Making Sense of the Week That Was #29 — “What Lies Beneath”, August 6th, 2021

Grey Swan Guild News Wrap Edition: Aug 6, 2021 #29 of Vol. 1

Theme: What Lies Beneath (Literally & Figuratively) Lead Editor: Sean Moffitt

Weeks ago, we discussed various future themes and one of our editors Antonia locked onto getting at the “under belly” of future challenges, current states and next Grey Swans. I liked the ambition and language, so here we are this week.

Getting at “what lies beneath” is what we instinctively do as sensemakers anyway, but this week we make it explicit.

This week is #29 of a compendium of stories and headlines we’re tracking in the Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers’ Newsroom.

Imagine a news room that went deeper, had little bias (and none conscious) and didn’t have to get their points across as 40 second soundbytes or link bait headlines, That’s us.

Here is The Great, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Uncertain and a Tapestry of what we observed this week. What was on our collective minds these last 168 hours? The Olympics, vaccine debates, Kamala’s woes, Delta variants, the heat and climate and Afghan pull outs were all certainly frontal lobe this week.

Check the Grey Swan Calendar ← here — there are new events each month.

We are on summer hours but the next Grey Swan Guild Sensemaker Atelier #5 — Future of Work Mastery is coming up on Friday, Aug 13th.

Join us August 13th :

This week we have added guest News Wrap editors to peer into what lies beneath dissecting: entrepreneurship, worms and bees, debt-free college and others things that go beyond what meets the eye. In a world where we like to reward and recognize thinkers AND do-ers, big Wrap kudos go to Servane Mouazan, Denise Tsang, Howard Fields, Su McVey, Scott Phares and Daveed Benjamin for their sizzling contributions.

With today being Balloons to Heaven Day and tomorrow being Sand Castles and Lighthouses Days, let’s inflate, launch and beacon our thoughts for the week.

Why not join us on Sunday, August 8th at 8am (PST) | 11am (EST) | 4pm BST on Clubhouse to explore this wrap, have your say and engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors including Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Ben Thurman, Louise Mowbray, and Antonia Nicols.

Our Clubhouse #29 —

The Great 😇

1. Will work for tuition.

Major employers are starting to offer employee tuition and payment for books for qualifying staff and institutions. Educating Americans can only be a good thing as increases in tertiary education has been found to directly impact human, social and economic development. Student debt and the $1.8 trillion obligation has become a big topic among the Biden administration, various universities and now as a potential entry-level employee incentive. Target, Starbucks, Walmart and Chipotle have all offered incentives.

What lies beneath: a very tight labor market hovering at 5% unemployment, a shift to purpose-driven corporate practices, the massive tax of being in your 20s with student debt hanging over your heads (more than triple what it was in 2008).

2. We Walk The Line in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is introducing The Line -a. 100 mile AI-powered urban system that is designed to be car free, no streets with everybody 5 minutes away from key facilities, and be entirely powered by renewable energy. This is really planning at its best and there is every reason to expect this finally. No car, connected, human-sized, 5 minute, walk-anywhere cities. We are a surprised it is not a circle. Nah. That would be showing off.

What lies beneath: the MIddle and Far East is leading smart city initiatives because it has the mindset and funding; urban plnning needs to take into account the 25–100 year next needs of the planet; and the Middle East balancing act to become less dependent on oil.

3. Turn Crap into Crypto

A Japanese inventor has built a toilet that is eco-friendly and converts an ample supply of feces into crypto. Micro organisms are doing their work,. Cryptocurrency and many other civilized things take power. This toilet generates power from poo. Poof — Poo Power. More science is needed to check the carbon foot print but early results look promising, because methane gas released to the atmosphere is a form of carbon until the cows come home.

What lies beneath: the inefficiency and water loss from toilet use; the intriguing way to makes business model more attractive by including new new tech post-pandemic; and the pursuit of offsetting negative impacts with positive ones.

4. Avoid Mom’s Advice — Talk to Strangers.

We really loved this Atlantic article about digging beneath surface impressions — talking to strangers.

We learned perhaps the cure for loneliness was “Greyhound Therapy” — referring to talking with your seatmate on a long-haul bus but applying to talking with strangers anywhere — at a restaurant, at a bus stop, in a grocery store.

Again and again, studies have shown that talking with strangers can make us happier, more connected to our communities, mentally sharper, healthier, less lonely, and more trustful and optimistic.

