Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Thousands To Receive Basic Income In Finland: A Trial That Could Lead To The Greatest Societal Transformation Of Our Time
Via Business Insider: Finland is about to launch an experiment in which a randomly selected group of 2.000–3.000 citizens already on unemployment benefits will begin to receive a monthly basic income of 560 euros (approx. $600). That basic income will replace their existing benefits. The amount is the same as the current guaranteed minimum level of Finnish social security support. The pilot study, running for two years in 2017-2018, aims to assess whether basic income can help reduce poverty, social exclusion, and bureaucracy, while increasing the employment rate. The Finnish government introduced its legislative bill for the experiment on 25 August. Originally, the scope of the basic income experiment was much more ambitious. Many experts have criticized the government’s experiment for its small sample size and for the setup of the trial, which will be performed within just one experimental condition. This implies that the experiment can provide insights on only one issue, namely whether the removal of the disincentives embedded in social security will encourage those now unemployed to return to the workforce or not. Still, the world’s largest national basic income experiment represents a big leap towards experimental governance, a transformation that has been given strong emphasis in the current government program of the Finnish state. Additionally, the Finnish trial sets the agenda for the future of universal basic income at large. Its results will be closely followed by governments worldwide. The basic income experiment may thus well lead to the greatest societal transformation of our time. There are few important things one should understand when following the headlines on the Finnish basic income experiment: 1. Basic income is the most comprehensive political reform of our century so far. There is no other reform in sight that would a) potentially impact the majority of citizens in any given nation and b) be of such great importance in as many countries as basic income is today. Take the global interest in the Finnish experiment as evidence: why such attention for a trial in a country of just 5 million inhabitants? Probably because basic income seems to address challenges faced by all societies across borders. Currently, basic income is being discussed in earnest in Switzerland (where a basic income reform was rejected in a referendum in June 2016), in the US (where Y Combinator, an organization known for its highly successful start-up accelerator, has announced a pilot experiment for basic income to take place in Oakland, California) and in the Netherlands (where a basic income experiment will begin in the city of Utrecht in January 2017). 2. The Finnish basic income experiment is officially referred to as an incremental reform of the welfare model, not as an indicator of a complete paradigm shift. Looming explosion of robotics and automatisation is estimated to take over various jobs in short period of time, resulting in major changes in the structure of work. At present, citizens in Finland are entitled to a minimum level of social security support that is the same as the amount of its suggested basic income (560€ a month). In official statements, the basic income experiment is said to aim to reduce bureaucracy, to unravel disincentives and to decrease poverty in society. Government documents do not mention changes in the structure of work and income, nor do they offer comments on looming technology-induced unemployment. Hence, basic income is seen as an additional element to the Finnish universal social security system. Elsewhere, basic income has been envisioned as a solution for rising inequality, exacerbated by the explosion of robotics and the automatisation of routine work. Top politicians in Finland, however, have not explicitly made these connections. 3. The basic income trial is a part of a larger shift in policy-making. Over the last two years, Finland has explored possibilities on how to reform its policy-making functions. As Forbes put it, Finland, through the Prime Minister’s Office, has “been pioneering a form of deciding upon public policy where people actually think through the problems at issue, think about them, consider solutions, test a few of them, then implement the best”. Fruits of experimental culture: due to an innovative interpretation of traffic law, the book of law doesn’t oblige the driver to be inside the vehicle. Thus, Finland can test driverless vehicles in real urban environment. This new form of policy-making has come to be known as “co-design” or “co-creation” of policy. In short, the term refers to the engaging of relevant stakeholders and citizens in the policy-making process from its early phases onwards. As further described in this article, which looks at the policy-making model that was created by Nordic think tank Demos Helsinki, more human-centered and experimental governmental steering can encourage trust and make policy more user-oriented, targeted and efficient. The basic income trial will pave the way for about 20 other large-scale experiments in Finland that have been launched or will be launched by the country’s ministries in the coming months. With the preparation work for the basic income trial, the Finns have spotted a handful of legislative problems that will need to be tackled in order to foster further experimentation. Experimental culture in general has encouraged civil servants to take a permissive attitude to legislation and thus enabled further innovative experimentation (well demonstrated by this case, where traffic law was reinterpreted so that it allowed Finland to become the first country in the world to test driverless vehicles in real urban environments). Lastly, preparing the large experiment has already forced the country to open up the discussion on and solve important issues in relation to the ethics and practices of experimenting. All this lays as a solid groundwork for building a forerunner governance system in the country.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Via Unknown Country: Actress Rowan Blanchard may have captured an image of a type of UFO in New York that was frequently observed and filmed in that region in the 1980s, and has more recently been photographed in Scotland and San Diego. However, we have been unable to determine if she took the shot from behind a window or if she was outdoors when she did it. If she took it from behind glass, it is more likely to be a reflection that was not noticed at the time she made the shot. However, if she was outdoors, then, unless she was using a camera with a lens defect, the image is unexplained.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Via Business Insider: A basic income experiment is part of the government programme promised by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. A two-week consultancy period on the proposed experiment has been announced and is currently underway before the government will submit a proposal for legislation to parliament. The consultation period, stretching from August 25 to Spetember 9, is a chance for experts to voice their opinions on the setup of the experiment. Here are the main points: - Basic income will replace corresponding social benefits for a test group of 2.000 randomly selected individuals. - Participation in the test is mandatory, and those who partake will receive EUR 560 per month. The figure has been selected to ensure that participants will not receive less money under the experiment, although that does not mean it is neccessarily the level Finland would chose for if basic income became a reality. For comparison, Switzerland's recent proposal for a basic income was at a level of EUR 2.300 per month. - The experiment is set to take place sometime during 2017-2018, and will be covered by EUR 20 million set aside in the budget. - The experiment will not be an example of universal basic income since only people who are currently receiving unemployment-related benefits are eligible for inclusion. - Students ae not eligible for participation in the experiment. Why basic income? Finland has a fairly high unemployment rate compared to its Nordic neighbors - towards double that of Denmark and Norway. In economic theories of unemployemt the incentives for finding work is central to the time it takes to find a job, which in turn is crucial for how many people are unemployed at any single moment. Unconditional basic income is controversial because it is generally thought to reduce incentives to find work relative to unemployment allowances. Additionally, a universal basic income scheme, theoretically has no effect on wage gaps - those who already have higher wages will have theirs adjusted upwards proportionally to reflect marginal productivity. But none of this has been tested, and Finland's experiment, being the first of its kind, would at least fill the purpose of exploring whether there is a difference in effectiveness in motivating people to find work between the different systems. