The Walmart Gift Box


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In my last post I imagined a world in which large data-driven platforms like Amazon, Google, Spotify, and Uber are compelled to share machine-readable copies of data to their users. There are literally scores, if not hundreds of wrinkles to iron out around how such a system would work, and in a future post I hope to dig into some of those questions. But for now, come with me on a journey into the future, where the wrinkles have been ironed out, and a new marketplace of personally-driven information is flourishing. We’ll return to one of the primary examples I sketched out in the aforementioned post: A battle for the allegiance – and pocketbook – of one online shopper, in this case, my wife Michelle.


It’s a crisp winter mid morning in Manhattan when the doorbell rings. Michelle looks up from her laptop, wondering who it might be. She’s not expecting any deliveries from Amazon, usually the source of such interruptions. She glances at her phone, and the Ring app (an Amazon service, naturally) shows a well dressed, smiling young woman at the door. She’s holding what looks like an elegantly wrapped gift in her hands. Now that’s unusual! Michelle checks the date – no anniversaries, no birthdays, no special occasions – so what gives?

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Don’t Break Up The Tech Oligarchs. Force Them To Share Instead.


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Social conversations about difficult and complex topics have arcs – they tend to start scattered, with many threads and potential paths, then resolve over time toward consensus. This consensus differs based on groups within society – Fox News aficionados will cluster one way, NPR devotees another. Regardless of the group, such consensus then becomes presumption – and once a group of people presume, they fail to explore potentially difficult or presumably impossible alternative solutions.

This is often a good thing – an efficient way to get to an answer. But it can also mean we fail to imagine a better solution, because our own biases are obstructing a more elegant path forward.

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Why Do We Think Facebook Can Fix This?


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The last 24 hours have not been kind to Facebook’s already bruised image. Above are four headlines, all of which clogged my inbox as I cleared email after a day full of meetings.

Let’s review: Any number of Facebook’s core customers – advertisers – are feeling duped and cheated (and have felt this way for years). A respected reporter who was told by Facebook executives that the company would not use data collected by its new Portal product, is now accusing the company of misrepresenting the truth  (others would call that lying, but the word lost its meaning this year). The executive formerly in charge of Facebook’s security is…on an apology tour, convinced the place he worked for has damaged our society (and he’s got a lot of company).

In other news, Facebook has now taken responsibility for protecting the sanctity of our elections, by, among other things, banning “false information about voting requirements and fact-check[ing] fake reports of violence or long lines at polling stations.”

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Is Democracy In Peril? Yes.


NewCo Shift Forum 2018

Four world leaders discuss the fate of democracy in North America. Put bluntly: They’re concerned.

Left to right: John Heilemann, Jorge Fernando Quiroga, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Luis Almagro and Esko Aho

Partnering with the World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid, the largest forum of former democratic leaders, the NewCo Shift Forum convened a two day workshop in February featuring world leaders from Canada, Uruguay, Latvia, Bolivia, and Finland. Four of them then joined us on stage at the main conference for a captivating conversation, hosted by John Heilemann, on the state of democracy in the United States. Given the warning on this very topic delivered by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright today, this conversation feels ever more timely.

Below is a transcript, edited for clarity, and the video of the event. I introduce the topic and the speakers first, then hand it over to Mr. Heilemann for the dialog.

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You Didn’t Read These Stories? Why?!


The Best of NewCo Shift — Week of Nov. 21

Look, we all see the same notifications, and figure, eh, we’ll get to that. But these pieces are really worth your time.

It was a good week for new stuff at NewCo Shift. We’ve got a surfeit of thoughtful commentary on AI, Valley culture, tech regulation, the non profit and NGO world, and much more.

NewCo Shift also sources and edits extraordinary stories into Medium’s membership area, which is on a “metered paywall” similar to the New York Times. Anyone can read them, until they hit their limit. We’re including them in our roundup so you know about this great work.

Let us know what you’re interested in us covering or pitch your own stories at And thanks for reading. It means a lot to us.

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Regulation, Who Needs It?



President Trump signs EO 13771 on January 30, 2017

President Trump wasted no time launching his promised war on federal regulation. Ten days after the inauguration, he signed Executive Order 13771: Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.

You’ve probably already heard that EO 13771 is a two-for-one deal. It requires that every newly proposed federal regulation be accompanied by the repeal of two existing regulations. And just in case the folks at the FDA or EPA or SEC or any other agency think they can pull a fast one, the order also requires that the total additional cost of all new regulations in fiscal 2017 net out at zero. Read the President’s lips: No added cost!

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On Uber, workers and regulation


Regulation stifles innovation. Entrepreneurs must kowtow to bureaucrats. Regulators are always and can only be bad for innovation and customers. Ayn Rand had it right. Or did she?

Don’t forget to sign up to Exponential View, my weekly newsletter.

A British employment tribunal (basically a court) ruled that Uber drivers could not be treated as self-employed. Rather they should be treated as workers, a class which acquires certain employment rights, such as minimum wage and holiday pay, not present in the self-employed. The Court did not class them as employees, a status which would have conferred even more rights.

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