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8 Fascinating Reads

Friday - 4/19/2013, 3:25pm  ET

Happy Friday! There are more good news articles, commentaries, and analyst reports on the Web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are eight fascinating ones I read this week.

New normal
Nicholas Carlson of Business Insider discusses what Google does to our heads:

In 2011, Science published a study called: "Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips."

The study showed that humans who used Google a lot were becoming worse at remembering certain things. To many, the study seemed to suggest that Google was making us stupid.

But what the study actually showed was that humans have simply learned to remember differently – in a way that allows us to actually remember, and use, much more information.

Ars Technica nicely summarized its conclusion: "People are recalling information less, and instead can remember where to find the information they have forgotten."

Our brains are adapting to a world in which we can store and find information in a centralized brain.

Mixed views
A new Gallup poll shows Americans' outlook on the jobs market:

Twenty-six percent of Americans say now is a good time to find a quality job -- the highest since March 2008. This is also up from 22% in March and from 21% a year ago, but not much different than the 25% who said the same in January. At the same time, 71% say now is a bad time to find a quality job, down from 74% in March and about on par with the 70% in January. At least eight in 10 Americans believed it was a bad time to get a quality job during all of 2009 through 2011, and for many months in 2012. Seventy-seven percent said it was a bad time to find a quality job a year ago.

Being right vs. making money
Many gold-mining stocks are worth less today than they were five years ago, before the financial crisis. Josh Brown writes about a curious trait of goldbugs:

I have a friend who runs an all-gold hedge fund. He tells me he has a fairly easy job because his [investors] don't care about performance, just that his portfolio continues to represent their rigid ideology. His investors have punched their tickets a long time ago and nothing will change their minds; his job under these circumstances is to simply maintain consistency of portfolio composition and quarterly update blather. He goes about his work of buying and selling gold futures and miners with half a smirk on his face.

What a dumb idea
Marginal Revolution quips about what the original pitches must have sounded like for successful businesses:

Facebook - the world needs yet another Myspace or Friendster except several years late. We'll only open it up to a few thousand overworked, anti-social, Ivy Leaguers. Everyone else will then join since Harvard students are so cool.

Amazon - we'll sell books online, even though users are still scared to use credit cards on the web. Their shipping costs will eat up any money they save. They'll do it for the convenience, even though they have to wait a week for the book.

Mint - give us all of your bank, brokerage, and credit card information. We'll give it back to you with nice fonts. To make you feel richer, we'll make them green.

iOS - a brand new operating system that doesn't run a single one of the millions of applications that have been developed for Mac OS, Windows, or Linux. Only Apple can build apps for it. It won't have cut and paste.

Google - we are building the world's 20th search engine at a time when most of the others have been abandoned as being commoditized money losers. We'll strip out all of the ad-supported news and portal features so you won't be distracted from using the free search stuff.

What's next for China?
The Financial Times writes on why China's big growth days may be over:

First, the potential for infrastructure investment has "contracted conspicuously", with its share in fixed asset investment down from 30 per cent to 20 per cent over the past decade. Second, returns on assets have fallen and overcapacity has soared. The "incremental capital output ratio" -- a measure of the growth generated by a given level of investment -- reached 4.6 in 2011, the highest since 1992. China is getting less growth bang for its investment buck. Third, growth of the labour supply has fallen sharply. Fourth, urbanisation is still rising, but at a decelerating rate. Finally, risks are growing in the finance of local governments and real estate.

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