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), which will be responsible for administering the experiment, actually expect basic income to increase incentives to find work. In response to an inquiry by the Basic Income Earth Network, as to the aim and purpose of the experiment, Kela wrote: "The experiment is one of the activities aiming to reform social security so that it better encourages participation and employment". and "The objective of the legislative proposal is to carry out a basic income experiment in order to assess whether basic income can be used to reform social security, specifically to reduce incentive traps relating to working". Regardless of the results, another motivation for basic income schemes is that reduced government administration related to unemployment could offset the costs of a system featuring basic incomes. That is also something that needs to be tested. Finally, the champions of basic income see it as a means of liberating people and allowing them the freedom to be productive on their own premises. It is argued that without the pressure to conform to the job market to sustain oneself, many individuals will be able to apply themselves to less obviously productive labor - such as the creative industries. If artificial intelligence can replace every aspect of human labor exect creativity, that may by a prudent direction to steer the economy. In any case, basic income is an interesting idea sweeping the world, because it finds supporters from the whole political spectrum, though for very different reasons. Finland's experiment will be an important precendent for political debates concerning basic income all over the world.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Via Sputnik International: Jan Tombinski, the European Union's outgoing ambassador to Ukraine, has revealed that the EU's sanctions against Russia are not really connected to the Minsk agreements on peace in eastern Ukraine, but on 'Russian aggression' against Kiev. Accordingly, the diplomat implied that anti-Russian sanctions may be extended indefinitely. Interviewed by Ukrainian radio station Radio EC-Evropeiska Stantsiya on the eve of his departure earlier this week, the ambassador, who played a critical support role in the EuroMaidan riots which culminated in the February 2014 coup d'etat in Kiev, explained that Russia's ostensible obligations under the Minsk agreements were in no way connected to European officials' decision to prolong anti-Russian sanctions. Accordingly, Tombinski noted, the sanctions can be extended whether Russia 'complies with its obligations' or not. The diplomat did not reveal what exactly those "obligations" might be, given that Moscow is not even a direct party to the conflict, but a mediator. Instead, he suggested that the sanctions were connected with Russia's "aggression" against Ukraine and the "annexation" of Crimea, whose population voted overwhelmingly to break off from Kiev and rejoin Russia amid the instability that followed the 2014 coup.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Via Gizmodo: It’s been an exciting week for planet hunters with the discovery of the nearest exoplanet yet found, orbiting a star called Proxima Centauri. Now you can get a closer look at that star system via a live broadcast tonight, courtesy of the robotic telescope service Slooh. The fun starts at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT. Proxima Centauri is a small red dwarf star located just 4.25 light years away, slightly closer to Earth than the famous binary pair of Alpha Centauri A and B. The newly discovered exoplanet has been dubbed Proxima b, and the ESO team pegs its mass as being roughly 1.3 times that of Earth. According to Slooh team member Paul Cox, when collaboration launched its new telescopes in Chile back in 2007, Proxima Centauri was one of their first observational targets of its global network. Since getting a heads-up on the new exoplanet, the telescopes have been imaging the star every night. “It’s amazing to watch that small red dot live in the online telescopes every night, and imagine the earth-like world that we now know orbits the star”, Cox said in a statement. “With the possibility that liquid water exists on Proxima b, who knows, there may be some Centaurian amateur astronomers gazing back at us every night”. You can share the wonder and watch the Live stream embedded below, or watch on the Slooh website. Broadcast host Eric Edelman will be joined by the University of Texas, Austin’s Michael Endl—part of the ESO team that discovered Proxima b—and Lisa Kaltnegger, director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, who will address the implications of this discovery for extraterrestrial life.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Via The Swedish Wire: China has made it more difficult for foreigners – including Swedes – to apply for a visa. Starting mid August, travellers will now need to supply both current and old passports. For those with out access to his or her old passport the doors to the country will be closed. Sweden’s foreign office in Stockholm confirms that Swedish citizens are asked to show their old passport to get a visa to China. “Sweden is working together with other countries in the EU / Schengen to map the scale of the issue. Chinese authorities have not yet given any explanation for the restrictions”, says spokesperson Katarina Byrenius Roslund in Stockholm. Also Belgium and Denmark's Embassies in Beijing confirm the move. The stricter rules could be connected to increased security ahead of the G20 meeting which will be held in Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai, early next month, according to several people I’ve been in contact with. Security level has been hiked at airports and train stations in Shanghai. Tourist groups will not be able to visit Hangzhou during the days of the meeting and residents living there must reportedly show ID cards to enter and exit. Swedish passports are also among the most frequently sold in underground trading. The new rules apply to those with an passport issued after 1 January 2014.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Via Business Insider: Sweden has been receiving some big shot guests lately. Last week US secretary of state John Kerry visited Sweden to attend the wedding of the ketchup heir Andre Heinz. Vice President Joe Biden is currently visiting under more official business. The circus around visiting US VIP:s is a drag for many attempting to navigate central Stockholm, with both land, sea and air traffic restricted. Even with those measures being taken, Joe Biden arrived 50 minutes late to his meeting with Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven. But once they met they seemed to get along well. "The relationship between the US and Sweden is stronger than ever," said Stefan Löfven, and Joe Biden agrees. In a press conference following a discussion of the European refugee crisis, Joe Biden applauded (verbally) the Swedish government's way of handling the situation, particularly in receiving so many refugees. "Sweden has shown great leadership – you have shown great leadership Mr Prime Minister – and great compassion in providing humanitarian aid and assistance to millions of refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq and for that matter Afghanistan", Biden said, reports the Local. Both Joe Biden and Löfven also seized the opportunity to encourage other countries to cooperate to solve to crisis.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Via Disclose.tv: "We are mentioned in your religious writings like your Christian Bible and many of the ancient human tribes were aware of our presence and worshipped us as gods, for example the Egyptians and the Inca and many other old tribes. Your Christian religion has misunderstood our role in your creation, so we are mentioned as “evil serpent” in your writings".
