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    On an ordinary day, the clients of CS Hudson, a company that builds pop-up stores, are clothing retailers, restaurants, and other brands. Yesterday, the clients were homeless children as young as 2. At a pop-up toy store that the company created in a vacant space at Tanger Outlets on Long Island in New York, children from a nearby homeless shelter came to pick out free gifts.

    [Photo: Joseph Scaretta]
    “When they walk in, it’s built for them,” says Joseph Scaretta, cofounder of CS Hudson. “It’s special for them.” At the door, kids got a Willy Wonka-style golden ticket; inside, on shelves arranged like a toy store, they could pick out dolls, DIY slime kits, and electronics funded by sponsors. The store also had a slime station–“slime is huge right now,” Scaretta says–a selfie station with a printer, matchbox car races on a track, and a life-size claw machine like the kind found in arcades, except with this one, you don’t just waste your money.

    The team used a design process similar to what it uses in typical projects. “It’s no different than what we’re doing for retailers today,” says Scaretta. “I think that was really an important part of what we wanted to do. We wanted the store to be as if we were building it for any client–we wanted it to have all the bells and whistles, all the fixings. We didn’t want to throw some paint on the wall and put some toys on the shelves, we wanted every detail thought out for them to have an amazing experience.”

    While most companies write checks for charity, the company wanted to use its own expertise. It’s a little like Sweetgreen’s work to help a liquor store in Los Angeles transform into a healthy food market, or Toyota’s work to help a food bank become more efficient–albeit smaller and very temporary. The pop-up lasted one day. But through a new series of pop-ups called Pop Up For Good, the company plans to keep going. Last week, it opened a pop-up coat drive for a nonprofit in New York City, and another opened on Tuesday.

    “We want to work locally and see the impact of what we’re doing,” Scaretta says.

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    As a neuroscientist, I’m often asked to recommend quick ways to boost brain function, particularly at this time of the year. It’s a happy time, but I also see many friends and clients struggle, mainly because they’re burning the candle at both ends.

    Most of us make too many social commitments during the holidays, and we give ourselves a well-deserved break from our usual rules on diet, exercise, and drinking. This is fine up to a point, but then we expect our brains to pick up the slack, and when we can’t bounce back right away, we get frustrated.

    The good news is there are measures that we can take to keep our brain in a not-so-depleted shape. This December, avoid the trap by introducing some “holiday-proofing” measures. Here are five ways to ensure your mood and cognitive function stay in peak condition:

    Focus on the positive

    It’s common to feel resentment when holiday demands mount up, particularly if you have to tiptoe around tricky family expectations and feel the pressure to spend a fortune on gifts. But you can avoid simmering negativity by keeping a gratitude diary during December.

    Research shows that your brain can change significantly when you routinely write down three things that you’re grateful for. A study on young adults found that those who kept gratitude journals showed increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm, and energy. A separate study published in 2013 discovered that patients with chronic pain who reported feeling higher levels of gratitude had less depression and anxiety and slept better.

    Forgive yourself

    It’s easy for guilt to creep in at this time of year. Perhaps you had a big night out, and you felt terrible the next day. Your first instinct might be to text your friends and go on a self-loathing rant. But that’s not going to help you.

    I often use a forgiveness ritual with my clients that I personally found helpful and cathartic. I ask them to repeat the following phrases until they feel true: Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you, I forgive you, I release you.

    It’s a powerful way to release morning-after shame. It might not come naturally to you, but if you keep repeating this practice, you might find that forgiving yourself becomes more intuitive. Forgiveness is a skill. To get better at it, you need to keep practicing.

    Edit your friendships

    Christmas can cast your relationships in the spotlight just like birthdays and anniversaries. You may reconnect with people you haven’t seen much of over the preceding year, and while you find that some of those interactions will be invigorating, you might find some mentally taxing. This is a good time to remind yourself that you are in charge of your friendships. It’s up to you to decide how much effort you want to put into your friendships.

    Research on social networks shows that happiness is contagious. So ask yourself, does this relationship nourish me and serve me? If the answer is no, you might want to decide to invest in others that do lift you up.

    Eat a nutritious breakfast

    You’ll probably find that holiday parties can throw off your usual eating routine, which means that you need to put extra effort into what you eat at the beginning of your day.

    Late-night celebrations might cause you to skip dinner, or find your usual mealtimes out of sync. For breakfast, consider filling up on antioxidant-rich berries. In a 2017 trial, participants who ate a cup of blueberries (freeze-dried or fresh) showed significantly fewer errors in tests of learning after 90 days than those who received a placebo or didn’t change their diets. Add some low GI grains, and try to fit in some lean protein from fish, eggs, or meat to keep you satiated.

    Remember to breathe

    When all is said and done, the holiday period may not be as bad as we think it could be. After all, it is a happy time that you should enjoy. Following the tips above will put you in a good state of mind, but it’s important to remember that at times, things will go wrong.

    If something does not go according to plan, take a deep breath and step back. Then take 10 deep breaths. Oxygen is a resource for the brain–and focusing on your breath can help you press the pause button. That’s something we can all use a little more of, no matter what time of the year it is.

    Dr. Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, leadership coach, author, and medical doctor. Follow her on Twitter at @TaraSwart. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Source: Open Your Mind, Change Your Life.

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    Here is a list of gifts I recently received: A T-shirt in which Hanukkah is spelled five different ways; A tote bag with the slogan, “What would Jeff Goldblum do?” A hat with my dog’s face plastered all over it; a scratchy towel emblazoned with an image of two friends in a compromising position; and yet another T-shirt with Professor Snape’s sexy grimace.

    These mostly speak to my specific interests–namely, Jewish holidays, my gorgeous Pitbull-hound mix, and the late Alan Rickman. And the gifts were sent by thoughtful, generous friends and family who simply wanted to note their appreciation for my interests. They likely thought they were being creative.

    But here’s the thing: There is no way I am ever going to use these products. They end up where all the other “funny” and/or personalized gifts live out their existence: the junk pile.

    Such presents all enjoy the same trajectory: a brief moment where I wear it to be photographed for the sole effort of including in a thank-you email. That’s the most use they afford. Every so often, the giver presumes I might wear it “around the house,” without realizing that cheaply made products are not soft, and therefore cannot qualify for loungewear, let alone sleepwear.

    Even worse, because they’re customized, you can’t even donate many of these gifts to Goodwill. Instead, they end up in a drawer accumulating dust.

    [Source Images: OliverMH/Blendswap (trashcan)]

    Sadly, people who opt for customized presents are going out of their way to give something they believe to be thoughtful. But we need to rethink what qualifies as “thoughtful.” What exactly will your adult friend who still loves Britney Spears do with that printed pillow? That sister obsessed with John Stamos doesn’t necessary want to parade around with his beautiful face on her shirt.

    What’s driving this gift-giving phenomenon? For starters, sites like Etsy, Zazzle, and CustomInk have made it all too easy for us to order customized gifts, without ever considering where they end up. In my experience, the receiver sends a perfunctory “OMG, so funny” thank-you before complaining to their spouse that something functional–even a carton of milk–would have been more appreciated. The expectation of cheap, fast shipping may also play a role; it’s all too easy to find a cheap gag gift online, press send, and have a present in hand in a day or two.

    Which brings me to the bigger problem with the influx of “personalized” crap: It’s downright wasteful. Our world is already awash in an insane amount of trash: Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles are thrown in landfills each year. And the holiday season has a part in that. A recent survey found that 56% of Americans admit to receiving at least one unwanted gift, totaling $13 billion on nearly 142 million shitty gifts each year.

    So, c’mon. This year, give something remotely useful. There are ways to be funny and functional! For example, a coffee mug with a classic Kanye West tweet can make one’s morning routine a bit more delightful. If you can’t resist ordering something personalized, what about a framed picture or photo calendar? If you truly want to up the ante, make something yourself, like a jam, body scrub, or bone broth. How about a song or video clip? A close friend of mine makes beautiful, hand-drawn watercolor postcards–of things I care about, like Beyoncé–for the sole purpose of seasonal fridge decoration.

    If you’re going to send something personalized or “funny,” make it small, like a keychain or magnet. The gag should not be the gift. Buy–or better yet make–your loved ones something they actually want or need. Then, by all means, top if off with a fabulous Kris Jenner Christmas card.

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    Back in late 2015, Gatorade was developing a new system of products to help athletes evaluate, measure, and replace the types of electrolytes their bodies need most. Measurement was done by a bandage-like patch that monitors sweat rate and type, while a variety of small pods that differed in electrolyte type could be mixed with water in specially designed sport bottles. All this was designed to give athletes the best possible advantage through the most efficient hydration.

    Now three years later, Serena Williams is rocking the patch and pod combo in a new ad campaign called “You Fuel Us, We Fuel You.”

    Williams, who stars alongside Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, says she’s been intrigued by the patch ever since Gatorade first told her about it. “I’ve always been really interested in innovation and technology, so when they first told me about the idea, I thought, ‘My god, if we could really harness the information about our sweat, how it influences our energy, what electrolytes we need exactly to improve performance, it would be crazy,'” says Williams. “Innovation like this is part of the reason athletes like myself can have such long careers.”

    Over the last few years, Williams has been featured in perhaps the best advertising Gatorade has ever done. From 2015’s amazing throwback “Unmatched” to 2017’s “Match Point,” (the first-ever video game within Snapchat), or this year’s “Sisters in Sweat” and “Like a Mother,” Williams’s work with the brand has spanned from sport-driven to the very personal. She says she’s always had a collaborative relationship with the brand when it comes to the creative work.

    “Sometimes you have the opportunity to see the creative ideas at the beginning of the process, and have more of a say,” says Williams. “Other times, these amazing creative agencies come up with great work. But we do talk about it, I can make suggestions and have ideas of how something might be more authentic to me, so it’s really more of a collaboration.”

    In a world where celebrity endorsement transparency is vital (hello, Wonder Woman!), one thing Williams says is key to a truly successful brand relationship is that it is steeped in reality. “It has to be real to me. It has to speak to me and be able to work in real life,” she says. “When I’m looking at different products and companies, it has to be authentic. I’ve been using Gatorade for as long as I can remember. It’s not something I’m doing for more exposure. It’s about that real connection I have to the product. When things aren’t real, people can see right through that.”

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    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball? It might also be scary. The biggest news stories from 2018, according to Google searches, involved hurricanes, elections, and the Parkland, Fla. shooting. But there were good things on people’s minds, like the World Cup, royal wedding, and a record-breaking lottery jackpot. We wondered what 2019 will bring to the business world. Here are predictions from 10 CEOs:

    We’ll start to see more of an impact from #MeToo

    We are entering into uncharted territory right now, says Melissa Smith, CEO of payments tech company WEX Inc.

