🔮 Staying Out Of Trouble — #122

When everything changes at once.

Good morning,

In Stockholm, the sun is currently reminding us that spring will come (eventually) — a very welcome memo.

I often get a little bit guilty at the beginning of the year, when the sun first comes back, feeling I should honour every hour of sunlight.

One of the benefits of living in a place that gets dark is that you get to experience the magical moment when the light comes back and fills your mind with joy. Am I speaking literally or metaphorically? I don’t know.

This week, I started watching Masterclass. I’m picky about movies and series, but learning something new is always fun.

Everything I’ve watched so far has been really good. But maybe the most impactful so far has been the one where Amy Poehler teaches the nine lessons of improvisation theatre as life tools in her Prepared to be Unprepared class.

I believe all the rules can be applied throughout life, maybe because we improvise as we go.

If I ever manage a large team through organisational change again, I would use that Masterclass to start a conversation about how to approach it.

Her 5th rule, “Take Up Space”, impacted me the most. This advice also comes back in Anna Wintour’s Masterclass (which I never thought I would recommend but is excellent for creative leaders).

You won’t impact this world if you don’t take up space. It’s as simple as that. And when I had lunch with my friend Jenny the other day, she instead phrased it as “filling your space”, which resonated even more with me.

However, as part of her argument, Amy Poehler also suggested asking ourselves, “Does this scene need me?”.

When an improv scene goes well, your first feeling will be to join. “Look, it is going so well; I want to be part of the fun”. That’s when you shouldn’t join. It’s all under control. Let others shine.

Instead, when a scene is not going so well, joining the scene can make a massive difference. Look for those opportunities instead.

Being more intentional — about when I engage or not, speak up or not, challenge things or not — is advice that is very relevant to me personally. Often, the scene doesn’t need me even if I’m asked to join.

Not being part of every scene will allow me to have a greater impact when I join. And that performance will be a lot more interesting to watch.

I usually do not recommend things in this newsletter that cost a lot. But since I’m watching my fourth Masterclass in less than a week and still feel impressed by the content, I feel confident recommending it even though it’s a bit pricy.

(This link gives three of my friends a 14-day trial to all the Masterclass content, so if you’re an early morning Sunday Brief reader, you might be lucky).

Watch the Amy Poehler class and tell me what stuck the most with you. Or, if you’re already on board and have favourite classes, pass them on.


📍Five Small Things

Tool I’m in love with Notion Calendar. Spending some time setting it up and implementing the features gives you a magical place for all things time-related. (But if you’re not on Notion yet, maybe start there.)

Music Norah Jones did a Spotify Session with Remi Wolf, and the result is beautiful.

FriendsBeing stereotypically Millennial, I’ve always been transparent about my mental health. But the extent to which my friends find ways - big and small - to support me when they realise I’m struggling surprises me every single time. Give people the chance to help you.

ArtThe 2024 Art Biennale in Venice is titled Strangers Everywhere and curated by Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa. It opens in April and closes in November. It’s the one (non-work related) thing I look forward to the most this year.

ArticleThe Democratic Party’s triumph in Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election signals Taiwan’s resilience against China’s coordinated and intense information interference efforts. But with 2024 being a year filled with elections, it also shows an urgent need for nations worldwide to formulate robust strategies against escalating threats of election interference, safeguarding the integrity of global democratic processes. This article is a great read.

🗞️ The News Section

West African Nations Governed by Military Juntas Depart ECOWAS After Sanctions

Geopolitics, West Africa

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, three West African countries governed by military juntas, announced their immediate departure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) last Sunday. This move comes after the bloc imposed sanctions labelled as "inhumane" following recent military coups in these nations.

Why it matters: The withdrawal of these countries, which cover over half of ECOWAS' geographical territory and approximately 15% of its population, signifies a major geopolitical shift in the region. Their departure raises questions about the bloc's future influence and the effectiveness of its sanctions policy.

The backdrop: Accusations against ECOWAS include deviating from its founding principles of pan-Africanism and being overly influenced by foreign powers. The juntas argue that the bloc has failed to support them against existential threats like terrorism, which they cite as justification for their coups. This criticism comes as the three nations have sought closer security cooperation with Russia, distancing themselves from traditional allies like France.

Between the lines: ECOWAS, established in 1975 to foster economic integration and uphold democratic governance among its member states, now faces a challenge to its authority. The regional court has previously stated that military juntas lack the authority to act on behalf of their nations, complicating the withdrawal process.

