Alexa whistleblower + more news

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Alexa whistleblower

Alexa whistleblower demands Amazon apology after being jailed and tortured | Amazon | The GuardianA whistleblower who exposed illegal working conditions in a factory making Amazon’s Alexa devices says he was tortured before being jailed by Chinese authorities. Tang Mingfang, 43, was jailed after he revealed how the Foxconn factory in the southern Chinese city of Hengyang used schoolchildren working illegally long hours to manufacture Amazon’s popular Echo, Echo Dot and Kindle devices. Now, after spending two years in prison, he is appealing to the higher courts to clear his name. He has taken the difficult decision to talk publicly, despite being aware of the risks of reprisals, because he believes Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, have a responsibility to support his appeal and that the Observer also has a responsibility to highlight his case – the Alexa whistleblower didn’t only expose labour issues in its Chinese factories. By implication, the Alexa whistleblower also exposed the inhuman nature of Amazon’s calculations in making the Alexa. Taking an Alexa apart you can see how Amazon skimped on parts like an on / off switch on the Alexa microphone, but the Alexa whistleblower exposed so much more.


China’s Domestic Politics Are Driving the Belt and Road Initiative – The Diplomat – The geopolitical effects of the BRI are incidental; its driving force is found in domestic political imperatives, also getting rid of production surpluses in areas like construction, railways and steel manufacturing

Consumer behaviour

The Age of the Unique Baby Name – The Atlantic – I would see the internet accelerating this trend in order to stop their kid from having an identity like which in turn feeds into salience and distinctiveness – individual as brand

The rise and rise of media on your mobile phone – in one chart | World Economic Forum – this doesn’t show how multi-screening plays out


Carmakers shift gear on using recycled materials | Financial Times – this ignores the fact that a lot of steel used in automotive manufacture comes from recycling

Why modular housing is stubbornly small-scale | Financial Times – its harder to do modular in smaller brownfield plots

How to deal with farmers’ love of plastic | Financial Times – I too grew up on a farm in the 1970s and 1980s. Spare baling twine was gathered up to create fake electric fencing, hold things together and even support gates. Fertiliser bags were reused to carry turf or waterproof equipment. Silage covers were used to waterproof equipment and any small tear off pieces found went into the range (a solid fuel heating stove).

three frank lloyd wright unbuilt houses brought to life as digital reconstructions – I was looking at these renderings and the first thing that popped into my mind was the vintage Mac game Myst, it evoked a similar feeling to the game play


The above video is based on CBInsights State of Venture 2021 report. An increase in venture funding would in general be a good thing, if it was being spent on the right kind of innovation to solve the right problems. It isn’t. And if there were enough good entrepreneurs and ideas to take advantage of it. There aren’t. Instead this looks like the dotcom bubble and the subprime mortgage sector pre bust together, at once. And that’s likely to be part of your pension funds. Why Is Silicon Valley Still Waiting for the Next Big Thing? – The New York Times


Noom: how the Silver Lake-backed wellness app handles vulnerable users | Financial Times – staff can’t scale, neither can their processes and the algorithms don’t seem to work properly in terms of target calories


Nestlé confirms Fawdon sweets factory closure in move to EU production | Food & drink industry | The Guardian – Brexit, not called that of course


Germany Rethinks Position on Beijing: Government in Berlin Classifies China as a “Systemic Rival” – DER SPIEGEL

Hong Kong

A couple of articles on Hong Kong’s brain drain: From Lantau to Ealing: Hong Kong’s homesick exiles in Britain greet the Year of the Tiger – POLITICO and Young and skilled have fled Hong Kong for UK | News | The Times 


The Depressing Rise of ‘Wordcels’ and ‘Numbercels’ | Mel magazine – on how the language of grievance and frustration is shaping every aspect of our discourse (and probably hardwiring our thinking as well)

Olympic legacy of Japan’s experiment in urban mining | Financial Times – this is highlighted as something new, but instead reminds me of the recycling efforts in Germany, Japan, the UK and US during the second world war – to get war materials ready and bond society into the fight

Russia’s revamped military learns from failures of the past | Financial Times

Experts Warn of “Quantum Apocalypse” – its like the plot of the hacking movie Sneakers. The plot centres around trying to gain possession of a black box called ‘Setec Astronomy’which is an anagram of ‘too many secrets’ is able to crack all current cryptographic schemes. The crypto that secures your credit card transactions or my computer laptop hard drive. Quantum Apocalypse is when someone gets quantum computing to a point were it can complete the same feat


99% of common chemicals aren’t sustainable – Futurity – people think that oil is just about petrol and diesel and will have a rude shock. Oil companies and the petrochemical sector still have a future ahead of them. As do mines and quarries.

