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Well howdy friends, I hope all's good. Lots of people got in touch after last week's email; very sweet of you. Thank you all. I am replying x

AMAZON: We know what Amazon was. Listing publicly in 1997, Amazon was "the leading online retailer of books". But two decades on, Amazon can hardly be described as a book store. Or even a store. With some examination of how Amazon changed, it's perhaps possible to describe what Amazon is. What's harder to interpret is what Amazon is becoming.

At some point in its history, Amazon was no longer definable by what it sold, but by its approach. Some of that was its culture of appetite for growth, but more than anything its enthusiasm for scale by creeping automation.

The physical and digital distribution infrastructure Amazon has amassed exceeds any other organisation. It continues to scale with the addition of automation, such as robotic box-packing that's five times faster than humans. Worse still for the humans currently in Amazon's employ, the system used to track warehouse workers can automatically fire them.

Replacing humans extends to HQ too. But Amazon is also offering considerable incentives to its workforce to set up delivery businesses of their own, presumably because managing (and exerting pressure upon) a large number of mom-and-pop delivery partners is preferable to 'repurposing' employees every time automation advances. And its recent investment in Deliveroo gives it access to a further 60,000 delivery riders in 14 markets, at least until there's an autonomous way to do this.

This automation creep has set the company's infrastructure at odds with its workforce. This has manifested in policy, such as forcing delivery drivers to take selfies to cut fraud. It's also exposed automation's current limitations, such as the scrapping of an AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women. But most obviously it's straining employee relations, with workers pushing to unionise so as to fight either being treated as robots, or replaced by them. πŸ€–
🎢 My Eurovision predictions were pretty close, but underestimated how good Switzerland was and how bad Madonna was. Like most people I voted for Norway.

πŸ–Ό Unravelling the JPEG is an amazing attempt to expose what goes on inside the world's most abundant digital image format. Mess about with the underlying data and see the results in real time! And if that gives you a taste for glitching, here's a tool for corrupting your own pictures.

πŸ˜ƒ The keyboard wizards of acid house takes us back to the late Eighties to meet the music-tech pioneers including Adamski and Orbital. Nice one.

🌨 The global internet is disintegrating. What comes next? We may like to think of the internet as one big global network, but in reality it hasn't been like that for some time. As countries move to tighten their digital borders, BBC Future tries to lay down some of the impacts.

πŸ‘©β€β€οΈβ€πŸ‘© Calvin Klein Issued an Apology for That Bella Hadid-Lil Miquela Video. If you didn't see it, CK ran a video featuring supermodel Bella Hadid kissing virtual (i.e. computer-generated) Instagram influencer Lil Miquela. But in their enthusiasm for blending real and virtual, CK stumbled into unforeseen sexual politics. Had they avoided that, it'd be utter genius.

πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™‚οΈ The Undercover Facist: A 24-year-old warehouse worker from Warrington got mixed up in a white-supremacist movement, only to learn of a plot to kill a politician.

πŸš‡ TfL is going to track all Underground users using Wi-Fi from July, and use the data to aid planning of capacity and development. At first the privacy aspect of this is jarring, but then you're in a closed, ticketed system, so it's not as if they don't know you're there. What this does is expose how people are using the infrastructure, which is insight you can't get from the ticket gates alone.
The Amazon of tomorrow: Amazon will continue developing strengths and then playing to them. It's a reasonable assumption that the might of Amazon Prime will be wielded over additional industries, including healthcare and pharmacy, music, travel and more.

Amazon also continues to shake the technology tree, claiming AT&T, Accenture, and Nestle are all using its blockchain tools, and playing with cryptocurrency implementations including accepting Bitcoin in Whole Foods.

The online retail experience, where Amazon started, has picked up some of the drawbacks of mass scale; chiefly uneven development and the erosion of trust. Prime Day is two months away and the deals are stacking up already, but browsing on Amazon is still broadly reminiscent of catalogue shopping. Add to this the complication of a black market to achieve good listings, plus floods of fake reviews and a substantial secondary industry dedicated to distorting Amazon Marketplace. Inconsequential when influencing which phone case you buy, but Amazon's market-distorting effects become more severe when its approach envelops more sensitive industries.

The distribution infrastructure has extended from warehousing to datacentres (hosting most of the internet) to retail sites and in-home connected devices. Whereas a Kindle is passive (it comes to life only when the user picks it up), Alexa-enabled devices and Ring doorbell cameras are seeking ways to bolster your perception of their usefulness, be that listening out for burglars or watching out for... burglars.

Fear of burglary seems to be potent, and Amazon and others are keen for you to understand the risks that are all around you. A fearful populous buys more phone cases, perhaps? Healthcare? Travel? But the company's charge into security has been met with resistance from its own investors, who are voting today on whether the company's push to sell surveillance software threatens civil rights.

Keeping up with Amazon is a task in itself. Little surprise, then, that paid-for newsletter What Did Amazon Do This Week exists, or that 22% of its subscribers are Amazon employees. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ
 Finally : Filming for Bergerac reboot could start next year. I know, right? Apart from all those absurd island-based fictional crimes that'll get solved, there's something interesting in the politics of this. Jersey tourism benefited massively from Bergerac in the Eighties, but the low-cost airlines boom hasn't been kind to the Channel Islands. Rumours of the show's resuscitation have circulated for a while, but the project now seems to be attracting government finance, thereby turning it from a 'maybe' into a 'probably'. πŸ‡―πŸ‡ͺ

Gadzooks, we've reached the bottom of the email. More for you next week. Do you know someone who likes interesting things? They can join in too at momorgan.com/blast. πŸ’Œ

Have you found something I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more of? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from youβ€”hit reply! Meanwhile all back-issues are in the archive.


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