In this week’s edition…Best Buy attempts to take on Amazon…living by an app…the impact of wrongful convictions…thoughts of the spiderweb…celebrity weddings just aren’t for celebrities…and more.

 

 

Business & Economics

Travis Kalanick and the Last Gasp of Tech’s Alpha CEO

But while it’s tempting to see Uber’s plan for reform as a repudiation of Kalanick’s aggressive tactics, before now the $70 billion company never distanced itself from his methods. Consider this: During Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, Uber board member David Bonderman made a sexist joke—about how more female board members means more talking—and within hours middling internet uproar forced him to resign. Juxtapose that with the years of scandals Kalanick has weathered, which until now have not come close to touching his throne. Super-voting rights have kept Kalanick safe within Uber. But his ruthlessness was also occasionally celebrated and often overlooked, by his peers and by aspirants in Silicon Valley. (Wired)

 

How to Get More Women on Corporate Boards

While the standard hiring practices require leaders to outline a job’s criteria, weigh their relative importance, judge how well each candidate meets them, then select the most appropriate person, O’Reilly points out that relatively few people actually choose candidates this way. (Stanford)

 

Big Data Will Yield Finance’s Big Stories, Nobelist Predicts

In a January discussion paper, he defines the term as “the study of the spread and dynamics of popular narratives, the stories, particularly those of human interest and emotion, and how these change through time, to understand economic fluctuations.” Regarding recessions, he said, “[w]e have to consider the possibility that sometimes the dominant reason why a recession is severe is related to the prevalence and vividness of certain stories, not the purely economic feedback or multipliers that economists love to model. The field of economics should be expanded to include serious quantitative study of changing popular narratives.” (CFO Magazine)

 

For an Inclusive Culture, Try Working Less

See, here’s the thing: there are many ways to build an inclusive environment, and to enjoy the diversity that often follows from it. One great way, that I think might’ve been overlooked, is to keep things professional. When our office culture is focused on business rather than socializing, we reduce the number of ways in which we all have to be the same. When we do that, we allow diversity to flourish. If your culture expects people to work long hours or hang out off-hours, the strain on the people who are different, in whatever way, is increased, and your ability to retain a diverse work force is reduced. (Hackernoon)

 

Best Buy’s new weapon against Amazon: Try-before-you-buy

For Best Buy, the partnership could evolve into a way to wring more dollars out of so-called “open box” items — these are goods that a Best Buy customer has bought but then returned so they can’t be resold at full price. Best Buy is providing these goods to Lumoid to rent out. “Customers are not walking into physical stores for discovery,” said Aarthi Ramamurthy, Lumoid’s founder and CEO. “They already know what they want and they just go in to get it.” (Recode)

 

Policy & Politics

Emmanuel Macron and the Post-Revolutionary Idea

So what is happening? How did Macron, a political novice seemingly fated to preside over a thousand and one shaky coalitions, score the unprecedented achievement of ushering some 400 deputies into the 577-seat National Assembly under the banner of what was still, just a few months ago, virtually a party of one? (Project Syndicate)

 

Technology & Computing

Cellphone Roaming Charges End in Europe. Many Respond With a Yawn.

The landmark policy shift, which enters into force on Thursday, comes as Europe faces pressure to speed up the overhaul of its wider digital economy to keep pace with the likes of the United States and China. But the experience of Ms. Krastanova, and many others like her, has many wondering why the region’s policy makers took 10 years — and invested significant political capital — to end roaming charges when it is not a daily concern for many of Europe’s 500 million citizens. (WSJ)

 

The Disappearing Computer

But the Echo and Alexa are just getting started. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told me in an interview last year that artificial intelligence was not just in the first inning of a long baseball game, but at the stage where the very first batter comes up. And, while Amazon doesn’t release sales figures for the Echo family, third-party estimates say that, while they are growing fast, they were still well below 10 million units last year. For comparison, even in a relatively weak period, Apple sold 50 million much costlier iPhones in just 90 days last quarter, and the combined total sales of the far more prevalent Android phones no doubt were much greater. (Verge)

 

Eager To Burst His Own Bubble, A Techie Made Apps To Randomize His Life

Most of these events were something that the nonrandomized Max would never have thought to try. The computer was breaking him out of a life driven by his own preferences. He was suddenly seeing the world in a whole new way, and he really liked it. “If I went out myself and said, like, ‘I want to see the world!’ I have an idea of what I need to see to do that,” Max says. “But when I’m turning that over to a random algorithm, it has its own different idea. You’re taking on the computer’s view of the world, and because that’s not human, it’s likely to be completely different from your own.” (NPR)

 

