Top Reads: July 2021

My favorite reads from the month across startup communities, social impact and tech in modern society.

Top Reads: July 2021

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  1. Back to the Office: What Businesses Should Know About Employees’ Views on the Return to In-Person Work (Morning Consult)
“If employees can agree on one thing, he said, it’s that they expect hybrid work models — a mix of workdays at the office and at home — to be a part of their future as the country emerges from the pandemic. As of a June survey, only 15 percent of respondents said they plan on working from an office every day, while 75 percent said they’ll work one to four days per week from home, Leer said.”

Perspectives on returning to the office may vary, but all employees want to be heard. It’s significant that many women and Gen X'ers have little interest in onsite work. Employers who take a hard line here will bleed talent for the rest of the year.

2. Rethink the Founding Fathers (Anti-Racism Daily)

Red, White & Blue
Photo by Luke Michael / Unsplash
“Don’t ask what the Founder Fathers intended. Ask what the oppressed communities on whose backs the Founders’ vision was constructed need. If there is anything to celebrate on Independence Day, it’s those whose resistance, courage, and care actually brought us closer to a world with liberty and justice for all.”

The Founding Fathers would’ve had strong opinions about topics from DC statehood and gun control to women’s rights and mail-in ballots. We shouldn’t blindly embrace the heroic American myth. Instead, we need to rebuild our democracy to create true equity, which starts by accepting our nation's historical context.

3. Fired by Bot at Amazon: ‘It’s You Against the Machine’ (Bloomberg)
“Bloomberg interviewed 15 [Amazon] Flex drivers, including four who say they were wrongly terminated, as well as former Amazon managers who say the largely automated system is insufficiently attuned to the real-world challenges drivers face every day. Amazon knew delegating work to machines would lead to mistakes and damaging headlines, these former managers said, but decided it was cheaper to trust the algorithms than pay people to investigate mistaken firings so long as the drivers could be replaced easily.”

Amazon now employs 1 out of every 153 employed Americans, yet they create systems of technocratic oppression. Their decisions in the years ahead will prove if Amazon truly wants to become the best place for humans to work on the globe.

4. A shipping container shortage is snarling global trade (Quartz)
“The shortage of shipping containers is yet another symptom of the havoc the pandemic has wrought on international supply chains. As a result, freight costs are rising, which in turn leads to higher prices for consumer goods.”

Supply chains are easy to overlook, but essential to the global economy. The pandemic created a ripple effect that will last for months to come. Keep an eye out for updated price tags at the store.

5. Austin housing project offers Tesla large-scale test bed to address challenges with energy products (Utility Dive)
"'More people want sustainable energy and more people want independence,' said Peter Asmus, research director for Guidehouse Insights’ microgrids team. 'I would imagine more projects like this would come.'"

This electrified neighborhood in TX is where suburbia is headed in the next decade. With every household that transforms into a distributed energy resource, a region will be one step closer to a more resilient, efficient and planet-friendly grid.

6. Bank (Scott Galloway)
“Fintech is also coming for investing with online trading apps (Robinhood, Webull, Public, and several of the neobanks) and through the crypto side door (Coinbase, Gemini, Binance). Insurance is under threat from companies like Lemonade (home), Ladder (life), and Root (auto).
In sum, fintech is likely as underhyped as space is overhyped. Why? The ROI on your professional efforts and investing are inversely proportional to how sexy the industry/investment is, and fintech is… boring. Except for the immense opportunity and value creation — for multiple stakeholders. 'Half the world is unbanked, but we need to colonize Mars,' said no rational investor ever.”

The future of fintech looks promising. Everyone wants financial security, transparency and access. Cash rules everything around us.

7. We tested AI interview tools. Here’s what we found. (MIT Technology Review)
“Performance on AI-powered interviews is often not the only metric prospective employers use to evaluate a candidate. And these systems may actually reduce bias and find better candidates than human interviewers do. But many of these tools aren’t independently tested, and the companies that built them are reluctant to share details of how they work, making it difficult for either candidates or employers to know whether the algorithms are accurate or what influence they should have on hiring decisions.”

Tech for hiring has had its moment in the spotlight since the pandemic - for better or worse. Human capital is a company’s most precious resource. While HR tech can help, hiring managers need a high EQ to evaluate and hire the best talent, and increasingly the best tools.

9. Who Will Pay To Protect Tech Giants From Rising Seas? (NPR)
“Around the country, city councils like Sunnyvale’s are on the front lines of decisions that are becoming increasingly risky in a hotter climate. With control over zoning and land use, they determine who is in the path of future disasters. Still, cities face an inherent conflict. New development is crucial for their financial health. Responding to a flood disaster, on the other hand, is often paid for by the federal government.”

A compelling visual story that examines the intersection of big tech, environmental justice and climate resilience. The Bay Area Facebook and Google campuses are at risk of floods – alongside the vulnerable communities they border.

10. What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways (Bloomberg CityLab)
“As many of these highways near the end of their lifespans, a national reckoning with structural racism has put them in the spotlight, and has elevated plans, dreams and fights to reconnect what was divided.”

A vacation last week had me on the road, where I reflected on this fascinating visual story about the history of American highways. It’s crucial to understand the racist policies that underlie much of our national infrastructure – and to elevate marginalized communities in future development conversations.

So long, July! I hope you found these reads interesting and share your feedback. If you can, enjoy a bit of a slower pace this August. It's summer after all.