Offer It, and They [Still Won’t] Come: Should governments use money to lure companies?

Ever since Amazon’s country-wide fishing expedition, the question has drawn incredible vigor and debate. Even after the selection and their withdrawal from New York City however, the discussions seem to have died down but the answers are no closer. Those in favor argue for the long-term benefits, and worship it almost as a surefire way for economic growth. Those against are not much better— regarding any offer as a deal with the devil hellbent on gentrification and socioeconomic inequity.

To step away from the extremes of both ends, I want to restart the argument from ground-up. Or as the now turned-corporate-buzzword would be “from first principles.”

To start off, we need to make some basic assumptions on what the goals of the deal are. Though not exhaustive, I will think of them as:

  1. Introduce a new stream of future tax revenue
  2. Encourage the local/regional entrepreneurial and technological economy by employing locals to the new high paying tech jobs
  3. Help transform the existing infrastructure towards a forward looking culture and system to make it more resilient and strong against future economic and technological/social shocks
  4. The company investing in the area has such positive effects on points 2 and 3 that it brings in more companies that themselves have positive feedback effects for all points

Though it’s easy to quantify point 1 (as it is often the number thrown around within the arguments for the deals), it’s much harder to define or even make concrete goals for the others. I think it fair to say however, that the point of the latter three are to create an almost second Silicon Valley— as defined as a central tech hub associated with job and quality of life growth.

Photo Credits to Carles Rabada

With the goals in place, let’s have a brief examination on possible outcomes. For simplicity’s sake, I have but two outcomes in mind: success and failure. Success means that the company takes the deal offered. Failure means they don’t.

The big issue is that failure is very real. Take Amazon’s bid, a tale of but 2 winners for a country of 50 states. The biggest problem with failure (and success arguably) is a question of moral hazard. Winners suffer less as they reap the presumed rewards, but losers have shown to the world their soft underbelly: “This is how much I will beg you to come to me. Do not otherwise.”

But what about success?

Continue reading “Offer It, and They [Still Won’t] Come: Should governments use money to lure companies?”

Generational Cultures in Apps: Tools vs Modes

The scene may be familiar to many of you. A chat in your family’s app of choice— LINE, WeChat, etc— is created to get everyone in one centralized communication channel. It was meant for logistics and updates. Was.

Now it’s full of clickbait links and the “um”s and “ah”s of audio messages. A 1254 notifications badge scares away any hope for a visit.

Why does it seem like there’s such a wide disparity in how chat apps are used? It seems like on one hand there are the young— with curt and succinct responses, punctuated by heavily contextual content like memes— and on the other, are the older— superfluous and verbose, preferring audio, and seeming to replicate real life conversation directly onto chat.

We know different users use services differently, but for something like communication— which is so basic and foundational to our species— how is it so reliably different? Is it just an issue of age?

Continue reading “Generational Cultures in Apps: Tools vs Modes”

Airbnb vs Amazon: A Dualistic Approach to the Future of Employment

It’s no secret that the giant minds of the world are thinking themselves silly over what to do about the future of employment. Will AI replace all humans in their jobs? Will new industries and services rise up to create new jobs uniquely manageable by humans only?

Steve Jobs spoke about the computer and technology as a “bicycle of the mind,” that they are nothing but tools to allow humankind to reach greater heights and achieve more. But try telling that to people in sectors long supplanted by machinery. They’d probably tell you to keep the bike. Continue reading “Airbnb vs Amazon: A Dualistic Approach to the Future of Employment”

TicketMaster, Taylor Swift, and the Future of Tickets

In recent news, Taylor Swift partnered with TicketMaster to introduce a new ticket-buying system that would help fans “beat the bots.” Instead of a standard queue as instituted for some events such as New York’s infamous Comic-Con however, the fan’s position in line could be advanced and authenticated through shows of “real fandom.”

Or at least that’s how they’re pitching the new #TaylorSwiftTix system.

Because the factors that would change the fan’s position in queue include things like posting about the event in social media, buying other Swift merchandise, and just about anything that would either give them more money or help them market. If it does help beat the bots, it’ll make people go back to the good old fashioned “beating other people.”

Now I should make a disclaimer that I’m no big Taylor Swift fan (though I admit have a small weakness for “Mean”), but I can’t help but find myself both horrified and unceasingly fascinated by this push. Continue reading “TicketMaster, Taylor Swift, and the Future of Tickets”

GREE: Games as a Cultural Export

As an avid gamer, the news of GREE shuttering its international offices last week came as a shock. In a bit of snark schadenfreude, the news of their international titles not doing well wasn’t anything unexpected– I’ve played some of them before and seen their respective rankings in the App store. Yet what really caught my attention was the plan that their executives had mentioned going forward: “[to shift] to a “Japan-first content strategy” – the plan being to launch games in its home territory, then localise and distribute the most successful ones in other markets around the world.”

Coming from Japan where a shrinking domestic market means businesses need to expand internationally more than ever— this news was disappointing beyond words. PR doublespeak aside, it just seems like GREE is withdrawing inwards, choosing to stick with the safe and known.

But is this really the right move? Continue reading “GREE: Games as a Cultural Export”