Thought Starters: innovation, incomes, employment and happiness

The following is a collection of articles and thought pieces highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in, with an emphasis on technology:

The Global Innovation Report as the name suggests ranks the innovation levels of various countries. The Economist recently published the following which points to Britain doing strongly:

Global Innovation Ranking

Figures from the US Census Bureau indicate growth in jobs but no commensurate increase in median incomes as represented in the following graph from the Economic Policy Institute:

Real Median Household Income

Whilst there’s been a lot of noise about the growing wealth of the top 1%, analysis by the Brookings Institute points to the relative success of the upper middle class in the US in recent years:

“While the rise in income and wealth at the very top is eye-catching, it also distracts attention from the action a little lower down the income distribution. The idea that the real divide is between ordinary members of the bottom 99 percent and the rich 1 percent is a dangerous one, since it makes it easier for those in the upper middle class to convince themselves they are in the same economic boat as the rest of America; they’re not.”

Maintaining overall income is not going to get any easier in the future due to an ageing population, with Morgan Stanley figures point to a decline in the total working population since 2005:

Working Age Population

There’s been lots of speculation recently on the effect that technology is having on the labour market. James Bessen suggests that we’re looking at a process of displacement rather than replacement of labour with a need for a labour force that is more adept at using technology:

“While technology takes over some tasks, it also increases demand for goods and services and hence increases demand for workers performing the remaining tasks. Instead of just eliminating jobs, new jobs are also created, sometimes in different occupations.”

Eurostat figures point to where Europeans spend comparatively more (or less) of their income on proportionately. Rather surprised to find UK’s spend on alcohol and tobacco to be lower than the European average:

European Household Spending

Marco Arment’s launch and then pulling of the Peace adblocker for iOS has led to renewed focus on the plight of the online media industry. Ben Thompson takes a look at some of the key pressures facing the industry and comes up with some recommendations if they want to be profitable.

Among the recent announcements at Apple’s Special Event on the 0th of September was the launch of the iPhone Upgrade Programme. Benedict Evans‘ takes a closer look at the initiative and how it shifts the balance of power from the mobile networks to Apple.

It’s also worth reading Benedict Evans’ piece critiquing talk of the  mobile internet given that internet access via mobile devices is increasingly the norm rather than the exception

Facebook has updated its Pages offering as it looks to provide a more relevant platform  for small businesses’ which includes an ecommerce offering and better design for mobile users:

Facebook Pages Update

Adam Piore writing for Nautilus looks at the role of human contact in making us happy and the impact that social networks are having on these relationships.

The featured image is a piece called Huemul produced by Pastel in Buenos Aires and published in StreetArtNews.

 

Thought Starters: venture capital, role of mobile and some favourite podcasts

The following is a collection of articles, thought pieces, presentations and podcasts highlighting interesting trends and changes in the world you and I live in.

Andreessen Horowitz recently released a presentation which looked at venture capital funding in the US which sparked off more conversations on whether there’s a tech bubble. Ben Thompson expands on this to provide his view on the value of the growing number of unicorns:

I think it’s this dichotomy that makes the current bubble discussion so difficult: most unicorns may be overvalued, but in aggregate they are probably undervalued. It turns out winner-take-all doesn’t apply just to the markets these startups are targeting, it applies to the startups themselves.

Ben Thompson profiles Google’s data centric strategy with Facebook’s strategy which focuses on personalisation with Twitter seemingly unable to deploy either approaches:

Facebook vs Google

Benedict Evans provides contrasting review of business strategy in the digital age, looking at the importance of curation in an age of abundance providing a review of different approaches:

  1. There is giving you what you already know you want (Amazon, Google)
  2. There is working out what you want (Amazon and Google’s aspiration)
  3. And then there is suggesting what you might want (Heywood Hill).

It’s also worth spending time with Evans’ updated Mobile is Eating the World presentation.

I have concerns about the way that pornography is reshaping sexual relations in the modern era, but Maria Konnikova’s account suggest that pornography might be more a symptom than a cause of modern ills.