What lies beneath: the extreme loneliness of our communities, the unsatisfactory connection of digital, the ties that bind us locally

The Good 😀

1. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

The burden of gardening advice weighs heavily after 40 years. The longest running gardening column in US newspapers celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Upon reflecting on the significance, the weekly Alaska gardening Q&As are a proxy for climate change tracking. What used to be the holy grail for Alaskan home gardeners — the tomato — is now part of the regular crop rotation, thanks to rising temperatures. Alaskan spruce trees are dying in the heat and the author who has been providing suggestions on what to plant is now keenly aware that his advice could change the portrait of Alaskan landscape for the next 50 years.

What lies beneath: First, that over 40 years, something as ordinary as gardening advice in the most northern state could act as a weather vane to climate change implications to the rest of the country. Second, that the author realises after 40 years, his recommendations to home gardeners has long-range implications to the very landscape of Alaska. His contributions are just the tip of the iceberg and the chain will never break, just like the 40 year span of Fleetwood Mac. Third : Should it be on the Good list? I suppose so, because knowing you have a problem is the first step to solving it.

2. Umm, excuse me, we’re pretty good up north, eh.

Canada is crushing it — Canadian startup deals are double what they were from 2020 even in a pandemic. In the first half of 2021, Canadian startups raised $6.3 billion across 414 deals, (CB Insights data). Both numbers compare favorably to Canada’s 2020 and Canada has already bested its previous record in venture dollars invested ($4.3 billion, 2019), and is on pace to beat its all-time deal count as well (720, 2018).

Generally, in the Great White North, if you are not starting a company, you may be starting a side-hustle during this pandemic. North of 49° math: population 38 million, companies started during COVID, 2 million.

What lie beneath: if you can encase yourself in tech, you can get funding: the loosening hold of Silicon Valley on best ventures ;and more progressive immigration and tolerance is reaping benefits north of the border.

3. The Era of Speculative Design

Can design help us better understand the future? The power of speculative design to make ideas tangible, humanise big data, and encourage healthier behaviours. The power of design to also make ideas tangible — not to make you buy more, but to make you think.

What lies beneath — data needs a filter; people seek new answers in the midst of a pandemic; and speculative design is good at looking at opposing forces.

A shipping container for yourself:

4. Paging Dr. Honeybee, Paging Nurse Earthworm.

Flies, worms and bees could help detect illness. Invertebrates can detect the chemical signs of sickness. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us, trained dogs can pick out scents with 94% accuracy. Face facts when it comes to smell, our mammal, insecta and anthropod friends have a nose for progress.

What lies beneath: our recognition to work in harmony of nature, the need for better more accurate medical diagnosis and biomimetic innovation & the gap between human ability versus the innate talents of our animal friends.

The Bad 😬

1. What if Humans Can’t Get Along

Perhaps we have a cooperation issue. Garrett Hardin published a famous essay arguing that because people tend to maximize individual utility at the expense of collective good, our species was doomed to blindly exploit the world’s resources. He called this the “tragedy of the commons.”

Elinor Ostrom opined instead that “humans have a more complex motivational structure and more capability to solve social dilemmas” than rational-choice economists have given us credit for. In either case, we may need to look at reinvigorated institutions that can restore humanity’s power beyond nation states and capitalist markets. Alternatively, maybe we should also be talking more to strangers, as we indicated above.

What lies beneath —global issues of climate change, internet sway and pervasive distrust of institutions may require planning entities more evolved than what we have developed-to-date.

Credit: David Horsey/ Tribune Content Agency

2. The Amazon Tipping Point?

Deforestation of the Amazon is nearing a point of no return. If it continues, not only will the world lose one the greatest means of carbon cleansing but it could turn into a carbon producer. President Bolsonaro believes that the world should pay to preserve the Amazon to help alleviate poverty in his country. Allowing the Amazon to flip and produce carbon emissions would be a tragedy of unfathomable impact.

What lies beneath —dictators holding up the world to environmental ransom, developing world countries taking on too much of the burden of climate change and national productivity vs. global good being held out as a viable and winning political strategy.

3. Resist the Jab, Distrust the Lab.

Why Americans resist the jab? As a fourth pandemic wave creeps across America — rejecting the vaccine is not just down political lines but also health illiteracy and distrust. How shallow is this — receiving $100 would do it for 8% of abstainers, and 5% claim under no conditions will they ever get the vaccine.

