Edition: #12 of Vol 1
These are the series of stories and headlines we are tracking in the Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers’ Newsroom. The selection and the news wraps are intended to shed light and a new lens on a complicated and complex world week.
April is National Poetry Month. On this 25th anniversary of the celebration and in times of uncertainty and great concern, we can rely on poems to offer wisdom, uplifting ideas, and language that prompts reflection that can help us slow down and center mentally, emotionally, spiritually. The organizers have adapted to the circumstances. Discover 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month in the Virtual Classroom and 30 Ways to Celebrate the 25th Annual National Poetry Month at Home or Online.
Losing Voice. Now can the following lines be considered poetry? Truth is these pickup lines have been generated by an AI. Artificial intelligence is finally learning how to flirt, even if one might find the result somehow chaotic!
“I’m losing my voice from all the screaming your hotness is causing me to do”
“I Love You, I Love You, I Love You To The confines of death and disease, the legions of earth rejoices. Woe be to the world!”
“You’re looking good today. Want snacks?”
The Day of the Swan. Not only is April Poetry and Romance month. It will also be a year on April 15 since the Grey Swan Guild was formed in response to the worldwide COVID-19 Pandemic. The Guild has grown into a leading volunteer network of over 1000 leaders and members. In addition to our two major production waves, dozens of online events, and 150 publications, we have decided to create The Day of the Swan — a 24-hour relay of continuous events, each led by Guild members, to shed light on where we have been and where we are going in the world. The event is free and open to all. Join us April 15 on Zoom and Clubhouse.
Sensemaking tools. In concert with our mission to make sense of particular societal, cultural, economic, marketplace and workplace challenges, we have developed 5 sensemaking lenses: #LIVE #LEARN #LOVE #LEAD #LIMINAL. We want to provide sensemaking tools that will electrify your thinking and deepen all of our appreciation for forces that shape the world! Our Weekly News Wrap is a core piece of that effort. What follows is The Great, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of what we observed and analyzed this week.
Grey Swan Guild Club. We always love to hear your input, experiences from all over the world, and multi-disciplinary insights on the latest world developments. Please leave us a note, or even better, join us Sundays in the Grey Swan Guild Club on Clubhouse to discuss many of these headlines. And as legend has it — contrary to Fight Club, “The first rule of Clubhouse is you do talk about Clubhouse on Clubhouse!” One of the first headlines we will discuss this week is the fact the one-year-old social audio app valued at $1 billion, is announcing its new monetization feature. The app will now allow users to send money to their favorite creators and speakers on the platform.
The Great 😇
- An inspiring and diverse cast! In an announcement earlier this week, SpaceX’s Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian rocket ride to orbit Earth, disclosed the final two members of the four-person crew that is expected to undergo a historic journey into space aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Jared Isaacman is a 38-year-old tech billionaire, entrepreneur, philanthropist, pilot, and the CEO of Pennsylvania payment-processing company Shift4 Payments. Hayley Arceneaux is a 29-year-old childhood cancer survivor and physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research. She will be the youngest American to fly into space and the first with a prosthetic body part. Dr. Sian Proctor is a geoscientist, science communication specialist, and analog astronaut. Chris Sembroski, 41, is a Lockheed Martin employee and Air Force veteran. This diverse cast is truly an Inspiration!
- Flagship initiatives! European innovation project Flagships will deploy the world’s first commercial cargo transport vessel operating on hydrogen, plying the river Seine in Paris with the vessel’s operations due to start sometime this year. Green and sustainable shipping is a prerequisite for reaching national and international emission reduction targets. Such ships powered by renewable hydrogen will make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions from shipping and improving air quality in cities and other densely populated areas. More and more ocean tech companies such as Running Tides, Safety Net Technologies, and Whale Safe are currently trying to prove that conservation, sustainable fishing, and carbon sequestration can also be profitable. We love to see business and sustainability align for the better good.
- How the brain works. UCSF researchers set a new standard for decoding speech directly from brain activity, redefining what’s possible for brain-to-text decoding, with error rates as low as 3%. It’s a significant step toward UCSF’s long-term goal of developing a prosthesis to restore speech communication for people who have lost the ability to speak. It also illustrates how new machine learning techniques can accelerate brain-computer interface (BCI) applications. UCSF sponsor Facebook Reality Labs is precisely exploring how non-invasive BCI can redefine the AR/VR experience. New research opens the path to non-invasive silent speech interface for the next computing platform. Whole brain emulation is also a topic that captivates The Human Connectome Project researchers. They intend to map the brain connective structure made of a unique, intricate pattern of 86 billion neurons, and to unlock immortality. Meanwhile in a cave in France, 15 persons self-isolated for 40 days without daylight in order to explore how we construct our notion of time. They also explore functional synchronicity with each other. The Mission Deep Time podcast narrates their real-time adventure.
The Good 😀
- Wind of change. After extreme office culture has led to several deaths, the Japanese are beginning to rethink the tradition. For a long time, employees refrained from taking holiday because their bosses did not take holiday and they were afraid to disrupt the group harmony. Almost 60% of Japanese workers cited ‘feeling guilty’ as the main reason for not taking their entitled holiday leave. Japanese work habits are slowly changing as the younger generation feels vacation deprived. And the government pursues its goal of boosting rates of taken annual leave to 70%, conveying the message that taking time off is important to refresh employees both mentally and physically.
