Doing Things Differently — #116

How the effort you put in tend to impact the outcome

Good morning,

Welcome to the first Sunday in December.

Apart from the weeks before Christmas being a lovely time of the year, I also look forward to summarising 2023 and making plans for 2024.

It’s always good to remember how much can happen in a year.

This fall, I’ve started talking more publically about what I do and why, especially on Linkedin. And even though it still feels stressful at least 80% of the time, the graph below was a good reminder that not everything should be comfortable — at least not if you have things you want to achieve.

You can clearly see when I started to increase my effort, and even though it was just during one quarter of the year, it still improved my overall impressions by 1116.3% compared to the year before.

And I’m not doing anything crazy. I don’t attempt to go viral. I just speak more about what I already do to those who follow me.

It is a good reminder that it is good to set goals if you want things to change. And that making an effort makes a large difference over time.

And not, it’s not just impressions. More people are actively reaching out, inviting me for coffee or lunch; some even want to know more about Better Odds services. So, it will be one thing I should continue for next year.

What have you been focusing on lately, and are you seeing the results you expected?


📍Five Small Things

Podcast — I started to listen to the history podcast Empire with Anita Anand and William Dalrymple about (surprise, surprise) empires. It goes into how empires rise and fall and how they shape the world around us today. A perfect listen for anyone looking to learn something new over the winter holidays. I think it is crucial to know our history to understand the world today.

Resources — Many people started to freelance this year after many companies restructured. Here’s a good curation of advice and tools for freelancers. Very helpful!

Non-fiction — The book Extremely Online - The Untold Story of Fame, Influence and Power on the Internet by Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz delivers the history of social media and influencers. Taylor is known for covering Internet culture — and for being suspended from Twitter by Elon Musk himself.

AI-demo — The Institute for Intelligent Computing at the Chinese Alibaba Group have published examples of their new AI-based animations of characters. You need to see it for yourself: “Animate Anyone: Consistent and Controllable Image-to-Video Synthesis for Character Animation”

Gifts — Are you looking for holiday presents that don’t end up in landfills? Premium subscriptions to tools like Strava, Audible, or YouTube are often not what comes to mind, but they are very appreciated. Combine it with a nice card, and you’re good to go.

🗞️ The News Section

TikTok Influencers Convert to Islam in Response to Gaza Crisis: A Growing Trend

Internet, Geopolitics

Several content creators and influencers on TikTok have been exploring and converting to Islam as a result of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. This surge of interest in the religion is mainly attributed to the humanitarian crisis unfolding.

New Lines Magazine has shed light on how young Americans, including Christians and Jews, have been drawn to the Palestinian faith and have begun delving into Islam after encountering the religion through TikTok influencers. Individuals such as Clarke Jones, a 30-year-old former atheist, and Jamie Rosario, a 30-year-old product owner, have both converted to Islam, greatly influenced by their interactions with TikTok content and their personal readings of the Quran.

Another notable example is Megan B. Rice, a TikTok content creator who posted a video about Palestinian faith. This video led her to explore the Quran and ultimately led to her conversion to Islam. During this period, her followers increased by more than 400%. Rice even started a virtual World Religion Book Club with a primary focus on the Quran, which garnered significant engagement.

However, it's worth noting that many creators have faced criticism for exploring this topic, and individuals have found it challenging to navigate their faith journeys publicly on social media platforms. Megan B. Rice, for instance, discontinued her Quran lessons on the platform due to criticism from other TikTok users.

The trend raises questions about the authenticity of these conversions, with some people questioning whether they are driven by genuine spiritual exploration or influenced by social media trends and political statements. Additionally, there is concern regarding the potential risks of radicalisation, as there have been instances of social media platforms like TikTok being used to spread extremist ideologies and agendas.

Elon Musk Tells Advertisers To "Go Fuck Themselves", Accusing Them of Blackmail


Elon Musk, the owner of X, made headlines with his controversial remarks at The New York Times’ Dealbook Summit this week. Musk felt advertisers were trying to 'blackmail' him with their advertising dollars and bluntly told them to "go fuck themselves."

This bold statement came in the wake of Musk's endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, which led to a significant backlash from the advertising community. Prominent companies, including Disney, Apple, Paramount, and others, responded by pulling their advertising from Twitter.

Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, specifically cited the negative association with Musk's public stance as the reason for their withdrawal. This move by major advertisers is notable, considering that advertising revenue is a critical financial pillar for Twitter, accounting for up to 90% of its overall revenue.

There seems to be a growing consensus in the marketing community to reconsider the value of advertising on Twitter. The advice leans towards reallocating paid advertising budgets to more effective and stable platforms. This shift directly responds to Musk's unpredictable leadership and the platform's longstanding issues with brand safety.

North American Christmas Tree Shortage Worsens Due to Climate Change

Climate, Christmas

In Canada and the United States, the Christmas tree industry has faced a significant challenge in recent years due to a shortage of trees, a situation that has persisted and worsened. This shortage is primarily attributed to multiple droughts and a heat dome that have adversely affected the growth of popular tree varieties like Douglas firs and Fraser firs. These droughts are not only becoming more severe but are also lasting longer because of climate change.

The ongoing issue results from difficulties in the tree-growing process dating back to the early 2010s, as it takes about eight to ten years for a Christmas tree to reach maturity. This means that the shortage of Christmas trees is also a future concern, as the severe weather conditions we currently see will impact tree supplies eight to ten years later.

Christmas Tree farms in North America traditionally open on Black Friday and close on December 21. This year, trees are selling out faster than in previous years, and many local tree farms have already closed for the season, having sold their entire stock. Some farmers are instead planning to increase prices in 2023 compared to 2022, although most growers raised their prices last year already due to similar shortages.

Sidenote: As you can imagine, Christmas trees are not sustainable. It doesn’t make sense to cut down trees that take 8+ years and lots of water to grow only to provide a few weeks of decoration. As an alternative to this practice, a British company is renting out trees in pots, making it possible to reuse the same trees year after year. And you can find a lot of beautiful, creative and sustainable suggestions with a Pinterest search for “alternative Christmas tree”.

China's Tech Leap: Huawei's Kirin 9000S Chip Marks a Step Towards Technological Self-Sufficiency

Technology, Geopolitics

In an unexpected twist, Huawei, a leading Chinese smartphone manufacturer, has overcome the severe sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in late 2020. to develop an advanced chip, the Kirin 9000S. This breakthrough was made possible by partnering with the state-supported Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC). Despite being isolated from the international semiconductor supply chains and facing additional sanctions targeting SMIC, Huawei's determination paid off.

The Kirin 9000S, initially known as Charlotte, was crafted using less advanced deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machines. This was due to restrictions that prevented Huawei and SMIC from accessing the superior extreme ultraviolet (EUV) equipment. Although this method was more labour-intensive and expensive, it yielded a chip whose performance rivalled slightly older versions from competitors such as Qualcomm.

Huawei's launch of the Mate 60 series in August 2023, featuring the Kirin 9000S, signified a significant revival in the Chinese market. This development took the US, especially National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, by surprise, leading to confusion about how Huawei managed to circumvent the strict sanctions.

This milestone demonstrates Huawei and SMIC's tenacity and innovative spirit and mirrors China's larger goal of achieving technological independence and lessening its reliance on foreign tech. Creating the Kirin 9000S chip is a pivotal move towards this goal, supported significantly by state funding. It paves the way for China in sophisticated AI chip production and presents a formidable challenge to international rivals amid persistent geopolitical strains.

📈 The Insights Section

Women's Employment Hits Record High in the United States: 75.3% of Women Aged 25-54 Now Working

Work, Family

In recent months, the employment rate for women aged 25 to 54 in the United States has reached a record high of 75.3%, surpassing its previous peaks in early 2000 and just before the pandemic. This rate is also 6% higher than it was a decade ago.

A key factor contributing to this high employment rate is the increased level of education among women. In the past two decades, the proportion of women in this age bracket holding a college degree has grown from under 30% to over 45%. This increase in college-educated women has boosted the overall employment rate for women in this age group, contributing an additional 2.7% since 2000.

Moreover, the employment rate among college-educated mothers with young children has significantly increased. The percentage of these women in the workforce has increased by 10% from the early 2000s to 2023. Concurrently, there has been a 10% decrease in women not working due to family care responsibilities, particularly among mothers with infants and toddlers. The pandemic briefly disrupted this trend but has since continued.