    “With the tailwind of the #MeToo movement followed by the largest number of women elected into politics in any U.S. cycle, we are on the verge of significant change in the way women experience their professional lives,” she says. “To think that the next generation of women, our daughter’s, could really show up to work and be treated from day one as equal is moving from a dream to a place of reality.”

    Leadership skills will be tested

    Leaders will be tested over the next few years, and they’ll need to know how to adapt when the times are not in their favor, says F. Scott Moody, CEO of K4Connect, a technology solutions provider for older adults and individuals living with disabilities.

    “Fact is, we have been in a strong economic upturn for the last 10 years and I believe we are in for more challenging economic conditions in the not-too-distant future,” he says. “Many leaders today have not really been tested in a downturn, whether the 2007 downturn, 9/11, the dotcom implosion, or many of the others that preceded those times. It’s never easy to be a leader, but it is darn harder when the tide is not in your favor.”

    The new trade environment will affect business

    With newly implemented tariffs and continuing uncertainty around future trade developments, companies will need to reassess their supply chains to evaluate the cost and pricing of their products, says Beth Gerstein, CEO of Brilliant Earth, provider of ethically sourced jewelry.

    “This shift is trending to benefit companies that have a larger domestic presence in their production and manufacturing capabilities,” she says. “For businesses that rely on overseas products and suppliers to support their business, it will be vital in the next year to proactively initiate conversations with vendors to negotiate and lock in long-term favorable deals with out-of-country contractors.”

    We’ll deal with culture differences in business practices

    Remote work is at an all-time high in the U.S. and around the world, and the projections of its growth are astronomical, says Taso Du Val, CEO of Toptal, a global talent network.

    “This may sound wonderful and can be considered so most of the time. However, connecting the ‘eight weeks of vacation’ mentality when working with individuals in Croatia with the ‘all we do is work to win’ mentality of Americans can be an extreme clash at times,” he says. “The finesse on how to deal with merging these two cultures together is a process that will most likely take several years to truly resolve. In 2019, we’ll see business leaders begin to focus more on the benefits of both cultural changes and their plans on how they will successfully merge the two.”

    Trust and transparency are paramount

    The marketplace will realign as a result of the importance and value of customer trust, says Andrew Rubin, founding CEO of Illumio, a cybersecurity provider.

    “We’ve seen what happens to a company or brand when they fail to protect customer trust,” he says. “Protecting data is important, but the bigger picture is about trust. It takes 20 years to build reputation and five minutes to destroy it. Trust is becoming a theme and trend top of every board and CEO mind going forward. Not a moment in time or a flash. Corporate consciousness and transparency will be a foundational element between companies and consumer.”

    Weed will get branding

    “2019 will be the year that marijuana dispensaries will provide not just weed, but atmosphere and experience,” says Pat McBride, founder and CEO of The McBride Company, a design firm for the hospitality and leisure industries.

    A culture is being created around marijuana where patrons will seek dispensaries that are destinations. Consumers will look for “fascinating products, insightful information, and interesting environments,” he says. “It’s true that some marijuana customers will simply want to score their weed–think packaged liquor store. Others will enjoy the discovery retailing process of searching for unique products and learning about the various strains of marijuana in an interesting environment–think Napa Valley wine store.”

    Experiences change the face of retail

    Consumers will continue to put a premium on connection and experiences, and smart retailers will reimagine ways to turn transactions into immersive and enriching experiences that celebrate discovery, exploration, and learning, says Christine Barone, CEO of True Food Kitchen, an organic fast-casual restaurant chain.

    “As tech impacts nearly every aspect of people’s lives and continues to replace more personal interaction, retailers must find ways to transform transactions into unexpected experiences and stores into hubs of enrichment and places where people want to engage and connect,” she says. “These rich experiences will be the primary motivators and factors driving which retailers become hotspots.”

    Diversity will become enforced

    In 2018, California became the first state to require public companies headquartered here to have at least one woman on their boards, and this is a sign of things to come, says Fred Stevens-Smith, cofounder and CEO of Rainforest QA, a quality assurance software company.

    “As the long-overdue focus on gender and racial equality continues, government will increasingly step in to legislate for change,” he says. “As is often the case with government regulation, this will likely have unintended consequences as well, making it hard to predict whether this will be a net good.”

    Brick-and-mortar retailers fight back

    While the past decade has seen a big push around ecommerce and online investment, people still love to shop in physical stores, and 2019 will see more brands shifting their focus to physical locations, says Tom Buiocchi, CEO of ServiceChannel, a facilities management platform.

    “We saw signs of this in 2018 with brands like Nike opening experimental stores and Dunkin’ Donuts investing $100 million to better support mobile orders and pickup,” he says, adding that digital natives like Allbirds, Casper, Warby Parker, and Everlane are accelerating the change by opening permanent stores to attract new customers. “Main Street is getting interesting again, and 2019 will see accelerating investment in the retail renaissance.

    “Data ethicist” becomes a thing

    2019 will be the year that companies hire a “data ethicist,” says Gil Elbaz, CEO of Factual, a location data provider.

    “As more and more decisions are made using AI, the teams amassed to build, test, and teach that software are growing as well,” he says. “The smarter these systems become, the more important it is that they’re designed with the needs of, and respect for, humanity in mind. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to program a machine to understand a human ethic.”

    Companies will solve this by hiring a data ethicist. “The technology is ultimately responsible for making a decision, but the steps it took to get there will be informed by data scientists programming with human ethics in mind,” Elbaz says.

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    It just takes one. One billboard, in one city, with a message can travel the globe in an instant. Remember Deadpool‘s Valentine’s Day magic? 20th Century Fox made a single gag billboard positioning the superhero action flick as a romantic love story, and it went around the world as soon as star Ryan Reynolds posted it to Instagram.

    Back in April, Spotify turned one New York City subway stop into a worldwide art exhibition when it transformed the Broadway-Lafayette station into a David Bowie tribute, tying into the David Bowie Is exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum.

    According to Spotify, it reached more 50 million people on social channels–with no paid amplification.

    Both are examples of the influence Instagram is having on both the placement and creative strategy of outdoor advertising.

    As digital advertising’s path to prominence began a decade ago, more traditional ad forms like TV, radio, print, and outdoor saw their cultural relevance deflate, both in attention and the shift in ad budget allocation. But as they realized that our attention wasn’t stuck to one device or another, but constantly moving between media, brand and ad began to more effectively create work that complements itself across different platforms. With social media’s meteoric rise, the opportunity to use outdoor space to attract not only eyeballs but active engagement–like posting photos of billboards, posters, wall murals, digital installations, and more–became clear.

    “For us, [outdoor advertising] has become a social channel, and we trust that if the creative is compelling enough, people will do the work of amplification for us,” says Spotify’s global executive creative director Alex Bodman. “When we do a station takeover like the one we have at Union Square for our annual Wrapped campaign, the measure of success for me is seeing people stopping to take note of the creative, and then taking out their phones to snap a picture. That’s when we know we got it right.”

    Spotify’s senior global brand director Alex Tanguay says that as the company has started developing more creative work in support of artists and their record releases, it’s the billboards that generate the most excitement. “For them, these billboards are iconic moment that they celebrated, often with a post on Instagram,” says Tanguay. “In turn, our media investment takes on a life of its own inside the earned-media world of Instagram for artists and their fans.”

    Recent research by Nielsen reports that 1 in 4 U.S. adults surveyed have posted a photo on Instagram after seeing an outdoor advertisement. That’s higher than almost any other advertising traditional media–TV, radio, print, or digital banner ad–and it’s also the best bargain. According to the report, outdoor advertising on Instagram is seen by three times as many people, all for the same price as other forms of advertising. The ad industry calls unpaid news coverage of its work “earned media,” so getting your ad spread around Instagram for free by passersby is essentially earned social media.

    Kym Frank, president of Geopath, a not-for-profit organization and industry standard that uses audience location data and media research to analyze out-of-home advertising, says that social networks and outdoor advertising are two platforms that have a natural synergy. “Technology is changing the game for [outdoor advertising], and with social networks being everyone’s go-to media for trends, it’s no surprise that Instagram, the place for all things photo and visual, is making waves,” says Frank. “In fact, despite the smaller portion of ad share garnered by [outdoor advertising], it was the top advertising platform to drive Instagram posts across all offline media and banner ads.”

    Ad agency Cossette won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for outdoor advertising this year for its work with McDonald’s. Chief strategy officer Wes Wolch says outdoor is one advertising environment that can still reliably reach consumers, and Instagram and other visual platforms are completely changing the opportunity for brands.

    “We are living in an era where people are going out of their way not to consume ads–whether that’s using streaming services, unplugging their cable, or using ad-blocking technology,” says Wolch. “Creating a great outdoor campaign is no longer about devising a way to get a strong key message out in seven words or less. As we think about how to use out-of-home space, we need to think of it more as an art installation than an ad.”

    For cannabis brand Tweed, Cossette partnered with experiential agency Behavior and multimedia artist Trevor Wheatley to design a series of outdoor art installations that featured large, sculpted letters spelling the word “Hi.” Through lighting and design, they could adjust the each piece to work for the context of where it was and how people interacted with it. At this summer’s Field Trip music festival in Toronto, the installation complemented the act onstage and acted as a meeting point for people trying to find their friends and snap photos with them. Wolch says it helped Tweed reach the No. 1 awareness position among cannabis brands in Canada.

    Measuring the effectiveness of outdoor ads on Instagram is still rudimentary, but Franks says the platform’s impact and influence is driving more innovation. “Currently, measurement of the amplification of [outdoor] advertising as a result of posts on social networks is done in a variety of ways as an ad hoc solution,” says Frank. “Typically, this includes manual social monitoring via hashtags or keywords, although many in the industry are investigating image recognition technology to better measure lift.”

    Of course, the staple of outdoor advertising–the billboard–has long been a figure of contention, often called a form of visual pollution. Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska all ban billboards, while San Francisco banned off-site billboards (billboards not on the property of the business being promoted), and the Brazilian city of São Paulo famously banned billboards in 2007, removing more than 15,000 billboards and 300,000 oversized storefronts. By creating outdoor advertising that aims to also impress on Instagram, advertisers can also potentially improve the quality of brand presence in public spaces.

    View this post on Instagram

    @downtowndaniel Delivered That Funk. #alwayshandpaint

    A post shared by colossalmedia (@colossalmedia) on

    Ultimately, much like restaurants and retail spaces, brands are increasingly thinking about how their outdoor advertising can attract and encourage Instagram users to become a more personal form of earned media–the key word being earned. Instead of interrupting your sightline with some random billboard, a campaign must earn your attention–so much so that you actually might take the time to post it. The rise and popularity of firms like hand-painted mural specialists like Colossal Media signal that more marketers are seeing the potential.

    “When you consider the Instagram factor, outdoor campaigns become less about creating ads and more about creating culture,” says Wolch. “How do people interact with content in public spaces? The key is to consider content and context–moving beyond the idea of filling a blank rectangle on a building.”

