Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: December 2020

December 31, 2020  • Creating the Conditions for Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society. For the final edition of What We’re Reading in 2020, a year when business was conducted online as never before, we’re placing special emphasis on the role of technology in all topics covered in this month’s digest.

The Economy

19.5 Million Americans Remain on Unemployment at End of 2020 (Axios) As 2020 draws to a close, one of the biggest stories in the U.S. is the political wrangling over continuing support for workers suffering from the economic crises brought on by the pandemic. Here’s key data on what’s at stake.

The Year of Divergence (The Economist) This year-end review gives special focus on the place of technology and the tech sector in shaping business and society in 2020. (For more on the connection to inequality, see The Economist’s How Quickly Will America’s Labour Market Recover?)

Purpose of the Corporation

Boards Beware: Accountability is Rising (Douglas Chia, Soundboard Governance LLC, and Lex Suvanto, Edelman) New research explores the expectations and accountability boards are facing as stakeholder capitalism gains steam.

The 2020 Good Tech Awards (Kevin Roose, The New York Times) As the author points out, it can be easy to find examples of “tech gone bad.” But this year, there are especially powerful examples of tech companies powered by purpose. Here are truly inspiring examples of companies tackling issues from racial injustice to the needs of frontline workers.

Worker Voice

Google Silences and Then Fires a Black Artificial-Intelligence Expert (Mathew Ingram, Columbia Journalism Review) After the company fired an expert on racial biases in algorithmic decision-making, critics of the move pointed out that it coincided with the expert’s newest research paper—on the societal harms associated with a core Google business.

This Online Activism Class Will Teach Tech Workers How To ‘Remake Their Companies From Below’ (Kristin Toussaint, Fast Company) Worker activism in the tech sector is a story we’ve been following in What We’re Reading throughout recent years. The trend may be deep and established enough now to yield a body of study to inform future action.

Tech

The Walls are Closing in on Big Tech as Global Regulators Crack Down (Sam Shead, CNBC) In recent months, a perception that tech giants have become “too big for their boots” has fueled a global regulatory response to tech that will likely have real force. Here’s a quick overview of major policy shifts and what they might mean for some of the world’s most influential tech companies.

Robo-Surveillance Shifts Tone of CEO Earnings Calls (Robin Wigglesworth, The Financial Times) Algorithms now find clues to corporate value in everything from earnings calls to speeches to social media chatter. What do CEOs need to know about navigating this new “game of cat and mouse” and how to talk when a machine is listening?