Weekend reads for July 8-9

Especially for Newsroom Pro subscribers, here's a few longer reads on economic, social and political issues for the weekend.

North Korea's test of an ICBM that it said could carry a large nuclear warhead and that experts said could reach Alaska and Hawaii was the big story this week. But exactly how developed is North Korea's nuclear programme and what can America in particular do about it?

This piece by Jeffrey Lewis in Foreign Affairs from before the test takes a closer look at the different types of technology North Korea is using. It's a useful deep dive into rocket technology.

However, there are few good choices for America to take military action against North Korea, as Motoko Rich explains from Seoul in this excellent New York Times analysis. Any kind of pre-emptive or targeted strike risks an artillery, rocket and nuclear bomb counter-barrage from North Korea that could kill hundreds of thousands within days in South Korea, and potentially Japan. The key fact here is that half of South Korea's population lives within 50 miles of the DMZ.

The future of work and the exponential growth of app-powered businesses such as Uber and Airbnb seems to dominate the global conversation these days. This long New York Times piece on the clash of London's 21,000 Black Cabs and Uber's 40,000 Prius drivers gives some rich insights into the cultural clashes at play.

Here's a taste: "The clash in London is different, less about the disruptive power of an app, or a new business model, than about the disruption of Britain. London’s cabby wars echo the culture wars that fueled Britain’s vote last summer to leave the European Union — and that have brutally flared up again in recent weeks: immigrant versus native, old versus new, global versus national."

The other types of jobs being eaten away by the digital revolution are those in retail, particularly in smaller industrial cities in developed economies that have already been hit hard by the shift in manufacturing to China. The New York Times has taken a deep look at how parts of America are now seeing the retail jobs go that had replaced the factory jobs. New warehousing jobs for Amazon and the likes are being created, but they're in much bigger cities.

Further to the problems of provincial life in a developed economy, this series of photos and commentary by Chris Arnade is well worth a look. He's a former Wall St trader turned chronicler of rural poverty.

So where will lots of jobs be created? Aged care and health. This Vox piece looks at the types of new jobs being created and how some are retraining for them. The trouble is they are not very satisfying jobs and they're low paid. New Zealand's pay equity decision is an interesting development from our side of the world.

As we head into the final 80 days of the election campaign here, it's worth having another look at the apparently successful targeting of Trump and Brexit voters in the US elections and the EU referendum by Cambridge Analytica, the company owned by reclusive tech billionaire (and Trump supporter) Robert Mercer that claimed to hyper-target voters using Facebook, 20 million data sets and psychographic profiling. This piece in Buzzfeed challenges just how deeply the firm was used and how effective it was.

This week Bill English and Amy Adams launched the Social Investment Agency so it's worth pointing to this thoughtful and calm discussion paper by the PM's Chief Science Adviser Sir Peter Gluckman on the subject of citizen-based analytics used in the social investment approach.

China's army of Government paid online trolls is a phenomenon of the China's great firewall. This Harvard paper shows as many as two million of these trolls are fabricating social media posts for strategic distraction, rather than to engage and convince.

Do smartphones make us stupid? Christopher Bergland at Psychology Today reports from a study that shows that cognitive capacity and overall brain power are significantly reduced when your smartphone is within glancing distance—even if it’s turned off and face down.

But not when you're reading this email...

Have a great weekend of reading.

cheers

Bernard