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    Last year, nearly 170,000 people signed an online pledge with Veganuary to avoid animal products including meat, milk, eggs, and butter for the month on January. Going vegan for the entire month might sound difficult, but results prove otherwise. In 2018, the majority of folks who signed up for the challenge not only completed it but continued on, adopting veganism as a lifestyle change.

    More than 80% of participants later reported that they’d eaten animal-free the entire month. And more than 60% of participants continue to maintain that diet shift.

    Part of their success stems from Veganuary’s support network. Veganuary participants receive regular emails to stay motivated. There’s also a home page full of recipes, shopping guides, and other helpful resources. Since starting in 2014, the U.K.-based nonprofit has seen participation roughly double year-over-year. About 35% of those participants come from the Unites States, half are from the U.K., and the rest are scattered among more than 190 participating countries.

    [Screenshot: Veganuary]

    The other factor bolstering their success is that going vegan today may just be tastier and more convenient than it was a few years ago. Retail sales for a new wave of plant-based products jumped 20% in the U.S. last year, totaling $3.3 billion in annual sales, according to Nielsen research. A majority of Americans are also reportedly cutting back on meat consumption because of health and cost concerns. Toss in the fact that livestock accounts for a massive share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and you’ve got three pretty compelling selling points.

    “Vegan trends are really hitting the mainstream now, and people are actively choosing these products because they think that they’re better for their health, they’re cognizant of the environmental benefits, or they want to help alleviate animal suffering,” says Veganuary’s CEO Simon Winch.

    In addition to offering the animal-free pledge, the campaign also accepts donations, which it spends on more awareness efforts. Some of those come from different faux-meat companies; more than a dozen support the charity in different ways, including helping to raise awareness, with an obvious interest in seeing the trend take off.

    Last year, Veganuary operated on a budget of about $750,000. Using some back-of-the-envelope math, Winch calculates (based on traditional eating habits) how much meat isn’t being consumed per convert. He estimates that the 2018 pledge takers alone saved about 2.1 million animals from slaughter. For Veganuary, that works out to spending about 35¢ per life saved, although it may be even cheaper: The group estimates that about 10 times more people participate in Veganuary informally than formally each year. “In terms of effective advocacy and really helping to make this planet a more compassionate place, we’re doing something quite incredible on a shoestring,” he adds.

    Seth Tibbott, the founder and chairman of Tofurkey, the tofu-based faux turkey brand, says his company made an undisclosed donation to the charity, which he recently joined as a trustee. Tofurkey promotes Veganuary through complementary campaigns in the U.K., and that pays off. Last January, the brand’s sales to retailers and food service companies “just about doubled” there, he says.

    Tibbott hopes to see the same bounce in the United States as Veganuary’s efforts expand. “We see nonprofits like Veganuary as sort of the unpaid marketing arms of Tofurkey and the whole plant-based movement,” he says. “So we’re trying to encourage all companies to rally around Veganuary and other nonprofits like this to help create a vegan world and more vegan products in the market.”

    Informal participation aside, at least 250,000 people have taken Veganuary’s pledge in recent years. As Winch puts it, “We want them to go vegan and have an amazing experience, and then stay vegan at the end of it.”

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    In a lot of ways, Apple had a solid 2018. It hit a trillion-dollar valuation. It navigated a slowing market for iPhones. It stuck to its guns on data privacy. It kept its promise to create lots of jobs in the U.S. The company recently said it will build a new campus in Austin, Texas and add jobs in Seattle, Culver City, and San Diego. To its credit, Apple didn’t require that cities compete for those jobs in a very public bidding war, as Amazon did with its HQ2 quest.

    But Apple also made a few moves during the year that will likely be seen as mistakes over the course of time. The prices of its products went way up across the board in 2018. Siri continued to exemplify Apple’s underperformance in artificial intelligence relative to companies such as Google and Facebook. And so on. Here are the five best and worst things Apple did in 2018:

    What Apple got right

    Remaining engaged with the White House
    Yes, Apple does have a lot to lose from a bitter trade war with China. If things really got bad, the Trump administration could slap a big fat tariff on Apple products assembled in China–and almost all Apple products are assembled in China. This would come at an awful time for the company. It has been pushing the envelope on asking higher prices for its products–from the iPhone to the MacBook Pro to the iMac. Tariffs are always paid by customers, and a new tariff on Apple products could push some Apple buyers past the limits of their loyalty.

    That’s why it’s a good thing that Tim Cook has not shut off communication with the Trump White House. Despite the fact that Donald Trump’s beliefs are antithetical to Apple’s values and the political mindsets of most of its employees, it’s Cook’s job to make sure the president knows the real harm that would be done with new tariffs. By staying away from Trump, Cook would put Apple on the sidelines.

    Laying the groundwork for Augmented Reality
    Augmented Reality applications on the iPhone and iPad are still pretty clunky. You have to pick up the devices and physically move them around to overlay digital content onto the real world as seen through the camera. But it won’t always be that way. Apple will likely one day release AR glasses, so the only required movement will be the natural movement of the user’s head.

    What people don’t always give Apple credit for is actively setting the stage for that eventual hardware. It’s been doing so for quite some time. It launched its ARKit app development platform in 2016, and has been building AR experiences into pretty much every iOS device since then. ARKit apps and games already fill the App Store. And iOS 12 shipped with an impressively useful Measure app that allows you to measure (or level) pretty much anything in the room around you. There will be much more to come.

    Hiring John Giannandrea
    In April Apple made a marquee hire by luring away Google’s chief of AI and search John Giannandrea. Giannandrea is now leading Apple’s AI and machine learning group. He’ll report directly to Tim Cook, which gives some idea of the importance of his role and mission.

    It’ll be Giannandrea’s job to fix Siri, which most AI watchers say has gotten better over the years but still lags far behind its peers–Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant–in functionality and general helpfulness. With his deep experience in AI, he’s enormously qualified to help define and carry out Apple’s vision for Siri. The job, however, will likely be made harder by Apple’s conservative approach to using user data to train the AI. But if anyone can liberalize that approach in the interest of making Siri more useful, it’s Giannandrea.

    Bringing Apple Music to Amazon’s Echo speakers
    This year Apple made the surprising move of making Apple Music available on Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices. This is a very consumer-friendly move, especially for the millions of people who now own both an iPhone and an Echo speaker. While Apple competes with Amazon and Google in the smart speaker market, it’s also in a fierce battle with Spotify in the subscription music service market. Apple Music has about 56 million paying users versus Spotify’s 87 million. It could be that it’s now more important for Apple to get access to all those Alexa/Echo users than it is to keep Apple Music exclusive to its own HomePod smart speaker.

    A new Apple Pencil
    The first Apple Pencil, which came out in 2015, was fine, but a little bit minimalistic. Apple updated the product this year with the $129 Apple Pencil Second Generation, adding a much easier charging method (you just snap it magnetically it to the side of the iPad). You can also tap the side of the pencil to change things like shading modes. It was a big step up and especially useful for creatives who like the iPad.

    [Photo: Skitterphoto/Pexels]

    What Apple got wrong

    Making pretty much every product marketing error possible with the HomePod
    Apple likes to talk about how it starts with the needs and wants of the consumer and then applies technology accordingly. Something must have gone sideways with that approach when it built the HomePod. Apple was right that people use smart speakers mainly for playing music, and it did build a great-sounding speaker, but it seems to have gotten everything else wrong. People also want lower-priced speakers, and like using digital assistants with broad functionality. They also want some flexibility in where they get services such as music. With the HomePod, however, consumers got a speaker with a limited digital assistant in Siri and hardwired connections to services such as Apple Music. And it sold for a high price Of $349.

    What about those new AirPods?
    There’s a lot to like about the first version of the AirPods, starting with their sound quality and the convenience of their charging case. But they’re not perfect. They aren’t always quick to detect when I’ve put them on. They’re not perfect at holding their connection to my Apple Watch when I’m out running–especially when they have less than 50% battery charge. And there’s so much that could be added: biometric sensors, noise cancellation, hands-free Siri, and wireless charging.

    That’s why it’s odd that AirPods–arguably Apple’s most innovative new product in a decade–has gone almost two years without an update. Where is it? Does Apple want millions of people to buy AirPods as gifts this holiday season, then make everybody feel bad about it by announcing the second generation product in January?

    I mentioned AirPods 2 will likely have wireless charging. It would be nice to be able to use that AirPower charging pad we’ve been hearing about for well over a year. Where is it?

    Failing to announce an overarching plan for improving Siri
    Apple held its annual WWDC developer conference in early June. Google, Microsoft, and Facebook had already held their equivalent events, and all of them spoke a lot about AI’s role in their products and overall corporate identity. Before WWDC, I remember hoping that Apple would begin to lay out a similar narrative around Siri. Like many Apple watchers, I hoped Apple could make Siri into a familiar, highly functional and personalized, digital assistant that would work in generally the same ways, with the same intelligence, across all Apple products.

    Apple wasn’t ready to tell that story in early June. The company talked about specific applications of machine learning, but not about an overarching plan. Then again, Apple had hired John Giannandrea as its new AI chief only a couple of months earlier to lead AI efforts. I couldn’t help thinking at WWDC that Apple may have already waited too long.

    Expecting people in India to conform their buying habits to Apple prices
    When Apple released the iPhone X in 2017, it bet that people would pay more for premium smartphones–more than $1,000, in fact. And its optimism paid off, for the most part. It marked the beginning of a strategy of selling fewer phones, perhaps, but making more on each one.

    But that strategy isn’t working everywhere. The Wall Street Journal’s Newley Purnell and Tripp Mickle report that in India, Apple has continued to sell a relatively small lineup of iPhones, and for very high prices by Indian standards, in a market where people are accustomed to paying less than $300 for a phone. The idea behind releasing the iPhone SE in 2016 was to address that preference, but the SE has now been discontinued. As a result, Canalys estimates that the number of iPhones shipped in India has dropped 40% year-over-year from 2017, and Apple’s market share in the country has dropped from 2% to 1%.

    The Indian market holds huge potential for Apple. Like China, it was expected to be the source of new smartphone buyers, which have become hard to find in saturated markets like the U.S. and the U.K.

    Making ECG a major selling point of the Watch
    I’ll end with a controversial one. The new Apple Watch 4 can create an electrocardiogram, or ECG, which measures the electrical signals of the user’s heart. This is usually done in a doctor’s office with sensors attached to your chest. With the Watch, you just rest your finger on the Digital Crown. For most people, the ECG will render a “sinus” reading, or normal. But Apple says that the ECG can also detect signs of atrial fibrillation, which can be a sign of stroke.

    The ECG has emerged as the most-talked-about new function of the Watch. This is worrisome. Larger displays and new exercise modes, for example, are mainstream features that wide swaths of people will care about. But an ECG reader is a specialty feature, meant for a subset of people who have heart issues. I have no doubt that the ECG reader will do some people good (and that we’ll hear all about it in the Apple press), but for many other people it might do more harm.

