We often see businesses accused of greenwashing in the media. McDonald’s was questioned about its decision to get rid of plastic straws, while having a business model reliant on animal agriculture, a huge contributor to greenhouse gases. Elsewhere, H&M has been pushing its Conscious Collection, while remaining a fast-fashion business and therefore naturally unsustainable. But is this really greenwashing? And, if so, is it always … Continue reading The Times Raconteur: Is greenwashing always a bad thing?
Jewish communities have suffered a spate of horrifying anti-Semitic attacks on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet survival has always been the story of the Jewish people. Remembering how previous generations responded to persecution shows how light can still be found amid darkness. Consider the life of Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005), an Austrian Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals. Before … Continue reading Wall Street Journal: In a Concentration Camp, Dreams of a Café
Unconscious bias training has become the go-to diversity training for large companies. Almost 20 per cent of US companies offer the training, according to one estimate, and they spend $8 billion on such initiatives. However, despite the hype around unconscious bias training, an increasing amount of evidence shows that it doesn’t actually change behaviour. In the worst case, it can even backfire. In unconscious bias … Continue reading The Sunday Times Raconteur: Can you change your unconscious biases?
On a recent visit to the Royal Academy, I noticed a tall, elegantly dressed man who spent quite some time admiring a square object attached to the wall. I wondered whether to tell him that far from being Russian avant-garde art, which was the theme of the exhibition, it was in fact the temperature and humidity control box. Many visitors to Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Ironies of Ideology
“Austria comes alive on my divan,” said Berta Zuckerkandl, and this was an understatement. An influential journalist and art critic, Zuckerkandl welcomed everybody from Auguste Rodin and Gustav Klimt to Arthur Schnitzler at her home. There, she promoted their work, found them buyers and introduced them to the luminaries of the day. “Hail to the most marvellous and witty woman in Vienna,” Johann Strauss is … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Viennese rooms with a point of view
Long before either Ukraine or Russia existed, there was Kiev. For centuries, the city’s residents have been sauntering along the Dnieper River, strolling through the green hills on which the city is built and exchanging news on Krechatyk Street. The city’s architecture attests to its longevity. There’s the Byzantine Saint Sophia Cathedral, which was built in the 11th century, and has scribbles from medieval visitors … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: City where history is still being made
Security researcher Ophir Harpaz was browsing a travel website to book a flight when she noticed a little prompt many of us are familiar with. It said: “38 people are looking at this flight.” At first glance, this may seem to be a helpful reminder warning that the flight might sell out. Except it wasn’t so. In a tweet that has since gone viral, Harpaz … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur: What are dark patterns and how are they tricking me?
When it comes to shopping, convenience is the name of the game. Increasingly, one-click buying, contactless payments and same-day deliveries create a frictionless shopping experience. But is friction necessarily a bad thing? After all, removing friction creates a cognitive and emotional distance from our purchase. In other words, it makes handing over money feel less real. At the same time, we increasingly shop online through … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur: Exploring the dark side of frictionless shopping
What makes a genius? Since at least the 19th century, some have said it is down to genetics, while others have argued that upbringing is decisive. More recently, the idea that genius rests on sheer hard work — the “10,000 hours” thesis popularised by the writer Malcolm Gladwell — has gained currency. The latest contribution to the debate comes from the journalist and travel writer … Continue reading Financial Times: How to create a golden age
Tucked away between office buildings by Euston station is where I found the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s a little place with colourful bunting, a cheerful selection of chairs and flowery plastic tablecloths. It’s the kind of theatre where you can buy a packet of crisps in the interval, rather than wasabi peas. I went to see a talk and two plays that were part of Whose … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Whose London is it anyway?
I recently went to a public lecture at LSE hosted by the Forum for European Philosophy. The discussion was entitled “Does philosophy have to be obscure?” It struck me as a bit odd that both possible responses presume that philosophy is indeed obscure. If we understand “obscure” as “unclearly expressed” or “not easily understood”, so many things seem more obscure – Facebook’s terms of agreement, say, or … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Does philosophy have to be obscure?
One of the 20th century’s main advocates of high-rise tower blocks was the architect Ernő Goldfinger. To address the acute housing shortage following the Second World War, he designed concrete monsters including the Trellick Tower in Kensington, which was completed in 1972, and Balfron Tower in Poplar, completed in 1967. Living with Buildings, at the Wellcome Collection, London, until March 3, 2019, explores how buildings … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Wholesome homes
While robots can’t be ethical agents in themselves, we can programme them to act according to certain rules. But what we expect from robot ethics is still a subject of hot debate. For example, technology companies have discovered that people share some of their darkest thoughts with virtual assistants. So, how do we expect them to respond? What do we expect from virtual assistants? When … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur: Should robots be expected to make ethical decisions?