Via Gizmodo: This clever little seal narrowly escaped death by jumping into a Canadian couple’s boat—and it was all captured on video. The surprise appearance by the blubbery swimmer happened on the Campbell River in British Columbia, Canada, where a small group of people was out watching orcas in their natural habitat. Tour guide Nick Templeman told the Daily Mail that his group had been watching the orcas for about 30 minutes when suddenly the orcas went into “hunting mode”. The group watched as the orcas chased the seal around, tossing it around in the water, before it eventually fled to the boat. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the seal hopped into the rear-end of the boat just in the knick of time. The seal’s life was saved, and the the group of orcas continued circling the boat. But the chase was far from over. The seal inevitably jumped back into the water before immediately regretting his decision and jumping back into the boat. The second time, the seal luckily positioned himself away from the boat’s motors so the crew could flee from the scene. The rest is history.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Via Business Insider: During a rally in Ohio on Monday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accused Swedish telecom giant Ericsson of bribing his opponent Hillary Clinton. He also urged for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton's involvement with the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as US secretary of state. ”No issue better illustrates how corrupt my opponent is than her pay-for-play scandals as Secretary of State”, Trump said. As an example ot these scandals, Trump took a hit at Ericsson. This is what he said: "In 2009, Ericsson telecommunications came under US pressure for selling telecom equipment to several oppressive governments – including Sudan, Syria and Iran. Some of these regimes used those technologies to monitor and control their own people. In June 2011, Hillary Clinton's State Department began adding goods and services to a list that might be covered under expanded sanctions on Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism. During that time, Ericsson sponsored a speech by Bill Clinton, paying him $750.000 – his highest paying speech. In April 2012, the Obama Administration issued an executive order imposing sanctions on telecom sales to Iran and Syria – but those sanctions did not cover Ericsson's work in Iran", he said and then declared that ”a Trump Administration will end the corruption”. Ericsson has previously confirmed that it did pay for the Bill Clinton speech in 2011 just a few weeks after Mrs. Clinton released the sanctions list that excluded Ericsson. However, the company denies that it was linked to any favours in exchange. "The investment was significant but should be seen in light of [his] perceived crowd pull, the location and an engagement that spanned two days", Ericsson spokesperson Karin Hallstan told Washington Times in 2015. "The conversation regarding Iran that you refer to had no impact on this decision and was not considered by the event team", Hallstan said.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Via Business Insider: "Off with their heads!" It seems the Queen of Hearts has been let loose on the Stockholm Stock Exchange - CEOs are being replaced at a record pace in Sweden's biggest companies. Today, Getinge's CEO Alex Myers was fired, thus becoming the fourth CEO to be replaced at a major Swedish company during the summer of 2016, along with Hans Vestberg of Ericsson, Frank Vang-Jensen of Handelsbanken and Susanna Campbell of Ratos, Dagens Industri reports. During 2015 and 2016 so far, 15 of the 30 largest companies listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange have seen a change in CEO. According to Dagens Industri that implies double the international average CEO turnover rate, and a large proportion of the replacements are sudden and unexpected. One of the factors behind the increased turnover rate, offered by Dagens Industri, is that the increased stakes of big investment funds in the major companies is giving them greater influence on corporate boards and leading to closer scrutiny of the executive management.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
The terrible surge of car arson in Malmö and the southwest of Sweden seems to have spread to Copenhagen, Denmark. More than ten cars were set on fire in Copenhagen during the night of Sunday, according to the Danish police. Most of the cars were burned up in the area between the district of Christianshavn and Indre By, the most central part of Copenhagen. "It is still too early to say if it can be linked to the car fires we have seen in Sweden", said police spokesman Rasmus Skovsgaard. No one has been arrested for vandalism.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Via Business Insider: Newly released documents from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden confirm what many experts had already believed: The 234-megabyte archive of NSA hacker tools, exploits, and implants that leaked online earlier this week is real. The key to confirming the leaked files, which was uploaded to various file-sharing sites earlier this week by a group called the "Shadow Brokers", came in a top-secret agency manual published on Friday by Sam Biddle of The Intercept. It instructed NSA hackers on how to track their malicious software by using a 16-character string buried in the code. The tracking string in the manual, ace02468bdf13579, also appears inside code for a software implant called "Second Date", which was leaked as part of the archive posted earlier this week. But that's not the only piece of evidence that shows the leak was, in essence, a software "toolbox" for NSA hackers to target adversaries. Among other files in the archive are implants code-named Banana Glee, Jet Plow, and Zesty Leak, which were all documented in a top-secret 50-page catalog of NSA tools that was published in late 2013. "One of the interesting things about the exploits is they are very professional and they clean up after themselves", Dave Aitel, an ex-NSA research scientist who now leads penetration-testing firm Immunity, told Business Insider. "Not only do they turn things off, but they turn things back on. When you're looking at stuff that's written by a lot of hackers, it will backdoor something but it won't 'un-backdoor' something". Put simply: Your average hacker will build tools that break in, but a sophisticated hacker — such as those employed by the US or some other nation — will build tools that break in, hide all their tracks, and turn everything off once they get what they need. "These are the type of tools that are really exclusive to governments", a source who worked for NSA's elite hacker unit, Tailored Access Operations, told Business Insider on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters. Now that the NSA toolkit has been confirmed as legitimate, the remaining mystery is how they came into public view. There are now two prevailing theories as to how the Shadow Brokers obtained the files: Either they hacked a server used by NSA hackers to stage attacks that had the files mistakenly left there by an operator, or an agency insider downloaded the data and later leaked it online. Both scenarios are plausible, though neither has been confirmed, and the NSA isn't likely to say anything. The previously-unknown Shadow Brokers created a number of social-media accounts earlier this month on Reddit, Github, Twitter, and Imgur before announcing on August 13 that its "cyber weapon auction", which promised bidders a "full state sponsor tool set" from a hacking unit believed to be within the NSA known only as "The Equation Group". It released a 234-megabyte archive on various file-sharing sites with half being free to view and use, while the other half was encrypted. The winner of the auction, the group said, would get the decryption key. But an auction for hacking tools and exploits is not something that ever happens, experts say. Instead, exploits are bought and sold on the black market for hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars in private. The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Sweden - The "Goodest" Country In The World - Is Considering Making It Illegal For Poor People To Beg
Via Business Insider: Sweden has been ranked the most good country in the world, when it comes to contributing to the common good of humanity. Whatever smugness that was worth may now go down the drain as the Social Democratic government opened today for legislation illegalizing begging. "The foundation of the governments work is that we're to protect and develop the Swedish model. It's hardly a part of the Swedish model to solve poverty with begging", Sweden's Minister for Public Administration, Ardalan Shekarabi, tells Dagens Nyheter. Ardalan Shekarabi is currently meeting with ministers from the other Nordic countries to study their models and experiences of dealing with begging, which has exploded in the recent experience, DN reports. Denmark has already outlawed begging completely, while Norway has left it up to individual municipalities to introduce such bans. "The goal must be to eliminate begging. It is not a solution to poverty. The solution to the discrimination and exclusion in Romania and Bulgaria is not, and never will be, that we have begging on Swedish streets", he says. Shekarabi tells DN that the government is considering adopting measures similar to those of the neighboring countries to deal with the problem, though what stance the government will officially adopt remains undecided. The revelation is unexpected because Prime Minister Stefan Löfwen has previously said that a ban solves nothing. To increase the controvery, the Swedish Green Party, which is in coalition with the Social Democratic Party in government, issued a statement to the exact opposite effect of the Minister for Public Administration's statements: "Begging is not a crime in Sweden and the government has no intention of changing this legislation. It is not possible to ban poverty. The politics of the government is not to use criminal law against people asking others for help", wrote Maria Ferm, group leader and spokesperson in matters of migration, according to Aftonbladet. Political scientist Andreas Johansson Heinö tells Aftonbladet that the opposing statements may be regarded as an orchestrated probe allowing the government to test the public response before determining an official policy. Hence Sherabi's hedge to DN: "It's natural that we should parttake of the experiences of other countries". If the two parties should really disagree in the matter it could lead to a government collapse.