The Ethical Puzzles of Google’s Jigsaw

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Sean MacEntee | Flickr

Jigsaw is the incubator inside Alphabet/Google, formerly known as Google Ideas, that tackles “geopolitical challenges” and provides support for activists, journalists, and free speech around the world. In Quartz, Lucy Wark tries to figure out how the pieces of Jigsaw fit together. She finds it’s not pursuing save-the-world style initiatives like the Gates Foundation’s efforts to cure diseases and alleviate poverty; its narrower focus on speech issues has a distinctly classical-liberal, if not outright libertarian, bent.

Does Jigsaw’s work represent “do the right thing” philanthropy, or is it — as Julian Assange and others have charged — part of a more sinister Google-imperialist plot? Wark finds little evidence for the latter, but she suggests that Jigsaw’s failure to carefully define its ideals and goals leaves it open to suspicion and confusion.

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More Plastic Than Fish In the Ocean? Time To Fix That.

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The destructive deluge of plastic waste blighting our oceans is a huge environmental problem. 5 trillion pieces contaminate our seas and the accumulation is set to quadruple in the next 20 years. In fact, there is expected to be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

The large mass of fishing nets, plastic containers, bottles, packaging and other discarded items are killing and harming marine life and poisoning our fragile ecosystem.

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The Challenge of Urbanisation in Five Charts

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Image source: Putting National Urban Policies at the Heart of the New Urban Agenda

Habitat III

By Bill Below, OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development (GOV)

At the end of the first millennium, the only city that came close to reaching one million inhabitants was Baghdad — an incredible feat considering the total world population was estimated to be about 230 million. Fast-forward one thousand years to 1950. With the world population at 2.5 billion, the planet witnessed the rise of its first megacities — urban conglomerations of more than ten million inhabitants. The first of these colossi were Tokyo and the New York/Newark urban region. Today, there are 29 megacities, the majority in the developing world. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 41. But, urbanisation isn’t just producing megacities. More than 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities of all sizes, with the figure projected to reach 85% by 2100. Within 150 years, the urban population will have increased from less than 1 billion in 1950 to 9 billion by 2100.

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Green, Kind and Zero Waste: the Rise of the Ethical Supermarket

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Inside the stores that are banishing plastic, fighting food waste and feeding the hungry


Around the world, a new wave of low-impact supermarkets are ripping up the rulebook, encouraging us to rethink how we consume products and engage with our local public spaces.

The pioneers behind these grassroots enterprises are seeking a new economic model, one that champions community, embraces the environment and swaps mindless consumerism for kindness and compassion.

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Decentralized energy is the future — and it’s closer than you think (part one)

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The energy industry is on the cusp of a revolution. Solar power prices continue to fall, monolithic power stations look financially foolhardy, and electric vehicles and better battery storage are no longer just a dream. Last year’s Paris Climate Agreement also injected fresh urgency into efforts to tackle climate change. And consumers are sick of paying over the odds to heat and power their homes.

Energy suppliers are well aware of the impending disruption to their industry. According to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Global Power & Utilities Survey 2015, 97% expect to see a medium to very high level of market disruption by 2020, 73% anticipate major or very major business model transformation by 2030, and 60% say their main home market will be more than ‘50% transformed’ by 2030.

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Why France is killing it when it comes to tackling waste

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Over the last few years, much of the trailblazing, waste-busting progress against Food Waste in Europe has been taking place across the Channel in France, from impactful legislation changes to quirky campaigns and dancing (yes, dancing). Sacré bleu!

They have just banned plastic cups, plates and cutlery


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Patagonia Wants You to Stop Buying Its Clothes

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Patagonia wants you to stop buying its clothes. That’s the message it conveyed in a New York Times full-page ad in 2011, taking the opportunity to remind consumers of the environmental cost of “everything we make.” It’s not a typical advertisement, but Patagonia is not a typical company.

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, got his start in business by pursuing what he loved — climbing. Not satisfied with the metal spikes used for climbing, Chouinard began making reusable pitons after teaching himself blacksmithing. It turned into a business: Chouinard Equipment. He continued climbing with his business partners and came back from adventures with ideas on how to improve the company’s product, but they eventually realized the product was the problem. Continually hammering pitons into the walls of Yosemite had disfigured it, so they invented something more sustainable, something better: the aluminum chock. It was a good business move that also happened to be good for the environment.

“As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer,” says Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. Pictured above, Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard.

Chouinard kept climbing. Patagonia, his next venture, started nearly by accident when Chouinard bought a rugby shirt. Overbuilt to withstand the rigors of the game, it made for perfect climbing gear. As with his piton, friends wanted one as well. Clothing became an opportunity to support the “marginally profitable” hardware business, but it also became a platform for a new way to do business.

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It’s Time to Put an End to Bikeway “Band-aids”

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We are finally moving in the right direction for bicycle urbanism in the United States.

At last, more and more cities are realizing that what has been best practice in street design for years elsewhere, is the logical thing to do in this country as well.

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Spoons you can swallow and cups you can chew

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Curbing plastic waste with edible packaging

Photo: Loliware

That Willy Wonka (RIP Gene Wilder) was many things: an innovative confectionary maverick, whimsical candy dandy, and you could say, a childhood obesity opportunist. If he was a real-life choc baron, I’m sure Jamie Oliver would have a few strong words against his kaleidoscopic, kid-fattening operation. For all his flaws, at least he was ahead of the curve when it came to edible packaging (remember the edible tea cups? If you can’t, see below).


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Beyond Big Oil

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This Shell LNG plant is the size of 600 football fields.

Beyond Big Oil. Even if you don’t believe in Peak Oil (that’s an argument for another day), Big Oil is in for big changes (Bloomberg). “We’re more a gas company than an oil company,” says Shell’s CEO, and that’s an extraordinary statement. The company’s recent $54 billion takeover of BG Group solidified Shell’s standing as a leading player in gas as well as oil, and many are considering gas the key transitional fuel as the world shifts from oil to renewables. That transition may happen very quickly and in an ugly way for incumbents–investment in renewables is growing rapidly and there’s already a glut in the global LNG market–but Shell seems to be diversifying as quickly as it can.

A Deficit of Idealism: Tim O’Reilly on the Next Economy. In the latest entry of our NewCo Shift Dialogs series, our CEO and editor in chief John Battelle talks to O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly about a broad range of topics, from the responsibility of corporations to why universal basic income, while tempting, might not be the right solution for our current needs.

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