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Good afternoon to you, email friends. Although it's hard to tell, I think the dark affects others more than me. I'm pretty comfortable at this time of year, although sunshine is still preferable to greyness. However it finds you, I hope you're doing alright with the darkness or, if you're down under, the smoke. 😢

Sometimes it can start to feel like the internet is a runaway nuisance. But then occasionally it can do something truly democratising, and it's a reminder how powerful this thing can be. One such superpower is smashing taboos.
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SALARY: Two years ago, just after we learned of Harvey Weinstein’s systematic harassment and assault of Hollywood's women, a Google spreadsheet began to collect names of men in the media industry described anonymously as sexists, harassers and rapists. Alongside its indented purpose, the Shitty Media Men spreadsheet had another positive outcome: it showed the potential of online spreadsheets as a quick and highly-available means of collecting and sharing data.

Present day. A publicly-available spreadsheet has emerged that gathers and shares the salaries of thousands working in journalism and media, revealing stark disparities, triggering an appetite for much greater transparency. This was followed by another spreadsheet, for people working in advertising that again, to nobody's enormous surprise, reveals striking disparities in pay for different demographic groups, even within the same organisations.

These datasets lack independent verification, and care must be taken to keep them ethical. But they still have tremendous power, not least because of the ease with which the same thinking could be applied to any vertical. No complex app build was needed. No committees. No management. It one person is motivated to find and expose evidence of injustice, they already have all the tools.

Traditional unions are in decline, but here, workers are reinventing how their interests are represented. It's one thing to compare your salary to your industry, it's quite another to use worker data to stimulate broader interest in how people are treated. Will the same approach be adopted in other industries? Or even, at a time of widening inequality, by those supposedly cared for by the state? ✊

🔋 What green costs: transitioning to greener fuels demands a lot of batteries, in turn driving up demand for lithium. Brines in Chile’s Salar de Atacama is the source of 30 percent of the world’s supply, yet resource extraction throws this vulnerable desert wetland out of whack.

🌷 Meet Ynes Mexia, late-blooming botanist whose adventures rivalled Darwin's: this Mexican-American botanist, field scientist, and explorer got her impressive scientific career started in her fifties.

🐴 Pony power: transforming the lives of inner-city kids: Brixton’s Ebony Horse Club is creating stable prospects, providing knowledge, positive activity and a career kickstart for countless children.

📊 Britain’s exit poll has an exceptional record: the Economist looks into perhaps the most expensive single-question social survey in the world, and asks how they get it so right.

🚸 Serious Security Flaws Found in Children's Connected Toys: I know I prattled on about this before but if it's a toy and it wants to join your wifi, think on.

🥊 Why You Should Skip the Easy Wins and Tackle the Hard Task First: low-hanging fruit be damned. New research shows that you lose out when you procrastinate on the difficult stuff.

🎁 Why You're Bad at Giving Gifts: ironically, we're awful gift-givers precisely because we spend too much time trying to be considerate. See also: gift-giving advice for the holidays.

What a way to make a living: Maybe it's the barrage of predictions about how artificial intelligence will disrupt the workforce, but I'm increasingly interested in workers. The talents of individuals have been met and occasionally surpassed by technology before, yet there are still jobs for people to do, and those people still need looking after.

To that end, The Workers Lab pours a Silicon-Valley-eque outlook over a hardened attitude to worker rights, with an innovation fund that gives grants to projects offering workers power. And there's also Placement, a job-search service that promises to find you a healthy pay-rise plus relocation assistance in exchange for a percentage of your new salary.

If your income's not enough or you're unhappy in your work then then change, as they say, starts from within. Even sleep can be good for your salary. But keep in mind that although money's important, financial incentives are weaker than social ones. 💸
Finally: Simulation theory posits we're living in an advanced digital construct overseen by some higher form of intelligence. This post wonders what that simulation would be like under the command of current (primitive) AI capabilities.... specifically, what would pies be like? 🥧

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Found something I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more? Should priests be free to take drugs? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from you—hit reply! If these emails are not being delivered correctly, try adding this address to your contacts. More good stuff next week. Meanwhile recent back-issues are in the archive.

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