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Via Radio Sweden: Priests around Sweden are speaking out against the tradition of handing over the bride at church weddings, saying it treats women as objects to be transferred from father to groom. The tradition of handing over the bride may be an old and, according to some, conservative one, but it is fairly new in Sweden. The ritual is not part of traditional Swedish wedding ceremonies and hardly occurred in the 1990s. However, it has become more and more popular in recent years. Some say couples who practice it have likely been influenced by Hollywood movies. Another theory is that the practice has seen a boost since the Swedish royals began to incorporate it in their weddings, with the King handing over the princesses to their grooms. Among the priests who take issue with the tradition is Georgina McEwan, a retired minister who still officiates weddings around Stockholm. Like many of her colleagues within the Church of Sweden, McEwan prefers “the Swedish way”, that is couples walking toward the altar and the priest together. Some priests even refuse to officiate weddings that include the giving away the bride ritual, but McEwan does not go that far, saying she will not forbid it because in the end it is up to the couples to decide. However, McEwan does try to explain the symbolism behind the practice to couples, telling them that it “turns the bride into a thing”. That is what it was like in the Middle Ages, say McEwan, “when the girl didn’t have the permission to be herself and to choose her husband but was married because it was a royal union or a political union or whatever and it was the father and mother who decided”. McEwan says that when she speaks to couples who are planning their weddings, they do not usually share that interpretation, but simply think handing over the bride is a “sweet” tradition. There are also other fairly new trends in Swedish weddings, like using modern love songs or other musical arrangements during the church service, explains McEwan. “An awful lot of time is put into the preparation by the bridal couple for the actual service whereas when I started off as a minister, the service was what the priest organised. But now people are sort of taking over and saying ‘this is my wedding and I will organise it the way I want to’ ”. “Some couples even say 'must you talk about God?’ or ‘do you have to have Jesus there?’ and then I have to say, ‘well you have chosen a Christian service with a Christian minister in a Christian church. Of course Christ will be there’ ”, says McEwan.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Via Business Insider: Ninjas in Pyjamas started out humbly as a professional Counter Strike team in 2000. Since then a lot has happened, and right now the company's growth is completely exploding. NiP is no longer a player-owned company, but a limited company acting as an umberella organization for several professional esports teams in Sweden, writes Breakit. The esports market is booming, and NiP with it. For 2015, NiP reported revenues of $2.15 million. That's more than double the revenue of 2014, at $910.000. The company is aiming at almost trippling revenues during 2016, to $5.9 million, Breakit reports. But despite the high revenues the final profit only amounted to $83.000. "We're growing quickly and reinvesting in our growth, which is reflected in the financial result", Ninjas in Pyjamas' CEO, Hicham Chahine, tells Breakit. To achieve such growth the company is going beyond streaming and sponsorship revenues and increasingly getting involved in the retail of merchandize and gaming products. One of NiP's subsidiaries, Xtrfy, already has a turnover of $710.000 from selling gaming equipment. Growth is also being fueled by newly injected venture capital. NiP recently took in $590.000 in a new issue of shares. The issue implicitly values NiP at about $12.5 million.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Via Business Insider: In an exclusive interview with Swedish TV4 this weekend, Spotify's founder Daniel Ek may have given a glimpse of what could be Spotify’s unofficial ten year plan. And when reading between the lines, it seems like Spotify is about to copy or even buy Soundcloud, at least if we believe the analysis of DiDigital's Sven Carlsson. Here’s what Daniel Ek said: "During the next ten years we think there will be an incredible increase in the number of people creating music. The barriers for creating music have become much, much lower”. He continued: ”Today Spotify has two million artists on its platform. To us, the next ten years is all about enabling these artists to make a living out of their music, and connect them with a new audience. Today our users say ”introduce me to new music”. What the artists say is ”help me finding my audience”. Essentially, that’s two sides of the same coin”. The interviewer then asked if Ek was in fact talking about facilitating a direct dialogue between artists and users. And yup, that’s exactly what Ek meant. ”Yes, trying to connect them and finding opportunities for artists to express themselves and for users to give feedback to the artists”. What Daniel Ek is looking for - more small-scale artists and more interaction between user and producer - is basically what Soundcloud is all about, notes DiDigital. While it takes weeks for a small artist to get a song on Spotify, it only takes a minute to upload it on Soundcloud. As soon as it is uploaded, users can comment and interact with the artist. ”The only thing that’s missing on Soundcloud is the ability to make money from your songs. That has never been Soundcloud’s strength. It is however Spotify’s”, DI Digital writes. Soundcloud is in fact rumoured to be up for sale, and if Daniel Ek really did give us a glimpse of Spotify’s ten year plan, it doesn’t seem like a wild guess that Spotify is considering an acquisition. Here's the interview (in Swedish) if you want to judge for yourself:
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Via Unknown Country: This formation, found earlier today, is almost certainly an anomalous one. Creating it with any known technology would be very difficult indeed. It ranks as one of the most marvelous formations ever found, and the best one so far of what is proving to be a very good season. Can anyone interpret the glyphs around the edge of the formation? I asked Whitley Strieber, who said that they have a familiar look to him, as they do to me but we are so far unable to place them.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Via Business Insider: Streamlined and subtly detailed, Swedish and Danish menswear labels are making the building blocks of the modern menswear wardrobe, according to an article in Wall Street Journal. At e-commerce site East Dane, you can now find bomber jackets by CMMN SWDN and nylon carryalls from Copenhagen-based Mismo. “Everyone wants great basics that can be building blocks for their wardrobe, and designers out of Scandinavia have filled that void”, said Wayne Gross, East Dane’s fashion director to Wall Street Journal. “There’s a simplicity and a functionality that permeates a lot of what you’re seeing out of Scandinavia now”. Mr. Gross is zeroing in on this clothing’s defining traits. While the term “Scandinavian design” brings to mind iconic images of Hans Wegner’s Shell Chair or Arne Jacobsen’s floor lamp, “Scandinavian fashion” hasn’t necessarily triggered a cohesive mental picture to date. The phrase might make you think of Marimekko’s in-your-face florals or even H&M’s trendy, thrifty clothes.But this new breed of labels, which is taking its cues from the clean lines of Scandinavian furniture, is bringing that picture into focus. Here are four Nordic brands every man should be aware of—and their closest equivalents among better-known labels: EYTYS Great for fans of: Vans, waffle-soled shoe of the masses. Roots: For years, Eytys creative director Max Schiller scoured eBayin search of vintage WWII deck shoes and ’70s sneakers which feature thicker soles. Finally in 2013, tired of the hunt, Mr. Schiller and his partner Jonathan Hirschfeld decided to make a sneaker all their own, and Eytys was born. MISMO Great for fans of: The unpretentious carryalls from Want Les Essentiels. Roots: Copenhagen-based husband-and-wife Adam Alexander Bach and Rikke Overgaard, who launched Mismo in 2006, are informed by their respective upbringings. Mr. Bach’s father was an engineer, while Ms. Overgaard’s was an architect. The result: pragmatic designs with a dose of panache. CMMN SWDN Great for fans of: Posh but playful labels like Marni. Roots: After stints working in Paris for Kanye West, designers Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund returned to Malmö to start CMMN SWDN in 2012. The duo is now based in London. NN07 Great for fans of : J.Crew and Club Monaco’s clean-cut wares. Roots: Swedish-born, Danish based designer Victor Lindh started NN07 (which stands for No Nationality), in 2007, as a colorful, comfort-minded riposte to the preponderance of “slim, over-designed black [clothes]” in the market.
Via Business Insider: Everywhere you go in Norway you see license plates on cars beginning with the two letters EL. But what does it mean and what benefits do they give you? Business Insider Nordic decided to sort it out. To begin with EL stands for electricity or elektisitet in Norwegian and means that you own an approved electric vehicle, EV. Norway took a decision a few years ago to become the best country for EV:s in the world. And they succeeded. Last year 17 percent of the new registrered cars i Norway could use the letters EL. Here is the list of all the benefits: When you buy or lease your EV you dont have to pay 25% VAT or the one-off tax that the norwegians have to pay for other cars. The latter could be as high as 20.000 usd, depending on model, weight and carbon dioxide emissions. These benefits takes down the price of EV:s to the same or less than a comparable petrol or diesel car. The VAT benefit is guaranteed from the norwegian government until 2018 and the one-off tax benefit until 2020. No roadtolls , and they can be really high, anywhere in Norway. Even if a low toll is introduced for EV:s from 2018 in Oslo, the intention is to keep the diffrence to non EV:s high. Free parking in streets and non-private parking lots. From 2017 every municipality can decide for themselves if they want to continue with this or not. Permission to drive in the buslanes saves a lot of time in rush hours. In the Oslo-district you have to have a passanger to use this benefit in rush hours. All trips with ferries, and there is a lot in Norway and they are very expensive, are free. But you have to pay for the driver and any passengers. All this on top of the fact that an EV always is so much cheaper to drive and reduces the carbon dioxide emissons. Everywhere in the world.
