Connect with us

Uncategorized

Blessed are the hungry? Not yet

Published

on

Lab-grown meat, artificial human breast milk, genetically modified pigs, a cauliflower field farmed by robots—if that’s the kind of science-fiction-y stuff you expect to read about in a special issue on technology and food, you won’t be disappointed. (And if you like actual science fiction, take a look at this short story by Anjali Sachdeva.) 

What makes these technologies so fascinating? Sure, it’s claimed that they’ll make food production better—more humane, more reliable, more efficient. But beyond that, I think we’re at once intrigued and repulsed by the idea that something as familiar, essential, and “natural” as food can be deconstructed and rebuilt from its component cells, tweaked like a piece of software, or grown without ever being touched by a human hand. 

This reflects an evolution in Western food culture. If mid-20th-century advertisements extolled synthetic foods in garish colors, and television shows told us we’d soon have all our nutritional needs met by three pills a day, today we fantasize about ancient grains and heirloom tomatoes in limitless abundance. But that also means we prefer not to acknowledge the truth: there’s already precious little that’s “natural” about how we get most of our food.

Today’s food system bears little resemblance to the one of just a couple of generations ago. It is far more industrial and globalized, and in much of the world it yields many times more crops per acre of land, thanks to new fertilizers, pesticides, and seed varieties. The most mundane processes, from walnut picking to potato breeding, are technologically mediated from top to bottom and are only becoming more so. We can make a piece of food take on any color in the spectrum, where once we were restricted to naturally occurring pigments. Industrial-scale fermentation, long-distance transportation, packaging, and refrigeration completely changed what foods are available when and where; newer advances like e-commerce, CRISPR, and precision agriculture are expected to have similarly far-reaching effects in the coming years. In our kitchens, yesterday’s gadgets for gourmets are becoming today’s essential appliances, raising the bar for home cooking ever higher.

And yet, for all its abundance and reach, the food system fails to feed hundreds of millions of people each year—and this figure, shockingly, is rising. Why? 

The obvious answer is that the food system is not actually designed to feed people. It’s designed to turn a profit, and typically it achieves that by maximizing yields and efficiencies. This might lead to the production of a lot of food, but often in the wrong places, at the wrong times.

So what would happen if we made adequate nourishment a basic human right and rewrote the usual rules of capitalism to achieve? What if, instead of making maximal productivity the ultimate goal and using technology to boost it, we aimed for universal balanced nutrition and sustainable agriculture, and sought out both new technological solutions and traditional farming practices as a way to get there? We’ve already added minerals and vitamins to various foods to combat nutrient deficiencies that sicken billions of people every year; what if we kept on going?

The message in all this is one that MIT Technology Review delivers time after time: technology can yield great benefits to humanity, but only if we choose to deploy it in pursuit of those benefits. It may be a tired old nostrum, but it’s never more self-evidently true than with food—a technological product that every human being relies on almost every single day.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

Uncategorized

Apple’s new editorial franchise, Apple Podcasts Spotlight, to highlight interesting creators

Published

on

Apple today announced a new editorial franchise called Apple Podcasts Spotlight, which aims to highlight rising podcast creators in the U.S. The editorial team at Apple will select new podcast creators to feature every month and then give them prominent screen real estate in the Apple Podcasts app and promote them across social media and elsewhere. This will allow creators to reach a wider audience, similar to how the App Store showcases a selection of recommended apps and games with large banners at the top of its screen.

The first Spotlight creator is Chelsea Devantez, who hosts the podcast Celebrity Book Club. On Fridays, Chelsea and special guests including Emily V. Gordon, Gabourey Sidibe, Ashley Nicole Black and Lydia Popovich will meet to discuss the memoirs of “badass celebrity womxn,” as an announcement describes it.

The idea for the show began a year ago when Devantez was reading Jessica Simpson’s memoir and started recapping it on Instagram. The reaction from her followers prompted her to expand the concept into a podcast.

Upcoming episodes will feature Oscar-nominated writer and producer Emily V. Gordon talking Drew Barrymore’s “Little Girl Lost;” actress Stephanie Beatriz discussing Celine Dion’s memoir “My Story My Dream;” Leighton Meester on Carly Simon’s “Boys in the Trees;” and a special Valentine’s Day episode where Chelsea and TikTok star Rob Anderson read Burt Reynolds’ and Loni Anderson’s competing divorce memoirs.

“Apple Podcasts Spotlight helps listeners find some of the world’s best shows by shining a light on creators with singular voices,” said Ben Cave, Global Head of Business for Apple Podcasts, in a statement about the launch. “Chelsea Devantez has created a fun, vibrant space with Celebrity Book Club for listeners to gain new perspectives on the celebrities we thought we knew. We are delighted to recognize Chelsea and Celebrity Book Club as our first Spotlight selection and look forward to introducing creators like Chelsea to listeners each month,” he added.