MIT Creates Material Stronger Than Steel But as Light as Plastic – but they’re decade away from commercialisation

EETimes – Quantum Computer Technology Assessment 

EETimes – Samsung Readies Gate-All-Around Ramp 

EETimes – Quantum-Engineered Material Boosts Transistor Performance 

Glencore plans UK recycling plant for lithium-ion batteries | Financial Times – how effective this will be is another question

‘Why have we not grown any giant companies?’ The UK’s attempt to take on Silicon Valley | Financial Times 

China sets the pace in adoption of AI in healthcare technology | Financial Times – interesting points on a shortage of different specialists in an ageing society already. The rural | city living split is also raising difficulties – China’s demographic bomb has already gone off. This means a declining China rather than a strong China


Weak supply chain link: Japan reliant on Chinese phones, laptops – Nikkei Asia


Rolexes Outperformed Stocks, Real Estate and Gold Over the Last Decade – Robb Report – not good investment advice to follow, but an interesting read

Tiffany’s Alexandre Arnault joins the NFT Cryptopunks community | Vogue Business – His endorsement of the profile picture phenomenon comes days after his father LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault expressed caution over the metaverse “bubble”.


1969 vintage ad for General Mills Lucky Charms and Cheerios show the power of a character figure. Use of characters in advertising is declining, and is yet one of the most powerful creative devices available to advertising creatives. More on this on Look Out by Orlando Wood


Japanese Olympic sponsors avoid spotlight fearing backlash – Nikkei Asiaso far they have not run any Olympics-linked TV advertisements in Japan. As of Friday, there has been no Olympic-themed ads, including ones using the logo, according to CM Soken Consulting. This compares with ads by about 30 companies that ran roughly 2,650 times from late January through February during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea.  The Olympics has not provided the usual boost to TV sales this time. Japanese sales of TVs since mid-January have been down 5-6% on the year, according to BCN, reflecting the lack of excitement among consumers.  The U.S., the U.K., and Australia decided on diplomatic boycotts of the Games by refusing to send government representatives, citing the alleged detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and other concerns. Sponsor companies are worried that aggressively supporting the Games could affect their business in those countries. Only a limited number of corporate representatives, including Panasonic Chairman Kazuhiro Tsuga, attended the opening ceremony.”We have no choice but to tone down our PR activity,” said a source at one sponsor company. “This was totally unexpected.” This comes after last year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics, during which sponsor companies dialed down their advertising out of consideration for public opinion critical of holding the Games amid a pandemic – apparently viewing numbers on NBC is down 43% across TV and streaming compared to the 2018 winter olympics hosted in Korea (paywall)


How Alphabet’s Q4 was a savior, Google search and YouTube make parent company’s 2022 good / Digital Information World 

Facebook to Lose $10 Billion This Year Because of Apple’s New Policies / Digital Information World

The Death of Rusty n Edie’s, One of the Horniest Places on the 90s Internet

The day Facebook started to shrink – by Casey Newton – models suggest that this should have happened years ago, but Facebook has been surprisingly good at pivoting, retaining data on its platform and buying up rival platforms (Instagram, WhatsApp etc). Its going to be a while before Facebook is the Geocities of social, but this was inevitable. The reaction of shareholders was less predictable: Investors wipe almost $200bn from value of Facebook owner Meta | Financial Times 


Japan to screen power, gas and oil equipment for hacking risk – Nikkei Asia 

Revealed: Tory links to the Chinese spy operating in the heart of Westminster | The Telegraph

Intel Expands its Bug Bounty Program, Says its CPUs are Safer than AMD’s – ExtremeTech

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp hit by cyber attack | Financial Times – Chinese hacking project. How things have come from Murdoch being seriously invested in Star Asian satellite broadcasting targeting China and based out of Hong Kong to being an ‘enemy’ of China

China more ‘brazen and damaging’ than ever, says FBI director | China | The Guardian

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon – The New York Times – ok their definition of ‘most powerful’ is way off, but an interesting analysis of NSO and Pegasus


EETimes – AMD Acquisition of Xilinx Heats Up Competition with Intel 

Sony buys video game maker Bungie for $3.6bn as dealmaking accelerates | Financial Times

Web of no web

EETimes – The Metaverse: Pleasure Island Revisited