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🌏 Change Leadership: Update on wheelchairs and airlines
A few weeks ago we had a fascinating interview with S3T member Dan Dorzsynski about what it's like to fly as a person who depends on a wheelchair.
Dan has just shared a hot update:
This coming week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg Germany, Delta Flight Products and Air4All will exhibit a seat concept that allows wheelchair users to remain in their own wheelchairs when they fly!
Just getting to the point of having a working model - something more than just a computer rendering - has been a long time coming and a journey that has often been very discouraging (for a glimpse of decades of airline excuse-making and requests for exceptions, and frankly shameful collusion of federal agencies, go here to peruse over 1600 examples).
I had a chance to chat briefly with Christopher Wood of Air4All as he was preparing for the Expo. Chris's take:
“An innovation like this in air travel provides those who use Power Wheelchairs a safe, dignified and a true passenger experience."
It's been a journey that has often been discouraging, Chris noted:
"If you look at the statistics in accessible air travel it’s disheartening... if you look at the people it brings hope for change. Let’s harness that aspiration for change.”
I asked Chris what could we do that would be most helpful. His ask:
"I need the people/community to share this news all over social media and beyond - keeping the momentum is crucial."
So to help with that, here are some tips and text samples you can use right now:
Actions You Can Take To Help
Action #1: Send this text (or a version of your own) to your elected representatives and ask them to make this a priority. You can also consider filing a complaint with the FAA.
Action #2: Reach out to anyone you know from Delta and thank them for making this a priority.
Action #3: Post one of the following (or something like it in your own words) on your social media:
For too long the airline industry has engaged in an ableist misbehavior assuming that certain people didn't deserve to fly with dignity. Thanks to the efforts of many individual change leaders, finally one airline is committing to doing the right thing.
You cannot imagine how exciting this is for all of the individuals who have been pushing for this for years. Let's keep pushing for this together. Thank you for your efforts!
📈 📉 Macro / Headlines / Trends
New job openings way up
Employers added surprisingly more jobs than expected in May (339K), with the total number of job openings now passing 10 million. This is the 29th straight month of positive job growth. All eyes are now on the June 13 Inflation Report and the strong jobs report prompts some to expect more interest rate hikes.
Senate approves debt ceiling bill which may be helping spawn Inflation Narrative 2.0 for Bitcoin (See Mavericks below more details)
Real Estate shifts
The chart below, created by Joey Politano from Zillow price data shows a trend of West-coast home prices falling.
This is a single point in time snapshot, looking back on the past 12 months. From here forward a lot could change, but it so far coincides with the declining attractiveness of the West in part due to its climate change impacts and water supply issues.
As discussed in the Sept 4 2022 Edition of S3T (see Water Innovation) there has been a long trend of people moving from the North to the South and particularly the Southwest. Cost of living pressures have started to reverse that trend, and climate change and water supply issues could reinforce that trend over the next 10 years or more. Related: State Farm and other insurers are refusing to provide coverage in California.
2023 Economic Drama: Why 2020's Inflation is Different
The sources of inflation today are different that what traditional economics - with its roots in the 19th-century industrial era - expects or understands.
- Economies when powered by information systems (not just factories and railroads) can have new forms of waste (administrative processes and bureaucracies) as well as distortions that allow capital to remain misplaced for extended periods of time.
- This in turn fosters or coincides with parasitic behaviors of entrenched, privileged players who occupy protected positions as platform owners, holders of contracts or issuers of rules, regulations or fee schedules.
- This is reinforced by legacy processes and platforms which frequently extract more value than they provide, resist upgrades or retirements, and can force egregious economic distortions to persist for decades.
- Regulatory capture (or at least coziness) can also effectively blunt the effect of innovation and prevent or seriously delay the adoption of more efficient ways of working.
Together these factors can create inflationary effects that have no connection with interest rates: forcing higher costs that impact supply chains, service efficiencies, and ultimately consumers in ways that don't register on narrow inflation gauges like the CPI.
How Mavericks think about this...
For a different angle, I want to compare and contrast how Mavericks are parsing interest rates, inflation, banking stability and the general economic drama of 2023.
For readers a quick explanation or reminder about Mavericks vs Mainstreamers:
- Mavericks - long-time crypto investors who probably experienced extreme gains from bitcoin or other crypto, see blockchain based architectures as key for the future of finance, and see themselves as not needing the traditional financial establishment.
- Mainstreamers - institutional investors (think Wall St) who got into crypto much later and are very dependent on the traditional financial establishment.
I include this not as an endorsement of what Arthur Hayes says or does, but because Hayes (especially the summary version) captures the key talking points of crypto Mavericks who - unlike Mainstreamers - actually can imagine a world without central banks and the traditional banking system's legacy platforms and processes. Hayes deconstructs the unsustainable behaviors and flawed assumptions in the current financial system in ways that are at times colorful but do surface some uncomfortably accurate grains of truth:
- There is a delicate dance between the Fed, the US Treasury, US Banks, and Foreign entities that purchase and hold debt issued by the US Gov.
