Work Futures Daily | Unskilled and Unaware

| Dunning-Kruger, Again | 4-Day Work Week | Has #MeToo Helped? | Remote Work | Simone Weil | The First Killer App | Growing Up: How To Let Go To Increase Innovation |

Beacon NY — 2019–07–23 — I am moving into a new normal with regard to Work Futures Daily. Responding to some sensible comments from readers, who have pointed out the benefits of full contents in email — offline reading, not having to click to a link and transiting to Medium, and several who pointed out that ‘Medium sucks’ — I am simply surrendering. Uncle.

I will be posting the full Daily on Substack to the full readership. It will also be available on Medium, behind the paywall.

This ends the distinction between paid and free subscriptions, so paid subscriptions are from this point forward simply a way to support the work of Work Futures (and get access to other sponsor benefits, as to be determined).

To those happy few who are sponsoring: thank you. 

For the rest: happy reading, and please consider actively supporting our work. At the very least, share what you like with others. Or buy me a latte.


One of the strange negatives of writing a newsletterish thing like Work Futures Daily is that I get contacted by editors who’d like me to write for them; however, an increasing proportion state, baldly, ‘we can’t afford to pay contributors to write for us’. And then they try to justify this by telling me — and presumably others — that I should be happy to write ‘for the exposure’ since they have umpty-ump readers.

So, dear editors out there — and you know who you are — I appreciate your respect for my work, but your ethics are out of whack.


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Health Facts Aren’t Enough. Should Persuasion Become a Priority? | Aaron Carroll explores a fascinating topic. Those who have the least understanding of a complex issue often believe they are the most knowledgeable:

In a paper published early this year in Nature Human Behavior, scientists asked 500 Americans what they thought about foods that contained genetically modified organisms.

The vast majority, more than 90 percent, opposed their use. This belief is in conflict with the consensus of scientists. Almost 90 percent of them believe G.M.O.s are safe — and can be of great benefit.

The second finding of the study was more eye-opening. Those who were most opposed to genetically modified foods believed they were the most knowledgeable about this issue, yet scored the lowest on actual tests of scientific knowledge.

In other words, those with the least understanding of science had the most science-opposed views, but thought they knew the most. Lest anyone think this is only an American phenomenon, the study was also conducted in France and Germany, with similar results.

He continues:

Part of this cognitive bias is related to the Dunning-Kruger effect, named for the two psychologists who wrote a seminal paper in 1999 entitled “Unskilled and Unaware of It.”

David Dunning and Justin Kruger discussed the many reasons people who are the most incompetent (their word) seem to believe they know much more than they do. A lack of knowledge leaves some without the contextual information necessary to recognize mistakes, they wrote, and their “incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.”

Here’s how this plays out in business: people with minimal exposure to cognitive science, behavioral economics, social psychology, and organizational dynamics are often those most likely to reject ideas related to organizational evolution and at the same time are convinced of their superior knowledge about the factors involved.


Jobs: Is 4-day work week the next big thing? | Paul Davidson reports on new statistics about the spread of the 4-day work week:

Fifteen percent of organizations offer four-day work weeks of 32 hours or less to at least some employees, up from 13% in 2017, according to an April survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. And a poll last year by staffing firm Robert Half found that 17% of companies had compressed work weeks that squish the same number of hours into fewer days.


Has Sexual Harassment at Work Decreased Since #MeToo? | Stefanie K. Johnson, Ksenia Keplinger, Jessica F. Kirk, and Liza Barnes surveyed 250 working women in the U.S. in 2016, and again with 268 women in September 2018 about sexual harassment at work:

What did we find? In terms of what has changed, we saw that fewer women in our sample reported sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention following the #MeToo movement. In 2016, 25% of women reported being sexually coerced, and in 2018 that number had declined to 16%. Unwanted sexual attention declined from 66% of women to 25%. In contrast, we noticed an increase in reports of gender harassment, from 76% of women in 2016 to 92% in 2018. This data suggests that while blatant sexual harassment — experiences that drive many women out of their careers — might be declining, workplaces may be seeing a “backlash effect,” or an increase in hostility toward women.

When we examined women’s feelings of self-esteem and self-doubt, we found an increase in self-esteem and a decrease in self-doubt since 2016. More important, the relationship between unwanted sexual attention and both of these outcomes (lower self-esteem, higher self-doubt) was weaker in 2018. Likewise, the relationship between gender harassment and the outcomes decreased. We believe that the knowledge that so many women experience sexual harassment has tempered its deleterious effects on self-doubt and self-esteem.


