The year is drawing to a close and while we’re not fond of doing Best Of lists, what better time to take an accounting of where we stand? So instead of focusing on one issue/person/company that we feel may deserve closer scrutiny, since this is our last newsletter of the year, we’ve decided to cut a broad swath. And have just a little fun…
Idiocracy in the age of social media. Smart phones, smart watches, smart homes – all well and good to be connected, but once you throw social media into the mix, giving us all a voice (some more dictatorial than others), is all of this connectedness leading to the homogeny, if not the dumbing down, of the population, or at least certain segments of it? It seems that Politically correct universities ‘are killing free speech’ and Students at Lena Dunham’s college offended by lack of fried chicken. That’s Oberlin, fyi, and “Students at (the) ultra-liberal Ohio college are in an uproar over the fried chicken, sushi and Vietnamese sandwiches served in the school cafeterias, complaining the dishes are “insensitive” and “culturally inappropriate” because they’re not authentic recreations of the original ethnic dishes.” Call us misinformed, but we didn’t realize that students are sent to colleges these days to study the meal plan. What we find interesting is that while this is a group that screams for diversity, this same group will not tolerate an opinion that differs from their own. The herd mentality is always dangerous, and there are people in this group who would happily give up their first amendment rights to keep everyone ‘safe’ and ‘happy.’ And these are Yale students in this case, mind you, who are probably blissfully unaware that it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Any one who will trade freedom for security deserves neither.” The holiday season seems just such a perfect time to remember to be careful what you ask for.
There’s an apt for that. We live in NYC, where rents are out of proportion and apartments miniscule. Luckily, there’s a apt (‘apartment’ abbreviated, for those of us playing the home version) for that: Micro-apartments and according to this article, NY’s First Micro-Apartments Actually Look Kinda Comfortable. Note that it does say ‘kinda’ and it’s kinda like asking your back end coder to be your lead visual designer as well: you may get a design, but can’t guarantee the user experience. The apartments are 300 square feet. Then there’s Brad Hargreaves’s solution: co-living. Hargreaves is one of the founders of General Assembly, which started as a coworking space and pivoted to host classes in various subjects particular to tech startups. We personally knew that this was coming: the AlleyNYC founders had mentioned the idea of launching something similar en passant years ago. Of course, Startup Common, which offers co-living space, will soon be under the critical eye of the city’s Department of Buildings, and “with individual rooms running up to $1,900 at the Crown Heights building, that puts the monthly cost of a three-bedroom apartment between $5,400 and $5,850. Current listings on StreetEasy for three bedrooms in Crown Heights, on the other hand, averaged about half that price. (To put that into further context, StreetEasy rental listings tend to skew higher because it markets higher-end apartments.)” Still, interesting solution – and reaction from a city government that helped to contribute to the housing shortage – in a town rife with outrageously high rents. Equally of concern is what we’re willing to accept as the New Normal and our lowered expectations about what is acceptable. And if living in a space so small that you have to go out into the hallway just to change your mind is all right, happy hunting!
When all else fails (or looks like it might), become an investor. There are companies out there that may not be highly profitable, but they are highly valued based on … something … so now we’re witnessing The Rise Of Venture-Backed Startups Investing In Other Startups. That’s one way to hedge one’s bets and help stave off The impending Unicorn death march. And you’ve gotta love the visual. Nicely done, Anand.
But it is the holiday season and speaking of Auld Lang Syne, remember PIPA and SOPA, both of which compromised our online privacy and neither of which were passed by Congress? Heaven forefend that the year go by without another try and further infringement on our privacy (in the name of security, of course), so now we have CISA. According to Engadget, “if anything, the version of CISA which was quietly slipped into this budget plays with privacy even faster and looser than the original.” To refresh your memory, “critics saw the bill as way for government agencies to more easily keep tabs on Americans without their knowledge. CISA was derided by privacy advocates and tech titans alike, with companies like Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Google, Facebook and Symantec (to name just a few) issued statements against an earlier (and less onerous) version of the bill.” So now the government has yet another tool for keeping tabs on Americans, without our knowledge. It was attached to the latest budget bill, which President Obama signed, thus allowing the government to intrude even further into our lives. The gift that seems to just keep on giving. Or, in this case, taking.
We were there for the early, innocent days of the internet, when it was referred to as the information superhighway – little suspecting that there would soon be so many back doors. AI is coming – sooner than many of us had imagined – and given what we’ve seen to date, that’s why we are in favor of applying the brakes. Not always a good thing to barrel headlong at top speeds, blind to whatever consequences may come. Unfortunately, we’re now witnessing some of those consequences, and what man cannot remember, he is doomed to repeat. Let’s not repeat those mistakes as we go onward and forward.