Our best shots for tackling our worst problems, from war and disease to unemployment and deficits.
Today’s Smart Choice: Don’t Own. Share
In an era when families are scattered and we may not know the people down the street, sharing things — even with strangers we’ve just met online — allows us to make meaningful connections. Peer-to-peer sharing “involves the re-emergence of community,” says Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. “This works because people can trust each other.”
We yearn to trust and be trusted — one researcher has found that people get a spike of the pleasant neurotransmitter oxytocin when they’re entrusted with another’s goods. That’s the beauty of a sharing society — and perhaps the reason it might prove more lasting than one built on ownership.
Your Next Job: Made in India or China
If not for the continued rapid growth in emerging economies like China and India, the world might easily have descended into a real depression in 2008. China lifted all of East Asia out of the recession by buying capital equipment and consumer goods from Japan, South Korea and the rest of the region. U.S. exports of goods to China reached $92 billion in 2010, a 32% jump. The influence of China and India will only spread and strengthen as the two countries get wealthier and purchase more from the rest of the world. In Western Australia, the local chamber of minerals and energy believes the industry will create 40,000 jobs over the next three to five years in that state alone, in part because of expanding exports to China.
Think of Your Airport as a City — but Nicer
The days when we built our airports around cities now seem distant; in the new, mobile century, we build our cities around airports. For most businesses, it’s more important to be close to Bangalore or Shanghai than to be near the next suburb over. And as we complete “the annihilation of space by time” that Marx predicted, and as connectedness becomes more urgent than rootedness, airports are not just becoming cities. Cities are becoming like airports — places to leave from more than to live in.
The third largest computer company on the planet, Lenovo, doesn’t even have a corporate headquarters; its executives just orbit the globe. Two in every five IBM employees have no office. And Ram Charan, “the most influential consultant alive,” in Fortune’s words, had no home until he bought one (in Dallas, of course) at 67. Previously he lived entirely in hotels and on planes, sending his laundry to an office in Dallas, from which strangers sent him fresh clothes at a future destination.
How Stem Cells Are Changing the Way We Think About Disease
Treating disease is about fixing broken parts — about replacing cells that no longer work as they should, repairing tissues that falter and boosting systems that fail. But curing disease is a different matter. To cure disease, you have to do all of that and more. You have to remove the pathological cause of the problem and to ensure that it doesn’t return. This requires teasing out where rogue cells went wrong and finding a way to nurture healthier ones to replace them.
That’s where the promise of stem cells lies. As the mother cells of every tissue in the body, they are the biological ore from which the body emerges. All cells can trace their provenance to a stem cell, to the embryo and the first days after fertilization when such cells form. It’s now possible to grow stem cells in a lab, not just from embryonic tissue but also by turning back the clock on an already developed cell like one from the skin, bypassing the embryo altogether with four important fountain-of-youth genes that rework the skin cell’s DNA machinery and make it stemlike again.
How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Tweet the Ways
Looking for your Romeo? The boom in Internet dating means there are more fish in the sea than ever before. Heading online is no longer seen as a last resort. Half the respondents in a survey by advertising giant Euro RSCG Worldwide said they knew someone who had met a partner online. With Internet dating, “you kind of go to a ‘bar’ and look at all potential mates very easily and scroll through them,” says Patrick Markey, director of the Interpersonal Relationship Laboratory at Villanova University. For those too busy for the singles scene, online dating is a welcome shortcut, especially when profiles and photos let you be choosy about your choices.
Before you even go on your first date, you can Google and Facebook your potential love to your heart’s content to make sure she’s not hiding any skeletons. “What people know about each other gets revealed more quickly now,” says Robert Rosenwein, a professor of sociology at Lehigh University. “It may warn you off from some people so you don’t have to spend time figuring out whether or not a person’s right for you.”