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The Mobility War continues, the 996 fallacies and boozeless bars
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°01.ep05 - 2019.05.20
After the big tech events season (Google I/O, Facebook F8, Microsoft Build…) has come to an end, one may wonder whether we’re at the end of a cycle: where is the cool factor in their numerous announcements? Link (T)
The current billion-dollar question of the Mobility Wars: after their exponential growth in 2018, can scooter companies improve their unit economics and thus survive in 2019? For the moment, losing pricey scooters a few weeks after they’ve been put into service doesn’t sound that sustainable. Link (T)
Micromobility again. Do you know the Peskin Ratio? Named after Aaron Peskin, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in charge of transportation, it is the ratio of “failed rides” to “successful rides” an average user experiences attempting to use a transportation service. It explains a lot about the current ups and downs of scooter companies. Link (S)
Two confessions here: I am often envious of the depth and variety of women’s wardrobe and I have been looking for a proper work outfit (like a gown or uniform) for a while now. Maybe I should opt for a jumpsuit? The clothing of the future has now become a chic business attire. Link (S)
What's obvious not best
The burning-hot debate around the 996 work schedule prevalent in several Chinese tech companies (and which Stéphane discussed in our last newsletter’s Pause) makes me uncomfortable. For this controversy raises one difficult question: beyond political opinions and social norms, isn’t it obvious that those who work more achieve more? Even a few westerners have spoken in support of Jack Ma et al., claiming for instance that the 996 schedule exemplifies “The same exact work ethic that built America” (Jason Calacanis, angel investor in Uber, among others). Thinking through it, I believe the 996-supporters’ reasoning encapsulates (at least) 4 fallacies.
First is the measurement fallacy. In the complex equation of work and productivity, the number of hours clocked in is the easiest variable to assess, so “work ethic” ends up being reduced to that.
But I wonder: in an industry so keen on data points, where is the experiment-based argument (especially for large tech companies which can afford such experiments)? When is marginal productivity per hour worked turning negative?
The second is the one-size-fits-all fallacy. Here, in a digital ecosystem so keen on user empathy and personalization, Jack Ma and others boast that they know what is best for everyone: just work as many hours as you can, anywhere, anytime. Which totally ignores that each one of us has distinct work style, habits, that there are moments in life or year where it makes more sense to work more. And above all, it ignores the fact that the activities you enjoy outside of work may end up improving the quality of your work.
I suspect, and this is related to my first point, that they simply view life as a zero-sum game: time you don’t spend working for them is wasted. So old-fashioned!
Then comes the driven-worker fallacy. There is a point where I’m close to agreeing with Jack Ma: “Those who can stick to a 996 schedule are those who have found their passion beyond monetary gains”. The problem is this kind of reasoning always puts the burden of drive or engagement on the employee. It’s often framed this way: there are driven and non-driven people - and if you’re not, look for another job. Well, that should be a two-way conversation: if your employees are unmotivated, is it their sole responsibility, or also yours as a corporate leader? Shouldn’t JD.com question its vision and processes rather than rank its employees by overtime hours to increase its output? It’s too easy to forget that engagement is highly contextual.
Let’s end with the impact fallacy. “Nobody changed the world on 40 hours a week”, says Elon Musk. Well, turns out it’s not accurate: “Charles Darwin’s “work” schedule only lasted three ninety-minute periods, and it was with that schedule that he was able to write 19 books” (and you’ll find plenty of other examples in this book). (T)
You’ve certainly heard of burger made with artificial meat. Here are the bars without booze to make drink optional and they’re growing in popularity. Link (S)
Microsoft will invest $100m over the next five years in its first African Development Center. Lagos and Nairobi are the first 2 sites. Link (T)
Thanks to artificial intelligence, Salvador Dalí is back… to take selfies with you. Link (T)
A new piece from dana boyd (yes, lower cases). Analyzing Christchurch mass shooting, the most prominent sociologist working on social networks makes the point that “slowly, and systematically, a virus has spread, using technology to systematically tear at the social fabric of public life”. Beware of “data voids”, agnotology and epistemological fragmentation are used like weapons. Link (S)
The oral history of the biggest tech ecosystem in Europe - London. From 2009 to today, from Skype to Deliveroo. And a good example of public support to ecosystems done the right way.Link (T)
In the 1990s and 2000s, a Colorado rafting company used pigeons to bring back film, then SD cards, to its store so as to develop photos before rafters were back. Link (T)
Sorry Tom, you can tell about 4 different fallacies in the 996 culture, but “There are no miracles. There is only discipline.” says Danielle Steel. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on the New York Times best-seller list for 381 weeks, she has written 179 books translated in 43 languages. She works 20 to 22 hours a day and has more readers than Charles Darwin. Link (S)
Ieoh Ming Pei just passed away at the age of 102. Born in China, living in the US, the architect changed Paris forever. I would have loved to have his take on Notre Dame’s rebuilding project. Link (S)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin & Tom Morisse
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