Why Solar Panels Matter, Subsidizing the Internet, and What Makes Vibrant Cities


Why Solar Panels Matter
People put solar panels up on the roof everyday; MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman digs deep and rethinks what’s really going on. He describes the social framework for his not-as-expensive-as-he-feared solar install, built around Lawrence Lessig’s Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. The 1999 book (updated in 2006) spells out four ways societies regulate behavior (laws, markets, norms, code), which Zuckerman uses as his map for understanding his motivations, sense of reward, and value created. Most of the attention Lessig has gotten lately has been due to his brief presidential campaign; this essay is a heartening reminder that Code lives on and is relevant even in unexpected contexts. Zuckerman writes, “It’s rare to feel like you can do something unambiguously good for the world — generating solar power is one of those rare cases, thanks in part to [Lessig’s] four levers of social change coming together.”

Subsidizing the Internet
With all the attention paid to efforts by Facebook, Google, and others to deliver free or inexpensive Internet access to developing nations, it’s easy to forget that not everyone in the First World has adequate access, either. That’s why this week the Federal Communications Commission will debate whether to extend its Lifeline program (SF Chronicle), created in 1985 to subsidize phone service for low-income Americans, to the Internet. According to the Pew Center, more than 60 million Americans don’t have Internet at home. Some subset of these people do have smartphones but, as one person interviewed in the Chronicle article points out, it ain’t easy to fill out a job application on a smartphone.

A Map for Building Vibrant Cities
An Italian team of researchers say they have found a data-driven method (MIT Technology Review) to test the vibrancy of a city. Using city datasets, social media posts, and cell phone usage rates, the team concludes that the best cities have mixed zoning, small streets, density, and meeting places (bars, restaurants, churches) within walking distance of where people work or live. Jane Jacobs understood this more than half a century ago; now we have data to prove it and eliminate excuses.

Go to Sleep Already
The blogs at Buffer and Basecamp took time out of their respective focus on social media and project management to emphasize the importance of sleep. Working late to demonstrate commitment may be part of startup culture but as a habit it’s dangerous to health. It also makes you less productive, the exact opposite of what working deep into the night is intended to do. These Medium posts may have been written for outside audiences but they also send a signal to employees inside Buffer and Basecamp that it’s OK to rest. And it fits in as part of a larger movement, with Arianna Huffington acting as public ringleader.

Would a Selfie Stick Have Made It Through Security?
Probably not, but you can still get a photo of yourself with your hijacker.

Photo: Pixabay

Want to follow the biggest story in business? Get our NewCo Daily newsletter.

Leave a Reply