Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

2rd March 2017

Great piece on the importance of ‘maintenance’ vs ‘innovation’ in society. ‘Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for the most lives it is maintenance that matters. Entire societies have come to talk about innovation as if it were an inherently desirable value, like love, fraternity, courage, beauty, dignity, or responsibility. Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end? A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about?

The UK’s long awaited Digital Strategy launched on the 1st March and will include a review on artificial intelligence. ‘It is claimed, based on figures from Accenture, that AI could add £654 billion to the UK’s economy by 2035. While research from the think tank Reform has suggested 250,000 public sector administration jobs could be replaced by chat bots, artificial intelligence, and automation by 2030.

This is one of those ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ ideas. Blinkist is an app that hosts 1,800+ best-selling nonfiction books, transformed into powerful shorts you can read or listen to in just 15 minutes

@davetrott on the topical tale of Dick and Mac McDonald, and Ray Kroc (recently brought to life by Michael Keaton in The Founder). ‘Ray Kroc is famous as the man who founded McDonald’s. In fact, he didn’t. What he did was spot a great idea and franchise it. It was the brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald, who invented the original concept.They were the real creative thinkers.They knew that real creativity isn’t adding more stuff, real creativity is taking stuff away. Their stroke of genius was in spotting that 87% of their income came from just three items – hamburgers, fries, drinks. If they concentrated on just those three things, they could make them faster and better than anyone else. So they dropped everything else off the menu.’ “As David Ogilvy said: “Strategy is sacrifice.”

Having linked to OpenStrategy’s best articles from 2015, here is a a compendium of their best strategy reads, shared over the past 12 months. Includes, in my view, one of the best articles from last year – ‘The world beyond storytelling’ by Marin Weigel. Definitely work a look. 

Which stories go viral? Apparently, those that tickle just the right spots of our brains.’The researchers noted a pattern: activity suggesting self and social interest weren’t enough to explain virality—the brain also had to involve its valuation system. An increase in activity in the self and social-interest regions was linked to activity in valuation processing. And high valuation activity was key to sharing’.

Not a happy story, but totemic of what threats can lie ahead as the Internet of Things, becomes more pervasive. A company that sells “smart” teddy bears leaked 800,000 user account credentials—and then hackers locked it and held it for ransom.

A murder case tests Alexa’s devotion to your privacy. ‘Arkansas police recently demanded that Amazon turn over information collected from a murder suspect’s Echo. Amazon’s lawyers contend that the First Amendment’s free speech protection applies to information gathered and sent by the device.

Cartographer Gerardus Mercator always got a bit of bad press for his (in)famous ‘projection‘; which stretched the top and bottom of a map when transferred from globe to a flat surface. Here he is again, on even more dodgy footing, as his 16th-century attempt at mapping the Arctic includes such guesses as a giant whirlpool and polar pygmies.

Perhaps the most brutal and honest obituary ever written? ‘With Leslie’s passing he will be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend.‘ 

And finally (HT to @itsjimmyb) 19 of the most brilliantly awful, punning business names in Britain.