Via Unknown Country: If this is a fake of any kind, the gent doing the narration needs to get an Academy Award. The objects in question are not drones, planes, sky lanterns or any other known object. Given the intensity of the witness reaction and the fact that other people can be heard reacting as well, it's unlikely that this is a computer animation, but it would be an easy one to do. It is also not a known form of meteor of any kind. Rated A.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
There's A Mysterious Object Doing A Crazy Loop Around Our Solar System — And Scientists Have No Idea What It Is
Via Business Insider: Scientists have found a mysterious object orbiting just beyond Neptune, and it's breaking all the rules. Astronomers have nicknamed it "Niku", which means rebellious in Chinese, because of the object's reckless behavior. An international team of scientists discovered the object using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Maui, Hawaii. The study announcing their discovery hasn't been peer-reviewed yet, so the finding should be considered preliminary. "I hope everyone has buckled their seatbelts because the outer Solar System just got a lot weirder", Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queens University, tweeted on Monday. Orbiting to the beat of a different drum The object is about 160.000 times fainter than Neptune, suggesting that it could be less than 120 miles in diameter. That makes the icy celestial body a minor planet, which means it's smaller than a planet but not quite a comet. Here's where things get weird. Niku orbits the solar system at a bizarre angle: a plane tilted 110 degrees to the flat plane of the solar system. This flat plane of the solar system - a disk in which planets move around the sun - is a defining quality of a planetary system. But Niku, already moving above the plane, travels a little further upward every day. And unlike the other law-abiding objects in the solar system, Niku travels against the flow of the bulk of the solar system, taking a wild backwards swing around the sun. Objects that don't move within the plane of the solar system or spin in the opposite direction must have been shoved off course by something else or tugged by the gravity of another object. "It suggests that there's more going on in the outer solar system than we're fully aware of", Matthew Holman at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, part of the team that discovered Niku, told New Scientist, where we first saw the story. Hanging with the wrong crowd Scientists noticed that rebel Niku seems to be hanging around a gang of other strangely aligned objects. At first glance, the scientists thought this might suggest that Planet Nine, a hypothetical planet that would be about 10 times as massive as Earth, might be pulling on the objects. But it turns out that the rebellious object would be out of Planet Nine's reach, too free-living to succumb to the undiscovered planet's gravitational attraction. So exactly what's going on is still a mystery. "As they say in the paper, what they have right now is a hint", Konstantin Batygin, one of the researchers who suggested the existence of Planet Nine, told New Scientist. "If this hint develops into a complete story that would be fantastic".
Via Business Insider: ”Ice cream with meat taste?? No, that is too crazy, the CEO of Swedish ice cream producer Triumfglass told me. So we went home again with our tails between our legs” But the idea of an ice cream for dogs, that the 10-year-old daughter of the Finnish/Swedish entrepreneur Sonja Catani had come up with was not at all crazy. It hit the ongoing humanization trend of pets and became a true success. ”I never thought it could become so big”, she says when we meet at Strandvägen 1, the restaurant where it all started. ”A bit disappointed I called to Pelle Lydmar who owns the restaurant, and three dogs for that matter. He was all in on my plans and said I could borrow his kitchen during week-ends”. After a crash-course in ice cream production and a simple machine she started producing. The two family dogs, Hugo and Celine, became the external faces of her new start-up. They were also very happy for their new job – tasting the ice creams. The success with the ice creams is just the beginning for Hugo & Celinne. It is rawfood burgers and other quality dog food that will grow the company really big she hopes. Not only the dogs like her ideas. Besides her own money external investors has put a total of 6,5 million SEK into the company. But Sonja Catani is still the owner of 61 percent of the shares.
This Finnish Company Growing 300% Per Year Is Bidding For A Big Piece Of The $30 billion Virtual Reality-Pie
Via Business Insider: Growing at a rate of more than 300% a year makes the Finnish ad tech company Kiosked one of the fastest growing tech companies in Europe. Founded 2010 in Helsinki, Kiosked can now be found in London, Dublin, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, and Shenzhen. The success is based on an Advertising Automation Platform helping publishers improve their advertisement inventory and giving advertisers access to high performance ads and the ability to publish programmatically across many publishers at once – along with many other benefits of automation. Now Kiosked is making a move towards the virtual reality market. After Pokémon Go phenomenon noone can doubt VR and AR (augmented reality) tech will be huge. According to Tech M&A advisory firm Digi-Capital, virtual reality is expected to be a $30 billion market by 2020. Kiosked is already putting VR-products out there. In Kiosked’s immersive mobile ad campaign for Hong Kong Airlines, you can get the 360 degree VR experience of being in one of Hong Kong Airlines planes on your phone or computer. The ad campaign was a huge success, delivering 36 times higher click through rate and 9 times longer viewing time than for average mobile ads. Just like for video ads a decade ago – consumers are fascinated by the new technology. Kiosked has brought the first programmatically traded 360 ad formats to the market to solve the challenge of scaling immersive advertising campaigns. Co-founder and CSO, Antti Pasila explains: “Our 360 unit being the world’s first programmatically tradable unit of its kind means that, an advertiser utilizing this format can through us get distribution for their ad on almost any publishers site. Previously 360 creatives required a technology component been installed on the publishers site which limits a campaigns scalability. With our technology, the advertiser can get true scale and benefit from the other advantages programmatic advertising allows for (more granular targeting, real time bidding etc.). Before this, the advertiser had to make custom deals with every single publisher they wanted to run the campaign with”. Kiosked was started with goal of enhancing ad performance based on research. “Kiosked started as most company, an idea of a solution to big problem in a huge industry. Together with my Co-founder, Micke Paqvalen, we were talking about how crazy it is that on such a huge industry no one is doing anything (game changing) about the bad performance of ads when research could clearly point out that a few of the largest reasons behind the decline are that people are looking at the ads due to their poor positioning (on the periphery of the page) and their lack of relevancy (very low contextual and behavioral targeting). We quickly decided that we should make this our mission and that’s how Kiosked was born”. Kiosked is foremost an Advertising Automation Platform. That means Kiosked offers a platform that helps publishers to create better advertising inventory on their site. Kiosked’s technology analyses the publishers’ pages and creates optimized placements for the highest performing ad units. “This type of high performance ad inventory is extremely sought after by advertisers. Today, everybody is looking for a higher return on investment and the inventory we create, verifiably is that”. Kiosked has already earned the trust of some of the the world’s largest programmatic buyers, and more than 10.000 advertisers run Kiosked ads through the platform.