Finishing Beethoven's Lost Symphony, the Internet Blackout and the Ultimate Writing Keyboard | Non-Obvious Insights #289

Dear Newsletterest,

Are we headed for an Internet blackout today? Can technology imagine what Beethoven's unfinished 10th symphony would have sounded like? Will Coca-Cola's first big ad campaign in half a decade change the marketing priorities of every big advertiser? Are reparations for past evils really worth the effort? These are some of the big questions we'll explore in this week's non-obvious newsletter. Enjoy the stories!

Can Coke's First New Ad Campaign In 5 Years Spark A Global Turnaround?

In case you didn't notice, Coca-Cola has been uncharacteristically quiet for the last few years as the brand underwent a major overhaul of their teams and agencies. Now, the brand is back with a big new campaign titled "Real Magic" that "will invite everyone to embrace the magic of humanity." The first video shows an eSports scene with an unusual ending (watch it here) alongside the tagline "We are one Coke away from each other." It is exactly the sort of feel-good ad that you might come to expect from Coke. 

More significant is how the brand is evolving it's marketing strategy: "Coke will move away from primarily broadcast communication to creating an ecosystem of experiences for our consumers and people everywhere." The one thing that has always been true about the Coke brand is that it is idolized by marketers across many other industries. So if Coke indeed is moving away from broadcast communications, you can expect many other brands to follow.  

If You Are Reading This, You're Probably Safe From The Sept 30th Internet Blackouts

According to several media outlets, today is the day that "millions of computers, smartphones and other devices connected to the internet, such as video game consoles, will no longer be able to connect to the network." To blame is a particular security certificate that will expire today, preventing secure connections between some devices and the Internet. Affected devices will mainly be older ones running an operating system earlier than iOS 10 or Android 7.1.1 or older versions of Windows XP. 

So you are probably safe, but the story had me wondering where these "millions" of affected devices are located and who will be responsible for helping to update them? Are they in schools, or senior homes, or Internet cafes in developing countries? Those least able to deal with these type of tech issues are the ones who are probably going to be most affected. And in this case, by what seems like an arbitrary choice by one programmer years ago to select add an unnecessary expiration date to something that likely didn't need it. The digital divide certainly surfaces in unpredictable ways. 

It's Never Too Late For Reparations, And More Should Be Coming

Almost exactly twenty years ago, I had the chance to climb Uluru, a large sandstone formation in the Northern Territory of Australia. As we approached it, I distinctly remember our tour guide telling us that the Indigenous people of the area preferred that people not climb it, but that the tour was going to go anyway. Each of us, though, had the option to stay behind and respect the request of the Indigenous people. I was one of only two travelers in our group who chose not to climb. 

Today, Uluru (and the area around it) is back in the hands of the Anangu people and in 2019, climbing the rock was finally forbidden. This week, the Australian state of Queensland also passed ownership of the World's oldest rainforest (the Daintree rainforest) back to its original owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people. It is one of four such handovers included in the historic agreement signed by the government yesterday. Also this week, the California city of San Jose formally passed a resolution to apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descents for the role the city played in “systemic and institutional racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.” In doing so, the city became the largest in the country to formally apologize to the Chinese community.

These reparations have been decades in the making and so its easy to dismiss them as being too little too late. Perhaps they are. But apologies are important. Correcting the evil of stolen lands and stopping our celebration of those who stole the lands in the first place matters. It is the very least that we as a culture should do. 

The Ultimate Writing Keyboard Started Off As An April Fool's Joke

When give a workshop on storytelling to a room full of executives, there is a trick I often use to use to help them learn how to simplify their ideas and craft their message into a story. I give them each a Sharpie and a regular size pad of Post-It notes. Then I challenge them to fit any idea on the note, with no additional detail or multiple notes. The aim was to teach them to simplify the way they communicate.  

This week I read a story about a cute keyboard that started out as an April Fool's Day joke. It only has three buttons: Delete, Copy and Paste. Given I just emerged from a marathon editing session for my upcoming book, the concept of having a keyboard that forced you to ONLY move things around or delete them immediately felt appealing. Could this work to simplify my own editing? Well, if you're a longtime reader of this email, you probably know what I did next ... I ordered one. The mini keyboard arrives early next week. :-)

Finishing Beethoven's Lost 10th Symphony and Jurassic Park

Ludwig Van Beethoven died before he could finish his 10th Symphony. For nearly two centuries, musicologists have explored his notes and sketches to imagine the symphony that he never created. On October 9th, a team of computer scientists and musicians will release the long lost 10th symphony, meticulously recreated from his notes and filled in with smart AI learning technology. The two year journey to rebuild an entire symphony from just remainders of concepts and notes is a fascinating story.

It is a combination of discovering history and creating it simultaneously. This drive to finish the unfinished is something that humanity may need more of, considering the likely number of projects that were abandoned due to Covid-19. One, for example, was an amusement park about three hours outside of Moscow that was created with life size dinosaur replicas. Since it was abandoned, those dinosaurs are standing around in tall grass waiting to be useful again.

Even More Non-Obvious Stories ... 

Every week I always curate more stories than I'm able to explore in detail. In case you're looking for some more reading this week, here are a few other stories that captured my attention ...
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