Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week
Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.
The largest ever study of fake news – for real!
Anne says: This week my attention was drawn to an article in the Atlantic about fake news and the largest study (ever) conducted by researchers at MIT. I’ve been intrigued about recent studies – not by the results, but by their methodologies that attempt to unravel what makes fake news spread. Most studies (with weak methodology) are claiming it’s the bots – but this study has used a number of criteria and data sources. And, guess what? It’s not the bots… it’s us!!
The study is huge – based on Twitter, in English, across 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years.
It’s unsettling, if not alarming – that human nature favours tweets that are more “novel” than real news, evoke emotion, elicit words associated with surprise and disgust and gossip! Pass it on…
Sure – the bots are there – and were found to ampilfy tweets – but the main culprit for spreading of false news was people. In fact, they found that a false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker that a true story!
So – while social media companies are trying to write algorithms to manage false news spreading, there’s a message – take a look at human behaviour! In fact, reflect on your own behaviour – do you fact check stories before passing them on? What’s your criteria? The authenticity of the original source (person or media outlet), your relationship to them (are they reliable, trusted source) and… there’s always the duck. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck – it’s a duck!!
The authors warn of dangerous times ahead – I’d suggest we need to be having some conversations about how we behave, educating people on spreading false rumours (this existed before social media!), and consider how our actions, even the small effortless action of retweeting, can impact the spread of false news.
Ponder on the closing paragraph:
“In short, social media seems to systematically amplify falsehood at the expense of the truth, and no one — neither experts nor politicians nor tech companies — knows how to reverse that trend. It is a dangerous moment for any system of government premised on a common public reality.”
There’s also an audio version if you’d prefer to listen (30mins): https://soundcloud.com/user-154380542/the-grim-conclusions-of-the-largest-ever-study-of-fake-news-the-atlantic-robinson-meyer
Human ingenuity at its best
Helen says: This week we mourned the passing of arguably one the world’s most inspirational people, Stephen Hawking, whose brilliance, ingenuity, tenacity and humanity touched millions of lives.
I have mentioned before technology’s role in improving accessibility for all, and I have also referenced the AFR Game Changers series. I wanted to share another of these podcasts, True Leaders Game Changers 2017: on the cusp of a health revolution, where we hear from two Australian entrepreneurs who are leading the charge in developing technology that will change the lives of many, from the deaf to paraplegics.
The entrepreneurs are Carolyn Mee, a former TV presenter and media producer turned serious games entrepreneur, who has developed a digital game Sound Scouts. It is used to check hearing health, and can be used across the community and in regions that up until now have not had the opportunity to access timely diagnosis and intervention. And Dr Tom Oxley, a neurosurgeon and entrepreneur who invented the stentrode. This is a neural interface that has the potential to mobilise paraplegics. His aim is to “get enough data out of the brain that it becomes useful for a person who is unable to utilise their own nervous system to act upon messages coming from their brain”.
To quote Stephen Hawking, “People need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.” With the help of technology Stephen was able to communicate his brilliance and enrich the world. It is exciting to learn that through the hard work of inspiring Australians like Carolyn Mee and Dr Tom Oxley, inventions such as Sound Scouts and the stentrode promise to unlock more human potential.
Robot removes tumour from 6yo girl’s head in Australian first surgery
Joel says: We’re living in a time where I can barely go a week without seeing or hearing the old “Robots/Technology are coming to take away all our jobs” talk. Looking at this article it’s clear that there are some things in life, especially those things requiring fine levels of finesse, that robots probably should take the reins on.
Recently a Melbourne surgeon has used a robot to remove a tumour from a girl’s head in an Australian-first operation.
The successful operation was recently performed on six year old Freyja Christiansen at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond. The Canberra girl was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma near the base of her skull in December 2016, along with other tumours in her head and neck.
Head and neck surgeon Ben Dixon agreed to perform the life-saving surgery, which used a robot entering through Freyja’s mouth to remove the rare tumour.
This is the first time robotic surgery has been done on a child in Australia. It has been done elsewhere in other countries but only a couple of times for malignant tumours and none in this position.
Thankfully all seems to have gone well with Freyja’s surgery, and she is already feeling better and planning her future activities for when she is fully healed.
Robots like these enhance our abilities to do great things like saving lives, but when thinking about whether robots will take our jobs it’s probably worth remembering they’re not all so sophsticated: like in this story where ‘Flippy’ the burger-flipping robot was taken offline after just one day of work.
Perhaps we should stick to the burgers and let the robots save our lives?
