“52 things I learned in 2019” – A summary of a fantastically interesting list:

 
#9 Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain. [Victoria Wai-lanYeung]
 
#27 Spotify pays by the song. Two three minute songs are twice as profitable as one six minute song. So songs are getting shorter. [Dan Kopf]
 
#41 Disco, a Japanese high tech manufacturing company, has introduced an internal billing and payment system, where every cost is charged back to workers. Renting a conference room costs $100. “People really cut back on useless meetings,” says one staffer. [Yuji Nakamura & Yuki Furukawa] -> Haha!!! Useless meetings are the harbinger of the apocalypse.
 
#33 According to WaterAid research, women spend 97 billion hours a year looking for a safe place to go to the loo. That equals 46 million working years, which is the same workforce as Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world. [Caroline Criado Perez via Tanya Gold]
 
#42 A man who bought the personalised number plate NULL has received over $12,000 of parking fines, because the system records ‘NULL’ when no numberplate has been recorded. [Jack Morse]
 
#29 Three million students at US schools don’t have the internet at home. [Michael Melia & co] -> Why Trevor is so passionate about internet delivery. Such a critical problem…
 
#3 Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.” (In 2017, an Israeli judge had to decide if one emoji-filled message constituted a verbal contract) [Eric Goldman]
 
#4 Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election. [Simester, Tucker & Yang]
 
#7 At least three private companies have fallen victim to ‘deep fake’ audio fraud. In each case, a computerised voice clone of the company CEO “called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.” [Kaveh Waddell, Jennifer A. Kingson]
 
#15 People hate asking sensitive questions. However, it turns out that people don’t hate being asked sensitive questions. So talking around difficult questions in research interviews is a waste of time and money. [Hart, VanEpps, Schweitzer]
 
#18 Mechanical devices to cheat your phone pedometer (for health insurance fraud or vanity) are now all over AliExpress. [Matthew Brennan]
 
#19 In 2017 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer who sent them fake invoices. [Jeff John Roberts] [found by TomBot*]
 
#20 Teenagers with acne get higher marks, are more likely to complete college and, if female, eventually get paid more than people without teenage acne. [Hugo M. Mialon & Erik T. Nesson]
 
#32 In 2018, the Nigerian government spent more on subsidies for petrol than on health, education, or defence. [Andrew S Nevin]
 
#36 At least half of the effort of most AI projects goes on data labelling, and that’s often done in rural Indian villages. [Anand Murali]
 
#44 Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand. They can use speech synthesisers set at at 800 words per minute (conversational speech is 120–150 wpm). Research suggests that a section of the brain that normally responds to light is re-mapped in blind people to process sound. [Austin Hicks & R Douglas Fields]
 
#46 SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is a rare syndrome where otherwise healthy, high-functioning people are unable to remember events from their own life. There is also an exhausting syndrome called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where people can remember precise details about every single day of their life. [Palumbo & Alain]
 
#50 Six reluctant Chinese hitmen who hired each other to carry out a murder went to jail when their outsourcing scheme collapsed. [Eric Cheung] – explained more in the Planet Money podcast “WHITWELL: So this one is a guy hired a hitman to kill somebody else. That hitman said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to somebody else. He said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to someone else. Went all the way down the chain. The last guy was getting paid so little money, he said, this isn’t worth my while to do it. He went back to the victim and told him what had happened and said, we should split the money. Instead, the victim called the police, and all six of them went to prison.”
 
#52 Asking ‘What questions do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk. (Many more good tips in this thread. [Jacqueline Antonovich]
 
And also covered by Planet Money podcast episode:

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