Imagine a posh store displaying expensive samples that sell for more than $1,000 an ounce. The donor ate an unprocessed, non-GMO, plant-based diet, with no hormones or antibiotics, ever. The label says it’s from a rare and difficult-to-access source in the Himalayas. The samples are rigorously tested on site to assure purity and quality, and then flown back to the U.S. in a pressure-controlled, refrigerated jet. The lighting in the store is flattering, the sales staff impeccably dressed, and the marble floors so clean you could eat off of them.
Luxury boutiques selling high-octane human stool unadulterated by the perils of Western society may only be fantasy for now, but probably not for long. They’re coming, and here’s why.
Read more. [Image: Morteza Nikoubazi/Reuters]
A record year for stocks. A meh year for wages. A weird year for Wall Street.
Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia. Kermit the Frog. Miss Piggy. Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. Buzz Lightyear. And now, Indiana Jones.
Together, they represent the defining characters and pop culture childhood memories of millions, if not billions. And in the past decade, they’ve all been snapped up by the Walt Disney Company.
The whip-wielding archeologist became the latest addition to Disney’s stable on Friday, when the company announced it had reached a marketing and distribution agreement with Paramount Pictures to acquire control of all future Indiana Jones films. (Paramount keeps the rights to the four existing Indy movies and “will receive a financial participation on any future films,” the studios said.)
Read more. [Image: 20th Century Fox Corp]
We can talk about regulatory hurdles. We can talk about delivery zone issues. We can talk about cost and weight and range and reliability, about lawsuits and criminality. We should, when we’re talking about Amazon’s Prime Air, talk about all of those things. You know what we should also be talking about, though? Birds.
Read more. [Image: UMD Robotics screenshot via UPI]
People tend to have one of three beliefs about the meaning of work and which category you fall into largely depends on your parents, according to new research from the University of Michigan.
Workers who are job-oriented are those just trying to make a living who much prefer the activities they pursue outside of the office. Career-oriented adults—your typical “workaholic”—value the social status and prestige that comes with professional achievement, and derive much of their identity from their jobs. Calling-oriented people do work that they are passionate about because they want to have a positive impact on the world.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Two billion dollars. That’s how much online dating companies are expected to make in 2013 by helping lonely hearts find love on the Internet. The industry has been growing steadily for half a decade, so it’s no wonder that older digital yentas like Match.com and eHarmony.com are seeing competition from app startups like the enthusiastic Let’s Date, the gay and bisexual service Grindr, and the somewhat-forward Down (if you must ask the question “to do what?”, maybe you’re better off sticking with eHarmony). A number of these kinds of apps have earned the reputation of being meant for hook-ups rather than dating, whereas eHarmony and Match.com emphasize just the opposite: Both sites often crow about the number of marriages that started on their sites.
Hinge wants to be somewhere in the middle. It’s a “social app” that helps people find and rate friends of people they know on Facebook, which they say is better than the free-for-all on sites like OkCupid. ”Our goal is to create more high-potential first dates,” said the company’s founder, Justin McLeod, at The Atlantic's forum on small business on Wednesday.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
If you’ve ever gone on iTunes or Spotify and searched for a particular pop song—let’s say Katy Perry’s grandma-friendly “Roar”—you’re likely familiar with the experience of finding both the original song and more than 100 imitations of it, none of which are actually performed by Katy Perry.
Often, a few of these “Roar” copycats will sound like old MIDI cell-phone ringtones; other clones, meanwhile, resemble laborious studio productions. Many are “karaoke editions”—instrumental covers, sometimes with limited background vocals—while some are near-identical renditions belted by nameless vocalists. So where do all these off-brand versions come from?
Well, at least one of them likely belongs to Rick Vogt, who, along with his brother, Doug, has run the Ohio-based Karaoke Warehouse for more than 20 years. The Vogts rent out and sell equipment, produce CDs of karaoke versions for aspiring American idols, and in recent years, as digital music sales have risen, they’ve been releasing those covers online.
Karaoke in public usually takes place in a bar full of strangers, or in a small, dark, rented room where only your friends can hear you belt out Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” But in the era of iTunes and YouTube, plugged-in creative types have found new uses for living-room karaoke tracks, which means entrepreneurs like the Vogts have spotted an opportunity—especially as getting licenses to sell such covers is easier than ever. “Last summer it was ‘Call Me Maybe,’ this summer it was ‘Blurred Lines,’ and next summer it’s gonna be something else,” Vogt says. “As long as the song is popular, there’s a really good chance that someone will want to sing it.”
In 2003, thanks to Michael Lewis and his best seller Moneyball, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, became a star. The previous year, Beane had turned his back on his scouts and had instead entrusted player-acquisition decisions to mathematical models developed by a young, Harvard-trained statistical wizard on his staff. What happened next has become baseball lore. The A’s, a small-market team with a paltry budget, ripped off the longest winning streak in American League history and rolled up 103 wins for the season. Only the mighty Yankees, who had spent three times as much on player salaries, won as many games. The team’s success, in turn, launched a revolution. In the years that followed, team after team began to use detailed predictive models to assess players’ potential and monetary value, and the early adopters, by and large, gained a measurable competitive edge over their more hidebound peers.
That’s the story as most of us know it. But it is incomplete. What would seem at first glance to be nothing but a memorable tale about baseball may turn out to be the opening chapter of a much larger story about jobs. Predictive statistical analysis, harnessed to big data, appears poised to alter the way millions of people are hired and assessed.
Yes, unavoidably, big data. As a piece of business jargon, and even more so as an invocation of coming disruption, the term has quickly grown tiresome. But there is no denying the vast increase in the range and depth of information that’s routinely captured about how we behave, and the new kinds of analysis that this enables. By one estimate, more than 98 percent of the world’s information is now stored digitally, and the volume of that data has quadrupled since 2007. Ordinary people at work and at home generate much of this data, by sending e-mails, browsing the Internet, using social media, working on crowd-sourced projects, and more—and in doing so they have unwittingly helped launch a grand new societal project. “We are in the midst of a great infrastructure project that in some ways rivals those of the past, from Roman aqueducts to the Enlightenment’s Encyclopédie,” write Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier in their recent book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. “The project is datafication. Like those other infrastructural advances, it will bring about fundamental changes to society.”
Read more. [Image: Peter Yang]
Gender quotas might not have a sterling reputation, but Germany thinks they’re the answer to its male-dominated corporations. According to a new agreement between the parties negotiating to form Germany’s next governing coalition, supervisory boards…
This idea has been around for some time. In 2011, the 30 companies of the DAX index avoided binding quotas and instead pledged voluntarily to increase the proportion of women in management positions. France, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain have already instituted government-mandated quotas on public companies, though some will only take effect several years from now.
From the U.S., where women held only 16.1 percent of board seats by last count, it’s an intriguing experiment to watch for several reasons. Government-directed quotas are potentially unconstitutional, and even private companies seeking to set quotas have been told affirmative action plans need to meet pretty strict requirements to survive an equal protection or Civil Rights Act-based challenge. But many of the folks following women’s lack of progress on Wall Street would like to see the U.S. be, well, a little more Teutonic.
Quotas might be an awfully illiberal idea, but we can still learn from Germany’s great social experiment. Here’s why.