Thai Royal Navy Seizes Tiny Floating Galt’s Gulch

(p. A1) American software engineer Chad Elwartowski thought he had found the perfect refuge from the long arm of meddlesome, overbearing governments. It was a home floating in the turquoise waters far off the coasts of Thailand and Indonesia.

Last year, he joined a project that built an octagonal fiberglass pod and mounted it atop a floating steel spar that reached 65 feet down into the ocean, like a giant keel.

It was to be a place for people to gather and live by their own rules, he said, beyond the jurisdiction of any government. “I was free for a moment,” he wrote on his Facebook page after settling in with his girlfriend in March. “Probably the freest person in the world.”

Not anymore. He and his (p. A8) girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, are in hiding on dry land after the Royal Thai Navy said their nautical haven was within Thai jurisdiction and accused them of trying to set up their own micro-nation. Last Monday, a utility ship towed the abandoned seastead to shore as evidence. Police say they are figuring out whether to request an arrest warrant for endangering Thai sovereignty—which potentially carries the death penalty.

The concept of a seastead—a homestead at sea—is a popular one in libertarian and cryptocurrency circles. Mr. Elwartowski, 46 years old, described it in a YouTube video as the closest he could get to the secret enclave cut off from the rest of society depicted in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

For the full story, see:

James Hookway. “Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into an Opponent: the Thai Navy.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 29, 2019): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 28, 2019, and the title “A Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into a Stubborn Opponent: the Thai Navy.”)

The Ayn Rand novel mentioned above, is:

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.

“If You Do No Harm, Then You Do No Harm to the Cancer, Either”

(p. B16) James F. Holland, a founding father of chemotherapy who helped pioneer a lifesaving drug treatment for pediatric leukemia patients, died on Thursday [March 22, 2018] at his home in Scarsdale, N.Y.

. . .

“Patients have to be subsidiaries of the trial,” he told The New York Times in 1986. “I’m not interested in holding patients’ hands. I’m interested in curing cancer.”

He acknowledged that some patients become guinea pigs, and that they sometimes suffer discomfort in the effort to eradicate tumors, but he said that even those who die provide lessons for others who will survive.

“If you do no harm,” Dr. Holland said, “then you do no harm to the cancer, either.”

. . .

Dr. Holland acknowledged that while experimenting with drug treatment sometimes amounts to trial and error, the primary killer is typically the disease itself.

“The thing to remember,” he said, “is that the deadliest thing about cancer chemotherapy is not the chemotherapy.” Continue reading ““If You Do No Harm, Then You Do No Harm to the Cancer, Either””

Big, Frequent Meetings Are Unproductive and Crowd Out Deep Thought

(p. 7) To figure out why the workers in Microsoft’s device unit were so dissatisfied with their work-life balance, the organizational analytics team examined the metadata from their emails and calendar appointments. The team divided the business unit into smaller groups and looked for differences in the patterns between those where people were satisfied and those where they were unhappy.

It seemed as if the problem would involve something about after-hours work. But no matter how Ms. Klinghoffer and Mr. Fuller crunched the data, there weren’t any meaningful correlations to be found between groups that had a lot of tasks to do at odd times and those that were unhappy. Gut instincts about overwork just weren’t supported by the numbers.

The two kept iterating until something emerged in the data. People in Mr. Ostrum’s division were spending an awful lot of time in meetings: an average of 27 hours a week. That wasn’t so much more than the typical team at Microsoft. But what really distinguished those teams with low satisfaction scores from the rest was that their meetings tended to include a lot of people — 10 or 20 bodies arrayed around a conference table coordinating plans, as opposed to two or three people brainstorming ideas.

The issue wasn’t that people had to fly to China or make late-night calls. People who had taken jobs requiring that sort of commitment seemed to accept these things as part of the deal. The issue was that their managers were clogging their schedules with overcrowded meetings, reducing available hours for tasks that rewarded more focused concentration — thinking deeply about trying to solve a problem.

Data alone isn’t insight. But once the Microsoft executives had shaped the data into a form they could understand, they could better question employees about the source of their frustrations. Staffers’ complaints about spending evenings and weekends catching up with more solitary forms of work started to make more sense. Now it was clearer why the first cuts of the data didn’t reveal the problem. An engineer sitting down to do individual work for several hours on a Saturday afternoon probably wouldn’t bother putting it on her calendar, or create digital exhaust in the form of trading emails with colleagues during that time.

Anyone familiar with the office-drone lifestyle might scoff at what it took Microsoft to get here. Does it really take that much analytical firepower, and the acquisition of an entire start-up, to figure out that big meetings make people sad?

