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3 Long-Form Articles That Will Blow Your Mind

Warning: these three articles might force you to examine some dearly-held beliefs about business.

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BY Geoffrey James - 14 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Most people react angrily or withdraw entirely when somebody dares to challenge their deeply-held beliefs or assumptions. Rather that questioning those beliefs in the light of facts and arguments, most people cling even more tightly to their preconceived notions.

I suspect I'm not all that different from most people, but the following three articles (all caused me to do 180 degree turns on some beliefs that I'd strongly held for most of my adult life.

I'm providing them to you here (with links in the titles) not just because they're fascinating and iconoclastic but because they're all three (especially #3) incredibly well written, and worth a read just on that basis.

Enjoy! (Or not, as the case may be.)

1. The Management Myth

Author: Matthew Stewart

Published in: The Atlantic (2006)

The Belief It Questions: That management consultants, management books and management degrees are worth the billions of dollars we spend on them each year.

Summary: "Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don't get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead."

Best Quote: "The recognition that management theory is a sadly neglected subdiscipline of philosophy began with an experience of dj vu. As I plowed through my shelfload of bad management books, I beheld a discipline that consists mainly of unverifiable propositions and cryptic anecdotes, is rarely if ever held accountable, and produces an inordinate number of catastrophically bad writers. It was all too familiar. There are, however, at least two crucial differences between philosophers and their wayward cousins. The first and most important is that philosophers are much better at knowing what they don't know. The second is money. In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much."

2. A.I. Gone Awry: The Futile Quest for Artificial Intelligence

Author: Peter Kassan

Published in: Skeptic Magazine (2006)

The Belief It Questions: That the use of computers to solve problems in limited domains (like poker) will ever result in anything resembling human intelligence.

Summary: "For decades now computer scientists and futurists have been telling us that computers will achieve human-level artificial intelligence soon. That day appears to be off in the distant future. Why? In this penetrating skeptical critique of AI, computer scientist Peter Kassan reviews the numerous reasons why this problem is harder than anyone anticipated."

Best Quote: "Even if it were true that current robots or computers had attained insect-level intelligence, this wouldn't indicate that human-level artificial intelligence is attainable. The number of neurons in an insect brain is about 10,000 and in a human cerebrum about 30,000,000,000. But if you put together 3,000,000 cockroaches (this seems to be the A.I. idea behind 'swarms'), you get a large cockroach colony, not human-level intelligence. If you somehow managed to graft together 3,000,000 natural or artificial cockroach brains, the results certainly wouldn't be anything like a human brain, and it is unlikely that it would be any more 'intelligent' than the cockroach colony would be. Other species have brains as large as or larger than humans, and none of them display human-level intelligence -- natural language, conceptualization, or the ability to reason abstractly. The notion that human- level intelligence is an "emergent property" of brains (or other systems) of a certain size or complexity is nothing but hopeful speculation."

3. The Case for Reparations

Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Published in: The Atlantic (2014)

The Belief It Questions: That white privilege doesn't exist and that African Americans are solely responsible for their relative poverty.

Summary: "Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole."

Best Quote: "In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house. But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated 'A,' indicated 'in demand' neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked 'a single foreigner or Negro.' These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated 'D' and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion. Redlining went beyond FHA-backed loans and spread to the entire mortgage industry, which was already rife with racism, excluding black people from most legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage."

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