Friday Five: the next story, work, and a touch of the surreal

A selection of interesting articles, ideas and images from the week:

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The Tech Story Is Over – by John Batelle, for Medium

John Batelle (one of the founding editors of Wired) on the role of technology in our culture:

“Technology has become both compass and map for deciphering just about every social issue — from Arab Spring to autism, business “disruption” to civil liberties. Tech hasn’t gone mainstream — it is the mainstream. It’s our cultural dowser, our lens for interpreting an increasingly complex society. Our new cultural heroes are Internet billionaires; our newly minted college graduates all want to start tech companies.”

And the profound shift that this is having on business models and on the economy as a whole:

“Tech is a fundamental force in our society, but business, as Douglas Rushkoff puts it, is our core operating system. If we are going to pay off the fantastic visions of our early tech dreams, we’ve got to consolidate what we’ve learned from the tech revolution and apply it to building a new kind of business culture.”

As the man said, it’s time to start the conversation. There is a lot at stake.

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So, spring seems to be here:

image via Colossal

Hanging garden by Rebecca Louise Law, via Colossal

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IoT and the development of a circular economy – by Sebastian Egerton-Read, for TechCrunch

This article goes beyond the typical hype of the Internet of Things, and brings up the concept of the circular economy.

“Identified as a significant business opportunity, circular economy models have gained increasing momentum over the last five years. Combine the principles of a regenerative and restorative economy, where the utilization and useful life of assets is extended, with IoT technologies, which provide information about the condition, location and availability of those assets, and there may be an even greater opportunity to scale new models more effectively, while providing new direction to the digital revolution.”

The circular economy is an interesting concept, and it’s not quite as hippy-dippy as it sounds. It’s only partially about sharing stuff, and making objects more efficient. While the potential economic impact from that is there – we would all save money – I don’t think that it’s very big. It would require a fundamental shift in human nature. Most of us like the idea of community, sharing and efficiency. But, most of us would no more invite strangers to share our car than we would invite strangers to share our home. (I would, but then I don’t have a car.)

Yet, that mentality is probably on its way out. More and more of us are “itinerant”, as we move from job to job, from freelance position to freelance position, from apartment to apartment. Millennials are less materialistic and more eco-conscious. And cultural shifts do happen over time. If your neighbours rent out their power drill, you might consider renting out your ladder. And in the end, we all save money and space.

But the economic impact of less production (instead of one electric wok per family, the target becomes one per building) and less consumption (why do I need to buy stuff if I can easily rent it?) will tie in with the economic impact of less paid work, and/or of falling wages. The result is a bit scary. But probably inevitable.

“A vision for the built environment where a digital library of materials is sourced from connected buildings, which also provide information that allows predictive maintenance and effective sharing and utilization of space and energy consumption, is sketched out in the report. The multiplier impact, in terms of benefit, of resolving a number of challenges with a single systemic solution is assumed to be significant.”

And what could that single systemic solution be? Glad you asked.

“For intelligent assets to create value in the circular economy the development of an open and global payment protocol is required. The technology behind the Bitcoin blockchain has the potential to enable the billions of internet devices that negotiate with each other to unleash market forces, to bring down the costs of goods and services for all.” (quoting Nicolas Cary, co-founder of Blockchain)

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Samsung Patents “Smart Contact Lenses” with Built-In Camera Controlled By Blinking – by Sara Barnes, for Mashable

The future is here, people. For the secret agent in all of us: contact lenses with camera.

image via Mashable

image via Mashable

Both Samsung and Google have patents for contact lenses that allow you to take a picture just by blinking. I wonder if you’ll be able to upload the images to Instagram by tugging at your earlobe?

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Uber is distracting us from a much bigger issue for the US economy – by Alison Griswald, for Quartz

It’s not just about the growth of the platform economy, which matches demand for tasks with self-employed people capable of fulfilling those tasks. When you include all contract workers, which includes temporary workers, on-call workers, workers provided by contract firms, and freelancers, you’re looking at almost 16% of the US workforce. That’s a lot of people with freedom and flexibility. And a lot of people without a stable economic situation. And 40% of these people have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A study by labour economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger reaches a startling conclusion: that “all of the net employment growth in the US economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements.”

“Katz and Krueger are saying that over the last 10 years, all of our net gains in employment have come in jobs that aren’t what we traditionally think of as jobs. These aren’t the climb-your-way-to-the-top positions on which the American dream was imagined (a dream that is much harder to come by today). They’re temporary roles, contracted gigs, stuff that’s fundamentally transient.”

The article touches on the effect of the lowering of the average income, and points out that this needs to be the start of a bigger conversation.

Yes, and I’d start as soon as possible.

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“Hello, Sweden speaking” – via Mashable

So, you call this number and a random Swede in Sweden answers. You can then talk about, you know, Swedish things. I wonder if you’re allowed to participate if you live in Sweden but aren’t Swedish? Or if you’re a Swede outside of Sweden? Probably not.

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I was supposed to have a quick, uncomplicated meeting in Brussels today. First, my morning flight to Brussels Zaventem gets diverted to Liege. So, an extra €130 for a car to pick me up and get me to the meeting on time (really nice driver, though!). Then, departure from Brussels Zaventem airport was quite an experience. Two hours just to get through security, involving lots of queues in tents and carparks and tents and more carparks. Still, everyone was very pleasant, the departure zone beyond security is lovely, and both flights took off and arrived on time.

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