Innovation Hub looks at how to reinvent our world – from medicine to education, relationships to time management. Great thinkers and great ideas, designed to make your life better.
The People Powering AI Decisions
The 1964 Supreme Court Case Jacobellis v. Ohio presented a highly subjective question to the justices: what is obscenity or pornography? How do you define it? Where do you draw the line? In response, Justice Potter Stewart gave us the iconic line, "I know it when I see it."
His ambiguous answer works fine for humans who can make judgement calls on the fly, but the algorithms that rule our lives need rules that are much more concrete. Say you flag something as inappropriate on social media. How is artificial intelligence meant to answer a question that even the Supreme Court could not definitively pin down?
That’s where humans come in. Mary Gray, an anthropologist and co-author of the book,“Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley From Building a New Global Underclass,” explores the work and lives of the real people behind online processes that internet users may assume are purely algorithmic. From analyzing medical tests, to flagging questionable social media posts, to identifying your rideshare driver, Gray argues that the human touch of “ghost work” is not only essential, but this hidden workforce will continue to keep growing.
The Lost Art of Listening
We have become accustomed to politicians shouting at each other, and confrontational TV talk show hosts who do anything but listen to their guests, but how good are any of us at truly focusing on the words of others in our conversations?
Listening is a lost art, according to Kate Murphy the author of “You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why It Matters,” and the cost to our health, our relationships, and our society is steep, she says. Murphy explains how the modern world has shaken our capacity for deep listening and what we can do about it.
The Evolution of Play
Childhood today is radically different than it was just a few generations ago. Before the coronavirus pandemic, kids’ busy schedules included school, homework, chores, sports, music lessons and other activities. Those packed schedules often left out one key element that is crucial to growth and learning — play. That’s according to Dorsa Amir, a postdoctoral researcher and evolutionary anthropologist at Boston College.
Amir has studied the Shuar people of Ecuador, a non-industrialized society, and observed startling differences in how Shuar children and American children spend their time. She tells us how childhood has changed drastically, and how that affects kids today.
When Romance Meets Ratios
In 2019, women hit a milestone in gender parity when they became the majority of the college-educated workforce. While it may be easy to see how this achievement will impact the economy, earnings, and job opportunities, it is probably a little bit harder to predict how it will shape, of all things, the dating market. Jon Birger, a business journalist and former senior writer at Fortune, has authored two books on the connection between ratios and relationships. Birger acknowledges that not everyone has a desire to engage in a heterosexual relationship or get married. But of those who do, college-educated women may have a particularly hard time finding a partner, he notes.
Birger says this is because there are many fewer men enrolled in college - about 60% of college freshmen are now women. Men also drop out of college at higher rates, resulting in a dating market with a shortage of college-educated men. When this gender asymmetry is extended into broader society, Birger explains it can have significant consequences for people’s happiness, fertility rates, and the economy. And Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University, talks with us about his - related - new research on changing marriage rates for college and non-college educated Americans.
Exercise is a relatively recent phenomenon. After all, it’s difficult to imagine a caveman on a treadmill. And it’s safe to say that paleolithic humans never pumped iron. But something changed as we moved from the plow to the Peloton. Exercise - physical exertion for the purpose of improving health or fitness - became a huge part of modern life, and a nearly $100 billion global industry.
But why do we spend so much time and money at the gym or on the track and does it actually help our well-being? And why is exercise, at least for some of us, such a miserable experience?
Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and author of the book “Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding,” has some fascinating answers.
How Gay Marriage Won
In the decades since Roe v. Wade, public sentiment about abortion has remained fairly steady. By contrast, in the mid-1990s, only around a quarter of the country supported gay marriage, and then, somehow, just 15 years later, those numbers had nearly doubled. Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage,” tracks the twists and turns that the fight for same-sex marriage in America took, from a power struggle over a parade in Hawaii, to shifts in elite opinion, which all brought gay marriage from a “quirky,” niche issue in the 90s to being federally accepted by 2015.