lavin weekly | October 28, 2016

Lavin Weekly #60: Atwood, Benartzi, & Oxman

1. For Meaning, Look to the Language: Margaret Atwood in Quartz


The bane of many an English student’s existence is the dreaded “What was the author trying to say?” question. It’s often followed by overcomplicated discussions of themes and veiled messages—an elaborate puzzle laid out by the author for the reader to solve. But to Margaret Atwood, whose latest book, Hag-Seed, hit shelves three weeks ago, the meaning is in the words themselves. 


“It’s all the fault of how we were taught in high school, in which the teacher had the benefit of the finished book and would draw a diagram on the blackboard,” said Atwood at a recent New York Public Library event. “It gives you the idea that the writer always had that diagram and was just translating it into this unnecessary amount of language. The inference is: What was the poet trying to say? Poor lamb, he couldn’t just blurt it out. He had to fancy it all up. He really had a speaking problem.”


“The reader is the musician of the text,” she adds—in other words, it’s all about interpretation. Read the rest of the article here, check out what critics are saying about Hag-Seed, or explore Atwood’s new graphic novel, the beautifully rendered Angel Catbird.


2. Ready to Retire? Take Shlomo Benartzi’s Test First


Writing for The Wall Street Journal, behavioral economics speaker Shlomo Benartzi offers up a two-question test to gauge whether you’re ready to retire. The questions are simple and very similar, but point to the consistency of personal time preferences, which in turn correlate with making and sticking to financial plans. People who overvalue immediate rewards (a tendency called “present bias”) will often retire significantly earlier than those who don’t—in fact, by an average of 2.2 years—and often struggle financially in their golden years. Questions like these can help us pinpoint why people retire too early, and furthermore, incentivize them against doing so. Benartzi is an expert in such behavioral “nudges,” especially as they relate to the choices we make on digital devices. 


3.    Could Neri Oxman’s Synthetic Apiary Save the Bees?


At the MIT Media Lab, design speaker Neri Oxman’s Mediated Matter group has rolled out another intriguing project. Their latest is an artificial apiary “that creates a constant spring-like environment for bees,” according to Dezeen. Light, humidity, and temperature are all heavily controlled to replicate the bees’ ideal environment, a false spring perfect for honey production. Oxman’s creation, “the first demonstration of sustainable life in a completely synthetic environment,” may break ground in the field of conservation, as honeybee numbers have been in decline in recent years. Watch the video below to see the apiary in action. 

Neri Oxman designs synthetic apiary


To book Margaret Atwood, Shlomo Benartzi, Neri Oxman, or another world-changing speaker for your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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