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A Fix For Voice Mail

Voice mail is stupid:

Teddy Wayne, Millennials Shy Away from Voice Mail

One factor behind the decline of voice mail is that it represents a gesture of vulnerable intimacy among otherwise alienated modes of communication.

Ms. [Kate] Greathead agrees: “It seems more practical to text or email. The only reason you leave a voice mail is so the person can hear the sound of your voice. It almost seems presumptuous, for that reason.”

As she suggested, there’s also the understandable matter of efficiency. A missed-call notification on a cellphone can be its own request for a call back. A “Call me” text will likely be read more quickly than a voice mail message will be heard, and if the matter is urgent, multiple missed calls may declare that most vociferously.

Voice mail greetings, too, have grown increasingly tedious on mobile phones. At the start of the gauntlet is the cellphone provider’s slowly read message that “your call has been forwarded to an automated voice-messaging system.” Then you must wait through either the robotic reading of the phone number, or the recipient’s personalized greeting, which also often includes the number (information that seemed superfluous in the landline era, unless it was given in lieu of one’s name, but even more so now, when the phone’s screen already indicates the number).

I’m tired of the geezerish etiquette lessons about voice mail. the quote above, by Kate Greathead hits the issue perfectly: The only reason you leave a voice mail is so the person can hear the sound of your voice.

What we lack is a convention — that phone companies would agree to — where instead of having to go through the whole drill with the voice mail machinery, we could instead hit a standard code — like *99 — and then be allowed to type a short message, or *999 to leave audio. Then we could avoid the enormous time waste of millions of people bailing when they hear ‘your call has been forwarded…’, and then later send a text message.

James S.H. Lee’s paperclip armrest, designed in 2009, still is not in use.

Socialogy Interview: Valdis Krebs

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Every age has a theory of rising and falling, of growth and decay, of bloom and wilt: a theory of nature. Every age also has a theory about the past and the present, of what was and what is, a notion of time: a theory of history. Theories of history used to be supernatural: the divine ruled time; the hand of God, a special providence, lay behind the fall of each sparrow. If the present differed from the past, it was usually worse: supernatural theories of history tend to involve decline, a fall from grace, the loss of God’s favor, corruption. Beginning in the eighteenth century, as the intellectual historian Dorothy Ross once pointed out, theories of history became secular; then they started something new—historicism, the idea “that all events in historical time can be explained by prior events in historical time.” Things began looking up. First, there was that, then there was this, and this is better than that. The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence.

Most big ideas have loud critics. Not disruption. Disruptive innovation as the explanation for how change happens has been subject to little serious criticism, partly because it’s headlong, while critical inquiry is unhurried; partly because disrupters ridicule doubters by charging them with fogyism, as if to criticize a theory of change were identical to decrying change; and partly because, in its modern usage, innovation is the idea of progress jammed into a criticism-proof jack-in-the-box.


Google sees you as a user, Amazon sees you as a consumer, Microsoft sees you as an employee (though they’re trying to change that).

Apple sees you as a person, but one at leisure who doesn’t want to be using a computer in the first place.

Beyond the age of information is the age of choices.

Charles Eames

Invest yourself in everything you do. There’s fun in being serious. - John Coltrane 

Invest yourself in everything you do. There’s fun in being serious. - John Coltrane 

(Source: themaninthegreenshirt, via publicradiointernational)

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

(Source: inthenoosphere)

The Fed is Unable to Estimate Growth

Is the Fed tieing it shoe laces together by predicting high growth and then revising downward?

Binyamin Appelbaum, Fed Expected to Reduce Growth Forecast but Cut Stimulus

The pattern is striking. In every year since 2008, Fed officials have steadily reduced their initial expectations for economic growth. In each year except 2012, they had still overestimated the strength of the economy in June of the forecast year.

The consequences at times have been painful. Fed officials have said they did not act more strongly to stimulate the economy in the immediate aftermath of the recession because they expected the economy to rebound more quickly.

Fed officials argue that unanticipated economic setbacks have contributed to their failures of foresight, including spending cuts by federal, state and local governments, the European economic crisis and, most recently, an unusually cold winter.

But officials have also acknowledged that the impact of those setbacks appears to reflect an underlying weakness in the economy that they did not anticipate.

Josh Bivens, director of research and policy at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said economic conditions in recent years had few precedents, making it hard to predict the pace of the recovery. Traditional models assume the Fed can restore growth by cutting interest rates, but the Fed has held interest rates near zero since late 2008, and that has proved insufficient. That has left forecasters guessing, he said.

“You can definitely be sympathetic with them,” he said. “We’re just in uncharted territory.”

Fed officials have adjusted by gradually backing away from their assumption that the economy will rebound strongly. Officials make an initial forecast two years before the beginning of a given year. Those long-range forecasts reflect their views of the economy’s potential more than the conditions that are likely to prevail at that time. And for the last five years, Fed officials have steadily reduced their expectations. In 2009, they estimated that growth in 2012 would run as high as 4.8 percent. Last year, they estimated that growth in 2016 would run no higher than 3.3 percent.

Such slow adjustments are typical, researchers have found. William D. Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale, found in a benchmark 1985 paper that forecasters are anchored to their opinions. “We break the good or bad news to ourselves slowly, taking too long to allow surprises to be incorporated into our forecasts,” Mr. Nordhaus wrote.

The Fed is no better than other market watchers: they are all caught in the postnormal fog, unable to peer into the uncertain future. But the consequences of the irrational exuberance of the Fed’s projections are much more significant than an investment fund guessing wrong on Apple. It seems that the optimism may be another tool in the Fed’s bag to influence behavior of other parties, but this rapidly turns into the boy who cried wolf.