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Via Business Insider: Rabbits are fluffy and cute, they usually keep us company as pets. But they can also be food. More so, if you ask the Danish farming organization Landbrug & Fødevarer who plans an expansion of domestic produced organic rabbit meat. As expensive as organic chicken. According to Landbrug & Fødevarer the first 30 rabbits are up for ‘test slaughter’ in a project on the Danish island of Lolland. The objective for Landbrug & Fødevarer is a price in the same range as organic chicken in Danish supermarkets. The time is suppose to be right for rabbit, which is a lean type of meat. “We think organic rabbit meat has potential, it is an interesting niche”, Lars Holdesen, spokesperson for Landbrug & Fødevarer, says to radio channel P4 Sjaelland. At the moment all the rabbit meat consumed in Denmark is imported, according to the P4 Sjaelland. Last year the country bought around 30 tons, mostly from France and China. The farming organisation predicts that in the year 2017 there will be 15 new organic rabbit producers in Denmark. ‘Bunny burgers with chunky chips’. Apparently, rabbit can be likened to a particularly flavorsome free-range chicken. At least according to BBC who writes that a wild rabbit has “firm, meaty flesh and a subtle, gamey flavor”. BBC also provides a recipe solution for the bunny-hungry. To cook ‘Bunny burgers with chunky chips’ you need 350g of minced rabbit, which is mixed with 100g of minced pork belly. It’s ready in less than 30 minutes. Other classic rabbit dishes are French rabbit stew with mushroom (Lapin à la cocotte) and rabbit cooked with dijon mustard (Lapin à la moutarde). Just remember that if the rabbit is farm grown, it is likely to lack the true depth of flavor. There’s also a risk that it can be fatty and bland compared to wild rabbit, BBC reports.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Harsh Critique Towards Danish Royal Family After Crown Princess Mary Handed Out Lego To Students At The Olympics: "It's Advertising"
Via Business Insider: Danish Crown Princess Mary is the most high-profile royal to attend the Olympics, after many other royals, among them Prince William, his wife the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, have communicated they will not be going because of the risk related to the Zika virus. At one of her official visits during the Olympics, the Danish Crown Princess handed out Lego boxes to students in Brazilian schools. This has caused negative reactions among several experts. "It's advertising, you can't buy it for money", says Søren Jakobsen, author of several books about the upper class, to BG. "It might be okay once, but not when it happens all the time, because that downgrades their credibility as Denmark's next regents". Jakobsen is refering to BT's review of the royal family's official calendar, which shows that members of the family has attended activities in one way or another involving Lego no less than nine times the last three years. On top of this, the royal family has had two private visits to Legoland. Christoph Ellersgaard, researcher and author of the book "Magteliten" ("The Power Elite") says the reltionship between the royals and the Kirk family that owns Lego, is problematic. "Lego is one of few industry families in Denmark that has become part of the royal family's inner circle. It's not only business relationship - they've also become close friends", says Ellersgaard to BT.
Monday, August 08, 2016
Swedish Sensation Sarah Sjöström Didn’t Know She Shattered The World Record Until Journalists Told Her
Via Business Insider: As the first Swedish woman to win an Olympic swimming gold medal she is truly historic. Tonight, 3:03 AM central european time, 22 year old Sarah Sjöström entered the history books in style. Sarah touched in on 55.48 seconds in Sunday's 100m butterfly final - lowering the mark of 55.64 and setting a new world record. When she met with the press afterwards she was notably overwhelmed. “It’s not possible to take it in at once. This is crazy”, she said. When asked about the record time she answered: “The time? I didn’t even look at it. I realized it was a world record when I talked to some journalists over there. ‘Right, it was a new world record’ ”, she said, Aftonbladet reports. Sarah, who placed fifth in the London 2012 Olympics, has dominated 100m fly since 2013 - winning European titles, long- and short-course, and setting world records in both long- and short-course. Sjöström has long been one of the most prominent athletes in Sweden. When she was only fourteen years old she won a gold medal in 100m fly in the European Championship in Eindhoven.
Sunday, August 07, 2016
Via RT: Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised the successful cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, and has expressed hope that a free trade zone can soon be established between Iran and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. “Iran is Russia’s longtime partner. We believe that bilateral relations will benefit from the reduction of tensions around Iran following the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program”, Putin said in a major interview with Azerbaijani state news agency Azertac released on Friday. He added that Iranian leaders shared his approach. In some branches of the economy Russian-Iranian cooperation has already become strategic, Putin noted. This concerned first of all the nuclear energy sphere, with Russia completing and servicing the Bushehr power plant in Iran and reaching agreements on building eight more nuclear power units. Overall the two states have managed to increase bilateral trade by 70 percent and bring it to $855 million in the first five months of 2016. The Russian leader also welcomed the possible creation of a free trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union – the bloc that currently unites Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. He said that work has already started to research the possibility of such a move, adding that Russia would continue to support Iran's pursuit of full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – the Eurasian military-political bloc comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. On August 8, Putin is expected to visit Baku and take part in the first-ever trilateral summit of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. In November last year, Russia and Iran agreed to develop economic ties, with Moscow promising to provide a $5 billion state loan to Tehran for the promotion of industrial cooperation. The loan is expected to boost trade between the two countries, with the target set at $10 billion, up from the current $1.6 billion. The two countries have selected 35 priority projects in energy, port facilities, and railway electrification. In March this year, Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergey Levin promised that Moscow would ease customs procedures for Iranian agricultural products and speed up their delivery to Russian markets.
Saturday, August 06, 2016
This Secretive Swedish Billionaire Is The Only One To Have Reached All Eight Poles, Now He Is Preparing His Next Expedition
Via Business Insider: On December 20 a 55-strong research crew involving scientists from 30 countries will set out from Cape Town in South Africa on a three-month voyage on board the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov. The scientists on the Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition hope to extensively probe the Southern Ocean and map unexplored biota around Antarctica. Behind the new expedition is one the richest and most secretive Swedes, the 66-year old Frederik Paulsen. His parents founded Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Sweden in 1950. Today Ferring Pharmaceuticals is headquarterd in Switzerland and is one of the 50 largest pharma companies in the world. Frederik Paulsen is the sole owner. With a net worth of 35 billion SEK, or approximately 4 billion dollars, and a large lust for adventure he has joined many expeditions during his life, though it is not clear if he is also attending this new expedition or if he is only paying for it. He is a member of the American Explorers Club and the only person in the world to have attained all eight poles. It took him 13 years. ”It is very hard to carry out a Polar expedition, especially in the north, without cooperating with the Russians. I started to build a network in Russia and today I have a number of philantropic activities going on there”, he said in an interview with Veckans Affärer. He is motivated by challenges and hates to fail. Some expeditions are more nerve-wracking than others, such as the time when the Russian submarine Mir 2 lost contact with the mothership on the way up from the bottom of the ocean. In ninety minutes Frederik Paulsen and the others in the crew were floating freely. ”Why become nervous? I just went to bed, there was nothing else I could do”.
