Friday Five: This Week in Studies

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A New Study, XKCD
A New Study, XKCD

There’s always “a new study” isn’t there? With so many think tanks, market research and data analysis firms feeding the global news cycle it’s hard to keep up with them or to think deeply about them. I thought I’d contribute to the problem by bringing you the most interesting – in my not at all humble opinion – studies of the week.

You can spend the weekend thinking about them and come back fresh on Monday, ready for more!

American Millennials Are Among the World’s Least Skilled

A new study from the Educational Testing Centre says that American millennials have no skills. The study looked at core competencies among millennials, including literacy, mathematics and problem solving, in 23 countries. Millennials scored low in comparison to international millennials and in comparison to Americans in other age groups. Oh my.

Study Finds Public Pension Promises Exceed Ability to Pay

According to a new study from Citigroup, public pensions all over the world are at risk of not being able to pay out: governments have promised more than they can return.

“Twenty countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have promised their retirees a total $78 trillion, much of it unfunded, according to the Citigroup report.

That is close to twice the $44 trillion total national debt of those 20 countries, and the pension obligations are “not on government balance sheets,” Citigroup said.”

Businesses Are Embracing the Idea of Working in Teams. Managing Them Is Hard

A new Deloitte report reveals that teamwork is more popular among executives than ever before. Nearly half of the 7000 executives in 120 countries surveyed reported that their companies are reorganizing to emphasize teamwork. But what are the implications of that? Schmupeter at the Economist has some thoughts.

Immigrants Founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups

The National Foundation for American Policy reports that 51% of the biggest and brightest American startups were founded by immigrants. The non-partisan think tank studied the 44 tech startups valued $1 billion (or more!) and found that not only are a slight majority of founders immigrants, but that immigrants also make up 70% of “key management or product development positions.”

New Study Provides Insight into Working Memory

A new MIT study suggest that the neurons responsible for working memory don’t work continuously but instead fire in bursts of activity, which, researchers think, is how your brain is able to hold multiple bits of information in your mind at a time. This has implications for AI research and, obviously, understanding how our brains really work.

According to the researchers,

“Your brain operates in a very sporadic, periodic way, with lots of gaps in between the information the brain represents,” Miller says. “The mind is papering over all the gaps and bubbly dynamics and giving us an impression that things are happening in a smooth way, when our brain is actually working in a very periodic fashion, sending packets of information around.”

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