Imagine you’re on your way back from work and you pop into a shop. You weren’t looking for anything in particular, but an hour later you find yourself walking out with a big smile and multiple bags in tow. What happened? Behavioural economists call it the effect of “shopping momentum”. We like to think we’re rational consumers when it comes to our spending. After all, … Continue reading The Sunday Times’ Raconteur: Can money buy happiness after all?
We are not rational thinkers, but emotional creatures when it comes to making financial decisions. This idea has been gaining currency ever since the acclaimed psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel prize for economics with Amos Tversky for their work on behavioural economics. Many experiments have shown that it’s easier for us to part with money if we’re paying by card rather than in cash, … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur supplement: Taking the emotion out of trading
A new show about consciousness takes a terrifying look at how scientists, philosophers and artists deal with “the hard problem” In the 17th century, Descartes famously argued that the body and mind are two different things. Philosophers have been discussing the difference ever since, and this “mind-body problem” is far from solved. Today, science is still struggling to explain how our soggy grey brains give rise to the … Continue reading The Economist’s 1843: The malleability of our minds
Why don’t surgeons have coaches, just like top athletes and singers? Medical professionals are expected to deliver care in a fast and cost-efficient way, while keeping up to date with the most recent technologies. Even the best-trained professionals can benefit from coaching to improve their skills, according to surgeon and author Atul Gawande. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are set to be in … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur supplement: Could AR and VR transform surgery forever?
Jonathan Verk, co-founder of coParenter, has first-hand experience of a bruising marriage break-up. “Six years ago, I started going through what ended up being an absolutely brutal litigated divorce,” he says. “I had a front-row seat to see just how bad the system can be for people. And as bad as it was for us, it was devastating for our kids.” After 25 years in … Continue reading The Sunday Times’ Raconteur: Rise of the robot mediator
In his previous book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr argued that the Internet diminishes our power to concentrate and contemplate. Now he turns his eye to automation: “If you want to understand the human consequences of automation”, he writes, “the first place to look is up”. Air travel has been at the vanguard of automation, and it has become safer on the whole. By the same … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Engage neutral
I have lived in London for many years, and I still can’t tell King’s Cross from St Pancras station. But I know where platform 9¾ to Hogwarts is, and I also know that the easiest way to travel to Germany is by train. Whenever I fly, I have to leave the house at the crack of dawn, rely on my train to be on time, … Continue reading Money Observer: The easiest way to travel is by train
Much has been written about how automation will replace humans in the workplace. But what about those who have only been half replaced? I met some of them recently. On a recent trip, I was walking through the electronic passport control gates at Frankfurt airport. When I pressed my passport onto the glass screen, the gates swung open to reveal two people sitting behind a … Continue reading Money Observer: Where automation only half-replaces humans
The young are vocal about climate change, pollution and inequality. Last year, Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg was catapulted to fame when her climate protest sparked an international wave of school strikes. The youngest-ever US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been making waves with her Green New Deal. One of the most powerful recent appeals, however, comes from Sir David Attenborough and his documentary series Our Planet. … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur supplement: Why impact investing isn’t just for millennials
Economists look to house prices, GDP and retail sales to predict the next recession. But a new study says we could look elsewhere to know when the next downturn is due: by counting the number of women who are pregnant. Previous research has shown that birth rates fall in a downturn, but the current study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that … Continue reading Money Observer: Fertility and other surprising ways to spot a recession
Winston Churchill’s half-smoked cigar sold for $12,000 at a US auction in October. A hand-written note by Albert Einstein on the topic of happiness (“a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest,” he wrote) went for $1.5 million in Jerusalem. In London, Audrey Hepburn’s iconic blue satin sleep mask was bought for £6,250, some 50 times … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Tunnel Vision
Public opinion on journalists has always been influenced by how they – or should I say we – are represented in novels, films and popular culture. In her PhD-thesis-turned-book, Sarah Lonsdale traces fictional and real journalists throughout the twentieth century. From swashbuckling Edwardian alcoholics with “special ink for hot countries which would not dry up” to the post-war alienated outsider, Lonsdale analyses how journalists have … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Of lesbians and constipation
Drug prices pose an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, treatments should be affordable to those who need them, but on the other, companies will have to finance many failed drug development attempts in order to uncover the successful few, so each life-saver may carry a hefty price tag. While pharmaceutical companies tend to deal with well-known generic drugs, biotech companies focus on developing new … Continue reading Money Observer: Is it time to invest in biotech?