Psychology & Health

The Trouble With Innocence

The day should have been the happiest of Cook’s life. But instead Cook seemed preoccupied, not quite present. Something was bothering him, and two days later, he wrote an email to his lawyers and several journalists to explain: he could not accept the praise that Udashen had heaped that day upon Bingham and, by extension, Bingham’s predecessors, who had sought his misery and death for so long. He was firing his lawyers, he declared. Then he posted the email on Facebook and followed it with a series of rants accusing his lawyers of collaborating with the enemy. His words grew more and more hysterical, until finally, Cook announced that he needed a new attorney, one who would help him withdraw the agreement and “restore me with a wrongful murder conviction.” (Texas Monthly)

 

‘A feature, not a bug’: George Church ascribes his visionary ideas to narcolepsy

Church stood throughout an interview last week in his office at Harvard Medical School — where his lab’s past and current projects range from using DNA for data storage to resurrecting the wooly mammoth, from creating mini-brains on plates to doing a gut renovation of pig genomes so their organs might be transplantable into people. For the first time, he opened up about his journey with narcolepsy: when he realized he had it, how he copes, why he’s avoided the standard drugs, the virtues of parking brakes, what happened when he and his daughter (who also has narcolepsy) both fell asleep while speaking with her teacher … and how his narcolepsy underlies his creativity and scientific achievements. (STAT)

 

Art & Culture

Do You Still Need the Parents’ Blessing Before Your Marriage Proposal?

Some 77% of suitors ask parents’ permission to wed their daughters, according to a 2015 internet poll of 12,000 brides and 1,200 grooms by The Knot, an online marketplace for wedding products and services. Some gay and lesbian couples are embracing the tradition too, with more than 40% asking parents’ OK, according to another survey by The Knot. (WSJ)

 

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent

Celebrity performers were novel just a decade ago, but now they’re something of a norm. John Mayer, Katy Perry, and Chris Martin have all been hired to perform at private weddings. Earlier this year, both Mariah Carey and Elton John performed at the wedding of a Russian billionaire’s granddaughter, while Mark Ronson DJed. Sarah actually blames her Russian clients for the trend “because they are the people who started hiring them for everything: 18th birthday parties, 21st birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, not just weddings. They diluted the uniqueness of that. Now we have weddings where one headliner isn’t enough; they need three or four. Then you hit problems as to what order do you put them on in.” Tell a big name that she’s not the headliner, and she’ll drop out. (Racked)

 

Media & Entertainment

How Low Has the Dollar Sunk? Even Some Rappers Prefer Euros

Even a decade ago, rappers nodded only a handful of times to any currency other than the dollar. In 2007, the euro appeared in just one rap song in the database of Genius, the crowdsourced website formerly known as Rap Genius that annotates song lyrics. The Japanese yen appeared twice, and the peso a half-dozen times. But as hip-hop music has become more global, rappers are internationalizing their lyrics, too, and references to foreign currencies are multiplying. (WSJ)

 

Science & Engineering

The Thoughts of a Spiderweb

Yet another related strategy, this one perhaps much more common and less controversial, is that the sensory systems of many animals are tuned in to the parts of the world that are relevant to their lives. Bees, for example, use ultraviolet vision to find flowers that have also evolved ultraviolet markings. That avoids the need to take in lots of data and parse it later. “If you do not have those receptors, that part of the world simply doesn’t exist,” said William Wcislo, a behaviorist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. (Quanta)

 

Literature & History

There is no Thucydides Trap

China’s tremendous economic vulnerabilities have no mention in Allison’s book. But they are critical to any reading of China’s future. China imports a huge amount of its energy and is madly planning a vast expansion in nuclear power, including dozens of reactors at sea. She has water endowments similar to Sudan, which means nowhere near enough. The capital intensity of production is very high: In China, one standard energy unit used fully produces 33 cents of product. In India, the figure is 77 cents. Gradually climb and you get to $3 in Europe and then — in Japan — $5.55. China is poor not only because she wastes energy but water, too, while destroying her ecology in a way perhaps lacking any precedent. Figures such as these are very difficult to find: Mine come from researchers in the energy sector. Solving all of this, while making the skies blue, is a task of both extraordinary technical complexity and expense that will put China’s competing special interests at one another’s throats. Not solving, however, will doom China’s future. Allison may know this on some level, but you have to spend a lot of time in China and talk to a lot of specialists (often in Chinese) before the enormity becomes crushingly real. (SupChina)

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Posted by Carlos Alvarenga

Carlos A. Alvarenga is the Executive Director of World 50 Labs and Adjunct Professor in the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert E. Smith School of Business.

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