Weekend Thoughts - 6.17.17

Image  by  Zervas , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Zervas, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. Working in and following the technology industry for many years has made me no stranger to company acquisitions, but I didn't see this one coming: Amazon plans to acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion later this year. However, this move makes a lot of sense for both companies. The 431 Whole Foods Market store locations will provide Amazon with a larger physical retail footprint that it can use to develop and test its various retail experiments, which include novel shopping mechanics like augmented reality and automation. Those brick-and-mortar stores will add to Amazon's existing 70 U.S. fulfillment centers which should result in quicker delivery times and a wider range of available products for the Prime Now service. Whole Foods has experienced seven quarters of declining sales, an overhaul to its Board of Directors last month, and vocal grumblings from unhappy investors. This acquisition may end up saving the company from going out of business. Amazon also gains yet another advantage over competitors like Walmart, Google Express, and Instacart. And finally, adding a new selection of grocery items to its catalog may end up boosting sales of Amazon's smart speakers, creating a stronger presence in the home. Imagine walking into a store and making a purchase without interacting with another human being, or talking to a device in your home and receiving any product you desire within minutes—those are just two scenarios that Amazon may be able to deliver on in the near future.

2. Two teenagers were rescued from Paris' catacombs after wandering lost for three days in the pitch-black underground tunnels. They were treated for hypothermia after being found by search teams and rescue dogs. A section of the 150-mile maze of underground tunnels is open to the public, however entering the rest of the underground burial ground has been against the law since 1955. Still, people have accessed the illegal portion through secret access points. I wouldn't normally cover a news event like this, but it comes close to home for me. In 2006, during an extended European adventure, I met up with a group of Parisian teenagers for what I assumed was a legal tour of the catacombs, but turned out to be a nine-hour trek in the illegal section. My experience included a leader with a hand-drawn map who carried speakers blasting French music, narrow hallways and low ceilings (we crawled through a 50-foot section that was roughly knee-high), unexpected drop-offs and cavernous pits, beautiful and thought-provoking graffiti, running into seemingly-lost individuals and a dog, and wading through rat-infested water. Even at the age of 19 and only spending less than half a day underground, I considered the possibility that I might not make it out alive—I can't even imagine what it would be like to be down there without a working flashlight or other people who knew where to go. It was one of the most rewarding risks that I have taken thus far, and I'm extremely grateful that I survived the experience. When I read the news about these teenagers' experience, I was relieved to learn that they survived and recognized that it afforded me an opportunity to give a brief glimpse into my own catacombs story. Perhaps I'll expand on it sometime in the future...

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.