The vital connection we fail to make in a world that’s more connected than ever


Knowing your neighbors is good for your health. (Dominick Reuter/Reuters)

Here’s a look at five ideas impacting the way we live, work and play.

1. The trouble with not knowing your neighbors. Here’s a fascinating read. Technology and innovation have done great things for online communities, but we’re less in touch with the physical communities around us. Most Americans don’t know all of their neighbors. From Maclean’s:

However powerful the economic and social forces behind the disappearing neighbor — and however positive many of its results — according to reams of new research, the transformation is also poisoning our politics and, quite literally, killing us.

Two new books, “The Vanishing Neighbor by Marc Dunkelman, and Susan Pinker’s forthcoming “The Village Effect,” mine the data and sound loud warnings. The health aspects are alarming enough for Pinker, a Montreal-based developmental psychologist, to have changed her own habits of a lifetime. She argues that humans need face-to-face contact, as they need air and water.

2. For teens, YouTube stars trump traditional stars. From Variety: 

U.S. teenagers are more enamored with YouTube stars than they are the biggest celebrities in film, TV and music. … That’s the surprising result of a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. The highest-ranking figures were Smosh, the online comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26.

3. Apple’s secretive university for employees. From the New York Times:

Steven P. Jobs established Apple University as a way to inculcate employees into Apple’s business culture and educate them about its history, particularly as the company grew and the tech business changed. Courses are not required, only recommended, but getting new employees to enroll is rarely a problem. …

The classes are taught on Apple’s campus in a section of buildings called City Center and are as thoughtfully planned as an Apple product, the employees said. The rooms are well lit and built in a trapezoid shape; seats in the back rows are elevated so that everyone has a clear view of the instructor. Occasionally, classes are given in Apple’s overseas offices, like one in China, and the professors travel there to teach.

4. A three-sided phone screen. Via CNET:

[Samsung] has begun testing three-sided displays for potential application on mobile devices.

The technology has been rumored for quite some time, but it finally seems to have gained some steam, with sources claiming that such a device could go into production by the end of this year. …

A three-sided display phone just might be what Kim Hyeon Jun, executive manager at Samsung’s Wireless Business Division, had been foreshadowing during Samsung’s second-quarter earnings conference call.

“While I cannot mention specifics, we are planning on unveiling an innovative large-screen flagship model, an attractive phone that takes advantage of cutting-edge materials,” he said.

5. Give your brain a breather. From the New York Times: 

[Summer vacation] is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudofacts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · August 11