The click-per-payment model, DiResta says, may also change influencers’ behavior—creating the “incentive to produce and amplify content in the most inflammatory way possible in order to drive the audience to take an action.” But at the most fundamental level, researchers voiced a concern about the potential for deception in civic discourse. DiResta said, “I don’t think the public really understands the extent to which the people making these posts are, in fact, potentially becoming enriched personally by them.”
The ramifications of not disclosing these ties can touch anyone, from your credulous grandmother all the way up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A knowledgeable person with insight into an Urban Legend campaign described one client’s effort to apply pressure on the FCC. According to the person, one of the influencers enlisted was Eric Bolling, a disgraced former Fox News host and one of just 51 people President Trump followed on Twitter. Bolling’s post involved a “telecoms issue,” with a goal “to apply as much pressure” as possible on the FCC. There were “thousands of engagements overnight” from Bolling’s tweet, the person said, which “the FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, and the president followed and saw.”
Today, Bolling’s tweet does not appear to be on his feed. Most social media marketing campaigns get deleted when they’ve run their course, and I found Urban Legend’s campaigns to be no exception. Rinat said influencers always know the identity of a client—and followers will know, too, because the link generally takes them to a campaign page, where the sponsor can be identified. Later, he said transparency is “a very important thing to influencer marketing, and particularly for our model. Without it, audience trust drops, and the resulting engagement drops.” He also called for clearer rules from enforcement agencies.
While lionizing transparency, Urban Legend continues to shield the identities of its influencers and the clients who pay them. The company’s tactfully hands-off approach to disclosure, Farid said, makes the Exchange “a system that is—by design—ripe for abuse.”
“At best, the appearance is bad,” he continued. “At worst, it’s hiding something nefarious.”
The satirist and critic H. L. Mencken once wrote that “whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.” The bone-dry notion that Americans would happily sell anything—even their patriotism—must have seemed like an amusing hypothetical at the time. But perhaps Mencken simply didn’t live long enough to see Americans offered the chance.
Last September, HuffPost reporter Jesselyn Cook noted a wave of Instagram posts that seemed to correspond with the timing of a large payment to Urban Legend for “advertising,” according to FEC filings, through a partner firm called Legendary Campaigns. The purchase was made by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which fundraises for Senate campaigns. The posts had headlines like “End to Mask Mandates, Endless Lockdowns and Vaccine Passports!” and demanded “a full investigation into Biden-tech collusion.” Each post linked to NRSC petitions, which harvested names and emails.
When I asked Rinat about the posts, he initially said he didn’t think the campaigns came from Urban Legend. A few weeks later, however, an Urban Legend client shared with WIRED several backdated screenshots of their influencers’ posts. Each of these posts redirected users to a petition by using a highly unusual URL construction, which began “exc.to.” According to computer science researchers who examined the string, the top-level domain “.to” is registered to the country of Tonga and has a registration history that cannot be seen. The domain “exc” was registered with the URL-shortening service Bit.ly, which works with private business clients to turn their registered domains into redirect links (such as “es.pn” for the sports network). Since Urban Legend’s founding in 2020, “exc.to” could not be found elsewhere on the internet, except in one place: the HuffPost story, in which a 16-year-old’s Instagram post for the NRSC bore the telltale URL “END MASK MANDATES: exc.to/3zLvUFB.”
Let me admit right up front that I am an innovation junkie. Coming from Silicon Valley, I consider innovation to be the high art of business. Sure, operating an efficient, productive, competitive widget maker is the Holy Grail for many professional managers, and I admire great operating prowess wherever I find it. But what use is it all if it isn’t creating something new? Innovative businesses are an engine for change. And change is exciting because it is ripe with opportunity and possibility.
One more thing before you read on: I am not a big fan of business books that purport to tell you how to succeed. When I am pleasantly surprised by a business book, it is because of the value of the insights that it provokes rather than the advice or examples that it gives.
I tend to think of innovations as breakthrough ideas or game-changing technologies — like the Internet or genetic sequencing. On the other hand, I know there are many hardworking, successful businesspeople who consider new packaging for a breakfast cereal to be innovative. Merriam-Webster OnLine defines innovation as “the introduction of something new; a new idea, method, or device: novelty.” In the thesaurus, the first word that comes up for innovation is change. The combination seems like a good working definition to me: A new idea that effects change. Bigness or smallness is not important. With this definition in mind, I set out to see what the current batch of writers had to teach us about innovation.
Three of the books chosen explore innovation from an analytical perspective; each holds the view that networks are critical to innovation. In How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), Andrew Hargadon sees a series of “small worlds” — seemingly distant, disconnected, and disparate populations or actions — that need to be bridged by technology brokers. Henry Chesbrough, in Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), sees a diffusion of knowledge that needs to be knitted into innovative solutions, both inside and outside companies. In The Slow Pace of Fast Change: Bringing Innovations to Market in a Connected World (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), Bhaskar Chakravorti sees a network of constituencies that must coordinate if they wish to abandon the status quo they currently support and create a new environment where innovation may flourish.
Each writer brings something unique to the discussion. Hargadon emphasizes that the structure and culture of organizations determines their success with innovation. Chesbrough feels that business models are crucial to creating value from innovation, and that they can also help to organize internal research and development. Chakravorti believes that, with the help of game theory, a new market environment of supportive, benefiting parties can be successfully negotiated around disruptive innovations. Each book addresses the elephant of innovation from a different perspective, but all cogently describe the same beast.
Andrew Hargadon hails from Silicon Valley and Stanford. He has relevant experience at IDEO, one of the world’s most impressive product design firms, and Apple Computer, which is likewise distinguished by its innovative products. But Hargadon isn’t enamored with the notion of solitary, ingenious inventors. Instead, the premise of How Breakthroughs Happen is that innovation results from the hard work of talented synthesizers — people who bridge ideas from unrelated small worlds. These small worlds are often the detached domains of seemingly unrelated industries, like health care and running shoes. He calls these synthesizers technology brokers rather than inventors, not to diminish their importance but rather to illustrate how most innovation actually occurs.
Take the example of Design Continuum, a product-design firm located in Newton, Mass. Despite its resume of innovative products, Design Continuum “invents” remarkably little. Rather, it pulls together knowledge from its divergent experiences to form compelling new solutions to various problems. When Reebok retained the firm to design a new athletic shoe, Design Continuum drew upon its prior work with medical IV bags to develop an inflatable air bladder for ankle support and comfort. IV bags were certainly not new to the medical industry, but they were quite new to the shoe business. Design Continuum bridged the two worlds to create a novel solution.
Hargadon holds that it is not enough simply to apply disparate ideas to new solutions — it is then necessary to build communities of support around those solutions. This insight is important and arises again in other works. Inventing is only the first step in innovating. If innovation is to take root, many parties must embrace it along the way. People must be willing to let go of their current thinking and incorporate the new ideas into their own work. To effect changes, it is critical to build support among those constituencies necessary for the changes’ adoption and success. Consequently, organizational skills and structure are key assets in innovation.
These collectives and communities are directly affected by the organizations and cultures in which they arise. If you don’t have an organization and culture that encourage risk taking — and that accept the failures that frequently result — then you are likely to fall prey to the “safer” dominant logic. In order to innovate, according to Hargadon, it is best to start by opening up your company, and in particular your researchers and developers, to outside thinking. This stands in stark contrast to the classic monolithic research efforts like those of AT&T’s Bell Labs.
In Open Innovation, Henry Chesbrough carries this idea even further. He defines the old methods of research and innovation as “closed” and asserts that the future of innovation lies in being “open” to the diffusion of ideas and knowledge that lie outside your company.
Chesbrough offers a compelling set of reasons for the necessity of the move to open innovation. The closed paradigm of innovation reflected a very different business environment — one where the boundaries between industries seemed impermeable to outside ideas because there was little apparent overlap between the products and core competencies of each. What could research in the pharmaceutical industry have in common with research in the electronics industry? Large, vertically integrated companies were able to reap the value of their internal research within their siloed business models. They could hire the best talent in their industry, manage the speed and timing of their inventions, direct those innovations toward their customers’ stated needs, and realize the full value of those innovations through aggressive intellectual property protection and captive markets. Bell Labs is an excellent example of just such a closed innovation paradigm, one that worked successfully for decades.
Toward the Open Paradigm
But something happened in the last 20 years that undermines the closed innovation model for the majority of businesses, which no longer can rely on vertical integration and captive markets to harvest their internal breakthroughs. The conditions favoring closed innovation have been eroded by the increasing mobility of talent, the influx of venture capital, the abundance of entrepreneurial startups, and the increasing importance of university research. The resulting network of communications and talent has created strange bedfellows, like genetics and microelectronics, which have been melded in microchips designed for use in the diagnosis of cancers.
Chesbrough points out that this erosion calls into question the closed model of innovation. When the best minds in your company can easily leave to found a new business with venture capital, you quickly discover that your company no longer has a monopoly on the best ideas, no matter how much you spend on R&D. When you find that the newly minted Ph.D.s you were relying on to inject your company with state-of-the-art thinking are instead happier to pursue their university projects at upstart competitors, you become acutely aware that the fortress you have built to lock your innovations inside actually may be keeping the best ideas out. Sure, the threat from startups may be momentarily abated, but that is a consequence of the current business cycle — not the ultimate trend of the underlying market dynamics.
Chesbrough offers a framework for how businesses can move toward open innovation. He uses the example of IBM, once a pinnacle of closed innovation, which adopted an open approach after, as he puts it, “a near-death experience.” From 1945 to 1980, IBM dominated the computer business. It had the largest sales, largest research budget, and most patents of any company in the industry. In 1992, its business was facing powerful competition on every front from the likes of Microsoft, Compaq, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and DEC. At the end of that year, IBM recorded the largest quarterly and annual loss in U.S. corporate history. Something had to change.
Louis V. Gerstner Jr., an outsider, was brought in to lead the charge. His IBM shifted its focus from products to customers and soon realized that its research dollars were being squandered on lower tiers in the value chain. IBM needed to redirect its efforts toward the applications and solutions that its customers valued. So Gerstner hired research managers to broker technology between IBM’s labs and its business units, with special emphasis on those innovations that could directly influence sales. And IBM stopped using its intellectual property largely as a defensive measure to ensure itself the freedom to innovate products safe from litigation. Rather, it attached its intellectual property to processes and components that its fabrication and manufacturing supplied to other companies — including would-be competitors. In this way, IBM’s component customers pay for the otherwise contestable right to use a particular technology that IBM has developed, and IBM earns a return on its intellectual property apart from issuing naked licenses or selling finished goods.
What really caught my attention in Chesbrough’s book, however, was his discussion of the role of business models in innovation. The value of technology is not inherent; instead, it is derived from how the technology is ultimately deployed. A major challenge for large companies that innovate is not that they can’t invent technology, but rather that they are impaired in creating new business models to best exploit it. Startups have nothing invested in their business models; they are agnostic in their pursuit of the best way in which to capitalize on an innovation. Large companies, on the other hand, are constrained by the dominant logic that pervades their organization and culture. The result is the exodus of talent and ideas to startups.
Take Xerox, for example. In the 1980s, the corporation’s business model sprang from its legacy copier business. The company made a modest profit on equipment and relied heavily on the sale of supplies. The key to capturing value was that Xerox required customers to purchase things like paper, toner, and maintenance only from Xerox. When researchers at its famed Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley developed PostScript (page “layout” software that enabled Xerox workstations to communicate with Xerox printers), there did not seem to be a compelling business model for PostScript as a stand-alone product. Rather than remain captive to Xerox’s closed systems, PostScript’s inventors, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, spun off and began selling libraries of fonts for desktop publishing based on PostScript. The company they formed was Adobe, and the rest is history. Xerox’s dominant, closed-technology business model could not accommodate the open-standard approach that underlies Adobe’s success.
This type of phenomenon leads Chesbrough to go beyond encouraging businesses to open up to outside ideas: He also recommends that they make their internal innovations available for others to exploit. Where structural impediments hinder the realization of an invention’s potential, an innovator can still reap its value by licensing it to others who are not so impeded; startups, spin-offs, and existing companies with compatible businesses. The innovator can still share in the rewards through equity investments or royalties. More important, the returns from investment in research will be greatly improved over those that result from simply shelving innovations that don’t fit the dominant model.
But what about realizing value from those innovations that businesses choose to pursue themselves? Bhaskar Chakravorti, in The Slow Pace of Fast Change, focuses on the challenges that arise after innovations go out the door. Chakravorti describes a complex network of interconnected parties that need to be coordinated for an innovation to succeed. These parties are stakeholders in the status quo. They have arrived at their positions by rational choices intended to maximize their self-interests. This ecosystem includes competitors and partners, customers and vendors. To introduce an innovation, one must coordinate a move away from the current market environment and then recoordinate the group in the creation of a new set of market relationships that reinforce the innovation’s success. This harks back to Hargadon’s lessons about collectives inventing and communities embracing.
Chakravorti’s book presents a cerebral approach to the topic. He employs game theory, explaining how companies can choose from among a set of strategies that move toward the end game with due consideration for the many independent choices that others will make in their own self-interest. This process is recursive, with each choice dynamically affecting every other.
Chakravorti argues that by concentrating on those end games that plausibly serve the common self-interests of the various constituencies, you can negotiate a path to success. Focus is critical, since resources are ultimately limited — especially for startups. Finding points of leverage to help move the various decision makers toward the desired new alignment of businesses and customers is also paramount. You won’t be able to convince everyone. Who is necessary to the result? And why would it be in their interest to go there?
The networks of ideas, talent, businesses, and stakeholders envisioned by these authors make up a whirlwind of opportunities for technology brokers and open innovators. Armed with these insights, among others, I was ready to delve into two new tales of remarkable creativity and invention that happen to reinforce the theories presented in the Chesbrough, Chakravorti, and Hargadon books.
I started with Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen’s Quest to Invent a New World (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), by Steve Kemper.
Kemper follows the early days of the Segway, the self-balancing scooterlike device invented by Dean Kamen. Interestingly, much of the hype related to the Segway started with a leak about Kemper’s attempts to peddle this manuscript. (In the interests of full disclosure: Kemper even includes me in a cameo appearance because I informally advised on this project. Caveat emptor.)
To tell a good story, an author has to settle on a point of view. The reader should never expect the “whole” truth. Kemper favors the perspective of the inventor and his team. That is not to say that Kemper does not train his critical eye on Kamen from time to time. Indeed, for his indiscretions Kemper is eventually tossed out of Kamen’s paradise of innovation prior to the Segway’s launch. But before he is expelled, we are treated to a page-turner.
Kamen is revered in the press as a modern-day Edison. Hargadon points out that Edison was more of a synthesizer than a free-form inventor. Kemper paints Kamen in much the same way.
The Scooter as Metaphor
True to Hargadon’s and Chesbrough’s theses, the creation of the Segway borrows from what has come before and feeds off the small worlds that have already birthed efficient motors and gyros and batteries. The brilliance of the Segway is in Kamen’s searing vision and the development team’s tireless creativity. As if concurring, Kamen admits at one point, “I don’t have to invent anything. It’s out there somewhere if I can just find it and integrate it.”
There is a tug in the book between the mythical image of Kamen’s lone genius and the well-led, hardworking team of developers. Kamen, like many great visionaries, seeks to maintain control of the Segway and its commercialization even when the task exceeds the limits of his experience. He battles wills with the likes of Steve Jobs and the legendary venture capitalist John Doerr, and wins Pyrrhic victories that ultimately seem to handicap his success. Kamen’s struggle speaks to the passion that fuels creativity and the tenacity that is required to challenge the status quo. Greatness does not come easy, and it is not for the meek.
Kemper spends a good deal of time whittling Kamen down to size, but he nevertheless shows appreciation for Kamen’s achievements. In addition to his many inventions, Kamen created FIRST, a philanthropic mission to elevate scientists and engineers as role models for young people through staged robotic competitions between teams of students and their corporate sponsors. FIRST has been a tremendous success, attracting more than 600 teams and 20,000 kids in 17 regional championships in 2002. Genius, promoter, or otherwise, Kamen is using his celebrity and vast energies to foster visionaries and innovators among future generations.
Although it was a fun read, I did not find Code Name Ginger very insightful for a business reader because Kemper spills his first-hand observations onto the page without much attention to the nuances of the various parties and interests. As a result of his slant, we see only two-dimensional characterizations of almost everyone except Kamen and key members of the development team. The businesspeople and the business issues are given short shrift.
In contrast, Jeffrey Zygmont, in Microchip: An Idea, Its Genesis, and the Revolution It Created (Perseus Publishing, 2003), calls upon a rich and textured history in revealing the lessons from the innovation of the chip.
I was more than pleasantly surprised by Zygmont’s book. I thought I knew most of the microchip’s lineage, but Zygmont weaves a fascinating set of stories together to illuminate one of the last century’s most amazing feats of innovation. Of course it discusses Bill Shockley’s seminal work at Bell Labs coinventing the transistor in the 1950s and Jack Kilby’s creation of the integrated circuit at Texas Instruments, grouping transistors with other components to create smaller circuits. The pace of innovation quickens when Shockley packs up for California to found Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. Here is Shockley’s greatest piece of brilliance: He hires Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and a group of other ingenious engineers and scientists. There is a mass diffusion of knowledge when the “traitorous eight” leave Shockley to form Fairchild Camera, and I couldn’t help but reflect on Chesbrough’s comments about the mobility of talent eroding the conditions that once supported closed innovation. These stars and their protégés move on to startups like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, National Semiconductor, and Mostek, and eventually provide rise to a new capital, Silicon Valley.
Zygmont sees the competitive market as the master of innovation. In his model, we are empowered, not the innovators who slave endlessly to win our acceptance. In Chakravorti’s terms, we are key stakeholders in the new market equilibrium that spells success for any innovation.
The microchip saga is an embarrassment of riches for its wealth of material: There are geniuses like James Siepmann, a tenacious physician who fights off depression by developing the Light Clock, and Jean Hoerni, who broke through from the “vertically” layered transistors to the “horizontally” connected wafers that predominate today. There are formidable engineers like Ted Hoff, the man who designed the microprocessor because he was appalled at the convoluted layouts of one of his clients, and misanthropes like Harold Koplow of Wang, who formulated the model for word processing as he was biding his time waiting to be fired. One never senses Zygmont judging, but rather illuminating the whole primordial soup. Itinerant talent and garrulous customers and suppliers broker the technologies that drive development to the relentless clock of Moore’s Law: Every 18 months the capacity of chips doubles while their prices drop by half.
The key insights of Hargadon, Chesbrough, and Chakravorti are substantiated by this engaging story about the big bang of innovation that was unleashed by the microchip — cell phones, personal computers, microwave ovens, antilock brakes, etc., etc. I could not put this book down without a sense of awe for what the likes of Shockley and Kilby wrought.
In early 2003, Larry Ellison of Oracle pronounced the decline of technology innovation. Where is the invention that can spawn a bounty of innovations the way the microchip did? Ellison should read these books. Opening up the walls of captive research to the wealth of outside knowledge offers the opportunity for accelerating innovation. Technology brokers have access to an abundance of ideas generated in these networks of innovation, which they in turn can cross-pollinate into brilliant new products and services. The methods may be changing, but unchanging is the fact that invention and change themselves are inextricable parts of being human. Innovation is far from dead; in fact, it is an unstoppable force of nature.
Gabrielle Zevin has all the stories. The author of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, a tremendous new novel about art, friendship and gaming, has had her work dismissed as “charming”. “Lovely”. “Easy-going”. She knows the ways she’s been “constantly made to make myself smaller, as a woman, writing novels”.
Literally, in one instance. “There was another book that I know that has the exact same word count as mine, written by a male, that was printed to be 240 pages longer than one of mine recently.” She imagines critics reviewing it – this “bigger book” – as “pacier, because the pages are turning faster and it’s NOT FAIR”. That men get to be heftier and faster, just because of the font? “Pfft! YEAH! I thought, early on, that I wanted to find a big canvas for myself and take up space.”
But with her super-cool 10th novel, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, she’s delivered a literary blockbuster destined to be filed in the Great American Novel category. The same category normally dominated by “the silverbacks”, who don’t usually open the clubhouse door to women, “so we have to pry it open”. Equally committed “to making art and making it popular”, she’s already bashing out the screenplay for Paramount, who bought the movie rights for $2m (£1.7m) last February. Her dialogue is so punchy I imagine she’ll be able to lift much of it straight from page to screen.
Sam, one of the two brilliant video-game designers at the heart of the story, has a theory: “There is no more intimate act than play – even sex.” He holds this belief because of the lifelong bond he formed with his collaborator, Sadie, when they met as pre-teens in a hospital gaming room in the early 1990s. He was there as a patient in recovery from a car accident that left him with life-changing injuries. Sadie was there visiting her older sister, who was being treated for leukaemia.
Although both fictional kids have genius-level IQs, neither is capable of processing the emotional fallout from their situation. So they escape into Nintendo’s Super Mario games together. They take turns controlling the same character. Trading tips and, gradually, trading confidences, they evolve together and fuse their ideas. As the pair mature, they retain an intimacy that runs deeper than anything either individual might share with a lover. And as adults, they create complex new worlds full of private jokes.
“As a member of Gen X,” says Zevin, who was born in 1977, “I wanted to ask questions about the people who came of age along with the internet. I did. I think it affected the way we think about identity. We’re like the middle child, squashed in between the boomers [who think of identity as fixed] and the Gen Y kids who think everything is fluid. We’re, like, the translators, bouncing between the real world and the virtual world. Video games totally changed our perspective on identity.”
As a fellow Xer, I agree. I spent many of my formative years running – in pixelated form – up platforms. Onscreen, I was an Italian man with a comedy ’tache. I was a frog. An ice-cool straight bat, whacking down walls. I don’t remember ever being a woman.
“Yeah,” says Zevin, with a lo-fi eye-roll. Squatting on the floor of a Chicago hotel room – “Sorry, this is the only place I can plug in my laptop!” – she says she “relates”. She’s rattling though the US leg of the book tour, delighted to see fans of her Young Adult fiction (including 2005’s award-winning sci-fi story Elsewhere) now enjoying her adult bestsellers like The Storied Life of AJ Fikry (currently being turned into a film starring Christina Hendricks and David Arquette).
The biracial child of a Korean mother and a Russian-Jewish father, Zevin grew up slipping between worlds. “One of the towns I was raised in was 66 per cent Jewish, you know? When I was there, I found myself identifying more with being a Jewish person. But then, the first time I went to Hawaii, seeing so many Asian people there, I felt more Asian. And... you know, also less Asian at the same time. Identity is probably less fixed for biracial people.”
In the novel, Sam and Sadie’s first commercial game is played from the perspective of a genderless child of Japanese origin. Its graphics are inspired by the prints of Hokusai. “The word ‘appropriation’ doesn’t enter anyone’s head, in the way it might today,” says Zevin. “They just love that culture and want to reference it.”
She notes that “people who don’t publish their thoughts over many years can deny they ever thought or felt in ways that are less acceptable now. They don’t notice the evolution of their thinking. But when I look back on the books I published 17 years ago, then I can see things I wouldn’t be fine with now. Nothing extreme. But my thinking and feeling on feminist issues has definitely changed.”
She says that some of the younger readers she has met on this book tour have been troubled by the fact that one misogynist character isn’t called out on his inappropriate behaviour. “They ask why he isn’t punished. And I have to explain the book ends in 2012, and people like him were getting away with that until [the #MeToo movement] in around 2017. He’s a wonder boy, a star, he makes incredible games and his only criteria is: ‘Is it fun?’” Which, Zevin suspects, is “not a bad criteria for assessing many things in life!”
Zevin is a lifelong gamer; her parents both worked for computer company IBM when she was growing up. “My dad was a programmer and my mum started out as a secretary and worked her way up to a high-level marketing job in autonomic machine learning. We were completely an IBM family. People don’t realise the extent to which that was a planned community in the 1980s and 1990s...” she laughs. “I make it sound weird and it was nice. There was, like, an IBM theatre troupe. Right? You know? There were, like, IBM parties and IBM family day. When I went to college, I received the IBM scholarship...”
As an only child, Zevin says, computer games appealed because she could play alone: “A lot of the games I grew up playing were graphic action-adventure games, you know? Text-based. You solved them through words. And for me, novel-writing is also a puzzle you solve through words.”
Like her hero Sam, Zevin landed at Harvard, which she admits was “a disappointment”. She’s sanguine now about how she had pinned all her hopes on arriving at the college and “immediately finding my tribe, you know?” But she didn’t. “I think that response is common. People put so much effort into getting there, and then there’s often a crisis.” In her own case, she was forced to acknowledge: “You’re not extraordinary any more.”
There’s a seductive braininess to the games Zevin’s characters create. In one, players must blast lines of Emily Dickinson’s poetry (just google “Emily Blaster” to splat out lines of verse yourself); in another, they must acquire points earned for being a munitions worker in Nazi Germany – when, the player must decide, should you stop? It has the effect of making readers feel included in a clique of cleverness. You don’t need to know anything about gaming in advance to close the book feeling like a tech insider, fully versed in the mechanics of graphics engines designed “to render photorealistic light and shadow in water”.
Although the characters excel at their jobs, they struggle with their relationships. At one point, Sadie says: “I’m a f***ing genius so I don’t know why I f*** everything up all the time, but I do.” Although Zevin is happily married to film director Hans Canosa, to whom this book is dedicated “in work and in play”, she relates to characters who “may have it all sorted in art but don’t know how to solve their problems in real life”. She admits: “In reality I’m a pessimist, but in fiction I find all this hope... My books show the better part of me.”
Much of the novel’s zingy optimism springs from Zevin’s playfulness. The book’s title spins Shakespeare’s doomed soliloquy from the tragedy Macbeth into a gamer’s faith that life can be essayed over and over again. Zevin gives her characters, like their avatars, multiple opportunities to replay situations and reinvent themselves.
She sighs that the book “has only been reviewed by white men in the US, while it was definitely written by a woman of colour”. But Zevin believes that her novel might encourage women to acknowledge their participation in the gaming world. “After 40 years of gaming,” she says, “I still don’t define myself as a gamer. But that’s because we have a very white, male idea of the ‘capital G’ gamer.” She sighs. “But if you do anything reward-based online – Facebook or Insta or even shopping – and you find it fun, then you could call it gaming.”
Although Zevin doesn’t use social media much, because “privacy is the most important thing to me”, she believes that many people present their truest selves online and “the mask they wear is their face”.
“Creating an online identity is a creative act, you know?” She shrugs over the fact that when she has tried, “it comes off as some, like, weird performance, and a bad performance – like a wooden person, you know?” She winces. “I’m just too self-conscious!” She signs off from our chat with the hope that I don’t “make it sound ‘easy-going’. Because nothing that matters is, right?”
‘Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’ (Chatto & Windus) is out now
This is the final part of a four-part series about business lessons the author has learned during the time he has spent, over many years, at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Moncks Corner, S.C. He has found that the monastery's business model embodies an invaluable 1,500-year-old management paradigm. The first three parts of the series can be found here, here and here.
Secret 6: Trust
Sooner or later every manager realizes that 99% of the people he depends on for his success don't report to him. Real leadership is built on persuasion, and persuasion is built on trust.
I was once brought in to turn around sales for a large company. The company was running at a loss, and this had led to the most vicious interdepartmental infighting I've ever seen. Everyone reporting to me from executive to assistant expected me to take up cudgels and champion sales, but instead I bought some time with some diplomatic comments, closed my door and did some hard thinking.
I knew I had to do something fast, but what? I felt overwhelmed, until I finally asked myself what a service-and-selflessness response to my predicament might be. Then I picked up the phone and asked each of the other executives for an appointment, carefully making it clear that the meeting would take place in their offices, on their turf.
When I arrived with my pencil and notebook, I was greeted universally with folded arms and barely concealed hostility. Taking a seat, I leaned forward and gently said, "I'm here to find out what sales can do to make your life easier."
It took a while for the shock to fade from their faces, but eventually they were rattling off suggestions as I scribbled them down. When we finished, I thanked them for their time and left without mentioning my own problems.
Then I gathered my department and said my immediate priority was convincing the company that our only interest was in serving the overall mission. I told them we would have to prove it by getting our own house in order first. This, of course, was not what they wanted to hear, and for a few moments everyone just sat there shell-shocked. I then made a personal appeal for their trust, and they agreed to go along.
It took a week or so, but when the other departments saw that I was implementing their suggestions and asking for nothing in return, one by one they stopped by and asked me how they could reciprocate. Little by little, mutual trust was established, and I went from feeling powerless to feeling that I had more than enough influence to accomplish my goals. Four months later, sales had tripled, we were all socializing together and, incidentally, I was making more money than I had ever dreamed of.
Did I know going in that things would turn out as they did? No. I was scared to death. But as Father Francis said, I knew I had to trust the process.
This experience taught me how to be what I later came to call a corporate statesman. A corporate statesman puts the interest of the whole before his own and trusts others to follow his lead.
Trust is the most powerful tool an executive or organization can have, and that trust is directly proportional to selflessness. If I had been trying to game my colleagues, they would have seen through it immediately, with disastrous results. Everything hinged on my willingness to subsume my selfish interests and sincerely put the company's mission and the interests of others first.
Trust is critical to Mepkin Abbey's success. One day I was stopped for speeding at a notorious speed trap about 100 miles from Mepkin. I went to see the judge and told him I had not been speeding. When he found out I had been on my way to Mepkin, he said, "Well, if you were going to Mepkin and you say you weren't speeding, then you weren't speeding." He dismissed the case.
Mepkin's customers trust its products. Mepkin's suppliers trust its invoices. Mepkin's volunteers know they are contributing to a good cause. And Mepkin's trust bled into my speeding ticket 100 miles from the monastery.
Trust is the most powerful form of capital there is, and nothing makes a business run more smoothly than trust. In addition, trust is not a scarce commodity and, like Mepkin, we can all have more of it than we actually need. However, trust is also fragile. Once squandered, it may be impossible to regain.
Trust begins with the kind of faith outlined above. Faith provides the courage to go first and offer our own trust before we are sure it will be reciprocated. This is the scary part of authentic trust, and authentic trust is what Mepkin offers every day. There are no locks at Mepkin, and yes, once in a while things are stolen, but in the long run the trusting attitude symbolized by this lock-free environment has paid Mepkin back hundreds of times over.
Secret 7: Living the Life
The final secret to Mepkin Abbey's business success is the Rule of St. Benedict. The Rule is a living document used daily to foster, nurture and inculcate the values outlined above into the life of the monastery. Every monk at Mepkin goes through a long process of training called "formation." They enter as postulants, become novices, take their simple vows and eventually take their solemn vows. Throughout this process their progress is monitored by a novice master and the abbot.
A monk's formation is not limited to training sessions and inspirational speeches. Formation is a continuous process of peer-to-peer coaching and acculturation designed to make the unnatural values of the monastic life so habitual that they become second nature. This process is primarily bottom-up, and the novice often finds the peer pressure for service and selflessness confrontational.
"When people come here all they see is peace and tranquility," a novice once told me, "but it is actually so intense. Every time I think I'm making progress I catch myself shoving some old monk out of the way so I can get that last dish of ice cream. These guys are living witnesses to how selfish I really am, and there's no place to hide."
Transforming ourselves and our organizations is not an easy task, and it invariably leads to a few dark nights of the soul when we realize that we cannot do it on the cheap. The benefits are breathtaking, but the level of commitment required to change habitual thinking is daunting as well.
Louis Mobley told me that he was failing as director of the IBM Executive School back in 1956 until he discovered that leadership and healthy organizations depend not on skills and knowledge but on values and attitudes. And the corollary to this discovery was that values and attitudes cannot be changed by traditional teaching techniques like memorizing and lecturing. Values and attitudes change slowly, based on experience.
Mobley scrapped the lecterns and turned the IBM Executive School into 12 weeks of intensive experiential learning, built around values and followed with on-the-job coaching. And for many subsequent years, IBM was cited as the best place to work in the world.
If we want to introduce the magic of service and selflessness into our corporate business model, we must change the daily experience of the workplace. We need corporate missions every bit as powerful as Mepkin's, and the kind of culture that lives this mission every day. We must create our own process of "formation."
We need novice masters who understand that changing the culture is critically important, and we must get the arrows of peer pressure pointing in the right direction. Above all, we need the faith to begin, the courage to continue and the trust that everything will turn out as it should.
According to his new biography, Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, the legendary investor, attributes much of his success to the writings of Dale Carnegie. But the secret is not in Carnegie's book but in Buffett's willingness to take his message to heart.
"Unlike most people who read Carnegie's book and thought, 'gee, that makes sense,' then set the book aside and forgot about it, Warren worked at this project with unusual concentration," his biographer, Alice Schroeder, writes. "He kept coming back to these ideas and using them. Even when he failed and forgot and went long stretches without applying himself to the system, he returned and resumed practicing in the end."
Even the greatest ideas eventually come down to personal accountability, and even the monks of Mepkin Abbey occasionally, and with profound sadness, must ask one of their brethren to leave. Service and selflessness starts with holding ourselves accountable, and one of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming that our own transformation depends on the other guy, whether that other guy is in the next cubicle or the corner office.
Samuel Johnson observed that common sense is the only thing in oversupply, since everyone assumes they have more than they need. Service and selflessness starts with the humility that knows we all could be doing more.
You can start amassing your treasury of trust today by acting at all times like a corporate statesman. You can go first, offer trust before it is offered, and take a sincere interest in somebody else. Do just one task today with a prayerful attitude and see how it feels. Thank someone, do it now, do it in writing and copy the boss. If credit comes, provide it away and try not to worry about whether anyone noticed. Praise in public, and if it is absolutely necessary, criticize only in private.
Longer term, watch your inner motivations. The poet T. S. Eliot defined life as "one long purification of motive." Take a daily inventory, and learn how to short-circuit fear and selfishness before they warp your better judgment. With the diligence of a monk, over time you will become a go-to guy, the person others turn to for advice because they know he will never use their confidence against them.
And when this day comes, you will find that the material rewards that inevitably come from this transformation don't seem to matter as much. Like the monks at Mepkin, material rewards will become the ancillary yardsticks of a life well lived. As Aristotle taught us, virtue will be its own reward. You will wonder why that took so long to figure out.
But when you're tired and discouraged in the meantime, wondering as you will about the fruits of all your labor, remember that the monks of Mepkin are rooting for you. I know. I've heard them say the prayer.
August Turak is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer and speaker who divides his time between New York City and his farm in North Carolina. His writings include "Brother John," winner of the John Templeton Foundation's Power of Purpose Essay Contest, also inspired by his experiences at Mepkin Abbey. See more at www.augustturak.com/forbes.
Carrie Chapple is intelligent, articulate and hard-working and she has two undergraduate degrees. She also has Asperger syndrome and has struggled much of her life to find and keep suitable employment.
When Ms. Chapple finally received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum as an adult, some of her struggles began to make sense.
“I don’t read facial expressions. I also don’t always reflect what I’m feeling. Sometimes my facial expressions are not appropriate or sometimes my verbal responses are not appropriate,” says the Victoria resident.
Although Asperger syndrome is a term no longer used medically, Ms. Chapple uses it to describe her condition. It falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to Autism Canada, people with ASD often have typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability. They may also have difficulty with social interactions, restricted interests and a desire for sameness, as well as anxiety, hypersensitivities to lights or sound and difficulty with non-verbal conversation skills.
Strengths can include remarkable focus and persistence, aptitude for recognizing patterns and attention to detail.
Ms. Chapple, an ambassador for Autism Canada, has a sociology degree and an honours English degree. She left her social work program because she felt bullied by other students and professors who would not accommodate her needs.
A 67-year-old mother of four adult children, she is retired but works part-time as a custodian in the building where she lives.
“My immediate boss has a son who’s on the spectrum, so he understands,” she says. “I’m in absolutely the most supportive environment I could possibly be. I’ve tried and tried to be a team player but it just doesn’t work for me.”
Employment rates lag significantly for people with ASD
According to the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System, one in 66 Canadian children and youth aged 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ASD. It is more frequently identified among males, with one in 42 males diagnosed compared to one in 165 females.
Meanwhile, only 33 per cent of people aged 20 to 64 with ASD reported being employed in the most recent Canadian Survey on Disability, compared to 79 per cent of people without a disability.
Spectrum Works, an annual job fair for the autism community, aims to change that. It was started in 2017 by the Toronto-based non-profit Substance Cares.
“When we started Spectrum Works, we were shocked to find out the unemployment rate in the ASD community,” says Neil Forester, one of the organization’s co-founders. “After high school, there is no path created for them to focus on areas they would excel in.”
There is a general lack of proper training and support for people with autism, Mr. Forester says, and not enough funding to support the 300,000-plus Canadians living with ASD who can work in some capacity. Many employers don’t know what ASD is or how to properly on-board and train candidates for long-term success.
Employers can help change that by learning about ASD and dedicating staff to create a culture within the organization that is supportive and inclusive of co-workers with ASD, Mr. Forester says. They should also have specific training processes for those candidates, he adds. “They will see huge benefits from this.”
More than 1,200 attendees from across Canada took part in Spectrum Works’ virtual event in April (which is Autism Awareness month). Participating employers included Microsoft, Hyundai, Jiffy Lube, CIBC, Ernst & Young (EY), Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), Amazon, IBM and Lowe’s.
Also among the participants at the job fair was Autism CanTech, a new Canada-wide program funded in part through the federal government’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. The program aims to help autistic youth aged 18 to 30 enter the digital work force. It includes four months of in-class learning and two months of paid work experience, says Brytani McLeod, an inclusion and accessibility consultant at Autism CanTech (which is based on NorQuest College campus in Edmonton). The curriculum includes technical skills and employability.
“Some of our participants will come to the program with full or partial degrees or even technical knowledge,” she says. “The pieces that are often missing for them are not so much the technical skills but rather the employability skills, the career-building skills, and the support to get their foot in the door with an employer.”
How workplaces can better support neurodivergent employees
The challenges for people with ASD start with job searching and interviewing and continue throughout their career, Ms. McLeod says. For women, the challenge can be just getting properly diagnosed, as the disorder can present differently than in men, she adds.
In addition to digital skills, the Autism CanTech program teaches communication, teamwork, interview skills, resume building and how to advocate for themselves at work, she says. It also offers career coaches and supports like an assistive technology called RoboCoach, developed by Technology North. Those supports continue after participants complete the program, Ms. McLeod explains.
There is also a research aspect of the program which aims to better understand the supports employers need to enhance inclusion and accessibility for people with ASD.
Without assistance, many employers simply don’t have the knowledge or resources to provide proper support, Ms. McLeod says. Employees end up trying to fit into the workplace by masking the disorder.
“Unfortunately, this is not a long-term solution, and often ends in an employee quitting or being fired, without there being shared understanding and support,” she says.
There is some progress, though. Ms. McLeod points to things like EY establishing Neurodiversity Centres of Excellence across Canada and companies such as Deloitte partnering with not-for-profit organization Specialisterne Foundation to provide opportunities for people on the autism spectrum.
Employees with autism can bring very high attention to detail, hyper-focus and deep perception to the job, says Ms. McLeod. And they provide a unique perspective that can lead to innovative discussions.
“The best starting place for employers is to understand that having a brain that is wired differently than what is considered neurotypical is not a flaw or a liability,” says Ms. McLeod.
Carrie Chapple says that the best thing that employers can do is ask ASD employees what they need. “That very seldom occurs,” she says. Ms. Chapple has worked as everything from a go-go dancer to a proofreader in publishing. She has volunteered for housing committees and community groups and has self-published several digital books under the pen name c.e. chapple.
“I’ve met other people on the spectrum and we tend to be pretty creative thinkers in our way,” she says. “[Employers] should be focused more on the end result and not how we get to it.”
Interested in more perspectives about women in the workplace? Find all stories on the hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Have feedback on the series? Email us at GWC@globeandmail.com.
Classical computers have served us well and they will continue to do so… but breakthroughs in quantum physics are opening new doors. That’s why I’m sharing my favorite quantum computing stocks today.
It’s still in the early stages and could take a while to pay off. But the list of companies below gives you some great investing opportunities. You’ll find big companies shaking up the technology world. They’re not resting on their laurels.
I’ll highlight some research from each company and what excites me most. But first, it’d be good to get a better understanding of this up-and-coming technology. The potential is huge…
Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years. This exponential trend has led to massive advancements in our world. In fact, it’s impacted every industry and all our lives.
To help put Moore’s Law in perspective, a new iPhone is millions of times faster than the Apollo spacecraft when it comes to computing. Computers have become exponentially faster. This trend might be coming to an end, though…
Gordon Moore and other forecasters expect that Moore’s law will end around 2025. It’s the result of an intricate set of physics problems. And quantum computing might be the next big step forward.
Many technology companies see the potential and are investing lots of money. If their research pays off, the top quantum computing stocks could hand shareholders huge returns.
These new computers can store more information thanks to what’s called “superposition.” Unlike traditional computers that use bits with only ones and zeros, quantum computers take it to the next level. They have the advantage of using ones, zeros and superpositions of ones and zeros. This opens the door for solving tasks that we thought impossible for classical computers.
This list of quantum computing companies includes some of the largest companies in the world. They have proven business models and the resources to push quantum computing forward.
As a result, this list provides some cashflow safety for investors, while also providing exposure to new technologies. So, let’s take a look at some of their top quantum research and projects…
IBM was one of the first big movers in quantum research. And already, it’s deployed just under 30 quantum computers. That’s the largest fleet of commercial devices, and IBM has a road map to scale systems to 1,000 qubits and beyond.
The IBM Quantum Network is currently working with more than 100 partners. These partners are in many different industries and are developing real-world commercial applications. IBM also offers free access to quantum computing.
IBM is scaling these technologies and making them more accessible. This is vital for further adoption and innovation. The strategy is working, and IBM will continue to be one of the top quantum computing stocks over the coming decades.
Alphabet is one of the top quantum computing stocks to buy. Back in 2019, the company claimed quantum supremacy for the first time when its advanced computer surpassed the performance of conventional devices.
Alphabet’s Sycamore quantum processor performed a task in 200 seconds that would take the world’s best supercomputer 10,000 years. That’s a huge milestone, and the company is continuing to advance with quantum physics.
Google AI Quantum is making big strides as well. It’s developing new quantum processors and algorithms to help solve a wide range of problems. It’s also open sourcing some of its framework to spur innovation.
Intel is a semiconductor giant that’s developing many cutting-edge technologies. And it’s been making quantum processors in Oregon. Furthermore, the company hopes to reach production-level quantum computing within 10 years.
Intel is on its third generation of quantum processors with 49 qubits. The company has a unique approach, advancing a technology known as “spin qubits” in silicon. Intel believes it has a scaling advantage over superconducting qubits.
This easily makes Intel one of the top quantum computing stocks. Buying into this company gives investors exposure to many new cutting-edge technologies.
Like IBM, Microsoft takes a comprehensive approach to quantum computing. It’s working on all the technologies required to scale commercial application.
Microsoft is advancing all layers of its computing stack. This includes the controls, software and development tools. Microsoft also created the Azure Quantum open cloud ecosystem. This helps speed up innovation.
In addition, the tech giant is making great advancements with Topological qubits. These provide performance gains over conventional qubits. They increase stability and reduce the overall number of qubits needed. It’s promising technology that should reward shareholders down the road.
Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab is helping businesses identify opportunities. Amazon’s experts are working with clients to better understand quantum computing. This helps them build new algorithms and solutions.
Amazon now offers quantum computing on Amazon Web Services through Amazon Bracket. This service provides access to D-Wave hardware. D-Wave is a leading quantum computing company based in Canada. It’s not publicly traded, though
Overall, Amazon is continuing to disrupt many industries. And advancing quantum computing should help drive its innovation and expansion even further.
This quantum stock is the smallest on the list. But it gives direct exposure to quantum computing. This makes it a higher-risk opportunity. Although, with the higher risk, comes higher reward potential.
Quantum Computing offers cloud-based, ready-to-run software. It’s focused on creating services that don’t require quantum expertise or training to use. This approach is opening the doors for more businesses to leverage the new technologies.
This company is also focusing on real-world problems such as logistics optimization, cybersecurity and drug discovery. To accomplish this, it’s partnering with hardware companies such as D-Wave.
The quantum computing companies above are mostly indirect plays. Their other established businesses provide the capital required to innovate. This is vital, as quantum computing is still an up-and-coming industry.
It might take a decade or more to really play out. And investing early in these technologies can lead to large returns for patient investors. Quantum breakthroughs are compounding and creating new opportunities.
Whether you buy into these top quantum computing stocks or not, we’ll all benefit from the innovation. If you want to stay on the cutting edge of tech investing, consider exploring more of our free investment research…
Ukraine at D+140: Discriminate and indiscriminate war. (The CyberWire) Russian tactics remain indiscriminate, and there's a growing international consensus that Moscow views this as a feature, not a bug. Ukraine's SSSCIP looks at the evolution of the cyber phases of Russia's war (and it believes the Russian hacktivists are GRU front groups. Smartphones are changing targeting (and not in a good way for smartphone users).
Russia-Ukraine war update: what we know on day 141 of the invasion (the Guardian) Turkey announces deal with Ukraine, Russia and UN aimed at resuming grain exports; Missile strikes hit Vinnytsia and Mikolaiv
Russia-Ukraine war latest: Zelenskiy says 20 people killed in ‘act of Russian terror’ in Vinnytsia (the Guardian) Ukrainian president condemns attack on “ordinary, peaceful” city; Ukraine says grain deal ‘definitely closer’ after talks in Turkey
Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 141 (Al Jazeera) As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 141st day, we take a look at the main developments.
Ukraine cuts N Korea ties over recognition of separatist regions (Al Jazeera) Kyiv severs relations after Pyongyang recognises independence of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in Ukraine.
Analysis: Two exhausted armies are battling for eastern Ukraine. Can either of them make a decisive move? (CNN) When Vladimir Putin refocused his war in Ukraine on the country's east three months ago, he did so bruised by the failures of his initial lunge towards Kyiv and desperate for a face-saving success.
Putin weaponizes Russian passports in his genocidal war against Ukraine (Atlantic Council) Vladimir Putin's decision to expand fast-track Russian passport distribution to the whole of Ukraine is a clear signal that his imperial appetite is not limited to the Ukrainian regions currently under Kremlin control.
Russia is using rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine. Here's what can be done about it. (USA Today) How to create a permanent, independent and international body to investigate and prosecute rape and sexual violence as war crimes.
U.S. calls on Russia to halt forced deportations of Ukrainians, citing war crimes (CNBC) The Kremlin has previously denied all claims that its forces target and kill civilians.
Nations discuss coordinating Ukraine war crimes probes (AP NEWS) The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor called Thursday for an “overarching strategy” to coordinate efforts to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine to justice.
Russia’s War Against Ukraine Has Turned Into Terrorism (The Atlantic) The Russian military isn’t just bombing civilians. It’s also targeting the laws and values that protect human rights.
Iranian envoy responds to US claim it’s selling drones to Russia (Defense News) Earlier in the war, Iran was criticized in the West for not condemning Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine's Cyber Agency Reports Q2 Cyber-Attack Surge (Infosecurity Magazine) The volume of cyber-attacks targeting the country has risen substantially over the second quarter of the year
To Vilify Ukraine, The Kremlin Resorts to Antisemitism (United States Department of State) One of the Kremlin’s most common disinformation narratives to justify its devastating war against the people of Ukraine is the lie that Russia is pursuing the “denazification” of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has referred to Ukraine’s democratically elected government as a “gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” while Russian state media and propagandists have […]
Polish minister wants Russian ambassadors kicked off social media to fight disinformation (POLITICO) Russian ambassadors’ social media accounts are ‘propaganda officers of an aggressive regime,’ says Janusz Cieszyński.
The weaponizing of smartphone location data on the battlefield (Help Net Security) How each side collects the adversary’s smartphone location data and shields their own can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Increase support for Ukraine, or NATO may have to fight (The Hill) President Biden summed up the results of discussions concerning support for Ukraine at the late June NATO summit this way: “We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the Alliance is going to s…
Ukraine needs more international support (Atlantic Council) As the war in Ukraine becomes severely protracted, the international community by advancing Ukraine’s proposed roadmap to end the war and clarifying its economic policies in response to Russian aggression.
Building a better Ukraine: Rule of law is essential for post-war prosperity (Atlantic Council) Few would argue that the rule of law is essential for Ukraine’s post-war prosperity. However, previous efforts to implement judicial reforms have fallen short. What is required to make sure next time is different?
The man who has Putin’s ear — and may want his job (Washington Post) Russian security chief Nikolai Patrushev is one of the Russian president’s few close advisers
Russia holding 400 passenger jets hostage in global sanctions fight (Washington Post) The country’s airlines are refusing to return the planes they’d leased from foreign companies; the planes are worth billions
New Lilith ransomware emerges with extortion site, lists first victim (BleepingComputer) A new ransomware operation has been launched under the name 'Lilith,' and it has already posted its first victim on a data leak site created to support double-extortion attacks.
New Ransomware Groups on the Rise (Cyble) Cyble analyzes new ransomware families spotted in the wild led by notable examples such as LILITH, RedAlert, and 0Mega.
New Android malware on Google Play installed 3 million times (BleepingComputer) A new Android malware family on the Google Play Store that secretly subscribes users to premium services was downloaded over 3,000,000 times.
Researchers Uncover New Variants of the ChromeLoader Browser Hijacking Malware (The Hacker News) Researchers have uncovered new variants of the ChromeLoader information-stealing malware, highlighting its evolving features.
ChromeLoader: New Stubborn Malware Campaign (Unit 42) A malicious browser extension is the payload of the ChromeLoader malware family, serving as adware and an infostealer, leaking users’ search queries.
Facebook 2FA scammers return – this time in just 21 minutes (Naked Security) Last time they arrived 28 minutes after lighting up their fake domain… this time it was just 21 minutes
HavanaCrypt Ransomware Masquerades as a Fake Google Update (Infosecurity Magazine) Researchers at Trend Micro have uncovered stealthy ransomware named 'HavanaCrypt,' which presents itself as a Google Software Update
MaliBot Android malware spreading fast, says Check Point (ComputerWeekly.com) The MaliBot malware is becoming a persistent and widespread problem, and Android users should be on their guard, says Check Point.
‘Lives are at stake’: hacking of US hospitals highlights deadly risk of ransomware (the Guardian) The number of ransomware attacks on US healthcare organizations increased 94% from 2021 to 2022, according to one report
Ransomware Landscape Evolves in a Post-Conti World (Decipher) The release of LockBit 3.0 is making waves in a ransomware ecosystem that has been reshaped due to Conti shutting down its operations.
Ransomware Activity Resurges in Q2 (Infosecurity Magazine) Ransomware activity rose by 21% compared to Q1 2022, according to a new report
Honda Admits Hackers Could Unlock Car Doors, Start Engines (SecurityWeek) “Rolling-PWN attack” targets Remote Keyless System on Honda vehicles that allows them to open the car doors and start the engine.
Honda redesigning latest vehicles to address key fob vulnerabilities (The Record by Recorded Future) Honda said it is addressing a spate of vulnerabilities in its newly designed models after researchers found bugs affecting key fob systems.
Will Hackers Bring Down Airplanes One Day? (Aviation International News) Airline reticence over cyber-security suggests the threat has become increasingly serious.
Vulnerabilities allowing permanent infections affect 70 Lenovo laptop models (Ars Technica) UEFI updates often require manual installation. Are you patched?
New UEFI firmware flaws impact over 70 Lenovo laptop models (BleepingComputer) The UEFI firmware used in several laptops made by Lenovo is vulnerable to three buffer overflow vulnerabilities that could enable attackers to hijack the startup routine of Windows installations.
Bandai Namco confirms cyberattack after ransomware group threatens leak (The Record by Recorded Future) Japanese video game giant Bandai Namco confirmed on Wednesday that it suffered from a wide-ranging cyberattack that may have exposed customer information.
Disneyland Account Takeover Highlights Lax Security for Social Media Accounts (CPO Magazine) A hack of Disneyland’s social media in the early hours of July 7 appeared to be a vulgar prank and was quickly scrubbed from the internet, but the brazen account takeover demonstrated that even the world’s most prominent companies continue to have gaps in areas of cyber operations that are considered “less essential.”
Colorado Springs Utilities experiences data breach, customer data compromised (KRDO) Colorado Springs Utilities is warning customers about a data breach that happened in June, affecting customer information. On July 6, Colorado Springs Utilities was notified that customer data stored by one of the company's subcontractors was accessed by an unauthorized party. According to Springs Utilities, this happened on June 15,
Afni, Inc. Announces Data Breach (JD Supra) Recently, Afni, Inc. filed official notice of a data breach that impacted the sensitive information of certain individuals. According to the Afni, the...
ICS Patch Tuesday: Siemens, Schneider Electric Address 59 Vulnerabilities (SecurityWeek) Siemens and Schneider Electric have released their Patch Tuesday updates for July 2022 with a total of two dozen advisories describing 59 vulnerabilities.
Adobe Patch Tuesday: Critical Flaws in Acrobat, Reader, Photoshop (SecurityWeek) Adobe rolls out a major security update for its flagship Acrobat and Reader products to fix at least 22 documented security vulnerabilities.
DLL Hijacking Flaw Fixed in Microsoft Azure Site Recovery (SecurityWeek) Microsoft's Patch Tuesday rollout this month included fixes for multiple high-severity vulnerabilities in Azure Site Recovery.
Infiltrate, Exploit, Manipulate: Why the Subversive Nature of Cyber Conflict Explains Both Its Strategic Promise and Its Limitations (Lawfare) Cyber operations are not novel, nor is their impact revolutionary. They are instruments of subversion that promise great gains in theory but are constrained in practice by a crippling operational trilemma that limits strategic value.
Consulting firms jump on the Zero Trust bandwagon (CSO Online) Deloitte's new Zero Trust Access service and HCL's collaboration with Palo Alto Networks mark a sustained trend towards offering Zero Trust security services for clients.
Cyber Threats Within Digital Ecosystems May Be an Enterprise Blind Spot, Reveals New Study from TCS (TCS) Tata Consultancy Services’ Risk and Cybersecurity Study among 600 Cyber Executives Highlights the Most Pressing Cybersecurity Issues Facing Large Companies across Europe and North America.
New research reveals 93% of organizations surveyed have had failed IIoT/OT security projects; highlights top challenges in implementation of industrial security (PR Newswire) Barracuda Networks Inc. (Barracuda), a trusted partner and leading provider of cloud-enabled security solutions, today released key findings...
How War Impacts Cyber Insurance (Threatpost) Chris Hallenbeck, CISO for the Americas at Tanium, discusses the impact of geopolitical conflict on the cybersecurity insurance market.
Bishop Fox Secures $75 Million in Growth Funding from Carrick Capital Partners (GlobeNewswire News Room) Offensive security leader continues to defy market and economic trends with record growth and recognized innovation...
Lightspeed raises $7.1B across four funds and forms new crypto fund with Blockchain Ventures vet (Fortune) The new funding is a vote of confidence for the firm as valuations sink and one of the firm’s star investors steps back.
Blockchain Security Startup BlockSec Raises $8 Million (SecurityWeek) Blockchain security startup BlockSec has raised $8 million in a seed funding round co-led by Vitalbridge Capital and Matrix Partners
Forescout Completes its Acquisition of Cysiv to Deliver Automated True Threat Response (Business Wire) Forescout Technologies, the global leader in automated cybersecurity, today announced that it has completed its acquisition of Cysiv, a cybersecurity
WithSecure creates a new unit to Boost cyber resilience for enterprises (Help Net Security) WithSecure announces the creation of the new WithIntel unit to protect organizations from emerging threats and the damages that they cause.
Army awards Lockheed next phase of critical cyber, EW and intel platform (FedScoop) The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $58.8 million contract for the next phase of an effort to pave the way for the first brigade-organic cyber, electronic warfare and signals intelligence platform to be delivered to soldiers. The Terrestrial Layer System-Brigade Combat Team (TLS-BCT) is a Stryker-mounted system that will provide indications and warning, force […]
ADF Veterans Reskilling for Cybersecurity Roles (Australian Cyber Security Magazine) SANS Institute has announced the inaugural class of graduates from its Veteran Cyber Academy. SANS held a graduation ceremony at The Australian War Memorial in Canberra on 16 June, where the first cohort of students graduated.
BreachQuest Gains Momentum, Named Approved Vendor By Top Cyber Insurance Providers (PR Newswire) BreachQuest, the company modernizing incident response, announced today that over the past year of operations it has been added to the panel of...
Axis Shortlisted for 2022 SaaS Award for Security Innovation (Axis Security) Atmos Secure Service Edge Platform Nominated for Best Security Innovation in a SaaS Product SAN MATEO, CA, July 14, 2022 – Axis announced today that its Atmos Secure Service Edge platform has been shortlisted in the 2022 SaaS Awards program in the security innovation category. Now in its seventh year of celebrating software innovation, the...
Incode Technologies Announces Expansion of Its Development Center in Serbia (Business Wire) Incode Technologies, an industry-leader in identity verification and authentication for global enterprises, announced the expansion of its Serbian dev
Contrast Security Expands Executive Team with Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategic Alliances (Yahoo Finance) Contrast Security (Contrast), the leader in code security that empowers developers to secure-as-they code, today announced the appointment of Ben Goodman, who will serve as the company's Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategic Alliances.
Zimperium Names General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Its Board of Directors (Business Wire) Zimperium today announced the appointment of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, to its board of directors.
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Brigitte Gauci Borda first opened her eponymous dance school back in 1989, and since then has gone on to build one of the most renowned schools on the island, with Gauci Borda having guided generations of students to successful auditions with some of the most prestigious dance schools in the world, such as the English National Ballet School in London, the Northern Ballet School in Manchester, the Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham, and the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St Petersburg, to name a few.
Apart from its success as an educational institution, over the course of the past three decades the Brigitte Gauci Borda School of Dance has also become widely-known for its stellar productions of some of the most important ballets in the repertoire, including Swan Lake, Giselle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, and Paquita, as well as the spectacular 1999 performance of The Nutcracker, which was held at the Manoel Theatre in collaboration with professional guest dancers so as to commemorate the school’s 10-year anniversary.
In 2017 Gauci Borda initiated the International Ballet Malta project, which aims to bring internationally-acclaimed guest dancers from abroad to Malta so that Maltese students can benefit from their example and experience. A year later, in 2018, the Brigitte Gauci Borda School of Dance was invited by Konstantin Ishkhanov and the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC) to join the production of Crystal Palace – which is an original ballet created by Alexey Shor with unique costume and set designs, and the accompaniment of a live orchestra – in a mouth-watering collaboration with Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre.
Gauci Borda spoke to us about the challenges that her school, and indeed, the entire arts industry has faced in recent times due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the dance instructor noting that her dance school is among the luckier ones, since the large size of their studios means that they were not obliged to close their doors. Instead, the instructors at the school placed stickers three metres apart to ensure that social distancing regulations are being adhered to, but the spacious nature of the halls means that students are still able to practice at the barre and in the centre of the room without issue.
However, this does not mean that the pandemic has had no effect on the school’s operations, for as Gauci Borda pointed out, restrictions on contact between teachers and students means that certain techniques and movements that require the dancers to work with partners cannot be practiced at this moment in time. In addition, teachers are no longer able to go over to students to correct posture and technique the way they used to, since any contact requires teachers to sanitise their hands immediately afterwards. Barres and other equipment also need to be sanitised before and after every session which has made things trickier for the school, but, as Gauci Borda said, such measures ensure that the school is a safe zone for both teachers and students.
The school director also spoke about the contingency measures that her institution has taken in preparation for a possible lockdown, as she explained that internet services have been installed in every studio to ensure that, if the need arises, the studio can be shut down without any disruption to classes, with students being able to follow from home. However, Gauci Borda stressed that, although possible, this still would be far from ideal, since most students don’t have the necessary equipment or space to practice from home, while the lack of face-to-face contact is a big hindrance to students’ motivation levels, and their rate of progress.
The instructor acknowledged that, in reality, running a school in the current circumstances is not viable really, since class capacity has been drastically reduced, with each class containing only four to six students, which is not sustainable in the long run. Nevertheless, she insisted that it has been her desire to make sure that the school remains afloat, regardless of the financial viability, both for the sake of the students, as well as to maintain some degree of income for the teachers as well.
Gauci Borda also touched upon her school’s 2018 collaboration with Konstantin Ishkhanov and the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC), which saw professional Russian ballet dancers joining students from the school in a performance of a new ballet written by Alexey Shor entitled Crystal Palace. She noted what a unique and exciting opportunity this project proved to be, especially for the students involved, who got the chance to perform alongside internationally-distinguished dancers and dance with a live orchestra, which is a very rare occurrence due to financial constraints. Gauci Borda spoke about the high production values and vast scale of this project, as she explained that the EUFSC cut no corners in its production, with spectacularly-designed costumes and set pieces, new music, a distinct choreography created solely for this ballet, and the participation of over forty dancers from Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre and other ballet companies in the country.
The school director recounted how Ekaterina Mironova – who was the project’s director and choreographer – travelled to Malta to visit the school so as to carry out auditions among the students and pick the most accomplished, taking care to work in line with the ballet’s criteria which even include factors like height and weight. The chosen students first studied the choreography with Mironova alone, and then rehearsed with the entire troupe when they arrived to Malta, and, as Gauci Borda proudly recalled, they managed to learn the entire choreography in a very short amount of time – just two weeks! The dance instructor also spoke of her students’ excitement to be preforming alongside such renowned names as Maria Vinogradova, Ivan Vasiliev, and Maria Allash, with the young Maltese dancers all rushing to get photos and autographs from the international ballet stars at every opportunity.
There were also challenges which presented themselves throughout the production though, especially with regard to the language barrier, with a number of the international visitors, including the Director herself, being unable to communicate fluently in English. Gauci Borda marvelled at how her students, along with Mironova, were able to circumvent this barrier through the use of the art form itself, which acted as a form of common language that allowed the two parties to communicate without any need of a shared vocal language.
Moreover, there were also some difficulties in the initial stages of the production, before the project had event taken off, since Konstantin Ishkhanov’s proposed undertaking happened to clash with a previously-planned presentation that some of the school’s students were already committed to. Gauci Borda recalled how it was thanks to Ishkhanov’s persistence that the project even managed to set off, with the president of the EUFSC promising to work around the school’s schedule and weekly lessons to get the project going.
In addition to this performance of the Crystal Palace ballet, the Brigitte Gauci Borda School of Dance also took part in an event entitled ‘Dance Showcase’ a year later, which was held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) in Valletta and actually included some of the sections of the ballet within it. There was the inclusion of a live orchestra once again, with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra stepping in to fill this role, and even the Bolshoi theatre was involved once more, with the troupe sending over seven ballerinas and adjusting the choreography of the original production to fit this altered format. The altered choreography proved to be yet another challenge for the students, since they had to remember what they had first learnt a year earlier, and then learn new parts on top of that.
Gauci Borda then spoke of another initiative that she is intimately involved with – namely the International Ballet Malta (IBM) project – with the instructor explaining that she conceived the project as a way to enable ballet students from all over Malta and Gozo to experience the tuition of some of the best dancers and teachers in the world. The project sees one of these artists being invited over to Malta every month to deliver masterclasses that are open to all ballet students, not just to those who attend the Brigette Gauci Borda School of Dance. Gauci Borda noted that so far there have been visiting teachers from acclaimed companies like the English National Ballet, Royal Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Companhia Nacional de Bailado in Portugal, Opera Graz in Austria, Nuremberg National Ballet, National Ballet of Macedonia, Hong Kong Ballet, National Ballet of Hungary Budapest, Dutch National Ballet, and the Teatro La Scala & Staatsballett Berlin. Thanks to Konstantin Ishkhanov and the EUFSC, the IBM Associate programme even managed to book the services of Daria Lyakisheva, one of the Bolshoi’s leading ballerinas, with the Foundation sponsoring the masterclass, and financing the ballerina’s flights and accommodation while in Malta.
In fact, Gauci Borda thoroughly hailed the support being provided to organisations like hers by the European Foundation for Support of Culture. The school director observed that sponsorship is usually quite difficult to come by in Malta, with the only public resource being the Arts Council. However, obtaining support through this Council is no easy task, with Gauci Borda recalling how she applied for funding twice with no success in either instance. Conversely, working with Ishkhanov proved to be quite straightforward, with the cultural philanthropist sponsoring all aspects of the Crystal Palace ballet as well as supporting the IBM initiative, thereby providing the school’s students with a series of unique life-changing opportunities. The dance instructor expressed her wish that further collaboration between her school and Ishkhanov’s organisation could resume once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, as she noted that Ishkhanov himself seems to be quite interested in restarting the partnership once conditions become more favourable.
Gauci Borda concluded by touching upon some of the success stories that her school has been responsible for, as she proudly noted that a significant number of her students have gone on to study and pursue professional careers abroad, with two currently studying at the Elmhurst Ballet School, and another at St Petersburg’s Vaganova Ballet Academy. Recently another of her past students graduated from this same Academy, while yet another ex-student graduated from the National Ballet School in England, and is now working with a German dance company. Many of these students have also gone on to find jobs in West End Musicals, while others have decided to use the skills they have gained to pursue different careers within the world of dance, such as one student who spent a number of years performing on cruise ships, and even spent some time working as a dancer at Disneyland Paris.
To find out more about the Brigitte Gauci Borda School of Dance, visit the website here.
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