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Web Monitor

14:30 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: artificial-limb envy, chicken feed and testing whether bonuses work.

Oscar Pistorius• Could we enter an age of artificial limb envy? That is what Paul Hochman in Fast Company is trying to convince us. He puts across an argument that the prosthetic limb industry is about to enter an age of high profit due a future increase in amputees from diabetes related diseases and better engineering. He talks to Hugh Herr, double amputee director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab:

"It's actually unfair. As tech advancements in prosthetics come along, amputees can exploit those improvements. They can get upgrades. A person with a natural body can't."

• What can managers learn from chickens? Peter Lennox in the Times Higher Education Supplement conducts a self-confessedly unscientific study into chicken transferable poultry skills. He promises they can teach us lots about behaviour, ethics, evolution and the "psychopathic nature of modern efficiency". His ideas about chickens' inner-thoughts and existential angst are, by necessity, based on guesswork - but he supplements this supposition with some observations of human behaviour:

"Watching chickens helps us understand human motivations and interactions, which is doubtless why so many words and phrases in common parlance are redolent of the hen yard: 'pecking order', 'cockiness', 'ruffling somebody's feathers', 'taking somebody under your wing', 'fussing like a mother hen', 'strutting', a 'bantamweight fighter', 'clipping someone's wings', 'beady eyes', 'chicks', 'to crow', 'to flock', 'get in a flap', 'coming home to roost', 'don't count your chickens before they're hatched', 'nest eggs' and 'preening'."

• Never mind the ethics of bankers' bonuses, behavioural economics professor Dan Ariely says in Wired that his research shows bonuses don't even work. They could in fact make things worse. Prof Ariely describes the effect of carrot-dangling in his experiments:

"We asked them, for example, to assemble puzzles and to play memory games while throwing tennis balls at a target. We promised about a third of them one day's pay if they performed well. Another third were promised two weeks' pay. The last third could earn a full five months' pay. (Before you ask where you can participate in our experiments, I should tell you that we ran this study in India, where the cost of living is relatively low.)


"What happened? The low-and medium-bonus groups performed the same. The big-bonus group performed worst of all."

He goes on to make a provocative conclusion:
"The financial crisis, perhaps, didn't happen in spite of the bonuses, but because of them."

Links in full

Fast CompanyPaul Hochman | Fast Company | Prostheses You'll Envy
Times Higher EducationPeter Lennox | Times Higher Education | Pecking order
Wired UKDan Ariely | Wired | Bonuses boost activity not quality

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