Beyond Polarization – Jason Jay

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay

From Technology Review

This past June, I attended a conference in New York City with colleagues from around the world. After our three days together, my European, Indian, and Latin American friends were a bit vexed. The conversation kept getting pulled into the lightning storm of American politics. We struggled to pay attention as our phones flooded with alerts about congressional primaries, Supreme Court decisions, executive orders, and the flurry of terrified, furious, indignant, or despairing comments ping-ponging between political extremes.

Over beers, a few of us “coastal liberal elite” academics and journalists huddled and commiserated about our extended family members in South Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana. How could they deny the reality of Sandy Hook, climate change, and science in general? I suspect those same relatives are similarly confused—why are we so eager to support illegal immigrants, anti-police protests, and lawlessness in general?

This polarization is only increasing as we head to the midterm elections. With our country split into factions like anti-fascists, progressives, moderates, libertarians, evangelicals, and Trumpists, it’s increasingly difficult to know how to engage with others who don’t share our views.

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Resist, rebel, and remain: the nation deserves and demands a second chance – John Van Reenen

MIT Sloan Professor John Van Reenen

From Vox

Members of Parliament will vote on Prime Minister’s Theresa May’s Brexit deal to on 11 December. Without hesitation, they should vote it down.

More and more people have realised that Brexit was built on a fantasy that we could keep all the benefits of being in the European club without paying any of the membership fees – what leading Brexiter Boris Johnson called the ‘Have Your Cake and Eat It Strategy’. Well, it turns out that having a cake after you have already eaten it once is not so tasty after all. Theresa May has brought back an unpalatable deal that no one likes because it crystallises the reality of what leaving the European Union (EU) actually means. To get easy access to European markets you have to play by the rules of the club – and once a country leaves the club, it no longer gets a vote on what those rules are. So much for taking back control.

The argument for remaining in the EU is fundamentally moral and political, not economic. However, it is important for lawmakers to know that Brexit will make their constituents poorer. Whereas the wealthier can ride this out, it is families on middle incomes and the less well off who will feel the financial pain most sharply. The economics of Brexit are very simple. Being outside the EU inevitably means higher costs of doing business with our nearest neighbours – so there will be less trade, and less trade will make us poorer. The more distant a relationship we have with the EU, the bigger will be our pay cut. This will be hugely painful if there is a disorderly ‘No Deal’; it will hurt to a lesser degree with a softer approach. The formal amounts that the UK pays into the EU disappear in the rounding error compared with these economic losses. (The section at the end of this blog goes into the gory economic details for the truly dedicated reader).

Oh, why EU?

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The math on why the Trump administration’s fuel standards report is seriously flawed – Christopher Knittel

Christopher Knittel, George P. Schultz Professor and Professor of Applied Economics, MIT Sloan

From San Francisco Chronicle 

Fuel economy standards are an important way for the U.S. to combat climate change. However, a 2018 study conducted by the Trump administration proposes hitting the pause button on regulations, potentially leaving billions of dollars in benefits on the table.

This is a significant change from the Obama administration, which ramped up prior fuel economy standards. That administration mandated the fleet-wide fuel economy of passenger vehicles and light trucks to reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The federal government’s cost-benefit analysis, completed in January 2017, concluded that this was technologically feasible and that benefits exceeded costs by over US$90 billion.

The current administration challenges that conclusion and recommends freezing standards at model year 2020 levels through 2025. Their analysis finds that the costs exceed the benefits by over $170 billion – a difference of over $260 billion from the previous report.

Who is right? The answer matters, because fuel economy standards are the last remaining major federal regulation to fight greenhouse gas emissions. The current administration has eliminated other regulations related to clean power and is promoting coal consumption. If the Obama administration’s analysis is correct, then pausing fuel standards will cost the economy money and impact the environment. If the Trump analysis is correct, then this may be the right call. There is a lot at stake.

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2019: A new year calls for new questions – Hal Gregersen

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

From Psychology Today

The New Year is right around the corner and individuals and organizations alike are churning out new goals in a mass ritualized frenzy. The problem is that both on a company-wide level and on a personal level many of these new benchmarks will never be reached.

Ask yourself this: Did you really lose 10 pounds last year? Did you grow your business by 5 percent each quarter? So instead of making a list of brutal stretch goals and then beating yourself up for not achieving them, here’s a better plan for 2019. Ditch the goals and get to work on a list of compelling questions. Yes, questions.

Questions have a curious power to unlock new and positive behavior changes in every part of our lives. They can open up new directions for progress no matter what we are struggling with. My interviews with more than 200 of the world’s most creative leaders—including well-known business executives such as Jeff Bezos at Amazon, Marc Benioff at Salesforce.

Debbie Stirling at GoldieBlox, and Tony Hsieh from Zappos—show that when you are operating at the edge of uncertainty, trying to figure out a better question is a far more productive way forward than trying to figure out a better answer. The right questions can surface a false assumption and give us the energy to do something about it. My research has shown that the best questions, in whatever setting, turn out to have some fundamental things in common.

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These 5 “productive” habits are doing your brain more harm than good – Tara Swart

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Tara Swart

From Fast Company

It’s probably no surprise to you that exercise, nutrition, and caffeine can have a significant impact on your brain health. You’ve probably read many articles giving you advice on how they can help your mind. You might even have adopted a habit or two.

But while certain practices seem productive in theory, they’re more likely to hamper your brain function rather than boost it. Here are 5 of those common habits, and what you can do instead:

URBAN JOGGING OR CITY CYCLING

Whenever I see joggers on city pavements, I want to stop them and tell them to stay away from the roadside and head to the gym. This is because although cardiovascular exercise is a great way to boost alertness, mood, and learning, inhaling polluted air means you may cancel out much of the benefit. Particulate matter from car exhaust is terrible for the brain–it can lead to neuroinflammation and cognitive decline.

When you inhale polluted air, it reduces levels of BDNF in the brain. BDNF is a protein that enhances brain plasticity–which improves cognition and memory performance. One study looked at BDNF levels among cyclists who rode in heavy traffic and found that the exercise led to no increase in BDNF at all.

The best alternative for urban dwellers is to head to an indoor gym–but if you don’t want to give up your outdoor run, download an air-quality app and check your route before a ride or a run. There are lots to choose from, including Air Matters, Air Visual App, and Breezometer. You can also just avoid major roads altogether, and jog on woodland trails or in park interiors instead, away from traffic and fumes.

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