This week’s highlights:  Meta-Narratives and Escapism, Chaos Theory and Warehouse Design, Autonomous and Mapping


Fifteen on Friday – 03/02/18 – Issue 275

Welcome to March and to Fifteen on Friday – our weekly curation of the most interesting articles of the week.

Whatever your political leanings and background, it seems universally agreeable that we are having a cultural moment in which an old system is showing strain, and what comes in its place remains to be determined.  In that spirit, the first three articles this week, look at what happens when the dominant meta-narrative (or cultural operating system) comes under pressure.  Some may make the case for escapism (ala Peter Thiel), while the young look to re-architect the environment to their suiting.  Much to consider.

All the best,


Food for Thought:

  1. NYMag – Has the Operating System for the Western World Crashed?
  2. TheGuardian – Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand  How an extreme libertarian tract predicting the collapse of liberal democracies – written by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father – inspired the likes of Peter Thiel to buy up property across the Pacific
  3. NYT – A Generation Emerging From the Wreckage  “I’ve been going around to campuses asking undergraduate and graduate students how they see the world. Most of the students I’ve met with so far are at super-competitive schools — Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago and Davidson — so this is a tiny slice of the rising generation. Still, their comments are striking.”
  4. NashvillePost – Still building.  After almost 20 years as the President of Belmont University, Bob Fisher has left quite an impression  Enrollment has grown from 3,000 to 8,000, 10 new buildings, and new degree programs.  This is a thoughtful look back at all the changes at a relatively small, maybe somewhat sleepy, Baptist university that is climbing into the limelight.
  5. Tennessean – A slave taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. She’s made telling his story her life’s work.


  1. QZ – Amazon – This company built one of the world’s most efficient warehouses by embracing chaos.  This was mind-blowing to read.  Amazon’s warehouses have goods distributed at random rather than everything stored together in an orderly fashion.
  2. Racked – Why Is It So Hard for Clothing Manufacturers to Pay a Living Wage? H&M promised to make sure the people who make the company’s clothes can live on their pay, but the benchmarks have shifted.
  3. WashPo – REI, Mountain Equipment Co-Op stop selling major outdoor brand with NRA ties.  Gun control is certainly a hot button issue.  This piece is a fascinating look at how one public company with a firearms division is seeing clients of another division withhold business.  Policy making through the free market perhaps.
  4. HBR – When CEOs’ Equity Is About to Vest, They Cut Investment to Boost the Stock Price Yet another facet of the principal/agent problem of public company leadership.
  5. BusinessWeek – Harvard Blew $1 Billion in Bet on Tomatoes, Sugar, and Eucalyptus – Credit PK – The university’s highly paid money managers thought they could manage risks other schools avoided


  1. NYMag – Worst Roommate Ever “You’ve got your whole life in front of you. You’re pretty, you’ve got this house — well, you don’t have this house anymore. This house is my house.”
  2. AoM – How to Read More Books This Year  I’m going to whisper the secret to reading a lot of books. Are you ready? You need to spend more time reading.
  3. Bloomberg – Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again Self-driving cars need painfully detailed data on every inch of street. Can automakers solve the problem without the reigning superpower of maps?
  4. Jalopnik – The New F1 Halo Doesn’t Look That Bad For Drivers, After All That.  Looking to improve the safety of open-wheeled racing, Formula 1 debuts a new addition to the car that better protects the driver’s head from crashes and debris.
  5. CM – How a Can of Guinness Works  Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s something magical about a freshly—and properly—poured pint of Guinness. The way that creamy head forms at the top, and the tiny bubbles cascade down into the deep dark abyss. It’s a work of art. But that art—those cascading bubbles and creamy velvet-smooth head—isn’t magic. It’s science. More specifically, it’s nitrogen.