For the full story, see:

Neil Irwin. “How to Win at Winner-Take-All.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, June 15, 2019): 1 & 6-7.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 15, 2019, and has the title “The Mystery of the Miserable Employees: How to Win in the Winner-Take-All Economy.”)

The article quoted above, is adapted from:

Irwin, Neil. How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World: The Definitive Guide to Adapting and Succeeding in High-Performance Careers. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019.

To Be Dangerous with Crispr Takes a Lot of Genetics Knowledge

(p. A11) “I frankly have been flabbergasted at the pace of the field,” says Jennifer Doudna, a Crispr pioneer who runs a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re barely five years out, and it’s already in early clinical trials for cancer. It’s unbelievable.”

. . .

Scientists have fiddled with genes for decades, but in clumsy ways.

. . .

Crispr is much more precise, as Ms. Doudna explains in her new book, “A Crack in Creation.” It works like this: An enzyme called Cas9 can be programmed to latch onto any 20-letter sequence of DNA. Once there, the enzyme cuts the double helix, splitting the DNA strand in two. Scientists supply a snippet of genetic material they want to insert, making sure its ends match up with the cut strands. When the cell’s repair mechanism kicks in to fix the cut, it pastes in the new DNA.

. . .

A . . . Crispr worry is that it makes DNA editing so easy anybody can do it. Simple hobby kits sell online for $150, and a community biotech lab in Brooklyn offers a class for $400. Jennifer Lopez is reportedly working on a TV drama called “C.R.I.S.P.R.” that, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “explores the next generation of terror: DNA hacking.”

Ms. Doudna provides a bit of assurance. “Genetics is complicated. You have to have quite a bit of knowledge, I think, to be able to do anything that’s truly dangerous,” she says. “There’s been a little bit of hype, in my opinion, about DIY kits and are we going to have rogue scientists—or even nonscientists—randomly doing crazy stuff. I think that’s not too likely.”

For the full interview, see:

Peterson, Kyle, interviewer. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; The Gene Editors Are Only Getting Started; Would you eradicate malaria-carrying insects? Change your baby’s DNA? Scientists soon may have the power to do both.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 8, 2017): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date July 7, 2017, and the same title as the print versio.)

Doudna’s book, mentioned above, is:

Doudna, Jennifer A., and Samuel H. Sternberg. A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

Clayton Christensen Wrongly Predicted Bombardier Would Disrupt Boeing

Clayton Christensen and co-authors predicted in Seeing What’s Next that Bombardier was well-positioned to use disruptive innovation to leapfrog Boeing and Airbus.

(p. B8) Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said it would acquire Bombardier Inc.’s regional-jet business for $550 million in a transaction that puts the companies on different paths in the aviation sector.

The deal unveiled Tuesday [June 25, 2019] marks the Canadian company’s exit from the commercial passenger-aircraft business following failed bets that it could compete with Airbus SE and Boeing Co. in the 100-seat single-aisle plane category.

Bombardier has restructured its aviation division over the past two years, highlighted by its joint venture with Airbus that put the European plane maker in charge of the production and sales of the 110- to 130-seat planes that the Montreal company had originally conceived as the CSeries. Those jets are now rebranded as the Airbus A220.

For the full story, see:

Vieira, Paul. “Bombardier to Sell Jet Unit.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, June 26, 2019): B8.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date June 25, 2019, and has the title “Mitsubishi to Acquire Bombardier’s Regional Jet Unit for $550 Million.”)

The Christensen book mentioned above, is:

Christensen, Clayton M., Scott D. Anthony, and Erik A. Roth. Seeing What’s Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

iPhone Made Internet “Almost Ubiquitous”

(p. B3) By essentially compressing a powerful, networked computer into a pocket-size device and making it easy to use, Steve Jobs made the internet almost ubiquitous and fundamentally altered decades-old consumer habits in areas like music and books. What’s more, the functionality packed into the iPhone made it a digital Swiss Army knife, supplanting existing tools from email to calendar to maps to calculators.

. . .

Along the way, smartphones disrupted communication. By offering faster, easier ways to communicate—text, photo, video and social networks—“the iPhone destroyed the phone call,” says Joshua Gans, professor at the University of Toronto and author of the book, “The Disruption Dilemma.” “It’s funny we even call it a phone.”

For the full story, see:

Betsy Morris. “What the iPhone Wrought.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 24, 2017): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 23, 2017, and the title “From Music to Maps, How Apple’s iPhone Changed Business.”)

The Gans book mentioned above, is:

Gans, Joshua. The Disruption Dilemma. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016.