    I’ve heard doctors say that the ability to take an ECG any time could lead to overuse or even obsessive checking by patients worried about their hearts. Even if the ECG itself works perfectly and yields no false positives it could end up raising anxiety levels, which could lead to problems.

    The other problem with overusing thee ECG is the amount of extraneous biometric data it could create. Using the Watch, you can send your doctor the result of your ECG. Physicians are already overloaded with data without having to read a new Apple Watch ECG result every day from one patient or another.

    [Photo: Alvaro Reyes/Unsplash]
    For Apple, 2018 brought no major breakthroughs, nor any disasters. We talk mainly about the iPhone and Apple’s growing services business as we look to the horizon to see the big new products–like cars and AR glasses–we hope Apple will bring us. We wait for the company to once again surprise and delight us.

    Investors seem worried and conflicted about Apple at the moment, mostly on fears that iPhone sales growth is over. The company’s stock is way down right now; in fact, it’s dropped almost $70 (or 30%) from its 2018 highs in roughly seven weeks. And yet it was only in August that the company briefly hit a $1 trillion market cap.

    One thing’s for sure: Apple will remain a fascinating company to watch. Next year will be pivotal as it navigates a post-peak-iPhone world.

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    The marketplace for talent is changing rapidly, and experts say it’s about time the way we approached our own careers caught up.

    After a couple of decades defined by disruption, automation, and job displacement, many still aren’t convinced that their job could be at risk. Studies conducted by Gallup, Quartz, and the Pew Research Centre have all found that a majority of Americans believe automation and AI will displace a significant number of jobs; just not their own.

    The lack of response to this new dynamic has become a key concern for career transition coach and best-selling author Ines Temple. In her book, You, Incorporated: Your Career Is Your Business, Temple explains how every employee should approach their career like a small business, with themselves as a provider of a service to a single client. She adds that any business that depended entirely on one client would be aggressively looking to diversify, and in today’s career landscape, employees should be equally as proactive when it comes to exploring their own career opportunities.

    “A lot of people have allowed companies to manage their careers; they don’t take a proactive approach to them,” she says. “When companies change their plans and need to let them go, they are not ready to find a new job, they’re not employable, because their skill sets aren’t up to date. They don’t have metrics ready to demonstrate those skills, and they don’t have a strong network of contacts that will help them in a job search.”

    Temple and other career experts recommend taking the following five steps to ensure your career is prepared to overcome the challenges of a rapidly evolving talent marketplace.

    1. Assess your current level of being future-proofed

    The first step in improving your career’s resiliency, according to Temple, is determining where you currently stand. She believes that those who are most prepared to evolve are those that love what they do, as they are often most willing to go the extra mile in order to continue doing it. 

    “Ask yourself, ‘Am I really happy here?’ ‘Is this what I want?’ ‘Is this really my passion?'” she says. “I know that’s a hard thing to worry about when you have bills to pay, but without that, it’s very hard to plan for your future career.”

    Being too satisfied with your current employment, however, may also be a sign that you should be doing more to prepare for your future. “A very simple litmus test is: If you’re comfortable, you should start learning something new,” says Darren Raycroft, a partner with the Bedford Consulting Group, an executive search and talent management company.

    Raycroft explains that with the rapid pace of technological advancement, the value placed on many skills today lacks the longevity that comparable skills had in previous generations. “Those periods of comfort and normalcy are getting shorter and shorter,” he says.

    Raycroft recommends keeping an eye on relevant job postings—even during periods of comfortable employment—to better understand where your industry is heading, and what skills are in highest demand.

    2. Commit to lifelong learning

    In today’s rapidly changing employment landscape, it’s easier than ever to fall behind, especially if you haven’t recently updated your skills.

    “There’s this delineated ‘learning time’ in our lives, and then we move into a position, and if you choose to take some courses to get ahead, you may do so,” explains Raycroft. “I think that’s changing: Learning is and will continue to be an ongoing process with a degree of propensity that we haven’t yet experienced in our lifetimes.”

    Raycroft believes that in order to stay ahead of the changing needs of the talent marketplace, employees need to be proactive in updating their skills. “That ability to learn and use judgment has been and will continue to be necessary for success,” he says.

    3. Never stop networking

    The worst time to start building a network is when you desperately need one. Professional relationships are typically stronger when they’re built on mutual interest, rather than urgent need. “A lot of people only do a lot of networking when they need a new job, but on a daily basis, we don’t invest enough time in people, building a relationship based on trust,” says Temple. “It’s all about relationships with people, because people will recommend us, promote us, or let us go.”

    Not only do those who take a break from networking risk weakening some of their existing relationships, but they can also begin to lose their networking skills. Temple emphasizes the importance of keeping those skills sharp and those relationships strong by building them in the low-pressure periods of career stability.

    4. Work on your soft skills

    Building that network often requires strong interpersonal skills, something that Temple believes is sorely lacking in most of today’s workers. “We really need to work on our warmth, our charisma, how much energy we give to people, because those things will make a difference between those who have a chance for a better career and those who don’t,” she says.

    Furthermore, if our most robotic and repetitive tasks are bound to be automated, those quintessentially human traits may soon become our greatest assets.

    “Young professionals understand that soft skills will be critical to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte’s global chief talent officer. “According to Deloitte’s seventh annual Millennial Survey, young professionals identified softer skills like confidence, interpersonal skills and—particularly for gen-Z—ethics and integrity aptitude as skills they feel are important to develop in order to succeed in the future.”

    5. Find a mentor

    Not only can mentors use their experience to help their mentees navigate a quickly changing employment landscape, but they can also help them develop some of those vital soft skills in a low-pressure environment.

    “It’s a safe place, so you won’t feel embarrassed asking your mentor questions that you might be embarrassed to ask in a group setting,” says millennial and gen-Z engagement expert Ashira Prossack. “You’ll also get that practice, and they’ll give you immediate feedback and one-on-one attention, because you can’t just read about how to communicate, you need to actually do it.”

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    The United Sates government has yet to agree on a spending bill–and if one isn’t signed by midnight tonight, a partial government shutdown will almost certainly happen. The House of Representatives did cobble together a bill that would keep things afloat until February 8, but it also included $5.7 billion for President Trump’s border wall, which is something he demanded. This will almost certainly not pass in the Senate.

    Trump this morning threatened a shutdown on Twitter if the Democrats don’t agree to his demands. He wrote, “If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time.”

    So what exactly will happen if the government does shut down? Here’s a quick rundown:

    • Federal agencies affected: About 75% of the government’s funding has already been approved. The other 25%, however, includes some very important agencies, including: Homeland Security, Commerce, Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Transportation.
    • Working without pay: Among those agencies, reports NPR, about 420,000 employees are expected to continue working. This means their job duties are considered essential, yet they will not receive a paycheck until a new budget is approved.
    • Federal employees affected: According to a Senate fact sheet, the numbers of unpaid individuals still expected to work would include:
      • 41,000 federal law enforcement and correctional officials
      • 53,000 TSA employees
      • 42,000 Coast Guard employees
      • 54,000 Customs and Border Protection workers
    • Furloughs: Meanwhile, more than 380,000 government employees could be placed on furlough–meaning they would be forced to stop working and receive no pay. Those in this camp would include:
      • 16,700 workers at NASA
      • 41,000 Department of Commerce employees
      • 16,000 people at the National Park Service
      • 28,800 staff members of the Forest Service
      • 18,300 employees of the Department of Transportation
      • 7,100 people who work at HUD
      • 52,000 IRS employees

    While President Trump continues this pissing contest, trying to force the government to fund this partisan project, hundreds of thousands of employees’ paychecks rest in the balance. All this, mind you, is happening mere days before Christmas and the New Year.

    The government has until midnight to vote on a new spending plan. Trump’s tweets indicate he may not back down, so we’ll have to wait and see whether he cares more about a wall or the livelihoods of Americans.

    You can find more information on the Senate’s shutdown fact sheet.

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    A lot of the early media hits around Karyn Kusama’s crime epic, Destroyer, emphasized Nicole Kidman’s intense physical transformation. You may have seen Kidman in a pointy prosthetic nose before but you’ve never seen her like this! It’s true, too. Kidman’s Erin Bell looks like a sun-damaged corpse with a score to settle. Very un-Kidman like. However, focusing on the star’s looks betrays a fundamental truth about her astonishing work in the film.

    You have never seen a character like this before, period.

    Nicole Kidman on the set of Destroyer. [Photo: courtesy of Annapurna Pictures]
    Kusama is a filmmaker who specializes in complicated female leads. (Think Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight or Amanda Seyfried in Jennifer’s Body.) With the character Erin Bell, Kusama and Kidman have achieved the creation of someone unforgettable: an antiheroine you would never think to saddle with the patronizing designation of “badass.”

    Written by Kusama’s frequent screenwriter collaborators Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, Destroyer introduces Detective Bell in the present day, a broken-down husk of a human with haunted eyes. As this Bell pursues a resurfaced bank robber named Silas (Toby Kebbell), we flash back to a fresh-faced Kidman joining his gang as an undercover agent many years ago. The film then flits back and forth between the two time periods to give us a fuller sense of who Detective Bell was, who she is now, and what the hell exactly caused that transformation. Both versions of Bell are compromised and uncompromising. Together, they make up a unique individual whom viewers might love or hate but will almost certainly find compelling.

    “I think I was attracted to that wounded cowboy quality Erin has,” Kusama says. “I think there’s something really interesting to me about how complicated and messy and difficult she is as a person. And to learn over the course of the movie that that’s also driven by hunger and greed and ambition is really interesting.”

    In order to bring to life what makes Erin Bell such a remarkable character on the page, Kusama was going to need an actor capable of complex combinations of emotion. Gravitas mixed with vulnerability. Fear tinged by anger. And the perverse confidence that comes with having nothing left to lose. In Nicole Kidman, Kusama found a simpatico co-conspirator putting in the powerhouse performance of her career.

    The pair talked a lot on set about Erin Bell’s physicality and the quality of her voice. The latter was easier to achieve; Kidman simply dropped her vocals a couple of octaves. Nailing Bell’s laborious way of carrying herself required a more unusual approach. Kusama would send the star all sorts of videos of animals like coyotes and hyenas. Some were injured in some way, others would be doing the injuring. The director would point out areas of interest in the videos, like “Watch how this alpha peels off one from the pack!” The director wanted no less than to put her star in an animalistic state, and Kidman was ready to absorb whatever Kusama threw her way. In fact, Kidman may have verged on absorbing it a little too much.

    “It was a profound experience to work with an actor who is so deeply embodying a character,” Kusama says. “I’ve only recently gotten to know Nicole because that whole time, I was working with Erin Bell.”

