In conversation with Françoise Baylis on the big business of human embryos

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Photo by Karim Ghantous on Unsplash

Françoise Baylis is a philosopher whose innovative work in bioethics challenges readers to think broadly about the direction of health, science, and biotech. She’ll speak at The Great Wave on the future of genome editing. We spoke to her about the field and practice of assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF — an intimate undertaking in the context of a large, and profitable, global business.

MH: How did you come to this field of inquiry?

FB: I did my PhD in the late 1980s on the ethics of using human embryos for research. In that context, I was interested in questions about the moral status of the developing human embryo — its right to life, whether it would be appropriate to use embryos for research purposes if the long-term goal was to ensure the birth of healthy children. That’s really where it starts: looking at foundational questions about whether the human embryo should be available as a research subject. …


In conversation with Nathan Schneider about new and better options for startups and the communities they serve

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Nathan Schneider is an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he leads the Media Enterprise Design Lab, a think tank for community ownership and governance in media organizations. We spoke to him about his hopes for “exit to community” and a future of greater corporate accountability.

How would you explain “exit to community” to someone not well versed in startup-speak or how VCs work?

Great question. For most people, “exit” means leaving a room when there’s a fire or something. But for people with any familiarity with startups, exit is a really, really big deal. It’s what startups are for. They are temporary organizations that exist in order to figure out how they will exit, which typically means either getting absorbed by a bigger, more boring company or, more occasionally, becoming a publicly traded company on the stock market. In both cases, that means selling the thing off to the highest bidder. …


Kondo your ghost projects

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Vintage woodblock print of Japanese textile from Shima-Shima (1904) by Furuya Korin.

In the run-up to The Great Wave, we’ve asked speakers, hub hosts, and friends to don their advice-giving hat and tell us: What’s one thing you would recommend someone do to live a more beautiful life, to have a better and more beautiful business?

Where do you put art you never made? If you’re like me, you’ve dedicated space for unmade art in your apartment. Obviously these unfinished projects are not hung on the walls, because strictly and materially speaking, they don’t exist. But I’ve shelves’ worth of research for future books, all still unwritten. My Dropbox folders contain dozens of abandoned drafts. For years I have instructed myself to keep this stuff because, I tell myself, I will get around to finishing these ghost projects eventually. Perhaps on an extended holiday, or once I sufficiently self-improve and am waking up at 4 a.m. daily to write. Then I’ll actually finish them. …


GPT-3 and the meaning and value of our work

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Josef Scharl illustration for Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Pantheon Books, 1944)

I started writing a book on editing in 2014 because I sensed a movement afoot to diminish the written word in favor of photos and pictograms. This quote — found, perhaps ironically, on p. 182 of a book I had been sent for review — struck me in particular:

We should be on a mission to convert as many of the words on our products and packaging as possible to pictures or icons. Every brand or product should have its own unique and immediately identifiable universal symbolic language. …


In conversation with economist and activist Guy Standing

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Stanislas Jourdan, Wikimedia Commons

Guy Standing is a Professorial Research Associate at SOAS University of London and a founding member and honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network. He has been promoting universal basic income — a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement — for thirty years. As the COVID-19 pandemic is laying waste to people’s livelihoods in countries across the globe, the idea is at last gaining traction. We spoke on March 17, the day the White House and U.S. Congress said they were crafting a $1.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package to bolster the U.S. economy in the wake of the pandemic. …


Going niche, selling direct, enjoying more freedom, sparking more joy

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The biggest professional challenge I’ve faced the last year is discovering that what was once my main means of attracting new author clients — the fact that I had first-hand knowledge of working with big-name New York publishers — was something I was no longer interested in promoting.

I still enjoyed working with authors who had big ambitions, and immensely so. That wasn’t the issue. I’d always made clear to prospective clients that while I’d do my damnedest to make their books critically laudable and commercially viable, I couldn’t make any promises as regards landing a big book deal. …


And Other Ways Tech Products Don’t Work for Us

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Spotted while walking up Orchard St. this morning

Lately it’s been hard to shake the feeling that many software products and platforms don’t work as they should. I’m thinking primarily of email here, because I use it daily, and prefer it as a written communication tool to most other alternatives.

But as an experience, checking my Inbox is deteriorating by the day. I am as frequently annoyed by an incoming email as gratified. The ratio of pleasant surprises — the note from a stranger writing to say they enjoyed something I wrote! — to emails that elicit an “Ugh, not this ___ again” reaction is bad. After a few weeks of email accomplishing little other than making me feel psychically itchy I developed a pet theory, which is that fuses are short nation-wide, and that while a lot of this has to do with the preponderance of proud assholes at the forefront of our culture, at least some of our current malaise stems from the fact that we get too many pings a day from too many organizations that want to sell us too much crap. …


Find People Who Care Too Much

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A post on bad books got our attention the other day. On one level, it was nice to be listed among the major players in ebook distribution. But it was in the broader context of bemoaning how many “crappy books” have flooded self-publishing outlets, and so ultimately annoying.

Complaining about the quality of self-published books is not news. Five years ago Profile Books’s Andrew Franklin received press for his assertion that the majority of self-published books were “terrible — unutterable rubbish. They don’t enhance anything in the world.”

I’m not sure such a comment would warrant an article today, because for many it’s taken as given. …


*Also Small Publishers

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We can’t claim any affiliation with @city_traveller, but we adore this photo of their storefront.

Earlier here at StreetLib Giacomo conjured a mental picture of a publishing landscape wherein books flow from writers to readers, and swirl back around, following the least arduous path. Like water.

Now I’ve no elegant segue so I’ll immediately dive into something that for us follows immediately and logically from that image and that’s this: Small publishers are integral to this vision.

Here’s how so: Small publishers can take more risks than large publishers can afford to. They can publish books that are important, even beautiful, but have limited commercial potential. They have hustle, which we like, and are not so heavily invested in the traditional publishing status quo. …


Plus Presentation at Readmagine 2018

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We are happy to announce that, starting today, publishers and independent authors have the StreetLib platform available in Spanish. As before, they can create, edit, distribute and sell their books, both electronic and on paper, all over the world, and now without having to translate from English or globish.

It’s the result of a process that started months ago and in celebration, Ana Córdoba and Antonio Aguilella will present StreetLib Spain & Latin America at Readmagine 2018, the international conference on digital innovation in reading, books, and libraries organized by the Germán Sánchez Ruipérez Foundation at its center in Madrid. …

About

Megan Hustad

Editor, business owner, New Yorker. My gift to the world is no newsletter.

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