What lies beneath: the new polarization issue in the U.S. over the next two years is now vaccine-not-political-based; one strategy will not get the last 30% vaccinated and getting the last 5–10 vaccinated will require some level of coercion and bitterness.

The Ugly 😱

1. Do We Not Trust Citizen Sensemaking?

The war on free speech, truth and independent journalism has reached a crescendo with YouTube banning a film on Ivermectin that provides both sides of the story.

The creators, Rebel Wisdom, intentionally made the film with both pro and con perspectives of accredited doctors so that the public would have access to neutral and objective information that could help them decide whether or not to use the drug, something many people all over the world are already considering. But YouTube banned the film apparently because they believe that censorship is better than giving people information that could support sensemaking.

What lies beneath: how major digital media providers and tech platforms have been given the power to censorship with enormous responsibilities and accountabilities; can we not provide views no matter the controversy for consideration without banning the unpopular; and the ongoing train of fake news that intentionally obfuscates the factual reality and how we stop it with a principled approach.

Source; VTREP

2. Fanning the Flames of COVID Political Discontent

In many countries around the world, from Brazil to Belarus, the pandemic is stirring unrest. People are angry about the economic hardships they face. The problem is at its highest in middle income countries. They have seen how the rich and well-connected go to the front of the queue for vaccinations, medical treatment and government help. They are angry that their leaders have not done a better job of containing the coronavirus.

At the same time, people’s suffering has created a sense of solidarity which is fanning grievances that smouldered long before anyone had heard of covid-19.

What lies beneath: tolerance of inequity until it affects lives, ruthless opportunism and the response and rising conditions for civil strife.

Source: The Economist

3. Taliban Takeover

On nearly the 20th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war, the U.S. is pulling out and the Taliban are swooping in right behind them. A second provincial capital feel just this week.

This is a complete mess and makes you wonder why the war was really prosecuted in the first place given no material progress after two decades. What lies in the balance are the people that actually attempted to build a more progressive, fairer state.

Canada is rushing to get its interpreters out. The U.K. is creating passage for Afghan journalists. Turkey and Iran are becoming refugee hotspots. 270,000 people have had to flee their homes vs. the start of the year — is Europe ready for another Middle East refugee influx? About half of Syria’s population were displaced in 2019 causing major cultural, humanitarian and political ripples, and the Afghan population. is more than double that of Syrias.

What lies beneath: fanaticals are tough to root out in the 2020s, Afghanistan’s long history of not being able to be conquered and world unease at the USA not truly being able to “mission accomplish” for the long term.

The Grey Zone of Uncertainty 🦢

1. The Challenge of Lockdown.

Australia has one of the most austere challenges of locking down its borders and shutting itself from the world back in March 2020. It had the world’s longest lockdown for 111 days. Some of its cities are entering their sixth lockdown, and patience is worsening.

Taken the long view, do these type of tight quarantines work? The early days would have dramatically said yes. The current view is much more muddied.

Four articles deal with various knock on effects of these Australia lockdowns: mental health issues of the economically disadvantaged , slow vaccine rollout, the severity of the Australian quarantine experience and the internationally stranded (article in French)

What lies beneath: Have we learned anything from COVID about national policies to health pandemics or other shocks? Will the best quarantine countries be the worst post-vaccine countries? And, is blanket restriction of travel across nation states an overreach of appropriate government levers?

2. Should we fail or hug prospective CFAs?

In the recent CFA (Chartered Financial Accountant) certification test for people starting out their finance careers, only 25% of people passed the test, well below the 42% pass rate over the last 10 years. See chart below.

What lies beneath: the pandemic interruption of studying/attention span; are these results reflective of overall academic stasis over the last 18 months?; and is this a reconsideration of how ambitious people want to be in a career in finance?

3. Vaccine or Else!?

Disney is requiring its employees to vaccinate over the next 60 days. They are not alone. Should organizations be allowed to implement and what are the implications for labor rights, health and safety and the economic futures of unvaccinated?

What lies beneath: a hope or need to get back to way things were; a delicate balancing act of civil rights and collective good; and the legal basis for firing/keeping people away from work (and why would it not be anything different than measures against chicken pox which we have already applied).

Photo Credit: GC Imnages

4. Celebrity, Inc.

On the heels of Reese Witherspoon selling her company Hello Sunshine for $900MM to Blackstone this week, we wondered “do we have to be a celebrity to launch companies now?”.

