Lend Me A (Robot) Hand

The Mission Newsletter, 8/3/18

“Realize that now, in this moment of time, you are creating. You are creating your next moment based on what you are feeling and thinking. That is what’s real.” — Doc Childre

This Week’s Best

Episode 69 of The Mission Daily

Chad and Steph break down what they’re reading and listening to, and what you can learn from each.

Listen to Episode 69 of The Mission Daily.

The Mission Daily is a podcast dedicated to accelerated learning and helping you become healthier, wealthier, and wiser. It is designed to help you learn — as fast as you possibly can.

Higher Education Innovation: 25 Examples of Excellence

Creating the Future of Education

As technology advances and the job market becomes more competitive, what it means to receive “a good education” is changing rapidly. A number of colleges and universities have quickly adapted to the change and are preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow.

These higher education institutions are innovating, and that’s why we’ve decided to celebrate these 25 examples of excellence in the field.

Read: Higher Education Innovation: 25 Examples of Excellence

News That Matters


In a new study, researchers found that adding medical cannabis to chemotherapy treatment greatly increased survival rates of mice suffering from pancreatic cancer. For humans, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of any form of cancer. If the results can be replicated in human trials, the outlook for cancer patients could be much better. 🎉 🎉

And, because cannabidiol treatments are already approved for medical use, should further testing prove that combining it with other therapies is an effective form of treatment, there would be few roadblocks to getting the new hybrid treatment to patients in a short period of time.


News is big business, but over the last decade, the newspaper industry has taken quite a hit.

From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees — reporters, editors, photographers andvideographers — worked in five industries that produce news: newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and “other information services” (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.

Newspaper newsrooms took the biggest loss, with employment in print newsrooms dropping 45% during that period. Meanwhile, digital news saw growth and television news stayed mostly stable.


Is it possible to be a good judge of character? Although years of research has been conflicting, a new study shows that there are in fact good judges out there, but there’s more to it than just instinct.

There are not only good judges, but also “good targets” — people who make relevant and useful cues to their personality available. The abilities of the good judge will only manifest when reading good targets. “Much the same way a new calculus book on Amazon that does not make sample content available online will not be understood and evaluated any better by a calculus teacher than a student struggling with arithmetic, a calculus book with chapters provided online will be understood exponentially better by a calculus teacher than the same arithmetic student,” wrote Katherine Rogers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Jeremy Biesanz at the University of British Columbia.

Join us at SIGNAL!

SIGNAL celebrates the developers, the builders, the innovators, the doers, and the dreamers who are reimagining how the world communicates. Be a part of it with us! Go to signal.twilio.com and get your ticket for 20% off by using the promo code: MISSION20.

Tech Trends

Automation of everything is getting closer and closer. OpenAI, a San Francisco artificial intelligence lab, has made progress in creating a robotic hand that functions almost like a real one.

Using machine learning, the robotic hand, called Dactyl, can handle a wooden block and show you the letter you ask it to — a process it learned on its own. Also being produced at a lab in California (Autolab, a robotics lab inside the University of California at Berkeley), are The Gripper and The Picker. The Gripper is a two-fingered machine that can pick up and sort objects, and The Picker uses a gripper and suction cup to pick up objects of all shapes and sizes.

The system benefits from dramatic advances in machine learning. The Berkeley researchers modeled the physics of more than 10,000 objects, identifying the best way to pick up each one. Then, using an algorithm called a neural network, the system analyzed all this data, learning to recognize the best way to pick up any item. In the past, researchers had to program a robot to perform each task. Now it can learn these tasks on its own.

Marketing Trends

Like so many others, IKEA is moving toward a marketing strategy less reliant on print and more focused on experiences.

This year, the furniture retailer will ship 50 percent fewer catalogs to customers and instead invest that money into digital billboards and pop-up shops in some of the bigger markets.

“We’re sharing content in new ways because consumers are consuming content in new ways,” explains Kendra Ferguson, media project manager for Ikea North America, which is headquartered in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. “We’re doing more digital and having experiences so people can interact with us more.”

Education Trends

As Harvard continues to battle a discrimination lawsuit in regards to its acceptance practices, a renewed interest in changing the system has cropped up.

Experts are advocating for a lottery system in which qualified high schoolers would be placed in a pool and then randomly selected rather than judged on criteria such as after-school activities and course selection.

Lotteries would encourage a certain degree of risk-taking among high-school students. In recognizing that their admission is random, perhaps highly qualified high-schoolers would embrace their passions and explore their intrinsic interests rather than pad their resumes with accomplishments and activities they think — and have been told — those elite colleges prioritize. Under the current model, “everything they do is calculated to produce better credentials — high grades, great SAT scores, impressive extracurricular activities,” Schwartz wrote. “They choose classes that play to their strengths, rather than those that might correct their weaknesses or nurture new interests.” The result, he argued, is a “distorted adolescence” for many of the country’s most talented youth.

The Best of What We Are Reading

“We are lived by drives we cannot command, and we are read by works we cannot resist. We need to exert ourselves and read Shakespeare as strenuously as we can,while knowing that his plays will read us more energetically still.” -Harold Bloom

Read: Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom

Writer Spotlights

Good News! A Niche-nado Is Coming! by Christopher Lochhead

7 Essential Traits for Anyone Who Wants to Build a Career in the Arts by Srinivas Rao

The Six Most Important Business Lessons From All of History by AJ Jacobs

Thanks again to our friends at Twilio for sponsoring The Mission!

Our Media

The Mission is a new kind of media company. We publish stories, videos, and podcasts to help smart people get smarter. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or learn more about us here. We’d love to connect!

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We create custom podcast sponsorships for enterprise companies. To learn more about why companies like Salesforce trust us to produce results, connect with our team here.

Lend Me A (Robot) Hand was originally published in The Mission on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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