The Internet of Beefs, the struggle for wholeness and Nüshu
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°02.ep03 - 2020.02.21
Battle of the stats: we learned last week YouTube brought in $15bn in ad revenue last year… while it was $20bn for Instagram! (T)
It’s officially consolidation time in the European scooter market: the American leader Bird acquired German startup Circ, which had raised €55m just 1 year ago. Link (T)
Venkatesh Rao is the guy who coined the Software is eating the world mantra used by Marc Andreessen. At Fabernovel, we love his work so much we quote him regularly in our publications and even in our brand-new book that is coming out soon. These days, his passion goes to crash-only programming, a paradigm for critical infrastructure systems. He applies this model to online public spaces, places where “subjects have been replaced by pretexts to argue” as Didier Decoin would say, platforms invaded by trolls of all kinds and ranks. Rao comes up with a comprehensive concept: the Internet of Beefs. (S)
Isabelle Kocher was the only woman CEO among the French top 40 companies. Her dismissal has been a matter of national dispute for the past months. How come she was the only woman leading a French top tier company in 2020? It is an absolute disgrace but a way more global and deeper problem than this isolated case. To find a solution we need to look at the previous steps of CEOs and the situation becomes clearer: the traditional stepping stones to the chief executive position are jobs responsible for the bottom line—such as Head of division—and those roles are still overwhelmingly held by men. Filling this gap at the top may take a moment then but we should definitely make it a top priority at the base. Link (S)
Digital happening: artist Simon Weckert convincing Google Maps that there was a traffic jam on an empty road with the simple use of 99 phones. (S)
What do the following 3 items have in common: co-living buildings with their private, collective and work-related elements, blockchain projects which try to align employees, users, funders through cryptocurrencies and the (controversial) integral ecology which bridges moral or spiritual considerations with the preservation of the environment? To me, they’re all representatives of a major trend: the struggle for wholeness.
I first came across this notion in the book Reinventing Organizations by Frédéric Laloux. It describes how some inspiring companies don’t ask their employees to leave their personal life and emotions at the door, but rather invite them to bring their whole personalities to the workplace.
I think the concept of wholeness deserves to be extended to numerous projects or lines of thought which do away with trade-offs between stakeholders or boundaries between issues or industries. For instance, health services which focus on integrative, patient-focused well-being instead of reductionist, organ-focused medical specialities.
What is interesting and, dare I say, powerful about wholeness is that it straddles all scales. Whether at the individual (e.g. private aspirations vs. career path), company (e.g. mission and values vs. day-to-day behavior) or societal levels (e.g. never-ending growth vs. sustainable development), we are all looking for wholeness. First because we don’t have much of a choice - aka fighting climate change and the rise of populism which festers on the fragmentation of our societies. Secondly because materially we’ve collectively grown enough to turn our attention to greater concerns. In tech, the 2010s felt like we were thinking analytically, focused on solving this or fixing that (e.g. transportation, payments), whatever the externalities. The 2020s will mark a synthetic turn: time to make sure everyone benefits from the dividends of progress, and to combine the latter to tackle bigger challenges.
The consequences of wholeness for entrepreneurs are 4-fold:
Companies will be held to higher standards on every aspect of their life (e.g. no more playing one stakeholder against another), so it will be more difficult to launch an upstart than before.
D2C (Direct-To-Consumer) and vertically-integrated companies will prosper, since it is easier to control impact that way.
No more industry limits when you’re looking to solve large challenges.
Bigger moats for the winners, with a new type of network effects, the aptly-named SANE (Stakeholder Alignment Network Effects): in a positive-sum game, attracting one category of contributors (purpose-seeking employees, impact-conscious consumers, sustainability-checking investors etc.) reinforces the cohesion with the others.
2 recent startups show what wholeness can look like. Tia is a one-stop shop for women’s health and exemplifies the integrative view: gynecology, primary care and wellness are all addressed through an app to ask questions and for cycle tracking, a community, a health record and a clinic experience devised through user feedback. On a pretty different positioning, Pattern is “a family of brands designed to help you enjoy daily life” - and almost a philosophy of life. Its story is significant: it is the pivot of a successful design agency whose founders were burning out.
In this rosy outlook there still is a gigantic blind spot: the highly-segmented landscape of social media & communication, the opposite of wholeness. The Dolly Parton Challenge just highlighted the situation: on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder, each one of us seems to be 4 different individuals. But at the same time, the Dolly Parton Challenge is also a sign that we may be ready to overcome this artifice if we deride it.
It remains to be seen which player could unite those 4 kingdoms - and I’d rather bet that it has yet to be created.
We already know the sad tricks that will pollute the next elections. We even call it the billion-dollar misinformation campaign. The worst being that although the story will be a familiar one this time, we are so tired and useless, we won’t do anything against it. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise. Link (S)
The next batch of official emojis coming in 2020 was just released. Top 3 of the most random additions: lungs, dodo and fondue. Damn it, and we still can’t get a white wine one. Link (T)
After vegan meat, brace for vegan cheese. Link (T)
Good news, renewable energies keep on breaking records in as various parts of the world as the UK or Qatar. (S)
Former French company Dashlane is so American now that it even took one the coveted ad spots during the last Super Bowl. Link (T)
Back to the future of 7 years ago: short-form video service Vine was launched and exploded in 2013, reached 200 million users in 2015 before its parent company Twitter shut it down at the end of 2016. Now one of its co-founders wants to try again: it’s called Byte and it’s basically the same principle. Link (T)
To me, the late 2010s were the years when the trees reached the sky. It is pretty hard to name Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple’s failures these past few years (remember Newton, Zune, Places, Google+, etc.). As an evidence, I can remember the very lukewarm launch of the Apple Watch... But its sales now overtake the entire Swiss watch industry. Link (S)
Thanks to Columbia University’s Institute of Comparative Literature & Society, I discovered Nüshu (女书), which means “women’s writing” in Chinese, an ancient syllabic script invented and used exclusively by women from the small village of Jiangyong, China. Inclusive and poetic. Link (S)
Did you enjoy this newsletter?
Copyright © 2020 Fabernovel, All rights reserved.
Edited by Stéphane Distinguin (S), Founder and CEO of Fabernovel, and Tom Morisse (T), Fabernovel alum and Knowledge Manager at Spendesk, Stéréo is a digital-oriented newsletter highlighting the main developments and weak signals affecting the world’s societies and economies.
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.