What I’m Reading (Jan. 13)

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The risk management of raw cookie dough, the psychic and physical energy spent in engaging misery, Don’t look up, and the supply chain, quarterly profits, and too-just-in-time.

For me, a hit of raw cookie dough might make me almost as happy as, say, going to a concert. But if I go to a concert these days, I’ll be ratcheting up the risk for myself, the other fans, and everyone I interact with after. When I scrape the side of a bowl and let the resulting dollop melt in my mouth, it’s easier to feel in control, like the risks I take are mine alone.”

Is eating cookie dough too great a risk? A humorous consideration, from The Atlantic, A Very Radical, Very Delicious Take on Risk Management

“Misery is a powerful grouping force. In a famous 1950s study, the social psychologist Stanley Schachter found that when research subjects were told that an upcoming electrical-shock test would be painful, most wished to wait for their test in groups, but most of those who thought the shock would be painless wanted to wait alone. “Misery doesn’t just love any kind of company,” Schachter memorably argued. “It loves only miserable company.”

The internet gives groups the ability not just to express and bond over misery but to inflict it on others—in effect, to transfer their own misery onto those they resent.”

One of the least discussed and most significant causes of “burn-out” among physicians are that patients take much of our “life-giving energy” physically and psychically. That’s okay, that is, after all, the job. But in this thought-provoking article, I wonder whether misery has other unintended or perhaps intended consequences. From The Atlantic, The Cost of Engaging With the Miserable

Did you have a chance to watch “Don’t Look Up?” You should. Here is one take on the satirical movie

“I don’t think this is because journalists are bad people who want us all to die in a spectacular accident. But we’re a bunch of apes who’ve evolved to be very attuned to the machinations of high-status apes so that we can navigate the factional landscape effectively. The reporters and the editors and producers they report to are apes, programming for an audience of apes. So you get a lot of stories about who is fighting whom and through what means. Climate coverage could be better than it is, but it does okay in this landscape because there is a lot of ape-warfare on the climate topic.

By contrast, on something like Covid-19’s origins, we’ve had a decent amount of coverage of the lab leak controversy but essentially no coverage of what is being done to prevent future lab leaks (basically nothing) or to prevent future zoonotic crossover events (again, nothing).”

It becomes an interesting discussion of risk and possibility. From Matt Yglesias, "Don't Look Up" and the cinema of existential risk

It seems that the supply chain crisis will be with us for a while. As with many problems, it has been a long time in coming and has many “causes.” Here is an interesting take you might not have heard.

“In my opinion, what’s caused all the supply chain bottlenecks is modern finance’s obsession with Return on Equity (ROE). To show great ROE, almost every CEO stripped their company of all but the bare minimum of assets. “Just-in-time” everything with no excess capacity, no strategic reserves, no cash on the balance sheet and minimal investment in R&D. We stripped the shock absorbers out of the economy in pursuit of better short-term metrics. Large businesses are supposed to be more stable and resilient than small ones, and an economy built around giant corporations like America's should be more resilient to shocks. However, the obsession with ROE means that no company was prepared for the inevitable hundred-year storms. Now as we're facing a hundred-year storm of demand, our infrastructure simply can't keep up.”

From Noahpinion (you have to love that name), an interview with one of the newer players, but an insider nonetheless. Interview: Ryan Petersen, founder and CEO of Flexport