America’s Future Struggles, Personalized Ads, The Government, & China – Thoughts & Learnings #9

Hello hello!

Hope you had a good (U.S.) holiday break! I didn’t publish for a few weeks because I was caught up shutting down one of my main businesses, FanBump.

Going forward, I’ll be putting out a lot more content, so stay tuned!

Five Things To Share

1. Thought: Is America going to fall behind due to our poor educational system? 🎓

Interesting thought from Tom Williams, a venture investor who leads a syndicate on AngelList. I hadn’t thought about the long-term ramifications of our country’s poor educational system but I can’t say that I disagree with this statement.

“For years, I have been investing on a macro thesis that America’s best days are behind it. Put more succinctly, that it has been dying a slow and painful death as the world’s dominant superpower…It’s because America’s public education system has been broken for decades. Therefore, it is only logical to reason that America has created a deficit of human capital in the last few decades, which is producing fewer people per capita who are sufficiently literate in STEM. As software is truly eating the world, the countries that are producing the highest number of people per capita that are literate in STEM will produce the most ongoing growth of financial capital.”

2. Advertising: The scary world of incredibly personalized ads 

In my last newsletter, I wrote about how humans don’t wear bike helmets due to the fear of being judged. When I opened YouTube the next morning, the first ad that was shown to me was a long-form infomercial about a bike helmet that looks like a hat and so people won’t know you’re actually wearing a helmet.

Since I returned to the U.S. in June, I’ve noticed that ad targeting based on what I write and conversations that I have in person have both been extraordinarily precise. There is zero doubt in my mind that my phone or an app on my phone is listening to me at all times and selling that data.

I’m not sure what to make of all of this but it’s certainly offputting. Here’s a good, quick breakdown of how ad retargeting works if you want to learn more.

3. Government: Lawmakers end freelance journalism in California and what this indicates on a broader level (article)

For some reason, as part of the bill targeting Lyft and Uber, California lawmakers decided to make it illegal for freelance writers to write more than 35 times for the same publication per year.

This is a sad example of lawmakers misunderstanding a situation and making a decision that hurts the very people they’re trying to help.

In a broader sense, this event forbodes how our Government may make decisions in the future. We’re on a growth curve where technology is causing society to evolve at a rapid rate and it’s going to force our Government to make timely decisions which will lead to unintended side effects like this one.

4. App: Ant Forest in China – incentivizes people to live low carbon lifestyles

Learned about this from Nat Eliason, one of my favorite thinkers and newsletters. “There’s a fascinating program in China called “Ant Forest” which lets you track and log activities that reduce your carbon footprint to earn “green energy” in the app. Then as you earn green energy, you can spend that on trees in the app, and if you grow a tree in the app the creators will go out and plant an actual tree. Since its inception, 122,000,000 trees have been planted (!!!). How is this not a thing in the US yet?”

5. Quote: Henry David Thoreau

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Thanks for reading mis amigos! Until next week!

Sincerely,
Cam

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Cam Woodsum
I started Need Change to write about important issues regarding society, politics, media, climate change, COVID-19, psychology, and racism. My work has been featured by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. & U.K. Governments. Keep reading to hear the perspective of someone who grew up in America, has lived in 15+ countries, and is deeply passionate about uniting humanity and improving the world. Feel free to click the chat in the bottom right if you ever want to talk! I'm friendly :).