- #Liminal. “I care much more about being with people who make me feel whole now. The pandemic scraped away all facades we’ve built around our lives”. The New York Times offers a beautiful interactive report aiming to illustrate how human beings changed during the pandemic. Will we go back to living the way we did before? And what if we do? Do we risk losing something we’ve learned from one long and terrifying year? And what if we don’t fit into that life anymore? One good thing to notice: the pandemic shifted how donors give. Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott (ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) gave $6 billion in unrestricted contributions last year to hundreds of groups for COVID-19 relief and racial equity. Through pilot programs, cities such as San Francisco are giving checks to artists in hopes of allowing them to focus on their creative output instead of having a second job. Two years after the dramatic fire that destroyed most of Notre-Dame de Paris (April 2019), we estimate 15 to 20 years and 1,000 oaks will be needed to complete the cathedral’s restoration. Several architects were in favor of modern sustainable materials, but French President Macron opted for a reconstitution closer to the original gothic building with a spire made of 150-year-old oaks. For Easter, a small committee ceremony took place in Notre-Dame with a live broadcast for the faithful to enjoy.
- Innovation from the nirvana… Toronto-based organization Over the bridge has created a new Nirvana song using artificial-intelligence software to approximate the singer-guitarist’s songwriting. The tune, titled “Drowned in the Sun” is part of Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project featuring songs written and mostly performed by machines in the styles of other musicians who died at 27: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse. Speaking of Kurt, last summer a special horse named Kurt was born in Texas. He was a clone made from DNA that had been frozen for 40 years and came from an endangered wild horse species from Central Asia. In December, a black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann was born in a conservation center in Colorado. She is the first-ever endangered American animal to be cloned. She is a win for biodiversity and for genetic rescue! In other innovation news, a week before cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase is set to go public, U.S. financial group State Street announced it will lend its trading technology to a digital currency trading venue set to go live mid-2021. The venue will offer cash cryptocurrency trading for investors through their existing bank relationships. It means a huge step forward for the institutionalization of crypto markets!
Mixed feelings in sports news. North Korea is the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears, a decision that underscores the challenges facing Japan as it struggles to stage a global sporting event amid a raging pandemic. The pandemic has already pushed back the Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled for 2020, and organizers have scrambled to put in place preventive measures, such as banning international spectators, to ensure the safety of athletes and residents. There’s still concern that the Olympics could worsen the spread of the virus and Japan’s rising caseload and slow vaccine rollout have raised public questions about whether the Games should be held at all. For the second consecutive year, Roland Garros will not commence on its originally scheduled start date. This year’s postponement should not be more than a week, compared to 2020’s four-month move from May to September. Regarding the Major League Baseball, Texas Rangers sell over 38,000 tickets to home opener, marking one of the first full-capacity sporting events in a year.
The Bad 😬
- In or out? Office buildings are opening back up, but not all employees want to return. Commuting into work, once a mindless daily routine, now feels foreign and risky. From anxiety over catching the coronavirus to fears of losing flexibility gained while working from home, many workers do not want to go back to their pre-pandemic ways. For those who get to remain at home, the mental health barometer is not much better. You would think working outside the office should help de-escalate workplace toxicity. But dysfunctional workplace culture may actually get worse when working remotely. Supervisors find new ways to monitor the team virtually, using software such as TeamViewer and Hubstaff. Toxic cultures persist in remote settings with similar hostility over Zoom chats and emails. If you are a victim of bullying or unprofessional behaviour, save those emails or chats. Being aware of your employer’s legal obligations is useful. Many countries regulate working hours, time off and holidays, with the UN’s International Labour Organization’s guidelines serving as a baseline international standard.
- Diversity gap. The top most visited websites are social media, porn and Wikipedia. If you find long articles on Dungeons and Dragons characters, Wiki pages on fictional dog Lassie or in which direction to hang a roll of toilet paper, the gender and race gap on Wikipedia is stark and long documented. Some major female figures are missing, and 87% of its editors are men. Last year, parent organization Wikimedia launched its 2030 plan to improve the site including the user experience and equity in leadership among other things. Local initiatives are now joining the effort such as VentureKids. Meanwhile at the Winchester University, a Greta Thunberg statue sparks anger. The world-leading environmental activist is both an inspirational female role model and a controversial figure, but as the university for sustainability and social justice Winchester was open to the debate. But the Winchester University and College Union passed a motion describing the statue as a vanity project and stating that the funds of £23,760 could have been better spent.
- Trust in me, trust in me. Trust in tech, including companies specializing in AI, VR, 5G and the internet of things, fell all around the world last year, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer’s survey of 31,000 people in 27 countries. Among the reasons for mistrust: the spread of misinformation, rising privacy alarm, and bias in artificial intelligence. No surprise when we see the results of an AI trying to generate pickup lines or when we read that there are spying eyes everywhere and that they now share a brain. Indeed, security cameras, license plate readers, smartphone trackers, and drones are watching us 24/7. What happens when all those data streams fuse into one? Solutions to restore trust in tech include “shared prosperity” through new jobs and skills, codifying trust through “fairness” and “explainability”, as well as increased diversity, equity and inclusion. At the same time, rejection of mainstream science and medicine has become a key feature of the political right in the U.S. The Antiscience Movement is now escalating, going global and killing thousands of people.
