As 2016 comes to a close, we wanted to share the most popular stories from the year. These stories cover a range of topics, but the overall theme is hard to miss: capitalism is undergoing the greatest shift since the industrial revolution, and it’s time for us all to work together and chart a new course forward. Driverless cars were a big topic, but so was basic income, an increasingly popular proposal to deal with job loss from automation. In politics, both the election of Donald Trump and the popularity of Bernie Sanders demonstrated that the status quo of neoliberalism is falling apart, and that government, business, and the social sector needs to rethink what it means for them as these changes become too real to be ignored.
Without further ado, here are the top stories from NewCo Shift in 2016:
A fully universal, long-term pilot of a basic income has never been rigorously tested, so GiveDirectly, a non-profit, intends to do just that. At minimum, their money will shift the life trajectories of thousands of low-income households. At best, it will change how the world thinks about ending poverty. Read more.
During the election period, some of the most recognized tech executives signed a strong rebuke against Donald Trump. They highlighted that they embrace an optimistic vision for a more inclusive country, where American innovation continues to fuel opportunity, prosperity, and leadership. Now that Trump has been elected, the tech industry has to figure out how to stay true to these principles while working with the President-elect. Read more.
This story is based on a simple, unsettling finding: technology has become so inexpensive that it’s now more economically viable to buy robots than it is to pay people $5 a day. A lot of that has to do with the above “elephant chart”, which visualizes the global cumulative real income growth during the 20-year period from 1988 to 2008: how much people’s income has gone up or down, at every percentile, around the world. As automation continues its steady march, it’s time to start focusing on technological unemployment and how we can build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. Read more.
We’ve long been fascinated by the Huaqiangbei electronics market area of Shenzhen. (Hereafter, we’ll just call it HQB.) If you need some bit of electronics or a phone accessory, you can find it in HQB. There is an entire multi-floor shopping mall that sells nothing but phone cases. There’s one that specializes in smartwatches. There’s a mall that sells cellphones wholesale. There’s one just for surveillance cameras. And then there are the component markets. Need a chip? Or 250,000 chips? Somebody there can get them for you. Read more.
Housing has been a hot issue in the Bay Area for a while now, and Kate Vershov Downing’s resignation letter shows just how out of hand the issue has become. She explains how she and her husband rent their current home with another couple for $6200 a month, but if they wanted to buy the same home and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2.7M and their monthly payment would be $12,177 a month in mortgage, taxes, and insurance. That’s $146,127 per year — an entire professional’s income before taxes. This is unaffordable even for an attorney and a software engineer. Read more.
In the aftermath to the presidential election, Rick Webb wrote a piece directed at Mark Zuckerberg regarding the proliferation of fake news. “It is heartening to see you begin to grapple with your role in the election,” Webb wrote. “We are all doing the same. And like us, you are going through multiple stages of grief, each with its own set of cognitive biases. If Buster Benson’s handy cheat sheet is to be believed, you are going through a modest version of the “blame others” heuristic. Or, at least, its benevolent cousin, ‘It’s not my fault.’” Read more.
If you’re of a certain age, the Kodak name evinces a simpler era: a time when taking a picture was a revelation, and photographs were precious, each exposure was finite, a “roll of film” only offered 24 or 36 shots, and it cost money (and time) to actually see your work developed. Selfies? Who had time for selfies?! Read more.
As a guest writer for NewCo Shift, Ford’s CEO Mark Fields writes, “We’re announcing our intent to have fully autonomous vehicles in commercial operation for a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service beginning in 2021. This is significant. Ford will be mass producing vehicles capable of driving fully autonomously within five years. No steering wheel. No gas pedals. No brake pedals. A driver will not be required.” Read more.
Social media micro-focuses content before delivering it to you — giving you exactly what you want, but leaving you unexposed and uninformed to different viewpoints. It’s easy to jump on the ‘YES I AGREE’ rage click bandwagon, but these days it takes much more time, critical thinking, curiosity, and energy to find, listen to, and absorb viewpoints and content that oppose our own beliefs. Read more.
Our first story on this publication set the ground work for the rest of the work to come. As John Battelle writes, “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.” Read more.
With Donald Trump and a Republican congress set to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this story seems to be more relevant than ever. “If I can stand to suffer,” Abby Norman writes, “I will, because I’ll save money.” This is the reality of health insurance in the US. Read more.
On the topic of healthcare, this quote from Doctor Jordan Shlain during a Dialogs Interview resonated on social media and became a popular reddit thread. “If you tax sugar it’s a triple tax. You’ve been taxed to make it cheap. You’re going to now be taxed to make it expensive, and then you’re going to pay a health care premium tax on all the sick people that eat it.” Read more.