    Director of Destroyer, Karyn Kusama. [Photo: courtesy of Annapurna Pictures]
    As game as Kidman was to play a spiritually bruised, morally ambiguous detective in perhaps the most ambitious, structurally pristine cops-and-robbers movie since Heat, not all viewers will be as eager to watch her. You may have noticed that there are not a ton of female antiheroes in pop culture. Mary-Louise Parker’s dope-dealing Nancy Botwin from Weeds comes to mind; as does Jodie Comer as Villanelle on BBC America’s Killing Eve and Amy Adams’s Camille Preaker from Sharp Objects. Maybe even Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary in Young Adult, although she’s more of an emotional antihero. Whither the Antonia Soprano-type characters who are messy, law-flaunting female fuck-ups whom we still sort of root for?

    “We obviously have circumstances in which a person’s transgressions, misbehaviors, most undignified moments can be celebrated culturally, and somehow that makes them real, that makes them authentic,” says Kusama, who is also married to Hay. “And I think for women, there is a bit of a double standard where we are meant to occupy one kind of space that’s culturally assigned and has very little to do with how women actually live in the world, and we are punished 100 times worse when we don’t occupy that space. As if we are somehow breaking some sort of cosmic contract with culture, which we’re not–we’re just living our lives!”

    So, where does the blame go then for the lack of more female characters who are allowed to be complicated and flawed in the way men get to be? Is it the fault of gatekeepers who fear audiences won’t stand for seeing this sort of thing? Can actual, non-imaginary audiences handle a movie like Destroyer?

    “It probably provokes a lot of feelings. I mean, I know it does–I’ve screened the movie,” Kusama says, laughing. “There’s men and women alike who are really freaked out and turned off by Erin Bell and by the movie. And to that, I say, ‘I don’t make movies for everyone.’ I make movies for myself in the hopes that that’s going to connect with people, and I do think part of what this character does is just take up a lot of space. She’s kind of a bull in a china shop. I just feel like I know those women and I’ve been that woman.”

    When it comes down to whether audiences will be able to find that connection with a woman like Erin Bell once Destroyer is released on Christmas day–frankly, it’s not Kusama’s concern.

    “For those viewers that aren’t able to arrive at any empathetic communion with this character, I can’t take care of that for them,” she says. “I can only do so much.”

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    Two recent hiring trends have enjoyed growing popularity among big organizations.

    The first is to attempt to minimize–if not abolish–implicit or unconscious biases in their recruitment process, in particular, during the job interview. For example, many diversity and inclusion programs offer unconscious bias training to managers in order to make them aware of their prejudices toward candidates from minority groups. Famous examples include Starbucks, Vodafone, and Facebook, but there are many others.

    The second is to hire for “culture fit,” which is to ensure that external recruits match the profile of successful employees, so they can easily adapt to the new role and the organization as if they already belonged. While this is typically evaluated in terms of candidates’ values, style, or background, such qualities are generally folded into demographic and socioeconomic factors. Prominent examples include Google’s focus on Googliness, Bridgewater’s ruthless radical transparency, and Airbnb’s hipster culture of belonging.

    But what if hiring for culture fit actually decreases diversity? Is hiring for fit just another form of unconscious bias? Or perhaps even a conscious bias, since it represents an explicit selection criterion that employers are proud to stand behind?

    There are three factors that suggest the answer might be yes (even though it’s unfair to generalize).

    Subjectively judging someone’s potential based on intuition

    In an age of abundant alternatives for making data-driven evaluations of talent and potential–including established scientific assessments and digital talent technologies–there’s no excuse for playing it by ear. Yet the most common method for evaluating a candidate’s potential is the unstructured job interview, which is a weak predictor of future job performance. The interview is especially used to assess culture fit. At worst, it boils down to a gut feeling of good chemistry or rapport that interviewers get from the candidate. At best, this results in well-meaning interviewers trying to ignore the very factors that cause that experience, such as charisma, attractiveness, and likability, as well as any attributes or background they share with the candidate. Unlike AI or machine-learning algorithms, it’s simply not possible to train humans to “un-see” candidates’ gender, age, or race, or “un-learn” these categories. In fact, the more we try to suppress something, the more present it is in our minds.

    Unreliable measures of performance

    For most employees, and especially those in professional jobs, performance is typically assessed by a single rating handed down by the employees’ direct supervisor. In general, this person has limited objective data to qualify his or her rating, which tends to be contaminated by politics, likability, and personal preference. That same manager tasked with the performance review was likely also responsible for hiring the employee. This means they have every incentive to show that they were right to choose that candidate and give them a high rating. As Alan Kay famously noted: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Interviews may seem predictive of future performance, but they are simply reinforcing the hiring manager’s bias, which then functions as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of culture fit.

    If organizations want to mitigate this bias, they should make an effort to get independent, objective, and reliable measures of job performance without subjective perceptions or managerial preferences. Think of how Uber evaluates its drivers. The app tracks all the key indicators of performance, such as how many trips drivers make, how much money they make, how many trips they cancel, whether they have any accidents, and their customers’ satisfaction. This leaves very little room for subjectivity, and no humans are needed to rank different drivers on the basis of their performance. Although such precision may not be feasible in most jobs, organizations should still try to approximate this level of objectivity.

    A demographically homogeneous representation of high performers

    The more similar a company’s high performers are in terms of age, gender, race, experience, and technical expertise, the more likely it is that hiring for culture fit will reduce diversity. There’s a reason why culture and cult have the same root. A strong culture inhibits both demographic and cognitive diversity. It’s always easier to manage a large group of individuals when they are all the same. This is the ultimate excuse for getting away with bias when hiring for culture fit: the inability to create an inclusive culture and leverage the benefits of people who are able to think differently.

    That said, culture fit doesn’t have to lead to a lack of diversity. But in order to achieve this, it’s essential that organizations rely less on the job interview, and more on objective predictors of job performance, that they measure job performance objectively, and that they have cultures in place that enable people with diverse backgrounds to perform highly at work.

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    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Often in a rush of excitement and eagerness to solve a problem, or to alleviate a particularly thorny issue, people will champion a solution without being aware of all of the possibilities and potential pitfalls, intentional or otherwise, or blatantly ignore the risks because the reward seems so great. As The First Step Act heads to President Donald Trump’s desk following widespread support in U.S. Congress, it’s important to see how the bill could be both a blessing and a curse.

    The First Step Act has lofty and noble goals. This piece of legislation seeks to reform the criminal justice system at the federal level by easing mandatory minimums for “three strikes” offenders, instead automatically giving 25 years instead of life, lessening prison sentences via artificial intelligence algorithms that reward good behavior, allowing inmates to receive “earned time credits” by participating in more educational, trade, and rehabilitative programs, and retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which closed the sentencing gap between crack and powder cocaine prison sentences.

    What is most notable is the use of technology in the bill. Though the use of technology in policing is not uncommon , predictive policing is used to discern where to dispatch officers at any given time, and facial recognition is spreading across public space, the use of artificial intelligence in determining the fate of those already imprisoned is new. But some recent events should give citizens pause about the enthusiasm of legislators to apply technology in prison reform.

    Red flags abound. During a congressional hearing this week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai detailed the perceived privacy issues and biases of their products as noted by lawmakers. At one point in the questioning, Pichai had to remind Representative Steve King (R-IA) that Google did not make iPhones after King asked Pichai why his daughter’s iPhone was malfunctioning. If lawmakers can’t keep tech companies and the products they produce straight, why would we want them in charge of suggesting or selecting technology that will regulate the federal prison sentencing system? Confusing Google for Apple, and what each company produces, is but one example of how distant legislators are from the innovation they seek to implement and regulate. There is an education gap that first needs to be remedied before eagerly enacting technology lawmakers can’t even understand.

    In another line of questioning Pichai noted that “algorithms have no notion of political sentiment,” in response to a question from Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH). While technically true—algorithms do not have political biases—the people who create them do, as well as gender, religious, and racial biases. Algorithms are only as good as the data they are fed, which is only as diverse and inclusive as those writing the code. If the data being fed and validation of that data does not include marginalized populations and nuance, the algorithm will be inherently, though maybe unintentionally, biased.

    Furthermore, the AI systems used in criminal justice lack transparency: Who is fact checking the fact checkers? Who is setting the parameters of what is deemed relevant information to include in the decision-making process? Who is checking the rate of diverse representation in datasets to ensure they aren’t skewed, and if there is parity or equity in the information shared and diverse perspectives of data and research being used as the basis for any sort of dataset? The lack of transparency offered regarding decisions made through AI systems leads to a lack of accountability, as there is no way to thoroughly audit the information and the process. Essentially, without being able to properly audit algorithms used in sentencing, we aren’t aware of the possibly skewed outcomes, nor can we correct it sufficiently.

    This leads us back to the algorithms utilized under The First Step Act, which decide who can redeem earned-time credits. Inmates deemed higher risk are excluded from participating, although not from earning the credits, which can only be used when their risk level is reduced. The larger question is what factors deem one “higher risk,” and more importantly, Who is making that decision? What is the lived experience of those setting the standards for “higher risk” inmates? Do those setting the standards understand key community and cultural criminal justice nuances, such as that black, Latinx, and poor people are more likely to be imprisoned for crimes even though they aren’t likely to commit those crimes? There is a great deal of intersection among those groups; statistically, those likely to be poor are black and Latinx individuals. Additionally, the bill creates a caste system of sorts by automatically excluding undocumented immigrants from receiving earned credits.

    In that sense, the bill does nothing to “free” the communities it claims to want to help. While the bill aims to adjust mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, one could argue it doesn’t go far enough with initial sentencing: Judges are allowed discretion to sentence people with minor previous convictions to less than the mandatory minimums, though that isn’t required, and is offered to some, not all. Requiring that judges not give a mandatory minimum in these cases would help with initial sentencing, which is the driving force for mass incarceration. Let’s also be mindful that this administration rolled back the previous Obama administration’s discontinued use of private prisons, and transferred prisoners from public facilities to private prisons who donated significantly to the Trump campaign. Does this seem like real reform?

    Related:Hidden algorithms could already be helping compute your fate

    Though well intentioned, the bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, particularly when you add the technology component. Laws shouldn’t be written out of fear, but in a place of strength. In this post Cambridge Analytica world, there is a lot of fearmongering. Technology isn’t always the answer, particularly when ethics are paramount, and it is futile if legislators aren’t educated and informed about the use and ethical pitfalls of AI in criminal justice reform. If it isn’t monitored or adjusted appropriately, software risks helping imprison more people from marginalized, poor, and even rural communities. The real first step would be to include and consult with people who understand, write, and use the technology that the lawmakers seek to implement, before good intentions result in dire consequences.

    Bärí A. Williams is vice president of legal, policy, and business affairs at All Turtles. She previously served as head of business operations, North America for StubHub, and lead counsel for Facebook, and created its Supplier Diversity program. Follow her on Twitter at @BariAWilliams.

