This is my last link roundup before Christmas and my second last before the end of the year. Since many of you will be off next week, and certainly this weekend, I thought I would leave you with some long reads from 2016 that you can turn to when the holiday cheer is getting to be a bit too much. It’s important to take time for yourself on the holidays and if you’re anything like me, reading a giant essay is one of your favourite ways to relax (yes, yes, I’m a nerd). From futurism, to disability at work, to robots (obviously), and to time management, I’ve looked for essays that have a fresh perspective on topics we’re already used to thinking about.
Here is your Friday Five:
Anna Altman’s essay about essay on living with invisible illness is essential reading. Sometimes we imagine the people in our lives who complain of vague, seemingly untreatable symptoms are weaker than us, or perhaps just imagining things. Altman’s piece examines how much harder life can be when you are not just suffering, but also being doubted by everyone around you. You may have a string of absences from work that your boss and HR find suspicious. You may have difficulty accessing insurance and good medical care. You may find friends and colleagues thinking you are untrustworthy. This is an issue that every leader should be conscious of: sometimes there simply isn’t a clear explanation or easy solution, and in those times your colleagues need more empathy than ever.
What’s it like working for a go go startup when you don’t quite fit? What’s it like working yourself to the bone for a company you believe in but still get slowly ground down until that belief drains away? In Uncanny Valley Anna Weiner cuts deep into the aspects of startup culture that can quickly become toxic and how we serve ourselves ill by buying too much into them.
We already treat robots as something more than metal and plastic. We gender them. We hold affection for them. Sometimes we even hurt them, not just hitting them in annoyance but downright abusing them. In short we have begun to treat robots like we do animals: sometimes well, sometimes poorly, but as a being. As a life. It’s funny how quickly that’s happened, but maybe, considering all the number of companies working towards more convincing robot pets, we wanted that. Nathan Heller explores our increasingly complicated relationship with robots and asks: should they have rights?
A lot of corporate speakers claim to be able to help you make your organization work better, to work the we humans work. But does the brain really work the way we think it does? Robert Epstein says, first of all, that no, our brains are nothing like computers (and by that token, no, artificial intelligence works nothing like our brains do).
It seems like every year I resolve to better manage my time. I come up with a strategy or a whole series of strategies to keep myself on track and ticking off the items on my to do list. Yet, it never does seem to make things better. Maybe I’m chronically bad at managing my time? Oliver Burkeman says that our obsession with improving our time management skills is making our lives worse, both at work and at home. The personal productivity industry is booming, with new books and apps launching every day and yet we don’t seem to be getting any less stressed or any better at being productive. In fact, some productivity tips and techniques even seem to be making us more anxious. Burkeman explores how “productivity” arose as a contemporary obsession and how we can start to let go of it a little, to actually enjoy our lives more.