The big picture: This development is more than a diplomatic dispute; it indicates the broader challenges facing West Africa, from political instability to the fight against terrorism. The departure of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger from ECOWAS underscores the growing ruptures in regional unity and the increasing appeal of alternative partnerships.

Watch for: ECOWAS has yet to receive formal notice of the departure, a necessary step to begin the year-long exit process. Negotiations remain possible, with ECOWAS chair Nigeria and other members open to dialogue. Meanwhile, the arrival of a Togolese delegation in Niger hints at ongoing diplomatic efforts to address the rift.

Universal Music Pulls Hits from TikTok: Clips Using Artists Like Taylor Swift and Drake Go Silent

Internet, Music

In a major shake-up for TikTok users and the music industry, Universal Music has pulled its extensive catalogue from the platform, silencing tracks from global stars like Taylor Swift, Drake, and Ariana Grande. This drastic move comes after failed negotiations over licensing agreements, highlighting a deepening conflict over compensation and the use of AI-generated recordings.

What's happening:

  • Music gone silent: As of early Thursday, TikTok users found themselves unable to access songs by Universal Music artists, with existing videos featuring these tracks muted, severely impacting the app's content.

  • Creators in limbo: TikTok influencers report a significant drop in viewer engagement, pushing some to consider moving to platforms like Instagram Reels and YouTube.

  • Industry implications: The dispute underscores ongoing tensions between tech platforms and the music industry over fair compensation and control, similar to Warner Music’s 2008 pullout from YouTube.

  • Public reaction: Both TikTok and Universal Music have taken their grievances public. TikTok accuses Universal Music of prioritising “greed over artists”, while Universal Music is slamming the platform for diluting royalties with AI-generated content.

  • Looking ahead: The standoff leaves a gaping hole in TikTok’s music offerings and raises questions about the future of music licensing and artist promotion on digital platforms.

This conflict marks a critical moment in the evolving relationship between the music industry and social media, with both sides standing firm on their demands. As negotiations continue, the impact on content creators and the broader music ecosystem remains to be seen.

Brexit’s Implications in Northern Ireland Lead to Nationalist Leadership, Suggesting a Shift Towards Pragmatism

Geopolitics, Brexit

For the first time, Northern Ireland will elect a nationalist (i.e. in favour of a united Ireland) First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin. This marks a significant turning point since it brings Northern Ireland closer to a functioning government after Brexit. But it also suggests an evolving political landscape and a generational shift towards more pragmatic Irish nationalism.

Background: While there has been peace in Northern Ireland for 25 years, Brexit creating the need for an EU border resurfaced conversations about whether the region should belong to the UK or the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland has a power-sharing agreement for its government. This was critical to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement’s peace process, but it has also left Northern Ireland about 40% of the time without a functioning government.

Why this election matters: The power-sharing agreement has faced a deadlock for two years due to boycotts from one party (DUP) over post-Brexit trade arrangements, the “Northern Ireland Protocol”, which it argued undermined the region’s ties to the United Kingdom. The boycott may now end following a compromise, setting the stage for Sinn Féin’s historic leadership role.

While Brexit has heavily challenged the region, the election of O’Neill may be seen as a fading of national and religious conflicts and a rise of economic and social issues as primary political concerns.

Between the lines: Despite this political milestone, challenges remain. In Ireland, public services and health care are under strain, and there’s a significant demand for action on economic issues. Some argue that a united Ireland would strain Ireland’s finances even more since Northern Ireland is today heavily dependent on support from the United Kingdom. So, while compelling for some, the narrative of a united Ireland does currently not overshadow immediate socioeconomic concerns for many.

The big picture: This development is more than a political victory for Sinn Féin; it reflects a broader transformation in Northern Irish society, where demographic changes and shifting priorities could reshape its future. However, the path to a united Ireland, as envisioned by nationalists, remains complex and depends on a broad consensus that does not yet exist.

(Big thanks to my friend Ted, who helped provide context on this topic. And, if you want to learn more, here’s a good YouTube video to get you started.)

French AI Start-Up Mistral Challenges GPT-4’s Dominance with Open-Source AI Model

Artificial Intelligence

Mistral, a Paris-based AI start-up known for its commitment to open-source solutions, has been in the news this week following a ‘leak’ by an over-enthusiastic employee of an early access customer. The leak involved a version of an old model that suggested that Mistral was rapidly advancing towards having an AI model with performance approaching that of OpenAI’s GPT-4.