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    The next time you get your nails done, it might be at the request of your doctor.

    [Photo: courtesy of IBM]
    IBM has created a tiny sensor that attaches to your fingernail and monitors things like pressure, motion, and grip strength as you go about your day. The hope is that the steady stream of information will help doctors monitor the progression of diseases by keeping close tabs on how fingernails bend and move, which is apparently a key indicator of grip strength. Grip strength itself is an important diagnostic tool, as it can indicate whether medication is working, give a hint into cardiovascular health, and even the degree of cognitive function in schizophrenics.

    The information gathered by the diminutive sensor is then sent to a computer, where machine learning analyzes the data–measuring tremors, grip, and other metrics. An AI-fueled algorithm looks for patterns, which could give clinicians a clearer picture of disease progression and give ideas for personalized treatment recommendations.

    The project started as doctors looked for a way to monitor the medication levels of people with Parkinson’s disease, but the technological breakthrough could help make many lives healthier (but no one tell Amazon about the new technology).

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    As 2018 comes to a close, career reflection is the most important thing you can do to prepare for the year ahead. It offers you the opportunity to look back, see what goals you already met, and figure out where you’re at with regards to your long-term goals (or whether they need to evolve).

    Here are the questions you should be asking before you set your career resolutions for 2019.

    Does your work matter?

    Be honest in answering this fundamental question. Because if the answer is no, then nothing else really matters. Your happiness, both personal and professional, will come from doing work that you care about, and one way to answer this question is to take stock of your accomplishments. Write up a list of all that you have achieved and then ask yourself what they mean to you, personally and professionally. Do they matter to those around you? Do they matter to your employer? Do they matter to society? If you start here and can honestly say that your work matters, you’re well on your way to a rewarding career.

    Have you kept up with how technology is impacting your field?

    We live in a world of constant change. Those skills you acquired last year might be obsolete by this year or next. Rapid changes in technology are keeping everybody in a continuous state of learning and in a perpetual need to acquire new skills. Whether you are in a field driven by technology, or whether technology is just a part of your industry, you need to update and advance your tech skills at all times.

    When you look back on the past year, ask yourself if you managed to keep up with the technological changes in your field. If you did, that’s probably not good enough. You need to get ahead of the changes, anticipate what new changes might be coming, and prepare for them. Your career will fast-track itself when your professional peers see you as the technology driver. Do everything you can in the upcoming year to stay ahead of the tech game, including investing time and resources in your skills.

    What is your career trajectory?

    Did you work all of this year without giving much thought to where you will be down the road? Where will you be in five years? Ten years? To get to where you want to be, you need to identify where you need to be at various stages of your career.

    Start this process by looking around and seeing where your more experienced coworkers are at, and think about whether that’s where you want to be. If so, ask what they did to get to where they are today. What roles and responsibilities did they take on? What skills did they acquire along the way? How did they network and get those responsible for their career development to notice and advance their careers? From that learning, map out your game plan so that you don’t leave your career advancement to chance.

    Is your financial well-being where it needs to be?

    Money won’t dictate whether or not you’ll find satisfaction at work, but it’s still imperative to your overall well-being. At the end of the year, you should be conducting regular reviews of your salary, bonus, retirement contributions, and healthcare benefits so you can ensure that you’re earning what you deserve. The best way to evaluate this is to do your homework. Go online and research jobs like yours and learn what employees in other companies are earning. Check out jobs posted and what employers are paying for those jobs. You want to be earning to your maximum potential because many organizations base future promotions and salary increases on your current financial package. If you are not making what you should be, you should set some time to have an honest conversation with your boss in the new year.

    Just like everything else in life, career success and satisfaction won’t come without strong intentions on your part. But you also need to make sure that you’re setting (and implementing) the right ones. That starts with asking questions.

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    It’s been a banner year for all kinds of fails. Political fails, celebrity fails, business fails, you name it. But the media industry is never one to be outdone. We media people love a good mix of schadenfreude and self-deprecation, and 2018 delivered with some pretty spectacular media fails. And because I am the intrepid reporter I claim to be, I’ve decided to rehash a few. They all involve failing in different ways, and they show just how colorful this year has been. This list is not in any particular order, and surely non-exhaustive. But here you go!

    Mic’s mismanagement

    Perhaps the one at the top of all of our minds is the grisly fate of millennial news site After the company went all-in on video–essentially asking Facebook to dictate its future growth–things turned south. Facebook decided the future of the platform wasn’t video, and views and traffic plummeted.

    Sadly, this is an all-too-common story. Other companies that experienced a similar fate include Upworthy, Little Things, and Vocativ. But the real fail for Mic was how it handled its closure. One recent morning, the site’s cofounders called everyone into a meeting and told the staff that most everyone was being laid off. Word then got out that this mass firing was due to a deal the cofounders struck with Bustle Digital Group in order to sell the media property.

    And so, Mic–a unionized newsroom–was disbanded and sold in a fire sale. It left dozens of employees in a lurch, and allowed the new owners to rehire a new staff sans union. A win for greed, a fail and loss for everyone else.

    The Washington Post‘s Bottomless Pinocchio

    There’s nothing a venerated media establishment likes to do more than look at an Elected Official and say… “Excuse me!… But!… Sir!” And that’s exactly what the Washington Post did with its “Bottomless Pinocchio” rating. What, you may ask, is a bottomless pinocchio? It’s something the Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler introduced to indicate when someone like President Trump repeatedly promulgates an outright lie.

    To Kessler, it may have seemed like a fun rhetorical way to combat Trump’s talking points. But to most other people, it seemed like a convenient way to avoid calling a lie a lie.

    Harper’s numerous attempts to problematize #MeToo

    Earlier this year, news got out that Harper’s magazine was going to publish a controversial story. The story’s thrust wasn’t quite clear, but it seemed that the writer, Katie Roiphe, had discovered the person behind the now-infamous Shitty Media Men List. This person learned she was going be outed when a fact-checker called and told her so. Essentially, it seemed that Roiphe didn’t want to respect this person’s anonymity.

    To get ahead of the story, Moira Donegan revealed herself to be the woman behind the list. And Harper’s ended up publishing a story–one that probably had to be revised quite a bit because of Roiphe’s journalistic malfeasance. It ended up being a bland diatribe about the perils of #MeToo going too far. Yawn.

    Months later, Harper’s would publish another questionable essay–this time by former WNYC host John Hockenberry, who had previously been let go from his position following rampant sexual harassment revelations. Rather than report–or re-report–what Hockenberry had allgedly done, the magazine published a mealymouthed, several-thousand-word defense of his actions. Whether the intent of both pieces were misguided or meant to stir the outrage machine doesn’t matter; both pieces published in this modern year of 2018 categorically failed.

    Bloomberg‘s questionable chip story

    This past fall Bloomberg Businessweek published a bombshell story about computer chips and technology giants. The main thrust of the story was that companies–including Apple and Amazon–were using servers that had tiny chips implanted in them by the Chinese government. If true, this would be a huge story. Bloomberg cited multiple anonymous sources, which said that Apple discovered the chips in 2015 and subsequently reported it to the FBI.

    Apple, however, categorically denied this claim. The company didn’t tiptoe around the language to massage an explanation, either–it said outright that the Bloomberg report was flat out wrong. Amazon said something similar. The once-hot scoop turned into a they said/they said. Tim Cook even went on the record himself to say that the story was false.

    I’ll maintain that it’s possible the story is true! The problem, however, is that beyond the anonymous sources Bloomberg cites, there’s no other evidence backing it up. And all of the companies made stronger denials than we usually see. Intelligence officials have even made statements throwing water on the allegations. With all of this, the public is still left in the dark and simply doesn’t know what to believe, which ultimately undermines the point of such a story.

    The New York Times opinion section … all of it

    There is no possible way I could recount all the NYT’s op-ed fails in a few paragraphs, but here goes nothing: This section, which supposedly aims to provide diverse opinions about a range of topics, has instead become known for espousing hegemonic perspectives disguised as a devil’s advocate.

    There was Bari Weiss’s piece about Aziz Ansari’s questionable sexual conduct, which claimed he was simply guilty “of not being a mind reader.” Weiss wrote another article about the “renegades” in the “intellectual dark web,” which she described as a cabal of thinkers too controversial for the current liberal groupthink, when they were actually just a group of racists and misogynists who believe being criticized is being silenced. Then there was David Brooks’s bizarre piece about how the March For Our Lives anti-gun violence protest reeked of … privilege? And lest we forget Bret Stephens, who wrote both about the “smearing” of Woody Allen and deemed the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh “sly moral bullying.”

    All of these pieces attempted to provide a Dissenting Opinion–essentially what each author believed the Twitter peanut gallery didn’t want to hear. While they may be right about that, they flagrantly ignored the fact that all of these takes were both extremely boring and representative of the guiding mode of thought. It’s not transgressive to say identity politics–whatever that means–is silencing people. It’s, instead, emboldening a swath of society that has always been in charge, and is only now being asked to explain themselves.

    What would be most thought-provoking would be for the op-ed section to feature more people and voices who are strong in numbers but historically marginalized. Like, say, more people of color, LGBTQ folks, and women. Instead, we’re given a predominately white, often male authorship complaining about how their opinions are being silenced in the paper of record.

    So there you have it. Overall, quite a year for fumbles and misses. And there are surely more too. But, until next year, let’s hope we can do better and publish more intellectually honest writing and reporting.

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    It’s a question that’s reverberated through the ages–are humans, though imperfect, essentially kind, sensible, good-natured creatures? Or are we, deep down, wired to be bad, blinkered, idle, vain, vengeful and selfish? There are no easy answers, and there’s clearly a lot of variation between individuals, but here we shine some evidence-based light on the matter through 10 dispiriting findings that reveal the darker and less impressive aspects of human nature:

    We view minorities and the vulnerable as less than human

    One striking example of this blatant dehumanization came from a brain-scan study that found a small group of students exhibited less neural activity associated with thinking about people when they looked at pictures of the homeless or of drug addicts, as compared with higher-status individuals. Another study showed that people who are opposed to Arab immigration tended to rate Arabs and Muslims as literally less evolved than average. Among other examples, there’s also evidence that young people dehumanize older people; and that men and women alike dehumanize drunk women. What’s more, the inclination to dehumanize starts early–children as young as five view out-group faces (of people from a different city or a different gender to the child) as less human than in-group faces.

    We experience schadenfreude (pleasure at another person’s distress) by the age of four, according to a study from 2013

    That sense is heightened if the child perceives that the person deserves the distress. A more recent study found that, by age six, children will pay to watch an antisocial puppet being hit, rather than spending the money on stickers.

    We believe in karma–assuming that the downtrodden of the world deserve their fate.

