It’s been seven days since the last edition of What we’ve been reading. That’s only three days fewer than Anthony Scaramucci lasted as White House press secretary.
Scaramucci, a slick haired potty mouth, talked his way in and out of a job in just over a week. I feel like he was sent to us as a lesson: sometimes saying nothing is better – especially when you’re speaking to a reporter from one of the world’s leading publications. Quite a niche lesson, but there ya go.
Anyway, less of this political chat: it’s Friday. Here are some cool articles we liked this week. Enjoy!
If you can nab a spare moment this Friday (or this weekend) try and read this article in one sitting. What a mystery! It honestly reads like a John Le Carré thriller.
So there’s all that intrigue, but the article is also a fantastic primer into the strange world of the shipping trade: shady owners, car bombs, armed gunmen and pirates, ships moored in chaotically unstable port cities, salvagers, surveyors and idiosyncratic insurance policies.
And you thought being an entrepreneur was hard!
The headline alone deserves plaudits. It’s anti-clickbait clickbait. Glorious. The interview itself is worth reading, too. Tristan Harris, a former product manager at Google, has recently emerged as one of modern culture's most eloquent critics.
His focus is specifically on social media. According to him, the big platforms – Facebook, Google, YouTube, Snapchat – are deliberately designed to manipulate us; to make us fork over time we probably wished we spent elsewhere. He wants to stop “tech companies hijacking our minds”.
What’s the scale of the problem? Hell, is it even a problem? Harris puts it into stark relief:
“Technology steers what two billion people are thinking and believing every day. It’s possibly the largest source of influence over two billion people’s thoughts that have ever been created. Religions and governments don’t have that much influence over people’s daily thoughts. But we have three technology companies who have this system that frankly they don’t even have control over — with newsfeeds and recommended videos and whatever they put in front of you — which is governing what people do with their time and what they’re looking at.”
The motivations behind becoming an entrepreneur are manifold – but chief among them is the pursuit of wealth; of freedom. That’s not bad in itself, but as Charles Mathewes and Evan Sandsmark opine, our attitude to wealth has never been more problematic.
We use to write books warning of the spiritual trips built into attaining material wealth. Countless stories and parables caution against hoarding wealth. In the book of Matthew, Christ tells a wealthy man: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
Millennia of folk wisdom have been supplanted by a culture of worship. Wealth's potentially calamitous effects have been glossed over in favour of idle Instagram wealth porn.
So what are Mathewes and Sandsmark even arguing for: that we all live in rags? That we engage in masochistic self-impoverishment?
No, as they say: “The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth.”
I really can’t give too much of a take on this article by The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan since, you know, I’m a dude. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just I can’t.
But, saying that, I’ve spoken to enough female friends to know the article’s premise is anecdotally true. The female relationship in the workplace seems unusually fraught.
And it turns out my anecdotal evidence has some grounding in fact, with the majority of women explicitly preferring male managers. Per Khazan: “Large surveys by Pew and Gallup as well as several academic studies show that when women have a preference as to the gender of their bosses and colleagues, that preference is largely for men."