Cam’s Reads: Making Friends, Gaydar Software, and More

We routinely compile our favorite stories from around the web in our weekly “What We’re Reading.” To help you shed your media FOMO, we’re introducing a new feature: my annotated favorites. From long reads to amusing morsels, these are the pieces this week that kept me thinking.

“How to Make Friends, According to Science”
By Ben Healy
The Atlantic

Christopher Peterson used to say that the essence of positive psychology could be captured in three words: “Other people matter.” He should know. One of the pioneers of the field, he spent much of his career demonstrating how relationships with those around us contribute to healthy and meaningful lives.

Easier said than done, perhaps. Everyone’s busy, email is omnipresent, and few of us live as close to friends as we did in college. But science knows something about how to build friendships, and this month The Atlantic compiles research-based advice for maintaining and deepening your friendships. This short piece is about as packed with actionable advice as you can find.

“’I was shocked it was so easy’: ​meet the professor who says facial recognition ​​can tell if you’re gay”
By Paul Lewis
The Guardian

I’m rarely alarmed by technology. Even when news of Cambridge Analytica rocked the Facebook world (which is to say, basically the whole world), I could barely muster the interest to read about it. But even I was spooked by this article from The Guardian about facial recognition tech that can reportedly identify “psychological tendencies,” such as sexual preferences. As if this notion weren’t worrisome enough in the abstract, the story starts with a scene in which the researcher is explaining this tech to a committee of top Russian officials. The lead researcher says that his goal is to identify risks with the technology, but this story has me thinking about scientists’ responsibility to consider the moral implications of their work.

“The Behavioral-Science Inspired Wedding”
By Kristen Berman

Behavioral Scientist columnist Kristen Berman recently got married. Or, in her terms, committed. She and her partner decided to eschew the traditional wedding and build their own, one that better matched their values and the things they’ve learned from behavioral science about strong relationships. Whether you’re single, engaged, or have been married for decades, it’s a refreshing and insightful take on building an intentional partnership.

“No Shirt, No Swipe, No Service”
By Henry Grabar

At lunch this weekend, a note at the bottom of the menu said, “Cash only.” This is fairly common in Philadelphia, but my friend, who’d recently moved, said that it’s almost unheard of in Boston. (Who knows, maybe it’s because of all of the economists there studying credit card debt.) Surprisingly, the opposite is also on the rise: more places are accepting only cards, refusing to take cash at all. This piece from Slate examines the trend and reveals how, especially for disadvantaged populations, a cashless society might not be a utopia.

“Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions”
By John Rauschenberg

If you’re in the mood for a laugh (who isn’t), like a good piece of literary satire (I’m no expert), or self-identify as a linguistics nerd (guilty), take two minutes for this piece from McSweeney’s, which envisions a fresh torment for every grammatical peeve.