I have not yet written about fiction books here. But here is an interesting trend: sales of dystopian novels are exploding. Orwell’s “1984” reached a 9,500 percent increase in sales in one week end of January. Rather than re-reading the classics, I started exploring those written for young people and finished M.T. Anderson’s “Feed”. It tells the story of two teenagers in a futuristic world ravaged by environmental degradation and driven by consumerism where news, games, advertisement, and chats feed people’s brains non-stop through electronic implants. As her parents decided to fight the feed, one of the main characters did not get her implant in the early days of her brain development and we observe the increasingly damaging consequences of this choice. The book, written 15 years ago before the smartphones and algorithm mania, feels surprisingly close to our “now” with its self-driving cars, occasional trips to the moon, hacking threats and over polluted air and water. It is a thought provoking read.
The Harvard Business Review ran a series on businesses and inequality this week. Interesting articles and powerful graphs, with two highlights for me. One, Nicholas Bloom’s “Corporations in the age of inequalities” calls for a shift of policymakers’ attention from gaps between rich and poor people, to gaps between high-paying and low-paying firms. He uses a growing body of evidence to show that wages gaps between companies is a huge driver of income inequality. And he argues that three trends widen this gap: “the rise of outsourcing, the adoption of IT, and the cumulative effects of winner-take-most competition”. Two, Melissa Kearney’s “Income inequality may harm upward mobility” illustrates how boys who grow up in poor homes are more likely to drop out of school if they live in places with high income inequalities than poor boys living in more equal ones. Her work shows that highly unequal environments lock young people, and especially boys, into “economic despair”.
My illustration this week is from Simon Maxwell’s “A new case should be made for aid. It rests on three legs“: 1. understand the problem; 2. match instruments to need; and 3. tell a story that convinces the public. Agreed. He then sorts out aid instruments according to public support and demonstrated effectiveness.
My quote this week is from Otherlab’s Mikell Taylor in “Cardboard gliders could revolutionize aid delivery in disaster zones“: “It’s a cross between a paper airplane and a pizza box. The plane lands right where it needs to be. You don’t want to have to account for a bunch of assumed [cargo drops] loss because the wind blew your parachutes into a lake.”