The power of empathy was a big theme this week, in stories from Amnesty International and a “robotherapy” chatbot. Both look at new and interesting ways for us to better understand one another and get help when we most need it.

New Survey Reveals Multiple Reasons Why Icelanders Are So Creative

A new published study finds several reasons for a current boom in Icelandic creativity. An educational shift 20 years ago to value creativity more highly played a large part. A less appreciated reason are the relative extremes of seasons which force long periods of productivity followed by long periods of collaboration and reflection. This second point in particular resonated with me as I considered my own sprints of writing and speaking versus my time for quiet contemplation and writing. It is easy to admire bursts of creativity and the people behind them. It is harder to appreciate just how much the quiet before the storm is the spark fueling that creativity.

Amnesty International Uses Hypnosis To Create Empathy For Refugees

Just as the virtual reality experience Clouds Over Sidra powerfully helped people understand the plight of refugees, this new campaign from Amnesty International is a perfect example of how this trend which I call “Virtual Empathy” has evolved well beyond only VR experiences. Participants in this simulation feel the anguish of being a refugee in a deep and real way with hypnosis and seeing them undergo this transformational experience is a powerful reminder that the most powerful way to build empathy is to find a way to experience something for yourself — even if it requires a hypnotist.

Lambda School Lets Students Pay With Job Income Instead of Tuition

To counter the growing cost of higher education and rising student debt, Lambda School is one of several new tech schools testing an income-sharing model that allows students to pay for school over time once they get paying jobs. Perhaps the smartest part of their model is that they typically get roughly three times the usual student loan repayment per month once students find a job – which means those students can pay back the tuition faster, and remain in debt for less time. Put education within reach, teach practical skills, and help students get out of debt faster. It’s a good and fair student-focused model – and the world of higher education today could certainly use more of those.

Can “RoboTherapy” Through A Chatbot Actually Work?

The journalist behind this article spent two weeks texting a bot about her anxiety, and found it surprisingly helpful. The idea that technology and bots will take over more repetitive blue collar work has become something of a truism, but could a robot really do the job of a therapist? The Woebot does not aim to replace a therapist, but rather to augment … and according to early reviews, it does it rather well. Though it seems odd, reading the conversation transcript gives you a useful sense of just how this might just be one of the earliest examples of how we might use technology to offer instant always-on assistance for those suffering from mental health in particular.

Image Of The Week – Mori Building Digital Art Museum (Tokyo)

Google Ads Predictive Data To Help Travelers Choose Flights

Imagine if you could see the full historical performance of a flight at the time of booking, including how often it is delayed and why. That is exactly what you get with Google’s new flight search tool and the implications are significant because it adds a whole new layer of transparency to booking flights. The tool will also show you up front what isn’t included in the fare you’re about to buy and better options. Of course, the machine learning may not always be right, but it’s interesting to see just how much data we can now get immediately at the time of booking a flight.

Even More Interesting Stories This Week …

How are these stories chosen?

Every week I review more than a hundred data sources to curate the best and most underappreciated stories of the week along with a quick take on why they matter. Want to get these stories in your inbox every Thursday morning? Subscribe at www.rohitbhargava.com/subscribe.