Apple says future Spotlight creators will be announced monthly from across a range of podcast genres, formats and locations, and will often focus on independent and underrepresented voices. The content is previewed ahead of selection to ensure quality, but there are no specific requirements about the podcast size and reach.

In general, the new Spotlight creators will debut toward the front of the week, but the specific days are fluid to adapt to holidays, major cultural events, and others. The next Spotlight selection, for example, will launch in mid-February.

The Spotlight creators will be featured at the top of the Browse tab of Apple Podcasts and will be promoted through the Apple Podcasts social media accounts. Some form of in-app featuring will continue throughout the entire month the creators are in the “spotlight.”

Apple says it will also collaborate with the featured creators on their own channels. And, over time, you’ll see promotion via additional Apple-operated channels including outdoor advertising in major U.S. metros.

The news of the new editorial program comes shortly after a report from The Information suggested Apple is working to expand its podcasts platform with the introduction of a podcast subscription service, threatening rivals like Spotify, SiriusXM and Amazon.

Though Apple Podcasts still leads the market, Spotify has been catching up by spending over $800 million on podcast companies, like Anchor, the Ringer, Gimlet Media, and more recently, podcast ad company Megaphone.

SiriusXM, meanwhile, bought podcast management and analytics platform Simplecast, ad tech platform AdsWizz, and podcast app Stitcher. Not to be left out, Amazon just a few weeks ago announced it was acquiring the podcast network Wondery.

Beyond helping the creators grow their audience, Apple says the larger goal with the program is to welcome new audiences to podcasts, in general.

Though podcasts are growing in popularity, the monthly podcast listener base is just 37% in the U.S., according to Edison Research. That means it’s nowhere near being an activity that’s popular among a majority of the U.S. population at this time. Before Apple can effectively monetize podcasts as a subscription service, it needs to help get more people listening to podcasts on a regular basis.

Apple declined to say if the program would expand outside the U.S. at a later date.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

We’ll discuss the future of the gig economy and contract works at TC Sessions: Justice on March 3

Published

on

Like so many other subjects, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought concerns about the gig economy and contract workers into sharp focus over the past year which is why we’ll be diving into this topic at TC Sessions: Justice on March 3.

From food delivery services like Seamless to warehouse and fulfillment jobs at places like Amazon, these often low-paid jobs have kept people supplied with essentials during one of the most difficult moments in modern American history.

But why is it that jobs our society has labeled “essential” often carry the least number of protections for those who fulfill them? Is there a way to ensure a safety net for the people who need it the most?

As the pandemic continued to rage, California passed Proposition 22. The law was regarded as a big win for companies like Uber and Lyft (who pumped a collective $200 million into promotions) and a tremendous step back for workers looking for basic employment rights. But the battle between the Prop 22 proponents and the gig workers who oppose it continues. A group of rideshare drivers in California and the Service Employees International Union have filed a lawsuit alleging Proposition 22 violates California’s constitution.

To discuss the gig worker economy and its future in a post-Prop 22 world, we will be joined by Jessica E. Martinez, the co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an organization devoted to promoting health and safety conditions for workplaces; Vanessa Bain, a gig worker activist who co-founded the Gig Workers Collective; and Christian Smalls, a former Amazon worker turned activist.

TC Sessions: Justice will be held online on March 3. Get your tickets today!


Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Wendy Xiao Schadeck becomes Northzone’s first New York partner

Published

on

Northzone‘s new partner Wendy Xiao Schadeck isn’t new to the firm — she actually joined back in 2015.

Before entering the venture world, Schadeck co-founded co-working and childcare startup CoHatchery. And as a Northzone principal, she’s already been involved in the firm’s investments in Spring Health (mental health), 3box (cloud infrastructure), Livepeer (blockchain-based video transcoding) and Magic.link (user authentication).

More broadly, Northzone says Schadeck helped to develop the firm’s investment theses around crypto, consumer technology, health, developer/web 3.0 infrastructure.

“Wendy has already proven herself through very insightful sector-driven thought leadership and has solidified our position in the New York ecosystem,” said General Partner Pär-Jörgen Pärson in a statement. “She has defined and redefined an honest, authentic and inspiring dialogue between herself as an investor and the entrepreneurs she supports.”

Schadeck told me that her interests have “crystallized” around three key areas — “open data, open finance and open community.” And she said that with her promotion to partner, she will be able to work even more closely with founders, a topic she’s become “obsessed” with.

“We’ve all seen this VC meme, ‘How can I be helpful?’ and I’ve sometimes accidentally literally said it,” Schadeck said. “But we mean it: Other than providing capital, first and foremost, on good terms, what other dimensions are there that are becoming more and more important? … How can I customize my approach to provide what the founder needs from me?”

While Schadeck is Northzone’s first New York-based partner (its other partners are in London and Stockholm), she said she will make investments outside the region, albeit with an NYC focus.

“We’ve tried to do this matrix approach, where we both have sectors that we’re pretty excited about and build expertise and experience in, as well as relationships” she said. “And those relationships are better with local entrepreneurs.”

 

Continue Reading

Trending