The backdrop: The leaked model, dubbed “miqu-1-70b,” appeared on HuggingFace, an open-source code-sharing platform, and quickly caught the community’s attention for its high performance. Mistral’s CEO, Arthur Mensch, later confirmed the leak, and the company has seen this as an opportunity to highlight its ongoing efforts and achievements in AI.

Between the lines: Mistral’s approach to AI development is markedly different from OpenAI’s. Mistral offers a more accessible and potentially more collaborative model for AI development, arguing the open-source community makes it possible for them to be better than their more closed competitors. This contrasts with OpenAI, which has moved towards more commercial models. Mistral's European identity adds a layer of significance, offering a model that could align more closely with European data protection standards (NB: a very important aspect for AI application companies like Better Odds).

What's next: Mistral is hinting at further advancements that could not only reach but potentially exceed GPT-4’s performance. This would not only be a win for Mistral but could also put significant competitive pressure on OpenAI, especially in the European market, where legal and regulatory compliance is a priority for many businesses. This shift could lead to a more diversified, competitive, and regulatory-compliant ecosystem, which would benefit the whole field of Artificial Intelligence.

US Senate Questions Social Media CEOs Over Child Safety Online

Internet, Trust and Safety

In a United States Senate hearing on Wednesday, prominent social media executives, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Snap’s Evan Spiegel, were questioned about the supposed harm their platforms cause young users. The hearing, titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis,” aimed to address the pressing issue of online child exploitation.

Key moments:

  • Zuckerberg’s apology: In a significant moment, Zuckerberg directly apologised to the parents of victims present at the hearing, expressing regret for the suffering their families have endured due to sexual exploitation or harassment via social media.

  • Snap’s drug access issue: Evan Spiegel also expressed regret, acknowledging Snap’s role in enabling teenagers to access illegal drugs, leading to over 60 parents filing a lawsuit against the company.

Background: The hearing follows a series of complaints against social media giants for not doing enough to protect young users from various online dangers, including sexual exploitation and exposure to illegal drugs. This event also casts light on the broader issue of social media’s impact on mental health, with Zuckerberg defending the platforms by questioning the scientific link between social media use and deteriorating mental health among the youth.

Congressional stance: The Senate, led by figures like Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, accused social media firms of contributing to the crisis of child exploitation online. They emphasised the need for more robust safety measures and accused tech companies of prioritising profit over safety.

Legislative focus: The hearing spotlighted potential legislative solutions, including the Kids Online Safety Act, which has received mixed reviews from advocacy groups and tech companies. Some executives endorsed the bill, while others, including those from Meta, Discord, and TikTok, hesitated to offer outright support.

Big picture: This hearing underscores the ongoing conflict between the need for digital innovation and the imperative to protect vulnerable users from online harm. It highlights social media companies’ challenges in balancing user safety with free expression and the complexities of regulating online spaces.

📈 The Insights Section

Global Real Estate on the Brink: The Convergence of Crises in the United States and China

Economics, Real Estate

The real estate sectors in the United States and China, two of the world's largest economies, face significant challenges with global implications.

In the United States, office spaces have witnessed the highest vacancy rates since 1979, with nearly 20% unleased by the end of 2023, mainly due to the shift towards home and hybrid working models and a legacy of overconstruction. Meanwhile, China grapples with the potential collapse of Evergrande, the world's most indebted property developer, which has sent shockwaves through its real estate market and beyond.

United States Vacancies and Chinese Debt Crisis: The surge in US office space vacancies, particularly in Texas cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin, reflects changing work habits post-COVID-19 and decades of overbuilding. Conversely, in China, Evergrande’s crisis — worsened by Beijing's debt control measures and aggressive expansion — threatens widespread economic consequences, from lost deposits for property buyers to risks of a systemic credit crunch (a lack of funds available in the credit market, making it difficult for borrowers to get financing).

Broader Economic Implications: These crises are not isolated. In the US, they affect stock prices of local Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and indicate shifts in commercial real estate dynamics, while in China, Evergrande's difficulty indicates a broader economic slowdown, similar to what Japan has previously seen. Both situations highlight vulnerabilities in financial systems and the potential for a global credit squeeze.

A Global Macro Shift: The parallel crises in the United States and China suggest a global macro shift within the real estate sector, characterised by changing demands in the US and overleveraging in China. The implications for global economic stability are profound, as these shifts could influence investment patterns, economic growth rates, and the future of urban development worldwide.

