Do we really need products that last 100 years? All these questions will be answered in this week’s email, along with a news of a new .dad top level domain extension (perfect for dad jokes!) and how LEGO fulfilled the dreams of five fans by turning their inventions into custom limited edition sets to sell. Enjoy this week’s newsletter!
The $4 Million Coffin and How Much Of Museum Exhibits Are Stolen
Switzerland was once the unofficial headquarters for antiquities laundering — the practice of fabricating a paper trail for stolen artifacts so they could be sold “legitimately” to art collectors or museums. After new legislation several years ago, the hub of illegality moved to Dubai. This is just one fact from of a fascinating Freakonomics podcast episode this week that focused on the often sordid history of artifacts, how much of it is stolen, and the very tricky process of repatriation where art is returned to its rightful place of origin … sometimes thanks to minutiae like a random photo of Kim Kardashian standing in front of a $4m gold coffin.
I also came across the entertaining Smithsonian story about the history of 106 rare clocks stolen in a heist. Stories like these mix business, art, crime, law and geopolitics in a real life tale that seems like a movie. In this case, together they made me think about the complex history of the artifacts that represent human culture. If you’ve ever watched a film called The Red Violin (one of my favorites), you know what I mean. The journey these objects take can sometimes inspire a history of its own.
The Long Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) Fights For Survival. Does the World Need It?
A few years ago Lean Startup author and entrepreneur Eric Ries launched an ambitious idea to build a stock exchange that would exclusively include only companies that had demonstrated a commitment to long term thinking, as measured by business practices, investments and strategy. This idea of a Long Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) has struggled to catch on. Only a handful of companies considered it or listed, and years later there are only two companies now on the exchange – software firm Asana and recent addition ThredUp.
On the surface, it’s surprising to see just how few of the companies that promote themselves as steadfastly devoted to building a better future have chosen to be listed on the exchange. What would it take to get the LTSE idea to catch on? More awareness seems the obvious answer.
If more long-term oriented companies knew of the LTSE and saw value in it’s offering then more companies would list. And if more investors knew of its existence, they might prioritize investing in LTSE companies, which would in turn drive more companies to list. Or maybe with the rapid growth of other programs such as the B Corporation certification, there simply isn’t a need for an exchange like the LTSE.
Spotify Could Save Music With AI … If They Didn’t Brand It So Idiotically
Imagine a streaming music reality where fake audiences are listening to fake music. This “dystopian type of fraud” is already happening, and Spotify is trying to stop it. Alongside that Spotify story, I read another this week about their smart strategic use of AI to build a tool that can analyze your listening habits and then recommend music from new artists you might never have heard of.
This is exactly the kind of human-driven use of technology music fans and artists alike have long hoped for. Especially given neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky’s sobering conclusion that most people stop being open to new music by the age of 35. So Spotify could be on to something big.Unfortunately, they announced the innovation with the worst possible name: the Spotify AI DJ. Immediately, human DJs, music fans, artists and anyone else who heard the term “AI DJ” immediately started to panic that this was yet another way that music might be automated and put everyone out of a job.
The entire backlash could easily have been avoided (or at least minimized) if they had called it the “Spotify Discovery Engine,” or the “Spotify Suggester” or the “Spotify Ear Tickler” or the “Spotify Scrumplebumper.” I mean, they literally could have called it anything but an “AI DJ” and it would have been better. Instead, they just offered up depressing proof that terrible branding can still kill a great idea.
Do We Need a 100 Year Old Jacket or Products That Last Forever?
There is an iconic luxury watch ad campaign that proudly declares, “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” A watch has regularly had this sort of generational appeal. It’s a luxury product designed to be handed down to your children. LIVSN Designs, an outdoor fashion retailer, recently announced a jacket designed to last 100 years along with free repairs for life, so presumably you could hand their jacket down to your kids too.
The thing these long lived fashion products assume is that they will always be in style. Yet globally fewer people are wearing watches. And jacket styles change regularly too. In The Future Normal we wrote about a biodegradable sneaker brand known as the “Degenerate” that can be entirely recycled when it’s lifespan ends. Is a completely biodegradable product “better” than one which can last for generations? It’s a hard question to answer and depends on who you ask as well.
Maybe we need both.
Tipflation, GhostTipping, Tip Creep or Guilt Tipping – Do You Leave a Tip On Automated Transactions?
You know you’ve been there. At the front of the line, interacting with a nearly complete automated experience. And then you’re asked to leave a tip. For some people, it’s an infuriating imposition. For others, it’s a way to support the displaced humans who are still working behind the scenes. The world seems to be struggling with what to call this practice. Leading suggestions include tipflation, ghost tipping, tip creep or guilt tipping.
Whatever you call it, the Wall Street Journal took a deep dive this week into what some consider the “emotional blackmail” of tipping after a self checkout. How you view it seems to come down to whether you consider a tip to be a recognition of excellent service, or a way for consumers to support underpaid retail workers.
For my part, I will often leave the tip – perhaps out of habit and maybe slightly out of sense of altruism for often underappreciated retail workers. What do you do?
Even More Non-Obvious Stories …
Every week I always curate more stories than I’m able to explore in detail. Instead of skipping those stories, I started to share them in this section so you can skim the headlines and click on any that spark your interest:
- LEGO Fulfills 5 Fan Dreams, Selling Their Creations As Limited Edition Sets
- The National Poo Museum Is A Real Place … And Their Collection Is What You Think It Is
- American Medical Association Approves CPT Code For Psychedelic Therapies
- You Can Now Claim a .Dad Domain for Your Website. Cue the Dad Jokes
- Will A.I. Become the New McKinsey?
- First Baby Born From Three People’s DNA In United Kingdom
- Victoria’s Secrets Hopes To Reinvent Brand, Starting With This Newly Released Film
How are these stories curated?
Every week I spend hours going through hundreds of stories in order to curate this email. Looking for a speaker inspire your team to become non-obvious thinkers through a keynote or workshop? Watch my new 2023 speaking reel on YouTube >>
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