The "child penalty," which assesses the impact of motherhood on women's employment compared to men's, has decreased since the 1980s and 1990s for all women. However, post-2000, this trend has diverged based on educational attainment. The child penalty has declined for mothers with a college degree but has remained unchanged for those without a college education.

Motorway Expansion in Europe Soars by 60%, Railways Shrink by 6.5% Since 1995

Climate, Transportation

The report "Development of Transport Infrastructure in Europe" by the EuropeanMobility4All Campaign and Greenpeace provides an in-depth analysis of the expansion and reduction of railways, motorways, and airports across Europe. The study highlights some interesting findings:

  1. Between 1995 and 2018, EU-27, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK spent €1.5 trillion on extending road infrastructure, 66% more than the budget allocated for extending railways (€931 billion). However, the gap decreased slightly during 2018-2021, then the spending gap between roads and railways was 34%. This is because Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the UK invested more in rail than road during these four years.

  2. The length of motorways in the 30 analyzed European countries grew by 60% from 51,494 km to 82,493 km between 1995 and 2020. The highest growth was in Ireland, Romania, and Poland, while the lowest was in Lithuania, Latvia, and Belgium.

  3. A total of 13,717 km of regional passenger rail lines have been temporarily or permanently closed since 1995, with an estimated 7,300 km that could be relatively easily reopened. The overall railway network decreased by 6.5% from 1995 to 2020.

  4. At least 2,582 train stations have been closed (temporarily or permanently), and since 1995, twelve new airports for civil aviation have been opened, along with ten new runways.

  5. The study also found that additional road infrastructure creates more demand for individual motorised transport. Demand for rail transport also grew, attributed to the extension of high-speed rail sections.

The study highlights the significant investment in road infrastructure in Europe compared to railways, despite the growing need for sustainable and environmentally friendly transport options. The closure of railway lines and stations and the expansion of motorways and airports raise concerns about the future of sustainable transport in Europe.

Deep Learning Revolutionises Materials Science: Over 2.2 Million New Crystals Discovered

Artificial Intelligence, Chemistry

Researchers have revolutionised materials science using deep learning, significantly enhancing the discovery of stable inorganic crystals. This approach, employing graph networks trained on vast datasets, has identified over 2.2 million new crystal structures, including 381,000 previously unknown, marking a significant leap in the number of known stable materials.

This breakthrough transcends traditional, costly trial-and-error methods, with 736 new structures already experimentally verified. The deep learning models, known as GNoME, demonstrate exceptional out-of-distribution generalisation, indicating their potential in uncharted chemical spaces.

The implications of this research are far-reaching, promising advancements in areas ranging from clean energy to information processing. For instance, discovering new materials could significantly advance battery technology, impacting various applications. Furthermore, the study highlights the exponential improvement in predictive capabilities with increased data, suggesting even more significant future advancements in materials discovery. Additionally, the research contributes to developing learned interatomic potentials, enhancing molecular-dynamics simulations and enabling accurate predictions of properties like ionic conductivity.

This study marks a paradigm shift in materials science, using deep learning to unlock a new era of rapid and efficient discovery and innovation, with vast implications for technology and beyond.

Study Reveals How Social Bots Skew Online Climate Change Conversations

Internet, Climate

A recent study has highlighted the growing role of automated Twitter accounts, or social bots, in influencing online discussions about climate change and environmental issues.

The study mainly highlights the negative effects of these social bots, suggesting they might be harming the way we talk about and understand serious issues online. This study, which sits at the intersection of computer science and social sciences, points out that there's still much to learn in this emerging area.

One big issue is that researchers don't have standard ways to study these bots, making it hard to know how much they change people's opinions and actions. Most research suggests that social bots are harmful, possibly damaging the quality of online discussions and affecting how people see critical environmental topics. But there's a positive side, especially in emergencies, where these bots could help spread important information quickly.

The study encourages us all to be more aware and educated about these bots so we can spot them and not be influenced by them. This is part of a more significant challenge we face today: staying alert to the subtle but intense effects of computer-controlled stories that shape what we talk about online.

Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something new. ✨

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