There were ten men in an audience of about a hundred at How To Date a Feminist, a new play by Samantha Ellis (the author of How To Be a Heroine) at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston. As a feminist, I was naturally curious to find out what it means to date me. But it quickly became clear that the feminist in question in Ellis’s play … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: How to date a feminist
Hot Milk, the book for which Deborah Levy has been nominated for this year’s Man Booker Prize, explores hypochondria and the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter. It is characterised by a wicked sense of humour and sublime rhythm. Previously nominated for Swimming Home (2011), a novel on the insidious harm depression can have on apparently well-turned-out people, Levy is the only female British … Continue reading Jewish Chronicle: An interview with Deborah Levy
Guy de Maupassant is considered the greatest short story writer in French literature. He is often said to have defined the modern short story and influenced the likes of Chekhov, Maugham, Babel and O. Henry. In France, his work is studied at secondary schools and universities, as it is in England. But it is probably true to say that in the English-speaking world generally he … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Found In Translation
The first time I came across the Israeli short-story writer Etgar Keret was through a comment he made about Franz Kafka. When Kafka died in 1924, he left his diaries, manuscripts and letters with his friend Max Brod, and ordered him to burn them unread. Instead, Brod released The Trial, The Castle and Amerika, turning Kafka into one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. But many manuscripts … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Israel’s Impish Ice-Breaker
He may be America’s greatest living comedian, but if you relied on British television you might never have heard of Jackie Mason. In this country, he must be the most underrated stand-up in the business. You have to see him live — and the opportunities are getting rarer. Three years ago Jackie Mason came to London on a farewell tour. This summer he returned to … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Underrated – Jackie Mason
Notes on a Voice: Marina Gerner pins down the work of a Nobel prize-winning novelist who revealed the inside through the outside “All I had to do was be there with buckets to catch it,” Saul Bellow said of his breakthrough novel “The Adventures of Augie March” (1953). Augie is a dreamy idealist with a drifting mind. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he grew up … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: Saul Bellow’s Introspection
“Journalism and scholarship usually inhabit different planets”, Jeffrey J. Williams writes. Journalists and academics have different gods and languages. While journalists favour speed, paying homage to Hermes, scholars look to Apollo, favouring rumination. In How To Be an Intellectual, Williams, who is Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, argues the twain shall meet in the writing of criticism. Academics should take lessons … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: How to be an intellectual
Women who engage in public speaking are seen as “freakish androgynes”, argued classics professor Mary Beard in her recent London Review of Books speech at the British Library. Throughout the centuries we have come to believe that public speaking is men’s business, Professor Beard said, citing Homer’s Odyssey and referring to the likes of Aristotle and Cicero. However, Aristotle and Cicero had female contemporaries who are … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Beards need not apply
Simon Blackburn credits L’Oréal’s slogan, “because you’re worth it”, as a source of outrage and inspiration for Mirror, Mirror: The uses and abuses of self-love. Drawing on the myth on Narcissus, Blackburn writes on vanity, pride and amour propre with deep insight. He introduces “lofty pride”, for instance, with reference to the House of Pride, allegory of fickleness and superficiality, in Spenser’s Faerie Queene. A more … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Book Review of Simon Blackburn’s “Mirror Mirror”
When telephones were still a rare possession, the French artist Jean-Louis Forain decided to install a telephone in his town house. Wanting to surprise his good friend Edgar Degas with it, he invited him around for dinner and made sure to leave the table and conspicuously take a call. When he returned to the dinner table, Degas drily remarked: “So that’s the telephone? They ring, … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Phoney Freedom
Sometimes a chief executive must hope that an unwise quote from a while back would just curl up and die. Seven years ago, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, gave a frank interview to Salon explaining what kind of customers he liked in his stores. “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: The CEO and the Not-So-Smart-Quote
On Sunday, the cosmetics company Dove released a three-minute video on YouTube called “Dove Real Beauty Sketches”. By Friday it had nearly 9m views. The video features a former forensic artist from the San Jose police department sitting behind a white curtain as several women tell him, one after another, what they look like. “Tell me about your chin…your jaw,” he asks, as he sketches. Their replies are … Continue reading The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine: The Latest Beauty Product: Concern
“Street art—you mean vandalism? No, thank you.” That was the response of a friend when I invited him to join me at the Museum of the City of New York for their recent exhibit, “City as Canvas.” His scruple was understandable but a little out-of-date. Graffiti was once something so furtive and illicit that the city of New York spent over three hundred million dollars … Continue reading First Things Magazine: Taking Art Off the Street – Museums are giving street art a home, but at what cost?