of I. M. Pei at (Nearly) 100 4min

Over the course of his career, the aristocrat of American architects, who turns 100 on April 26, has drawn on a dazzling range of influences, from Chinese gardens to ancient Colorado cliff dwellings to the fountain in a Cairo mosque. He blended the austere modernism of the Bauhaus with opulent Beaux-Arts classicism, technological daredevilry with reverence for precedent and a minute study of the past. ... Born a banker’s son in Shanghai, Pei arrived at MIT in 1935 as an engineering student and later attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design. By the time he was done with his studies, the Japanese had gone to war with China and bombed Pearl Harbor. He was not going home anytime soon — not, as it turned out, until 1974.