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July 17, 2020 |  Referral Code:  <<Email Address>>

 

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Uh oh. They're back: Russian hackers are trying to steal Coronavirus vaccine research. On the bright side, we're sharing a breakthrough that could save us from Russian hackers in the future and a tricky brainteaser at the end... 

BREAKING NEWS: We're announcing Case Study Sunday — digestible case studies from HBS Professors in under 5 minutes. Get 2 friends to sign up with this link for access.

THE STORIES 

🏛️ A radical idea for moderation

🌐 Unhackable Internet

POLITICAL SCIENCE

🏛️ A radical idea for moderation

 

WHAT 

  • For years, the United States Congress has had a notoriously low approval rating. Furthermore, two of the last three presidents were elected while losing the popular vote. Why is gridlock, polarization, and general frustration so prevalent in American politics?
  • One possible explanation is our plurality voting system, where voters can only select one candidate and the candidate with the most votes (but not necessarily a majority of them), wins. This allows candidates to win elections even when the majority voted for other candidates. 
  • To remedy this, Harvard Professor Eric Maskin proposes adopting a ranked-choice voting system, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. Maskin argues this will promote more moderate voices and better reflect the will of the people.

WHO

  • Eric Maskin is a professor of Economics and Math at Harvard, and his areas of interest include game theory and social choice theory. Oh yeah, he also won the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his work in mechanism design theory.

WHY SHOULD I CARE 

  • In a 2018 survey, almost 3/4 foreign policy experts ranked domestic political polarization as a critical national security threat. 
  • Furthermore, an electoral system that consistently elects politicians whom a majority of voters did not vote for risks losing its legitimacy, and, at a practical level, makes it more difficult for the government to respond to crises such as recessions and pandemics.
  • This isn’t just a professor’s crazy idea. As of yesterday (7/16), Maine is set to be the first state in our country’s history to implement ranked-choice voting in a presidential election.

TL;DR 

  • Ranked-choice voting could be a better system than our current plurality-based system because it allows voters to express their relative preferences between various candidates, opening the door for more moderate third parties.

READ MORE HERE
 


COMPUTER SCIENCE & PHYSICS

🌐 Unhackable Internet

 

WHAT

  • An unhackable internet is a cybersecurity dream, and it’s an unexpected department that is leading the way: physics.  
  • That’s because the key to realizing this dream lies in the ability to build a quantum internet, i.e. a network of quantum computers.
  • A team of Harvard physicists has discovered a way to store and transmit quantum information across thousands of miles, which has been the missing link to a quantum internet for decades. 

WHO 

  • The team was led by Mikhail Lukin, a physics professor who has been at Harvard for nearly twenty years and is a co-director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative. If you don’t want to read his bio with the endless list of awards, then just look at him -- he clearly knows what he’s doing.

WHY SHOULD I CARE

  • Needless to say, a new internet based on new computing means a wealth of new opportunities. Quantum computing startups are already popping up all over the world, and are seeing huge influxes of cash.
  • We’ve heard countless stories in the news about information leaks and data breaches. Just last year, Canva was hacked and 124 million account details were exposed. A quantum internet would make such breaches impossible, thanks to the laws of quantum mechanics.

TL;DR 

  • Quantum data changes as soon as it is observed, so any hacker trying to steal information over a quantum internet would instantly corrupt the data they are trying to intercept. 
  • The Lukin group’s research in quantum information transmission is paving the way for this new internet, where data would literally be secured by the laws of physics that’s pretty bada**.

READ MORE HERE

PROFESSOR'S CORNER

Thought Monday's brainteaser was tricky? Oh boy, do we have a good one in store for you 🤓

  • 200 perfectly logical people are held prisoner on a deserted island. Among them, 100 of them have blue eyes, 100 have brown eyes, but no one knows their own eye color and has no way of seeing their own eye color. Moreover, the prisoners cannot communicate with each other at all, under threat of death.
  • Each prisoner can, however, see all of the other prisoners’ eyes. So a prisoner with blue eyes sees 99 people with blue eyes, 100 people with brown eyes, but doesn’t know if his eyes are blue, brown, or even green.
  • Each night, any prisoner can approach the warden and announce his/her eye color. If the prisoner is right, they are allowed to leave the island; if they are wrong, they are executed.
  • One day, a green-eyed guru comes to the island and announces to the prisoners, “I see a person with blue eyes.”
Who leaves the island? And when do they leave?
Recommended by Joe Harris, Higgins Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University

Want a hint?
Check out the solution

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