Financial vandalism: Human measure in the age of social media

Microsoft bought Nokia for $7.2 billion and Skype for $8.5 billion. Google spent on $3.2 billion on Nest and $12.5 billion on Motorola. Facebook splashed $1 billion on Instagram, $2 billion on Oculus and $19 billion on Whatsapp. 

Brands like Starbucks, Red Bull and Oreo have well beyond 35 million followers on Facebook each, a platform we tend to call social media. Each year, brands spend $450 billion on advertising, while Mark Woerde rightfully mentions that only $6 billion would bring malaria under control.

Cities built 40-story buildings whether their citizens like the view or not, and the world’s richest 85 people have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion.


Brazilian favelas showing the shrill contrast between wealth and poverty.


Bayern Munich’s president Uli Hoeneß evaded $40 million in taxes. Gareth Bale was sold to Real Madrid for $100 million, while the top Formula 1 drivers earn near $30 million each year.

Meanwhile, fans of F1 are flown in by cattle-class to get a glimpse of the cars from the distance called General Admission. As one reader on mentions:
“You’ve got to be in the aristocracy class to buy an actual seat.”

Arsenal fans

Arsenal fans protesting against the $1650 dollar price for a seasonal ticket, by far the highest in the English Premier League.


Sport’s key players have become commodities fit for television, detached from the fans. If there ever was a glue, it’s now gone.

The theme here is the lack – or complete absence – of human measure, in the age of social media.

We need to ask ourselves whether we like this financial vandalism.
I know I don’t. We’re all poorer because of it, even if it makes men like Ivan Gazidis richer.

The second weekend of March in the Netherlands

Yesterday was the warmest 8th March ever in the Netherlands, and today the temperature rose even further.

Fluctuation happens every year, but thirteen of the fourteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century, and we’re only fourteen years in.

If you want to show your ignorance, there’s no better way to express your love to global warming in a tweet.
So for a livestream of stupidity, click here (Dutch tweets).

Does anyone else in their 30/40s still have the hope of becoming a big shot in the future?

Originally posted on Quora, in an answer to Does anyone else in their 30/40s still have the hope of becoming a big shot in the future?

Dreams come without an expiry date, and you should never accept the notion that you can’t do what you’d like to do.

Here are some examples of people who didn’t.

Sylvester Stallone was 30 years old and broke. Then his script for Rocky sold.
Leonard Cohen released his first album at 30.
J.K. Rowling was 32 years old when she published the first Harry Potter book.
Andrea Bocelli began singing opera seriously after the age of 34.
Harrison Ford was a carpenter, until he became Han Solo, at the age of 35.
Ian Fleming wrote the first James Bond book at 43.
Alan Rickman got his first movie role at 46.
Susan Boyle made her first appearance on television, aged 47.
Julia Child was just shy of 50 when she wrote her first book.
Charles Darwin was 50 when he wrote Origin of Species.
Ray Kroc bought and transformed McDonald’s at the age of 59.
Colonel Harland Sanders began franchising his KFC business at the age of 65.
Bhaktivedanta Swami’ started the hare krishna movement at 67.
Peter Roget created the first Thesaurus at 73.

Heck, even Jesus was a carpenter, before he began performing miracles at the age of 30.

Although my favourite example comes from nature:
Some oak trees doesn’t produce acorns until they’re about 50 years old.

The things we write today, will they still be read in 174 years?

Amsterdamsche Courant, January 10, 1840.

Amsterdamsche Courant, January 10, 1840.

Here’s a close-up of the newspaper I found in an antique shop in Leiden. It’s from the Tenth of January, 1840, and printed with movable type, so you can really feel the words pressed into the paper.

A lot of manual labour was put into making this newspaper, without all the eases of publishing we have today. It does make me wonder, whether the things we write today will still be read in 174 years.

The advent of visual

India’s population of more than 1.2 billion people speaks a few hundred different languages. 112 of those languages are spoken by more than 10,000 people, and 30 languages in India have over a million speakers.

