Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa have been catching on very quickly. Google reports that it sells a voice-controlled speaker every second. While this could just be a fad, some analysts argue that the voice-activated speakers may mark the biggest shift in consumer technology since the smartphone. “Humans don’t really communicate that effectively using text,” says Richard Watson, a futurist in London. Vocal computing should speed up a lot of queries, given that most people can speak much faster than they can type. What has voice-control changed? What are the new opportunities vocal computing will offer?
Today, we pack more computing power in our pocket than it took to get to the moon, and we can send a message to anyone in the world in less than a second. We’re overloaded with information, and as a consequence, many of us feel more anxious, more distracted and less productive. Why? “Unlike computers, we do not have limitless storage nor do we have unlimited time”, writes Julia Hobsbawm in her book Fully Connected. As a social network analyst, she says that people today are struggling with over-connectedness and are searching for meaning. People need to look more closely at what she calls “social health”.
For most of human history, integrating a new generation into society has been pretty straightforward: The youngsters were shown what needed to be done, they did it as well as they could (or faced serious consequences if they didn’t), and, over time, earned a place for themselves in society. But things are different now. Executives all over the world have reported that they have difficulty not only managing this new generation but even understanding them. These young employees, their managers say, are responding differently from prior generations to everything, from assignments to incentives. Can managers cope with a new generation?
Management was never easy—“like herding cats,” as the old joke puts it—but in the old days, the cats were at least in the same alley. Today, management may be more challenging still, as executives must lead an ever-changing stream of employees and independent contractors—who may or may not be in the same building or even in the same city—as they navigate through an ever-changing technological landscape, and deliver on objectives that may also shift. So what are the positive and negative aspects of working remotely? How is the employee mindset and the management style of employers affected?
Do you like to work in a café like Starbucks or do you prefer staying in your cubical at the office? Today, fewer people are working in traditional offices, as most administrative work is either being automated or outsourced to cheaper markets, reducing the need for the in-house typing pools and IT services that once took up a lot of room. Young professionals, instead of being assigned to a desk, like to choose where they sit and work. The ideal place should be comfortable, with an open, cozy coffee-shop style. A boss-less office space is becoming increasingly popular.
On the surface, digital publishing would seem to be at an early stage in China. Observers say that traditional publishers are not pushing e-editions of their books very hard, and until recently, the government, which is still the industry’s dominant shareholder, has not put its weight behind the format. Look more closely, however, it’s clear that a new publishing ecosystem is already taking shape in China, but it’s not the Amazon co-prosperity sphere model. Instead, digital publishing platforms are becoming the dominant channel for young writers.
The rise of e-books and reading on digital devices has changed every part on the publishing production chain, affecting everyone from the editors, to the designers, to the marketing and sales people. Editors are spending more time on acquiring books and less time working on manuscripts. Designers become more flexible and strategic: they need to make sure a book won’t be ignored by skimmers who only glance at thumbnails on websites, and must ensure that texts are well-laid-out for reading on many kinds of mobile devices. But they’re not who need to change most. It’s the marketing and sales people who face an ever-more-challenging job.
Over the past two years, the Big Five publisher’s share of the e-book market on Amazon has dropped from 43% to roughly 23%. Publishers Weekly’s Apple iBook Bestseller list also includes self-published authors: on the Feb. 17 list, three of the top ten best sellers were self-published. As these numbers suggest, digitalization is not just changing which books reach the market, but how they are put together. For writers, choosing independent publication is no longer the shameful last resort it once was, and for average writers, this path raises the odds of success from nil to slim.
Bitcoin, a virtual currency traded online, was not invented in China, yet China is where 80% of the virtual “coins” are minted and 90% of the transactions are made. Currently, the global bitcoin market amounts to some $14.5 billion, roughly the same amount of money as Apple’s European back taxes. If the virtual currency’s popularity continues to grow, decisions made by Chinese investors and regulators may determine whether bitcoin fades to a historical footnote, like Napster or the eight-track tape, or becomes the silicon cornerstone of a new global financial order. A combination of factors thrust China into this decisive role.
Executives have long understood the business value of a ripping yarn. Different consultancy companies will have their own take on what makes a good story. Yet whatever the scale of your literary ambitions, there are some fundamental rules seem to apply. First you start with good material and you need to identify what is and isn’t a story. A story is something that begins with a time-marker and is also always visual. Don’t use the “S” word. Don’t say “I just want to share a story with you.” Well, in business, that’s like death. Instead, say: I’ve had a really interesting experience. And remember to be sincere.