    The unfortunate consequences of such beliefs were first demonstrated in the now classic research from 1966 by the American psychologists Melvin Lerner and Carolyn Simmons. In their experiment, in which a female learner was punished with electric shocks for wrong answers, women participants subsequently rated her as less likable and admirable when they heard that they would be seeing her suffer again, and especially if they felt powerless to minimize this suffering. Since then, research has shown our willingness to blame the poor, rape victims, AIDS patients and others for their fate, so as to preserve our belief in a just world. By extension, the same or similar processes are likely responsible for our subconscious rose-tinted view of rich people.

    We are blinkered and dogmatic

    If people were rational and open-minded, then the straightforward way to correct someone’s false beliefs would be to present them with some relevant facts. However a classic study from 1979 showed the futility of this approach–participants who believed strongly for or against the death penalty completely ignored facts that undermined their position, actually doubling-down on their initial view. This seems to occur in part because we see opposing facts as undermining our sense of identity. It doesn’t help that many of us are overconfident about how much we understand things and that, when we believe our opinions are superior to others, this deters us from seeking out further relevant knowledge.

    We would rather electrocute ourselves than spend time in our own thoughts

    This was demonstrated in a controversial 2014 study in which 67 percent of male participants and 25 percent of female participants opted to give themselves unpleasant electric shocks rather than spend 15 minutes in peaceful contemplation.

    We are vain and overconfident

    Our irrationality and dogmatism might not be so bad were they married to some humility and self-insight, but most of us walk about with inflated views of our abilities and qualities, such as our driving skills, intelligence and attractiveness–a phenomenon that’s been dubbed the Lake Wobegon Effect after the fictional town where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Ironically, the least skilled among us are the most prone to overconfidence (the so-called Dunning-Kruger effect). This vain self-enhancement seems to be most extreme and irrational in the case of our morality, such as in how principled and fair we think we are. In fact, even jailed criminals think they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average member of the public.

    We are moral hypocrites

    It pays to be wary of those who are the quickest and loudest in condemning the moral failings of others–the chances are that moral preachers are as guilty themselves, but take a far lighter view of their own transgressions. In one study, researchers found that people rated the exact same selfish behavior (giving themselves the quicker and easier of two experimental tasks on offer) as being far less fair when perpetuated by others. Similarly, there is a long-studied phenomenon known as actor-observer asymmetry, which in part describes our tendency to attribute other people’s bad deeds, such as our partner’s infidelities, to their character, while attributing the same deeds performed by ourselves to the situation at hand. These self-serving double standards could even explain the common feeling that incivility is on the increase–recent research shows that we view the same acts of rudeness far more harshly when they are committed by strangers than by our friends or ourselves.

    We are all potential trolls

    As anyone who has found themselves in a spat on Twitter will attest, social media might be magnifying some of the worst aspects of human nature, in part due to the online disinhibition effect, and the fact that anonymity (easy to achieve online) is known to increase our inclinations for immorality. While research has suggested that people who are prone to everyday sadism (a worryingly high proportion of us) are especially inclined to online trolling, a study published last year revealed how being in a bad mood, and being exposed to trolling by others, double the likelihood of a person engaging in trolling themselves. In fact, initial trolling by a few can cause a snowball of increasing negativity, which is exactly what researchers found when they studied reader discussion on, with the “proportion of flagged posts and proportion of users with flagged posts … rising over time.”

    We favor ineffective leaders with psychopathic traits

    The American personality psychologist Dan McAdams recently concluded that the U.S. President Donald Trump’s overt aggression and insults have a “primal appeal” and that his “incendiary tweets” are like the “charging displays” of an alpha male chimp, “designed to intimidate.” If McAdams’s assessment is true, it would fit into a wider pattern–the finding that psychopathic traits are more common than average among leaders. Take the survey of financial leaders in New York that found they scored highly on psychopathic traits but lower than average in emotional intelligence. A meta-analysis published this summer concluded that there is indeed a modest but significant link between higher trait psychopathy and gaining leadership positions, which is important since psychopathy also correlates with poorer leadership.

    We are sexually attracted to people with dark personality traits

    Not only do we elect people with psychopathic traits to become our leaders, evidencesuggests that men and women are sexually attracted, at least in the short term, to people displaying the so-called “dark triad” of traits–narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism–thus risking further propagating these traits. One study found that a man’s physical attractiveness to women was increased when he was described as self-interested, manipulative and insensitive. One theory is that the dark traits successfully communicate “mate quality” in terms of confidence and the willingness to take risks. Does this matter for the future of our species? Perhaps it does–another paper, from 2016, found that those women who were more strongly attracted to narcissistic men’s faces tended to have more children.

    Don’t get too down–these findings say nothing of the success that some of us have had in overcoming our baser instincts. In fact, it is arguably by acknowledging and understanding our shortcomings that we can more successfully overcome them, and so cultivate the better angels of our nature.

    This is an adaptation of an article originally published by The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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    There is nothing particularly remarkable about the Dakota Access pipeline. Thousands of miles of pipelines stretch across the country, ferrying oil from drilling sites to ports and refineries. Each pipe threatens to leak, spurt and contaminate waterways, and theyoftendo. The reason that Americans from Florida to Guam have heard about this particular pipeline has little to do with the real and immediate dangers posed by the project, which imperils the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux, and has everything to do with the intrepid activists who turned an obscure infrastructure project into a national story.

    When their objections to the pipeline were ignored by the company overseeing the project and the Army Corps of Engineers, the Standing Rock Sioux took the radical step of blocking construction. They faced down police and private security officers armed with mace, tear gas and rubber pellets. Many were wounded or arrested, but rather than back down, they used this moment to win popular support.

    “Any act of violence hurts our cause and is not welcome here,” Dave Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, said in a statement. “As peoples of this earth, we all need water. This is about our water, our rights, and our dignity as human beings.”

    Activists from around the country, including a number of veterans, rushed to join the protests at Standing Rock, as protestors took to the streets in dozens of cities in a show of solidarity. Finally, after months of demonstrations that left many bruised or in handcuffs, the Army Corps of Engineers paused the project and pledged to conduct an environmental review. Though President Trump would later direct the Corps to reverse this decision, through their efforts, the Standing Rock Sioux had won an important victory.

    Frustrated by policymakers’ feeble response to climate change, activists are increasingly engaging in civil disobedience. In response, elected officials with ties to fossil fuel companies are trying to make it harder to protest. Since Standing Rock, governors and legislators in more than two dozen states have proposed measures that would impose severe punishments on protestors, particularly those who interfere with oil and gas pipelines. To be sure, laws that would have protestors arrested or imprisoned will discourage direct action, but as Standing Rock made clear, the arrest isn’t the end of the protest. It’s the beginning, a chance to shine a spotlight on injustice.

    “You can tell what the system is scared of by what the system wants to most penalize,” said Jason Flores-Williams, an author, activist and civil rights attorney who has defended political protestors. “What they’re trying to penalize more than anything right now is direct action, civil disobedience.” But he believes protestors should not be deterred. “The real starting point is the moment you get arrested. That’s where the strategy really has to come into play, because that’s where the best opportunities are,” he said, noting that demonstrators at Standing Rock used their arrests to win the attention of the national press.

    A protest in support of the Standing Rock Sioux in New York City, November 15, 2016. [Photo: Nexus Media]

    Flores-Williams believes the worst thing that protestors can do is remain silent “That’s what the government wants. They want your silence. They want you to become scared,” he said. “They want you to curl up and lose yourself in the fear of the moment, when in actuality what you have to do yourself is learn how to exploit the platform that is allegedly the justice system in America.”

    Nicole Rogers, a senior lecturer at Southern Cross University in Australia and a scholar of environmental law, believes that civil disobedience is often necessary, explaining that, “in a situation in which legal remedies simply aren’t available to protect us from an escalating emergency, there is no other option available.” Civil disobedience offers activists the opportunity to exploit a legal system that has proved ill-equipped for dealing with climate change.

    Climate lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies have produced somesuccesses, but “one of the frustrations of climate litigation is that litigants are operating within a stable, conservative system which eschews radical change, using a toolkit which wasn’t designed for the climate emergency.” So, while climate lawsuits often stall or fail, she said civil disobedience can “provide a way for activists to present climate change as an emergency in the courtroom, using the defense of necessity.”

    The courts, she explained, may tolerate law-breaking if it prevents a greater harm. A man with a suspended driver’s license would likely be let off the hook for driving his urgently ill daughter to the hospital, for example. In this instance, the threat of his daughter’s illness necessitates that her father break the law. Some activists have applied the necessity defense to climate change, suggesting the carbon crisis is so perilous that it demands they break the law.

    On October 11, 2016, a small groups of activists shut down five tar-sands oil pipelines in Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. The Valve Turners, as they were known, were arrested. Three were convicted, and three more face trial in Minnesota, where they plan to argue before a jury that their actions, though illegal, were justified given the urgent threat of climate change.

    This bold act of civil disobedience will allow the activists to present their fears about climate change to a jury of their peers. “They don’t need to find a cause of action to argue climate change in the courtroom if they have been charged and are on trial,” Rogers said. “They essentially have a ready-made opportunity to put forward their case in a court as to why ordinary legal remedies aren’t working to halt climate change and why more radical strategies are therefore required.” She added that, while judges are generally reluctant to find defendants justified in breaking the law, juries are more receptive to this line of reasoning, a fact that could help the Valve Turners.

    As Rogers wrote in a recent paper, “Climate change activists disagree with the fundamental assumption that the wicked problem of climate change can safely be left to the state for peaceful and effective resolution through the legislative and judicial processes… Necessity, if upheld by the courts in this context, amounts to judicial endorsement of the rights of citizens to define for themselves the parameters of what is lawful and reasonable in responding to the climate change crisis, and to behave accordingly.”

    Flores-Williams said that protestors who plan on getting arrested need a lawyer who believes in their cause and will remain dogged in the fight to come. “Not only will you be facing criminal liability, meaning the state and the government is going to be coming after you, but you’re also going to be facing civil liability from corporations,” he said.

    [Photo: Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images]

    He also said they need a plan to get the attention of the press. “Don’t go to the courthouse alone. Go to the courthouse with cameras around,” Flores-Williams said. This has proven to be an effective strategy. During the civil rights movement, for example, protestors courted arrest to win public sympathy. Martin Luther King Jr. famously used his 1963 arrest in Birmingham as a platform to speak to racial injustice.

    Not everyone believes that going to trial is an effective strategy. Kathryn Harrison, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, believes that civil disobedience can work when protestors are seen as “courageous and righteous, willing to take a huge personal risk in order to protect the public good.” But it can backfire when they are seen as “lawless and out-of-touch with ‘real’ priorities, or disruptive of the lives of those the movement seeks to influence.” Going to trial, she said, risks putting protestors in the second category.

    “I suspect that the press coverage of the arrest itself is more impactful than subsequent coverage of the court case,” Harrison said. “In contrast, the court cases themselves by their very nature highlight the illegality of the act, rather than the bravery. They also take place in a location removed from the place that is at stake.” She said that it is tantamount that protestors continue to be perceived as sympathetic, a critical lesson for climate hawks who have embraced civil disobedience, believing they have no other way of achieving their goals.