Friday, August 05, 2016
Via Business Insider: I was born in Sweden, moved to Silicon Valley and then New York, but I founded a tech startup in Beijing and chances are I'll stay there. Why? Because in many ways, Beijing has been a better breeding ground for my startup and for my own personal growth than I think Silicon Valley could be today. With the perspective of having lived in three markedly different cultures, I have come to the conclusion that Beijing might be of historical importance for the creative forces often associated with Silicon Valley — a place that seemingly lost its way. I pulled two amazing privilege cards from the deck of life straight from the get-go: I was born in Sweden in 1986, a country that enjoyed early market adoption of personal computers, and I was raised by software entrepreneurs. I had a Macintosh in my room before I even started school. Computers were always a part of my life, and I got to have a computer—literate childhood. I had already been using computers for a decade when I got to high school, and had all the confidence in the world. Nothing about computers scared me, and teaching myself how to pirate and use complicated software was just par for the course. Long before helpful Youtube tutorials (or even realistically watching video online) I had the good fortune of teaching myself how to use software like Photoshop, video editing software, music studio software, hex editors, IDEs, you name it. In the years before high school I carried networking equipment in my backpack, and my mom would drive me over to friends' with my desktop computer in the back of car so we could have overnight LAN parties. All of this gave me a front row seat to one of the most interesting periods of Internet history and culture, an Internet that seems entirely foreign to my 15 year younger brother: after the Golden Age of PC RPGs in the late 90s came the dawn of online gaming, and it changed my life. I sometimes say I grew up on the Internet, because by the time I was 14 I spoke better English than my native Swedish and I had more friends that knew me by my online alter ego than friends I had in the meat world. I got to spend my teens in an Internet subculture surrounded by some of the most interesting people I've ever met, because the Internet was not some playground where just anyone gathered — we were still discouraged from spending so much time on our computers, and there was no one around to teach us how to get online and find each other. To find my friends I had to learn how to use a computer, master a new language, get online, pirate computer games and find people to play with, and the people I found had gone through the same experience. To play games online in the year 2000 was to be surrounded by those that had a real drive, that would not be deterred — they were entrepreneurial. I don't think it is a coincidence that my generation, that got to explore computers as children playing games in the dawn of online gaming, have done exceptionally well for themselves in tech since they entered the workforce. For some kids of my generation the Internet was a frontier, a wild and untamed landscaped where, if you could put down the hard work and weather an unknown and sometimes hostile environment, one could forge a new life and identity, and live life by your own rules. Almost inevitably, I ended up working in software. I dropped out after my first year of college to join a software company, and eventually founded my own tech startup. I'm the kind of guy that should love Silicon Valley; I should find myself feeling right at home with that crowd. Full of youthful political vigor, I finally agreed to be relocated to Silicon Valley when Obama became the President Elect. I believed that change was coming, that the time had come for my generation to inherit the world, and that I needed to be close to what I had been told was the uncontested epicenter of innovation. It didn't last. Moving to the States My first experience of the States and of Silicon Valley was absolutely soul — crushingly disappointing. I landed in San Francisco and felt like I had traveled back in time. Far from the expected glass towers of a technological utopia, what I found was a surprisingly run down city that reminded me of traveling in Eastern Europe. It seemed to be all pot and potholes, and the culture was difficult to navigate. I was told not to discuss religion and politics, which is really all we talk about in Sweden, and I was confused by the sheer amount of narcissistic Ayn Rand followers. What's the point of innovation if you're not building a better society? I encountered levels of homelessness and mental illness that I was entirely unprepared for, but was repeatedly discouraged from donating any spare change by my new American community. It's not your problem, that was the mantra that unironically flowed from the lips of entrepreneurs that otherwise convinced themselves that they were making the world a better place, presumably for themselves and the people who were their problem. There was something absurd and almost obscene about watching the technocrats step over and around the homeless to get to jobs where they're given free food and drink. As a Swede coming to the States, I was disillusioned. I had, as I think many young entrepreneurs have, idolized Silicon Valley as a utopian vision of an idealistic but well — meaning band of technocrats building the foundations for a just and democratic society, but in its place I found vanity, pettiness and greed. Not only did the emperor have no clothes, but the naked corpus revealed was unappetizing to my Swedish quasi-socialist ideals. Ultimately, I felt alone in Silicon Valley ... I left. Moving to Beijing Through a weird string of disastrous circumstances I found myself on a flight to Beijing in 2009. I was leaving everything behind, wanting to cleanse my palate, and it was the bravest, or most reckless, thing I think I've ever done. I had a thousand dollars in my savings account, and what I hoped was 15k USD worth of shares in the private company I dropped out of college for. The plan was to sell my shares back to former colleagues, but I had no guarantees. In fact, I had been told I shouldn't go. I should get a new job, take my time selling the shares, find my footing... But I rarely listen to helpful advice, so off I went, confident that I'd work it out somehow. I would find a place to stay, a way to feed myself, and I'd build a business from scratch, one without the moral shortcomings that had driven me out of my previous workplace. I fell in love with Beijing before I had even stepped out of the taxi from the airport. Beijing was an insane mix of history and futurism. Construction was everywhere, 20 million people desperately cramming together into ever taller buildings to be part of China's brave new future — here were the glass towers, growing out of a landscape of poverty and the weight of millennia of history. Beijing was dirty, gritty, and wild — but it was changing so incredibly fast. It was absolutely intoxicating. Before you object, I am by no means saying that China is a more just society than the States, or more technologically advanced — it was just clearly moving faster — and you immediately got the impression that Beijing was a city concerned with statecraft and the future of its people, rather than the latest hot gadget. For all its warts (and there are many), Beijing is a city with its eye on the future and a place that you can help shape. Beijing turned out to be a great place for a startup, and I have often argued that the city was the best incubator we could have asked for — it offered us cheap housing and food, a network of experienced mentors that were happy to take the time to help, steady access to some of the world's greatest engineering talent at a sixth of the cost of a junior engineer in Silicon Valley, and access to a vast market of clients. In my company's field especially, Beijing provides fertile soil for innovation and steady access to problem's worth solving. What really captured my heart, though, was the people that move to Beijing. Just like the Internet of the early 2000s was a fantastic meeting place for entrepreneurial and eccentric people, Beijing seems to attract large numbers of truly driven, creative and interesting people. No matter if you move to Beijing from a smaller city in China, or from across the world, you're making a decision that many will question. What about the pollution? The poverty? The corruption? Almost invariably the motivation of these pioneers echoes the desire to be part of something great — an unknown but exciting future. Beijing today feels like the Internet felt in my teens — a place where eccentric, talented and driven people congregate to make their own rules. I've now lived here for 6 years. I never planned to stay, I just couldn't leave. There was too much going on, too many opportunities to see history unfold in front of me, and now I have to admit that I'm addicted to its pace and vision, and the feeling of helping move the needle at civilization scale. Returning to Silicon Valley I still spend at least a month a year in the Valley, and I'd like to think that my perspective has changed over time, made richer by experiencing China for more than half a decade. Just last week I returned from my latest three—week visit, and I'm still digesting the experience. Don't get me wrong — there are many things that I truly love about Silicon Valley. Even though I mourn a missing moral compass, I profoundly love that Silicon Valley is a place where geeks can be geeks and intellectualism is not frowned upon. I admire and love the drive to create, and I am grateful for all the hard work and loving attention that people put into creating great products. But let's be honest — Silicon Valley is often a parody of itself, and it has lost some of the things that made it great. Where Silicon Valley was once heavily subsidized to be a place of technical innovation, it is now an expensive but well-funded hub focused on business execution. There's nothing inherently wrong with that — good technology deserves good execution, and investors deserve to make money — but it is hard not to wonder what could have been. What if Silicon Valley stopped employing some of the world's greatest minds to make us click ads, and instead served a higher calling? When an established and well-known company like Häagen-Dazs believes that the inhabitants of the Valley can be pandered to with pseudo-code and proclamations of being a "56-year-old" startup, we can certainly laugh at their attempts to be hip, but it might serve us well to ask what it says about us, and how the world perceives us. Also, it wouldn't hurt the technocrats to once a decade or so look themselves in the mirror and question common sense — why are we really here, in Silicon Valley, and not somewhere else? When I founded my startup I arguably had the wrong (or right?) motivation. I wasn't thinking about huge markets, and how to make enormous amounts of money for myself and my investors — but simply wanted to solve some painful data related problems that had been haunting me through my professional career. My cofounders and I, having already built deep tech like intra-cortical neural interfaces, wanted to build challenging technology we could take pride in having built. It has often lead us down contrarian paths, and we've often confused and frustrated investors with long-term road maps that seemingly pass up immediate opportunities at hand right now for some potential greater opportunity in the future. Time will tell if we've made the right decision, but I know that we could never have built what we ended up building if we were in Silicon Valley. It took two years of hard work and late nights at the whiteboard to build a prototype of something we knew we could be proud of — and what Silicon Valley investor would agree to fund something that would take two years to release? Not only that, but it would have cost us roughly 6 times as much money to develop it in Silicon Valley — for no immediate benefit. Here in Beijing we still have access to world class talent, as Silicon Valley already knows — they're importing tons of engineering talent from China, and we're happy importing talent to China as well. I could certainly be wrong, but from where I'm standing now it is hard not to see reason to have an immense debt of gratitude to the culture of Beijing. Our backers here saw our passion, and were not afraid to make a long term investment, and the community here has supported us in more ways we ever thought possible. More than anything, I take immense pride in being part of a community (what up, #BeiArea?) that truly cares about great culture — not just company culture, but how to build great culture at civilization scale. I want to dream big, and Beijing is for dreamers.