A recent issue of the New Yorker has a fascinating look at a case of hate crime in North Carolina and the expanding scope of euthanasia.

For lovers of history and data visualisations,  Neil Halloran’s piece on deaths in World War 2 makes compelling viewing. Check it out The Fallen of World War II for an interactive version

I’ve been going through something of a  podcast binge recently, turning my cycle rides around town into more enriching affairs. Shows that have hit the spot recently include the following:

Children of the Magenta looking at the perils of automation in aircraft.

The Takeover looking at how a boring Facebook group developed a life of its own.

Antibodies Part 1: CRISPR looks at recent advances in gene therapy which are both exciting and bewildering.

The Birth and Death of the Price Tag looks at changes in pricing without even mentioning Uber’s surge pricing.

The President was Here leaves me even more enamoured with Barack Obama.

The featured photograph is of a Reka piece from Milan, Italy published in StreetArtNews.

What I’m Listening To

I’ve recently developed a renewed love for podcasts, providing me with the opportunity to squeeze in more into my day as I cycle to work.

Find below a list of some of the spoken podcasts that I’ve been enjoying and shine a bit of light on the world we live in. What it doesn’t include is the countless musical podcasts I follow via Soundcloud and Mixcloud which occupy those moments where I need something requiring somewhat less thought.

Society, Culture and Economy

The Moth

The Moth provides spoken word performances which are great examples of how stories can send you on an emotional rollercoaster.

99% Invisible

Roman Mars hosts a regular podcast looking at an entertaining range of topics covering humans’ interaction with design. Among the topics covered are Youppi!guerilla sign making and Penn Station among many others,

Radiolab

Radiolab puts the spotlight on a different subject each week, providing a critical and entertaining perspective. A case in point was a recent episode looking at the role of American Indians in the early history of American football, which was fascinating, even for someone with little to no interest in the sport.

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics like Radiolab looks at a different topic for each episode, using a mixture of Economics and Sociology, providing a follow on from Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s book with the same name. Recent issues have looked at terrorism, energy efficiency, job security and the flu vaccine. More engaging than the description might suggest.

The Economist Radio

The Economist’s Soundcloud page provides bite sized episodes that come in around 3 minutes in length. Valuable windows into different topics but frustratingly short when it comes to providing a companion when you’re travelling from A > B.

Digital Culture

StartUp

StartUp provides a window into the ups and downs of founding a startup. It’s worth going back to their first edition as this is one podcast where you get a sense of a journey and the traversing of the many obstacles that founders typically face.

Reply All

Produced by Gimlet Media who also produce StartUp podcast. Reply All looks at a different subject each week relating to internet with subjects covered including the origins of email, the demands of hosting photos of Kim Kardashian’s derrière and France’s Minitel among other things.

TLDR

TLDR provides a similar format to Reply All, covering a different internet related topic each week but with a more activist agenda highlighting issues of discrimination and bias whilst keeping it entertaining.

Digital Economy and Strategy

Exponent

Talk show hosted by Ben Thompson of Stratechery fame and strategist James Allworth. They look at a broad range of issues relating to digital strategy typically using Ben Thompson’s writing as a starting point. Among the issues covered are copyright law, the internet of things, blogging’s future and a review of the strategy of leading digital companies including Apple, Google, Xiaomi and Microsoft.

A16Z

A16Z is venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz’s regular podcast profiling . Like Exponent, the show, looks at the internet with a more business focused lens than either Reply All or TLDR. Shows cover a range of digital trends bringing in key opinion makers from Silicon Valley. I’m  a particular fan of their coverage of  the impact of growing use of smartphones, with Benedict Evans’ commentary proving particularly worth a listen.

Cycling

The Bike Show

Jack Thurston provides a window into the many different aspects of cycling culture including history, activism and the large and small adventures of people on their bikes.

The Cycling Podcast

Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Frieve provide a window into the world of professional cycling for those of us frustrated by the lack of coverage in the mainstream press.

The featured image is by Chu at the Ciudad Cultural Konex in Buenos Aires and was published in StreetArtNews.