Dark kitchens, wasted ads money and compressible ideas
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions S°01.ep17 - 2019.12.10
While Apple competes head-to-head with Huawei on smartphones, there is a really good challenger to Tesla in China. For a third of the price. Link (S)
A second-order consequence of the rise of on-demand platforms (which themselves were a second-order consequence of the advent of smartphones): dark kitchens. Those are startups specializing in the creation of delivery-only brands and kitchens that leverage Uber Eats and its ilk. Some think it’s the logical next step in the future of restaurants. Others contend it’s not that simple. (T)
In the general appreciation of big tech, Reddit is certainly one of the most underrated services: 430 million monthly users, and substantial cultural influence through the memes it sparks or the tone it sets. Link (T)
How many times have you heard in the last two decades these variations on Internet #1 mantra, the efficiency and trackability promise: the good old Mr. Wanamaker’s theorem “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half” and a Facebook engineer’s quote: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click on ads.” But a growing number of analysts accuse that we don’t really know which half of the adtech works neither if some of these great minds were not only poorly invested but also wasted. This is our higher purpose with Fabernovel: to advocate a more transparent and better-educated ecosystem. Link (S)
“The complexity of an object is the size of the smallest computer program needed to generate it”: this is the definition given by the author James Gleick of a concept from information theory, the Kolmogorov complexity. (Which, of course, is named after its theorist, the Soviet mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov.)
I love this concept because I interpret it in a universal, descriptive or even prescriptive way: for a given intellectual construct, what is the most “compressed” form you can imagine of it? Effectively focusing on simplicity rather complexity, I think the most powerful ideas are those you can summarize in one or two eye-opening sentences.
Illustrations abound in many areas: in architecture conception (the famous “less is more” of Mies van der Rohe), in books (e.g. I enjoy one of my favorite essay, Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond, so much because its premise is so brilliantly simple: the orientation of the continents are the ultimate explainers for the success or failure of civilizations over human history), in taglines on LinkedIn (how can you catch attention in one small line?). Even in scientific theories. Indeed, in the book Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner attributed part of its success to precisely this: “One of the reasons the theory has initial appeal is that it can be summarized in a brisk sentence or two” (that is: there exist 7 types of intelligence, everybody enjoys her own mix of them, and we should adapt education accordingly).
We can even apply the concept to one of the grandest contests of our times: startup pitches! Here you realize the force of Facebook, Amazon or Google by the brevity of their (fulfilled) promise: “Any friend / item to shop / answer is just one click away”.
But while Kolmogorov was just concerned with fungible bits of information (one bit is one bit, whatever its content), we can all see that bits are not created equal, hence “simple” statements are not always good. Have you ever put down a book after reading just a few pages (e.g. “yeah, I get it, storytelling is key to marketing, thanks for the message”), or felt that you could sum up a person in 3 words not that flattering, or been irritated when discovering the new “Uber for X”? After all, caricature is also a form of compression - an unwanted one.
There is the compression that entices you to discover more; there is the one that directs its original message to… garbage.
So, trying to apply the Kolmogorov complexity to my own prose: “Make your ideas compressible, but make sure what remains is enlightening enough.” Simple enough?
We all experienced this danger but Singapore regulates to make this annoyance illegal. The city-state may be the first after Honolulu in 2017 to fine pedestrians crossing a street or highway with their phones out. Link (S)
When Forward looks like Rewind: a new survival video game tasks players to survive and evolve as… primates. Are we so worried about the future of humanity that we want to simulate our beginnings? Link (T)
When Forward looks like Rewind (bis): airships are back! What their advocates put forward: slower than planes but faster than cargo ships, pollute little, and can access areas deprived of infrastructure. Link (T)
When Forward looks like Rewind (ter): what if Netflix would personalize any of its programs to your tastes and mood on the fly? But, scarier, what if the exact same technology was used to spread misinformation and manipulate billions of people? To me, what has been coined as Deep Fakes is one of the greatest risks of our time. The MIT decided to showcase this danger having President Nixon delivering its famous speech as if the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 but then became stranded there. Link (S)
Narwhals can dive to almost 2,000 meters deep, up to 15 times a day. It makes me think of WeWork or Theranos, unicorns that can dive. But my point here is to make you click here to scroll to the bottom of the seabed and explore the joint wonders of the seas and web design. Congrats Neal Agarwal. (S)
Pyongyang architecture is so peculiar that it’s difficult to distinguish between reality and imagination. Link (T)
In 1997, the most incredible cast ever: Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet leader, acting for Pizzat Hut. That was long time ago and Thanksgiving magic. And it is definitely worth the click! (S)
If you’re excellent at 2 or more remotely-related disciplines, good news, you’re a polymath, just like Einstein! And it’s great for productivity and creativity. Link (T)
There are many secrets to cook Silicon Valley’s special sauce. Deciphering it is a permanent obsession for many. To Alex Danco the most significant specificity of the Holy Tech Land lies in its angel investing exercised as a social status subsidy. Link (S)
Did you enjoy this newsletter?
Copyright © 2019 Fabernovel, All rights reserved.
Edited by Stéphane Distinguin & Tom Morisse
Fabernovel is a talent company that creates digital products and services to support companies in their transformation and innovation trajectory.
Congratulations! You've reached the bottom of the page. Here's your reward.