Then, just take in consideration that more than a quarter of the population is illiterate.
So, if you’re an advertising agency, you have a problem; how are you going to convey your message?

A creative director from Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai gave me two examples on how they approached the problem. Both times, part of the message was carried visually.

His first example was about a campaign, aimed at people to get vaccinated against leprosy. To get a part of the message across, they placed a billboard on two poles, yet one of them was broken.

Another example was a campaign against child labour. It had a little boy statue, carrying a box on his head. The box was tied to a rope, which was tied to a donation box. Every donation made the donation box heavier, so it lifted the box from the boy’s head. A perfect demonstration on what your money would do.

But even if you’re like me, not in, or from India, there’s still plenty of arguments for visual.

It’s worth noticing that the fastest growing social networks of the last years are all visual: Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. (Yes, some people write on Tumblr, but it’s a minority.)

Meanwhile, Facebook has increased the size of both cover and timeline images, and stats show that posts that include a photo receive over 50% more likes than those that do not. Same thing is happening on Twitter, where tweets with images are 150% more likely to be retweeted. The new MySpace has a lot more focus on images, and recently also Google+ bolstered its size of images. Then there’s Spotify, not much about text either.

Images are fast, but another thing is that - some symbols excepted – visual is a language that goes beyond language barrier. As Renato Beninatto puts it: “One doesn’t have to speak Italian to be captivated by the Mona Lisa.”

Jonathan Mak Long's CokeHands non-copy ad won the 2012 Cannes Lions Grand Prix in the outdoor category.

CokeHands by Jonathan Mak.

It’s the reason why non-copy advertisements win so many awards; the whole jury can understand it. The representative from the United States, the one from Sweden and the one from Japan. The Coca Cola ad that won the 2012 Cannes Lions Grand Prix is a fine example. It uses no words or logo, but its message and sender are understandable for anyone.

Another fine example of visual delivery are memes. Quickly they’ve become a simple way to express ideas and tell short stories, across a multitude of languages. The more a meme is used, the stronger its in-built context becomes.

Visual is also fast. Really fast. Here’s the front and back cover of Time magazine.


By TBWA\Chiat\Day.

It’s a demonstration of how portable and convenient the iPad mini is, and that you can read Time magazine on it. And it says all of that, using no words. And it says so pretty fast. Imagine you’d have to read all that, while entering the subway. No time for that, really.


Of course, the advent of visual hasn’t killed reading. Detailed stories simply don’t work visually. Steve Jobs was only half-right, and book are still being read, in one form or another. Blogging is thriving, and journalism could be in for a huge boost once newspapers understand that their apps should be more than a pdf of their paper edition.

Sure, some people will stop reading entirely, but for those who don’t, it’s a fantastic time. Personalised content is on the way, and accessibility has never been better. People used to read one newspaper in the morning during breakfast, now they read many more on their way to work, and they’re not all newspapers. I used to read my autosport news in one magazine, now I have several sites for that, one for which I pay.


Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

In 1907, Arthur Conan Doyle, wrote a memoir:
“Reading is made too easy nowadays, with cheap paper editions and free libraries. A man does not appreciate at its full worth the thing that comes to him without effort. A book should be your very own, before you can really get the taste of it. And unless you have worked for it, you will never have the true inward pride of possession.”

I wonder what he’d think of the world we live in today.

The perfect lenght

Ideally, a novel is just one idea long.
Which is also the perfect length for movies, dinners, albums, advertising campaigns and blogs. Anything.

And the perfect chapter, scene, dish, song, advertisement or post, is one idea as well.

On a smaller scale; the perfect sentence adds one idea to the paragraph.
In its turn, the paragraph adds one idea to the chapter, which adds one idea to the book, which adds one idea to the trilogy.

Everything should contribute one idea.

If it does more; split.
If it does less; remove.

