You know the fairly tale is about to turn grim when the magical unicorns start turning up hobbled and hornless. For all those Silicon Valley and NYC startups hoping to earn their U-Horn by growing themselves to a $1B+ valuation before cashing in via their own magic wealth making IPO, that time is now. The dandyest of them all, WeWork, couldn’t even get out of the private funding forest and into the safety of its own IPO before its terminal illness became visible to all: the company that was valued at nearly $50B last month is now effectively worthless. Hundreds (if not thousands) of employees who were banking on equity compensation making them millionaires in a week or so are now likely layoffs waiting to happen instead. The bright side is that public investors didn’t get suckered into holding the bag, unlike those who bought up meal kit delivery startup Blue Apron when it went public two summers ago. The once $2B unicorn darling is now worth a fraction of that. This twitter thread explains the basics of why.
The secret to Facebook’s billion-dollar money printing operation is the ability to enable advertisers to narrowly target ads based on the giant pile of demographic and behavioral data that Facebook’s users freely give it every minute of every day. So, what happens when the ads are targeted for men under a certain age only … and when those ads are for jobs? According to a recent ruling by the US EEOC, what happens is an illegal violation of anti-discrimination law. Facebook is the gift that keeps on giving back to society, huh?
Railroad Tracks and Internet Viral Content
Here’s just one example of how asymmetrical the internet is when it comes to the viral spread of information and the actual veracity of that information. Ideally, you would want an information network to operate in such a way that accurate, factual information would naturally spread with high velocity, while inaccurate misinformation would move more slowly. Instead, we generally have the opposite. Case in point: a viral twitter thread purporting to explain why railroad tracks are spaced the way they are (aka its “gauge”). Click through and read both threads noting the massive disparity between the counts of likes and retweets for each.
This is truly the stuff of 1950’s sci-fi futurama dreams: rockets that use small nuclear fission reactors to generate propulsive thrust through deep space instead of the chemical combustion of liquid-fueled rockets. It’s always been theoretically possible, but it was never worth trying to solve the engineering puzzles of heat, waste, and safety. With NASA and others professing intentions of sending astronauts back to the moon and beyond to Mars, rocket scientists are taking another crack at the nuclear rocket puzzle.
There are no risk-free choices in life that require no trade-offs of any kind. Life is the way it is because unintended consequences are a natural part of how it all works. Pandora’s Box isn’t always clearly labeled as containing unpleasant things, after all. If investigators can use something as definitive and accessible as genealogy databases of DNA to finally solve decades-old cold cases and finally bring a mass murderer like the Golden State Killer to justice, why wouldn’t we want that effort to move full speed ahead? Why indeed…