Flying Cars: No Longer Just a Dream

When people think of flying cars, they usually picture the Jetson’s mode of transportation, an iconic vision of a futuristic utopia. However, the idea is closer than we think. About a couple weeks ago, Uber Technologies Inc. announced the expected initial testing of air-travel in 2020. The two target cities are Dallas and Dubai, both of which suffer from heavy car congestion. The goal is ambitious but important; the implications of affordable and efficient technology are tremendous.

How does this work? The idea of the “flying car” requires a new type of battery-powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTOL). The “flying car” would take off from “vertiports” in urban cities, usually on rooftops of buildings.

Though it is fun to think about the idea of the Jetson’s flying car coming to life, the actual vehicle will be not be similar to an automobile nor helicopter. Additionally, due to the goal of affordable travel (Uber projects the long-term cost to be around $200,000) and efficient technology for the larger population, the “flying car” will most likely be first used as an air shuttle.

“Flying cars” aren’t just useful for reducing traffic congestion. Berger board member, Mari Adam ’80, elaborates on the financial impact of the new technology, adding that it is not clear yet who will benefit from the innovation and who will not.

After learning about all the caveats past the “click-bait” title of the article, one question remains: should we be excited about this? As someone who has interned the past two summers in an innovation and technology department, my answer is a resounding yes. Innovation and technology not only matters in terms of building the ideal product. Rather, a large part of the journey of innovation is the trial-and-error that inspires people to think outside the box and encourages people to explore their seemingly wild ideas. The “flying car” coming into fruition is symbolic of surpassing boundaries and achieving the unachievable. One important lesson we can take away from Uber’s decision to embark on this ambitious project can be best summed up by Uber’s chief product officer, Jeff Holden: “If you’re not planting the seeds for five, 10 years out, you have no company in five to 10 years.” Innovation does not happen overnight, and I am glad to see Uber pushing forward technologies that can enhance our future.

By: Sharon Chiang ’17

Don’t Just Bounce Back, Bounce Forward: Career Advice from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

We often hear about the term “bounce back” as prevalent life advice. Such a powerful phrase motivates people to see that though setbacks can push us further away from our original goal, we can return to our original state.

However, what if there’s a better response? Adam Grant suggests bouncing forward instead. He delves into how both he and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg have researched ways to build resilience in the face of adversity. Their recently published book, Option B, sheds insight on moving forward. ­­

In the scope of navigating careers, people inevitably run into failure. However, it is important to reassess the situation. What is truly the root of the problem? Sandberg highlights the three sources from which it can arise: you, the other person, and the relationship itself. Rather than blaming your boss or internalizing the failures, the “bounce forward” approach encourages people to evaluate the third factor: the relationship between the two people. In other words, as Grant puts it, “It’s not me. It’s not you­­. It’s us.”

“Bouncing forward” reminds us to not only heal the problem at its wound, but to also fix the problem at its source. Building strong relationships is a major factor in determining career success, and it is a skill that we continue to learn to improve. If you have encountered a setback in the workplace, just remember — not only can you bounce back, but you can bounce forward.

By: Sharon Chiang

Disconnecting to Reconnect: A Break from Technology

During my time in college, I have used a variety of technology to stay connected with friends, family, and my professional network. From Snapchat to Instagram, texting to emailing, Facebook to LinkedIn, our current day and age allows people to be connected in more ways than ever before. However, with so many mediums to stay connected, it is easy to feel disconnected to what is happening around us. Too many times have I caught my friends on their phones while hanging out with them in person. With such an environment, it is easy to slip into technology-dependent habits as well.

In theory, it seems easy to disconnect from technology by not using it, but in practice, it becomes much more difficult. One time, I decided not to look at my phone for 8 hours, only to receive many concerned texts from friends asking if I was okay. Being by your phone or computer at all times becomes the norm, and therefore, 24/7 availability becomes not only possible, but expected.

It seems like the complete rejection of technology is nearly impossible, especially in a college setting. But a partial reduction is more attainable. For instance, last semester, I wanted to focus my attention on recruiting. I decided to delete my Snapchat and Instagram for two months; as a result, I found life to be simpler and did not find myself missing out.. I was still connected with friends through other forms of technological communication, but I had reduced the scope of information I was giving out and taking in.

The days I spend the least amount of time on social media are when I am engaged in interesting activities, ranging anywhere from spending time with friends, participating in extracurriculars, or exploring a new area. Only on days where I am stuck doing meticulous work or simply curious do I find myself perusing through the nearly endless posts of the people in my network. However, though my social media cleanses have suited me well, I am still a strong proponent of technology and social media. As a creative person, I view social media as an outlet of personal expression. I enjoy learning about what is important to my friends through their posts, and I’ve reconnected with old friends by finding out that they’re near me. As with everything, there needs to be a good balance of your time spent with people online and in person. A break from technology every once in a while can be just the fix we need.

By: Sharon Chiang

Stronger Outline = Stronger Story: Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA’s Workshop Tells All

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Whether you’re a plotter, a “pantser” or somewhere in between, an outline can make your story stronger while making your writing life easier. Many writers think of an outline as either too daunting or too stifling but, if done correctly, it can be a powerful addition to your writing toolkit.

During this workshop, Gabriela will show you how to create a strong, flexible outline that’s custom-designed for your style, your process, and your story. She will also share her secret sauce formula for story structure and show how it works in popular books and movies. You’ll leave this interactive session knowing how to use your outline to perfect your plot, deepen your characters, and guide your story from draft to done.

Want to attend the workshop? RSVP here and come out on Monday, April 24th, 2:00 – 3:30pm at the Center for Writing and Public Discourse to learn more.

Can’t make the talk but want to learn more? Sit in for her Athenaeum talk on Monday, April 24th, 12:15 p.m.

The Biology of Good and Evil

Sharon Chiang ’17, Robert Sapolsky, and Rachel Lee ’17

What makes someone good or evil? Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology, neurosurgery, and neurology at Stanford University, dives into human biology to find the answer. By looking at the history of our species and its genetic inheritance, his Ath talk explores what we are restrained by, what we are capable of, and what we can do to change the world for the better.

As a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Sapolsky has proven to be exceptionally creative. Sapolsky delves into the neurobiology of human beings, such as how the fear-inducing amygdala activates differently within different people, how dopamine drives motivation and anticipation for reward, and more. Sapolsky argues that the term “good” and “evil” can be linked to people’s cultural influences, their biological programming, and differences in upbringing.

However, though the introduction to neurology helped clarify exactly why humans behave the way they do, his conclusion on what we could do about it received a standing ovation from the entire audience.

Sapolsky’s conclusion? That humans are complicated. We scorn violence that occurs to innocent bystanders, yet we desire violence on those who inflict horrendous crimes against humanity. We perform acts of war, yet during war, we also perform acts of kindness. To Sapolsky, humans have the capacity to simultaneously believe in two contradictory things. Despite living in continuous contradictions, which Sapolsky says is just life, he challenges us to always do better and strive to bring empathy, altruism, and kindness to the world. Though it is irrational to believe that those who are our enemies deserve our empathy or those who have wronged us should be forgiven, he says that this is the uniqueness of humans. He leaves us with a quote, telling us that though learning about history teaches us not to repeat mistakes from the past, learning about our biology teaches us that we can replicate acts of goodness in times when we need it the most. The more impossible it seems to do the right thing, the more important it is that we do so. . That is, to Sapolsky, what makes us human.

Didn’t make it to the talk? Catch Sapolsky’s TED talk on the uniqueness of humans here

By: Sharon Chiang