Via Unknown Country: Crop formations have all but disappeared from the public mind, and with them the chance that they offered to restore our sense of wonder about the world around us. This has happened not only because of the frantic debunking of the early years, but more recently because of the proliferation of hoaxed formations made by artists on behalf of farmers hoping to charge admission and tour companies eager to bring in busloads of tourists. What is worse, after the death of Dr. William C. Levengood, the biologist whose study methodology was easily able to determine which were hoaxed and which were genuine mysteries, there is nobody to keep the circlemakers honest. Nevertheless, the mystery remains, and continues to urge us to look into the wonders of nature around us, and into ourselves, for a richer and more expansive vision of reality. An example is this wonderful formation that appeared on July 28 at West Kennett Longbarrow, a spot that has seen many extraordinary formations. While your Out There editor can no longer offer an opinion about the authenticity of crop formations, this one is exceptionally well made and its subject, the eight-sided star of the Sumerian goddess Innana, is particularly inspiring. Recent Dreamland guest Carl Johann Calleman points out that the eight-sided star is an important symbol in many ancient cultures. Among the Sumerians in particular, Innana was associated with love and in particular the planet Venus which, as the brightest star in the summer sky, symbolized both power and mystery to matriarchal cultures, and is why, for example, that the Greek goddess Athena is deity of both war and wisdom. The formation asks us to raise our eyes and remember the wonder of the universe in which we live, and the deep power of its feminine side.
Thursday, August 04, 2016
Via Business Insider: It's safer than ever to use the roads in Finland. Even though Finns drive almost twice as much today as they did in 1972, the number of deaths in road traffic is only about one tenth. Accidents and injuries are actually at the lowest levels ever and the number of deaths reported are lower than any other year except for 2014, according to public broadcaster Yle. In the 1970s, driving in Finland was a totally different experience than it is today. For instance, you didn't have to worry too much about driving while drunk, according to Yle. In 1972, a record number of 1.156 people died on Finnish roads. Finnish roads can be scenic. And these days they are safe. In a speech, the Finnish president Urho Kekkonen pointed out that the number of deaths in Finland for every 10.000 cars was 13.7, whereas in neighboring Sweden the number was barely half of that, 5.7. Something was not right on the Finnish roads, he noted. "Very quickly afterwards came 80 kilometers an hour speed limits, seat belts, alcohol restrictions and helmets for motorcyclists", says Petri Jääskeläinen of the Transport Safety Agency to Yle. Today, the number of road fatalities per 100.000 inhabitants per year in Finland according to the World Health Organization is 4.8, just above Japan's 4.7. Sweden is the world's third safest country at 2.8. The average rate in the world is 17.4.
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Via Business Insider: Swedish games such as Minecraft and Battlefield have taken the world by storm. One of the more unexpected of Sweden's recent successes is the aptly named Goat Simulator, created by Coffee Stain Studios. Goat Simulator is a third-person perspective game in which the player controls a goat and the aim is to deal as much damage as possible on an open-world map. The game was initially developed as a joke prototype internally at Coffee Stain Studios, but grew into a full-fledged game. The game became an instant hit, selling over 2.5 million copies within one year of its release. When it was released for mobile phones, it sold 100.000 copies within 6 days. Naturally, this has put some money in the coffers of Coffee Stain Studios. The Swedish daily Dagens Industri has gone through their financial reports and it found that Goat Simulator is a virtual money-making machine. The game, which was originally released for Microsoft Windows, was released last year on Xbox and Playstation which added to the Coffee Stain Studios financials. The numbers are in and for 2015 they show a turnover of 127 million Swedish crowns, or just shy of 15 million dollars, up 43 percent from 2014, and a profit of 88 million Swedish crowns, or approximately 10 million dollars, up 38 percent from 2014. That's a pretty crazy profit margin.
Via Unknown Country: This video, sent to us by an Unknowncountry reader, shows a strobing light directly over the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It is too stationary to be a hovering drone or a passing plane, so it is a genuine unknown. Rated A. In May, a photograph was taken of a blue light over the arch. This was thought to be a sun dog, and does have that appearance, but in view of the new sighting, perhaps not. Also in May, photos of something unusual were taken over a St. Louis Cardinals game.
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Via Business Insider: Netflix is really taking the concept of 'chill' a step further. Slow TV is a Norwegian hit phenomena showing everyday events in real time to a TV audience. For instance, the first program broadcasted on state broadcaster NRK in 2009, showed a seven-hour train ride between Bergen and Oslo. The low tempo show attracted a total audience of more than one million - approximately 20 percent of the population of Norway. But the concept proved to be more than a one-hit wonder. Following the initial success, viewers have been treated with, among others, 134 hours of a cruise ship travelling along the Norwegian coast, a 24-hour live broadcast where fishermen caught salmon, and crackling fireplaces. In Augusti this years, viewers outside of Norway will get a chance to watch the sedate entertainment as Slow TV is introduced to Netflix English-speaking markets. Slow TV has been considered a great success in Norway giving the NRK2 channel record ratings. Perhaps a knitting competition will be the next hit-series on Netflix after 'Stranger Things'?