This Week: April 25, 2018

Let’s try something. These are links and things that I’ve found interesting over this last week:

Digital is Cheap, Generative is Not:

A Kevin Kelly classic related to dealing with the reduced value of digital copies:

“A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced.”

Basic Income Must Become Inevitable:

An excellent argument by David Amerland on the need for a Universal Basic Income. I really like this point in particular about government resistance to the idea:

“When everyone receives a Universal Basic Income regardless, that premise goes out of the window and with it, any kind of direct or indirect power a political party or a government may exercise over its citizens.”

We are rapidly moving into a new economic reality where business-as-usual is going to lead us to some pretty ugly scenarios. Some form of UBI seems like it will be essential as a stabilizing force in the rough and tumble economic reality that is now emerging. I see it as part of a series of economic reforms that we need to start moving to — now.

Technological Unemployment is a Matter of Degree:

The Economist reports on an OECD study on technological unemployment, which finds that: 

14% of jobs across 32 countries are highly vulnerable, defined as having at least a 70% chance of automation. A further 32% were slightly less imperiled, with a probability between 50% and 70%.

The OECD, by the way, is really starting to dig into the implications of artificial intelligence and technological unemployment. Here is a great series of conversations hosted by Reinvent with a number of experts from the OECD and other organizations. It is well worth watching:

Reinvent is doing a whole series on The Future of Work and this video is just part of it. I’ve not yet made it through most of these, but they are on my list.

Investing for the Long-Term

Speaking of Reinvent, what led me to the above series was a really interesting piece on Eric Ries and his work to create what he’s calling the Long-Term Stock Exchange. You may remember Eric as the author of The Lean Startup, an excellent book on organizational learning in Silicon Valley (here are my summary notes on the book from a few years back). What Eric is doing is trying to create more incentives for patient capital:

Let’s get back to basics and fundamentals for a minute and ask ourselves like, “What are we really trying to accomplish with our capital market?” It’s like isn’t its fundamental purpose to take the excess savings of ordinary people and patient pools of capital, and match that with innovators who want to create new and valuable things. Everything else should be a second order effect, right?

And speaking of investing for the long-term, if you haven’t read Jeff Bezos’ recent letter to shareowners, I recommend you do. I’ll quote his opening to two interesting points:

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’. I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before. It may be because customers have such easy access to more information than ever before – in only a few seconds and with a couple taps on their phones, customers can read reviews, compare prices from multiple retailers, see whether something’s in stock, find out how fast it will ship or be available for pick-up, and more. These examples are from retail, but I sense that the same customer empowerment phenomenon is happening broadly across everything we do at Amazon and most other industries as well. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.

Jeff uses this stance to then talk about the importance of building a culture of high standards. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, mealy-mouth corporate double-speak, but instead some very thoughtful insights into what really goes into creating a shared culture where people rise to the occasion. All of this then leads into his core message to shareowners, which is: “We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term.” 

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