How to comprehend, recognize, act against, and preempt your bullshitting colleagues.

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“Most of us would agree that our workplaces are awash with bullshit,” Ian McCarthy and his colleagues write.

Call me naive but I was shocked as an undergraduate to see, in a serious book about George Orwell, an unserious profanity preceding the table of contents. Within the first few pages I read that the author, Christopher Hitchens, dedicated his book “To Robert Conquest — premature anti-fascist, premature anti-Stalinist, poet and mentor, and founder of the ‘united front against bullshit.’” This, in a work of sober historical scholarship, made an impression on me. Naturally, I became curious about what this “united front against bullshit” was but, alas, after some searching, I never found out. …


Is it fair to let an AI reject you after judging your personality?

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If something like hunger can affect a hiring manager’s decision—let alone classism, sexism, lookism, and other “isms”—then why not rely on the less capricious, more objective decisions of machine-learning algorithms?

In 2004, when a “webcam” was relatively unheard-of tech, Mark Newman knew that it would be the future of hiring. One of the first things the 20-year old did, after getting his degree in international business, was to co-found HireVue, a company offering a digital interviewing platform. Business trickled in. While Newman lived at his parents’ house, in Salt Lake City, the company, in its first five years, made just $100,000 in revenue. HireVue later received some outside capital, expanded and, in 2012, boasted some 200 clients—including Nike, Starbucks, and Walmart—which would pay HireVue, depending on project volume, between $5,000 and $1 million. Recently, HireVue, which was bought earlier this year by the Carlyle Group, has become the source of some alarm, or at least trepidation, for its foray into the application of artificial intelligence in the hiring process. …


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Early last month, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, I saw something, or someone, that would, on any other day, be out of place: a philosopher. Damon Horowitz—a philosopher at Columbia University who has a history of serial entrepreneurship and was once In-House Philosopher and Director of Engineering at Google—was here to lend his wisdom to a conference on ethical culture in the corporate world, called “Building Cultural Capital in the Financial Services Industry: Emerging Practices, Risks and Opportunities.” His subject was the way that efficiency—aided by computer power, massive data-collection, and machine-learning algorithms—is beginning, or threatening, to creep into the moral sphere. That is, businesses are being confronted with the temptation to outsource the responsibility of ethical decision-making to A.I., …


Human nature as a guide to ethical organizational design.

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Humans have some basic needs that work should fulfill if organizations want to get the best out of them.

Charles Darwin ended The Origin of Species, his argument for evolution by natural selection, on a note of celebrated eloquence. “There is grandeur to this view of life,” he wrote, “with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

It is from this quote that a series of essays on business and management recently got its name. This View of Business: How Evolutionary Thinking Can Transform the Workplace offers a perspective, according to its three editors, that “can have profound implications at all scales, from the wellbeing of individual employees, to the performance of firms, to the creation of a sustainable global economy.” I spoke to one of those editors, Mark van Vugt, to find out how evolutionary insights can be valuable to business leaders and other professionals. …


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Misbehavior may be more of a result of systemic organizational factors rather than quirks of individual or team psychology.

Earlier this month at the Beacon Theater, in New York City, Daniel Kahneman, famed author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, had a conversation with neuroscientist Sam Harris. It ranged over many of the topics the Nobel Prize-winning behavioral scientist has explored in his work. This included the “remembering” and “experiencing” self, where intuitions reliably fail, and — while discussing obstacles to desirable behavior — the need for ethical systems design. “You want to create systems whereby even mediocre, which is to say normal people, can behave better and better effortlessly,” Harris said. …


How to phase out the “Wolf of Wall Street” mentality

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Photo by Chris Li on Unsplash

Before he became “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort, when he arrived in New York in the 1980s, was more like a starry-eyed sheep. That’s how Leonardo DiCaprio plays him in The Wolf of Wall Street, the film adapted from Belfort’s 2007 memoir of his years as a stockbroker. In an early scene from the film, Belfort brims with a rookie’s optimism about starting at investment banking firm L.F. Rothschild, under stockbroker Mark Hanna, played by Matthew McConaughey. He can’t wait to help make Hanna’s impressive clients more money, but he learns that isn’t quite Hanna’s modus operandi. “F[ — ] the clients,” Hanna tells Belfort. …


FUTURE HUMAN

It would take an unreasonable amount of plants to balance rising CO2 levels being found at home, school, and work

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Photo by amirhossein abdollahi on Unsplash

What’s the most important number in the world? Bill McKibben thinks it’s 350. The environmental activist co-founded 350.org, a climate advocacy group, as a way to popularize the finding of a 2008 paper: CO2 in the atmosphere will need to be reduced to at most 350 parts per million “if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed…” We were at around 280 ppm before we began to burn coal, oil, and gas en masse. This April, we reached 410 ppm.

Yet it is a little appreciated fact that many of us at home, school, and work breathe air containing CO2 concentrations of 1,000 ppm every day. It’s because the air we exhale holds around a hundred times more CO2 — about 40,000 ppm — than the air we inhale. Badly ventilated classrooms and overcrowded conference rooms can reach 2,000 ppm, well above the point when air starts to feel “stuffy,” at 600 ppm. Concentrations above that can cause classic symptoms of CO2 poisoning: labored breathing, headaches, rapid pulse rate, hearing loss, hyperventilation, sweating, and fatigue. …


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Image by DonkeyHotey / Flickr

Note: I submitted this piece to The New Yorker magazine’s “Talk of the Town” section before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The editors passed on it due to too much Trump content, but not without saying, “This is nicely done,” which made my day.

In mid-October, Tim LeBon, an English psychotherapist based in London, was hosting an afternoon workshop in a cramped seminar room at the Houston Street Center in New York, on Bowery, titled “Trump for President? A Stoic Response.” It was one of the events during STOICON 2016, an all-day gathering featuring talks by authors, therapists, and philosophers for fans of Stoicism (“Get your Stoicon!” …


There’s little need for any sort of preface to these masterpieces. They speak for themselves.

Here, for example, is Chewbacca.

His frilly collar and center-parted mane grant him all the 16th century flair he’d ever need for the Mos Eisley reproduction of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

But Chewy’s refinement may not match the regality of this crime-fighting duo:

In the case of R2-D2, I think this may just amount to a cumbersome hindrance of vision:

His chatty counterpart C3PO, on the other hand, looks ready to sign off on a number of state-sanctioned executions if need be:

Wolverine, always known for his quick temper, looks sad for once. …


Many things, it turns out. But it’s been that way since the start.

Note: This is the essay I turned in for my History of Journalism class in 2013. We had to make use of selections from the professor’s chosen stock of sources while responding to one of a few prompts.

If you were to search for the essence, the definition, or the necessary and sufficient conditions of what it is to be a reporter, and found a hard and fast answer, you’d probably be mistaken. Those who now claim the moniker of “reporter” as an occupational title no more exhaust the possible attributes or goals that can attach to the term than does someone who as a profession practices philosophy. …

About

Brian Gallagher

Brian Gallagher is a writer and editor.

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