    Earlier this year, an international group of activists launched Extinction Rebellion, which is engaging nonviolent resistance to pressure public officials to deal with climate change. Activists are trying to get arrested to underscore the urgency of the problem. Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg underlined this point at an Extinction Rebellion rally in London in October.

    “Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground,” she said. “So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change. And it has to start today. So everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience, it is time to rebel.”

    Jeremy Deaton writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art, and culture. You can follow him @deaton_jeremy.

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    Between massive layoffs and the departure of its head of design, it has been a roller-coaster year for Ikea—and as 2018 comes to a close, the rocky ride continues for the Swedish furniture giant: A leaked video suggests that employee morale is at an all-time low.

    In an internal video announcement sent to workers on Tuesday and leaked shortly thereafter, Ikea U.S. president Lars Petersson apologized to staff for the company’s poorly implementation of “O4G,” short for “organization for growth,” its U.S. restructuring effort launched in October 2017.

    “We have heard you, I have heard you—that you are disappointed with the way we have implemented O4G,” Petersson says in the video, Business Insider reports, in an apparent indication of intensifying discontent among employees.

    Petersson goes on to concede that the company has “made several mistakes” in the rollout of O4G, which had aimed to make stores more “customer-centric” in the rise of “multi-channel retail” and free up employees from administrative work, according to Monica Bogstad, an Ikea Orlando store manager who also appears and apologizes in the video.

    “We stopped the project too early. We should have continued to communicate the project,” Petersson says. “We also saw how difficult it was for everyone to learn new jobs and all the competencies you need and all the skills to do your job. We also really didn’t see the balance between business and people the way we should have done as great leaders. And for all of that, I am truly sorry. I’m sorry for that.”

    On the tails of bleak news from Kmart store closures and Sears’s bankruptcy filing this year, Petersson’s earnest concession is a shot to the heart of big box retail that continues to struggle in the face of e-commerce.

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    It seems all too fitting that Facebook’s plans to launch a digital coin were leaked in the second-to-last week of a year that saw the tech giant’s reputation pummeled and cryptocurrencies crash and burn. It’s like grilling a shit sandwich on top of a dumpster fire.

    Bitcoin–and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole–plunged this year, after a gravity-defying surge in recent years. The price of the digital coin hit nearly $20,000 late last year. And then in early 2018, it began to fall. Though it hit a few plateaus, the price has still tumbled; today it hovers at a little over $3,000.

    So what happened? And is there any hope for a recovery? To answer both, you have to look at quite a few factors.

    The bubble

    When bitcoin was rising last year, it seemed like a trend everyone from your grandmother to your barista was suddenly becoming hip to. Of course plenty of folks cautioned that it could be a bubble, but it’s always hard to realize such a thing when you’re in the midst of it. It’s free money, right? Why not get in on it? (Just don’t remortgage your house!)

    All the signs, however, were there. Like previous bubbles, people were basing their belief in the cryptocurrency on their emotions, not any intrinsic value. Then there was the FOMO element, which only compounded things. Essentially, bitcoin became an international fever. Random companies were “pivoting to blockchain” for no apparent reason other than that it seemed like a way to create buzz. But when the bubble bursts, FOMO turns into fear of losing, which makes for an especially rapid plunge.

    Among those who called it, hedge fund manager Mark Dow wrote almost exactly a year ago about his decision to short bitcoin after future trading on it first began:

    But this time feels different. It feels like a bubble. The fever in the post-Thanksgiving moonshot ran hotter than we’d seen before. We also began to see a robust supply response.

    Bubbles are complex dynamics. What they all have in common, however, is they require emotion to truly go parabolic. Moreover, the less we understand the object of the bubble, the greater the scope for greed and FOMO to fill in the blanks.

    Dow, at the time, simply could not come up with a good reason for the crypto’s insane performance. The only logical explanation: It’s a bubble. His views were especially prescient. He told Bloomberg this month that he made a profit twice due to this canny call.

    Other early warning signs

    But to understand the dynamic that led to this year’s depressing year for crypto, we actually should start a few years before 2018. In bitcoin’s early days, Mt. Gox was the go-to service for handling transactions. Then, in 2014, it halted transactions and slowly copped to a crypto-hack to the tune of $473 million, the biggest hack of its kind at the time, and it gave many people pause. But it was still early enough for people to believe that the blockchain system was still getting all the technical kinks out.

    But the hacks didn’t stop. In 2016, the DAO–a blockchain organization that was based on Ethereum–lost what was worth $50 million at the time, due to a technical error someone seized upon. This, once again, sent shockwaves through the community–but also had the unfortunate impact of normalizing these types of hacks for some people.

    At the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, more people–especially those in the mainstream finance world–were paying attention to bitcoin and cryptocurrency trading. And in early January 2018, the Japanese exchange Coincheck disclosed a hack worth a whopping $534 million. This happened right around the time that bitcoin slipped from its peak value, and it certainly seemed to accelerate its drop.

    According to Stephen Innes, the head of Asian trading for the foreign exchange Oanda, hacks were the first element to have a chilling effect on crypto. Hearing the amount of money that thieves were able to take, he says, “Consumers got very concerned that their money could go missing.”

    In the wake of both Coincheck’s hack–as well as a big one that hit the South Korean exchange Coinrail–governments in East Asia began to crack down. Over the course of a few months, China, Japan, and South Korea all announced different measures to better regulate crypto-trading. The world was watching to see if this new technology would hit the mainstream–and government crackdowns following gigantic hacks helped poison the public perception.

    Indeed, following its nearly $20,000 peak, bitcoin in early 2018 dropped to around $10,000 and hovered there for a while.

    Lack of institutional support

    Beyond the clampdown by some governments, what bitcoin really needed to achieve sustained success was overall mainstream acceptance. While some financial institutions announced projects exploring blockchain-based solutions, many others balked.

    JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, for instance, made multiple comments throughout the year expressing his general antipathy for cryptocurrency. Dimon’s thoughts could most easily be summed with this quote: “I don’t really give a shit about bitcoin.” Warren Buffett also didn’t have kind words–calling it “probably rat poison squared”–which almost certainly sent a clear message to curious investors.

    When some of the most respected people on Wall Street make comments like that, it “takes a huge element of mainstream out of the market,” says Innes. Essentially, these heavy hitters were telling their minions that bitcoin wasn’t worth their time.

    Meanwhile, there has been plenty of speculation that bitcoin’s big rise may have been due to a pump-and-dump scheme. One theory that the U.S. Justice Department is reportedly looking into is that the digital coin Tether (which is supposedly pegged to the U.S. dollar to make for a less volatile cryptocurrency) was used to manipulate the bitcoin market and cause a large run-up in price. This theory stems from an academic paper, which cast Tether in a very damning light. And it also led many to believe that the initial bitcoin craze was manufactured and destined to bust.

    Another institutional hit for bitcoin–which probably had the most sustained effect–was the SEC’s refusal to approve a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). This would be a path for more mainstream people in finance to dabble with blockchain; it would allow investors to dip their toes in bitcoin without owning the actual asset. Not only that, but it would make bitcoin available on the most prominent financial markets. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), however, has yet to allow such a fund to exist–mostly because it is unable to monitor crypto-transactions in order to avoid market manipulation.

    The inability to get SEC approval really held back bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. It sent the message, says Innes, “that there wasn’t underlying support from Wall Street.” Meanwhile, the price dropped from around $10,000 to $6,000.

    Internal battles

    But it wasn’t just outside pessimism that led to the slump, but infighting as well. Blockchains are decentralized, and democratic systems require buy-in from participants in order to keep the engines running. When there’s a schism that can’t be decided by the majority, all hell breaks loose.

    In 2016, this became apparent with the DAO hack. One way to fix the problem was to implement what’s known as a “hard fork,” which would essentially update the Ethereum-based software to fix the technical gaffe that caused the hack to begin with. But DAO users had to agree to this change, and there were dissenters. Though the hard fork was approved, it created two active blockchains with two different sets of rules. Ultimately, this hack–coupled with the inability to deal with it–caused the DAO to end in 2016.

    This year we saw a similar fight break out–this time over bitcoin cash. This coin, mind you, is not bitcoin, though it is built on the same architecture. It was created by a group of miners who disagreed with some of the fundamentals of the initial bitcoin system, and so they forked a new blockchain and went their own way. In terms of market capitalization, bitcoin cash has always been one of the top cryptocurrencies–in the ranks of Ethereum and XRP.

    This past autumn, the bitcoin cash community–which was created due to a technical disagreement with the larger bitcoin sector–started a civil war. Essentially, bitcoin cash developers had diverging views on the software update for the system, and so they decided to implement another hard fork. This created two new bitcoin cash sects. Internally, the fork caused a lot of strife; one of the most popular bitcoin alternatives was unable to reach a consensus, and instead had to create two different paths that would essentially go to war with each other.

    When the hard fork arrived–and participants had to choose which path to take–the entire cryptocurrency market dropped. This is very likely what caused bitcoin to drop from the $6,000 range to around the $3,000-$4,000 range. Which brings us to today, with the cryptocurrency bottoming out at less than 80% of what it was a year ago.

    Is there any hope?

    We’re certainly in a much different place now than we were 12 months ago. What was a hot commodity has turned into a hot potato nobody wants to touch. Still, this almost certainly won’t be the end for bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies as a whole. Despite the realization that it was a bubble, even the toughest critics see some sort of a future.

    Dow, the man who first shorted bitcoin, for instance, even mentioned in his initial post that a person can be “simultaneously bullish on blockchain and bearish on bitcoin.” And he just announced that he’s ending his short.

    Meanwhile, even the most enthusiastic bitcoin evangelists are realizing that a retooling is in order. Michael J. Casey, a senior adviser for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, recently wrote about how the crypto-winter has arrived, but it may lead to better things down the line:

    The good news is that the glare of public opinion will eventually dissipate, and that as the spotlight diminishes, real developers will find themselves in a healthier environment within which to do the work needed to unlock this technology’s potential. We saw a similar period of constructive building during the 2014-2016 hiatus.

    But whatever new products are produced, they will now have a harder time struggling with acceptance. Whether we like it or not, message and image are important.

    That seems to be the overall message from most. Even Innes, who has been critical of bitcoin and crypto-trading for quite a while, admits that this doesn’t mean the blockchain is bunk. He, in fact, sees things looking up. “If this base can hold,” he says, “[the price will] start drifting up.” But not because of fervor or blind faith that bitcoin is the future, but due to advances on the technology side.

    “This is a legitimate technology–it’s going to expand,” he says, “My longer-term view is nowhere near where some of [my current] views are.” It could even perhaps hit $10,000 again, he says. But that will probably take a few years. For now, we wait and see.

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