The Amazon-ification of Whole Foods


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So, what is Amazon doing with Whole Foods.

But it would be a bigger mistake to analyze Thursday’s news in a vacuum, because this announcement is bigger than heirloom tomatoes and two-hour delivery windows. In the broader context of Amazon’s ambitions—to build an operating system for the home, to expand into pharmacies and health care, to become a hit-making television production studio—this is the logical next step in turning Prime into the ultimate “life bundle,” a single membership program to bind consumers to every possible commercial need. As Amazon extends into more product areas, it can own both the search platform and the product, so that when a dad says to the smart speaker on his counter, “Alexa, I need brown rice and pork,” the product that arrives is an Amazon-branded box containing Amazon–Whole Foods–branded rice and pork.

The complete article

Derek Thompson — The Atlantic

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Did 13 Reasons Why Spark a Suicide Contagion Effect?


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There is a debate going on whether the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why should have depicted suicide the way it did.

The study, while troubling, is not entirely surprising. In May, I examined how 13 Reasons Why managed to break virtually every rule that exists when it comes to portraying suicide, featuring a graphic, prolonged scene of the main character’s death in the final episode and glamorizing it as a force for positive change in her community. One of the biggest concerns among psychologists and educators was that the show might spark a contagion effect, where increased coverage of suicide in the media leads to a related increase in suicide attempts. Netflix doesn’t release data regarding its viewing figures, but the wide discussion of the show on social media (it became the most-tweeted about show of 2017) implies that a significant number of people watched it, particularly teenagers. The rush to produce a follow-up season (currently being filmed and scheduled for a 2018 release) indicates the show has been a big hit for the streaming service.

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Sophie Gilbert — The Atlantic

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His Kampf


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Graeme Wood writes a detail profile of his classmate Richard Spencer,who has become an icon for white supremacists.

Spencer must have known that the life he was choosing would get him hated and taunted. But he seemed at most half-aware that it would get him slugged in the face, and completely unaware that it might get him killed. Fifty years ago, George Lincoln Rockwell, the urbane leader of the American Nazi Party, was shot dead in the parking lot of a laundromat, just seven miles from where Spencer lives now. There must be an intellectual thrill in knowing that people might care enough to want to kill you. Spencer seemed unsure whether the thrill would remain worth the risk.

The complete article

Graeme Wood — The Atlantic

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How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All


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Prices of products are changing by the minute. The pricing algorithms are getting more and more complicated. The price of a soda can in a vending machine can change depending on the temperature outside. Welcome to the world driven by software where you don’t understand what is happening in the background.

The complexity of retail pricing today has driven at least one of Boomerang’s clients into game theory—a branch of mathematics that, it’s safe to say, has seldom found practical use in shopping aisles. Hariharan says, with a smile: “It lets you say, ‘What is the dominant competitor’s reaction to me? And if I know the reaction to me, what is my first, best move?’ Which is the Nash equilibrium.” Yes, that’s John Nash, the eponymous Beautiful Mind, whose brilliant contributions to mathematics now extend to the setting of mop prices.

Where does all this end?

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Jerry Useem — The Atlantic

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Why Nothing Works Anymore


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Currently, I am reading Taleb’s Antifragile. So these days, I am looking at everything and asking the question – whether it is fragile? Today’s needull discusses the instability due to technology.

The common response to precarious technology is to add even more technology to solve the problems caused by earlier technology. Are the toilets flushing too often? Revise the sensor hardware. Is online news full of falsehoods? Add machine-learning AI to separate the wheat from the chaff. Are retail product catalogs overwhelming and confusing? Add content filtering to show only the most relevant or applicable results.

But why would new technology reduce rather than increase the feeling of precarity? The more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.

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Ian Bogost — The Atlantic

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The Free-Time Paradox in America


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Fact – “In 2015, 22 percent of lower-skilled men [those without a college degree] aged 21 to 30 had not worked at all during the prior twelve months”

It is a relief to know that one can be poor, young, and unemployed, and yet fairly content with life; indeed, one of the hallmarks of a decent society is that it can make even poverty bearable. But the long-term prospects of these men may be even bleaker than their present. As Hurst and others have emphasized, these young men have disconnected from both the labor market and the dating pool. They are on track to grow up without spouses, families, or a work history. They may grow up to be rudderless middle-aged men, hovering around the poverty line, trapped in the narcotic undertow of cheap entertainment while the labor market fails to present them with adequate working opportunities.

But when I tweeted Hurst’s speech this week, many people had a surprising and different take: That it was sad to think that a life of leisure should be so scary in the first place. After all, this was the future today’s workers were promised—a paradise of downtime for rich and poor, alike.

The complete article

Derek Thompson — The Atlantic

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The Coddling of the American Mind


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As I read through the article about how American university students are becoming overly sensitive to comments which they feel in some way offend them, I realized something of the same nature is probably happening in India too. People are getting more intolerant of the views they don’t agree with. The debate or discussion is not happening. What is happening is protests and counter protests.

Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?,” because this implies that he or she is not a real American. Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.

The complete article

The Atlantic — Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

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