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🤖S3T Jan 26, 2024 - Wages vs Inflation, Medical Debt, Social Robots, Nano motors, Water Bears, Bias for Knowns...

🤖S3T Jan 26, 2024 - Wages vs Inflation, Medical Debt, Social Robots, Nano motors, Water Bears, Bias for Knowns...
Photo by erin mckenna / Unsplash

In this edition:

  • Macro: You may have noticed a recent meme about wages growing faster than inflation. Real? or Transitory? Plus:Medical Debt.
  • Emerging Tech: Democratizing AI, Nanoscale Turbines, Social Robots - Helping those with Dementia. AI and Digital Twins.
  • Nature Notes: Researchers have just discovered how Tardigrades - the ultimate survivors - enter and exit dormancy.
  • Change Leadership: This bias stops teams from their biggest wins: how to overcome it.

🔊 Listen to this edition on the S3T Podcast (and forward to a friend!)

I'm fascinated by the emerging discipline of change leadership and what good things happen when we help people master the change leadership skillset. Each week I share the latest insights and essential perspectives via the S3T newsletter & podcast to empower your journey as a change-maker. I hope this edition gives you max value in the coming week! Thank you! --Ralph Perrine

⛵ Macro: Rough seas and smooth sailing

India now has the 4th largest equity market in the world, overtaking Hong Kong as investors sour on Chinese companies. China is off to a very rough start in 2024.

Global markets are monitoring the potential price and inflation impacts of Houthi attacks on merchant ships.

In the US, final economic data from 2023 was released this week with better than expected GDP 3.3% for Q4 and 3.1% for 2023 overall. But experienced investors worry the S&P 500 is overheating - some use the phrase “irrational exuberance” and see a possible correction coming, with eerie similarities to the last correction.

Wages beating inflation? Real or ....Transitory?

You may have noticed a recent meme about wages growing faster than inflation. This circulated back in the summer of 2023 (here and here), but is being pushed hard here at the beginning of this election year (papers, news headlines, airport tv monitors).

So are wages really beating inflation? This chart helps put it into perspective:

Statistic: Difference between the inflation rate and growth of wages in the United States from January 2020 to December 2023 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

If you look at the period between March-November 2023 you could argue that wages were rising while inflation was coming down (as pandemic supply chain shocks began to subside). But it's harder to argue that if you look at the entire chart and pretty much impossible to make that argument if you look back even further.

So while it is welcome news that wages are - for now - rising faster than inflation there are a few key balancing factors:

  • As noted in previous S3T editions, federal inflation tracking is artificially narrow and doesn't reflect the full impact on workers and families.
  • The long-term impact of monetary devaluation and inflation combined with income inequality is still being felt by many. See Medical Debt segment below.

This is welcome progress. But what happens from here on is what's important. In some ways, the upcoming election will be a test of whether we are starting to effectively address economic inequality or not.

Recommended Reading:

Healthcare - Medical Debt

NY Mayor Eric Adams announced a partnership with RIP Medical Debt that will cancel $2 billion with of medical debt for 500,000 residents. Medical bankruptcies continue to be a crisis problem in the US.

Interestingly the ACA does not seem to have impacted the number of medical bankrupties. In fact, after the law's passing, bankruptcies rose from 65% to 67%.

Time magazine put together a helpful explainer on what happens when medical debt gets handed over to a collections agency (and best ways to protect or restore your credit and finances).

Emerging Tech

Nano Turbine

A team of researchers from 3 universities has built the world's first working nanoscale motor: an impossibly tiny turbine capable of rotating at up to a billion rotations per minute. The innovation has potential applications in healthcare - for example, versions of this motor would be small enough to travel in a bloodstream and look for and perhaps resolve anomalies.

Democratizing AI

This week the National Science Foundation launched the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource a pilot partnership of 10 federal agencies and 25 private sector and nonprofit orgs in a bid to give researchers and schools better access to AI infrastructure and tools. The initiative intends to enable access to training, user support and datasets as well as computing and software.

Social Robots - Helping those with Dementia.

A study in Italy is gathering data on how dementia patients in a care center respond or benefit from a small robot that looks like a seal (detailed study plan here). The study began in 2022 and wraps up this March.

Further reading

AI and Digital Twins

Pharma hopes AI-based simulations and AI enhanced ”digital twins” will help them streamline clinical trials. Key question: will virtual clinical trials prove to be an accurate safe way to learn how real humans will respond to a treatment?

ICYMI: Electric Capitals Crypto Developer Report (181 slides!) based on analysis of code repositories. Developers (and what they are choosing to spend their time on) are a leading indicator of value creation. Highlights were shared in last week’s edition of S3T.

🌄 Nature Notes

How to increase your appreciation of the treasures of the natural world, and nurture its capabilities.

DALLe image - Tardigrade orbiting the earth in space

How Water Bears survive anything

Researchers have long known that Tardigrades - aka "Water Bears" shut down to survive - they go into a dormant state which allows them to survive extremely hostile environments no other living things can survive - including outer space!

But researchers never understood what exactly triggered that dormant state and what allowed them to come out of it - until now. This month researchers from UNC and other universities published findings that the amino acid cysteine triggers the animals to enter a dormant dehydrated state.

Note: The image above is not biologically accurate - Water Bears have a single hole in their head rather than a cute smiley face. But my prompt said something like "show a happy tardigrade orbiting the earth in space."


This bias stops teams from their biggest wins: how to overcome it.

Have you ever been in a meeting where you felt people weren't being receptive, and you were hearing phrases like these:

  • "Let's table this for now" - in other words, we want to deal with things that are more clear, and more defined and we assume that we'll have sufficient time later to figure that out. This notion often causes teams to lose competitive advantage because they failed to start learning about some new problem/solution when they needed to.
  • "What problem are we trying to solve?" - suggesting that no learning or experimentation should ever occur unless we've anchored it to a current definition of a current problem.
  • "What we've decided" or "how we've done it" - defending previous understandings or processes, or wanting to continue to rely on them when new developments are making them obsolete.

Often people will question the value of changes because it's different from what they're used to.

When you get these kinds of reactions, it can be frustrating. But I want to show you how to turn it around. By understanding people's natural bias for familiar, known, unambiguous conditions, you can create openness to change that otherwise won't happen.

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