On Paul Walker & Roger Rodas: Some sense instead of sadness

As sad at the passing of Paul Walker and Roger Rodas is, I’d like to use this as an opportunity for sense.

People who drive like idiots on public roads cause pain and  suffering. Both Paul Walker and Roger Rodas leave behind a wife and kids. I’m glad they didn’t take any innocent bystanders with them.

There’s just no excuse for anyone, let alone a racing driver, to end up like this within city  limits.


Et tu, Brute?

I love reading. I love it when I read words, carefully put down by a percipient writer, aware of their definitions. Writing in its good form, is thinking on paper, and speaks directly to me in beautiful words. I love that.

I love it when I read intelligence, expressed in a clear, simple, brief and human way.
Reading good writing begets more reading; it’s oxygen for the brain.

And the thing I love about reading is that it lets me discover something. Not only with the author’s insight, but my own as well. Reading is best without it telling me what to do, and leaving something to discover.

So what I don’t like is presumptuous and pretentious currency I get too often in exchange for my faith. Every time I see a good publisher fall to the clutches of mediocrity, the poetic words by Shakespeare come to mind; ‘Et tu, brute?’

Language is a living thing, constantly evolving. That is fine. I’ll accept that ‘epic’ is no longer a word to describe only tales like that of Iliad and Odyssey, and that the word ‘amazing’ no longer means ‘something so wonderful, it is hard to find words for it.’ Words like ‘mindblowing’, ‘amazing’, ‘heartbreaking’, ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’ have all watered down in their meaning. The very definition of many words have paled by their overuse.

But what I find hard to accept is reading it all the time, from publishers I greatly admire. I might expect sensationalism from BuzzFeed or The Onion, but Mashable, The Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Techcrunch and Quartz? Even you, Wired?

Here’s what I’m talking about:









I imagine the face of the writer who writes headlines like ‘Epic photographs that will leave you in awe ‘, to be completely neutral. And does the writer who pens down ‘must-see’ even know what that implies? And nothing makes me cringe like a headline, telling me to cringe.

And it’s not just the headlines, it’s the whole pretence of the article. Mashable wrote an article about the US Army building an Iron Man suit, while the suit simply had embed electronics, which is nothing new, and furthermore had it little to do with the fictional multimillionaire.

It’s a far-fetched metaphor – acting as click-bait – for people vulnerable to wasting time under the illusion they’re reading something meaningful.


There’s all this talk about people reading less, and if publishers keep writing such trash, I can’t blame them.

Writing comes with a code of honour, especially journalism. It should present truth and rely on fact. Adding opinion is fine, but leave something to discover for the reader. Like telling a joke, the fun lies in not explaining it.

I think many writers are writing articles closer related to instruction manuals than journalism; ‘here’s what you should feel’; ‘here’s what you should think’. ‘Oh yeah, and don’t forget to share.’

It’s stupid.

If we want to get people reading, we have to get ambitious. Do it the right way. Strive for freshness. Pretentiousness is a dead end.

We’re building our successors

Quake 3 is a first-person shooter video game – launched back in 1999 – that came with the innovation that the bot AI (artificial intelligence) could learn and adapt new scenarios and situations, based on tactics that worked and didn’t work.

Basically; the longer you played, the more it would learn about you. Matches usually don’t last very long in Quake, but one anonymous gamer left a server on for four years, hosting a bot-vs-bot match, setting no score or time limit.

Upon logging in earlier this year, he discovered that the bots where standing still, not doing anything. So, in his next step, the gamer joins the game.

The bots didn’t fire at him, they only rotated to look at him, and continued to do so as he walked around the map. The gamer than decided to shoot at one, to which the bots, all together, killed the gamer.
Whether this story is true or not, it does raise the question;
Could artificial intelligence be smarter than us, and figure out what humans can’t? That the best way to live, is to not kill each other. And that in fact, humans are the main threat to peace?
This probably sounds an awful lot like science-fiction. God knows how many books are written about robots taking over our planet.

