5SR - March 28, 2024

Hitha on AI, the ROI of childcare benefits, and the deeper meaning behind Palm Royale

A quick refresher - I’m Hitha Palepu, the founder of #5SmartReads. If you’d like to connect with me elsewhere, I’m most active on Instagram and write a weekly newsletter about smart, random things (check out the most recent issue). Looking forward to connecting there!

A friend of mine who’s worked in AI for a while said “AI is only as smart as the people who are programming it,” and I think about it all the time.

Every new technology goes through the “this wasn’t what was promised” phase, and plenty have made their way through. I believe generative AI will make it through this rocky phase and become a standardized technology. But if we don’t widen the scope of who works in AI, I don’t think it’ll become as smart as it was predicted to be.

From my professional view, I’m skeptical of AI’s role in drug development (having seen high performance computing and 3D printing come and go in our industry without fanfare). I’m hopeful of any technology that can help us develop new therapies faster and more efficiently, but I’ve yet to see a big technology (high performance computing, 3D printing) make in impact in our space.

I love a messy woman - mostly because I identify as one. Specifically, one written by Jo Piazza.

Mostly because Piazza rejects that the mess is not entirely of the woman’s making. She highlights how the world - our society, the narratives we’ve internalized - contributes to our mess, and in how it treats ambitious women as a whole.

The way Piazza writes messy women is so honest and introspective. These women are simultaneously at the top and rock bottom in their lives, and their stories begin with something crashing down and them having to rebuild their lives in a new way.

The Sicilian Inheritance is my favorite book of 2024 so far (and one of my all time favorites, truly). It’s got everything I love in a book - fierce characters, a mysterious murder to solve, delicious food and scenery, a brilliantly written dual perspective, and two women finding themselves in spite of the obstacles in their way.

It’s also got a steamy scene in a cave, a dragon, and witches. And did I mention the food? I’m going to need a cookbook from this book.

Means testing is the justification for a lack of legislative action for issues we desperately need action on - like childcare.

“We just don’t have enough data,” legislators will say.

Enter this timely report on childcare benefits, created by Moms First and Boston Consulting Group. The report examined specific benefits - near-site child care centers with priority registration & discounts, a child care stipend, emergency onsite child care for hourly employees - and followed specific employees who used those benefits and continued with their careers at those companies.

The results of this study are remarkable. Retaining as few as 1% can cover the cost of benefits, and produce up to a 425% return on investment over a range of returns.

We have the data. Now it’s time to get these benefits, from the private and the public sectors.

I’ve only watched one episode of Palm Royale, but I’m already hooked. The costumes and sets are stunning, the characters are strong, and the writing is so sharp.

When I first saw the trailer, I dismissed it as a beautiful show about nothing, writing it off as a 1960s version of The Gilded Age (my favorite beautiful nothingness show). But Palm Royale goes deeper, and feels like a older mirror to our current society.

Same priorities, different medium.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from showrunner Abe Sylvia:

“As I look at our country and what’s happening in the collective consciousness of the country, I realize we’re seeking the best version of ourselves and constantly curating it on social media. We think that if we look on the bright side, all our dreams will come true, but our best self is somewhere else. I think that’s an unfortunate thing. That was the spark that lit the fuse, and it permeates every single character in our series. I think it’s the true emotional engine of the show.”

This reads like a episode title of Veep - except it’s true.

The offices of the Treasurer and the Comptroller are trying to figure out where this money came from (albeit in the most chaotic way possible). But if they need ideas on where the money should go, I’d like to push them to fully fund (better yet, increase funding) for New Morning, a nonprofit that provides contraceptive healthcare to every South Carolinian who needs it, for free (I’m a proud board member of the organization).

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