Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.
Hilton, of course, is a complicated financial case. She inherited a fortune but also earns $25,000 to $100,000 a pop to show up at a party or a nightclub. Hilton “earns” that for her skills as a young, blonde, anorexic-looking woman with low self-awareness or conventional self-respect. But her status as an heiress itself gave her earning potential unavailable to many other young, blonde, anorexic-looking women lacking self-esteem who would like to be paid a year’s salary to drink some booze.
There’s a large dollop of self-congratulation in these gurus’ advice. To offer a blueprint for success is to produce evidence that one’s own good fortune was achieved through deliberate planning, hard work, and good character alone. While all these ingredients are a part of these women’s great American success stories, a large element of luck, and, in some cases, privilege, was involved. To insist that anyone can do it is the bedrock of the American dream, and the answer to everyone who falls short. The flip side of the empowerment doctrine that self-help offers—that the potential to change your life lies entirely within you—is that the potential to fail does, too. At least when God was part of the plan, His hand shared some of the blame.
In Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People or, to go back to the beginning of the genre, Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help (1859), the inspirational anecdotes are about others. Today, the focus is relentlessly on the I who is delivering whatever advice is on offer. It’s their lives that serve as the platform, and if they’ve overcome hardship, so much the better.
A particular concern is the proper balance between specialized skills training and general education, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. On the one hand, the new economy seems to require highly technical skills since it is based on the spread of computers and information technology throughout the work place. Perhaps the only way to a secure job in the future is through the study of university mathematics and engineering or the applied engineering skills taught in technical, vocational, and college programs. That way one can design, implement, and maintain the new computer systems. This view draws strength from newspaper allusions to unemployed Ph.D.’s and literature majors serving cappuccinos.
On the other hand, the new world economy is supposed to be one of flux and endless change. For how long will today’s specific technical skills be relevant? What may be needed is a general education so that one can continue to master whatever new skills come into vogue. Twenty years ago, the computer revolution put a premium on programming, and many people learned computer languages like Fortran, Cobol, and Basic. But today, those skills are wholely obsolete, made irrelevant by new software systems. Where have all the programmers gone?
Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you. No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.
Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.
There’s a special hubris underlying our fetishization of “employability.” Not that it’s an unworthy goal, but I wish we’d show a little more humility when predicting which skills our economy will demand 3-7 years out.
What makes the use of these speech-to-text systems so risky is that they create a significant cognitive distraction, the researchers found. The brain is so taxed interacting with the system that, even with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, the driver’s reaction time and ability to process what is happening on the road are impaired.
(via The New York Times)
Having used plenty of voice activated tech while driving, I can attest that this is a real issue. Hands-free does not make it distraction-free.
Somewhat related: I’m strangely excited for the “Google Glass users walking into things” tumblr. Less so for the “Google Glass users driving into things” tumblr.
We try more to profit by always remembering the obvious than from grasping the esoteric. It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.