However, last week I was listening to a Dutch politician stating that in the next few years, about two thousand new truck drivers are needed in the Netherlands. Yet, no matter how much they are needed now, I firmly believe those truck drivers will be unemployed by 2020.

See, like Quake, tech companies are developing droids with senses like understanding, speaking, hearing, seeing, answering and writing, at a rate quicker than politicians can understand. It’s gone outside of computer games, or science-fiction books.

This really shows itself best in driverless cars. Driving a car requires many skills, and humans are pretty bad at it (1.2 million deaths occur in vehicle accidents every year). It’s very likely that you know someone close, who has been injured or killed in a car accident. So computers don’t have to be very good to be better than us. But they will be.

There’s a lot of talk about how laws will cope with driverless cars, and who will be responsible for accidents, the driver, or the programmer. But that’s not so interesting, I think, as what it’ll mean for our jobs.

When cars will drive themselves, it’ll be the end of jobs for truck, bus and taxi drivers, postmen and waste collectors.

However, the bigger picture is that with superior drivers, no accidents will occur, ever. So there’ll be less need for police, firefighters and doctors. And that means less police and fire stations, and less hospitals. And, to single out hospitals to make an example, it’s not just some doctors losing their jobs. When a hospital will close down due less accidents, cleaners, cooks, electricians and many more will lose their jobs.

Then there’s other vehicles such as trains, boats and planes, which will be controlled by a computer.
Hopefully you’re seeing the bigger picture here.

Even more jobs will become non-existent thanks to 3D printing, as for instance clothing won’t be made by humans anymore. It allows local production, so the shipping industry will suffer a lot. Also; no need for storage, if you can print directly on demand. It’ll be good for the environment, but bad for jobs.

Then there’s ‘normal’ bots: they will replace fishers, miners, farmers, inspectors, construction builders, soldiers – basically, anything.
‘But wait. Wouldn’t somebody need to make those bots?’
Wrong. Already there are self-assembling robots.

And if you look at SIRI or Google Glass, you’ll realise that no-touch interface will automate help desk services, and probably schools as well.


Software developed by BETC Euro RSCG in Paris, generated ads like this one. This ad is from 2010.

Software developed by BETC Euro RSCG in Paris, generated ads like this one. This ad is from 2010.

Of course, all these developments will create some new jobs as well, but not as much as two billion. (That’s the number of jobs, evaporated thanks to the advent of artificial intelligence.) But replacing those new jobs might be a matter of time as well.

‘But wait, there will still be creative jobs right?’ Maybe, but know that computers are already showing creativity. The ad on the right here is made by BETC Euro RSCG Paris in 2010, and there’s a piece of software called AARON, developed by artist Harold Cohen, which creates art since the 1970s.

Science-fiction? No.
Will we let this happen? Yes.
Can we stop this? Maybe.

But stopping this will be difficult, for what makes sense on a larger scale (buying expensive goods from companies that use humans), makes no sense on an individual scale (buying cheap products from companies that use bots). And since individuals mostly pursue what’s best for them, we will all buy from non-human companies. Of course governments could help, but as said earlier, their awareness develops slower than technology. Also, they have a rather bad rep for choosing money over human resources.
And this isn’t my opinion, you know. I simply looked for information and put it together, which is what any proper journalist should do.

I started writing this article with the question; ”which jobs will become non-existent in the future?’, but the inevitable answer could very well be; ‘all of them’.


Artificial artists: when computers become creative
Quake 3 bots
Don’t Tell the Creative Department, but Software Can Produce Ads, Too
Meer vrachtwagenchauffeurs nodig
Eerste ‘F-16-drone’ maakt testvlucht
17 Jobs That Robots Were Supposed to Have Stolen By Now
Self Assembling Robots
Which jobs will become non-existant in the coming years?
The forever recession (and the coming revolution)
Data Shows Google Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than People
Jobs of the future, #1: Online Community Organizer
Machines on the march threaten almost half of modern jobs

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