Why institutional trust has vanished and distributed trust is soaring

Uber, AirBnB and Bitcoin are at the forefront of a trust revolution, where we’re ditching our faith in institutions like banks, governments and churches in favour of trusting complete strangers that we can reliably put our faith in.

I love a good TED talk. Every now and then, one resonates so well with me that I feel compelled to post it here to share it with other.

Rachel Botsman’s recent talk was one such talk. She discussed how trust has moved through three distinct phases in history: local trust, where our trust was knowing those in the village, institutional trust, where we relied upon banks, companies and governments to determine who and what could be trusted to the recently emerging distributed trust, where our behaviour, reputation and globally accepted practices and technologies dictate what we can trust today.
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Brexit: an autopsy

In June, the UK collectively and narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a referendum which has divided the nation on a scale never seen before. Alexander Betts looks at the causes and effects of the result in an intelligent and considered way that helps us to realise that there’s some ugly demons in all our societies.

It’s been about 6 weeks since Britons went to the polls and narrowly decided that they wanted to leave the European Union. I had some thoughts on the matter the day after the result, but perhaps the best autopsy on the result that I have seen thus far has been from Alexander Betts in a TED talk he gave just days after the result.

Alexander is a social scientist and works specifically in the field of migration and refugees. No matter which side of the fence you are on, it’s hard to deny the validity of Alexander’s arguments. Continue reading “Brexit: an autopsy”

A common sense approach to prosecutions

Putting people in jail, particularly if they are young, poor or a minority is the American standard for dealing with even the pettiest of crimes, which has a lifelong and devastating impact on these people’s lives. Adam Foss is taking a different approach by helping them out of their bad situations and creating contributing members of society out of them.

You’d be hard pushed to deny that there’s an issue with America’s justice system. Prisons are overloaded with young, petty, minority offenders and it’s costing us a lot of money. John Oliver has made a few videos now highlighting various issues within the system:

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Wait But Why – inside the minds of procrastinators

Tim Urban from Wait But Why gives a TED talk that details what’s in the mind of a procrastinator that causes them to make such poor decisions sometimes. Spoiler alert: it involves monkeys and monsters.

I’ve been reading Wait But Why for a while now ever since stumbling upon Tim’s excruciatingly-long dissertation on how cars came to run on fossil fuels and despite the best efforts of the oil industry, electric cars can and will prevail.

A brief history of fossil fuels, climate, cars, batteries and Tesla

What is Wait But Why I hear you ask? It’s a website by a guy called Tim Urban who is an extreme procrastinator, like I can be. When something intrigues him, he researches it until he’s read all there is to read about that subject. Then he digests and regurgitates that information for us to consume. Continue reading “Wait But Why – inside the minds of procrastinators”

When did the news stop becoming the news?

I’d argue that most of what is called “news” these days is anything but. In fact, we could easily do away with 95% of the news and still have too much information. The American media is at the forefront of this trend and is making a mockery of the profession of journalism in the process.

A couple of years ago, the building that I work in installed televisions at the elevator landings. I’ve no idea why, but I guess they figure that people want to be constantly bombarded with news and media and the 15 seconds that we spend waiting for the lift is a perfect opportunity to cram in some utterly important information.

I never watch or consume American news. I very quickly grew tired of the talking heads, strongly biased views, selective withholding of stories and hype that became so overwhelming. Instead, both because I consider them to be (far) more neutral, reasonable and factual, and because I had an interest in continuing to follow British news after moving to the States, I rely heavily on the BBC for my news.

The thing that irks me the most about American news is that it’s just not news. To me, news is a factual, neutral reporting of events that are of importance to society. What most of us now know as news has devolved into highly-pointed delivery of largely irrelevant stories which have been spun into hyper-dramatic segments that don’t particularly focus on what happened and what its implications are, but rather create situations, possibilities, hypotheticals and outright lies that draw in the drama-hungry American audience. Continue reading “When did the news stop becoming the news?”

It’s time for paid maternity/paternity leave in America

I’ve written many posts on this subject (e.g. The sad state of maternity leave in the States) because I’m very passionate about it, but I just saw another great TED talk which drives the point home some more.

Maternity/paternity leave is not something that we should be thankful for. It’s a fundamental need for new parents to bond with their children and recover from birth. It promotes the wellbeing of mother and child, reduces post-natal depression and gives mothers the support they need to make it through the early days of raising a child and be able to choose whether or not to have another child without being forced to stop at 1 because they had such a horrendous experience or because it cost them so much to do the only thing they could to spend a little time with their newborn child: take unpaid leave.

As highlighted in the talk, there are 9 countries in the world that have no national requirement for paid maternity leave. The first 8 have a combined population of 8 million and include countries like Papua New Guinea, Suriname and the Marshall Islands. The 9th is the United States with a population of 320 million. How the United States can continue to claim that it would be such a burden on employers or the state is beyond me. Literally everyone else has done it: stop hiding behind this bullshit America and give new mothers the paid leave they need.

Social services suck, but we can fix them AND save money

Hilary Cottam’s approach to social services is akin to “it takes a village to raise a child”. The more that can participate, the better it is for everyone. Her model sees everyone helping one another to practically and positively change the lives of those most in need.

This TED talk from an entrepreneurial front-line social worker in the UK gives a very considered and honest discussion of how the modern welfare state was created (in 1940s Britain) and how it simply isn’t a model for today.

Rather than just bash the system, as we all love to do, Hilary Cottam has come up with a radical new approach to social services in which resources are spent directly on helping people rather than on a system which manages said people. In fact, by spending far less, she’s been able to make significant positive changes in the lives of many people in South London who are all now helping one another. Continue reading “Social services suck, but we can fix them AND save money”

Privilege is invisible to those who have it

As a middle-class white man in America, it can be easy to think that society is equal but that’s because I can be invisible to my privilege

In a recent TED talk by Michael Kimmel he talks about how he came to see the world from the point of view of minorities such as women or black people. In a discussion with some of his peers he came to the conclusion that

Privilege is invisible to those who have it

He was talking about how as a white middle-class man, he was about as privileged as he could be, but he didn’t see the world that way because he saw how opportunities were being provided to women and racial minorities all around him. The experience of women and black people was different however, who still saw the world around them as it oppressed them.

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Take your email privacy back

Your email archive tells a lot about you, which is why Andy Chen’s team created a new, better system from the ground up: ProtonMail

Don’t know much about Internet privacy? Think your email is private and secure?

Andy Chen’s brief TED talk explains how email works, why it’s not as secure as you think and discusses his team’s alternative: ProtonMail. Continue reading “Take your email privacy back”

Paper people

Harry Baker may well have changed my mind about poetry. I never thought it resonated with me, but his poems were really enjoyable to listen to.

I’ve never considered myself a poetry lover, but this TED talk by Harry Baker, the world poetry champion, may have changed my mind.

All three of these poems are fantastic, particularly the one about prime numbers and the one about the paper people. Thoroughly enjoyable! Continue reading “Paper people”