Jurassic World Alive AR game is Pokémon Go with dinosaurs
Nat says: In 2016, the Pokémon Go game was all the rage. News stories would emerge reporting that mass amounts of people were running around parks and public spaces, seemingly chasing nothing, whilst their eyes were glued to their mobile phones and their fingers ‘flicked’ their screen in an upwards motion; capturing and training supposed augmented Pokémons. Fast forward two years and now we have a ‘Jurassic’ version of Pokémon Go — capturing and training dinosaurs!
I never played the original Pokémon Go, but the dinosaur version might just sway me to play this time around when the game is released. The reason I am somewhat excited about this game is because of the random love affair I have always had with dinosaurs and the story of Jurassic Park. I saw the first film at the cinema when I was just four years old, and I instantly became hooked. To this day, Jurassic Park remains my all-time favourite movie. I’m not lying when I say I have an obsession. I went on the JP ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood when I was 8 years old. At 12 years old, I wore my “I survived Jurassic Park the ride” t-shirt to year 7 camp (in hindsight this was probably the reason why many people didn’t talk to me on day one), and earlier this year – for my 30th – I visited Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii (pic below) so I could see where part of the original and where most of the Chris Pratt version of the movie was filmed.
The reason I love the story of Jurassic Park (and Michael Crichton’s books upon which the story is based) is, unsurprisingly, existential. But it is curious that much like the tagline of the film being 65 million years in the making, it took me many years to come to understand why my love affair with JP was always so strong. The reason? The story depicts mankind’s God complex and desire to control something we are inextricably inseparable from (nature), whilst also bringing to the fore our paradoxical, yet obsessive, need to relive the past as we attempt to stride valiantly into a technological future. The movie symbolizes the dark side of mankind’s pursuit of science and technology. Perhaps I will one day use the story of JP in a critique of modern science, but for now let me say that the nerd in me is grateful the story exists just so I may soon be able to play with augmented dinosaurs via an app on my mobile phone.
What Does It Cost To Be Big On Instagram?
“As the field grows more and more crowded with would-be social media stars, the margins of the business have become tighter, and it takes more than luck or good clothes to build a sustainable career as an influencer.”
Emilio says: To onlookers, they’re living the dream. Adored by multitude of followers, they travel to exotic locations, stay in the best hotels, wear chic clothes – and to top it all off, they get paid just to brandish their personal style and look to impressionable folk.
For a growing number of lifestyle Instagrammers, the pull to become ‘Insta-famous’ (ie, an influential icon on Instagram) is so strong that they are giving up day jobs and oftentimes spending more than they earn to sustain their perfectly curated visual feeds… but is it all worth it in the end?
Having met and worked with micro and mega influencers for campaigns, I know for a fact that being an Influencer can be a very lucrative job – if you build a solid following and cement a unique style that aligns with the big brands. It takes years to get to that point however, and for those who are still trying to get there, there are real sacrifices involved which usually include getting other sources of income to sustain themselves through the lean months.
For this revealing piece, Buzzfeed interviewed 23 Influencers to find out what it takes and how much investment is needed to become ‘Insta-famous’ and live the lucrative Instagram celebrity lifestyle, full time.
The truly wise recognise that this won’t last forever. They are leveraging their current Instagram success and venturing into other endeavours so they can continue living the dream when their Insta-fame fades away.
Small acts of kindness at work benefit the giver, the receiver and the whole organisation
Jakkii says: Something lighter and brighter from me this week: did you know that small acts of kindness at work can make your whole organisation happier?
In the lab, psychologists have shown how generosity propagates and spreads. If someone is kind to us, we tend to “pay it forward” and act more generously to someone else when given the chance.
That’s all well and good, but does it work in an environment where we’re more likely to be stressed, juggling priorities, behind on deadlines, focused on ourselves and what we need? Based on research conducted with Coca-Cola by the University of California, the good news is that it seems yes, it just might hold up in the workplace.
Working with researchers, participants performed small acts of kindness in the workplace – acts that did not go unnoticed by those receiving of them, unaware of the research. Receivers were noticed to be ‘paying it forward,’ helping spread acts of kindness throughout the organisation. In turn, self-reported indicators of autonomy and competency increased amongst the participants, and a month later they were reporting higher job – and life – satisfaction scores.
It’s incredibly easy for us to be self-focused in the workplace, even in open and collaborative teams and cultures. At the end of the day we each are tasked with outcomes to achieve, and rewards that generally relate directly to achieving those outcomes (e.g. salaries and bonuses). It is easy to forget that we can all play a role in making our workplaces a better place to be, and I think this piece is a great reminder that just a small act can have big effects on the world around us.
Why not try it in your workplace? Grab an idea or two from the researchers and try it out in your own workplaces, and let us know the impact you see – and feel.
Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast
This week: Fixing the web, the farmer wants a bot, and big gigs and solar in the rain in other news. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.
The stories this week:
Other stories we bring up: