Good morning, Quartz readers!
Not even the rap version of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (sample lyric: “Carbon-free energy is goal number 7 / And how to achieve it is a question that’s pressing”) is going to change the snoozefest image that most people have of the UN General Assembly. But for those attending this year’s confab, there is a sense of excitement, even urgency.
It’s Ban Ki-Moon’s last assembly as UN secretary-general. The race to succeed him has been hotly contested, with nine candidates still in the running. And compared to when Ban was picked a decade ago, the world’s great powers, the US included, seem to want a more active UN to tackle the problems facing the planet.
The big ones are climate change and refugees. Officials hope to soon secure the ratifications required to bring last December’s Paris accords on climate into force. That would tie countries into cutting carbon emissions enough to halt the worst of global warming. But it probably won’t be enough to prevent widespread weather disasters, climate-related conflicts—and, consequently, mass migrations.
The number of displaced people, mainly driven from their homes by conflict, is already at an all-time high. Leaders are expected to sign a grand declaration (pdf) on the rights of refugees and migrants this week. Whether it will achieve anything remains to be seen; the political winds in many countries are blowing more isolationist. And poorer nations, where 86% of the world’s refugees reside, aregetting restless at having to house them while far richer countries complain about immigrants.
That means the UN’s next leader will have a tough job—but also, potentially, a higher profile than the self-effacing Ban. For the UN, it will be nice to feel relevant again.—Gideon Lichfield
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Power to the programmers. Command-and-control corporate culture is under threat, but what will replace it? A two-year experiment at Warby Parker might offer clues. Taking elements of holacracy and crowdsourcing, the trendy eyewear company has come up with a new way of proposing, prioritizing, and assigning projects to programmers. The system still gives managers some input, but it puts a lot more choice into the hands of employees. Warby executives and programmers tell Oliver Staley that the method is working.
This changes everything (especially when it’s in Cantonese).Apple’s slogan for the latest iPhone—”This is 7″—doesn’t translate very well in China. When put into Chinese characters for Mandarin speakers on the mainland or in Taiwan, the words fail to pack much of a marketing punch, Zheping Huang explains. And then there’s the awkward entrance the phone is making in Cantonese-heavy Hong Kong, where the word for “seven” is also slang for “penis.”
Why are so many Bollywood actresses afraid of feminism?When India’s female celebrities deny the feminist label on the grounds that they don’t hate men, they’re immediately criticized for misunderstanding what feminism means. But as Maria Thomas argues, their discomfort with the term reveals some interesting truthsabout the complexities of being a woman in India, and suggest that they understand all too well the real implications of feminism.
A bicycle built for the record books. Cuban construction worker Félix Guirola dreams of getting his 10-meter (33-foot) bike recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records, but the bike chains he needs to complete it will cost him $30—about a month’s salary for the average Cuban. With their short video about his quest, Ana Campoy and Jacob Templin also tell the story of the many Cubans who are struggling with scarcity and poverty even as their country’s economy opens up.
Silicon Valley is taking casual up a notch. For better or worse, technology CEOs have come to define modern workwear, especially among men. From Steve Jobs’ turtlenecks to Mark Zuckerberg’s gray t-shirts, the influence historically has emphasized plain pieces in standard fabrics. Enter Jack Dorsey. As Marc Bain observes, the CEO of Twitter and Square has edgy, expensive tastes that manage to pair fashion designer Rick Owens’ aggressive styles with the Silicon Valley ethos of understated fashion.
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Marc Andreessen, master librarian. Embellished origin stories. Brutal patent fights. The sense of an untamed frontier. Old Hollywood and Silicon Valley have a lot in common, and the history of both can be found in the bookcases lining the lobby at private equity firm Andreessen Horowitz. It’s a top-notch collection, mostly courtesy of Andreessen himself. Wired’s Cade Metz peruses the shelves and ties together the story of two industries that have left the book world with no shortage of great material to publish.
How did 5,300 employees go off the rails at Wells Fargo? Long known as the king of the cross-sell, Wells Fargo built up a sales culture that left some workers uncomfortable, and led thousands of others to fraudulently open accounts on behalf of customers without their knowledge. In the aftermath of the $185 million fine levied against the American bank on Sept. 8, The Wall Street Journal’s Emily Glazer talks to former Wells employees about the specific pressures they were under to meet their numbers and please their superiors.
Netflix isn’t giving television showrunners the gentle care they’re used to. But with the $6 billion a year the company is spending on programming (and its 54 Emmy nominations this year), can anyone complain? Kim Masters at The Hollywood Reporter shows how Netflix has upended the television business in just three and a half years, generating equal parts awe and fear across the industry.
Would this sound less moral in French? There’s evidence that the multilingual among us apply different ethical judgments depending on which language they are using. Writing in Scientific American, Julie Sedivy considers the possible explanations—including the theory that we tie less emotional baggage to languages learned in academic settings versus the ones we learn at home during childhood—and asks the compelling question: “What then, is a multilingual person’s ‘true’ moral self?”
A drug for the kale age. Ayahuasca is an ancient Amazonian cocktail of hallucinogenic material that is very likely to make you vomit on your way to a higher dimension. It’s usually taken in a group setting, a “circle” led by an ayahuasquero, or shaman. And as Ariel Levy notes in The New Yorker, it’s increasingly the drug of choice for people who long for mindfulness and detoxification with just a touch of suffering.
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