Navigating the Future: The potential for a significant global economic impact calls for strategic responses from policymakers, investors, and businesses. In the United States, adapting to new work norms and reassessing commercial real estate strategies are paramount. In China, managing the fallout from Evergrande's crisis and ensuring the financial system's stability are urgent priorities. Globally, these crises underscore the need for resilient economic policies and diversified investment approaches to navigate the uncertainties of the real estate market and safeguard against future systemic risks.

The world watches closely as the United States and China navigate their real estate challenges, recognising that the outcomes may set the tone for a global economic landscape ahead.

Gen Z's Gender Divide: Young Men's Growing Scepticism Towards Feminism

Gen Z, Feminism

A survey conducted by Ipsos for King's College London unveils a significant shift in attitudes towards feminism and masculinity among young people in the United Kingdom, particularly highlighting a growing divide between young men and women. While previous generations have generally moved towards a more uniform understanding of gender roles and feminism, Gen Z's perspectives suggest a shift

Young men's scepticism towards feminism is driving this difference, with the discourse around "toxic masculinity" and the influence of polarising figures such as Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson.

Young Men vs Feminism: A notable fraction of Gen Z males, particularly those aged 16 to 29, express scepticism about feminism, contrasting with older generations. About 16% of these young men believe feminism has more harmful impacts, slightly higher than the 13% among men over 60. This sentiment is echoed in their views on social media influencer Andrew Tate, with a fifth showing approval despite his controversial stance on gender issues.

Views on "Toxic Masculinity": The term "toxic masculinity" finds more detractors among young men, with 37% deeming it unhelpful. This perspective showcases a significant gender divide in perceptions of gender roles and terminologies.

Influence of Tate and Peterson: Andrew Tate, alongside figures like Jordan Peterson, finds a strong following among young men, pointing towards a craving for narratives that affirm traditional notions of masculinity. Peterson, in particular, is favoured by 32% of men aged 16 to 29, highlighting a generational shift in role models.

Social Media's Role: The digital landscape, especially social media, is pivotal in shaping young people's attitudes towards gender norms and feminism. This influence suggests a divergence from traditional pathways of forming social and political views.

Ethnic Minority Perspectives: Tate's messages resonate significantly within ethnic minority communities, suggesting a nuanced landscape of gender and cultural identity. Over a third of ethnic minority men in the United Kingdom endorse Tate's views on male identity and gender roles, a stark contrast to 12% of white men.

Broader Implications: The findings signal a potential for increased polarisation among younger generations on issues of gender and equality. While a majority still lean towards progressive views on feminism and gender equality, a substantial minority hold opposing views, indicating a complex and evolving discourse on masculinity and feminism among the youth.

Global Social Media Users Surpass 5 Billion Mark Ahead of Facebook's 20th Anniversary


With digital landscapes ever-evolving, the “Digital 2024: Global Overview Report” unfolds several trends shaping our virtual interactions. A collaboration between DataReportal, Meltwater, and We Are Social, this comprehensive study spans over 550 pages.

If you have better things to read, here’s one graph and the key takeaways …

  • Global Digital Population: Earth's populace stands at 8.08 billion, with a 0.9% increase from last year. Out of this, unique mobile phone users have reached 5.61 billion, accounting for 69.4% of the global total, while internet users have climbed to 5.35 billion, representing over 66% of global inhabitants.

  • Social Media Surge: Active social media identities have surpassed the 5 billion mark, indicating a robust annual growth of 5.6%. This milestone is particularly notable as it precedes Facebook's 20th anniversary, highlighting the expansive journey of social media from its inception.

  • Ad Spend Insights: Digital advertising is booming, with global digital ad spending hitting new heights. This underscores the growing preference for digital mediums over traditional advertising channels like TV, where viewership is declining.

  • Platform Rivalries: The rivalry between Instagram and TikTok heats up, with both platforms boasting nearly 1.5 billion users each. Despite Instagram's slight lead, TikTok's unique content approach and engagement rates present a formidable challenge.

  • LinkedIn's Milestone: Surpassing 1 billion members, LinkedIn cements its status as the premier professional network. This growth reflects the platform's expanding reach and its significance in the professional sphere.

  • The Digital Divide: Over 2.7 billion people remain offline despite the digital boom, highlighting a persistent digital divide. Efforts to bridge this gap continue, with significant strides in regions like Southern Asia.

  • Content Consumption: Together, we dedicate an astonishing 500 million years to social media usage annually, with trends indicating a diverse range of online activities from social networking to e-commerce.

This report illustrates the continued exponential growth of digital consumption and the transformative shift towards online platforms. Conclusion: Our current “internet” is far from the final version.

Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something new.

PS. If you got this email from a friend, click here to subscribe.