- The Government will keep printing money so this delicate dance can continue. This has risks.
- Inflation will continue to rise, regardless of what the Fed thinks or does about rates.
- And since this is a crypto Maverick, the inevitable punchline: This will boost interest in Bitcoin's price because Bitcoin is a non-correlated and non-inflationary asset.
This is not to say the Mavericks are right. Their anti-establishment rhetoric and constant predictions of Bitcoin bull markets gets old fast. The talk of a day when "it becomes necessary to dump my dollars and go all in on Bitcoin" as Hayes puts it, misses some key realities:
- If everyone went "all in" on Bitcoin, they'd probably want to use it for something,
- This would create a transaction workload the Bitcoin network is not able to carry.
Sure we could use Bitcoin for loan collateral and leverage other blockchains etc...but if you go down any one of those lines of thought, you keep bumping into the need for dollars or some kind of fiat currency just to be used in real-world transactions like buying lunch, financing college, and paying for airfares.
The experiences of the past 3 years should tell us that there is no crypto spaceship event that beams us up into an all-new perfectly functioning financial system. The existing financial system is getting rickety, yes, but the next version (or at least the candidate being put forward) is not mature enough yet. So at least for some time, I think the decentralized and the centralized financial systems will coexist because they actually need each other. Neither side can single-handedly offer an optimized and fully functional system yet.
All that said, fresh perspectives should be welcomed. The Mavericks aren't drinking the same Kool-Aid the rest of us are, and that might eventually prove to be a good thing. They are definitely thinking outside the box in ways that could offer useful considerations for change leaders and policy-makers alike.
👾 Emerging Tech: AI Narrative and Tooling
AI narrative continues but with ups and downs
C3.ai stock plunged, while MongoDB a lagging player in an increasingly crowded field got a 30% price bump as investors linked the database-as-a-service company with AI (MongoDB not top-of-mind for many AI practitioners). Which may say something about the substance of this narrative.
Here are new developments worth noting because they represent a move beyond the simple chat interface that ChatGPT offers, and appear to be closing the gap with real-world reasoning abilities:
- Language Model Query Language (LMQL) - is a new programming language for interacting with Large Language Models (LLMs) that power AI capabilities like ChatGPT. The link above lets you view a set of working examples so it can see it in action.
- LangChain - framework for developing apps powered by language models. The project wants to move beyond simply making requests to LLMs, to instead connecting to other sources of data and interacting with an environment. Again, moving beyond the chat-based interaction.
Also notable: Bard now works with Visuals - Not in the way I expected. I thought it would generate visuals. Instead, it finds them. I asked for a visual that illustrates the difference between data warehouses and data lakes. It returned an image, and a comparison table and some explanatory text. When I clicked the image below, it went to this white paper. The paper and image was created by the authors, not by Bard.
🍱 Sensible Ideas: Potato Pizza
I am blessed to be part of a family that knows their way around the kitchen and the campfire. So each week I share what I call "sensible ideas" for good times and good food!
Another great thing can happen with Potato Pizza: Breakfast. Yes. Fry an egg and put on top of it.
Here's how I did it last Saturday! Two slices of potato pizza, fried egg, spring greens wilted in the skillet, tomatoes olives and pepper bacon. Splash of Tabasco. Delicious with coffee.
🌄 Nature Notes: Endangered or Extinct
How to increase your appreciation of the treasures of the natural world, and nurture its capabilities.
A new paper Multiple lines of evidence suggest the persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) shares the results of a 10-year search with thousands of hours of recordings and footage. The data suggests "intermittent but repeated presence of multiple individual birds with field marks and behaviors consistent with those of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers." The researchers believe that it is premature for the species to be declared extinct.
I reviewed the evidence presented - the imagery is typically from drone or trail cameras with less-than-ideal focus and lighting. But there are images that do appear to show Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers. But I worry that they aren't indisputable.
Having spent a good share of time outdoors in thick woods I can attest to the challenge of handling a camera with the kind of zoom lens capable of capturing an indisputable image. For every image I post online I've deleted literally hundreds of others where something went wrong: the zoom focused on a branch in front of the bird and left the bird blurred beyond recognition. Or something.
The best I can hope for is for some lucky souls someday to be in a position to capture multiple clear photos of one or two Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers from different angles and for a 2nd set of individuals to do the same on a subsequent day. That would clear it up for me and for most I suspect. Until then, this bird is suspended in the mists between endangered status and extinction.
On another note: Dreaming of your summer roadtrip? Check out these Historic National Park Hotels.
💬 Final Note
I'm seeking input from readers on whether you have preferences for when the newsletter comes out. One possible idea that has been raised is to move the entire publishing cycle to Friday (rather than part of Friday and part on Sunday) so readers would then have the entire weekend to read and benefit from the content. If you have preferences or ideas on this, feel free to DM me on Twitter or LinkedIn.