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The Gods of Silicon Valley, the power of pokes and the current state of the world
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°01.ep03 - 2019.04.19
Since Easter Monday is a holiday in France, we’ve opted to send our newsletter a bit earlier than usual.
Enjoy your week-end,
Stéphane & Tom
Inevitable this week, Uber’s IPO document. Born in 2010, had arranged 10bn trips by July 2018. And Uber Eats is growing fast: it made up 6.5% of gross booking in Q1’17, and 18% in Q4’18. Will Uber become a food delivery company above all? (T) Link
TED conference is happening this week in Vancouver. British investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr may have offered the best talk so far: she calls out the "gods of Silicon Valley" (ahem, isn’t TED their Olympus?) for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past? (S) Link
The social contract that united startup employees to their companies - i.e. equity ownership - is falling apart. “Large companies now have an opportunity to attract some of the talent that previously went elsewhere”. (T) Link
[Here should have been a picture taken on Thursday morning in Paris. An amazing allegory of modernity. A rented van full of scooters, two freelancers (called apropos auto-entrepreneurs in French) rushing to set up freshly recharged vehicles on the street. These soldiers of micromobility and disruption are called juicers. You know what? I wasn’t quick enough to take the picture.] (S)
The meaning of emptiness
It was 3 years ago. My grandmother had just suffered a stroke. As she was recovering at the hospital, I did what I could do to support her from far away: sending her a (as warm and loving as could be) text message. Then came the reply that has lingered in my head since: an empty message… for it happened to be the last form of communication I had with her.
I keep on wondering: was it a mistake, made by her or by someone else who handled her phone? Or was it intentional? Maybe as a consequence of her stroke, sending an empty text was all she was able to do? And above all, if it was intentional, what did she want to tell me?
Needless to say, I have no answer to any of these questions. And that is precisely my point.
Let’s take a detour to the theory of information: if I write “I was sitting in the kitche_”, everyone is (hopefully) able to divine that the missing letter is “n”. Hence, this last letter carries little to no information. And slightly less than the preceding one, which itself carries less information than the preceding one, etc. Because, as the mathematician Claude Shannon explained, information measures uncertainty: the less there is uncertainty, the less there is information.
To me, this underlines why services such as Yo (an app that enables users to just send “Yo!” to each other) or features such as Facebook’s poke are so interesting: their disconcerting simplicity creates substantial ambiguity, from a salutation to an old friend to a tentative flirt. They completely reverse the usual order of communication by leaving the whole burden of interpretation to the receiver.
And so did my grandmother through her fateful message, which is like a Schrödinger’s cat with more than 2 states: all the possible interpretations that I laid out earlier exist all at once. A proof that in a world as paradoxical as ours, empty signs are the most meaningful of all. (T)
What if Apple acquired Nintendo? Integrated hardware / software and strong brands on both sides, at a time where Apple intends to reinforce its presence in games. (T) Link
“after decades of subsidizing solar and wind, we’re on the verge of a new, radically different point in history – the point at which building new solar or wind power (or new energy storage systems, in some cases), is cheaper than the cost of continuing to operate existing coal- or gas-fueled power plants” (T) Link
Just think about the current state of the world and all what this chart means. Mind-blowing. (S) (source: The Economist)
I consider political campaigns as the Formula 1 of digital marketing. Cambridge Analytica, Brexit and 2016 US presidential election introduced the psychographics, as opposed to the demographics. Here is a complete CB Insights report to download and understand the “Dark Arts of Marketing” that may be even more effective in commercial rather than political advertising. (S)
Michelle Obama portrayed by Beyoncé Knowles for the 2019 Time 100 List. Rewind section because yes we can say we were contemporaries of these two queens. (S) Link
20 years ago was introduced the TiVo, the first popular video digital recorder. Its ad-skipping and easy programmability capabilities (i.e. not being constrained by airing schedules) were major contributions to the transformation of TV. (T) Link
Do you remember Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995)? Here we are. Extinction Rebellion, environmental protesters who have blocked London's roads and bridges for more than three days this week have said they plan to escalate their campaign of disruption if the British government doesn’t step up actions against climate change. Shall we call them gilets verts? (S) Link
A lucky phone number - ending with five fives - sells for $50,000 in China. (T) Link
At FABERNOVEL, we are lucky enough to operate in Lisbon Portugal and enjoy the local treat: pastel de nata. The centuries-old pastry is taking over the world. And Instagram can be given credit for this phenomenon. (S) Link
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin & Tom Morisse
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