One day in the summer of 2011, Christine Richard arrived at the forty-second floor of a high-rise on Fifty-seventh Street in Manhattan to visit a hedge fund called Pershing Square Capital Management. Richard worked for a boutique research firm that identified “short” opportunities—companies that investors could profitably bet against—and she was there to present an idea to Pershing Square’s founder, William Ackman. On the way over, though, she was caught in a rainstorm, and by the time a receptionist directed her to a conference room she realized that she was dripping wet.
A few minutes past the appointed time, Ackman rushed into the conference room, trailed by an assistant who was listing a series of meetings for that day. Ackman couldn’t stay, so he summoned one of his most trusted analysts, a twenty-eight-year-old red-headed Texan named Shane Dinneen, to sit down with Richard. She placed the rain-spattered report she had prepared on the conference-room table. On the cover was a three-leaf corporate logo. Underneath it was the word “Herbalife.”
Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker
Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.”
—Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784)
The digital revolution is in full swing. How will it change our world? The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. Every minute we produce hundreds of thousands of Google searches and Facebook posts. These contain information that reveals how we think and feel. Soon, the things around us, possibly even our clothing, also will be connected with the Internet. It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors, 20 times more than people on Earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours. Many companies are already trying to turn this Big Data into Big Money.
Everything will become intelligent; soon we will not only have smart phones, but also smart homes, smart factories and smart cities. Should we also expect these developments to result in smart nations and a smarter planet?
Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American
At 16, Martin Winiecki dropped out of school and left his home in the German city of Dresden to live full-time at Tamera, a 300-acre intentional community in the rolling hills of southwestern Portugal. His mother and father – a doctor and a professor of mathematics – were reluctant to let him go. ‘It was quite a shock for them,’ Winiecki remembers. Born in 1990, just a few months after the collapse of the Berlin wall, Winiecki came of age in a society in limbo. The atmosphere of the former GDR still clung to people. ‘It was a culture that was so formal. So obligation-oriented. That had no heart. No love,’ Winiecki explained. At the same time, in Winiecki’s eyes, the capitalist alternative was creating a ‘system of deep economic injustice – of winners and losers’. Neither story encompassed a humanity he wanted part of. Tamera offered an alternative.
Founded by the psychoanalyst and sociologist Dieter Duhm in Germany in 1978 and re-founded in Portugal in 1995, Tamera aspired to dissolve the trauma of human relationships. Duhm, heavily influenced by Marxism and psychoanalysis, came to see material emancipation and interpersonal transformation as part of the same project. Duhm had been deeply disillusioned by communes where he’d spent time in the 1960s and ’70s, and which seemed to reproduce many of the same tyrannies that people were trying to escape: egoism, power struggles, envy, mistrust and fear, while practices of sexual freedom often engendered jealousy and pain. In Duhm’s eyes, communes had failed to create a viable model for a new society. In Tamera, he hoped to begin a social experiment that allowed for deep interpersonal healing.
Read the rest of this article at: aeon
The Rise of the Grocerant
While sitting in the food hall section of New York City’s newest Whole Foods location, Natasha Beylis points out that most of the other people eating lunch in the packed space don’t have shopping bags. Like her, many have come to the supermarket solely to dine in.
“Either you come here to shop or to eat,” Beylis said. At this two-story Whole Foods, most of the second level is dedicated to dining, rather than shopping. On one side of the store’s second level there are cafeteria-style tables sandwiched between a Kano sushi bar and a Frankies Spuntino Italian restaurant. On the other side is a much smaller space with standard groceries. “I think they do a good job of separating the vibe,” Beylis added.
The concept of blending a restaurant experience with the grocery experience has been around for decades, according to self-described “supermarket guru” and food service analyst Phil Lempert. But the changing perspectives millennials and generation Z-ers have toward food and shopping are pushing more supermarkets to make their stores feel more like experiential food destinations than mere shopping markets. Analysts like Lempert predict that these “grocerants” will become the new standard for grocery stores in the more health-conscience future.
Read the rest of this article at: Eater
A Glimpse of the Workers
Who Make Your Clothes
After photographing social inequality in his native Slovenia and internationally, Jost Franko has concluded that “profit over people” is the ideology that propels some of the world’s most profitable businesses. With his latest project, “Cotton Black, Cotton Blue,” he examined a global industry that from plantation to factory can be merciless and grueling for its workforce, which can even include children.
“Cotton has a really dark history, which seems like it never stopped,” he said.
Teaming up with journalist and photographer Meta Krese, and supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Mr. Franko spent about a year researching the cotton trade before traveling the globe to examine the industry’s various facets. What emerged, he said, was a story of exploitation, where the quest of corporations to find cheaper production in the globalized economy obscures the human cost. The project’s title, he said, was a nod to the burdens carried by both farmers and workers.
“It was really important to show the whole supply chain from scratch,” he said. “Everyone kind of knows what’s happening in Bangladesh and where clothes come from, but nobody really understands the first part of the supply chain. So we kind of wanted to connect the dots.”
The pair first went to the fields of Burkina Faso, where cotton is handpicked by people earning subsistence wages and who are competing against the United States, which has heavy machinery and farming supported by government subsidies. The next leg of the journey took them to Bangladesh, one of the world’s top garment exporters. The country has made headlines not only for deadly fires in garment factories, but more recently for a labor strike against harsh factory conditions and meager pay. As a result, some large corporations are shifting production to countries where wages are lower or not protected by law.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Mr. Franko said. “I never saw the solution to it.”
In Europe, he said he was stunned by what he saw in Romania, a country that is part of the European Union, yet where he met workers who earned no more than 200 euros a month.
Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times