Cool Ideas: Fluentify
Fluentify is an webcam-based program that connects those who want to practice a foreign language with native speakers from around the world.
“The idea is to replicate real-life conversations with others who have interests similar to yours. This way, you’re not reading and memorizing out of a textbook, but actually having a conversation about what you read or like to eat.” (Policy Mic)
The Most Powerful Sales Tool at Lowe’s: Satellites
Lowe’s said on Wednesday that it has been gauging traffic at its almost 1,900 stores from space, scanning satellite images of its parking lots to find out how many shoppers it can expect at every hour of every day. It has also started syncing its parking lot observations with actual transaction counts to see how many people drove away without making a purchase.
Full Story: Business Week
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
According to the Oxford study, “occupations that involve complex perception and manipulation tasks, creative intelligence tasks, and social intelligence tasks are unlikely to be substituted by computer capital over the next decade or two.”
“What we hear from the business community is that they are reticent to be innovative or put the higher quality proposals through to the World Bank, because their view is that people will buy based on lowest price,” Chief Procurement Officer Christopher Browne told Devex.
In an age of digital news publishing, print can never keep up with the instant coverage provided by online journalists and the rapid dissemination of information on sites such as Twitter. However, we have in the past seen Sweden’s Meganews offer the world’s first print-on-demand newsstand, and now the UK’s Guardian newspaper is experimenting with a new weekly publication called The Long Good Read that uses robots to curate the best recent longform pieces and print copies in under an hour. READ MORE…
Bill Gates, in his foundation’s annual letter, declared that “the terms ‘developing countries’ and ‘developed countries’ have outlived their usefulness.” He’s right. If we want to understand the modern global economy, we need a better vocabulary.
Gates was making a point about improvements in income and gross domestic product; unfortunately, these formal measures generate categories that tend to obscure obvious distinctions. Only when employing a crude “development” binary could anyone lump Mozambique and Mexico together. It’s tough to pick a satisfying replacement. Talk of first, second and third worlds is passe, and it’s hard to bear the Dickensian awkwardness of “industrialised nations.” Forget, too, the more recent jargon about the “global south” and “global north.” It makes little sense to counterpose poor countries with “the West” when many of the biggest economic success stories in the past few decades have come from the East.
All of these antiquated terms imply that any given country is “developing” toward something, and that there is only one way to get there. It’s time that we start describing the world as “fat” or “lean.”
"Lean" societies approach consumption and production with scarcity in mind. In the so-called least developed nations of sub-Saharan Africa, where the gross national income averages just $2,232 per capita, populations are young and hungry - at times for food, but mostly for opportunity. Nothing can be taken for granted or wasted. But resource constraints have provoked an astonishing bounty of homegrown solutions to the problems philanthropists like Gates address with charity. If necessity is the mother of invention, lean economies have a distinct advantage.
In Lagos, Nigeria, a three-storey schoolhouse rises above the waters in Makoko, a fishing hamlet floating on the city lagoon. Made from simple recyclable materials, the school embodies climate resilience and appropriate technology - and educates 100 students daily.
In Khayelitsha, a poor township in South Africa, a stack of repurposed shipping containers serves as a health clinic. Lynette Denny, an obstetrician in Cape Town, uses them for cervical cancer screenings. Her staff does “everything but operate” in the containers. Denny sees 20 to 30 women each afternoon.
Meanwhile, start-ups in Africa measure their seed-funding rounds in comparatively modest figures. M-Pesa, the mobile-phone banking juggernaut now used by 86 per cent of households in Kenya, began with investments of about £900,000 (about $1.5 million) from Vodafone and the British government. Despite lacking the resources richer economies take for granted, similarly lean ventures generate billions of dollars south of the Sahara.
So, what makes an economy “fat”? The United States is a prime example. Plenty is normal. Gross national income is close to $50,000 per person.
There are downsides. The United States has one of the world’s highest obesity rates and has grappled with other, more figurative “fat” problems: a subprime mortgage epidemic, pay-to-play politics, a dangerous taste for fossil fuels. Other countries are also struggling to pay the wages of wealth. South Korea has declared Internet addiction a public health concern. Aging nations in Europe are scrambling to defuse the time bomb of generous pension programs. The consumption-fuelled financial crisis exposed bloat from Iceland to Italy. Subsequent “austerity” measures have put fat economies in jeopardy for decades to come.
By contrast, Africa’s lean economies have more basic concerns. Malaria and childbirth still rank among the top causes of death. Predatory politicians, antique infrastructure, drug shortages and power cuts are all too common. But there are silver linings. Individual Africans waste less food and water, owe less money, and maintain a regional carbon footprint that is the lowest in the world. The energy consumed annually by the 19.5 million people in New York State is equivalent to that of nearly 800 million Africans.
Our bravest and best lessons are not learned through success, but through misadventure.
If you want to go quickly, go alone;
If you want to go far, go together