While our results point to the benefits of #MeToo in reducing sexual harassment over the last two years, we need to ensure that we maintain these changes, that women and men provide support for those who are harassed, and that vulnerable workers are not ignored. The goal of these efforts is continued progress on workplace equity, and this goal benefits all employees.

Good news.


Working remotely is now the norm for developers, new study shows | A study by Digital Ocean shows that 86% of IT developers work remotely, and almost one third are full-time at home workers.

Quote of the Day

It is the aim of public life to arrange that all forms of power are entrusted, so far as possible, to people who effectively consent to be bound by the obligation towards all human beings which lies upon everyone, and who understand the obligation.

| Simone Weil, Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation


40 Years Later, Lessons From the Rise and Quick Decline of the First ‘Killer App’ | Christopher Mims looks back on the rise of spreadsheets — Visicalc, Lotus 1–2–3, and Excel — as a foreshadowing of disruption and consolidation of digital markets.

Big companies getting ahead of their own disruption is now common. The iPhone was born out of Apple’s paranoia that someone else might supplant the iPod. And Facebook ’s acquisition of potential disruptors Instagram and WhatsApp gave the company the dominant social platforms on mobile, where most online social networking subsequently moved. Amazon’s dominance in voice-controlled assistants is a product of the company’s willingness to launch startups within itself and allow them to quickly fail — as the Fire Phone did — or disrupt much bigger incumbents, as Alexa took both Apple and Google by surprise. And Google, of course, had the foresight to acquire and invest heavily in Android.

Certainly there are still examples of new companies rising, but it’s hard today to imagine the handful of giants that loom so tall over the tech world allowing themselves to go the way of VisiCalc or Lotus. And the more wealth they accrue to buy into new technologies, spreading their bets evenly around the whole roulette wheel, the more invulnerable they appear.

PS I turned down a job offer at Software Arts, the maker of Visicalc, in 1983.


Cutting 300 Calories a Day Shows Health Benefits | Anahad O’Connor reports on a new study on calorie restriction leading to positive impacts on health for non-obese subjects:

In the new study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published this month in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers looked at a group of 143 healthy men and women who ranged in age from 21 to 50. They were instructed to practice caloric restriction for two years. They could eat the foods they wanted so long as they cut back on the total amount of food they ate, with the aim of cutting the calories they consumed by 25 percent.

Many did not achieve that goal. On average, the dieters managed to slash about 12 percent of their total calories, or roughly 300 calories a day, the amount in a large bagel, a few chocolate chip cookies or a small Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino. But the group saw many of their cardiovascular and metabolic health markers improve, even though they were already in the normal range.

They lost weight and body fat. Their cholesterol levels improved, their blood pressure fell slightly, and they had better blood sugar control and less inflammation. At the same time, a control group of 75 healthy people who did not practice caloric restriction saw no improvements in any of these markers.

Some of the benefits in the calorie restricted group stemmed from the fact that they lost a large amount of weight, on average about 16 pounds over the two years of the study. But the extent to which their metabolic health got better was greater than would have been expected from weight loss alone, suggesting that caloric restriction might have some unique biological effects on disease pathways in the body, said William Kraus, the lead author of the study and a professor of medicine and cardiology at Duke University.

“We weren’t surprised that there were changes,” he said. “But the magnitude was rather astounding. In a disease population, there aren’t five drugs in combination that would cause this aggregate of an improvement.”

In my personal case, I adopted calorie restriction (as well as restricting the great majority of my eating between 11am and 8pm) starting in January 2018. I have lost 45 pounds so far, and plan to lose at least 20–30 pounds more over the next few years. Like the test subjects, I am eating ‘what I want’ but cutting back significantly on overall consumption, especially snacking. On average, I’ve lost 2.5 pounds a month. And I believe this is sustainable because I don’t feel like I am on a diet.


To Help Smokers Quit, Pay Them | Whether the incentive was under $100 or over $700, paying people to quit seemed to be effective.


Growing Up: How To Let Go To Increase Innovation | Stowe Boyd | Digitally mature companies are twice as likely to cultivate partnerships

This was selected by Medium’s editors for the Business topic, yesterday.