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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Two decades ago, Harvard Professor Clay Christensen shook the icons of big business by identifying a paradox — some of the ostensibly most unassailable companies in the U.S. were teetering and collapsing like Gulliver, undone by small, seemingly inferior upstarts. How could this be? In "The Innovator's Dilemma," Christensen explained why, and how they could fix it.
Now, Christensen is after a new, much larger target. In "The Prosperity Paradox," he and two co-authors seek to unravel why, despite decades of aid amounting to a cumulative $4.3 trillion, many poor nations remain impoverished. In terms of income per capita, at least 20 of these countries are worse off after the assistance.
Quick take: What wealthy countries are chronically doing is attacking only the outward signs of poverty — bad water, poor roads, disease. They should stop.
Their answer to the paradox: Nurture local companies making basic products that innovatively satisfy an unserved need, and employ a lot of people. And keep doing it, going through local government and entrepreneurs themselves. The result can be a market that takes off, providing cash money in addition to access to gainful employment and upward social mobility.
"It's a process, not an event. It's a process of becoming very prosperous," Christensen tells Axios.
Christensen says the same concepts that informed his first book apply to poverty and prosperity.
Easier said than done, right? Christensen has an answer to that, too, with a list of potential businesses that he thinks would take off in nearly any impoverished country.
In Christensen's view, these markets are ripe for an agile entrepreneur: "It's part and parcel of disruption."
To start out, Christensen presents sometimes surprising facts:
As an example of what can happen in the right circumstances, Christensen argues that popular breakthroughs like the Ford Model T, the Singer sewing machine and the Kodak one-shot transformed the American economy by creating a culture of innovation.
Photo: Mark Stone/University of Washington
Using the same principle as a bat bouncing sound waves off its surroundings, a new smartphone app developed at the University of Washington looks for signs of opioid overdoses. The app employs inaudible sound to detect drops in a person's breathing rate, according to a paper published today.
Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes: More than 115 people die from opioid overdoses every day in the U.S. Antidotes like naloxone can quickly reverse an overdose, but a monitor could grasp what's going on first so that help could be summoned.
How it works: "Second Chance" monitors a drug user's breathing rate, watching for a dangerous drop below 7 breaths per minute.
The UW team ran a test at a safe injection site in Vancouver, where drug users volunteered to run the app while injecting opioids under supervision.
What's next: The researchers are applying for FDA approval.
One in four indebted Americans expect to die before they can pay it off, according to a new study.
Axios’ Stef Kight writes: This actually is better news than last year. In its 2018 nationwide survey, CreditCards.com found that 30% of adults in debt thought they would go to their graves before paying.
By age group: Millennials (18–37) expect to be debt-free by age 43; Gen Xers said age 54; and baby boomers, 66.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
How "algos" changed the rhythm of the market (Robin Wigglesworth — FT)
Tech is the new politics (Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei — Axios)
Storm clouds for the global economy (World Bank)
Pan Am 103 and a 30-year quest for justice (Garrett Graff — Wired)
Algorithms are saying, "Short everything" (Stephanie Yang — WSJ)
The real deal. Photo: Frédéric Soltan/Corbis/Getty
A film studio in Hengdian — China's Hollywood — is so big that it has a life-size, picture-perfect replica of Beijing's 180-acre Forbidden City, Erica writes.
The big picture: The replica is only one small set in the studio, which covers 2,500 acres in total and is the scene for films and TV series set in the old days, reports Inkstone News. For those shots, it has numerous replicas of Chinese palaces.
One startling stat: China is projected to be the world's largest film market by 2020. It is adding 25 theater screens per day. The number of screens has surged 14x, from about 3,500 in 2007 to about 50,000 in 2017. And they have doubled since 2014, when there were about 23,500.