Like Gwyneth Paltrow’s $250MM valuation of Goop, Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin $610MM sale to Diageo, and Jessica Alba’s $1.7B valuation of The Honest Co. before her, Hollywood icons are making a lot more money than their acting skills ever could in. Is this a good thing?

Hello Sunshine which focuses on putting women at the centre of its stories, creates scripted and unscripted television, feature films, animated series, podcasts, audio storytelling, and digital series — including “Big Little Lies,” “The Morning Show,” and “Little Fires Everywhere.” It also houses Reese’s Book Club, with many of the club’s picks turned into movies or limited series. Reese will still be day-to-day involved but for how long now that her equity has been sold?

What lies beneath: the cult of celebrity, the rise of personal brands, the capricious interests of Hollywood actors

— — —

We continue to mine uncertainty and would love your help in our Weathervane survey #4 — Here to Stay or Going Away.

Tapestry 🎨

Invention of the the Week

The New & Improved Fido — Meet Kendryte

Does it dance? Look out Boston Robots, Fido is going open source.CNX Software: XGO Mini Pro robot dog features Kendryte K210 AI processor (Crowdfunding). What’s remarkable is that you can get an omni-directional AI-powered robot for about $500 that does face detection, image recognition, object tracking, voice recognition, and so on. Be forewarned Rover — your days may be numbered. Here’s their Kickstarter.

What lies beneath: Plummeting robotic costs, Zoomorphism, home market for robots booming

Lexicon — The Term of the Week:

Reverse Search Warrants (or geofence warrants) : require companies like Google to produce data regarding all devices using the company’s services within a certain geographic area during a given period of time.

This has become a fourth amendment (protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government) in the USA.

What lies beneath: personal rights, government reach, surveillance society

Also: Here are 231 new words added to this summer. Our faves: zaddy, side hustles, oof and ghost kitchens.

Streaming Show of the Week: Ted Lasso

In keeping with our wrap theme, the weight of Apple TV promotion behind its season #2 launch and a really interesting look by this The Ringer article at the carnival Lasso atmosphere with an undercurrent of compulsion, and even sports-addled madness. We give you what lies beneath Ted Lasso, played by the enormously talented and funny Jason Sudeikis. We may now be hooked.

Great exploration of coaching nice guys but chessmasters baseball’s Sparky Anderson and football’s Joe Gibbs added here as well.

What lies beneath: sports can be addicting and manic on par with religion, appearances deceive and professional coaching is a 110% committed profession.

Trend of the Week:

The Cut Out Trend In Fashion It’s everywhere.

Book of the Week — The Joy of Sweat

Just in time for summer, Sarah Everts book about The Joy of Sweat — The Strange Science of Perspiration. Just in time for a hot summer, the Carleton University professor provides a forum for looking at an undiscovered area of biology, the smell and stink of sweat and what it may say about us. And the important question: Do humans sense pheromones? The answer: It’s complicated.

What lies beneath: industrialization and urbanization affects, phobias, conditions and cultural hangups and the new science of sweat.

Picture of the Week:

A Brazilian Caiman resting just beneath the surface (Leighten Lum, The Guardian)

Video of the Week:

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi share gold medal

What lies beneath the bloatedness, big money and power dynamics of the Olympics — sportsmanship and high achievement, human performance. Sharing a gold medal.

That’s the Wrap! Your thoughts?

Why not join us on Sunday, Aug 8, 2021 at 8:00am (PST) | 11am (EST) | 4pm (BST) on Clubhouse led by Howard A Fields and Agustín Borrazás to engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors, including Sean Moffitt, Rob Tyrie, Ben Thurman, Louise Mowbray and Antonia Nicols. let’s talk Edition #28.

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See you next week for Edition #30 where we will ponder and ruminate on the week that was, what it means for the future and Wrap it for you.

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Visit our Medium channel every Friday for a weekly wrap on the world’s biggest challenges and other fresh articles and points of view The Guild is sharing. Please drop by our Grey Swan Guild website ( for more publications and articles about how we make sense of the world ongoing and also the raft of possibilities to participate as a Sensemaker.

This Week’s Grey Swan News Wrap Editor: The Zeitgeist and some AI from the labs, with human-in-the-loop help from the Editorial Team: Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Louise Mowbray, Agustín Borrazás, Ben Thurman, Rob Tyrie, Antonia Nicols, and Doyle Buehler.

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