The Ugly 😱
- Not equal in face of COVID. Iran faces fourth COVID wave after Nowruz holidays. Thousands travelled across the country despite testing positive as fines also fail to deter Iranians during the new year holidays. For months, Iran has struggled to curb the worst outbreak of the coronavirus in the Middle East. The case count this week brought the total number of infected to 1.98 million, according to official figures. Bloomberg rates the best and worst places to be now as global vaccinations take off. A lightning-fast vaccination drive has propelled Israel toward the top of the Covid Resilience Ranking, alongside New Zealand and Taiwan. The U.S., U.K., and United Arab Emirates where doses given out are enough to cover a fifth of the population rose in this month’s Ranking, gaining on top performers like Australia and China, where the virus is all but eliminated. However cases and fatalities worldwide are rising again, particularly in the developing world, parts of which are yet to see a single vial of any vaccine. Nations in Latin America and Africa continue to occupy the lowest spots, with Mexico in last place, as the country’s fatality rate remains high and its economy falters. With 300,000 Covid deaths, Brazil has given out vaccine doses equivalent to just 4% of its population. About 100 vaccination centers abruptly shut down this Friday in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, amid a shortage of doses and as the country confirmed its highest daily jump in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began with 132,000 new cases. The country has administered nearly 95 million vaccine doses so far, which is still less than 6% of India’s population of nearly 1.4 billion people.
- Politicians are not setting a good example… Nor are French comedians who organize private shows to provide laugh and real-life interaction in period of lockdown — at least, negative COVID tests are checked at the entrance in that case. What’s more worrisome is the reprehensible behavior of French politicians attending private dinners in luxury restaurants during the pandemic, whereas French bars and restaurants are supposed to be closed to the public since last October. French authorities are now investigating these accusations that government ministers and others dined in secret at privatized restaurants and clubs in violation of Covid-19 restrictions.
- Not every one has willpower? Human rights groups in Pakistan have accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of being a “rape apologist” after he blamed a rise in sexual assault cases on how women dress. During a live television interview, he advised women to cover up to prevent temptation because “Not everyone has willpower”. He added “In any society where vulgarity is prevalent, there are consequences.” Hundreds of people have signed a statement demanding an apology. Pakistan is ranked as one of the most dangerous countries for women in terms of safety and equality. Sexual abuse, so-called “honour” killings, filmed rapes, and forced marriage are common, and criminal complaints are rarely reported to police, or seriously investigated. Last year Imran Khan was criticized following a similar national television interview, where he failed to challenge a Muslim cleric’s opinion that women were to blame for the coronavirus pandemic. A 2019 tweet by Forbes, promoting Pakistan as as must-see “on every female solo traveler’s bucket list” is now mocked all over the web.
Term of the Week
Hedonic adaptation: Tendency of us mere humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major recent positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as we make more money (or eat more choccy), our expectations and desires rise in tandem, resulting in no permanent gain in happiness. Enjoyment of a television program is actually enhanced by commercial interruptions, despite what viewers believe. Takeways from this theory (also known as Hedonic Treadmill Theory) include: 1/ Restricting pleasure increases pleasure. 2/ Too much of a good thing is never good. 3/ What people think they want isn’t always what will make them happiest!
Pandemic Concept of the Week
Maskne: A particularly unfortunate type of Acne that you get from wearing a mask all the time.
Photo of the Week
Meme of the Week
Videos of the Week
9-year-old macaque Pager has fascinated the world with his MindPong playing via Elon Musk’s Neuralink technology, with almost 2 million views on Youtube in just a day.
The Robot Magician has also been quite popular on Social Media this past week with more than 110,000 likes and 6,000 comments on Facebook.
Grey Swan Authors:
That’s the Wrap!
See you next week for Edition #13 !
The GSG Medium is The Message
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 Grey Swan Guild is sharing. Please drop by our Grey Swan Guild website (greyswanguild.org) 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. Apply today.
Grey Swan Guild — Making Sense of What’s Next
On April 15th, Grey Swan Guild is hosting The Day of the Swan — an all-day event focused on: our 1st year anniversary, a springboard for launch events in our second year, a platform for our members to shine and a forum for the greater community to scan through what we have been working on, thinking about and making sense of. Join us for the day and participate in advance with our LinkedIn group.
#NEW Coming Soon — Stay tuned for a new weekly column on our Medium Channel. We are experimenting with on Wednesdays: Humpdays. We will be going back to the Grey Swan Library and History Archives to do some memory-making about what our points of view were like last year and how views were either predicted or changed with new information.
Making Sense of the World’s Biggest Challenges — curating and creating knowledge through observation, informed futurism, #sensemaking and analysis — the Grey Swan Guild Way 🦢