I am very lucky and grateful to have recently joined a fantastic organization called Grey Swan Guild as a board member. Not only is it an amazing intellectual connection with futures thinkers and sensemakers from all over the world (Canada, USA, Sweden, Australia, Uruguay, etc.), but building relationships in a distance during the pandemic is an intense human experience. Moreover we all share a taste for experimenting new editorial or creative formats and for designing innovative “sensemaking” products.
Recently we have put in place a new format of weekly newsletter where we track signals of change, share the emergence of new drivers, and try to make sense of it all. We named it “The Weekly News Wrap” by Grey Swan Guild. We publish it every friday on our Medium channel. It offers an overview of the week’s “The Great, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.
The Great 😇
- Streaming in the night. We had an inkling that streaming services were the big winners of the pandemic. 2020 numbers are now out. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our entertainment behaviors. Consumers who subscribe to a paid streaming service pay for an average of five subscriptions, up from three before the pandemic. Worldwide viewing time grew 44% in Q4 2020 compared with Q4 2019. Netflix has more than 200 million subscribers globally, Amazon Prime 150 million, Disney+, 94.9 million, Hulu, 35.4 million, HBO Max, 37.7 million, and Peacock, 33 million. — Read the full report by Conviva.
- Good Samaritans. With an estimated 40 million Americans losing their home during the pandemic and 2 million households temporarily losing power during last week’s Texas blackout in the middle of a Winter storm, sheltering has become a primary need for many. Despite the pandemic, people have opened their homes to strangers to share heating and warm food. In Houston, Mattress Mack furniture store provided 3,000 meals and overnight accommodations to 700 residents. Already in 2005 and 2017, they had welcomed refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. Meanwhile in Canada, a couple launches a tiny home company with a clever 268-square-foot dwelling. The post-pandemic home could very well be micro-dwellings on wheels!
3. Who’s afraid of the Big Bad AI? While we still await the rise of the machines and the reign of Artificial Global Intelligence, latest developments in Machine Learning open new lines of questioning. Physicist Hong Qin reverses the classical theory of physics which consist in making observations, creating a theory based on those observations, and then using that theory to predict new observations. His novel computer algorithm accurately predicts the orbits of planets in the solar system without using Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation. Basically, it bypasses all fundamental ingredients of physics, to go directly “from data to data”. In other news, a new artificial intelligence makes mistakes “on purpose”: Cornell University Professor Jon Kleinberg developed a chess program named Maia that learns from human error. Instead of learning how to destroy an opponent on the board, Maia focuses on predicting human moves, including the mistakes they make. Such AI might be better at working with people or negotiating with them.
The Good 😀
- Vaccines and Masks for All. The global sharing program designed to make vaccine access more equal delivered its first major shipment of 600,000 doses to the West African nation of Ghana, ramping up the largest mass immunization campaign in history. Altogether 92 low and middle-income countries will receive free vaccines through the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative. At the same time, in the U.S. the Biden administration announced its plans to deliver 25 million washable cloth masks for low-income Americans nationwide through 1,300 federally approved health centers and 60,000 food distribution points.
- Reshaping the Art Scene. France’s heritage sites fight for survival, such as the Domaine of Chantilly who lost €6 million because of Covid-19 closures and is now asking for support from the public and the government. However, spared the shutdown orders imposed on other cultural venues, French art galleries have seen record numbers of visitors in the last three months and have come to symbolise the last bastion of a pre-pandemic world. For arts professionals, more patrons are a welcome relief for a sector hard hit by the health crisis and uncertain of its future. In Toronto, OverActive Media confirmed their highly-anticipated performance venue, projected to be completed in 2025. The $500 million project includes a theatre-style entertainment venue and hotel complex. It will be the first new sports or entertainment venue built in Toronto since BMO Field in 2007 and promises to be an unparalleled experience for fans and performance artists alike.
3. On an Island in the Sun. Holiday bookings surge after lockdown exit plans. Despite questions over the return of international travel (probably not happening until mid-May at the earliest), the UK’s biggest holiday firm Tui saw bookings for foreign trips jumped 500% overnight, especially bookings for July-onwards with Greece, Spain and Turkey as the most popular destinations. Thomas Cook had traffic to its website up over 100% on Monday, with most bookings for Greece, Cyprus, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile Airbnb introduces Flexible Search, allowing users to forgo putting in exact dates when they look to book lodging on the platform. In 2021 so far, one-third of the people searching on Airbnb have been flexible in terms of date and location. This feature aligns with a broader shift in how people will travel in the future. “The traditional travel industry was built around fixed destinations with fixed dates in mind, but that model no longer meets the needs of today’s travelers.” — Read Airbnb’s full report on Meaningful Travel.